Tag Archives: commercials

Late Night 10th Anniversary Special, 1992

Last year, David Letterman “celebrated” 30 years as a late night talk show host. “Celebrated” gets quotation marks because he didn’t mark the occasion at all, really. Even this year, when Letterman entered his 20th year of hosting The Late Show on CBS, the milestone was barely noted at all. Bill Murray (first guest on Letterman’s NBC and CBS shows) made an appearance as Liberace for some reason, but that was Letterman’s only concession to the date. He apparently loathes anniversary specials and is now at a place, career-wise, where he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do. Like work on Fridays, or answer questions about not wanting to do an anniversary special. (This Times article on Letterman’s 30th year in late night features zero quotes from the man himself.)

That’s a shame, because it was an anniversary special that first exposed me to David Letterman as a young lad. I assume so, anyway. As a kid, I never would have been allowed to stay up late enough to see Late Night as it aired. I had no real chance to see any of Letterman’s genius until I caught a prime time anniversary special full of clips. When I saw Letterman crushing things with a pneumatic press and throwing things off a five-story building, I thought to myself, in my own little kid way, “This is what TV was made for.”

Whilst scouring my VHS archives recently, I found a tape containing the Late Night 10th Anniversary Special, which aired February 6, 1992. This is a unique artifact for many reasons. Johnny Carson’s retirement was imminent and Letterman had already been officially passed over as his replacement. This, plus a decade of accumulated slights by NBC and parent company GE, made it abundantly clear he would leave the network when his contract expired in 1993.

Previous anniversary specials were more befitting Late Night’s weird, almost community access sensibility. Take, for example, the fourth anniversary special from 1986, wherein Dave, Paul Shaffer’s band, and a crew of technicians conduct the show from the cabin of a 747 flying from Miami to New York. Not a flight they’ve chartered, but a scheduled flight, full of confused, oblivious passengers who find themselves the unwitting audience (and occasionally, victims) of this program.

Then, take a look at the 10th anniversary special below, filmed at Radio City Music Hall with Rockettes, an all-star band, and huge studio audience. It’s almost an audition for the spiffier, toned-down show he’d soon do at 11:30.

Letterman killed The Talk Show Host by creating a talk show in which the host very obviously thought the very idea of a talk show was bullshit. It is strange to see him in this 10th anniversary special, attempting to undo that killing, in his own way. He even seems genuine when thanking the audience for waiting on line to get inside.

For all of the Picture Day propriety, though, there is still plenty of weirdness on display. Observe the studio audience and note that it is packed to the gills with mooks. From the outfits worn and the reactions hooted, you’d think it was Howard Stern on stage. I swear I spotted at least three dudes in Boomer Esiason jerseys. This serves as a reminder that during their respective 1980s heydays, Letterman and Stern were often spoken of in the same breath, comedy-wise, as being (each in their own way) purveyors of edgy, take-no-prisoners laffs.

You will also see a brief appearance by Bill Murray, Letterman’s first ever guest and kindred spirit in practicing the fine art of fake sincerity. Live Stupid Pet Tricks make an appearance as well, but the real treat here is to see the clips from old shows and be reminded of just how strange Late Night was. Try not to think about how, because of Letterman’s acrimonious split from NBC, we’ll probably never see these clips outside of YouTube again. (And while you’re at it, try not to think about how we’ll never see Conan O’Brien’s greatest stuff for the same reason.)

In the final half hour, we receive another reminder of how many amazing bands Letterman had on his show, bands that never would have appeared on The Tonight Show, or anywhere else on TV at the time, for that matter.

This leads into a special live rendition of “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, backed by a band with an insane assemblage of musicians. I remember watching this as a kid and cringing because I hated Bob Dylan. Now I watch it and…I still kinda cringe. I’ve tried with Dylan, I really have, but me and him are never gonna happen. Since he’s the most influential songwriter of his age, I’m willing to concede the problem lies entirely with me, not him. I blame the abundance of harmonica in his tunes. I’ve reached the point in my life where I actually enjoy some of his songs, but once the harmonica kicks in, I check out. No harmonica here, but Dylan’s voice, ew boy…I think I’d take creepy Victoria’s Secret Dylan over this.

