Framed (IFC, Fridays at 10:30 p.m. ET)—a new star-on-star chatfest produced by Reebok—represents the sneaker company's attempt to do an end run around your DVR. It's "branded entertainment," commercial-free, and all the sponsor asks is that you save a little space in your heart for the pretty people wearing its ugly logo. If the show is typical of the marketing-programming hybrids that await us in the advertainment future, then let the bastardization roll, by all means.
Each installment of Framed captures an emissary from the realm of show biz hanging out with an athlete in possession of a Reebok endorsement deal. Because, as everybody knows, what actors and singers really want to do is direct, the performers make short films about the jocks, and these run at the end of each episode. In coming installments, St. Louis rapper Nelly will corral Denver Nuggets * point guard Allen Iverson; the Iberian cupcake Paz Vega will mingle with French striker Thierry Henry; and starlet Brittany Snow will pay gratitude to her agent for arranging screen time with Jelena Jankovic, the third-ranked tennis player on the women's circuit. All of these duos will have a tough time besting the oomph of the series' first episode, which featured Entourage's Emmanuelle Chriqui (Sloan) and the Golden State Warriors' Baron Davis, and was extravagantly foxy.
Substantial credit goes to the cinematographer, whose work was succulent. The debut gleamed as deliciously as a Wong Kar Wai film, or even an episode of The Hills, and in its honeyed light, Chriqui, being an ingenue, flirted hard, while Davis, being sentient, flirted gently back. The viewer was embarrassed enough to blush heavily, but not enough to change the channel, and thus stuck around to watch the little movie the pair made, a one-shot number that found the basketball player gliding around a hoops court on roller skates, bouncing a ball, and then tossing it into a basket, which consummated the romance.
Framed doesn't intend to run a subtextual dating service on a regular basis. This Friday, for instance, actress Regina King will interact with Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young and spend an impressive volume of time coaching decent line readings out of his grandma. However, it does mean to offer an illusion of intimacy, and it does this with greater nuance than we have any right to expect from a very long T-shirt ad.
In its freedom from pretension, Framed stands in opposition to the other star-synergy show airing on an independent-film channel. Iconoclasts, a Sundance production that just wrapped up its third season, means really well, highlighting honorable nonprofit work and such, and that's of course the first sign of its dreariness. Or, rather, the second sign. (I briefly suppressed awareness of its title.) Iconoclasts seems to expect that we in the audience should feel grateful for it. It wants to drag us along on an "enlightening" field trip, and, increasingly, its pairings of prominent folk have a superficial wackiness. Madeleine Albright, the 64th secretary of state, recently passed a day with Ashley Judd, the star of Kiss the Girls. Mike Myers has talked Jungian synchronicity with Deepak Chopra. I suppose that Myers is as qualified as anybody to dilate on the eternal mysteries, but do you really want to ponder the meaning of life while getting your celebrity fix? As Myers' Linda Richman character would say: Discuss.