BEER COMMERCIALS began to lose their credibility with me when they stopped showing fat guys.
The old commercials of the '70s and '80s always had one or two fat guys hanging around to let you know you were in serious beer-drinking territory.
There were even celebrity fat guys in the old beer commercials. Talk show sidekick Ed McMahon, 40 pounds heavier and looking like the advance man for heart disease, hawked Budweiser. Beefy Boog Powell, John Madden and Rodney Dangerfield shilled for Lite beer from Miller. So did Mickey Spillane, who looked like he could drink enough beer to float the Queen Mary.
These were people I could relate to, guys with florid faces and big guts and two-pack-a-day habits who didn't whine about high blood pressure and cholesterol counts and chest X-rays.
Along with the rest of America, I realized that part of the reason fat guys are fat is that they drink a lot of beer.
In other words, fat guys know beer. They know which beers taste good and which taste like dishwater. To this day, when I see a guy who's 30 pounds overweight sucking on a beer, I'm inclined to react favorably to whatever beer he's drinking.
But a few years ago, an alarming trend became evident in corporate advertising. The fat guy in beer commercials started to go the way of the cowboy in network prime time.
If there is a central theme to beer commercials nowadays, it seems to be: active people leading an active lifestyle.
So instead of seeing a bunch of amiable fat guys killing a six-pack while watching the football game on TV, now you see a lot of hard-bodied people in Spandex and Gold's Gym T-shirts frolicking on the beach or the softball diamond or wherever.
Oh, you never see these people actually drink a beer, because that's not permitted on TV. It would give the viewers the wrong impression, as if the TV stations were (God forbid) condoning -- or even advocating -- beer-drinking among adults.
But the implication is that when these active flat-bellied folks are not landin' that rainbow trout or bustin' that bronc or climbin' the north face of the Matterhorn, they're swilling beer.
What seems to have escaped the ad agency types is that true beer-drinkers, by and large, are not terribly active people -- especially when they're drinking.
I will tell you this: After pounding four or five beers at the company picnic, about the last thing I want to do is jump in a 3-on-3 volleyball game. Or toss the Frisbie in 90-degree heat to my slobbering Labrador retriever.
Mostly what I want to do after a few beers is find a lounge chair.
Then I want to close my eyes and fall into a deep sleep. And if some rosy-cheeked, active-type android were to appear and chirp "Gosh, let's play some badminton!" I would seriously consider taking a tire iron to that person's head.
Of course, you never see anyone taking a nice, peaceful nap in the new beer commercials. Nor do you see anyone passed out cold on a bar stool from too much to drink, or fish-tailing out of the parking lot and side-swiping a telephone pole, or nursing a monstrous hangover.
If there is a secondary theme to these commercials, it's that beer-drinking is an incredibly sexy thing to do. This accounts for the plethora of busty young women wearing next to nothing, as well as the sullen-looking James Dean wannabes in tight jeans, T-shirts and cowboy boots.
The most bizarre example of this genre is the commercial that opens with a bunch of dorky-looking guys on a camping trip. As they sit around the campfire cracking beers, one fellow exults: "It doesn't get any better than this!"
Unfortunately, he's right, because the commercial goes straight downhill when -- stay with me here -- a head-banging rock band and the Swedish bikini team inexplicably make an appearance.
Hoo, boy. Anyway, the, ahem, "team members" are all sporting that Scandinavian girl-next-door look: slutty blond wigs, heavy mascara, go-go boots, pendulous breasts straining against skimpy, fur-lined bikini tops, etc.
And, boy, are they in a partying mood! Which they proceed to do with great gusto, somehow ignoring the fact that the guys reek of fish, smoke, body odor and stale beer, as they have not seen the business end of a shower nozzle in a week.
Realism does more than take a beating here. It takes a harpoon through the head.