And as always, for you weirdos who like commercials, here’s a collection of ads that aired during this broadcast. Featuring: The hilariously failed Reebok “Dan & Dave” campaign, an NBC-4 News “special report” on “Sex & Sports,” a promo for a Matlock movie where he visits “a town that makes its money on murder!”, and a slew of rock-stupid Budweiser spots.

A Few Minutes with 120 Minutes, 1991

Recently rediscovered within the Vast and Dusty Scratchbomb VHS Archives: A nearly complete episode of 120 Minutes, MTV’s “alternative music” program. This aired December 15, 1991, and provides some insight into what exactly constituted alternative music (at least as far as MTV was concerned) during the waning days of the First Bush administration.

I’ve chopped this up into three pieces to ease playback and preserve some of the flow of the original. The first half hour of the show is missing from my tape, so we pick it up with host Dave Kendall introducing a clip from a live Cure pay-per-view special. I remember more than one friend ordering that special and borrowing the tape from them, then trying to figure out a way to copy it. Never cracked the code before I had to return it.

Though this apisode aired and was presumably taped after Nirvana “broke,” you’ll notice very little Seattle stuff here. Grunge would soon dominate the 120 Minutes playlist, but during this particular episode the videos leaned heavily toward industrial (Ministry, Nitzer Ebb), British shoegaze, and indie rock like Urge Overkill.

If you watched that first video, you heard Mr. Kendall tease a mini-documentary on The Clash, and here it is, narrated by Kurt Loder. There’s some amazing live footage here that I’ve never seen anywhere else, from the band’s early days, their 1982 concert at Shea Stadium, and lots of stuff in between. Also, some interesting testimonials from Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon.

And here’s the last half hour of the episode, which contains some curious Christmas music from Hoodoo Gurus and The Wedding Present. Stick around past the end credits to catch an episode of the weird animated omnibus Liquid Television. This show does not seem quite as mind blowing to me as it did back when I was in junior high, but then what does, really?

Finally, if you’re one of those weirdos like me who enjoys watching old commercials, here’s a playlist with ads that aired during this episode, plus a few spots from 1992 I found on the same tape. Highlights include:

  • Promo for MTV’s Best of 1991 programming featuring Cindy Crawford and background music of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which is as much 1991 as is legally allowed by law.
  • In the same dated vein, a promo for an issue of People Magazine that promises the lowdown on all the dirt from the set of Hook.
  • Casio Rapmaster keyboard, which looks and sounds exactly like what you think it does.
  • An unsettling Christmas-themed commercial for Playboy.
  • The now-forgotten TurboGrafx 16 gaming console.
  • Weird wrap-around promo for the band The Ocean Blue, which starts with an ad asking you to stick around the real ad.
  • A Super Nintendo commercial featuring a fresh-faced Paul Rudd.
  • Strange ad for Introspect jeans; can’t decide if this is misogynistic or simply dumb.
  • Foot Locker spot featuring Karl Malone’s LA Gear Mailmans, which, yes, was a thing.

A Slice of Halloween Programming from 1985

As I’ve said many times, I find few things more fascinating than entire blocks of captured TV programming from the past. They give you a glimpse of what a time was really like. It reminds me of picking up an old newspaper, sifting through the news items, seeing the ads juxtaposed against them. A block of video from any given evening was not intended to stand the test of time. Its purpose was to appeal to the fleeting sensibilities of that exact moment.

Due to the waning influence of TV networks and the general fracturing of media, an evening of television is no longer assembled with mass audiences in mind. All entertainment nowadays is aimed at smaller, targeted demos. When I was growing up, however, the eyes of an entire nation would be glued to one of three choices. Networks were aware of this and so they cast a much wider net, in a way that’s almost inconceivable now.

