Mar 11

Is Steve Carell the Willie Mays of sitcoms?

March 11 What do such legendary TV sitcoms as MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Seinfeld have in common? They all ceased production while the shows were still at their absolute creative best. The directors, writers and cast members all knew when to say when.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Steve Carell, who plays Michael Scott in NBC's legendary sitcom, The Office. Why? Because Carell & Co. have signed on for yet another season.

And, while it may make sense financially, it makes no sense from an image a reputation standpoint.

The Office peaked well before the Jim and Pam wedding episode. It's now devolved into a silly, smarmy love fest of nonsense that bears little resemblance to the show's original premise. In fact, it's become little more than a showcase for the individual characters to display their singing and dancing talents (or, lack thereof). In a word, The Office has gone from riveting to revolting.

Why do so many people in so many fields not know when to say when? To wit:

– For every Sandy Koufax (who quit at his absolute peak), there's a Willie Mays (who, at 40 something years of age, badly embarrassed himself in the 1973 World Series)
– For every Jerry Seinfeld there's a Lucille Ball (who continued making dreadful sitcoms long after 'I Love Lucy' had ended)
– For every Greta Garbo there's a Nicholas Cage (who continues to tarnish his once serious stature by starring in an endless string of B movies)
– For every Bill Gates (who now busies himself with his foundation) there's a septuagenarian such as Bob Lutz (who keeps re-appearing in some sort of GM managerial position despite his highly-publicized crankiness) 

I see it in my own business. I belong to a number of trade organizations populated by elder statesmen who are clearly past their prime. Yet these giants of yesteryear still feel compelled to weigh in on issues where they no longer have any direct or relevant experience. Why not go gently into the night?

I'd like to think I'll know when to say when. And, if I don't, I'm hoping a close friend will have the courage to point it out to me. That's what Steve Carell needs right now: a close friend with the guts to say, 'Steve. Bubala. It's time to let go and move on. You don't want to be remembered as the Willie Mays of TV sitcoms, do you?’

Dec 04

My top 10 places to avoid list

What happens when a tourist destination's image and reputation doesn't mesh with one's actual experience? Disappointment with a capital D.

Having just visited Scotland, and been disappointed by one of its best-known attractions, I thought I'd compile RepMan's Top 10 places to avoid list:

December 4 - loch-ness1 1.) Loch Ness, Scotland. There are many other lochs with far more to do and see than this one. Nessie's a no-go. Instead, head northwest to the Isle of Skye. In fact, the latter would lead my top 10 best places to see list.

2) Blarney Castle, Ireland. It takes forever to get to and, once there, you pay to forage around what is little more than a damp dump of rubble. And, the Blarney Stone itself is a small hunk of rock that I wouldn't kiss for all the potatoes in Ireland.

3) The Ring of Kerry, Ireland. Billed as a magical journey around the Emerald Isle the ring ride is, instead, a long, boring tour with little, if anything, of real interest to see or experience. Stick with Dublin. It's awesome.

December 4 - couples-in-love-at-disney-world-760376 4) Disneyworld, Disneyland and anything associated with Disney. If you're looking for the worst possible cost-benefit ratio, then these theme parks are your ticket (literally). Endless lines, massive hype and outrageous a la carte pricing make the Mouse more of a rat.

5) A Norwegian cruise. Call it a Norwegian snooze instead. If you've seen one fjord, you've seen them all. Opt for an Alaskan cruise instead. You'll love it.

6) The London Eye. Another over-hyped tourist trap, the Eye is nothing more than a big Ferris Wheel that stops every five minutes or so and provides views of the city. Big bloody deal. Don't waste your time or money. Opt for the Jack the Ripper walking tour instead. It kills.

7) Fort Sumter, Charleston, S.C. I adore everything about Charleston. But, the fabled Civil War fort is a must-miss. Avoid the long ferry ride to see a mass of rocks and ruins and, instead, visit one of the working history plantations like Middleton. They're spellbinding and the nearest thing to time travel I've yet found.

December 4 - 30rock_kenneth 8) The NBC Studio Tour, NY, NY. The admission price is outrageous, the tour is underwhelming and you see little and learn even less about the fabled network. A Circle Line cruise around the island is still the best Big Apple experience in this blogger's opinion. 

9) The Eiffel Tower. Sorry mes amis, but I found the long lines and overall experience less than formidable. Sitting at the Cafe de le Paix, sipping wine and people watching is a better alternative.

10) Berlin. I'm not sure what I expected, but as a huge history buff, I was very disappointed with the ultra modern destination. Aside from the Brandenburg Gate, there's really nothing to do or see (except for Checkpoint Charlie, which is way cool).

I wanted to end my Top 10 places to avoid list with a special honorable mention for the Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Site in St. Augustine, Fla. It's a five-and-dime version of Disneyworld with a few, trashy 'rides' that look as if they haven't been updated since Ponce himself first visited in the early 16th century.

