In a late 1980s infomercial, a San Diego carpenter/inventor demonstrates the Flowbee, an electric-powered vacuum attachment made for cutting hair. (YouTube)
With the launch of Windows 7 looming (the operating system is available to the public on Oct. 22) and the Wrath of Vista a not-so-distant memory in PC users' minds, Microsoft's marketing team has brought out the big guns. Their chipper new video campaign illustrates the tremendous fun that is in store for those who choose to host their very own Windows 7 parties.
The excruciatingly awkward clip conjures memories of the finest infomercials that have ever graced late-night TV. It features a semi-diverse gaggle of people who'd never choose to hang out by choice in real life. In Microsoft World, however, they chortle and coo over the fabulous features and delightful diversions that Windows 7 has bestowed upon the world. It's the best thing since home karaoke machines!
It's not clear if the awesomely terrible tone of the promo video is intentional. Could the folks at Microsoft be working a meta-media angle in the hopes of beating the creators of Apple's deadpan Mac vs. PC ads at their own game?
At any rate, repeated viewings of the clip got us thinking about the possible inspiration behind the Windows 7 campaign. We've come up with 10 classic infomercials that laid the groundwork for the stilted dialogue and forced enthusiasm of the PC party crew.
This handy machine made it possible to create down-home apple pies using only some cottony white bread and a dollop of applesauce! In this folksy clip, grandfatherly inventor Dave Clark insists that he can help make your life not just easier, but a lot more fun, while archetypal mother figure Cathy Mitchell (working a fab '80s perm) demonstrates how to make a dizzying array of squishable treats.
In Japan, as the soothing lady announcer tells us, the ancient art of paper folding is known as origami. In North America, the act of using twisty, cloth-covered bits of wire to make unattractive faux-chignons was briefly known as "hairigami."
Another fine addition to the home hair-care toolbox, the Flowbee holds a special place in the hearts of the many children who were scarred by the intense suction of this combination vacuum-slash-electric clipper.
When I was a kid, I was mesmerized by the concept of this spray-on hair in a can, patented by infomercial king Ron Popeil and marketed under the vague-yet-ominous name GLH9. I had dreams of spraying it all over my body and going out as a gorilla for Hallowe'en. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone who'd actually used it, and ergo never learned whether it worked.
RonCo Showtime Rotisserie
Popeil sold his RonCo empire in 2005 for a staggering $55 million US. But until he cashed out, the guy had a profound effect on the world of as-seen-on-TV products. His food dehydrator brought joy to legions of jerky fanatics, but Popeil's Showtime Rotisserie infomercials made a splash thanks to a catchy tagline: "Just set it and forget it!"
Jack LaLanne Power Juicer
Bodybuilding pioneer Jack LaLanne approached his plant-based food regime with the devotion of a cult leader. He promised his subjects that he could help them "unlock [their] energy, vitality and fitness." All it took was an overpriced juicer, and the knowledge that "you are the most important person you have." Huh?
For some unknown reason, the products in infomercials often have violent undertones. The Slap Chop, shilled by Vince Offer (born Offer Shlomi, and also known as the dude who brought us the ShamWow!) allows consumers to smash helpless vegetables to bits with a simple slam. (The barely contained aggression in this ad took on chilling new significance last February when Offer was arrested for battering a prostitute.)
Like the Hairigami clip, this original Ginsu infomercial has some offensive Orientalist undertones. "In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife," proclaims the announcer. This classic clip taught viewers that Ginsu knives can be used to cut tin cans. Why anyone would want to do that is still unclear.
Dr. Ho's Muscle Massage System
The subjects in this ad for the hilarious Dr. Ho's Muscle Massage System ("Better than a husband!") seem to be enjoying the strange vibrating device so thoroughly that watching this clip borders on voyeurism.
Finally, a modern classic. The Magic Bullet infomercial, which mimics the structure of a terrible sitcom to show colourful characters enjoying the fruits of a shoddy blender, seems like the obvious precursor for the Windows 7 party clip. Watch out for crotchety Hazel, who wanders through the set wearing a dressing gown, an unlit cigarette perpetually threatening to fall out of her mouth. She's a real spitfire!
BONUS: Infomercial Hell
The jokers at Everything Is Terrible spliced together this entertaining montage of "before" parts from a slew of infomercials to show us all how painful the world would be without useless products.
What is your favourite infomercial?
