Vital Signs

Adverpop Rock

Doctors are prohibited from hawking products in television commercials. It's a question of ethics. So, since the real ones can't do it, stand-ins are asked to fill the prescription. Marcus Welby was never jumpy—and probably wouldn't have been even if he had accidentally reversed the electric paddles used to jump-start a heart—so Robert Young became a very appropriate shill for Sanka. Then there are those characters from General Hospital, good-featured robots one and all, who push analgesics while wearing white lab coats, and admitting, "I'm not a doctor," a confession that undoubtedly results in heads shaken in disbelief in trailer parks across the land. There is a sense that doctors belong to a higher order, some belief they are apart from mere mortals that, perhaps, justifies our baring all to them.

Just as people might feel let down if real doctors were able to endorse cough syrup, there is an entire generation that feels a certain amount of dismay—not quite throwing them down to the cellar of their souls, but at least to the lower level of a tri-level house in the suburbs—every time they turn on a TV set and hear and/or see (a) one of the songs they grew up with being used to push fabric softener or toothpaste; (b) a maker of that music crooning on behalf of a brewer. It's like turning on the set and seeing a priest pushing the services of a post-Freudian psychologist. Formative...

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