Tyco Zero Gravity Cliffhangers:
Can't say I've ever tried one of these sets out myself, but they sure looked awesome in the ads. The cars could scale walls on their alien tracks, withstand extremely long upside down loops, and generally do things no other car was capable of. I seem to remember Tyco repackaging this very same set with glow-in-the-dark stickers and cars -- a small, inexpensive upgrade, but one that made the set five times more irresistible. The track itself looks monstrous in the ad; I'd be really surprised if it actually held together that well and didn't break apart at the first loud noise or sign of wind. Erase those gripes, it looks aces and must be worshipped.
McDonald's: The New Kid:
It's pretty unbelievable that one fast food chain made this many tear-jerking commercials, even more so when you consider how the food itself wasn't even featured in so many of the ads. It was all about branding and making McDonald's seem like more than just a place to eat quick and grittily -- and I guess it worked, because even though I reserve my McDonald's intake to days when I really need to eat something disgusting so I won't kill someone or blow up my old middle school, I still consider it one of the truest parts of Americana, no matter how many terrible news stories break. Besides, it was hard to feel bad about a restaurant chain when their commercials featured active couples over the age of 800, still in love and holding onto their first house by taking fry orders. McDonald's did plenty of these "old people work here" spots at the time, so whenever I went to the restaurants and actually saw an old person working there, I felt like I needed to turn a folded napkin into an autograph book.
NBC Thanksgiving Comedy Weekend:
There's a few properties advertised here, but the only one worth mentioning is the Walt Disney "Celebrity Circus" television special, packed with celebrities, comic mischief, Ernest and Lisa Bonet, Mickey Mouse and Epcot Center at large. I was always a sucker for Disney's wacky TV specials, which were essentially long commercials for the theme parks but definitely not without heart. The televised special, "Donald's 50th Birthday Bash," is a sentimental favorite because I like ducks.
Never as successful as Speak N' Spell or its similarly styled siblings, the Talking Whiz-Kid nonetheless was another great way to get kids learning. Or so the ad says. I'm a little unclear as to whether the message was being targeted at parents (so their kids could learn) or at kids (because parents are more prone to buy video games if they are actually tiny robot teachers), but it doesn't seem anywhere near exciting enough to drum up interest in what was assuredly a high priced thingamajiggawhat. The slogan: "Turn on a mind." The backup slogan: "Switch on a brain." The contingency slogan: "Rev up a head."
Our House Tune-In Commercial:
Yikes, this one depresses me. I only have a vague recollection of Our House -- I remember Wilford, and Shannen, and the graphic of a house with pictures and Wilford and Shannen flying in and out of the windows like frisbees, but other than that, nothing much. Still, I definitely remember it being shown on Saturday afternoons, and if I was actually sitting inside on Saturday afternoons watching Our House, chances were good that my friends ditched me or something and I was wallowing in pits of pity and desires of death. As much as I now relish all the things I used to do during "dry" weekends, they were pure Hell at the time. I'd grow anxious as the sun went down, knowing that my chances of actually going out had dwindled from slim to kill-me. Our House perfectly exemplified how I felt. It wasn't that the show was so inoffensive or boring or whatever...it's just that there were so many obvious things to do that were much, much more satisfying than watching Wilford Brimley piss out philosophical rhetoric. Thus, I can never view the clip you're about to see again. I tried, it hurt. I am still not over my dry weekends.
Watch out, Speak N' Spell, there's a new talking thingywhatyeah in town. Coleco's Talking Teacher, much like Atari's XE system, went right for the competition's throat. Presented as a teaching device that spoke louder and had more capabilities than the Speak N' Spell, you could almost sense a real chance for success, but ol' T.T. just didn't look the part well enough. The colorful clipboard stylings of Speak N' Spell made it the kind of toy you'd carry around even if the batteries were zapped. We just felt better with the things in our hands. Talking Teacher had a better range of programs and a less garbly speaking voice, but it just wasn't orange enough.
Tyco Super Turbo Train:
Is it the world's fastest train? The ad said so. The ad also said that the Super Turbo Train breaks the sound barrier, and that it's carnivorous. I take this with salt grains. More importantly, this set narrowly wins the race against the Tyco Cliffhangers, being the first of the lot to incorporate glow-in-the-dark features. Though much slimmer and minuscule in reality than the close-ups and angles used in the ad had shown, the Super Turbo Train was one of the most desirable sets of its kind. Everybody had the cars plowing up walls and zooming through loops, but who had a train? We needed to be the first ones on the block with the train! Would we succeed? I can't speak for you all. I don't want to. I hate doing it.
McDonald's: Hardnose Mrs. Hatcher:
Oh Jesus, not another one. If the old man struggling to crawl to his McMuffin-peddling day job made you drop water, "Hardnose Mrs. Hatcher" is going to make the lids of your eyes swell to sizes so hideously exaggerated that you will become a destined feature attraction of the small, previously unknown town you live in. With an original song to heighten its almighty flavor, this is the story of Mrs. Hatcher, a stern, serious grade school teacher with high test scores on the brain and a paddle in her hand. The kids live under a regime of fear, but slowly, they realize that their teacher, for all of her calculated evil and lack of warmth, was actually...getting the job done. Hatcher grew fond of her good little workers, privately, kneeling before a dark statue made of coal-rubbed limestone. During the big bash Christmas luncheon at McDonald's, the kids swear eternal loyalty to their mistress, presenting her with a "WE LOVE MRS. HATCHER" t-shirt. Mrs. Hatcher allows herself a tear. "Ohhh...just this once," she speculates.