TV

The Rundown: It Is Almost Time For ‘Abbott Elementary’ Season Two, Thank God

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 – The good show is coming back

What we have here is a classic Good News, Bad News situation. As always, we start with the Good News, because you should always lead with the positive when you can, especially on a Friday.

ABC’s Abbott Elementary is coming back for a second season next week. On Wednesday, September 21, to be specific. That’s great, mainly because Abbott Elementary is great, a fun and sweet and nice show in a world of difficult protagonists and dark comedies. There’s a place for those, of course, and a show like Barry that balances that heavy stuff with the silliest jokes you’ve ever seen is a borderline magic trick. But it’s nice to have a nice show, too. The Parks and Recreation vibes are off the charts here. This is, to be clear, one of the highest compliments I know how to give.

Quick background if you have yet to dive into the show, which you should remedy ASAP through a quick binge this weekend, which you can pull off because the 13 22-minute episodes in season one total just under five hours of total watch time: Creator Quinta Brunson plays Janine, a young teacher at the titular Abbott Elementary in Philadelphia. The show follows her and the other teachers and staff at the school through a mockumentary format as they try to make things work for the students despite layers of budget restrictions and incompetence above them. It’s delightful.

It’s also kind of a unicorn out there right now, a network sitcom that has full-on landed itself in the zeitgeist in 2022. Do you realize how wild that is? Hundreds of streaming services and cable networks pounding content into our eyeballs at 800mph every day and one of the buzziest shows out there airs once a week on a channel that has existed since the 1940s. That’s… crazy. This is the same distribution model they used for, like, Frasier. And Happy Days. Which gave Henry Winkler his start in television as The Fonz like 50 years ago. The same Henry Winkler who now stars in Barry. Think about that a little bit this weekend.

The show does what all good workplace sitcoms do. It creates and solves conflicts in a single half-hour block, it develops a found family among the characters, and it just generally makes you feel kind of good. I like that. I also like that it is set in Philadelphia because I have lived in Eastern Pennsylvania for my entire life and inside the Philadelphia city limits for about 10 years off and on and I turn into the literal version of the DiCaprio Pointing Meme about once an episode when they reference a local landmark or restaurant or sports franchise. Go Birds.

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ABC

The show is littered with heavy hitters in its cast, too. Brunson is great, and also serves as one of the show’s main writers, which is almost unfair from a “too much talent in one person” standpoint, but fine. Tyler James Williams plays her Will They, Won’t They love interest and nails the “I don’t really want to be here forever” energy of a career striver. Janelle James plays the confident and massively underqualified principal, Lisa Ann Walter plays a South Philly Italian lady who always knows a guy who can get you a thing, Chris Perfetti plays the dorky teacher who tries way too hard, and Sheryl Lee Ralph plays the teacher who has been there forever and is kind of everyone’s mother. We’ll talk about her more in the next section. It’s a perfectly populated universe.

None of those people are my favorite, though. My favorite is the eccentric janitor, Mr. Johnson. He’s a cranky old man who has lots of opinions about lots of things and pops up every now and then to do, well, this.

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I’ll say it again, just for the people in the back: Give this show a shot. It’s a blast. See what everyone is talking about. There’s a chance you’ll try it and decide it’s not your thing, which is fine, but if you can honestly watch a warm little comedy about teachers in Philadelphia trying to make it work for their kids while stumbling into various goofs and/or workplace romances, buddy… I don’t know. Maybe go do a little work on yourself and circle back. It’ll still be there waiting for you when you’re ready.

All of this brings me to the bad news that I mentioned up front, which is, uh… that I structured this entire write-up very poorly because there is no bad news. I have things to work on, too.

ITEM NUMBER TWO – Speaking of Abbott Elementary

The Emmys were this week. On a Monday. Which was weird. Awards shows should be on Sunday nights, in my opinion, which I say as a person who spent most of this week trying to figure out what day it was. It’s madness. I’m filing this with my editor now based on the assumption that today is Friday, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

But anyway, the Emmys. Sheryl Lee Ralph won for her performance on Abbott Elementary — good show, see above — and then marched up onto the stage and gave this speech. Holy Toledo. I think, truthfully, that if Sheryl Lee Ralph asked me to crash headfirst through a brick wall, I would at least consider it. I might ask for a helmet first. I would do it without one if she insisted. What an absolute force of a human being.

But then there’s the other thing. There was controversy at the Emmys. Jimmy Kimmel did this bit where he pretended to be dead on stage while presenting an award and continued pretending to be dead during the acceptance speech by the winner, Quinta Brunson from… Abbott Elementary. (I swear it’s a good show.) People were mad. People including Sheryl Lee Ralph. Via Deadline:

At ABC’s TCA day Wednesday, the actors were asked about how it played in the room when Brunson, the EP and star of the ABC comedy, accepted her first Emmy with Kimmel lying motionless below her. Co-star Lisa Ann Walter thought it “played funny,” but Ralph, who won an Emmy of her own Monday, was having none of it.

