Yesteryear’s Memories: Take Two and Call Me

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Thinking back to earlier days of TV, I remember the commercials as well as the programs. The ads that I remember as a kid went from foods to cleaning supplies to kitchen appliances. There were, of course, those commercials to sell products promising to make your headache disappear, to relieve your upset stomach, or get you to sleep fast for a full night’s rest. In those days they offered pills, potions and powders that were “safe, effective, and fast acting.” Of course some of those ‘safe’ concoctions are now banned for causing worse problems than they were said to cure. But looking back, they were at least straightforward. If you had a headache, take this pill — it was cheap and it either worked or it didn’t. Most of them claimed to be either ‘gentle’, non habit forming, or easy to take. Walk into the corner drugstore or grocery store and you could be symptom-free in minutes. Some commercials would show a little cartoon tablet as it dissolved in your stomach and flowed through your bloodstream to rescue you from the pain in your belly or the aching tooth, and the little cartoon man or woman ended up smiling from ear to ear. It was beautiful to behold such a miraculous recovery, and it all happened in one sixty second commercial between John Wayne fighting off the bandits and the settlers peacefully plowing their fields in the Saturday afternoon movie. I guess things were simpler in those days, because you never heard a hint of side effects or contraindications to taking drugs with certain other drugs. But oh, how things have changed. I just took a little survey of my own. It’s far from scientific or elaborate, but it tells an amazing story as far as I’m concerned.

I watched a ninety minute movie one evening. The movie itself was pretty revealing about how jewel thieves operate, but the commercials revealed even more. I counted about twenty eight commercials during my movie. Some were one minute; some were shorter. But out of those, most were for prescription drugs. But it wasn’t anything like the old aspirin or laxative commercials from the 60s. These were serious drugs, with serious names. Names I couldn’t pronounce for diseases I never heard of. One was for some kinda weird condition that made your skin look like hot molten lava — and boy, was it scary. They didn’t say exactly what the medicine did, but by the end of the commercial the man was dancing at his daughter’s wedding, so the drug must’ve worked. Another showed a woman hidden in the shadows of her bedroom, but after taking the drug she became the president of her local garden club and had more friends than she knew what to do with. She even got a new husband! It was truly a miracle.

The most disturbing thing, though, is the list of side effects. One prescription was for headaches. The side effects were nausea, vomiting, oily stools, and, of course, headaches. Another product was for frequent heartburn, but the side effects included headaches, ringing in the ears, bleeding at various bodily orifices, and worsened heartburn. But the most disturbing commercials didn’t even tell what they were for. They described the wonderful testing that produced the wonderful medication, and how wonderful you’ll feel after you use it, but no hint what it’s for. “Ask your doctor if Zytibitolscorpicmedulla­endural is right for you,” they say. Blah blah blah. Great. That way you’ll start bugging your doctor for it even though you have no idea what it’s for.

I guess the worst was for some condition that’s rare, but there’s now a breakthrough. It’ll change your life, and to see the effects on the actors, you surely know you’ll feel younger, be stronger, get a raise at work, and be the life of the party. The only side effects are loss of memory, vision loss, heart attack, stroke, excessive drooling, fainting, cancer, and death. And as they say, “If you experience any of these, stop taking the medication and call your doctor.” I’d agree — call your doctor immediately in case of stroke or heart attack, and especially, death.



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