1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #15


A shockingly young Colin Quinn, lean of gut and fulsome in hair, is singing U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love).” On a clear day, from a sufficiently high vantage point, he might be able to spot the melody from where he’s standing. He interrupts himself: “Steve! Steve! You’re out of tune, buddy.”

Yes, this is a promo for the late, great MTV game show Remote Control, where contestants were strapped to Barcaloungers and quizzed on pop-culture topics such as “Brady Physics” and “Dead, Alive, or Canadian?” Quinn was the show’s second banana and announcer. At various points, the ensemble also included Denis Leary, Kari Wuhrer, and Adam Sandler. (The host was Ken Ober, who now is a TV writer, currently employed by The New Adventures of Old Christine.)

At any rate, “Steve” is “Steve Treccase,” the show’s one-man band: in other words, some guy with an Ian McCulloch haircut, dark sunglasses, and a Roland keyboard. “Colin, I’m not out of tune,” he objects. “You’re out of tune! You’re always out of tune!”

“What do you mean?” Quinn ripostes. “Then how come everybody always picks ‘Singalong’? It’s very popular, that channel.” For some reason, Quinn is holding a half-eaten apple in his left hand.

“Of course it’s popular,” Treccase replies. “It’s funny that you’re out of tune. It’s funny, that’s why we do it.”

“They’re laughing at me? They don’t really like my voice?”

Treccase nods. “Yeah, exactly.”

Quinn looks hurt. “I guess that’s funny, if you like that kind of humor.” He takes a beat to let MTV Voiceover Guy tell you that there is a new season of Remote Control, and then returns to a rendition of “Pride” so bad that Bono ought to take out a restraining order.


Next up, the surreal Earth, Wind and Fire ad for Coca-Cola we’ve seen three times before. New observation: they appear to be drinking out of pull-tab cans, not pop-tops. I’m pretty sure the transition away from pop-tops happened about a decade before: somebody must have decided the pull-tabs looked unsightly on camera.


A deep voice says, “From Camelot Music, R.E.M.” We then see fifteen seconds of the band’s “Orange Crush” video. That was the second single from Green, so it would have been released shortly before this ad aired; at any rate (spoiler alert!), “Orange Crush” won’t make this countdown. (I suspect it was on 1989’s list: the song didn’t chart in the top 40, but it topped both the “Mainstream Rock” and “Modern Rock” charts, and the video won a VMA). A quick recap of the excerpt: in high-contrast black-and-white, we see an ominous chest of drawers, followed by a young blond boy running down an empty road in slow motion with his arms flailing, the back of a man with a crewcut crawling through a bed of straw, a dirty hand, an arm closing a chest in that ominous bureau, and a broken chair by the oceanside. It’s not the traditional hard sell. I assume Warner Bros. and Camelot were doing a co-op advertising buy here, although I have no idea how they split the cost.


Again, an ad for “The Conductor” batteries, allegedly optimized for “high-drain music machines.” This is our third viewing of the spot where a bored college student suffers through an extremely dull philosophy class: the clock ticks, a girl cleans her glasses, a student falls asleep on a desk with a loud thud. Then our spiky-haired protagonist puts on his headphones and rocks out to “School’s Out,” while the professor drones on, oblivious.


Budweiser has a jingle with chiming synths: “For the pride, for the dream!” We see a solemn cowboy holding a bottle of Bud, then a black father and son, leaning their chairs back against a yellow wall and popping open two cans of beer. “For the love, for the team!” A couple in a bar look at each other meaningfully, and then a line of baseball players take off their caps for the national anthem (or maybe for Morganna the Kissing Bandit–we can’t see). “For the sweat and for the drive!” the singer emotes. Quick cuts of a weightlifter, a bicyclist, a track team wearing “USA” uniforms, and a triumphant boxer. “For the reason, the reason you strive!” A regular guy in a bar lifts a mug of beer. A spoken voiceover: “For all you do, the clean, crisp taste of beechwood-aged Budweiser.” Over a sunset, the singer delivers the money line: “This Bud’s for you.”


Our fourth commercial for Rain Man: I think this one’s a slightly different edit than we’ve had previously. Thank you for providing me with some variety, promotions department of United Artists. The entirety of the voiceover artist’s work on this spot: “Johnny Babbitt thought he knew everything. Dustin Hoffman. Tom Cruise. Rain Man. Rated R. Now playing in theaters everywhere.”


We conclude our commercial break with a “Ten Second Film.” This one’s called “Two two.” An auctioneer who looks like Ricky Jay is wearing a big red-and-black lumberjack jacket and selling the obviously fake head(s) of a two-headed cow. Sample rapid-fire patter: “Would you give me two, would you go downtown wearing a tutu?”

posted 21 October 2009 in 1988 and tagged , , , , , , , . 4 comments

4 Comments on 1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #15

  1. Chris M. Says:

    We then see fifteen seconds of the band’s “Orange Crush” video. That was the second single from Green

    FWIW, I’m almost positive “Orange Crush” was the leadoff, not second, single from that album. “Stand” was the second single and, many months later, R.E.M.’s first Top Five hit (and second Top 10, after 1987’s “The One I Love”).

    Pretty typical label behavior, leading off with the “rawk” track (and garnering chart-topping AOR/Modern airplay), to secure the core fanbase, before going for the big pop crossover.

  2. Chris M. Says:

    Wait, scratch that — “Stand” did come second, but it wasn’t a Top Five pop hit — it peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100. Their only Top Five hit, to this day, remains “Losing My Religion” (No. 4, 1991).

  3. Tom Nawrocki Says:

    Chris is right: “Orange Crush” was the first single from Green. The album came out on Election Day 1988 (I can remember going into the record store the day it came out so I could finally, finally buy it); I don’t know why the single didn’t come out till December.

  4. Gavin Says:

    You’re both right; correction made. (I looked it up, and still somehow managed to get it wrong.)

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