Ted's revels now are ended, the actor melted into air. Like the baseless fabric of this media, like last week's glossy flyer from Canadian Tire, our memories of him shall dissolve. His campaigns have faded, his deluxe wiper blades and power washers are sold out,
leaving not a rack behind. He flaunted his possessions before us, such stuff as dreams are made on, but now he has gone on.
Yes, like Mr. Dressup before him, Ted the Canadian Tire Guy has left our TV neighbourhood. Unlike the beloved Ernie Coombs, though, actor Ted Simonett and his red-headed TV-land 'wife' Gloria Slade depart to sighs or relief from Canadians young and old. After an 8 year run, the iconic Canadian Tire Guy has been retired, and none too soon in the eyes of many.
Ted the Canadian Tire Guy crept into the national consciousness of Canada gradually. At first he seemed to be just another pitchman, shilling the latest and coolest tools and gadgets. The campaign ran in primo spots like Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, and was an effective way for The Tire to introduce its newest must-have items to Canadians. Ted never seemed to push anything but unique product. Who wouldn't want a pair of futuristic Vipergrip pliers for $19.99? Especially versus your current rust-speckled hand-me-down straight-jaw vice-grips sitting in the battered red toolbox that Dad gave you when you left for university?
As Ted himself reportedly noted upon his retirement1, “I stopped talking directly to the camera and started interacting more with my neighbours." When this happened, Ted stopped being a simple pitchman and became a character in our TV landscape. Perhaps not a vibrant character, with his mild manner and his easy ways, but a notable one nonetheless. Ted seemed to have a way of dropping round the neighbourhood whenever there was a spot of trouble, his tool sense apparently tingling. And never was there a problem to which he didn't have the answer, and the answer was of course the latest gadget from those wonderful folks at the Tire.
Canadian Tire clearly intended to make Ted as real as possible. Toronto Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski reported2 that Simonett's contract included a 'no interview' clause, because "They want to keep him character driven."
It seems that Ted would be a great neighbour to have. He was free with his advice and his fancy tools, always in a helpful and unassuming way. He was not the sort of neighbour who'd take over the job entirely because his skills were clearly superior. He wouldn't laugh at your obvious incompetence. Yet Ted began to grate on Canadians' collective nerves. Why?
One factor may have been jealousy. Once we'd accepted Ted as a 'person' in our mental universe, we began to resent him. There seemed to be no end to his ability to drop $20 here and $300 there on the top-of-the-line CTC items. No rusty vice grips for him, no job without the latest portable generator to run the requisite power tools. And not only could he buy all this stuff, he could store it too, if not in his house then in his spotless, capacious, and ruthlessly organized garage. If not there, then at the cottage to which he was constantly travelling in the summer months, the better to use his many fun-enhancing gadgets.
I'm one of those folks who would scrabble for the remote control when Ted popped into the frame of my TV. But only after ascertaining that I'd seen the bit in question before and knew what he was about to say and do. If it was a new spot, I was riveted, because the things he was pitching were always cool, and I always, always wanted them. Other than the RoboGrip multi-function pliers, which I got for Christmas one year, I never got them, but I always lusted after them. Yet inevitably the 50th repetition of a given ad saw my ardour turn to contempt, and I'd flick away to The Weather Network for 30 seconds or so.
As time passed Ted suffered the fate of all media icons. He became the butt of jokes and parodies. Surveys began to find him to be the "most annoying" character on Canadian TV. Finally it was clear that Ted had overstayed his welcome, and in March 2006 his run came to an end. The Tire's account was taken over by a new ad firm, Taxi. Taxi's first series of ads debuted in March 2006 in the coveted HNIC spot. Each spot featured different actors, each struggling with some mundane urban household problem. The unifying element for the series was a digitally inserted Canadian Tire-red "Aisle xx" sign which pops up to tell them where to find the solution to their dilemma. These ads are just not as compelling as Ted. They're bland. They don't make me reach for the remote, but then again I don't remember them 10 minutes later.
Farewell, Ted. We wish you peace. And we still want your stuff.
Inspiring words adapted from The Tempest IV.i.
With help from