The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items could vary, as could the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday, and we are here to have some fun.
ITEM NUMBER ONE — Listen to me
While my first impulse in all of this is to cut the Oscars some slack because they were trying some new stuff during a weird time for all of us and because they opened with about 90 seconds of Regina King strutting into the ceremony like we were watching the opening of Ocean’s 14, the fact of the matter is that it was not great. One of the problems was that there was nowhere to go but down after that perfect opening. That’s a good problem to have, though. And bless them for taking it out of a ballroom and making it feel like a cool lounge where seemingly mismatched celebrities hang out in booths because that’s how you get things like Daniel Kaluuya sitting across from Glenn Close and encouraging her to do Da Butt in a ball gown on national television. But it still ended up dragging and being kind of boring, just like it does every year. Which is a shame, because there’s no reason this can’t be fun.
Luckily, I have some ideas. Some of them are, I think, good, like “go back to having a host if only to have someone keeping things on track” and “keep the show to two hours flat by cutting out at least half of the bits and segments.” But that’s no fun. And I do not actually care about any of this, if I’m being honest, nor am I paid well enough — or, like, at all — by the producers of the show to start caring. So, let’s not do that. Let’s do something else instead. Let’s come up with some very bad and impractical ideas that would add anarchy and whimsy to the proceedings in a way that is as silly as it is unreasonable. Let’s be, to put as fine a point on this as we can, a bunch of unhelpful goofballs.
Here are three terrible ideas to fix the Oscars.
— Everyone comes to the Oscars and stays in their cars. I’m talking about an entire drive-in movie situation. Just a huge empty lot filled with celebrities wearing formal attire inside cars they own or have rented for the evening. When someone wins, they put their car in drive and swing around through a drive-thru window to pick up their trophy. In my dream scenario, the window is staffed by teens who do not want to be there, if only for interactions at the speaker where Oscar winners have to loudly repeat their name into the speaking two or three times before they pull around to the window. (“MARTIN… SCORSESE. BEST… DIRECTOR.”)
The other twist here: There’s a traffic light at the end of the drive-thru where the winners have to wait before making a left turn to get back to their parking spots, and they have to give the speech inside the car while waiting for the light to change. The speech ends the instant it does. (“And I couldn’t have done this without m-… oh crap, it’s green, gotta run.”) If they pull away from the window and catch the green right away, no speech, or they can shout whatever they can out the window as they screech through the intersection. I want Helen Mirren to win and lay down rubber as she peels out, holding the trophy out the window with her left hand. This would be excellent television.
— We keep everything exactly the same with one small twist: After someone wins and takes the trophy back to their seat, they have to defend it from the other nominees, who have the right, if they so choose, to try and take the trophy through subterfuge or misdirection for the duration of the ceremony. Whoever possesses it at the end gets to take it home. It would be so great. There could be a roving correspondent in the crowd updating the audience at home on the situation. “Breaking news: During the commercial break, Daniel Day-Lewis dressed up as a cocktail server — fully in character, really quite impressive — and swiped the Best Actor trophy from Timothee Chalamet, who has now donned a fake mustache and was last seen in the rafters strapping himself into some sort of spelunking gear.” And so on.
Are there problems with this idea? Sure. Would it kind of defeat the purpose of voting and even giving a great performance in the first place if, say, Emma Stone can swap out your real trophy with a gold-plated one filled with chocolate while you run to the bathroom? Perhaps. But, most importantly, would I enjoy it? Folks, I really, truly would.
— Everyone has to take a zip line to the stage to collect their trophy when they win. Nothing else changes. We just add a zip line. It would make the Lifetime Achievement award a riveting moment every year. I bet Jane Fonda would love it, though.
