As long as there's been college football on TV, there have been commercials ruining the experience. On the one hand, it's gotten better. We rarely endure the media timeout between the touchback and the first snap anymore. On the other hand, we have to deal with ICE COLLLD DR. PEPPER HEAH!" during literally every commercial break. Literally.
But commercials aren't all bad. They're usually the best part of the Super Bowl. Everyone loves a good commercial. Along with their bloated, vaudevillian big brother the infomercial, commercials have brought us some of the greatest results of American ingenuity. This week, we pay homage to the most notable As Seen on TV products around.
NOTE: The ranking titles contain links to the actual commercials!
Welp, Iowa. That's what $45 million gets you.
1. OSU – Popeil Pocket Fisherman
High: 1 | Low: 2 | FPV: 17 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 1st
At first glance, you wouldn't think much of the Pocket Fisherman. Who ever looked at a fishing pole and thought "this is just too long and impractical to keep on my person for all the extemporaneous fishing I need to do"? Ron F'in Popeil, the Urban Meyer of infomercials, that's who. America's greatest television salesman took a bunch of small, unassuming parts and turned the fishing world on its head. "Oh, that's too small," the critics said. "Oh, that plastic won't hold up," they mused. "Oh, that smooth, quiet reel with auto anti-reverse isn't going to beat Jabrill Peppers for the September Heisman." Heading into OU, the Buckeyes were measly 1-point favorites. One point. The sunfish of point spreads. Minnow, even. But dastardly ol' Urban whipped out his pocket fisherman (made with only 6 returning parts) and reeled in a big one. The tackle box in the handle came in handy, as the crafty ol' angler leaned on a variety of lures to drag Big Game Bob out of the warm waters of Big XII ineptitude. In retrospect, we never should've doubt him. Maybe Bob Stoops should take up fishing. It's the only place where a visor doesn't make you look like a complete dipshit. (Kidding, a visor always makes you look like a dipshit).
2. Michigan – Ronco™ Electric Food Dehydrator
High: 2 | Low: 5 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 2nd
Do you like fruit, but wish it had the gummy consistency of a freshly-picked booger? Look no further, America! Millionaire genius Ron Popeil offers another in his long line of products sure to improve your life for only a few payments (plus shipping and handling). This marvel promises to turn thin strips of beef into mouth-watering jerky, while also drying some pureed fruit slurry into Fruit-Rollups. Because if there’s one thing everyone likes, it’s taking fresh, quality raw material and serving it in its least appetizing form. Much like Michigan, the dehydrator was a standout among Ronco’s 1990s stable. The Wolverines’ return to their top form of yesteryear harkens the B1G back to a time when America was just too darn busy to eat food that was full of moisture...and when Kordell Stewart broke Walverine hearts with a hail mary. This time, Michigan hung the Buffs out to dry. Note: this is a dehydrator, not a de-hype-drator. Jabrill Peppers still leads the Heisman race.
3. Michigan State – Ronco™ Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker
High: 2 | Low: 7 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 5th
Mmmm, homemade pasta. Simple. Beloved. Bland as hell. Michigan State earns the big man’s coveted pasta machine on account of their Italian coach’s dutiful adherence to Tresselball, which is essentially the unsauced spaghetti of offenses. The recipe is simple: a little flour, some water, an egg, and a dash of a backup QB who’s obviously going to run the ball. Throw it all in this precision instrument of culinary splendor, and it churns away at pace slightly faster than Notre Dame’s running game. A scant 60 minutes elapses and out comes something that looks sort of like you’d hoped it might, but doesn’t quite have the al dente quality of the real thing. Most folks don’t know that al dente is the Italian term for "Non-captain bitch Connor Cook", but that’s a linguistic fact. Still, the pasta maker was one of Ron Popeil’s great contributions to the life of the late-night appliance purchaser. It’s not his best work, but an admirable performer nonetheless. It also makes chocolate pasta…which I imagine is how an Italian chef interprets an 8-point fourth quarter lead over Furman.
4. Wisconsin – Ronco™ The Egg Scrambler
High: 1 (LOL at Speth) | Low: 7 | FPV: 1 (LOLOLOL at Speth) | LPV: 0 | Last week: 3rd
Ron Popeil does it again, saving you time and money! Kids don’t like runny egg whites? Hate the cumbersome cleanup of throwing a bowl in the dishwasher? Have $7.77 you’d love to flush down the toilet but don’t want to risk your plumbing? The Egg Scrambler scrambles the egg inside the shell! It’s really a one trick pony, but it does its one trick pretty darn well—mostly. Ronco sold a few million of them, despite their reputation for taking a baffling approach to a simple task and breeding deadly salmonella. That’s about where Wisconsin is right now. After upsetting LSU and trouncing Akron, the Badgers struggled this week against 0-2 Georgia State, needing a come from behind win to protect their perfect resume. That probably had something to do with Corey Clement being made of actual eggshells, and missing yet another game. If he doesn’t play against MSU, Bucky’s going to wish he had $7.77 for a paper bag mask and a Greyhound ticket home.
