Friday, January 25, 2013

As Seen on TV

You sometimes hear people say 'Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.' An aphorism which, as far as I can find out, was coined by the author Peter De Vries. (And no, I've not read any of his books either.)

 I'm not convinced. I think nostalgia IS what it used to be: there's just that there's so much more of it these days. Which is maybe the same thing. Either way, I know I am fed up with nostalgia. These days when 'retro' is cool, and pre-teen kids have a TV show in which twenty-somethings reminisce about what it was like to be twelve, you can't bloody escape it.

Remember when nostalgia was new? Something strange? Gods, I miss those days: weren't they great? 

When I was a kid the future was cool, not the past. Space exploration.  Rockets to the moon.  Going to school by autogyro.  Food in tablets.  Domed cities populated by smiling, happy, shiny people with futuristic art on every street corner.   What happened? 

Many many years ago (yes, Eben, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth), and there were only four TV channels in Britain, it was not uncommon for products in shops* to have the words 'As Seen on TV!' slapped on them as part of the packaging. As a kid (and if I'm being honest, as an adult too) this used to confuse me - what was the point in advertising the fact that your product had been advertised somewhere else? What was it about the fact that Product X had been seen on the telly made it more important, or more real, than Product Y which hadn't been advertised on the telly, had exactly the same ingredients, and was half the price? Couldn't work it out.  It just did not compute. 

Then, one day, I got it: Christmas LPs!**  Every year, back in the days before Now That's What I Call Music cornered the market, there used to be, just before Christmas, a flood of  '20 Greatest' Albums, Party Albums, Super Hits Albums etc. etc. all plugged to death on the telly by companies like Ronco and K-Tel.  Products aimed right at the wallets of people who didn't normally didn't buy records - but had relatives who did!
"Ohhhh... I dunno what to get our Doreen, she's into all this reggie punk pop stuff - She likes music.  I know!  I'll buy her a record.  I'll buy her that Ronco's Glen Campbell 20 Golden Greats that's advertised on the telly.  She'll like that."
So. Next time Gran, who never normally goes into records shops, is in Woolworths*** she sees Glen's smiling face peeking out at her from the wire spinner of twenty-seven 20 Greatest Hits LPs and wonders.... "Ooooohhh... so much choice!"  But then she spots a golden star in the top right hand corner of the disc's cover:  'As Seen on TV!'  Hurrah!  That's the one!  'As Seen on TV'.  It was there as a reassurance.  Yes, it was saying, you are buying the product you decided you wanted from the comfort of your armchair halfway through Coronation Street.
"Gee. Thanks, Gran...."
'As Seen on TV' could appear anywhere on the label though it was usually pretty prominent.  Sometimes a big exploding splash of a star sometimes a diagonal banner across one corner.

Fast forward thirty years (Make that 'forty', ed.) and 'As Seen on TV' has escaped the narrow confines of the K-Tel 20 Party Greats LPs and Ronco Chopomatics and has become an internationally recognised logo. 
...a standardized red seal in the shape of a CRT television screen with the words "AS SEEN ON TV" in white, an intentional allusion to the logo of the ubiquitous [US] TV Guide magazine

This logo is in the public domain.  Anyone can use it and anyone does:  a while back I found (and posted) this:

 As seen on TV - in some countries!  Wow!

Last week in my local garage I spotted this on a dog blanket box:

I miss K-tel albums.

*Gods! There's a concept we'll have to explain to our kids in a few years. Physical shops. Remember them? They're where you used to buy Spangles....

** 'LPs'? look it up, kids, I'm not going to explain everything. I'm an old man; I haven't got time for all this.

*** 'Woolworths'?  ---------- Ditto ----------

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'A bit like the one you saw on tele'. Genius!
Nostalgia is a powerful and malignant force, especially on Ebay. I've bought some real crap, again, because I thought it was so cool way back when. Of course, these things were great because it was 'yours' and it was all you had, whether it was actually any good or not.
Love the blog BTW.

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