Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Commercial Break: Goodbye, Wizard

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 9, 2008

Verizon, you’ve left us with no choice

My mother e-mailed me recently with news that Verizon had finally bought out Alltel to become by far the largest cellular conglomerate in the biz today. She considered that maybe this was the reason why my 15 minutes of Reality TV Villainy had not been extended to a round half-hour with a second WSOPC season, as Alltel was the primary sponsor. My brother had a more pressing point on the matter, however–that this meant that now Chad from Alltel (real name Chad Brokaw, apparently a comedian of some sort) and the “Can You Hear Me Now” guy from Verizon (real name Paul Marcarelli, who is apparently a respected theater guy, incredibly) could now form a lethal advertising tagteam. Me, I’m mostly concerned that this could be the end of the odyssey of Chad & the Wizard, quickly developing into one of the great commercial arcs on modern TV.

Now I’ve previously expressed a hardline stance against cellphone commercials of all stripes, and I’m certainly not going to go back on it here. But every once in a while you get one which, while still at least slightly abhorrent, is compelling enough in its ridiculousness to become captivating after a certain number of repeated viewings. The Chad arc of the Alltel commercials started out as not even that–just another Paint The Competition As Jealous Idiots And Your Own Figurehead As Christ-Like campaign, along the lines of the deplorable Hertz “They came and got her!” ads (starring Kevin Farley, younger brother of the late great Chris, which I just found out but probably should have known all along). The most notable feature was that one of the competition guys–the AT&T one–looked a lot like Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock.

Enter the Wizard. Summoned by one of the guys that isn’t Jack McBrayer to banish Chad or something, the Wizard is quickly seduced away from their control by Chad’s My Circle promises, and even accidentally dematerializes one of the other representatives (as pictured above), though I suppose he gets better by future commercials. The next time the Wizard appears, he’s already sick of being summoned by the competition, and is pal enough with Chad to make fun of the other guys with him. The third, somehow not up on YouTube, the Wizard no longer even comes when beckoned by the rival companies (“We’ve been summoning you for hours!“), presumably because he’s too busy eating dinner with Chad and his family.

I find this all fascinating for a number of reasons. First, why is Alltel taking this plot line so far? Did the Wizard, who I can only imagine was designed to be a commercial one-off character, test so well with audiences that the company decided he was something of a breakout? The whole thing was surreal enough to begin with, but the fact that they just keep going with it makes it even stranger. Second, what kind of relationship is implied between Chad and the Wizard by the fact that they’re now eating dinner together? Lovers? Friends of the family? Honorary Wizard Status for Chad? And perhaps most importantly–if these cell phone respresentatives have the powers of wizard summoning, couldn’t they just ask him for better and/or less thankful jobs, rather than futilly use him to compete with the allure of Chad and his My Circle plan?

Important questions, all, and it’s sort of sad that we likely won’t get to see their denouement. Then again, I suppose it’s possible perhaps both will team up with Mr. Marcarelli–in which case, God help us all.

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