Now and then, I'm reminded of my mother's words when I would complain to her about not being able to find anything to watch on TV: "Why don't you read a book?"
It's not bad advice, really, even today. I still like the printed word. And the full flower of my imagination remains intact and ready to be tapped. Why, with my eyes taking in rich and descriptive prose held fast on the inked pages of a novel, I don't need TV to transport me to lands near and far; my mind takes me there, lets me exist in that space, living and breathing and fully immersed - hey, I didn't know that AMC was showing "Death Wish 3" again!
Sorry for getting off-track. Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was trying to justify choosing mediocre TV pickings over good books.
To be fair, finding something consistently good on TV can be a rough experience anytime of the year, but the pickings can get downright dismal especially after the end of the networks' regular season. I mean, sure, there's some good stuff out there right now -- a big hooray for the recent return of the action-packed "Burn Notice" on USA, and in July, AMC's brutally fascinating "Breaking Bad" will be back (double hooray) -- but there's a lot of crumminess out there, too, and a lot of it comes from the little moments in between the shows, things half-seen but ill-remembered while swinging around the dial.
It's during these times of extended channel surfing (or foraging in a 500-channel wilderness, if you prefer your metaphors earthier) that you come across things you never thought you'd see in a million years (or a bazillion, if you prefer your overblown-to-the-point-of-tortured numbers more childishly grandiose).
For example, a bearded baby. Driving a sportscar. Surrounded by sexy models.
Yep. This commercial exists. (Don't believe me? You can find it at www.youtube.com /watch?v= dFO9zt0UXj4. No foolin'.) It's for a beard and mustache coloring product for adult males (or at least I hope so) who long for the youthful appearance that the product promises. But probably not that youthful.
You have to think that when this idea was being batted about during a marketing department pitch session, someone wondered aloud, "Goofy concepts like this one can work, and sometimes quite well. Since it wouldn't reflect well on us as a company if the ad looked like it was made by a 12-year-old, could we make sure this commercial is funny or clever or even slightly amusing?"
Here's a wild guess - there was no voice of reason. How do I come to that conclusion? Because the commercial isn't even accidentally entertaining. In fact, the overall effect of seeing the face of a smiling, yet somehow hollow-eyed, baby with a post-pubescent goatee is downright creepy. Good old fashioned nightmare fuel, even.
Oh, did I mention that the hideously bearded baby dances? And not like a real baby, all flailing arms and shaky knees. Nope, the kid's got moves - ones that'll haunt you for days.
Then there's the ad campaign for a popular energy drink where a guy dressed as a sheriff or marshal or some other sort of old-timey law enforcement officer goes around intimidating people into accepting the product he's shilling, instead of downing their fifteenth non-fat double mocha latte of the morning.
The actor playing the sheriff is a recognizable one - his name is James Horan (his website, www.jameshoran.com, features the commercial), and his lengthy list of credits includes TV shows such as "Lost" and "24," plus a pair of recent Clint Eastwood-directed movies, "Changeling" and "Flags of Our Fathers." Horan has one of those faces and presences that exudes authority, so I can understand why you'd cast him in such a role, but I'm still scratching my head as to what the commercials are all about.
Let's say you're standing in your break room at work, an hour or so into your day. You're considering your options for a morning pick-me-up. Another cup of coffee, maybe, or that last raspberry-filled donut, which is just sitting there in the box, practically begging you to give it a good home. Just as you're making up your mind, you hear the rustle of a leather duster behind you; perhaps the chinging of spurs. Knowing that these are not sounds heard in roughly 99 percent of U.S. office break rooms (your results may vary), you whirl on your heels and come face-to-face with a weather-beaten cowboy straight out of Central Casting, who proceeds to browbeat you about your choice of mid-morning snack options, then advises you to take him up on his offering, one he makes through gritted teeth. Plus, he's got a shiny badge pinned to his coat, making him some sort of authority figure, albeit with a rather limited jurisdiction, most likely. What could happen if you say to him, "No, thanks. I'm good. And who are you supposed to be again?"
Honestly, if your first instinct isn't to ask how this guy got past the front desk - or at least to try to back out of the room without making any sudden moves - I don't know what else to say. I mean, although we've never seen what the fellow does to his quarry when an offer is rebuffed, I also doubt the guy's arrests (on charges likely no stronger than "refusal to down an energy shot on request") would hold up in most courts. (Your results, again, may vary.)
Okay, I admit I've probably been thinking too hard about this stuff. I should, as my mother said, find a good book to read when there's nothing on TV, instead of obsessing and extrapolating about oddities I find around the dial. I've got more than a few tomes around the house, well-told tales packed with adventure and action and suspense and humor, just waiting to be re-opened and re-explored and - hey, "Death Wish 3" is starting over!