Just for the record, the winners of that Harry Potter paraphernalia I was giving away a couple of weeks ago were Lisa Singer of Brooklyn, N.Y. (the DVD), Pat Boyle of Hillsdale, N.J. (a magic amulet) and Tomas Otero of Miami (another amulet). I would advise everybody to be extremely polite to Pat and Tomas, who now have the power to turn you into a frog. But go ahead and dump on Lisa the same way you did before -- no matter what those guys at Blu-Ray say, that DVD has no magical powers.
Ever wonder what would happen if somebody slipped truth serum into the martinis at the network upfronts in New York? I'm thinking it would sound a lot like Jimmy Kimmel's routine during ABC's presentation to advertisers Tuesday.
Kimmel on the quality of ABC's new shows:
“Let’s get real here. Let’s get Dr. Phil-real here. These new fall shows? We’re going to cancel about 90 percent of them. Maybe more.”
Kimmel on ABC's sales pitch to advertisers:
“Every year we lie to you and every year you come back for more. You don’t need an upfront. You need therapy. We completely lie to you, and then you pass those lies onto your clients.”
Kimmel on NBC jumping the upfront gun, unveiling its new shows two weeks ahead of everybody else:
“NBC got such a head start, they’ve already had time to cancel half their schedule.”
Kimmel on product-placement ads:
“Next year on Grey’s Anatomy, your product could kill Dr. Izzie. It just depends on how much you want to pay.”
Two rather odd contests going on around here these days. One is being conducted by Fort Lauderdale radio station WFTL (850 AM), which is bringing Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the iron maiden of radio shrinks, to town. Schlessinger, whose show airs on WFTL from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays, is appearing at Coral Springs Center for the Arts for one show only on May 14 at 7:30 -- but the only way to get tickets is to listen to the station for contest calls or apply on-line.
Then there's Harry Potter. NBC’s Bonnie Hunt Show, Ellen and Extra are giving away a pair of tickets to the premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince...the premiere in London. (And yeah, they pick up the tab for everything, not just the movie.) What makes this interesting is that the NBC affiliates in just six cities are participating -- and one of them is South Florida's WTVJ-NBC 6. Watch Bonnie Hunt at 3 p.m, Extra at 4:30 p.m. or Ellen at 5 p.m. for "magic words" that you need to enter, then follow the instructions.
Even in the current stock market, my net worth is a little bit less than that of GE. Nonetheless, I've got some Harry Potter swag of my own to give away. To win a BluRay copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix or a cool Harry Potter pendant that can be used to turn annoying bosses, teachers, parents and/or siblings into toads, just send an email with "Glenn is cooler than Harry Potter" in the subject line to me at ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com. We'll close it on May 15 at 6 p.m. and the winner will be drawn at random.
Believe it or not, kids, when mommy and daddy were little, there were no 24-hour news nets standing by to break into their Los Angeles car-chase coverage with panicky bulletins about how we're all going to die of swine flu. No sir, back in the primitive three-channel TV universe, it was so hard to create mass hysteria over random coughs and ephemeral aches and pains that the federal government had to use tax dollars (no sweat, though; there's always more where those came from) to create advertisements to shriek at Americans that they were all going to die writhing like pigs in Hell.
That video up above includes a few of the ironically named "public service announcements" that broadcast networks were directed to air during the Great Swine Flu Panic of 1976, when the federal government warned that half a million Americans were going to come down with the disease. That estimate was off by about half a million, though, to be fair, swine flu did trigger a minor health-care crisis -- some 500 people contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome from shots administered during the government's vaccination program.
Grey Gardens (8 p.m. Saturday, HBO) -- Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange star as Little Edie and Big Edie Bouvier, eccentric society icons (they were related to Jacqueline Kennedy) who gradually pulled up bridges until they lived in hermit-like isolation in a crumbling 28-room mansion in East Hampton.
World's Funniest Commercials (8 p.m. Sunday, TBS) -- Oh, don't turn up your nose. You know you're gonna watch.
Confessions of a Superhero (9 p.m. Monday, Sundance) -- One answer to the oft-asked question, ''What's going to happen to Lindsey Lohan?'' this documentary focuses on some of show business' oddest celebrities -- four would-be stars who wander Hollywood Boulevard in superhero costumes, signing autographs and posing for photos with tourists.
