The Rundown: Remembering The Time Adam Pally And Ben Schwartz Almost Broke Late-Night TV

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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. The important thing is that it’s Friday and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — An anniversary of chaos

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the time Adam Pally and Ben Schwartz guest-hosted The Late Late Show on CBS. This momentous occasion was brought to my attention, as most things are now, by a tweet. I was very happy to read the tweet, both because it reminded me to watch the episode again and because it gives me an excuse to talk about it a lot, which I am doing now.

Let’s start with the why. CBS was between hosts for its Late Late Show at the time. Craig Ferguson had left and James Corden had yet to take over. A series of fill-ins were plopped into the slot as placeholders. One of these fill-ins was former Happy Endings star Adam Pally, who followed Regis Philbin on the schedule and brought his dear friend and comedy collaborator Ben Schwartz, probably best known as Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation.

Now let’s move to the circumstances. A blizzard hit New York the night before and brought a substantial chunk of New York to a halt. The guests had to be frantically replaced. CBS flew Pally out from Los Angeles in a wretched coach seat. They were set up in Charlie Rose’s news studio with no audience to assist via laughter. The crew was not especially pleased about any of it and, according to Pally, hated him.

It was a perfect set-up for disaster. Nothing should have worked. Instead, what happened was television magic, for an entire hour. Oh, it was chaos. I won’t lie to you about that. It played out kind of like a public access show hosted by the funniest people you know. There was no monologue. There did not appear to be any written jokes. Pally and Schwartz just riffed a bunch, joked about Nicolas Cage movies (Pally’s “the soup is hot” bit is so good), and gave what amounted to a running commentary on how bad it was going. There was a filmed segment — not included in the video I linked to above, which is upsetting — in which Pally got a tattoo. Again, chaos.

Also, the guests were:

  • Tight end Martellus Bennett, who appeared via satellite from the Super Bowl and discussed fonts and movies
  • Beth Stern, wife of Howard, who talked mostly about kittens
  • Eric Andre, who showed up almost shirtless and did a very bad Benicio del Toro impression before spinning around in his chair and banging on the desk

And reader, all of them were delightful.

(I should also point out that the way I consumed this episode was kind of ideal, given the chaotic circumstances. I watched it live, on a small television screen in a small curtained-area in the emergency room, where I was getting treated for an absolutely blistering fever. I was flat on my back, sweating and shivering and laughing my damn fool head off. I wondered for a while if my enjoyment of the whole thing had to do with the fever, or if I had just hallucinated it from beginning to end, but I’ve gone back and watched it more than a few times since and I can confirm it is just as fun with a healthy mind and body.)

A part of me wishes this episode had resulted in Pally getting his own late-night show, with Schwartz in tow. It was so good and I would very much love to have more of it. The truth is, however, that it’s already pretty much perfect as is. It was this weird little comet that shot across the sky one night out of nowhere. If it happened every night, I think we’d take it for granted. No, I’ll just go back and watch it now and then and be thankful — amazed, to be honest — that it ever happened.

Happy anniversary, blessed show. See you again next year.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — My True Detective Theory


A bare bones and largely spoiler-free recap of where we are in season three of True Detective: Some kids went missing, one was found dead in the woods with a bunch of creepy straw dolls nearby, the detectives are investigating and found that the dolls were purchased in bulk from this lady, Patty, who is a member of the family’s church congregation. There’s a lot more going on than that (multiple timelines, hallucinations, booby-trapped houses), but that’ll get you where I need you for this next part.

I don’t trust Patty. I have nothing to base this on — not a single scrap of real evidence — other than the fact that she makes those creepy straw dolls. Picture yourself walking into her house. She, being a dear old Southern woman with manners, offers you an iced tea. You drink it. You ask to use the bathroom. As you’re walking down the hallway, you notice another door is ajar and take a quick glimpse inside and it is filled with creepy straw dolls in various stages of completion, some of them wearing white dresses.

What do you do? Do you run? Do you call the police? Do you call the police while running? I think the last one is your best play. You can’t be too careful in situations like this. Who even knows what she has in the basement, you know?

