Yes, it has been at least a couple of years since I have written about an infoco (an info commercial, for those of you who have forgotten). Those of you who have been here since the start know that used to be, more or less, a full-time job (see: Snuggies; The Hawaii Chair; the WaxVac; etc.).
Lately, it just seems like infomercials have lost some of their fun, lost some of their juice. Infomercials now feel like so many other things in America these days -- there seems to be no appreciable difference between parody and reality. Have you seen the faux infomercial called "The Neck Basket?" It's supposed to be a spoof of real infocos -- with the subjects wearing silly baskets around their necks so they can easily reach what they need -- but it's frankly a much more reasonable product than many actual ones. Anyway, the spoof just doesn't match the insanity and loony energy of real infomercials.
Point is, the whole infoco thing just seemed pretty well spent.
And then my pal Mechelle sent me a link to the Atomic Beam infoco. And I'm in love again. This is unquestionably the best infoco in years. It makes me so very happy.
The Atomic Beam is a flashlight that apparently is brighter than other flashlights. That seems to be the whole description. This is a good infoco product -- you might remember that the key to a good infoco is that it tries to sell something that nobody really needs. A blanket with sleeves. An ear reinforcer for heavy earrings. I suppose there are people who need flashlights with more light, you know, night hunters, Watergate thieves, police trying to find fugitives, the people of Gotham City. But I also suspect that they mostly remedy this by buying flashlights with more power.
So you have the mostly worthless product. Check. What you need is a big opening.
Scene 1: Atomic bomb goes off.
Announcer: "The atomic bomb is one of the most powerful forces on earth."
I'm sorry. What?
Announcer: The Atomic Beam is one of the most powerful flashlights on earth.
If the thing stopped right here -- we are only seven seconds into it -- we would already have one of the greatest infocos in the history of mankind. Let's stop for just a moment to admire this so obvious comparison between one of earth's most destructive weapons and a flashlight. These people were in room somewhere trying to come up with a name for their super-snazzy new flashlight. The Smashlight! The Shaq-O-Lantern! The Cosmic Fireball!
And finally one of the geniuses says: "The Atomic Beam." And everyone loves it because, you know, it sounds like atomic bomb, and before those two atomic bombs in Japan killed 200,000 or so people, they definitely flashed a great deal of light. So yes! The Atomic Beam!
But when it was time for the commercial, and someone undoubtedly said: "You know, I'm not sure everyone will get the Atomic Beam connection to the atomic bomb. Sure they SOUND alike. But I think the comparison go over some people's heads." And the others kind of nodded, thought aboiut it for a long time. What could be done to make sure everyone understood that this flashlight was kind of like the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Then someone said: "Do you think we can get some atomic bomb testing footage?"
Someone else said: "Yes, I know a guy!"
And everyone was happy, but then the first guy pointed out, "Hey, even if we show the footage, I'm still not sure people will get the connection." More pondering. What if we talk about how the atomic bomb is one of the most powerful forces on earth and the Atomic Beam is one of the most powerful flashlights on earth?"
"Wait," Don Draper said. "What if we talk about how the atomic bomb is one of the most powerful forces on earth and the Atomic Beam is one of the most powerful flashlights on earth?"
And they all high-fived, downed some scotch and went to lunch.
Yes, if it ended here ... but it doesn't. No, the Atomic Beam commercial is only beginning, which is why it is destined to be a classic.
Scene 2: Meet Hunter Ellis: FMR Fighter Pilot.
OK, this is a small thing, but why don't they spell out "Former?" I assume that's what FMR stands for, but really "Former" is only three letters longer than FMR and if you don't capitalize them all it really takes up about the same amount of space. I suppose FMR looks more official. I suppose it could stand for something really cool, something better than "Former."
Hunter Ellis, you probably know from his appearances on Survivor and many other shows, really is a former fighter pilot, someone who according to his Wikipedia page had 433 carrier landings, which is awesome. There is absolutely no question that his general fighter pilot coolness gives this commercial a sort of gravitas that would be lacking if it was, say, the Slap Chop guy or the guy who goes out floating in a boat with a screen door at the bottom. This guy is a serious bad-ass. And so, if we didn't get it from the atomic bomb display, we now know we are dealing with a serious flashlight.
"This," he says as he shines the flashlight in our eyes, "is Atomic Beam USA."
OK, sorry, I have not been using the flashlight's full name before. This is not just Atomic Beam -- it is Atomic Beam USA. This is not to be confused with Atomic Beam Portugal.
"The ultra-bright, tough-grade flashlight that features tactical technology that is used by Special U.S. Forces."
(To demonstrate this they show what appears to be someone in the U.S. Special Forces using a flashlight that does not appear to be an Atomic Beam USA."
Now, before going on, I will admit that I am very curious what "tactical technology" is in the Atomic Beam USA that is also used by "Special U.S. Forces." The commercial does not say. I'm guessing it is: "Light."
Scene 3: How bright is the Atomic Beam USA, Hunter?
"This flashlight," Hunter says, pulling out what I assume is a regulation flashlight, "has a feeble 125 Lux output." Ha! Embarrassing! Talk about a lack of lux. He demonstrates its feebleness by flashing a dim light on what appears to be a gun-range target in the shape of a human being.
"The Atomic Beam USA has up to 5,000 Lux," Hunter adds. Now we're talking. This time the flashlight clearly illuminates a gun range target in the shape of a human being. "That's 40 times more!"
