Bones Theory

Excuse Me, Your Avatar is Blocking My Prius


Ah…one nice thing about season six is that it’s been fairly free of product placement (that I can see)…

That was my original opening sentence for this post when I began writing it last week. It’s an idea I’ve been sort of ruminating on for a few months, even before Bones Theory went live. And I was super pumped, because it seemed like for the most part, this season has been free of blatant product placement. And then…


Oh, snap! But when I began to re-work my post, I realized it was good that I had to re-do it. I was all set to be kind of snarky and complain-y about it, but really…maybe I shouldn’t be complaining. I think at this point we have to sort of just accept the fact that product placement IS going to happen, and we should celebrate that for the most part (…for the most part!), BONES is pretty good about it. It seems to me that the writers try to concentrate it into one or two episodes a season, (Double Death, Gamer in the Grease, Witch in the Wardrobe) and they also, as much as possible, try to work it into the dialogue. I mean, hello…it’s obviously NOT normal BONES dialogue, but…they are trying, right? Let’s cut them some slack.

Some of you might say, “No…if they really cared about their craft, they would do it (write, act, direct, etc) for the love of it, they wouldn’t care about the ratings, and they’ve pretty much sold out.”  Well, I’m not usually the type to call people out, but I’d have to say, “That’s unrealistic.”

I think in this day and age of TV, it’s unrealistic that shows aren’t going to have product placement. And when we’re talking BONES, we’re not talking just ANY show. We’re talking the THURSDAY NIGHT FOX ANCHOR SHOW! Thursday nights are the shiz when it comes to TV. It includes some of the most competitive advertising slots of the week, as movies are advertised for the weekends, etc, etc. Remember the days when it seemed every year there was some threat that BONES was going to be moved to Fridays, aka…

Right? I haven’t heard that kind of talk for a while. And since the middle of season four, we’ve been solid on Thursdays at 8PM EST. I can’t speak for you all, but I’d rather have that kind of security and have to sort of overlook a couple of blatant descriptions of SPRINT smartphones.

And…maybe it’s just me, but I’d also like to think that for the most part, each person involved also feels that it’s sort of cringe-worthy. Yeah, it’s necessary, but it’s not that we all have to LOVE it. Imagine this…

(warning: somewhat obscure analogy ahead)

You rent an apartment, and it’s going okay, but then the rent goes up exponentially. You ask your landlord for a grace period, and he’s glad you stopped by, because he has an announcement. The entire apartment complex was purchased by Chuck E Cheese. You each kind of smirk, but whatevs…the ball pit was awesome, and skeeball!

But then your landlord continues, “And part of the agreement is that Mr. Cheese, Inc. has stated that if you live here, you can do so for $100 a month, with the condition that you allow them to advertise with a small sign in your yard and on every Halloween, you include five tokens with each piece of candy that you pass out. Also, you can’t complain about it and must be very thankful in public.” Almost every part of you is like, “What? That is so crazy. No…no, that is insane. I am not doing that.” But then you think about it and realize it’s not that big of a deal. What’s one small sign in the yard? What’s the harm in passing out tokens? Sure, you might be ridiculed by some of your friends or people who think they are better than Chuck E Cheese, but…well, it makes sense financially, and pretty soon, you don’t even realize it anymore. And…you realize after awhile, you’re in a much better boat than your next door neighbors who actually have to wear the Chuck E Cheese costumes three nights a week.

(end analogy)

Okay, ha, so…obscure, sure…but I think the idea is there. It could be (and I’ve seen it on other shows), A LOT WORSE! Brennan might call it a sad truism; we might just call it inevitable. We don’t see the BONES budget, so it’s impossible for us to see how the advertising and placement dollars are used by the show. I’m hoping that some of them go toward having great guest stars like Stephen Fry. I don’t know about you, but I’d pass the hat and collect loose change if it meant trying to get him back on. We all know it’s the reality of life right now: stuff costs money. David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel cost money.

 They’re worth it.

