This is not about the sweaty, coked-up, gold-toned 1970s music and comedy performance television show, “Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special.” Nor is it about Guthy-Renker‘s DVD collection of said program. This is about the infomercial for said DVDs of said television show.
There is no possibility I will ever buy the DVDs. There are nineteen of them. Nineteen. That means, for every groundbreaking Richard Pryor act (he said the N-word! On network television!), there will be dozens of, say, Gallagher bits, in which his magic moustache destroys various fruits, or something. (Okay, I’ve never seen a Gallagher act. What he does with his mustache is none of my business.) Which is why the infomercial for the collection is the perfect snack. Bitsy bites of all the best performances, with no empty calories.
Infomercials exist in the cultural outlands. A show about advertising is hailed as the ultimate cipher for American modernity, yet it remains uncool to confess to ever watching an infomercial. Yet if you’ve never seen one of these televised treasures, you’ve likely never heard Diddy claim that Pro-Activ products “moisturize your situation.” And as such, I feel bad for you.
Admittedly, infomercials are for the drunk and the restless. You never watch one on purpose. You watch one when you should be doing something else, like sleeping, or being sober. (And if you’ve ever purchased anything from paid programming, congratulations! You’re probably drunk right now. Get yourself together, rummy.)
As with all paid programming, the experience of watching the “Midnight Special” DVD ad is loopy and vaguely unpleasant. Loopy, because it’s maybe five minutes of content, literally shown in 10-minute or 30-minute loops. Vaguely unpleasant, because there’s something very, very shameful about watching Rod Stewart sing “You Wear it Well” while wearing gold pants. Yet the ad is compelling, because dammit, that Bowie performance really is something special and maybe that show really was culturally important and maybe it really does need to be viewed on these high-quality discs and it is an exclusive offer after all…
Step away from the credit card. Lucky for you (but not so lucky for Guthy-Renker,) the internet exists, preserving these feasts of ’70s excess forever.
I hope Bowie’s race never finds our planet and demands his return. We need him here.
The infomercial touts the program’s non-lipsync-ness, but… well, it’s gotta be hard to maintain perfect pitch while dancing like a go-go cowgirl.
No, kids, that ain’t Britt Daniel fronting the Strokes. That there is Tom Fucking Petty.