They Don't Make Shows About Actuaries, Do They?

TNT's 'Trust Me' Debuts With More Drama About the Ad Biz

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
First, it was "Bewitched." Then "Thirtysomething" in the '80s. A long time passed until "Mad Men" made its mark on A&E. And now in 2009, it's "Trust Me," a weekly cable TV drama on TNT about a creative team's workday brilliance, friendship and paranoia in a large ad agency. The show takes place in a big, Chicago-based shop -- seemingly Leo Burnett, but they're calling it Rothman, Greene & Mohr.

The show's storyline focuses on the business of advertising, and on one creative team -- copywriter Mason (Eric McCormack) and art director Conner (Tom Cavanagh). They're best friends, and in the first episode, you can already see how the show's writers tap into the emotional highs and lows of life in the ad biz.

But what's noteworthy about "Trust Me" is that it is yet another show about our industry that some TV executive bankrolled. That must mean something. It must mean that we are doing something provocative, wacky and fun. The eclectic personalities, soaring highs/painful lows, and improbable office stunts and politics simply don't exist in most industries as they do in ours. So it makes for good TV.

At a time when some question the viability of our industry, and when agency owners struggle to stay relevant, it is refreshing to look in the mirror of this new show and laugh at ourselves. It is good for the ad business. It makes us attractive to a new breed of characters, intellects and eccentrics that make up our agencies. And though some scenes were played a little too broad (the group creative director dropped dead in his office after blowing a gasket because his campaign was killed by the client), most of the scenes were fairly authentic.

One scene, in fact, had me laughing out loud: when Mason was confronted by a junior creative team, who showed him their idea for a new campaign. When Mason asked what the tag line was, the junior team said that tag lines are passé. Mason then quickly recited a dozen famous -- and still current -- tag lines for other brands, and said he was NOT going to have another debate about whether tag lines are passé. I laughed because I've had that very conversation several times in my own agency. It helps that the show is written by two former copywriters.

So, while "Trust Me" isn't on the artistic level of "Mad Men," and likely won't win any Emmys, it is certainly a sorely-needed dose of positive exposure for what we do for a living.

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