Whenever I see some wackadoo product offered for sale in a television commercial with an associated 800 number, I wonder how many people "fall for it." Then I start feeling all sad thinking about the kinds of people that must fall for it -- the sad, the desperate, the lonely, the naive. With so many of these ads appearing during the wee hours to a crowd of destitutes, I'm reminded of the wisdom of Grandpa Fred, Gremlins 2 era: "The only people watching television at 3 AM are the ones looking to get sober or find work." If you realized that I paraphrased that, I think I love you.
On the other hand, being often sad, desperate or naive myself, I can't say I don't understand the attraction, nor the idea that some shitty product nobody with the opportunity to think twice would ever buy could potentially become a life-changing experience. I remember visiting my parents and watching them beam over my father's new magical copper bracelet, bought from a short infomercial with promises made that said bracelet would, I dunno, fix him. The bracelet did nothing, of course, but for the week of joy they had waiting for it to do something, Ithe 70 bucks they spent was halfway to worth it. It doesn't matter if television ads convince us to buy good stuff or bad stuff, so long as whatever that stuff is makes us happy. In a world so threatened by war, by terrorism and by a halt on new Pepperidge Farm Goldfish varieties, even temporary happiness is something to aim your darts for.
Below are reviews, pics and downloads that personify all the different things I feel about commercials that make me want to buy stupid things. The first one is just absurd and exploitative, the second one is cooler than your momma, the third one masters the art of exaggeration, and the fourth one doesn't really belong here, but it's a Leather Warehouse ad where they used Kenner's old Millennium Falcon toy as a prop. There's no sense resisting to share something like that. Have your credit card ready...
Slim Jeans: You're going to spend the rest of the day passing this one around after you download the video, and for good reason. It's honestly one of the most absurd things I've ever seen for sale, and you're reading stuff from a boy who had to start reviewing Kool-Aid online to justify the fact that he'd pay 100 bucks to boost his collection with rare and out-of-print flavors. Slim Jeans...oh boy. What would it take to make people buy cheap, silver astronaut pants? What tales could one weave to unload a truck full of cheap, silver astronaut pants? Simple: Just promise folks that they'll lose weight by wearing them.
"Slim Jeans" were tight, heat-absorbing silver clown pants that allegedly helped consumers lose excess water weight, much in the same way one would lose water weight by tightly wrapping garbage bags around their body. Not that people do that, but it's not like anyone should've willingly agreed (at a cost, no less) to wear the cheaper half of a shitty Martian Halloween costume out in public. And that's what the ad suggests. You'd think that something like Slim Jeans should be regarded as a home-only item: A fashion "don't" but a private sweat session "do." The ad insists that the pants aren't just going to turn your ass and thighs into a freakin' faucet, but that they're are actually so good looking that you can wear them out on the town. You wouldn't have to explain anything to anyone. They wouldn't think you were trying to lose weight by wearing stupid pants instead of exercising -- just that you went batshit crazy. In a way, they were right: If anyone bought into the idea that the secret to great hips was a pair of reflective parachute pants, they were either nuts or considered old school push-ups as sign language for a pact with Satan.
I'm not overstating things when I say that any comedy show could run this ad as-is and have everyone water coolerin' over their masterful parody the next day. It's hard to imagine a time when something like this would fly, and it'll be even harder to imagine once you hear the Price Is Right Showcase Showdown theme song playing under all the sights of women vacuuming with silver pants on.
If any potential buyers were on the fence, the fence collapsed at the halfway point when Rod Roddy made the big announcement that all Slim Jeans came with a free matching top. This enabled people to lose twice the weight while not having to worry about finding a shirt that goes with tin foil pants, which is absolutely fucking impossible. What's even more awesome is that this isn't a case of a shitty product made to look good in the ad; no, everyone indeed looks totally stupid, and everyone indeed looks like they know they look totally stupid. You'd have to have Pacino level acting skillz to put on an outfit like this and channel.
In a great scene, a silver-suited freaky woman spends around 30 seconds trying to get her husband into the "matching top," and after she finally does, they have a hugging fit. Like, a crazy hugging fit. The kind of hugging fit man and wife have after wife first finds out that she's growing his midget slave inside her. I'm not sure what all the celebration was about, but judging by how much trouble she seemed to have getting the Slim Top on hubby, maybe it's that. Maybe they just felt really accomplished and able to conquer goals no other couples could.
