• Advertisers Light the Way to Ratings Success on Grease Live

    by  • February 1, 2016 • Other • 59 Comments


    Two weeks ago, a headline in the L.A. Times blared, “Why Vanessa Hudgens and the other stars of Fox’s ‘Grease Live!’ won’t ‘clean up’ the show”.

    According to the Times, “The creators of ‘Grease Live!’ are planning some changes to the Broadway musical that inspired it, but don’t worry. The show will still be plenty naughty.”

    …A lot of other stuff is still in there too, like the boys using off-color language to describe their cars and asking in song whether heroine Sandy (Julianne Hough of “Dancing with the Stars”) “put up a fight” when boyfriend Danny (Aaron Tveit) put the moves on her.

    Fox, in an apparent effort to capture some of the success NBC has enjoyed with recent live productions of The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and The Wiz, announced plans last year to stage a live production of Grease. But with themes of teen sex, a pregnancy scare, and suggestive lyrics in many of the songs, Grease is no Sound of Music.

    Despite Fox’s clear intention of keeping Grease as close as possible to the original stage production, offensive lyrics and all, advertisers clearly put some pressure on producers to tone it down.

    AdWeek reported that producers “toned down some of its racier lyrics” in order to “make the show more palatable for broadcast audiences and advertisers.”

    Vanity Fair reported Executive Producer Marc Platt told AdWeek that corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola forced the show to tone down some of the language. “It’s going to be a very family-friendly show, but with the appropriate edge that it needs to have.”

    Viewers may have noted Coca-Cola’s advertising popping up throughout the show. “The production will include iconic Coca-Cola signage and performers will ‘taste the feeling’ of Coca-Cola on-stage during the show,” Coca-Cola vice president Katie Miller said.

    With it’s brand so prominently on display, Coca-Cola wanted to ensure that the content would not reflect badly on their brand. By making these changes, Grease became something that would appeal to a broader swath of viewers, leading to ratings success for the Fox network.

    For years, the PTC has been working closely with advertisers to remind them that because they are the ones paying the bills, they are in a unique position to influence TV content for the better. They do not have to merely hand over their checks and meekly submit to whatever the networks want to do regardless of the damage it may do to their brand name and corporate image, they can and should use their influence to push the networks in a more positive direction.

    The example of Grease Live shows the power of advertisers who exerted their influence in order to make sure the show wouldn’t offend the broad, family audience Fox and the advertisers were seeking. Furthermore, the advertisers, such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and General Mills, were mindful to make sure that the content was consistent with their corporate image.

    What’s also clear is that, left to its own devices, Hollywood will push the envelope rather than reach and entertain the largest possible audience. But guess what? Toning down the language on Grease Live did not diminish the program one iota. Adults understood what was going on without it being shoved in their, and in their children’s, faces.

    We applaud the Grease Live advertisers for ensuring that families would enjoy the program without unnecessary racy language. In doing so, the advertisers ensured that their corporate brand is aligned with TV content that’s consistent with that brand. It was a win-win situation.




    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    59 Responses to Advertisers Light the Way to Ratings Success on Grease Live

    1. ESTHER
      February 5, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      I think Rizzo was my favorite one . Sandy sang ok… Danny was okay too. I like principal kenicky soso. I really like the end singing and dancing… My daughter could play Rizzo too. I wouldnt let small children watch it….. But i loved Grease i watched it when i was a Teenager at the Drive Inn . the good old days!!!!

    2. Margaret Walsh
      February 4, 2016 at 6:30 am

      I particularly wanted to see Vanessa Hudgens perform because I enjoyed her so much in ‘High School Musical’. I also heard that she performed within 24 hours of her father’s death. In all honesty, I only watched 10-15 minutes of it and changed the channel.

    3. Sue
      February 4, 2016 at 5:35 am

      I told my granddaughter it was on, she likes musicals,she’s 10.. I was uncomfortable with the scene in the backseat and some dialogue. I guess I forgot all,of that. I like the music of Grease and didn’t remember the content.

    4. c threatt
      February 3, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      I have come to the point where I actually don’t watch television anymore. On occasion, I will watch something from the history channel, HGTV and Animal Planet. That’s about it. My husband watches his football games.

    5. Connie
      February 3, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      I loved Grease Live! No matter how many times I see this show, I find my foot tapping and I’m singing along with the
      show. I am happy to know that the advertisers are using their powers of persuasion to give us more and more decent family-friendly shows. Good job!

