My one time college roommate and good friend Dave used to drive me crazy when we’d watch television together. For the most part, he preferred the commercials to the actual programs, whereas I found them about as appealing as a toothache.
The first really annoying product placement that I noticed was in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. The film featured both Samuel Jackson’s crack addict and many views of a brand new red sports car. Knowing that Spike probably had to haggle for every dollar to follow his muse, I was able to forgive him, but it still bothered me that commerce was invading on my art.
In the old days, I used to say that I’d rather pay for my TV than deal with ads. Now I pay for my TV and still deal with the ads.
The invention of the Tivo sent things to the next level. Suddenly, if you put off watching your favorite show for an hour, you could zip through the commercials in relatively painless seconds. This, of course, only added to the arms race and increased product placement. If they won’t watch the ads, we’ll just put them into the content as well!
Tonight, I watched the World Series of Poker on ESPN, where every single player, no matter how obscure, seems to be wearing a piece of sponsored advertisement for one poker site or another. In addition, in between nearly every single hand there is some sort of special segment brought to you by either Planters or Beef Jerky or whatever.
Then I shifted over to the end of the Tonight Show where Conan O’Brien was trying out the new Beatles Rock Band Game. I’m not sure whether MTV’s conglomerate is connected to NBC’s conglomerate or whether MTV paid NBC to have Conan try to play Bass to “Birthday,” but it’s pretty easy to see what was going on there.
I also read an article in USA today about Jay Leno’s upcoming show. Bill Hicks was lambasting Jay at least 15 years ago for being a corporate shill and sadly, nothing’s changed.
Wouldn’t you prefer to hear how good Jay Leno’s new show is going to be? Instead, we get to hear how cheap his show will be to produce and how seamlessly they will be incorporating ads into the show itself. Wonderful. When NBC had to choose between Jay and David Letterman back in the early ’90s, Jay’s argument was always I’ll be cheaper and more loyal. Little has changed.
Look, I’m aware that money needs to be raised to provide my little entertainment joys. Hell, just go ahead and put a Coke trademark on the left side of the screen like the omnipresent logos of CNN, TNT, MSNBC etc.
I suppose you’re a communist these days if you don’t care what the week’s highest grossing movie was. If you stop spending, you’re doing more harm to the economy than you are to the war effort by not supporting the troops.
Sadly, I can’t opt out. The only way to support quality television and movies is to actually root for them to make money. Isn’t there some middle ground between Michael Bay and Jim Jarmusch?
Actually, there probably is and it’s oddly enough Clint Eastwood. Let me make a film that will be great and might not make any money, and I’ll make another Dirty Harry or perhaps do The Rookie with Charlie Sheen. This seems to have caught on with many filmmakers and actors like Steven Soderbergh and Brad Pitt.
Ahh, the artistic spirit of an actor willing to work four weeks for only a million dollars!
I wrote about how much I liked Sean Lennon’s artistic spirit the other day, but then again it’s not like he has monetary worries.
This essay has no point. Only the recognition, as usual, that we’re not a democracy, we’re capitalists, and not even Barack Obama has found a way to effectively change that.
As for my own website, I think I’m about 40% of the way to earning my first minimum 100 dollar payment from Google Adsense – so hell yeah, click on those penis enlargement ads if you love me!