Having multiple, intricately designed sets costs money. It’s worth it. Having Zooey Deschanel, Stephen Fry, David Alan Grier (and many more)…all of that…it costs money. I think it’s worth it. Heck, getting to a sixth season and over 100 episodes…that costs money.  

Some people might say, “I’d rather them NOT have anything in your ‘worth it’ column (except maybe ED & DB), and have them go back to how it was earlier in the series where we didn’t have product placement, and the main discussion on whether Booth or Brennan would drive came down to the fact that Booth had bulletproof vests or Brennan annoyed a bad guy”.  And well, sure…I think we’d all like that, in theory. I just don’t know how realistic it is. I’m not trying to be harsh; I’m just trying to be realistic. I guess I’m still in the camp that says it’s worth it. And here are a few things that sort of add some honorability back to it all:

1. Booth never really touts Toyota.

I know the show/network got some flak for having Booth, an FBI agent, drive a Toyota (vs. an SUV made by a corporation based in the US). So, to me, it seems like they are saying, okay, yeah, we get that. We know it’s not ideal, but…this is the hand we’re dealt and to make up for it, we’ll just sort of gloss over that fact as best as possible and have Brennan and Angela etc go on and on about roomy backseats for dead bodies and GPS systems for Booth to be able to get to Brennan’s thing in time for her to be named queen scientist, etc, etc. Does it make sense for Brennan to be driving to a crime scene all of a sudden because her car gets good gas mileage? No, no it doesn’t. It really doesn’t, and we all know it. But they sort of pad it with awesome B&B bickering about ‘perfect murders’, and we can see that they (the writers and actors) are sort of doing the best they can.

 2. B&B pretty much weren’t involved at ALL in the whole Avatar thing.

It’s one thing for Hodgins, Sweets and Fisher to stand in line for tickets; it would be another if B&B were doing it. And it was kind of funny and dorky (though I could have done without that girl who hit on Sweets), and all three of the men involved are kind of funny and dorky. So again…the writers worked it in as realistically as possible. But it wasn’t Booth and Brennan who were in on that. That would have been over the top, and I appreciate that they let B&B concentrate on the case and then share this at the end:


3. For the most part, the products being ‘placed’ are fairly realistic as far as the characters are concerned and as far as the series in general goes.

They drive places. They talk on phones. They use computers. It could be so, so, so, so, so much worse. The diner is quaint; Founding Fathers is ‘local’; let’s hope that kind of stuff can stay that way. B&B drink general ‘coffee’. They sit on benches that are not marked with political slogans. When Booth is in the interrogation room, doing his awesome thing…it’s all about the work. When Brennan is in the lab, doing her awesome thing…it’s about the work. The placements don’t infiltrate into the core of each episode nor into what really matters.

All in all, I think it’s good to keep in mind that:

  1.  It’s unrealistic to think that a show like BONES can avoid product placement.
  2. We can feel like we’re all (viewers, writers, actors, etc) sort of rolling our eyes at it together and shrugging, “That’s life.”
  3. It could be much, much worse.


Can you even imagine?

Peace, Love & Bones,



24 thoughts on “Excuse Me, Your Avatar is Blocking My Prius

  1. I think you’re absolutely right. A Mershandising here or there won’t make Bones better or worse but at least can help to keep the show on air.It’s annoying sometimes but is important to the show.

  2. I agree that it is a realistic inevitability.

    To be honest, I really loved the Gamer in the Grease and the Avatar storyline. I thought it was hilarious and why shouldn’t they support Joel David Moore, right? That almost didn’t even feel like product placement.

    The other times are pretty lame, though. I hadn’t thought about the fact that Booth doesn’t ever do the Toyota talk and why that is – but, in the end, it could be a Deschanel-Boreanaz decision for that part. With them being producers and a part of budgeting decisions, they might have more say in how it all happens.

    *Sigh*. Overall I don’t like it, but can easily live with it in the way it has been occurring.

  3. I agree with everything you’ve said here, and will make one additional comment.

    A lot of people assume that as long as the actors are willing and the ratings stay strong, a popular show will never be canceled – that those are the only things which factor into a show continuing. But it’s not so. Shows become more expensive the longer they run – even if the actors aren’t making money grabs along the lines of ‘hey, my show is really popular, I want a bigger piece of the pie,’ I believe it’s common for what they’re paid to go up every year, and that adds up as the seasons go on.

