CNBC Originals: As Seen on TV/Objectified (2009)

by George Watches Things

As Seen on TV

Inside-the-industry cable documentaries fascinate me. Their running times allow them to be intense and immerse-able without being heavy at all. (Side note: ‘immersive’ really should be a word.) Plus, we get the equal parts goofy and serious narrator. Factual television is as full of potential as reality television is popular.

This is why I wanted to include one of these CNBC Originals in our festival.

I once wasted a good deal of money on a ShamWow, so I know this first hand, but advertising really works. Particularly infomercials. Apparently, and according to As Seen on TV, it’s a $150 billion industry. PedEggs outsell Snickers. Those hammy, ridiculous sales pitches actually work on people, and it’s no wonder. Who doesn’t need a saw that refuses to cut human flesh (maybe)?

But wait, there’s more! They actually made and sold a Chia Obama!

The infomercials are cheesy, and As Seen on TV stoops to that level of cheesiness to get its point across… or maybe just to be a little more entertaining. It, like the commercials it highlights, is filled with fluff and things I neither ever wondered about nor will actually remember.

Of course, it wasn’t as good as the ones about airplane crashes, but As Seen on TV was a fun and forgettable cable documentary and was totally worth the 41-minute investment.

My rating: **½


Unless… you happen to have 75 minutes free. In which case, you should see Objectified.

The documentary about objects in our world is made by Gary Hustwit, the same person who directed Helvetica, the documentary about font. I thought Helvetica had a lot of promise that wasn’t capitalized on. It drags and is weak at times.

But Objectified is the complete opposite (despite being similar to its cousin in that it relies entirely on expert talking-heads instead of finding everyday people to talk to). It’s zippy and fun, but can handle some emotion and provokes deeper thought. (Yes, kids, even about art!) I enjoyed the final few shots, particularly.

My rating: ***½

Next time: a few mini-reviews of 2009 films I’ve already seen.