If you happened to catch the season premiere of NBC’s Chuck last week, your eye may have been drawn to an unusual bit of product placement.
During the opening credits, the titular hero (played by Zachary Levi) is seen breakfasting on a bowl of cereal. On the table, conspicuously framed in the shot, is a cereal box bearing the name “Nuts & More.”
A new brand from General Mills? The latest feat of product integration masterminded by NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman? Nope—just a generic cereal box prop.
But if “Nuts & More” struck you as strangely familiar—as it did B&C special correspondent Jennifer Ciminillo—that’s because it showed up on network television the week before.
Turns out the same prop had a cameo in the Sept. 25 season premiere of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. As Ciminillo noticed, Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) is seen in the opening minutes munching on Nuts & More straight out of the box.
So how does a fictional cereal get a walk-on in two different shows that air on two different networks, come from two different studios (Grey’s comes from ABC Studios, Chuck from Warner Bros.) and share no producers?
Apparently, “Nuts & More” was created specifically for Grey’s by the show’s propmaster, Angela Whiting. Once it entered Hollywood’s prop circulation system, it ended up at Independent Studio Services, where the folks at Chuck picked it up.
Asked how she feels about seeing her off-brand cereal popping up on other shows, Whiting expressed concern.
“It’s a fear,” she said. “You don’t want to see your props getting overused on other shows.”
It’s not the first time a prop product has turned up in different shows. Last spring, bloggers noticed that the same issue of “Playpen” magazine appeared in an episode of ABC’s Lost and later on USA Network’s In Plain Sight.
Frankly, we wish it would happen more often. Maybe next time, Cristina will have her hand in a bag of “Sabor de Soledad,” the preferred snack chip of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) on NBC’s 30 Rock.