Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Can Whitney Survive Its Ad Campaign? A Discussion

Adam: Can we talk about these Whitney ads? Will anyone who has seen them watch the show? Because they are truly awful. I feel like they're going to kill the show off before anyone even sees it.

Halle: Okay, here's the thing. I understand that everyone has their own taste in comedy, and we can no more escape our own preferences than we can change them. Also, you and I are people who are (willfully) inundated with comedy all the time, so we probably have an even more specific view on many comedy-related things. Perhaps we are even, let's say, persnickety

Adam: I would say we are DEFINITELY persnickety.

Halle: That being said…the Whitney ad campaign seems like something they had in a box in a storage room somewhere for 15 years that they just dusted off for this particular show.

Adam: Oh my god, totally. Sitcoms featuring standups, named after the standup! I just keep thinking about the show Jerry and George were trying to make for NBC on Seinfeld, and it was called Jerry. And even that was a joke back then!

Halle: Exactly. I'd like to cite one specific poster, if I may.

Adam: Please, by all means.

Halle: Which is the one which has a joke that goes something like, "Whoever invented morning sex forgot about morning breath."

Adam: A hilarious take on modern romance!

Halle: Now, Whitney Cummings has a bit about not liking morning sex, so much so that she will instead cut a hole in a cantaloupe, warm it up in the microwave and slip a wig onto it so her boyfriend can have sex with that, instead. The difference between those two concepts is….unfathomable

Adam: Haha yes. But cantaloupe intercourse is a tough thing to put on a bus ad.

Halle: I guess! This is NYC, people! In my America, that's on the side of every bus in Manhattan.

Adam: You should pitch the National Cantaloupe Growing Council.

Halle: "And then you just cut a hole in it, you see, but make sure you don't put the wig on first so it doesn't melt in the microwave."

Adam: But that's the thing, I am not sure ANY joke would work in the context they're putting them in. I just don't think that there are jokes funny enough to survive being put in a very obvious SETUP, PUNCHLINE format, on a billboard, with a smirking comedian, that you will see 100 times.

Halle: Yeah, that is a good point. So the question is, is this Whitney ad campaign really any worse than any other ad campaign, or is she just drawing ire for any other number of reasons (being a lady, being young, playing a character that is nominally supposed to be herself)?

Adam: Well the ones about being a lady also seem like they are from a time warp. "Ladies be talkin'!"

Halle: Not only ladies be talking, but ladies talk to punish their men! "That's what you get for forming a relationship with me! I will use my brain and face to make sounds that you hate!"

It's hard, because I hate that joke with such a white-hot passion, I can't see outside of myself to why some people think that's funny. Someone in a boardroom must have thought it was, right?

Adam: I guess there is a rich tradition of sitcoms about people in marriages in which they bicker all the time, from Archie Bunker on down. But this just feels way worse for some reason.

Halle: I think it's weird that a show with a female protagonist has an ad campaign which has numerous jokes about women being awful.

The ad campaign in general makes me suspect that Whitney is going to be a completely bleached-out version of Whitney Cummings' stand-up. And if that's the case, then why would anyone watch it? The show is named after the comedian, you would hope that her ad campaign would in someway highlight what makes her show different and her voice special. Perhaps that is merely a fantasy.

Adam: Well, she has said that the show will be edgy and boundary-pushing and that's why we should be on board with the laugh track and multicam setup. But I get the impression that just saying "morning sex" on a billboard is edgy for NBC.

Halle: Well, we know she wears a sexy nurse outfit in the pilot.


Halle: That's what a time traveler from 1952 would scream at the wall of TVs at Best Buy


Halle: I'm going to be honest. I have on several occasions come home and watched Whitney Cummings' stand-up on YouTube after seeing those ads. And whatever your personal preferences are, I don't think anyone can argue that Whitney Cummings can't write a joke.

Adam: Oh of course.

Halle: So I think it comes down to, how much is she (and writers who get how to use that voice) actually represented in the show vs. how much is going to be like that Garbage Town, USA ad campaign?

Adam: Right, do you think the show will be more like her standup or more like the ad campaign?

Halle: I don't know. The clips that have been out so far look questionable, but I know that pilots are usually a poor example of the show they represent.