I am almost assuredly off-base here. Most speculation has focused on unidentified men with scars and various wives and most of those theories have any number of screencaps to back them up. I have no screencaps. Well, just the one up there. But I do know that creepy straw dolls terrify me and Patty is way too cool about admitting she makes them. Maybe she’s not responsible for this murder. Fine. She has secrets, though. I’m sure of it.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Idris Elba, versatile actor

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You know how sometimes your brain can store two separate facts for a long time without ever actually putting them together, but then one day you make the connection and it grinds your world to a halt for a second? This happens to me a lot. One example: I watched every episode of The Americans and I’ve seen every episode of Billions so far. I knew the actor Kelly AuCoin was in both. Somehow, though, I went years without ever realizing that Pastor Tim and Dollar Bill are the same person. I’m still not over it. I might never be.

Point being, the following things are true:

  • In 2019, Idris Elba will play the villain in the action-rippling Rock/Statham Fast & Furious spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw
  • Later in 2019, Idris Elba will star opposite Taylor Swift in a big-screen adaption of the hit musical Cats

Fast & Furious and Cats in the same calendar year. That’s some kind of range, buddy.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — An incomplete list of celebrities I would like to hear utter the phrase “polar vortex”

Tracy Morgan
Sam Elliott
Lance Reddick
John Waters
Rosie Perez
Angry Denzel Washington
Late-career Al Pacino
Christopher Walken
Billy Eichner
Kathleen Turner
Jeremy Irons
Samuel L. Jackson
Paul Giamatti
Angela Bassett
Ray Romano
Cardi B
Megan Mullally
Nick Offerman
Walton Goggins
Queen Elizabeth
Terry Gross
Amy Ryan but in her Boston accent from Gone Baby Gone
Any member of the B-52s

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Frankenstein is a cop now

As everyone knows, all of the best shows start with the premise of “… but what if they were a cop?” There was Castle (what if a writer was a cop?) and Bones (what if a scientist was a cop?) and Psych and The Mentalist (what if a fake psychic was a cop?) and, of course, Deception (what if a disgraced magician was a cop?). Well, I am pleased to announce a new member of the illustrious group: What if Frankenstein was a cop?

Yup, real, and happening. From EW:

This latest and very loose adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel follows a San Francisco homicide detective who “is mysteriously brought back to life after being killed in the line of duty. But as he resumes his old life and he and his wife realize he isn’t the same person he used to be, they zero in on the strange man behind his resurrection – Dr. Victor Frankenstein.”.

Make a Dracula one next. And a Swamp Thing one. Make all fictional monsters cops. Give them a shared universe. Don’t stop now, people. You’re so close.

ITEM NUMBER SIX — Rosie Perez, audiobook icon

Speaking of Rosie Perez…

I finally finished reading the new Beastie Boys book this weekend. I bought it in hardcover and I bought the audiobook because there appears to be no amount of money I won’t throw at Beastie Boys content in 2019. The book itself is cool and a blast to read and a really creative endeavor that was unlike any book I’ve read recently. Big recommendation.

The audiobook might be even cooler. Some of the chapters are read by the surviving Beasties — Mike Diamond and Adam Horowitz — but most are read by a rotating crew of celebrity guests. Jon Stewart, Amy Poehler, Bobby Cannavale, etc. There’s also a chapter read by Rosie Perez and, friends, Rosie Perez




out of her chapter. She gets way into it. She’s clapping between words and dialing pronunciations up and down for effect and really just selling every part of it 100 percent. The full Rosie Perez. It’s awesome.

The funny thing is, I had never considered the possibility of Rosie Perez as an audiobook reader until a few weeks ago and now she is the only audiobook reader I want. Every audiobook should have a “read by Rosie Perez” option. I would pay extra. I’m not joking. Her energy is infectious and it makes listening to the words a whole experience. She would really liven up, say, A Tale of Two Cities.


If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or, like, whatever you want, shoot them to me at and 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.


