Direct Line: Uncomfortableness in thirty seconds or less.
Ok, it’s been going on long enough now, for what seems like an eternity, Direct Line and their bulging advertising pay packet have been ruining our viewing pleasure in regular, thirty second bursts. To promote their product they have forced us to watch bad insurance sales, with “hilarious” results.
Tired of seeing Stephen Fry and Paul Merton buzz about the screen as CGI phones, Direct Line thought it was time for a change, maybe spend a bit of money and get some famous faces on screen instead of just inside a red phone with wheels. What followed was a barrage of agonising meetings between the ”comically” misunderstood salesman (you know, that one off Mock the Week) and a variety of Britain’s comedians who were willing to sacrifice the respect and reputation they once had for some sweet moolah.
Voiceover leviathan, Alexander Armstrong, has milked the Direct Line cash cow the most, with his horrendous, bomber jacket-clad character, which as well as being astoundingly shit, is also just a watered down, wider audience hybrid of characters from his sketch show. This moustachioed fool must either be the most worrisome old-fashioned RAF squaddie in the world or obsessed with constantly hunting out new car insurance deals at the expense of the viewing public. Or maybe he’s just lonely. He’s clearly the kind of man that would be found sat at the bar in the pub on his own, “nursing a sherry”, talking at any unfortunate passer-by who inadvertently came within close enough proximity to trigger the clichéd pub spiel. Every pub has one of these men, they wait, perched at the side of the bar, like a spider at the edge of their web, luring us stupid flies in with the bait of no queue. And then they pounce and trap you in their threads of belligerent, bigoted views as you will the beer out the pump, and nod and agree with all of the most intolerant assumptions just to get the hell out of there a few seconds quicker.
Anyway, as you might have guessed, when it comes to a character featuring in a series of adverts broadcast incessantly, Alexander Armstrong’s caricature of himself would not be my favoured option.
Next up for the exasperated Chris Addison to try and fathom is the dysfunctional couple, perfectly designed to send hatred coursing through my veins at the first sight of that barnet. Actually, as a side note, isn’t amazing how quickly your mind can translate the image in front of you, understand it as something you recognize and make you react accordingly? I reckon when this advert comes on, I can fill with rage AND change the channel in less than two seconds. Pretty good motor skills eh? Anyway getting back to the point, why would anyone decide to sell insurance through the use of a couple who hate each other but are too terrified to be apart? All this pairing does is demonstrate one of the most solemn aspects of human life; the fear of being alone. Would these people really prefer to be stuck in a loveless relationship, bickering over the most frivolous of issues? Yes sadly they would and what’s worse is that Direct Line will parade this farce of a marriage in front of us for comedic purposes.
So there it is, Direct Line continues to entice Britain’s comedians with money, and they ashamedly take it as they step up to the guillotine, all in the name of a little red phone. I personally like to think that the theme of awkwardness that runs through the adverts was not scripted, but was merely a by-product of the clash inside the actor’s heads of happiness from being paid a load of money, and their knowledge of their reputation being left in tatters from a few thirty second bursts, in a deplorable situation. Insurance sales and awkwardness, how could it not be funny?