Friday, April 29, 2011

History Just Isn't what it used to be

Check out these commercials for The History Channel. The first is from 1996, when the History Channel was devoted to...well, history. Lots of World War II footage. Lots of documentaries- "Hitler's Madness," "The Luftwaffe," "Dogfights of the RAF," etc. etc. A few harmless, silly pseudo-documentaries like "The Salem Witch Trials" and "The Prophecies of Nostradamus." But for the most part, real history, presented by real historians, in an easy-to-digest format.

Now check out the commercial for The History Channel, 2011 version. If you dare.

I say "if you dare" because if you care about history at all, this is really, really sad. Ancient Aliens. American Pickers. Alligator Torturers (that's not what the show is called, but it might as well be.) Ice Road Truckers. Pawn Stars. And what any of this has to do with history is totally beyond me.

This isn't a "history channel" anymore. It's a clearing house for reality tv crap rejected by STARZ, TNT, and the USA Network. It's audience must be 100 percent different now compared to the 1990s-- I hate to be a snob, but this really is nothing more than trailer trash television- lots of explosions, falling trees, loud trucks, animal abuse, and huge hairy, dirty men yelling "WOO HOO" every few minutes. I mean, come on- this crap makes "MythBusters" seem highbrow.

Here's a tip for the people currently running what used to be The History Channel into the ground: nobody wants to you try to "make history." I think the original idea was for you to examine history and present it in an entertaining manner. For more than a decade, you managed to do this fairly well. But for whatever reason ( I suspect money, you penny-pinching cretins) you've decided that the word "History" basically means whatever you want it to mean, be it "Watching guys cut through 1000-year old trees" or "check out the awesome big truck as it crashes through the ice for the 900th time." Whatever the reason, the result is just another channel devoted to Junk TV.

This is the second time I've ripped into the "History" Channel, and probably not the last, because G-d knows the people who ruined what used to be a very good reason to purchase cable deserve it. My guess is that they've received plenty of complaints, but their response has been to come up with more new crap and to run American Pickers marathons. In other words, to give the finger to real fans of History. So here's mine, right back at you, you channel-wrecking dicks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 don't buy toilet tissue?

Why are television commercials still locked into some fairy tale version of the 1950s? Here we have a crowd of women (and ONLY women) discussing something "nobody wants to talk about." "It's time to be honest about what goes on in the bathroom," one of them tells us.

Ok, stop right there. First, who is being "dishonest" about what is "going on in the bathroom?" Second, no, we really don't. There's this nice little theory that "some things are better left unsaid." Fits here.

There's a lot of crap about how Quilted Northern (I don't know why, but that name just strikes me as so funny- no matter how thick and soft your toilet paper is, would you ever really describe it as "Quilted?" And why "Northern?" Is this stuff being produced in a textile factory in Lowell, Massachusetts? I hardly think so.) But I don't pay much attention to it, because I can't get past the idea that in the United States, in 2011, only WOMEN are qualified to talk about "bath tissue" (snigger.) I suppose that's because women, in the United States, in 2011, still do all the shopping and are the only people who have time to even think about stuff like "what's really going on in the bathroom."

Men, you see, are too busy managing their stock portfolios, working their Blackberries and waiting for the mountains on their beer cans to turn blue. It's not that bathroom tissue isn't important - it's just not within the American male's Sphere of Influence. Get it?

Yeah, I get it. It's 2011 on the calendar, but it's still 1955 on television, and apparently it always will be. I'd just like to know what Quilted Northern expects a single guy like me, who must make non-Male choices like which bathroom tissue to purchase all the time, is supposed to do, without a Tissue-Expert Woman around to steer him in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hey, Marcel- GET A LIFE!!

The body of Marcel, 29, was found by police responding to calls from neighbors complaining about the stench coming from his apartment. According to forensic reports, the estimated time of death was roughly three months ago- however, both lab techs and former friends agree that Marcel had ceased living some time before.

People who knew Marcel best suggest that the death was a slow and painless one, beginning sometime last year, when Marcel opted to purchase a new plan from AT&T which allowed him to view four channels at once. "Marcel was always a couch potato," commented Jan Smith, 28, who identified herself as a former Facebook friend. "But he was not completely averse to going outside from time to time, until he got this damned 'service.' After that, if you wanted to find Marcel, you knew where to look- right there on the couch."

"I think we started to lose Marcel last year" agreed Bob Cobbs, a former college roommate of the deceased. "He used to hang out with us in the park, or the local bar. Then he started to show up less and less. Something about not being able to tear himself away from his television.

"A few of us talked about maybe staging an intervention- I texted a few people about it, and mentioned it on my Facebook page, but didn't get much response. I guess we could have done more. You always think you're going to have time, you know?"

A neighbor who asked not to be identified admitted to ignoring the classic warning signs- Chinese take-out menus piling up on Marcel's porch, the glow of the TV visible all night, every night- but defended his inaction by telling this reporter "hey, you know, I've got a life of my own- you try to help people, but in the end, they gotta WANT to get better, right?"

Marcel is survived by people with lives, and is mourned by his cable company, which considered Marcel a model customer and an inspiration to be emulated by "everyone who expects nothing but the best from their television viewing experience," according to an AT&T spokesperson.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

When you care enough to save the very most

As long as we are shopping for tires on, here are some more ideas for people who think that safety is a good idea, but saving money is even better:

1. parachutes in Practically Mint Condition. You can get great discounts if you don't need your parachute to be absolutely free of wear and tear.

2. because seriously, what are the odds you are ever going to be in an accident anyway? Think of the savings! And while we're at it

3. sure they've been knocked around a bit, but your kids will never notice!

4. Expiration Dates are great, if your name happens to be Rockefeller or Vanderbilt. But if you are a penny-conscious consumer who is planning on adding syrup or using it for cereal anyway, why not give this (banned in 38 states) product a try?

