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We're sending help immediately, Mrs. Fletcher
July 31, 2014 10:03 AM   Subscribe

If the true measure of an ad's popularity is the afterlife it enjoys through parody and satire, then this 1989 LifeCall ad — featuring Mrs. Fletcher and her infamous line, "I've fallen and I can't get up!"may be the best-loved commercial of all time.
posted by Mchelly (57 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
A more updated version of that advertisement. The tone is a bit more ominous and less likely to be parodied from the original.
posted by Fizz at 10:08 AM on July 31


It certainly lived on in parody in 2007 when I knocked out this little ditty for the now-defunct fazed.org.

The updated commercial creeps me right the fuck out. I only hope that should I befall (ha!) a similar fate the cats will wait until I've died before digging in.
posted by davelog at 10:13 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


My sister and I used to make audio tapes in the late 80-early 90's and do commercial parodies, celebrity spoofs and made-up songs or fart jokes. We covered Life Alert a few different times and took turns playing Mrs. Fletcher; they were a family classic!
posted by ReeMonster at 10:14 AM on July 31


Ah, the '80s. We were blessed with "Where's the beef?" and "I've fallen and I can't get up," just five years apart.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:15 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Classic.
posted by Fizz at 10:19 AM on July 31




Hey Man is that Freedom Rock?!
posted by Flashman at 10:41 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


The late, great Steve Goodman deserves mention here.

Vegematic
posted by HillbillyInBC at 10:41 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


No love for the neighbor having chest pains?
posted by dr_dank at 10:43 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


I just saw that updated LifeAlert ad the other day, and I thought it was a teaser for some horror/murdery movie.

I mean, if my laundry room was in some large mansion with all sorts of stairs -- I'm not the most clumsy person, but I can see myself tumbling down. Shit.

But if I lived in a house like that lady (chandeliers! Old clocks!) I'd probably hire a StairWatcher Person to make sure I didn't do a deathfall. 'cuz she can afford it.

ME: [walking down the Stairs of Doom] tum te tum te tum....

STAIRWATCHER: You alright?!?

ME: Just putting stuff in the dryer!

STAIRWATCHER: OK

ME: [ascending the stairs] tum te tum te tum....

STAIRWATCHER: What's going on?!?

ME: Just coming back up -- Househunters International is on.

STAIRWATCHER: Good.

I can see it getting old fast, though. Probably end up with me throwing the StairWatcher down the steps.

Good thing my place is on a single floor.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:46 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


Good thing my place is on a single floor.

Speaking of single, my greatest fear.
posted by Fizz at 10:52 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Kids are making fun of a senior citizen being hurt and helpless? Well, put a check in the "millenials suck" column.

On a tangent, is there any sort of policy or law for putting down a pet that has partially consumed its deceased owner? Because I could imagine adopting such a pet, then casually looking up just in time to see it looking back at me and licking its chops.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:01 AM on July 31


Speaking of single, my greatest fear.

You need to hire an EatWatcher, then.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:01 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


There's a more low-rent version of the modern ad that airs on middle-of-the-night tv (less luxe surroundings, lady cries out unconvincingly, lady is found by concerned daughter, ominous fear-mongering, finally an indication company is associated with a financial "protection" company I associate with scamster founders). As with most modern remakes, it lacks the verve, agency, and heights achieved by the original.
posted by julen at 11:03 AM on July 31


Kids are making fun of a senior citizen being hurt and helpless? Well, put a check in the "millenials suck" column.

Pretty much everyone alive in the late 80s/early 90s was making fun of this ad back in the day. There were T-shirts and bumper stickers and everything. I'd say the millennials get a pass.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:09 AM on July 31 [27 favorites]


In the 70s we had Nick Lowe's Marie Provost : "She was a winner, who became the doggie's dinner ..."
posted by rfs at 11:11 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


> Kids are making fun of a senior citizen being hurt and helpless? Well, put a check in the "millenials suck" column.

Pretty much everyone alive in the late 80s/early 90s was making fun of this ad back in the day.


Yup, I'm a certified boomer and I was making fun of it. And I laughed at it again just now! I'm a horrible, horrible person!
posted by languagehat at 11:15 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


So if I have this right, languagehat, we learned it from watching you?
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:17 AM on July 31 [23 favorites]


Is this something that I'd need to have a television, and to have lived in the US during the eighties, to understand?
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:17 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Since we're doing this:

Nothing reminds me of Paris like this shitty coffee mix!

Captain Picard, the early years
posted by leotrotsky at 11:19 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Who else loves shitty coffee? Why it's pre-Buffy Anthony Steward Head!
posted by leotrotsky at 11:23 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


The updated one is so, soooooo disturbing. My SO and I change the channel every time it comes on. Her plaintive wailing is really upsetting. (And yeah I used to make fun of the old one. Everyone did!)
posted by misskaz at 11:25 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Is this something that I'd need to have a television, and to have lived in the US during the eighties, to understand?

