While digging through my barrel of tapes for the ongoing Five Retro TV Commercials series, I came across a real doozy: Several hours’ worth of Batman: The Animated Series episodes, all taped off of Fox back in 1993.
Fox Action Theater Intro! (1993)
I haven’t written much about Batman: TAS, but I was a very devoted fan. Dark, restrained and sensitive, it was pretty much the antithesis of most early ‘90s cartoons. I’ve loved lot of Bat-things over the years, but if I’m being objective, nothing has ever topped this series.
The VHS recording left every commercial intact, and since Batman: TAS was probably the only animated series I always made an effort to watch back in ‘93, I remember nearly all of them. Sooo many goodies!
I’d estimate that I could score at least four editions of Five Retro TV Commercials from this one tape. This is the first. See how many you remember, down below. For reference, they all would’ve aired in the fall of ‘93.
G.I. Joe D.E.F. Collection! (1993)
It’s pretty shocking that Hasbro went here. The G.I. Joe Drug Elimination Force (D.E.F.) was exactly what it sounds like: A group of Joes bent on taking down drug dealers.
Hearing that voiceover guy reference “drug pushers” is downright surreal. No matter how increasingly liberal we’ve become over the last 20+ years, you’d never see a toy commercial like this today.
Hell, there were even action figures REPRESENTING drug dealers. King among them was Headman, who looked like what might happen if Zorro found himself working for Big Boy Caprice.
No matter how exploitative, Hasbro was careful to convey the right message. No less than a live action Joe appears at the end of the commercial, advising us that real Americans heroes don’t do drugs. “Just say no, and buy our toys.”
Knights and Warriors Promo! (1993)
Knights and Warriors was basically American Gladiators set at a Medieval Times restaurant. Actually, that sums up things so perfectly that I don’t know what else to write.
You’ll note that the show aired on Sundays at 1 PM. My God, has there ever been a more perfect example of the kind of wacky shit you’d see on major networks in terrible weekend timeslots?
Back then, Fox and other networks routinely filled their most useless weekend blocks with all sorts of cheap, syndicated programming. Certain shows wound up gaining popularity, but most remained in this virtual abyss, collecting apathetic cult followings that wouldn’t learn how to worship in unison until the internet finally rolled around.
Remember my tribute to weekend TV programming of a misspent youth? Knights and Warriors was absolutely one of those shows. Just another series that served as an IV drip to keep you from literally dying of boredom.
Dinosaurs Toys! (1993)
The Sinclair family from ABC’s Dinosaurs was made for merchandising, and intentionally so. You don’t make that kind of investment if toys aren’t part of your endgame. This commercial collects some of their best efforts.
I’ll bet that most of you owned at least one of the “standard” Dinosaurs action figures, which looked neat but still carried the vague air of “bath toys.” More impressive was the talking Baby Sinclair doll, which was essentially life-sized and a pretty hot item in its time.
Berry Berry Kix! (1993)
I had no idea how much I missed the original incarnation of Berry Berry Kix until finding this ad. The cereal still exists under the same name, but it’s become so dramatically different that I’d hardly count it. Lo and behold, there’s even a Facebook group calling for the original’s return.
By the time Berry Berry Kix debuted, I’d already warmed up to regular Kix. It looked like one of those boring “safe with parents” cereals on the surface, but Kix was sugary as hell, and tasted like out-and-out candy.
Naturally, Berry Berry Kix was just an extreme version of that, adding cluster-shaped fruity bits in with the regular Kix. It was amazing, guys. Like eating a pile of petrified nuts and bolts that just happened to taste like fruity corn.
Fox Weeknights TV Promo! (1993)
I love both shows to pieces, but I concede that this is a strange promo to feature. At least on the surface.
Yeah, they used the shot of Rose and Sophia bouncing their bowling cleavage in harmony, but more interesting to me is the general reminder of sitcom reruns on weekday afternoons, and how they used to carry the weight of the entire day.
Many networks still spread sitcoms across their late afternoon lineups, but nowadays, I can’t see it meaning as much. If I’m a twelve-year-old in 2016 with time to kill, I’m gonna be reblogging GIFs on Tumblr, not watching Everybody Loves Raymond.
Back then, it was this or nothing. You’d get home from school, watch cartoons until 5, and then spend those dull hours before prime time gobbling up old sitcoms. That was the culture. What, you think Saved by the Bell has its reputation because every kid watched the first-run episodes on Saturdays? Fuck no! Our loyalty bred during weeknight blocks of commercial-packed, way-edited repeats.
Thanks for reading. This Batman tape is a goldmine, so expect lots more from 1993 as the Five Retro TV Commercials series rolls on.
PS: If you missed it, the latest Purple Stuff Podcast is all about He-Man. We’re thrilled with the feedback on this episode, by the way. Thanks for making a 75 minute conversation about He-Man worth having.