For reasons best known to nature and glands, the other day I had a very unsuccessful night of sleep. It was 60% sweating and c.40% slumber, although either figure may need to be adjusted to take farts into account. When I'm awake, I've never been willing or able to just lie around in bed, always choosing the option of getting up instead. And so it came to pass that I got up at 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning and was able to indulge one of my greatest passions - watching informercials.
Infomercials are perhaps the greatest American invention of them all. Glossy women and over-earnest men hawking products of almost obscene brilliance, sometimes in front of a live studio audience but always interspersed with vox pops from "real members of the public" and sepia-tinted flashback sequences of the bad old days. Aren't you tired of your can opener only opening cans? This one has a light!
I love them. I love their way with words. I love their bad acting. I love their repetitiveness - a factor which makes them perfect viewing for drug trippers and toddlers alike. My particular favourites are usually for household products, especially for cooking or cleaning, but sometimes health and beauty ones scratch me just where I itch too. The only ones I have no time for are the ones that hawk muscle toning or exercise equipment. Horrifically toned people judging me will never replace smiley women telling me how to get bad, bad stains out of a carpet in my affections.
I've often told people I have, in my mind, a list of my all time favourites. I've never committed this to print, type or paper before, though. UNTIL TODAY. Oh yes.
Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer
This absolute stormer is probably the infomercial I have watched the most times. Shamefully, I would often read the schedules of home shopping channels in advance, just so I could watch it. LaLanne is American TV's original body building superstar. Now, at the age of 163, he and his wife have invented a nuclear-powered juicer to teach us the joy of healthy eating. Joined by a dazzlingly deferential smiley woman, they extol the virtues of this miracle product. So many juicers lack the power to get all the juice and, therefore, nutrients from your fruit and veg. Not the Power Juicer. It's engine - albeit 'whisper quiet' - is an old Soviet army W16 with the power to juice a tree. Once the comestible is in the system, the Patented Extraction Technology reduces absolutely anything - pears, cucumbers, coconuts, cannonballs - to a huge slurry of juice and a small pile of bone dry pulp. This pulp is full of fibre and nutrients... don't waste it, mix it into muffins or pasta sauces! Your whole family will be as regular as the Swiss railways! The juice that comes out, perhaps by virtue of the atomic force of the motor being able to reduce even that which contains no liquid into juice, looks not unlike a pond at the end of summer. However, wiping the thick sediment from their hungry chops, members of the public assure me that this is the most delicious juice ever seen. What's more, the Jack LaLanne power juicer is dishwasher safe! Order now and receive a huge bushel of Mrs. LaLanne's delicious juice recipes absolutely free! If you're not shitting through the eye of a needle within 30 days, you get your money back!
No-Wet Wonder Foam
This infomercial is another to fit into the 'scheduling a day's viewing around it' category. This is because it is my favourite ever TV product. A product so good, they just can't sell it in the shops, it would make the other cleaning products feel bad! A British-made mercial, No-Wet Wonder Foam is a super-concentrated upholstery blitzing compound which will take the stains out of anything, leaving your skin intact. The reason this was such a magical infomercial, as is so often the case, was the beauty of the demonstrations. Here, an undyingly affable Jewish man, who you'd genuinely love to be your uncle, takes areas of carpet and proceeds to make them filthy with the help of red wine, beetroot, Biro pen and shoe polish. Then, with just one tiny amount of Wonder Foam, he makes mincemeat of the stains. The miracle jollop - which can be used neat or in solution (or with the handy foamer bottle you receive FREE) - sucks up all the stain within its frothy goodness, simply leaving a filth-blackened dry foam residue which can be vacuumed up afterwards. Its awesome power and versatility also means you can use it to completely remove stains anywhere and on more or less any fabric - a boon for serial killers.
The Ped Egg
Aren't you tired of not being able to wear your most beautiful strappy shoes because your heels are so grotesquely cracked they look like Boris Karloff eating a bowl of cornflakes? You can spend fortunes on pedicures or on files and knives you use at home, lopping off toes and leaving great snowdrifts of dead flesh lying around for the vicar to see. Or you can buy the Ped Egg! It's ergonomically designed to fit in your hand! The microfiles only grate off the dead skin - it's so gentle it won't even burst a balloon! And the Ped Egg keeps all the bits of dead you INSIDE its shell until you're ready to empty it, so there's no mess! In this infomercial, a blonde piece who is so happy you could probably power cars off her goes to a dance studio to introduce this miracle product to a troupe of dancers whose feet all resemble Shrek's first wank. They're thrilled! Look at all the skin that comes off! I can walk again! My feet used to look like an Ankole Cattle's head! I can use this anywhere! I tell you, I'm completely sold. I want one. Basically, this blog post also serves as a gift wish list, should you feel the need to shower me with affection.
