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 — It’s a simple question
Agent Doug is a star. This much we know. We’ve known it for weeks, too. The very real FBI agent at the center of the very real McDonald’s Monopoly fraud case that HBO has spun into the very watchable McMillion$ docuseries has been the best character on television from the second he showed up on the screen. It’s not very close, either. He’s an excitable shit-talking maniac. He badgered his bosses to let him go undercover. He wore a gold suit to a meeting with the McDonald’s brass. He pitched a sting operation that took place in Las Vegas. He tackled a guy on the beach while undercover as a commercial director because the guy stole the worthless huge novelty check they were presenting to the winner. He might have faxed the entire secret indictment to a newspaper instead of the courthouse. He’s the greatest. I love him.
And I would be talking about him again today even if I didn’t have a good reason. But I do. I do have a good reason. Kind of. I have a kind of good reason. And that reason is “because Ben Affleck bought the film rights to the story a few years ago and intended to have Matt Damon star and Collider asked Ben Affleck about it again this week while he was out promoting his new basketball movie.” Here, look:
“We’ve gotten a new draft. That’s really good. Hollywood’s a weird place, because the person who was running the studio when they bought that script, just left that job. And the studio that was going to make it got bought by another studio. So there’s these moments where things sort themselves out, and you sort of see ‘Is this still a priority, or are they really interested in different kinds of movies?’ And I’m not sure whether or not, McScam, what kind of priority it is. We really like it. We’re still developing the script.”
Well, there you go. A kind of a good reason, as promised. And an excuse to dreamcast-up this movie. If I understand everything correctly in all of this, Damon was going to play an agent named Rick Dent, the one who was in charge and supervising Agent Doug and who wanted no part of the documentary that his former protege is currently devouring with glee. The real shame here is that, maybe 15-20 years ago, Damon would have made a great Agent Doug. He can do gung-ho when he needs to. But I think that era has passed. No one is buying Matt Damon as a plucky and overcaffeinated new FBI agent.
We must find a new Agent Doug. Let’s see what we can come up with.
The first name that jumps to mind is Channing Tatum, mostly because of the face and accent and the thing where I’ve seen the Jump Street movies a bunch of times. It would have to be soon, though. Really soon. And you might need to age-up Agent Doug a little. Or age-down Tatum with CGI like Al Pacino in The Irishman. Or, hell, do both and have a Tatum narrate as present-day Doug and have the computer take 10 years off him to play young Doug. It could work.
We could also go younger. Someone like Zac Efron (great maniac energy in the Neighbors movies) or Timothee Chalamet (against type, hilarious). Either one could work. Efron is probably the best fit out of everyone I’ve listed so far but tell me you wouldn’t spend $12-20 to see Chalamet as a Red-Bull-chugging madman who clotheslines check thieves on a Florida beach. I would, I know that. I would do it right now, as you’re reading this, whenever you’re reading this. It doesn’t even need to be a movie. Just sell me a ticket and let me watch it live on a beach.
Or, and just hear me out here, Meryl Streep. Is the resemblance there? No. Is Meryl Streep decades older than Agent Doug and also a woman? Of course. But do I think perhaps our greatest living actress could capture the unhinged energy of an eager FBI rookie named Doug? I would never count her out.
But this is all overlooking the real solution. The only correct one. The one that is so obvious that it’s been staring us in the face from the first second Agent Doug showed up and started telling the story with so much energy it looked like he might explode out of his neatly starched white dress shirt. Agent Doug must be played by, you guessed it, Agent Doug. He should play himself. I don’t see any way around it. Look at all the reasons it would work:
- It would be cool
- I would like it
- Agent Doug would really like it
There you have it. Case closed.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — This will take some getting used to
Alex Garland’s new FX/Hulu show Devs is a lot. It’s just a whole bunch. It’s visually breathtaking and asks fascinating questions that it may or may not have any intention of ever fully answering and I’m not entirely sure I have any clue what’s going on. That might be the point. But the show is weirdly intoxicating and addictive any way you slice it. Our Kimberly Ricci said as much in her full review of the show, which made sense of the proceedings in a much more helpful way than I’m doing here. Go read that if you want real analysis. And give the show a try. Even if you end up throwing your hands in the air and saying “PHOOEY” you won’t be able to deny that it is ambitious as all hell. We support ambitious endeavors in this column. Swing from the heels, baby. You might miss sometimes, but you might also send the ball 10 rows deep into the upper deck. Worth it.
