TV

The Rundown: Please Do Not Stop Appreciating Bob Odenkirk Now

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 — Let’s not go and forget this now

There’s this thing we all do sometimes, and I am as guilty of it as anyone, where we wait for a person to die or have a serious health scare before we decide to say nice things about them. It’s strange. It comes from a good place, for sure. These kinds of events push the person to the front of our brains and make us think of them in a grander context, but again, it’s strange. We could have said all of those things while the person was around to appreciate it. And we should. And we can. Was this all a long way of saying that we should go right on saying nice things about Bob Odenkirk now that he appears to be out of the woods? I mean, yes. You saw the headline. But it’s still important.

That was scary. Bob Odenkirk collapsed and there was no update for what seemed like an eternity. Everyone everywhere went online to pump good vibes into the universe and share things he’s done that inspired them. That was nice. And it was even nicer to get the news that it was just a scare and he’s on the mend. So nice, in fact, that most of us breathed a sigh of relief and moved on with our lives. Which is fine. We all have a lot going on. But if it’s okay with you, I’m going to keep saying how cool Bob Odenkirk is.

Think about Bob Odenkirk’s career for a second. The man helped to revolutionize sketch comedy in the 1990s with Mr. Show, a relentlessly weird and smart endeavor that still clicks today. Go watch some of the sketches again now. Start with my favorite one, which I will plop in right below this paragraph.

It’s so stupid and so good. Just complete nonsense that exists for laughs only. Go down the rabbit hole this weekend and you’ll see a million more like that. You’ll also see a bunch of familiar faces and names, because Bob Odenkirk has his fingers everywhere: Tenacious D got their big break on Mr. Show, Paul F. Tompkins and Comedy Bang Bang host Scott Aukerman were writers, to name a few. And this continues today, like, literally to last month, because Bob Odenkirk, a man whose comedy bona fides are rock-solid and does not need to prove anything to anyone, also appeared in the new season of I Think You Should Leave.

Netflix

That’s cool. That’s an entire career right there, if you want it to be, just being the Dean Emeritus of sketch comedy. But then Bob Odenkirk appeared on Breaking Bad as sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman and started running off with scenes every week. And then, after he solidified himself as a part of that universe, he went and started starring in a whole damn spinoff based on a character who was the comic relief of an otherwise bleak endeavor. And it was good! It’s still good. The sketch comedy guy has been carrying one of the best dramas on television — a spin-off of one of the best dramas in history — for almost a decade. That’s wild. The degree of difficulty on it was almost incalculable. It’s normal to us now, but maybe it shouldn’t be. We should be impressed by it every day.

Same with this.

Bob Odenkirk just up and decided to become an action star in his late 50s, and that worked, too. It worked so well. Nobody, a movie written by the mind behind John Wick, was a blast. Go watch it this weekend if you haven’t seen it. Watch it again if you have. And then, when you’re done, please take a moment and try to bend your brain around how cool this is, all of it. The sketch comedy guy became a dramatic actor and then became an action star. There’s no parallel here. The closest one, hilariously, might be Keanu Reeves, who went from Bill & Ted to a slew of rewatchable action movies.

But even that doesn’t work quite right. You have to go hypothetical to really make it work. It would be kind of like if Andy Samberg was introduced in this season of Succession and then his character got spun off into an equally good show and then he starred in a movie that was originally written for Liam Neeson. But stretch all of that over decades. Picture a 60-year-old Andy Samberg smashing goons with a hammer. That gets us close.

It’s all just remarkable. And a little inspirational. But mostly it’s cool. Bob Odenkirk has been doing cool stuff on screens large and small for like 30 years now. I’m glad he’s pulling through this health scare, both because I want him to be safe and happy and because I want to see what other cool stuff he does. Bob Odenkirk is the greatest. We shouldn’t need a scary excuse to remember that. In fact, let’s all just agree to have this conversation every six months or so. That would be nice.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — We have ourselves a Jeopardy! fiasco

ABC

I suspect all of you are familiar with the Jeopardy! drama at this point but I’m going to recap it briefly anyway to be safe. The show has been parading out guest hosts all year long as it searches for a replacement for Alex Trebek. The early money was on Ken Jennings, but that seemed to get surprisingly little traction. Mayim Bialik swung through and was really quite good. Levar Burton and the public at large clamored for him to get a crack at it, and he did, and it went swimmingly. Anderson Cooper, Buzzy Cohen, and a few others gave it a shot. And in the end, if early reports are to be believed, the selection committee, which includes executive producer Mike Richards, went with a surprising option: Executive producer Mike Richards.

And people got mad.

People got so mad.

And a spokesman for the whole thing left just enough wiggle room to back out.

A Sony Pictures spokesman said that discussions were ongoing with several potential candidates. He would not comment specifically on Richards’ status. A source close to the situation cautioned that there’s no certainty that the sides will close a deal and that other candidates remained in the mix, although Richards is clearly the front-runner.