The Cougar (10 p.m. Wednesday, TV Land) -- An alternate answer to the Lindsay Lohan question, this reality show features a bunch of 20ish men competing for the creaky sexual favors of a 40ish woman, the entire cast being willing to do anything to get on television.
Let me program your TiVo! Just click on my best bets for the week at www.tivo.com/guruguides.
Is it possible the Dolphins have ruined NFL football for South Florida? Though Sunday's game was the second-most-watched of all time, with 147 million people tuning in at some point during the telecast, we sure didn't pay attention the way the rest of the country did. While the game was on 65 percent of the television sets around America, only 59 percent of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market tuned in. While we're the 16th biggest TV market, we only ranked 43rd in Super Bowl viewers. (Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh and Phoenix had the highest percentage of TV sets tuned into the game, about 70.) UPDATE: On Tuesday, after tinkering with the numbers some more, Nielsen announced there were actually 151.6 million viewers tuned into the game at some point, making Sunday's Super Bowl the all-time champ.
In other discouraging Super Bowl news, the Nielsen folks have determined that the most-watched ad was Go Daddy's smarmy commercial in which Danica Patrick talks about her enhanced...Internet service. The company promptly issued a triumphant press release bragging that "critics across the board pan Go Daddy's risque Super Bowl Ads, but don't look for the Web hosting company to change its tactics anytime soon." Whew, I was worried there for a minute. What would I write about next year?
Oh, yeah, one more thing. Several Swedish readers have written in to say that Skillnaden ar drinkability, the tagline in one of Sunday's Bud Light ads, means "The difference is drinkability" rather than "Great drinkability" as I reported in an earlier item on this blog. To which I say, what are you guys doing watching American football, anyway? Wasn't the Lidingoloppet on?
How bad is the American economy? So bad that we're having to import our punch lines from Sweden. When you watch 32 Super Bowl commercials and the most memorable slogan is Skillnaden ar drinkability, you know you've got a problem.
Abandoned by many of its most faithful advertisers, including Federal Express and all the American manufacturers, and reduced to do business with companies that usually show infomercials with flashing 800 numbers on obscure cable channels in the middle of the night, Sunday's Super Bowl ads were a bedraggled lot.
Full of tired slapstick (when you've seen one guy thrown out a fourth-floor window, you've seen 'em all), cheesy teases (when Danica Patrick said she was enhanced, guys, she meant her Internet service; don't bother to check the "uncensored" version on the Net) and inexplicable gimmicks (would you really take advice on stocks from a talking baby?), the ads were even more boring than the game's first half.
Skillnaden ar drinkability, by the way, means "great drinkability," the punch line (literally) to an in which NBC talk show host Conan O'Brien endorses Bud Light in a commercial for Swedish TV, with disastrous results. Anheuser-Busch was one of a handful of traditional big Super Bowl advertisers -- including Coca-Cola, Pepsi and a couple of others -- who stuck with this year's telecast, buying four and a half minutes of ads. Price tag: Somewhere north of $10 million. Big bucks in a ragged economy, but Anheuser-Busch was just acquired by the Belgian brewer InBev and seems worried its customers may go on some kind of jingoist rampage. Surely it's no coincidence that many of its commercials Sunday dealt with the concept of "Americanism," from the O'Brien ad to one about how its signature Clydesdale horses immigrated from Scotland. ("It's a story of strength, triumph and oats.")
Though lackluster, the Anheuser-Busch ads at least offered a sense of familiarity. A sense of economic dislocation echoed through many of Sunday's commercials. Were we really seeing dog food ads during the Super Bowl? Yes, and Pedigree hopes your pooch enjoyed a commercial ridiculing owners of ostriches, rhinos and boars.
If Pedigree's ads seemed a sad tumble for an event that once was associated with Cadillacs and computers, the cash4gold.com commercial smacked of downright desperation. This year, ads offering to melting down earrings and wedding bands for gold; next year, buying your hair or blood.
To be fair, the cash4gold ad -- with broke celebrity pitchman Ed McMahon selling off his gold hip replacement -- offered a certain bleak hilarity. So, for different reasons, was an ad with Bob Dylan not only flogging Pepsi, but acting like it was the official drink of the Woodstock Nation. Actually, Pepsi was famously (or infamously, to people like Dylan's fans) Republican in those days, backing Richard Nixon's presidency in return for White House help in breaking into the Russian market. The times, they really are a changin'.
