There are a few entertainment industry stories that one summer breeze or another has been blowing onto my desk. Collectively they speak volumes about the dysfunctional state of the popular culture.
- It is a sacred truth for the TV advertising community that the 18 to 49-year-old demographic is the only market that matters. It is a fact of life that TV shows offering copious amounts of sex and violence will attract many in that group. That is why the advertising community spends billions of dollars annually promoting their wares on these shows.
Oops. Looks like they've been wasting their money all along.
A United Press International article says that a study by a psychology professor at Iowa State University finds that adults who watched "neutral" television programming remembered the advertisements on these shows far better than those who watched racy or violent fare.
Brad Bushman, who conducted the study, told UPI that "when people watch a program with violence or sex, they think about violence [or] sex. The sex and violence registers much more strongly than the messages the advertisers are hoping to deliver." He also noted that this effect holds across the board: "Violence and sex impaired memory for males and females...and for people who liked and did not like to watch televised violence and sex."
"Our findings," said Bushman, "suggest that advertisers should think twice about sponsoring violent and sexually explicit TV programs."
- Speaking of dumb marketing, here's another item. It looks like cable television super chef Emeril Lagasse will have a sitcom on NBC this fall. "Emeril" is the latest project from producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, who a decade ago were riding very, very high with "Designing Women" and "Evening Shade." Linda and Harry, of course, went on to become infamous as the most fatuously loyal Friends of Bill west of James Carville.
Well, there are three things we know about our 42nd president: He's got plenty of time on his hands. He loves the spotlight. And he loves food. We know two things about the Thomases: they are skin-tight close to Clinton and they are master promoters.
So I venture to make a prediction: Before Christmas, Clinton will make an appearance on "Emeril" - if it's not canceled first. (Broadcasting & Cable says it's hardly a favorite of critics, quoting one who called it the "dippiest" new entry on the fall schedule.) If Clinton does so, and someday TV Land has a theme night of episodes containing guest appearances by Washington big shots, that "Emeril" installment could take its place in the lineup along with the Richard Nixon episode of "Laugh-In," the Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger "Dynasty," the Bob Dole "Suddenly Susan," and the Al Gore "Futurama." Only the Thomases would think this man has any market appeal left.
- Rolling Stone reports that Curtis Hanson, who directed "L.A. Confidential" and "Wonder Boys," plans to make a movie in which thug-rapper Eminem, who's from Detroit, will star as "an aspiring rapper growing up on the streets of Detroit." In Hanson's eyes this Eminem fellow is not low-life punk, no siree. He's one of pop culture's Enlightened Ones. Hmm.
Here are a few of Hanson's comments to Rolling Stone, interwoven with a few of Eminem's lyrics. It's hard to say which are more stupid.
Hanson: "In his work, Eminem reveals a breadth and depth of emotion that can translate into a moving dramatic performance..."
Eminem: "Got pissed off and ripped Pamela Lee's t-s off/And smacked her so hard I knocked her clothes backwards like Kris Kross."
Hanson: "Once you get past the superficial shock value of his lyrics, you're struck by the insightful commentary on our culture..."
Eminem: "Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell his records/Well, I do/So f-- him and f-- you, too."
Hanson: "...and the forceful and brilliant way that he expresses his emotions."
Eminem: "Don't you get it, b--?/No one can hear you/Now shut the f-- up and get what's comin' to you/...Bleed, b--, bleed."
Paging Joe Lieberman...
- Finally, according to Us magazine, the models Markus Schenkenberg and Claudia Schiffer "are expected to sign on to pose as Adam and Eve in a high-fashion-magazine version of the Old Testament being planned by a group of Swedish entrepreneurs." One of the masterminds of this project remarked, "We want to take the Bible off the dusty back shelf and put it on coffee tables." Oh, Lord. I can only imagine the headline: "How to Stay Young and Fit - But Don't Eat That Apple!"
Sad to say, but there probably is a market for this.