Grey New York goes back to the future for DirecTV, revisiting a concept the satellite broadcaster introduced seven years ago in commercials from Deutsch.
Those original spots, directed by Christopher Guest, took place in a conference room and focused on the antics of some smug, inept and less-than-customer-centric executives at Cable Corp., a bland, soulless cable conglomerate. The last ad in the series aired in 2012.
This new iteration, directed by Hungry Man's Bryan Buckley, retains the wry humor and some of the actors from the earlier campaign. In fact, it's packed with familiar faces: John Michael Higgins, Jeffrey Tambor, Jennifer Coolidge and Fred Willard.
The first two spots posit a merger scenario. It's a questionable deal, we're told, because Cable Corp.'s partner, CableWorld, stinks—literally. "I used to work there. I had to breathe through my mouth the whole time," Higgins says at one point.
As always, he and Coolidge give solid comic performances, and Willard's a hoot as CableWorld's boss, who got "too messed up last night" to bring any new ideas to the table. As for Tambor, well, his resemblance to Rudy Giuliani is kind of disturbing. (Recent DirecTV ad star Rob Lowe would fit right in with this bunch.)
The storyline feels a tad meta, perhaps awkwardly so, given DirecTV's recent acquisition by AT&T. Still, the ads are clearly poking fun at big cable hookups, like Charter's deal with Time Warner, and succeed well enough in that regard.
The old gang can still bring the funny. Alas, comparison with the previous work is inevitable. And ultimately, the reboot reminds me of satellite reception on a windy day—it's just not as crisp and bright as it used to be.