It’s been, to summarize, a whole thing. And while I typically prefer to try to hover about 10-12 feet above most internet scrums to prevent bodily injury, I do get this one. It’s not so much that I wanted any particular candidate. I would have preferred they go with someone chaotic and off the board, like, say, Eric Andre or Martha Stewart or the Tessitore/Riggle pairing from Holey Moley. But the process is what stunk. It appeared to be a kind of open audition and it encouraged fans to get behind their favorites and then they went and gave it to the in-house guy helping to oversee the search. It smells bad this way. Especially considering this tidbit from The Ringer’s Claire McNear, who quite literally wrote the book on Jeopardy.

Richards told numerous media outlets, including The Ringer, that his presence was a last-minute decision: The intended host had fallen through, he said, leaving him just days to prepare. “I was never meant to be a part of that process,” he later told Broadcasting + Cable. Audiences warmed to what was widely viewed as the-show-must-go-on panache, an echo of the departed host of more than 36 years.

But two sources close to Jeopardy! tell The Ringer that that’s not an accurate depiction of how Richards came to host. Instead, a planned host had a minor conflict during one of the show’s upcoming tape days. Jeopardy! staff and crew told the host that they could work around it—only for Richards to step in and insist on hosting himself, according to the sources, one of whom described feeling surprised that Richards characterized his presence onstage as an emergency substitution.

Gross! Add it all up and it makes the whole thing feel like a sham, like they played the fans for dopes. It stinks to be played for a dope. Nobody is coming away from this happy, except perhaps executive producer and reported new Jeopardy! host Mike Richards.

Actually, no. That’s not true. I am coming away from it a little happy, too. Not because Jeopardy! ran a sham host search and then some guy hired himself, though. (See above, re: stinking.) My happiness is entirely based on this story kicking off a process that reminded me of the screencap at the top of this section, the one from Celebrity Jeopardy! where Andy Richter — and to a lesser but not insignificant degree, Dana Delaney — absolutely cooked the hell out of world-famous newsman Wolf Blitzer. I’m laughing again now just thinking about it.

And it gets even better, for me, because when I searched my laptop for the picture I discovered I had saved it as “wolf jeopardy,” which, in addition to being an accurate file name, is both an incredible fake name and a situation I would never like to find myself in while in the woods.

So that’s good. The rest of it… less so.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — I am ready for La Brea

If you, like me, have been watching a massive amount of Olympics coverage this week, then you have probably seen this commercial a few dozen times. It’s for an upcoming NBC series called La Brea. It looks completely insane. The official description does not make it appear less so.

An epic adventure begins when a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, pulling hundreds of people and buildings into its depths. Those who fell in find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous primeval land, where they have no choice but to band together to survive. Meanwhile, the rest of the world desperately seeks to understand what happened. In the search for answers, one family torn apart by this disaster will have to unlock the secrets of this inexplicable event to find a way back to each other.

Three things worth noting here:

  • It’s been a long time since I had a good bonkers network television show to sink my teeth into, like a Zoo or a CSI: Cyber or a Deception (the last of which was about, I swear, a hotshot magician getting recruited by the FBI), and it would be cool if this show fills that void for me
  • It’s good to see Natalie Zea get another chance at a big network television show because all she’s ever done for the past 10-15 years is steal scenes
  • It is a little shameful that it took us all this long to make a show about a massive sinkhole opening a door to a magical subterranean kingdom under Los Angeles

I mean, come on. That one was a layup.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Finally, the good show will return

Well well well, look at that. A new season of Joe Pera Talks With You is on the way. That’s terrific news. Joe Pera Talks With You is a wonderful little show. I’ve written about it before, which is good, because then I can just link to it in case none of what I say here does the job. It’s a tough show to describe. It’s on Adult Swim and almost every episode is under 15 minutes and almost nothing happens in most of them. There are episodes about having breakfast and going to the grocery store and, oddly enough, an episode about Joe Pera — in character as a music teacher who lives in Michigan and is also named Joe Pera — discovering the music of The Who in his 30s.

Here’s a clip of that episode. It somehow both explains the show perfectly and tells you nothing at all. Which also kind of explains the show perfectly.

It’s all the most peaceful and nice and calming thing you’ll ever watch on television and then out of nowhere you’ll start caring about these people so much and then the next thing you know you are crying a little. And laughing. Connor O’Malley shows up sometimes and that might catch you off-guard. It doesn’t feel like his strange/intense style of comedy would fit, but then it does. I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, really. He does have a habit of showing up in hilarious shows that have short episodes.

I guess, in closing, considering I’ve done a pretty poor job of telling you why I like the show so much, I’ll just post some screencaps that make me laugh a lot even without the context. That seems fitting. Here we go.

