NBC's "Medium" is a drama series about a woman who can see and talk to dead people who have been the victims of horrible crimes.
And speaking of horrible crimes against dead people, the producers of "Medium" have digitally inserted the genuinely dead Rod Serling into Monday's episode, which will feature 3-D segments.
The TV great, best known for creating, writing and hosting the science-fiction series "The Twilight Zone," will "introduce" Monday's broadcast and tell viewers how they will know when to put on their special paper glasses to view the 3-D segments.
(FYI, the cue will be an enhanced image of show star Patricia Arquette's eyeball.)
The producers acquired rights to Serling footage from "The Twilight Zone" and have digitally manipulated the image to make Serling say lines he never said, using a voice artist named Mark Silverman, who, NBC assures us in a news release about this nightmare, is the only voice artist recognized by the Serling estate, whatever the heck that means.
NBC has partnered with TV Guide to distribute 3-D glasses for the episode. As part of that deal, TV Guide will feature a "Medium" cover. No word on whether Dead Serling will also be plugging TV Guide during Monday's broadcast.
Show creator Glenn Gordon Caron got on the phone with The Reporters Who Cover Television this week to defend turning Serling into a pitchman for a November ratings sweeps stunt. Actually, TRWCT weren't concerned about the travesty -- wonder what they thought of that 1997 Super Bowl ad in which the legendary Fred Astaire got to dance with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner, compliments of his widow.
One clever reporter on the call wondered what Serling is like to work with nowadays:
"He's a bit stiff," Caron joked.
Then, realizing that maybe one of these members of the press might actually report that response and a member of Serling's "estate" might actually read it, he did an about-face and went all Hallmark Moment on them:
"The truth is, we're beholden to the Serling estate and to Carol Serling, his wife, who gave us permission. Frankly, it's very flattering to be allowed to do this, to use his image and to take advantage of the extraordinary legacy that he has," Caron gushed.
After Monday, that "extraordinary legacy" will include a 45-second bit at the start of "Medium," telling viewers to put on their 3-D glasses whenever Arquette's eyeball pops up.
"He had no idea at the time that a bunch of vagabond pirates like us would actually take this stuff and convert it this way," Caron bragged without shame.
Speaking of no shame and "Medium," did you catch this week's episode?
It opens with Arquette and her husband discussing with their precocious moppet children the fact that Mommy and Daddy are going out tonight -- alone. Daddy, looking at the paper, says something like, "Oh look, honey, they're having a sneak preview of that wonderful new Sony-distributed flick 'Memoirs of a Geisha.' "
Daddy holds up full-page newspaper ad of "Memoirs of a Geisha."
"Not 'Memoirs of a Geisha'!" Arquette squeals in delight.
Precocious Moppet No. 1 : "What's a geisha, Mommy?"
Mommy, who regularly talks to dead people, looks frightened at the prospect of explaining to Precocious Moppet what a geisha is.
"A geisha is a woman in Japan who, in the old days, sometimes used her body to do for a man what the producers of this episode are using us to do for the film studio Sony, honey," Arquette responds.
(Yes, I made up that last part. But Daddy really did hold up the ad, Mommy really did say "Oh, goody let's go," and off they went to the sneak preview of "Memoirs of a Geisha.")
Next scene, Mommy and Daddy are at the movie theater walking past a big banner that reads "Memoirs of a Geisha." They run into one of Daddy's old girlfriends, with whom he apparently had some pretty hot sex, which Mommy sees in detail in her head because Mommy's clairvoyant, or psychic, or just very suspicious. Daddy's ex, sensing the hate, asks overly casual-like what they're there to see.
" 'Memoirs of a Geisha!' " Daddy says.
"Oh, we just saw that, you'll love it!" Ex enthuses. Mommy stares daggers, thinking dark thoughts while, across the bottom of the screen -- you know, the area where NBC regularly pops up ads for the show that follows, the show airing next week, the show airing next season, Katie Couric or the Olympics -- up pops an ad that tells viewers to "stay tuned for a sneak preview of 'Memoirs of a Geisha.' " Sure enough, a couple more minutes of Daddy and Ex making small talk while Mommy stares daggers later, NBC cuts to a commercial and, voila! -- a sneak preview of "Memoirs of a Geisha."
The infomercial . . . er, episode, was covered by the trade papers the next day. The Hollywood Reporter, for instance, said that the deal was negotiated during the summer's upfront advertising buy, but "there was no promotional fee involved."
Back to The Reporters Who Cover Television who, while utterly unconcerned about the exhuming of a television legend, seemed genuinely worked up over the defiling of an episode of a TV series to promote a flick, even if the film is produced by Mr. Sensitivity himself, Steven Spielberg.
"We were approached that [Sony was] very interested in advertising on the show," Caron said in response to some very pointed questions, "and very interested in having the characters on the show encounter the movie, and I sort of said . . . 'Well, I've never done anything like that; frankly, what's in it for me?' "
"The answer I got was that Sony, which made the movie, would be interested in buying advertising in publications that we otherwise would not have the money to buy advertisements in. So ads ran in TV Guide, ads ran in USA Today and ads ran in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, and since 'Medium' is a show that I believe is still sort of in the business of acquiring viewers, that there are still people I would like to sample the show who perhaps have not availed themselves of it, I thought that was a good thing," Caron added.
And suddenly, "Memoirs of a Geisha" seems like the perfect product to place in "Medium."