Tired of your favorite television shows being interrupted by commercials? Tired of not knowing how long commercial breaks will last so you dasn’t surf during them? (What’s the deal with Gilmore Girls and the one commercial break that lasts thirty seconds and the other that lasts four minutes?) The ideal resolution for the problem of plottus interruptus would be to pack all the commercials between shows. Ideal for viewers, anyway; for corporate scumbags not so much. Guess what these manipulative billionaires have come up with as an alternative solution? Are you ready?
Commercials as part of the storyline!
ABC recently held a conference for media buyers at which potential corporate sponsors were shown the latest evolutionary development in getting people to buy aftershave and tampons. Why wait until that pesky little sitcom or crime drama comes to a phony pre-commercial break mini-climax when you can advertise right during the show? Remember that scene in Fight Club when Edward Norton is sitting on the toilet and flipping through the Ikea catalog and the pages start coming to life inside his apartment? Well, get ready for that kind of commercial while watching your favorite TV show. We’ve already grown accustomed to obvious product placement, but will we sit idly by while the television in the apartment that the Law & Order cops are investigating is running an actual Geico caveman commercial? Will we care when the magazine cover that Ugly Betty is reading comes to life with a commercial for Dentyne? That, friends, is the future of TV if this idea gets pulled off.
Some consider it a longshot. Because in order for this idea to work, for commercials to be blended into the story of the show, writers will have to include it in the script. The upside is that instead of a 22 minute long sitcom, you will probably get a full 27 or 28 minute long story. Unfortunately, those extra five minutes or so will be expressly written to make the commercial part of the story.
Consider this truly gruesome scene: Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are sitting down to watch one of the awesomely bad movies they love so much and bantering back and forth with their quick wit when all of a sudden Lorelai grabs the remote and says something like “Oh, I love this commercial.” And then the camera moves behind them and we watch along with the Gilmore girls a commercial for Febreze. Which leads directly into Can’t Stop the Music and more Gilmore pop culture referencing. That sickness you feel in your gut right now isn’t that bad tuna you ate, it’s the disgust of consumerism run amok.
I’ll be honest with you: I actually don’t know how this technology will be implemented. Reports from the ABC conference indicate only that the commercials would first appear on things like TV or computer screens or magazines and then would go full screen. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this leads. In order for this idea to work, the creative part of the process would have to be far more intimately involved in the advertising part. I mean you can’t go full screen with an ad from a TV screen if the writer hasn’t written a scene in which there is a TV, right? Essentially, where this ends up is transforming screenwriters into commercial writers. Admittedly, with product placement and network interference, they are already halfway there, but at present even a TV screenwriter is more of a creative artist than an adman. Worlds are colliding, however.
It also doesn’t take a genius to figure out this won’t stop at television. Did you catch the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale? When I saw Daniel Craig driving that-what was it, a Ford?-I nearly gasped. I mean Bond in anything but an Aston Martin is just plain wrong. But am I the only one who thought that sequence where he drives up to the hotel was shot to look like a commercial? It was jarring. Commercials already exist in plentiful amounts in movies, but just wait a little bit and it will get worse. The Ikea sequence in Fight Club was a commercial, true, but it was hardly complimentary. The purpose wasn’t to sell Ikea-though I’m sure it did-but to point up the alienation brought on by the commodification of everything. You will see this technology used in movies. As long as movie studios are owned by huge conglomerates that sell tons of other products you can bet your sweet bippy you’ll see it. Expect to see long sequences of characters playing with new video games. Expect to see a lot more scenes of people watching television. Expect longer movies. And expect fewer movies that take place in the past. After all, it’s kind of hard to justify having gladiators watching a TV.