Seen at the Super Bowl

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NBC: American Idol? What's That?: American Idol judge Steven Tyler was among the boldface names at the big game. The Boston native had a prime seat in New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft's box at Lucas Oil Stadium. But NBC's announcers did not mention Tyler's gig on Fox's singing competition show. While planned promotional mentions for network stars during such events are common, plugging a rival network's show is not. NBC's conspicuous avoidance of Katharine McPhee's status as an Idol alum in its copious marketing efforts for Smash no doubt might have something to do with the net's big push for The Voice. – Marisa Guthrie

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Taylor Kitsch: In the Center of Two Storms

Eli Manning may have starred on the field, but it was Taylor Kitsch who was bidding to become the MVP of the Super Bowl movie trailers. He's playing the title character in Disney's John Carter, where he shares the screen with exotic Martians, and also will appear in Universal's Battleship, where he faces off, along with Liam Neeson, against tech-savvy aliens. There is more than a half-billion dollars in production costs swirling around him; not bad for an actor best known for his turn as a high school football player in NBC's little-seen but passionately followed Friday Night Lights. The 30-year-old also has had a few bit roles in movies (he played Gambit in 2009's Wolverine), but now he's been drafted by the big leagues, which are desperate to groom a hot new leading man. Kitsch himself has little on the line but a lot of potential upshot. If John Carter fails, the upheaval in Disney's marketing department -- where MT Carney, painted as an outsider, was recently replaced by Ricky Strauss, who has more production stripes than marketing experience -- will take the blame. If Battleship sinks, fingers will point at everything from the board-game-based property to director Peter Berg. If both hit, Kitsch has two franchises in his pocket. And by then, the WME-repped actor will have moved on to Oliver Stone's Savages, an adaptation of a dark Don Winslow book that opens July 6. No aliens in that one. -- Borys Kit and Jay A. Fernandez

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M.I.A.'s Flip-off Has NBC, NFL Pointing Fingers

British rapper M.I.A.'s decision to flip the bird to more than 111 million viewers during the Super Bowl halftime show has led to some gesturing between NBC and the NFL; the network and the league released dueling statements Feb. 5, seemingly blaming the other for the singer's errant finger during a performance of headliner Madonna's new single "Give Me All Your Luvin'." The NBC statement noted that "the NFL hired the talent and produced" the show. An NFL statement stressed a "failure in NBC's delay system" and characterized the gesture as "completely inappropriate" and "obscene."

Insiders say that after the game, NBC and the NFL discussed the situation at length after reporters began contacting them for comment. But the league did not give NBC a look at its statement. Sources say that NBC executives felt that the word "obscene" was over-the-top and, given the specter -- however remote -- of an FCC fine, rather loaded. By Feb. 6, the word had been stricken from the NFL statement sent to THR. A source close to M.I.A., 36, says the gesture was not premeditated, though she extends her middle finger in the song's video. "She got caught up in the moment," says this source. (A representative for M.I.A. declined comment.) And the performer did not make the gesture during rehearsals. Although the NFL foots the bill to produce the pregame and halftime entertainment, the league does not pay performers; exposure to millions of viewers is its own reward. But artists do sign decency clauses, according to an NFL spokesman, who added that the league is "exploring all of our options." Observers say the NFL could seek damages from M.I.A. for breach of contract, but few expect it to go that far; a legal battle would bring negative publicity and a mountain of bills. -- Marisa Guthrie

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