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 – God bless everyone involved here
It is nice to have a silly little thing to focus on sometimes. It can be anything, really. Maybe a puzzle you’re doing or a recipe you’re tinkering with or maybe you’re trying out a new three-wood at the driving range. Or maybe, if you’re me and apparently everyone I follow on social media, it was the Gwyneth Paltrow ski trial that just wrapped up in Utah this week. Either way, it’s nice to have hobbies.
The short version of the proceedings goes something like this: A retired optometrist — he is always identified as “a retired optometrist” in the press, which is fun — sued Gwyneth Paltrow for hundreds of thousands of dollars because, he claimed, she skied into him at an alarming rate of speed and caused him any number of life-altering maladies. She, in turn, claimed he was the aggressor in the ski collision and countersued him for one dollar. And this somehow went to trial. Do you understand how crazy this is? Cases like this never, ever get to trial. Lawyers get in a room and hammer out an agreement and a bunch of people write checks to each other and everyone goes home. The fact that this made it to a courtroom was already about an 8 out of 10 on the Nutso Meter. (Official legal term.)
But then the actual trial started and things just kept getting wilder and weirder. Paltrow’s attorney — presumably a high-powered lawyer from a firm that charges more per hour than you paid for your first car — opened things by waving around a dollar bill in court for some reason. The plaintiff’s lawyer got Paltrow on the stand and started peppering her with questions — UNDER OATH — about her friendship with Taylor Swift, which is a questionable legal strategy but a great way to dig for hot gossip under the threat of perjury. Gwyneth showed up almost every day wearing the most Defendant In A Ski Trial outfits you’ve ever seen. A huge chunk of the case hinged on, I swear to God, slope etiquette, which was full-on written up and explained by the New York Damn Times.
On Friday, Kristin VanOrman, one of Mr. Sanderson’s lawyers, focused questions for Ms. Paltrow on whether she understood ski slope etiquette and asked her to review her account of what happened. One of the key disputes of the trial has to do with which skier was downhill, and therefore had the right of way. Both Ms. Paltrow and Mr. Sanderson have claimed that they were the downhill skier.
And it gets better. So much better. Like, you probably looked at the parties here — two wealthy people suing each other over a winter sports mishap at a luxury resort — and assumed there would be some high-powered expert witnesses and maybe even CGI renderings of the fateful moment of impact. Real, like, “TNT Original Series Courtroom Drama” stuff. Well, nope. Not even a little. What we had instead were… stick figures. A lot of them. Look at this.
i'm not proud but i am rapt pic.twitter.com/uSEMnbHWOM
— Kathryn VanArendonk (@kvanaren) March 28, 2023
Illustration has entered Gwyneth Paltrow's ski trial. pic.twitter.com/AiQXxoc6xv
— Vulture (@vulture) March 28, 2023
Perfect. Incredible. Just a hoot all around, made even more delightful by the fact that neither party in the case was… I don’t want to say “likable” because I’m sure they both have family and friends that care about them, but let’s just say that my heart wasn’t breaking for either of the fantastically wealthy and difficult people who took a ski trial to court in front of a judge and the world. Completely harmless and fun. The plaintiff’s lawyer tried some weird legal strategy that involved buttering Paltrow up before sneaking in the hammer, which was hilarious…
This trial is so absurd 😭 pic.twitter.com/8cPPswllqG
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) March 24, 2023
… and then his own expert witness kind of torpedoed his whole case. Gwyneth Paltrow ended up winning and getting her one dollar in damages after all of it. ONE DOLLAR. What a fantastic waste of the American judicial system. But it was worth it for the entertainment value, if nothing else. I wish it had gone on forever. I wish I had gotten on a plane and covered it in person. I could have filed little daily blogs from the court. (SKI TRIAL, DAY 7: We Are Talking About QAnon For Some Reason.) I might have gotten a book deal out of it. You might have seen me on, like, The View while I was out promoting it. I have regrets here.
