Diff’rent Strokes/Facts of Life live: Watch ’80s commercials

Last night ABC aired live reboots of the hit 1980s sitcoms Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, with stars like Kevin Hart, John Lithgow, Jennifer Aniston, Gabrielle Union, Allison Tolman, and Kathryn Hahn taking up the roles of classic characters.

To tie it all together, the network teamed with Ryan Reynolds’s creative agency Maximum Effort to create real ads that would match the retro vibes. Brands like Jack in the Box, Kool-Aid, Oscar Meyer, Kraft, and Aviation Gin all got a throwback treatment to match the overall mood.

Jimmy Kimmel’s first Live in front of a Studio Audience concept shows—All in the Family and The Jeffersons—aired back in December 2019. This time, the advertising added to the whole concept in a way that fit conceptually, but also elevated the entire project thanks to how hilariously absurd they were. The washed-out colors, the crackling audio, synthy soundtracks, and the overt sales pitches all enhanced the ’80s feel, yet Reynolds and Co. also added a surrealism that wouldn’t have been there decades ago. Bob Vila playing therapist to the Kool-Aid Man? Oh yeeeah. And Alfonso Ribeiro (Silver Spoons, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) mixing messages from Calvin Klein for Oscar Meyer and a Drug-Free America PSA for Kraft Singles was a masterstroke.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Reynolds’s ad party without a word from Aviation Gin, which got in on the fun with a boozily political take inspired by Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” ad from the 1984 election.

Jack in the Box went high concept with “Shoulder Patties,” adding burgers to an ’80s fashion staple. It stars Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) as a modern working woman, looking to save time on lunch, but shhhh, she’s got a secret.

In an email, Reynolds tells Fast Company that the partnership with Jack in the Box came together incredibly quickly. “We love to do fastvertising at Maximum Effort, but even we were impressed by Jack In the Box’s speed and faith,” says Reynolds. “They agreed to participate in this event within 30 minutes of our first text, we wrote the creative in 24 hours, and we had approval three hours after that. This all took place eight days before our shoot day. And Jennifer Beals knocked it out of the park.”

The only thing missing was the ultimate ’80s-ad question: Where’s the beef?

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