The ‘We Mean Business’ Promo

There is a stylistic promotional device that is becoming predictable. It is the image of the principal actors in a drama portrayed in a V formation with the most highly-paid at the front. The others, in receding degrees of salary, fan out to the sides in appropriately-reduced visual proportions.

The Walking Dead via

I first noticed this in a promo for a tv series about zombies and from then on I associated all V-formation ads as paying homage to the undead.

The other aspect of these images that they all share is that the actors all look terribly serious; angry, even. Some of them have their arms folded and some have their hands on hips. All of them look cross as if no one gave them lunch yet. It’s the hangry look that says “I don’t care how much you pay me, I’m not going to smile.”

Law and Order SVU
Law and Order SVU via

My guess is that it is not a battle of wills with the camera operator but an attempt at promoting an edgy oeuvre. They are saying “This is a serious show about serious issues and we are going to fight a lot of people to prove it to you.”

It’s a device that has been overused so much now that it could be a meme. Perhaps it already is. Many years from now, when they make movies about this decade, they will use this device and we will all recognize it. “Oh yes,” we’ll say. “We remember those pissed-off people fighting crime/zombies/extra-terrestrials/spies. They never smiled.”

Peaky Blinders
Peaky Blinders via

The other thing those future movie-makers will do is to make sure there are at least a couple of women in the cast and one or two people of non-white ethnicities. And they will all look hard and angry because that’s the way we do it. Looking soft and friendly just doesn’t cut it for these shows.

Once, drama series flaunted their actors’ charm and good looks, and they usually did it with smiles. Now, we still have the people with good looks but charm has mostly been reduced to seduction. It’s not the same thing. The smiles are almost completely gone.

If our television dramas are a reflection of the mood of the masses, we are in deep trouble. Perhaps if we abandoned our diets and all went out for lunch, the television industry would give us more friendly and cheerful people to watch.





  1. I wasn’t overtly aware of this staging. What a hoot! It’s a marketing technique that doesn’t work on me, but I am probably not the targeted audience.

Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.