As the immortal Lucy Van Pelt proclaims in the heart-crushingly sad A Charlie Brown Christmas, Christmas has become nothing but "a commercial racket" (run by an Eastern syndicate, no less!). Amid the ferocious commercialism, it's easy to forget the true meaning of the holiday--the miraculous birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ. However, Jesus wasn't born in December, he wasn't our lord and savior, and his birth was no more a miracle than anyone else's. So, to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas, Last Days would like to devote this week's column entirely to commercials. Happy holidays!

We begin our commercial edition by paying tribute to the ads that have captured the heart and mind not only of Last Days, but of the world at large: the psychic hotline of Miss Cleo. For those of you out of the loop, Miss Cleo is the boisterous, charismatic, occasionally Jamaican tarot card reader whose commercials air every six seconds on cable television. Blending the best of Oprah and Maya (with a pinch of Tituba), Miss Cleo's early ads got by on our lady's ease, vivacity, and brilliant charm as she used "the power of the tarot" to foresee romantic disaster and divine the hidden secrets of her phone-in clientele. Since then, Cleo's commercials have exploded into New Age extravaganzas, dripping with candles, smoking incense, and increasingly elaborate headgear for the increasingly "native" Miss Cleo: The first ad's response of "I knew there was a secret!" has evolved into the new ad's "That's what me thought!" (At the rate she's going, Miss Cleo's next ad will feature her at a boiling cauldron with a bone through her nose.) Still, Miss Cleo's charm is undeniable, and the Green Party--or the freaking Dems--would be wise to consider her as a vice-presidential candidate for 2004.

We now come to a commercial personality Last Days hates as much as we love Miss Cleo: Domino's Pizza's reprehensible Andy. For those of you who live under rocks, Andy is the lovably naughty creature of an indeterminate species who wreaks havoc in the back room of the Domino's franchise. Who knows what the Domino's ad reps were thinking when they concocted the baffling "Bad Andy, Good Pizza" campaign. Our conjecture: After a decade of general facelessness (and bad P.R. from their far right, pro-life ties), Domino's needed some sparky personal appeal. How they wound up with Andy--a deeply unpleasant beast who looks like he was spit up by a cat--is anyone's guess. Bottom line: How can you trust Domino's to cook and bring you dinner when they aren't even capable of calling an exterminator to get rid of the nihilistic fuzzball who keeps stealing their Heat Wave cores? You can't. Bad Andy, stupid commercial campaign.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13 Speaking of losers, tonight brought the live airing of the concession speech of Al Gore (a commercial in its own right). Looking composed and endlessly relieved, our stalwart VP was more appealing than he's ever been as he graciously conceded the ridiculous 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. And while Flat Albert did blather some crud about "mending some fences--figuratively and literally!," he at least got a nice, subtle jab in at Dubya over his failure to serve in the Vietnam War. Shortly after Gore's elegant concession, George W. himself took to the airwaves to gloat over his deeply tarnished "win." To be honest, Last Days couldn't bear to watch, but from our place under the bed, we could hear our next president drop phrases like "common ground" and "building consensus" before drawing a galling comparison between himself and Thomas Jefferson. In closing, Bush encouraged Americans to pray for Gore, and, wisely, to pray for the country.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14 Today: conclusive proof that Hollywood can ruin anything. As devoted readers of this column are aware, few things bring Last Days more pleasure than someone falling down. A month ago we would've sworn on a stack of Myra Breckinridges that there was no way falling down could ever be made unfunny--but then we were exposed to the commercial for the latest Sandra Bullock vehicle, Miss Congeniality. For those of you with forks in your eyes, Miss Congeniality tells the tale of a pretty-but-goofy FBI agent who goes undercover at a beauty pageant; the ubiquitous commercial for the film features the slapstick-impaired Miss Bullock falling on her face three different times--and never once is it even slightly amusing. How can this be? Our theory: Falling is funny precisely because it captures a person at his or her most innocent--shocked face, flailing limbs, all knowledge of the physical universe rendered temporarily obsolete. Miss Bullock's tumbles, however, have all the spontaneity of a musty wig, and therefore suck. Hang your head in shame, Sandra.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15 Last Days' faith in violent slapstick received a much-needed boot in the britches today as we stumbled upon an endlessly entertaining commercial for America's Funniest Home Videos: Uncensored! This thrilling mail-order tape features all the bloopers and gaffes deemed "too hot" for the America's Funniest Home Videos prime-time TV show--which basically means lots and lots of footage of men getting hit in the groin. Truly, we had no idea so many men had been racked by so many things: golf clubs, baseball bats, piñata sticks, canoes, not to mention chomping Chihuahuas and bitey babies. An old maxim posits that comedy is tragedy plus time. Updating this equation for the 21st century, Last Days would like to posit that comedy is violence plus "boing" noises.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16 Last Days' commercial week reached its mind- boggling apex today as we stumbled upon the truly disturbing ad for My Real Baby: The Amazing Living Baby! For those of you imprisoned in Russian gulags, My Real Baby is the amazingly lifelike doll whose uncannily human movements have earned her the title of "the new finger baby!" (Uh, who was the old finger baby?) Basically, My Real Baby is nothing but a creepy sock puppet wrapped in a yarn blankie, but that doesn't stop advertisers from touting her as "the new Tickle Me Elmo!" or from forcing us to watch some deeply unsettling footage of a six-year-old girl pretending to suckle (our least favorite verb EVER) her beloved doll. Extra creepiness points awarded for the advertisers' insistence on hawking the different races of My Real Baby like chicken: "Choose between light or dark!" Eep.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17 No more. Please.

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