Sunday, December 26, 2010

Infomercial Entertainment

Back when I was a kid, there were infomercials for various products and musical artists. One of the earliest infomercials that I remember was for the Veg-O-Matic. The Veg-O-Matic came out before electric food processors. For only $19.95 you could slice and dice just about anything and make enough Julienne carrots and French fries to keep your family fed for the next six months.
There were also infomercials for the Abdominizer and various cleaners and stain removers that were better than anything you can buy in a store. But the Veg-O-Matic was the classic infomercial product of the 1960s and '70s.

The Veg-O-Matic was made by K-Tel, which also produced all sorts of records (and infomercials to sell those records). You could get anything you wanted on K-Tel records: greatest pop hits of the '60s and '70s, the best love songs and duets, great polkas, instrumental hits, and more. K-Tel would send you those songs on LP records, cassette tapes, or even 8-track tapes. You could even buy K-Tel records for only $3.99 in various stores too. Nobody I knew ever owned any K-Tel record sets; but somebody must have bought them because they continued to be advertised for many years.

When I got older and watched late night cable TV, there were lots of commercials for Boxcar Willie  and Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute. I always thought that Zamfir was a big joke and couldn't possibly be real. But in 1992, shortly after moving to Germany, I went to Munich with my husband and some friends. As we were walking around, we saw posters for an upcoming Zamfir concert in Munich. In German, Zamfir is der Koenig des Panfloetes (The King of the Pan Flute). After having a good laugh after realizing that the person we saw on those late night infomercials in the States was real, we took some of the posters to show our friends. It turns out that Zamfir is very popular in Europe. Who would have known?

A couple of weeks ago my son was home sick from school and was watching German daytime TV. As he was channel surfing, he came upon an infomercial for the Amazing Spider Pan. Yes, even the Germans have infomercials and home shopping channels. The Spider Pan is a frying pan with a special spider web pattern that makes it easy to cook with less oil and to clean. When you call in your order, you get 3 Spider Pans, 2 free lids (I assume that one lid fits two of the pans), and an instruction booklet. The instruction booklet looked rather thick. I guess there's more to using the Spider Pan than, "1. Put food in pan.  2. Put pan on stove.  3. Turn on burner." I couldn't find any Spider Pan commercials in English. I guess they're only sold in non-English speaking countries.

After the Spider Pan infomercial came one for the Kirmesmusikanten. The Kirmesmusikanten are accordion players, one man and one woman. The infomercial started with a woman in Trachten (traditional clothing) against an Alpine background talking about the wonderful and relaxing folk music of the Kirmesmusikanten, and how everyone can now enjoy 80 of their greatest hits on 4 CDs. She was also sad that the Kirmesmusikanten were no more because the man died earlier this year. There were video clips of the Kirmesmusikanten playing a sampling of those 80 hits. Both the man and woman looked like they never realized that the 1970s had come and gone. They were dressed in '70s polyester clothing; the man had an Afro (he was white), and the woman had a mullet perm. Yikes! The woman had a fixed, fake smile, while the man would shrug his shoulders and sport an evil grin while playing his accordion. His facial expressions were hilarious!  I had to Google them to see if they were real or a joke. It turns out that the man and woman are a brother and sister from the Netherlands. They are very popular in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and France. Here is one of their videos. I love the very first comment about it (on the last page of comments): "Wow. Words escape me, yet I can't stop watching this video." Needless to say, that comment was fitting.

As long as there is TV, there will be infomercials and people buying the advertised products. I think I'd rather just watch them, have a good laugh, and save my money.

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