Saturday, December 27, 2008

Commercials - #11

Only highlighting a couple commercials this time around, though it's all about quality, not quantity. Can I get an "Amen"?

To preface, I don't necessarily have a problem with this service, but rather the inherent stupidity of its Luddite target market. It's a cellular phone, with an accompany service, both of which are intended to appeal to the old timers who can't "figger out these gosh-darned, blasted buttons and blips and bloops" on normal cell phones. As for the phone itself, the buttons are huge, as if meant for infants in a playpen. Handy buttonin' for those shaky, poop-encrusted fingers, I tell ye! Cue the old man voice :

"No hat wearin' skateboardin' punk is gonna have a cell phone nicer than this one! To hell with ya rapscallions, ya miscreants, ya ruffians, with yer pacman and Dan Fogelberg! I got me a cell phone too! Nuts to you! I can send one of those text messages anytime I wanna...and another thingzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Ok, we're back. Another feature of this dumbed-down phone is its screen, featuring insanely HUGE letters and numbers. Great for them old timers and their bifocals. I can only imagine how insanely loud the ringer and speaker must be for this phone, it's got to be NASA loud.
These things I've yet to investigate, and fortunately I'm not old enough to need such features.
As for the service, it's basically advertising the company's ability to coddle their leathery, raisin-mouthed clientele. These poor bastards working in the customer service department. The commercial shows, for example, a service representative confirming that yes indeed, he can add a new contact to the customer's phone. Huh? C'mon, Gramma Myrtle, there's a god damned "Contacts" option, press that with your Mixmaster finger, then after that 20 minute battle, you'll see an "add new contact" option. All phones have something similar. It's like a three step process! You're so decrepit, you have to call someone to have them add the new number? What a sorry old buzzard. Plus, if they can't manage the "add new contact" process on their own, how are they going to have the wherewithal to find the customer service phone number, and dare I say, figure out how to dial that tricky phone? The Jitterbug reps probably have to dictate verbal messages and turn them into text messages too. Now that would be a fun job, assuming it was time to get fired. Example:

Say Gramma Myrtle calls and wants to dictate a text message to the nefarious customer service rep, Simon Barsinister. Myrtle asks Simon to send the following text message to great-great-great-great grandson Barry...

"Merry Christmas, honey. Thank you for the happy card!" which point, Simon the nefarious costumer service rep decides to translate it to:
"Barry, kiss my ass, sonny. Fuck you, I crapped in your yard!"

Sure, Simon gets fired, but oh the pranks. The whole hand-holding service makes me wonder how many more of such services are out there. A company for helping Gramps program one of those dag-blasted video tapin' machines? I can imagine the extent of the stupid questions the Jitterbug reps must get from the extra senile:

"Can you find me the Lawrence Welk Show?"
"Will you come over and help me clean the mess in my trunks?"
"I'm lonely."
"It feels like I'm sitting on my apple pie. But I don't remember making one...did I make a doopsy?"
"Can you help me find my way out of this voting booth?"
"Where are my butterscotch candies?"

Ok, this pin head is starting to get on my nerves. He wears a futile, apparently decorative, headset while on camera, as if he's hawking his product at an contextually inappropriate trade show. The guy just looks creepy anyway. That said, this latest miracle product is supposedly the latest great reusable cloth, meant to clean up monstrous amounts of spilled liquid, and to soak up five million times its own weight in whatever urine or other noxious spills might plague the consumer. A quick clean up, and it lasts forever! I've seen mixed reviews about its functionality, but that isn't necessarily for me to decide, as I won't deign to order this and be sucked into that "buy an extra one, and just pay processing and handling" scam. What bothers me most, from this type A barker, is that he says "It's made by the Germans, so you know it must be good." Great, now we're selling out the Germans. Sounds eerily familiar to my rant about Heat Surge recently (which drew a response from the company itself). The it must be good? The Germans tried to wipe out a race of people, plus they took on the entire planet in a war...they must be good! Germans are good at a couple things; beer and cars, and I'm not even sure about the latter.

