The infomercial follows a simple formula: Hyperbolically overinflate a frustration of daily life, earnestly present a corny product as the easy solution, wonder aloud how expensive such a product would be, and sell it at a fraction of that imaginary price. Then repeat.
Really, it shouldn't work. Consumers should be too smart to fall for this. And yet the infomercial endures--not just because it moves units, but because it has become self-aware, a self-starting advertising meme, a traveling circus willing to play to all expectations. Its stars become jokes, its products happily mocked, because the prize is very real commercial success. More than 25 million people have bought Snuggies. Twenty-five million!
And that, no doubt, is why infomercial stars like Tony Little and Susan Powter also willingly submitted to TV Guide Network's 25 Greatest Infomercials of All Time (airing Sunday at 9 p.m. PT/ET), a reverential mocking of the moneymakers. If it pays to play the fool, pass the jester hat.
But wait, there's more! We've put together our own list, "The Top 5 Parodies of Actual Infomercials"--because like much in the Internet Age, the best part about infomercials is no longer the actual infomercial. It's the silliness that comes afterward.
First, a clip from the show:
And now, our list in no particular order:
1. The WTF Blanket
This overdub of a Snuggie commercial presents the blanket-with-sleeves as every critic--which is to say, everyone who doesn't own a Snuggie--imagines it to be: "The WTF Blanket will turn you into a complete shut-in that never leaves the house!"
2. Slap Chop Rap
Infomercial pitchman are great at screaming. This remix finds the music in the madness--a bona fide catchy tune that, unlike the actual infomercial, sort of makes you wish you owned a Slap Chop.
3. Saturday Night Live's Shake Weight parody
The actual Shake Weight already seemed like a parody. SNL managed to take it one step further.
4. FedEx's Fred Willard infomercials
Most infomercials play it straight, even though they know they're parodies of themselves. FedEx hired comedian Fred Willard to go a step further--making a hilarious infomercial parody that still manages to pitch its product straight.
5. Ellen DeGeneres and the Hawaii Chair
The Hawaii Chair was such a terrible idea, even its infomercial strained credulity. And when Ellen sat down on one in her studio, its absurdity was laid bare.