In time, you'll forget the face of your elementary-school sweetheart, you'll forget the color of your first car--but you'll never forget those dancing California Raisins, or Max Headroom pitching Coke, or Life cereal's Mikey who eats anything. Like the Energizer Bunny, the great TV commercials just keep going and going through our heads.

In honor of their contribution to American culture--and their role in filling up what would otherwise be the empty parts of our noggins--Entertainment Weekly selected the 50 top spots of our time, based on their aesthetic (and insidious) qualities, not just their ability to move product.

The Bunny rated the number one position on the list, for his (her?) straight-ahead commercials for the battery but also the many parodies of other commercials he's interrupted. The Energizer campaign epitomizes the "pure, simple messages" that characterize all the classic ads, says Gary Steele, of the Bates USA agency. Another model of simplicity that made the list: "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs (sizzle)" from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America."

Like many acts of genius, these ads were often the result of serendipity. Take the singing cat from the Meow Mix commercials of 1972 (and we quote: "Meow, meow, meow, meow/Meow, meow, meow, meow/Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow"). They started out to shoot a conventional commercial but the cat choked so they just looped the footage they had and added the song.

Some of the classics selected for the list actually flopped as sales tools. The 1969 Alka Seltzer spot showing an actor who repeatedly blew his line--"That's a spicy meatball"--until he got indigestion, stuck in people's heads but everyone thought it was for spaghetti sauce.

Where are they now? David Leisure (the slippery Joe Isuzu) went on to an acting career, including seven years on Empty Nest. And little omnivorous Mikey, after shooting 250 commercials for Life, is now an ad executive in New York, who uses his real name, David Gilchrist.

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