In the beginning was `The Word'

No 157: PEPSI
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The Independent Culture
The "Miller Time" innovation - running a series of miniature programmes in a regular commercial- break time-slot - has been hugely influential. It was followed by the spoof "rockumentary" series for Vesta foods, and now there's another. The latest big spender is Pepsi, but its three- minute epic, ostensibly called Countdown to Christmas, isn't so much a parody as a complete inflight-dinner version of The Word: it's hosted by Terry Christian and Dani Behr; it features a real current Britpop act called Shed Seven; it has freakshow items and acts of human degradation.

It's all built around Pepsi's curious decision to change its can to blue and promote this as a major act of cultural iconoclasm. A cruel world has suggested that Pepsi Blue is like Pepsi Red, only sillier. Anyway, the little show is built around the blue can: it's featured on-screen behind the presenters' heads, and you feel that in subsequent editions they'll do a remote interview with it.

That aside, there are all the familiar Planet 24/Word touches: a very small dwarf from Dominica - 28 inches tall - with a Pinky and Perky speeded- up voice; young people on all fours eating dogfood mince-pies; pop stars Ant and Dec with their cheery world-view.

Terry Christian, who isn't wholly stupid, looks resentful and embarrassed throughout. You know he'd rather be on a full-sized show. Dani Behr, however, is untroubled by doubt. She just reads the autocue and looks more than usually Valley Girl, an assemblage of nice colours and textures.

It's an odd thing, to find a formerly full-length scheduled show reduced like this, and looks sadder than other epic commercials. But it does offer opportunities for a whole range of programmes - product - now entering the Twilight Zone. Noel's House Party for MFI or Pets Win Prizes for Chum: it's a world ripe with potential.