News of the Week: Best Years, Branded Sketches, and Bars Made of Meat

The Best Years of Our Lives

When was America at its greatest?

That’s always one of the great dinner party questions. Are we better off now than we were 4, 8, 20, 40, 60 years ago? With Donald Trump’s slogan being “Make America Great Again,” it’s something people have been thinking about. What exactly made America “great” and what time is Trump talking about? The ’40s? The ’50s? The ’90s? Maybe the 1880s?

Morning Consult, a polling service, asked Trump supporters online what America’s greatest year was. Guess the most popular year that was mentioned. Guess! You’ll probably be wrong.

They picked the year 2000, when Bill Clinton was still president and social media hadn’t been invented yet.

Other popular years were 1955, 1960, 1970, and 1985. Now, those are wildly varied eras (and also very rounded years — what, no one liked 1957 or 1989?). There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Older people probably picked a long time ago and younger people probably picked 2000. It’s almost as if they don’t know what exactly “Make America Great Again” refers to, but they like the sound of it.

I think a lot of people don’t really know when the best years were, they just know it’s not right now (it’s never right now). We have a nostalgic feeling for years ago, and a lot of people don’t understand how we could have liked those times when we had so many problems. Well, name a year or decade when we didn’t have any problems. All eras have great things about them, even the ones where terrible things happened. I think people like times when things weren’t as fast-paced and muddled and changing.

On a personal note, I really loved 1985, when I was 20. I had a fun job with access to pizza and booze, I had less to worry about, and I had so much more hair.

Get Ready to Match the Stars!

From the “things you never thought you’d see again” department comes this news: Match Game is coming back to television. And you’ll never guess who the host is going to be. I’ll give you 1,000 guesses. Never mind, you’ll never guess.

It’s Alec Baldwin! The new ABC show will be part of ABC’s “Fun & Games” block on Sunday nights this summer, along with Celebrity Family Feud and The $100,000 Pyramid. It will be filmed in New York City.

Now comes the fun part: trying to figure out which celebrities will be on the new version. Since it’s ABC, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Jimmy Kimmel and Whoopi Goldberg. Personally, I’d love to see Brad Garrett, Craig Ferguson, Anderson Cooper, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. And Betty White! We can’t forget Betty White!

What’s your dream cast?

This Part of the Column Is Brought to You by Hot Pockets

Saturday Night Live announced something this week, and depending on how you look at it, it’s a good news/bad news type of thing. First, the NBC show is dropping the number of ads the show will have by 30 percent, which equals two commercial breaks. You may think that’s good news, but you know they have to do something else, right? They’re going to starting having “branded sketches.”

Deadlineembed reports — in an article with a headline that misses the real story — that the show will “bring in sponsored content from advertisers who will partner with the show for branded sketches.” They probably want to get more people to watch the shows live, cut out the commercials, but still get the advertising in. A lot of these spots will be the pre-taped segments that seem to get a lot of viral juice the next day. (By the way, I really, really hate the term viral.)

I’m pretty sure this happened on 30 Rock. Jack ordered Liz to include more of General Electric’s products in the show’s sketches, so they had to write sketches with people suddenly talking about and buying GE dishwashers and ovens. Let’s hope this integration isn’t as clunky as that was. Actually, it might be funny if it was as clunky as that was.

The Founder

With the way that the Internet and social media and pop culture in general are these days, you’d think we’d know about every TV show/movie/album that’s coming up. But sometimes you get an album like Beyoncé’s Lemonade that seems to appear out of nowhere, and maybe even the trailer for a movie you didn’t know they were making.

Here’s the trailer for The Founder, the new film starring Michael Keaton as McDonalds founder Ray Kroc. Looks like fun. It opens August 5.

Introducing the Meat Bar

Chocolate bar filled with meat

A “meat bar” sounds like some place men and women might mingle with each other, but it’s actually a new product from Hershey. Yes, the chocolate company is branching out into dried meat protein bars (mmm, doesn’t that sound delicious?).

The bars will be called Krave — which Hershey already uses for their beef jerky products — and will be a mixture of meat and other things like dried fruit and quinoa. The company has also launched a new brand called SoFit, which offers healthy snacks with more familiar ingredients, like almonds and seeds and fruit.

This could work, though they’re really going to have to find a way to market the new bars. Beef jerky is one thing; a bar made of meat is another.

Why are they doing this? Supposedly, sales of chocolate are down. Not in my house!

The Best Commercial Characters of All Time

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that TV commercials annoy me more than they used to. I didn’t think this would be the case. I thought I’d be more patient and calm when it came to things like this, but there are so many commercials that just irritate the heck out of me — from commercials that are run way too often (all car commercials) to commercials that are illogical and don’t make any sense and actually make me not want to buy the product.

But in general, I actually like TV commercials and advertising (I know, I’m in the minority). And there are some TV commercial characters I like seeing all the time. All the various Geico spokespeople/spokesanimals are fun (amazing how many different regular characters they have — it seems to go against advertising common wisdom). I like that older couple who do the Consumer Cellular ads. I’d watch them do a sitcom. I also like Flo from Progressive. She’s cute, and the commercials are effective.

But who are the best TV commercial characters of all time? Paper lists their eight favorites, and they include Flo and the gecko from Geico. It’s not a bad list because they actually remember some of the classic characters from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, like Rosie (Bounty paper towels), Mr. Whipple (Charmin toilet tissue), and Josephine the Plumber (Comet cleanser). It’s really great to see a list done by someone who actually remembers that there was pop culture before Saved by the Bell (though I could have done without the Dell dude). I’d add more animated characters to the list, like The Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean, and some characters from cereal ads.

Since we’re talking about commercials, can someone explain to me why there are suddenly so many commercials for various brands of copper or ceramic pans? I’ve seen at least four different commercials this past week, all different ads for different brands (though they all use the same language and they all seem to do the same exact things). Is there a hostile takeover of the pots and pans industry going on, so that everything we cook with will now be made of copper or ceramic?

I’m just glad there’s finally a pan that can withstand a car running over it. That happens to me all the time.

Today Is Arbor Day

Sapling in ground with spade
romantitov /

I remember a joke from my childhood: Arbor Day is the day when we celebrate all the ships that come into the ’arbor. I didn’t say it was a good joke.

Here’s the official Arbor Day site, where you can learn more about, well, trees. You can also check out our Tree Planting 101 to help guide you through the process of planting trees. By the way, do kids still play in tree houses? Is that still a thing?

And tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day. Support your local brick-and-mortar bookstore (even if it is Barnes & Noble). And if you want to combine these two days, it’s easy. Books are made from trees.

Except the Kindle ones.

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane shot down (May 1, 1960)

The incident and later exchange of American and Russian prisoners forms the basis of the 2015 Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks film Bridge of Spies.

Lou Gehrig ends streak (May 2, 1939)

The baseball icon’s 2,130 consecutive game streak record was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles.

Joseph McCarthy dies (May 2, 1957)

McCarthy died only a few years after leading the investigation into communists in the U.S. government and tangling with CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, a story told in the movie Good Night, and Good Luck.

Kent State University shootings (May 4, 1970)

Four student war protesters were shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen.

Cinco de Mayo (May 5)

The day is actually not an official holiday in Mexico, though all schools are closed.

Gary Cooper born (May 7, 1901)

Yup, he played Lou Gehrig.