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On TV: Sex, Drugs and More Drugs

Does anyone else find ads for enhancement pills a little silly?


Does anyone else find ads for enhancement pills a little silly?

My wife and I are regular viewers of CBS Sunday Morning, which has an audience that skews older than most programs. We know that because the sponsors are mainly boomer recording artists, Broadway musicals and, above all, pharmaceutical companies.

Lots of pharmaceutical companies.

Whether it’s for hay fever or fibromyalgia, the prescription medicine commercials are cut from the same cloth. High production values — the kind not seen since cigarettes were hawked on cartoon shows. People your own age, only better looking, richer and throwing fabulous parties in the backyard with tiki lights. Empathetic narration; so empathetic, in fact, that it makes you think you must be wracked with pain, anxiety or depression even if you’re not.

And side effects that range from tuberculosis to death. Not being a risk-taker, I find that just a little unnerving.

(MORE: The Sly Tricks Marketers Use to Get You to Buy)

Fortunately, both my wife and I are in good health, past bouts with renal cancer and brain aneurysm aside. Our pain level hovers at zero (except when we try to stand up after keeping our legs crossed too long); our anxiety level is no worse than the average New Yorker living with the threat of terrorist attacks and we get depressed only when we watch commercials for pharmaceuticals.

Those 'Special Moments'

The most advertised pills, unsurprisingly, are those to boost your sex drive and abilities — specifically, on the male end of the spectrum. The commercials for Cialis, Viagra and Levitra (which sounds like a Renaissance-era vaudeville team) are upbeat and chipper. 

One of the Cialis commercials, in particular, features husbands still chuckling at those zany things their wives do that apparently lead straight to sex — hopping around on one foot while trying to put on high heels, for instance, or doing the frug while listening to Motown on their iPod when they think they're alone. The idea behind this spot is to let you know that when you have one of those “special moments,” you'll be ready to take it to the next level — because there's nothing sexier than watching your wife jump up and down like a kangaroo with a sprained ankle.

This got to be a bit much for my wife when another commercial presented a couple working on a crossword puzzle as Step One of foreplay. "Can't you just do a crossword puzzle without having it lead to sex?" she asked.

"That's right," I admitted. "Men prefer sex to crossword puzzles. Call us crazy!" She did, by the way.

(MORE: Sex and the Midlife Woman)

Reality Check

No, what goes on at our home doesn’t include puzzles. For that matter, unlike the woman in the commercial, my wife actually sits down to put on her shoes. Her $25, 1GB mp3 player is for meditations, educational lectures and a 10-minute version of Hare Krishna, all of which she listens to in bed so she can fall asleep before I have time to make the first move. That's when I don't fall asleep first, with my sleep mask and earplugs firmly in place.

(MORE: 5 Tips for Waking Up From Your Sex Snoozefest)

In fact, I invite Cialis' ad agency to drop by our apartment to see what a real middle-aged woman does when she thinks nobody's looking. Like playing Candy Crush for an hour straight. Or trying to figure out the difference between the TV and Blu-Ray remotes. Or, until her subscription ended, spending Sundays sprawled out on the couch while catching up on two weeks' worth of The Wall Street Journal.

You may not find anything like that particularly foreplayable. But I still want to lay a little lovin' on her — and I don't need a pill to get the job done. I might want to get rid of my sleep mask and earplugs, though. That doesn’t even lead to sex in Cialis commercials.

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