You just can't buy this kind of promotion -- wait, actually you can. Last night's episode of "Modern Family" was essentially a half-hour-long plug for the iPad, days before it hits the stores. The episode revolved around Phil's desperate wish for an iPad for his birthday, and Claire's repeatedly failed attempts to get him one. (BTW: Spoiler in the above clip.)
The episode worked beautifully. Phil is a dorky gadget-head, and it made perfect sense that he'd be lusting after the newest Apple phenomenon. This wasn't the kind of TV product placement that has obviously been imposed onto the story for money; it was a natural extension of the character and the show's "modern" themes. When Phil said, "The iPad comes out on my actual birthday! It’s like Steve Jobs and God got together and said, 'We love you, Phil,'" it was true to the humor of "Modern Family." So was his line, "Next week! That’s like the worst thing you can say to an early adopter." I'd actually believe it if someone told me that the writers -- and not the producers or the network or Apple -- initially came up with the iPad plotline.
I did have a creeping sense of dread, though, I must admit. The half-hour was one of those examples of commercialism seeping into scripted TV now that viewers are able to DVR-forward through ads. And that makes me a little wary, just because sometimes viewers don't quite realize they're being promoted to. I do like some sense of a line between ads and TV content. "30 Rock" preserves the line best, I think, because the characters make metajokes about product placement WHILE they enact the product placement.
Still, last night's "Modern Family" was typically excellent, with many great lines and character-based jokes (Manny: "Do I have time for a steam?"). I think this episode will age nicely, too, when the iPad becomes tomorrow's walkman and the show is rerunning endlessly in syndication...
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About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Meghan Colloton is a Things to Do and Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.