Billy Mays (sigh, again)
I was amused by
this page about Mister Mays. The only props I'll give him is that he recently parodied himself for an ESPN commercial. The spot featured him loudly, as usual, extolling the virtues of ESPN360.COM for its web-based broadcasts of otherwise unviewable sporting events. He says something like "Look! The sports come through this little wire!" Fair enough.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Commercials - #10

Cooking With Nintendo
The latest Nintendo DS ads have dusted off the star-nonymous Lisa Kudrow. A new commercial promotes software for the very portable DS system, with the ability to provide step by step instructions for "whipping up" an exotic dish in simple fashion. Kudrow and her daughter (where's the man?) decide on Chinese food, somehow by touching a particular geographic area of the DS's world map. The recipe is verbally dispatched, and boom! They just happened to have green onions handy. And chicken. And a wok. It's just that easy! Being Nintendo, I was figuring little Mario would interrupt and say "ah come on-uh, you no wanna make-ah no ah pizza pie?" Then a barrel would hit him over the head.

First of all, what a dismal name for a company and brand. All these "Fathead" things are gigantic, life sized "stick-on" posters of athletes that dateless, gourd-humping sports fans can hang on their walls. What red-blooded male wouldn't want to come home to a seven foot, two-dimensional likeness of a scary football player looming over his tacky furniture and empty beer cans? And the ladies! Come back to Joe Lunchpail's bachelor paradise, and listen to him pitch woo while Peytonzilla looms over his drooling, beer-scented mouth! Fathead. The first product line that was named for its consumers.

Heat Surge
I'm slightly disturbed by the apparent exploitation of a religious/cultural group. Heat Surge is some type of fake fireplace which safely acts as a heater. Fine. The advertisement becomes strange when the announcer touts the fact that these wooden faux fireplaces are made, by hand, by the Amish. The commercial goes on to show typical Amish-looking men (never women), with suspiciously fake-looking beards, hammering away at the product, as if part of a human assembly line. The worst part is when the marketeer claims that the deal is so appealing, "the Amish" have requested that each customer be limited to two "fireplaces" per order. The Amish? They make it sound like they can't speak for themselves, are basically "oompa loompa" creatures from the Willy Wonka factory.

A classic example of a middle aged woman writing the copy for this product, packed with some of the most annoying, waspy phraseology anyone could devise. It's basically a blanket with sleeves, and somewhat a cross between a blanket, robe, and sweater. According to their rhetoric, blankets are just oh so cumbersome, and restrict your arms from doing anything. What? It's a blanket, not a straitjacket. Move hand out from under blanket, grab remote, use remote, shut the hell up. The irritating soccer mom doing the voice over intimates that "bwankets be so bulky wulky, and can weed to cold footsie wootsies". Makes me sick. Then this incredibly effiminate product (and promotion) is purely targeted at old women, yet they show men wearing it while "grabbing a snack" (oof) and attending sports events. Any male wearing this hideous thing would be beaten to a pulp before halftime.

Obama Coins
Much like Sports Illustrated's "Champion of the month" promotions, now the greedy coin people are jumping on the "historic" election of Obama. His typically troubling visage is being pasted onto various alleged "coins", as if they were being produced by the U.S. Mint itself. Let's just cut to the chase here. The U.S. Mint does not make coins for slick, newly elected candidates with ugly color likenesses. Nobody's out recalibrating all the vending machines for the influx of the $20 Obama commemorative coin. It's not a coin. It's a piece of scrap metal, melted into something resembling a disc, tickled with a color-by-numbers likeness of the supposed new savior of the western world. Might as well be a poker chip. Sure, buy the coin now, and savor it during his first political scandal around mid 2009. Don't make me say "I told you so" again.

