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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

more adventures in corporate Hollywood totally misunderstanding the Internet

I wrote recently about how the people behind Kick-Ass missed a golden opportunity to engage with fans of the film when they failed to do anything with the domain redmist.org, which features prominently in the film.

Two more examples of the same mystifying failure cropped up over the past few days.

Last Thursday’s installment of FlashForward featured a plot point revolving around a fictional car-sharing company called ZoomCar.net. It was actually quite clever and, as far as I’m aware, the first such use in a fictional setting to recognize the criminal potential of car sharing, which offers more anonymity than traditional rental cars. A good chunk of the episode involves Joseph Fiennes’ FBI agent driving around California deserts, following directions from the bad guy, which included numerous shots of the ZoomCar.net logo on the sides of two different cars.
What happens when you plug ZoomCar.net into your Web browser? Absolutely nothing. ABC owns the domain, but it’s not even pointed at ABC’s official site for the show. It takes two seconds to set up domain forwarding. Why lose the traffic from curious viewers?

FlashForward, on the whole, appears to be one big exercise in squandering potential: this could have been the next Lost, but now it’s on the verge of being cancelled because of low ratings. So perhaps it’s not surprising that one more ball has been fumbled in this game.

But The Simpsons? One of the longest-running shows ever, and one that has regularly anticipated fan reaction, down to throwing in jokes that can only be seen if you record an episode and examine it frame by frame? Last night’s episode opened with a parody TV ad for a summer blockbuster movie called Tic-Tac-Toe: X v. O, “from the producers of Duck, Duck, Goose; Got Your Nose; and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” It was a hilarious poke at how dumbed down Hollywood movies have gotten, and it concluded with the movie’s “official” site: www.tic-tac-toe-x-v-o-the-terrible-movie.com.

I couldn’t wait to see what would be found at that site — surely the creators of The Simpsons would have something wonderfully clever for us. And this is what I found:

The mind boggles.

The domain name is far too specific another kind of joke not to have been deliberately created for this episode: it’s not as if Fox is riding on the coattails of a long-ago-registered URL (although, rather surprisingly, both tictactoethemovie.com and tictactoemovie.com are available). The joke domain is owned, however, not by Fox or Matt Groening’s production company but by something called Offshack Solutions, which has its own domain, offshack.com, that goes nowhere.

I’m so perplexed by this misstep on the part of the Simpsons folks that I’m half convinced Offshack Solutions is the setup for a future joke. It’s gotta be, right?

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  • Michael

    It’s weird that The Simpsons failed to do this. After all, isn’t http://www.whatbadgerseat.com still up? (Not that I’ve checked before writing this, but it WAS up for a good long while at least after being mentioned in an episode.)

  • Andrew D.

    Don’t forget the url ebully.com, which was on a billboard during the opening credits of the same episode of the Simpsons, and was also dissapointing.

  • I think FlashForward is very clever, and last week’s episode, which showed signs of being a dud, seems to be spinning the show in a somewhat different direction. But, I do agree that setting up ZoomCar.net would have been a great hack.

  • MaryAnn

    This week’s *FlashForward* ended with what looked like a great setup for a five-year show, and it won’t happen because it’s about to be cancelled. Damn.

    I’m going to be even more reluctant from now on about watching any new network show in its first season. Anything I like on the broadcast networds ends up getting cancelled after less than a year. If the networks don’t want to give shows a chance, why should I?

  • Frankie

    People need to relax when it comes to these kinds of things – for real…I mean can’t something be funny, just for the sake of it ‘being funny’?? …does EVERY little thing – be it a fictional product of some kind or, in this case, a website – HAVE to go anywhere or be about anything other than what it was intended for…to be FUNNY?

    Stop the madness…

  • RyanT

    Of course Frankie, but if the networks or the shows care enough to actually BUY the domain which was the case for FlashForward, then as MaryAnn proposed, a simple redirect to even the show’s website would’ve sufficed.

    This is why I love How I Met Your Mother. ALL of the websites they mention on the show always worked and usually have fun extras:


  • Chris

    Well… I wouldn’t say my domain goes nowhere – you just need to know where the things on it are (offshack.com)… I host dozens of domains for small companies and non-profit organizations. I just happened to be watching The Simpsons last night while working, see the domain, popped on my registrar account, saw it was unregistered, said “make it mine”, pointed it to a default empty account on my server, and now it’s mine to do with what I please. Unfortunately I haven’t come up with a great idea yet. Suggestions anyone?

  • P.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if there was some arcane legal or corporate reason for TV shows not claiming every website dreamed up by their writers.

  • Jamie

    This is hilarious because I am actually watching this episode of The Simpsons right now on my DVR and I actually paused it when it showed the link and went on my laptop eager to see if they had actually set up a page.. unfortunately I got nothin! Not like it ruined my day or anything.. but it was a golden opportunity for them to interact with the fans and get them hooked in even more. Oh well.. maybe next time..

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