When you do watch the show, though, please note the following: Nick Offerman plays a leaf-scarfing, long-haired tech guru. It’s… it’s kind of strange. Not because Offerman plays the part poorly. Quite the opposite. He’s very good. It’s strange because this is pretty much a full 180 from his most famous role, the meat-consuming, gold-hoarding, tech-averse Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation. It took me a while to wrap my head around it. I’m still wrapping my head around it a little bit, to be honest. I think I love it, though. File it under the same big swing theory as the show.
If you want a little chuckle, just for yourself, watch a few episodes of Devs and then picture the two characters meeting in person. They would not like each other very much, one assumes.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — I still don’t understand why it’s blue
I am very happy for you if you watch and enjoy Ozark. I do not do either. I tried a few times and just could not get into it, which is a real shame because I enjoy the work of so many people involved. Jason Bateman was great in Arrested Development. Julia Garner played Kimmy on The Americans. Laura Linney is Laura Linney. And the showrunner, Bill Dubuque, is the credited screenwriter of the 2016 Affleck-starring film The Accountant, which I have seen no fewer than 15 times on basic cable and will probably watch again on TNT some weekend evening in the next two or three weeks. Everything is right there. I should like it. And yet!
One of the problems I have with the show is the color scheme. It’s very dark. In tone too, yes, but mostly in the actual viewing experience. A huge chunk of the show is shot through this blue-ish filter that makes it look like everyone is at the bottom of the ocean. Examples will help. Here are a few screencaps from the trailer for the upcoming season.
It all raises a number of questions, including:
Why is it like this?
Why is it blue?
Couldn’t it not be blue?
Why isn’t every movie and television show shot with the color scheme of the John Wick franchise?
Isn’t it weird how all the normal non-assassin people in those movies have no reaction at all to people killing each other in crowded train stations?
Can you imagine the headlines on news websites around the world if the events from the John Wick franchise happened in real life?
Like, didn’t the Russian disco massacre from the first movie and the “man on a horse engages in gunplay with a number of motorcycle-riding hitmen on crowded Manhattan streets” thing happen just a few weeks apart in the show’s timeline?
Shouldn’t there be a non-assassin worldwide manhunt going on for John Wick by now, too?
Hmm. It appears I am hopelessly off-topic again. Still, my point stands, whatever it was. I think it had something to do with The Accountant.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — R.I.P. to Laura Dern’s goldfish
It is with a very heavy heart that I must inform all of you that Laura Dern’s goldfish has passed away. It’s always sad to lose a pet, even if it did live a long and apparently happy life in the home of beloved film and television actress Laura Dern. My only question here is… goldfish can live for 14 years?
I did not know goldfish can live for 14 years! If you had asked me last week how long goldfish live, I would have gone no higher than 18 months. Maybe that’s just because most of my experience with goldfish has been sitcom parents accidentally killing their child’s goldfish and then rushing out to a pet store to find a new one that looks similar enough to fool their child. Come to think of it, I don’t think a goldfish has ever survived a full episode of television. You know the famous Chekhov’s Gun theory, how if you show the audience a gun at the beginning of a story you should fire it by the end? That’s how I feel about goldfish. If you introduce one at the beginning of your show or movie, someone must participate in a wacky replacement ruse by the end. Rules are rules.
All of this sent me down a goldfish rabbithole. I learned so much about goldfish this week. Most notably, I learned that the oldest goldfish on record lived to be 43 years old. Forty-three! From the BBC:
The world’s oldest captive goldfish has died peacefully in his bowl, 43 years after he was won as a prize at a funfair. Tish the goldfish achieved fame late in life after being recognised by the Guinness Book of Records only last year. He was found dead at the bottom of his bowl earlier this week after a short illness. Tish was buried in a yoghurt carton at the bottom of his owner Hilda Hand’s garden.
