Monday, August 23, 2004

"If lines are busy, please dial again"

If lines are busy, please dial again, but do call

God I love infomercials. Many a night shift has been spent watching these thirty minute slots of idiots trying to sell insomniacs, TV addicts, drunks and shift workers the answers to non-existent problems. I think they were mainly aiming at the drunks, whose defences are down after a night on the tiles.

Pretty soon, with the rise of digital technologies, and the price of uplinking your channel to a satellite falling through the floor, every shyster and his dog now has one of these channels, broadcasting 24 hours a day to the gullible of this planet.

Now I've got Sky Digital, they're everywhere. There's about 100 of these channels, pumping out crap to the easily amused. Hours of the highest comedy, some of the best unintentional laughs you can get. After months, nay years, of studying, in which my credit cards have been kept chained up in a casket at the other end of the house, I have concluded that infomercials fall into three distinct categories:

* Torture equipment
* Useless tat
* Cubic Zirconium

Why the bloody hell makes people buy gym equipment by mail order? You get thirty minutes of breathless hype, and before you know it, postie's doing himself a hernia getting it to your front door, and then, two weeks later, you do yourself a hernia putting it in your loft. Join a gym. Better still, for those freakish machines that simulate taking a walk (and yes, they must sell or they wouldn't advertise them) - go for a walk.

Useless tat. Our airwaves are full of people selling us useless tat. Thirty quid for a couple of bottles of car polish that you can get for 50p down the market, from a guy bearing a striking resemblance to the guy on the TV. Perfect nails. Perfect teeth. Perfect skin. If you want perfect teeth, try brushing them. And if that doesn't work, try painting them with Tipp-ex. A foam rubber mat you put on top of your mattress for "the perfect sleep", which costs more than the mattress.

Jebus, I just love the household cleaner ones. Obviously filmed by some guy whose done his dues, being turfed off every doorstep in the country, he's found you can get past the doorstep and into the front room via the TV screen, and he's still doing the same patter. The guy from the market, selling his set of steak knives as if he's got a crowd of old grannies in front of him on their way to the cut-price shonky butcher's for a slightly out of date turkey leg.

For years, I used to watch the two Mockney geezers in bowler hats and bow ties selling "Astonish" to gullible Americans to clean their kitchens. Then I saw them looking broke, selling crates of the stuff out of the back of a car at Tadley market, along with one of them suction things for cleaning your car. How the mighty fall.

A game! Flip onto a random advertorial channel. Take a look at what they're selling, and then guess how much they're going to try to sting you for something you'll never use and are too embarrassed to send back. Keep a score - a game the whole family can play! Just for the record, the foam rubber mattress cover weighed in at one hundred and fifty pounds, and two bottles of car polish (plus complementary mitt!) at twenty-five. It's keeping someone, somewhere in caviar.

And a final word from our sponsors:

Guy with tan, muscles and mullet: "And of course, the TortureMeister III gives you all the benefits of a workout, without the need of having your legs painfully amuptated by a mad Nazi surgeon."

Over enthusiastic-Barbie doll: "I like that a lot!"

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