The Steam Buggy
Household cleaning! It's horrible, and to get off the most grimy, ground-in, stains, you need to fire nothing less powerful than depleted uranium shells at it. Not any more! The Steam Buggy - a device which could very conceivably also be used as a self-defence weapon, now I think about it - is a light, shoulder-mounted bucket o' water which fires out super-heated steam at ferocious velocity. It completely removes anything in its path. Oven guano! Floor dirt! Skin! With its numerous attachments, it can be used to steam clean wooden floors you THOUGHT were clean, but no! After using the steam buggy, your head is 3 inches further from the ceiling than five minutes previously. My favourite demonstration of this awesome device comes in the bathroom. The woman wielding this mighty tool is a bubbly, permed blonde with an electrifyingly expensive smile. She demonstrates how the steam buggy is great for cleaning shitters. The steam sterilises your filthy, filthy hole, and can also remove biological waste you didn't even know was there. With that, she fucking well blasts the seat hinges, revealing years of dried on urine the colour of which explains why I don't drink Lucozade. The woman in this infomercial is quite a star of the genre. She also appears in a studio demonstration of a hand blender with the power of three suns. It can aerate water and coffee powder into a foamy dessert! It can reduce bricks and nails into a delicious drink in seconds! I have to tell you, I quite fancy her.
This particular product carries with it a corollary. Such was my passion for this infomercial, I'd watch it more or less wherever I went with the right channels. I was at my brother's house one day doing so, and he came in and saw it. As we sat there, mouths both agape in the look which can only be attributed to either brain death or watching infomercials, he decided there and then to get one. I have never quite decided if this makes him an idiot or a genius, all I know is that there is demonstrably no middle ground.
The most unfortunately named product of all time. This Australian infomercial is not brought to you by a huge, faceless, multinational. It's presented by the inventor of the miracle hair-removal product, an Aussie housewife who, along with her daughters, was afflicted with both hirsutism and lunatically sensitive skin. Waxing was impossible, and as her daughters grew up they felt increasingly self-conscious about the fact they had legs like a Greek fisherman. In a twist worthy of George's Marvellous Medicine, this fine woman retired to her kitchen and did not emerge until she had created NADS... a pain-free, all-natural, waxing product. Just one application of this fearsome green jelly can be used several times, as they demonstrate by removing all the hair from a man's leg and three cats with just one strip. The name came from the fact it was made for her daughter Nadia, rather than its secret ingredient. But fear not, it really is without artificial stimulants. NADS is so all-natural, you can actually eat it. If that sort of thing floats your boat. I once went in a kebab shop in Derby called Nad's. I suspect it was named for much less wholesome reasons.
Miracle Blade Knives
I thought long and hard about my final choice. There are so very many products I could have included. Miracle Blade Knives just beat the Tuxedo Painting System and the old British lad with his insane device for perfect miter cutting. It does so for the outrageous nature of its demonstrations, allied to its wonderful black-and-white "bad old days" footage of women with kitchen drawers full of useless, blunt knives. She must have had 400 in there, it was brilliant. (At this point I feel I should just break the fourth wall and tell you that it's raining really hard). The Miracle Blade Knives are the LAST YOU'LL EVER NEED. Making good use of a metal only found on Mars and Jupiter, they are tough. The best way to demonstrate knife sharpness, infomercials are all in agreement, is to show how easily the knife will cut a tomato. The best way to demonstrate the longevity and sharpness of the Miracle Blade knives is to do this, after they've just cut through a TIN CAN and a SHOE. A bloody shoe, in a vice. Then, wop, straight through that tomato. It's inspired. It's up there with the demonstration of the blender so powerful they felt the need to demonstrate that, if required, it can liquidise a packet of ballpoint pens. Someone, somewhere, is sat in an office, dreaming up these improbable and comprehensive tests for these wonderful products. And I would really like to join in.
Don't just take my word for it. Watch as many infomercials as you can. Record them if needs be. And bask in the life-improving qualities of their incredible stuff by looking at this site.