The Surprising, Seemingly Supersized ABC TV Promo

Network ratings are slipping. The economy is in the toilet. What better time to rip up the playbook for producing TV promos?

A masterfully long TV promo for the two-week crossover event between "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" feels more like a movie marketing trailer.

Networks hardly do crossover TV shows anymore. So ABC realized this event deserved a bit more amp-up.

At first the promo seems like "the ABC program promo that wouldn't end."  "We trust them," says the announcer, at the start. "We look to them to save our lives... But even doctors are human... One mistake will start a change of events that no one will stop."  We see Patrick Dempsey's Derek slumped over in a chair, pensive.

Then rat-a-tat-tat video and action. The cuts are so short, they seem to be cutting not by individual words but by syllables.  One-second, half-a-second edits. "I can save them both!" "Won't that kill her!" "It IS personal!" Characters slugging each others -- three times! (Patrick Dempsey' Derek hitting Eric Dane's Mark. Then Mark returns the favor, as well as another Mark slugged by an unknown character.)

Other lines: "This has gone too far!" "Do not touch my patient!"

And then, right in the middle of it all -- Faye Dunaway?! Whoa! What is SHE doing there? All with the soundtrack of some epic-sounding, "Gladiators"-type music rumbling underneath.

And then just when you think the promo is going to end, it shifts gears -- dramatically, of course.  A slow-moving on-screen graphic reveals:  "Doctor... or God?"  

This 60-second promo seems like it has its own first, second, and third acts.

You have to hand it to ABC, and executive producer Shonda Rhimes, who gave ABC executives a lot to work with.  I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen. But this tease is so way over the top, you'd be a fool not to watch.
Will I be disappointed? It doesn't matter. I won't be blaming the marketing guys next Thursday at 11 p.m



2 comments about "The Surprising, Seemingly Supersized ABC TV Promo ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, February 17, 2009 at 1:03 p.m.

    I agree. I saw the promo last night and laughed out loud, but it stuck in my mind. One of my former jobs was making TV promos, so I appreciate the effective creativity.

  2. L.a. Peters from Audience Research Analysis, February 17, 2009 at 4:15 p.m.

    The ABC crossover promo is a masterwork. Hurray for the marketing team. However I must also comment on this sentence of Wayne Friedman's blog; it jumped out at me:

    "Networks hardly do crossover TV shows anymore."

    Why? I know it takes a great deal of effort to get schedules and egos to converge, but the ratings payoff is usually worth it. Think of the crossover between "Without A Trace" and "CSI" last year. Nielsen gold.

    For TV's audience, the sum of each individual's viewing creates an entire fictional world of entertainment and fantasy fulfillment. Crossovers not only make sense to these crossover audiences -- they're special and exciting. *Not* making this kind of episode an annual event programming makes no sense.

    For example, all of the crossover viewing of the three Law & Order franchise shows (all produced by Wolf Films and distributed by one arm or another of NBCU) suggests that crossovers would succeed as special events -- a boon for the viewing-deficient NBC network. But there hasn't been a crossover between any of these dramas for years, and those that have occurred were incidental and not well promoted.

    Let's hope ABC's crossover super-promo for Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice -- and the ratings bonanza that no doubt will result -- inspires minds in other mega-media corporate suites. Crossovers are an old idea that's new again, with considerable potential for boosting network ratings and revenue at a very reasonable cost.

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