The ingenuity of infomercials' ability to distract us

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The Independent Online

Late for work this morning? Pressed snooze once too often? Not me. I was late because I was transfixed by the TV. Again. I've always hated morning telly – too much noise, too many colours, too early – but having been burgled twice, I put the TV on when I go to work to fox future thieves. But it's not the news, or poor old Daybreak, that's been distracting me from my commute.

Of an evening, chez Armstrong, a couple of hours of the Discovery Channel are usually watched before bed, but Discovery seems to like mornings even less than I do, and stays slumbering away from the airwaves until lunchtime. In its place are infomercials. Mmm. Infomercials. I remember my first feature-length ad fondly. The Classy Cutter, back in the early Nineties, was a dinner party host's dream device. It sliced! It diced! It made boiled eggs and kiwi fruits look like delicate blooms. The breathless description of its virtues filled five minutes of ad break. I was smitten.

But I've fallen harder for the contemporary charms of the Ahh Bra and the TurboFire workout. The Ahh Bra, a sexiness-free foundation garment designed for ladies too dim to be able to work out their cup size and happy to wear a crop top that covers the cleavage from navel to clavicle, had me at Ahh, gazing at its on-screen acolytes raving about comfort, colour and stretch.

Pleasantly soft focus, it's very different to TurboFire's call to arms. And abs, legs and butts. This pumping, thumping multi-DVD workout programme (with cookbook, mysterious stretchy band thing and a "5-Day Inferno Plan") helps adherents burn nine times more fat than other things that burn fat ("Lose up to 10 pounds in five days!") and turns normal-looking women into hard-bodied amazons. Who then rave about it for my viewing pleasure. Before they stole my heart, I lost the best part of an hour to an infomercial for a steam cleaner. It cut through grease! Grime! Stains! It eats hard-to-reach corners for brunch! But I can't recollect its name. In my bid to jog my memory, I discovered, which lists informercial fodder. Was it the Monster 1200 Steam Cleaner? The Steam Ball, Steam Bullet or Steam Tornado?

The Rainbow Steam Cleaner sounded the part, but without a picture it's hard to be certain. But it doesn't really matter what it was called. I have no intention of sending three instalments of £33.99 for a product that's not available in shops (as the rhetoric of the infomercial goes). I like to watch, not buy. And given that I've never met anyone who has bought anything advertised in this way, I'm guessing I'm not alone. I might have to start setting my alarm clock a bit earlier, though.