The best stuff on TV

January 22, 1996|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- Have you noticed that the best things on TV these days are commercials? The creative talent now goes into selling products instead of entertaining us.

Maybe age is dulling my taste buds, but there isn't a single program that I watch regularly as I always watched Ed Sullivan, ''Bonanza,'' ''Gunsmoke,'' ''All in the Family,'' Jackie Gleason, ''The Jeffersons'' . . . It has to be more than an ol' geezer's faulty and inflating memory when I say that they don't make TV shows like those anymore.

Sickening soap operas at supper??

I'm guaranteed a few warm chuckles now only by a few commercials. Though repeated over and over, they evoke a bit of nostalgia or a fresh sense of what life is all about.

Almost everybody now knows about the series in which ''Johnnie'' tries to con his father, brother, girlfriend and a stranger out of their Bud Light beer.

''I love you, man!'' is suddenly in the lexicon of Americana, followed by the cry, ''You're not getting my Bud Light, Johnnie!'' This beer blast is a fitting commentary on the human male.

Have you seen the Weyerhaeuser commercial about paper recycling? A boy of 10 or 12 sits in a schoolroom thinking that he has received an affectionate smile from the girl across the aisle. He slips her a note with yes and no check-off boxes after ''I love you. Do you love me?''

When the girl checks ''no'' and passes the note back, the boy, feeling his earliest male urges, winces in disappointment. Then fate helps him. He spots a fetching smile from another girl. He uses his eraser deftly and passes the same note, same question, to her. Weyerhaeuser tells us that ''It's never too early to begin recycling.''

How endearingly, youthfully wicked!

Delicate touch

You will note that the very best commercials, like the most-watched TV shows, rely on sex appeal. But they, like the one by Weyerhaeuser, use a delicate touch rather than a groinal grab. They conjure up memories of our teen-age years, our first loves, our days of marriage and welcoming our first children.

My absolute favorite right now is a Tylenol ad featuring a young woman who projects sexual tension just by the tone of her voice and the muscles in her face. She is scolding a young man who might be her husband, or just a classmate, about his assertion that Tylenol couldn't handle his ''big, tough headache.''

After mocking the guy, she says fetchingly, ''I like a man who can admit he was wrong.''

The guy leaps slowly into an invitation wider than a football field when he replies, ''I'm wrong a lot.''

That brief commercial says more about the ageless verbal sex dance between men and women than a hundred half-hour sitcoms laced with ham-handed references to fornication, body parts and ''naughty'' double entendres.

Perhaps the solution is for the merchandising departments to lend some advertising people to the studios that produce the programs that are supposed to make us guffaw, weep, or go to bed pondering the meaning of life.


Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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