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15 Totally Awesome 90s Infomercial Products

I think it's been pretty well established that I think of the 90s as the best decade.  I think it's also been pretty well established that I watched A LOT of television during that time.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure we all did.  After all, what else did we have to do?  The internet was in its infancy.  It was slow and expensive, and not everyone had in-home access yet.  So, we watched television during our free time more in the 90s than we do today.  

Back to the earliest point I can remember, cable only had a handful of channels.  It's expanded over the years, but there wasn't much to watch on television back then, even with the few channels we had.   

And to make matters worse?  We couldn't fast forward through the commercials!  

Yes, kids... without the benefits of digitized cable, DVRs, or streaming, we couldn't skip past them with the press of a button.  I remember my Dad would record something on the VCR, and we'd excitedly fast forward through the commercials. Still, recording was a pain, and the already poor television-quality was often reduced by the VHS tape that had been recorded over four hundred times already.  

Commercials were a large part of the 90s.  Some of them became pop culture moments that had the whole nation talking.  Water cooler conversation often quoted or repeated jingles and phrases from these now-iconic commercials from the 90s.  I even have an entire series on this site dedicated to some of my favorite Commercials of YesterYear, which you can check out in the Collections section (with more on the way!) 

Remember the countless Ten-Ten-Two-Twenty or Star Six-Nine phone company commercials?  The Budweiser Wasssssup guys, or Bob Wehadababyitsaboy from Geico Direct Collect Calls?  The Taco Bell dog or the Bud Ice Penguin (Doobie Doobie Doo)?  Those were significant 90s commercials that shaped popular culture, and you remember them today because of their impact from back then.  How many commercials from today will you remember in 20 years?  Not many, I'd wager.

Back in what the kids call the day, television stations would frequently not have enough programming to air a full 24 hours.  The late-night hours became home to crazy, sometimes hours long, commercials selling the strangest products and services.  Occasionally, you'd find a shortened minute-long version of these infomercials during the day that aired so frequently you could recite them in your sleep.

I remember the commercials often had crazy gimmicks that were probably illegal, if not just downright deceptive.  They'd have counters on the screen showing the number of callers or the number of items sold, much like modern-day QVC, which could not possibly have an accurate count with a commercial airing at random times.  Or the "call within the next two minutes" with a clock counting down as if you waited three minutes, you'd miss out on the deal.  If I hadn't been a naive kid who believed everything on TV, I probably would have noticed the clocks and counters were the same every time.

Sometimes, though, we'd get hours of infomercials on a lazy weekend afternoon between the morning kid's cartoons and the evening movies.  Often referred politely to as "Paid Programming," these infomercials were selling all sorts of stuff.  Food processors, golf clubs, chef-quality knives... the list goes on.  As a matter of fact, as I type this, I'm in a hotel room watching "Paid Programming" for a leaf blower.  

This paid programming on weekend afternoons was mostly on the type of channels I loved, like WPIX, FOX 5 NY, and UPN.  These stations relied heavily on syndication and films to fill up their schedule, and it was there that I watched countless hours of infomercials while waiting for the Saturday Afternoon Movie.  These channels are responsible for stuffing my mind full of catchphrases and sales pitches for junk I never knew I needed.

In the mid-2000s, infomercials and product slinging became so mainstream that pitchman Billy Mays (of OxyClean, KaBoom, and Orange Glo cleaner fame) launched a competition game show with fellow salesman Anthony Sullivan on the Discovery Channel called "Pitch Man."  This was also the period that "Slap Chop," "Snuggie Blanket," and "Sham-Wow" became very popular commercials.

Commercials slowly got out of control over the years, and as more and more people began tuning them out, companies started finding ways to catch your attention.  Eventually, they cranked up the volume during commercial breaks to keep your interest.  After a while, the volume changes were so significant that we were all getting ready to hit the mute button the second our regular programming went to break.  

In 2009, the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act was introduced and passed to marginal success.  On May 10, 2022, the author of the original CALM act, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, introduced the CALM Modernization Act, including streaming services.  That bill has not yet been passed into law.  

As our viewing habits have changed, so have commercials.  Rarely is there one that we even remember today.  Certainly, none that we discuss around whatever the modern version of the water cooler is.  There are no jingles or catchphrases, no "hey, have you seen the commercial for..." yet.  Mostly today's ads are just pharmaceuticals and other programs already on the network.  

Like many things, it just seems like it was better "back when."  That's why we nostalgia nerds love to discuss these things, and I, as the writer on this site, like to document them.  I know I've forgotten way more than I'll ever remember, and hopefully, in reading this, you too will spark a memory of where you were, or who you were with when you watched these commercials.  

Maybe you even succumbed to the advertising and purchased the product!  Did you?  Let me know in the comments, or drop me a line (on the right if you're viewing on a desktop or below on a mobile device) to let me know! 

Please click "Keep Reading" to view the list of 15 Totally Awesome 90s Infomercial Products! 

1.  The Rolykit - This tackle box-looking jewelry case was turned into a roll-up toy chest for kids in the mid-90s.  Marketed towards parents as a way to keep all of the toys off the floor, this commercial was everywhere for a while.  Interestingly, The Rolykit was invented in the early 70s by a Dutch filmmaker who was tired of the clutter on his desk.  Then, through the power of The Home Shopping Network, pitch-woman Joy Mangano brought this to American televisions everywhere.

2.  The Potty Putter - This gag gift was advertised late at night frequently during the late 90s and the early 2000s.  "Putt while you poop" seems to be a suitable tagline, but man, you must really like golf to purchase this item.  It's still available on Amazon to help even the "crappiest" golfer hone their skills.  Google (or maybe not) the "Uro Club" for other toilet-related golf items.

