September 25th, 2008

Cheap import for CBS: Illeana Douglas' Ikea show

By Maria Russo
Los Angeles Times

It was a good week for the paradoxical new world of indie-branded entertainment. Illeana Douglas’ Ikea-sponsored Web show, “Easy to Assemble,” hit YouTube late last week and has nearly 250,000 views. This week CBS “picked up” the show for its website TV.com. The site will have exclusive rights to broadcast each episode on Web and mobile for a week, making it TV.com’s first scripted original show.

You can look at it as a commercial with a show inside, or a show wrapped around a commercial, but the main thing is—you can look at it. In this show about her attempt to leave her semi-unsuccessful Hollywood life for a job at the Burbank Ikea, Douglas is trying to forge something original. (I already reviewed it here.)

There are, of course, those who fret about the unstoppable rise of product placement in our entertainment—and this show’s relationship to Ikea may be the mother of all product placement, given that the show is entirely set within a store and the characters are employees. But in “Easy to Assemble,” the commercialism is not only part of the joke, it’s a nod to some deeper meta-stuff. Douglas is trying to spin a little comedy out of the depressing fact that to get through the day now, we’ve got to wade through the giant tide pool of hypercommercialized everything. On the other hand, when it comes to the idea that she’s working at Ikea because Hollywood isn’t hiring, she might not be quite as kidding.

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