Now these advertising wizards are vacillating between the typical caveman adventures (in which now he seems to have a hot blonde girlfriend) and newer, disturbing promotions involving a stack of money with eyeballs perched on it. First of all, nobody, and I mean nobody, should ever believe that the hairy grouchy caveman idiot would ever bag a girlfriend, let alone an attractive one. The advertisers just had to antagonize the male viewing public by conceiving this whole "Beauty and the Beast" subplot. Not buying it, or your lame insurance. The gecko was irritating enough, but this beats all. It's even more disturbing than the latest spots, which showcase a personified stack of money, intended to be all the money we could save by switching to Geico. Trust me, I've done some web research...they aren't always going to save us money. My policy is nice and affordable the way it is, thank you, and isn't (and never will be) with Geico. I have a low rate from accident-free driving and never having been cited for a moving violation. (Personal message to one dear friend of mine: Shut up you!)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Reality Show Ramblings #2

The saga of reality shows continues, with a few more from the cable channels...

There are two versions of this series, one from England and its uglier, more interesting North American sister. As for the latter, it chronicles the daily meanderings of Southwest Airlines' customer service staff. One word I think of when I see "customer service staff" : complaints. And plenty of them. Clearly, the executives from Southwest took a gamble with allowing this amount of television exposure. On some occasions, we'll see immersive human interest stories about emotional reunions or staff tribulations. On other occasions, we'll see an employee going the extra mile to assist one or more of the following:

- The dizzy 200 year-old prune of a woman who can't find her way around and shouldn't be travelling anyway
- The rowdy unshaven drunk guy, usually on his way to Vegas, that has been denied boarding and can't understand why
- The super fat guy that needs to purchase nine extra seats to accommodate his Robert Earl Hughes frame (and the subsequent load balancing problems)
- The idiots who try to check a 1200 pound suitcase
- The creepy people from third world countries who try to check things that don't even resemble baggage, and invariably have bugs crawling out of them (both the creepy people and the baggage)
- The rest of the idiots that aren't around the gate when the final boarding call comes, or those that can't understand the definition of "standby passenger"
- The questionable people who try to come on board with knives, guns, gasoline, etc.
- The bitter, angry jerks of passengers who claim discrimination because they are fat/black/middle eastern

Sure, it's likely good public relations to show Southwest handling these situations, generally involving dialogue that begins with the phrase "Sir/Ma'am, we can't..." That said, a vast majority of the segments focus on the airline's screw-ups. Lost bags, lost passengers, lost pets, cancelled flights, late flights, overbookings, and other miscommunications between the airport staff and the infamous reservation center. These situations seem to far outnumber the "feel good" moments of the show, and simply illustrate that the airline is rather incompetent in allowing these constant problems to rear their ugly heads, like a whack-a-mole game from hell. I'm sure that the other airlines make quite a few mistakes as well, but they are all smart enough to keep them off a nationally broadcast reality show. I'm sure the show has, in the end, done more harm than good to Southwest and its reputation.