OK, wait, a couple of questions. What does "up to 5,000 Lux mean?" Up to? Is this an adjustable flashlight? Do some flashlights have 5,000 Lux while others don't? Do I need to get a Lux Capacitor to measure the amount of Lux I'm getting from my Atomic Beam USA? Also, just curious, why would I need 5,000 Lux if, say, I wasn't at a shooting range in the middle of the night?
We'll get back to that one. First, let's find out how strong this flashlight is!
Scene 4: Indestructible!
Every good infoco will show you how tough/powerful/sharp a product is by putting it through an absurd test that makes no sense whatsoever. We will cut beer cans with this knife! We will wash this car 200 times! We will have an elephant step on our product!
But I must admit, the Atomic Beam USA people took this all to a whole new level.
"It's tough enough," Hunter tells us, "to withstand this 36-ton firetruck."
Hey now, they show a firetruck running over the flashlight and it appears to come through just fine. That's one tough flash ... oh, wait a minute ... they're not done.
"We're going to drop it hundreds of feet from this helicopter!" Hunter says, "it hits the tarmac and it's still working! That's what I call a tough flashlight!"
That is a tough flashlight. I mean running it over with a fire truck AND dropping it from a helicopter, seriously, that, oh, wait, there's more?, one you can drop from a helicopter and ... oh, wait, they're not finished ...
"Heavy downpours! Mud Puddles!" Hunter tells us and he shows the Atomic Beam USA in a giant mud puddle but, amazingly, it's still on. In a mud puddle!. This thing is crazy, I mean, .. wait, what are you going to do? Wait, you're FRYING the flashlight?
"Even extreme temperatures like boiling hot oil," Hunter says as they, yes boil the Atomic Beam USA in hot oil. Seriously? You need to fry the thing? When will that come in handy? But OK, I think we get it, OK, it's a tough flashlight ...
"Being frozen solid in a block of ice," Hunter says, "is no match ..."
Come on already. A block of ice? I mean let's just back away from the flashlight already ...
"I can smash it with all my strength," Hunter says, and he proceeds to bash the flashlight with a sledgehammer. At some point a while ago, this began to feel uncomfortable. With the sledgehammer bit it's now feeling like that Bugs Bunny skit where he's like, "Oh yeah, if he was in there would I turn on the stove?"
Just one final question: Have you ever in your entire life BROKEN a regulation flashlight?
Scene 5: Why do I need this indestructible, super-bright flashlight? Because you DO NOT WANT TO DIE!
"It's strobe feature makes it a powerful self-defense tool," Hunter tells us.
It also makes the Atomic Beam USA super fun at parties! But back to self-defense, you might wonder how a strobe feature can defend your life. Well, they show you. Let's just say you are shopping late at night in a very dark parking lot, like this poor lady, someone wearing a dark hoodie rushes over to take your purse. This could happen to you. What would you do then? Well, all you would need to do then is pull out the Atomic Beam USA and turn on the strobe and, voila, the attacker is "disoriented."
Now, you might ask: How exactly am I supposed to get out a flashlight and turn on the strobe light in the millisecond that it takes for this guy to snag my purse? Answer: This lady in the commercial did it. You can too!
Actually, it's pretty clear you are just supposed to carry around the flashlight in case of dark-hoodie strangers approaching -- in the next scene, a woman walking in the parking lot shines her flashlight at the guy (no strobe light necessary!), and he backs off. Well, sure he does. He's like, "Hey, that lady's got a flashlight."
Scene 6: Hunter, can you rely on the Atomic Beam USA?
"As a former fighter pilot," Hunter says, as he rides along in a boat at night, "I can depend on Atomic Beam USA." He then shows that you can see the light at night on the boat.
"You can see it for miles on land, sea or air," he says.
Air? I'm sorry: Air? Realizing that Hunter is a FMR fighter pilot -- he has told us twice -- what role does a flashlight have in the air? Is this if your landing lights malfunction? Would you use it to signal other planes and prevent mid-air collisions?
Scene 7: How good a deal is this?
Hunter: "You could spend over one hundred dollars ... or the Atomic Beam USA can be yours for just $19.99."
That's one heck of a deal, you know, compared to the imaginary flashlight that people will spend more than $100 on. And then there's the lifetime guarantee -- where they show the flashlight being fried again (this time with actual fries) and hit with a sledgehammer.
This is all typical stuff. But then the Atomic Beam USA takes it to another level. What is the standard special offer at the end of these infocos? Right: You can get another one absolutely free, just pay the extra shipping and handling.
But for the Atomic Beam, well, listen to Hunter:
"Order now, and you can double it, get a second Atomic Beam USA. Just pay a separate fee. We'll even ship them to you for free."
Whoa whoa whoa, hold on there Mr. Fighter Pilot. You kind of glossed over it, but it sounds like you said you can get a second Atomic Beam USA for a "separate fee." That seems to mean, correct me if I'm wrong, that for another $19.99 you can get another Atomic Beam USA.
I'm no math whiz, but I'm just not suire that qualifies as a "special offer."
Scene 7: Patriotism!
Hunter makes this point clear: "The critical components inside the Atomic Beam are made right here in the USA."
Then to prove it, in the corner, there's a graphic that says: "LED components made in USA." And you can trust it because the graphic is like Captain America's shield and is red, white and blue.
That's awesome -- no wonder they call it the Atomic Beam USA and ... wait a minute. It sure seems like he said the "critical component inside" are made right here in the USA? What about the non-critical components? What about the stuff outside? What about, you know, the actual FLASHLIGHT? Are you telling me that you have a fighter pilot selling a flashlight called Atomic Beam USA and it's NOT ENTIRELY MADE IN THE USA?
This might be my favorite part of all.
Well, you know, after the atomic bomb going off.