In the earliest days of television, shows were often supported entirely by one sponsor. There was the "Texaco Star Theater" with Milton Berle. Remember "General Electric Theater" with Ronald Reagan? The corporate patron was held responsible for the content within the program. More to the point, the corporate patron wanted the association with the show it was sponsoring.
Perhaps the best branding of them all was and is Hallmark, with its Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. When that movie airs, you just know it's a quality movie because that's all Hallmark will produce.
On today's TV shows, it's all changed. Today's sponsors run in large packs and appear to make no attempt to monitor shows and have no expectation of being held accountable for the "art" they've enabled. In fact, they insist they not be held accountable for that which they sponsor. They are the unsponsors.
So it is refreshing to learn that Microsoft has backed out of a deal to be the sole sponsor of a commercial-free special on Nov. 8 called "Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show." For a change, Microsoft executives attended the special's taping Oct. 16, where "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and comedienne Alex Borstein (the voice of "Family Guy" matriarch Lois Griffin) would pitch the debut of Windows 7 software to the audience.
There was only one problem: MacFarlane's repellent sense of humor and complete lack of taste. Variety reported Microsoft may have walked away since there were "riffs on deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene, and incest." They added that the animated portions of "Almost Live Comedy Show" were the tamest parts of the show. "It was the live-action segments (such as one in which MacFarlane and Borstein play Latino housekeepers) that probably raised the most eyebrows." The Los Angeles Times said those characters were housekeepers for Miley Cyrus, and they were scorching the Disney teen star. Microsoft sent MacFarlane and Fox chieftains several notes expressing their concern over the show's contents, but ultimately decided just to wave a white flag and drop out.
It's a safe bet that MacFarlane wasn't going to genuflect for anybody. After all, Fox is so indulgent of this spoiled Peter Pan that his live special and his incessantly vile cartoons are the entire Sunday night lineup. The only thing missing was an entire "Fox News Sunday" devoted to "Family Guy" plugs; maybe also a couple of shamelessly promotional NFL halftime shows, complete with wardrobe malfunctions.