In this edition of Five Retro TV Commercials, you’ll see everything from old pizza to old action figures to old cough drops. That’s my pitch.
Pizza Hut’s “Great White” Pizza! (1993)
I’m low-key obsessed with Pizza Hut’s discontinued specialty pies. By “low-key” I mean I’ve written songs about them.
There rarely seemed to be any strong impetus. Pizza Hut would just throw a bunch of shit at the dough and figure out a theme later. Good for them. I never pencil before I ink, either.
Everything about this particular pizza sounds amazing. Correlating it with Jaws might seem as if Pizza Hut was making mountains out of molehills, but I prefer to think of it as making Great Whites out of Gruyère.
FYI: The four-cheese Great White was sold at the same time as Pizza Hut’s more famous Bigfoot Pizza, which was like 42 feet long and I guess covered with fur. Just imagine calling a pizzeria to order a shark and a Sasquatch and ACTUALLY GETTING THEM.
Call Snow White! (1988)
I’ve previously mentioned that 1988 was probably the peak year for kid-targeted 900 numbers, and I wasn’t pretending. Now imagine that last sentence being read by someone who overdoes it on the phonemes.
You can tell from the cheap production values in most 1988 hotline ads that the business was viewed as a “get rich quick” scheme. Take this commercial for some random fairytale hotline, for instance.
It was obviously shot in a regular house with literally no set dressing, which becomes an increasingly weird point as scores of kids and their storybook heroes file in.
Then there’s the young spokeswoman, sporting the heaviest Long Island accent I think I’ve ever heard. She does a good job, even if I don’t understand why she winks at the camera after telling us to remember the number. What, was it a joke? Am I supposed to forget the number?
I’ve found at least 20 other commercials for similarly low-rent hotlines, all from 1988. It was the weirdest thing about 1988, so long as we’re not counting the picnic scene from Mistress of the Dark.
SilverHawks Action Figures! (1987)
I haven’t written nearly enough about SilverHawks over the years, and for that I apologize. Here’s my sorry face: 😳
I don’t have terribly strong memories of the cartoon, but the toy line was just freakin’ tremendous. While mostly famous for its assortment of shiny alien birdmen, SilverHawks was even more impressive in the villains department.
Each of the baddies was wholly unique. Their leader, Mon*Star, could flip between heads that looked like a beat-up goblin and a mutant Statue of Liberty. His henchman, Buzz-Saw, had a circular blade acting as a mohawk. And further down the line was a guy who I swear was just a straight-up minotaur.
If you’re looking for something new (old new) to collect, you could do a lot worse than SilverHawks figures.
Frosted Flakes w/ Secret Message Pens! (1988)
Skip to the end of this one, where we learn about the SECRET MESSAGE PENS that once came free inside specially marked boxes of Frosted Flakes. That’s the important part.
I f’n loved those sets. If you’ve never seen them in action, you got one pen that wrote “invisibly,” and another that’d reveal your secret message when you scribbled over it. The pens were fun to use exactly once, sure, but they did seem pretty extravagant for freebies that came inside boxes of mangled corn.
(And man, remember how careful we used to be with our cereal prizes? For five minutes, I mean.)
The Halls of Medicine! (1993)
I know this commercial is boring compared to what I normally feature, but that’s kinda the point.
This Halls commercial got massive play in the early ‘90s, but I mostly remember it airing at noon on Saturdays, which signaled the end of children’s programming and the start of so much unwatchable bullshit.
Adding insult to injury, even the commercials stopped being good.
It sounds strange, but I absolutely associate this specific commercial with those weekend doldrums, when the Saturdays I spent all week praying for turned out flat. Garfield went back to bed, and now all I had to console me during those six hours before Star Trek were goddamned cough drop ads.