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Product Placement

As many of us TV watchers know, product placement has insidiously crept its little tendrils into all our favorite shows. Well, Royal Pains on USA might not be the best-written show of all time, but its a guilty pleasure I can’t resist. Big houses, gorgeous people, and a fleet of rented exotics that makes me salivate. But even by USA’s standards, Royal Pains’ product placement goes “clunk” so hard I was worried it would pull my plasma off the wall.

Ever since Ms. Sugarlips gave up her Saab, she has been driving around in a 2010 Prius. She comments on the solar cells in the roof. She starts the air conditioning remotely. And she discusses these actions as they happen just in case you, dear watcher, should miss it. Its a PRIUS! Its awesome! Everyone should get one.

No. The Prius sucks. Its a totally slow, lame car and I like to drive fast, awesome cars. I would clearly take an hour with any of the F430s on that show over a lifetime with any hybrid. So perhaps I’m a bit biased. But even the constant Prius placement can’t compete with one absurd example in Episode 9, “It’s Like Jamais Vu All Over Again.” In this episode, its revealed that Divya has been lying to her parents about being a physician assistant because they are traditional and Indian and wouldn’t like it. She’s scurred! We’re not really sure how she got the training to do said job without her parents noticing, but we’ll leave that one to live in the lollipop land we like to call, “suspension of disbelief.” At any rate, Divya has to make the doctor’s weird brother character lie and say he is her friend from school. But not just any school. Oh no. He’s a friend from WALDEN UNIVERSITY! Walden. Divya: “Did you get that, Evan, I said (staring creepily into the lens) W-A-L-D-E-N…” Evan: “Oh ok. Sure, Walden. Got it.” And then she proceeds to tell her parents, “oh, me and shit-for-brains went to school together.” Reply from actor hired for resemblance to play mother: “Oh really?” Divya: “Yes, at WALDEN!” Cue the surprised and impressed nods from actors playing parents.

N.B.: If you haven’t seen this moment, I suggest fast forwarding to it. I watched it several times in succession. Its just that good. You know that moment at the end of Cruel Intentions when the headmaster pulls apart Lindsay Lohan’s cross that’s filled with blow? And then he slowly, very slowly, shakes his head in disapproval? Well its just like that only opposite and not as good.

Anyway, at this point its absurd. I truly thought they had “Wharton” in the script but UPenn got its panties in a knot and wouldn’t let them say it. So “Wharton” became “Walden.”

My theory was shattered during the first commercial break, wherein a full seventy-six minutes was devoted to “Walden University…Opening Minds” (or something, not sure, was trying to find the remote to fast forward).

Later in the episode Divya laments, “But this isn’t how its supposed to be! My parents have it all mapped out, marry whats-his-name, graduate from WALDEN, and move to London.”

What makes this totally obnoxious and, frankly, completely random product placement all the more ridiculous is that Walden is an online university. They met at Walden? They went to Walden together? How? Like, what, in the public library where their two work stations were across the room from each other? They were clicking away and staring into each other’s eyes across a line of carts filled with old copies of Reader’s Digest?

Incidentally, if you’re into some trashy TV chat, check out my buddy Matt’s blog, WarmingGlow. He has videos embedded and everything. He knows how to do that sort of thing. Neat!

Have you ever experienced a product placement this absurd? If so, please share it with me – and the world – in the comments section below.



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  1. dominick bestiari
    September 16th, 2009 at 14:14 | #1

    Don’t hate. Those set design fees are very welcome….

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