Posted by Adam @ 3:14 pm on April 4th 2007

The US for limeys, Part 6: television advertising III

The third part of the three-part television advertising subsection of our multi-part trawl across the open seas of Ordinary American Life, for limeys.

Did you turn on your television set to see a freezing-cold sleazebag walking through a car lot pointing out the price and virtues of each car there? Oiled, muscular individuals using an exercise machine in an effortless fashion? Apparent round-table discussion of dietary supplements or stock-trading secrets? Faux interviews with the lucky insiders who paid to get into a members-only shoppers’ club that the manufacturers and Big Retailers don’t want you to know about?

You have discovered the ‘infomercial’, which is the Inuit word for ‘long television advertisement filled with lies’*. Infomercials are the very pinnacle of the uppermost peak in the mighty mountain range of ‘televisual insults to your intelligence’. These half-hour long nuggets of deceit-disguised-as-documentary are aimed at people too stupid to find something good to watch on television, which can even be achieved on Sunday mornings, you will be surprised to hear, so long as you like watching Magnum, PI (and who doesn’t enjoy seeing our tightly-shorted irreverent heart-of-gold heavily-moustached hero ply his White Knight trade in the tropical island paradise of 1980s Hawaii? Commies, that’s who).

You have not truly drunk at the Cup of the American Dream until you have purchased a motor vehicle. Your transportation tells others who you are and you can even use it to remind yourself who you are at those times when things aren’t going well, as you jump in your car, flick back your unreceded and ungreyed hair and drive off into a colourful sunset and a Better Tomorrow to the reassuring strains of a generic power ballad. US television advertising of cars is truly extraordinary, unlimited by the earthly concerns of financial restraint, honesty or any commitment to a factual representation of reality; nevertheless, you should rest assured that, regardless of the driving task portrayed in the ad, the legend ‘professional driver, closed course’ will appear at the bottom of the screen, in case you should think that the car can actually be used to drive along a winding road through the mountains or that it will stop in time to avoid mowing down a skinny child chasing a football into the street.

Car advertisements are as far removed from the actual experience of owning and driving a car as is possible to achieve absent replacing the car with a fiery chariot accompanied by a score of androgynous harp-playing angels gazing adoringly at the driver. The grim reality of actually buying the car, of course, is an order of magnitude less glamourous yet; from the promised ‘0% financing or $3000 cash rebate’ (the sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the amount of the ‘cash rebate’ might reasonably be accounted as interest on the allegedly 0% finance because the real cost of the car is $3000 less than you’re paying if you take the finance option) to the handsome, cheerful and honest-appearing showroom staff, the reality is that you’ll get a crap finance deal from a salesman that most closely resembles a small-time criminal from the Law and Order television series, the one that thought he was only handling conventional stolen goods and wouldn’t ever have touched that deal if he’d realised that it was a consignment of human scrota, harvested from adopted infants and destined for use in black magic rituals conducted by a shadowy cabal of Wall Street financiers.

It’s difficult to know how to bring your children up without advice from television. Why, everyone’s kids would be smoking cannabis, drinking alcohol and having sex if not for parents learning how to prevent these outrages through watching unlikely peer-pressure scenarios that are solved by the magical appearance of a parent in the child’s mind; remember, your kids won’t end up smoking dope, drinking alcohol or having sex because they want to, but only because their friends made them do it and you didn’t save them. Additionally, what good parent can get by without being reminded by celebrities that ‘hate’ is the worst four-letter word of all, despite what your mother told you after your role in that embarassing incident during the last ever ‘bring your kid to work’ day at her former place of employment?

If only you watch enough television, yours will be the kids that don’t drink, smoke, toke, hate or screw and that’s a cast-iron guarantee, because if there’s one thing that we know about kids, it’s that they’ll put aside their own desires and interests to make their parents happy. Just don’t look under the mattress.

Because people watch so much television in the effort to learn enough to save their kids from experimenting with fun, it is an essential medium for political communication. Yes, there are newspapers and political television shows and internet sites aplenty for those interested in politics, but for politics to thrive it is necessary to insiduously slide sleazy accusations into the subconscious minds of the drooling viewers of American Idol while their conscious self is concentrating on preserving an erotic image of one of the enthusiastic, if marginally talented, Idol aspirants about to perform an act that was illegal in many states until relatively recently. At the local politics level, the basic rule is that a candidate is either a corrupt partisan hack with a history of evil votes or the candidate is inexperienced, out of their depth and immoral or else, if fortune smiles, both at once; at the national level, the candidates hate either America or poor people. The message is best expressed through showing a picture of the candidate and then, accompanied by a thudding noise redolent with the import of the judgement being delivered, making appear a facsimile of a stamp saying ‘ineffective’, ‘partisan’, ‘hurts families’ or ‘special interests’.

Even with the miracle of prescription pharmaceuticals, eventually you will die. This may leave your estranged family, the ones who aren’t in prison for writing bad cheques, with a bill for the fumigation of your trailer, assuming you didn’t die in a devastating fire after falling asleep with a lit cigarette in your mouth. You owe it to the family that have left you living amidst your own excrement to start paying now for your eventual funeral expenses. How best to sell this sad scenario? Why, with rich, vital retirees in soft-focus, thinking ahead against an audio track of slow, gentle piano music whilst children play in the distance. These are clearly the people who have to pay for their eventual funeral by installments and who will need the free ‘final wishes planner’ that comes with the information pack (yours to keep whether or not you sign up for the plan!).

The important thing to remember about US television advertising is that if you believe in the product, you’ll be like the people in the ad. Even if you don’t get prettier, your wife will, your kids will love you and marry as drug-free virgins, your garden will be huge and green, your car will tell the world that you are a granite-jawed success story, medications will solve every problem you ever had and the world will regret your passing free of financial woe. Also, I’d like to sell you a bridge.

*I made that up.


  1. Limey readers will particularly want to watch Magnum, PI in order to experience the performance of American actor John Hillerman as Higgins. Hillerman’s faux British accent is considered to be the most realistic in American TV history. Indeed, it is considerably more realistic than Adam’s own; I suspect he is watching in order to pick up tips.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/4/2007 @ 3:45 pm

  2. Hillerman’s accent is very good; many British people that I’ve spoken to don’t know that he is a Texan.

    There is an episode where Higgins impersonates his missing Texan half-brother Elmo (the fruit of an immoral union between the senior Higgins and some Texan woman) and it’s pretty eerie to hear.

    Comment by Adam — 4/4/2007 @ 5:19 pm

  3. Wow your description of car salesmen is pretty accurate and you are wise to understand the trickery they play daily with the finance vs less money deals. Not sure how they sleep at night. But they need to look themselves in the Mirror everyday taking from those who may not have much thanks Bob.

    Comment by Nassau County Divorce Lawyers — 2/5/2008 @ 8:26 pm

  4. Bob, you appear to have accidentally left a link to a ‘find a lawyer’ site in your post. I removed it for you (no need for thanks).

    Comment by Adam — 2/5/2008 @ 8:29 pm

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