Not the first part! I wasn't allowed to watch TV at all until about 1997 but I STILL knew about this joke, even though I had no idea of the provenance. It was pretty ingrained.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:25 AM on July 31


I need to target a young demographic for this new Zelda Gameboy title. What better way than through the medium of rap music?

I could do this all day.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:26 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Didn't expect the thread to go this way, but it's all right here in the glamor guide...
posted by Mchelly at 11:27 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


There were T-shirts and bumper stickers and everything.

Here in Britain, I used to see some of those T-shirts advertised in American magazines like Spin, and I kind of gathered they must be parodying something. Until I saw Mchelly's OP, though, I had no idea what that something might be. So that's another small mystery solved.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:28 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Kids are making fun of a senior citizen being hurt and helpless? Well, put a check in the "millenials suck" column.

Weren't millennials actually for reals just little diapered babies when this came out? I mean, yeah, I don't like babies either but I'm not sure I would hold whatever they're laughing at against them. Have you seen their heads? Very small, not many important thoughts happening.
posted by elizardbits at 11:28 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I also really need some micro-machines and a pogo ball.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:30 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Kids are making fun of a senior citizen being hurt and helpless? Well, put a check in the "millenials suck" column.

Pretty much everyone alive in the late 80s/early 90s was making fun of this ad back in the day.

Yup, I'm a certified boomer and I was making fun of it. And I laughed at it again just now!


It's not funny because "a senior citizen is hurt and helpless".
It's funny because it's an amateurish depiction of a completely unrealistic scenario.

We weren't laughing at the imaginary injured old lady. We were laughing at the inept snake-oil salesmanship.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:31 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


Mister Microphone.

"Hey, good lookin"!
 
posted by Herodios at 11:34 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


Herodios beat me to it; put a check in the "millenials have s semblance of media literacy" column.
posted by fullerine at 11:35 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I live in Midtown Memphis. Back in the 1990s, during the waning days of the Golden Age of Televangelism, every local church of a certain size had a TV show on Sunday morning, because all of the preachers wanted to be TV preachers. So late night local TV was Rockford Files reruns and commercials for church shows, because the churches couldn't afford to run commercials in prime time.

So imagine the scene: It's 3 AM. You and your degenerate cronies are back at the run down Midtown apartment after a night of carousing at the clubs. Perhaps you band played a show, and your ears are still ringing, and you smell of cigarettes and stale beer. So you and your aforementioned cronies are smoking that last, come-down bowl of the evening, watching Jim Rockford breeze through Southern California on the way to solve a mystery. And then this commercial comes on the TV:

"Get dope out yo veins, and hope in yo brains."
posted by vibrotronica at 11:35 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Yup, I'm a certified boomer and I was making fun of it. And I laughed at it again just now! I'm a horrible, horrible person!

Now, see, although I am also a horrible person, I didn't go through the certification process.

I guess that's why The Hat's in Angie Slist under 'Boomers' and I remain unlisted.
posted by Herodios at 11:38 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I just realized the Suck & Pump, aside from being wholly ungoogleable, was basically a penis pump that someone modified only slightly to use as a vacuum bagging food storage device.

Unless you remember the infomercial, this will probably be a useless comment. 'Cuz again, totes ungoogleable. Don't even try.
posted by mediocre at 11:43 AM on July 31



Needs more Little Richard:
You know I've fallen and I can't get up
You know I've fallen and I can't get up
You know I've fallen and I can't get up
I skinned my elbows and I bruised my rump

I pressed the button cuz I can't get up
I pressed the button cuz I can't get up
I pressed the button cuz I can't get up
Tripped over Kitty, and I took some lumps, whaaoooo!

[sax solo]

I'm Missus Fletcher, I still can't get up
I'm Missus Fletcher, I still can't get up
I'm Missus Fletcher, I still can't get up
Come over right away and bust your hump . . .
 
posted by Herodios at 12:14 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I thought that was a Reeves and Mortimer catchphrase.
posted by biffa at 12:24 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


of course, it was predated by an even worse classic - don't take the car - you'll kill yourself!
posted by pyramid termite at 12:31 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


No love for the neighbor having chest pains?

Wow, just reading that, I was able to summon the exact cadence of him yelling to the machine. This ad is really, deeply burned into my mind.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:59 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Flashman: “Hey Man is that Freedom Rock?!
“No my brother…”
posted by ob1quixote at 1:16 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Little Richard would have been an improvement for me. The local radio station did "She's Fallen" to the tune of Tom Petty's "Free Falling". I can't remember much of it besides the repetition of "She's fallen, Grandma" and the opening line about taking off her girdle and support hose. Over the ending chorus they played recordings of a number of callers reciting the famous line, each with the same intonation as if they were reciting the Phrase that Pays. Nobody even tried to wail. Somehow I found that the most offensive thing about the whole business.
posted by darksasami at 1:36 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


That 'I've fallen and I can't get up' line has plagued me for years.

