Fans of the TV show Bones, which returns tonight at at 8 PM ET on Fox, have a love-hate relationship with one of the series' oddest little quirks: approximately four times per season, an episode will stop dead for about 60 seconds while the characters talk enthusiastically about some cool feature or another on the Toyota they're riding in. While some viewers find the in-show ads obnoxiously intrusive, others (including myself), actually appreciate how obnoxiously intrusive they are: by making the ad sections as blatant as possible, the show's producers are implicitly acknowledging how silly the practice is. You can tell that they're uncomfortable with the practice, though: clips of the Toyota scenes that show up on YouTube invariably get pulled almost immediately on copyright infringement claims.
Since the rise of the DVR means many of us hardly ever see commercials anymore, TV shows have gone ever further into this kind of integrated product placement. It's not just about the giant red and white Coca-Cola glasses in front of the American Idol judges anymore, or even things like that recent Project: Runway episode that was a barely-veiled 90-minute commercial for Yoplait's new Greek frozen yogurt. Brands are increasingly making their way into the scripted dramas and sitcoms.
Like Bones, Cougar Town has had season-long relationships with sponsors: for its second season, the critically-acclaimed sitcom's characters quite often found themselves lounging on the patio outside an ostentatiously prominent Subway restaurant. This culminated in a scene between Travis (Dan Byrd) and Laurie (Busy Philipps) in which the teen proclaimed his love for Subway's huge sandwiches and cheap prices. (And yes, that's Community's Danny Pudi, in character as Abed, behind them: this was the punchline of a season-long running gag on the second season of Community.)
After moving to TBS for its fourth season, Cougar Town started a new relationship with Target. Not only did series co-stars Ian Gomez and Josh Hopkins do an in-character commercial for the retailer that aired during every episode, an entire episode featured a subplot in which the perpetually broke Bobby (Brian Van Holt) treats a day inside a 24-hour Target as a miniature spa vacation. Modern Family had already gone to the red-and-white well, setting one storyline of a Christmas episode in a Target where mother and daughter duo Claire (Julie Bowen) and Hayley (Sarah Hyland) were attempting to finish all of the family's holiday shopping in 45 minutes.
The practice has become so widespread that the more self-aware shows have begun mocking themselves for it, such as a memorable break in an episode of 30 Rock where an ad for Snapple shows up in the midst of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) complaining about the practice of integrated product placement in scripted TV. Others are more relaxed about the concept. On Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Fey's erstwhile "Weekend Update" co-anchor has revived the practice of occasionally doing live ads at the beginning of his show's commercial breaks. And why not? After all, Johnny Carson did the exact same thing on The Tonight Show 50 years ago. Everything old is new again.
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Sir Ian Mckellen and Sir Derek Jacobi's new sitcom about an elderly gay couple has been branded "lame" and "a let down" in scathing reviews by TV critics. The veteran actors' new small-screen venture Vicious, about bickering same-sex lovers living together in London, debuted in the U.K. on Monday (29Apr13), but failed to impress reviewers.
Benjamin Secher of the Daily Telegraph newspaper gave the pilot episode just one star out of a possible five, and argues the stars' acting talents are "squandered... on perhaps the least funny new comedy in recent memory".
The Guardian's Sam Wollaston concedes the camp characters are "rather fabulous" but adds, "It's just a shame that the vehicle in which they find themselves isn't a better one. It's not just old-fashioned... it's also, frankly, a bit lame."
In the Daily Mirror, Ian Hyland writes, "Vicious was a particular let down... Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi may well be legendary actors, but it's going to take a lot to convince me that this isn't just a pair of gay refugees from a Benidorm (U.K. sitcom) script rewrite theatrically b**ching each other off for half an hour."
Meanwhile, Alex Hardy of The Times criticises the use of a laughter track instead of a live audience, but admits the show has some redeeming qualities.
He declares, "Vicious remembers the 'com' of 'sitcom' in a way that many others do not... And yes, it's about a gay couple, but it also punches hard on the themes of ageing and insularity."
The film and television nominations for the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards have been released, recognizing achievements in both individual performances and the strengths of ensemble casts. This year's television award nominations are listed below, including many worthy recipients, but there are also a few surprising absences. Among the hard-hitters listed below are dramas like HBO's Mildred Pierce and Boardwalk Empire, AMC's Breaking Bad and comedies such as ABC's Modern Family (which swept the Emmys this year) and NBC's 30 Rock. However, some might be surprised not to find the new Showtime drama Homeland or NBC's secret weapon Parks and Recreation.