5. Why pay $20 or more for a box of "fresh" contact lenses when we've got your prescription right here on our overstocked shelves? Take advantage of the economic downturn and visit what some of our customers are calling the "Pawn Shop for Eye Care." Returns are no problem!

After all, if you want a deep discount on something you'll be trusting your life to on a daily basis, what WON'T you risk to save a few bucks, you penny-wise, pound-foolish weirdo?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chip off the Old Lard Block

The "children acting like adults" meme is very popular among ad agencies. In fact, "anyone other than adults acting like adults" is a real favorite, regardless of the product being pitched. Babies talking stock trades, dogs fretting over how to best protect that bone for future consumption, preteens discussing "value" while consuming piles of warm fat as their proud "parents" (using that term very loosely) look on appreciatively....

Come to think of it, the only device that seems to be more popular than "non-adults acting like adults" is "adults acting like non-adults." Something to think about.

Anyway, here's yet another repulsive commercial for my new favorite punching-bag of a "restaurant," Cici's. Two little boys are reading their assigned scripts, which require them to sing the praises of teaching "value" to the Little Ones. In their bizarro world, "value" means getting your kids hooked on cheap, lard-encrusted, artery-clogging junk because hey, its all you can eat and very easy on the wallet. What a super life lesson- it's all about Quantity, not Quality, my boy! Never sit down at a restaurant where you have to spend more than the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to stuff yourself senseless, even if that means that you'll be filling up with garbage that does nothing good for your long-term health.

The two "parents" (other than the fact that one of these guys apparently drove the kids to the feed barn, I don't really see a lot of "parenting" here) are delighted to see that their destructive eating habits have been successfully passed down to the next generation of trailer trash. By the time Dad's mobility is limited by his enormous gut and breathing issues, Son will be well on his way to sharing in the same fate. Heck, by then Dad may have a few Soon to Be Enormous grandkiddies to cart off to Cicis in the family SUV. And won't that be lovely?

For as long as it lasts, at least. I can't imagine that the average life span for regular Cicis customers is much over 55. I can imagine that life stops being very enjoyable for Cicis regulars long before that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Big House, No Life

What is this guy's deal, exactly? I mean, he seems completely incapable of watching this stupid, violent, immature nub of a movie (or is it a video game? I really don't care) for more than a few seconds at a time without pausing the "action" and moving to another room- why? He doesn't actually DO anything at his new location, except lean up against a chair to continue watching what I guess are robots pound the crap out of each other. I can't see any purpose at all for his constant moving around, unless it's to indulge his Restless Leg Syndrome.

And why would anyone want to pause the "action" in this film anyway? It's just the same crap over and over again- two robots (?- again, don't mistake me for someone searching for information here, I really don't care) smashing each other and everything in sight- what does this guy think he's going to miss if he just lets the damn mess play itself out? Hey buddy- this ain't exactly James Mason reciting Shakespeare. The idea that he's actually concerned he's going to miss one moment of this pointless violence is kind of disturbing.

And here's the best part- when he pauses this drivel for the last time, he heads upstairs to his bedroom and hits the play button- and there's this girl right there, in bed, behind him as he sits his zombie ass down (blocking her view of the tv) for what we can only suspect is another six seconds of viewing before he gets up and moves on to the next room. This means that he's got the movie on every screen in the house, including the one this girl has been watching- and he's been pausing it, again and again, with total disregard for the fact that this girl has been watching the loud mess all along? Talk about asserting one's dominance over the house- "I've got the remote, baby. And this is what I want to watch, and I'll pause it when it conveniences me. You don't like it? Well, who the hell asked you?"

Anyone else get the sense that A) if this guy had twenty televisions in twenty separate rooms, he would never stop strolling around and hitting those "pause" and "play" buttons, B) that remote is symbolic of this guy's determination to control everything that goes on in his house, and C) the relationship between this guy and the blurry afterthought of a woman in the background needs some serious work that can only get underway when this guy finally finds the OFF button?

Meahwhile- hey, buddy? This is what they mean when they talk about abusing technology. Just because you CAN pause films constantly and then resume watching in other rooms doesn't mean you HAVE to. Maybe it's NOT all that necessary for your home to consume more energy than your average small town just so you can keep watching robots throw themselves around as you stroll about your suburban palace. Just a thought.

Art Imitates Life

Nice to meet you.

I like you.

I really like you.

I love you.

No really, I love you. And you aren't getting any younger. Just sayin'- you could do a lot worse than me.*

I "love you," but I'm not "in love" with you.

We don't have as much in common as I thought we did.*

I need my space.*

I can't stand the sight of you anymore.*

Can't you read a simple restraining order?*

Let me tell you about my new boyfriend.

--Unedited Version of this New York Life commercial.

*Not actual moments from my own life

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's a Dead Man's Party

Here's another one of those commercials that are so spectacularly awful, so knee-deep in stupid, that it's almost impossible to work up the energy to even snark on it. I'll give it a shot anyway, because next to cell phones, the "adults playing stupid video games" phenomenon really bothers me more than any other.

So we've got two arrested-development exhibits sitting on a couch apparently oblivious to the fact that a party featuring pretty girls has broken out behind them. They are using handheld controllers to manipulate characters on a tv screen into punching, shooting, slicing and gouging each other while tossing seriously lame quips that would be considered weak by 15-year olds , Roger Moore, or any character in the last Star Wars Trilogy.

One of the pretty girls notices that two loud males are doing what I guess passes as the "sociable" thing these days- playing a freaking video game rather than, oh, I don't know, mixing with other guests and engaging in conversation (hey, they aren't texting people not at the party- that's something, right?) Her reaction to their game is perplexing to say the least- is it astonishment, interest, disgust, what? I'd go with disgust, but I really doubt that's what we are supposed to infer, because...

