FOX and “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane will present a half-hour comedy special in November, and it’ll be commercial-free. Unless you count all the hawking of Microsoft’s new operating system.
The special, titled “Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show,” will feature MacFarlane and his co-star, Alex Borstein, doing live performances of a few “Family Guy” musical numbers, original animation and comedy sketches. It airs Sunday, Nov. 8 as part of an all-MacFarlane night that starts off with “American Dad” at 7:30 p.m., has two new “Family Guy” episodes sandwiching the special at 8 and 9 and finishes with “The Cleveland Show” at 9:30.
And that is the sum total of information about the entertainment content of the special. The rest of FOX’s announcement is devoted to touting the “branded programming” FOX and Microsoft will incorporate into the show to tout the release of Windows 7 — in other words, product placement. The network wants you to know that MacFarlane and Borstein are working with Microsoft and its ad agencies on “customized branded integrations” that will “blend seamlessly” with the rest of the show.
“We’re working with FOX on innovative brand integrations that will show how the power and simplicity of Windows 7 can enhance the content FOX viewers love,” says Microsoft’s head of consumer engagement and advertising, Gayle Troberman. “We have simplified the PC with Windows 7, and together with FOX, we’re simplifying entertainment.”
FOX’s press release says all it’s really doing with the special is bringing a very old-school TV idea — having a single sponsor of a show, a la the “Texaco Star Theater” — into the 21st century. Except that during the “Texaco Star Theater,” the ads, though done live on the same stage, were very much separate from the rest of Milton Berle’s show — so much so that it became a recurring bit for pitchman Sid Stone to chased from the stage by a cop.
MacFarlane has a subversive streak in him, so maybe the finished product won’t be as much of an infomercial as the press release makes it out to be. Maybe he’ll make fun of the awful launch-party video Microsoft put out, or of Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” ad campaign. I hope so, at least, because otherwise this sounds like fail to me.
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