Sunday, June 04, 2006

Friends, I have been to the land of iniquities and returned to tell about it

Before we get to the good stuff, if you're interested in reading the Bible and/or other great books of antiquity and then blogging about it, please e-mail me.

So I should have Googled them.

I got a ticket from one of Libby's friends to something called the "New TV Preview." And I should have Googled them. But, I thought, a new TV preview! What could go wrong with that?

Lots, actually.

I showed up at the local convention center, dutifully, on time, ready to watch new pilots for the fall season. I was ready to come up with a way to disguise my identity, that I might share my thoughts on said new pilots with you, my humble readers.

The first thing they had me do was choose which brand of pickles I liked best.

This wasn't such a bad thing, in and of itself. I like pickles, as a general rule, and pickles like me. But when I had to go on to choose the brand of hair dye I liked best, the type of emory board I used to make my nails look pretty and the type of nail polish remover I used, I wasn't quite sure I was in the right room.

And the whole thing seemed awfully suspicious for a TV PREVIEW. Especially since they told us that they were going to be showing commercials. Really? That seemed counter to EVERY focus group I had ever heard of (even the one I had been approached to be on in Las Vegas -- I had to turn them down because, sadly, I am NOT actually over 35).

So the whole thing colored me curious.

And then the pilots began. And I understood why, exactly, the assembled unwashed were there.

The whole thing was a marketing focus group. By getting us to focus on the TV, we would be in the right frame of mind to watch the commercials (instead of focusing on the commercials themselves) and then comment on them.

The first pilot was something called Soulmates. This show was so awful that I can't find a link to it on iMDB. It starred Kim Raver (Audrey from 24) and Robert Knepper (Prison Break's own T-Bag) as two lovers, reincarnated and remeeting in present day (well, mid-90s) San Francisco. The whole enterprise reminded me of just how influential The X-Files was (the show attempts to throw a clumsy conspiracy plot in AND offers up several music cues DIRECTLY FROM The X-Files) AND of just how crappy mid-90s television could be (the whole thing, seriously, looked like it was shot on video -- the kiss of death for a drama). Plus, Raver just didn't have what it took at the time to be a series lead. And the attempts to make Knepper hot didn't work. At all.

My hackles rose instantly. The editing of the piece was so jumpy, so hectic that the plot was making little to no sense. I had to make several leaps of logic with it. I THINK I knew what was going on, but the audience I watched it with was clearly baffled.

Then it hit me.

This was a pilot PRESENTATION.

In the mid-90s, it was briefly popular for the networks to produce PRESENTATIONS of shows that were essentially half hour pilots of shows that would be an hour long. It was an attempt to show what the show might LOOK LIKE on a much, MUCH cheaper budget. Temp tracks were placed in for the score, and oftentimes, the productions were shot on video. Somehow, TV Preview got its hands on one of these and has been showing it, apparently, since 1999 (if viewer comments strewn about the Internet are any indication).

And if I had ANY doubts about the show, they were ameliorated when one of the characters talked about the "approaching millennium."

So Raver, who has a new show on ABC next year, and Knepper, who is still on Prison Break, get to look like fools, and everyone in the room laughs at how bad the show is.

There were a few cursory questions about the show that didn't really resemble a REAL focus group (they just asked us the most basic of basic things, probably to throw us off the scent). And then they showed us an episode of City.

City was a show that aired in 1990 on CBS (in the then-powerful Monday night lineup). It lasted half-a-season, and was mostly notable for having what now appears to be an all-star cast (Valerie Harper, Ted from Scrubs, Liz Torres). Plus, it was created by Paul Haggis.

I'll be honest. This pilot wasn't all that bad. I would probably check out a second episode. But the flimsy rationale the TV Preview people gave made NO SENSE. They said the show had been canceled because of a Valerie Harper pay dispute (which, honestly, had happened before), but now she had seen the error of her ways and wanted to return to do the show again.

After 16 years?!

Once this show was over, we got to circle MORE of our favorite products, and I finally realized what was up. They were trying to see if the ads had changed our preferences at all! I went out of my way to circle EACH and EVERY product I had seen advertised. I'm sure they think they got through to me, and that my next hair dye purchase will be made with their market research in mind.

Then we got to answer a long questionnaire about the ads and how we feel about our bladder control problems.

This was one of the most ridiculous evenings I've ever spent. Everything about it was horrid, from the shows to the presentation to the little questionnaires. The only redeeming aspect was the old man in a neck-brace who yelled, in a thick German accent, no less, "Will there be laugh tracks?" before the start of the presentation and his disgruntlement when he learned there would, indeed, be laugh tracks.

A cursory search of "Kim Raver" Soulmates on Google turned up person after person who had to sit through this stupid program. So I'm telling you. If you get the tickets in the mail, just don't go. Please.

I could have spent those two-and-a-half hours writing or blogging or even watching GOOD TV. Instead. . .

But let's not think of that.


Sylvia said...

Still up at 5:08 am? SD summers in your blood?

remkitty said...

Wish I'd read your post before I went to TV Preview tonight!! :)

Anonymous said...

i'm glad i wasn't the only sucker who sat through this bullshit. and i too wish i had read this before we went. i at least was hopeful that i would get a free gift, even a jar of pickles would have made me feel better.

Fudgems said...

A story all too familiar. We were shown "Dads" rather than "City" but regardless, the best thing about the whole night was the Pillsbury "Got milk?" commercial. But to really rub salt in the wound, I received the longest follow-up survey phone call EVER from TV preview. They made me recount every detail of the commercials and would ask me the same question "what else did you see" again and again until I said "nothing" at least twice. The conversation took at least 30 minutes (I made dinner). At the very end they asked "Would you like to see a second episode of Soulmates?" Uh, no.

Anonymous said...

At least I got paid $30 so I don't really mind lol