Here’s the thing: infomercials, rather like porn, shouldn’t have plots. No one wants that from either.
The infomercial public slouches there under the drool-producing spell of completely unnecessary but often ingenious doo-hickeys.
Who hasn’t spent the occasional foggy Saturday afternoon lost in reverie over the Ab Swing sales pitch by “Bold and Beautiful” star Hunter Tylo?
But like porn, infomercials have always understood well enough what the customer wants: Plots are for other genres, like Jane Austen adaptations.
Leave it to one of the Italian networks founded by Silvio Berlusconi, Rete 4, to devise a sit-com infomercial.
Or should that be sit-commercial? Perhaps ad-fiction, commercial drama or advert-serial.
Anyway, it’s called “Casa Media Shopping,” and airs six days a week at 7:40 a.m., facing competition of news programs and vintage Scooby-Doo cartoons.
The carnies are actors who play characters (but use their real names) in a minimal story in-between sales pitches. (Short clip here.)
The first episode featured house frau Francesca calling her husband Andrea back into the bedroom as he leaves for work. He has wispy hair and wears disturbingly tight cigarette pants paired with a shirt and tie. Andrea hopes she’s calling him back for some early-morning nookie.
But no: taken by that peculiarly Italian habit of changing the wardrobe, she’s decided to have at it and berates him for making a mess. (Cue boisterous laff track.) Then she shows him just how she’s going to whip things into shape with 100 SPACE-SAVING PLASTIC SACKS.
After the selling segment, she sends him off to work and her friend Lory comes over. An unfortunate abuse of peroxide has made Lory a bit ditzy, but she manages to confide regrets about leaving her husband. Francesca urges Lory to call him. Lory hesitates. But leaves saying she will. And Francesca launches into another sales pitch.
In about half an hour, they manage to hawk the sacks, 100 Greatest Italian Songs of All Time (6 CD set) and the inevitable inflatable bed/couch. Not only that, but a marriage is saved: Lory gets back together with her husband!
After the “episode,” they recap all the wares, in case you got caught up in the twists and turns of the story and forgot about that CD collection.
Despite the early hour, you’d have to be lobotomized or very, very hung over to confuse this with a real TV show.
Whether they’re selling or trading banal remarks, the word “infomercial” (televendita) beams white from the upper left side of the screen. On the bottom the show’s name is in bright yellow, along with a phone number.
Theatrics plus inflatable couches didn’t blow my hair back. Maybe it’s just one of those things — like personalized ring tones and cashmere iPod socks — that I’m never going to understand.
The producers believe in it so much they’ve already made 200 episodes. Not only do they think people will watch it, they think people will want to be on it: all buyers are entered into a drawing to participate in a casting session for the show.
See it, buy it, be it.