Billy Mays and a case of odd TV timing
And while it's hard to say with a straight face that you can really connect with someone through infomercials -- well, except maybe Matthew Lesko -- Billy Mays' emphatic delivery is something you remembered.
For a TV pitchman, that's half the battle right there.
Mays was brash, boisterous and had an impeccable, painted-on beard. And while he was absolutely cartoon-ish in his enthusiasm for a household cleaning product, there was also something extremely likable about his in-your-face style.
In a lot of ways, he was like George Costanza's version of the 'By Mennen' jingle. Annoying at first, but the more you walked past a food chopper at Bed Bath & Beyond, he seemed to grow on you like a second skin.
So in a week filled with celebrity deaths, Sunday's announcement that Billy Mays passed away probably jarred me the most. Not in an intensely personal way, mind you. Rather, with a "man, I was just thinking about that guy" sense of strangely random timing.
While flipping through the channels on Saturday morning, I stumbled upon Mays' Discovery Channel reality show "Pitchmen" -- which follows Mays and his partner, Anthony "Sully" Sullivan, as they look for new products to peddle.
I'd never heard of it before, and really, I only felt compelled to stop because I recognized the guy who happened to be on camera at the time. Turns out it was "Survivor" winner Ethan Zohn, who was on the show pitching his EZ Crunch Bowl -- a two-chambered breakfast vessel that holds milk separately from cereal so that your Corn Flakes won't get soggy.
I have to admit, watching Zohn make his pitch to Mays in a board room was interesting -- if only because I never knew that some people actually ate cereal in increments (eat, pour, eat, pour some more) so that they could avoid having to deal with soggy remnants.
It was a silly "Seinfeld"-ian discussion, to say the least. But the philosophical parameters of a bowl that eliminated cereal sogginess really proved entertaining and amusing to me.
So I kind of left it at that and figured, "hmmm, that's a show I might want to get back to" or at least write about it for this blog now that summer is nothing but Food Network shows for me.
And then Sunday I read the headline that Mays died.
Not profound. Not prophetic. Just odd.
Anyway, I have a feeling "Pitchmen" could have been a really popular reality show had it been written about or publicized a bit more. In honor of Mays, Discovery Channel is airing a "Pitchmen" marathon tomorrow starting at 10 a.m. It'll culminate with a never before seen season finale at 9 p.m.
Below, I've also added a very funny Mays spot for ESPN and an Oxi-Clean commercial that shows him as his "pitch" perfect persona.
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, firstname.lastname@example.org