It was used as a sample in the Playstation Guitar Freaks game in one of the tougher levels.

God, that's been bugging me for over 15 years. Thanks, Mchelly!
posted by davemee at 1:44 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]




Ah, the '80s. We were blessed with "Where's the beef?" and "I've fallen and I can't get up," just five years apart.

My favorite is still "Get a rope."

My current favorite might be the Dr Pepper ad made to look like something from that era.

And Lily for AT&T.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:06 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


My favorite is still Russian Fashion Show.
posted by Mchelly at 3:52 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I can't believe no one's mentioned Dump Cakes yet. I hope this one becomes a classic. Pineapple Upside Down...
posted by little_dog_laughing at 4:20 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


My favorite is still "Get a rope."

To this day, anytime someone says New York City I blurt it back at them just like in that goddam ad. "New York City?!?!" It's a compulsion, I can't help myself.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:47 PM on July 31 [15 favorites]


Why doesn't Jesus dance?

BECAUSE HE'S RISEN AND HE CAN'T GET DOWN.
posted by Wet Spot at 6:07 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


If you listened to Charles Laquidara on Boston's WBCN in the late 80s/early 90s, you may have heard this catchy tune with awful rhymes based on Mrs. Fletcher and her nasty fall. (Slant 6 and the Jumpstarts were a local band whose parodies were often played on the Big Mattress; this song also got airplay on Dr. Demento.)
posted by Spatch at 6:18 PM on July 31


Just found the Roseanne bit from the wikipedia link.
posted by Mchelly at 6:42 PM on July 31


Count me as another tail-end boomer that laughed like crazy at the original and still thinks it's funnier than hell.

Even better (slightly earlier?) was a prunes commercial for Sunsweet prunes that just never caught on the way fallen did:

TODAY THE PITS, TOMORROW THE WRINKLES! Sunsweet marches on.

Am I the only one left that remember that one?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:47 PM on July 31


I also really need some micro-machines and a pogo ball.

That pogo ball commercial reminded me of just how popular the San Diego Chicken was for a while. It really was a weird time.
posted by downtohisturtles at 6:57 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Here's what happens when you fall and can't get up.

The first half an hour, you're annoyed. How long am I gonna have to sit here? Maybe you're a bit concerned because you think you broke your hip. Mabel in the unit next door broke her hip and never came out of that nursing home, she was dead 8 months later. How could I be trapped on the floor of this place, the home where I raised my kids and grand kids for 65 years? Things just haven't been the same since Carl died, now it's so lonely. Why would the kids want to move to the west coast anyway?

An hour later, panic sets in. I might really be down here awhile. When was the last time anyone visited me? And I don't think anyone could hear me from the door. Is this how I'm going to die?

6 hours later, you are insane with fear, and getting dehydrated which adds to the confusion and panic. You've peed yourself and you will soon soil yourself.

You are inarticulate 10 hours later when your muscles start to break down from the constant pressure of lying down, unable to move. The breakdown products of muscle decomposition are poisoning your kidneys and they won't recover. If you survive this you'll need dialysis for the rest of your life. You haven't had food or water and your electrolytes are diminished which further weakens you and all of your muscles are cramping and contracting painfully without control. Infection is setting in because your lungs aren't expanding and your bladder isn't flushing bacteria out.

16 hours later, your pulse is thready and rapid. You are no longer conscious. You are not making urine because of kidney failure and dehydration. You are septic and now even advanced life support may not save you. Soon you will start seizing from dangerously low sodium and you will vomit, and too weak for even primitive reflexes like gagging, you will drown in your own stomach contents. Depending on your apartment's ventilation system, someone will find your corpse some days to weeks later, fermented by your own intestinal bacteria.

Anyone who has completed a medical internship at a major county hospital residency program has taken care of this patient, explained things to their families, and withdrawn care, dozens of times and you don't forget it.

As one of these people, I can tell you, despite all of this first hand knowledge, I *still* find that commercial fucking hilarious.

death is a sick bastard and all you can do is laugh at it
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:53 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


Well now I know I'm going to start duct-taping a fully charged cellphone in a waterproof plastic bag to my arm at all times.
posted by winna at 8:03 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Worried neighbour peering through door? We got that B-roll!
posted by Crane Shot at 8:32 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Well, congratulations Slarty! I think you've just written the commercial that supersedes the old fallen and can't get up.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:59 PM on July 31


Well, if it's gonna be that kind of thread...

/eyes mashed potatoes suspiciously
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:01 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I'd like to hear 80's Don Draper on this
posted by thelonius at 9:31 AM on August 1


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