As Seen On TV!

At 1:30 a.m. the other night, I turned on the television and was greeted with an urgent call to my inner-Martha Stewart: “You cut, grip and tear, but your brownies never turn out square!”

Uh oh.

“And when they’re stuck, you’re totally out of luck!”

Oh no!

“Need a hand? Now there’s Perfect Brownie Pan!”


But to be honest, I have never found myself attempting to cut a pan of brownies into perfect squares because I have contented myself with the fact that perfection is simply overrated. However, this late-night announcer was making me think that my desire for perfection really lay dormant in my heart and was waiting to burst. Maybe if I bought this Perfect Brownie Pan, my life would change and, in the infomercial world, that change is always for the better.

When I was growing up, and even to this day, my parents didn’t have cable television in our house. If there was nothing interesting to watch on the seven basic channels and two Spanish channels we got, we could always thank the TV gods for infomercials.

Infomercials were the most fascinating 30 minutes of paid programming I could possibly imagine. Do you mean all I have to do is dial that number at the bottom of the screen and, with one easy payment, I too can chop things as easily as Chef Tony does? And what? You’ll throw in a second set of Miracle Blade knives for free?? My seven-year-old mind could barely process this. (Side note: Sadly, Chef Tony is not a real chef, as I discovered in my recent online research. But don’t tell my seven-year-old self that.)

Slowly, but steadily, “As Seen on TV” products crept up on unaware consumers. A product you saw on an infomercial would find its way to retail shelves, and you’d think to yourself, “Oh, I saw that on TV. I didn’t know I could also buy it in the store.”

Entire aisles and sections devoted to infomercial products began showing up at places like Target and Walgreens. As Seen on TV stores even started appearing throughout local malls. Then suddenly, the infomercial phenomenon exploded with the popularity and ease of online shopping.

As I grew up and watched this phenomenon grow, I began to appreciate infomercials for a different reason: their undeniable entertainment value. I love the exaggerated struggles of the poor schmuck who can’t seem to properly handle hot dishes without an Ove Glove or vacuum a pile of nails and screws without the Swivel Sweeper: Cordless Carpet Vacuum.

Which brings us to the real confession behind this article: My name is Traci Lee and I own infomercial products.

Not that I sit in front of the TV at 2:30 a.m. with my phone and credit card in front of me. The box of ShamWow towels in my apartment was a joint purchase between my roommate and me. As soon as we returned from Walgreens with ShamWow, we filled a cup of water and splashed it all over our carpet. And guess what? ShamWow really does work.

At least, it works for a short period of time. As we used ShamWow more frequently, it lost its magical splendor and became just another towel. And then I made the mistake of putting the ShamWow in the dryer after doing laundry, which made it quickly lose it “wow.” Now, it’s just a sham.

After that, I told myself, “No more $19.95 products from the television!” And then came…the Snuggie.

I will be the first to admit that the commercials and advertisements for Snuggies are ridiculous. Even the box the Snuggie comes in is ridiculous. Who in their right mind would wear a Snuggie to an outdoor sports game? Would you really bring your Snuggie on the plane? And why are the Snuggie creators trying to sell Snuggies for dogs? Does your dog need a Snuggie?

But wait. Do I need a Snuggie?

Probaby not (and your dog definitely does not need one either), but when you receive a Snuggie as a Christmas gift from your elderly, non-English speaking grandparents, you nod and smile. I was skeptical at first, but then I realized something: Snuggies are damn comfortable.

“You look ridiculous,” my roommate says to me all the time, but I don’t care. The point of the Snuggie isn’t to walk around wearing it; the point is to be able to comfortably settle onto the couch and feel warm while reading a book or drinking tea. As someone who gets cold very easily and is frugal when it comes to turning on the heat, the Snuggie is a wonderfully weird blessing. Yes, I could throw on an extra sweatshirt, but there’s something about the act of curling up with a blanket that feels more relaxing than curling up with two sweatshirts.

Now when I hit a wall of insomnia and can’t sleep, I can snuggle up with my Snuggie in the living room and listen to the voice on the television tell me about other products that I “need.” I won’t be buying anything, but it’s nice to know that perfectly square brownies and a light, cordless sweeper are just a phone call away.