The Softest Sell

Despite the poor video quality, this fall promo from 1974 interests me because it may be one of the most diffident promos a network has released for one of its own new shows. Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers may be the most obscure series ever created by James L. Brooks in his prime; it was one of two new shows he and Allan Burns launched in fall 1974 (the other was Rhoda), meaning he had three shows at once where his laugh could be heard screwing up the soundtrack. Brooks and Burns had used Sand on a Mary Tyler Moore when they couldn’t get Bob Newhart, and Brooks later used him on a Taxi, and they obviously liked him a lot and wanted to give him his own show, but not a lot of people really knew exactly who he was. So CBS’s segment for their fall promo package, taking off from the cinéma vérité style that was popular on TV at the time, decided to meet this head-on by doing mock-documentary about how nobody knew who he was, and having Sand himself be sheepishly unable to explain why we should know who he was. It was a decent stab at a soft-sell marketing strategy, and if the show had been a hit, it would have been a good promo; since it flopped, it just looks awkward. (It was a good show, as you would expect from the people involved, and it would be a good thing to check out if it ever becomes available in any form – DVDs obviously won’t happen, but I could see obscure shows being dumped on the streaming market someday to provide cheap content. That’s probably the best hope for seeing them again, anyway.)


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