An average of nearly 90 million viewers makes Super Bowl XXXVIII the most watched program on any network since the Super Bowl of January '98, CBS boasted yesterday.

In its bragging points, CBS also put out lots of demographic information, including the game's performance among men ages 18 to 34, 18 to 49, and 25 to 54.

But here's the demographic you all want to know about. CBS forgot to include it but it was graciously provided to us by other number-crunchers: Based on preliminary stats, it appears that as many as one in five American kids between the ages of 2 and 11 years caught that halftime show, which included Janet Jackson's memorable performance, "My Right Breast."

An actual federal investigation has been launched into Jackson's number with Justin Timberlake, which made Britney and Madonna's lip lock at the most recent MTV Video Music Awards look quaint.

In their performance, Jackson, looking very "Matrix: Revolutions"-like in some sort of leather bustier thing with shingles attached, and Timberlake, in his usual grungy baggy chinos and T-shirt, sang and danced their way through "Rock Your Body" -- Timberlake's tune from his first solo album. He urged Jackson in song to "go ahead, girl, just do that [heinie] shaking thing you do," while following Jackson around the stage like an old hound after a bitch in heat.

Timberlake periodically grabbed at Jackson's rear and promised her, lyrically, that he would have her naked before the end of the song. He then made good on that promise by reaching across her chest, pulling off the right cup of her bodice -- which clearly was designed to break away easily, like a nursing bra, only black and with metal studs and rivets -- and revealing her breast, which was adorned with a silver "nipple guard."

The coincidence makes it so hard to swallow Timberlake's contrite statement, calling the "regrettable" incident the result of a "wardrobe malfunction." Or maybe it's because, right after the halftime performance, but before Timberlake issued his statement, Pat O'Brien of "Access Hollywood" grabbed him backstage and asked how he enjoyed the performance.

"That was fun," Timberlake said. "Quick, slick, to the point."

When O'Brien asked for comment on the whole bare breast thing, Timberlake laughed and replied, "Hey, man, we love giving you something to talk about!"

Not exactly the comment of a man still reeling from a "wardrobe malfunction" of colossal proportions.

Justin, you are a total hack and you can't dance, either. Oops, I'm so sorry, that was a regrettable TV Column malfunction. I know you can't see my face right now, but it looks really sad.

Jackson issued a statement late yesterday calling the incident a last-minute stunt gone haywire.

"The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals," she said.

Gosh, what a happy coincidence it was, then, that her costume just happened to have a breakaway bra cup.

"MTV was completely unaware of it," Jackson continued in her statement. "It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended -- including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL," said the performer who appeared topless on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1993, appeared on the cover of Vibe in 1997 wearing a nipple ring on the outside of her clothing, appeared in the artwork for her last album nude and obscured only by a sheet, and who in a recent HBO concert special was seen running topless in a waterfall. Thank you, Associated Press, for that rundown.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, saying he was "outraged at what I saw," yesterday ordered an investigation into the entire halftime show. And he spent part of his busy day making TV appearances to let Americans see his outrage.

"Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better," Powell said in his statement, promising that the investigation would be "thorough and swift."

One of those "who knew what and when" investigations.

Viacom-owned networks CBS and MTV, which produced the Super Bowl halftime show, continued to maintain their own lack of responsibility, as did the NFL, which said it was extremely disappointed and would likely not allow MTV to produce another halftime show. It's not ready to commit yet.

MTV Networks President Judy McGrath told The TV Column she was horrified that their "entertaining, exciting, great halftime show" ended so badly in five seconds "none of us knew anything about."

When told that FCC insiders were reporting that Chairman Powell was peeved over the entire halftime show, and that Jackson's performance was just the crowning moment, McGrath quickly went into "they are performers who performed those very songs on broadcast television many times before and they're known around the world" mode.

"These are artists who are heard on the radio all over the place," she added, having apparently not read up on what the FCC thinks of the radio industry and indecency these days.

She also spent a lot of time making sure we knew that CBS signed off on everything in the show, that the NFL did too and that rapper Nelly, another of the halftime performers, was told not to grab his crotch before the show, and never did once during rehearsals.

McGrath did not want to linger over the fact that women with bare breasts covered only with pasties is old hat for MTV, Lil' Kim having showed up at the '99 MTV Video Music Awards wearing half a purple dress and a pasty on her left breast, which Diana Ross proceeded to give a good televised squeeze.

She also was unprepared to discuss MTV's Web site, which immediately following the Jackson performance featured prominently an item headlined "Janet Gets Nasty!," bragging that "jaws across the country hit the carpet at exactly the same time, You know what we're talking about . . . Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and a kinky finale that rocked the Super Bowl to its core," and noting that "fans of Janet Jackson and her pasties were definitely in the right place."

"I'm sorry I was not on top of the Web site at the time. I am now responsible for five networks," McGrath said, adding, "All I can tell you is we are all sorry for the way it turned out and it was never our intention to have this kind of conversation with you."

Which is odd, given that Jackson's choreographer, Gil Duldulao, told an MTV on-air person before the performance that Jackson's routine would include "some shocking moments."

CBS was standing by its statement issued Sunday night, maintaining that in all the halftime shows CBS suits attended, "there was no indication that any such thing would happen."

"The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards," the network added.

Conforming to CBS broadcast standards were Kid Rock's performance, in which he gave a big "hey" to "all you bastards at the IRS," as well as "hookers all tricking out in Hollywood" and "my hoods of the world misunderstood," while wearing an American flag that had a hole cut in it for his head to fit through. Also conforming to CBS broadcast standards was Nelly's performance, in which he informed the stadium audience that he was "like good gracious [heinie] bodacious" while grabbing onto his crotch and holding on for dear life -- a sort of tribute to the super-long Super Bowl halftime bathroom lines at Reliant Stadium.

Nelly also commented that he was getting so hot he wanted to take off all of someone else's clothes. Timberlake beat him to the punch.

"That was fun," said Justin Timberlake of his performance with Janet Jackson, before changing his tune.