5. Nebraska – George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine
High: 3 | Low: 5 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 6th
Knock out the fat! What’s a former heavyweight well past his prime to do? If you said "slap his name on a griddle design that’s been around for decades" you’re right! Though, we also would’ve accepted "hire Mike Riley." Everyone who ever lived in a dorm either had one of these or knew the guy who did. Like the Cornhuskers, the Foreman Grill is a simple, unpretentious nod to basic nutrition—the Runza sandwich of countertop griddles. The Huskers got taken to the mat by Oregon early, but bounced back to win in rather amusing fashion after Oregon consistently refused to take the free point after touchdown. Call it good coaching by Riley or bad coaching by Helfrich, but either way the Huskers cooked up some delicious duck on their Foreman Grill. I’m kidding, that would be terrible…like everything made on a Foreman Grill.
6. Minnesota – NuWave Oven Pro
High: 5 | Low: 10 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 7th
Are you too busy to cook a wholesome hotdish for the family? Do you hate the hassle of waiting for your food to thaw? Or for your quarterback to be drafted in round one like he deserves? Introducing the NuWave Oven Pro! Now you can broil, roast, grill, bake, barbecue, and lose to Wisconsin with just the push of a button. The secret is the state of the art infrared technology that allows you to skip the long coaching search and just hire whoever you had near the fridge already. The NuWave is so efficient, you can get to Week 4 by only playing two games! And the NuWave Oven Pro has been independently proven to cook healthier food in less time, in case your coach looks like he ate Brady Hoke. Plus, it’s guaranteed to increase the binding strength of Cream of Mushroom soup by 50%! Disclaimer: This product is not guaranteed to make Mitch Leidner find a receiver. Not compatible with axes, Paul Bunyan, or bits of broken chair.
7. Indiana – Bedazzler
High: 5 | Low: 9 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 8th
It changes everyday clothes into exciting fashions and you don’t have to spend a fortune! Originally sold as the far less sexy Ronco™ Rhinestone and Stud Setter, the bedazzler is a microcosm of Indiana: a little bit of faux-sparkle jazzing up an item that’s not much to look at on its own; a fitting homage to a team who treats chrome as a serious wardrobe choice. Rhinestones had a brief heyday, turning your average denim jacket into a shimmering dreamcoat of possibility…so long as that possibility involved a bowling alley and the unshakable musk of cigarette smoke. Indiana is currently enjoying what might be a similarly brief heyday of winning games with defense. Will that last? Probably not, given the slate of offenses they’ll face in the B1G East. But for time being, the Hoosiers have managed to give themselves a new lease on life, beating FIU and their old nemesis Ball State thanks to 11 studs on the defense.
8. Iowa – Bowflex
High: 4 | Low: 14 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 1 | Last week: 3rd
Strength. Conditioning. Hoisting cattle skyward. These are marks of an Iowa man—a man built into a protein-fed bulldozer by the world class Iowa S&C™ program. Did you know that you can get Iowa S&C™ results in your own home? You can, with the revolutionary gym system made out of leaf springs. Bowflex was a prime example of something that sounded good in theory, but fell short thanks to horrible execution. Iowa fans know just what that feels like after losing to NDSU this week. Bowflex was sold on the promise of real, lasting change in mind and body—change that could be yours for only seven easy payments of $99.95. Bowflex buyers were sad to find out that even after a few weeks of wobbling their way through a series of seemingly simple workouts, they were still the same old people. Same problems, same shortcomings, same penchant for failing on a grand stage. Those folks learned a $700 lesson in the power of television promises against the intractability of human nature. Even adjusted for inflation, that’s a damn sight cheaper than the $45 million Iowa just shelled out to learn that New Kirk is just Old Kirk with a fancy gym that doesn’t deliver results. All the leaf springs in the world won’t help if the wheels have come off the cart.
9. Murrland – The Snuggie
High: 7 | Low: 11 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 9th
If they haven’t made a Snuggie—the blanket with sleeves—in Maryland flag pattern yet, expect it soon. But it won’t be a regular Snuggie. It’ll be an Under Armor CoolaWick Super Tech ProtectThisHouse Blanketshirt. The Snuggie is the perfect example of the malaise that had taken hold of American life in the mid-to-late-‘00s. It’s literally a blanket with sleeves that allows you to remain fully under said blanket while eating Cheetos, or frozen crabcakes, or whatever's left in the fridge by the time you reach a second overtime against UCF and see your favorite wrestler replaced by a Pigrome. Whatever that is.
