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Explainer: As seen on TV: Items in hit shows

  • NBC
    In Hell’s Kitchen, fiery shouts of “No Soup For You!” are set to flare anew.

    Snappish “SoupMan” Al Yeganeh – the cranky ladler who inspired the Soup Nazi character on “Seinfield” – will re-launch his original store Tuesday, serving lobster bisque and other drippy delights to obedient customers on West 55th Street in Manhattan. Six years ago, Yeganeh shuttered that eatery to open Original SoupMan franchises in eight states and Canada.

    The Soup Man’s rigid rules – no extraneous comments, no questions, no compliments – made him inadvertently famous thanks to his 1995 “Seinfeld” portrayal. Now, Yeganeh’s latest success is stirring memories of other products that gained unintended boosts or extra attention after being slyly laced into TV plots. (To be clear, we’re differentiating such random references from blatant product placements like the promotion of 24 Hour Fitness on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”)

    From mystery meats to bed-time braziers, here’s a roll call of some brands that temporarily basked in the pop limelight after becoming fodder for a TV punch line or story line.

  • Junior Mints

    NBC

    The program: “Seinfeld”

    The plug: From Jujyfruits to Trivial Pursuit (“That’s not Moops, you jerk! It’s Moors!”), “Seinfeld” reigns as the king of quirky product citations. During season four, Kramer and Jerry are watching from an operating theater as surgeons mend Elaine’s ex-boyfriend. They accidently drop a Junior Mint from their balcony seats into the man’s abdominal incision. When George later asks Jerry how doctors missed the candy’s splash, Jerry explains: “Because it's a little mint! It's a Junior Mint!

    Tootsie Roll Industries continues to sell Junior Mints, and the company’s website still recounts that seminal “Seinfeld” episode.

  • Magnolia Cupcakes

    HBO

    The Program: “Sex and the City”

    The plug: The four gal pals are best known for sipping Cosmos, but Carrie Bradshaw’s sumptuous bite of a Magnolia Bakery cupcake helped put the West Village landmark on the national food map about five years ago. After the HBO episode aired, lines of patrons stretched from the shop’s front door and wrapped around the street corner.

    Carrie’s taste for Magnolia’s treats, say “Sex and the City” fans, helped launch a national cupcake craze.

    “Personally, I find the (Magnolia) cupcakes too sweet,” said Amy DeGiulio, owner of The Sugar Flower Cake Shop in New York City. “But there are lots of people out there who love them.”

    Magnolia Bakery now boasts four New York City locations and a shop in Los Angeles.

  • Hooters

    NBC

    The program: “The Office”

    The plug: The chain — best known for its double-entendre name and tightly-clothed waitresses — has been a favorite side joke for the merrily un-P.C. writers of “The Office.”

    In season two, boss Michael Scott escorts Jim to Hooters for an uncomfortable lunch that’s paid for with a company credit card. In that season’s finale, the paper company uses Hooters to cater its “Casino Night.” And in season three, when Angela describes Hooters as a strip club, Michael counters with the argument that Hooters is a family restaurant with 400 locations worldwide.

    According to the company website, Hooters has more than 450 locations in 44 states and 29 countries.

  • SPAM

    Image: SPAM
    Elise Amendola  /  AP
    In this Aug. 20, 2009 file photo, a can of Spam is shown on a counter in North Andover, Mass. The maker of the iconic meat product has purchased another renowned brand, Skippy peanut butter, for $700 million.

    The program: “M*A*S*H*”

    The plug: In the third season of the Korean War-based sitcom, a party is held at the 4077th to honor wounded Greek soldiers. Company clerk Radar O’Reilly rescues the feast’s main course — a lamb — by giving the animal an army medical discharge then arranging transport for the lamb to reach Radar’s home in Iowa. To keep their Greek guests happy, Hawkeye and Trapper devise and shape a new meal out of a famous meat popular in the U.S. military. They build a SPAM lamb.

    More than 36 year after that episode, Hormel’s SPAM is alive and kicking, having sold more than 7 billion cans of the processed and pre-shaped slabs of chopped pork shoulder and ham.

  • The Today Sponge

    Image: Today Sponge

    The program: “Seinfeld”

    The plug: Elaine begins stockpiling her favorite contraceptive device when she learns “the sponge” is being yanked from the market. In 1994, the Today Sponge was, indeed, removed temporarily from U.S. shelves after manufacturing problems surfaced. For TV’s Elaine, her limited supply meant she had to begin judging whether each man she dated was “spongeworthy.”

    Like the fictional Elaine, Los Angeles-based tax advisor Eva Rosenberg became a fan when the product was introduced. “It was such a brilliant idea that I immediately wrote to the president of the company,” she said, offering the honcho some promotional ideas. Like Elaine, Rosenberg was disappointed when the sponge was pulled, summing up her feelings in one word: “Alas.”

    The Today Sponge was, however, reintroduced to the U.S. market about nine years later. On the current company website, visitors can play “The Spongeworthy Game” – in which they must answer five questions to find out which celebrity is “spongeworthy for you.”

  • The Face Bra

    FOX

    The program: “Ally McBeal”

    The plug: Office assistant Elaine Vassal dreams up a new invention to help women prevent wrinkles: “the face bra.” During an episode of the late-1990s, iconic program, the odd contraption became big seller with women.

    In Clearwater, Fla., Vicki Southard has created the real deal — a “non-surgical face lift” that she initially nicknamed “the Face Bra” based on that Ally McBeal bit. Today, she markets it as “the Face Wrap.”

    “People mix the shows and episodes up – especially during media interviews, hosts and anchors have commented that it was from a ‘Seinfeld’ show,” Southard lamented. “We used that nickname for awhile. As it turns out, the ‘Face Bra’ isn't a great name anyway. Women don't particularly like wearing bras and the thought of wearing a bra on the face isn't very desirable. Our product is like a body wrap, but it's for the face, hence, The Face Wrap.”

  • Snapple

    NBC

    The program: “30 Rock”

    The plug: The writers for this comedy about an imaginary TV comedy took on the issue of product placement with a harsh slash of irony. Character Liz Lemon, who plays the creator of the series, argues against “compromising the integrity of the show” by using it to hawk products.

    One beat later, a producer named Pete holds up a bottle and proclaims, “Wow, this is Diet Snapple?”

    “I know,” Liz responds,” it tastes just like regular Snapple, doesn’t it?”

    More characters then weigh in on the wonders of Snapple, including Liz’s personal assistant Cerie, who announces: “I only date guys who drink Snapple.”

  • Cool Whip

    Image: Scene from Fox's "Family Guy."
    FOX

    The program: “Family Guy”

    The plug: The family’s baby, Stewie, notices that the family dog, Brian, is eating a slice of pie with a creamy topping. He asks for a piece but insists on over-pronouncing the H in “Cool Whip.”

    Stewie: “Hey, pass over some of that Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “What?”

    Stewie: “Well, you put Cool wHip on pie.”

    Brian Griffin: “It's Cool Whip.”

    Stewie: “That's what I said, Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “Cool Whip”

    Stewie: “Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “Cool Whip.”

    Stewie: “Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “Why are you putting so much emphasis on the H?”

    Stewie: “What are you talking about? I'm just saying Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “Say whip”

    Stewie: “Whip.”

    Brian: “Now say Cool Whip.”

    Stewie “Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “Cool Whip!”

    Stewie: “Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “Cool Whip!”

    Stewie: “Cool wHip.”

    Brian: “You're eating HAIR!”

    In all, the Kraft Foods product gets 15 mentions on the FOX program in about one full minute of air time.

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