But it does bring up something important: God, we need more celebrity trials. Fun ones, with all sorts of zany characters. Kooky lawyers, fed-up judges, wild expert witnesses. I don’t remember having this good of a time in a courtroom since the OJ Simpson trial way back in the early 1990s, which I wasn’t old enough to really even grasp. Hey, I wonder what OJ is up to these days. I wonder if he has opinions about this tr-…
Skiing, sometimes it’s no one’s fault #GwynethPaltrowSkiCrashTrial pic.twitter.com/giWfCr51AJ
— O.J. Simpson (@TheRealOJ32) March 29, 2023
Jesus Christ. Let’s go ahead and transcribe some of this to drive it all home.
“I was watching today, I saw the run that their accident happened on, it was the same run that my accidents happened [on] at Deer Valley, and I don’t know how you can determine whose fault it was. I crashed with the same woman twice on one run, and if you ask me, it was her fault and I’m sure if you asked her, it was my fault. I’m just saying, it’s part of skiing.”
- This was all a lot of fun
- We desperately need more celebrity trials, maybe with the next one being about, like, a golf cart collision at an exclusive country club
- Imagine being the lady who was out skiing in Utah and crashed into someone and realized it was FAMOUS ALLEGED MURDERER OJ SIMPSON and then crashed into someone a second time later AND IT WAS FREAKING OJ SIMPSON AGAIN
I would have absolutely done an entire chapter on this if I had gotten that book deal.
ITEM NUMBER TWO – Consider yourself warned, Bill Hader
This is the trailer for the fourth and final season of Barry, Bill Hader’s very good HBO series about a hitman who tries to go legit, kind of, with the help of an acting class and a mentor played by Henry Winkler. Things look pretty bleak, mostly because of the thing where he’s in jail awaiting trial for a murder he super-committed. It’s not great. For him. It’ll probably be a blast for us, though, if the previous three seasons are any indication. Again, it’s a good show.
Which is fine, but not what I need to talk about today. What I need to talk about is my sweet Chechen prince NoHo Hank, who is played by Anthony Carrigan and shows up in the trailer very briefly looking like… well, like this.
Bill Hader, I need you to listen to me. Pay attention. I am going to say something extremely important. Here we go…
I need NoHo Hank to be okay by the end of this series. I would prefer if he ends up thriving, but I will settle for okay. Do whatever you want with the other characters on the show. Heave Stephen Root’s character off a cliff. Drop a bowling ball on Henry Winkler’s character’s foot. Send your own character to the electric chair twice. Again, I do not care. Just let Hank be okay.
I know he is involved in crime. I know he is, on paper, not a great dude. I do not care. If you harm one-… I was going to say “hair on his head” here, but that doesn’t really apply. You get where I was headed. Leave him alone. I will never forgive you otherwise. That’s a lie. I might forgive you. Especially if you make another good show with more fun characters. But I’ll be really mad. For a while, at least. Leave NoHo Hank alone.
LEAVE NOHO HANK ALONE.
ITEM NUMBER THREE – Soup chat
Nicolas Cage is out promoting his new movie, Renfield, in which he plays Dracula and may or may not have stayed in character as Dracula between scenes, depending on whether you believe Nicolas Cage or the director of Renfield. My position on these things is usually just to believe whatever would be funniest. It’s rarely steered me wrong, at least personally.
Anyway, as part of this press tour, Nicolas Cage and his co-star Nicholas Hoult did an Ask Me Anything over at Reddit. And that’s where something pretty important happened. I have screenshotted this moment so it can be preserved for history.
To be very clear: A person who goes by the name “chunkybuttsoupdinner” opened up his computer and asked Academy Award-winning actor and all-around eccentric icon Nicolas Cage what his favorite soup is, and Nicolas Cage responded by saying exactly this: “Pasta fagioli. It’s a good combination of protein and carbs. It’s a nice protein blast. Gets your energy going.”
This is wonderful. Just fascinating on so many levels. Things have gotten weird on the internet in the last… oh, let’s say 10-15 years, but this right here is the good stuff. Just beautiful and stupid and everything that was promised to us when this whole thing kicked off. It gives me a little faith that things are still okay out there. That may sound like an overstatement to you but I swear I meant it. Thank you, Nicolas Cage. Thank you, chunkybuttsoupdinner. I owe you both a piping hot bowl of pasta fagioli.
