Chuck Versus the Product Placement

Chuck AdvertIt’s hard to complain about product placement in Chuck. It was built on a foundation of product placement. The Buy More is almost literally wall-to-wall product placement. It’s the ‘quiet’ kind though – shelves full of brands sat in the background, peacefully minding their own business and not tripping up the plot. But as each season continues towards the inevitable question of whether or not the show will return, it’s the more blatant advertising wedged painfully and obviously into the plot that made me wonder if I was really that bothered any more.

I used to think that Chuck was a great show. Comedy, action, a plot not a thousand miles away from the sadly cancelled Jake 2.0 and a very likeable cast (with Yvonne Strahovski being all Yvonne Strahovski all over the place and the always fun-to-watch Adam Baldwin, ex-space-thug). It had it’s fair share of cheesy silliness, yes, but even that was charming in its own way.

Chuck, it seems, has been renewed for a fifth (and final) season. We can only hope that the writers spend more time on their storylines and less time trying to figure out excuses to awkwardly force a scene featuring a sandwich or a car somewhere into each episode. Maybe they were cutting budget costs by selling their souls to the advertisers but for whatever the reason, I have very little respect for TV shows that follow this route.

It’s a trend that seems to be seeping into more and more shows these days and it’s so blatant that it pulls you out of the moment. In an instant, you’re no longer following the story and enjoying the show. Instead, you’re painfully aware something is wrong – that the show’s producers are trying to pull a fast one. There’s no finesse to these in-show-ad-breaks, and really, there never could be. You’re just sat there feeling sorry for the actors having to whore themselves out like that.

Over the years, the audience accepted the idea that TV shows tried their utmost to avoid showing brand names if they could. For so long we had products turned away from the camera, mocked up brand labels or worse case scenario – black masking tape inexpertly applied all over the place. Slowly but surely, paid product placement started seeping back into soaps, dramas and comedies and before long there were the odd prominent laptop logo here or a very distinctive touch-screen mobile phone there. These I don’t mind quite so much. It’s when there appears to be a scene specifically included simply to show the characters interacting with a product, commenting on how great the features of this specific product happen to be and ending with a shot lingering for just… a… little… too… long… to… be… natural… of the product’s logo that I feel the rage building.

Will things change? I have my doubts. If anything it’s probably going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. Do these antics stop people watching a show completely? Probably. I know that I’ve got to the point where I’ll seriously consider binning a show that included such shitty advertising gimmicks. But the question is, will the dipstick execs be able to correlate a drop in viewers with their increasingly unwelcome advertising bootprints all over our once-favourite shows?