It’s good to have Heroes back on the air, even if it is such a mass-market show that it hurts to watch sometimes. As much as it has its moments of greatness there’s no denying that a whiff of “product” that comes off of it sometimes. I suppose it’s good for the long-term health of the program, for maybe it’s too baby-proofed for its own good. Everything feels a little too delicate, as if the writers are worried that if they push too far they’re going to piss people off, and all the magic will drain away.
It’s also far more like a soap opera than most of the shows I’m used to, with characters dying or just vanishing in roughly equal numbers, as their acting commitments or salary demands doom them to exile or extinction.
It’s also a marketing vehicle for literally marketing vehicles, and has been since Hiro took his Versa on a nationwide tour in season one. As I remember it he actually said goodbye to the car when it left the show. And while I’m happy to thank Nissan for providing my entertainment with limited commercial interruptions, I’m still not sure I’m used to the amount of integrated advertising that you get in television shows these days. When Claire thanks her dad for giving her a Rogue near the beginning of the season two premier you almost expect little computer graphic TM symbols to float out of her mouth as she says it. I suppose it’s the price we have to pay now that a network can no longer guarantee when, where, or how a show is going to be watched by its audience. But it still pulls me out of the world a little bit. Like we’re no longer watching television, but playing a game of spot the ad.
Of everything I’ve watched, Gilmour Girls probably had the greatest density of in-show advertising I’ve ever seen. In one episode in season three they managed to name check on the order of five Warner Brothers musicals in one scene. I had to imagine that they had a box set coming out. They also freely cram in products where ever possible, even managing to put in a rack of Frito-Lay chips into the display window of restaurant so it could act as a backdrop for Lorelei and Rory. Classy!
That was back in 2002, so I’m sure that it’s only become more common since then.
My concern isn’t really the fact that I’m being advertised to. That’s a fact of life. But I wonder if more fantastic genre programming that can’t take advantage of easily integrated advertising is tougher to get made these days. After all it’s almost impossible to stuff something full of product placement if it’s set completely out of our world. Do shows Battlestar Galactica or Farscape have one more hurdle to jump before they can get the green light?