Even though fans attending the Super Bowl received a free radio from Westwood One so they could listen to the game at the stadium, I discovered that the Super Bowl broadcast was indeed blacked out from stations’ internet streams yesterday. So I settled down in front of the television to watch the Broncos get utterly pounded by the Seahawks.
Of course, one big advantage tuning in the TV broadcast has over listening on the radio is watching the hyped-up commercials. Without a doubt, for radio nerds, last night Radio Shack’s self-effacing spot delivered some of the strongest nostalgia pangs wrapped in knowing chuckles.
The ad begins at the front counter in a Radio Shack that looks straight out of my 80s youth, with boom boxes prominently displayed in the background. One clerk, adorned in a bright red Radio Shack polo shirt, takes a call from which he reports, “The 80s called, they want their store back.”
That’s the first, slightly painful pang of nostalgia for me. Because that’s the version of Radio Shack I remember as the place where I would stare longingly at shelf after shelf of actual radios–AM, FM, portable, stereo, shortwave, police scanners. Even if I had to settle for just buying batteries and RCA cables most of the time, for this nerdy kid a trip to “Rat Shack” was like a mini vacation to Disneyland.
Cue four beats of the cowbell, and the unmistakeable opening riff of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” brings in a crowd of 1980s pop culture icons, from Cheers’ Cliff Clavin to Olympian gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who clear out the store’s dated merchandise. Even the California Raisins knock over a shelf of radios with their grapevine dance. Yikes!
It’s too bad that Radio Shack–despite its bumbling attempt to rebrand itself “The Shack”–is inexorably tied to time that has passed, when a radio was still something a kid would hope to find under the tree. Nevertheless, the commercial is a riot to watch, seizing pop culture’s 80s retro revivalism as seen in shows like The Goldbergs.
At least the store is keeping “Radio” in its name. And, the last time I checked, you can still buy a radio there… tucked away behind smartphones and bluetooth speakers.
Here’s the ad: