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Jimmy Kimmel’s “As Seen on TV Gift Guide” Is a Horrifying, Wonderful Tour of the Year’s Dumbest Inventions

The best thing about living under capitalism is watching the crazy ideas our fellow citizens come up with in their usually futile bids to escape the wolves at the door. You can build an entire industry on creating a problem then selling the solution, but you have to choose your problem carefully. That’s exactly what the inventors highlighted in Jimmy Kimmel’s “As Seen on TV Gift Guide 2017” didn’t do, and it’s amazing. (In keeping with the video’s theme of offering solutions for problems you don’t have, we’re running this gift guide on Dec. 30.)

There’s something heartening about these dumb ideas floating around in the television backwaters, both for the ingenuity with which the inventors approached non-problems, and the shamelessness of their hustle. Whether you’re not having a problem putting on your socks in the morning or not having a problem linking your smartphone to your salt shaker, it’s good to know that a huckster will eventually crop up to solve your non-problem in exchange for a modest fee. But the most reassuring thing about these absurd inventions: so far they haven’t really caught on. A “smart salt dispenser” is a terrible idea, yes, but it’s a much less terrible idea than Soylent, and Soylent raised $50 million just this year. Whether you think that’s a triumph of con-artistry or confirmation that this whole shambling system is ruled by dumb luck depends on your point of view (and how much Soylent you’ve choked down), but there’s one thing we can all agree on: the person who convinced Bell & Howell to slap their venerable name on an invention that is literally “a flashlight you can beat people with” deserves a goddamn medal.

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