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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ten Classic Restaurant Commercials from the 1980s

If you're a child of the '80s, much of your misspent youth was misspent in front of the television taking in shows like Mr. Wizard and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But just as those classic TV shows from your childhood have remained with you all these years, so have the equally classic commercials. Who hasn't found themselves mysteriously and involuntarily humming the Showbiz Pizza tune to themselves while grocery shopping, or antagonized a boyfriend by asking "Where's the beef?" while he's walking around in his boxer briefs?

Below are ten of our favorite '80s restaurant commercials.

Showbiz Pizza: There was a time when the kid-friendly pizza parlor market wasn't dominated by Chuck E. Cheese. Showbiz Pizza was the place where "a kid could be a kid" and could also be terrified into incontinence by the giant animatronic animals in the "showbiz" section of the restaurant. But they did have great Skee-Ball.

The Noid: If there's a person who doesn't recall trying to "avoid the Noid" by ordering Domino's Pizza, it's because they were the weird kid in the neighborhood whose mom ordered the creepy square pizzas from Little Caesar's for birthday parties instead (and probably served R.C. Cola instead of Coke, too).

Get Rid of the Clown: It's difficult to imagine that there was a time when the marketing geniuses at Jack in the Box wanted to get rid of "the clown" to improve their image. Most people recall the series of commercials in which the drive-thru clowns were blown up, but more will remember Jack's triumphant return 14 years later.

Webster Sells a Whopper: What could make a Whopper even better? (Nothing, if you're being perfectly honest with yourself; those things are straight out of Satan's kitchen.) According to Burger King, the cuter of the two tiny black man-children that were on TV at the time. Who doesn't want to buy something from wittle Webster? Just look at those wittle cheeks! Ahem...where were we?

McDLT: There was a time when McDonald's tried to sell plain hamburgers by calling them McDLTs. And there was a time when Jason Alexander had hair. And there was a time when these two uncanny things came together in a commercial that's a celebration of all things horrifyingly '80s: the retina-burning hues of the clothes, the cheesy music, the idea that prancing to said cheesy music will sell burgers. At least Alexander put his Broadway training to good use...

Taco Hell: Speaking of horrifying, Taco Bell got on the '80s diet bandwagon with this abomination: a seafood salad. It's difficult to imagine any food could look more gruesome than the blocky, greasy fish filets shown at the beginning, but Taco Bell somehow managed to make its own food look even worse by comparison.

Let Me Get You a Bib: Seafood was still a novelty item to most people living in landlocked areas in the '80s, and Red Lobster was the first national chain to promote the idea of such exotic items as halibut and shrimp to people living in Topeka and Sioux Falls. The commercial below does a far better job of illustrating this concept, as the cretin demolishing his lobster like a five-year-old has to be shown how to use a lobster cracker by the waitress.

IHOP: The breakfast item that everyone loves but hates to order has had a long lifespan as far as menu items go: the Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity at IHOP was around even in the '80s, selling for a mere $2.99 and featuring eggs, pancakes and two of the saddest sausage links you've ever encountered. Now if we could only get those waitresses back in the Dutch milkmaid-style uniforms...

Hamburger University: One of the most prominent characters from '80s commercials was the Hamburglar, as seen in the McDonald's commercial below. He's faded from popularity now, which is really for the best because - when you think about it -- he's kidnapping adolescent students from Ronald's class with the full intent of devouring them at his home later on, John Wayne Gacy-style. Cheerful commercial, right?

Where's the Beef?: No '80s commercial lineup would be complete without the classic and overplayed Wendy's commercial that everyone loves to despise. Perhaps the most comforting thing about the commercial -- other than the hate-tinged nostalgia that comes with viewing it -- is the knowledge that even 25 years later, little old ladies will still band together and angrily cause a commotion if they feel they've been stiffed. Some things never change, and Wendy's knew it could count on the righteous indignation of the elderly to be a constant for years to come.