I will stop here only because too much idiocy in any one place is dangerous, but please know I could go on. My original draft of this section had a note I do not remember writing that just said “Blimps?” If I ever figure out where I was headed with that one, I will be in touch. It could be a while, though. I just pictured a scenario in the drive-thru idea where Harrison Ford and Angela Bassett get into a fender-bender coming into the ceremony and continue arguing loudly through the monologue, just barely audible in the background. I’m going to be cranking away on that one in my brain for a couple days, at least.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — Betty is so freaking good, please watch Betty
This is the trailer for the second season of Betty. I bring it to your attention for many reasons but, mostly, I bring it to your attention because the first season of Betty was awesome. It was so good. I did not expect it to be my jam in such a substantial way either. It is a show about teenage girls who live in New York and skateboard, whereas I am a man in his 30s who lives in Pennsylvania and does not skateboard. I had almost zero frame of reference going in. That’s the thing about good television, though. It tells stories about humans and the way they share human experiences even if they have very little in common on the surface. And, if we’re being fair, I suspect most people who watched The Sopranos were not or had not previously been members of the New Jersey mob. I know I was not. As far as any of you know.
Betty also featured one of my favorite characters in recent memory: Kirt, a queer teen skater who loved to scuffle and smoke pot and who at one point adopted a rat as a pet. Kirt rules.
So, yes, please dive in and watch the first season of Betty if you have not. It’s funny and moving and cool and it can maybe expand your horizons a bit, too, assuming you are not a female skateboard teen who lives in New York. It’s also only six episodes, three hours total. You could watch the whole season in the time it takes you to watch one Marvel movie on cable this weekend. You should do that. Betty is so good.
And while I’m on the subject of television trailers and things that are good, please watch this trailer for the upcoming television series Physical starring Rose Byrne.
And please read this description of the show.
Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne) is a quietly tormented housewife in ’80s San Diego, who behind closed door battles extreme personal demons and a vicious inner voice. But things change when she discovers aerobics, sparking a journey toward empowerment and success.
And please remember how good Rose Byrne was in Spy, a very good movie. Watch that again, too. Watch Betty and Spy. This was a really good chat we just had.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — Did you know that Elisabeth Shue was almost decapitated by a helicopter in 1988?
I could sit here and explain to you exactly how and why The Sun came to write a story about a 35-year-old anecdote from the set of the movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue, but, like, why? Why would I do that? You can click the link and read all the backstory if you want on your own time. The Rundown is not a place you should be going to for context. The Rundown is a place you go for stories about Tom Cruise tackling Elisabeth Shue to prevent her from getting decapitated by a helicopter. That is, in a nutshell, exactly what we are doing here on a Friday.
We go now to the Cocktail set, where Cruise and Shue have just exited the aforementioned helicopter.
The actress was unaware of the protocol when getting out of a helicopter, as the rotor blades still furiously turn even after the pilot has turned off the engine.
And so she starts running in the general direction of the rear of the chopper, toward the blades in the back, which are spinning so fast as to render them invisible.
But Tom – who even in 1987 was a fully trained chopper and jet pilot – averted the danger by rugby tackling her to the floor, avoiding certain instant death for Elisabeth.
Things I like about this sentence:
- The fact that The Sun felt the need to note that Tom was a fully trained helicopter and airplane pilot
- The fact that The Sun used “rugby tackled” because American football means nothing to them, which is good because “rugby tackled” makes this all objectively funnier
- The fact that The Sun used “certain instant death” at the end because that sounds like the title of a crappy Jean Claude Van Damme movie from the same year this story takes place, one I would have watched 25 times on like Spike TV in the early- to mid-2000s.
The post was seen by writer Mike Timm, who sent it onto Mission Impossible director Christopher McQuarrie – who is currently filming the seventh installment with Tom.
Mike told Bill: “I sent this post to Christopher McQuarrie, who’s working with Tom on MI. He loved the story and, of course, Tom confirmed it.”
Take a second and picture this conversation. Just a second. Because I just pictured Christopher McQuarrie, director of the Mission: Impossible movies, asking Tom Cruise if he once saved Elisabeth Shue from getting decapitated by a helicopter, and then I pictured Tom Cruise saying “Yes” very earnestly and without a drop of irony, and buddy, that made me laugh.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — I have changed my mind and think reality shows are good now
We move from the set of the 1988 movie Cocktail to present-day China, where, courtesy of writer Sarah Jeong, chaos is afoot. Things started out simple enough. A man from Russia signed up for a talent contest where the winners form a new boy band. But then, oh my. Then things got really quite funny.