    As bizarre as it sounds, popular shows get canceled, and the justification offered by the network is usually, ‘the show was simply becoming too expensive to make.’ Even if they’re making money on advertising that popular show, networks get twitchy and the bean counters start thinking, ‘yeah, but maybe if we dump this, we can find an even more popular show that won’t cost as much to produce.’ Plus, the longer a show’s been on the air, the greater the chance that the audience will begin to lose interest and well, they figure it’s just better to stop while things are good and they’re still making money.

    The product placement can be annoying, but as you say, they do make an effort for it not to be over-the-top, and whether we realize it or not, anything that allows HH to keep the costs down benefits us.

  4. When you consider the rather large cast that makes up Bones, the generous number of suspects per episode, the pricey “bodies” and special/computer effects it’s not surprising that the network pushes these placements on the show. I’ve learned to live with them and am grateful that so far they have not formed part of any pivotal scene where they would definitely spoil the mood. So as long as they’re tasteful and not too intrusive I’ll take them-kind of like putting up with a vaccine to keep a greater evil at bay.

  5. I’ll buy that.


  6. When all else fails, start a drinking game.

  7. To be honest I don’t even really notice the product placements most of the time and when I do its not glaringly obvious and actually fits in the with storyline. And I would much rather have them do occasional product placements and keep my favourite show on the air than it be cancelled because it costs too much to make without the product placements.

  8. I completely get what you’re saying and the funny thing is, the product placement has never bothered me, like some other shows. But hey, they gotta do what they gotta do, right?

  9. For someone who works in advertising, I actually like this as we are always thinking of ways to think outside of the box when using a company’s advertising budgets. With DVRs and such, regular tv spots aren’t cutting it anymore.

    I for one don’t mind it. Think about it this way, a sponsor thinks enough of Bones to want to be advertise on it. They now have extra money to use however they see fit, be it locations, guest stars, props, etc. I actually liked the Avatar storyline, as it seemed to fit the characters perfectly.

  10. I don’t know why but I personally don’t really mind product placement as long as it’s not TOO obvious. I’ve seen shows that literally PICK UP THE PRODUCT and talk about it DURING the episode. Now that’s just plain annoying.

    To be honest, I hardly notice the product placements on BONES at all. If I do notice them, they seem to still make sense and don’t actually stand out as an attempt to sell something.

  11. I must be totally oblivious or something because I’ve never really notices the product placements. I probably wouldn’t have really noticed if you hadn’t brought it up. Hmm… Interesting. Food for thought, I suppose.

  12. The product placements don’t really bother me all that much either. I think BONES does a pretty good job in “hiding” it into dialogue and making it a natural part of the show. I too thought the Avatar plot was very well done – it didn’t feel like a plug at all to me. Sometimes they make it more obvious (like the zoom in on the Toyota logo in the last ep), but as long as it stays the way it is, I’m fine with it.

  13. I have to laugh at the timeliness of this post! I am taking a class called Television in American Culture and am just completing a T.V. Analysis on what else? Bones. I have a whole section of my paper devoted to product placement and have to say I agree with you 100%. I found the Toyota placement to be less annoying than Avatar but I do think it would have been worse had it been B&B waiting in line to see it.

    My sister (Stephanie) directed me to your blog and I have to thank you as it’s been an invaluable resource as I have tried to remember what episodes had certain situations, etc. Knowing I was doing this paper, my boyfriend and I sped through the entire series in about six weeks in an attempt to catch up with Season Six before it was due. Now I will probably have to go back and rewatch just to catch everything. So know that you are cited in my paper and thanks for your invaluable insights into the world of Bones!

  14. Ha ha. It’s so awesome that you wrote about this today! My sister is finishing up a paper on Bones for one of her college classes and this is one of the topics she covered. We were just talking about it on the phone last night.

