Screen Queens For The Rain King

[from The A.V. Club Chicago / August 28, 2010]

In addition to his exhaustive reflections on rain, booze, and the general malaise plaguing human existence, Counting Crows front man Adam Duritz also found inspiration for a fine slice of his band’s middle albums by turning his eye to the silver screen. But while anyone can write a song about a famous person, Duritz has also repeatedly dispensed uncannily perfect career advice for the starlets that moved him. As Counting Crows roll into town for a pair of shows at Ravinia, The A.V. Club dug into Duritz’s odes for clues they may have offered about their subjects’ futures, and found that he was more right than anyone ever knew.

Courteney Cox, “Monkey” (from Recovering The Satellites, 1996)
Duritz said: “Just get the world off your shoulders”
Monica Geller on Friends. Lauren Miller on Family Ties. Bruce Springsteen’s dance partner in the “Dancing In The Dark” video. By the time Counting Crows’ second album arrived, Cox had already made her presence known to countless millions and was approaching megastar status as female co-lead of the hottest sitcom of the mid-’90s. Yet Duritz, sensing the onset of work-related stress problems (or possibly an impending cultural backlash), advised Cox to relax, to not worry about being at the forefront all the time. Friends ran for another eight years, but Cox’s appearances became more subtle once the series ended, popping up in a bizarre anti-Reagan satire here (2006’s The Tripper) or as an animated cow there (Daisy the Cow in 2006’s Barnyard). Still, Duritz’s advice didn’t stick, and Cox’s return to her show-carrying ways brought mixed results, first with two seasons of Dirt (which she may have been better off skipping) and later Cougar Town (with which she has fared better even as it creeps further and further toward Friends Redux).

Monica Potter, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” (from This Desert Life, 1999)
Duritz suggested: “Why don’t you climb down off that movie screen?”
At the time of the Crows’ third release, Potter’s film roles usually meant playing second fiddle (and better half) to a more famous male counterpart, be it the steady, loving wife of Nicolas Cage in Con Air or the unstable, insecure ex-wife of Vince Vaughn in A Cool, Dry Place. But somewhere in Potter’s on-screen work, Duritz saw the makings of a star—albeit one meant for a different medium. Post-“Lullaby,” Potter’s filmography grew littered with second-rate productions (Remember Head Over Heels? No, of course not.), but her ballad-approved jump to television provided a slightly more respectable oeuvre, first as civil attorney Lori Colson in 21 episodes of Boston Legal, and currently as Kristina Braverman on Parenthood.

Mary-Louise Parker (“Butterfly In Reverse” from Hard Candy, 2002)
Duritz suggested: “You’re better than the world”
Parker spent the early part of her career in relative anonymity, always holding her own in star-studded lineups but never recognized as a star in her own right. Duritz, however, knew greatness when he saw it, and after “Butterfly” (Parker for some reason referenced therein as “Mary-Ann,” strangely reinforcing her supposedly undeserved anonymity) Parker’s accolades began to pile up—an Emmy for her role as Valium-addicted Mormon Harper Pitt in 2003’s Angels In America, and a Golden Globe in 2006 for her portrayal of marijuana-dealing suburban mom Nancy Botwin on Weeds. Could Duritz have known pot and pills were the way to awards ceremony dominance? Probably not, but keep an eye out for this Elizabeth character just the same.