Saturday, May 15, 2010

Easy to Assemble

Illeana Douglas is a total "hey, it's that gal" - an actress you recognize but can't name, who's been in everything and nothing. She plays up her semi-(hemi-? quasi-?) celebrity in her web series, Easy to Assemble. Douglas stars (as herself) as a recovering actress, trying to make a new start as an employee at IKEA. The rest of the cast is filled out with some of the hardest working people in show business - Justine Bateman, Ed Begley Jr., Tim Meadows, etc etc.

"How many favors can I call in for this episode?"

Now, I know what you're thinking. Sri, isn't this just an excuse for a four-minute long IKEA commercial? Well... yes, actually. Easy to Assemble is what's called "branded entertainment." Think of it as the opposite of product placement. Instead of a show being used as a vehicle for a product (I'm looking at you, Lady Gaga and Virgin Mobile), a product is used as the vehicle for a show.

Here's why I think this works:
  1. The writing is really funny. Beyond the main plot, several of the shows end with "training videos," each featuring the guest star of that episode.
  2. As mentioned above, these are some great comedic actors. Jane Lynch plays a Swedish IKEA employee. Ed Proops pops in for a few episodes as Illeana's agent. I could go on.
  3. IKEA is, in general, looked upon favorably by most and with slavish devotion by many. It's a company that doesn't make us go, "ick." Besides, the emphasis is truly on the entertainment part of "branded entertainment."
So if you love IKEA or B-list stars (sorry, Illeana), give Easy to Assemble a try. At the very least, you might find that duvet you've been looking for.

Sweet dreams...

For more analysis, and for links to Illeana's other web series: Illeanarama - Supermarket of the Stars, check out this article on (seriously).

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