Michael Hiltzik: As seen on TV!
It has often been said that the only indigenous American art form is jazz. Forget that: The one truly indigenous American art form is the infomercial.
The form has its own artistic conventions and its own star system -- the late Billy Mays, for example. Some of its best-selling products are indistinguishable from the pitches of their hyperactive pitchmen, like Vince, the ShamWOW guy. I'm sure if I ran into a ShamWOW in a regular retail store, I wouldn't recognize it unaccompanied by Vince's electroshock buzz.
Now, the art form is going "meta." Telebrands' recent Inventors Day audition was taped as a pilot for a TV reality show. Auditions for a TV infomercial becoming part of a reality show? Sounds like a post-modern version of the narrative recursiveness invented by Cervantes for Don Quixote, Part II, doesn't it? I guess it's true that, as a certain Preacher said, there's nothing new under the sun.
The column starts below:
A.J. Khubani turns that old saw about the world beating a path to your door if you invent a better mousetrap upside down.
Inventors beat a path to his door. One day last week they arrived in waves: inventors of new takes on dog leashes, floor mats, home exercise devices, skin creams, pillows, umbrellas, coffee mugs, kitty litter strainers, eyelash curlers.
Early Wednesday morning, 44 inventors crammed into a conference room and lined up in the hallway on an upper floor of the Los Angeles Airport Marriott LAX hotel. In this case, the term “inventor” doesn’t give the whole picture — think “"purveyors of would-be TV infomercial products”" to complete the description.
Their hope was to receive the Nod That Leads To Wealth from Khubani, the founder and chief executive of Telebrands, one of the largest infomercial marketers in the country. Khubani’s quest for the next big thing to be hawked by supercaffeinated pitchmen on TV was the rationale for “Inventors Day,” the event he sponsored at the Marriott.