By the time one of the characters in the incredibly violent, obviously pointless knob of a game is being sawed in half on the screen, it appears that most of the people at this party have become so bored with their attempts to make conversation with people whose social skills have been retarded by years of texting and IMing that the "action" on the television is an acceptable distraction. We aren't allowed to watch these sad misfits gather around the couch, however, because the makers of this shameful mess would rather show us scenes of other males all over the country reacting to the dismemberment of their avatars with primal screams (these guys must make awesome neighbors, don't you think?)

I'm still sane enough to believe that while this reaction suggests a truly depressing disconnect from reality (seriously- do people get so caught up in this dreck that they forget it's just a game? IS IT just a game to these losers?) that is not the message we are supposed to derive from all this. Which means that all we are really left with is a decision concerning which aspect of this ad is most responsible for the empty feeling- is it that in this day and age, it's perfectly acceptable to play video games during parties, making these "get togethers" as socially isolating as everyday life? Is it that these worthless, grubby mushrooms think they are being clever with So Obvious They Really Need To Be Left Unsaid quips like "I hope you didn't plan on having children?" Is it that conversation is now seen as decidedly inferior to playing video games?

Or is it more elemental- maybe the most depressing thing about ads like this is the very concept of adult video games. I played video games when I was a teenager- Space Invaders, Time Pilot, Qbert, etc. I had an Atari game system, and I had friends over to play games like Tank Commander, Mad Bomber, Frogger, and Atari Bowling. Sometimes my parents played, too. It was always a lot of fun and quality time.

But at some point, I went away to college and drifted away from video games. I'd go to an arcade now and then, but the home system got packed up and passed on to the younger kids in the family. These days I play arcade games one week a year, while on the annual vacation at Hampton Beach NH. It's fun because it's kind of nostalgic, and it's different. Video games, you see, are not part of my everyday life. Because I'm an Adult.

So I guess my real question is, when did it become ok for people to simply refuse to let go of childhood? What's the deal with people in their twenties, thirties, forties still wasting time sitting in basements, pretending to gun down terrorists or space mutants or Orcs for hour after hour, taking breaks for sleep and to pick away at a fake guitar while acting out the fantasy of being a rock star you REALLY should have abandoned by the time you graduated High School? Even if people have all this leisure time, why are they using it for THIS?

I'm sorry, I just don't get it. I never will- not as long as there are People, Books, and Outside to be experienced. The best part about those things is that they almost never drive me into a primordial scream. Almost never.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And what do we fertilize delicate flowers with?

Why is everyone so darned serious in these commercials? I mean, they are already at a chain restaurant dive which prides itself on featuring cheap junk at low prices (all you can eat for under five dollars?) Do they think that being carefully meticulous in building their salads they can somehow mitigate the shame of choosing THIS as an appropriate place to eat?

And who actually eats at All You Can Eat joints, anyway? Why would anyone look forward to a night of gorging ones self with carbs and sugar before waddling back to the car hoping that there's something left of that roll of TUMS you left in the glove compartment? Why would anyone want to eat until they couldn't eat anymore (and if you DON'T want to eat until your stomach is pressed up against your lungs, why go to an All You Can Eat place at all- why accept All You Can Eat quality if that's not your intention?) It's really not enough that we live in the richest, fattest nation on Earth without demanding the right to consume enough calories to feed your average Ethiopian village for a week at one sitting (and all for under five dollars!?)

I do like the way this commercial cuts through the BS- no, Cicis customers are not there for the salad bar. You can pretend that you are going to pay All You Can Eat prices and then just build yourself a healthy little pile of greens and tomatoes (sloooowllly....jeesh, how long is this woman's lunch break? Good thing there's nobody in "line" behind her....he might be compelled to become a "line jumper...") but in the end, you are going to be piling that plate with slices of pizza, cinnamon buns, and all the rest of the fatty dreck places like this specialize in. And because you are a typical slob, you are going to value your sitting down time more than your dignity, and show your disdain for the idea of actually getting up more than once to refill that plate. Of course, this means that you are going to sit down with a disgusting mountain of "food"-- but what difference does that make, when the rest of the sweaty herd around you has done the same thing?

And as if to give a big Cicis Thumbs Up to this behavior, the ad concludes with a delightful shot of this idiot shoveling food into her cake hole as if someone's going to be stealing it from her in a few minutes, before looking around to check if someone here looks like they might be familiar with the Heimlich Maneuver (I'm guessing that the staff are all experts at it.) She can't really be feeling a modicum of shame for what she's doing, can she? I mean, she's at CICIS!!

So come to Cicis, where you are encouraged to play Disgusting Pig At The Trough. I'll think I'll pass on the Cheesy Deliciousness, thanks anyway.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Your real problem is sitting to your left, lady

A long, long time ago (the 90s) in a galaxy far, far away (Western New York) I was a married person who spent several weekends a year visiting my brother-in-law and his wife, whose prized possession was their yacht. It wasn't just their most prized possession, however; it was their pride and joy, their child. They had framed photos of the yacht all over their home in Lockport. They spent every free minute of their lives between April and October working on the yacht, fishing off the yacht, rafting off the yacht, or just sitting on it's spacious deck, reading the newspapers. My wife and I spent many a lovely summer day rolling along the Niagara River on that yacht. The year of our divorce was also a year of reversals for my relatives, who had to sell off their baby. Very sad times, all around.

The nasty old woman in this commercial would not understand my brother and sister in law. As near as I can figure from this rather confusing, pointless little nub of an advertisement, she does not approve of the boat purchased by her close relatives, or the fun they derive from it's usage. She's sick of hearing about the boat, and when she is finally coaxed into experiencing it, she sits there acting as if she's been weened on a pickle and cant' wait for this awful thing to stop so she can get off and get back to her couch. Where she will go back to bitching about the boat.

