The best TV commercial of the year is Direct TV's "Don't attend your own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley." The cause-and-effect sequence -- "when you wait forever for the cable guy you get bored, when you get bored you stare out the window, when you stare out the window you see things you shouldn't see, when you see things you shouldn't see you need to vanish" -- creates a rapid absurdist narrative Don Draper would have liked. The clauses escalate: "when you need to vanish, you fake your own death" (with a picture of a man surfacing in the ocean, a burning ship in the distance), then "you dye your eyebrows," and finally the coup de grace: "you attend your own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley." The specificity of this name is a nifty touch. I wonder whether it's the name of a guy at the ad agency.
The worst TV commercial of the year -- take it from one who has watched too many baseball and football games this fall -- is a forty-way tie among car commercials that use the fake word "introducing." Even a commercial for Mercedes, with Jon Hamm's voice over it, is guilty of this triteness next to which the cliches of car ads from the print magazines of yore ("runs good," "loaded") seem amost OK.
The weirdest commercial of the year is, hands down, the one from Direct TV featuring a blonde wife emerging from the shower, wrapped in a towel, looking distraught. The huge TV screen on the wall reports a "recording conflict." (Apparently the household cable TV system can record one show at any given time.) She says she is "sick of this thing," adding, "I just feel like it's watching me walk around naked." Snarls hubby, in front of the bathroom mirror, "Well, at least somebody gets to." Then he continues brushing his teeth, noisily, the noise communicating his contempt. The idea of a "recording conflict" -- and of warring TV tastes -- as emblematic of a marriage on the rocks is smart, but the use of a bitterly quarreling couple to sell a product is negativity of a kind usually seen only in political ads. Still, it does a lot in fifteen seconds, and it does not involve a talking animal. -- DL