People Magazine Gifts ABC Sitcom with Sexiest Product Placement Alive

To playfully set the stage for this year’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, the folks at People are taking product placement to a whole new level. The night before the official announcement on November 14 of the 2012 SMA recipient, the storyline of ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 will be all about the determination of this year’s honoree:

June (Dreama Walker) is obsessed with People magazine’s annual Sexiest Man Alive issue, though Chloe (Krysten Ritter) tells her she shouldn’t be such a sheep and let others dictate what’s hot and sexy. To prove her point, she swoops into the People offices in an attempt to coerce them to feature James Van Der Beek on this year’s SMA cover. James is thrilled by the prospect, and now June suddenly finds him irresistibly attractive.

“This just seemed like the perfect sitcom to do this with,” People executive editor Liz Sporkin tells FishbowlLA via telephone. “Especially since James Van Der Beek sends himself up every week on the show and he was a hot guy on Dawson’s Creek.” Returning the synergistic favor, People will have Van Der Beek pen for the 2012 SMA issue the latest edition of companion column “If I Were Sexiest Man Alive.”

“We’ve done that a couple of times in the past,” Sporkin explains, “where we have somebody with a good sense of humor tell us what they would do. Conan O’Brien for example wrote it one year.”

The portions of the November 13 Don’t Trust the B— episode that take place at People were not shot at the magazine’s offices. However, Sporkin says she has seen the still photos of her ABC doppelganger, Nefetari Spencer, who plays her in the episode alongside actor Keith Allan as People deputy managing editor Peter Castro.

Each year’s SMA recipient is warned that they will be dropped from the issue if they let the sexy cat out of the bag. And in some cases, the annual selection is made at the very last minute. “The year we selected Johnny Depp as Sexiest Man for the first time, I think we chose him literally the day before shooting the cover.”

“Sometimes it does come down to the bitter end,” she jokes.

Meanwhile, there’s a very good reason why a Google search for the name of the person responsible for the SMA franchise delivers vague, inconclusive results. To this day, that person’s identity remains a mystery.

“We had Mel Gibson on the cover of an upcoming 1986 issue and someone suggested that we refer to him as the “Sexiest Man Alive,”” Sporkin recalls. “But as far as who that person was, no one really knows.”

The 2012 SMA People issue, dated November 26, hits newsstands Friday November 16.

[Photo courtesy ABC]

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.