News – “How TV shows are ordering sides of authenticity with real fast-food chains” – TV has a taste for fast food.

Famous franchises are playing key supporting roles this year:  McDonald’s had a prominent cameo in this week’s finale of FX’s The Americans, and Arby’s is frequently mentioned and makes  appearances on the cable network’s Baskets. 

They join other real-world fast-food chains that earned exposure in recent years, including Burger Chef on AMC’s Mad Men and Subway on NBC’s Chuck. Among them, only Subway’s appearance was part of a sponsorship deal, the networks say.

The McDonald’s iconic golden arches, symbol of American commercialism and efficiency, served as a poetic final food stop for The Americans’ Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, Soviet spies impersonating U.S. citizens, as they fled the country after their tourist-agent covers were blown. 

Creator and executive producer Joe Weisberg says he loved “Philip’s final goodbye to this greatest icon of American capitalism, as he had become enamored of capitalism and America.”


As Philip (Matthew Rhys) — who’s more open to U.S. culture than his Soviet loyalist wife, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) — carries a food order to the car, their ambiguous, ambivalent American existence is on display in the blinding, white fluorescence of the restaurant’s dining area.

McDonald’s cooperated with producers, but that doesn’t mean finding a 1980s-era, highway-adjacent restaurant was easy. The one featured in the episode is in Staten Island, N.Y., and the series relied on computer graphics to get the perfect roadside placement.

“There aren’t that many left. And then they found that one, which is literally like a dropdown from heaven to be the perfect McGlowing embodiment of everything we wanted to represent in that scene. It was so beautiful,” Weisberg says. 

I actually prefer my shows to have real brands, adds some authenticity…nobody wants to see their favorite character drink brewski that simply says “Beer” on the side. So I appreciate when Baskets has one of the main characters working at Arby’s instead of “Burger Land” or something generic like that.

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