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Tube Talk With John T. Forde - Adbusters

TUBE TALK With John T. Forde


If, like me, you’d rather put a cigarette out on your eyeball than watch TV advertisements, there’s a particularly masochistic pleasure in watching the Fair Go Best & Worst TV Ad Awards.

In a world of continual upmarketing, Fair Go is the whiney, piss-smelling old Grandma who just refuses to get glamorous. No ditsy blonde ex-model presenters or poseur handymen in tight t-shirts for Fair Go. The set still looks like an 80s leftover from Gloss, the presenters are all determinedly unglamorous, multi-chinned and bereft of make-up, and the production values have the class of home-made porn in someone’s garage.

But somehow, the lame rent-a-crowd and presenters looking into the wrong camera while they read their cue cards give Fair Go a dowdy authenticity. It’s a no-frills, no thrills form of infotainment, which trades on intellectual sarcasm and “little Kiwi battler” moral righteousness.

Sure, there’s something intriguing about How’s Life’s Charlotte Dawson – all spangly diamante earrings, glazed eyes and blindingly white teeth – but it’s mainly to do with how someone as monumentally vacuous and empathy-free as she is could ever become an advice show host. Give me Fair Go’s Kevin Milne any day - with his balding hairline, black mock turtleneck and badly-cut tweed coat, he’s a cross between an English lecturer and Bosley from Charlie’s Angels.

Last week’s awards show was, admittedly, rather motley. Some clumsily slapped together gags – including something with Peter Dunne and golf shoes - looked like early Dada surrealism. You sensed Kevin and the gang really wanted to get sloshed and have a good bitch-fest, but didn’t want to alienate the kids and nanas watching at home.

Still, they got the basics right, including a healthy slapping for some of the year’s most migraine-inducing ads. Finalists ranged from the almost unbearable (ACC’s woman-crashes-into glass-table safety promo), to boringly bourgeoisie (Telecom’s businesswoman who takes meetings while hubbie gives her a foot job under the table), to just annoying (anything involving insurance companies). Still, there were a few screamers left off the list – when will someone machine-gun Leah Panapa and her pathological obsession with Glad Wrap?

The brickbat eventually went to Colenso for its Kiwi Bacon stinker. No, not the funny one when the vegetarian gets knocking out by a flying saucepan (nominated for a Best Ad award) – the other one, involving ugly people and a lot of drool. Intriguingly, the Best Award went to the UK-made McDonalds ad involving a squeamish father who takes his daughter to McDs rather than explain the Facts of Life. The lesson? Keep your body fluids out of sight on telly, unless it involves chemically-pumped fast food.

Watching Fair Go pat McDonalds on the back was slightly worrying. Will this ad spawn a series, like the Fernleaf Butter Family? Imagine the sequel – the daughter, obese from years of Happy Meals, lures senile Daddy into the car with promises of McDs, then deposits him in a rest home and buys herself a Big Mac to celebrate. Now that’d be an ad worth watching.


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