5 Vintage TV Commercials Worth a Second Look

Many of today's TV shows omit an opening theme altogether and then use a credit squeeze over the ending credits just so they can cram in more commercials. (I hate that, by the way.) But quantity doesn't always mean quality. Whatever happened to creative commercials that used catchy, original music that got stuck in your head for days on end? Maybe you remember some of these:

1. You Deserve a Break Today

Do you remember when McDonald's had teams of enthusiastic 30-year-old men scrubbing down every inch of the store? Me neither. But true-to-life or not, this spot launched the trend of featuring elaborate production numbers in commercials. Casual TV viewers might spot a young John Amos (James Evans on Good Times) among the Mickey D crew members. Heavy-duty watchers may recognize Johnny Haymer (Sgt. Zale on M*A*S*H) as well.

DID YOU KNOW? While Barry Manilow wrote many hit jingles, he did not pen the "You Deserve a Break Today" song (although he did occasionally sing it in concert). The tune was written by Kenny Karen.

2. Noodles up in Lights

If you grew up during the golden age of MGM musicals, you're probably wrinkled by now. But you probably also remember Ann Miller as one of the studio's biggest tap-dancing stars. If you spent most of your time in front of the small screen in the 1970s, though, you probably remember her as the pitchwoman for the line of Great American Soups by Heinz.

Click here to see this video.

DID YOU KNOW? This commercial was written and directed by parody song legend Stan Freberg.

3. Wearin' My Levi's

There are catchy commercial jingles, and there are those that are just plain infectious. This one always got my toe tapping, and I bet you won't be able to resist "haw haw-ing" along with this classic Levi's commercial (even if you do it the second time you watch it).

DID YOU KNOW? The song in this commercial is loosely based on The Fendermen's rendition of "Mule Skinner Blues."

4. Wonderfully Orangey

Until the mid-1960s, Nesbitt's Orange was the only orange soda pop sold at Disneyland. The animation in this commercial leans more toward R. Crumb than Uncle Walt, though.

DID YOU KNOW? Marilyn Monroe appeared in print ads for Nesbitt's Orange in 1946.

5. That's Why We Love Faygo

The song in this spot was so popular that Faygo released it on a 45 (that's a small, seven-inch vinyl record, kids) that sold for the princely sum of 25 cents. "Remember When You Were a Kid" appeared briefly on several Detroit-area radio stations' Top 30 playlists.

DID YOU KNOW? This commercial was filmed aboard the Boblo boat, which for 81 years ferried passengers from downtown Detroit to the Boblo Island amusement park near Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada.
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Neil deGrasse Tyson Just Answered the Game of Thrones Question That Everyone's Asking
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Serial debunker of movies and TV Neil deGrasse Tyson took on Game of Thrones on Sunday evening, analyzing everything from the chains the army of the dead used to pull up dead dragon Viserion (wrong angle) to the dragons themselves (good wing span, though experts we spoke with say they're still too heavy to fly). And then he dropped an intriguing tweet that just might explain Ice Viserion's blue fire, which easily cut through the Wall:

Inverse's Yasmin Tayag took a deep dive into the physics of dragon fire after the season finale and concluded that, according to science, blue flames are the hottest of them all. Typical Game of Thrones dragon fire—the red, yellow, and orange kind—is the result of incomplete combustion. The color is caused by the fuel in the dragon's gut (likely carbon) releasing chemicals as gas in a process known as pyrolysis. Blue flames, though, mean complete combustion, which, according to Tayag, "can only occur when there’s plenty of oxygen available to allow a flame to get super hot, and the fuel being burned doesn’t release too many additional chemicals during pyrolysis that might lead to a different colored flame."

In August, Game of Thrones sound designer Paula Fairfield—perhaps in an attempt to answer viewers’ nagging question about whether Viserion was blowing fire or ice—told Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson that, “He’s just going at it and slicing with this. It's kind of like liquid nitrogen. It’s so, so cold. So imagine if that’s what it was, but it’s so cold it’s hot. That kind of thing.”

This could have big consequences if Ice Viserion and Drogon face off. "If the HBO series decides to follow these particular laws of thermal physics (and why should it when Thrones so flagrantly disregarded chain physics?!?), then Viserion will surely be at an advantage if and when he ever goes talon-to-talon with his brother Drogon," wrote Robinson in response to deGrasse Tyson’s tweet.

Game of Thrones's final season won't debut until late 2018 or 2019, so we have a long time to wait before we see which dragon's fire comes out on top. 

[h/t: Vanity Fair]

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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images
The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.


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