I had trouble falling asleep last night and resorted to flipping through the CCTV channels until 1 A.M. What I saw both amused and alarmed me. Not the shows, but the infomercials. To my recollection, infomercials hadn’t made it to China yet as of 2000, but last night I saw oodles.

Most alarming: they’re not only cheesy, but undoubtedly reek of “false advertising.”

Two stood out the most: one for bustier bustlines, another for a baldness cure.

The one for breast enlargement showed numerous “before” pictures of Chinese women wearing very loose-fitting, unflattering blouses with their shoulders all slumped over, wearing no make-up, frowning like off-off-Broadway has-beens. The “after” interviews showed them all dolled up with low-cut shirts and–hello?!–obviously wearing push-up bras.

The price per box of the miracle formula: about $6 U.S. dollars.

The baldness cure commercial was hilarious. A variety of foreign men, all overdubbed in Chinese, were talking about how their lives had improved–of course surrounded by supposedly attractive foreign women (at least the best among foreign teachers that they could find, I figure). But the before and after pictures were criminal. In some of the “before” pictures, you could see that a “bald spot” had been shaved onto the fellow’s head. Their “after” pictures were undoubtedly taken before they went under the razor. For others, the “before” picture showed them with obvious natural hair loss, but in the “after” pictures, they were wearing the worst rugs I’ve seen in awhile, making Sam Donaldson look like the old (er, young) Fabio. Even funnier were the “names” they showed on the screen of these men. The worst: One man, identified as “a lawyer,” was given the name “Ashley Judd.”

Oh, but the “cure” itself: it’s a corny space-age looking helmet–think “Red Dwarf,” not “Star Wars”–that supposedly helps stimulate hair growth hormones, so that dormant follicles spring back to life, giving you both a full head of luxuriant hair and an entourage of female English teachers who have been given Chinese make-up makeovers.

The price: about $150 U.S. dollars.

In related news, by chance I noticed a link to a story about crackdowns on false advertising in China today at Shanghaiist.com.