TV ads, good taste not compatible

Can you believe the things they advertise on television these days? I mean, really. I'm not one that's easily embarrassed, but it is tough sitting around watching television in mixed company here in the 21st century.

People talk about how bad the actual shows are, what with nudity and violence and inappropriate content, but the commercials are every bit as bad, and maybe worse.

I blame the whole thing on Cathy Rigby. After all, she's the first person to advertise things that really ought not to be advertised in prime time - and if you aren't old enough to remember what I'm taking about, you are probably too young to be embarrassed anyway.

Let's suffice it to say that she strayed way beyond her Olympic training, and the character she played onstage for 30 years, Peter Pan, had no need for the items she advertised.

But that was just the beginning. She opened up a Pandora's box on the airwaves, and there is no let-up in sight. As soon as I see the words disposable, for instance, thrown up on the screen, I either change the channel or head for the kitchen.

Most of the time, simply changing the channel doesn't help that much because those TV people are involved in a conspiracy that not even Oliver Stone could unravel. Every network seems to broadcast commercials at the same time, so if I change from a Massengill ad on NBC, I'm almost guaranteed to click right over to K-Y on ABC or Viagra on CBS. The out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire complex, don't you know.

To tell the truth, I get a little uncomfortable when those cartoon bears try to get you to buy that really soft brand of toilet paper, and I remember when Ex-Lax and Tucks hemorrhoid pads were the most embarrassing products on television.

Shoot, back in the '60s, we used to have to go the 10th Street Art Theater and present a fake ID to see the things they show on the Victoria's Secret commercials at 8:30 at night. Things are just out of hand!

Even more disturbing - not to mention mystifying - than the personal hygiene products and underwear ads are the pharmaceutical ads. They run during just about every program. What's up with that, y'all?

Back when I was coming up, we did everything imaginable to avoid going to the doctor. When we did visit - or when he came to us - he decided what was wrong with us and what medicine we needed, and it was almost always penicillin.

Nowadays, on any given night, you see television commercials telling you to run over to the nearest physician's office and have him or her prescribe this or that.

You do realize, of course, that products that are advertised so relentlessly require a prescription. You can't just waltz into Eckerd and pick up a bottle of pills off the shelf. I'm just wondering how many people watch the ads and diagnose themselves with the symptoms described and then go and tell their doctors what they have and what they want to take for it.

I mean, they must, because those television spots don't come cheap. The companies are spending millions to get the word out about their product, so they must be selling something.

And honesty compels me to admit that some of those drugs are pretty appealing. I mean, I'd buy a little blue tablet if it would fulfill all the promises in the television ads, but I'm afraid they'd have to find a little pink pill for my lovely wife, Lisa, for the product in question to do me any good.

And the funniest thing about the drug company ads is when they read off the side effects, really fast, at the end of the commercial. "This product will help you get to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night, but all the next day you will be too drowsy to drive to work. Your head will hurt and you will be irritable and constipated, and it is quite possible that hair will start growing in the palms of your hands and your teeth may fall out."

But, hey, at least you'll get a good night's sleep.

As usual, I'm longing for the good old days. Let's face it, if folks were sitting around the living room watching "I Love Lucy" and a commercial came on, parents didn't have to worry about answering embarrassing questions about the birds and the bees.

And besides all that, I blame the commercials for making me fat. I weighed about 165 when Cathy Rigby made her debut. I'm up to about 220 now, and it's because of all those snacks I eat while avoiding embarrassing TV ads.

Anybody want to join me in a class action suit? I bet we can find a good attorney on late-night television. I think ad time is cheaper after midnight.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and high school history teacher who lives in Rockdale County. Visit his Web site at www.darrellhuckaby.net. His column appears on Saturday.