Iron Chef (Original Japanese version)
The oddly disturbing and off-putting predecessor to Iron Chef America, this show was the beginning of the reality cooking competition frenzy. The show features two chefs, set into "battle" in which each chef needs to create dishes based on the episode's secret ingredient. Most of the time, the secret ingredient is an obscure fish or creepy sea monster, none of which are even remotely familiar to the culinary fans from the western hemisphere. A "challenger" chef, generally snatched from a strange restaurant in Japan, takes on one of the four "Iron Chefs", who are deemed to be the best in their particular cuisines. There's one who specializes in Chinese cuisine, another for Japanese, another for French, and the perennially forgotten fourth chef, who specializes in Italian. First of all, there is the amusing aspect to the two chefs who are supposed experts in Italian and French cuisines, because they are both Japanese. C'mon, there's just a question of authenticity here. Why couldn't they dredge up a chef from Italy to be "Iron Chef Italian"? Same for the French thing. If I saw a Japanese guy preparing my spaghetti, I'd be running for the hills. Sure, there are great Italian restaurants in the United States, and while this isn't Italy, the people behind these restaurants probably, at very least, have an Italian heritage. I don't expect too many Japanese people to have Italian blood in them. The "Iron Chef Chinese" is Chen Kenichi, a Chinese person. Fine, at least he's from the right country. My favorite, Morimoto, charged with all things Japanese, is from Japan. Fine again.
As for the ingredients used, they are always disgusting. Fish roe, lobster brains, squid ink, you name it. When they have ducks around, they don't use the meat, like normal humans. Out come the beaks, feet, kidneys, heads, eyes, and similar offal. Where do these savages come from? Can't these people use things that don't induce vomiting, like vegetables, rice, and things that aren't so gooey? I know Japan is a seafood nation, but really, grow some damn asparagus and keep the show from looking like an unedited episode of Quincy.
The commentary is amusingly dubbed into English, for us thick American viewers. The voice actors that replace the original dialogue always go overboard. Really, do we need things like laughter to be redubbed into English? It sounds incredibly embarrassing. The original lead commentator, Kenji Fukui, is constantly, constantly, constantly, interrupted by a supposed roving floor reporter named Ohta. Ohta constantly breaks into the running commentary by saying "Fukui San?". I've counted upwards of 50 interruptions during the course of 40+ minutes of program time. If Ohta's interruptions were to be turned into a drinking game, I'd be plastered by the 20 minute mark. I invite others to try it, but I know I wouldn't last. It's painfully oppressive. I'm also suspicious of this Ohta guy even really being on the floor during the competition. I've never seen him out there on the cooking floor during the competition, only during interviews.
Upon the completion of cooking, the plates are submitted to the judges for commentary. The judge's panel is normally comprised of local Japanese actors, actresses, artists, and some crone introduced as a "fortune teller". Upon the tasting, the judges overuse the words "flavor", "salty", or "spicy". After the tasting, the winner is determined - or not. Sometimes, there's a tie, and guess what - that means they go into overtime! Worse yet, the overtime isn't edited into the original episode, it comes in a later broadcast! Thanks for leaving us hanging. Shut up and eat your sea urchin.

Storm Chasers
A new favorite show of mine from the Discovery Channel, it chronicles the ongoing quests of several tornado chasing teams as they traverse the featureless terrain of tornado alley during the summer storm season. Season after season, a poor bastard named Sean Casey tries to drive his tank-like "Tornado Intercept Vehicle" (TIV) into the middle of a tornado, with the intention of finishing an IMAX film, into which he has already sunk oodles of money. Unfortunately, Casey's TIV is guided by the apparently hapless tornado scientist Josh Wurman, who, despite his doctorate and years of expertise, can't seem to successfully guide Casey into that ultimate moment of intercepting a tornado. Come on already, Wurman's got a doppler radar unit in his vehicle, and he still can't lead Casey into a tornado after five years? Something must be said for the level of expertise here.
Conversely, a "rival" team of chasers, who merely seek to film tornadoes and sell the footage to news stations, is headed by an ambitious guy named Reed Tiller, who was actually one of Wurman's students. This team can't seem to miss tornadoes, in that they find themselves trying to escape them more than find them. Wouldn't Casey's IMAX project be best served by following this team? I don't get it. Regardless, I keep tuning in each week to see if Casey might finally get his ultimate tornado footage, though it seems like a destiny unfulfilled. Now the season finale is upon us, and I doubt he'll get his wish.

The Girls Next Door
Yes, yet another disturbing reality show. This one showcases the three (soon to be booted) blond girlfriends that live as sycophants, concubines, and attendants to the old and dirty Hugh Hefner. Some males hate the show out of jealousy, because the ol' bastard has everything he wants in the world, including his harem. Other males like the show, perhaps to live out personal fantasies or something. I have yet to figure out why anyone would want to watch an old fart have unlimited sexual access to young girls in a mansion that most people couldn't afford to see, let alone visit or purchase. Now Hef has roped in a set of twins, though apparently the original three girls, while they are likely out of the Hef bedroom, have signed onto another season of this tripe. I don't understand it, like it, or care about it, and frankly can't wait for Hefner to just finally die. I mean, really, this guy looks like an ash tray after a long poker night. I can't even say "Dry up and die already", because he's already completed step one. Let's go with step two.

More to come, as always...