Five Retro TV Commercials, Part 35!

I take pride in letting Dino Drac be a distraction from the real world, but to ignore the real world this week is beyond gross. Here’s a list of Black Lives Matter fundraisers that you should consider donating to. There are many orgs on that list that are purely humanitarian, and I’d like to believe that everyone can find causes in there to get behind.

Take your time. This article will still be here later. Below is the latest edition of Five Retro TV Commercials, featuring everything from Garfield-endorsed ravioli to Matt-endorsed Dorothy Zbornak.

TMNT Badges at Burger King! (1990)

With their cartoon, toy line and movie all white hot, the Ninja Turtles completely owned 1990. Or at least co-owned it with Bart Simpson. Life must’ve been wretched for kids who hated the Turtles, because they were everywhere.

“Everywhere” included Burger King. Especially Burger King! Aside from the BK-exclusive TMNT videotapes that literally every person on the planet owned, there was also this collection of “badges” — large, clip-on wearables that straddled the line between toys and jewelry. One free with every Kids Club Meal!

BK was never my preferred fast food joint, but I gleefully traded Ronald’s McNuggets for the King’s Chicken Tenders whenever they came with hot Leonardo swag.

As for the commercial embedded above, it remains the only piece of media starring the Ninja Turtles, Kid Vid and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

Garfield Ravioli! (1994)

Arriving in 1994, Garfield Ravioli survived in stores through 1998. It only had major distribution in its first year, though, which explains why so few people remember it.

I, luckily, am among those people. I can’t say that I was especially into Garfield in 1994, but I was especially into ravioli bombs that were stuffed to the point of obscenity. About half as large as avocado pits but nearly as round, each piece was like an Italian dumpling. Smack gnocchi with a Thunder Stone, and you’re in the area.

Garfield drifts in and out of broad relevance like a leaf blowing in the wind. In 1994, I guess the argument was that a Saturday morning cartoon star could still carry canned pasta even in his waning years. I don’t have the box office receipts, but from a critical perspective, Garfield Ravioli got five stars.

NBC’s Full Moon Saturday! (1992)

It’s strange to realize, but I got as much mileage from NBC’s Saturday night lineup as I did from ABC’s TGIF lineup. I was Saturday-loyal to NBC as far back as 1987, when I was barely eight years old. I traditionally watched those shows on my parents’ bedroom TV, which was smaller, safer, and usually reserved for “scary” things like Unsolved Mysteries. To this day, I can still smell the Old Spice wafting over from my father’s dresser whenever anyone brings up 227.

At a certain point, NBC’s Saturday night lineup evolved from a collection of disparate sitcoms into a branded event, with the characters sharing one universe and even appearing on each other’s shows. You kids with your iPhones and rock concerts! In my day, people got excited when Sophia guested on Nurses.

There were also occasional theme nights, including the one promoted here: Full Moon Saturday, where every respective sitcom was put under the spell of a full moon. As I recall, it was this full moon that led Dorothy to kiss Miles, which Rose might’ve been slower to forgive had she herself not just kissed the thief who ran off with Blanche’s necklace. I say “as I recall” like I didn’t just watch this yesterday.

Blockbuster Bonus Box! (1995)

If you’ve never heard of Blockbuster Bonus Boxes, they were like the treat boxes Toys “R” Us used to give out. Rent some videos, and you’d go home with a box stuffed with food samples, coupons and even ephemeral collectibles — which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but I don’t know what else to call a print ad for a Visa card starring Amy from Congo.

The free food was the main draw, of course. There were many Bonus Boxes over the years, but a typical mix included a trial-sized box of cereal, chewing gum, some sort of cookie, and — if you were lucky — a tiny pack of Gummi Savers.

Blockbuster wasn’t an altruistic middleman. To get a Bonus Box, you had to rent three movies. Now let’s assume you were 11 or 12, with parents flush enough to let you rent three tapes in one go. That means you left Blockbuster with Batman Forever, The Mask, Mortal Kombat *and* a box of free candy. A hell of a Friday night, right there!

Milton Bradley’s Waterfuls! (1987)

Waterfuls was an immense collection of… games… and I’m struggling to come up with a clearer description than that. Picture a Coleco tabletop arcade game, but mix it with an Ant Farm and fill it with water. Those were Waterfuls. Clearer now?

I’ve seen Waterfuls sold under both Milton Bradley and Tomy’s umbrellas, and if I was willing to put in an additional minute of research, I could probably explain why. Instead I’ll just confirm that the name “Waterfuls” was as much a stamp of quality as an identifier of brand, because there were zillions of lousier companies making similar games, and they almost always sucked.

Waterfuls were perfectly executed. The way those little charms and hoops swam through the tanks made them feel incomprehensibly alive, as if they were filled with the sea equivalent of the moth larvae inside Mexican jumping beans.

I don’t believe they were toys that kids specifically asked for, so thank God for all of those aunts and uncles who barely knew us. Yeah, they bought our presents five minutes before the party at that pharmacy two blocks away, but within those confines, they chose well!

Thanks for reading.