Mr Vladislav Ivanov, a 27-year-old from Vladivostok, was kicked out of Produce Camp 2021 last Saturday (April 24). Viewers had ignored his pleas to leave and backed him all the way to the final.
Mr Ivanov, who speaks fluent Mandarin, originally joined the show as a Chinese teacher.
But he said he was invited to sign on as a contestant after the directors noticed his good looks.
It’s hard to choose a favorite part of this blockquote. On one hand, I do enjoy the thing where this guy is apparently so good-looking that producers begged him to appear on the show, which is a relatable thing that has happened to all of us. On the other hand, I need to know more about this “pleas to leave” situation.
He appeared to regret his decision almost immediately, but could not leave without breaching his contract.
His lack of enthusiasm played out in half-hearted singing, rapping and dancing alongside the other, more eager contestants.
Well, guess what: I love it. Not necessarily the part about him being contractually bound to a situation he hated. That I love somewhat less. But the other part? The part about him half-heartedly sleepwalking through performances in the hopes of getting sent home in a way that wouldn’t result in him getting dragged into court for violating said contract? That part is the good stuff.
Performing under the stage name Lelush, he urged the public to vote him out, saying he did not want to be among the 11 winners of the show, who are contractually obliged to form a boy band.
“Don’t love me, you’ll get no results,” he said on one episode.
But viewers took to his dour persona and kept him in the running for nearly three months.
“Don’t love me, you’ll get no results.” It’s beautiful. And of course it backfired. Every boy band needs a bad boy, one who flouts the rules and sneers and wears a leather jacket. This is Boy Band 101. And it doesn’t get more bad boy than “don’t love me, you’ll get no results.” He would have had better luck if he went the other way and pretended to want it more than anything else in the world. No one likes a try-hard.
“Don’t let him quit,” one viewer commented on a video of a dejected-looking Mr Ivanov performing a Russian rap.
“Sisters, vote for him! Let him 996!” another fan commented, using the Chinese slang for the gruelling work schedule that afflicts many young employees, especially in digital start-ups.
The unlikely star made it to the final episode of the show on Saturday, where he failed to earn enough votes to join the boy band.
“Sisters, vote for him.” “Don’t let him quit.” It’s perfect. And it had a happy ending because managed to escape before getting roped into touring the world with a band he never wanted to be in. I hope he cuts a solo album now and becomes the biggest star in China. I hope he starts a worldwide trend of pop stars pretending to not care at all, just lazily frowning through choreography and mumbling lyrics to songs they act like they hate and posing for photoshoots where they roll their eyes and maybe don’t even face the camera. This would be fun for me.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — My favorite paragraph of the week
Craig Jenkins of Vulture interviewed Ghostface Killah this week. Maybe “interviewed” is the wrong word. What he did was more set Ghostface Killah up to tell a bunch of stories, which is probably even better, because it led to Ghostface saying all of this about his appearance as a DJ on the film When In Rome starring Josh Duhamel and Kristen Bell.
I was scared to death when I did [2010’s] When in Rome. A lot of people was in there [Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel], and I’d never really been around a lot of people trying to get into a part [the role of a DJ]. I had to do it over and over and over and over and over and over because I kept messing up lines. It was a line where they had me say [“Our host and curator Beth Martin is getting engaged?”], and I kept fucking up. At that time, I wasn’t used to saying “curator” and stuff like that. Never really heard of it back then. People was waiting for me because I had to stop the music, and they just looking at me, and then I say my line, but I kept messing it up in front of a hundred people. It was like that commercial where somebody’s like, “Yo! Time for a Snickers.” It was one of those.
