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Is Samsung scared of being too cool?

Samsung's launch event shows a peculiar drift away from anything that could be labeled cool. And toward something that bordered on not cool at all. Why might that be?

This was theater. Or something.
Samsung Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The little blond boy from the latest, oddly bland commercials tap-danced.

There was a mother-in-law joke.

There were actors being forced to spout lines of the same quality as reality show producers foist on overly-lipsticked, neophyte administrative associates.

Somewhere, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd were weeping into a banana daiquiri.

Samsung's live event to launch its Galaxy S4 was bathed in all the taste of budget-free vaudeville.

As my colleague Molly Wood fulminated, the depiction of women as Stepfordian drunks was quite spectacularly myopic, ancient, and slightly tawdry.

The general level of humor had a sell-by date of September 4, 1959. How can this possibly happen to a brand that has done so much to impale itself into the craniums of the coolerati?

The answer might, perhaps, lie in the fact that much of the recent (and excellent) American advertising has been created by a cool L.A. ad agency, 72 and Sunny.

This is an agency whose principals are well-known for their work on Nike, as well as other famous brands. It's an agency that understands cool.

Its ads were created for the American market. (There is no record on its site of involvement with the Galaxy S4 launch.)

Today's little show was for global consumption.

Something odd happens when corporations decide they're going to do something for the world. They attempt to reach the lowest common denominator, one which even Mr. Bean would hate to plumb.

The folks who work in global tend to fly all over the world and leave just before the stink hits the AC.

All they try to do is make everything as bland, as lifeless and as generic as possible. They normally have the taste level of an inebriated worm -- which is, sometimes, what they are.

This little show reflected everything that is tragic about so-called global advertising. But it doesn't mean that it will have any effect on the sales of the phone itself. (It's not as if the S3 launch event was garlanded with huge amounts of wit either.)

From what I could see, the Galaxy S4 has any number of fascinating aspects -- though I've always struggled with the perception that Samsung phones feel a little too plastic for my own leather-and-minimalist taste.

What it might mean, though, is that Samsung is scared of being too cool.

You can't be cool forever. The very definition of cool means that you shouldn't see too much of it. If everyone is cool, then no one is. This is one of the issues with which Apple is currently grappling.

So perhaps at the global level, Samsung is desperate to be all things to all people. This might be at the root of what what its global executives believe is, well, family entertainment.

If what they served up today was entertaining to you, then I am very happy for you.

But this was less fringe theater and more cringe theater.