How about you? Do you have over-hyped destinations that should be added to the list? Or, do you take exception with what I've said about one or more sites? Speak up. The plane's doors are about to close.

May 02

What’s next? “To Catch a Cleaning Lady?”

Having exhausted the various permutations of their long-running ‘To Catch a Predator’ series, NBC is nowTomandjerrytomstrapomatic2
launching a new one called, ‘To Catch a Contractor.’

The promo heralds a show that will uncover all sorts of sleazy, diabolical and even criminal practices being perpetrated by those always perplexing, always behind schedule and always over budget contractors. Fair enough. Who hasn’t had a bad experience with a contractor? In fact, it’s almost a rite of passage to be a homeowner.

But, I draw the line with NBC’s tactics. I never liked ‘Predator’ because I thought it crossed over into entrapment. And, something tells me the same will be true with contractors.

I can just imagine the various ways in which NBC and some ‘social justice’ group will ensnare some unsuspecting, but altogether sleazy, contractor. We’ll hear an NBC ‘plant,’ posing as a sultry, seductive housewife call out: ‘The door’s open, c’mon in. I’m just folding some wash in the nude. I made some brownies and iced tea. Put your tape measure down and have some.’

In my opinion, the whole thing stinks.

And, where will this mindless content end? Will we see future shows aimed at ‘catching’ cleaning ladies? How about the mailman? The FedEx delivery guy? You know a country’s moral fiber is scraping the bottom when we sit around at night watching one strata of society entrap another. Get a life, America.

Feb 27

Fear is innovation’s mortal enemy

Lots of us work, or have worked, for people who made us afraid to fail. They scared us so much that weYelling
became paralyzed with fear. One of my bosses routinely screamed at me and others. Another took his cigarette and lit one of my newsletters on fire to show his displeasure. A third would surreptitiously undercut many of my moves behind my back.

Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal Integrated Media, recently addressed the subjects of fear and risk-taking at an Institute of Public Relations audience. During her address, she asked: ‘Is there anyone here who hasn’t spent a sleepless night anticipating the next day’s big story, having quite confidently told our boss or our client we knew the outcome and then living in fear of being fired the next morning for not delivering what we promised? I’ve been fired in my imagination at least a couple hundred times.’

While I can totally sympathize with Beth (a former client, btw), I’d like to think the draconian work environments I knew in the 1980s and early ’90s (and she apparently knew until quite recently) are the exception, and not the norm.

Managing by fear may be a sure fire prescription for Six Sigma-type compliance, but in today’s rapidly-changing world, businesses desperately need risk takers. To her credit, Comstock says she encourages risk taking at NBC. I sure hope so, because staying awake nights worrying if a failed media placement might cost a job, is no way to inspire out-of-the-box thinking. Come to think of it, it’s not much of a way to live either.

Jan 11

Promotional Darwinism Emerges from Writers Strike

Guest blog written by Laura Mills.

I am annoyed by this writers strike.  Like many, I want my “Grey’s Anatomy.”  I want my “Office.”  And IHershey
really want my new season of “24.”  Instead, we’re stuck watching reruns and increasingly mindless reality television (“American Gladiators,” anyone?), while contemplating the rapid depreciation of TiVo…

This week, Reuters reports that NBC is offering to refund some Golden Globe Awards marketers after scrapping the traditional telecast.  Disappointing news for a bored America, but let’s be honest.  As the Reuters story shows, the strike by the Writer’s Guild of America isn’t just our issue.  It’s putting marketers in a very unique situation.  As we follow coverage of the strike with hopeful anticipation, other news outlets report the increasing potential for an economic recession.  I think marketers are secretly over the moon to have a reason to cut back on broadcast spending, harboring an attitude of “let’s store the harvest and get ready for a chilly winter.”  Everyone knows that in the face of recession, marketing budgets are the first to be trimmed.  But alternately, I think the writers strike also provides a great opportunity. 

With the promise of hours of reality television in primetime, branded sponsorships are inevitable.  For example, a recent episode of Bravo’s “Project Runway” featured a design challenge sponsored by Hershey’s.  Models and sample sizes generally aren’t associated with Reese’s Pieces and Twizzlers, but they made it work.  Hershey’s allowed the designers to run loose in their Times Square store and pillage as much candy and merchandise as they could for use as materials in their garments.  It was brilliant, and even I’ll admit to craving a Kit Kat at the show’s conclusion.  If we’re going to see more of these types of promotions, I would hope for more out of the box thinking like Hershey’s and “Project Runway.”  In fact, here are some unexpected sponsorships that I would like to see:

• “The Apprentice” and the NCAA (Imagine Tim Tebow in the board room)

• “Dancing with the Stars” and Playstation (Think: Dance, Dance Revolutions)

• “Survivor” and Band-Aid

Joking aside, I expect to witness savvy brands distinguishing themselves from their competitors as they leverage the current broadcast landscape.  In many ways, it is its own sort of reality show.  Will you be watching?