Updated 01/17/2012 – 01:16 pm
...when I watched last evening's edition of "Hawaii Five-0" as CBS turned the clock back more than 50 years.
(Yeah, I know I said I'd given up on the series last Fall, but for want of other boob tubery, I tuned in.)
Most people today won't recall the time when advertising agencies owned and produced the shows that people watched on their flickering and rolling black and white screens, and instead of the commercial breaks we have crammed into each hour, the promotional messages were incorporated into the the narrative.
A prime example was "Martin Kane, Private Eye" (NBC 1949-1954) in which the protagonist would always stop at his favorite tobacconist where he discussed pipe tobaccos and cigarettes with proprietor "Happy McMann."
That custom had pretty much disappeared by the end of the '50s when the networks took over the shows and series.
Consider Monday's epispode, "Pu'olo," in which the Five-O team goes to the tropical "roach coach" operated by "Kamekona" to enlist him in an undercover scheme.
They find it shuttered in midday and its 430 pound proprietor sitting at a nearby picnic table with a pile of foot-long Subway Sandwiches, and they engage in a near minute-long colloquy about the fillings and condiments, and their benefits to the weight-loss program being undertaken by the bungalow-sized "Kamekona."
O, and if that wasn't enough, the final line of the episode?
"Buy you a Subway."
(Additional stealth commercial messages were spotted by IPBiz blogger Lawrence Ebert.)
It's outrageously blatant, and signals a dangerous return to the practices of 55-60 years ago.
In those six decades we've seen the content of hour-long TV shows shrink from 52 to 44 minutes, and the insideous rise of the "pop-up" network promo messages... which is in addition to the appalling quality of many of the shows themselves!
If there isn't a strong backlash against the type of action CBS and Subway pulled last night, look for the practice to become rampant by the end of 2012!
Viewers with DVRs may be able to avoid commercial breaks with the fast forward feature, but it seems that some advertisers are determined to get their product exposed one way or the other!
I could forgive "Five-O"'s routine and blatant product placement of Chevy vehicles (most notably the new Camaro). After all, the cool stars have to drive something cool to look cool, and cool (even iconic) cars have been a sine qua non for many cop/detective shows for decades (e.g., "Miami Vice", "Magnum P.I.", "The Rockford Files", "Starsky & Hutch"). But last night's Subway commercial within the episode was so far over the line, it was practically a product placement parody. I was waiting for "Kamekona" to turn to the camera, break the fourth wall, and deliver the Subway slogan while it appeared in text superimposed on the screen, while Jared stopped by the table in a cameo. If the producers are going to go for farce, go all the way.
But here's the capper... Subway's Website has the following:
"We've heard there may just be a SUBWAY shout out on tonight's episode of Hawaii 5-0. We'll follow anyone who replies w/ what subs they show!"Who do they think they're kidding? "We've heard?" Do they really think anyone's going to believe that CBS or the show's producers included that 58 seconds out of the goodness of their hearts?