I wish I could open this story up and live inside it for a long weekend. I’ll bring the GIF at the top of the section — from the music video for “Gravel Pit,” which takes place inside a Flinstones-style rock quarry and, at one point, features a dinosaur eating an evil ninja, because the Wu-Tang Clan has never once disappointed anyone — with me and hang it on the wall. No calls or emails. I’m on vacation.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org (put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line). I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.
This week’s episode of 9-1-1 featured a kid’s party in which a mom is impaled onto a Pin the Tail on the Donkey board by springs from a trampoline (BTW, bravo for that, 9-1-1.) The show has already given us a bounce house floating off a cliff at yet another children’s party.
So, the question is: What party game/piece of party equipment will the show weaponize next? Lawn darts seem too easy an answer, as do clowns. Maybe someone getting their head stuck underwater during an apple bobbing contest? Or a pinata that you think will cause an emergency when one guest accidentally slugs another with a bat, but really the pinata itself is made of repurposed firecrackers and explodes?
What say you, Brian?
The first thing I need you to know here is that this is true. All of that happened in the cold open of this week’s 9-1-1. The lady was a mommy blogger and influencer type who was filming every inch of her poor, miserable kid’s party to satisfy the sponsors who donated all the stuff to it, and, at one point, as the son was bouncing on a rickety trampoline, a few of the old rusty springs shot off and flew through the air like missions into and through her abdomen and extremities before affixing her entire torso to a Pin the Tail on the Donkey board. It was incredible. I’m at the point now where I watch this show and 9-1-1 Lonestar in about 30 minutes total the next day by fast-forwarding through all the talky parts on a hunt for calamity. It’s probably not what the producers are hoping for. I feel okay about it. Anyway, look.
Just a fabulous television show that somehow airs on network television every Monday night.
To answer your question, Amanda, I feel like a swimming pool has to be involved somehow. Like a pool-party-related emergency. Possibly involving a diving board. Or maybe a water park. Yes, let’s go with “a child’s birthday party at a water park.” The tricky thing here is that 9-1-1 is so good at this that I don’t know if I can even create something wild enough. Again, this show had children float away inside an inflatable bounce house. So while part of my brain is thinking, like, “a man gets stuck in a water slide but the bored teenage employee at the top isn’t paying attention and keeps sending people down and we end up with a 25-person logjam inside a sweltering plastic tube that has to be disassembled via helicopter, possibly after two or more people have an amusement park food-related attack of violent flatulence,” another part of my brain wonders if that’s even enough.
I’m happy to leave this to the experts.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
Police searching for the “Big Bird Bandits” who allegedly stole a “Sesame Street” costume from an Australian circus have arrested and charged two men.
I’ll be honest here: I was not expecting the turn that sentence took. The thing where the Big Bird Bandits stole the costume was one thing. But I gasped when I got to “from an Australian circus.” I… I think I love these guys. I kind of want to stop reading here so I don’t ruin it. But let’s press on in the interest of… I don’t know, let’s say… journalism?
The “Sesame Street” costume was dumped back at the circus by an electricity box, with an apology note in the beak, South Australia Police said.
“We are so sorry!!! We had no idea what we were doing, or what our actions would cause” the note read.
“We were just having a rough time and were trying to cheer ourselfs (sic) up.
“We had a great time with Mr Bird. He’s a great guy and no harm came to our friend. Sorry to be such a big birden (sic).
“Sincerely, the Big Bird Bandits.”
RELEASE MY SWEET BOYS
RELEASE THE BIG BIRD BANDITS
THEY’RE NOT HURTING ANYONE
THEY’RE JUST HAVING FUN
IT’S BEEN A WEIRD YEAR FOR ALL OF US
Two men aged 26 and 22 were on Friday charged with theft and being unlawfully on premises, police said. The men have been granted bail and will appear at Adelaide Magistrates Court on 30 June.
JUDGE: … and now the opening statement from the defense.
LAWYER: Thank you, Your Honor. Our opening statement is this: Come on.
JUDGE: Excuse me.
LAWYER: Come onnnnnnnnn.
JUDGE: [strokes chin, bangs gavel] I’m swayed by your argument. Case dismissed.