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Test Pattern: Ebert’s most-hated films

Plus: The saga of Homer's head, ABC living in the 1950s, "Haunted" house; men of Iwo Jima. By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Back to a five-link Friday, with a whole new topic on Monday. Remember, you too can contribute to Friday's links, just use the mailbag below to send in your suggestions. And thanks!

• Roger Ebert's earned chuckles throughout the world of movie fans. (If you missed it, Ebert gave the film zero stars, then noted that star Rob Schneider had dogged a critic of the film for not having a Pulitzer Prize. Ebert's classic response: "As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.)

Anyway, that inspired this list of (he also has a book, "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie"). If you're like me, you immediately skimmed the list to see which of the worst films you've had the displeasure of watching. My list: "The Waterboy," "Tommy Boy," "13 Ghosts," "Halloween III," "Armageddon," "Battlefield Earth," "The Village," "Staying Alive," "The Blue Lagoon," and "The Usual Suspects." But the only two I'll admit to liking are "The Usual Suspects" and "Tommy Boy." ("Fat guy in a little coat," sing it with me!) Thanks to Paige for the link!

• Turns out that the sixth season of "The Simpsons" on DVD was issued in a Homer's head-shaped box. That box didn't match the past seasons, and messed up some fans' synchonized shelving situations, and they protested. So the show has relented and is issuing a regular box, but not without a . Be sure to click through to the third page of the site, which asks people to select their reason for wanting the new box. Choices include "Anal retentive (box must be identical)," "Lonely (will pretend box is new best friend)," and "Just like free stuff."

• I was floored when I read the plot summary for a Apparently the plots will center around the fact that — gasp — some women dare to make more than the men in their lives. This is an issue? This is a concept to hang a show on? How's the weather there in 1952, ABC?

• A few weeks back, I mentioned the new release of Vincent Price's wonderful "House on Haunted Hill," complete with . I watched it recently, and was fascinated with the actual house whose exteriors were filmed ("the role of the house is being played by..."). The mansion appears to be made from concrete block, the kind you built bookshelves with on the cheap, or that the guy down the street uses to prop up his car. Turns out it's a Los Angeles classic, the Ennis House, and supporters are looking for donations to help repair it after the 1994 Northridge quake. You can see , and donate if you wish.

• Many urban legends at are just that, legends. But some are true, and sometimes it's the true ones that resound with us the most. If someone had sent me this story, , as a mass e-mail forward, I probably would have deleted it. But reading it in its full form at Snopes is touching and worth the time. Especially touching is this part, from the son of one of the flag-raisers: "When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. DID NOT come back.' " My own dad was a Marine in Okinawa, and he too was one of the lucky ones, who did come back.

Lessons from the commercial contest

Things you learn from the e-mail that comes in after the .

• No matter how many times you say last year's worst ad, , is ineligible this year, you WILL get dozens of emails that begin "I can't believe the toenail monster didn't win!"

• It's a rare day indeed when I spell "Dermatophyte" correctly.

• Some people think the plastic-headed Burger King is hilarious.


• People who think discussing commercials is a waste of time have no problem sitting down and wasting time writing lengthy rants complaining about how much of a waste of time it is.

• Local ads can be as bad as or worse than national ads, in many cases. Especially car dealers. And mattress stores. And local fast-food joints. Sometimes it's like the deer and the Snickers ad, even after someone explains their local ads, I still don't get them.

• People who say "I can't believe you didn't mention X ad" are generally coming late to the party, and don't know that X ad has been discussed to death.

• Very few people have qualms about writing in from their work addresses. Even government and hospital workers. Don't worry, I won't rat you out.

• Very few, if any people, are neutral about Baby Bob. The people who hate him hate him with the fire of a thousand suns. The people who love him want to adopt him and bring him into their home. There are simply no opinions in between.

• People who have actual answerable questions ("Where can I watch the GE elephant ad?") almost never leave an e-mail address. And they're probably not reading either, but .

• In addition to one guy claiming he plugged a hole in his boat with a tampon, there is at least one person claiming the life of a soldier in Iraq was saved when his wound was plugged with a tampon. So that girl in the ad, who carries the whole box with her? She's smarter than all of us, apparently.