This is a commercial for insurance- as near as I can tell (seriously, I might be completely wrong about the message, wouldn't be the first time.) Beyond that, I can't figure the selling point- this woman should not be worried because the boat owners have insurance? Really? How would the knowledge that her relatives are insured make any sane person less worried about her grandkids dying in a boating accident? Isn't that kind of mercenary?

Personally, I think all this whining about "the boat" is all about blocking the real issue- this woman's husband is suffering from a serious eating disorder that she is refusing to confront and deal with. She's about to lose her life partner to a heart attack or diabetes, but she doesn't want to talk about that- she'd rather obsess about the boat, the boat, the boat. Maybe his life insurance is paid up, and she just doesn't care. But what about the rest of the family? Seems to me this guy isn't just her husband- he's also Dad and/or Grampa to some of those people on the boat. Does nobody notice that this guy has serious problem?

Isn't it time for an intervention here?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"But he has a lot of GOOD qualities, too" she told me as she wiped her eyes with her well-worn hankerchief

I've gotten a lot of mileage from beer commercials over the past two years; in fact, there are times when I think I could write a blog snarking on nothing BUT this particular industry's nonstop assault on our intelligence.

Here are two examples of a common theme which runs through a lot of these ads. It's not the scruffy, beer-obsessed twenty-something jerk whose mind and life rotates around cans of low-alcohol, low-taste, foamy liquid. I'm done complaining that this guy is never shaven, never dressed in anything but jeans and a battered, unbuttoned, un-tucked-in shirt, and clearly threw away his comb the day he moved out of his mom's house. I'm also completely over the fact that he almost always seems to live in a very substantial suburban palace, despite being either single or married without children. And no, I'm not going to take the most obvious route and focus on the pathetically Pavlovian response the guy always gives at the very MENTION of beer.

No, the common theme I'm going to focus on concerns the rather sad situation faced by the women in these ads. Now, of course, women are always the long-suffering side of any television partnership, but this axiom is taken to another level in commercials for lite beer.

In Commercial #1, we see a couple enjoying what on television is considered "quality time"- guy watching tv, woman reading a magazine. The magazine is, significantly, Bride. Subtle, huh? By the end of the ad- which features Not Reading Groom Magazine boyfriend appealing to girlfriend's desperate need to believe that boyfriend has a Sensitive Side and is therefore really worth all her false hopes and successfully escaping to spend time with his real loved ones (they come in six-packs.) Poor, deluded girl. If she only knew what a dick her boyfriend was- I'm sure she'd respond with an eyeroll before returning to her Bride Magazine.

Commercial #2 is much, much sadder, but the message is pretty much the same. This time, the female character is taking a pregnancy test and anxiously keeping her significant other apprised of the progress as he stands in the kitchen (which is just off the bathroom. Ok.) I get the idea that maybe this is a young couple that has been trying to get pregnant for some time, and this is a very big moment. For one of them. Because while the female half of this "relationship" is expressing emotions completely appropriate for a woman who realizes that her life may very well be about to be altered in a very dramatic fashion, the Male she Inexplicably Chose to Mate With is engrossed in watching the mountains depicted on his beer cans turn blue.

The test is positive, and the beer reaches optimal drinking temperature, at about the same time. The "hilarious" punchline shows the (crushed, disappointed) woman stomping off (probably in tears, too bad we aren't allowed to see that, because what could be funnier than seeing the face of a woman who just realized that the father of her future child cares more about beer than her or their child?) while hubby(?) is left wondering What He Did This Time, and Will The Guys Get Here Before Kickoff This Week Cause He Can't Wait to Show Them These Awesome Cans.

The simple meanness and sexism of these ads really rankle. What are women to the guys who write this crap? Attachment-hungry, desperate, gullible prisoners of their own lack of self-esteem and the poor choices resulting from that fatal flaw. What are men? Cold-hearted, overgrown children who reserve their empathy for buddies who are out of light beer. Thank God that these characters are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental- or very, very disturbing. But what is going through the minds of the hateful choads who write these ads or think these situations are anything but really, really depressing?

Friday, April 15, 2011

What the hell was that?

I've noticed a disturbing trend in commercials recently: the previously accepted dimensions of rank stupidity and pointlessness are being shattered, replaced by a Brave New World in which no idea is too idiotic, too brain-dead, too "this makes absolutely, positively no sense to risk having our product laughed off the market through association." Welcome to Anything Goes Marketing.

I mean, can we all agree that not all that long ago, rapping hamsters comparing the Ugliest Automobile Ever Invented to a giant toaster would have been confined to a bad LSD trip? But in the year 2011, the path to man-sized rodents chanting the praises of this rolling eyesore has been well-paved by ads portraying stock-savvy babies, talking Volkswagens and pretty much every level of stupid you can imagine in the service of cell phones.

The really bad news (besides the very existence of this commercial) is that ad men all over the country are sitting up and taking notice that the goalpost has been moved yet again. "Red One" followed by a groin punch is checked by talking babies. You give us talking babies? Here's hamsters rapping about South Korean Imports. It's your move, market geniuses. Show us what else you've got.*

The other really bad news is as the commercials get more and more blatantly insipid, they become harder and harder to snark on. For example, you'd THINK that rapping hamsters would be easy to put down. In fact, commercials like this are SO stupid that they are almost snarkproof- like trying to review sour milk or the latest "Saw" movie. Sometimes, all you can do is just sit in awe of the brilliant awfulness of that mess which just marched across your screen.

