The most popular fake products in showbiz

By A. Lynne Rush

Product placement is omnipresent in films and TV, but sometimes product placement just won’t do. Whether a production doesn’t want to shill for a product or the product doesn’t want their brand associated with a particular title or character, what’s a production to do when their actor needs something in hand?

Use a fake product, naturally.

Fake products come in a handful of forms. Sometimes it’s a play on words for a real product (Let’s Potato Chips, instead of Lay’s), or a custom built product to match the world of the production (like Dunder Mifflin paper). If you’ve watched a fair amount of TV and movies, those fake brands start popping up over and over again. So what’s the deal with those products that seem to get passed around from set to set? Where did they come from?


In the ’90s, backroom intelligence met alien conspiracy every time the Cigarette Smoking Man lit up on The X-Files. His brand of choice? Morley’s.

Morley’s might look like Marlboro, but they’re a prop made by one of the biggest names in Hollywood props – Earl Hays Press. The Cigarette Smoking Man isn’t the only character loyal to Morley’s, either; Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer smokes them, as does Chandler on Friends. They pop up repeatedly in The Twilight Zone, The Walking Dead, Malcolm in the Middle and Burn Notice. The brand was even sued in an episode of Judging Amy.

The first Morley’s sighting was in 1960’s Psycho.

Food and Beer

Another notable name in the prop industry is Independent Studio Services (they even have their own version of Morley’s). ISS is behind Let’s Potato Chips, breakfast cereals like Healthy Wheat O’s. Their most famous product, however, is Heisler Beer.

Heisler Beer is everywhere. They’re drunk by the crew of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, The League, My Name is Earl, and Workaholics. Heisler has more special guest appearances than Eric Roberts.

Don’t be jealous of Hollywood stars getting access to all the beer you can’t have – Heisler isn’t actually brewed. The people at ISS take non-alcoholic beer, strip the labels and replace them with custom-made labels (which, for those who are interested, is something anyone can have done).

Meanwhile, Let’s Potato Chips has an entire scene of Community dedicated to it. Let’s has appeared on Orange is the New Black, CSI, Parenthood, and 2 Broke Girls (as well as Heisler beer fans The New Girl and My Name is Earl).


If you’re curious about the larger world of your favorite shows and movies, don’t look to the newspapers to fill in your back stock of knowledge; chances are it’s a famous fake made by your good pals at Earl Hays Press. Their prop newspaper is easy to spot as a fake due to the oft-repeated layout including a picture of a brunette in a sweater.

This newspaper is everywhere:

Search Engines

Police work is exactly that – work. It takes a while, it’s boring, and audiences don’t really care to see everything entailed. So why not whip up a fake computer program that does all of that stuff for our clever detectives in Dexter, CSI, Bosch, Without a Trace, Bones and Criminal Minds? Simply plug someone into Finder Spyder, and boom! There’s your information.

While Finder Spyder is supposed to be a replacement for Google, let’s face it – when you’re creeping on someone, Google is rarely instantly helpful.


Fans of Lost will instantly recognize Oceanic Airlines. The Oceanic Six weren’t the first fictional characters to take a ride on Oceanic, though; this made-up airline goes all the way back to a 1965 episode of Flipper (that plane crashed, too).

While the airline has been a fill-in for decades, it’s undoubtedly Lost who brought it to the level of recognition it sees today. Lost’s flight 815 appears in Chuck, Transformers: Cybertron, Criminal Minds Beyond Borders, and Futurama.

Oceanic has also popped up across multiple shows related to Lost – Fringe and Alias, both JJ Abrams shows, featured Oceanic, as well as a 2003 episode of Crossing Jordan (the episode, in particular, was co-produced by Damon Lindelof, a writer and producer for Lost).

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