Top Ten Home TV Shopping Products
“But wait, there’s more!” “Call the 1-800 number on your screen now to avail of this limited time offer!” These are just some of the many pitches for all sorts of useful – and even useless – products sold through infomercials. Almost everything has been sold through direct marketing channels on late-night television: cleaning products, kitchen gadgets, car care chemicals, crystal bears, stud staplers, and the list goes on. Here are ten of the best home TV shopping products that have entertained and even annoyed people over the years:
10. Power Juicer (2004)
- High-powered juicer
- Endorsed by American fitness icon Jack LaLanne
Jack LaLanne has been around a long time – 90 years, to be exact – and can still pump iron. His secret is all-natural fresh-squeezed juice, which you can now drink thanks to the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. In the infomercials, the juicer has made juice out of celery stalks, whole apples, carrots, and even spinach leaves. Will the Power Juicer ever make juice out of a whole steak?
9. Tae Bo (1990s)
- Exercise tapes
- Developed by American martial artist Billy Blanks
In the 1990s, fitness regimens were the craze. Billy Blanks, a martial arts expert-turned-fitness guru, introduced an exercise tape called “Tae Bo,” which he claimed was a combination of taekwondo and kickboxing. Together with special diets and motivational tapes, Tae Bo made an industry out of personal fitness. Many gyms that offer aerobic kickboxing courses today use Tae Bo tapes and techniques.
8. Mathemagics and Human Calculator (1980s-1990s)
- Video course on mental math
- Pitched by Mike Levey in “Amazing Discoveries”
Not too many people like math, but in the 1990s, the late TV pitchman Mike Levey introduced the world to “Mathemagics” by Dr. Arthur Benjamin and “Human Calculator” by Guinness World Record-holder Scott Flansburg. In the infomercials, both Benjamin and Flansburg demonstrated the ability to solve even the most complicated math calculations in their head, without the aid of a calculator. A major selling point of the video courses was that both Benjamin and Flansburg can solve math problems faster than accountants with cash registers and calculators.
7. DuraShine (1996)
- Car washing product
- Involved gimmicks with garden hoses and flames
DuraShine was one of the earliest car care products that featured gimmicks that almost every car washing product uses today. The host of the infomercial, Jim Caldwell, claimed that water beads burned holes in your car. He even went so far as to set a body panel on fire, to demonstrate DuraShine’s resistance to high temperatures. DuraShine, along with the DuraLube synthetic lubricant, is a partner of many NASCAR and CART racing teams. (For more information on car cleaners, read The guide to car cleaner)
6. Gazelle (2001)
- Low-impact cross-trainer
- Endorsed and developed by infomercial icon Tony Little
The “Gazelle” infomercial left nothing to the imagination. Tony Little’s booming voice, synthesizer music you usually hear in X-rated movies, and sweaty bodies clad in spandex gym wear made the Gazelle a cult classic among infomercial fans. The ad for the Gazelle was as much about tight butts and sweaty thighs as it was about Tony’s voice shouting, “You can do it!”
5. Veg-O-Matic (1975)
- Kitchen appliance
- Gadget made famous by Ronco
The Ronco Company is a name associated with the infomercial. The Veg-O-Matic was introduced as the only gadget in the world that can slice vegetables with just one stroke. The Veg-O-Matic featured a grid of blades that cut through vegetables with ease. Today’s french-fry cutters, whether sold in kitchen appliance stores or through TV sales pitches, owe their design to the Veg-O-Matic.
4. Singing Bass Fish (1990s)
- Home decoration
- One of the most popular and iconic infomercial products
Most infomercials sell useful products and gadgets. The Singing Bass Fish (along with Singing Trouts and Singing Tuna) was the exception to the rule of kitchen knives and exercise equipment. The plastic fish was a fad in many American homes in the 1990s. At the push of a button, the fish would break out into classic hits by Paul Anka, Tom Jones, and even Engelbert Humperdinck.
3. Total Gym (1996)
- Multi-purpose home gym
- Endorsed by action star Chuck Norris and supermodel Christie Brinkley
The Total Gym was famous for having almost a hundred different exercises and celebrity endorsements. The machine endorsed by Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley made the “total body workout” famous. The star power of the infomercial contributed a lot to its sales and its popularity. After all, who wouldn’t buy a machine from a world-famous action star and a high-class supermodel? (Tips on how to build a home gym)
2. The George Foreman Grill (1994)
- Compact inclined kitchen grill
- Former World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman has his name on it
What everyone calls the “George Foreman Grill” is actually named “The Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.” The George Foreman Grill is a sandwich grill, although the non-stick surface is slanted to allow excess fat to drain away. The George Foreman Grill is popular among health-conscious eaters, and students who don’t have enough space for proper cookware inside their dorm rooms.
1. Ginsu (1970s)
- Kitchen knives
- The infomercial that started it all
“In Japan, the hand can be used as a knife… but you can’t do that with a tomato.” The opening spiel for the Ginsu Knife Set paved the way not just for knife sets, but for every infomercial broadcast on late-night schedules and home TV shopping channels. Pitched by Ed Valenti and Barry Becher, Ginsu knives were shown to cut through nails and tin cans, and still cut a tomato with the same razor-sharp edge. Common features of infomercials today, like toll-free 1-800 numbers and the phrase “But wait, there’s more!” were all invented in the Ginsu commercials.
There you have it, ten of the most enduring infomercials and home TV shopping products ever broadcast on late-night TV. It doesn’t matter if they really work, come with 30-day money back guarantees, or if you wonder about five-cent savings from a product that costs $39.95. Infomercials make for entertaining television, and you may just have the urge to dial the number on your screen to buy an interesting product “as seen on TV.”
But wait, there’s more!