Fitness and diet schemes have been around as long as there's been advertising. It's the sale of empty hope -- machinery with limited usage, devices with inflated claims, herbal supplements that skirt FDA regulations. But we know all that, and still we watch. And some of us still buy.
Of course, we don't watch for the info. We watch for the dazzling lack of production quality, the stunningly cheesy spokespeople -- and maybe so we can fantasize, while we're tucked under our Snuggie at 2:30 in the morning, basking in the glow of dead-of-night television, about a miracle pill or a wondrous apparatus that will solve our problems for us without having to leave the couch. In the daylight, though, we can all laugh at just how ludicrous some of these ads really are. Here, ten of our favorite.
10. Hawaii Chair "If you can sit, you can get fit ..." If that isn't the Homer Simpson American Dream, I don't know what is -- and to ukulele music, no less. How it's not incredibly annoying to continually shimmy while you're trying to get some work done, I have no idea. The repeated pelvic thrusts while holding your hands over your head? I'm pretty sure my office frowns on that.
9. Trimspa Right before she died, Anna Nicole Smith was included in a class-action lawsuit against Trimspa -- not for this ad campaign, though that might have been a good idea. I mean really: "Wanna Viper?" "Want to play?" "Like my body?" Well, yes, I guess technically, but the price for all three of those is much, much too high.
8. Slim Suit You can tell this came from the 80s because the product invited consumers to "take it easy, or take it to the max!" The Slim Suit -- essentially a pair of sweats made of trash bags--is designed to make you perspire off the pounds wrestling-team-style. Here's hoping this came with an air freshener zipper-pull. Use carefully, though: the side effects seem to include mullets.
7. AromaTrim I'm guessing the success or failure of this product has more to do with holding a big hunk of plastic under your nose than it does with any herbal aromatherapy deal. It would probably work with a Tonka truck, too, if you held it under your nose while you were trying to eat something. The herbs that "change the taste" are sort of a bonus, really. Do you want to eat a brownie with a thick plastic disc under your nose? Of course not. Take the plastic thing away so I can enjoy my brownie, asshat.
6. Dual-Action Cleanse Because really, pooping is the easiest way to lose weight. Temporarily, anyway. More importantly, if you're discussing the size of your four-year-old daughter's bowel movements on national television, you'd better be making lots of money, to pay for all that therapy she'll need.
5. Total Gym This isn't selling exercise so much as it's selling Chuck Norris. It's nice that Christie Brinkley has something to do with herself, nice that Wesley Snipes can make some quick cash to help with his back taxes, nice that Janine Turner isn't limited to shilling for chronic dry-eye medication -- but this is Chuck Norris's show, about how you too can be like Chuck Norris. You know: if you use the Total Gym, you (like Chuck Norris) will do a push-up not by lifting yourself up, but by pushing the earth down. Or, such is the dream.
4. Susan Powter Make no mistake: Susan Powter is herself quick to point out that she isn't a doctor, or a dietician, or a nutritionist, or really anything that could be considered a reliable source of information about fitness. Rather, she's "a housewife that figured it out." Unfortunately, what she figured out was that if she stole Annie Lennox' hair, gesticulated wildly, and showcased her naturally obnoxious personality, people would pay her money. Still, there is some entertainment value in watching a crazy woman who keeps screaming "Stop the Insanity!"
3. The Gazelle Freestyle Tony Little has repped a lot of TV fitness products, but the Gazelle really turns the guy on. The frat-boy sensibility of this ad is striking: It's one ass-grab away from sexual harassment -- up to and including the surprise dry-humping of a nervously laughing spokesmodel. But really, no matter the product, the real star of Tony Little's infomercials has always been that ponytail/ball-cap combo.
2. Osim iGallop Okay, we can nitpick here: the complete rip-off of the Apple "i" thing, and the girls in this video looking like refugees from Coyote Ugly. But honestly, my main complaint about this product is that the ad just isn't long enough.
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1. Richard Simmons Whether he's Sweatin' to the Oldies, explaining Deal-a-Meal or just plain charming the sweatpants off the secretaries of the world with his energy, his flamboyance, and his questionable sexuality -- it's tough to explain Richard Simmons. He's a hairy fireplug of a guy with bedazzled tank tops and candy-striped shorts, and yet he's been a staple of late-night TV for decades now. Ahh, the power of cheese.