*Or don't. Because as much as I do enjoy writing this blog, I'd be more than happy to retire it for lack of material.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Line, Line, Everywhere a Line

I've never been to Cici's, but according to this commercial, I guess this is how the Pizza Buffet "line" works- you start at one end of the heat lamp table. You proceed slowly through the varieties of pizza until you get to the one with the toppings you like. If that means you stand there for several minutes as the people in front of you ponder the different offerings, oblivious to the fact that there are other people waiting, well, that's just your problem. It's apparently taboo to just take your tray to another part of the table- the part that includes the pizza you like. Nope, you are just supposed to stand there like a doofus waiting to be in front of that pizza, even if that requires looking like an idiot with an empty tray (as opposed to an idiot with a tray full of greasy, artery-clogging slop.)

Personally, if I were the woman in front of this guy, I'm pretty sure I'd turn and ask "what are you doing? If you know what kind of pizza you want, why don't you go directly to that pizza and take some? Are you mentally ill? Are you just looking for an excuse to stand next to me? What?"

Of course, if I were the guy, and this was actually a line, I'd respond by asking her if she were going for the World Record for Slowest Building of a Salad in the History of The Universe. Or I'd remind her that in only four hours, the restaurant would be closing.

Instead, we get this weird "Line Jumper!" pizza-deprivation hallucination, in which this guy imagines that committing the sin of getting some pizza will make him a social outcast and turn the other people in the restaurant into finger-pointing lunatics. The woman he "jumps" seems especially irritated- from the tone of her voice, I think she's had a particularly hard day and this is about a lot more than "line-jumping." Not at all surprising that this hallucination includes a cameo by the guy's Grandmother- because the only thing ROTFLMAO more funny than talking babies or smart-ass kids is a pissed-off grandma, right?

At the end of this truly stupid waste of time, the guy decides that having all hell rain down on him from the other patrons for line-jumping is totally worth it, and he goes for the pizza. We aren't surprised that nothing like he imagined actually happens, because after all- there really isn't any line here for him to jump, and even if there was, I simply can't understand why anyone would care that much. Is it because I've never been to Cici's?

Am I just blind? Is there a line here for him to jump, and I just don't see it? What the heck?

Postscript- anyone out there ever been to a Cicis? Can you tell me if people really dress like this to fill themselves with white flour, cheese and sugar? Or is it more like the sweatpants brigade I see waddling into IHOP and Golden Corral every time I drive by?

Another Postscript- don't you just love the way the pizza table is in such pristine condition? These people are not the first customers- the place is already full- so in reality, wouldn't there be jumbled piles of rejected slices, puddles of salad dressing, and scraps of toppings everywhere if this scene was at all realistic?

And yet another Postscript- "Lollygagging?" Really?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Deleted Scene from "Idiocracy"

It's official; Verizon has run out of ways to show the knuckle-dragging, technology-addled, socially retarded losers who make up the sad population of customers for their stupid, life-sucking little toys how SuperAwesomeAmazinglyFast these things can download stuff they have no intention of ever actually using or even looking at.

As near as I can tell without subjecting myself to watching this commercial more than a few times (come on, I'm not getting paid for this, you know) the ad involves three twenty-somethings who have no idea how short life really is who have been talked into spending an afternoon at some kind of shooting range to watch a rocket take out a Verizon phone. So far, so good- although I think the commercial would have been even more entertaining if they had just picked one of these "Woo-Hoo" glue-sniffers to hold the phone instead of taping it to the target.

The object of the "contest" here is to download as much as possible before the rocket reaches the phone. I guess. This makes sense to someone out there- actually, it makes sense to a lot of people on YouTube, who naturally think that this is all ROTFLMAO hysterical and epic and all the rest.

What gets downloaded in the few seconds it takes for the rocket to reach it's target? A photo. A video game. "Gulliver's Travels." Hmmmm...I'm going to be impolite and make an educated guess as to which of these downloads will be deleted, unseen, by the recipient.

The way these three sacks of mucus jump up and down in celebration of their "victory" (over what? Over whom?)...well, it's all so depressingly familiar, isn't it? But who could blame them for being excited- I mean, not only did they get to download stuff really fast, but they also got to see this Epic explosion- I mean, that's a full day, and then some.

Hey guys- Verizon lets you download really, really fast. Get it? Just in case you don't, expect to have this message repeated again and again in a series of commercials featuring people finding out how much crap they can add to their phones before....the car slams into the guard rail? The space shuttle on that video explodes? The possibilities are endless.

Just be sure to have your finger on the Mute button, unless you really want to spend your summer hearing people shriek "woo-hoo!" while jumping up and down and staring at their phones.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dad's a Fat Moron, Again

This commercial opens with some fat slob apparently continuing the rant begun more than an hour earlier, after the little kid next to him struck out on a high fast ball to lose the state championship. "Find your pitch and stick with it, Consistency, Consistency, Consistency" this rabid dick keeps pounding into the kid, who seems to be taking this all in stride. Clearly, he's seen this all before.

"Consistency?" the kid interrupts, and then points out that Dad has taken three different types of pizza from the All you Can Eat counter. Pretty blonde Never In A Million Years Actually An Employee Of This Kind Of Fast Food Dump does her part with an appreciative "yes I was listening to your idiotic raving" smile and shrug. Kid ends up with the upper hand, of course, and for once we don't mind, because, seriously, buddy, the game is over and maybe the kid just wants to relax with some pizza without being beaten over the head with your pointless, cliche'd "tips."

And then we are sitting with our pizza, hearing something that sounds like a Public Announcement endorsing fatherhood- something about how important it is to be a dad, whatever. My guess is that it's about how dads are important because kids need someone to bark vague, clueless suggestions (diving: "keep your head down." Football: "keep a low center of gravity." Tightrope walking: "Don't fall") when not bringing them for cheap, greasy pizza kept warm under lights and being spat on by other drivel-blathering Dads. Sounds nice, except that judging from this guy's waistline, I would suggest that he speed up the lessons, or hire an actual coach to give his kid REAL instruction that might actually be of VALUE to him, because clearly THIS dad has spent a little too much time at All You Can Eat pizza joints. Sooner or later, you'll be hearing from your heart, buddy. Probably a protest of how sadly consistent you are in your lousy food choices.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We humans have already had that conversation. Just FYI.

