The following is a paid programme

Are you too stupid to operate your computer? Are you too dim to realise that $19.95 is just 5 cents less than $20?

I love infomercials. I love them. It’s the heady, intoxicating delight of a new love, too. I could sit up all night watching them. I have sat up all night watching them. Here is television in its purest form, undiluted by artistic pretentions or higher ideals. Pile it high and ship it fast — rush delivery available. And, indeed, preferable, if you wish to receive your goods before reality reasserts itself and you realise you’ve just committed yourself to 93 easy payments of $19.95 for some piece of tawdry plastic junk. (Myself, I always prefer the really hard payments, but will they let me? Noooo.)

I understand it, I really do. When are you supposed to step off the carousel, when it just keeps going around and around and around, like one of Ron Popeil’s rotisserie chickens? So your eyes glaze, your jaw slackens, and your defences crumble.

I’m deeply in love with Jan Muller, whose Space Bags could probably solve the Middle-East crisis if only he were asked — though I think his solution would mostly involve putting all of the relevant people in sealed vacuum bags which would keep them quiet (if beautifully preserved) for all eternity. I’m crazy about the Juiceman, a Howard Beale for the 21st century (‘I’m happy as hell, and I’m going to keep taking it!’). I’ve a soft spot for transparent shysters like Don Lapre who seem to exist on huge intravenous doses of chutzpah. God help me, I’m even warming to the Video Professor, who is so cahhhhhhhhhhhhn-fident that you’ll like his prahhhhhhh-duct that he’ll give it away for free. Myself, I’m waiting for his free prahhhhhhh-duct that covers the latest in quantum physics, but I’m in no hurry. I’m sure he’s got it planned immediately after the ‘Your CD tray is not a cupholder’ tutorial.

Let’s be fair, though. There are clearly two categories of stuff here. There are good products pushed hard by wacky and/or messianic loonies. That’s Jan Muller and the Juiceman. (I’ll remain agnostic on the whole Billy Mays movement for the time being.) And then there’s crap that’s only going to get sold by pure attrition. Spirooli anyone? ‘High-definition’ sunglasses, at $19.95 for two pairs? What next? X-ray specs?

I’m learning to tell the good from the crap, I think, but it’s hard. When everything’s so damn life-changing, all I end up seeing is this bright Orange Glo.

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