    I actually think the Toyota stuff is kind of funny and the Avatar episode didn’t really bother me (especially since Joel David Moore was actually in the movie). What they did in The Gamer in the Grease wasn’t all that much different than spoofing Jersey Shore in the The Maggots in the Meathead, except that Fox actually benefited from the association with Avatar.

  15. Product placement annoys me but to be honest I’ve always seen it as necessary, just as you said. We must have money to pay for the awesomeness that is ED and DB and the great guest stars. I’d rather have the show WITH product placement than no show at all!

  16. I totally agree with your post. I notice the product placement or the comments made about the vehicles they use, etc., but that is such a minor point in the episode that even though I may roll my eyes over it, it just doesn’t matter to me or affect my enjoyment of the show.
    I don’t know about most people, but I make up my own mind about what car to buy or what movie to see, or what computer to buy based on my own needs/wants and research about the product.
    I don’t care if Bones needs to have these product pitches during an episode. Whatever they have to do to bring in money for themselves to keep a quality show is fine by me.

  17. I love the Gamer in the Grease, and the Avatar placement in it didn’t bother me at all (I could totally see those three characters doing that to any movie). The car placements bug me to no end, only because I have never liked car commercials, and they don’t flow as well as say, smaller items (you can always see the computer logos *hint*). Although the Daisy/Angela minivan one was hilarious (and kinda awkward) last season (I don’t remember which episode it was, but it was funny, and I could totally buy Cam making Angela take Daisy “out”). Plus, as you pointed out, it could be worse (I just noticed the text in the last picture. So funny!). If those product placements mean the awesome bodies, effects (even the music costs money to use), and actors (regular and guests), then I’m fine with them.

  18. The product placements have never bothered me too much…I mean, sure, we all realize what they are and why they are there…but to me, it’s just part of the ‘suspension of disbelief’ we all fall into with any tv show or movie. I don’t think it’s a big deal.

  19. Great post; valid points. Let’s not forget product placement has been around a while, and not just in Bones: think about Monica’s prominent handling of a Diet Coke can on Friends – or the carefully placed Coke cups on American Idol, Ford makes several appearances on Dirty Jobs since Mike Rowe is their spokesperson. Also, the less blatant product placement of computer logos on Bones and other shows… sometimes it can be in your face, yes, but HH et al. do make the effort to wink at us while they’re doing it.

  20. you make good sense seels. DVR is a wonderful thing! and if I have to put up with some product placement because I FF through all the commercials – it’s worth it!

  21. While the present-day product placement might seem heavy-handed, Bones’s version is invisible compared to what went on in the olden days. I used to show my media students episodes of “Burns & Allen” from the very early days of television around 1950. George Burns and Gracie Allen played themselves as Gracie got herself into various pickles. But in the middle of the show, announcer Harry Von Zell would wander in and they would all spend a couple of minutes chatting about the wonders of Carnation evaporated milk. Then it was back to the story. Those were the days when sponsors completely controlled the content of the shows. Burns & Allen. Look them up on Youtube.

  22. The Avatar thing was product placement? I honestly thought that was just a pop culture joke/reference and considering how geek chic those 3 particular guys are, and JDM was actually in Avatar, I didn’t look any deeper.

    See, this is why I keep you guys around.

    Not that I’m not glad to have the extra time to catch up on the posts I missed before I found Bones Theory, but if I may paraphrase Marlon Brando . . .

    Saraaaaaah!! Come back, Saraaaaaah!!!


    • You know, product placement may be a little annoying, but I can deal with it. Especially when I put it into perspective. For one thing, somebody’s gotta pay for the show, and I say it better be somebody with big bucks cause it ain’t gonna be me. For another thing, it really is just a miniscule segment of the show. Even if you add up the length of all the product placements during any particular season, it will probably be less than a minute. For a 40-minute show with usually 20+ episodes, I really don’t see what the big deal is. I also happily watch TV shows for free online with Hulu, and will continue to suffer through the ads to do so because I think it’s worth it.

  23. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids.
    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and
    said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell
    to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
    her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely
    off topic but I had to tell someone!

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