1. "Allergies?" No, lady, that guy doesn't have allergies. He's just carrying a box of Allegra for the heck of it. Seriously, if you are that desperate for an excuse to start a conversation with a guy you will later playfully insists "loves you," I would like to make you aware of several internet dating services...

2. "You know you can't take Allegra with Fruit Juice.." There are actually several opportunities for snark here. First of all, is that even OJ he has in his hand? It looks like a faux-juice drink to me. But let's go along and concede that it is OJ, and this woman just saved her coworker from a possibly fatal reaction to his over the counter medication. The guy seems oddly unappreciative.

3. The "solution" to not being able to take Allegra with OJ is not to find another drink, but to switch medications? Yikes. What if he's been taking Allegra for days or even weeks during allergy season- is it really ok to just stop using it and switch to Zyrtec instead? Maybe it is- but that still seems like a strange fix, when in five minutes he could just grab a soda or bottle of water to wash down his Allegra.

4. My favorite part of the whole commercial- the until-the-very-end silent zombie coworker, who has spent this entire conversation staring at his fucking Blackberry, so engrossed in whatever is on that little screen that he has apparently been rendered completely deaf. I say this because he reveals that he had NO IDEA what his coworkers were talking about before he took his eyes off the screen-- "you know you can't take Allegra with Orange Juice? Just FYI..."

Wouldn't this part have made a whole hell of a lot more sense if the coworker had ear buds on until he spoke up at the end? Or if he just walked into the scene at the close of the ad to put in his two cents? The first few times I saw this ad, I didn't even realize that he had been with them the whole time, probably because my brain rebelled against the idea that he could not be aware of what the two others had been discussing for the past thirty seconds. I mean, what the heck?

Or maybe it's just that I have no experience with Blackberries, I Phones, Droids, etc. etc. Based on what I see in my everyday life, it's just possible that the use of these gadgets DOES render the user completely oblivious to his or her surroundings. Which means that in reconsidering this ad, we must insert this little notion: if that girl had not been there, the Blackberry guy would have been too distracted to notice that his coworker was taking Allegra with OJ until it was too late. Which leaves me wondering just one more thing: would Blackberry guy remember that he could use that thing to call an ambulance before his coworker fell into an irreversible Allegra/OJ induced coma?

(BTW, I do like the fact that this guy's medication and juice take up the rest of the park bench, leaving FYI-guy to lean against the wall with his precious Blackberry. Nice.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

eHarmony: the Outtake Reel

"Ok, what brought you to this site?"

"What brought me to this? Dammit, I thought you weren't going to ask me that! I told you before- Desperation. Despair. End Of My Rope Horror at dying alone. "

"No, no-- we're supposed to be on script. Just read the cards."

"Oh right, right. Sorry. Ok- what brought me to this site? I was sick of all the usual ways of meeting people- getting set up by friends, taking out personal ads, writing to guys in prison-- and here was this site which showed me all these Gentlemen who....what are you laughing at?"

"Sorry- I was just thinking of how we make you use the term 'Gentlemen' when you describe the guys we show you on the site. That always cracks me up; but please, continue."

"Ok- anyway, I see all these Gentlemen who share my core values...."

"Just for the heck of it- can you describe some of these Core Values?"

"Well, I think Willingness to Settle is a core value. And eagerness to Take What You Can Get. And exhaustion from years of disappointment. And being sick of spending Saturday nights having long conversations with your cat. And the strong conviction that the Internet is a great place to meet That Perfect Someone, which is sometimes powerful enough to mask the fact that you are long past trying to find someone who is anywhere near perfect and eager to snatch up Passable if such a person is still available- and willing to take Tolerable if Passable is not."

"I'm getting depressed- I think I'm going to put down my camera for a while, call my wife, and tell her how much I love her-- why are you crying now?"

"I was about to ask you if you are free tonight. How do you feel about extramarital relations? 'Cause when I noticed you were a male, I thought, 'boom!'"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If this doesn't work, God's just going to call it a day with you

I could spend this entire post ripping into the "we talked to God recently about you, and here's what he told us to pass on" message that introduces this commercial. But snarking on the "God invented the internet because He realizes that even the endless spaghetti dinners and picnics sponsored by your church aren't helping you find someone to breed with, you loser" is too easy, so I'll save that for later.

Personally, I can't think of any good that could come from Christians Mingling. I mean, once Christians start mingling, we all know where that leads. Next thing you know, they are talking face to face. Then they are holding hands in public. Then they are running through wheat fields, falling into each other's arms, spinning themselves wildly around in circles, and all those other weird "romantic" activities that leave Christians too exhausted to think about having Icky Sex.

When they recover from all the running and spinning, they go back to mingling and holding hands until Society begins to look askance at their overly Sociable Behavior and begins to ask "so, when are you Christians getting married?" So the Christians get married, usually by a guy wearing a funny black and white collar who introduces the couple to a building full of people who serve as witnesses to their move to Advanced Mingling 202. If they are Catholic Christians, they get married by a guy in a black frock and then get to hear that guy tell them all about the joys of marriage and family and children- because seriously, who could possibly know more about marriage and family and children than a Catholic Priest?

Then there's this big party in which everyone eats too much and drinks too much- especially the Christian Bride and Groom, who are anxious to be in condition to do nothing but collapse into bed when this is all over. Just in case, though, they open their life of Christian Married Bliss by shoving pieces of pastry into eachother's faces while friends and families laugh appreciatively. THAT should take care of any amorous feelings that might survive the Open Bar and dancing with every relative and friend you have.

Once the alcohol, noise and sugar high has passed, the Married Christian People are left with- well, themselves. Not to worry, though, because being Good Christian Married People, children are right around the corner.

