VIEW FROM AMERICA: LOVE&DEATH: At-Home Patient Seeks Entertaining TV Ads

Having spent the past several days in bed nursing a springtime bronchial infection, I can say there are still a few things in the world worse than fever, body aches and general malaise, and one of them is television commercials.

Commercial-watching is admittedly among the lowest forms of human entertainment, but there's no reason it has to be flat-out painful. Even the least sophisticated viewer understands that the charm of advertising is in its ability to be both nimble and quick-witted (or, at the very least, mantra-like, like "Bochkaryov - pravilnoe pivo," which is far from clever but succeeds through its very oafishness).

At the very least, commercials shouldn't turn you off the path of consumerism altogether. But after a few days locked in lonely combat with my television - waiting in vain for the Rondo mint ads, the only spots I wholeheartedly admire - I have now banned certain consumer goods from my shopping list for life. Hot-beverage commercials get a general thumbs down, with special mention going to the Brazilian coffee ad that features an unduly cheerful 19th-century native busting out of her corset in her eagerness to pour a cup for some Russian emissary who decorates his office with photographs of women more scantily clad even than she (a rare find in the 19th century) and plans to skim several bags of beans off the royal shipment home for his personal use. I would also like to find the whiz kid down in Creative who convinced the powers that be at Lipton that capitalizing on the little dip-dip teabag wrist movement was going to advance their brand to a whole new stage of market domination, and shoot him. Teabags aren't cool! That gesture is never going to make it into the popular parlance.

The worst by far, however, are chewing gum ads, which are dreadful in quality and quantity alike. Take, for example, the locally produced Dirol commercials, which posit two attractive and toothy Russians in a classic advertising standoff: The young woman who wants to stay true to her brand, and the overbearing stranger who for whatever reason is dedicating his time and energy to convincing her otherwise. In this case, there is a fair amount of chemistry between our two protagonists; the woman, despite her brand allegiance, seems willing to at least entertain the stranger's proposals. Unfortunately, both he and the ad-writing team suffer from a certain lack of imagination. Three versions of this commercial exist; each one meant to up the ante. No, she won't trade in her pack of gum for an entire box of rival Brand X. What about a crate of it? A truckload? Couldn't she at least try it? The suspense of anticipating the next level of excess is about the only excitement this ad delivers.

Bitter medicine indeed. But maybe I'll catch one of the Rondo ads tomorrow.