- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Commercial laughs

Viewers apparently do watch commercials, particularly the silly ones, and especially when they are readily available on a Web site. TBS recently reported that its broadband portal into the world of advertising, www.veryfunnyads.com, had 7.7 million video playbacks in a two-week period.

The cyber-stop is a repository for the strangest commercials shown around the planet. It has collected more than 100 for viewers to enjoy from locales including Sweden, Australia, Japan, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

Comedian Kevin Nealon offers an introduction to the fun, and the site quickly gets down to business with a video stream on the right side of the browser screen and thumbnail lists on the left. Viewers can browse by brand, country of origin, most watched, sexy and top-rated, and they can e-mail links of the commercials to pals and vote for their favorites. Some of the entries are a bit risque, but all are guaranteed to put at least a smirk on a viewer’s mug.

TBS also has dubbed itself the “very funny network” and attempts to deliver with its lineup of syndicated shows and its main Web site (www.tbs.com). In a section titled Very Funny, visitors will find the Daily Flog (funny + blog) with links to humorous stuff throughout the Web, odd news stories, a guide to comedy clubs in the United States and plenty of silly games.

Some of the silly challenges include Seinfeld Bingo (print out a card and play while watching the show), Monkey Mayhem (control Gilligan as he uses a slingshot to knock items away from a primate) and a trivia contest called Know the Show. In it, contestants answer a series of questions based on their favorite shows from TBS, including “Family Guy,” “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Seinfeld.”

Visitors enter a lobby and can play alone or with anyone available, as a chat feature adds to the interactive competitiveness. A pesky host narrates some of the action, which features multiple rounds of multiple-choice questions that integrate audio and video clips from the shows.

The TBS site also provides a low level of cover for the employee who wants to goof off on the job. If a nosy boss shows up, clicking a “panic button” on the side of the browser screen pulls up a spreadsheet to cover the online shenanigans.

Amazon.com’s latest Bill

Anyone who missed comedian Bill Maher’s live broadband infomercial experiment with Amazon.com this summer still can find the entire 12-week interview series at the online retailer’s Web site (www.amazon.com/ gp/entertainment/fishbowl/).

“Amazon Fishbowl With Bill Maher” featured interviews with authors, directors and actors along with musical performances, all conveniently loaded into a medium-definition media player embedded in the site.

The 30-minute programs cleverly play out like any typical talk show as Mr. Maher and his guests discuss provocative pablum such as the day one of Alan Thicke’s children smacked the host in the crotch with a pool cue (Mr. Thicke was on the show to promote a book) or the deep ties between director Frank Coraci (on the show with Henry Winkler to promote the film “Click”) and Adam Sandler.

The media-enhanced page also offers immediate purchase links on the Amazon site to some of the products being touted by the stars. For example, an interview with Teri Hatcher had links to “Desperate Housewives” DVD sets and her book “Burnt Toast.”

Segments for the entire Fishbowl series are broken down by Episodes, Interviews, Musical Performances and UPS Special Deliveries, the latter being the most amusing of the entire online package. During the Special Delivery segments, celebrities go aboard the famed brown trucks to deliver their products personally to lucky consumers who ordered them from Amazon.com. Surprisingly, it’s more heartwarming than awkward as personalities including Peter Frampton, Paul Reiser and Smokey Robinson show up on fans’ doorsteps or at their offices.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]ashingtontimes.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for The Washington Times’ Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washington times.com/ familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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