Trust No One

The first episode of Trust Me throws you right into the midst of the ad biz, with the internal struggles of people trying to climb their way up within the big-time ad agency. One of the characters is shown as having nothing doing in his life but the ad business, and his life means nothing, and that seems to be a major point.

Only thing is, no one has anything going on in this show but the ad business, and their fights within the business. Adn whatever quirks they may have, we’ve got no reason to root for them, no reason to care about them. These are not grounded as human.

The triumphs are not one the viewers share. The internal games are not that interesting. And things hinge on The Great Ad Campaign, which is a lot like the show that relies on The Great Skit or The Great Standup Routine — and if you see how many bad ads are written by ad-writing specialists and how many bad skits are written by the folks on SNL, it’s no surprise that the writers of a drama don’t come up with something truly great. They just have to have all the other characters pretend it’s great, but that never truly convinces the viewer. It feels quite fake.

The characters – well, dang, their rad, their creative genuises, they seem just too damn Poochy.

Look, if anyone should be able to be made the audience for a show about the ad biz, it’s me. When I was a kid, I thought I’d end up in the ad biz, wanted that as my job. I read From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor, I cared about the ad campaign in Cujo. And it can be done on TV. Witness thirtysomething, with its drama, or Mad Men, with its texture. But here we have a show built around two actors I like (Tom Cavanaugh, and if you were wondering when someone would try to make use of Eric McCormick, wonder no longer), and it leaves me cold.

Not for me.

Published in: on January 27, 2009 at 11:26 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. This is probably my own experience speaking, but I still say someone needs to do a show that doesn’t look at advertising as a glamorous business where people spend all their time either wooing new clients or brainstorming ad concepts. When I worked for a big-fish-in-a-small-pond company, we didn’t have rival agencies chasing after our business (at least in a small market, the rule is “Better the devil you know…”) the drama we caused mostly came over costly and mundane mistakes. I guess you could say there’s more drama in the big pitch than in the ad that requires another print run because the designer mixed up the pictures, but perhaps if the stories don’t have such obvious drama, the characters would have more going on.

    For a long time I thought my wish for a ‘small market agency’ show would fit best on an Office-type comedy but you got me thinking a well done drama shouldn’t need to go back to those ad drama cliches.

    And even in the ‘big pitch’ story, has there been an ad drama that got into the “vitamins versus candy” conflict that’s at the core of advertising? (Basically, copywriters want to make candy — wildly creative stuff that’s really cool but doesn’t really communicate a message — while the client wants vitamin pills — forget the entertainment value of the ad, they’re spending money to get their product talking points out in the public. There’s also the smart ad concept gets turned down for not fitting the client’s demographics.

    Maybe Trust Me got into those issues or it will, but it lost me too quickly for me to know.

  2. Well, the drama take on the ad business is probably never going to be any more real than it is on any other topic; one rarely gets anything better than “that will seem real to those on the outside”.
    Vitamins versus Candy could actually be the theme of the legitimate drama – the internal struggles of the adman who knows he wants to be the artist, but must stamp out the vitamins. The man who wants to be Don Draper, or who maybe really wants to be a 1980s music video director, but spends his days on “it costs less! It taste better!” – or on trying to romance the right guy at the mid-sized client to fall for the romance of the candy, of the ad that he can boast to others later that it was “his” ad, rather than the ad which actually sells.
    (I know there’s been a few ad-shop sitcoms, but the only for-sure one which comes to mind is Bosom Buddies. Was Conrad Bloom the ad biz? Oh, and that Richard Mulligan remake of a Britcom?)

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