TV Teasers That Can’t Keep a Secret : Television: NBC has started using dialogue in its ‘bumper’ spots for miniseries, a practice that some producers say give away upcoming scenes.


As the miniseries neared a commercial break, the Russian princess was deserted by her true love, an American soldier, and viewers were left to ponder how she would cope with a broken heart.

The pondering lasted only a few moments, however. Between the end of the scene and the start of the ads, there was one of those “stay tuned” promotional spots--one that featured a preview of a coming scene in which a friend of the princess urged the soldier to return and left little doubt that he would.

“I don’t think you should give away what the picture is about before it starts or while it is on the air,” said a distressed Douglas S. Cramer, the producer who saw this happen during the Sept. 21 telecast of “Zoya” on NBC.

So-called “bumper” spots between programs and commercials are hardly new, but usually they consist of a program logo or a coming scene accompanied only by music. NBC, however, has started showing scenes with dialogue in some of its miniseries, trying to maintain viewer interest at the risk of giving away major story points.


Viewers will see it again Sunday when the network launches its two-part drama “Dead by Sunset.”

Cramer maintains that NBC’s promotion of “Zoya,” both before and during the broadcast, turned off some viewers and “limited our audience.” Especially objectionable were the bumpers aired during the first hour, which often revealed the content of coming segments.

“I’ve expressed my concerns, but I’m just one producer who gets listened to with a slightly jaundiced ear,” Cramer said in an interview. “The networks promote so much, they always feel they know what’s best.”

John Miller, NBC’s vice president of advertising and promotions, said that the network would continue its practice for miniseries that are dialogue-driven.

Miller called the bumpers an integral part of NBC’s “seamless programming"--an attempt to tantalize viewers before the commercial and keep them from channel surfing. And, he insisted, even if viewers know what happens next, they don’t know how it will happen. The bumpers are intended to give away only “unimportant” points, Miller said.

Neither ABC nor CBS use dialogue in their bumpers.

“We try not to give away things,” said Stuart Brower, vice president of on-air promotion at ABC. “That would clearly be a negative. . . . I can’t remember a single time we’ve included dialogue, just for that reason. With dialogue you get too close to revealing the story.”

Miller said that NBC’s bumpers are generally cut by production company executives who “usually are very sensitive about giving away part of the story. In the particular case [of “Zoya”], they didn’t think they’d given too much away.”

Cramer, however, said that it is the network that makes the bumpers and that he was never consulted about them on “Zoya.” Howard Braunstein, one of the executive producers of the two-part “Degree of Guilt,” which aired earlier this month, said he had not reviewed the bumpers for his miniseries either.

“I don’t think any [producer] does,” Braunstein said. “It’s standard operating procedure. It’s the way it’s done.”

“I’d like the network to at least allow the writer or supervising producer to look at the promotions before they’re locked in,” said L. Virginia Browne, who wrote the teleplay for “Zoya.” “We could say, ‘The third one there gives away the story point; is there something else we can put in its place?’ ”