Saturday, November 14, 2009

"When You're Here, You're Hammy"

Recently, young gentleman Chase Pearsall brought my attention to a particularly obnoxious and stilted ad campaign. Stop me when you've heard this: "When You're Here, You're Family."

Okay, you've stopped me. Now I'm going to go on about why the Olive Garden ad campaign makes me never want to eat there again. Let me for a moment ignore the, um, political implications underpinning "Sicilian Cooking" and "Part of the Family." Let's just look at a sampling of the commercials:

Figuring out all the permutations of pasta and sauce that a person could order. Who would do that? Let me rephrase: who would do that at a full table, surrounded by supposed friends, possibly coworkers, while everybody is obviously squirming in their seats to order some food so they can just eat and shut up the idiot who thinks this is the time for elementary mathematics? These people are not his friends: they pity him for not having anything better to do with his time. Some of them probably regret having invited him.

waitress: So what'll you have?
horrible d-bag: [upon seeing a passing entrée] I think I just saw it!
[everybody laughs]

waiter: More salad and breadsticks?
ravenous postmenopausal women: Always!
[everybody laughs]

white dude: You know what always gets us together?
token ethnic friend: Endless soup and salad!
[everybody—including the white dude, white chick, and token ethnic friend who comprise this bizarre love triangle—laughs]

brat princess: I like it. And soooo do my roommates!
[cut to overfed-freeloader roommates & family laughing]
creepy dad: I just want to make sure my little girl's okay.
brat princess: [with decidedly inflected Electra Complex overtones] Daddy!

Okay, forgive me if I'm being rude in rejecting mafioso hospitality, but I want no part of this family. My family does not laugh forcedly at jokes that aren't funny, and we don't stuff ourselves stupid on never-ending soup, salad, and pasta. In one of my favorite iterations, one character seriously says "Sometimes we're so busy eating, we forget to talk."

Wow, that does sound like fun. Sign me up for the next time those social geniuses get together to stuff so many breadsticks in their gobs that they nearly choke.


  1. Yeah, this commercial is radioactive (and apparently comes in several different flavors). They air a version here in Austin where a normally decisive eater arrives at OG with a cluster of conspicuously multi-cultural friends/co-workers. He repeats the line "I always know what I'm going to get here" (actually, his wife says it once as some kind of lame explanation for her husband's repetition compulsion) a couple times before the waiter arrives and mentions the holy grail of pasta bowls -- at which point "decisive guy" waffles, looks at the menu and is transformed by alterity. Then the shrill, irritating OG narrator chimes in with requisite "You're Family" voice over.

    It's almost as bad as that series of Pizza Hut commercials with Jim Breuer and the "ring of cheese in the crust":

  2. Forget the link -- it's dead . . .

  3. Oh, I remember the Pizza Hut cheese-injected-crust craze.

    Apparently, the message of the Olive Garden commercial you cite is alternately "Boring people eat here" and "We promote postmodern ennui."