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Who’s afraid of Frontline?

Trailer for PBS report on supplements sounds more like a fright flick than a news report

Nobody is asking, “Have you seen the new Frontline trailer?”

Nobody outside the supplements industry, that is.

Next Tuesday, the PBS show will air a Frontline episode produced in partnership with The New York Times titled “Supplements and Safety.” You can watch the trailer online now. It dishes up all the drama and breathless urgency of a Halloween horror flick.

We haven’t seen the report yet. We can’t really give it a review. But we have seen the trailer. And in 2016, even trailers get reviewed.

Previews used to be something theaters showed before movies--a glimpse of the stars and a hint of the plot. Now they are news. There are multiple sites like and that offer previews of every new movie, and trailers for certain genres get diagrammed everywhere from to the Wall Street Journal. A search of Google News reveals more than 5000 articles on Oct. 20 reporting on the “Star Wars” trailer released that day.

Can I give that kind of treatment to 31 seconds of overstated alarm?

No, but it’s still an interesting 31 seconds.

In a baritone familiar to anybody who has heard the words, “In a world where …," we hear the narrator announce: “They say their products will make you healthier, but critics say many have fraudulent claims, could be dangerous and should be regulated.”

We see perennial supplements critic Dr. Pieter Cohen of Harvard asking, “How can it be that you can sell something without any evidence that it’s safe or effective?”

Another guy—he looks like a doctorwarns us: “It almost takes a sacrificial lamb to die before the Food and Drug Administration can take any action.”

We see hospital rooms, a patient getting an abdominal exam, piles of pills and a lab tech using a syringe to draw a mystery liquid from a dark glass bottle. We also see Natural Products Association Director Dan Fabricant in a supplement aisle (you’ll recognize the red tie) and even a brief shot of what looks like the show floor at Natural Products Expo East, but we don’t hear any voices in support of the industry. Nobody tells that deep-voiced narrator that supplements are indeed tasked to follow regulations.

I didn’t see any red light sabers or Sith lords, but it sure looked like the dark side. It also looked a lot like an episode of TMZ and not the kind of sober, thoughtful reporting I would expect of PBS and Frontline.

So I am going to give the trailer a thumbs down. It looked a little hysterical and more than a little one sided.

But I’ll still be tuning in next week. Until then, there’s a new trailer for the “Independence Day” alien invasion sequel on YouTube. The bad guys are a little less obvious in that one.

Have you seen the trailer? Give us your review in the comments below.

TAGS: News
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