You may only be a few days into your advent calendar, but television is already pretty much running at full Christmas capacity, bringing back traditionally festive programmes like a dancing programme where half the participants can’t dance and live celebrity torture all the way from the jungle, and ladelling on the festive misery with appalling adverts where each company battles to make the audience cry the most and then share their misery over Facebook, albeit in an astoundingly happy manner.
Winning at the moment is John Lewis’ desperately emotional two-minute epic where a hare, not content with spending Christmas with all its other friends, insists on disturbing a bear’s hibernation which will more than likely result in the bear’s death shortly after due to the lack of food after the Christmas dinner sandwiches run out. As long as you’re happy though hare, as long as you get your one day of happiness you selfish fool. It seems as though the hare’s heartless need for attention has been a massive hit with the weeping masses so far though, outstripping Boots’ present giving chav and Debenhams’ highly unrealistic depiction of fembots doing Christmassy stuff like ice skating or wandering around the house in lingerie in the pass-me-the-tissues-while-I-tweet-my-sadness stakes.
But if the snippets of festivity aren’t enough to forcibly stuff you full of Christmas cheer like an unsuspecting turkey, then stop over at Channel 5 for their daily regurgitation of straight-to-TV Christmas films. 5 were unable to contain their seasonal cheer and like an excitable cracker, ejaculated their underwhelming offerings on the 29th November. There are some truly great Christmas films though aren’t there? The Muppet Christmas Carol, Home Alone, Elf; who wouldn’t want to watch these quality heart-warming films, whiling away the miserable winter afternoons with family friendly humour? In fact, I could happily watch Elf everyday all year round and still chuckle when he gets hit by the taxi. The problem is; these films are not Elf, they’re not even Jingle All the Way. Instead we get such instantly forgettable titles such as I’ll Be Home For Christmas starring the one that was the mischievous middle child from Home Improvement and young Simba from The Lion King, Christmas Returns To Canaan featuring Miley’s denim clad dad, and It’s Christmas, Carol, which has an almost clever title, and that’s it.
But everybody loves a Christmas movie, I hear you cry. It’s true, everyone does, but these aren’t Christmas movies; these are interchangeable stories of nothingness where the overriding theme is blandness and practically all of the films follow the same well-worn plot of non-believer falls in love with newly created relation of Santa and believes again which gets about as tired as I do after eating my own body weight in pigs-in-blankets and selection box chocolate. All of the offending titles are described as family films meaning that adults and children alike can get together and bond over a shared hatred of the unimaginative, middle of the road sagas that hijack their screen at painful daily intervals. At least there is one positive then, other than the heart-warming life lessons of course.
We can only hope that they are saving the big guns until later on in the month and soon our memories of nondescript blandness will be wiped from our minds by the capers of John McClane and a German Alan Rickman, or a Santa killing Tim Allen and a whole host of films from an altogether higher class of Christmas flick. The trouble is, by the time the superior films come around our fondness for festivity is all but dried up, what with the sensory assault from all aspects of life since the first leaves began to fall from the trees. For now all we can do is hope that the power of nostalgia and festive cheer can take us through this flurry of awfulness and deliver us to the last few days of December before January pessimism takes hold so we can all enjoy real, cinema-gracing Christmas films. If only Channel 5 hadn’t been listening to “I wish it could be Christmas everyday” when planning their December lineup.
It’s been a while since I dived into the murky depths of terrible adverts but recently there has been one offending the nation for the past couple of weeks that is so awful, so painfully irritating, that it had to be publicly shamed in the hope that those in advertising will hear the public outcry and realise the error of their ways.
The advert of course is the McCain five-minute jacket potato advert and to avoid any long-winded tangential rambling, the heinous concept of a five minute spud will not be addressed. Instead we’ll focus on the miserable excuse for an advert that was chosen to try and force the microtato (proud of that one) on the poor, unwitting public.
For some unknown reason, the powers that be decided to use the ‘primary school rhyming’ method to sell their product: A method so terrible and overused that it has already been featured on The Pop Cult Assault for its crimes against the audience, but continues to be adopted by advertising companies on an almost daily basis. Undeterred by this, McCain plough on and present to us another dollop of dumbed down poetry, complete with pretty colours and little anthropomorphic animal characters to create that loving, homely feel. Not content with this most basic of rhyming schemes, McCain lower the standard yet again like a poorly educated game of language limbo and do away with sentences altogether, and leave us for a section of the advert with just a strange gathering of vaguely synonymous words. It’s as if the writers of this atrocity gave up and just copied out thesaurus passages to fill in the gaps.
