Beheading or two
This has happened most often when we watched "The Bachelorette," which we think could be improved with a beheading or two. We have a similar impulse whenever we see ads for car-title loans, the slimiest bottom-feeders of the consumer culture luring the acquisitive poor into ruin. But the Death to America impulse has struck most often when we've stumbled into a Hallmark shop.
One look at the Precious Moments figurines and we want to strap a bomb belt on.
The mass-marketed figurine -- whether it's a Hummel "Forever a friend" or a Vanmark Blue Hats of Bravery (featuring a cop aiming his short-barrel shotgun) or the Mary Moo Moos cute cow collection -- is always saccharine beyond redemption. But Precious Moments, especially the Life's Little Lessons series, is kitsch ground zero.
We don't necessarily want our little lessons taught by fanatical clerics, but we also don't need any advice from plaster cherubs, OK?
'Live and learn'
So imagine our horror to see the new campaign of The Learning Channel from the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va. To flesh out the cable channel's tagline, "live and learn," TLC offers its own Life Lessons -- complete with custom-designed figurines.
Fear not, however. These people are bad Americans, too, subversively exposing the Ceramic Homily Industry for the trite blight it is. A series of funny commercials actually includes figurines custom-made for the purpose of smashing the Precious Moments aesthetic -- or anesthetic -- to smithereens.
Some of the spots apply to specific shows -- "Honey, We're Killing the Kids," "Shalom in the Home" and "What Not to Wear." In the last one, a businesswoman finds an old outfit in her closet and wears it to work, oblivious to how ridiculous the "Dynasty"-era shoulder pads look. As she enters her office building, the security guard says, "Good morning. Where did you park your DeLorean?" Then the actual show promo, accompanied by the "Not Everything Comes Back in Style" figurine, obsolete business suit and all.
Life Lessions Collection
The highlight, though, is the umbrella :60, introducing the entire Life Lessons Collection, among them "Know when not to do it yourself" (home handyman with bandaged stumps), "Before getting intimate, turn off the TV" (guy canoodles while trying to watch the game) and, hilariously, "Merlot and e-mail don't mix" (a sobbing woman typing her heart out while hammered on red wine).
Then we see a proud new dad, posing in the nursery, for some reason sporting a black eye.
"Life Lessons are great," he says. "They don't just look nice; they really help, too. Like this one, 'Not everyone is dying to see your baby pictures."'
Then a quick flashback to the same guy, minus the shiner, at a urinal next to another fellow. "Hey," Dad offers, "wanna see something awesome?" Then, back to the nursery, where the dope concludes, "Sometimes it's inappropriate."
Crude by funny
The joke is crude, but pretty damn funny.
The potential downside for the campaign is that the actual TLC shows are left undistinguished from one another in style or tone. This is problematic because, even on niche cable channels, viewers tend to shop for the item, not for the store.
On the other hand, the campaign does very nice things for the store, imbuing it with a sense of humor and self-deprecation -- which is to say, entertainment value -- you wouldn't associate with such a didactic-sounding brand. These are, indeed, some precious moments. They make us proud to be an American.
Or, at least, a cable subscriber.
~ ~ ~
Review 3 stars
Agency: Martin Agency
Location: Richmond, VA