What’s the best example of a movie or TV show that instantly “had” you? As in, within the first five or ten minutes you thought, “Oh, this is definitely for me.” Original content only, since sequels, prequels, etc. have an established set of expectations.

I had a really great example for this the other day, when I first read this email, but I have since forgotten it. This would be the most on-brand thing possible for me if I was not now about to pivot and talk about a Jason Statham movie.

The following things happen in the first eight minutes of Mechanic: Resurrection, the sequel to the remake of The Mechanic:

  • Jason Statham wakes up on a houseboat and makes himself a cup of coffee
  • Jason Statham leaves the houseboat and remotely arms it with explosives
  • Multiple helicopter shots of Rio de Janeiro, including one of the Cristo Redentor statue, as is required for any movie or television show set in Brazil
  • Jason Statham goes to a rooftop bar where everyone knows him as “Otto Santos”
  • An attractive, well-dressed woman approaches him and reveals that his cover is blown
  • Jason Statham beats up about a dozen goons, some of whom get their faces smushed into the open-flame outdoor grills
  • Jason Statham flees into a gondola

Then, this happens…

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Again, I really must stress that this all happens before the opening credits. It’s incredible. He leaps from a gondola to a hang glider across the sunny Brazilian sky. And then, after the credits, Jessica Alba is introduced as a potentially evil love interest and Tommy Lee Jones shows up looking like this.

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Anyway, I really did have a better and more serious answer for this. Maybe one day I’ll remember it. But I’ll probably rewatch Mechanic: Resurrection seven or eight times on cable between now and then and have more to say about that, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.


It is -21 degrees here in the Midwest. Why don’t humans hibernate? Follow-up: If you were to hibernate, what would you bring into your cave for the winter?

Excellent question. It has long been my position that humans cannot truly claim to be the smartest animals on Earth until we figure out how to hibernate through winter. We can wait until after Christmas. And New Year’s, too. But we shut it down on January 2 and we stay there until, oh, I wanna say April 2. We knock out the cold weather and April Fool’s Day. Two for one. Let’s get Silicon Valley on this. We can say we’re disrupting winter and watch the money roll in.

There are some potential sticking points, though. If everyone hibernates, who will keep the electric and fuel systems going to keep us warm? What if we need to go to the hospital? How do we get pizza delivered if we wake up? All things we’ll need to tackle before we kick this off. I say “we” here because I do not have a good answer. I’m the big picture guy. You can’t expect me to handle the details.

As far as what I would keep with me for the long winter, I’ll go with “some books, some wine, and a lot of beef jerky.” See you in April, jerks.


To France!

A French teenager has been jailed after buying a PlayStation 4 for under £8 by weighing it as if the games console was a huge bag of fruit.

The 19-year-old man, named in the French media as Adel, picked the device off the shelf and took it to the fruit section and weighed it.

You know what I like about this? Adel, my man, didn’t just steal the thing. He had a plan. He figured out how to get it recorded as a purchase so it would look semi-legit when he walked out with a bag and a receipt. It’s almost genius.

To really crank up your enjoyment of this story, though, please imagine a very sweet old French lady in line behind him, holding some bananas and plums, looking at young Adel with a quizzical eye as he mounts an entire high-end gaming system onto the fruit scale like it’s perfectly normal. “Maybe it’s filled with grapes,” she’s probably thinking. “He must really loves grapes.”

Anyway, remember how I said this was “almost genius”? Well…

The hapless thief would have gotten away with the crime if he had not returned to the same shop the next day to try and carry out the scam again.

At that point, your only possible defense is to play dumb. Like, really dumb. You just have to look the store employee dead in the eye, muster up all the sincerity in all of your body, and say something like“Am… am I not allowed to do this?”

It probably won’t work. It almost definitely won’t. But you’ve just gotta hope it confuses the employee enough to be like “Wh… what? Of course, you can’t… that isn’t fruit at all… you… no….” and give you a chance to apologize profusely for your quote-unquote error and leave before you get arrested. Either that or you pretend to be a representative from headquarters and you commend the employee for their eagle-eye and promise to let Dave know when you’re submitting your evaluation. There’s always a Dave somewhere.