Oleg Oleg

Fox’s Oleg


Last week the Wall Street Journal ran an article about a new animated series on Fox called Oleg the Taxi Man. The cartoons, however, are only 8-seconds long and will run inbetween commercials to entice viewers not to flip the channel during commercial breaks. In the short clips, Oleg the taxi driver will offer up random thoughts and talk to ‘spoof versions’ of Tom Cruise and Donald Trump. Fox Broadcasting’s president of sales Jon Nesvig, told the WSJ: “It’s something that pops up that is unexpected and the viewer says, ‘What the hell is that?’ It may keep them around for a while longer.” The paper also reported that other networks are starting to experiment with programming inbetween commercial breaks, though Fox seems to be the only one taking an animated approach.

A couple of the 8-second vignettes are viewable at the Wall Street Journal’s video page (look for “Turn up the Commercials”). Granted, there’s only so much that one can do in eight seconds, but I was still surprised by the concept’s pointlessness. If anybody at Fox had understood the medium of animation and how it could be applied, they could have captured everybody’s attention with something eye-catching, funny and exciting; instead they came up with an unappealing CG character sitting in a taxi and talking, something that would have likely been funnier in live-action. TV commercials don’t usually make me want to change the channel, but having to watch these lamely conceived animated vignettes certainly will.

  • tom

    It’s a Borat that they can hire and fire at will. Very Fox.

  • Jason Geyer

    Isn’t this just MTV’s “Jimmy the cabdriver” from 1994? Just not as funny?

    Of all the things that DON’T need to be done as animation…

  • LNG

    How could Fox miss using a reflection of a nude *spoof* Karl Rove in drag doing his rap act in the back seat when Oleg says “…drunk pretty lady.” The last Republican with any real wit was William F. Buckley, Jr.

  • Esn

    I felt noticeably dumber after watching that.

    Then again, I don’t watch Fox either. They probably know their audience best. Or at least, the audience they want to attract.

  • Nice try Fox, but I seriously doubt that’s going to work. I hit the 30 second skip button, so I would never see these anyway unless you time them _just_ right.

  • Bob

    I don’t get it, was there supposed to be a joke in those vignettes? They had something similar for years here in Holland, during the commercial breaks of the public channels, with a character named Loekie de Leeuw (Loekie the Lion).

    The difference with that Oleg thing is that the Loekie shorts were actually amusing.

  • If anything, those awful things will make me MORE likely to change channels.

  • Mary Ann

    I like Oleg – he’s got a charm and innocence about him and I want to hear what he has to say and see more of the clips. This could be a lot of fun to watch, something entertaining to look forward to.

    For those who criticize, all I can say is being cynical and scornful isn’t always smart, sometimes it’s just being cynical and scornful.

  • tom

    Look at plant that can type!

    Seriously though, Mary Ann- you think he’s got charm and innocence based on what? Sixteen seconds of animation and a press release? If I’m ever on trial for something, I’d like to have you on the jury ;-)

  • Steve

    So it’s wrong to think he’s got charm and innocence based on sixteen seconds of animation and a press release but it’s okay to condemn him for the same reasons?

    Get your noses out of the air, people. The constant cartoon snobbery is seriously dragging this blog down.

  • I saw these last night during 24. Not good. Pointless and bad. Yes, I paid attention because I had read this article beforehand, but if anything, I would hate the sponsors associated with this dreck.

  • I’d think the concept is tooled first and foremost to lure advertisers. I kind of doubt it will make anyone pay attention to the commercials but it surely is something special they can tell advertisers they get when they buy time.

    As for why it’s a cartoon rather than live action, my guess it’s a bunch of factors. I would think it would have to stand out more, though perhaps not so much in the midst of other animated commercials. Mainly I bet the appeal is free use of celebrity likenesses.

  • tom

    Don’t forget that it’s easier to get information across in an animation. That’s why the Simpsons can communicate 5 times as many jokes to the viewers than, say, My Name Is Earl. Given the limited time alloted to these bumpers I’d say that they couldn’t be executed in live action.