So what comes of Christians Mingling? More Christians. And we are supposed to think that this is a GOOD thing?

"Sometimes, we wait for God to make the first step...." well, that's certainly my plan. If God wants me to hook up with someone again, He will have to set that up for me (he's got my cell #.) I love the implication though that having faith that God's Will Be Done is pretty stupid, and what God really wants is for us to find someone to mingle with by using an internet dating site. The only thing missing is a little disclaimer at the bottom that says that God has not actually been hired as a spokes-Supreme Being to endorse this hilarity.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tommy's talking to his imaginary friends at the breakfast table again....

Here's another of these stupid "what's on the agenda" orange juice ads. This one features an intensely ugly little boy who is starting his morning the same way the woman in the previous ad does- by suffering a weird hallucination featuring the Specters of Little Crises to Come as he pours himself a tall glass of OJ.

Naturally, this stereotypical kid's stereotypical problems are not the same as some career woman's, so the script is tweaked somewhat. This kid's going to miss the school bus, get in trouble for being handed a note by a cute girl in class (I think he's REALLY hallucinating at this point) and suffer a pop quiz in his "favorite subject, math." (As a teacher, I find this part particularly confusing: this kid looks too old to have one teacher for all his subjects- so wouldn't this have to be a math teacher? If that's the case, what ELSE would she be springing a pop quiz on? Do I just chalk this up to Once Again, the People Who Write These Commercials Have No Clue?)

He's also going to be told to clean his room or suffer the wrath of his mom, who will not allow him to watch tv or play video games (it's 2011. Shouldn't this be tweaked to "text friends or go on Facebook?") In other words, this is going to be a No Good Very Bad Day. Good thing he's got his orange juice- because there's just something about a boost of citric acid that allows you to take the soul-crushing problems of being an ugly 10-year old in stride.

But what does this do for me?

Monday, April 4, 2011

I want to know what she's washing down with that OJ

Ooooh, check out this woman's day, it's going to be sooooooo haaaaaard!! I guess it's a good thing she's holding an early morning meeting with all the people who are going to be tormenting her over the course of the day (does this make sense to anybody? Anybody at all?)

"I'll roll my eyes at you when you try to tell me what to wear" says Mysteriously Not-Texting Daughter. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial featuring a teen-aged girl in which that girl was not holding a cell phone. Wake Up, Florida Orange Juice! It's 2011!! Mom won't be crumbling under the weight of daughter's normally crushing eye-roll, however. She's got her OJ.

"Though I said I'd be here between 8 and 9, I'll show up at ten" says Cable Guy. "Making me late for work?" asks Apparently Single Mom Who Must Handle Everything Herself. "Yep" answers Cable Guy. Not to worry- this situation, which would break the will of most of us who don't drink juice in the morning, is easily handled by SuperMom. She's got her OJ.

"Principal Miller" is now asked for her intake, and she informs Mom that her son will be involved in a turf war involving switch blades, sidearms, and a monopoly on the playground's heroin traffic. Ok, she doesn't say any of that- just some dull crap about a scuffle- but you'll excuse my embroidery. Anything to stay awake as this dreck wears down. No problem for Mom. She's got her OJ.

There's some crap about elevators being out, which means that this woman will have to walk down 18 flights of stairs "in high heels." Why she's required to wear high heels in the first place- Jesus Christ, is this 2011 or 1955- is not a question to be answered in this brief ad. Or ever. Because it doesnt' matter. Nothing matters. Because it's all good, because she's got her OJ.

What I want to know is, when was orange juice fortified with the kinds of---err, "vitamins"---which make life's little annoyances somehow easier to take? I mean, isn't this really a commercial for Vodka, or Pot? "I've got my Orange juice"--- sure you do, but that's not making you calm in the face of Life's Little Disasters now, is it?

Come on, lady, fess up. What are you popping just before guzzling down that Orange Juice that is making you so damned relaxed? And is it available in my area? Because I have more compelling problems than a kid's eye roll and a late Cable Guy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I've looked at Clouds from both sides now, Take II

In some respects, this commercial would have made a lot more sense back in the late-1990s. I mean, wasn't it back then that every smarmy, semi-educated twentysomething thought that he was just a few clicks away from taking his "Start Up" to the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and himself out of his mom's basement into a plush Manhattan penthouse apartment?

Of course, back then, the "CEOs" of these mostly Fly-By-Night .com entities couldn't keep in constant contact with the rest of the dreamers on the "payroll," such as it was, because cell phones were still very limited in their utility, and the internet was something you accessed through phone lines. All this made it a lot harder to pretend to be doing the job you were hired to do and basically steal time from your boss while organizing your dream enterprise. Nowadays, everyone over the age of six has a high-end I Phone or Blackberry, and now, thanks to "The Cloud," we are all in touch and ready to crunch numbers and organize graphs and all those other really important things that people who want to get rich do to...well, get rich. I guess.

So the self-important Cloud Person in this ad spends a great deal of time coordinating, planning, and sharing, and when it's all done, he can whip off the apron and dump the job at Starbucks that was only keeping him in pizza and expensive gadgets. As far as I can see, the "CEO" doesn't even inform the poor manager of the coffee joint that "hey, thanks for giving me a job at a place which is also a Hot Spot, and not paying enough attention to notice that while I was supposed to be emptying the garbage cans between whipping up lattes and keeping the skim milk dispensers, I was actually using you to do my own work. See ya later, sucker."

As if this isn't all appallingly obnoxious enough, he lets his ex-coworker know that no, there is no room on his Cloud Team for him. That poor dope is just out of luck, because he was too focused on doing his job, and not enough on cheating his employer.

