Well, even cops gotta eat, right?
That may or may not be a legitimate excuse for a “jarring” product-placement in Monday’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0” on CBS when, suddenly, three of the show’s characters engaged in an in-depth conversation about the culinary qualities and health benefits of Subway sandwiches.
The “scene” played like a commercial — one lasting almost a full minute — for the sandwich chain, although it was part of the show, and not a commercial airing outside of the program, along with other spots.
So-called “product-placements” — for which sponsors pay for their products to be visible as set dressing on TV shows, or get mentioned by a show’s characters — have been part of the TV landscape for years. But traditionally, attempts were made to integrate the products in some “organic” or seamless way. And even if those attempts weren’t always successful, this new wrinkle — in which a TV show’s characters just basically take a break from the action to blatantly promote a sponsor’s product — just tosses the old “rules” out the window.
In the “scene,” detectives McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Kalakaua (Grace Park) find their lunch-wagon proprietor — beefy Kamekona (Taylor Wily) — away from his food truck and seated at a picnic table tucking into five Subway foot-longs. Then, when confronted by the two cops for forsaking his usual lunch fare and abandoning his business, Kamekona extols the virtues of his Subway selections.
New York Times critic Mike Hale blasted the in-show spot, calling it “jarring, disruptive and insulting.” Our take: We don’t disagree with his column — which you can read here — but we happen to take a more bemused approach to such things. Yes, the scene is jarring: Here you are watching a typical episode of “Hawaii Five-O” – fast-paced, action-packed, violent – and suddenly you’re taking a lunch break with a scene about sandwiches.
The thing is: Except for critics complaining about them, the real test for CBS is whether such an in-program commercial will turn off viewers to such an extent that they’ll abandon a TV show and render it unprofitable. And that kind of stuff really doesn’t happen, no matter how egregious the offense. For the record, 10.73 million people watched “Hawaii Five-O” Monday night — about the same audience as the show always draws.
It’s also true that TV networks and producers are getting bolder in foisting these kinds of sponsorships on their unsuspecting viewers. The other night, we spied a similar one in a new episode of “Pawn Stars” on History Channel. One minute, the “Pawn Stars” guys are doing their usual business, dickering with customers over the value of their collectibles, and suddenly Rick Harrison is turning to his co-worker Chumlee and asking him what he’s up to. Chumlee’s answer: He’s on his laptop doing his own taxes with TurboTax, which he then praises for its ease and convenience.
The lesson: Product-placement is so easy, even Chumlee can do it!