    And Steve- really? The people who see this as ineffective are just snobs? It’s dragging this wonderful site down? Hmm. I just have to respectfully disagree with you on that. This blog is especially generous and cartoon-positive. Go check out some other cartoon-oriented sites and see if you agree. Finally, just because Rupert Murdoch’s new cartoon shill- delivered in eyedropper doses- didn’t wow the majority of the people who commented here doesn’t mean we’re snobs. It means we have taste and we’re here to share our opinions.

  • nyctree

    looks like andy kaufman…..i like him (i like his wife better – check out fox.com/oleg). she’s hot!

  • Esn

    Steve – good job on painting everyone who disagrees with you with the same brush because of the comments of one individual. Ever thought about applying for a job as a talk radio host? You’d be a natural!

    tom – I respectfully disagree with you on that “information” thing. Even though it’s valid in some cases (and there are always live-action films like Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” to prove you wrong), it DOES NOT apply here. The reason it doesn’t apply is because animation isn’t actually used for anything that live action couldn’t be used for. These things would be identical if it was live action, since there isn’t much animation happening – mostly only the top half of Oleg’s face and the scenery outside.

    Mary Ann – if you like it, more power to you. You’re the desired audience member for this. I, on the other hand, simply don’t see the appeal. I’m not just saying that to seem higher-than-thou or something – I trully do think it’s bad.

  • Em

    Have you looked at the fox web site yet? The introduction of all the characters you are likely to come across has intrigued me to watch more Oleg. Keep watching, this is going to get addictive.

  • Steve

    I never said a word about the spots being effective or not. What I said is that you’re ragging on Mary Ann for basing her positive opinion on two 8-second spots while you’re doing exactly the same thing in a negative manner. Somehow your opinion is better than hers because you think you’re cynical-cool? “Hypocritical” is the word.

    Or was that another Tom calling her a “plant that can type?”

  • armand

    I really like Oleg. I mean he is funny!!! I do not like watching the commercials and I just skip them but this Oleg guy is funny. I heard the rumor that the guy behind it is a real taxi driver. I think that Oleg is the funniest thing in a long time.

  • trace

    While the writing leaves a lot to be desired, I did enjoy the general character design of Rosie and The Donald. This COULD be more entertaining, if FOX would get a better grasp of how “irreverent = funny”.

  • Mary Ann

    Hi Guys – Thanks for all your different comments. I think they’re great. And I most sincerely appreciate those who came to my aid after I got bashed. I didn’t expect a backlash.

    I really like Oleg and the concept. The goal of Oleg is to provide something entertaining – it’s not selling anything tangible. It’s attempting to sell good feelings and laughter. To me, that’s always commendable and in too short supply. So what if it’s about keeping people sitting through commercials; that’s no big revelation. Commercials have run out of things to sell. So now the approach is about selling something that hasn’t been sold before – just plain fun. I’ll take that any day.

    I admire the concept behind the clips. I’ve worked in production, entertainment, and news and it’s wonderful to see something novel and imaginative come out that’s not on a student indie budget. Oleg has a great voice, great look, and great visuals. My criticisms of the clips that have aired on tv are that they are too short, hence, the sense being obscured or lost, and they are squeezed in between a lot of other sounds and visuals.

    I’d like Oleg to be given a chance to grow and see what comes of him. Once the website is functioning, more reasoned judgments can be made.

  • tom

    Esn- good point there!

  • chris

    I found them to be amusing, and I like the concept. I agree with Mary Ann, in that we really need to see what becomes of Oleg. Maybe get him out of the cab, who knows. But I find the celebrity likenesses well done and amusing as well. I guess my qualm is that they are TOO short? More length may make them more coherent, better recieved.

  • Joe

    Well, if nothing else, I see a great movement forward. FOX has decided to take some time out of commercials to make something original. They’ve dedicated a few seconds to us, the viewer. How could that be bad? I see it as a step in a good direction. What the hell will he say next? That’s the best part. It doesn’t HAVE to be funny, but it has to be fun.

    Sure, it could be more grabbing and active or exciting, but they’re trying it… that’s what’s so damn cool! I see a lot of people think that it’s like Borat—well, maybe, but I checked the website really quick and it’s got a back-story, so who knows. Maybe it’s just a staple that’s being used. Tell me Penguins aren’t getting old?

    yeah… but what i WANT TO HEAR is more about what Oleg’s thinking and doing – more about HIM. and more CELEBRITIES! Did you see TRUMP – that was FUNNY! Keep at it, FOX—it can be better, but this is a great idea.