For a representative example, I present to you this chunk of children’s holiday programming that aired right around Halloween, 1985. The actual shows seen here are far less interesting to me than the context in which they are placed.

First of all, this serves as a reminder that kids’ shows were restricted to very specific times. Lucky kids with cable could watch Nickelodeon, but most kids got Saturday morning cartoons and maybe an hour of afterschool fare. That made “specials” like these true events. There was nothing else on TV during the evening that was meant strictly for kids. And if you happened to miss out on a block of “specials,” you were SOL for another month, bare minimum. Hence, why I taped so much of this stuff as a young lad. I was terrified of missing evenings like this.

Despite the fact that the shows were aimed at kids, networks knew the audience watching these shows would be large and diverse, age-wise. So the commercials that aired during the shows are all over the map. Sure, there’s some toy commercials, but there’s also car commercials, fast food commercials, and commercials for other network shows with little-to-no kid appeal.

There’s also more than a few completely terrifying news teasers that give you an idea of what it was like to live in or near NYC in the mid 1980s. Midway through this video, a local CBS anchor promises to give us an update on a “manhunt for a renegade cop” at 11. IMMEDIATELY after this, the first scene of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

You would never see such a thing on television nowadays, for a million different reasons. It is a perfect encapsulation of what both New York and TV was like back then.

And so I present to you, one hour of specials from a chilly October evening in 1985. This is intended to be viewed as is, in one long slab, commercials and all. I realize this runs completely counter to the internet circa 2013, and that no one will do this. That is my intent nonetheless.

The video quality is not fantastic, which is to be expected from a VHS tape that’s nearly 30 years old (which I watched 8 billion times). However, I believe the historic value trumps the visual deficiencies. Enjoy.

Recycling Bad Ideas

Last night, I ran across an ad that infuriated me for multiple reasons. It was a commercial for Verizon in which several middle aged dudes play basketball while casually discussing things they’ve done that are clearly poor decisions, the mention of which does not faze any of the participants one bit. Example: “I’ll tell ya what saves gas money: My kids hitch-hiking to school.” Each statement is intercut by a title card that says, BAD IDEA. It concludes with one of the dudes saying he would pick a cell phone company other than Verizon, which is the first time one of these “poor decisions” gives this group of dummies pause. You can watch the whole thing here:

If you’re of my relative age, this will remind you of a classic SNL fake commercial, Bad Idea Jeans. The premise is the same–guys casually discussing ideas that are clearly awful, with no one batting an eye. The setting is the same–guys playing a pickup game of hoops. The periodic title card intercuts are virtually the same. The jokes in the Verizon ad are not as hard edged; the SNL version has lines like “Normally I use protection, but I figured, when’s the next time I’m gonna be in Haiti?” And the original Bad Idea Jeans doesn’t have a “stinger” where one bad idea is considered beyond the pale. Still, the Verizon commercial is 99.9% the same.

This really pissed me off when I saw it last night. But what pissed me off more is the fact that I hadn’t seen any online outrage about this blatant ripoff. And that extends to myself, because once I saw it, I slowly realized, Wait, I’ve seen this Verizon ad before; why haven’t I said anything about this? A tweet on the subject garnered one lone response, while a quick Google search this morning shows some interweb consternation but not anything near what this kind of wholesale lifting should attract.

There are two possibilities as to why this ad has not garnered the seething scorn it deserves, and both are equally depressing. The first is that no one remembers the original. To me, Bad Idea Jeans is a classic SNL fake ad in the same company as Schmitt’s Gay and Colon Blow. In the case of Bad Idea Jeans, it was an oblique parody of an inescapable ad genre of that era, the self-important jeans commercial with superfluously busy camera work. But like all great comedy, the concept contained therein is so odd and perfect, it transcends the source material. You don’t have to know what a Levi’s or Dockers ad looked like in 1990 to find this funny.

