Monday, July 7, 2008

Like lipstick on a what?

I love American commercial broadcast television--don't get me wrong, of course I like public broadcasting too, though I am more than a little tired of the weekends devoted to the equivalent of shouting for spare change that the ones here in the Northeast (I can watch CPTV, the Broadcast Home of the UCONN Women Huskies and WGBH, the Home of Something Else But I Don't Quite Know What) seem to stage once a month (or so). I just remembered- I like WGBH for the British comedies, Keeping Up Appearances, Waiting for God (there are imho, better websites than this but you should find those for yourself), Vicar of Dibley, Chef! and for New Tricks which isn't a comedy but great fun. If public broadcasting in the USA did nothing else aside from Are You Being Served? they would still have a place of honor on my antenna, cable box or satellite dish. I can almost forgive them Barney and Tele-Tubbies. Almost.

But it's the commercial stations I truly love, though I'd be hard-pressed to name any of the TV shows I obviously must watch (the shows are what interrupts the commercials which are often the best part) except I know it isn't ANY of the Can You Sing? Can You Dance? Can You Put a Ferret Down Your Pants? 'talent' shows with has-beens and never-weres as judges offering their commentary to a nation of self-flagellates (why else would people go on these shows?). There's all the Here Come Da Judge shows where dysfunctional people drag out their petty grievances on TV, at least through the second spot cluster and all the talk/squawk and walk shows from Maury (who does more unwed teen pregnancy Diving for Daddy shows than all other folks on the planet) to and through Jerry Springer (creepy TV at its best or worst) to Ellen, Oprah. Rachel Ray and Gary Gilmore (sorry, David, turns out we may not care very much about Which One's Pink).

It's the spots I love--the commercials, the pitches, whatever you call the 'sustaining messages' that pop up just as Meredith and McDreamy are about to do hopelessly romantic but incredibly primal things to and with one another, etc. I even enjoy the locally produced TV spots-and even if we live in different places, the names of the businesses change but the pitches are basically the same because the products are what they are. There's all the car dealers, who use their kids (either the ankle-biter ages, going for the 'isn't that precious!' reaction. No sale at my house, btw) through the teenage or older daughter/niece who has no actual abilities in the persuasive arts, or is practiced at the art of deception telling me to see Sammy or somebody else. All of these spots have marginal production values, that is, the audio is crappy because nothing was equalized on site or during post, no boom microphones were used, we had, at best, 5600 degree Kelvin (= available light and concomitant shadows) and all of these spots look like they were recorded on your cameraphone.

The national spots are, despite the obvious increases in production values, not a whole lot better--I do love the informercials for stuff like Colon Cleanse (tell me that guy doesn't look like someone in desperate need of his own product-and if he has used it and still looks the way he does, why in Sam Hill would we use it?) or the dark-haired guy who's made a living from pitching books, of sorts, all of which have a variation of "Such and Such-Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About'. In a nation of skeptics and conspiracy theorists, this guy has a captive market and the twit who sits across from him 'interviewing' him about his latest opus is our surrogate. She's related, at least through the bug-eyed expression, to the women who do the studio demo shows on everything from the mini-mixer to the sweeper that's better than a vacuum and about as credible. I actually prefer the See Sammy Simpleton, but that's just me.

I HATE the commercials for early pregnancy tests ('the most sophisticated piece of technology you will ever pee on'-my First Response is that that copywriter has a special ring reserved in Hades) and the Viva Viagra singalong disquiets me. I was in my twenties before I learned that Preparation H had NOTHING to do with reading or library books-despite the fact that every commercial they made through the early Eighties had a person in just such a setting who never said exactly what the product was for. I endure the cartoon bears' pitching toilet paper and enjoy the Madison Avenue take on the age old question about bears and the woods though I get it confused with the other question about the Pope and Catholicism, which sometimes produces mental visuals of a man in a surplice squatting behind a tree.

That's when I wonder about all the TV commercials for prescription medications that have lept from the pages of whatever medical practitioners read and now are encamped in the box of cool fire in my living room. I've kept informal track and my doctors all seem to be the fifth of 'four out of five' doctors recommend. Maybe I should get one of the lawyers who claims to be 'on your side' to threaten litigation? (Sorry Adam, I love you like a brother, but why no TV spot?).

My current favorite commercial and the impetus for this diatribe is for somebody's lipstick and that it lasts all day from breakfast through dinner. Look around your house, and into your own heart--when was the last time you, or the woman who completes you, showed up for breakfast in full make-up wearing lipstick? Where was she coming from, an all night Dance Off Pants Off with Fred Astaire? Cherry Red, indeed!
-bill kenny

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