If Dylan's fans were disillusioned -- you could practically hear the sound of ancient vinyl shattering on the walls of every nursing home in America -- it was nothing compared to the disappointment of anybody waiting for the much-ballyhooed 3D trailer for Monster Vs. Aliens, the animated Dreamworks movie that hits theaters in March.
Dreamworks handed out 125 million pairs of 3D glasses for use in viewing the trailer at halftime, which means 250 million American eyeballs were probably still bleeding well past midnight. The trailer looked dim, patchily colored, and wretchedly vulgar -- the latter not from the 3D process, but the content. A three-dimensional shot of a man sitting on a toilet? Man, where is Janet Jackson's nipple when you need it?
At last, we have an answer to the question, is there anything that NBC -- the network of Fear Factor, Knight Rider and Kath & Kim -- won't put on the air? And the answer is Yes: Women cannot have sex with pumpkins, broccoli or asparagus, not while the NBC cameras are watching. No word on other vegetables, but if you're a carrot or a green bean, I don't think your chances of boinking that cheerleader on Heroes are too good.
The continued existence of NBC's Standards & Practices department, previously thought to have quietly expired sometime during the Clinton administration, came to light this week when the network banned a Super Bowl ad from the animal-rights folks at PETA. Entitled Veggie Love, it depicts a bunch of lithe lingerie models lasciviously writhing around with the aforesaid greenery on sofas, tables, floors, piano benches and practically any other flat surface you can think of. There's even a scene in a hot tub which, if you're a vegetable, would come uncomfortably close to cannibal sex. All this is accompanied by a convenient subtitle that explains, "Studies show vegetarians have better sex." Though not necessarily with human beings, apparently.
NBC must have really hated the ad, considering that it still hadn't sold out all its Super Bowl commercials as of Thursday morning. (Usually all the ad time has been sold weeks and even months in advance.) But there's no confirmation yet that the network is considering giving the PETA slot to a commercial for the Bacon Explosion.
Betting on the Super Bowl game? That's strictly for punks. Real fans are betting on the commercials. Yes, those helpful folks at Betonline.com are actually laying odds on which Super Bowl ads will be the most popular with television viewers. (As measured by the USA Today Ad Meter, which runs electrodes into the brains of a bunch of people who really truly are in need of a buck, then ties them down in front the tube.) The favorite is Anheuser-Busch at 5-1, which seems unnecessarily high to me since either an ad for either Budweiser or Bud Lite has finished first on the ad meter for the last 10 Super Bowls in a row.) Second, at 6-1, is Go Daddy, the Internet company that's run ads the past couple of years overflowing with big half-covered boobs and smutty double-entendres (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). The list extends through Denny's and Pedigree Dog Food -- and no, smart guy, that's two ads, not one -- at 25-1, and ends at 2,850-1 for rabid weasels pouring out of the stands to eat Ben Roethlisberger's face and being mistaken by viewers for a commercial for a new NBC reality show. Okay, I made the last one up, but I'm pretty sure Betonline.com will lay odds on it if anybody asks.
My story about the perils of live TV back in the early days prompted a reader to write:
When I was just starting out in the advertising business at J. Walter Thompson in New York as the lowliest of lowly paid writers, one of my jobs was to get up every morning at 5 a.m. and go down to the Today show studios at 30 Rock. Eastman Kodak, the account I worked on, was a sponsor of the show and back then many of the commercials were done live by the hosts. So I had to make sure that the latest scripts were transferred to cue cards and coordinate with the producers about who was doing what each morning.
Kodak was introducing its latest innovation: the flash cube.
Joe Garagiola, the baseball player turned sports commentator, was doing that morning's spot. The action was for him to deliver his lines about how easy it was just to pop on a flash cube, point and shoot the picture. The trick was that, because the set's main camera was very light-sensitive, he had to point the Instamatic camera away when he demonstrated the flash.
Of course, live, he popped on the flash cube showing how easy it was, and shot the flash right at the camera.
For the remaining 25 minutes of the show every main shot of the set had a big, purple, pulsating blob in the middle of the picture. All the flash cube commercials after that had to be written without any actual demonstration of the flash.
This was 1972.
Thanks for sharing that, Bob, and for giving me a chance to utilize once again one of the hardest-won skills of my childhood, the ability to spell Garagiola. That's him on the right in the photo, trading jokes with former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda at a game last month.