Adam: Well here is what Whitney said when defending the presence of a studio audience:

"It’s basically my stand up in the form of a narrative show, so if you like my stand up, you’ll love the show. All we do is talk about sex and vaginas and vejazzling about how the Kardashians are sluts and I’m in a freaking nurse costume trying to have sex with my boyfriend and he’s getting a concussion…its much edgier than the shows without an audience. I am absolutely going to get sued."

Halle: The Sexy Nurse Association already has their lawyers on the phone.

Adam: Yeah, if dressing like a sexy nurse can get you sued, every frat party everywhere had better lawyer the fuck up.

Halle: Look, objectively, those things are topics and things I love, so my inclination is going to be to love this show. HOWEVER, the ad campaign seems to be very focused on how awful women are, what with that noise that is ceaselessly emitting from their throats.

Adam: Yeah, I really want to like it. I think that's the problem: these ads are making it nearly impossible to think I will.

Halle: It's just like, I feel as if I am Whitney Cummings' target audience, being a lady of a certain age and race and access to TV. And the ads just made me want to smash them with a hammer.

I also think we should consider the fact that by making us talk about the show with terrible ads, we are in fact giving the show more publicity and compelling more people to watch it to find out if it's bad. Which is a great plan, if you really want people to watch the first episode with no regard to anything else.

Adam: So you're saying we're being manipulated. That certainly seems possible, I think I am probably pretty easily manipulated.

Halle: I'm a Whitney truther, is what I'm saying

Adam: But yeah, not sure if it's the best secret plan in the world to be like "Let's make the worst possible ads so everyone talks about how much they hate the show before they've even seen it! Word of mouth!!!"

Halle: Yeah, I definitely don't think it's a good idea.

Adam: But maybe we are underestimating the power our published chatlogs have over the viewing public of America.

Halle: Ha, good point.

Also, if you look really closely at those Whitney posters, you can see a tiny owl.

Adam: The castle in the background has a penis for a spire!!

Halle: When Whitney flops down on the ground, the dust that drifts into the sky says, "Women need to shut their yappers!"

Adam: Haha the ultimate easter egg.

So bottom line, do you think these ads will hurt the show in the end? Will people be avoiding this show rather than seeking it out because these ads are so singularly horrible?

Halle: I mean, I think the fact we are even having this conversation makes me inclined to say yes. So, yeah, it's just not helping anybody.

Adam: Well, here's hoping the show is actually good and this is just a product of NBC's crack advertising team. Because if not, if the show is really 22 minutes of these billboards, it will not be pretty.

Halle: I mean, it cannot be as bad as those ads make it look. I refuse to believe it.


Halle: Then those sexy nurses are going to have a field day in court.

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  • Joshua Kurp

    "Women are emotional ninjas" is my personal least favorite.

    As for the show itself, the premise could be intriguing (what happens when a long-term, non-married couple grows bored with each other?), but not when it’s played for slapstick laughs and “women be all like” guffaws. The ads do nothing but harm the show, and I’m confused why so many of them featuring Whitney baring her stomach, not to mention the above-mentioned nurse’s outfit.

    Also: is there a reason why Whitney's name hasn't been brought up as much with 2 Broke Girls, which she co-created? The pilot was legitimately funny, unlike the few clips of Whitney I've seen (also: from afar, I keep thinking Whitney's boyfriend is a well-dressed Martin Starr, and then I'm quickly disappointed), but her name is rarely mentioned. Is it because of a BLOOD OATH between NBC and CBS?

  • Anna Jayne@twitter

    I have been wondering these exact thoughts since these ads started popping up everywhere. The ads make me want to watch the pilot to see how bad it is, but if I go into a show wanting to hate it, I probably will. They have also made me never want to seek out her comedy (though it sounds like maybe I should?)

    Also "When Whitney flops down on the ground, the dust that drifts into the sky says, "Women need to shut their yappers!"" = genius.

  • http://www.twitter.com/pablogold Pablo Goldstein

    All of the awful TV ads remind me of that Simpsons where Marge hears the kids fighting and says "Now, Homer. DON'T YOU EAT THAT PIE!" Then he does. And so does Whitney. Because that's what Whitney does.

  • http://www.twitter.com/baxterpancake Baxter Pancake

    These ads make me feel awful on behalf of the human race. I feel even worse now knowing that the poor woman is a legitimate comedian that is actually funny.

    What would be worse: the show sucking hard and being pulled off the air? or the show being great but still getting pulled because nobody watches it due to the horrible advertising?

