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NBC’s ‘Chuck’ Saved By Sandwiches, Not Fans
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Tom Cheredar   |  
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So before we all rejoice with the security that we’ll get to see Kung Fu action Chuck Bartowski on Chuck next fall on NBC, it’s important to understand one thing: Fanboy outcry played a very little role in the actual save.

Subway, however, did.

Yes, I am referring to the world’s largest sandwich artist franchise. It seems that Big Mike’s favorite, the chicken teriyaki $5 foot long deal, was paid for entirely by a special advertising deal between Subway and NBC, according to the NY Times.

The special sponsorship with Subway is enabling NBC to bring back the series, executives said… The partnership was suggested to Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, by Subway executives, who were enthused about the special marketing opportunities the series afforded the chain…

They also report that the deal was struck prior to their 2009 fall schedule renewal announcement, which means the “social media campaign” by Zachary Levi and Adam Baldwin asking fans to buy a sub in support of saving the show from cancellation, was actually a clever PR stunt. Of course this doesn’t mean the show was never on the chopping block. In all likelihood, it probably was. Both companies were probably waiting out the response to fairly assess how much a product placement deal like this would be worth.

Had either company come forth with an informed explanation about what they were doing, they probably wouldn’t have been able to grab headlines from CNN and echoed on digg and reddit through popular blogs. Those headlines were crucial for informing as many Chuck fans as possible about their STUNT to save the show.

To what extent Subway product placement will appear in the new season is still being determined. The integrity of a program can typically be preserved through its writing, but as we saw last season, even scripted dialog is an option to move product. (More Ovaltine kids?!?)

There is some speculation about Chuck’s girlfriend on the show, the uncomfortably attractive undercover CIA Agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), will switch her cover job from being a Soft-Serve Yogurt employee to a Subway sandwich artist. (Prior to Yogurt, Strahovski’s character was a German hot dog server aka Weiner girl). Logically, this would be a natural aspect to utilize the Subway placement without altering the creativity enough to matter.

For Subway, this is an excellent, even brilliant use of their ad budget chiefly because I am a fan of Chuck and enjoy the hell out of a foot-long grilled chicken on wheat. Although, I am nervous about how much of the content will be sacrificed to keep the show going beyond the 13-episodes ordered (basically half a season).

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