VICTOR HILLwas formerly in newspaper and advertising work and is now employed in Providence by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
It is gratifying to note that the advertisers of a famous oral disinfectant have evidently, after a few trials, decided against using the TV camera as a nationwide laryngoscope. This clinical voyage might have been fun for Dr. Ben Casey or Dr. Jim Kildare, even on their off days, but it must have upset the ordinary layman to go zooming, like a passenger on the Cinerama roller coaster, into the throat of a beautiful and presumably innocuous young lady.
As a contrast to this realism, it would be consoling to return to the animated drawing of the “passages” that looks like the silhouette of an old brass kitchen faucet, but this seems to have vanished with all the other victims of progress.
The newest phenomenon among the commercials is the bread-popping bit, which comes as the second half of a kind of twin bill.
The scene is a kitchen, and we are greeted by a housewife who is about to become a hostess. With her left hand she reaches into the transparent wrapper of a loaf of bread and extracts a slice. This bread, she tells us and then shows us, is so fresh and soft that it folds — a nutritional virtue quite on a par with, although less animate than, the whispering and wheezing claimed by certain other bread-commercial producers. She then proceeds to make a sandwich out of one slice by spreading some stuff on it, folding it over, and fastening it with a couple of oliveheaded toothpicks. We are led to suspect that she’s going to make a lot of these for a party.
It’s her privilege. She doesn’t claim to be either a sociologist or Amy Vanderbilt; but this little jeu d’esprit of folding bread for a sandwich leads to a perverse line of silent questioning.
What would happen, for example, if this charming but faintly dictatorial young lady hadn’t been told that folded sandwiches are chic and, in all innocence, had served a simple dinner with the soft bread laid out neatly in a silver bread tray, and one of the guests made a folded sandwich for himself? (It would have to be a male guest; to imagine a female guest folding herself a sandwich would be unchivalrous.)
How rich would this fellow have to be, how much power would he have to wield over her husband’s job to get away with it? How far back would he slide if he had been on the way up? Where did he come from in the first place?
These questions having been raised and left hanging in the air, the hostess jumps gaily into her second theme: the preservative powers of the wrapper. On her right side, which we hadn’t noticed until just this minute, is a loaf in an oldfashioned wrapper, which looks quite like the other one except for its blacked-out label.
Practically nobody knows this, but the wrapper contains a mysterious, medically untested ingredient that dehydrates and hardens bread in less time than it takes to set up the camera. She tells us that the bread has grown stale because the wrapper failed to keep it fresh, and she corroborates her likely story by taking out a slice and attempting to fold it. The bread stays rigid for a second and then breaks with a detonation that can be heard in the next room.
Unfortunately, this is a solo performance, and there is nobody, not even Siegfried, to utter the last word. We are left wondering about mold preventatives and hoping that she takes this bread to a chemical analyst before feeding it, or not feeding it, to the birds.
It is good to note the almost complete absence on television now of sylvan scenes wherein a boy catches a fish.
Those incredible prop men who fabricated Moby Dick and earlier sea and land creatures either boggled at the idea of a mechanized trout-length fish, or were never solicited for the job, or disdained it, or threatened to charge too much. Tight shooting schedules and limited budgets probably discouraged producers from keeping a crew hanging around for a few idle hours, or days, as the case might be, waiting for a real fish to bite.
The last and only resort, therefore, was employment of a fish that was incontrovertibly dead. The boy hauled up his line, already suspiciously perpendicular, and lifted from the water a passive, inert, vertical object that might just as well have been a plumb bob.
Anyone making or watching such a scene who has ever caught even one flailing, swooping, fighting fish would realize, with a blush of shame, that this is the climax of anticlimaxes, the deepest abysm of the letdown, the vacuum in the spinnaker.
There must have been some clamor about this. Among the millions of fishermen (and boys) in the United States, a significant number must have complained to the sponsors, the networks, their congressmen, and probably — considering the object of their chagrin — Mr. Minow.