Typically, most of the people seen wearing the pants in the commercial are in shape and good looking. All except for one. The token fat chick. The "before" picture. The "aspirer." The poor lady that took 50 bucks and let a couple of promo producers use her big ass as a symbol for change and progress. It's bad enough as I'm explaining it, but if you consider that Bertha is seen wearing the space pants while pushing a grocery cart, we're talking about our latest reason to light a white candle at night and make a good wish for somebody beside ourselves. And then, the piece de resistance: Near the end of the ad, there's this ricockulous scene where Bertha, big homely Bertha, has to stand between two foxy chicks, admiring their asses and trying her darndest to look like she'd give anything to have their asses be her ass. I hate when weight loss commercials of any kind do this, because actors are actors, but fat ladies who star in local, late night infomercials are closer to regular people than most of them. Poor Bertha made her 50 bucks, yes, but it's not cool to know that the definitive cost of your dignity is 50 bucks, much less the idea that you lost your dignity to silver pants from Planet Utrom.
You're not going to believe what you'll see after downloading the video, but I promise, I didn't stage it. I would never do to Bertha what the people who created this ad did to Bertha.
To celebrate the Statue of Liberty's big Centennial bash in 1986, K-Mart and other select retailers offered U.S. Liberty Coins, minted by those crazy kooks over at the U.S. Treasury. I don't know if this was more of a Tri-State smash or what, but the coins were a pretty huge success from what I remember. I had a set and many of my friends had sets, but I'm not so sure if it had anything to do with a penchant for coin collecting or a sense of great patriotism: For a few weeks, it was just the thing to do. The "Liberty Centennial" was a major deal, with countless stores, restaurants and make-a-buckers finding ways to create associations with Lady Liberty where none previously existed. It could've been as simple as dressing Geoffrey's wife up in a grayish blue toga for a Toys 'R' Us Sunday circular, or as hardcore as dialing your Treasury buddies and having them mint you up ten million funky coins.
Though I remember the distinct coins also being sold separately, it was pretty dumb to buy only one of the two, thus robbing yourself of the velvety awesome collector's case. I'm sure the collector's case is what did it for me. It was a terrific spectacle as a collectible coin holder, but with a bit of third grade surgery, I had the prettiest and most waterproof wallet in school.
I'd be lying if I said that the coins meant anything more to me today than a passing remembrance of finding joy in redressed quarters, but fuck me if they weren't advertised in one of the coolest commercials to ever tag out on a K-Mart logo. A product like this would normally be advertised in straightforward, bare bones fashion, maybe with some screwy trumpet music that makes you want to salute the nearest eagle. Instead, in a commercial that is absolutely beautiful but so conceptually insane that I can't believe anybody in the position to sign off on it actually went ahead and did so, the Liberty Coins take us to the year 2055, where a futuristic New York City finds peace in its flying cars and buildings-shaped-like-walking-stick-insects.
Considering how much it had to cost to make a commercial featuring futuristic carplanes flying around the Statue of Liberty, one can only assume that the Liberty Coins were intended to bank profits exceeding 150 godzillion dollars. We may never know if that benchmark was benched or marked, but if they didn't make 150 godzillion, it wasn't for lack of effort. I mean, holy crap...a commercial where GRANDPA FLIES AROUND THE STATUE OF LIBERTY'S HEAD IN A NABOO STARFIGHTER, all to sell some coins!
There's a method to the madness: We're supposed to "get" from the commercial that the Liberty Coins are heirlooms to be treasured forever and tossed down our loinlines as they appreciate in value forevermore. Indeed, when I got the coins, I felt like I'd never have to work, because by the time that I was actually supposed to work, my silver frisbees would inarguably be worth more than it currently costs to buy a small nation. That situation did not pan, in part because the coins really never went up in value, but mostly because I lost the coins two days after receiving them. If I had to guess, they're buried in the backyard three doors down from my parents' house next to Spikor and a bad report card.
Multicron 20 Function Calculator Watch:
It's a calculator. It's a stopwatch. It's a calendar. It's an alarm clock. It's everything you've ever dreamed of, and if you order now, you'll get the world's ugliest ladies' watch, absolutely free! The Multicron 20 Function Calculator Watch must be considered truly the most epic time piece in history, and this 120 second commercial will do everything in its power to make you understand that this watch will take the clay slab that is your life and mold it into the shapes of joy and convenience. And it will do all off of this with a 30 day money back guarantee.