In case you are unaware at just how bad this little verse is, or if your ears have done you a favour and simply refused to allow such drivel into your brain, here it is in writing:
Meet the jacket, say hello,
Take a seat and watch him go.
I thought you’d need an hour at least,
You fluffy, tasty, super feast.
But no, in just five minutes time,
Before I’d even found a rhyme,
For done or quick or brisk or wow,
Or yum yum yum or holy cow.
A tick had tocked and on the plate,
An hour’s worth of something great.
The oven-bakey, tasty jacket,
And out it comes of this nice packet.
It’s hard to know where to go next with this; do we acknowledge that we’re being asked to greet a cooked potato, or simply dive straight in to the almost football pundit-esque quality of jumbling up tenses like a grammatical tombola? How about that pre-existent words were deemed unsuitable for these sinful stanzas and that new lexis had to be invented in order to convey the true power of the writing. Nothing can evoke the same semantics as oven-bakey now, can it? I mean, why leave the coining of new phrases to Shakespeare or Joyce, what makes them so special?
To add insult to injury, as with previous McCain adverts, the bastardisation of poetry is set to ‘Oh Happy Day’, the anthemic gospel song which practically defines a section of Christianity, and now a backing track for an abomination in the field of literature and spoken word.
So there you have it; an advert once again adopting a terrible poetry style and failing, this time, in biblical proportions.
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?
Would You Say you’re a Dry Wiper?
Have you ever come to the conclusion that toilet roll just doesn’t cut it? That you’re arse just isn’t quite as clean as it could be? No? Nor has anyone else, apart from Dawn Porter that is, and her friends at Andrex. It is this wondering that has led to the invention of the Washlet.
I say invention, really it’s just a wet wipe in a different box, like the ones that you use on babies, except this one is for adults and more specifically those who do not feel competent in the most basic field of arse-wiping. Obviously Andrex needed a relatable face to put with this new product, so of course they went for Dawn Porter, who found fame by getting naked and lezzing off on BBC3 under the thin veil of journalism. To give the adverts more of an accessible and real life Porter introduces the product and her daily reports of how the product feels. We importantly learn that Dawn classes herself as a ‘dry wiper’ (just like you and me) but is willing to try new and exciting things. On Day 1 Dawn comments ‘I wouldn’t say it’s wet, it’s moist,’ which leaves you thinking maybe this terrifying new revelation isn’t quite as scary as I first thought, and also, does that mean she’s just been for a shit? By Day 3, Dawn states that she is ‘definitely feeling fresher’. This surely brings in to question her commitment to wiping, and for me casts a shadow over the Dawn Porter character and a certain malaise towards my new found knowledge of her toilet routine.
So impressed by these baby wipes, sorry, Washlets, Dawn feels the need to take to the street to accost the unsuspecting public and ask them to wipe their arse. Unsurprisingly, the public does not really fancy talking on camera to a person they’ve never met about dry-wiping, or if they’ve ever considered alternatives, but this does not deter Porter oh no, if anything it spurs her on to break down the social taboo of bum sanitation and convert the nation to wet cheeks. And somewhere, between Dawn Porter and Andrex’s struggling advertising department, the idea is sprung to make this a series of adverts, a full blown campaign, to free the cowed, repressed nation of Britain from their embarrassment and closed-mindedness. Porter threatens ‘Anytime I do anything with this campaign I’m going to put it on Facebook’ (imagine the pictures, gross) and then reveals her intentions. What follows is another five, yes five, adverts of Dawn surprising people in a variety of awkward situations, with the best by far being the one where she tries to get men on board. This one guy on a treadmill basically he admits that he needs a shit right then and there! Hopefully he’ll make it to the toilet (with his Washletsof course) on time and doesn’t Paula Radcliffe all over the place.
So does this campaign work? Of course not. Does it break down the stigma attached to discussion of bottom sanitation and various methods of approach. Of course it does. People are now liberated and are able to discuss both the terrible advert and terrible product that address exactly that.
Still, anything for a bit of extra freshness…