It was approaching 1:30 a.m. Some friends and I were sitting on my couch watching TV, but there was nothing on. Obviously, it was 1:30. Rather than check out on demand or streaming, I kept flipping the remote like it was the 1990s. Then I saw it: The Club Risque infomercial was on.
It airs on early Sunday mornings on WMCN, the Atlantic City independent TV station. And it is 30 minutes of hilarity: In between standard infomercial scenes that extoll the virtue of the club—instead of a juicer or a steam mop or whatever—three women go through the stages of a dance-off, if you can have a dance-off that involves taking your clothes off. They’re competing for $500, and all the contestants act like it’s the largest amount of money anyone’s ever offered to anyone.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), that infomercial is not online. But you don’t have to spend a full 30 minutes to enjoy local TV production. There’s a 30-second spot on YouTube. But, that 30-second spot isn’t the same; it’s pretty standard fare. It’s just not that great. But there are some pretty great local TV spots people have uploaded to YouTube. So, like I did for old public service announcements earlier this year, I present to you the 10 best local Philadelphia ads I found on YouTube.
10. Oldies 98, 1992
At first this ad might seem forgettable. But here’s the backstory: That’s an actual Philadelphia police officer directing traffic to “Stop! In the Name of Love.” Of course he became a mild local celebrity, since this is Philadelphia. And since this is Philadelphia, there’s also a tragic ending: In 2010, the traffic cop retired abruptly after more than years on the force when he was accused of using a device to count cards at Parx casino.
9. Schmidt’s beer, 1970s
I’m going to wax poetic about Yards next time I play poker. There’s no way I’ll be able to lose!
8. Extreme Championship Wrestling, 1996
Let’s head back to a simpler time when it was okay for people to hit each other in the head with steel chairs and turn their brains to mush for our entertainment, shall we? Actually, let’s not. People did that all the time in South Philly in the 1990s, though, and this ad for ECW captures that spirit pretty well. Look closely and you can see a guy cheering in a Ricky Watters Eagles jersey. Nice musical choice with Coolio’s “1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New),” incidentally.
7. 94 WYSP, early 1980s
What’s not to love about this ad? It envisions a time when 94 WYSP might play “Rock Around the Clock.” It features a fake comedy club-style brick wall being smashed through by an invisible Kool-Aid Man. It features disc jockeys who, um, are partying nonstop? Sure, that’s it. Someone eats two hot dogs at once. Someone else writes 94 WYSP in lipstick on the mirror. I’m tuning in right now!
6. Uncle Tomy’s Pizza, 2009
Fun fact: I love this commercial so much I once went out of my way to South Philly to order there. Unfortunately, Hulk Hogan was not working behind the counter that day.
5. Gino’s Hamburgers, 1970s
I’m not entirely sure how this worked. Gino’s was a hamburger joint in Philadelphia. It was before my time, but I knew that. But they also served Kentucky Fried Chicken? Did the employees break into song all the time, too? If that’s the case, I’m pretty sad Gino’s is gone.
4. Not Just Pizza, 2008
The 2008 Phillies baseball season was magical. They passed the Mets for the division title in the final month of the season for the second straight year, they rolled through the National League playoffs and then won the World Series with relative ease! And, every night watching on TV, we got these commercials that were just incredible. People are probably more familiar with the OPP parody with the dancing gorilla and banana, but this one is my favorite. I’m sure I’ve written this before, but the ad gives the direct impression to everyone who’s watched it that Sal was just released from prison. Considering they say he’s “the original owner,” it’s clear he’s actually just re-purchased the pizza place from the people he foolishly sold it to. But only true pizza heads will get the idea of a guy selling and then re-buying a place, a very real experience. For everyone else, well… it’s the prison thing.
The added bonus of this ad is the penguin. Is it supposed to be a parody of the Aflac duck? “Sal’s back!” kinda sounds like “Aflac!” Eh, eh?
3. Steak Em Up, 2010
The parody here, of course, is obvious: The Budweiser “Wassup” ads from 2000. Yes, when this parody first aired in early 2010 (or possibly late 2009), the Budweiser “Wassup” ads were over 10 years old. But doesn’t that make it even better? Combine the jingle with a parody of The Cars’ “Shake It Up” and a mobster holding a cheesesteak surrounded by bulletholes, and you get an ad campaign that surpasses the original.
2. Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets, 1977
Holy crap. Is this an ad for Tastykakes, or an episode of The Twilight Zone? Tastykake was on a roll (an Amoroso roll) in the 1970s, as the company also had a commercial with Betty White.
1. Pat’s Chili Dogs, 1983
Ah, yes. I am sure I have missed some gems that should have made this list, but I am positive I have chosen the correct No. 1 commercial. How could anything top this? It’s obvious, of course: Cinderella, a glam-metal band who first hit in big in the 1980s, are from the Philadelphia area. (Clifton Heights, per Wikipedia.) But before “Nobody’s Fool” or “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” hit the top 20, the band did a spot for Pat’s Chili Dogs. Not only that, they did an original song for the store. “Steak Em Up” is good, but, man, this is the undisputed king.