    6. John Boulton
      February 3, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Don’t watch much television shows any more. It seems our public media (television & news alike) have become some engrossed with provoking ideas supportive towards liberalism standing at a higher standard than conservatism that it has not only corrupted the ideas of good moral values but has also corrupted our children to believe that everyone is expected to live sinful lives, and that attempting to lead unsinful life is not only ridiculous but also frowned upon. Television shows have become blatantly forthcoming to expose sex, sexual ideas, and the corrupted sexual behavior to be part of a normal day. News media seems “hell-bent” (not using that term loosely) to insist through its lies that our constitution provides “rights” to lead corrupted and sinful lives. In the meanwhile, movie-makers parade criminal and corrupt behavior. Our worries of tomorrow have arrived now. Most of today’s children have already, or will soon, be lost to what moral behavior means. Come, Lord Jesus… please come now.

    7. kay
      February 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      i LOVED this show. what a great cast . i recorded it and will rewatch and rewatch it. thank you.

    8. Linda
      February 3, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Grease Hs never been a movie or show I thought was worth watching. I watched it with my cousin in a theater when it came out in the 70′s and felt like I should have walked out. I never allowed my kids to watch it and told them there is nothing of good report in this movie. It is raunchy and thought the bad boy is willing to come up to the good girl’s level at the end, what happens she slides down to be on his lower more crass level. Like I said, nothing of good report here.

    9. Therese Cosgrove
      February 3, 2016 at 11:48 am

      It way too suggestive for young children, I turned it off.

    10. Meg
      February 3, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Too campy with amateurish overacting except for the lead woman. I gave up after a half hour. Sigh.

    11. Kathy
      February 3, 2016 at 9:33 am

      the dancing was unnecessary vulgar and suggestive…. Many of us who remember an loved the original wanted out grandchildren to see this production. Not good!

    12. Elizabeth Leatherman
      February 3, 2016 at 9:21 am

      My twelve-year-old daughter and I caught only the last few scenes, but even so, I am concerned about the “nice girls finish last” message in the end.

    13. Danielle
      February 3, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Grease is the opposite of Redemption so nothing makes this “entertainment” clean.

    14. jim
      February 3, 2016 at 9:04 am

      I don’t watch fox because the network has little to offer other than lies and filth.

    15. Sara Miller
      February 3, 2016 at 8:26 am

      TV-14 DLSV. No thanks. I did watch about the first 20-30 minutes. Certainly wasn’t “family-friendly entertainment” as stated above.

      I guess we should applaud the advertisers for keeping this from TV-MA DLSV territory though. Fox would have loved to “go there” probably.

    16. Chris
      February 3, 2016 at 8:02 am

      Didn’t like this version–poorly done and full of unnecessary innuendo. Definitely not family friendly.

    17. Deborah Rochet
      February 3, 2016 at 7:11 am

      We were not home and we did not see the show. I happen to have a very theatre minded family, so we likely would have watched it if we were home. I have a HUGE problem with Grease because of the sexual suggests and the reference to abortion in a pre Roe Wade world, a sort of selling point for the left why the decision for Roe V Wade was so good according to them.
      I did not know that they toned it down and cleaned it up. I am happy to know they did that.

    18. February 3, 2016 at 7:05 am

      Growing up in a small Oklahoma town gave me an appreciation for live theater weather it was the local high school’s all school productions or later on in life traveling to Amarillo and OKC with my Mom to see our favorite musical, CATS.

      Grease came out in the late 1970’s before I was ten years old and when I saw it on television I hated it because it was filthy. Now I’m an adult and I see that my first instincts were right, it’s a filthy movie!

      That being said a year or so back when they did The Sound of Music live I was excited to see it because it has been one of my favorite musicals since I saw it in grade school and I wanted to see how they would pull off a live performance and I wasn’t too disappointed. Since they were airing Grease live I had the same thought, how in the world are they going to do this?! And it was fascinating to watch the camera work live. Personally I think I would rather see a documentary on how they did it and all the behind the scenes stuff rather than the actual performance.

      The advertisers try to play this off like it was “family friendly,” but apparently they are both blind and deaf! Some things had been toned down and it wasn’t AS bad as the film, but if it was all I could do to stomach some of those scenes and I ended up changing the channel to avoid having to watch Grease Lightening and at was thankfully on the phone for a couple of others. But that school dance was disgusting with that guy grinding his face in the Disney slut’s face like that!!! Had she been a decent girl she would have slapped the choreographer but it was obvious that she had no problem with it!!!!!

      Family friendly? No, it certainly was not!!!!!

    19. Debbie Howard
      February 3, 2016 at 6:35 am

      My husband, John and I appreciate everything you do to try and keep the content of so many shows as clean & good as you can! I know that sounds very simple but, we like simple & we like good. And, I believe most people, including most families definitely do. Please, keep up the great work you are doing and we will follow!

      The Howard family

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