Oh, and I might as well use this opportunity to post one of my favorite videos, only because I don’t know when I’ll have another excuse. It’s from the time when Adam Pally guest-hosted The Late Late Show with Ben Schwartz, way back in 2015 when the show was between hosts. It was a very strange and chaotic hour of television that I watched in an emergency room and will always remember. Please enjoy Adam Pally doing an impression of Nicolas Cage saying “the soup is hot” in the movie Bangkok Dangerous.
This was a pretty good chat about Nicolas Cage and soup.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR – The problem here is that now I need to see this
Okay, let’s knock out the basics real quick so we can get to the important business. There is going to be a third season of The White Lotus, which you probably knew or could have guessed just because the first two seasons were critical darlings that did good numbers for HBO and won some awards. Here’s what series creator Mike White said about the whole thing.
“The first season kind of highlighted money, and then the second season is sex,” creator Mike White said in a clip that aired after the season 2 finale. “I think the third season would be maybe a satirical and funny look at death and Eastern religion and spirituality. It feels like it could be a rich tapestry to do another round at White Lotus.”
Cool. This is also notable because we kind of knew it already, and that in itself is notable because the cat was kind of let out of the bag by Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, of all the damn people in the world.
When the interviewer brought up The White Lotus, Knoxville replied, “Mike White is a very close friend of mine. He and I had been in Tokyo together. I think that’s where the next… oh, I’m not giving anything away. I might call him again as soon as this is over.”
Great. Perfect. Also, “Let the Cat Out of the Bag” would be a good name for a Jackass bit where Chris Pontius is in a room with a big sack and SURPRISE the sack has a panther in it. Just spitballing.
But it brings me to the thing I want to talk about. Jennifer Coolidge was in the first two seasons of The White Lotus. She will not be in the third for… reasons… that you would… know… if you watched the show. Point being: they need a new star. And a Redditor saw something recently that might give us a clue who it is. Via Parade:
He wrote, “Was at dinner in West Hollywood last week and saw Mike White dining with someone ‘big’ (name in comments). Coincidence or Season 3 prep? Thought this sub would be curious. (Sorry for the poor quality, I was trying to be sneaky).”
IT WAS DANNY DEVITO
While seeing DeVito bring his It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia energy to the HBO show would definitely make up for Jennifer Coolidge’s absence, there’s a chance DeVito and White were just hanging out as friends. As some of the replies pointed out, White is a celebrity and has famous friends.
Three things are true here:
- This second paragraph is correct, especially since the same logic applied here could imply that Johnny Knoxville is going to star in season three, seeing as he was also out with Mike White recently, per quotes by Johnny Knoxville
- I do not care and I must have Danny DeVito in the next season of The White Lotus, which will take place in Thailand
- Screw it, let’s just go ahead and put Johnny Knoxville in it too, maybe as Danny DeVito’s son or dirtball nephew
In conclusion, here is a picture of Danny DeVito throwing out the first pitch at a Phillies game a few years ago.
This picture should hang in a museum. Lots of museums. All of the museums, if I’m being honest. But let’s start with the one in Philly, both because it’s relevant to the action in the picture and because it is the biggest museum that is closest to my house.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE – I am furious about the Pope
— leonardo (@skyferrori) March 25, 2023
Here’s what happened.
Someone posted this picture on Twitter on Saturday. It is the Pope in a big puffy jacket. It looks like he is on the set of a Naughty by Nature music video from the 1990s. I made that joke on Twitter pretty much as soon as I saw the picture (at least 10 people sent it to me over the weekend, which I take as both a great compliment and validation of the stupid brand I’ve curated online), but I’m making it again here for two reasons:
- I stand by it
- If I link to the tweet, you can click on it and see that I was at least a little skeptical of it in the moment
And guess what: It was fake. Super fake. It was created with some AI tool and posted online and someone saw it and it took off and here we all are. There’s a really good explanation of it all over at the also really good Garbage Day newsletter, which I will blockquote here but I recommend subscribing to if you want to understand lots of weird stuff that happens online. Here, look.