The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will air live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Jan. 29, 2012 on TNT and TBS.
Click here to read the list of this year's film nominees.
18th ANNUAL SAG AWARDS NOMINATIONS: PRIMETIME TELEVISION
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Laurence Fishburne - Thurgood (HBO)
Paul Giamatti - Too Big to Fail (HBO)
Greg Kinnear - The Kennedy (Reelz Channel)
Guy Pearce - Mildred Pierce (HBO)
James Woods - Too Big to Fail (HBO
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Diane Lane - Cinema Verite (HBO)
Maggie Smith - Downton Abbey (PBS)
Emily Watson - Appropriate Adult (Sundance Channel)
Betty White - Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Lost Valentine (CBS)
Kate Winslet - Mildred Pierce (HBO)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Patrick J. Adams - Suits (USA)
Steve Buscemi - Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights (DirecTV)
Bryan Cranston - Breaking Bad (AMC)
Michael C. Hall - Dexter (Showtime)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Kathy Bates - Harry's Law (NBC)
Glenn Close - Damages (DirecTV)
Jessica Lange - American Horror Story (FX)
Julianna Margulies - The Good Wife (CBS)
Kyra Sedgwick - The Closer (TNT)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock (NBC)
Ty Burrell - Modern Family (ABC)
Steve Carell - The Office (NBC)
Jon Cryer - Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Eric Stonestreet - Modern Family (ABC)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Julia Bowen - Modern Family (ABC)
Edie Falco - Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Tina Fey - 30 Rock (NBC)
Sofia Vergara - Modern Family (ABC)
Betty White - Hot in Cleveland (TV Land)
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire (HBO) - Steve Buscemi, Dominic Chianese, Robert Clohessy, Dabney Coleman, Charlie Cox, Jose & Lucy Gallina, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston, Anthony Laciura, Heather Lind, Kelly Macdonald, Rory & Declan McTigue, Gretchen Mol, Brady & Connor Noon, Kevin O'Rourke, Aleksa Palladino, Jacqueline Pennewill, Vincent Piazza, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Van Wagner, Shea Whigham, Michael Kenneth Williams, Anatol Yusef
Breaking Bad (AMC) - Jonathan Banks, Betsy Brandt, Ray Campbell, Bryan Cranston, Giancarlo Esposito, Anna Gunn, RJ Mitte, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk, Aaron Paul
Dexter (Showtime) - Billy Brown, Jennifer Carpenter, Josh Cooke, Aimee Garcia, Michael C. Hall, Colin Hanks, Desmond Harrington, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Rya Kihlstedt, C.S. Lee, Edward James Olmos, James Remar, Lauren Velez, Peter Weller, David Zayas
Game of Thrones (HBO) - Amrita Acharia, Mark Addy, Alfie Allen, Josef Altin, Sean Bean, Susan Brown, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Ron Donachie, Michelle Farley, Jerome Flynn, Elyes Gabel, Aiden Gillen, Jack Gleeson Iain Glen, Julian Glover, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Conleth Hill, Richard Madden, Jason Mamoa, Rory McCann, Ian McElhinney, Luke McEwan, Roxanne McKee, Dar Salim, Mark Stanley, Donald Sumpter, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams
The Good Wife (CBS) - Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, Alan Cumming, Matt Czuchry, Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Archie Panjabi, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
30 Rock (NBC) - Scott Adsit, Alec Baldwin, Katrina Bowden, Kevin Brown, Grizz Chapman, Tina Fey, Judah Friedlander, Jane Krakowski, John Lutz, Jack McBrayer, Tracy Morgan, Maulik Pancholy, Keith Powell
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) - Mayim Bialik, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Jim Parsons, Melissa Rauch
Glee (Fox) - Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Ashley Fink, Dot Marie Jones, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Mike O'Malley, Chord Overstreet, Lauren Potter, Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, Mark Salling, Harry Shum Jr., Iqbal Theba, Jenna Ushkowitz
Modern Family (ABC) - Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, Julia Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Nolan Gould, Sarah Hyland, Ed O'Neill, Rico Rodriguez, Eric Stonestreet, Sofia Vergara, Ariel Winter
The Office (NBC) - Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Creed Bratton, Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, Kate Flannery, Ed Helms, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, John Krasinski, Paul Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Oscar Nunez, Craig Robinson, James Spader, Phyllis Smith, Rainn Wilson, Zach Woods