Monday, July 14, 2008
When TV Network Promo's Cause A Backlash
Several years ago, some NASCAR Busch Series races were carried on the FX cable television network. That company had an adult comedy that was called Son of the Beach. That is the cast pictured above.
The show was loaded with sexual references, bathroom humor and lots of ladies in very little clothing. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a part of the entertainment landscape in this nation. Unfortunately, when the NASCAR Busch Series met the Son of the Beach crew, there was a very big problem.
On a Saturday afternoon, following a breathless pit reporter detailing that some team had only taken two tires and gas, a TV moment of a very different sort began to take place. It was time for a commercial break in the Busch Series race and FX chose to promote Son of the Beach.
Clustered around America watching NASCAR on TV were a lot of youngsters. They were joined by families who religiously watch the sport, record the races and know the up-and-coming drivers in the Busch Series. From Mark Martin driving for Winn Dixie to Jeff Gordon in the Baby Ruth Ford, it seems almost everyone got their start on Saturdays.
FX opened their broadcast promotions with thirty second spots that featured the bikini-clad actresses and their out-of-shape middle-aged male lifeguard leader. The promos joked about male and female sex organs, the size of women's chests and often made fun of homosexuals.
The language was rough, but that was because FX was trying to find-out how far they could push the limits in the type of programming they wanted to show in prime-time. Late in the evening, Son of a Beach found an audience for three seasons. The show was cancelled in 2003.
On message boards across the Internet, NASCAR fans were screaming about this TV series. It was not the acting or the language or the content that they were concerned about. It was the fact that this content was being relayed to viewers through broadcast promotions early on Saturday afternoon in a NASCAR race.
The response came back loud and clear from FX. The network did not care. The response came back loud and clear from NASCAR. This was not their problem. Parents who continued to allow their children to watch the Busch Series on FX did so with the remote control in their hand and their finger on the MUTE button.
Now, several years later, NASCAR fans have once again experienced a situation that has them chatting and complaining. This time, the TV series in question is called Saving Grace. Promoted by TNT as the chronicle of a hard-living female detective, Saving Grace makes Son of the Beach look like SpongeBob Square Pants.
Veteran actress Holly Hunter plays a police detective who has a male angel that guides her in times of crisis. Hunter is sometimes nude or partially nude and there are graphic scenes of sex that have involved everything from bondage to adultery. Hunter spent 20 minutes of one episode naked and tied face-down to a bed with markings on her back and rear-end in lipstick.
This was the television content being promoted by TNT in the NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
One website even joked about the troubles of trying to promote this TV series in NASCAR:
Can you imagine an ad like this on cable TV? (Imagine this in the "voice" of an announcer for a NASCAR race ad):
"Monday night at 10 p.m. TNT is proud to present the most intense, dramatic hour on television as Holly Hunter gets naked for some (reverb and echo effect) NUDE SEXUAL BONDAGE!!! That's right, Holly Hunter, star of stage, screen and television will get (echo effect) NAKED and (reverb efffect) TIED HAND AND FOOT for YOUR viewing pleasure! Never before has any cable station submitted such (reverb and echo effect) SALACIOUS, EXPLICIT, NUDE SEXUAL BONDAGE for your viewing pleasure! Don't miss this (reverb) EXCITING presentation!"
I would provide the link to the site, but it contains nude still pictures of the episode and goes on to speak in rather graphic terms about the type of sexual treatment Hunter's character received in this program. Here is a season one video recap link that also contains adult content but is available to any Internet user.
The Daly Planet also received many emails about the repeated promotion of The Bill Engvall Show. Most referenced the rather twisted moment where he picks up his daughter's thong from the laundry basket. Other viewers felt if they saw Kyra Sedgwick one more time they would lose their sanity. "We know she is The Closer," they all said.
But nothing shook the fans like the reality of Saving Grace. While the promos on TNT featured Hunter drinking beer and aiming her gun, there was only a brief moment of her partially disrobed and engaged in sexual activity with a man. It was when the "brand loyal" NASCAR fans followed the advice of TNT and crossed-over to actually watch Saving Grace that this strong reaction began.
Where NASCAR is concerned, TNT is here and gone. There is no NASCAR programming on TNT before they arrive and there is none now that they have left. Essentially, this was an opportunity to use the high-profile Sprint Cup Series to promote as much TNT programming as possible.
Well, they certainly accomplished that goal. The questions are, did you really know what they were promoting, did you watch the shows or did the repeated promos make you vow to never watch them?
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