August 23rd, 2011
04:04 PM ET
We’re back after a brief hiatus, ready to dole out some tough love for our favorite pop culture industries. A few weeks back, I talked about the idea of proper promotion, marketing a show based on its own merits.
Today, I’m focusing on another side to that coin: Hollywood’s tendency to overload a potential audience with promos for TV shows or movies.
Whitney Cummings, a comedian who some fans might recognize from “Chelsea Lately” or the Comedy Central roasts, is the creative force behind two new sitcoms premiering this fall.
The first is the CBS show “2 Broke Girls.” Cummings doesn’t star in this one; she’s a co-creator and co-producer. You might have seen an ad for the show or read an article about it. I’m mildly intrigued to watch it.
The second is NBC’s “Whitney.” Cummings does star in this one; she also created and produces it. You have definitely seen an ad (or three dozen) for the show. I have absolutely no desire to watch it.
The problem isn’t necessarily with Cummings’ acting or the different formats (they’re both multi-camera sitcoms). It’s that I’m almost sure that “Whitney” is going to be abysmal, and the NBC marketing department has provided me with an abundance of evidence to back that up.
There are the constant commercials; the lower-third advertisements (those things that pop up on your screen during another show); the ongoing ads-designed-to-look-like-interviews in entertainment magazines. All of them scream, “Watch this show… please!”
When a network or studio begins promoting something this much, it starts to reek of desperation, as if the company knows they have a bomb on their hands but are hoping the marketing blitz will draw in enough viewers to overcompensate. But each ad just makes me more wary of the final product.
(The following story is told with tremendous amounts of hindsight, but no names, places or timelines have been changed to protect the innocent… or not-so-innocent.)
When word of the “Green Lantern” movie first came out, I was super amped to see it. When the first ads started to appear, I was still all in on the idea. Then the full-length trailer showed up. And the next one. And the print ads. And each time I saw another promo for the movie, that “oh no, this is going to be awful” feeling grew a little larger.
It’s quite possible that “Whitney” and “2 Broke Girls” will be completely equal based on whatever method you use to measure the success of comedy. (Don’t worry, I’m working on a standardized formula.) But at least with “2 Broke Girls,” I’m not entirely sure yet how it’s going to work out.
With “Whitney,” I can’t chalk up one or two lame jokes as aberrations. At this point, I’m pretty sure the promos have shown us nearly every single joke in the pilot episode, and none of them struck me as funny.
Your show or movie might be great....and it might be terrible. But if you try to shove it down my throat with an overpowering marketing barrage, you’re undercutting any anticipation I might have about actually watching it, and you’re showing me enough footage so that I feel justified in that position.
I know that shows and movies need to generate buzz and build an audience before a premiere. But there IS such a thing as bad publicity, and going overboard with promotion is one of the most certain ways to get it.
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