Monday, May 26, 2008

This Column Is a Dramatization

I got waylaid by the flu over the weekend, which gave me the opportunity to do two things: complain loudly to no one in particular about how lousy I felt and watch more TV than I normally would.

The complaining was futile. It didn't make me feel any better and my wife, who is a saint, was properly sympathetic but correctly determined the best thing to do was to keep a bit of distance from me.

I guess I was hoping for the Florence Nightingale approach, having my head cradled in her arms while she stroked my fevered brow until a deep if fitful sleep swept over me.

Instead, I was forced to turn to television for some comfort.

One thing becomes very apparent when you watch TV in earnest.
Most commercials carry more disclaimers than an astronaut's life insurance policy.

Take a Quiznos commercial, for example, in which a woman wads up a five dollar bill, shoves it in her mouth and chews away. The point being, a voice intones, that if you're going to eat five dollars, spend it on something tasty. Flashing across the bottom of the screen almost to the point of distraction were the admonishments, "Dramatization. Do not attempt."

I guess the Quiznos legal team decided to cover their collective rear ends just in case some viewer out there decided to wolf down a couple of fives after watching the ad. Not that there's much likelihood of that. After all, five bucks would buy you a gallon of gasoline these days.

On the other hand, Kodak used to make a disposable camera called "The Weekender" and actually got calls from people asking if it was OK to use it during the week.

Then there was a commercial - I'm not even sure what it was for - showing a guy using his small fluffy dog to sweep up what appeared to be spilled breakfast cereal.

Kind of funny, actually, until the disclaimer hit the screen: "Do not attempt. No dog was hurt in the filming of this commercial."

Thank God for that.

At this point, watching for the disclaimers became a lot more fun than watching the shows.
There was an ad for Chevrolet, for example. Chevy, despite being an American icon, has suffered declining sales over the years in great part by designing cars with all the flair and reliability of a Pakistani taxi cab.

While the new Chevys are an improvement, they still have miles to go.

This particular ad, however, ends with the announcement, "Look Out Camry," implying that Chevy is about to overtake Toyota, the world's best-selling automobile. The disclaimer? The quote is from a magazine article that is nearly three years old.

Hasn't anyone said anything nice about Chevy in three years?

There have been other classic examples.

Tide-to-Go ran a commercial during the Super Bowl featuring a guy interviewing for a job with a large stain on his shirt. The stain sprouts a mouth and begins talking gibberish, the point being that stains send an unintended message. A very clever and effective ad until the disclaimer kicks in: "Coffee stain depicted."

I personally loved the Lexus commercial where one car is dropped from a helicopter while another races underneath it on what appears to be a runway. Of course, this was followed by the words, "Do not attempt."

In fact, almost any car commercial theses days states "professional driver on a closed course," even when the car is shown driving down the street.

I also enjoy the Bowflex commercial that promises you a Greek god body if you would only use their product three times a week. After showing well-chiseled men and women using the product, it adds, "results not typical." Oh.

Pharmaceutical advertising is a disclaimer gold mine.

I once saw an ad, I think it was for a psoriasis medication, in which one of the possible side effects was death.

I saw a sleeping pill ad in which it warned, "may cause drowsiness."

Then there was Mirapex, which is used to treat something called restless leg syndrome. It warns: "Tell your doctor ... if you experience increased gambling, sexual or other intense urges."
Better yet, just go to Las Vegas.

Those E.D. commercials that intone, "ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for sexual activity" are always good for a laugh. I would guess that 99.9 percent of males between the ages of 16 and 96 - including those in ICU following quadruple bypass surgery - would consider themselves healthy enough for sex.

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