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April 18, 2014

Volunteers Take Over TV: Shows to Tout Public Service

by Gary Susman, posted Oct 19th 2009 5:00PM
30 RockPut down that remote, get off the couch, and go donate your time to help others. But not before you watch this week's primetime lineup, where many shows (like '30 Rock,' 'Grey's Anatomy' and more) will incorporate community service into their plots and many stars will tout volunteerism in public service announcements.

It's all part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation's "iParticipate" campaign. Variety reports that more than 60 of this week's primetime and daytime shows have agreed to work volunteerism into this week's plots, either via casual references or central storylines.30 Rock Put down that remote, get off the couch, and go donate your time to help others. But not before you watch this week's primetime lineup, where many shows (like '30 Rock,' 'Grey's Anatomy' and more) will incorporate community service into their plots and many stars will tout volunteerism in public service announcements.

It's all part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation's "iParticipate" campaign. Variety reports that more than 60 of this week's primetime and daytime shows have agreed to work volunteerism into this week's plots, either via casual references or central storylines.

Fittingly, the shows' participation in the campaign was voluntary; they weren't ordered to cooperate, NBC scheduling exec Mitch Metcalf told Variety. Nor were producers asked to mention particular volunteer organizations. "It was just this general notion that if you want to highlight a specific organization or cause, that's fine," he said, "but most importantly, make it work in the show and make it natural."

In the spirit of the campaign, we'll volunteer some spoilers from this week's participating shows.
'30 Rock': Kenneth volunteers at an animal shelter, but when he learns many of the dogs are in danger of being put down if they're not adopted, he takes them all home.
'Gary Unmarried': Gary's daughter Louise films messages to send to Mitch (Rob Riggle) and other troops serving overseas. (In real life, Riggle is an active duty Marine Corps Reserve officer.)
'The Biggest Loser': Contestants donate their time to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
'Parks and Recreation': Leslie and her group work with Kaboom! Organization to build a playground in a single day.
'Heroes': Claire discusses volunteerism. (Really, though, haven't Claire and her cohorts volunteered to save the world many times over? Doesn't that fulfill her quota?)

References to volunteerism will also appear on 'Criminal Minds,' 'CSI: Miami,' 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Dancing With the Stars,' 'FlashForward,' 'Ghost Whisperer,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Jimmy Kimmel Live,' 'Modern Family,' 'The Office,' and 'Ugly Betty.'

Fox, whose primetime schedule is disrupted by baseball playoffs this week, will still lend a hand, with such stars as Nigel Lythgoe ('So You Think You Can Dance') Lance Reddick ('Fringe') and Tamara Taylor ('Bones') promoting community service in PSAs.

As benign and nonpartisan as this do-gooder drive seems, some conservatives (such as those writing here, here, and here) say they see the heavy hand of the Obama administration, trying to indoctrinate young and impressionable viewers by weaving subliminal messages into their favorite shows and sending them to websites like createthegood.org and serve.gov that point toward volunteer opportunities with left-leaning organizations like Planned Parenthood. (Then again, they also point to opportunities at the National Right to Life Committee and Tea Party Nation.)

'Gary Unmarried' executive producer Ira Ungerleider told Variety he doesn't understand what's behind the criticism of the campaign. "Are [critics] afraid of an outbreak of volunteerism?"

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