TV finds it hard to stick to the truth
LOS ANGELES Take promotional spots please. These are the network-created ads that try vigorously to cut through multichannel clutter and induce us to watch a given program.
But add them up and they amount to a consumer-fraud case that could charm an anti-tobacco industry lawyer.
"From the people who brought you 'The Sixth Sense'!" trumpeted one spot for "Miracles," an ABC drama. The connection: one of the series' executive producers was a producer on the hit movie.
But M. Night Shyamalan, the writer-director of "The Sixth Sense" and its acknowledged creative force, was not listed in the credits for "Miracles." Guess he wasn't there in spirit, either: The series flopped.
A similar ploy was used for NBC's recent miniseries, "Kingpin," which was promoted as the work of "the writer of 'NYPD Blue' " and "the director of 'The Sopranos.' "
The credits are accurate, and a résumé does count for something. But it simply was "a writer" of "NYPD Blue" and "a director" of 'The Sopranos.' " It wasn't those shows' creators Steven Bochco and David Milch of "NYPD Blue" and David Chase of "The Sopranos."
It's the network equivalent of advertising a product at $9.99, shaving a penny for a psychological edge.
Over at CBS, a promotion for "CSI: Crime Scene Investigations" hyped the season finale by warning of a team member's death. It turned out to be a recurring character who was killed, not a series star.
Straight shooting is a major casualty of so-called reality television, a veritable petri dish for a colony of misshapen truths.
The suitor featured on ABC's "The Bachelor" last fall asked his TV beloved for her hand but ended up dumping her before the show's Nielsen ratings were cold.
"I said, 'I feel very deceived by you. You've told me every single day that you love me, and now this is it?' " Helene Eksterowicz recounted telling feckless Aaron Buerge.
Join the crowd, Helene.
When the latest "Bachelor," Andrew Firestone, appeared on "Good Morning America," host Charles Gibson grilled him about which woman he had chosen. Gibson really wanted that scoop.
Yeah, right. And Anna Nicole Smith married for love.
A skillful news interviewer who happens to work for the same Disney-owned network that airs "The Bachelor," Gibson faced a career hawking Mickey Mouse ears if he had gotten Firestone to spill the beans before "The Bachelor" finale aired.
Talk about coy flirtations; no reality-TV couple has it over the performance the two men gave on "Good Morning America." (Such crossover promotion is part of the larger issue of media conglomeration, but that warrants attention beyond nitpicking.)
The reality genre just doesn't tend to bring out the best in folks. To win a spot on a show, applicants have told whoppers such as claiming a clean police record or fudged on other facts.
Frenchie Davis, briefly seen on Fox's "American Idol," was booted because she hadn't disclosed her job with an adult-oriented Web site. Smart move on her part: The knockout singer went on to Broadway.
There's skepticism about the series itself. After popular Ruben Studdard, the eventual winner, was nearly voted off one week, viewers flooded radio stations with their suspicions that the vote was rigged to increase suspense over the outcome.
In that climate, a simple error can fan a conspiracy theory. Host Ryan Seacrest twice read incorrect numbers for the vote spread between Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken and some, including one apparently envious executive at a competing network, cried potential foul.
It wasn't, but it's easy to see why viewers would join in a chorus of "Suspicious Minds."
As a wise man OK, it was Tom Cruise in "Jerry Maguire" once said: "We live in cynical times. Cynical, cynical times."
It didn't happen overnight. We got here bit by bit. And there's no end in sight.