To me, this commercial is a piece of our shared cultural fabric. But, I am also old, and it’s possible that many people in Verizon’s target audience– even those old enough to buy cell phone plans for themselves– are completely ignorant of Bad Idea Jeans, having been negative-3 years old when it first aired. I try to not think about the fact that people born in the 1990s are playing professional sports or own houses or have children, but damn it, it’s true. These people are adults, the same as I, yet we do not have quite the same cultural touchstones. Stuff that happened in the early 1990s holds no relevance for them, nor should it, really, and I must accept that.

The other possibility this Verizon ad hasn’t been greeted with more shrieking is that people actually do know from whence it came, but they don’t care. Because we live in such a reference-oriented culture now, one in which decontextualized references are considered jokes in and of themselves. (OHAI, everything Seth McFarlane’s ever done.) So many folks out there in TV Land may interpret this Verizon ad as more of an homage to Bad Idea Jeans than a ripoff. And for all I know, the ad’s creators may honestly see it that way, too. They don’t think they’ve “gotten away” with something; they think they’re playing by the New Rules. What passes for a new idea in the 21st century is being the first guy to complete bite something we’ve seen before.

Maybe I’m just being a cranky Get-Off-My-Lawn-ist here. There’s always been examples of repurposing old bits, joke stealing, concept swiping, and so on. I’m also a person who thinks jarts tweeting about themselves and captioning screengrabs of Dennis Miller is hilarious, so I may not be one to talk when it comes to reference-oriented comedy. Still, it’s hard for me to think we haven’t lost something in terms of what we will accept as entertainment.

Again, look at the original Bad Idea Jeans. It took something viewers of that era would be familiar with–self-serious jeans ads with weird camerawork–and used it as springboard for a truly original idea. Then look at the Verizon ad, which used an old idea as a template to make a reboot, and a much less funny/biting one at that.

And then look at me, the guy who considers himself an amateur ad historian (1980s forward, anyway) and yet couldn’t get mad about this until repeat viewings. Maybe I’m more deadened by this recycled world than I realized.

YouTube Comment of the Week: Smurfs Pasta

Time was, you were nobody unless you got your own canned pasta. In the days of my kid-dom, every cartoon character was immortalized in semolina form by Chef Boyardee or Franco-American. Any resemblance between the pasta and the character(s) they were supposed to represent was purely coincidental; most of the shapes looked more like amoebas than anything else. They all tasted the same as well, industrial fake cheese and processed tomato sauce tang. I know because I ate every single one of these pastas at least once. I was a carb completist. (Although I feel that by calling these things “pasta,” I should have to apologize to some kindly old Italian grandmother somewhere. Perdonilo, nonna!)

The Smurfs received this tribute, of course, since they were on TV for roughly 73 years. Was the pasta blue? Of course not; such technology did not exist yet, and let’s pray it never does. The Pasta Smurfs looked and tasted exactly like the Pasta Pac-Man and the Pasta X-Men, which is to say carb-loaded blobs swimming in Campbell’s tomato soup. Uniqueness, verisimilitude, and taste were not the goals here. The goal was to make a canned pasta that you could put a cartoon label on so dumb kids (like me) would beg for it. Mission accomplished.

However, I do understand that the mere sight of these items have a nostalgic pull for folks of a certain age, myself included, which is why I found the comment you’ll see below this clip oddly endearing. And odd. Though no more odd than the commercial itself, in which Papa Smurf reacts to a Gargamel-induced food shortage by transforming a bunch of Smurf houses into Smurf pasta. Thanks, Papa Smurf! Now I’m no longer hungry but I have to sleep in a ditch!

Honorable mention for this comment that points out a continuity flaw in the ad copy:

Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Around this time o’ year way back in 2009 and 2010, I did a series of posts under the banners of Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs, with at least one example of each for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day. I chickened out trying to do that again this year because I feared running low on material, but I think there are still some gems buried in the earlier posts that could do with some new exposure, if I do say so myself.

