Friday, May 22, 2015

First Bread

I found it more than slightly disconcerting when Arnold Schwarzenneger turned up in a TV commercial for an insurance comparison site, only to find himself out acted by a pair of CGI meerkats.  But it really got weird when Sylvester Stallone started advertising Warburton's bread.  I mean, it's just not the sort of thing you expect to see in UK TV commercials: our idea of a star in such things usually doesn't go much beyond Joan Collins.  TV personalities who have appeared in some naff sitcom or reality series are usually considered sufficient to sell crap in the UK.  Which is why the appearance of two legendary Hollywood action stars in ads for insurance and sliced bread seem so bizarre.  Just why are they doing it?  I thought those Expendables films had done sufficiently well that Stallone no longer had to do crap to keep his face in front of the camera - and surely Arnie must have made enough in the past that he doesn't need to co-star with meerkats?  And let's face it, the kind of firms they are shilling for aren't likely to pay really big bucks.  Maybe they think that there's no chance these ads will ever be seen in the US - back in the day all manner of A-listers used to do TV commercials they'd never have lowered themselves to do in the English speaking world in Japan for this reason - but in these days of the internet, they must surely know that it is only a matter of time before they pop up on YouTube.

Obviously, these aren't the first Hollywood stars to appear in UK TV ads - I have fond memories of Orson Welles advertising sherry in the 1970s, for instance, and the likes of Bruce Willis and Al Pacino have appeared in Sky TV commercials.  But these were more understandable than Arnie and Sly - Welles always needed money for one of his off beat projects (he also liked sherry) and Sky has a lot of financial clout, with its pay TV service showing a lot of Willis' and Pacino's movies, (indeed, an increasingly important part of the financing for studio movies comes from the revenue generated by pre-selling their TV rights to the likes of Sky).  But Sly and Arnie are advertising pretty mundane products of the sort that you'd normally expect to see the likes of Danny Baker or someone off of The Only Way is Essex plugging.  However, they aren't the most bizarre Hollywood actors currently appearing in UK TV commercials: that accolade must surely go to Harvey Keitel and his series of Direct Line insurance ads, all performed in-character as Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction.  There is just something disturbing about seeing Keitel, with his trademark combination of menace and sleaze, supposedly sorting out insurance problems for Direct Line customers.  Mind you, we should probably be thankful that they didn't hire him to perform the ads in-character as The Bad Lieutenant - the thought of him prostrate on the ground after his TV has exploded, or something, screaming 'Why don't you fucking help me Direct Line? I tried to take out insurance, but I'm too weak', just doesn't bear thinking about.

Still, I guess that UK TV commercials must be lucrative, as I see that it isn't just Hollywood stars who are muscling in on them.  I've recently seen French actor Tcheky Karyo doing an advert for instant coffee. At least I think its for coffee, it involves dinosaurs, which confused me as they have no obvious link with the product, but I was too astounded to see someone I've seen in so many sub-titled films over the years doing a UK TV commercial to pay close attention to what was going on  Then again, there's no obvious link between French actors and British instant coffee.  At least when Gerard Depardieu did those TV ads over here a dew years ago they were for French brandy...



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