CBS’ new series, Novel Adventures, which we noted last week has employed the marketing expertise of a popular YouTuber to spread the word, just released its first installment.

Lizzie, a newcomer to LA, attends a snooty women’s book club and, aghast when asked to consider the context of The Old Man and The Sea, retreats to the appetizer table where she meets three similarly disdainful, fun-lovin’ girls. Adventure ensues!

The premiere episode bares an uncanny resemblance to Quarterlife, but with middle aged women: a cheesy name, bad voiceover, contrived nonchalance, gooey melodrama, and a story crafted around an auto manufacturer (Saturn sponsors the series) with too many money shots.

Herein lies the issue with branded entertainment: CBS clearly needs to satisfy its sponsor with due attention to the product they’ve been charged to promote, but there is a fine line between sponsored entertainment and outright shill. So far, this feels like the latter.

Another thing: the web will revolutionize entertainment partly because it enables the distribution of strikingly less expensive products, but quality drama, I’m convinced, will rarely be created on the cheap…at least not by producers bearing the letters CBS. This show feels cheap, like a half-baked daytime TV.

The series includes some established talent – Daphne Zuniga, Jolie Jenkins, Ashley Williams, Paola Turbay – whose performances are muted by atrocious writing and truly unbelievable dialogue.

Then again, middle aged women like soap operas, right? It COULD work.

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