My Turn

Some Product Placements -- Aren’t

7/18/2007 1:39 PM

If you’re emulating TV’s favorite OCD detective, Adrian Monk, don’t seek out his new favorite bottled water — it’s not on the market.

You probably wouldn’t be interested being like Monk unless you like Monk, the breakthrough basic-cable drama on USA. (Ignore the three Emmy Awards won by star Tony Shalhoub in the comedy category; it’s a drama. Is Columbo a comedy?)

And if you like Monk and Monk, there should be lots of red flags in the phrase “new favorite bottled water.”

For one thing, Monk doesn’t change his habits, tries to avoid trying new things and generally sticks to the program. A new bottled-water brand? Columbo will go Hugo Boss before that happens.

But that happened Friday night in the premiere episode of the new Monk season, in a scene with guest star Sarah Silverman playing demented fan Marcie Maven. A big deal is made of the fact that Monk’s new favorite water is Summit Creek, and that last year, it was Sierra Springs. Last year? Try several years, lady. And what’s Monk’s on-screen response to this exposition by Marcie Maven?

A shrug.

My response: a sellout.

Summit Creek water’s makers or bottlers or whatever they are must have bought that placement, the way Glad, Clorox, Buick and other advertisers have bought their way into Monk episodes and avoided DVR skippers, I surmised.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Summit Creek bottled water online. There’s a gift catalog outfit called Summit Creek, but it doesn’t seem to sell water. That’s weird — there was a close-up on the bottle and everything in the scene, which seemed to be all about Summit Creek water.

Also, no listing of such a product on the Monk section of product-placement tracking site SeenON!, either, amid the Monk tchotchkey mugs and anti-bacterial wipes.

A publicist for the show checked with NBC Universal’s ad-sales unit and was told that it wasn’t a placement. She said the phrase “scripted genius” was included in the response to her query. The writers made the name up, she said.

My new theory: The writers have to drop in fake product placements every once in a while to keep you guessing when the real ones come along.

What’s yours?

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