’24’ promos try viewers’ patience

Xander Berkeley as George Mason in 24 Season 1
Xander Berkeley as George Mason in 24 Season 1

John Carman of the San Francisco Chronicle has said he’s fed up with the advertising blitz for 24.

My sin is watching a whole lot of baseball. My penance is watching a thousand Fox promos for “24.”

Fox hit baseball with “24” promos as if it were saturation bombing a Taliban pickup truck.

Every half inning of the league playoffs — no, every third of every half inning — Kiefer Sutherland went nuts in quick action cuts from the new series, musically underscored by Limp Bizkit thundering its song “Break Stuff,” with the “It’s just one of those days” tag line.

Oh, and the announcer shouted that every TV critic at every newspaper on the planet calls “24,” a series thriller about a federal agent racing the clock to stop a political assassination, the best series in the history of television, and probably a signal event in the course of human civilization.

Over and over and over again. I ended up hating a show I like, just because Fox was beating me on the head with hundreds of promos for it.

The World Series begins tomorrow, at 4:30 p.m. On Fox. Here come more promos. The show itself doesn’t premiere until Nov. 6. Maybe Fox could rent helicopters with blaring public address systems, and post them outside the bedroom window of every American citizen, all night long.

Sports is, of course, the ideal platform for hyping shows to male viewers. It’s been done with great success. Back in 1983, NBC made clever use of the Super Bowl to put “The A-Team” on the map, with a couple of spots in which Mr. T taunted his “Happy Days” competition.

Yes, a couple of spots. Enough to amuse, inform and tantalize — a delicate piece of business compared with Fox’s “24” overkill.

This reminds me more of an old Billy Wilder movie, “One, Two, Three,” in which Horst Buchholz played a Berliner suspected of spying for the West. Captured by the Communist East Germans, he was strapped to a chair and forced to listen to a song called “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” until he’d confess to anything.

All right. I confess that I might skip the World Series to spare myself the torture of more “24” promos. And maybe to avoid seeing yet another New York Yankees celebration.

There is a reason Fox went overboard with the “24” promos.

Like the other networks, Fox researches public awareness of its programs. Had people heard about the show? Were they familiar with the title and the premise?

Over the summer, when Fox was coping with lagging ratings, it learned that the so-called “awareness numbers” for “24” were alarmingly low. To make matters worse, there would be a lag between the start of the TV season in September and the premiere of “24,” then scheduled for late October.

Some within the network weren’t worried, because “24” was a good show that would benefit from a burst of favorable press attention before its eventual premiere.

Others argued for a more emphatic jump start to bolster viewer awareness of the show. Since “24” was most likely to appeal to male viewers, what better platform than post-season baseball?

Fox’s “The Bernie Mac Show,” which also will premiere in November, was in the same strait. It too was thumped heavily during the baseball playoffs, but to a less annoying extreme.

There seems to be some awareness at the network that Fox went too far, and it’s possible that the “24” promo load will be mercifully lighter during the World Series.

But damage may have been done already, along with the good. Anyone who’s been watching baseball is now aware of “24.” Aware, and maybe weary. Will a fine show now be penalized by its own network’s excess?

Source SFGate