In that spirit, please enjoy any and all of these Holiday Horrors/Triumphs of years past, whether you’ve just been hipped to Scratchbomb or you want to reread these classics of yesteryear because they’re so awesome. Hubris!

Continue reading Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Christmas Season: Nasty, Brutish, and Short

I’ve decided not to do Holiday Horrors this year, as I feel I may have mined that territory too thoroughly to do a post every day from now until December 25. (I will have another holiday feature, though; more on that soon.) However, I couldn’t let the Yuletide pass without commenting on one horror I’ve noticed in the recent spate of Christmas commercials. To wit: Competitive asshole shoppers.

I have this self imposed rule that I try not to swear in my posts, at least not in the first paragraph, because it’s a lazy way to get laughs or attention. However, there really is no other word to use in this case. The people in these commercials are straight-up assholes. They are horrible human beings, and seeing them in holiday ads depresses me almost beyond reckoning.

I think we can all agree that times are tough, and don’t look to be getting any less tough any time soon. One would think this would inspire us all to appreciate what we have and not be obsessed with the accumulation of material goods and, in general, try and not be jerks to one another.

Maybe I’m just a cockeyed optimist, but I do think most people recognize this and genuinely try to conduct their lives in a non-hideous way (maniac pepper sprayers notwithstanding). You wouldn’t know that from watching TV this Christmas season, however, because it is filled with wall-to-wall sociopaths.

The most baffling, in terms of the source, are the ads for Wal-Mart. In keeping with their traditional Middle American roots/image, Wal-Mart ads tend to be aggressively small-c conservative. The first hint of a change in the weather came a few weeks before Thanksgiving, when commercials began to air that featured goofy, distracted shoppers being informed of things like layaway and price guarantees by helpful employees. The shoppers were invariably played to brassy, over-the-top comedic effect (like the mom miming her kids saying “awesome!”). Not exactly the Old Spice spots, but by Wal-Mart standards, a tad out of character.

Then, post-Thanksgiving, we got something on the next level. It’s a commercial that features a shopper handing her Christmas list to a Wal-Mart employee. She asks him to read it to her. He informs the shopper that he can’t do that everything is crossed out. “That’s because I’m done,” she says, then makes a triumphant noise more or less in the employee’s face.

Why is this woman taunting this employee about how much stuff she got for Christmas? This man makes minimum wage (since pretty much everyone who works at Wal-Mart does), so presumably he does not have anywhere near the same amount of shopping power, which makes the shopper’s act just cruel. Also, this man threw no obstacles in the path of her shopping experience. If anything, his capacity as an employee helped her. The theme of the ad makes no sense unless there’s missing backstory about his nefarious plot to impede her shopping experience and steal Christmas or something.

This weird, needless competitiveness reminds me of a little kid who challenges you to a race then immediately takes off and declares victory once he’s crossed the imaginary finish line. Perhaps in the cutthroat world of brick-and-mortar retail, where every store is fighting for survival against online shopping, everything is a competition. Whether you know it or not, you are competing against everyone, even that poor slob who’s making $6 an hour and just wants to see if you need some help getting that huge tub of popcorn into your car.

To see this idea taken to its truly psychotic conclusion, however, you must see the Best Buy ads in which people talk smack to Santa. There are a few variations on this theme, but what happens in all of them is this: A family has purchased so many things at Best Buy that when Kris Kringle arrives, he sees the space beneath the Christmas tree is completely filled with presents. Then, he finds himself face to face with a mom who basically shit-talks him about getting there late or having a lame haul. Then Mom stalks out of room like she just laid down some mind-blowing rhyme and dropped a live mic on the stage. Boo-ya, you right jolly old elf.

Let’s put aside the fact that this brings up the thorny issue of who really brings presents to your house; personally, I’m of the opinion that if you’re gonna tell your kids some fairy tale story, it’s not everyone else’s job to enable that fantasy. If nothing else, Santa Claus is a symbol of altruistic gift giving, a figure who exemplifies the trope that ’tis better to give than to receive.