• People still want to vote! Sorry, sorry, we're holding off until next summer. Although commercials may occasionally snake into other columns before then. We shall see.

And the winners are...

Looking for the best and worst commercials? I needed a different format to properly highlight a summer's worth of commercial commentary, so just . And thanks!

Rating the PSAs

Tomorrow’s the day: On Tuesday, I’ll present the commercials that you chose as best and worst of the year, with their runners-up. Before we get there, two items of business: Rating public-service announcements, and throwing candy at deer.

Before we rate the PSAs, let’s tackle that mysterious Snickers ad. I said last week that suddenly folks were writing in about a commercial in which hunters throw Snickers bars at deer, and not having seen the ad, I didn’t get the concept. Turns out even those of you who have seen the ad still don’t get the concept. Many of you helpfully pointed out that .

OK, so now I’ve watched it and … I still don’t get it. Neither do most of you.

Snicker-snack“I know absolutely that the Snickers/Deer commercial has to be one of the stupidest ever aired. It is so bad, my mind had blocked it out, even when reading your previous article, until I saw it again on tv the other night. Sheesh!”  --Debbie

“In the snickers commercial a group of hunters encounter a deer in the woods and instead of shooting it, they pelt it with candy bars. At the end of the commercial it says "It’s only satisfying if you eat it." a double joke, because some people believe you should only kill an animal if you intend to eat it, and throwing the snickers is obivously less satisfying than actually ingesting it.”      –Cliff

“The whole commercial is, apparently, aimed at those who are confused as to what to do with a Snickers bar.”  –Britt

ABCs of PSAsAnd it turns out that some public-service announcements really make an impression on their audience, sticking in our minds even decades after they aired. Some of your thoughts:

“A PSA that really stands out in my mind from the 90's for child abuse and family violence that has a close up of little boy stating ‘you're never do anything right’ etc. When the camera pans back, he's talking into a mirror. 10 years later and I still remember that commercial. Very real and very effective!”    --Jody

“Worst PSAs ever: Pick any PSA that demonizes marijuana as an agent of murder and death - do you remember the ad where the stoner is off somewhere else (perhaps grabbing some Scooby Snax?) while the little girl is about to climb in the pool? The worst ever, though, has to be the one done shortly after 9/11 where two men are talking to each other about drug use, and the ‘responsible guy’ tells the other that every time he buys a drug, he's supporting terrorism. Some PSAs are just boring or hokey, but the ones that use outright lies and mistruths to get across their message really set me off.”   –Laura

“It's kinda funny, but I never seemed to be getting the right message from the ‘Indian gets trash thrown on his feet and cries about it’ PSA. I was an elementary school student growing up in Memphis, TN at the time. Racial integration at schools was a hotly debated topic and I thought people were throwing trash at the Indian because of his race. Wrong message, but still effective.”    –Gary

“I start tearing up just thinking about that anti-smoking ad with the old man who lost his wife to secondhand smoke. When he says that the he didn't know that the life he would lose would be hers I lose it. Definitely one of the most effective PSAs I have ever seen.”  –Katie

“There was one against child abuse where a father and daughter were taking turns singing the jingle—‘Have you hugged your kid today?’. The ‘money shot’ was the man singing, 'I'm so mad I could smack your face,' and the little red-haired girl looking into the camera, teary, saying, ‘did I do something wrong?’ It was powerful because I can remember it 25 years later. But it sucked because when I think of it, I can't get the song out of my head for days! In fact, remembering all the song's words became a little contest between my boyfriend and a friend's husband over dinner one night and by the end, I wanted to smack both their faces.  --Missy

“My favorite PSA of all-time has GOT to be the one [about] meth -- the one with the girl cleaning her bathroom to the tune of ‘Meth mmmmm meth!’ Best line of all-time: ‘I can't sleep, and I can't eat, but I have the cleanest house on the street!’ Hilarious!”   --Amy

“And on the topic of PSAs does anyone remember the cartoon guy who looked like a walking block of cheese? He taught me how to make tasty treats by freezing fruit juice in ice cube trays when I was a little boy. I actually caught the PSA one night on Nick at Nite and and was so excited I recorded it on my DVR.    –Cliff[Editor’s Note: Cliff, you’re talking about Time for Timer, and I loved him too…you can , too. Remember ‘Sunshine on a stick’? It actually made frozen juice sound like the best treat ever. “Stacks of snacks!”]

