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The Life And Times Of Ryan Finnigan: The Televolution of Mad

Posted on by sam

The Televolution of Mad or: The Business of Feelings.

What’s the difference between JML and JLS? One tries to sell you utterly pointless products via the medium of Television. The other had a Number One hit with ‘Ped Egg’.  And that you and I know the abbreviations and the use of a Ped Egg is the true punchline. Unless you don’t, which makes you socially excluded and we all start laughing at you instead. WORSE.

In truth, you, the suave sophisticate of hard-skinned feet, broadening your mental horizons sans TV, are missing the most mind-bendingly psychotic period of broadcasting history. As television shows soar to new heights of artistry, advertising has chosen the opposite path.

Willem Dafoe voicing a threatening polar bear living in your freezer.  Gorillas drumming to Phil Collins. Russian Meerkats. Repetitive opera singers. Bring on the Trumpets?   It’s clear that television advertising has had a renaissance, the ripples of thought-waves resounding inside the heads of plagiaristic shit-weasels as they realise that the weirder, the more memorable. The internet has provided the model for this and following thus, popular memes and music videos of internet notoriety are ruthlessly copied. Yes, the Mad Men of today really know how to sell you a kooky viral and turn a three minute advert break into the most desperately unfunny sketch show.

This is conventional and isn’t what the average viewer finds disturbing, just irritating. The subtle terror comes in the form of the normal advert, which is slightly off-kilter due to the cheapness of the company or just sheer laziness. Take as an example, two badly-dubbed children talking about yoghurt, which seems acceptable currently. Displace said scene into your sleep state and try not to piss the bed. It’s like some kind of parody of a Lynchian nightmare such as those seen in Tom DiCillo’s criminally underrated 1995 film Living in Oblivion (THIS IS AN ADVERT). What was a plain advert in Germany is now just weird due to the cost of a reshoot.

You might think it seems completely absurd to feature a celebrity in an advert and then change their well-known voice and appearance to better sell a product. Someone somewhere disagrees and more frightening is the idea that other people in the business do too, en masse. Why then do we not get angry as their eyes and teeth cause snow-blindness whilst they speak as though possessed and demand a public exorcism? Because, it became this way gradually and now we just accept it, the evolution of madness. Also, we love them AND they love us. Or so they say.

The business of advertising may as well be called the business of feelings, as we feel all gooey as that woman from that thing who makes us feel all doughy-in-the-guts and/or aroused has been carefully chosen to make women want to be her and men want to do the Robin Askwith dance. These people are sickeningly nice or famous to the nth degree, beyond the persuasive power of World Leaders.

The television and these characters are your friends. Typically featuring the characteristics of your greatest friends, they will make you laugh, comfort and reassure you but will be available on a more regular basis than your actual friends. Sitcom characters, women in movies and regular-joe-reality-show are just what you need then to fill in an emotional void and as you get to know them, so does a pulse-licking executive at a corporation. Knowing you too are some kind of semiotic savvy media dropout (or sleeping with one), I shall not labour the point more or make use of any obvious Bill Hicks quotes.

Beyond the intentionally semi-skimmed Pythonesque crap to make your Mum laugh and the weird self-contained codes of advertising, there is the downright lie. A toothpaste company shows a customer survey in a shopping centre to see how decay-ridden proles like us react to their revolutionary new formula. Only they are actors with perfect teeth and the whole thing is marked with a ‘dramatisation’ disclaimer. Cat food companies claim their mush will turn your cat into Jackie Chan and then display the miracle with horrible 1999 CGI.

Tactically, Advertising is warfare on your free thought and conversation piece. Other forms outside of the television can easily assault your senses more aggressively as newspapers spray adverts onto the pavement, the internet knows your exact personality, penis length and GPS location and the cinema straps you in for 30 minutes of Ludovico technique before you get to enjoy anything.

Pity then, the television advert and watch as it wriggles and wrestles with its growing irrelevance of programming in an on-demand age and see Videodrome become a prophetic work as the weird and misleading becomes nothing short of illegal invasion. Either that or they will resort to making the advert an event itself, with competitions and internet polls involving that cunt from My Family. 

Written By Ryan J Finnigan