“I was absolutely confused,” she told reporters. “I didn’t know what was going on. I wish that man would just get up off the ground. Then I realized it was Jimmy Kimmel. Ooh, the disrespect, Jimmy! But that’s just me. I told him, too, to his face. He understood.”

“I told him, too, to his face. He understood.” Uhhhh yeah. I bet he did. If Sheryl Lee Ralph looked me in the eye and told me she was disappointed in my tomfoolery, I suspect I would die immediately. I would turn into a pile of dust and blow off into the first reasonably stiff breeze. Little particles of me would be floating through the atmosphere for centuries. You would breathe them in and be like “Hmm, this air tastes pathetic” and you would be correct. So let’s go ahead and try to avoid that whole situation. Sheryl Lee Ralph, if you are reading this, I am sorry. Just in general. A blanket apology for everything I have done or might do.

Please do not yell at me.

ITEM NUMBER THREE – I need everyone keep asking Brian Cox for his opinion on things

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The thing I like about Brian Cox is that he will be doing an interview and answering the questions as they are asked and then out of nowhere, kablow, he’ll just take a shot at something that’s barely related. It’s delightful. It’s probably less delightful if it’s about you or your thing, but it isn’t this time, probably, unless you work on the show Billions or are Ian McKellan, so let’s all go ahead and enjoy it.

Look at the collection of quotes he gave just this week. Look at how absolutely unnecessary they are. It’s great. The man loves acting and talking shit and not particularly in that order. Here’s Exhibit A:

“I don’t know . No one’s had their contracts renewed,” Cox told British publication The Times. “Who knows how long it will go on? We don’t want it to overstay its welcome, like ‘Billions’; that’s past its sell-by date. That will not happen with our show.”

And here’s Exhibit B:

If the Billions cast and crew can find comfort in one thing, it’s that they weren’t the only ones caught in Cox’s crosshairs. The Putting The Rabbit In The Hat author clarified multiple comments he made about fellow stars in his book, including Johnny Depp, Steven Seagal, and Ian McKellen.

Cox shared that McKellen was “a sweetheart, nicer as he’s gotten older” but that “he’s just not my favorite actor.” He added, “I’m going up to Edinburgh and he’s got his Hamlet on. I’ve heard it’s awful.”

Perfect. All of it. I want to interview Brian Cox and spend all of my allotted time just asking for his opinion on various things. Zero questions about his life or career. I want to ask him what he thinks about, like, Outback Steakhouse or the musical stylings of Harry Styles. Dozens of questions like that, one after the other. Lightning round. I feel like I could get him to call something “rubbish.” That would be great. Until he gets sick of my hooey and starts taking shots at me. Although, now that I think about it, that would be kind of great, too.

There are no losers here. Except for Billions and Ian McKellan. Didn’t work out too well for them. But still.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR – Let’s check in with Engla-… aaaaaaand there’s a Paddington crisis

The Queen of England died. You knew that. It was all over the news and social media. It was a pretty big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that the citizens of England have been flooding various Royal areas to leave her tributes, which is a nice gesture, except for the thing where some of those tributes have involved hundreds of stuffed little Paddington Bears and actual marmalade sandwiches. That’s not working out so well. I imagine a marmalade sandwich that is sitting on a sidewalk in September does not have a long shelf life.

I should make a couple of things very clear here:

  • There’s a reason people are doing this, which is that a video of Paddington meeting the Queen went viral again after her death and everyone got pretty excited about it
  • When I die, you have my permission to just litter my gravesite with stuffed Paddington dolls and any kind of sandwich you want, pile them up to the sky for all I care

It all gets better, too, because an official person in the parks department in England had to put out an official statement to ask people to stop doing this, and whoever wrote it went to great lengths to avoid saying “stop leaving the damn bears everywhere.”

In the interests of sustainability, we ask visitors to only lay organic or compostable material. The public will be asked to remove all wrapping from floral tributes and place these in the bins provided. Removing the wrapping will aid the longevity of the flowers and will assist in subsequent composting which will start between one week and a fortnight after the date of the funeral.

We would prefer visitors not to bring non-floral objects/artefacts such as teddy bears or balloons. Cards and labels will, however, be accepted and will be periodically removed by The Royal Parks’ staff and contractors for storage offsite. This process will be carried out with discretion and sensitivity.