More entries for category: Social Media
About the Author
Other The Buzz Entries
About the Authors
- 2012 (139)
- November (5)
- South Park takes aim at Lance Armstrong
- The Walking Dead of the publishing world
- FILM REVIEW: The Paperboy
- Canadian ingenuity on YouTube
- FILM REVIEW: Stories We Tell
- FILM REVIEW: Argo
- Sarah Brightman and Chris Hadfield: Musicians in space
- Welcome to my McCartney years
- Rush and the long road to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- Jack White and the restless folks at Radio City
- Why J.K. Rowling can't lose with The Casual Vacancy
- FILM REVIEW: The Master
- Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia says thanks after being freed
- TIFF movies that shone the brightest
- Blackbird, Caught in the Web explore risks of online expression
- Malaysian writers make their mark
- Meet the CCMA Rising Star contenders
- 13 buzz films unspooling at TIFF
- 7 films where the bike is king
- Let's hear it for the girls
- FRIDAY FILM BITES: Farewell My Queen, Hit and Run, Killer Joe
- Short and punchy - the brave new world of e-books
- FILM REVIEW: ParaNorman
- FILM REVIEW: The Expendables 2
- Bin Laden, Lincoln films work around U.S. election
- Is Drake planning an Aaliyah album without her family's blessing?
- Cultural Olympiad tries to dovetail with sport
- Maeve Binchy: An appreciation
- Alanis Morissette takes wing in new video Guardian
- FILM REVIEW: The Watch
- FILM REVIEW: Step Up: Revolution
- Twitter experiment celebrates Tom Thomson online
- FILM REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises
- FILM REVIEW: Beasts of the Southern Wild
- 5 unforgettable Rolling Stones gigs
- Cookie Monster covers Call Me, Maybe
- FILM REVIEW: To Rome with Love
- FILM REVIEW: Take This Waltz
- FILM REVIEW: Magic Mike
- Muse joins Olympics song canon
- Nora Ephron: a laugh at life's curveballs
- The cure for Game of Thrones withdrawal
- FILM REVIEW: Brave
- Rockstar Hotel bangs to '80s beat in Toronto
- FILM REVIEW: Rock of Ages
- Dallas returns to high expectations from viewers
- Bonnaroo: a musical education
- Tweeting Tom Thomson
- Madonna's cheeky Born This Way poke at Lady Gaga
- FILM REVIEW: Men in Black 3
- Queen Victoria's journals go online
- Whitney Houston's final song Celebrate debuts
- FILM REVIEW: The Dictator vs Bernie
- The trouble with Mrs. Eastwood and Company
- Young cancer patients enchant with Stronger lip dub
- FILM REVIEW: Dark Shadows
- Memories of Maurice Sendak's Really Rosie
- FILM REVIEWS: The Raven, The Five-Year Engagement
- Cirque's Amaluna needs a little more polish
- 5 Hot Docs films to whet your appetite
- Lindsay Lohan hitches star to Liz Taylor biopic
- FILM REVIEWS: The Lucky One, Damsels in Distress, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
- Reaction to Pulitzer's fiction snub
- Breakfast with Coachella
- Phish answers the call for 'more cowbell'
- FILM REVIEWS: The Three Stooges, The Raid: Redemption
- The Hunger Games on the hunt for new director
- FABLE FIGHT: Mirror Mirror vs. Wrath of the Titans
- Hot in Cleveland heads to Ontario
- Jessica Paré turns chanteuse for Mad Men
- FILM REVIEW: Footnote
- FILM REVIEW: The Hunger Games
- Navigating Canadian Music Week: Day 1
- Inside Ai Weiwei's world
- Sugar Shack cuisine from Quebec's Martin Picard
- Bill Roache on Corrie Street and the great beyond
- FILM REVIEW: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
- 5 memorable Oscar moments
- What not to do with an Oscar
- Assessing Oscar's actress and supporting actress races
- Couch potatoes triumph with Simpsons marathon
- Glee's 'unintentional' tribute to Whitney Houston
- The long shadow over Chris Brown's Grammy win
- Romance onscreen for Valentine's Day
- Spider-Man trailer: fresh take or more of the same?
- FILM REVIEW: The Woman in Black
- FILM REVIEW: Miss Bala
- Jack White goes solo
- Set course for Calgary, host of ST: TNG reunion
- FILM REVIEWS: Man on a Ledge, One for the Money, The Grey
- A first listen of Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas
- FILM REVIEW: Haywire and Red Tails
- FILM REVIEW: A Separation
- The Artist's silence isn't golden for some moviegoers
- Hello. Are these the films you're looking for?
- FILM REVIEWS | Contraband, Beauty and the Beast 3D and Pariah
- FILM REVIEW: A Dangerous Method