Commercials: Master of the Mini-Ha-Ha

The new TV season is two months old and one thing is clear: the situation comedies are getting better than ever. Not those dreary half-hour retreads, but those one-minute mini-ha-ha's called commercials.

Some of the best of them are the work of Manhattan Director Howard Zieff, 40, a short, hyperactive man with a zany sense of humor and an apparently limitless imagination. He is the leading practitioner of what the trade calls the indirect sell: the product is visible and so is the pitch, but the commercial zings across chiefly because it is...

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