Five-link Friday: Movie-quiz madness

Here’s the Test Pattern schedule for the next three business days. Today, I’ll offer up the usual five-link Friday. Monday, I’ll share your thoughts on public-service announcements (and that odd Snickers ad). And then Tuesday, barring last-minute changes, we’ll present this year’s best and worst commercials. Thanks so much for all of your e-mails this summer. Are those the breezes of fall blowing through the window? Nooooo!

• I love the . Look at a collection of themed photos (movie characters , or , for just two examples). Now try to identify the movie the photo comes from. (Warning: Not all photos — or movies — are rated G.)

• Children of the ‘70s, do you remember? For me, it’s the Charlie’s Angels cut-out heads, the fluffy-cat stickers, the Snoopy shapes, and of course, the round scratch-n-sniffs at the very end. Oh, the memories. (Via .)

• Entertaining little time-waster: The game pulls up 20 images found in a Google Images search, and you guess the term used to get them.

• Remember the “Simpsons” episode where Homer requested SkittleBrau at the Kwik-E-Mart? Someone called the Crazy Engineer .

• Looney Toons fans do all their shopping from the I’d like two anvils, one do-it-yourself tornado kit, and one jet-propelled unicycle, please.

ABCs of PSAs

OK, why are the hunters throwing Snickers bars at deer? Because I haven't seen that commercial, and a lot of you are writing in about it, and I ... don't get it. E-mail if you can explain, or at least set up the scenario.

Our commercial contest will end next week, but before we leave the world of commercials, I wanted to delve into the sidebar of public-service announcements, inspired by a note from Amy, whose subject line was "I quit smoking 20 years ago because of Yul Brynner's warning."

Her note goes on to say: " '60 Minutes' did a piece with Yul Brynner shortly before he died. He spoke about the ad you mentioned in your blog. He had already taped it and I think they ran either some or all of it during the piece. Watching that 60 Minutes piece helped me change my life. Just last month, on the 29th to be exact, was the 20th anniversary of the day I quit smoking. BTW — Along with the tear on the Indian's cheek, Yul Brynner's spot has to be one of the top PSAs ever."

We've all seen the PSAs. (Heh, try Googling "top PSAs." It asks if you meant "top spas.") From "This is your brain on drugs" to "Only you can prevent forest fires" to the recent one of the kids smoking marijuana and then running over a bicycling child at a fast-food drive-thru. (Message: The Munchies make you a murderer!) The crying Indian (this was before we said Native American, folks) anti-littering spot that Amy mentions has got to be one of the most classic. A Web page from the Ad Council mentions , and even lets you watch them online.

Tell us your favorites, your least favorites, or recall the ones that were just bizarre. We'll talk PSAs before we move on to the commercial winners and then an entirely different subject. I know that can't be too soon for some of you.

Bad-ad finalists

I've received at least one more note complaining that the commercial contest has just gone on too long. Well no worries, we're wrapping things up quickly. We'll announce the winner and loser next Tuesday, Aug. 23. I was going to wait another week, but it just feels like time to move on.

On Monday I asked you to send in the name or description of the one ad that absolutely drives you nuts, the absolute worst ad on TV today. Digger the Dermatophyte is still ineligible, of course, having won (lost?) last year.

While some are definitely sending in ads we haven't talked up yet, it seems clear that three ads are vying for the title. In alphabetical order by product, they are:

Bad ad #1: The Burger King with the creepy plastic head.
Says Liz: "Any ads that include the creepy plastic-headed king from Burger King have got to be classified up there as the worst. Waking up next to him like in one version is my worst nightmare."

Bad ad #2: The Pepto-Bismol danceline, a.k.a. "Pepto-Dismal."
Says Jennifer: "The Pepto dance line is definitely the worst ever. I mean, do you know 15 people who will all get up and dance around, reveling in the bowel problems together, conga-line style? Please."

