The recent comedy flop The Internship took a lot of flack, and deservedly so, for being a feature-length ad for Google masquerading as a movie. But compared to some product-placement-packed reality TV shows, that film looks like a fiercely independent labor of love.
There’s the constant shilling for Subway on Biggest Loser, chefs on every Gordon Ramsay show gushing about how amazing the steaks from Walmart are, entire Amazing Race episodes dedicated to Travelocity or Ford, and many, many more.
During a recent reality round-table for The Hollywood Reporter, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi was the only one who seemed willing to admit that product placement is kind of a pain in the butt.
“I’m the one on air who gets kind of… I don’t want to say saddled or slammed with the crappy part of it, but I feel like I do,” she says to her fellow reality panel, which includes Ramsay, Project Runway’s Heidi Klum, American Idol judge Randy Jackson, and Tom Bergeron of Dancing With the Stars. “I wind up saying the brand name in my intro to the challenge to these chefs.”
She explains that she can’t just say “get in your cars,” when it has to be “get in your blah blah blah brand cars.”
“It’s hard to make that shit sound natural,” she admits.
Not surprisingly, the other hosts are much more defensive of the practice, with Ramsay talking about what a great challenge it is — and getting in yet another mention of Walmart steaks. Randy Jackson brushes it all off, saying that no one cares about the product placement on American Idol, because the show is “all about the singing.” Bergeron deflects, changing the topic to product placement on Sons of Anarchy.
The biggest defender is Heidi Klum, who manages to actually say the following with a straight face:
“If it doesn’t hurt the integrity of the show and if actually makes a great challenge out of this, bring it on. It’s actually interesting and makes it special.”