TV: commercials, debates, Watergate

Butterfield was asked “Are you aware of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the White House?”

viagra-football-large-2During the first two rounds of the baseball playoffs this season, the networks seemed to have run the same 17 commercials over and over and over again. One was this ad for Viagra, featuring a white woman in a football uniform top. I thought it was interesting choice to run that ad into the ground, rather than to alternate it with one of the recent ads featuring a black woman (Date Night) or an Asian woman, actress Kelly Hu, both of whom were wearing dresses. There’s some sociological observation to be made here too, I suppose.

Two other overplayed ads were for Continue reading “TV: commercials, debates, Watergate”

A long Super Bowl Sunday, Philip Seymour Hoffman edition

Interesting that the first comment I got about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was “If it is true, it’s sad.”

philipseymourhoffmanMy church belongs to this entity called FOCUS, which, among other things, runs a food pantry. Periodically, there is a joint service of the congregations. Usually, I miss the one in early February, because I’m away at a MidWinter’s party Saturday night out of town. But the Wife had an all-day meeting on Saturday, and that rather put the kibosh on that. It was a good service, but it was LONG: at least 100 minutes.

Then the reception afterward. The service was at Trinity United Methodist, my church from 1982 to 2000, so it was interesting being there again. I could tell the visitors where the bathrooms were – they hadn’t moved. I recognized no one from when I was in the choir there.

The Daughter had a rehearsal all afternoon at our church for the Lion King performance in four weeks. I slipped off to the library to use the computer, where I saw fellow Times Union blogger Chuck Miller working on this piece.

It was there that I first learned on Facebook that the actor, and former upstate (Rochester area) kid, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead, news which I passed along. It is interesting that the first comment I got was “If it is true, it’s sad.” So much misinformation IS online, but I had checked four sources before passing it along.

I have seen LOTS of his films. I didn’t always love the movie, but always appreciate his efforts, and I was bummed. I thought he was one of the best actors of his generation, and at the age of 46, should have had a number of better pictures ahead. I so regret that his demons had gotten the best of him. The LA Times helpfully noted that he was found dead in his apartment with a needle in his arm.

I saw him in all of these movies:
Leap of Faith (1992)
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Nobody’s Fool (1994) – a small role as a cop
Boogie Nights (1997)
Next Stop Wonderland (1998)
Patch Adams (1998)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
State and Main (2000)
Almost Famous (2000) – I bought him as Lester Bangs
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Capote (2005) – great as the title character
The Savages (2007) – possibly my favorite of his films, as Laura Linney’s sibling
Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) – that film got better the moment he was on screen
Synecdoche, New York (2008) – an unorthodox film about the arts in upstate NY described well here. Watch the funeral monologue.
Doubt (2008) – believable as a priest
Moneyball (2011) – convincing as Art Howe of the Oakland A’s

Plus a role on Law & Order in 1991 that I certainly must have seen, and a voice character on the children’s cartoon Arthur, which I KNOW I saw. The New York Times had a GREAT article about him, and CNN has a recent brief interview with him

Know who else died this weekend? Anna Gordy Gaye, Berry Gordy’s sister, and Marvin Gaye’s ex-wife, who was the subject of Marvin’s bizarre Here, My Dear album.

I get home, start watching the Super Bowl stuff right at 6 p.m. Eastern, 30 minutes before the game. But the game was a blowout by 12 seconds into the third quarter. (Those of you who do not appreciate the Big Game obviously have never heard Andy Griffith’s analysis of the sport from sixty years ago.)

Many of the ads – some of which are HERE – didn’t really stick to my brain, except the Radio Shack and one of the Doritos ads, but that could have been fatigue.

I do recall seeing Bob Dylan plugging American-made vehicles, which didn’t bother me as much as it did some folks. I love the Muppets, yet feel ambivalent at best about THEIR appearance in a car ad. There was a Masarati ad or two for which I did not understand the reason why I would want the car.

I’d already seen the Budweiser Heroes ad and the Cheerios Gracie ad. I shouldn’t have been, but I was, oblivious to the backlash the Coca-Cola America the Beautiful ad would generate.

Right after linebacker Malcolm Smith was selected as game MVP, I fell asleep, waking up in the middle of a comedy called Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so it was time for bed.

Commercially repulsive QUESTION

I loathed these commercials so much that I have, years later, never purchased a package of Wisk.

I’ve refused to buy a number of products over the years for various reasons: political/economic boycotts for iceberg lettuce, orange juice, and the like.