3.  The Thigh Master - Likely the most memorable, and arguably the most financially successful, item on this list.  Suzanne Somers, fresh off her very popular run on Three's Company and starting off another sitcom run on "Step by Step" in 1991, was the perfect spokesmodel for this exercise product.  I can't speak to how well the Thigh Master worked, but it sold pretty well and became a fixture in American pop culture during the 90s.

4.  The Topsy Tail - M.I.T. graduate Tomima Edmark created the Topsy Tail after sitting behind a woman wearing a french braid in a movie theater and decided there had to be an easy way to flip your braid inside out.  This simple little plastic gimmick would allow you to effortlessly create an array of updos, flips, wraps, twists, ties, or twirls. 

5.  The Encyclopedia Britannica - A staple I remember from Saturday morning cartoons, this long and relatively dull (for a kid) series of advertisements featured the flowing blonde mane and giant round glasses of one Donovan Freberg.  Donovan would hawk a series of encyclopedias, quickly becoming obsolete thanks to the advancements of home computers and the internet.  Encarta CD-Roms, anyone?

6.  The Bedazzler - This home appliance used to fashion rhinestones, jewels, and other studs to clothing was first sold in the 70s by infomercial icon Ron Popeil as "The Ronco Rhinestone Stud Setter."  Once Ronco was done with it, it was sold in the 90s under a new name, "The Bedazzler."  This small plastic stapler-looking device is now associated with retro items and clothing, and was recently mentioned in Entertainment Weekly as the "rhinestone-studding tool favored by art teachers and over-excitable soccer moms everywhere, the biggest piece of crap sold on late-night TV since the Thighmaster, and the reason women own shirts with glittery kitty-cats on them."

7.  The Tiddy Bear - This item might be from a little later than the 90s, but I can't find a date associated with this, and it's featured on a lot of 90's advertisement websites.  Solving a legitimate problem, this funny infomercial is an actual product and not a joke from the early days of the internet.  Of course, the name "Tiddy Bear" is a titillating (ha-ha) play on words, just as they show right where to place it. 

8.  BaByliss Magic Twist - Another hair product, where girls (and guys, I suppose) attached their hair to the prongs on the device and pressed a button.  Then, the Magic Twist works its magic, spinning and twisting your hair into a tight Instant braid!  I'm sure there were also many reports of pulled and knotted hair, but think how fast and easy it was!  Sorry, the only commercial I could find wasn't from the 90s, and it wasn't in English, but you get the idea.

9.  The Flowbee - Yet another hair product, the Flowbee was an electrically powered vacuum cleaner that attached to hair clippers to collect the freshly cut hair.  Astronauts even used the Flowbee to prevent the newly cut hair from floating around and collecting on the sensitive electronics on the space station.  By 2000, over 2 million Flowbee devices were sold, and George Clooney admits to still using one today on his iconic Caesar hairstyle.  

10.  The Hairagami - These commercials tried to equate origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, to the modern,  quick and easy way to style your hair.  The "original hair bun up-do, fold and snap" this product looked more like a slap bracelet you can put in your hair to "fold, snap, and wrap your way to innovative, fashion-forward styles!"  

11.  The Amazing Elastic Plastic Balloon - I still don't understand how these work, but it uses science and some chemicals (polyvinyl acetate and acetone) to create non-poppable balloons.  These commercials were on Nickelodeon seemingly every 5 minutes back then.  These tubes of liquid meant to be blown up emitted a noxious odor, and I'm sure these probably weren't safe to give to kids; but hey, it was fun!  Besides, it was the 90s, and "helicopter parents" and nanny-state governments were just getting started!  

12.  Ginsu Knives - "Quite simply, the finest knife in the world." Initially sold in the 70s and 80s as the "Quikcut Knife," the decision was made to change the name to Ginsu to allude to the exceptional sharpness and durability of the ancient Japanese Samurai swords.  Ginsu Knives were also some of the first infomercials to use now-common advertising phrases like "Call now!  Operators are standing by," and "But wait, there's more!"  

13.  Ron Popeil's Pasta Maker - Ron Popeil, the man who made famous the infomercial that featured a home-like setting, a confused housewife "assistant," and a studio audience, hawked these Pasta Makers nonstop during the early 90s.  Many a weekend afternoon, I sat and watched the entire half-hour infomercial from start to finish as Ron would teach us just how easy it is to use his many products.  Ron was King of the 90s infomercial, selling items under the Ronco brand like the "Veg-o-Matic" food processor, or probably his most famous "Set it and Forget it!" Rotisserie Oven.

14.  Cathy Mitchell's Microcrisp - Cathy Mitchell, the female version of Ron Popeil, is most likely known today as the "Dump Cake Lady."  However, in the 90s, she was all over television selling these baking sheets made of metallic paper used to brown foods quickly in the oven.  Like Popeil, Cathy perfected the informercial tactic of showcasing the ease of using her cooking product in a homey-looking kitchen while a goofy man follows behind to eagerly devour her fresh cooked meal. 

15.  Psychic Readings with Miss Cleo - CALL ME NOW FOR YOUR FREE READIN' We all know that phrase, don't we?  As kids, we repeated this time and time again and I'm sure you can picture Miss Cleo herself as she sold phony pay-per-minute psychic readings for the "Psychic Readers Network" from 1997 to 2003.  Miss Cleo, real name Youree Dell Harris, was an actress from Seattle hired by the Psychic Reader's Network to portray Miss Cleo, a mystical psychic born and raised in Jamaica.   In 2002, after billing customers over $1 billion, the Federal Trade Commission charged the company with deceptive advertising, billing, and collection practices.  Harris herself was not indicted, but her promoters agreed to settle with the FTC by paying a $5 million fine and erasing $500 million in debts owed by callers.