Dear Publicists From All Walks:
Last night I had the pleasure of attending an advance screening of Showtime's new summer series The Big C, starring Laura Linney and Oliver Platt, as well as Shameless, an intense family drama starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum that is yet to be set on the premium cable network's schedule (expect reviews as it gets closer to their premiere dates).
All of the buzz about The Big C has thus far been great: the caliber of actors they have on the series are strong on their own, but added to smart writing and the quirky approach to a serious and sad topic (cancer), and there really wasn't much question that it would be a success. But Showtime didn't get cocky. They didn't sit back and fold their arms and smirk that they knew they were the sh*t and we should just be grateful to be in the presence of such creative material. No, they treated us to cocktails, a gourmet buffet, and and executive-style leather armchairs in our intimate screening room. In other words, they treated us like respected members of the human race, let alone the media. And admittedly I was a bit tongue-tied at the treatment!
I am used to scraping the bottom of the barrel as a blogger who writes for small, new, and "up and coming" sites. I am nowhere near the "top tier" of media in the hierarchy old-school publicists have set up. Often I end up attending such events only when "bigger" reporters turn them down and spots open up. But that's okay. Because really I'm just happy to get to do what I do; I would watch these shows just as religiously, and just as actively, even if I wasn't writing about them!
I consider us bloggers pretty savvy people, though. We have managed to turn our snarky commentary on guilty pleasures many would normally watch in the shame and privacy of their own dark bedroom into a paying position. So therefore, it is easy to see through being plied with swag and lots of drinks as bribes before events that are about to blow. You know, so that we will still have some enjoyable part of our evening and not completely pan what is about to be presented to the world.
So last night when walking into the Showtime offices, I admit I was a bit worried and taken aback by not only the warm welcome from the team but also the very well-planned, classy evening. I became a bit worried that the shows wouldn't hold up to the standards the network has set with previous hits like Dexter and Nurse Jackie. I was nervous it was about to be a pretty silent, stodgy, tense hour and a half! Luckily, though, my fears were unfounded as all of the pre-screening festivities proved to be just a bonus-- not unlike the mini buffet of desserts that surprised us as we walked into the screening room-- to the top-notch quality we have come to know, expect, love, and respect.
In my experience, products that publicists know are amazing usually don't have them going above and beyond. Hell, when I went to a press screening of Toy Story 3 they didn't even offer free popcorn or a small soda! They must have figured getting an advance look (and for free) at a completely unique 3D IMAX movie was enough.
And they were right. The truth is, bloggers don't really need all the freebies. I mean, no one needs them when they're random hats with show names embroidered on the front or tee shirts that get sent in Large when you're a Small and always in Extra Large packaging! How many Sigg water bottles does a person need, after all? And don't even get me started on the ABC Family geniusness behind stuffing a box full of dirt so that critics nearly ruin their laptops!!
But there is still something to be said for showing one's appreciation. When it's done right, it makes you feel like someone, finally, in Hollywood is putting you on an even playing field with themselves and saying that your job is just as important as theirs. When it's done right, it makes putting up with all of the little annoyances of the gig worthwhile. When it's done right, it doesn't feel like an after-thought but rather something they genuinely want to do because they're excited about their work and want you to be, too. And it works because good, positive energy is a key element to this industry.
I won't name names, but let's just say that most networks would benefit from taking a page out of Showtime's book!!