  • Mary Ann

    Good comment by Chris. Let’s give Oleg a chance. Chris is so right – the possibilities are limitless. It’s animation and Oleg is just starting.

  • Bob Violence

    Wow, there’s some seriously incompetent astroturfing going on here. “Keep watching, this is going to get addictive”? Even ELIZA could pull off a more convincing shill.

  • amid

    Bob Violence: A lot of the positive comments in this post definitely sound like plants. We approved them on the on the off chance that they were legitimate, but when multiple people who have never commented suddenly appear on a site to post effusive praise and most of them have untraceable Hotmail accounts, it definitely raises an alarm.

  • Dougall

    I love this guy .Maybe a little too short to get any real insight but I guess that leaves you wanting more.Really refreshing & fun interlude.

  • Paul

    It’d be cooler if this was a longer bi-weekly animation that had product placement all over the place. The idea is clever. It’d get my attention. But that’s only because I like caricature and inane humor. This has both. For a start, these shorts have a lot of potential. I’m gonna be keeping my eye out for it on TV.

  • Gerry Smith

    My initial react was ‘Whats the point in this?’ – but I guess thats the whole point.Refreshingly pointless & funny.More please………..

  • Mary Ann

    Dear Bob,
    I’m not a plant. I’m a writer who has a strong interest in new creative artistic ventures. I’ve written about it for years. I love it. It’s often no budget student indies and theatrical productions. When I searched for Oleg, your blog site came up – it seemed to have intelligent, interested people posting so that’s why I entered something. I’m not generally a blogger. In fact, this is my first blogging activity. I see Oleg as having been created by those who worked through college producing shorts and indies on no budget. That’s just an assumption on my part. I don’t know the people producing this and doubt I ever will, but that’s the sense I get, that it’s being done by people who are accustomed to taking chances and pushing the envelope. The product is “entertainmentâ€? – generating interest, curiosity, and laughter without relying on sensationalism, violence, nudity, and profanity. That’s rough in this market – the stakes are high and the critics are fierce. With a no-budget indie, no one other than the producers care if it bombs because no one will ever have seen it. This, however, it national – airing with American Idol. That’s huge. There will be good and bad, ups and downs, successes and failures, but that’s the fun of it for me – watching something grow, develop, change. “Safeâ€? bores me. Watching something take risks catches my attention. That’s all.

  • ricco

    I think the animations are an interesting start. And I definitely think the caricatures and artwork are absolutely amazing. If you don’t like the content, you have to at least tip your hat to the artists and animators.

    I think the next step for FOX is to get some writers and some voice talent. I don’t think the celebrities have really said anything yet, have they? They have basically just grunted and made noises. Get someone like Frank Caliendo to write the comedy and do the voices and I think you’ll have something more magnetic. If you’ve ever seen Frank Caliendo’s comedy, you’d know that a guy like him could easily make those few seconds much funnier.

    I also think having a cab driver is too limiting. It shouldn’t all take place in a cab. It can’t be crazy enough. This is your chance to put celebrities in very unusual situations. Look at what Frank Caliendo does. He turns Bush into a guy that just makes up words which sound spanish, Dick Cheney into the Penguin from Batman, Robin Williams in the entire Wizard of Oz by himself, John Madden into a Brett Farve ranting lunatic, Pacino into a crazed yelling maniac, DeNiro into the Frankenstein Monster, Chris Farley as an overweight “Caped Crusaderâ€? (Batman), Chris Rock as the first black man on Scooby Doo, Jay Leno as a bobble head, etc.

    (Sorry to push Frank Caliendo, but he’s my favorite comedian and his clean but very funny and outrageous comedy helps make the point of what could be done).

  • Gregory

    Yeah, i tried posting yesterday but that Bob guy wouldn’t post it cause i accidentally used an old email account — Can you say paranoid?

    I too jumped on this blog ’cause it was the first one that popped up and people “seemed” intelligent.