10. Penn State – Veg-o-matic
High: 7 | Low: 12 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 0 | Last week: 10th
It slices! It dices! It juliennes! Like the Nittany Lions, the Veg-o-matic was a product born of the 1960s that still somehow manages to command cultural cachet today. The Popeil brothers promised that the Veg-o-matic would change cooking forever: "When slicing or dicing onions, the only tears you'll shed are tears of joy." Well, there were tears of joy in State College this week among the Beaver Stadium faithful—reduced to using their whiteout/stripeout schtick against mighty Temple. Hype man James Franklin managed to slip the millstone of the two-man rush debacle from around his neck, but he’s losing players to injury faster than those infomercial actors who get deluged by Tupperware from a cabinet. Like the slicer-turned-cultural touchstone that is the Veg-o-matic, Penn State struggles to find relevance in a market where technology, design, and good taste has surpassed a once unbeatable design.
11. Northwestern – ShamWow
High: 10 | Low: 14 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 1 | Last week: 14
Self explanatory. Like the cheap towels hawked by future assault victim Vince Shlomo, Northwestern has been more sham than wow. Two losses in a row to open the season hasn’t happened in Evanston since…2014! What do I even say about this team? As someone who actually bought a ShamWow and legitimately hated myself for falling prey to such an awful commercial and worse product, I can still say with a straight face that those trumped up paper towels were a better experience than jNW fandom this season. At least the took Dooook to the woodshed and managed to claw their way back from 14th, no longer needing a ShamWow for their tears.
12. Illinois – Mr. Microphone
High: 9 | Low: 14 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 1 | Last week: 11th
No infomercial product has been the subject of more punchlines than Mr. Microphone. For the uninitiated, Mr. Microphone was a cordless mic that broadcasted over an FM frequency to actually put your voice on the radio! Only $14.88 stood between your family and hours of fun that would make Marconi swoon. This world-changing invention was famously parodied on The Simpsons, wherein Bart used the device to fake the plight of Timmy O’Toole—a boy who’d fallen in a well. Fresh out of the well Timmy O’Beckman dragged them down, Illinois looked to liven up this season with the dulcet tones of Lovie Smith on their FM dial. But like the real Mr. Microphone, the transmission quality ranges from flat and tinny to utter trash. The Illini have been jammed two weeks in a row, first by UNC and then by the boat-rowers of Western Michigan. Even Mr. Microphone can’t change the tune in Chambana.
13. Rutgers – GLH-9 Hair Replacement Spray
High: 9 | Low: 14 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 7 | Last week: 14th
Some things are so blatantly bad…so insultingly contrived…so horrific in concept and execution as to render even the most devout suspension of disbelief powerless. Enter spray-on hair. Imagine for a moment the concept of hair, in liquid form, that one sprays on a bald spot. Paint, you say? No, sir. It’s not a paint or coverup. It’s an amazing powder that clings to the tiniest hairs on your head! Just ask Jersey Dave, the mulletted, non-compensated spokesman. This Rust-o-leum ripoff takes the crown as the worst schlock ever peddled as a quality product…which brings us to Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have looked truly atrocious this year. After a summer of being beaten about the head by Chris Ash puns and promises of a reborn power/sleeping giant, Rutgers has turned in a performance befitting a mid-tier FCS team. Actually, scratch that. FCS cellar dweller Howard hung 21 unanswered points on the Jersey Boys. They aren’t even mid-tier…they’re working up to it. Jim D. might be interested in some GLH-9. A liberal coating of space-age powder on his dome will cushion the dunce cap. Maybe Dave will let him borrow that spiffy lariat tie to complete the look.
14. [REDACTED] – Ronco Door Saver
High: 12 | Low: 14 | FPV: 0 | LPV: 8 | Last week: 12th
Occasionally, an invention exhibits a level of deep-seated malaise and soul-deadening apathy so complete that it should be sold in the bleachers at Ross-Ade (if anyone was there to buy it, that is). Enter the Ronco Door Saver, that most blithely Purdue of products. To wit, the Door Saver is a raft. That’s it. It’s literally a swimming pool raft. You hang it from your garage ceiling so it falls between your two cars to prevent door dings. Door dings, as any pater familias knows, are the torn ACLs of suburbia. Like the guy behind the Door Saver, Purdue has basically been phoning it in on the football front for years. The 2016 campaign isn’t shaping up much better, especially when one considers that Purdue transfers are suddenly making headlines in the SEC. At least they got away with their doors—I mean knees—intact.