Insomniacs today have it easy, they can do whatever they want when they can't sleep. In the past, though, you pretty much had to just watch whatever was on TV at the time. Most late night cable TV was comprised of infomercials. This page will be used to highlight some of my favorites that I can find online. Enjoy!
RCA/Direct TV Infomercial
This infomercial is about the upgraded "digital satellite system" for DirecTV. RCA was a manufacturer of DirecTV dishes at the time so this infomercial, from 1995, is designed to push just how amazing all of this new technology is.
A platform that is universally considered to be a flop, but I think that's only due to the really high price of the platform. It was really trying to do a lot for its time, but if it isn't affordable it isn't going to get far. Still, Phillips tried to push this this pretty hard. Here's a 30 minute infomercial trying to get you to jump in.
I'm kind of breaking my own rules by posting a more modern infomercial, but this one is too good not to share. It is for some kind of supplemental car accident insurance and it stars Ernie Hudson and Burt Reynolds. Ernie Hudson I could see doing an infomercial in the 2010s, but Reynolds makes so few appearances on screen anymore that it kind of surprised me to see him hawking a random late night TV product. Either way this one is pretty entertaining. *UPDATE* Apparently the other version I had up was taken down. Here you go.
Atari Jaguar AKA "The Cave"
The Atari Jaguar was a complete flop and this infomercial is one of the last ditch efforts from Atari to squeeze some life out of it before they put her down. Watch as Bob is kidnapped, taken to a cave where there are some shapeshifting women/game consoles and he is forced to consume as many mediocre games as he can handle. Do the math.
TNT Amusements is a company that primarily sells pinball and arcade machines in the Philadelphia, PA area. They've built up a cult following over the decades with things like a series of local infomercials that showcase their fun, quirky personalities. This particular infomercial is the one made in 1995. I absolutely love it.
The best infomercials are those with storylines. Our story today is one of a husband and wife couple who are trying to prepare for some guests they don't have a spare bed for. Ultimately some sumo wrestlers get involved. These people sure do love their air mattress.
The Martinettis Bring Home A Computer
There was a time before owning a computer was commonplace so the moment the family actually got one was a really big deal. Computers are still expensive, but they are far more accessible than they were pre-2000. It was a big purchase. In my neighborhood there were a few kids who had computers before I did, so their homes were visited frequently by me so I could learn what this whole internet thing was. In 1995, Apple produced an infomercial to sell their current line of computers on the idea that buying a computer was a big deal, so here's a family coming to that decision. Of course, they choose an Apple computer and everyone rides off into the sunset, but it's a goofy and fun watch.
JuiceMan's Power of Juicing
When the first 10 seconds of your program says you're about to witness "the most amazing offer ever presented on television" you know you're in for a good time. This guy started out in health food circles but eventually migrated into the As Seen on TV market. Go JuiceMan!
Absolutely Rose Street
This batshit production doubles as both a really bad teen sitcom pilot and a 30 minute commercial for the failed Sega 32x platform. Unlike most infomercials, this one has a complete story that is told over the course of the program with promotional content about Sega video games and public service announcements (Crash Test Dummies!) sprinkled throughout. It's hard to explain, so please watch it.
SHOWTIME ROTISSERIE AND BBQ
All all-time great. This one seemed to get a ton of play at the turn of the century. There are several excellent infomercials from the mind of Ron Popeil, but I think this is the most famous. Set it and forget it.
HULK HOGAN'S ULTIMATE GRILL!
LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHIN, MEAN GENE! The first thing you need to do is to tell these people to shut up if you wanna' hear what I've got to say. The first thing you gotta' realize, brother, is this right here is the future of food preparation, brother! You can call this the New World Order of grilling, brother.
GIFT OF GUITAR!
Esteban (Pronounced ESS-TAY-BAHN) was a late night juggernaut for many years, dominating the airwaves with his ads for his instructional guitar and VHS tapes to teach you how to play classical guitar. Watch him teach you how to play House of the Rising Sun with his long fingernails. Esteban says that he desined this guitar so that the children could learn how to play, but I'm pretty sure the actual target audience for this program is bored dads.