Maybe it was meant to soothe our souls after a harrowing experience with holiday travel (original flight got cancelled and I feared my ensuing near-panic attack would result in my getting shot after being mistaken for a terrorist), but the lengthy NBC television promo shown on our United return flight seemed alot like force-fed propaganda regarding the acceptable response to America's War.
After about 20 minutes (from Three Wishes, further described below) of heartwarming military homecoming images and sound bites featuring Christian music superstar Amy Grant, the piece faded to black with the not-so subtle message:
"To learn how You can Support Our Troops, ---- "
It blew me away that something like that would play on our flight. Listed on the in-flight mag as a preview of NBC fall programming, the promo focused on a new "good works" reality show called Three Wishes
wherein Amy grants wishes to deserving individuals and community groups in various American cities.
Those chosen in the military homecoming episode were deserving Iraq war "unsung heroes" from the 3rd Battalion 25th Marine Regiment. The Ohio-based 3/25 lost 48 people in nine months, and some in the unit were granted home make-overs. Plus Amy gave a special concert. One young war widow with small child got a home renovation to make up for her dead unsung hero husband. I couldn't help thinking she'd probably rather have her loved one with her in a dilapidated shack, than the eternal flame memorial with folded flag in her fancy and spacious home.
I did some googling, and it seems Three Wishes debuted on September 23, but has since been cancelled due to low ratings (finale was the Christmas show). Still the "Heartwarming military homecoming" tape is being played on United, advertising it as a fall show. Maybe it's just outdated and the airline has a contract to keep playing it regardless? Or maybe United is connected to NBC? Or maybe the attendants will pop in any old tape to fill up a half hour. Whatever it was, both my husband (a Vietnam veteran) and I were practically forced to watch as the little screen in front of our faces and larger screens on the walls were difficult to avoid. Thankfully we could eliminate the sound.
Turns out Three Wishes received free "church-based" marketing, similar to The Passion of the Christ and Narnia. Grass-roots Christian community marketing is the trend in building word of mouth to sell religion-connected entertainment. The show also got free advertising from the US government.
From the NYTimes:
"Three Wishes" is aimed, in no small part, at a churchgoing rural and suburban audience. And its marketing plan, evocative of a red-state presidential campaign, bears scant resemblance to any NBC has crafted before.
In advance of the new prime-time television season, NBC sent more than 7,000 DVD's of the show's first episode to ministers and other clergy members, along with a recorded message to their congregants from Ms. Grant. ("At its core, 'Three Wishes' is faith in action," she tells them.) The network has also booked Ms. Grant - a pop singer who vaulted to fame singing Christian songs, crossed over to mainstream radio and recently released an album of hymns titled "Rock of Ages" - for interviews on Christian radio and taken out advertising in small-town newspapers.
And, perhaps most seductively, NBC has been stuffing cash registers at stores here like Goody's and others in or around Nashville, Salt Lake City, Des Moines and Milwaukee with tens of thousands of $1 bills used for groceries and other basics. The dollars are affixed with yellow stickers (removable, consistent with Treasury Department guidelines) that ask, "What's your wish?," and implore people to watch the show. All told, the network expects to give away 150,000 of those dollar bills in 15 cities and towns.