    What i was trying to say is that speaking as someone in the industry, until companies stop being afraid of offending The Moral Fundamentalists and start producing good commercials (like in Europe), no one with half a brain will want to watch comercial drivel. Audiences either want to be entertained or moved, and i think Oleg is a step in the right direction. And until advertisiers realize that their problems could be solved with good commercials, things like Oleg are the best bet. Besides, i found him funny.

  • tom

    “Hey! Let’s give this exciting new animation project a chance! I personally have never seen anything as clever or as involving in my life as this hot new Olegâ„¢ feature, and I think I speak for anyone who enjoys quality when I say that Olegâ„¢ is a definite winner! My objective viewpoint? Fox has another watercooler hit in this viral guerilla marketing wonder. Long live Olegâ„¢!”*

    *comment ™ and © Fox Broadcasting, 2007. All rights reserved.

  • Mike R

    Oleg is great. Love the idea Love the guy. It’s just what the doctor ordered. I would love to see more. PS. His wife is hot.

  • wow. WOW. my breath is getting short just listening to all this undeserved praise. As a senior animator and artist, i think i can say that this oleg stuff, not from the point of view of just ‘snooty, pretentious’ individuals (as you amazing array of potted plants put it), but for EVERYONE- is horrifically boring, derivative (ooh! a big word! what stuck-up intellectual wannabe!) and borderline offensive.

    the only people who should be held more accountable than the creators and the people who greenlit this garbage is the person who writes these ridiculous plant messages. i’m not going to rag on just anyone who likes oleg, but please, ‘he has an innocence and charm’? if you guys are professional liars, i’d hope you could do better than that. to everyone else out there who has a GENUINE opinion about oleg, whether you love or hate him, i beg you, pray the future of animation has more to offer than racial caricatures and shrek pop-culture references.

    ps – by the way, very interesting all the positive commenters on oleg, though they claim to be people from inside the art industry, don’t have websites or blogs of their own through which we can contact them. god, aren’t I a paranoid little creep?

  • BH

    I am commenting here, though I never have before. It is rare for me to look up TV ad websites, but I was prompted to do so by Oleg, simply because it was so random. I guess that says something about it’s level of effectiveness. Though I couldn’t understand all of what he said, I found these spots to be intriguing because they were so short and seemingly pointless, yet I continued to watch during commercials because I wanted to see who else was going to turn up in the cab. As a caricature artist, I appreciated the dead-on likenesses of Trump, followed by Rosie. It’s fun to see fun being poked at Hollywood in a quick punch during prime time. I’d rather look at CG images of those people rather than them in live action-I can’t be the only one!

  • Jim Class

    I love Oleg! – it is like when the Simpsons first came out from The Tracy Ulman Show. Just enough to lure you in – and bam! – look what happened! – Bart, Homer, Marge, Maggie and Lisa! – brought us a whole family and new genre! – I wonder what Oleg’s family is like!!

  • Dragana

    Well, I didn’t read through all the comments yet, but I have to say that Oleg is growing on me. I agree with a couple of the commenters that the clip may be too short; however, as they begin to grow in number, they gain speed and momentum– perhaps some way of connecting the bits and pieces. My theory is that Fox is trying to simply hook people to check out the website and it is the interaction between the website and the short clips on TV that will get people. If people like particular one liners, they are likely to download them and that’s where the energy will be. What is genius is the linking of the two mediums. Perhaps Fox could consider allowing viewers to interact with Oleg somehow through the website. I don’t think anyone should crucify Oleg yet!

  • trace

    welp, I’m not a “plant” dunno for sure about anyone else. I first read about this on the WSJ’s site and watched some clips and the concept sort of was intriguing to me. I found another article on Oleg by random on another blog and then Googled it– your blog comes up pretty early on in that list, and I just thought it’d be a-okay to post here. In all honesty it IS growing on me (Oleg that is) but I stand by my statement, the writing could be better.

  • Tom wrote, “Look at plant that can type! Seriously though, Mary Ann- you think he’s got charm and innocence based on what? Sixteen seconds of animation and a press release? If I’m ever on trial for something, I’d like to have you on the jury ;-)”

    Look everybody! Someone who cannot type making fun of someone else for typing! Let’s all laugh, ok! Get a better job, and stop spending time attacking people because you are upset at god for the package you were dealt.

