1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #14

Time to visit the Duke.


MTV replays their promo for “Michael Jackson Sunday”; as you might expect, it plays very differently now than it did a few months ago. “He’s been bad,” says the MTV Voiceover Guy. (A clip from “Bad” plays.) “He’s been smooth.” (A “Smooth Criminal” clip.) “Now he takes his own image head-on!” They show excerpts from the “animated fantasy” “Leave Me Alone.” In 1988, the video seemed supremely goofy, and not just because Jackson was flying a toy airplane–the song’s title was contradicted by the way Jackson had spent the previous couple of years sparing no expense to put himself in the public eye, in his crusade to sell a hundred million copies of Bad (he fell short, of course). Now it’s just sad–turns out the song was an unheeded cry for help.

Seeing the leather-and-studs outfit of “Bad” and the Cotton Club look of “Smooth Criminal,” I’m reminded that whenever Michael Jackson wore civilian clothes, it looked unnatural. He appeared in public so often in spangles; when I saw him in a striped T-shirt on the recent cover of GQ, it seemed like a costume. I wonder what he wore when he was just hanging around watching TV at Neverland. I have a hard time imagining him in sweatpants.

“A serial killer has New York City by the throat.” Oh, joy–once again, it’s the ad for The January Man. The seventh time around, I’m noticing how the big names of KEVIN KLINE and SUSAN SARANDON and so forth are treated: white capital letters on a black background, but steadily shrinking into the background. It gives some movement to what would otherwise be a pretty static montage.

Next, a repeat of the promo for the WWF’s Royal Rumble. I love how the ref is wearing a bow tie, as if that’ll give pro wrestling a little more class.

Local spot: another “Season’s Greetings” from UA-Columbia. Lots of employees waving at the camera from their cubicles, presumably full of holiday cheer.



We end with an animated bumper. It’s another gorgeous piece of work from the MTV promo department–the animation is designed to look like paper dolls, possibly inspired by Indonesian shadow puppetry. A man on stilts walks through the ocean, while birds fly overhead and a sea serpent undulates. A shark grabs one of his stilts, and then a giant hand lifts him up from above: the hand belongs to a woman in her bathtub, looking quizzically at what she’s just fished out of the water. She splashes water at us, which turns into the MTV logo.

Kevin Seal returns and does a couple of cartwheels, to a smattering of applause from the crew. He proceeds to hype the “Big Bang” celebration: “We’ll be counting down the minutes, you know, grooving with the multitudes.” He lists the bands that will be playing (Robert Plant, Bobby Brown, Poison, Cameo, etc.) and concludes, “It’s our Big Bang ’89 party and you can see it on your TV in case you don’t have a party to go to yourself.”

posted 24 September 2009 in 1988 and tagged , , , , , , . 4 comments

4 Comments on 1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #14

  1. azul120 Says:

    Not to give you any grief, but how come you’re using up your once a week entries related to the top 100 of 1988 on commercial breaks? As it is, assuming you have the rest of the countdown on tap, at this rate, you won’t be finished until early 2011. That has got to be taxing.

  2. Chris M. Says:

    I for one find the perspective on a 20-year-old Jacko promo enlightening. Keep ’em coming — writeups on the videos and the ads!

  3. Gavin Says:

    I like the ads–although we’ll see how I feel around the twentieth time I have to watch that spot for The January Man.

    I agree that it’s somewhat ludicrous that the countdown has become a multiyear project, but that’s just the reality of my work schedule, I’m afraid.

  4. pittard Says:

    Michael Jackson is undoubtedly the king. Anytime i listen to his songs i feel like he is still alive. Unquestionably one of the most significant music superstars ever!

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