April 27th, 2009

Red Wings1

One of Sport’s Grand Circuses

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been enjoying the heck out of the NHL playoffs. It helps, of course, that A) The Detroit Red Wings swept their opening round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets; B) The Chicago Blackhawks are in the playoffs for the first time in many years and are leading the Calgary Flames 3 games to 2 heading into tonight’s game; C) There are all sorts of compelling matchups and storylines in the other series.

Among the highlights of the first round, I have to include A) The hard-fought intrastate series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers, in which the Penguins prevailed; B) The Carolina Hurricanes, who have surprisingly pushed the favored New Jersey Devils to a winner-take-all game 7, slated for Tuesday night; C) The even more surprising Anaheim Ducks, who lead the heavily favored San Jose Sharks 3 games to 2, with game 6 in Anaheim tonight (Monday); and, last but not least, D) the spellbinding series between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers. Game 7 will take place Tuesday night in Washington, and it would be a real shock if the Rangers could somehow pull this one out.

Since 16 teams make it to the playoffs, it will take 4 rounds to determine the Stanley Cup winner, so we still have another month or so of hockey in front of us. It is at this time of year that I’m especially happy to have a cable system that carries the Versus Network, which has been carrying one or more games almost every night during the playoffs. If you’re in Chicago and have Comcast, they’re at channel 48 on my system. If you don’t have Versus on your system, you still have a few options. For one, NBC carries playoff games on weekends. For another, you can listen to the live broadcast of any game being played through NHL.com free of charge. You can even choose which team’s announcers you want to listen to. This has come in handy on those nights when I’ve wanted to follow a Red Wings playoff game but found it to be blacked out on local TV due to coverage of a Blackhawks game.

So if you find yourself wondering what I’m up to or how I’m feeling on a given evening in the next several weeks, you can start by checking the hockey scoreboard!
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masks

Do You Know This Woman? I Certainly Don’t!

Her name is Stephanie Courtney. I learned that only yesterday, after a couple minutes of digging around on the internet. So who is she? Well, she’s an actress from New York, now living in Los Angeles and married to a lighting director named Scott. I don’t know either of them, nor am I aware that we have any friends in common.

So why am I displaying her photo? Did it come with a recently purchased picture frame? Am I moonlighting as a discount P.I.? No and no. Here’s the scoop – she plays the service clerk (named Flo, FYI) in a series of Progressive Insurance TV ads – you’ve seen them; I know you have. So the next question is: Why am I devoting this post to her?

Well, I have been an admirer of her work in those ads for some time. I always find myself thinking that she has a real flair for comedy and seems to have acting ability a cut above the norm. One could counter that she is playing an exceptionally distinctive character, what with her generously applied eye makeup, brightly colored lipstick, and flamboyantly styled hair standing in sharp contrast to her mostly white surroundings. But I think a strong sign of her expertise is that she does not “let the costume wear her,” as the saying goes; she uses it as a springboard to establish a vivid characterization.

Having spent some years holding a S.A.G. card and pursuing commercial/film work, and having many friends who still pursue it, I always root for commercial actors. Still, it isn’t something I talk about much. I entirely understand why most people couldn’t care less about the actor pitching Jiffy Lube to them, or the actors pretending to be a couple describing what a difference Cialis has made in their lives (hmm… could you combine those two products into one commercial? Nah… better not go there).

Recently, CC and I were watching TV when a Progressive commercial came on. As it ran, CC commented on how exceptionally good she thought the actress was, and how she thought the actress might be bound for more high-profile work. Well, it was nice to feel some validation, since I’d been thinking the same thing! I thereafter resolved that I must find out who this was and help spread the news to the wider world. As you can see if you look here, at her IMDB.com bio, she’s been pretty busy in recent years, though she hasn’t yet gotten the breakthrough role that would enable all of us to recognize the name Stephanie Courtney. But if she does end up hitting it big, it will be fun to go back and spot her early work as an unknown, such as her 1 episode of ER, her 1 episode of Angel, or her 5 episodes of Mad Men. It reminds me of a few years ago when I was watching an old episode of The Andy Griffith Show and suddenly realized I was looking at a young Jack Nicholson!

So good luck to you, Ms. Courtney. Someday, perhaps I’ll be able to say I knew you when. OK, that would be a lie; as I said in the title of this post, I don’t know you at all. But I appreciate your talent and I hope it takes you far!
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