PETER YORK ON ADS; Burt Reynolds puts himself in every frame

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The Independent Culture
BURT REYNOLDS is a universal 1970s experience; Smokey and the Bandit must be one of the most repeated films on TV. And he was doing it even then, from the very centrefold days - self-parody is Burt's line, so much so that you sometimes forget what self he's parodying. But, as the last exhibit of a certain kind of cheerful tacky Americana, he's definitely part of the collective unconscious. So the time had to come for him to make his debut in British ads. And so, Dollond & Aitchison have brought him here to sell specs.

It's a charming little celebrity commercial in a traditional narrative mode - no attitude - rather after the pattern of the recent Tilda Sauces ad with Madhur Jaffrey. We first see Burt wearing red silk lounging pyjamas - can this be right? - berating his four comic lackeys for not pointing out the absolute silliness of his new white specs, and insisting on a shopping trip to a British High Street where they do these things properly. So off he goes in a sleazy white stretch limo with shag-pile interior, clutching an airbrushed 8x10 of himself, to guitar-picking country music.

From then on the self-parody comes by the bucket-load: Burt signing the parking form as an autograph; Burt being told by a Jane Horrocks-type assistant that his cheekbones required a special frame; Burt trying frames that suit "your thick dark hair"and replying, "it's mine, you know"; the assistant doing instant set-ups of Burt wearing different styles on a computer screen and requesting his autograph, "for my grandmother". So we have the big-star joke, the vanity joke, the wig joke and the age joke all in 40 seconds.

But the message is clear enough. It elevates and glamorises spectacle- wearing, demonstrates new computer kit and the priority of design and puts Dollond & Aitchison, "where everyone gets star treatment", well ahead of the pack where the standard story is lenses in an hour or two pairs for the price of one.