  • InfoMofo

    Maybe her husband in the show talks in the style of vaudeville comedian Eddie Cantor like in Boardwalk Empire.

    "My wife. I said, my wife is such an emotionless, emasculating harpy… Ohhh Noooo!"

    That's a show I'd watch.

  • Davidwatts

    Will the boyfriend (Chris D'Elia) surpass his role as the coolest guy in the world/an incredibly horny child predator in Workaholics?

    WHICH IS, btw, another show that had a truly rage-inducing ad campaign, but which actually was pretty good.

  • deepomega

    More posts like this, please. (Excoriating? Conversational?)

    It's worse in LA where they are on every flat surface larger than a square yard.

  • Elliott Beard@facebook

    Can the show survive having poorly-shaven unfunnyman Chris D'Elia as a co-lead? I would suggest the answer is NFW.

  • Jason Lefkowitz@facebook

    I don't know who Chris D'Elia is, but in that photo up top his expression makes him look at first glance dangerously like David Spade. Which is yet another way the ad makes me not want to watch the show.

  • iamjustryingtolive

    this article def brought to the surface the anger that has been bubbling up in the splitsider community about this show. I really dug Whitney's set on Conan last year and was stoked when i heard she got a TV deal, but it looks like, from the ads, she has compromised her "artistic integrity" Not everyone can get the "Louie" deal, but you'd think the people who greenlit Parks & Rec, Community and 30 Rock wouldn't have the reigns so tight on a gifted young comic.

  • Commenter+

    That billboard picture reminds me of the opening of the season 7 episode of The Office where they are taking a picture for a Christmas card and then Kevin suggests "How about all the men stand on one side and all the women stand on the other side and the men are like 'Why I oughtta' and the women are like 'Lets go shopping'"

    It's painfully setup in a "Oh no she din't!" kind of way. I want to believe that because NBC has four great comedies that they'll continue to do well on Thursday nights but then we get Perfect Couples, Paul Reiser, and Outsourced and I'm reminded of why NBC is still the #4 network. Do better.

  • http://twitter.com/barbituratecat Avy

    My mom is really looking forward to this show, and I've been turning the channel every time a commercial for it comes on, if that's any indication of how I feel about it.

    I'm kind of sick of this whole "Oh look at me, I'm a wacky, sarcastic, quirky white woman just trying to live my life!" thing that most new sitcoms seem to have going on. It seems like most female characters can never be legitimately funny without the writers resorting to painfully sexist and groan-worthy misogynism.

    I'm glad to hear her stand-up is funny, though, so I'll actively be searching that out. Still won't watch the show, though.

  • carolita

    I have a question! Does it have to be a ripe cantalope?

  • Lacey Tobias@facebook

    If this show is indeed what they're advertising it to be, the same people who like Two and a Half Men will like it. If it's not, the people who would enjoy it will avoid it like the plague because of it's half-assed, trite, lame ad campaign. Leading to cancellation, quick like. Although, it could be Cougar Town, which is hilarious and I'm still trying to convince people to get past it's stupid name.

  • RollSouth

    I just hope there's a scene where Whitney is talking to some network execs pitching her show Cummings.

  • JulieSK@twitter

    For what it's worth, pretty sure that "Women be talkin'" is just a take on "Women be shoppin'" ala Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock.

  • Crackerjacker

    I'm in Britain, and I'm STILL sick of these ads(Damn you A.V. Club, reject their money!!!). By the quote from Whitney herself, I think I see a problem – Stand-up comedy is quite close to radio in most forms, because it relies almost entirely on the vocal delivery and nothing else; or, "Tell it, you can't show it".

    This means you end up working through the material in your head.

    TV is almost the complete opposite, in that most of it is the visual aspect, and the audio will often be a completely secondary concern to what you can see; "Show us, don't tell us"(Admittedly this is partly because of the way TV makes money – ads – but them's the breaks)

    This means we're taking Whitney's stand-up(Which I like, not love), and relying on a large company of people to create a set, costumes and acting performances, to be either as good as or better than any of our own imaginations while listening to Whitney's jokes at a show or on an audio recording.

    I want it to work, and do well. I doubt it will, but as always I hope I'm wrong and look forward to that moment. But if the method behind this show is "Take the same mentality as with the stand-up, and act it", then……well, take a deep breath and get ready for the worst.

    Gets me through morning sex. :)

    • Crackerjacker

      @Crackerjacker Regrettably it was what I thought it would be.