In Best Buy’s world, however, it is best of all to give more than someone else can, then rub it in the face of that someone, even if that someone is a paragon of selflessness and childlike wonder. This commercial says doing your holiday shopping at Best Buy will fill you with so much godlike hubris that you will flip the bird to Joy Itself.

I wonder if this is a product of Reality Show Culture, where literally every mundane profession or hobby now has its own competition-based tournament show. So how long before shopping is also considered competition, a game in which foes are vanquished? (It already is, in a way, on Extreme Couponers.)

Or maybe it’s a reflection of the neo-Ayn-Rand-ian POV you see displayed at any of the Republican presidential debates, which essentially boils down to: I got mine, I don’t care if anyone else gets theirs, and fuck anyone who stands in my way. I fear this is a subconscious preparation for the kill-or-be-killed economic reality we may wind up in, that we all secretly fear we will soon be fighting over crusts of bread and shoe leather.

Or maybe it’s just a sign that he people in charge of Wal-Mart and Best Buy are hideous animals who believe in the most base aspects of human nature. I’ll pick this last option, so I can continue to sleep at night.

Internet Gauntlet Answered: Heinz Homestyle Gravy

Almost a year ago, I threw down an Internet Gauntlet demanding to see the original version of a Heinz Homestyle Gravy commercial from the mid-80s. As you may recall–look, I know you don’t, but just say you do–there were several instances of this ad on the web, but not the original, long-form, unexpurgated version that I remember my grandfather loving so much.

How do I know? Because I could tell there were a few subtle differences between the original and the harshly edited variation that later polluted the airwaves. Either they reshot the thing or they used a different take. In the later version, the old man mugs a bit more, and addresses his sad lament (“oh no…”) directly to the camera. But in the majestic original, he keeps laughing to himself even as he realizes he just pissed off his old battle axe of a wife and will probably get a rolling pin on the dome for his insolence.

I couldn’t have been older than 10 when these ads first aired, and yet I remember being mad when they switched them up. Why? Because I recognized the comedic superiority of the first version, and because I was a really weird kid. I thought we’ve been through this already, jeez.

And yet, when I asked for the original version from you, the internet, I received not one response. Not one! You should all hang your heads in shame, you cowards.

And you should now raise your heads to witness this!

That’s right, some brave American patriot has posted the original Heinz Homestyle Gravy commercial! Tell me the delivery employed in this ad does not make it a million times better than that cheap hack job remake. You can’t tell me that, because it is not true and you are not a liar. Also, I now realize that the old man went on to play Louis CK’s agent in an episode of Louie. You know, the one where he was forced into playing a cop in a Matthew Broderick movie. Amazing how these things come back around.

I think I’m gonna go lie down for a while.

Pointless Nostalgia Friday Presents: Polly-O String Cheese

Who can say what forces shape us? We are often the prisoners of our times. One’s future could be shaped by simply being at the right place at the right time—or the wrong place at the wrong time. Have you ever thought about what might have influenced your life if you were born during a different age? The Renaissance? The Civil War? The Great Depression? Who can say what heights you may have climbed, or to what depths you may have sunk?

Me, I haven’t thought about this conundrum much, because I was born during the Age of Advertising, and thus have a miniscule attention span. I’ve said this many, many times here at Scratchbomb, but I have been immensely influenced by commercials. I feel like they’ve rattled in my brain my entire life. Anyone who says they are not influenced in any way by ads is deluded or lying.

When you’re a kid, you find many things funny that you don’t as an adult. Specifically, other people. Adults won’t just laugh in random people’s faces, but kids will. They can laugh for hours about somebody they see in the street with a weird haircut or dumb hat on. And if the same person also says something weird, in a weird voice, forget it.