I think there are few interesting reasons as to why this image went as viral as it did. First, I think the way it was shared on Twitter, with the “OKAAYYY” caption felt casual enough to not really think about it. Second, I think Midjourney version five, which is the current instance of the generative-AI tool, is just really really good. And, third, and perhaps most importantly, the pope is weird and does weird stuff that looks fake all the time. I mean, he’s blessed a Lamborghini before. So if you told me that he had a real big parka, I’d believe you.
I’ll tell you my problem with all of this: It sucks. It’s not so much that it sucks because of the whole AI-duping of it all, although that’s not super great for a bunch of reasons ranging from “the future is big and scary” and “everyone got mad and wouldn’t shut up about it for a while when I wanted to relax and read tweets about the Sixers.” Mostly it sucks because, like… we didn’t have to do all that. We could have just seen a picture of the Pope in a puffy coat and said “huh, maybe that’s photoshopped but it is pretty fun either way” and moved right along with our days.
This is what I mean when I say stuff about not ruining things with research. You can straight-up learn the fun out of stuff. That’s what we did here. It’s a huge bummer. Just let me have this next time. I deserve a little treat every now and then.
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.
Have you ever written a full treatise about what the elements of a good fake name are? I feel like you are uniquely suited to write the definitive piece on this. I would like to read it. Call it The Mitch Casino Theorem Of Fake Names.
Well, this is very sweet. Thank you, Sara. And it’s also kind of touching that you remembered my favorite fake name of all. The only downside here is that it confirms that I can’t actually use the name if I ever do go on the run, because the cops can squeeze you and get you to give up my alias. I don’t know why I assume you’d rat me out. You’re probably cool. You’re cool, right, Sara?!
Anyway, at the risk of pulling back the curtain and revealing myself to be some bozo, my strategy for fake names is alarmingly simple: A regular first name and then a noun for a last name. Examples will help:
And so on. It’s fun. Once you start, it can be really hard to stop. Sometimes I’ll be driving down the street and see a sign that says, like, “Bernard Shoes” or “Bradley Pulverizer” — both real signs I have seen for real businesses — and get so wrapped up thinking about what a person with that name would look like that I almost get into an accident. There’s a chance I just ruined your brain in the same way mine has been ruined for years now.
I’m sorry but also you are welcome.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
A massive whale skull has been stolen from a museum, leaving staff mystified as to how the thieves could have gotten away with the act.
Ladies and gentlemen…
We have a whale skull heist.
“Given the size and weight of the skull, it would have required large machinery (including a crane and a flat bed truck) to undertake the move,” the museum posted on Facebook alongside pictures of the skull.
I know I just said a few weeks ago that the Cadbury Creme Egg heist was the only thing I cared about, and I know the opening to this week’s whole column was me blabbering on and on about the Gwyneth Paltrow ski trial, but listen: this is now the only thing I care about.
A flatbed truck.
TO STEAL A WHALE SKULL
WHAT IS THE ENDGAME HERE?
IS THERE A WHALE SKULL BLACK MARKET?
WOULD YOU WATCH A 10-EPISODE DOCUSERIES ABOUT THIS?
Sperm whale skulls are enormous, comprising around a third of the length of the whale’s entire body. One exceptionally large specimen was described in 1853 as being 62 feet long, with a 20 foot-long head.
Therefore, removing the skull and hiding it was not a one-person job, and likely would have required some machinery.
“It’s bloody huge, so this took some organization and coordination by whoever took it,” George said.
Okay. I’m still serious about the docuseries thing. I still want that. But now I also want a whole limited series, like a Fargo thing, that opens with a group of idiots sitting around a bar talking themselves into stealing a whale skull. And stealing the machinery for the whale skull heist. Multiple stages with multiple heists. All for no other reason than to have a whale skull.
I have this mental image right now of like six dudes standing around a whale skull in a big open field and the excitement wearing off all at once and being like “… what now?”
“It is illegal in NSW (New South Wales) to possess any part of a whale without the appropriate licenses, with those found guilty of the offense potentially facing fines in excess of $80,000,” the museum said.
It’s also illegal to steal things. That’s a crime, too. Let’s not forget that part of it.