A running rant about bad television, crappy products, horrible service, mindless politics, corporate and government ineptitude, moronic media, marketing overload, public idiocy, stupid entertainment, etc. Here's what's annoying me today:

5.18.2006

The Frontline Guy Sells Out

The narrators of investigative news shows play a great part in conveying either the seriousness or the trashyness of the program. Listening to Stone Phillips and Chris Hanson on Dateline NBC, for instance, you instantly know that the show is nothing but tabliod crap, and will stop at nothing for ratings. The overproduced narration with forced pauses, and all the gimicks to tart up any subject. William Hurt forcing a tear on camera in Broadcast News is child's play next to these guys.

Frontline is the opposite of these shows. It's really the only serious investigative news show on TV. And a good deal of the authority of the show is carried by the terrific narration of Will Lyman. His voice is so identified with that show that to hear it anywhere else, is just wrong.

But now his voice is popping up all over the place as the voice of BMW. The ads are in heavy rotation. They are pretty decent ads, and the guy can't be expected to make a living just narrating Frontline (although I guess he is an accomplished actor too). But somehow hearing that voice of authority sell a car dimishes it's impact next time you watch a serious subject on Frontline.

But you know what. Here's an irony of media in the 00's: I guess given the choice of selling out by doing a car ad, or selling out & going to work for a network newsmagazine, he did choose the lesser mode of selling out. Car ads are by far a higher art form than network newsmagazines. Hell, so is Cops.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't agree more with you of the supposed "sell-out" of one of the most credible narrative voices on the planet today. I just heard a BMW ad on the radio and said to myself, "Oh, no; now Will Lyman's doing commercials?" By googling "the voice of BMW," I came up to this blogspot and found your rant. Of course, in the meantime, I also had to realize that it's his gig and his call to make, but still I feel that we've all been short-changed somehow....

1:47 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also found your blog by googling Will Lyman and BMW after seeing an ad on tv and wondering if it could be him. I agree that it's sad. I guess I would have thought that PBS or whoever makes Frontline would have protected themselves against that.

11:03 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i googled: frontline narrator sells out bmw commercial :

i had to be sure of another mark of the decline of western civilization.

1:10 AM

 
Anonymous StacyMevoli said...

I can't believe Will Lyman would lend his magnificent voice to anything as crass as the BMW commercial with the kid screaming, which is running for the Christmas season. It has lowered my opinion of both him AND BMW. Unfortunately, from now on whenever I hear Will's voice on PBS, I will immediately think of the kid screaming, and that is just so sad...

1:07 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's long after the fact (almost exactly a year) but I thought I'd add my two cents.

27 years ago, I was creative director of an ad agency in Boston, and Will Lyman was a young talent -- mainly an actor, but doing as much voice-over work as possible -- from that market. I hired him innumerable times, for the incredible rich instrument he learned to use so well. He made commercials for all kinds of clients, including a men's wear chain of stores, and a non-profit account to encourage an end to littering. And, of course, I was not the only one to hire him, though I was one of the first. Will has made an honorable living using his talent for a long time, both on the stage, the screen, and behind innumerable microphones. It's ridiculous to suggest that in a capitalist economy, within a country that nominally espouses the freedoms that form the basis of our political philosophy, that anyone should be constrained by someone's distorted notion of ethics. Will made commercials long before he narrated Frontline (and any number of other fine programs out of WGBH studios -- as capable of recognizing talent as any Hollywood producer or any advertising director). He hurts no one and nothing, including the truth, by making an honest living at his craft, which he raises often enough to the level of art.

9:14 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. If you want someone who is arguably one of the most capable and therefore sought-after voiceover talents to not perform specific work, perhaps you should pay him not to.

2. You would have thought that PBS or whoever makes Frontline would have protected themselves against that? Against what, a man being compensated for work performed? Am I hearing a legitimate suggestion that either PBS or Frontline have been damaged in any way by this man's voice being heard on a commercial for an unrelated product? Perhaps PBS or the makers of Frontline should have protected themselves from whatever damage it is (still trying to figure that one out) you're alleging this man's voice has done by negotiating a contract that forbade him from doing any ads with children screaming (somehow I doubt this would cover all of your objections to crassness of advertising) or perhaps with a clause stipulating that prior to performing any further work outside the general scope of PBS or Frontline's interest (to be contractually defined of course) that the script and content of which be reviewed extensively by executives of PBS and Frontline, or perhaps by a public opinion poll, or perhaps via downloadable samples made specifically for experts of advertising crassness such as yourselves to exclusively review and exercise approval or denial of.

3. All of you, except the gentleman who posted above me, are assuming that Mr. Lyman was either partially or fully aware of the content of the commercial in which his voice was to be mated with prior to either agreeing to or performing the voiceover work in the studio.

4. Personally, I hate the ad. They could've accomplished what they were aiming for & much more with a child who is ecstatic without the disgusting America's Funniest (code word for most pathetic) Home Videos psychotic/spoiled brat quality. I think it was a bad call on the part of the agency BMW utilized, but more importantly, on BMW, as it is the client and reserves the ultimate final call on the finished product.

4. Please use a logically, rather than emotionally, based flowchart prior to making decisions and any statements that flow as a result.

