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Thursday, Nov. 4, 2004 02:45 am

common sense 11-4-04

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At last, the Golden Age of television is upon us again! But, alas, this is not the golden age of TV quality -- but literally the age of TV gold, when advertisers have become the programming.

Leading the way is the Disney's ABC television network, which has now opened its expanse of our public airwaves to complete domination by sponsors. I don't mean just the ads that sponsors run on its shows, or even the not-so-subtle placement of sponsors' products in the shows -- but rather sponsors that become the featured character of the show.

Sears has stepped out as the first of ABC's new advertising stars, putting itself forward as the centerpiece of the network's latest reality show called "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Sears paid more than a million dollars to have ABC to write it into the script of this six-part series portraying stories of home renovation.

The actual actors use Sears tools in their work, install Sears appliances in the renovated homes, and decorate with Sears furniture. If that's too subtle for viewers, there'll also be Sears trucks delivering merchandise, and the show's cast will make trips to Sears for supplies.

The commercially-crass rationale for this All Sears Show is that advertisers need a way to outfox TV viewers who zap past those annoying commercial breaks. So forget the ads, the sponsors will be the show.

To fabricate this great leap forward in TV entertainment, ABC even has a "senior vice president for integrated marketing and promotion." He assures us that while "Sears plays a role in the personality of the show," ABC would "never take it to the point where it would seem like a bunch of logos slapped in a show."

See, TV still has a few artistic standards.

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