I was reminded of this cruel fact of kid-hood when Joe Randazzo of the Onion tweeted a link to this commercial for Polly-O string cheese (the most needless and unasked for food innovation of all time until pancakes and sausage on a stick). This ad ran for roughly 8 billion years during my childhood, but despite its ubiquity, me and my brothers always found it funny. Always.

Why? Because of the wizened old man who says NUTHIN? The way he said this, combined with his wrinkly face—he looks like a slightly melted candle, or a shar pei—was comedy gold to us.

If you’re seeing this for the first time, or were not as struck by it as I was as a kid, I don’t expect you to think it’s funny. I wouldn’t either, if I hadn’t spent my entire childhood laughing at it.

Watching this ad an adult, I am struck by a few things.

  • Check out the odd posters hanging from the wall, that almost give it a Sedelmaier feel. I particularly like the one that bizarrely reads NO SCREAMING.
  • The guy behind the counter who yells at the old wrinkly man calls him “Shimmy”. Obviously, he was trying to say “Jimmy” and failed. But Polly-O wasn’t gonna shell out for more than one take or overdubbing in post. So there it sits, “Shimmy”. My brothers and I found this quite hysterical. HIS NAME IS SHIMMY! WHOSE NAME IS SHIMMY?!
  • Is cheese really the best part of the pizza, as this ad insists? That’s a matter of opinion, of course. But I think I’d rather have a whole slice of pizza than any one individual part of it. I like pizza, but I never get the craving to drink a cup of a tomato sauce on its own. In fact, cheese is probably the worst part of the pizza, nutritionally speaking.
  • I now realize that all Polly-O string cheese really did was make it acceptable for you to chomp down on a huge chunk of fattening mozzarella at lunchtime. It’s like having individually wrapped pudding cups filled with foie gras.
  • At the end of the ad, the kids taste the string cheese and give it glowing praise in foreign languages. But only the first kid says something in Italian (“Bellissimo!”). The last two say French expressions. (“Magnifique!” and “C’est si bon!”) C’mon, Polly-O, you’re making mozzarella and you don’t know the difference between Italian and French? Your handlebar-mustachioed ancestors are spinning in their graves.

Corporate America Finally Gets It, Except When It Doesn’t

In case you hadn’t heard, the economy’s in the toilet. As such, this year’s holiday ads have taken quite a different tack than usual. Rather than pressure you to SPEND SPEND SPEND, most commercials emphasize the relative affordability of their product/service/store. Companies realize that many Americans are one paycheck away from wearing barrels with suspenders.

Even Lexus seems to understand this, which is amazing, since they could always be counted on to construct the most hateful Christmas ads every year. After all, any wealthy man can piss away money, but it takes a special kind of clueless plutocrat to spend an extra 30 grand on a Toyota because it has an L on the hood.

This year, their ads still feature The Red Bow. But rather than show entitled jerks surprising their spouses, they’ve decided to tap into The Childhood Wonder of Christmas. Their commercials show little kids, filmed in grainy old home movies style, explaining how nothing could ever top their best Christmas gift: Atari, Big Wheel, etc. And then it cuts to the kid, grown up, seeing his brand new Lexus in the driveway, his face lit up with a childlike glow.

Manipulative? Yeah. Exploitative? Definitely. Still, infinitely less douche-tastic than their usual holiday ads.

Plus, it features some classic toys that many viewers remember treasuring as children. They’re toys that lots of kids, regardless of background, spent thousands of hours with in their formative years.

In other words, these commercials do a much better job of tapping into universal holiday experiences. Few of us will wake up to a new car in the driveway on Christmas morning, but most of us know what it’s like to get one of these toys under the tree.

Of course, Lexus does tip their elitist hand in one of their commercials. Unfortunately, it’s the only one that features a girl/woman as gift recipient, which gives it an uncomfortably misogynistic feel. What is the little girl’s treasured childhood Christmas gift–a Barbie doll? An Easy-Bake Oven? A Light Brite? Nope, it’s a pony.

Continue reading Corporate America Finally Gets It, Except When It Doesn’t