7:16 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is important to note that number 4, AS WELL AS NUMBER 4, are important components to my rant. (I am not a paid editor, whereas Mr. Lyman IS a paid voiceover talent). :)

7:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you people cant be serious. Will Lyman is a professional actor and his gig as frontline narrator is called Voice Over. It's an acting job. His voice is his calling card. He was also the narrator in the film "the little children" he has been on Law and Order and the movie syriana. In my opinion, he has the best voice in the business.
as for him being a sellout, please he is will lyman not kevin federline. please.

10:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as of spring 2008 add a new balance commercial and the get smart movie trailer. this isn't like kevin federline doing a commercial, it's like meryl streep or robert di nero doing a commercial. it would seem odd and feel wrong and strange.

12:51 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both sides of this argument have a legitimate point. Of course Will Lyman has to be able to work outside of the PBS sphere if he is going to make any real money. To expect him to take an oath of limited income just because people are moved by his voice is more than a wee bit silly. At least he seems to choose quality products.

That said, I completely relate to the emotional reaction we have as viewers. If I tune in to frontline and he happens not to narrate that time, I fight off disappointment. His voice is so paternal, so 'trustworthy' that beyond frontline's excellent journalism, I believe everything he says. With so little to trust on tv, we are protective of that.

But one also needs to think it through....the truth is, his voice doesn't make the facts any more or less correct, and we are frustrated because the balloon has been popped and we realize that Will Lyman is a hired voice, and can make anything sound that way. He is an actor, and remains the best narrator around.

So keep watching Frontline, and go get yourself a BMW.

1:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it's like meryl streep or robert di nero doing a commercial. it would seem odd and feel wrong and strange."

Head over to Japan, where they've BOTH done commercials.

If the original post was tongue in cheek or at least wistful, I'm with you. If you are serious, you are taking television, INCLUDING Frontline, a little too seriously.

3:04 PM

 
Anonymous Will Lyman said...

I did a google search on my name and found this blog. I am Will Lyman, but not the Will Lyman you're discussing. I missed the BMW Ad, but I have heard Will Lyman do narration on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, etc. and he has a really good voice. I find it really disturbing that people waste time condemning a man for using his God given talent for gain, as if it cheapens the content of what he does on frontline. Get a life, will you?
BTW, Since I have the same name, does anyone want to pay me to either do or not do voice overs?

8:17 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't care where or when or what Will Lyman narrates, I love his voice and he can work anywhere he wants to, in my opinion. It's a free country!

6:24 PM

 
Blogger David said...

David Lang- i trained with Will Lyman at Boston University;the man is a consumate actor exercising his craft and making a living....you commentormost of you- have way too much time on your hands to be spending it being so critical.You are also very naive;go back and listen to the ads. Virtually ALL major stars do voice overs including Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland,Jeff bridges, Michael Douglas and on and on. I dare say that any one of you would do it in a heartbeat if you knew the living you can make.

7:49 PM

 
Blogger serge said...

Hey He needs to make a living.
lighten up

1:40 PM

 
Blogger gfh said...

I think wow gold and world of warcraft gold

10:14 PM

 
Blogger Brian said...

I'm OK with FRONTLINE's narrator doing VOs for BMW. Both high-class brands. And it's not selling-out. It's called making a living with one of the most distinctive voices on air. President's and notable VOs sell out when they're out of office making corporate speeches for 100K and nation meet 'n greets for 250K or more. Great movie actors sell out doing bad films for a big pay day so they can afford to do 'serious' low budget craft films. Enough said.

3:40 PM

 
Blogger @CaptKoons said...

I could not agree with you more. Which is to say I do not agree, and will not ever.

I think that by virtue of lending voice to a documentary news television program, one might assume the credibility of the program is dependent on the integrity of the man behind it. But the fact of the matter is that he is "talent," who is paid by Frontline and BMW for the talent just the same.

Any association you make between "the man" and the message is a trick your consumer-addled mind is playing on you, and might suggest you're too distracted to stay captivated by a Frontline story.

And if it strikes you just the same when you see a BMW commercial, it just means you can't afford a BMW.

3:18 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a gig. Get over it. I have been a voice actor in New York for 45 years. Just because we may become identified with a product, service or program doesn't mean we have any exclusive allegiance. If Will Lyman sounds authoritative, it's because he's a good actor/narrator, not because he's married to the content of the script. The guy who does the VO on 60 minutes also does parodies on Letterman as well as scores of commercials.

11:02 PM

 
Anonymous Ken said...

Oh, please. You can't separate Lyman's voice from a commercial when he's narrating Frontline? That's ridiculous. The next time I watch the American Experience Nixon documentary, I won't be thinking about a stupid commercial. I'll be marveling at the man's incredible voice (and Nixon's terrible presidency.) I won't be thinking about BMWs.

11:17 AM

 
Blogger gladye said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and sound comment. As much as we love this man's voice, he is earning a living and is not obligated to us to be typecast just because it makes us feel good.

6:53 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the message. Especially as you can you use it as mantra for yourself.

3:15 PM

 
Blogger Erike Simmons said...

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7:58 AM

 

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