And now I know that the owner of the world’s oldest goldfish was named Hilda Hand. What a rollercoaster of a week for me.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — The end of an era
Judge Judy, the show, is coming to an end. The production company behind the daytime syndication mainstay pulled the plug earlier this week, content to sit on their library of thousands of shows it can recycle in reruns from now until the sun burns up and swallows the planet whole. Judge Judy, the person will be fine, though. She’s already lining up suitors for a new show. Also, Judge Judy is very wealthy. Judge Judy is so wealthy. Judge Judy has been the highest-paid person on television pretty much every year since Oprah walked away.
This has been one of my favorite facts for about that long, too. It’s a fun one to drop on unsuspecting suckers, just to watch their brains twist a little. Judge Judy has been making somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million a year for well over a decade. And she only works, by her own estimate, about five days a month. She hops on her private jet every other week, films a week or more worth of episodes every day for three days, then flies back home. It’s a really great gig if you can get it. Which is why, one assumes, she’s in no rush to give it up.
She also, and I’m including this for no other reason that because it’s been burned into brain ever since I read it almost nine years ago, has a dedicated room for people who snore in her 24,000-square-foot Connecticut home. Her words, from a 2011 interview with the New York Times:
We have an extra room that we call the “snoring room,” for snorers. It’s not necessarily for my husband. I’ve been told that I snore, although I can’t hear myself. Actually we’ve had a snoring room since we moved out of a studio apartment. It’s just civilized.
Judge Judy has been living my dream life for almost a quarter-century now. It’s preposterous. I’m so jealous I could cry.
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.
Do you have any good recommendations for relaxing shows? This week has been very stressful. Everyone is freaking out about the election and the coronavirus. I would like to watch a nice, calm show that will not make me anxious. You seem like someone who can help with this. Help!
Lauren, I will gladly try. You and I are in the same boat here. Let’s call it the S.S. Chill Out. Here are some options:
Documentary Now! — All three seasons are on Netflix and almost all of them are perfect. As far as specific episodes go, I recommend: The two-part season one finale that satirizes the incredible music documentary about the Eagles; the season two episode “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken,” which is really funny and legitimately sweet; and “Co-op,” the season three episode that covers musicals and Sondheim and feature some of the best songs in any television show ever.
Food shows — Just generally, although Netflix has some good ones too, like The Taco Chronicles (episodes about different kinds of tacos, narrated by sentient tacos, I am not kidding) or any show hosted by David Chang. There’s one on there called Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner that has an episode where he and Seth Rogen bang around for Vancouver for day, just eating food and smoking weed and eating food and smoking weed. It’s a good time.
High Fidelity or Schitt’s Creek or a show like that — Basically any show that narrows its scope to focus on people doing real things with each other instead of people facing catastrophic threats about the world ending. I have a longer theory about all of this. I might write about it next week. Until then, watch these shows. They’re fun and good and won’t make you freak out about, like, your entire existence.
I think that’s a good start. I hope it helped. I would also recommend slamming your computer shut and reading a book and/or going outside. That’s nice, too. Finish reading this column first, though. There’s a story about a dog mayor coming up.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
Fair Haven’s newly elected mayor has four legs, barks, and eats off the floor. And no one appears to mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, as promised, I have excellent news, and the only good news that comes from politics during an election year: We have a dog mayor.
It was a tight race between three candidates including incumbent Mayor Mara Lincoln, the goat, K-9 Sammy, the Fair Haven police dog, and Murfee, the therapy dog. At the end of it all, Murfee came out on top of the pet pyramid.
A DOG MAYOR.
A LEADER WHO WILL TAKE IT TO THE FAT CATS IN CITY HALL.
A LEADER WHO WILL PLAY RUFF WITH SPECIAL INTERESTS.
AND SO ON.
If we want to be technical, though, and if we do it’s only so people don’t yell at me (LEAVE ME ALONE), Murphee isn’t the actual mayor of his town. He’s just the “pet mayor,” an honorary position created in the town to help raise money for a playground at the elementary school. Which is nice. And also a load of bullcrap. But mostly nice.
But even to do the degree it is bullcrap, there’s still a silver lining: it sent me careening back to the single greatest Wikipedia page in existence: Non-human electoral candidates. So there’s that. Spend a few minutes clicking around that sucker this weekend. Click on all the footnotes. And be sure to check out the related links to find the second-best Wikipedia page in existence: Animals with fraudulent diplomas.
Go ahead. You deserve it.