06 January 2010

It's info-tainment!

People can have all sorts of bad habits: smoking, biting their nails, believing Intelligent Design trumps Evolution. My bad habit? Infomercials. I love them. I'll even watch them repeatedly. I blame my wacky sense of humour--if it's over-the-top absurd I can't get enough, and infomercials are nothing if not absurd.

My favourites--big surprise--are the cooking infomercials (conversely, I despise the ones selling exercise equipment/diet regimes--their claims are unbelievable and they just make us all feel bad). Even if you'd never buy them, the products in the cooking infomercials are full of potential and the infomercials themselves are often--dare I say it?--fun and interesting.

I also like a lot of the cleaning infomercials, although I won't go out of my way to watch them. They're not as interesting as the cooking ones, but the 'potential' factor is still there. Really, who wouldn't dream of having a spotless house in half the time with no effort? And a lot of those products are actually pretty good. Hey, if someone gave me a Shark steamer I wouldn't complain.

Just a note: I'm neither advocating for or against any of the products I'm mentioning in this post. I just like the ads--use your own discretion on the products themselves.

One of the first infomercials I got into was Ronco's Showtime Rotisserie. Ron Popeil (inventor of the Pocket Fisherman!) is entertaining and a little freaky. You also have to give him props for convincingly making it seem like this thing is easy to use. My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Man, was I surprised when I discovered the FlavorWave Oven's new spokesperson was Mr. T! That alone makes this an awesome infomercial. It's also fun to watch food shrivel under the 10,000 watt light bulb inside this thing (it's an Easy Bake Oven for adults!) My rating: 4 out of 5

You have to respect a man who's out there still flogging merchandise in his 90s. I've seen the infomercial for Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer a few times now. The people in it display the sort of enthusiasm often seen in cult members. Mmm...nothing like the tasty goodness of rind juice! And don't forget--it's WHISPER QUIET! My rating: 3 out of 5.

The GT Express 101 infomercial is a little lacklustre. It is kind of fun to watch what's-her-name make chocolate cake with a candy bar filling in the bizarre-looking contraption, but next to Jack LaLanne, Mr. T, and Vince Shlomi, this infomercial's about as interesting as listening to Katie from season 5 of The Next Food Network Star go on about antioxidants and digestive health. I suggest they hire an 80s TV personality to spice things up. What's Alf up to these days? My rating: 2 out of 5.

I have to say, I'm fairly impressed with the Magic Bullet infomercials. Somebody actually put some thought into them and made them into stories rather than straight-out commercials. And "Mick" is charismatic enough to hold anyone's attention (not to mention his obnoxious "friends" and "family"), although "Mimi" is definitely on the bland side. If more infomercials were like this one I might not get quite so many pitying stares when I admit I actually like them. My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

And that brings us to my all-time favourite infomercial. Actually, it's not the infomercial itself so much as the pitchman: Vince Shlomi aka Vince Offer. I first discovered Vince on the ShamWow commercial and was instantly sucked in. I don't know what it is about this guy but he manages to be both hilarious and convincing at the same time. His magnum opus, however, is the Slap Chop. With such immortal lines as "Don't have a boring tuna; don't have a boring life" and "You're gonna love my nuts" Vince is the undisputed king of television salesmanship. My rating: 5 out of 5.

And for some extra wacky fun: The Slap Chop rap remix!

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