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Sep 24, 2009

And now, a word from our sponsors... (a different kind of FF-UN)

I like to think that I give a lot of love to character actors here. The thing is, this being a movie blog, I focus on actors and their roles in feature films. However, being the affable, well-rounded pop culture consumer that I am, I take in my share of TV as well, and don't think that I don't notice the importance of the character actors of the small screen. Most notably, veteran commercial actors.

Sure, these guys get regular gigs outside of commercials, from sitcoms to dramas to features, but for some of them, it seems as though their bread and butter is the commercial, with them able to dangle in the netherworld of stardom that allows them to remain unrecognizable enough to the untrained eye to keep the focus on the product, yet talented enough for geeks like me to appreciate them. Below are four guys that have been on my radar for one reason or another for years now, and most likely aren't going anywhere anytime soon. It's time the spotlight shines on them:

Pat Finn: This one's a bit slippery. The Second City alumnus has been around Hollywood for about 15 years, and in that time has worked on features (including a great tiny role as "Officer Rick" in Dude, Where's My Car?), sitcoms (including Murphy Brown and Seinfeld, where he played Sein nemesis Joe Mayo, who would't let Jerry be in charge of the music at his party after disliking Jerry's taste), and dramas (Ed, where he had a recurring role).

But anyone who's consumed the slightest bit of TV, or print, or radio, ought to recognize him as the face and voice of Toyota. He's done what seems like hundreds of ads for them, and is even known as Pat or "Action" Pat in the commercials, bringing the same likable, everyguy doofiness he brings to all his roles. He's also been involved with the Got Milk? folks for nearly a decade.

Nate Torrence: If there's one actor on this list that might not belong on this list anymore, it's Torrence. After all, how many of them can say that they've starred in their own (Direct-to-DVD) feature? That DVD disclaimer notwithstanding, Torrence's role as geeky Lloyd in Get Smart was so well-received, and his chemistry with co-star Masi Oka (Heroes) so strong that Warner gave the two their own spin-off.

Before that, of course, Nate was best known to us as the star of two commercial series; in the first, he was the perennially pounded upon new hire in a number of Capitol One ads, as the high-school-reunion-attending Moose (!!) in a popular Enterprise ad. He also starred in this funny VW commercial that aired a few years back. Best of luck in your new big-time Hollywood career, Nate; don't forget us lowly commercial fans of yours.

Kevin West: You want a snooty, elitist guy? How about a mousy, skinny, and/or slightly crazy/kooky guy? West has it all covered. Though his most memorable role for me was as an effete wine critic in the Sinbad classic Houseguest, his "Other works" page on IMDb (which lists mostly commercials; I never knew it existed - great work, IMDb!) shows why I know the man from the boob tube. He's been in a number of adverts over the last 2-plus decades, and for god's sake, the man voiced "Snap" for Rice Crispies for 6 years; that practically makes him a national hero.

Just for fun, here's the man in action from an old-school Little Caesar's spot:

Fred Koehler: Readers that grew up in the 80s are likely to recognize Koller from his days as a child actor. Got it yet? No?

Ok, I guess no one else watched Kate & Allie. Truth be told, I didn't even really watch K & A, but I suppose I saw it enough times in reruns and such that I was familiar with Koehler, who played Jane Curtin's son Chip. He was about my age, he was a smart-ass - what's not to like?

I'm not sure at what point he became a staple of the commercial world; his IMDb page indicates that he was essentially absent. But if his work since is any indication - I think he's gotten work on every TV drama to have aired since 1999 - he's been hammering out commercials such as the one below ever since. Two bonus Koehler notes: first, big-ups if you remember him from HBO's Oz; he memorably played J.K. Simmons son on the prison drama for four episodes. Second, is it just me, or is he starting to resemble John Cusack as he ages?

6 people have chosen wisely: on "And now, a word from our sponsors... (a different kind of FF-UN)"

Nayana Anthony said...

I don't watch TV so much anymore, so I admit I don't recognize most of these guys. But kudos to you for including a 1988 Little Caesar's commercial. Why do I love commercials from my childhood so much? I get this odd emotional twinge when I see them. Weird. I love the Bartles & Jaymes guys, too.

booksandacupofcoffee said...

Bonjour! Fletch,
My only response to this post after reading it is...LOL!!!!
I must admit that I use my television as a "portal"
in order to view dvds, listen to cds, etc, etc, etc,...
Merci de partager!
DeeDee ;-D

THN said...

Patt Finn is now the Golden Corral guy.

And what about the dude who is in those commercials and now he is in that one series. You know the guy. He's the Shell guy. He's in those commercials where the guy is watching TV in the bathroom.

Now I believe he's in that Psych rip-off show.

Whoa, Boras is my password? Nothing to say here.

Nick said...

I only recognized the second two guys (and moreso the third than the fourth).

Fletch said...

Nayana - Pizza Pizza.

DeeDee - no TV for you, either?

Adam - I'm a-feared I don't know who you're talking about, but I can claim with some certainty that I'll recognize him with more clues. :D

Boras...haha. "Next word verification."

Nick - have you NOT seen Dude, Where's My Car? Pat Finn's the cop they talk to when trying to find the car that tells them where it's at. He's wearing big bottle glasses.

Steve said...

Love that awkward feeling when I know should know this person, but can't quite place them. Pat Finn continues to elude me as I write this. Mr Koehler was in a Castle episode last season if I'm not mitaken. We have a separate collection of these guys in Canada too, with a standout right now being Beau Starr who's been in commercial land ever since Due South was cancelled - although after reading your post, I'm not even sure if that's sad or not.