Digital watches rose to fame in the '70s, and I mean fame in the utmost sense. Everyone had to have one, and considering that the electronics used quickly became cheaper than what was needed to forge standard hour-and-minute-handed watches, everyone could have one. Getting into watch-wearing age about a decade after their debut, I enjoyed something of a Renaissance period for digital watches, where companies loaded them with often useful, sometimes superfluous features that made people feel like they were wearing damned robots on their wrist. Sure enough, wearing digital watches that transformed into robots became a smash reality shortly thereafter, and you're lying if you're my age and you say you don't remember a kid in school wearing a watch that transformed into Soundwave's smaller and more generic cousin. Turning into a robot was not one of the Multicron Calculator Watch's twenty functions, but that's probably for the best because any watch with twenty-one functions would've been enough excitement to make the weak's heads explode.
Multi-function calculator watches were indeed empowering in a less tech savvy society, but the commercial takes things a few steps too far and erects a verbal monument to its product more suitable to the cure for cancer. Though everything said about the watch is rooted in reality and not at all hyperbole, it's all in how they present it: It doesn't tell time. It tells time! It isn't a stopwatch. It's a stopwatch, folks, a stopwatch! See the pile of electronic gizmos in the left pictures? The Multicron 20 Function Calculator Watch replaces all of it! Throw it away! Save space -- and money!
The coup de grāce comes when they finally start listing off each of the individual twenty functions. Apparently, the fact that the watch clocks hours, minutes and seconds counts as three functions. Its calendar, capable of years, months and days, constitutes another three functions. Oh, and its calculator? The one that adds, subtracts, multiplies and divides? Yep, those are four separate functions. I wouldn't expect a room to applaud me if I went into it and gave my dick individual silver stars for pissing and for not pissing. I'm not sure why I wrote that.
After more build and hype than Superman Returns gets, they unveil the Multicron 20 Function Calculator Watch's mysterious #21 bonus function: Its low price! Just 19.99 plus shipping and handling, and they'll even throw in that completely irrelevant womanny watch for shit's sake. I'm annoyed with this commercial's balls, but can't deny that it was an effective exaggeration. Even by today's muchos higher standards, it's impossible to see this commercial and not consider the Multicron 20 Function Miracle Watch as a tool for life change. The product clearly didn't require a two minute ad, but the folks at P.O. Box 800 went with it anyway because television commercial time only cost 45 cents a minute in the early '80s.
Intergalactic Leather Warehouse:
In the wake of the more manufactured and less payee-offee buzz that Everything Star Wars has received in its most modern era, many forget the franchise's real and true cultural impact of the late '70s and early '80s. From Star Wars discos to Star Wars vans, Star Wars television spinoffs and Star Wars this-and-thats, the tidal wave of Greedo and greatness pushed the science fiction "motif" to its peak height, and even if something wasn't at all Star Warsy, that something's people did everything they could to convince us otherwise. The general themes of outer space and interesting shuttles and extraterrestrial life and awesome call-to-action music wormed their way into the advertising campaigns of many unlikely candidates, and on display today is the least likely of all: A leather coat warehouse.
Couple of things, here. The commercial is for the "Leather Warehouse," which was a chain, albeit a small chain, and one that certainly lacked the budget to pull off what it shot for with a degree anything higher than unintentional hilarity. Staged from what appears to be that big open gray set from the opening credits of Blossom, a bunch of "aliens" waltz off a space ship, wearing leather coats, eerie face paint and dumbs looks on their faces. They're supposed to appear all ominous and Zod-ish, but are universally patterned more after zombies, slowly stalking their brainless faces down a foggy corridor with hot chocolate mix smooshed all over their cheeks. Don't know about you, but I'm so into buying a leather jacket right now.
You'll love this, I swear it. At the very beginning of the commercial, we get a shot of the leather-wearing alien freaks' spaceship surfing the stars on its way to our fair planet. It took me approximately half a second to recognize the ship as Kenner's Star Wars Millennium Falcon toy, shot from the back. There's no mistake -- that's the Falcon, most definitely used without permission from Kenner, Lucas or Shootin' Second Solo. This makes a commercial done on the cheap all the more endearing, for who is there among my kind that never strung up a Millenium Falcon and used a 250 pound Panasonic video camera to direct his or her own sci-fi opus?
Another reason I'm sure it's the Falcon toy is because its missing the antennae dish. Everyone who ever owned the Millennium Falcon toy knows that those things got lost within ten minutes of the box tape being cut.
In the final seconds, a poor attempt at a loose connection is made when the voice-over dude talks about the Leather Warehouse's "out of this world fashions." This really doesn't help any of what I've seen make more sense. It's like a shoe store filming a dozen people dressed like fish wearing sneakers and then tacking on something about their prices being anything but fishy. Only I'd appreciate the effort more in Option #2 because it's a lot easier to throw black people foundation on white people faces than to make men and women look like giant fish. And I'm going to prove this with two live demonstrations tomorrow afternoon.