To tie in with Dino Drac’s Cruel Summer event, everything featured in this edition of Five Retro TV Commercials has something to do with summertime. Or cruelty.
Get set for ice cream, fried chicken and water-squirting robot men!
Butterfinger Ice Cream Bars! (1991)
I was never big on Butterfinger bars before Bart started shilling them. I’m not sure if I ever really liked them, but a vote of confidence from Homer and Bart meant everything in the early ‘90s. I endured them because the Simpsons said to, even if I deep down knew that super oily candy bars with the consistency of particleboard just weren’t my thing.
On the other hand, I thought Butterfinger was marvelous as an ice cream component. I lavished praise on Butterfinger Ice Cream Nuggets during the last Purple Stuff Podcast, but I was almost as big on the Butterfinger Ice Cream Bars featured here.
Roy Rogers Beach Party! (1987)
I haven’t eaten Roy Rogers’ fried chicken in over a decade, but you never forget that taste. The two-piece white meat combo (with fries and a biscuit, of course) still rates as my ideal last meal. If I found out that a giant asteroid was gonna kill us all, I’d eat those combos twice a day, every day.
The weird thing is that I find most fried chicken kind of grody. Even in my weakest moment, you’d never be able to convince me to sample the wares from any fly-by-night chicken joint. Experience has taught me that fried chicken is a delicate flower, and very easy to make disgusting.
But Roy’s chicken never failed me, not even once. It’s “chicken” in the way that potato chips are potatoes. I also appreciated how the thick, crispy skin doubled as a relief map of the seven continents.
Super Soaker Man! (1992)
It’s difficult to overstate how much Super Soakers meant to kids when they first hit store shelves. Every kid played with water guns from time to time, but this was like a Pokemon Go situation. Super Soakers became this wildly communal experience, where you didn’t even necessarily know the kids you were trading bullets with. You’d just walk outside with your neon gun, and soon enough, things happened.
Back then, Super Soaker had so much name value that Larami rolled the dice on a few “goofier” products, like the mofo from this commercial. Looking like a cross between RoboCop and a can of Sprite, Super Soaker Man was just a regular water gun in the shape of an odd robot. Totally impractical, yet wholly irresistible.
PS: This commercial is just aces. Behold, Super Soaker Man in Generic Dystopia! Here he battles punk children and Dollar Store Rambo! To the victor go the cinder blocks!
Pogo Bal Blasters! (1988)
The “Pogo Bal” was Hasbro’s trademarkable nickname for pogo balls — meaning those weird Saturn-shaped personal trampoline things.
The way I saw it, only 5% of kids could effectively use pogo balls. The rest of us only ever managed single bounces before crashing onto the concrete. (Course, that could be my pride talking, because every pogo ball memory I have ends with me bleeding and crying before an audience of gigglers.)
I eventually gave up on trying to “ride” mine, and instead used it as an action figure playset. Pogo balls were shaped like flying saucers, after all. I’d line mine with figures and slowly raise the whole thing upward, like that ghoulish platform from Cats. Sometimes I’d even hum the music, as if my G.I. Joes were ascending to cat heaven.
I didn’t have many friends.
Sexy Hotline! (1993)
I know this seems like an odd pick for a mix of “summertime” commercials, but hear me out.
When I was in my tweens and early teens, summer vacation meant lots of late night television. Back then, my days felt like they began at night. I’d habitually stay up as late as possible, because only in the wee hours was I free to putz around and eat Ritz crackers without quarrel.
Late night TV was way different than daytime TV, right down to the commercials. I remember seeing these “sexy hotline” ads all the time. Hell, on certain cable stations at certain hours, it wasn’t uncommon for three or four different ones to run in a row. They were constantly on, and I loved them — as much for making my nights seem mature as for the actual mature content.
No matter where you stood on these steamy commercials, they sure beat the endless ads for Nissan and Hyundai. Who shops for cars at 2 in the morning?!