Just like last time, everything in this edition of Five Retro TV Commercials came from that insanely great Real Ghostbusters tape. Thanks again to “MZ” for so diligently recording all of Slimer’s antics back in ‘88 — there’s still enough left on that one cassette for me to do several more editions!
T.H.I.N.G.S. Toys! (1988)
Milton Bradley’s collection of T.H.I.N.G.S. doesn’t have much of a following, but trust me, these were great little games. They’re tough to describe, but I guess we could consider them “berserk carnival games” magically condensed into ten ounces of plastic.
The sprawling line frequently made use of motorized action features, with various pieces spinning, bouncing, and just generally making T.H.I.N.G.S. feel like they should’ve cost so much more than six bucks a pop.
The games had totally distinct themes, linked together only by the fact that they were all so bizarrely fetching. One game might feature a giant, Kong-like gorilla, while the next might challenge you to rescue astronauts from a space alien. It was basically the Atari 2600 library as a series of wind-up toys.
Fun fact: I reviewed some of these back on X-E, complete with shitty YouTube demonstrations. One of those videos has garnered more than 900,000 views over the last 8 years. I have no idea why.
Crunch Berries Cereal! (1988)
To my knowledge, the only cosmetic difference with today’s version of Crunch Berries is that the berry pieces now come in additional colors. Turns out, that’s a pretty big difference. Crunch Berries originally stuck with red berry pieces, and I tell you in all sincerity that it was four trillion times better that way.
It had a lot to do with the TV commercials, like this one, in which Cap’n Crunch suggests that those cornmeal rocks began their lives as anthropomorphic cartoon berries. I can’t be the only one who regarded them as celebrities, or who considered them outright delicacies.
This commercial is also notable for promoting those old Willow cereal prizes, which in keeping with the movie’s theme were supposed to work like magic tricks. I still have a few of them, and it’s incredible how much effort went into cereal prizes that so few kids could’ve wanted. Nothing against Willow, but not one person mentioned that movie to me before I was 22.
Nerf Footballs! (1988)
Thank God for Nerf footballs. They gave us uncoordinated oafs a chance to get on the field and not make total fools of ourselves. Through Nerf I learned that I didn’t actually hate football — I was just afraid of it. Or them, I should say. Literal footballs. Big, hard and hurtful. Gonna sit this one out, boys.
My neighborhood friends were all athletes to some degree, which was completely infuriating except for the few times when I went to their Little League games and got to blow five bucks at the snack shack. Playing sports was their hobby and passion, and no matter how hard I pitched, “let’s go sit in my room so you can watch me play Nintendo” never seemed to click.
The Nerf era was an oasis, because even I could play with a Nerf football. Go ahead, hit me with it… which was what I assumed the intention was whenever our star quarterback chose me for a catch. Normally I’d just step to the side and do two seconds’ worth of the Watusi, but with Nerf, fuck it, at least I tried.
UPDATE: A few readers pointed out that this one stars a young Kevin Connolly, who also turned up in the Sega commercial I wrote about last week. Kid was busy in 1988!
Well, here it is, the ultimate 1980s Kool-Aid commercial, where no effect was too cheesy, no song too cheerful, and no amount too much. I love it. If you’re on the younger side and never understood my fascination with Kool-Aid, commercials like this account for half of the explanation.
Interesting note: Many (including myself) have championed this ad for its rare Great Bluedini appearance, but that’s not the Great Bluedini. In fact, he wouldn’t come around for another four years! Instead, we can consider this Kool-Aid’s attempt to test the waters with a giant blue octopus mascot. Let’s face it: That’s not the kind of bet you go all-in on unless you’re really sure.
Family Ties! (1988)
I was (and still am) a big Family Ties fan. I caught most of its original prime time run, plus a lifetime’s worth of syndicated reruns. When I elect to watch it now, I can’t deny that it’s mainly fueled by nostalgia: The show just reminds me of so much of my youth, from when I was a tiny boy to when I was a terrible teenager.
Actually, my strongest memories come from between those extremes — probably when I was in the 4th or 5th grade. By then, the show was already in syndication, with episodes even popping up on Saturdays. As I recall, Family Ties capped off a block of favorable sitcom reruns, effecting ending my distractions from a boring ass weekend.
A depressing moment for sure, but it was made so much worse by Family Ties’ weirdly sad closing theme, which sounds like something you could totally dub over Arnold’s death in Terminator 2. Like, picture being in the 5th grade, and imagine the exact moment when Saturday went kaput. Isn’t the Family Ties closing theme just perfect for it?
Thanks for reading!