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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The People Behind The TV Commercials

I think part of the fun of watching a television series that has run for several seasons is the idea of getting to know the people who make up the show.  We watch them grow up, face challenges, and do crazy things that get everybody talking.

And sometimes we see the characters they play do the same things!

Seriously, though, we do give a lot of thought to the people who entertain us in sitcoms, dramas, sci-fi adventures, and even reality programming.  But what about the two minute breaks in between segments of said shows where advertisers force feed you commercials for various products?  Can they make as much of an impact?

Well, yes.  They can.

Since the days of Mr. Whipple of the Charmin commercials to the Wendy's "Where's The Beef" commercials, television pitchmen (and pitchwomen) have been a part of life since the early days of television.  And over the years, we've been introduced to several mascots - all with their own stories to tell.

But behind the characters that they play lie some very real lives.  And some of the tales that these actors play are almost as interesting as the characters they play in random 30 second increments that air in between "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful".

Of course, we all know the fates of some of these people.  We know that Jodie Sweetin got her start on an Oscar Meyer commercial back in the 1980s.  We know that Mikey from the Life commercials didn't die from a lethal combo of pop rocks and Diet Coke.  And, well...we all know what happened with a certain pitchman of the five dollar footlong.

But some of these other people?  You may be surprised.

Let's get started.


Have you noticed that the Geico gecko sounds a little bit different lately?  That's because beginning in late 2015, the company hired a new actor to replace the old one.  And just who was the old actor?  Well, here's a picture of him.

The man pictured is Jake Wood, a 43-year-old actor who isn't well known here in North America, but has quite a following in the UK - likely helped by the fact that he has starred in the British drama series EastEnders since 2006.  Wood plays the character of Max Branning, and let's just say that he's kind of considered a...oh...what's the words I'm trying to think of...oh, yeah, manwhore.  That's it.  Of course, this isn't why he was let go.  I'm not exactly sure what the story is behind it.  But considering that he played the role of the Gecko for nearly ten years, I'm thinking it's got to have some reason.  Obviously it's not as bad as the Subway guy though, because he's still employed as an actor!


Since the mid-2000s, this lady has been telling you - no, encouraging you - now, just plain beating it into your skull that Progressive is best.  And, you know, I have to say that I can see why she has lasted as long as she has as Progressive's main spokesperson.  She does have a charm to her that makes you take notice, and she isn't afraid to make fun of herself.

Of course, it probably helps that the woman behind Flo - Stephanie Courtney - is a member of the comedy troupe known as The Groundlings.  The 45-year-old actress has appeared in several commercials, and has popped up on bit parts on television series over the years, including one episode of "Without A Trace" where she played the before of a woman who went on a reality show similar to "The Swan" to change her whole appearance. 

I do have to wonder if she likes having her hair styled like that...


Okay, so let's clear one thing up right off the bat.  The Popeye's Chicken lady is not dead.  Apparently someone started a meme that stated that the woman who played Annie in all of those Louisiana flavoured commercials for the fried chicken and seafood restaurant had sampled her last chicken wing, and was now resting in pieces...ahem...I mean, peace.

Fortunately, actress Deidrie Henry is alive and well, and in addition to hawking her chicken and biscuits has appeared in several television shows and has done theatre, and has won the Ovation Award (celebrating excellence in theatre) in 2006. 

It kind of makes me wonder how she went from theatre actress to chicken saleswoman though.  I guess selling $5 box meals pays more.


Ah, yes...sweet Lily.  She's the one who can answer all of your iPhone, Samsung, and HTC questions for you - provided that you sign up with AT&T mobility, that is.  But still, she's so sweet with her helpful nature and all-American look.

But here's the thing about Lily.  She's not American.  Her name's not even Lily.

No, 28-year-old Milana Vayntrub was born in what was then called the U.S.S.R. (which for those of you who may not remember was a group of countries that were linked via communism that folded in 1991 marking the end of the Cold War).  Her family immigrated to the United States when she was three, and one of her first roles was for a Barbie commercial that aired in 1992, when she was just five.

But she's done more than just commercials.  She is also a social activist, and founded an organization and social media campaign known as #CantDoNothing in response to the Syrian refugee crisis.  Very inspiring.


They've been doing commercials for the fast food chain since 2004, and what astounds me about these two is the fact that even though they've filmed hundreds of spots for Sonic that their waists have remained the same size.  Is it magic?

Well, the real magic seems to be that T.J. Jagodowski and Peter Grosz have been with the company for twelve years, and have likely "consumed" so many calories that it would have killed Wilford Brimley of "diabeetus" long before he started being the poster adult for Quaker Oats.

Like Stephanie Courtney from the Progressive ads, both Jagodowski and Grosz started off their careers as comedians, and while both have made several appearances on various shows and comedy circuits, I fear that they'll be filming these commercials well into their seventies.  Or until their blood pressure kills them.  Whichever comes first.

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