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'Modern Family' producer says iPad episode 'went too far in hindsight'


A producer of ABC's hit sitcom "Modern Family" said an episode that prominently featured Apple's iPad went overboard in hyping the product.

"It may have gone a little too far in hindsight," said Jeff Morton, a "Modern Family" producer who was speaking Saturday at the Producer Guild's Produced By 2010 industry conference on the Fox lot.

In the episode in question, one of the characters is obsessed with getting an Apple iPad for his birthday. The episode aired around the time that the tablet went on sale. Though neither ABC nor 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the show were compensated by Apple for the episode, Morton said, "the public thought it was a giant sellout" that "sort of backfired on us." It probably didn't help matters that Apple Chairman Steve Jobs sits on ABC's board, which fueled conspiracy theories about the episode.

For all the attention that "Modern Family" lavished on Apple's iPad, the computer giant didn't even toss a few freebies the show's way. Morton said he was hoping to get everyone on the staff an iPad not only as a perk but also because he thought it could help save the show's writers and producers from wasting so much paper printing scripts, schedules and production memos.

However, he said the show was able to get 20th Century Fox Television to spring for iPad's for the show's department heads.

-- Joe Flint

Related post: "Modern Family" gives some free love to the iPad.

Photo: The iPad gets a starring role on ABC's "Modern Family." Credit: ABC

Comments () | Archives (16)

That episode didn't bother me at all, I though it was very funny -- but I figured the whole thing was one big product placement bonanza for Apple.

this is perhaps even scarier than if it had indeed been compensated product placement - consumerism is now so ingrained in our psyche that a company doesn't even have to pay for product placement - it's now "entertainment"?

Well that's lamesauce. My husband and I love the show and thought that episode was hilarious ...yes, we happen to be mac people and maybe that's why we didn't think ModernFamily was "selling out" at all just straight comedy.

They could have gone a bit further and used product placement as satire.

I saw absolutely no problem with that episode. It didn't even occur to me to think that it could have been a product placement. If you had friends like mine, who are EXACTLY as anal as Phil, then you would have seen the episode as true to live as can be... To the Producers of the show, you didn't nothing wrong, to lessen the iPad in the episode would have diminished the whole episode. The episode poked fun at the iPad hysteria that existed at the time as good, if not better, than they could have done on a South Park episode... Don't apologize for putting on an excellent episode that was timely and spot on! It was true to Phil's charactor and I am sure many people have a "Phil" in their circle of friends who behaved the same way at that time...

The problem that I had with the episode concerned the moral compass. A kid tells his dad's friends that he is dying and that's how the kid gets it for his dad? No one said, now or then, which is what I was hoping this article was about, that that was wrong!!

funny i never thought of it as product placement but as a typical guy wanting the newest gadget and his wife trying to get it for him. highly real and highly amusing-especially when she fell back to sleep and missed it. LOL>

It was a commentary on pop culture, not some bizarre subliminal and horrifying consumerist gobbledygook. The iPad was probably the most talked-about thing in our culture during the couple of weeks surrounding that episode, so it's not ridiculous to think they'd mention it. Puh-lease with your seriousness.

I agree with several of the previous commenters and I thought the episode was in character and didn't think anything about it until a few blogs started making noise.

And not only did they fail to change my mind, but for the record, I don't have a iPad and haven't really thought about purchasing one.

I just enjoyed the show.

The issue is that people don't even KNOW whether it was PP or not. It demonstrates how blurred the line between content and advertising has become. Payola (paying a radio station to play songs) is illegal because the public expects content to be chosen, not just paid for (paying to play music is not illegal if the station discloses it). A Tampa TV station has "sponsored" news segments. It's really not surprising that audiences watch, but don't trust, media.

Actually, Erin, having worked on several films and TV shows securing product placement for the production, most companies would never even consider paying for product placement. They often turn down the opportunity and even when they agree to it, it can still be a struggle to get free product from them. Once I got permission, I usually had go out and buy it.

I have no problem with product placement. Did catch this episode and thought there must have been compensation. Only thing I would ask is that credits should include "compensation disclaimer": "No financial consideration was given by Apple for product placement in this show" or "Apple compensated this program for product placement of the iPad". In the old days of radio, this was pretty darn close to the equivalent of Payola (which got Alan Freed fired and booted from broadcasting). If they placed the product in an ATTEMPT to receive free iPads, this would also be Payolla. The financial consideration MUST occur up-front. Otherwise it should be legal to accept anything post-airing in consideration of what occured. In that case, any Ipads should have been donated to a non-profit (which would be acceptable).

So... financial consideration pre-airing = okay
financial pay-off post show = payolla/illegal

That's just MY opinion.

By the way.. for all you no realizing it WAS product placement... were you all blind?
You call the dang thing something else and change the logo if it ISN'T product placement "The Peach - ePad"... then it's simply a facimile of a real product but not reinforcing the brand or image.

To me the episode was just a guy who wanted an iPad. I did end up buying the birthday cake app for my iPhone.

Ditto - I had no problem with the iPad episode. For me, a tech gadget guy, I thought it was timely and made it "modern". It came across funny, real and kind of made fun of the silliness of having to have the latest gadget. (I write this on my iPad I did not wait in line for.)

i didn't have any problem with this episode. I just saw phil as the typical tech-savy dad who was obsessed with the ipad. the show captured the ipad craze exactly, and i found it hilarious! keep this show going, please!


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