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Reproduction of the ransom message originally sent to Progressive Insurace. Even facing death, Flo was chipper. (woodleywonderworks)

Flat Characters kidnap Progressive’s Flo

Criminal characters motivated by desire for more scripts

After a six-week search for kidnapped Progressive commercial actress Stephanie Courtney, police recovered her body from a giant Progressive Box used on the commercial’s set. Her kidnappers wanted to exchange the actress for better roles in the commercial series. Her death brings the series to a close, with no roles for anyone.

Police took commercial characters Bob and Tom into custody this morning. The two characters, featured in a recent commercial, hoped to replace Flo and take her place as the series lead. Their criminal enterprise caused both of Progressive’s series to be put on hiatus and led to the incarceration of Chris Parnell, who voices Progressive’s less popular cartoon character.

Courtney was most likely killed when the studio made it clear they would pay the six million, but never negotiate over character roles. T.K. Alurcash, Progressive’s media head confessed, “Money’s one thing. Try to sell a dud character and your product sales go to hell.”

The studio made it clear they would pay the six million, but never negotiate over character roles. “Money’s one thing. Try to sell a dud character and your product sales go to hell.”

Details remain sketchy, but police believe the two characters hatched the plot when the actors who portrayed them were informed they wouldn’t be picked up for a second commercial. “Commercial acting’s a tough world,” director LT Elfesh told reporters. “If their storyline doesn’t boost sales we run it until we shoot the next and they’re gone.”

Bob and Tom planned to hold Courtney for six million and lead roles in the commercial. The actors who played them, shooting a TV pilot and a another commercial, had no idea what their characters were doing. “It turns out the actor who played Bob signed for six episodes in a Canadian series,” Detective Hunt N Hownds confided. “Bob couldn’t have appeared in another commercial anyway.”

Email image purportedly send by actor Chris Parnell. (David Shankbone)

To throw police off the scent, the characters emailed Courtney computer generated emails from competing actor Parnell. “We really thought we had the guy,” Hownds admitted. “Courtney’d already filed a complaint for the harassing emails, and we figured he was the next in line to take the commercial lead if she was gone.”

Police became even more suspicious when they learned Parnell’s animated character was far less popular than the Geico lizard. Alurcash explained, “We thought he might draw an audience, and buyers away from the little green pain-in-our-asses. What were we thinking? A cardboard box? Someone doubled up on his three martini lunch before he signed that contract.”

“We thought Parnell’s character might draw an audience, and buyers away from the little green pain-in-our-asses. What were we thinking? A cardboard box? Someone doubled up on his three martini lunch before he signed that contract.”

Parnell spent three weeks in jail on suspicion of Courtney’s kidnapping before police finally released him on bail. They brought him back when Courtney’s body was found in a Progressive stage box, but several witnesses placed Parnell at the NBC studio begging to rejoin the cast of Saturday Night Live at the time of Courtney’s death.

“The studio also confirmed that Parnell had his own trailer for filming,” Hownds added. “Since his own trailer was one of the kidnappers’ demands that forced us to look at the minor characters.” If convicted, Bob and Ted face a sentence that includes cancellation of the commercial and burning every script and note with their names.

Courtney’s funeral will be held in Los Angeles this weekend. Flo will be mourned in the next commercial which is already being filmed. “Picture it now,” Elfesh said, “Flo is killed off camera in a car accident, and her replacement gives her fictional husband a million dollar insurance check from Progressive. Are those tears of mourning or tears of joy? Our customers will love it.”

“Flo will be killed off camera in a car accident, and her replacement gives her fictional husband a million dollar insurance check from Progressive. Are those tears of mourning or tears of joy? Our customers will love it.”

“We’ll miss Flo,” admitted Alurcash. “Fortunately, we’ve had six weeks since her disappearance to line up a replacement. He’s more popular than Flo, a hell of a lot more popular than that dumb cartoon box, and we were lucky to get him.” Alurcash wouldn’t comment whether the new cast member is the Geico lizard, who is reported to be unhappy with his current contract.

Wry noir author Phillip T. Stephens wrote Cigerets, Guns & Beer, Raising Hell, and the Indie Book Award winning Seeing Jesus. Follow him @stephens_pt.

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