Get to know me, even just a little, and you’ll quickly discover my seething hatred for the inexplicably popular and mercilessly long-running sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Given the chance, I’d banish the writers, producers and male cast to the barren wastes of Siberia, where the overpaid hacks could atone for their sins (and remain quiet) while braving the frigid winds in search of nutrient-rich mosses and lichens.
Maybe it’s the death of the sitcom that brought us to this point. Raised on the terrific sitcoms (and some guilty also-rans) of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, my childhood television experience was abundance in diversity. Still, despite my love for cars and guns and the like, my TV starting point, like that of so many others, was Sesame Street. America’s social barometer, it was, and continues to be.
Like now, strong options loomed large in little Steph’s brain. Never cared for Big Bird. Too big. Dull in conversation. Grover? Who is Grover really supposed to be? And frankly, I wouldn’t leave any child of mine alone with Elmo.
Still, certain characters hold a special place in my dark, shrivelled heart. Until, that is, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got its hands on their innocent, soft upper halves.
So, FCA and the Sesame Street cast have teamed up to hock Chrysler Pacifica minivans in a series of videos. I guess Jim Gaffigan’s time is up. It’s all very cute. Perhaps too cute. Still, it’s forgivable, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find child-friendly characters that resonate both with four-year-olds and 40-year-olds. 40-year-olds, of course, all wish they could go back in time and disrupt the filming of Frozen and the recording of certain songs.
I can’t fault FCA for wrangling Sesame Street onto the Pacifica bandwagon. It’s a big get. In the videos, The Count counts things, something that still brings joy to my heart, and Cookie Monster remains the children’s character most reminiscent of…myself. A treasure, that Cookie Monster, despite the sugary addiction that’s imprisoned his soul. And who doesn’t love Bert’s three distinct expressions (straight, bowed upward, and bowed downward unibrow), always the result of one of Ernie’s feisty shenanigans? Despite their differences, those two make it work.
So the potential’s there to draw a bit of enjoyment from these ads. The problem, however, is the pervasive laugh track. See, these characters aren’t just horsing around in their Pacificas — they’re doing it on Guy Smiley’s (Chrysler-themed) show. That means an audience laugh track. And, like the electronic morons splitting their sides after every unfunny comment uttered on The Unvarnished Turd The Big Bang Theory, the resulting annoyance kills any hope of enjoying the show. There’s also kids. People are yelling. It’s too much.
Why can’t there be some candid moments? Why does Guy Smiley and his shiny blazer have to ruin what could be a great little bit of marketing? (Assuming you can get past your favorite Sesame Street characters shilling for a van maker.) Why couldn’t FCA have killed the laugh track and given adults the opportunity to, just maybe, see a slightly different side of the Sesame Street crew, all thanks to, um, Chrysler?
Maybe this asks too much of an automaker’s marketing team. Maybe it asks too much of television and YouTube and today’s world in general. Maybe, perhaps, possibly it speaks more to this writer’s eccentricities than anything else.