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WOW!: Discovery's 'Life' press kit includes its own TV
February 5, 2010  | By Diane Werts
life discovery channel oprah.jpg

TV critics learn pretty quickly how to judge the importance of a show to its network. Sometimes publicists mail us a plain brown envelope with a screener disc in it. Sometimes they send out a swank press kit with info printed on custom show letterhead, in specially designed boxes, maybe with a promotional goodie like a T-shirt.

And then there's the press kit for Discovery's upcoming Life nature miniseries, which essentially unreels on its own little enclosed TV set.

life press kit.jpgWhoa.

It's a high-water mark for tempting critics to watch a show, that's for sure.

Who could resist peeking inside the 12-inch-square 2-inch-thick black hardbox with only the word Life emblazoned on its cover? Gotta be something interesting inside a package this lavish.

Open the hinged cover, and on the left are tucked those custom letterhead press releases. But on the right, there's an 8-inch-square half-inch-thick hardcover book nestled in a custom-fit slot. Pull it out and open its cover, and -- OMG! There's a tiny TV screen on which full-color video and sound begin running automatically, since opening the book pulls a tab between the book's front and back sides (like a greeting card with sound).

life press book.jpg


Never seen that before.

And it gets cooler. To the right of the 4-inch screen are five circles marked "PUSH." Doing so starts up different 5 film clips -- not from the series itself (two episodes of that are on preliminary DVD screeners tucked behind the book slot), but from behind-the-scenes featurettes showing how the BBC-Discovery nature series was patiently and sometimes bravely shot in the wild.

You think Discovery considers Life a big deal?

Critics sure will, since this elaborate TV-set press kit is one of those jawdropping moments we so rarely encounter. Every day, we throw DVD screeners onto office stacks we might or might not dig through later, and we leave email notifications of password-protected online screeners sitting in the inbox till we eventually either watch (maybe) or delete (more likely).

life video screen.jpg

But who's not gonna watch these TV-in-your-hand Life clips? The first one's a "push" inevitability, since it runs automatically, but after you see it -- well, it's the potato chips of screener clips. You can't watch just one. Those "Push" circles are too tempting. Portable self-contained on-demand viewing -- how cool is that?

Discovery clearly wants us to think Life is cool, too. And we're already inclined to, since it's essentially a followup to Planet Earth, the ooh-and-ahh nature mini that both critics and viewers gaped over in 2006.

But this press kit is Discovery's announcement that Life isn't just a big deal, it's A Big Deal. Maybe even A BIG Deal. Discovery wants it to demand attention, so that's what the press kit does. (Sorry for the quality of the photos I shot to illustrate this column. I'm a writer, not a shooter.)

With so many channels, so much competition, and so little time, Discovery's gotta cut through the clutter. Spend money to make money. Dress it up to demonstrate that it's special. You couldn't push critics into gushing over Destroyed in Seconds that way, but you can sure impress us with a serious project's lavish production by making a lavish production out of promoting it.

Whoa -- gotta push "Push" again . . .

Life airs on Discovery Channel on Sundays at 8-10 p.m. ET March 21 through April 18, narrated in the U.S. by Oprah Winfrey. (As with Planet Earth, the original British presentation is voiced by wildlife authority David Attenborough. Let the debate begin, again, as it did over Attenborough vs. U.S. Earth voice Sigourney Weaver.)

You can watch clips from the show online -- sorry, no TV-set press kit for you -- at Discovery's Life site here.




Patti said:

I really like that press kit!!!

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