ADULT SWIM
ADULT SWIM

Not a single lie was uttered that day, friends. I am looking forward to having this show back in my life. I love a good extreme-o high-stress comedy sometimes, but sometimes it’s nice to watch nice people be nice. Just watch the show. I won’t say we can’t be friends if you don’t like it, but I will say that we probably would if you do.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — I need you to think about this one

Okay, I’m going to the bullet points here again because I need to dump some information on you:

  • This is a video of Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec towing a boat with his jet ski
  • The boat contains a former minor league hockey player and his family
  • He is towing these people because they ran out of gas and were stranded on the lake as nightfall approached

Per People Magazine, which blessedly wrote this up for, I’m assuming, me, personally:

“I was out jet skiing and I saw a boat drifting with a dad and his three kids, waving their arms frantically,” Herjavec, who shared a video of the rescue effort on Instagram, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “My first thought was they must love Shark Tank, but then I realized they were out of gas and stranded.”

Okay, a few more bullet points

  • Please think about this story
  • Think about it a lot
  • Think about how stressed out you would be if your boat ran out of gas in the middle of a Canadian lake as the sun started setting
  • Think about how excited and relieved you would be to see a jet ski approaching
  • Think about how you would react, as the jet ski approached, when the person next to you on your impotent boat whispered, “Is that… is that Robert from Shark Tank?”
  • “… On a jet ski?”
  • “… In Canada?”

It’s so weird! And yet, it is still not my favorite story involving a celebrity and an emergency. It’s not even in the top two. I suspect nothing will ever crack that list. I don’t see how anything could, considering those two things are 1) Werner Herzog pulling Joaquin Phoenix from the wreckage of a car accident, and 2) a plane crashing in the fairway of a Los Angeles golf course and the startled golfers have to process all of that and then immediately also having to process that the man walking away from the rubble is Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford.

Those golfers probably tell that story at every party they go to. I bet they get invited to some parties just because people want their friends to hear it. It’s a really good story. This one is a solid number three, though. A bronze medal. The jet ski is a really nice touch. No writer’s room for any comedy on television could have stumbled into that one. Nope, that’s the kind of thing only reality can come up with.

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 Chris:

Brian help me – since ITYSL’s 2nd season has come out I haven’t been able to see a coffin or funeral in film/TV (they are darkly commonplace!) without picturing a possibly naked corpse bursting out of the bottom of that sucker, leading me to audibly laugh during an otherwise sober scene.

Anyway to actually ask a question, what is something that broke your TV-watching brain in an unexpected way?

The tricky thing here isn’t answering your question as much as it is narrowing my answer down to one thing. Or even two things. This happens to me constantly. I will pause a movie to take screenshots the instant I hear a character tell another character the two of them are “not so different.” I almost ruined the entire last few seasons of Bosch for myself once I noticed the way Bosch puts his hands in his pockets. Judith Light is a wonderful actress and has been for decades now but I cannot see her in anything without immediately thinking of the time she did cocaine at the rodeo on the short-lived updated version of Dallas that aired on TNT almost 10 years ago. And now I’m going to post it again.

TNT

I guess what I’m saying here is welcome to the funhouse, buddy. It gets weird in here. We have a good time.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To London!

A British wildlife sanctuary has been forced to separate five parrots who wouldn’t stop swearing at visitors. Keepers say the birds encouraged each other to keep cursing, and had to be moved from the main outdoor aviary.

Well, guess what: I love these birds. And I love that the people at the zoo are taking the same approach to rascal birds that my teachers took with me and my rascal human friends in high school: separate them and hope for the best. It’s only a matter of time until one of the birds gets a leather jacket and starts smoking. One of them could end up pregnant and have to drop out of beauty school. I’ve seen it a million times.

According to Nichols, none of the zoo’s visitors complained about the parrots, and most found them amusing.

“When a parrot tells you to ‘f*** off’ it amuses people very highly,” he said. “It’s brought a big smile to a really hard year.”

I have a question and I’m already angry about it because I read this entire article and know it does not get answered: When these birds curse at people, in this zoo, in London, and I think you can already see where I’m headed here… do they do it in a thick British accent? Like, a parrot voice but with the accent. Like if Jason Statham were a bird, which is a movie I desperately want to see now that I’ve typed it out, but that’s another post for another day.

Do they curse with a British accent?

Someone answer me.

I’m serious.

This is going to bother me.

Probably not enough to call up this zoo over the weekend and identify myself as a writer to try to get through to the trainer to ask him, but still.

Probably.

“With the five, one would swear and another would laugh and that would carry on,” he said.

“I’m hoping they learn different words within colonies,” Nichols added. “But if they teach the others bad language and I end up with 250 swearing birds, I don’t know what we’ll do.”

I posted this link on Twitter the instant I saw it, including this quote, and my very smart colleague Robby Kalland replied with the correct answer to this potential scenario: You take these 250 profane birds and you open a zoo that features only them. You start The Cussing Bird Zoo. I would pay extra to go to that zoo. I would pay, I don’t know, $50 for a ticket to a zoo where the birds swear at me, in stereo, possibly in a thick British accent. (I might call. This is killing me.) Put in a cash bar. Add a whole dinner show. Encourage the guests to cuss back. Let it get a little rowdy. Just a little. Dress a few of the birds in tiny leather jackets. Maybe not that last one. But maybe especially that last one.

This is one of those ideas that is either really good or really, really terrible. I think I need to sleep on it. No one start a cussing bird zoo until I make up my mind.

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