Farmer File

It’s easy to make fun of TV commercials that sell instant washboard ab systems or little squiggly things under cloth that move around driving your cat insane.

It’s fun to scoff at eyeglasses that become ear-worn binoculars with the style of Oakleys and the power of Hubble. But through the years, the TV super sales wizards who make millions on these bright (watts, not brain cells), seductive commercials have produced some honest-to-goodness gems.

We and mini-TV infomercials go way back.  When we worked at CNN in the early 1980s, one of the commercials that probably kept the all news channel’s boat afloat was a pitch for the music of Slim Whitman.

Who could forget his haunting renditions of “Indian Love Call” and “Una Paloma Blanca?” Certainly nobody who ever watched cable TV in those days. People who could get CNN could catch Dan Schorr or Flip Spiceland or Larry King or even us, who the network squeezed in between Slim Whitman commercials.

There we were, sitting at the news desk, ready to do an hour of serious news, cameras ready, make up on, and the last thing we would hear before our cue to begin the news would be the yodeler, Slim Whitman and his white dove song.

Another famous product of TV hustlers in the old days was the Ginsu knife. That may have been when the now overused word “amazing” went viral, also overused.

I’ve read that there is no such word in Japanese as ginsu, but the American makers who originally called the products Quickut knives thought that name too bland and made their wonder-knife a “ginsu.”

The owners of the ginsu knife made a fortune and the product was excellent. I still have one I bought probably 25 years ago. It works fine, never needs sharpening and probably gets used 50 times more often than any other knife in the drawer.

Another world-class product I discovered on hard-sell TV is – no, not the Snuggie.  Remember that? That nightmare of a TV offer, a fleece blanket that featured entire families of what appeared to be crazed suburban zombies probably hiding hideous things under there? Remember?

No, I refer to the kitchen storage phenomenon known as “Mr. Lid.” It’s a huge family of refrigerator containers, in sizes ranging from teeny to towering. The lid stays on the container.

What a concept. No more thrashing trough a kitchen drawer looking for the one lid that fits the one container in your other hand. The lid snaps shut. Voila! The cook’s blood pressure stabilizes. The food stays fresh. Life is good.

Now comes the worst, dumbest offer I’ve ever seen on television. It’s a fake parakeet called Polly. OK, if someone wants a green and yellow fake bird to put on a windowsill or a bric-à-brac shelf, no problem. But Polly is marketed as “the perfect pet,” that “moves and sings like a real bird.”

But wait, there’s more.

“Her motion-activated head and tail feathers move as she sits on her perch or on your finger. The best part is, she never needs food or water and there’s never any mess to clean.”

They even sell a cage, presumably to keep this battery-operated critter from fake flying around the house.  The sales pitch says, “It is so lifelike, she’ll fool you.”

Not likely, unless you believe the moonwalk was fake and wrestling is real.

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