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August 31, 2015

Is That Really Erin Gray of 'Silver Spoons' in a Pup-Peroni Commercial?

by Joel Keller, posted Sep 7th 2010 2:00PM
Erin Gray in a new ad for Pup-peroniIt might be stating the obvious, but actors are just like the rest of us. Just because an actor is famous for a role he or she played in the past doesn't mean that, when a job comes along in the present, they won't take it. Work is work, and for those in the acting community that are pragmatic, the paycheck is always welcome.

Still, it's disconcerting to see a familiar star of the past in a random ad in the present. This has been the case with a Pup-Peroni ad I've been seeing the last few weeks. In it, a woman takes a photo of her dog getting fluffed up at the groomers, and we see what the dog is really thinking: "This better not end up on Facebook."

The woman's face and voice were unmistakable to any fan of '80s TV: it was Erin Gray, who was the object of many a pre-teen crush when she starred in 'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century' and 'Silver Spoons.' The ad and more are after the jump.

Realize that this is not an ad featuring "TV's Erin Gray" endorsing a product. She's just appearing as a random dog owner who wants to take a picture of her adorable dog getting a very adorable haircut. The second half of the ad has a different woman playing a different owner taking a picture of her dog doing something adorable.

Why would she do it? Why not? While Gray has scaled back her acting career a bit -- she's done some voice over work, and has appeared in a few low-rent TV movies like 'Ghouls' in the last few years -- it seems like she's keeping busy. She not only makes appearances at fan conventions, but she teaches Tai Chi and runs an agency that books genre celebrities on speaking engagements. It might be a product she uses, and, as I said, Pup-peroni's checks cash just as easily as anyone else's.

As far as why the Pup-Peroni folks would cast a recognizable face in the role, well, this post might be one reason. No one but pet owners would be talking about the product otherwise. But it could also be that the casting directors, who may not be old enough to remember Erin's previous TV fame, got the audition of an attractive, mature woman, and just thought she fit well in the role.

Commercial casting directors tend not to cast recognizable faces in roles, mainly because audiences are supposed to be able to identify with people in the ads as if they're anonymous, regular folks. It's why you tend to see the same actor in a lot of ads at once then not for a while, or why an actor tends to stop doing ads after doing series TV, even if the series is unsuccessful.

Felicia Day of 'The Guild' said as much a couple years ago when people found her in a random Sears ad after her starring role in 'Dr. Horrible' and a memorable guest turn on 'House.' "In fact, being recognized is NOT good for commercials," she said back then. "They want anonymous faces instead of people they know, so cross fingers that ad people don't watch web video!"

It's one of the reasons why seeing familiar faces in ads can be so strange. Elisabeth Moss in an Excedrin ad? Sure, Excedrin resurrected it because of 'Mad Men,' but it was still odd. Richard Fancy in a random Comcast commercial? All I can think of when I see it is Elaine's pre-Peterman boss, Mr. Lippman, on 'Seinfeld.' And when I see Mark DeCarlo play a random business owner in a bank commercial, I don't think of him as a business owner; I just see the host of the oh-so-early-'90s game show 'Studs.'

Of course, all of this could just mean that I'm too damn old and remember way too much about the TV of the past, and considering most people don't watch ads anymore, it probably doesn't matter who is in them, anyway. But it's just interesting to see some good actors taking advantage of what seems to be the ad industry's institutional memory loss and making some money.

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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Unnnnh, that would be "star". The fact that this person appeared on television 30 years ago doesn't make her a star. Been around a long time and I never heard of her then or now.

September 08 2010 at 9:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Walter Kephart

This reminds me of an ad that has run featuring Paul Michael Glaser promoting a credit relief group. He wasn't identified as such, but anybody familiar with Starsky and Hutch or 70's TV in general would recognize him.

September 08 2010 at 7:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Didn't seem that way to me (the audience). I mean, they didn't put her name at the bottom or otherwise identify her. She just appears as someone singing and danceing about fake butter and little candies. [shrug]. In the "butter" commercial I'd seen it two or three times before I realized it was her.

September 07 2010 at 7:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") pushing butter and "M and Ms."

September 07 2010 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Europa's comment
Joel Keller

That's not really the same because they hired her to play Megan Mullally in a commercial, even if it's a version of Megan that sings and dances about fake butter. In this case, Gray was in a random role that could have gone to any actor. It wasn't a celebrity endorsement.

September 07 2010 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Wow, I've seen this ad a hundred times (in fact, I just saw it about 2 minutes ago) and never realized it was her.

September 07 2010 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bob Sassone's comment

There was something familiar about her, but I never realized who it was.

September 08 2010 at 10:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Kinsella

Joey Slotnick, who I last saw on the Single Guy in the 90's, is in one of those annoying Staples commercials. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2UJ1wNiB80&feature=player_embedded

September 07 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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