Another top drama tainted by product placement

Last night’s “Law and Order: SVU” on NBC contained another poorly and obviously-inserted product placement advertisement, the kind of which is hammering the final nail in the coffin of prime time television. SVU is one of the best dramas on TV, and the episode was gripping and intense, and that made the ad — for the Broadway hit “Monty Python’s Spamalot” — even more obnoxious.

For those who didn’t see the episode — called 911 — here’s the scenario:

Mariska Hargitay’s character (Detective Benson) was dressed to the nines and about to enter a limo on a date, when the head of her unit (Captain Cragen) comes running outside to say they have an emergency. For the next 40 minutes, she engages a nine year old child pornography victim on the telephone, as the SVU gang attempts to locate her whereabouts and rescue her from the bad guy. It was powerful drama and well-written and acted.

When the perp returns and hangs up the phone, the squad knows she’s going to die, so they focus on porn pictures of her taken in the room that the girl described to a heartbroken Benson. Benson has changed clothes and is sitting at a table with Detective Munch, when Munch — out of nowhere — says:

“So you had a date?”

“Yup, even had show tickets.”

“What were you going to see?”


“I hear that’s funny.”

Then Munch finds the clue they were seeking, which leads to the girl and a happy ending.

This mention of the play wasn’t an accident, nor was it a clever attempt to humanize the drama. It was an awful product placement ad. How do I know this?

  • It stood out like a sore thumb.
  • It occurred at the height of the script.
  • It was meaningless to the story.

But the biggest reason is that SVU is one of the best-written dramas on television. There is no way these people could’ve created those five lines without coercion.

There is good product placement and there is bad product placement. This was the latter.


  1. There was a scene in the season opener of Law & Order: Criminal Intent where D’Onofrio holds up a cell phone like a QVC show girl — the Moto logo seemed MUCH bigger than normal… The ad for the phone came later in the show. What is interesting about these placements is the residual value they have. I wonder how they price that?

  2. There was an even more bizarre product placement in tonight’s CSI:NY. One of the lab guys was on lunch break, watching a Jennifer Lopez video on a giant plasma screen. It was clearly a product placement, since it ran at least 30 seconds. Although I did like their way of trying to justify it by claiming the worker than solved a crime sparked by a clue he gleaned from watching the video.

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