Television shows cost money, and if the networks aren't being generous enough with theirs, producers need to sell out a bit and include some product placement. But some shows go the extra mile when hawking for their sponsors, directly weaving them into the storyline with all the grace and subtlety of a drunken hippopotamus.
Survivor is a reality show where a bunch of privileged First World folks get together and act like it's an accomplishment to be proud that they didn't die after two weeks without dental floss. For their 23rd season, Survivor: South Pacific, the producers struck a deal with, of all people, Adam Sandler. This sadly did not involve sticking Sandler alone on a desert island and starving him until he ate his own feces, but rather forcing the cast to watch his latest film, Jack and Jill. You know, the one where he dressed in drag and played his own sister, also known as the Murphy gambit.
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"Thank God we can get away from this for a few hours and watch the guy who made Little Nicky."
The show's host, Jeff Probst, insultingly passed this off as a reward for the tribe that successfully completed the day's challenge, rather than as a general punishment for all of humanity. So the winning tribe went to the Survivor: South Pacific Cinema (how did they survive with only one cinema?!) and the contestants got to sit back and absorb some of Sandler's wacky hijinks.
The captive audience really seems to enjoy the funny voices and frequent pratfalls, judging by their raucous laughter. Like this guy ...
And yet his cup looks like it came from the neighborhood deli. Coke wouldn't bite, eh, CBS?
... who is laughing uncontrollably at the scene where Sandler's Jill character appears for the first time. This is especially notable since that scene had no jokes and wasn't meant to be funny. He's laughing at the setup to a joke -- that's like cracking up when somebody says "two men walk into a bar." Why, we're starting to think something on this Survivor show might have been staged!
Wait, does that mean they never really set fire to a mass grave?
Hawaii 5-0 is a reboot of the original cop drama about police officers fighting tropical crime, because fuck it -- Jin was already in Hawaii when Lost wrapped, and the most delicious meal is the one in your belly. Jin -- sorry, Officer Kelly -- is attempting to impress detective Kona Kalakaua, and does so by showing her a Popsicle tower that looks like scrambled porn.
"So, are we having Popsicles later, or is this just a big tease?"
She hears that this thing is a "Clifton Bowles original" worth $25,000, but doesn't believe it, because a museum showcasing expensive and original artwork is just the stupidest idea imaginable. Kelly then begins Phase II of Operation: Flirt Horribly by telling her to "Bing it." Shockingly, she does so, even though that phrase sounds like a guaranteed sexual harassment case to us.
What museum is still open at half after 10?
She types in "cli" and, because this is TV, "Clifton Bowles" is the one and only suggested phrase. On the phone of a woman who's never heard of the guy until 10 seconds ago. Nice try; a real Bing search for "cli" reveals far more interesting search results -- especially with safe search off.
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Kalakaua, inexplicably impressed by the ability of a man to read the little plaque that clearly lists the title and author of every piece in a museum, says to Kelly, "Who knew you were an art connoisseur?" Why, silly girl! He's not an art expert at all. He just Binged it ... on Bing, using his Bingers ... to type in the relevant Bingformation ...
You would think a show all about creative ways to make money would itself have a creative way to make money, but nope! Shark Tank puts riesling on the mahogany table the old-fashioned way: by slapping a T-Mobile device into everyone's hands and telling them to treat it like the black monolith from 2001.
"But don't look at it from this angle; it's terrible for your eyes."
To kick things off, a contestant announces that he has filmed several infomercials for his product and, because he just happens to have a T-Mobile phone, he can "just share it on that TV." He points the phone at the nearest TV, and the infomercial starts playing. Wow, that's almost like magic!
Magic whose main application appears to be pissing off everyone else in a sports bar.
Probably because it is. Sure, you can send videos from your phone to your TV, as long as the two are properly connected beforehand. But you can't use any old TV; it has to be a specially equipped one that can handle a T-Mobile hookup. Later on, when another contestant wants to transfer sales figures from his phone to one of the rich people's phones, he actually says, "Let me beam them to your T-Mobile device." Not "send them to you" or even "send them to your phone" -- he somehow tamps down the vomit rising in his throat and spurts out "beam them to your T-Mobile device."
"I- I said it ... please, just let my family go."
That guy stepped off camera and found that he no longer technically counted as a human being. Automatic doors no longer registered him; his breath didn't fog up glass anymore; his children kept forgetting his name, and he was doomed to wander the Earth as a formless wight, wailing about the superior coverage and peerless service of the T-Mobile company.
