I have written about media entertainment (in one form or another) on occasion. I have spoken about reality shows, soap operas, and classic songs. I have rattled on about my dependence upon my laptop (which is currently in the shop). I have spoken about how my portable media player acts as my own soundtrack. Even as I type this, “Green Onions” is playing in the background. I have sometimes even silently wondered how my life would sound as a movie trailer. You know, those cool trailers where Don LaFontaine describes something really cool and it ends in some kind of O. Henry ironic twist: “In a world where a man is seated at the table by his beautiful wife. She stands in a beautiful red dress and serves him the best homemade lasagna known to mankind. She kisses him lovingly on the lips. Life SEEMS wonderful. Sadly, [sound of vinyl record abruptly skipping], he can’t get the seal off the romano cheese. [man screams] NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Anyway, I digress.
It is no big secret to anyone that knows me that I love classic television and radio shows. I have enjoyed many shows that take me into an alternate reality (“Alien Nation”), allow me to witness a top-notch cop solving a case (“Dragnet”), or make me laugh and cry at the same time (the 6 O’ Clock news). However, there is a sub-genre of entertainment in television in radio that people tend to dismiss, ignore, or tune out. That’s right, folks. I am talking about commercials.
I have heard many people go on and on about how much they despise commercials. My wife typically holds the television remote in her hands with her right thumb literally hovering over the buttons. If it is a show that was recorded on our DVR, she fast forwards through the commercials with the speed and execution of an Olympic fencer. If it is a live show, she will switch to another channel. There have been many nights throughout our marriage where I have missed 10 minutes of three different shows due to her incessant commercial dodging. I admit to savage amusement when she changes to several different channels and they are all airing a commercial. It’s even better for me if more than one of them is airing the SAME commercial.
For the most part, I am on the other side of the fence from my wife. I love watching commercials. I think part of it is due to one fact that is as old as television and radio themselves. Television and radio shows would not exist without corporate sponsorship. No commercial, no show. In the early years of television, this was very transparent. Most TV and radio legends such as Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Abbott and Costello starred in shows that were named after their shows sponsor. Commercials were incorporated into the script. To a point, such product placement still exists.
Nonetheless, commercials for me have the same effect sometimes as full length shows. Commercials have shown how we have changed (for better or for worse) as a nation. Personally, I am grateful for the fact that we no longer see celebrities advertise tobacco products. On the other hand, we still see people describe embarrassing medical conditions to their friends in a public restaurant. Personally, if I go out to eat with a friend and he happens to have anti-diarrheal medication handy, I question his taste in restaurants. Some commercials entertain me due to their placement. I personally think a conspiracy is afoot whenever I see a commercial for diamonds during a sporting event. Sometimes, I get to see an advertisement for prescription medication followed by an advertisement for a lawyer willing to take your case if you actually take this medication.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the icons commercials give us that we all take for granted. People are prompted to buy car insurance because a) a caveman tells us NOT to buy it or b) a hyper-caffeinated woman wearing too much makeup is willing to guide us through the process. Exotic animals urge us to buy breakfast cereals, snack foods, and the same car insurance provoking a caveman hissy fit. We even, on occasion, see a diaphanous, scantily clad model advertising a triple bacon cheeseburger (I don’t know about you, but I am hungry all of a sudden).
Today, on the day of this writing, we get to witness the event that brings the best commercials have to offer: the Super Bowl. My wife is not even allowed to hold the remote during the Super Bowl. Man, there have been some great ones to debut during the Super Bowl.I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think of the commercial with “Mean” Joe Green throwing a kid his jersey. The kid got the thrill of his life during that moment and you can see it in his eyes. These days, that same kid would auction the uniform to the highest web bidder. But hey, that’s free enterprise. He could probably get that stock trading baby to help him invest the proceeds of the sale.