Oy! My nephews’ Errol Morris-directed Quaker Oats commercial debuts on “The Today Show” tomorrow morning and will also be on during “Scrubs” and a ton of other shows and networks! Keep your eyes out for The Blisters’ TV debut. I haven’t been this interested in a television ad since Robert Conrad was daring us to knock a battery off his shoulder.
The final cut of the commercial came out great. My only regret is that my five-year-old nephew Sam’s avant-garde performance bouncing around the studio didn’t make it in. Can commercials ever have a Special Edition DVD that includes missing footage? Leah and I have been singing the Blisters’ original oatmeal song all day. I love that the kids implied that eating oatmeal could cure depression. I know I always felt nurtured and soothed by hot cereal, maybe there really is some connection to our seratonin levels. Don’t worry, I’m not pandering to my nephews’ sponsor, I already admitted that I’m more of a Cream of Wheat than an oatmeal man. I’m also such a snob that when I do eat oatmeal it’s usually the way more expensive Irish steel-cut oats variety. But I still love Quaker Oats as an ingredient—nothing makes a better oatmeal cookie.
The Blisters’ parents are very responsible and they’re making sure their kids don’t get swelled heads from their TV exposure. Spencer or Sammy aren’t anywhere near as excited about their TV debut as I am. Spencer started fourth grade today and is far more concerned with his new spy game than any commercial. I couldn’t quite get a handle on what this secret world he invented was all about when we were in Chicago last week, I just know that every time I saw Spencer and Leah together they were shooting off toy guns and giving cryptic weather reports. I wish I had a tape of my sister years ago swearing that she’d never allow a toy weapon in her house. Now her son has cabinets in his bedroom that look like the munitions warehouse for the IRA. Sammy started Kindergarten today and is far more excited about being a “stayer-upper” (no more enforced naps) than a TV personality. Oh well, it’s a good thing Leah wasn’t in the commercial, I’d probably have been ejected from the set by Errol Morris himself. I could see myself turning into the advertising age’s equivalent of Mama Rose: “Smile, honey, tell the nice man how Quaker Oats has changed your life!” My sister and Jeff are hoping that no one makes any connections between the Blisters’ fun opportunity and Wilco. Jeff and Wilco had absolutely nothing to do with the Blisters getting this gig but of course reporters (and one blogging uncle) keep mentioning both in the same breath.
I can’t even remember the last time I saw a commercial. The TV shows I watch are mostly on cable and if I do watch regular television I make a frantic dash for the remote to avoid even a split second of advertising. But this wasn’t always the case. When I was young commercials were a valued component of my obsessive television viewing. I remember certain advertising campaigns way better than the plots on “My Mother the Car” or “Petticoat Junction.” If I see old clips of these commercials I experience the same warm feeling I get from watching home movies. It’s terrifying to look back at some of the commercials from the 1960s and 70s and realize that these were the building blocks of so many of my perceptions about the world and about relationships (starting with the ideal fake couple of Mariette Hartley and James Garner lovingly sparring over their Polaroid cameras). While I’ve forgotten huge chunks of my childhood and later years, I can rattle off endless slogans, ditties, and catch phrases at the drop of a hat.
In the valley of the Jolly (ho, ho, ho) Green Giant
The chicken’s got a certain Wessonality
I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!
What do you want, good grammar or good taste?
From the land of sky blue waters
Please don't squeeze the Charmin
Ancient Chinese secret, huh?
He likes it! Hey Mikey!
You deserve a break today, so get up and get away
Get a bucket of chicken, finger-lickin’ good, have a barrel of fun
This is an uncola nut
Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t
Ring around the collar!
My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there
How do you spell relief?
It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!
You sank my battleship!
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz
Snap, crackle, pop, Rice Krispies
Choosey mothers choose Jif
Leggo my Eggo!
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
I'd rather fight than switch
Who wears short shorts?
You’re soaking in it
Two…two…two mints in one
If it says Libbys Libbys Libbys on the label label label
Scary, isn’t it? I could literally go on for hours. All those commercials taking up precious brain matter that might otherwise be developing an AIDS vaccine or the cure for cancer (oh wait, I’m not a scientist, those brain cells would probably just move over to the “Verbatim Dialogue from I Love Lucy” lobe).
Does it seem crazy to be writing about such meaningless twaddle during the current disaster in our country? I guess I’m of two minds about the blogs I've been reading lately. I’m equally grateful for the people who are writing about the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as I am for the people who are not mentioning it at all. In fact, if I’m doing my job right, some of those commercials I listed above will have already landed with a thud in your consciousness causing you to spend the rest of the day completing the mindless chants (“then you will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table”). And maybe that will be some temporary relief from the current traumas.
One commercial from the early 70s sticks out in my mind as head and shoulders above the rest. To me it represented the most positive view of our future, a world where pure love and peace had been achieved and the reasons for war no longer existed. And all because of a terribly unhealthy sugary beverage.
On a hilltop in Italy, we assembled young people from all over the world
to bring you this message:
I'd like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves.
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company.
It’s the real thing, Coke is
What the world wants today
It’s the real thing.
Speaking of catch phrases, they cut Spencer’s great line from the commercial, “Oatmeal makes you rock more efficiently.” Apparently two focus groups thought the line sounded fake, that no real nine-year-old would ever say such a thing. But he DID say it, and it was far more natural than anything that ever came out of Mariette Hartley’s mouth.