  • Eric

    Kazimir: Do I smell jealousy? A touch of envy, perhaps? Hmm, I guess the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Time, Boston Herald and USA Today (and many other industry professionals – Mark Hughes of Buzz Marketing for one) are all wrong. Guess you were too busy that day to offer all of them the definitive word on Oleg. You know, that old adage is so true: “Those who can’t DO, criticize.” Oh, did I mention Ad Age?

  • Beatriz

    I think the Oleg clips are a breath of fresh air in the middle of all of those comercials. I think FOX has got something going on and I hope they turn it into a real program (or make the clips longer).

  • Joe

    it’s not that i’m against the idea. i’m against the eight second spots being completely devoid of anything funny. and being completely unoriginal in their attempt at humor.

  • Mike the NYU 3L

    Yeah censorship! The 1st amendment is highly overrated anyway…

  • MarinaFrog

    I Don’t like the Oleg The Taxi Man Shorts.
    What is the Point?
    It is irritating and aggravating.
    I Do Not Patronize stores/gas stations etc. if an Oleg type person is Cashier/Manager/Owner. So…..Why in the World would I want to be forced or tricked into watching such Ignorance on my TV?????? I was really excited about watching the new series “DRIVE” and the whole experience was ruined by OLEG!!!!!! Commercials are Bad Enough..now I have to be subjected to the Idiot Oleg Taxi Man…I Don’t get it!????? And…I could not stand BORAT either.
    Someone plz tell me what the point is of this weirdness.

  • MarinaFrog

    What if everyone Boycotted FOX because we cannot stand OLEG?

  • Mike the NYU 3L

    Forced or tricked? Oh riiiiiiight. Fox spent the last fifteen years of so becoming the powerhouse of entertainment for the lowest common denominators of this world so that they could spring this Oleg character upon you without warning once you were into their programming lineup like a habitual crack-head scratching the skin from your arms in anticipation of season 12 of ’24’. In the alternative, I didn’t see their network head at my place with a gun to my head, so maybe he was at your spot ‘forcing’ you to watch, I can’t be certain.

    Oh, and Frog, since you asked rather than reviewed the other posting which explained it in language a 3 year old could comprehend; Fox is using this as a marketing ploy to convince advertisers that their ad $ isn’t being wasted as we are all their Pavlov dogs, drooling through their commercials for another taste of Oleg (however improbable this may be).

    I just had refreshed my page to see if my 1st amendment comment had been taken down like my earlier posting, but found you in need of schooling. Feel free to retort, it will fall on deaf ears as I won’t be back since I actually have things of substance to do rather than vent my frustration at not being able to comprehend a simple yet non-effective marketing campaign.



    P.S. – Anyone wishing to take offense that Fox targets the lowest common denominator: “American Idol”. I rest my case.

  • armand

    some of the Oleg clips are funnier than others I love the one about the airport and the one about donald trump aI bbelieve that the latter is on youtube


  • Human

    This Oleg guy looks like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to me.

  • Raana

    I think that this is really offensive. I can’t believe that Fox is doing this.

  • marlene

    thanks a lot, fox. my mother bugged the hell out of me wondering what it (oleg)was trying to sell or tell the viewers. she said it doesn’t make sense!!!

  • julie

    I can’t understand a word he says!

  • Dragana

    well marlene if Oleg intriged you mom enough for her to drive you crazy FOX was probably successful.

  • armand

    Why is Rosie angry at Fox?
    Because of Oleg?

  • I find the shorts offensive, as I couldn’t get over the feeling it’s a case of “lets make the Arab looking and sounding guy seem like less of a person due to his comments and constantly screwing up repeating his learning English phrases tape.” Seems like pure propaganda to me, Fox has shown its leanings politically via allegiance to Bush and more slanted than most war in Iraq coverage. I may be USA American myself, from a half Hispanic/naturalized made full US Citizen dad, and work with some ppl of Indian and Pakistani descent, and still pick it up, the let’s make fun of non white American culture propoganda—and if you look at Fox’s Oleg site, with the A.S.S. card on the taxi near his picture, and the very Arab last name, it becomes even more obvious.

  • armand

    I have not seen Oleg this week
    Was he finally deported?