Escape Hatch: Pay-Tv

Here are some kinds of commercials that Sylvester Weaver’s pay-TV subscribers (page 55) won’t have to suffer, even though they will be missing the wonderful beer and ale cartoon bits with the voices of Mike and Elaine.

The Uproar Attention-Getter. For a time “the Dodge Boys” had this pretty much to themselves, using loud blasts on an automobile horn. The audience got the impression that not-quite-bright teen-agers were outside, honking.

The runner-up was A. T. & T., who sought to cajole us into installing more telephones by the louder-than-life and prolonged ringing of a telephone bell. Did this really bring in the business?

Equally horrid was the family bickering over who would have the use of the car that evening, the son and daughter eventually being drowned out by the father’s shouts of “Hold it! Hold it!” The dispute was settled by buying a motorcycle for each member of the family. Query: Does this advertiser of motorcycles realize the extent to which his products are associated with excessive noise?

The Lotion King. This is a bad case of narcissism, a young man ogling and smirking at himself in a mirror as he sloshes on his toiletries. Oddly enough, women find this individual disturbingly attractive, if we are to believe the rest of the commercial.

Surprise! An insurance company asserts that it will pay various claims and expenses resulting from an accident “all up to your policy limits.” One assumes this was the purpose of the transaction in the first place and not something to be so pious about.

“Amazement Was Writ Large . . .” etc. Shock and incredulity are induced in ordinary working people by the salesman in another series of insurance commercials, a filling station proprietor and a structural steel worker being among the chumps in these exchanges. The prospect’s eyes narrow, his jaw drops, as he struggles to comprehend the news that he can be insured against disability and that his mortgage payments will be kept up in the event of his death (a form of what we experts call life insurance). In this sort of commercial, the primerlike chatter of the salesman and the dazed reaction of his prospective customers, who have never heard of the company or insurance or anything else, show us that the company is certain of at least one thing: the people who watch TV commercials are the greatest dumbbells of them all.

“. . . and I quote” The pay-TV audience will have no further concern over the words or the status of the actor who stands against a background of jars, scales, bottles, and the paraphernalia of a laboratory given over to some unidentified specialty. Crisp of utterance and pompous of demeanor, the actor is hymning one pain-killer and assailing another. To clinch his argument, he reads from a statement in Time magazine, prefacing it with “. . . and I quote.” But this quote has no end; what sounds like the Time statement simply flows on into various overstatements and nonsensifications from the actor’s pill company. The same quote was brought to an end, visibly and aurally, in a later version of the same commercial, and it would be interesting to know who prompted the change.

The Great Dandruff Romance. The most improbable suitor in all TV is the young man who morosely confides to a young woman his most nagging personal problem, as if she wouldn’t have known it already: his dandruff. Pooh, responds the young woman, who has apparently reached the point where she will settle for whatever she can get — pooh, says she, her own dandruff used to be ghastly. They exchange further confidences about dandruff. She gives him the name of The Product (a widely advertised substance that he’d never heard of). In the next scene, he proves to have used it. They stare at each other, and suddenly the love-light shines in their eyes.

Note: This department will forward to Sylvester Weaver any inquiries from readers who want more information about his subscription TV.