This week, NBC Universal Digital Studio launched its second original scripted comedy series In Gayle We Trust, following up on the early success of Tony Hale starring CTRL. Written by Brent Forrester (NBC’s The Office), the series centers on the lives of the fictional residents of Maple Grove. Tying all these unique personalities together is insurance agent Gayle Evans, played by Elisa Donovan (Clueless, Beverly Hills, 90210, Sabrina The Teenage Witch), whose love of her job is infectious to those around her.
“In Gayle We Trust is at the center of our desire to create compelling original digital entertainment with brands,” said Cameron Death, VP of NBC Universal Digital Studio in a release. “We’re excited to have American Family Insurance on board as the exclusive sponsor of this intriguing and quirky new series.”
The branding of the show is straight-forward and to-the-point: Gayle is an American Family Insurance provider and the majority of the episodes focus around her selling different types of policies to her friends and neighbors of Maple Grove. But the clever writing and the cast of talented actors keep it from feeling like one big advertisement. Take for example one character’s answer to inquiring about whether he needs to purchase identity insurance: “Do you sell identity insurance? … Because as a plumber, my identity is pretty irresistible.”
The show also doesn’t shy away from discussing some of the stereotypes may people hold about insurance agents. In the episode “Gail and the Rival”, we see the smarmy, slick-talking Drake from “that other insurance company” brag about cashing in so much that he’s glad he’s got direct deposit or else the Rainforest would be gone by now from all the checks he’d be cashin’ (“You’re welcome Earth”). But under it all, Drake wants to know why Gayle is happier than him. “Because I meet them face to face … they are more than just numbers in my Rolodex.”
Most fascinating to me was the clever way in which they integrated a potentially controversial service American Family Insurance provides: a camera that can be attached to the rear-view window designed so parents can watch their teen drivers. Having first watched the episode, I thought there was no way this was a real service, but in a behind-the-scenes interview with Sarah Taylor and Todd Waring, who play the worried parents in the episode, the camera is real.
In addition to the episodes, there are also interactive elements worked into the show’s site. There is an interactive map of Maple Grove in which you look for hidden objects that unlock items associated with each episode as well as a Teen Driving Game (that I may now be addicted to). There are probably many other elements in store for the shows 10-week run.