Though CBS denied the sweeps stunt was anything more than the appearance of legendary star Elizabeth Taylor on four of its Monday-night sitcoms, in truth Ms. Taylor's appearances turned out to be little more than commercial plugs for her new Black Pearls fragrance from Arden.
And even though some agency media executives thought the promotion went too far (AA, Feb. 12), viewers didn't seem to care. Ratings for the four shows were up 15% to 20%.
CBS had declined to preview tapes of the Feb. 26 episodes.
Besides the shows themselves, CBS stars such as Angela Lansbury and Chuck Norris appeared as their series' character to hype the storyline between each sitcom.
As reported earlier, a black pearl necklace belonging to Ms. Taylor was central to each show's storyline. But it seemed clear the creative forces behind "Murphy Brown" didn't really have a taste for the gambit. After a few plugs and an appearance by Ms. Taylor at the beginning of that show, no further mention of it was made.
TYING IT TOGETHER
The plot of the final sitcom, "High Society," seemed to be written just for the punch line at the show's end, when Ms. Taylor was heard in a voice-over as viewers saw a hand finally recover the necklace. At the same time, one of the show's characters made reference to the fragrance by saying "something really smells good."
The sitcom then all of a sudden became "The Nanny" again, as Ms. Taylor seemingly wrapped up the promotion, appearing along with "Nanny" star Fran Drescher and Rosie O'Donnell, who guest starred on that evening's "Nanny" episode.
Many local CBS affiliates recapped the promo on their late newscasts, again plugging the fragrance.
Not to be left out, David Letterman spent much of his "Late Show" skewering Ms. Taylor. Ms. Taylor had declined repeated invitations to appear on his show.
Typical of Mr. Letterman's stabs at Ms. Taylor was his top 10 list that night, entitled "Rejected Names For Liz Taylor's New Perfume": 10) Aging Legend; 9) Prince Manicotti; 8) Husband No. 5; 7) Ball 'n' Socket; 6) Who's Cooking Cabbage; 5) National Velveeta; 4) I Smell a Divorce; 3) For External Use Only; 2) I Need Cash; 1) Sniff This.