Armed Forces ads aren’t all they can be

It is now fashionable among TV critics to disparage Ally McBeal. The show has always had its share of people who didn't get it. They may even be the same people who didn't get All in the Family. I believe they are related to those people who still don't think The Simpsons is the best television show on the planet.

It is now fashionable among TV critics to disparage Ally McBeal. The show has always had its share of people who didn’t get it. They may even be the same people who didn’t get All in the Family. I believe they are related to those people who still don’t think The Simpsons is the best television show on the planet.

For my money, anything David E. Kelley writes on a bad day is vastly more amusing to watch than any randomly selected 100 America’s New War press conferences on The Anthrax Channel, which is why I decided to tape the season opener of Ally and grab a basketful of the fall’s TV spots for future dissection into the bargain. And if you think Ally is in deep doo-doo, take a squint at Canada’s Finest TV Ads of the new season, and weep for our poor shrinking industry. In fact, weep harder, because you paid for a lot of it! Let’s see what you got!

Kids, long ago, The Canadian Armed Forces went on TV with a recruitment campaign. No, seriously, they were trying to get people to join! The commercials showed a guy and a girl wearing army shirts and pants, running at you in slow motion across a meadow. The Canadian ‘army’ is not about ‘arms’. It’s about earnest, dedicated-looking boys and girls running bare-headed and empty-handed across meadows. Possibly to rescue a baby robin fallen from its nest, or to strangle a commie with their bare hands? We can but guess.

But have you noticed they’re back? Yes, the Canadian Forces Army Reserve would have us join them again!

By the pictures, you can see they play with ropes and wear headphones and watch loopy green lines on monitors and have sandbag-passing parties and by golly, they’re still running at us bare-handed in slo-mo, but this time they run in water wearing hats! (I bet the Taliban is shakin’ in their shoes, man!) To be fair, we also see them walking at us under a helicopter. And they drive some kind of vehicle over us ’cause we’re lying on the ground, and the vehicle has something poking from it that we see for a split second, which could be a weapon or ‘arm’, but more likely it’s a broom for the rink. The power line is Strong. Proud. Right.

More good news brought to you at your expense by a caring government appeared on a break in Ally on behalf of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. We meet real, laid-back-to-the-point-of-lethargic Canadian Youth who wonder out loud about the eternal imponderables of how to get a job I enjoy, and how to get a job when you need experience to get a job and how to choose when there’s so many things you’d like to do And just when you’re going what are these kids on anyway the voice-over suggests you get a free book called YouthLink.

With the problems of youth employment well on the mend thanks to the Miracle of Television Advertising, the government comes at us again in the next break with the notorious Arsenic Light spot. This time they want us to know they’re just going to slap the cigarette cartel silly again by stopping them from using the deceptive and deadly words light and mild. Or are they just threatening the cigarette industry? I’ll tell you, if we were the cigarette industry and the government made as much money off our labours as they do, I bet we’d be pissed if the government took our own darn tax money to buy air time to threaten our perfectly legal right to sell cigarettes named light and mild. If they want us to stop using deadly words, take it to the supreme court, we’d say, not to Ally McBeal.

And what would the season launch of a fruitcake TV series be without a word from Canada Post? The silliness just keeps on comin’ as Canada’s Postal Service sees us all walking around lawns and building with sort of Styrofoam-molded models of words in our hands that say either From: or To: A voice tells us, as near as I can tell (a) We have always counted on Canada Post to deliver stuff. (b) It is a whole new world. (c) Canada Post delivers a whole new way, i.e.: (c) from cyberspace to your place, and (d) from your world to around the world, in fact, (e) from anywhere to anyone.

Is this news to anyone? Is this relevant information? Is this a call to action? You probably thought it’s been Canada Post’s job for the last hundred years to deliver stuff, and so did I.

By the end of the spot, the From: and the To: are being digitally projected on the stone walls and slate roofs of a ritzy, rambling residential neighbourhood in letters 20 feet high! Get it? No? That’s funny, it cost a bundle.

Does it rattle anyone but me to think that the people who are running this stuff also claim to be running the country?

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to blow off steam, and as a thinly disguised lure to attract clients who may imagine working with him could be a productive amusing experience. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.