With all the crazy stuff going on last night on “Mad Men,” there was even a bigger shocker: a commercial for HBO’s upcoming series called “News Room.” It came at around 53 minutes into “Mad Men” right before the final segment. This is the show written by Aaron Sorkin and starring Jeff Daniels. Maybe it was a local cable commercial. But it seemed like a national buy. What a strange irony. HBO famously turned down “Mad Men” years ago from Matt Weiner, who was a “Sopranos” writer.
On top of that HBO has had a lot of difficulty launching hour long dramas. “Luck” ended ignominiously with the deaths of horses. The much anticipated “The Corrections”–with an all star cast–was scrapped after the pilot was shot. Their big successes right now are “Game of Thrones”–people are obsessed with it–and “True Blood,” which is starting to show signs of age. (Although I guess techinically it never ages, right?)
“Newsroom” starts June 24th and has a lot of positive buzz. It’s also got a very liberal slant: Daniels, playing a Charlie Rose-type anchor (with a pinch of Keith Olbermann), decides to go after the Tea Party. I’m told the show uses interspersed real footage of Tea Party ranters. The irony is that Jane Fonda plays the owner of the network, and she’s a conservative media billionaire who does a lot of business with the people Daniels’ character is criticizing on his show.
So how else to alert the public that a smart drama is coming? Advertise it during “Mad Men,” the show with the most appropriate demographic. But it was a little like Macy’s telling Gimbels, or NBC advertising its new comedy line up during CBS’s “Two and a Half Men.” Networks usually don’t cross lines into enemy camps to promote their shows. Maybe it’s a new trend.