Another contestant takes a picture of Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban. He then says he's going to "share it with the world," which Cuban asks him not to do because he hates publicity.
After this, you should be over the whole photographic embarrassment thing, Mark.
The contestant denied Cuban's request, saying, "It's too late, baby, I got my T-Mobile superfast 4G, oh yeah!" Amazingly, he didn't spontaneously combust from the incredible amount of friction caused by his soul fleeing his body at supersonic speeds.
Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"... and I've got enough money under my couch cushions to order a hit. Delete the photo, peon."
Screw James Bond's heart-achingly beautiful Aston Martin -- ACTUAL spies, like the one in NBC's Chuck, use motherfuckin' minivans with sliding doors so they can somersault out of them and kick a ninja right in the tits. Or at least that's what the show wants you to believe. Facing budget cuts and the threat of cancellation, the producers of Chuck needed to sell out, and sell out fast. Besides, what vehicle embodies intrigue better than a Toyota Sienna? We understand some product placement is to be expected, but the amount of lip service Chuck gives his new toy is absurd.
So what revolutionary spy features is Chuck gushing over? The rocket launchers behind the headlights? The smoke screen that comes out of the tailpipe? The four-person ejector bench? Nope: The Sienna comes equipped with dual screens (like most new vehicles these days), Bluetooth (ditto), and a sound system (which is like bragging that your car comes with free wheels). All this comes to a head when you hear Chuck summarizing the Sienna's wonderfulness by deeming it the "perfect tailing vehicle." We're sure Toyota displays that endorsement proudly in every dealership they own: "perfect for stalking your exes in comfort and luxury!"
Car and Driver
"Now move your rocket launcher; I need a place for my spy groceries."
A show like Days of Our Lives, still clinging to life but only barely, has two choices as to what to do: pack up and quietly move to Rerun Land, or turn their show into an infomercial with storylines that shamelessly shill any product with eight bucks or a free sample to spare. Of course, they chose the latter.
An example: This scene involves a man and a woman bonding over oats. The girl informs the guy -- and we want to be perfectly clear that the man in question would very much like to store his penis inside the woman's body for an indeterminate amount of time -- that "there isn't much fun to be had here, except for these bad boys." It only sounds like she's seguing into a sex scene; she's actually referring to her box of Cheerios.
Although it may very well have ended in sex; we were sort of channel surfing by this point.
The man questions her eating cereal at night, because on a show where alien babies, demonic possession, and a tropical zombie island are everyday occurrences, eating breakfast after 9 a.m. is fucking crazy-spice. She emphatically informs him that her bad boys "aren't just for breakfast" and clarifies that, since she's studying to become a nurse, and because Cheerios has "whole grain, and only 1 gram of sugar," it's the ideal late-night study snack. Her guy friend, who has converted faster than an infidel in the Inquisition, adds that they will make her "feel all happy and confident." Then there's an awkward silence where you can actually hear their self-respect die.
And it just. Doesn't. End. Barely an episode goes by without a box or bag of something becoming the star while actors desperate to avoid unemployment do their best to replace the plot with their grocery list. We've got Midol:
Nothing enhances a show about romantic tension like the specter of severe PMS.
That's the least appealing beach we've ever seen.
Wanchai Ferry, a bagged Chinese food that presumably goes very well with hard liquor:
Frozen food and midday drinking. Nothing to criticize here.
And Nature Valley Nut Clusters, which isn't above enslaving children to do their advertising bidding:
"That's right, sweetie; now smile big and help pay off Mommy's gambling debts."
And finally, yet more cereal. This guy does indeed yell "They're grrrrrrrreat!" and will have to live with that until the day he dies.
"The talent agent GRRRREATLY exaggerated the artistic integrity of this part."
We are now going to pretend to be blissfully unaware that there is likely an ad placed about three inches below this very sentence.
Chan Teik Onn enjoys his quiet afternoons shitting on today's teenage trends via Facebook. He recently made a Twitter account just for that. Dylan Moore has a story on Jukepop Serials that you can read.
Without fail, most of your favorite television shows let you down in the series finale. In our latest podcast, Soren Bowie, Cody Johnston, Michael Swaim, and director Abe Epperson join Jack O'Brien to discuss their version of finales that would've much improved the overall series. You can download it here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.
Related Reading: Want to see what it would be like if great movies had product placement? The Cracked forums can help with that. And if the stuff in this article seemed bad, the time Marvel teamed up with Craftsman power tools was even worse. If you're down for more of Hollywood's best sell-outs, this article can oblige.