      "My sons' browser history features a lot of Whitney Cummings, we should give her a show"
      "She's a stand-up, right?"
      "Well….let's use finger puppets to act out all the parts of her funny funny stories"
      "Finger puppets?"
      "Did you say 'finger puppets', because I meant actors"
      "YOUNG actors. And one of them's the stand-up"
      "Yep, we can use her as both credibility and as an excuse for failure. Also we'll call it that; 'Whitney'."
      "I like the way you think, tumor on my neck."
      "I love you too Daddy"

  • Nick S

    My theory is that Whitney Cummings was created, Weird Science-style, by Dane Cook and Jo Koy.

  • Cristin Burton@facebook

    Great convo guys. I have seen her comedy, and I hated it. She shit on women during the act, just like the billboards, and I assume she'll do it in the sitcom. Furthermore, her standup gives me the impression that she has NOTHING else to talk about besides relationships. It's all about the men in her life. Nothing else.

    She's another hot woman who thinks she can get away with terrible jokes because she's hot. AND to make things worse, she jumps on the guys' side. She tells dude jokes, so she can fit in and be successful. She's a total sellout, in terms of gender and comedy. I think she's actually capable of decent writing; she writes for the Roasts. But her standup is for tv specials, meaning it's written to appeal to a mass audience.

    Her sitcom will not be good. If you like 2 and a half men, you'll like this. Classic gender jokes. Like "woops, honey I forgot our anniversaly because i am a man". The sad thing is, NBC thinks it's edgy, but it's actually very old fashioned. It's like that movie "Friends with Benefits", where the studio is all "Look! It's interesting comedy that's about two people who have casual sex! Isn't that wacky?!" Not edgy at all. Now here's Whitney saying "Look! I'm a hot chick who can joke about bad breath, punishing my man, and how women are psycho! Aren't I edgy?!"

    ugh, vom.

  • Cristin Burton@facebook

    Halle, you won't like this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnPwJKWOUuM&feature=player_embedded

    It might make you angry.

    • hypnosifl

      @Cristin Burton@facebook Yeah, that was awful. So, can anyone link to some of the better examples of Whitney Cummings' standup that Halle and Adam were talking about? (maybe in the above clip she was just pandering to the type of audience that watches Jay Leno?)

  • Brian Cunningham@facebook

    I'm glad you guys wrote about this. I was thinking the exact same thing. This will be the first show to be cancelled based solely on it's AD campaign

    • ohnoididnt

      @Brian Cunningham@facebook I don't think it will be cancelled first BECAUSE they spent so much damn money on the ad campaign.

  • Brian Cunningham@facebook

    OOOOH – Also. Speaking of melon sex. I head this phrase (but do NOT practice it): A wife for duty. A boy for pleasure. And a melon for ecstasy.

  • Anthony Coro

    I just watched the pilot on demand and sadly, the ads are 100% not misleading. First off, I acknowledge it's a pilot but there's basically no plot in the episode whatsoever–it's essentially all a front to get an attractive woman in a sexy nurse outfit for 10 minutes. I'm not going to say that every NBC sitcom of the past few years has been a winner (although they have a pretty decent batting average), but this is the first one in a longtime where just about every joke is completely predictable. I can't even say that about Outsourced. I mildly smirked at three moments in the episode–one line that was admittedly pretty amusing; one line that was humorous but I'm almost 100% positive I've seen it before in another show/movie; and one time where they said Whitney's last name and I thought back to the great comment posted here about her hypothetically pitching a show to NBC with that title.

    Bottom line: Whitney is the best new show of 1995!

  • iamjustryingtolive

    hahahaha love ur comment Anthony. I as well watched the pilot on demand and thought of the great comment here about her hypothetical pitch. I will say this, it is kind of cool that the show is filmed in front of a live studio audience. On the other hand, I watched a 3 min preview for 2 Broke Girls on demand and i thought it was cute and had potential, even if it was also filled w sitcom cliches.

  • harvs
  • harvs
  • Jason Farr@facebook

    The ad campaign is pretty abysmal. I want to like the show, too. I want it to be a big hit for both NBC and Whitney Cummings. But that campaign looks like something her fans wouldn't take to very well and would alienate the people who don't know her stuff. I hope I'm wrong.

  • Ryan Williams

    Really nice to read that story. She really was crazy at some moment of time but overall it was pretty nice. Hungry shark evolution hack