Tuesday, 6 December 2011

"And that, my friend, is why they call it a flange."

A few years ago the cable TV company to which we subscribed -- we'll call it Splodgers Cable -- ran a commercial that I can't get out of my mind. The mark of a good commercial, you might say. You'd be wrong. What haunts me is the question: What was the copywriter thinking?

(By the way, the cable service was lousy. We've since switched to a much better non-cable service delivered to our home via a fibre optic network, whatever that means, with no dish required.)

The Splodgers Cable commercial consisted of a mini-drama with an all-male cast, a bunch of beer-drinking buddies who love fixing cars and watching football games. The leading character is a nameless fellow we'll call Mr. Know-It-All, who speaks authoritatively on all things mechanical and high-tech.

The scene is his plushly furnished den, prominently featuring a big-screen TV and Splodgers cable box. As our playlet begins, Mr. K-I-A and a few buddies are entering the den, stage right, in mid-conversation about something or other, and Mr. K-I-A says to one of them, rather condescendingly, "And that, my friend, is why they call it a flange." Mr. K-I-A is not shy about flaunting his expertise.

The topic soon turns to state-of-the-art cable TV, about which Mr. K-I-A naturally knows everything. He proceeds to educate his grateful, knowledge-thirsty friends on the subject, with special emphasis on the boons offered by Splodgers Cable; then they all settle in for a blissful, testosterone-rich afternoon of NFL head-banging. Fade to black.

"And that, my friend, is why they call it a flange."

Though the commercial is long gone, this line has been a constant source of bafflement to me. I like to think I'm pretty good at dialogue but my problem is, I can't imagine any believable guy-to-guy dialogue that could possibly have led up to it. Can you?

The best I can come up with, after years of effort, is this. Before entering the den, the boys were in the garage where Mr. K-I-A was showing off his latest automotive gimcrackery. The conversation must have gone something like:

KNOW-IT-ALL: Look-a this, guys. I just retrofitted my 1986 GT-120 with a new state-of-the-art Type-2 dynanometer on the hydraulic flywheel.

FRIEND #1: Wow!

FRIEND #2: Awesome!

FRIEND #3: The bee's knees!

FRIEND #1: Looks like you put in a new flange, too.

KNOW-IT-ALL: I had to, dummy, to allow for the additional torque-tolerance.

FRIEND #1 (ashamed of himself): Of course.

FRIEND #2: Funny, that flange sorta looks like the flank steak I barbecued last week.

[In the name of artistic license, we must suspend our disbelief for a moment and assume that said friend likes to prepare his flank steak in the shape of a donut.]

KNOW-IT-ALL (who, I forgot to mention, is also an expert etymologist): That's no coincidence. The word "flange," dating back to the 1680s, is of unknown origin but it's probably related to the old French word "flanche," meaning flank or side.

FRIEND #1 (tired of etymology): Say, let's go watch some football.

ALL: Yeah!

(They head for the den.)

KNOW-IT-ALL (to Friend #2 as he enters the den): And that, my friend, is why they call it a flange.

Can any of my readers do any better?


  1. I can't do any better. You win the Prize for Best Imagined Dialogue in an Obsolescent Television Commercial. Right now, I'm going to spin a few platters: the Voice, Flange Sinatra; the great guitarist who backed Bing, Eddie Flange, and the little-known Hudson-DeFlange Orchestra. But remember, Kid, to quote THE VIRGINIAN, "When you call me a Flange . . . . smile."

  2. I’ve seen (and remember) that commercial, and I think you’ve imagined a convincing hypothetical dialogue between said beer-drinking buddies. However, the fellows are depicted as being about 40 years old (or younger), making them children of the 1970s. By that fact, I’m sure that none of them would ever have uttered the phrase “the bee’s knees.” You dig what I’m sayin’, Daddy-O?

  3. I forgot to mention that in my imagined scene Friend #3 is 96 years old.