Friday, May 31, 2013

Television Advertising in Perry

While watching The Misguided Model the other night, I started musing on another of the themes Perry has explored. While they have enjoyed picking apart show business on several occasions, one sub-category of that is the wonderfully weird world of television advertising. I think they only explored that angle twice, both in season 9.

The Bogus Buccaneers opens with the murder victim turning on the television and viewing a very odd and amusing commercial, common for the day. The housewife is looking very worn-out, slumping in a chair, and a Bennet Buccaneer wanders in and starts talking about her long day and how to get pepped up and ready for “your own Buccaneer” with some “Bennet magic”. There’s a cartoony flash as he reaches out to the girl, and when it fades, she’s perked up and cheerful.

Television characters of the day often advertised various products for the sponsors of their shows. I wonder if there were ever any such ads with any of the Perry cast?

Unless there’s more in the uncut version, that’s all we see of silly television commercials in that episode, but the focus itself is largely on the show that spawned the commercial. Or more precisely, on the cast and crew that puts the show together, as well as on the promotions for the show and its products involving people dressing up as Buccaneers and going to deliver sample products. The defendant is one of the delivery people and gets snagged into a mess when he has to fight off the wild, crazed victim screaming about wanting her money, which she thinks he’s bringing with the samples.

The plot of The Misguided Model largely revolves around television advertising. The product is searching for the perfect spokesgirl and holds a contest to choose their White Snow Princess. The titular character is obsessed with being chosen.

During one of the auditions, some of the other contestants’ attempts are shown. One isn’t too bad, but another is very wooden. And then there’s our Misguided Model, who gets up and wows them with an admittedly very enchanting performance.

The White Snow Princess seems to be a type of fairy, who stands in an ethereal world with her wand and the products while her voice faintly echoes through the commercial as she speaks.

As per the standards of the day, the company has some strict regulations for any contestant, including that she can’t have any skeletons in her closet. They want someone who really is pure to play their White Snow Princess.

The model is about as darkest black in the heart as can be. And the skeleton in her past, her involvement with a gangster and his rackets, is nothing compared to what she does to keep that skeleton in her past. She kills someone who knew about it and frames her poor friend for the crime, without him even realizing he’s been framed. He’s honestly convinced that he accidentally killed the guy in a fight.

I still love the bit where Steve angrily questions her about the defendant’s whereabouts and can’t be bothered to get the name of the character right. Twice he calls her Miss Snow Plow. Priceless.

The scene where the girl’s purity act falls apart (and on White Snow camera, no less!) is both amusing and frightening. I definitely sense some sort of tongue-in-cheek commentary on the writers’ part on how show biz people put on airs and acts and are often completely different from how they want to appear.

When she sees a photograph from her racketeering days on the monitor, she absolutely flips. Screaming and snarling, she starts knocking down all the products displayed in the room. Of course, the poor woman in charge of the contest is observing everything. I imagine that in addition to her shock and disappointment, she’s relieved to learn the truth about the girl before they started using her in the released commercials!

Another sub-category is contests, which episodes such as The Long-Legged Models explore. The Misguided Model crosses over between television and advertising as well as contests. And then there’s The Murderous Mermaid, with the girl trying all manner of crazy stunts to get into show biz. I’m not quite sure what sub-category that one goes under.

Television programming itself is what season 5’s The Promoter’s Pillbox and the series finale The Final Fade-Out revolve around. Overall, neither are particular favorites of mine; I usually find The Promoter’s Pillbox, and especially the opening scenes, very tedious. But I do like the little insights into Perry’s past as a law student struggling to make ends meet. And then I’ve already repeatedly expressed my dislike of some of the goings-on in The Final Fade-Out. It’s far less of a favorite than the other one.

I think another thing I don’t entirely like about it, however, is the tongue-in-cheek approach. A lot of the scenes at the set seem somewhat humorous with all of their in-jokes and the generally kooky people. I understand their desire to make commentary on the weirdness that goes on around them, but at the same time I guess I’ve never particularly caught the appeal of mixing that kind of humor with Perry. (Thankfully, it’s nowhere near as nuts as season 8’s The Betrayed Bride. I don’t think any Perry episode could top the kooks in that.) I am, however, amused by the comment on not wanting to run against Bonanza, since that’s exactly what Perry had to do in some years.

Movies and movie stars is another sub-category, but as far as television goes, I think those are the only times Perry went into that. Although since the defendant in The Final Fade-Out is a movie star forced to go to television, that episode kind of bridges both of those sub-categories.

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