I’ve been encoding old VHS tapes like crazy lately, collecting more commercials than my computer and two external hard drives can reasonably handle.
This article is a small step in clearing the cache, but it’s mainly an excuse for me to gush about giant squid and microwave pizza.
Hurricane Hordak! (1986)
I’m not sure that any 1980s toy line had better TV commercials than Masters of the Universe. (And it’s not like there wasn’t plenty of competition!)
While the cartoon series was famously criticized for being a commercial in of itself, I don’t remember many times when He-Man’s animated antics made me beg for action figures. By contrast, some of Mattel’s 30-second spots made me literally shake with lust.
The commercials that hit hardest always had some tie to the Evil Horde, like the one featured here. Something about Hordak’s crew brought the artistry out of Mattel HQ. (Would we have cared nearly so much about the Slime Pit without its incredible TV commercial?)
Hurricane Hordak was the second of three distinct Hordak figures in the original line, remembered as much for his swank golden armor as the fact that his right hand was now a spinning mace.
Rice Krispies Treats Cereal! (1993)
I don’t blink an eye when I pass by it now, but when Rice Krispies Treats Cereal debuted in 1993, it was an ENORMOUS deal. A total “drop everything and find this cereal” situation.
I never ate my cereal with milk, but this was one of the rare cases where I may have been in the majority.
See, Rice Krispies Treats Cereal was junk food in the more traditional sense. You’d eat it by the handful while watching sitcoms and playing video games. It was as close to a bag of chips as a box of cereal could be.
Seriously, when you look at that box, don’t you picture 9PM more than 9AM? (I’ll settle for 5PM, but the point still holds.)
Depressed Statues! (1986)
This PSA about clinical depression used to be on television ALL THE TIME. It got a ton of play during shows like Gumby and Woody Woodpecker, which seems off at first, but I guess not so much once you start peeling the onion.
It was another in an endless parade of PSAs that I completely misread as a kid. I wasn’t so naive as to imagine “depression” as something that literally turned people into statues, but I definitely believed that it made them freeze in place.
At the time, PSAs of all sorts made the world seem weirder and bleaker. Whether they were about illnesses or drunk driving or house fires, I left them thinking that nothing was safe and that everything was semi-supernatural. It made for interesting daydreams, but terrible nightmares.
The Beast Hits NBC! (1996)
The Beast premiered when my interest in giant squiddies was at an all-time high. In retrospect, I suppose those two facts weren’t mutually exclusive.
The 1996 TV movie was pushed by NBC as hard as I’ve ever seen a network push anything. The promos were incessant, but since they could pretty accurately market the film as “the Jaws of the ‘90s,” I don’t blame them for going all-in.
The Beast taxed its audience’s patience and was hardly a hit with critics, but the idea of a two-night television event involving a GIANT MONSTER SQUID completely ruled my world.
This one-minute promo immediately preceded the film, effectively acting as its intro. No matter what anyone thought of the movie, you have to admit that the promo suckers you in.
(Haha suckers, because squid.)
Tony’s Microwave Pizza! (1987)
I have no special connection to this exact commercial, but I sooo relate to the idea of microwave pizza being the main event — or really the only event — on an otherwise “nothing night.”
Eventually you get old and your metabolism sucks and you can’t bite into a microwave pizza without tasting witch’s apples, but when you were a kid, it was everything. Each one of those pizzas meant I could tolerate another Saturday night spent putzing around in my bedroom. “Beer for kids,” in a sense.
Also, I think it’s time we admitted that the best part of microwave pizza is the loose cheese that gets stuck to the cardboard. I think of it as vegetarian tomalley.
CONTINUE TO RETRO TV COMMERCIALS: PART 23!
…OR JUMP BACK TO PART 21!