Going commercial: More ideas for new shows based on TV ads

[30 May 2007]

By Ellen Gray

Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)

The gecko was robbed.

That’s all I could think when I first saw the frankly uninspiring clip from Cavemen, the fall comedy based on the Geico commercials, that ABC showed to advertisers a couple of weeks ago.

If the clip somehow failed to do justice to the series and the final product turns out to be the next Seinfeld, I’ll happily eat my words.

I might even switch my car insurance.

But I’m still going to be thinking about that other Geico commercial, the one with the dapper lizard—can an unclothed creature be dapper?—with the irresistible accent.

That’s a gecko that needs its own series.

Maybe a talk show.

After all, according to Wikipedia, “geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalizations, making chirping sounds in social interactions with other geckos.”

This particular gecko, of course, has already moved well beyond the chirping stage. He can talk to anyone, anywhere.

In fact, he’s the Dick Cavett of geckos.

Why should he be left behind while the Geico cavemen—or actors made up to resemble them—get their shot at sitcom stardom?

At a time when all the broadcast networks are eager to reassure advertisers that their commercials still matter, we can expect to see more and more blurring of the line between art and commerce this fall. The CW, in fact, will launch a show, CW Now, that apparently grew out of the network’s advertiser-sponsored “content wraps.”

It will air without commercial breaks because, well, much of what’s in it is expected to be a kind of commercial for sponsors’ products.

Meanwhile, some of those same sponsors are no doubt airing commercials already that have at least as much potential as those cavemen to break out.

Here are just a few that might have been overlooked:

The Slowskys

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably encountered the Slowskys, that turtle spokescouple who think Comcast high-speed Internet is just too fast.

Pitch: Turtle-Americans Bill and Karolyn try to survive in a high-speed world by traveling in the right lane with their blinkers on.

Hook: Their speed-skating son longs to be the next Apolo Ohno, and their daughter’s a little too eager to come out of her shell. How will the Slowskys cope?

Pilot: Karolyn’s pleas for her daughter to dress a little more modestly fall on deaf ears—until someone writes something rude on the walls of the high school girls’ room. Will Bill and Karolyn be able to respond quickly enough to keep their daughter from being permanently labeled “Slutsky Slowsky”? Let’s just say we’re talking a three- or four-parter. At least.

Mac and PC

Fusty PC and smug Mac are the Odd Couple for the 21st century.

Pitch: After Silicon Valley hits another downturn, the Apple spokesman and his Windows-based rival are forced to become roomies.

Hook: While Mac lives the iLife, PC’s nostalgic for the good old days of Windows 98.

Pilot: When a beautiful woman moves in next door, the boys vie with each other to offer support for her operating system—only to discover that she’s running (gasp) Linux.

IDK, My BFF Jill?

The girl from the Cingular ad who talks in text-messaging shorthand stars in a Nickelodeon show as a tween whose parents have trouble understanding more than every third or fourth word she utters.

Pitch: On a network full of shows whose very titles defy parental understanding—The Naked Brothers Band? Mr. Meaty?—Texting Girl and Jill speak the language of Nick’s core audience.

Hook: BTW, “Jill” is never seen, only read. In an homage to Rhoda‘s Carlton the Doorman and Cheers’ Vera that’ll be lost on most of the audience but keep costs down, she’ll appear in every episode as merely a series of text messages.

Pilot: When TG’s parents threaten to take away her cell, she tries (but at first fails) to prove that her text-messaging prowess has practical applications, only to turn things around when her quick-fingered 911 saves a school bus full of children from plunging over a cliff.

We Were Just Talking…

Another Cingular ad, the one about those fateful dropped calls, inspires an anthology series—think Twilight Zone-meets-The Love Boat—about what happens when important conversations end in mid-sentence.

Pitch: Sometimes a dropped call can change your life.

Hook: Each week, a deep-voiced host—Rod Serling’s no longer available, but maybe Kiefer Sutherland?—introduces two people whose lives took a detour when their (never identified) cell service let them down.

Pilot: That woman who got the flowers and sought reassurance from her friend that her boyfriend hadn’t done something awful to provoke that act of devotion? Rather than call her friend back, she goes home and slashes all four of Flower Boy’s tires. Only later does she discover the engagement ring he’d planned to give her that night.

The eHarmony Chronicles

This daytime offering focuses on singles who for one reason or another were rejected by eHarmony.com.

Pitch: Participants bring their stories to a licensed psychologist—someone Dr. Phil-like but cheaper—who tries to determine why eHarmony found them unworthy.

Hook: Viewers at home will get to vote on whether the picky dating Web site made a mistake.

Pilot: A tattoo artist talks about her longing for a guy who will laugh at her jokes even when they’re not funny, while a man who can’t stop talking complains that he, too, deserves to find love with a soulmate who’ll finish his sentences.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/going-commercial-more-ideas-for-new-shows-based-on-tv-ads/