Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Promises, promises, promises

Today's column looks at the problems fans had with last week's "Lost" promos -- and the ones I suspect they'll have after they see what little resemblance tonight's show bears to the ads. An excerpt:

Here we have a show that already has major trust issues with its fanbase. Viewers are so frustrated at not getting answers that the promo department actually felt the need to say there would be three answers in the episode -- and then, as far as many fans were concerned, the episode failed to deliver.

"It's a difficult position that we're in," acknowledged Mike Benson, ABC's executive vice president of marketing. "We don't like to go out and sell things that don't actually happen."

From Benson's viewpoint, three questions were answered: 1) The whereabouts of the children who had been abducted by The Others, 2) The whereabouts of the flight attendant who had been abducted by The Others, and 3) The origin of Jack's tattoos.

The problem is, very little was revealed about the first two, save that the kids and the flight attendant were still alive (she described their current situation as "complicated"). And few fans were staying up at night wondering about why Jack got his tattoos -- especially since the real-world answer is "Because Matthew Fox has them, too."

To read the full thing, click here. One thought that got cut for space: I wonder how much of the discontent over the latest batch of "Sopranos" episodes came from HBO selling every episode as a bloodbath, even though they never were.


Anonymous said...

Hey, you wrote a column about my idea! Coolio! Thanks, it was interesting to hear from the guy in charge of those promos, though I'm surprised he didn't want to be quoted anonymously for fear of a Lost fan lynching :)

Anonymous said...

Great article, Alan. What annoys me even more than misleading promos are those for serialized shows that give away the entire plot and/or twists that will occur in the next episode.

24 is notorious for this; I gave up watching the promos back in the second season when I realized that they were constantly spoiling major plot points and twists. Spoiler-laden promos really hinder one's enjoyment of a show like 24, which consists mostly of elaborate action sequences and shocking (and often hilariously implausible) occurrences.

I've since done the same with shows like Lost and Battlestar; they're simply much more fun to watch when you don't know what's coming next. (Well, Lost hasn't been fun to watch for quite a while, but you get the idea.) That the previews are now falsely priming viewers to expect revelations that never ultimately occur is yet another reason why I'll continue to avoid watching them.

Anonymous said...

The actual three questions:

1) Is this show a waste of time?
2) Are you sick of Jack yet?
3) How do you keep a moron in suspense?


1) Totally.
2) How could I not be.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jim, why oh why won't you answer the third question? I'm still waiting!

SJ said...

I absolutely hate watching promos. I try to avoid them as much as I can, but they are almost unavoidable if you watch even a bit of TV.

Case in point, the way they showed that Simone is alive in the promos for Heroes. Now I already know that she is something special or is alive...I prefer to be surprised damn it! How cool would it be if all of us discovered that while watching the show??

Anonymous said...

Jim, why oh why won't you answer the third question? I'm still waiting!

Don't worry; he'll tell you tomorrow!

Promos really have gotten bad these days. Even the ones on soap operas are better than the prime-time promos.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely on trying to avoid the trailers. Even the "Previously, on _______" recaps at the beginning of shows are starting to give things away. Example: The Shield recently showed scenes from Season ONE in a Season 5 episode. Somehow I knew that the case of Vic shooting Crowley was going to be brought up in the episode to follow.

P.S. - I didn't see any of the Sopranos promos which advertised a bloodbath, and still thought the season was a huge disappointment.

Anonymous said...


Isn't the show on at 10 p.m.?

Unknown said...

I have always loved watching the "next time on insert-show-name-here" segments after the show...would always get mad at my husband if he went for the remote before they aired (pre-tivo)...but it seems like nowadays, those promos have to be accompanied by ALL-CAPS captions and the all-knowing doomsday voice-over telling you how it's something you don't want to miss it. It's just kind of undignified and pandering.

Occasionally, no scenes from next week can also be very effective...

HBO used that pretty well, I think, on a couple of occasions. In the last season of Six Feet Under, after Nate had his stroke, they cut to credits and had no scenes from next week at all. I can't remember for certain, but I think they may have done the same thing with The Sopranos this year after the season premiere, when Junior shot Tony...Other shows have just recapped the previous episode, but don't give you any clues to what's going to happen next.

Used well, that totally heightens the anxiety and adds to the must-see quotient for the next week's episode.

Bulldawg4life said...

I really ignore most promos and just judge a show by an episode; The Jack tattoo episode was weak on several fronts, not least of which was because it had the awful Bai Ling in it.