The previous edition of Five Retro TV Commercials was an all ‘80s affair, and given the responses, I may have gone back a bit too far. Way to make me feel old, people. Like it’s my fault you were too lazy to get born before Good Humor retired Colossal Fossil ice pops.
Anyway, here’s my mutant mea culpa. Commercials that you were almost definitely around to see.
In one of my dusty bins, I found a video full of Pokemon episodes taped off of the WB Network in mid 2000. I believe I scored it from a yard sale, and that couldn’t have been later than 2003.
At the time, the commercials hiding within those Pikachu cartoons were too new to have any nostalgic appeal, so I never bothered to encode the tape during the X-E era. Now around fifteen years later, everything on this video feels totally ancient. And so do I.
Here are five of the more interesting ones, many of which are batshit:
Comet Pops! (2000)
These lollipops had special handles that worked like a cross between switchblades and lightsabers. It was one of those candies that doubled as a toy, and that’s how they were able to charge four bucks for 50 cents’ worth of lollipop.
While I’d concede that a space theme was right for this promotion, this ad went way too far. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it’s so obviously a commercial that spent the better part of its run causing four-year-olds to never sleep.
The ad featured multiple aliens sucking lollipops, including one that looked like the perfect midpoint between Jim Carrey’s Grinch and the girl from Species. Complete nightmare fuel.
Paired with ominous music and a menacing voice-over, I just can’t see “I want a lollipop” being anyone’s takeaway, irrespective of their age, gender or predisposition to love TV commercials starring candy-sucking aliens.
Wuv Luvs! (2000)
Wuv Luvs answered that age old question, “What would happen if we made Furbies amorphous and then let them give birth?”
The bizarre creatures looked like a mash of songbirds and still-beating horse hearts, with animated faces and neon fur. In the magic moment, we learn that the dolls are capable of laying eggs, which pop open to reveal BABY Wuv Luvs.
WOW. The weirdness doesn’t stem so much from the toys, but rather how they were presented. They play it so straight that this would’ve only worked had the ad been for one of those “mommy” dolls where a rubber baby slips out of the stomach. Instead we’re witnessing the miracle of birth via Zol from Zelda. I can’t stop watching this and probably never will.
Slim Jim! (2000)
I was never too fond of Slim Jim Guy, the dude who screamed “EAT ME” and who I suppose was the human embodiment of meat sticks? I don’t know, but he always struck me as a being a few rungs down the ladder from Randy Freakin’ Savage.
If 2000 doesn’t feel like that long ago, watch this commercial and just try to imagine it being made today. Would never happen. The premise of the ad is that women A) don’t eat Slim Jims and B) have stomachs that look like beauty boutiques from ‘80s sitcom dream sequences.
By the time Slim Jim Guy starts flirting with whatever food the starring female had previously eaten (!!!), you’ll be wondering how it got made at all.
Bright side: I mentioned Randy Savage. He and Slim Jim would soon part ways, but you can still hear Macho Man’s voice over the closing logo. Oooh yeah.
WCW Battle Arms! (2000)
World Championship Wrestling was still around in 2000, but its stock was fading fast. After a few short years, WWE would own the company outright.
In its final days, WCW was pretty nutty, featuring weird storylines that never seemed to click and all sorts of internal power struggles. Fans poked fun at the time, but with wrestling being so utterly scripted and utterly scheduled today, watching guys sent out to die with two minutes of direction for twenty minute promos is a strange breath of fresh air.
Heck, in its waning years, even WCW’s toys were berserk. These “Battle Arms” were basically claws shaped like alien laser guns, which could be used to make the wrassler action figures spin in circles. A pretty needless addition to the WCW toy line, but I admit that kids must’ve had fun with them. They’re robot claws with Goldberg and Sting in place of hands, after all. There’s a place for that.
PS: What’s with that cheap ass endpage display? It looks like they shot everything against prop steps from a Vegas wedding chapel. Hey director, have you heard of this thing called lighting?
Snack ‘Ums! (2000)
The commercial does nothing for me, but I wasn’t gonna miss my chance to blather on about Snack ‘Ums. Sold in the same sort of canisters as Planters Cheez Balls, the easiest summary of Snacks ‘Ums is “cereal as junk food.”
So you’d pull a random canister down from wherever and it’d basically just be Froot Loops, but since it was in a can, everything felt different. They were cooler Froot Loops.
This ad was just one from a series that subtly pitched Snack ‘Ums as sports fuel, as if there’s a single person who ate them who wasn’t already two hours into laying on the couch. It’s like when you see people skateboarding in a Go-Gurt commercial.
Thanks for reading. If you want more from me, my latest Star Wars piece is up, this time about those little metal roleplaying figures that kept the franchise on life support during its bleakest era.