I love infomercials. Whenever I see a blue screen with the words, "The following is a paid advertisement for ..." I get excited. I don't know why it is. I'm especially susceptible to kitchen gadget infomercials, with home cleaning gadgets being a close second. Now that I have a new baby and we're up at all hours to feed, I'm definitely seeing my share.
My current favorite is in the latter category. It's the infomercial for the Shark Steam Mop. Or is it a Vac? Either way. I love the spot. Why is it that people in infomercials always call each other by name more than is necessary or natural?
Woman: "Mike, how can this Mop [or Vac] do what you say it will?"
Man: "Well, Rachel, I'll tell you. It's as easy as counting to eight. Or nine! You just plug it in, turn it on, fill the tank, wait for steam, push to activate, clean the mess, empty the trap, wash the mop head, sign this form, smile brightly, and presto! That's a floor you can be proud of. When was the last time your kitchen looked this good, Rachel?"
Woman: "Mike, I don't even know! Wow, I'm amazed, Mike! Can you show me that again, Mike?"
Man: "Sure can, Rachel. You just plug it in ..."
And so on. Usually the paid spokesperson (or "con", as I think of him or her) speaks way too loudly, and is dressed either way too well or way too casually (such as the woman in the GT Express 101 cooking device commercial -- could Wardrobe find nothing but her hooded velour track suit?). And just as often, the straight-man (or "stooge," to me) is way too naive. They have to be told how to operate something as simple as a light switch about six or seven times. And while I get that this repetition is supposed to hook the viewer, I just end up feeling insulted.
My favorite feature of any "paid programming" spot is the "but wait!" segment. It's always there. You've just been told how stupid it would be to pass up a deal this good on a food processor/juicer/fitness barre/vacuum/brother-in-law when all of a sudden, you get "two for the price of one!" or "also comes with these special tools/attachments/videos/gold necklaces/fanny packs, just for ordering today!" And then you listen for the magic words ... "Just pay for the shipping." Which is inevitably more than your mortgage.
But the kicker comes when the action cuts away from the studio to a pre-recorded segment of someone using an outdated or inferior product. The actor is always a total klutz. If the product is a compact blender, then he or she is shown going to the trouble of washing a conventional blender in a sink full of suds that regular dishwashing liquid could never generate, and dropping big kitchen items into the watery mess for good, splashy measure. If the product is a new kind of storage container for leftovers, the actor is shown opening a cabinet from which pour dozens of mismatched containers and their battered, scratched lids. If the product is a new food chopper, the actor is shown cutting his or her finger handling a "regular" knife and trying in vain to slice a tomato without squishing it. If these are the people who need the products being advertised, then the target market is idiots. Or at least people of average intelligence who have not yet mastered the art of deciding when you've put just enough stuff in an overhead cabinet.
Here are my current favorite infomercials, in no particular order. And admit it -- you can envision probably most of them because you've watched at least a few minutes of each yourself.
1. The Magic Bullet. Special bonus points go not only for having TWO paid spokespeople who are product "experts", but for one of them having a foreign accent for that extra twist of sophistication. AND for having a "stooge" who shows up in a housecoat, matted hair, too much makeup, horned rim glasses and dangling a cigarette from her lips. AND a fake New York accent. Priceless.
2. The aforementioned GT Express 101. What I want to know is, how many wraps do they think we eat? And once you've made two small cakes in the product's cooking wells, what do you do with the rest of the batter?
3. The Fluidity Fitness Barre. Wow. I'm actually serious here. If just buying the thing could make me look like those women, I would indeed shell out the cash.
4. The Shark Steam Mop/Vac. I scoff. But I also yearn for clean floors without chemical residue! (After a point, you start to go native.)
5. Hip-Hop Abs. I know better. And yet I can almost believe that working out could be fun. These guys are GOOD.
6. The Pedi-Egg. Do we really need to see what someone's foot shavings look like being dumped into the trash?
7. Chef Tony's SmartLidz. I don't know that I need them, but it looks like it would be fun to push my fist into the advanced polymer material just to seal up a container.
8. The RonCo Countertop Cooker. I don't even know what it's called. I just know that "Set it and forget it!" is the "Where's the beef?" of this day and age.
9. The sweeper thing with "quad-brush technology." This infomercial also sports an "international" spokesperson/expert. It scores special bonus points for the digital representation of being able to push a sweeper vac in four different directions AND swivel the head around.
10. The ShamWOW! I don't even know what I would use this product for. Think about it. If you'd used it to wash and dry your car, would you want to use it on your kitchen countertops after that? I have two words: love bugs. So if I actually bought it, I'd probably just pour soda on the kitchen table, wipe it up, and wring it all into a pie plate like "Vince" does in the demonstration. It looks totally fun.
Gotta dash. I think the Jack LaLane Juicer infomercial is due to start in 10 minutes.