So it's come to this. 20th century morality blended seamlessly with 21st century technology. All we can hope is that this "CEO's" Start-Up ends like pretty much all the Start Ups of the 1990s did- in the dustbin, surrounded by a big pile of worthless stock. And that this guy ends up back in his mom's basement, wishing he could work up the courage to walk back into that coffee shop and ask for his old job back.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Oh, Suburban Princess Narrator, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways....

Back before I started to embed these ads, I did a post on this commercial which got me a very funny "sorry you didn't like our ad!" response from a very alert member of the Angie's List team. Because this particular commercial continues to pollute the airwaves, I thought I'd give it another try. It's a challenge to determine what I hate the most about the awful narrator: Is it that

1. She has so many plumbing issues in her suburban castle that she has a "favorite plumber?"

2. She has a Papillon?

3. The Papillon's name is Molly?

Or is it that

4. She sees no problem in asking her plumber to walk her dog (because plumbers aren't professionals, or anything. I'm a schoolteacher- I'm sure if my principal called and told me that the cleaning crew was sick and would I mind very much mopping and waxing the classroom floor, I'd be fine with that.)

5. She tells us that Joe will always be her plumber because he's willing to sacrifice his "time and dignity" parading her fucking little rat/dog up and down the street "until her 'business' was done." (And, presumably, cleaned up after it, too.) Not because he's a good plumber.

6. She presumes that her plumber has gone off the clock before doing this extra little job for her (seriously, tell me this isn't so. Please tell me that Joe continued to charge this woman $100 per hour to walk her dog around. Because God Damn It, it's NOT HIS JOB.)

Actually, I don't think it's any of these things. I think the real reason is embedded deep within the context of the ad- which is that what this woman likes most about this plumber is that he's a freaking little worker-drone monkey she can order around with impunity, because after all, if he steps out of line and refuses to ask "how high?" when she says "jump!," there's this little website called Angie's List, and we wouldn't want a bad review now, would we? Want to keep food on your kid's table, don't we? Scoop that poop, monkey!!

Seriously- shouldn't the comments on Angie's list be restricted to how well people actually do their contracted JOBS? Instead, we get bitching about painters stepping in red paint ("they did the job on time and budget, but they are far from true professionals," this guy sneers. So, on time and on budget is not as important as their attitude, you elitist scumbag prick?) or "the domestic slave I hired because 'I was TIRED of cleaning my house' kept whistling this annoying tune..." Good Fucking Lord. You assholes don't want laborers. You want robots who will do things Just So or else suffer the wrath of Angie's List.

Sorry for the rant. Back to the commercial at hand- I wish someone would make a parody of this ad in which Joe either A) hands this woman a bill including the time spent walking her dog, and the citation he received for refusing to pick up the poop because god damn it.....or B) refuses to walk the dog, leaving it to mess all over this woman's lovely furniture. And Angie's List be damned.

That and that ugly little "dog."

The Late Night TV Mark of Quality

Wow, I am SO glad I saw this commercial before consulting that fat, bearded weirdo from TaxMasters who always looks like he's got a steel pole jammed up his ass. I mean, what could be more confidence-inducing than a cartoon character named Max presenting his case for taking on the IRS to a crowd of zombies who look like they thought they were attending a session of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University?

I mean, look at the "possible, not typical" savings! And all you have to do is what you ALWAYS have to with with ANY of these Tax Debt/Credit Card Debt scumbag vulture organizations: Send them money. Lots of money. Basically, all the money you have. Keep doing that for a few months (say, six. Or eighteen.) Call every once in a while for an "update" ("your case is pending.") If you are amazingly fortunate, BlueTax actually manages to get you the discounted settlement you could easily have negotiated on your own, and without paying a hefty "consulting fee" to BlueTax. If your case is much more typical, you'll be told "sorry, nothing we could do for you. And if you'll read the contract you signed with us, you'll see there are no refunds." Or the number you've been calling will be mysteriously disconnected, as the guys who got your money have moved on, changing their name and cartoon spokes-figure.

My bet is that I'm one of the lucky ones, though. I mean, after all, this guy is so cute. And that weird little scream he gives at the end of the ad- if that doesn't convince you, what will? I mean, these guys are CLEARLY professionals who respect your intelligence, right?

Friday, April 1, 2011

What Color is your Crutch?

This woman used to have a problem- a "crutch," in fact. That problem was cigarettes. She was addicted to cigarettes and nothing- not the coughing, not the yellow teeth, not the shortness of breath, not even the health of her husband, dogs, and children (in that order) could convince her to break that addiction.

Then, along came this amazing new drug, Chantix. This drug was so effective that after taking it, when this woman noticed a pack of cigarettes at the bottom of handbag, she started to scold it- "I don't need you anymore. You aren't my crutch. I don't need a crutch."

"I don't need a crutch." Hmm...well...I'm not so sure about that, lady. I mean, you're there on tv singing the praises of a drug which "may" cause

Changes in Behavior
Depressed Mood
"Suicidal thoughts and actions" (I wonder how many "Suicidal Actions" per person can be linked to Chantix?) that are "not typical of you" (your normal, typical suicidal thoughts and actions? Don't blame them on Chantix!)
Allergic Skin Reactions
Swelling of Mouth and Throat
Nightmares, trouble sleeping (but not, apparently, both at the same time.)

And you are so happy that you've given up cigarettes, which may or may not have a list of common side effects as long and as scary as Chantix does. How happy are you? Well, except for your Husband, your Dogs, and your Children, it's "the best thing you've ever done" (you know, I don't even want to try to snark on that.)

Yes, you've thrown away that Crutch. You are no longer a coughing, smelly woman who is cutting her life short every time she lights up. Instead, you are now a hostile, nervous, depressed, suicidal insomniac with acne and nausea who looks like you have a permanent case of the mumps. Congratulations, it sure sounds like a step up. For you, your husband, your dogs, and your kids. In that order.

Did you ever even TRY that gum?