Mark it on your calendars: February 17, 2014, the latest and greatest milestone in the fusion of television, advertising, and advocacy–the premiere of a Chipotle’s mini-series Farmed and Dangerous.
Looking back, it seems inevitable. The line between advertising and not-advertising has always been a bit hazy on the Internet, and the line between television and Internet video has been getting blurrier by the year. Chipotle’s previous forays into drama established a template for the company. It was only a small step from its high-concept animated parodies of evil “industrial agriculture” to a full-blown show, appearing alongside conventional television on Hulu. Of course, Chipotle’s sending up antibiotics, GMOs and hormones with satire broad enough to confound an easy categorization as “true” or “false” also accomplishes promoting Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” brand and positioning it as a countervailing force.
I told the show’s star Ray Wise (of Twin Peaks and Beach House music video fame) that I wasn’t sure what to call this new form when I called him up for an interview. “Yeah, I’m not either, really,” he responded. “It’s a whole new model.”
It’s a model on fullest display in this online trailer, in which Wise (playing “industrial agriculture” spin doctor Buck Marshall) critiques the earlier Chipotle parody “The Scarecrow.”
“My clients in industrial agriculture asked me to review this film and point out the inconsistencies between this make-believe world and the challenging reality my clients face in heroically feeding the world,” says Marshall. He gestures dismissively at a scene of cows locked in tiny boxes in the dark. “Ridiculous! We don’t put cows in milk-sucking machines to increase production,” says Marshall. “We use hormones.”
Despite the dizzying levels of meta-ness involved, Wise says the whole thing felt every bit a television show. It is an “original comedy series” “without any explicit Chipotle branding,” according to Chipotle.
“It really is just a TV show that happens to live on Hulu. It isn’t an ad for Chipotle,” says Wise. “And yet it seems to me that it’ll be much better than an ad for Chipotle when all is said and done.”