Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Educated Consumer

It appears that Brian Williams never gets tired of pandering to his viewers. During his Thursday obituary for clothing retailer Sy Syms, Brian noted Syms's ad slogan, "An educated consumer is our best customer." Brian's comment was, "Which I always thought applied just as much to this business." Really? So an educated viewer is Nightly News's best customer? If that's true, why does Brian feed his viewers a steady stream of garbage stories about skateboarding bulldogs, pink dolphins and kazoos? Why does he offer up a constant barrage of "Making A Difference" stories with zero news value? Is that what he thinks educated viewers want? And does he think those stories are helping to educate the viewers? When I think of news shows that attract educated viewers (or help to educate them), I certainly don't think of Nightly News. I think of The Newshour With Jim Lehrer or Worldfocus (both on PBS). I think of Democracy Now. I think of BBC World News. I think of Bill Moyers Journal. And I think of NPR. Interestingly, Friday's "All Things Considered" (on NPR) featured a piece about NBC. Specifically, it was about NBC Universal's "artist in residence" arrangement with Jon Bon Jovi. The piece was by Andrew Wallenstein, the senior TV reporter for The Hollywood Reporter. Here is an excerpt:

"Over the course of this month and next, Bon Jovi will have spent more time on NBC's air than the peacock logo. He'll be on the Jay Leno Show, the Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, just to name a few. Jon was even featured on 'Inside The Actors Studio', which is kind of weird, considering he isn't exactly Meryl Streep...That's right folks, Bon Jovi can be shoehorned into any show. NBC calls them 'artists in residence'. Hmm--shills on the shelf is more like it. And I know it's just TV, but the problem is it doesn't stop at entertainment. NBC has even booked Bon Jovi on the evening news for a segment about the band's charity projects. [We hear Brian Williams's voice] 'We are back and it's time now for our "Making A Difference" report and tonight we begin with Jon Bon Jovi. He is one of New Jersey's favorite sons....' Look, I'm sure it's a swell cause, but it makes me want to take up a collection for the preservation of traditional news values. A slot on the evening news should not be for sale. But if this marketing arrangement tells us anything, it's that the rules of old no longer hold. The days when a band looked at TV as a place to buy a 30-second ad has given way to an age where the content and the commercial are one and the same. The least NBC Universal and Bon Jovi could have done was try some interesting integrations. I would have liked to have seen Jon flip any of his luxury homes on Bravo's 'Million Dollar Listing' or at the very least stand trial for crimes against decent music on 'Law & Order'."

A slot on the evening news should not be for sale. Now THAT'S educating the consumer. Here are some suggestions for other ways NBC Universal can integrate "artist in residence" Jon Bon Jovi into their programming over the next few months:

> He can play the weird intern on an episode of "The Office".
> He can play Liz Lemon's love interest on an episode of "30 Rock".
> He can substitute for Brian Williams as Nightly News anchor next month when Brian is receiving a prestigious award from the National Association of Television Advertisers. NATA will be honoring Brian as the evening news anchor who best uses his broadcast's news time to promote sponsors' products.
> He can guest star on "The Biggest Loser" and attempt to lose 2 pounds.
> He can be the singing weatherman on The Weather Channel.
> He can appear on "Heroes" and sing a cover version of David Bowie's "Heroes".
> He can be seen (with Jared) eating a foot-long Subway sandwich on the season premier of "Chuck: Presented by Subway".
> He can hold a flashlight under his chin and host a "Ghost Hunters" marathon on NBC Universal's SyFy Channel.
> He can shave his head and host the "Kojak" marathon on NBC Universal's Sleuth Channel.
> He can wear a cape and host the "Dark Shadows" marathon on NBC Universal's Chiller Channel.
> He can host a series of public service announcements on NBC to inform viewers where the heck they can actually find SyFy, Sleuth and Chiller. He can also inform viewers that The Law Channel and The Order Channel will be merging to form The Law & Order Channel.
> He can play Monk's more neurotic cousin on an episode of "Monk" on NBC Universal's USA Network.
> He can pay a surprise visit to "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" on NBC Universal's Bravo.
> He can fill in for Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball" (and rename it "Stickball").
> He can get a prostate exam on MSNBC's "Dr. Nancy".
> He can offer an in-depth analysis of the health care bill on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports".
> "The Ed Show"? It's now "The Jon Show".
> He can host an episode of Chiller's "Scariest Places On Earth", visiting the New Jersey cities of Newark and Camden.
> He can fill in for David Gregory on "Meet The Press" and discuss the important issues of the day with members of Whitesnake, Poison and Def Leppard.

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