More signs of the product placement apocalypse
Ah, product placement. It's a subject that's come up before. We have an award for it, and even as far back as those care free days of 2005, Karina was writing about the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild Of America protesting it. The telling quote from that piece, "Our writers are being told to perform the function of ad copywriter, but to disguise this as storytelling." And isn't that where most of us have always drawn the line in the sand? The placing of products into sets was kind of an understood cost of doing business, but having the writers change scripts to incorporate them was a whole other ball of (Turtle) wax. Unfortunately, those (Foster Farms) chickens have come home to roost.
As you can see in the picture leading off the post, Psych gave Dunkin Donuts a nice featured spot in the latest episode. That's not so bad, until you get to the dialog that accompanied it.
Shawn: You see that?
Gus: Yes. Now I'm in the mood for some coffee.
Shawn: What are you talking about?
Gus: Coffee, Shawn.
Shawn: What are you looking at?
Gus: The same thing you're looking at.
Shawn: It's a Dunkin Donuts patch Gus.
Gus: They have excellent coffee. They have one on my extended route.
Shawn: You know what, dude? You astound me. And now I must have a blueberry crumb. It's totally triggered my donut launch...
Gus: Will you focus Shawn?
Doesn't it make you cringe just a little? "They have excellent coffee." I get that Shawn and Gus often make odd and obscure observations, and it's one of the things I really like about the show, but that one was stretching it a little far for me. If it was for something off beat, and not so obviously a sponsor, okay. Something like Stan Mikita's coffee shop from Wayne's World, or even Canada's Tim Horton's, would have been funny. This was just a little sad for what it represents.
But wait... there's more, and it's worse. The Psych nuttiness is what prompted this post, but our friends in Eureka are what set it in motion. At the end of the big season premiere the new head of Global Dynamics, Eva Thorne, mentions that they need corporate partnership and private capital. She then introduces GD's first sponsor. And it's not quite as subtle as the Dunkin Donuts patch. Have a look.
Full frickin' screen. The topic came up in the comments for the season premiere post. I had let it go without comment, because I'd already heard about what was yet to come and figured there would be plenty of time to tackle the issue once the other shoe dropped. That shoe, as explained on the Eureka Unscripted tumblr (July 22nd entry), comes in the form of Degree being written into an episode, to the extent that it saves the day. Yikes. That's not crossing the line. That's kind of racing across it, tires spinning, as you grab another gear.
It's easy to look at that and say, "Oh, hell no." But there is another unfortunate side of that coin. As creator Jaime Paglia puts it in the tumblr post, "We don't just have to show the product. Now we have to actually integrate these things into our stories." Just as they feared back in 2005. He goes on to explain the reasoning behind it, "...the reason we're doing this particular story, incorporating our generous sponsor, is that without their participation, you wouldn't be getting nearly as much Eureka this season. It's a cold hard fact."
And that puts the viewer in a quandary. If the creators of the shows we love are having their hands tied by the bean counters, do you blame them for going along? Do you blame the studio for even making it an option? Or do you blame the sponsors for insisting on this level of inclusion? These are murky waters that the new world of television is swimming in.
Personally, I'm somewhat on the fence about it. Sure, given a choice, I would like to keep a giant wall between the sponsors and the writers. If we can't have that, I'll trust in the writers of my favorite shows to do right by their viewers. I suspect that as much as I loathe the idea of Degree saving the day, the Eureka team will do it in a fun way. Call it a guarded optimism I guess. Still, I can't help but think that these are the early steps down a road that's better left untraveled.
Sound off in the Circuit City comments, and don't forget to tally your vote in the Home Depot poll.
|Oddly enough, I actually like it.||38 (9.0%)|
|Eh, it's the cost of doing business. I'll still watch.||114 (27.1%)|
|I don't like it, but I'm still watching, for now...||163 (38.8%)|
|Oh, F this. It's like they're trying to chase me away from their show.||105 (25.0%)|