This is from TheStar.
Producers say they didn’t know about networks’ anti-drug arrangement
January 17, 2000
by By ELLEN GRAY – Knight Ridder Newspapers
PASADENA, Calif. — Pot bad, Pottery Barn good.
What else is there to say about the latest tempest in television’s teapot?
Not that the heads of major studios weren’t shocked — shocked, I tell you — to learn late last week that networks had participated in a federally sponsored program that allowed them to get credit for public-service announcements by airing programs perceived to contain anti-drug messages.
“I didn’t know anything about it, and I think it’s appalling,” Regency Television president Gail Berman told reporters shortly after the story broke.
And Berman, whose studio produces Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” and the WB’s “Roswell,” wasn’t the only one taken by surprise.
Former Fox entertainment president Peter Roth, now president of Warner Bros. Television, proclaimed himself “baffled” by the arrangement, a congressionally sanctioned program in which networks, in return for receiving millions of dollars in advertising money to air anti-drug messages, had to match that money with something of equal value, either in public-service announcements or in episodes that contained messages the Office of National Drug Control Policy approved — usually after the fact — as being anti-substance abuse.
(Honk if you think an anti-drug plot point undermined the artistic vision of “The Wayans Bros.,” one of the shows whose script the feds reportedly had a hand in retooling.)
But Roth, who said it was “frustrating” to think the networks might assess programming in terms of its ability to “diminish their responsibility economically,” brightened up considerably when asked about last week’s episode of the Warner Bros.-produced “Friends,” which provided a major plug within the show for home-furnishings retailer Pottery Barn.
Stay tuned for more such arrangements, Roth indicated.
“It’s incumbent upon us all to figure out ways to … increase revenue streams,” he said, although he wasn’t able to say whether the studio had actually benefited from Pottery Barn arrangement. There are restrictions on turning sitcoms into commercials — that pesky federal government again — but Warner Bros., Roth said, is “now working with … a number of manufacturing companies (that are) able to legitimately take advantage of their sponsorship.”
When you subtract the commercials we already know about, there are 22 minutes in the average sitcom, maybe 45 or 46 in a drama.
It’s only a matter of time — and money — before every one of them is for sale, to someone.
Let the viewer beware.
Meanwhile, the White House drug office should have its hands full trying to shoehorn anti-drug messages into “Clerks,” an animated show based on the indie movie of the same name that ABC’s plans to launch this spring. Creator Kevin Smith (“Dogma”), who’ll reprise the Silent Bob character he’s played in all his movies, describes the characters he and co-star Jason Mewes voice as “kind of our classic stoner duo without being stoners because, you know, it’s ABC.”
ABC, for its part, describes the slacker pair as giving “literal meaning to the phrase `high jinx.’ ”