But there have also been commercials out there that have just offended my sensibilities.

One was for a drink mix from Pillsbury called Funny Face, targeted to compete with Kool-Aid. Not only did the character on this particular envelope look like a caricature, if memory serves, he also sounded like one. It’s no surprise that the product was replaced by a more generic Choo Choo Cherry a couple years later.

But no long-running commercial bugged me more than those for Wisk laundry detergent and its irritating “Ring Around the Collar”. Often featuring a woman looking frustrated and shamed when her husband, a friend, or even a total stranger noticed that the husband’s shirt collar was less than pristine. Here are some examples here and here, plus you can find plenty more on the Internet; this later ad was less bad, but by then it was too late. I loathed these commercials so much that I have, years later, never purchased a package of Wisk.

(Company policies generally can cut both ways. On one hand, a potential boycott against Butterball turkeys, because they are halal, might make me MORE likely to buy them. On the other, Butterball being sued by EEOC for harassment and the firing of an HIV+ employee, not so much.

What commercials, or company policies, backfired with you, making you LESS likely to purchase the product?

These commercial messages

I was going to tell you about the presentation I’m doing today. Our organization is changing from using Standard Industrial Classification codes to North American Industrial Classification System. All businesses are given a classification, which helps in data gathering, and NAICS (rhymes with “snakes”) is the most current one. This stuff is actually rather interesting to me. But that’s just me. Others may compare it with watching glaciers melt. So instead I’ll tell you about TV commercials.

I’ve been watching Sex and the City reruns, usually on tape. I don’t have HBO, so, as NBC used to suggest, “They’re new to me.” During every brace of episodes runs this commercial:

VOICEOVER OF COSMO KRAMER, WITH THE WORDS ON THE SCREEN: Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint. It’s chocolate. It’s peppermint. It’s delicious!
JERRY SEINFELD (on screen): That’s true.
KRAMER (on screen): It’s VERY refreshing!

I’ve seen this commercial a few dozen times. It never fails to crack me up, as though it were the first time.
What’s WRONG with me?

I never was a big Seinfeld fan. Oh, I liked the early episodes when it really was about nothing. The Parking Lot episode comes to mind. But when George worked for the Yankees, or Elaine stressed over her job- not about nothing. But the ad gets to me.

Nasonex

There is a commercial for a nasal spray called Nasonex. If you’ve not seen it, go here. The male bee weirds me out! It’s the eyes. The irony is that the ad is “designed and directed” by Neal Adams, one of the most respected comic book artists, one best known for X-Men and Batman, but who I probably first saw (and liked) on The Avengers (the comic book, not the TV show with Emma Peel). The bee is voiced by Antonio Bandares, who I liked in Shrek 2.

So there it is: crazy about Kramer, crazed by a cartoon bee.

However, the Nasonex commercial isn’t nearly as scary as a Burger King commercial. Someone raises the shade in the house in the morning and there is a person in that eerie Burger King plastic mask. Arrrgh!

Dodge

Even worse, though is the ad for some Dodge SUV. A woman, with a girl in the back seat, stops and talks to a guy who reminds me of Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western days on the side of the road. “Out of gas?”, she asks. The motorcycle gets loaded into the back. All the while, the music, and the camera work are suggesting that this woman is CRAZY for letting this dusty stranger in her vehicle, with her daughter in the back.

Then, “Daddy just HAD to get a motorcycle.” OK – he’s not a potential murder, he’s a relative. But it’s manipulative and creepy, and I don’t think it engenders the sense of security that the purchaser of such a vehicle would want.

Coke

There’s a Coke commercial featuring lots of roller skating or blading. “It’s a Coke thing.” It must be a generational thing, because every time I hear it, it reminds me of the theme of the Academy-award-winning movie “Midnight Cowboy”, a depressing flick I’ve managed to see four times in the theater within 18 months of its release. So instead of “Sparkle”, I think of Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) pounding on a vehicle and yelling, “I’m WALKING here!” But what I often tell my wife when she’s perplexed by an ad, I need to tell myself: “I’m not the target demographic.”

And speaking of commercials, Mason Adams died late last month. He had a most distinctive voice for radio and television for decades. I was a big Lou Grant fan, so I remember him as Lou’s boss Charlie Hume. But he’ll probably be best remembered for saying, “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” As Vietnam-era DJ Adrian Cronauer, who talks about him on this NPR audio clip might have put it, “To sell the Smucker’s catchphrase, Mason Adams had to be good.”