Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sellevision: Safety, Sveltness, and Syncophancy.

Today, I turn my attention to television. Not just any television. Or rather, not just anything on television. Not sitcoms, nor crime dramas, nor soaps, nor talk shows, nor reality shows. I want to go deeper than that. I want to examine the essence of television, it's very soul.

You guessed it, folks. I'm talking about the commercials.

The first commercial I'd like to examine is the most poignant. It's for Liberty Mutual Insurance. It begins with three young boys sitting on bleachers. As they're wearing soccer uniforms, we can assume practice just ended, and they're waiting for their parents. Sure enough, a woman drives up and yells out,

"C'mon! We have to meet your father at the airport!"

Two of the boys, brothers, jump down, and run to the car. To the remaining child, the woman asks,

"Dillion! You need a ride?"

"That's all right," Dillion answers. "My father should be here!"

The woman seems less than satisfied by his reply. Nevertheless, she begins to drive away. As she looks back at Dillion in the mirror, she appears increasingly worried.

Dillion sits alone in the bleachers. It's starting to get dark. Suddenly, a beam of light hits his face. Is it his father? Or some pedophile trolling the soccer fields for little boys? Neither. The woman has returned. The ad ends with her and her two sons sitting in the bleachers, keeping Dillion company. Whew! According to the narrator, "All over the world, people are doing the right thing." Especially when they're scared silly some sicko out there might do a very wrong thing.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with insurance. Maybe at a premium of, say, $350 every couple of months, they'll make sure a soccer mom keeps your child from ending up in a missing person's report. And do they have a similar policy for Little League baseball and Pee-wee football?

Another question hangs agonizingly over this ad. Where is Dillion's father? Did he get into an accident? Or did he run off with the cashier at the local Hooters? Either event could have tragic implications for such a young boy.

And what about the OTHER father? You know, the one waiting at the airport. I can just imagine him waiting on the curb outside the terminal, looking at his watch and thinking, "WHERE THE HELL IS SHE?"


Two of the leading vixens of the 1970's, Valerie Bertinelli and Marie Osmond, have been doing weight-loss ads for NutriSystem and Jenny Craig, respectively. Or is that Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, respectively? Whatever, they both lost weight. Career wise, they were both so far off the celebrity radar screen for awhile there, I doubt if most people even knew they'd gain weight in the first place. Heck, I doubt if even the National Enquirer knew. But they're back in the spotlight now. Valerie's on the best sellers' list, and Marie's hit the dance floor. Literally.

Both these ads have "before" pictures. In Valerie's, it's kind of hard to tell just how much weight she'd gained. She's wearing something formless and baggy, a la Rhoda Morgenstern during the first couple of years of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Like that earlier Valerie, you're not sure whether she should lose the pounds, or just the polyester.

Marie "I'm losing it!" Osmond is another matter. This woman has spent her career looking for ways to be sexy without violating any Mormon tenets. Back in the '70s she accomplished this by eschewing cleavage, and instead wearing costumes just tight enough to make you think, "Ah, yes, she has reached puberty!" A couple of decades later, when this "before" picture was shot, this had become a bit trickier. Here, she's seems to be wearing a black slip-like dress, slinky without the actual slink. She's wearing a see-through blouse, brightly decorated to keep you from actually seeing through. It's all offset by a wild mane of black hair, as if she'd blow dried it in a wind tunnel. Is she a little bit country, or a little bit '80s metal?

Both ladies are now as thin as they were in the '70s. They also look as YOUNG as they looked in the '70s. Are Botox commercials next?


Now, on to an oldie but goodie. The Xerox Color Copier commercial. It first ran about two years ago, and I caught it again just the other night. Some one's buying those copiers. This funny ad begins with an office drone, who looks a little like Paul Simon, sitting next to a copy machine, looking a bit distressed.

"She's going to kill me!" Paul says to a co-worker.

As the copy is in color, he's afraid it cost too much.

"Don't worry," replies the co-worker (whose name we later learn is Dave). "With the Xerox Color Copier, we save pennies on the dollar!"

Act II takes place in a conference room. Somebody on the phone--a client, maybe--sounds elated.

"Great color! I'm shocked!"

A woman wearing glasses--the boss--replies, "Glad you liked it, sir!"

Paul Simon smiles. She's not going to kill him, after all.

The boss then presses a mute button, and gleefully yells into the phone: "You're shocked?! We're shocked you even get it, pal!" She's suddenly distracted. "Dave! What are you doing here?"

Poking his head in the door, Dave (apparently not important enough to be in this meeting) replies, "I came to fix the mute button."

The boss looks down at the phone. There's a clicking sound.

Some guy nearby who looks like he's straight out of the Far Side comic strip says, "Bye, bye, bonus."

HAHAHAHA! Pretty funny stuff! So funny I feel like going out and buying a, um, what's this commercial selling again? Let me think. The punch line involved a mute button. Oh, yeah. I remember. So funny it makes me want to go out and buy a Xerox Mute Button.

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