A few additional notes, also via bullet point:

  • Let Paddington be the King of England
  • Make that the next movie
  • I bet Timothee Chalamet would be a really good Paddington villain

This was a pretty good chat.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE – This is good advertising

Well, guess what: Danny DeVito is the new spokesman for Jersey Mike’s. This feels… right. It feels right. Like, of course Danny DeVito should be the spokesman for a national hoagie chain based out of New Jersey. The bigger surprise here is that it did not happen until 2022. This should have happened in, like, the early 1990s, if anyone anywhere had been doing their job properly. A lot of people who run hoagie businesses have a lot of reflecting to do today.

Here’s some info from the press release, via FastCasual.

Jersey Mike’s Subs is launching a national advertising campaign starring actor and comedian Danny DeVito — a New Jersey native who grew up down the street from the original sub shop that opened in 1956 at the Jersey Shore

“It’s A Jersey Mike’s Thing” celebrates the company’s point of difference — its authentic fresh sliced and fresh grilled sub sandwiches made to order, Rich Hope, CMO, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, said in a press release.

“Who better to speak to the authenticity of Jersey Mike’s fresh sliced, fresh grilled sub sandwiches than the guy whose birthday is an official holiday in the state of New Jersey?” Hope said.

Exactly. Well said. But please do not let these adequately articulated words distract you from the real story here: Look at Danny DeVito’s face in this commercial.

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Look at him.

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LOOK AT HIM.

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I do not especially want to do a deep self-examination about why Danny DeVito getting kind of horny about hoagies is making me so hungry right now, but it is. A lot. Like, I might stop typing this sentence to drive to Wawa. Which is probably not the result Jersey Mike’s is looking for. But this is on them for not putting a franchise closer to my apartment than he Wawa. They might want to reflect on that part, too.

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.

From Michael:

I was listening to the radio the other day and “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc came on. It got me thinking: are Flavortown and Funkytown arch rivals, like Dallas and Philadelphia? Cities in different time zones whose residents would just as soon beat the crap out of each other. Or are they like the Twin Cities, St. Paul and Minneapolis? Two neighboring cities that, as far as I know, get along reasonably well.

I know I have said this before but it really brings me a lot of pleasure and makes me feel I’ve made the right choices in life when some of you think these thoughts and then think “I should email Brian about this.” I am not joking or being sarcastic. I genuinely do enjoy it. Please do not ever hesitate to send me just the dumbest thing that has ever careened into your brain. It is quite literally what I am here for.

Well, that and posting these pictures from two separate Celebrity Flag Football games where Guy Fieri is eating sand while trying to play defense.

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FIERI
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So I’m here for two things, really. Both equally important.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Oklahoma!

A tractor trailer overturned on I-40 near Oklahoma City Wednesday, spilling vibrators all over Mustang Road and closing the off ramp for several hours.

I know this section of this column has leaned very “highway spill” lately between this and the tomato/Alfredo spills the other week. I had another story all lined up for this one. I had even pasted the quotes into the text box here. But then this story broke on Thursday and, look… I’m only so strong. Dildos it is.

“This is a semi that overturned and lost its load here,” reporter Jim Gardner said from the Skynews 9 chopper. “There is a lot of stuff to clean up.”

An anchor for the station asked him: “Jim, can you tell what he’s carrying there? What’s all over the road?”

The most confusing thing for me in all of this is that the man in the chopper in this story has the same name as the longtime anchor of Action News in Philadelphia. That’s strange. And a lot of fun. Am I picturing Philadelphia icon Jim Gardner with his white mustache and deep well of gravitas up in a helicopter looking at a collection of loose dildos on the highway? Yes. Yes, I am. It’s really a lot of fun.

The camera zooms in. “It’s a mess for sure,” another anchor says. Gardner demurs: “We’re zooming in … not really. I can’t tell. Maybe you can tell?” No one on the station can seemingly tell.

I think the live video will help here. Let’s go ahead and post that.

And then let’s go to Vice — proud of you, Vice — for the hard-hitting journalism into what exactly those boxes are.

There are dozens of boxes of pink vibrators; some of them have seemingly come out of their packaging and were strewn on the street. But what kind of vibrators? With the help of Motherboard executive editor Emanuel Maiberg, we believe these are Adam & Eve G-Spot Touch Finger Vibes, which retail for $39.95.

I will be honest here: it had never occurred to me that a truck I’m flying past on the highway might be full of dildos. It just had not dawned on me even once. I suppose that’s on me, though. I can and will do better going forward. In conclusion, there was also allegedly lubricant in the spill, which when you combine the thing where this happened in Oklahoma with the thing where the very good Watchmen television show was set in Oklahoma, means I have a pretty great excuse to post this clip again.

Thank you to everyone involved for making this happen for me.

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