Airing O'Brien gush has caused backlash

Universal feature “Love Actually” has found an unlikely spokesman in “Access Hollywood” anchor Pat O’Brien, who currently stars in TV advertisements touting the holiday flick.

The spots, which have aired in recent weeks, consists mostly of a lengthy clip from “Access” in which O’Brien urges viewers to see “Love Actually” — and that if it’s not playing at a theater near you, he’ll personally come and drive you to one.

It’s a jarring sight, given that O’Brien is still ostensibly the anchor of an entertainment newsmag and reports on the film business.

Neither O’Brien nor access “Access” was paid for the spot.

“Access” exec producer Rob Silverstein said O’Brien asked and received approval to rave about the film on-air; Universal called a day later and asked to use a clip in their ads. Silverstein equated the spots with movie critic blurbs in newspaper and TV ads — but admits that it’s not necessarily something that he’d greenlight again.

“It’s been the source of some internal talk about whether it was the right thing to do,” Silverstein said. “It was just one of those things that picked up momentum and happened to get on the air.”

Of course, conspiracy theorists might wonder whether there’s corporate synergy at work: NBC produces and distribs “Access,” while Universal released “Love Actually.” And, even before the U-NBC merger is finalized, the Peacock has already dipped its toes in the cross-promo waters: Net recently aired interstitials featuring the talking fish from U’s “The Cat in the Hat” (Daily Variety, Nov. 17).

But Silverstein contends that O’Brien simply loves “Love Actually,” actually. “I assure you (Universal’s involvement) had nothing to do with it,” Silverstein said. “It could have been any studio, and that’s the God’s honest truth.”

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