Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Half Man and Half a-’Tee

Since I moved and lost cable, there are only a few TV shows I still watch regularly: "Simpsons" and "Seinfeld" reruns in syndication, "Meet the Press" on Sunday mornings, "The View" (what can I say -- I almost always have an hour to kill before noon, and I like Rosie O'Donnell), the surprisingly good kids' cartoon "Jacob Two-Two," and, a mainstay since I started college in 1997, "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

Which brings me to www.hornymanatee.com.

If you haven't heard about it by now, here's the story: Conan does a sketch on bizarre college mascots. One of them is FSU's "Webcam Manatee," featuring a guy in a manatee suit dancing around parodically-provocatively. Conan makes an offhand, ad-libbed reference to the Webcam Manatee appearing on a then-fictitious website called hornymanatee.com.

The next night on air, Conan reveals the aftermath. When the sketch aired, NBC freaks out. What if there's a real "horny manatee" site that Conan inadvertently promoted on air? Even if the site doesn't already exist, someone could register the domain and put inappropriate material on it -- Conan/NBC could still be held liable, in terms of bad press if nothing else.

The standard move would have been to cut or mute the reference to hornymanatee.com in post-production. No harm, no foul. Instead, NBC aired the episode as is, bought the rights to hornymanatee.com, threw up some porn-parody content -- and got over 3 million hits after Conan advertised the site (for real this time) on the air.

NYT has a nice recounting of the story here. And you can always see for yourself.

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