AFRTS circa 1988

Ohhh no, you can’t mail explosi-i-ives. You can’t mail explosives today (or any day!) Explosives, corrosives, poison or pornography: they cannot be ma-a-ailed.

Did that do anything for you? Would it help more if I were singing it (because I totally could)? Did you spend any time on a military base overseas, where the only English-language channel was AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Services, or, as only the edgiest minds of the 20th century could put it, A-farts.)

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then read on boldly. If no, you should definitely skip this one. Go see the latest Strong Bad Email. Or PostSecret or something. This will bore you to tears.

Armed forces communications cannot carry private advertisements (although Burger King can beat out McDonald’s to be the only on-base burger purveyor, which is like a super-advertisement, and it took me years to figure out McDonald’s existed.) So what they play instead to make 25 minutes of M*A*S*H or The Cosby Show run in 30 minutes are public service announcements.

Not just any public service announcements.

Sometimes you would get a high-budget animated PSA like “Life: Be In It” (“Go for a shop-ping trip and leave. The car. Behind. Go throw a dart. Look at art. It’s good for the heart. You gotta find thirty, you gotta find thirty minutes a day.”) It was animated in a style sort of similar to the Red Bull ads. Research reveals this campaign originated in the 70’s, and is Australian, which means thirty years ago Australia took an interest in its citizens` staying active and fit, which might help explain why Southwest Airlines is tangling with seat-overspill problems Qantas hasn’t run into.

See? I`m not making this up.

This was way back in 1987, which begs the question: where is this effective and catchy ad campaign today when it could help get vertical some fat American asses?

These asses include mine at the moment, which is sitting in PJs when it should be getting dressed to run.

But most of the time you got more low-budget, military-generated fare. I wish I could see some of these now that I know something (a very small something) about filmmaking, so I could develop an appreciation for their production values, but I was a kid when I saw them so all I can do is mock.

“You can’t mail explosives” came with a tap-dancing lady mail clerk who informed a dude trying to mail an armload of poison, porn and sticks of TNT why he had a bit of a problem (and why the MPs were fixing to tackle him from stage left, I reckon). There was choreography, really catchy singing and a breakaway set, which is probably 1600 of your tax dollars at work.

There was one with a talking home electronics that swallowed this dude’s cash because he ran himself into credit debt (“Mo-o-ore money! Mo-o-ore interest!”)

There was the dude who tried to hit on a lady by lighting a cigarette (V.O.: “Be smooth, now”) until he learned she was interested in *him*, not his funky smoke breath.

There was the dude who tried to hit on a lady (I think this was a motif) at a gas station, and he filled up the tank every week, whereas she filled up every two weeks. They figured out this was because he was taking off from red lights and wasting gas. At the end of the ad, he drives off real safe and slow, and she looks after him like, ohhh, yeah, that is a smoove safe-driving hunk of man.

There are more. Oh yes. I think I may need a sequel–maybe it can neatly segue into all the songs I remember from Okinawa Christian School (“Give me wax for my board, keep me surfing for the Lord”).

I`m noticing that ALL of these ads are useful messages. Can we pass a bill that every five ads a station plays for Check Into Cash, Cash America or Check `N` Go, that station has to play the one with the talking VCR?


By the way AFRTS airs fresh PSAs now and they are extremely amusing.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. incog neato says:

    “keep me surfin` till the light of day…….sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna….” Oh good grief. Thought that I had rid my poor brain of the such. 😛 I also remember the Life commercials. Heh.

  2. Tory says:

    ROCK! “Sing Hosanna to the king OF KINGS!” I shouldn`t have done that to you, but thank you for sharing my nostalgia.

  3. staggerlee says:

    yo, you forgot about how you can learn facts about all 50 states and historical people. HOWEVER, i don`t care how much of a football fan you are (and ask oaog, i LOVE football), there`s nothing worse than watching the super bowl with no real commercials.

%d bloggers like this: