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 – I cannot believe this exists but I am so happy it does
The important stuff here, boiled down to a concentrated goo of facts, goes something like this: Last week, Atlanta, currently in the middle of its final season, aired a standalone episode that featured none of the main cast and had nothing to do with anything that has happened to-date in this season or any other season of the show. It was just a 30-minute flight of fancy about the fictional history of A Goofy Movie, which, in the universe of the show, was the result of a young animator getting elevated to head of Disney by accident and setting out to create “the blackest movie ever made.” If that all sounds completely insane to you, there’s a pretty good reason for that: it was and is completely insane. But also, so good. Just extremely, wildly good. Maybe the best episode of television I’ve seen all year. Maybe the best episode of television I’ve ever seen. It’s probably too soon to make that second claim. I’ll need a little more distance before I feel comfortable saying it for sure. But it is a thought I had when I watched it that I’m still having a week later, so the ball is already rolling on this one.
I’m torn on how much else to say about it, at least plot-wise. I don’t want to step on any of the things it reveals piece-by-piece throughout the episode. That would not be fair to you or to the show, both of which deserve better. What I will say is that it is loaded with surprise appearances and twists you will never see coming and that you can watch this with fresh eyes even if you’ve never seen another episode of the show. It’s kind of like an episode of Documentary Now! in that way, which I say as one of the highest compliments I know how to give. Also, there’s this bit, which is set up by a discussion about how Goofy is technically a dog but still watches Mickey slap a leash into his dog, Pluto.
Really just brilliant stuff, beginning to end.
I think my favorite thing about this episode is that it even exists at all. Think about what we have here. Think about all the moving parts. Atlanta, one of the best and most creative shows of the last decade or so, slammed on the brakes in the middle of its final season, with only a few hours left to wrap up its story, and yoinked the car off the road entirely so it could tell a fully separate alternate history of a children’s movie from 1995 that features zero members of its now-famous cast. That’s… that’s wild. It’s such a huge swing to take for no real reason other than “because it would be awesome,” which is the kind of thing I support with all of my heart. Chaos for the sake of chaos. Jokes for the sake of jokes. This is all terrific stuff.
It’s also a reminder that you can just kind of just do anything sometimes. It helps to have a good track record and a foundation of success at what you do, just so when you go to someone with your crazy idea they don’t kick you out of their office. But you always have the option to, like, try. It’s kind of depressing to realize we have this many shows on this many outlets and we are slowly teetering back into making thousands of hours of comfort food for our eyeballs instead of letting people try the weirdest stuff they can think of. And it’s kind of thrilling that Donald Glover and the beautiful maniacs who make this show decided to use the capital they’ve banked over three-plus seasons of television to cash in on a standalone half-hour about the weirdest thing they could think of. It’s almost inspirational in a way. Sometimes the only thing stopping you is the furthest limits of your own imagination. It’s good to remember that.
So, yes. Good for them. Good for all of them. Good for us, too, even if all we did was watch it. Which you should do if you haven’t. Today, if possible. Again, you can come into this one blind. You can be completely unfamiliar with Atlanta. You don’t even need to know who Donald Glover is, although you should. This is one of those special things that reminds you of everything television can be, which is a hell of a thing to say about something as silly as this is. I stand by it.
And if you don’t laugh at the sight gag at the very end, I… I don’t know. You need something in your life that I can’t provide. I hope you find it someday.
ITEM NUMBER TWO – Maya Rudoph… please reconsider
Maya Rudolph is a comedic genius pic.twitter.com/H9cAQMeoDh
— Creatina Turner (@BrendanOde) July 1, 2022
Maya Rudolph is the best. She’s the best now and has been the best for a while and I suspect she’ll be the best going forward into the foreseeable future. Watch her in a slew of old SNL sketches this weekend. Watch Big Mouth and hear her make a whole buffet dinner out of any number of sentences she delivers via voiceover in character as a sex-crazed hormone monstress. Watch her in Loot, a really fun Apple show we — me included — probably didn’t talk about enough when it came out. The woman rarely if ever misses. The best.
And when you watch all those things (spread them out a little if you have errands to run), you might notice something: Maya Rudolph has been on Hot Ones two separate times in character as someone else, but zero times as herself in real life. (One of them — from Loot — is at the top of this section.) And you should not expect that second number to change any time soon.
From a piece in Vanity Fair about Hot Ones host Sean Evans:
But anyone who sits down for an interview does have to eat the wings—or at least be game to try—which can make it a hard sell for certain people. After filming their Loot scene together, Evans says he invited Rudolph—who has actually spoofed the show twice, having previously played a hot wing-eating Beyoncé in a Saturday Night Live sketch—to appear on a future episode of Hot Ones. “She was like, ‘Sean I love you but there is no way in fuh-uck that I’m ever doing your show. I’m not eating those wings,’” Evans recalls, his voice getting high and sing-songy as he swears. “But I kind of like that we have that, that the only time Maya Rudolph does Hot Ones is when she’s doing fake Hot Ones.”
This brings us to yet another situation where two things can be true at the same time. In this case, those things are:
1. I do not think I would enjoy being on Hot Ones very much because, while I enjoy some spicy food, the stuff on the higher end of it all makes me feel miserable in about four different ways for hours, and if Maya Rudolph has a similar reaction I cannot fault her in any way for trying to avoid any part of it.
2. I enjoy both Hot Ones and Maya Rudolph quite a bit and would really like to watch this potential episode.
I don’t know. I’ll think about this some more. Right now I’m stuck somewhere between “Maya Rudolph has brought me a lot of enjoyment over the years and I want her to be happy and free from pain” and “I bet she would be hilarious as the pain receptors in her mouth and face liquefy her brain during an interview.”
I have much to consider here.
ITEM NUMBER THREE – Blue dudes are back
A few notes on the new trailer for the new Avatar movie:
- It looks incredible
- I… never saw the first one
- I kind of do not have any idea what is happening here or why any of it is happening
- I will still go see it in the theater anyway, mostly because there are worse ways to spend a weekend afternoon than staring at pretty colors on a massive screen for a few hours
- I suspect I’m not the only person who feels this way
- This movie is going to make an absurd amount of money
- It would have been funny if they released the trailer and everyone found out this entire movie was just about a high-stakes basketball tournament where a bunch of blue creatures dunked on each other a lot
These are my thoughts on the Avatar trailer.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR – I would pay at least $10 for a standalone podcast episode where Quinta Brunson and Paul Rudd get drunk and talk about anything they want
The Hollywood Reporter has a big profile of Abbott Elementary creator and star Quinta Brunson over at their site this week. It’s worth a read for a bunch of reasons, some of which can be filed under “Quinta Brunson seems cool and it’s pretty cool to see her succeed like this” and others of which can be filed under “she uses her show to make lots of very Philly-specific references and nods to the local sports teams that I love very much and I point at the television and smile and shout each time like a marginally well-trained pet.” Both equally important in the grand scheme of things. To me. Go Birds.
Anyway, one particular section of the piece jumped out at me and I wanted to make sure you guys saw it, too. This section. The one I’m about to blockquote. Here…
You’ve said that a chance encounter with Paul Rudd inspired you to pursue comedy. Have you ever connected on this?
I saw Paul recently in New York. We talked about it briefly, but it was at a comedy club, and I was drunk, so I don’t even remember what we said. I know he knew about it and had told Seth [Rogen] that he didn’t remember. I didn’t expect him to! It was just him being nice to someone, and that makes a difference. You never know who you’re going to affect, just being chill and talking to them about the craft when they have a genuine interest.
There’s a lot of stuff in here that I really like a lot. There’s the thing about Paul Rudd apparently being almost exactly as cool as you’ve thought he was for like three decades now. There’s the thing about the good vibes from one seemingly unmemorable encounter causing a ripple effect years later that led to a fun television show that mentions my beloved Philadelphia Eagles sometimes. And there’s the thing about a drunk Quinta Brunson hanging out with Paul Rudd in a comedy club, which is something I had not considered before this week but have been thinking about a lot since.
This brings me to my point: I think I would like a podcast or televised talk show where fun and cool celebrities kick back and have some drinks and talk about whatever. Tell cool stories. Crack some jokes. My ideal version of this is just Quinta and Paul releasing a new episode every week, but I would start to worry about their livers after a while. I do want to hear that episode, though. Very much.
In conclusion: I like when people I like are friends and I like when I get confirmation that people I suspect are cool are actually, in fact, cool. Almost nothing to dislike about any of this. Except maybe the thing where that podcast doesn’t exist yet. I don’t know what’s taking so long. I suggested it a whole paragraph ago.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE – Good cameo
I have good news: The White Lotus is back. You might already know that. I hope you do. I wrote a whole thing about it. It’s a really good show. I’m glad Jennifer Coolidge is thriving.
A cool thing happened in the first episode, too. The short version, with as few spoilers as possible, goes like this: Michael Imperioli is playing a guy who is on vacation in Italy with his father and teenage son while going through a really rough patch with his wife for reasons that are not fully articulated yet but implied to involve him being kind of a putz. He has a brief phone conversation with her at one point in the premiere that consists mostly of her screaming and cussing at him. That’s a screencap of the scene up there. It was fun.
But maybe you saw that scene and thought, “Hmm, why does that voice sound familiar? Why does it feel like I do not ever want to disappoint that person? Why do I feel kind of ashamed even though I’m not the one getting yelled at?“ And if you did, well, there was a good reason for that, as confirmed by EW the day after the episode aired.
The season 2 premiere of The White Lotus on Sunday featured some surprise cameos from creator Mike White’s previous collaborators. You already know about the former Survivor: David vs. Goliath contestants who showed up in the opening minutes, but perhaps that voice on the phone later in the episode sounded familiar as well. Worry no longer: EW has confirmed that it was indeed Laura Dern who provided that profanity-filled bit of voice acting.
This is cool. It’s just really cool. I hope more shows do this. Get super weird with it. Have the phone ring in an episode of Hacks and have Jean Smart talk to some dude with a deep gravelly voice and let me think “Yo, is that Vin Diesel?” for a while and then talk myself out of it because it would be too strange and then open the internet the next morning and see a headline like “Yes, That Was Vin Diesel’s Voice On The Phone On Hacks” and shout “I FREAKING KNEW IT” out loud in a coffee shop with such unsettling intensity that a woman at the table next to me gets up a minute or two later and leaves without even finishing her latte.
That would be fun.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at email@example.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.
I saw that Pierce Brosnan posted a picture on Instagram of himself standing in front of a Pablo Picasso painting and I opened up Twitter to tell you about it and when I got there I saw someone else had already sent it to you and you had retweeted them. Your brand is so strong. I wonder if Pierce realizes he’s become a meme for all thefts now. I hope you get to tell him some day.
Okay, some background, just in case you are not a sicko who follows me on Twitter: I do this thing where I see a story about a theft of anything — money, art, cheese, donuts — and then I post a picture of Pierce Brosnan with the story. I do this because I’ve seen Thomas Crown Affair 100 times and After the Sunset 50 times and because it makes me laugh a lot to picture some tuxedo-clad smooth criminal played by Pierce Brosnan making off with, say, $300,000 worth of tennis balls. The point here is that I’m an idiot.
And so, where Pierce posted the Instagram in question, embedded here…
… no fewer than five people alerted me to it. Which I love. It makes me happy. Please always do this. And do not tell Pierce about it. I will be so embarrassed if I ever meet him and he looks at me with disappointment in his eyes because of my various online tomfoolery. A real self-esteem heist, if you will.
Anyway, if I were a security guard in an art museum and Pierce Brosnan was walking around looking at priceless paintings in a black coat and fedora, I would absolutely try to figure out how to get “Sinnerman” playing over the sound system. I would get fired immediately. It would be worth it.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
Perhaps the greatest controversy in the history of the sport of cornhole unfolded in August at the 2022 American Cornhole League World Championships, in Rock Hill, S.C.
Was the No. 1 ranked doubles team using illegal beanbags?
With the cornhole world watching live on ESPN, officials inspected the bags with the solemnity required for such a grave complaint. Then they huddled near sponsor banners for Johnsonville sausage products and Bush’s baked beans.
It was true—the bags weren’t regulation size. “They’re too small,” color commentator Mark Pryor exclaimed to viewers. “That’s going to create some drama.”
I love it. I love it more than the scandals in Irish dancing and competitive fishing but maybe a little less than the scandal in chess, if only because that one may or may not have featured a high-tech cheating plan that involved vibrating anal beads and I don’t see how anything could ever top that.
Messrs. Lopez and Richards asked officials to check their opponents’ bags, too. Turns out, they weren’t compliant, either.
This now infamous incident is known to fans as BagGate and it has sparked a frenzy in the game that started in the backyard, enjoyed between swigs of beer.
Two things here: One, it says a lot about humans as a species that we are both capable of creating a million fun little activities to set off the pleasure receptors in our brains and also twisted enough that we immediately try to figure ways to cheat at those same activities in order to defeat or friends and/or enemies; and two, once again, I hope darts is next.
“I think it’s funny that anyone believed it would be all friendships and rose petals forever in cornhole,” wrote one commenter on the Addicted to Cornhole Facebook page, which has 85,000 members. “Now the dirty underbelly is being exposed.”
This is, maybe, the funniest paragraph I have ever seen. I will need to think about it some more. Which I will. A lot. But it’s definitely way up there.
“You have the average players that try everything to make the bag do different things,” says Nate Voyer, a cornhole professional who prefers to wash his bag with a little fabric softener and let it air dry.
He knows a player who lays plywood over his bag and drives a car over it. That crosses into a gray area in Mr. Voyer’s view because it could crush the resin beads into smaller pieces. Cornhole pros are generally good people, he adds, “but all it takes is one bad apple.”
Imagine you go outside today and you see your neighbor — an otherwise normal guy, maybe a bank manager who coaches his daughter’s soccer team and has cookouts where everyone swings by and grabs a hot dog — in his driveway backing over a sack of beanbags with his car and when you wave and ask him what he’s doing he looks at you with a deranged mania in his eyes and says “big cornhole tournament this weekend.”
This would stay with me a long time. Possibly all the way to the grave.