Bad ad #3: Gee! Did you know Tampax can be used to stop a leak in a boat!Says Libby: "By far, the worst is the tampon-in-the-boat commercial. Not only do I vehemently despise the ad because it’s simply gross, but I also hate it because it forces me to think “Would that WORK? Could you really plug up a small hole in a boat with a tampon?” And I hate myself for wasting my brainpower on that thought."

Other ads coming in for mentions:"My vote for the worst commercial is the horrible Fantana girls. I had my fill of them when I would go to the movies and now they have invaded my home. I can take no more, they are even worse than the Spice Girls, which I am guessing, was the influence for this hideous ensemble. That commercial deserves to be burned."       —Julie

"I think the worst commercial on TV is the one where the hunters throw SNICKERS bars at a deer. Whats up with that?"    —Sandy

"I’m not sure exactly what you’d call it, but it’s the Honey Bunches of Oats commercial. Where that woman with the poofy white hair net screams “Are you hungry?!?” At the beginning of the commercial. You have no warning it’s coming, so you can’t mute it... I seriously want to hit her. It’s a cereal, if people like it, they’ll buy it. Her yelling at you at all times of the day is completely unnecessary."    —Danille

"I hate the Highlander —Toyota of course — commercial that shows an irresponsible woman driving to work while primping [and] putting on her makeup. Then she gets to work and see another woman who did the same thing but without the great suspension. I would prefer to see both the idiot women broadsided while driving or back-ending another vehicle. More realistic I would think."    —Anonymous

"I think that the Sonic ad campaigns are some of the worst. Sure, they finally get around to mentioning the product, but otherwise it’s just a lot of bull. And don’t forget Hardee's —t hey’ve had to resort to sexual inuendo and hiring ex-porn stars to get their products out there. sells."   —Mitch

"I hate Bob. No wait, I hate apple crumbcake lady. No, Bob. I’m sorry it is for two ads but I just loathe them so much. Bob is way beyond creepy and the cake lady is so naive and her lisp is really annoying."     —Brandy

• Aug. 15, 2005 |

Name the worst ad

This summer, the commercial contest has been an odd one. With out of the running because he won last year, the worst commercial title is really up for grabs. And while lots of ads are vying for the top spot (the , the GE elephant, etc.), you're much more split on which recent ad is the worst on TV. We've named a bunch, including the Fantanas, the tampon in the boat ad, Coke's updated "I'd like to teach the world to sing" ad, Baby Bob for Quizno's, Raisin Bran Crunch and the unfireable Johnson, the Sunday Ticket singers, the Pepto-Dismol danceline, and many more. Yet none of them has really taken a wide lead.

So here's my request: Even if you've written in before, go ahead and send another note if you feel like it, and just name the ONE ad that you personally feel should win this year's Worst Commercial dishonor. It's OK if it's been mentioned here, and it's OK if it hasn't. Limit it to one ad though (or ad campaign), no matter how tough it is to narrow it down. We'll see if that new e-mail campaign puts one bad ad over the top.

Blocked the bad ads from your mind? Here are links to some of our past discussions of the bad, the badder, and the worse:

Coke, Liberty Mutual, Cingular, Toyota and more

Raisin Bran Crunch, David Spade says no, Sunday Ticket, Baby Bob

Ads about oh-so-personal products

First poll of best/worst ads

•  Burger King, Axe, bratty kid

OnStar, apple crumbcake lady, Charmin bears

And here's a note from one anonymous reader: "Uh, I'm sorry...maybe I missed something. When did this WHOLE column become about commercials? I'm sorry, just not that interesting to me. Maybe once a week would be enough to cover this topic that has frankly become tedious."

Well, summer Fridays have never been about commercials, and I've also broken away from the topic to cover the deaths of James "Scotty" Doohan and Catherine Woolley, secrets of "Lost," the "American Dreams" cast moving on, and other variations. But yes, summer is commercial discussion time, and we've only got two weeks left. So if it's become tedious, check back after Labor Day, when I assure you we'll have moved on to another topic. One person's tedium is another person's summer fun, after all.