Colbert Puffery?

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Why was there a box of Cocoa Puffs prominently behind Stephen Colbert's shoulder on his Comedy Central show Tuesday night? The box was, like, the co-anchor of the show almost.

OK, I know he did a bit about attracting Joe Lieberman to the show, citing the Senator's love of chocolate and bringing out a bowl of Cocoa Puffs as bait. But then, the box was in the camera shot over his shoulder as he went on to other bits of funny business, and again at the end of the show. That bird got a lot more screen time than the Colbert screeching eagle (sounds like a high school football team mascot).

Was that a paid plug in the show? Was he hawking the cereal shamelessly?

I hope not. But what other reason to leave the box there. I feel let down by one of my new favorite shows, like when Mad magazine started to accept ads (after it was bought by Time Warner, probably.

Before that, I was confident Mad could make fun of anyone and not give a flying Portzebie. But it's harder to be opportunity-lampooner if you are shilling for "the man," or in this case "the ad man."

Please say it aint so, Stephen. Or has the plug become so much a part of the viral marketing DNA that we can't put that Genie brand door opener back in the I Dream of Jeannie collectors bottle.

I waited until the end credits and noted that Colbert's suits were by Brooks Brothers, but saw no mention of promotional consideration paid for by…. Maybe it wasn't a plug after all. Well, of course it was a plug, but maybe it wasn't a paid plug. I'm so confused.

By John Eggerton

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