The ten best (worst?) as-seen-on-TV products -- Snuggie not included

Call it a good idea, call it a bad idea, call it the nadir of American couch potato society. But there's no doubt that the Snuggie is pretty damn popular. It's everywhere -- including the Snuggie Pub Crawl in downtown Denver this Saturday.

Which prompts the question: Will the Snuggie go the way of Billy Mays's Oxi-Clean, or the Ped-Egg, and become something more mainstream? Or will it, like the ten fine examples below, fly under the radar and become something more infamous? We all know that the as-seen-on-TV product lines are full of crap. And here's the cream of the crap.

10. Head-On

It is, one might imagine, the sort of ad that might be common should zombies run the world. It's repetitive. It's obnoxious. It's got bad audio, and on purpose. And it doesn't say a thing, really -- at least in its original form -- about what the hell it's supposed to do. Which is sort of genius, since it probably doesn't do much of anything at all, and you know, truth in advertising and all. Head on! Apply directly to the forehead! Seriously, this ad would have worked even if they were just selling glue sticks. And who knows? Maybe they are.

9. ShamWOW!

You know this one's gotta be good, because of the capital letters and the exclamation point. That pretty much drives it home. ut just in case it's not clear, the announcer Vince Offer is quick to point out that it's made in Germany, "and you know the Germans always make good stuff." (All World War II jokes aside, this may be the first time that the reputation of German automotive engineering has ever been used to sell towels.) Vince, who's got sort of a genial-huckster vibe going on in the ad itself, also pitches the Slap Chop, which is really only notable for not-so-subtle double entendres like "You're going to love my nuts."

8. Tiddy Bear

The fact that we're supposed to take this seriously is the thing that makes it sort of awesome. Not that you'd actually use this supposed seatbelt-attachment, because really, who would? It's jaw-dropping because someone spent tons of advertising cash on what amounts to a two-minute boob joke on national television. Tiddy Bear is spelled with two Ds, of course (double Ds -- it's a tit joke within a tit joke!), and the announcer goes out of his way to point that out. "The Tiddy Bear stays where you want it, until you move it." Like most inanimate objects, I guess -- but with the Beavis-and-Butt-head sex references (which mainly amount to someone saying "titty" every five seconds) working its magic, who has time to quibble about logic?

7. The Bedazzler

Brought back in popularity -- sort of -- by one of the contestants in the third season of The Apprentice, the Bedazzler doesn't really dazzle so much as make you look like Barbara Mandrell circa 1983. It's all about rhinestones, cowboy. Well, rhinestones and silver studs. These are supposed to make you look better. "Don't be dull; be dazzling!" the commercial tells us. The weird thing about this is that you get 150 silver studs and 25 rhinestones -- which is enough to do maybe one overly fussy sweater. So your first taste is free. When you think about it, the Bedazzler is basically patterned on the sale of cocaine. This was the '80s, after all.

6. Armourcote

You might not remember the name, but you'll remember the ad. (Seeing someone break an egg over a woman wearing what would be a six-carat diamond ring, were it not cubic zirconium, will do that.) This was the original non-stick-pans campaign, and it made over $80 million, most of which is obviously owed to the strategic use of the letter "U" in the name to make it sound fancy. And check out the "special bonus" of the cookbook, which is apparently being read by Zsa Zsa Gabor decked out in as much jewelry as she could wear while still lifting her hand high enough to turn pages.

5. Ginsu Knives

The progenitor of the classic and often-borrowed lines "How much would you pay...," the follow-up "Now how much would you pay?," the first Ginsu ad is one of the grand-daddies of the as-seen-on-TV era. So while it's true that "in Japan, the hand can be used like a knife," it's sort of interesting that even in the ad, the hand does about the same job on the board as it does on that tomato. What's remarkable about this ad, though, aside from its longevity and legacy, is how slow it is; not only is the announcer speaking at a pretty casual clip, but that's an interminable two seconds following the karate chop. Did we all just have more time in the '70s?

4. K-Tel

The undisputed leader in vaguely passable music compilations, K-Tel stopped doing TV commercials years ago. But its legacy still lives on in the likes of Time-Life half-hour infomercials -- which makes sense, because the stuff that Time-Life is selling in their "Seventies Sound" series is pretty much the exact same stuff that K-Tel was selling as "Pure Power" back when it was relatively current. These albums (or 8-tracks!) always had the same strategy: boast about a few great songs, pad it out with some minor hits, and toss in something by Hall & Oates. Voila! Like the Columbia Music Club membership that your parents warned you not to get, this was one of those things that everyone had to try at least once while developing their musical tastes.

3. Chia Pets

Ch-ch-ch-Chia! This stupid little idea must have made billions in the last thirty years. Forget the fact that it really doesn't work very well, and that the spotty growth on your pet makes it look like it has mange. If you give this as a gift (and it makes a great one), you're not really giving the gift of novelty shelf-gardening. You're giving the gift of being able to sing "Ch-ch-ch-Chia" whenever you water the damn thing. Side note: Is it funny, offensive, an honor, or sort of all three that there's a Chia Obama now?

2. Any Ronco product

I don't care if it's the Veg-o-matic, the Pocket Fisherman, the Record Vacuum, the In-the-Shell Egg Scrambler, the Cap Snaffler, the Smokeless Ashtray -- if Ron Popeil sells it, then by God, it's worth buying. Or at least watching. Popeil's sixty-second ads back in the '70s are burned into the brains of any after-school TV-watching kid worth his latchkey. Sure, more recently Ron forayed into more dubious and less charming areas, like the boring "set it and forget it" Showtime Rotisserie. But Spray-On Hair? Classic.

1. The Clapper

Before there was Clara Peller with "Where's the Beef?" -- before the LifeAlert lady ever croaked "I've fallen and I can't get up!" -- there was the old lady with the irregular clap (and the shitty TV) at the end of the Clapper commercials. But there's so much else to love about this ad: the raggedy old fake Christmas tree (which seems to be the same one from Ronco commercials), the announcer, who seems to be actually sneering as he reads the copy, and that song! Clap on...clap off...clap on, clap off...the Clapper! Now, that's pure as-seen-on-TV goodness.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen