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The Rundown: The Time Has Come For 2020 Pop Culture Resolutions

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 will vary, as will 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.

RESOLUTION NUMBER ONE — Broaden some horizons

We are being bombarded by content every second of every day. There are more streaming services than we know what to do with and more on the way. Each of them has a library of hundreds if not thousands of movies and television shows. No one in history has ever had more entertainment options at their fingertips than you do right now this very second.

The problem this causes is twofold:

  • It can be overwhelming to dig through it all to find cool stuff
  • There’s so much of every targeted niche that you can fill up all your time watching only the things that fit squarely inside your wheelhouse

On its face, that second thing isn’t necessarily bad. Who doesn’t want more of what they like? Funnel it all into the eyeballs I’ve pried open with scotch tape. Gimme gimme gimme. But if I do that and you do that and everyone else does that, we’ll all end up in our own little hyper-targeted silos. It’s weird to think about. We’ve essentially created a system to divide ourselves further by giving ourselves almost unlimited options.

That’s not to say a return to the monoculture is a better option. I remember watching Cheers as a kid and, while Cheers did and still does rule, like, a show about a group of charming alcoholics telling jokes about their wives was probably not made with a nine-year-old boy in mind. But I watched it because it was on. That was the bar it had to cross. Was I home and was it on? This is also how I ended up watching a few episodes of L.A. Law. It probably explains a lot about who I am now and why I’m like this, to be honest. What we have now is better. Options are better. You just have to work a little harder to seek them out.

I really noticed it at the end of last year when I was making my Best of 2019 list. I liked my list. I still do. But it was a lot of… the same stuff I always like. And the same stuff that was on a lot of other lists. The closest I came to getting really out there was putting Lodge 49 at number four (behind Fleabag, Succession, and Watchmen), which felt bold and edgy until I remembered that Lodge 49 is a show that featured Paul Giamatti pooping his pants during a wild treasure hunt in Mexico. That is so far inside my wheelhouse that I think it could claim squatter’s rights. The opposite of bold on my part.

So that’s my resolution for this year, on the pop culture front. Expand my worldview, watch some stuff I might not like or might make me a little uncomfortable, try more things that weren’t made with “What would a dude like Brian want to watch?” as their primary selling point. Don’t get stuffed into a silo by the algorithms that are force-feeding me more of what I’ve already seen. Break free. Live. Shatter the glass walls that these entertainment conglomerates are using to box us in and hold us captive to our pre-generated list of preferences.

But, like, only after I’ve seen that week’s episode of Billions. Let’s not get crazy here. I still need my Giamatti fix.

RESOLUTION NUMBER TWO — Get invited to a fancy party, pull an old copy of Beowulf off a bookshelf in the host’s study, and get whisked via spinning wall into a secret room filled with treasure and/or mystery

Disney

It is unfathomable to me that this has not happened to me already. What am I doing wrong? Tell me. I need to know. I’ve been pulling every copy of Beowulf off of every bookshelf I see and not one of them has spun around and left me in a room filled with treasure and/or mysteries. I’m getting kind of steamed about it all, to be honest. I’ve seen it happen in what feels like dozens of movies and television shows. Am I to believe that these shows lied to me and the rest of America about the existence of spinning bookshelves and secret treasure rooms? Am I supposed to be grabbing a different book? Should I yoink on a candlestick or two to see if that does it? I’m honestly asking here.

If you have a secret treasure room, please just invite me to your party. Tell me how to get in there. Give me a hint first, actually. Let me try to figure it out. But if it’s been, say, 45 minutes and I’ve flung half of your library on the floor, feel free to spell it out. Just tell me. But then leave so I can get back to my precious illusion. Check on me in five minutes to make sure I did it right. I won’t take any treasure, I promise. I just want to be validated here. I just want the thrill of it all, the moment the bookcase begins to spin where I realize it’s finally happening. I need this. I deserve this. I will probably take a little of the treasure. It’s okay, you have plenty.

RESOLUTION NUMBER THREE — Continue my 23-year streak of not watching Titanic

Paramount

I have never seen Titanic. I’m not sure how it happened, or more accurately, didn’t happen. I didn’t see it when it first came out in the theaters, probably because I did not want to spend three hours in a theater in 1997, which is a safe bet because I still don’t want to spend three hours in a theater in 2020. I didn’t see it when it came out on DVD. I never sat down to watch it on cable. It just never happened.

It’s not that I’m proud of it. You never want to build your whole identity around things you don’t do or haven’t done. It’s just that I’ve made it this far, you know? Watching Titanic for the first time in 2020 after living through Titanic-mania in the late-90s would be like running 26 miles of a marathon and then throwing in the towel for the last 0.2. I’m just going to press on. I owe it to myself at this point. This is the easy part. It’s the home stretch. I can do it.

I should also point out here, as a matter of full disclosure, that I have seen a movie in which Steven Seagal and Stone Cold Steve Austin defend a decommissioned secret military prison against a paramilitary organization. It’s not like I’m doing anything so important over here that I don’t have time to watch Titanic or that I’m in any way above it. The main takeaway should be, as always, that I’m an idiot. Thank you.

RESOLUTION NUMBER FOUR — Quit my job but then get recruited back for an emergency by a high-ranking official who shows up in a helicopter

This one is pretty straightforward. I’m chopping wood while my dog sits on the porch of my mountain cabin. I have a really great wilderness beard going. A helicopter appears over the trees and lands in the yard. A man gets out. He’s wearing a suit and sunglasses. He proceeds to tell me my services are needed due to some emergency. I tell him I’m retired. He presses, says it has to be me. I ask him why. He replies, “Because you’re the best there ever was, that’s why.” I sigh and tell my dog to look after the place as I board the helicopter.

Like I said, pretty straightforward. The biggest issue I see is that there are very rarely any pop culture emergencies that involve a helicopter and mysterious officials in suits. Like, what, a group of mercenaries are threatening to blow up Mount Rushmore unless someone recaps Succession? Also, I have a spinal cord injury and probably can’t chop wood. And I don’t particularly want to live in the mountains. And I can’t grow a good beard. And, while I like to think I’m pretty good at my job, I don’t think I’d ever go so far as to consider myself “the best.” And when I retire, I definitely do not want to be bothered about work under any circumstances. And helicopters are kind of loud.

Other than that, again, straightforward.

RESOLUTION NUMBER FIVE — Use a totally unrelated picture of Vin Diesel sliding his sunglasses up or down his face at the top of a post

Getty Image

Well, this one I can check off.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at brian.grubb@uproxx.com (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.

Jeremy:

Congratulations, you’re in charge of HBO now. For your first order of business, you can add any one actor or actress to any show. You can put Matthew McConaughey in Barry as Noho Hank’s boss, you can put Keanu in Succession as an assassin, you can do whatever you want. Who is going where and why? Thanks!

Jeremy, this is an excellent question. Part one of my answer is the same answer I give whenever anyone asks me what actor or actress I would add to a show: Tracy Morgan. Picture any great drama of the past 15 years and add Tracy Morgan to it. It’s better, right? At the very least it’s more interesting. Like, Tracy Morgan on Mad Men. Tracy Morgan on Justified. Tracy Morgan on The Leftovers. Find a single flaw with any of this. And when you don’t, meet me in the next paragraph.

As far as what show I’m adding him to, well, that’s almost as easy. He’s going on whatever the third season of The Young/New Pope is called. They’ve already added John Malkovich, Sharon Stone, and Marilyn Manson. It’s a small leap from there to Tracy Morgan. Maybe a medium-sized leap. Either way. Let Tracy Morgan play the Pope. Maybe a cardinal. Let him play himself as a visitor to the Vatican who gets lost on a tour and ends up in charge of the Catholic Church. See what I care.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Brooklyn!

A vandal stole a cherry picker on Sunday and used it to tag Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza arch with massive graffiti that read, “Bird God.”

As one does.

The problem is, he couldn’t figure out how to lower the bucket and had to be helped down by the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit, according to cops.

Man, that’s got to be a real kick in the pants, you know? The whole plan goes off without a hitch — you steal the crane, you jack it up, you write Bird God on the side of a building for some reason — but then you need the cops to help you get down. Everyone in the jail must have roasted his beans so bad.

My working theory here is that he never learned how to lower it because he was trying to signal for the Bird God to swoop in and pick him up.

It was unclear how the vandal commandeered the crane and raised himself up to mark the arch no one noticing, hours before a menorah-lighting ceremony nearby.

My favorite part of this story is that it all happened right at the end of December, which means there’s a non-zero chance that this guy sat down on January 1, 2010, and wrote “steal a crane and write Bird God on a building” on his list of goals for the decade and was sliding it in at the last minute.

It was not immediately known whose crane it was, and cops were unsure what the tag “Bird God” referred to.

Quite frankly, I don’t see how we can assume anything other than this being a message of support for Philadelphia Eagles football coach Doug Peterson as he prepares the team for their playoff game this Sunday.

Go Birds.

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