Dear Networks: Please Stop Sending Me Bribes

Dear Networks: Please Stop Sending Me Bribes

The behind-the-scenes waste that goes into press coverage

So. This is about the most First World of First World Problems, but I'm bringing it up because it affects the rest of the world, too.

TV networks, please stop sending me bribes.

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As a TV critic I get lots of overnight mail from networks. In addition to DVDs — I like those, I need them, and thanks! — I also get lots of things I can only describe as bribes. These include books, candy, and trinkets. I recycle what I can and throw the rest away.

Today I got a DVD and a book in the mail from HBO, a network I like. The DVD was helpful. It helps me do my job. But the book, by fictional “Veep” vice president Selina Meyer, has three pages of text, followed by 245 blank pages.

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The joke, an HBO representative explained to me, is that Meyer doesn't have enough ideas to fill a book. Good one. But not worth taking 245 non-recycled pages to tell. Or shipping to me in a box. (The rep suggested I use the book as a journal.)

How many other people did HBO send this to? The rep said it went out to critics, bloggers and Washington tastemakers, all of whom “loved it.”

So multiply all that waste by all those people. I used to be an environmental reporter, and the irony of my now covering an industry that encourages consumption through advertising isn't lost on me. But you really don't need to think about all that to understand why waste is wasteful.

I know: Small beans. Nothing compared to all the other waste out there. But we all do our part, and since Hollywood lectures us constantly about being green, it should be beyond reproach.

HBO isn't alone. Recently I got a bottle of barbecue sauce from Jimmy Kimmel, meticulously sent in another big box, with lots of packing material. I still haven't opened the bottle. I can recycle the box, but I can't unburn the fuel it took to deliver it. Multiply the waste by however many other reporter-types received it.

Network friends, you already have a way of making me cover your shows: your shows.

I love “Veep.” Kimmel is great too. I don't need bribes to write about you. None of us do. Spend that postage money on programming.

  • Suzette Valle

    Love this, Tim! Oh, and a small suggestion. Maybe the networks could use the money wasted on all the promotional crap we get (nail polish, posters, t-shirts, nail files, slippers, chocolate, pens, pens, and more pens) to pay their interns.

    • lala

      Also, cease all this useless environmental waste and let us have frigging bags at the grocery store and for trash again. So backwards.

  • AJ

    The book thing IS pretty funny though. Love Veep.

  • Sean Murdock

    I totally understand the environmental angle of your plea, but given that your request will probably go unheeded, is there anything preventing you from selling your promo swag on eBay? One man's clutter is another fan's collectible, and I'm sure rabid fans of any given show would jump at the chance to own some of the stuff you get sent to you.

    • tim.molloy

      I thought about trying to give swag money to charity or something… I dunno. Would networks consider that ethical? Mostly I just don't have time. The best is at events when you see fans lined up and can just hand it to them.

      • Sean Murdock

        I'm not sure what the answer is to the ethical question. Music writers get promo CDs and other promo material all the time too, and that stuff always turns up on eBay or is otherwise re-sold. Personally, I'd feel that once you were sent unsolicited stuff, it would be yours to do with as you please — maybe if TV writers started selling it all on eBay, they'd stop sending it to you! But I also appreciate the hassle of being given extra work to do that you didn't ask for, so….

    • Newzheimer

      When I worked at one of the ‘legacy’ TV networks, almost without fail, the promo materials that we sent out to the station promo directors would end up on eBay. We spent a lot of money creating, producing and shipping this ‘artwork’ and to have it not be used but resold was kinda galling.

      Now everything is done via electronic files, so there's much less of that, thankfully.

      I'm a member of ATAS and am inundated with DVDs starting right about now. At least the Academy has a recycling program for those.