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Daytime Commercials

If you watch a lot of Star Trek like I do, or if, also like me, you just can't get enough mid-day reruns of Roseanne (that Jackie!! she just can't get a man!!!) you may be familiar with the pretty questionable ads that run in the middle of the day. If you're not, you're about to be.

          The majority of the commercials are for schools of some kind. I resent it! Just because I'm sitting in front of The Cosby Show at one o'clock in the afternoon, idly shoveling raw ramen into my slackened maw, doesn't mean I don't have classes to go to. It just means I'm not going to any of them. Frankly, I don't see how that would change if I switched to Gibbs.

          One school commercial shows a woman getting a massage and complaining about her hectic life as a stockbroker or surgeon or supreme court justice or something (I'm not too clear on this, but she'd have to be pretty well off to afford regular massages, right?) while the masseuse looks on smugly. Finally Her Honor comes to the inevitable conclusion that she too must train to become a massage therapist. Problems solved! Man, why don't we all become massage therapists?

          Another school (or maybe it's a different department of the same one) tries to convince you that you must have the graphic arts fire in your belly if you ever draw anything ever-- doodles while on the phone, Hangmen, your signature, grubby handprints. As someone who's worked in graphic arts, this makes me nervous. I really wish they'd put up some ads saying "Do you want to work in graphic arts? Well, you can't! It's very hard. Also, the graphic arts profession is full of scary monsters! Turn back now!"

          My favorite school commercial shows a vignette of a couple of girls shopping. One looks up from a rack and sees a girl in scrubs enter. Noticing her, Girl A proceeds to bitch, "Oooh, I hate her! Her life is so together! She's already graduated and working and I'm stuck in a four year school!" The friend doesn't respond, probably because she's appalled at her friend's total lack of understanding of the educational system, or possibly because she's too busy wondering why the newcomer wears scrubs even when she's not at work. Is she just smug like those people in the Army and Air Force commercials who come home in uniform and proceed to sneer at their friends for offering genuine concern ("Couldn't you just have worked on computers here, where you weren't being shot at constantly?" "Duh, no! Man, you damn civilians just don't understand anything.")? Or is she unable to afford new clothes? Scrubs Girl deserves Girl A's pity, not her censure. Shame on you, Girl A. Shame.

          The other big spender on mid-Judge Joe Brown airtime is, predictably, personal injury lawyers. I suppose being laid up is another reason to watch TV during the workday. I like the ones (there are several) that splurge on Robert Vaughan, TV's Napoleon Solo.

          Then there are always a couple of commercials for shady companies that "convert your monthly annuity payments into one large lump sum!" I'm not really clear on what that entails, but considering the advertising, I'd assume they're trying to dupe people into giving up at least half the money they're entitled to. You notice they never really go into details on rates or percents or numbers of any kind. They just repeat the phrase "large lump sum!"

          One company tries to look legit by hiring a lady with a British accent to do the voice-over (although it's sort of a lower-middle-class London than the RSC oration I think they were going for), but they blow their cover by cutting to testimonials from a series of increasingly sketch customers. The final couple, for example, waxes enthusiastic about their "large lump sum" against the backdrop of a dingy kitchen. "The small annuity payments didn't help," explains the man. "But the large lump sum we got in exchange was GREAT!" cries the woman, displaying a large, gap-toothed grin.

          Recently a new version of the commercial has aired. It seems to be the same couple from before (or perhaps people who just look similar; I'm not totally sure). Twinkly music plays while they pose in a posh study, the sort of place Professor Xavier or Captain Picard would go to relax with a merlot and brush up on his Herodotus. The man, now wearing a suit, cocks his head and smiles classily. "The small annuity payments didn't help," he drawls, voice smooth as honey. "But the large lump sum we got in exchange was great," attests the also nattily attired woman, flashing her perfectly-aligned teeth.

          Even if I did have a long-term annuity payment (who has those?), I still wouldn't blow the better part of it on a company that advertises during Macguyver. Still, you've got to give them credit. They're trying their damnedest to give the impression of coming up in the world. It's sort of adorable. In the spirit of the commercial, this crappy article is being presented to you on solid gold paper lovingly hand-painted by elves made of diamonds (note to editor: this is standard, right?) Still not satisfied? Suck it up and become a massage therapist.


- Laura