October 8, 1996
Three scenes we've seen before
Journal Television Writer
EDMONTON - Do not adjust your set. That was Alberta's phone company elbowing its way into the camera frame for the gangbuster season-opening episode of The X-Files.
In a bit of understatement, Cindi Hart, the Telus Communications official responsible for brand identity, credits "fortuitous timing" for the free publicity coup in Friday night's show, which drew the highest ratings ever for the three-year-old Fox series.
Telus officials were contacted by X-Files production staff early this summer and asked if they could help authenticate an episode that would include an Alberta setting, even though actual filming took place around Kamloops.
Presto, the opening moments of the show featured a Telus lineman, a Telus van, and a Telus work order. The lineman scales a telephone pole, is stung by an alien bee, and promptly expires. Hart says the corporation, which paid nothing for the primetime presence, was given a general sense of the plot before it went to air.
"Our concern was just that the corporation not be represented from a negative fashion,'' she said.
No worries there. Although the lineman dropped dead, he very clearly was no deadbeat. (Although some Telus linemen were complaining after the show that the guy climbed the pole all wrong.)
"It's just a normal individual going about his normal course of daily life as a lineman who happens to have an unfortunate interaction with an alien being," Hart said in tidy summation.
The publicity is no small feat in these days of cut-throat competition over product placement, that practice where corporations jostle to have their products - including computers, blenders and microwaves - incorporated into the sets of hit series. This is also an era when advertisers are now paying up to $1 million a minute for commercial time on hit U.S. series.
Telus, in its former incarnation as AGT, actually pitched in once before to assist The X-Files, which is filmed in Vancouver. Three years back, the corporation came through when the show came calling for a large volume of black rotary dial telephones.