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 — Yes, of course, Jackie Daytona, but also…
What We Do in the Shadows ended its excellent second season this week. Our own Josh Kurp enjoyed it so much that it prompted him to float the idea that it could be the funniest show on television. I can’t argue with that. I mean, I guess I could. I can be a real contrarian dork sometimes. But I won’t. The show brought me more legitimate belly laughs than any other scripted comedy in these last few months, especially in the episode where Laszlo, one of the show’s vampires, fled a duel with Mark Hamill and went on the lam as bartender and volleyball aficionado named Jackie Daytona. It’s a very good show.
The strange thing is, knowing myself as well as I do, the character who went on the lam as a bartender named Jackie Daytona isn’t my favorite character on the show. My favorite character on the show, by a lot, and the one I consider to be the show’s secret weapon, is Colin Robinson.
Some background: Colin Robinson, played by Mark Proksch, is a daywalking “energy vampire,” meaning, unlike a standard vampire who feeds on blood at night, he feeds any time of day by draining people (and other vampires) of their life force by boring or depressing the hell out of them. It’s a blast. Sometimes he’ll start talking and you won’t realize what he’s doing right away and then it will suddenly hit you. He argues with people online while giggling. He tells long stories that go nowhere. He inserts himself into petty drama and calmly dumps accelerant on the flames. One time, and I’m about to post the screencaps so you’ll believe me, he summoned the ghost of his dead grandmother just so he could get her with an “updog” joke.
There was just a bonanza of good Colin Robinson moments this season. Most notably, there was the entire episode where he was promoted at his office and realized people had no choice but to listen to him in meetings and in small talk. He became a madman, a borderline supervillain, who harnessed so much power that he spontaneously grew an entire head of hair again. It was a good episode. I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it. You should see it, too. Again, it’s a good show.
The key to it all is Proksch’s performance. He’s so dry and droll and it works so well, both for his character and for the balance of the show. The other vampires in the house are big and loud and showy. Laszlo is a theatrical sex manic, Nadja loves drama as much as blood, Nandor is a legendary bloodthirsty warrior who is also a needy little boy. Adding a bald man with a monotone voice and a closet filled with beige sweaters is a perfect way to ground that. It’s a genius performance of a genius character on a profoundly dumb-fun show. Kudos to everyone who had a hand in making it happen.
I hope he starts next season as a telemarketer and he grows and grows until he’s 40-feet tall. He is my sweet energy-sucking boy.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — Congratulations to the prestigious winners
The 2020 Peabody Award winners for television were announced this week. It’s always cool to see which shows crack the list each year, in part because it’s a different, more prestigious kind of award than the Emmys or Golden Globes, and in part because you get to feel very cool and smart when a show you watch sneaks in there. This year’s list covers a bunch of topics and genres: Chernobyl and When They See Us are in there representing true stories told through drama; Fleabag is in there representing smart comedies and Hot Priests; and Stranger Things is in there representing… demons, I guess? I don’t know. Congrats to the winners. None of this is the point I’m getting to.
The point I’m getting to is that Succession and Watchmen both won, too. That’s cool. Succession and Watchmen are great, for very different reasons. Succession is a show about awful rich white people attempting to ruin each other in a constant battle for status inside their own family. Watchmen is a show about a diverse group of masked heroes attempting to thwart a racist collective that has its tentacles all the way up and through the United States’ government. That is the very simplified version of both shows. They are much more than those respective sentences, in many ways. They even have a little in common when you dig past the “they were both on HBO” surface level. They are both serious examinations of subjects that affect life in America (wealth, race). They both cut through this seriousness with fits of wicked humor. And they both featured memorable farts.
I should explain. Actually… wait. No. Maybe I shouldn’t explain. It will be way funnier if I just post the screencaps and move right along. Let’s do that. Succession first.
Beautiful. Just perfect. A Peabody Award-winning fake fart. I would go so far as to say the caption-writing deserves part of the honor, too, only because “mimics in childish babble” is so tremendously specific.
Speaking of excellent and tremendously specific work in the field of caption-writing, here are a couple of screencaps from the Peabody-winning series Watchmen.
To be clear, this is Jeremy Irons, in character as Adrian Veidt, farting so prodigiously that it required two separate, different captions.
Congratulations to the winners.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — “Oi’m a peaky bloinda, ain’t I
Peaky Blinders is a good show. We’ve been over this many times. One of the best parts of this very good show is Cillian Murphy as the head of the Peaky Blinders criminal organization. He’s all stoic and calm with a bubbling rage hiding in his eyes behind his tiny round spectacles. He’s very cool and very calculated and occasionally he flies way off the handle and ends up covered in someone else’s blood. It’s a blast. But as we learned from a new interview with series creator Steven Knight, it was almost very different.
Jason Statham almost played Tommy Shelby.
I met them both in LA to talk about the role and opted for Jason. One of the reasons was because physically in the room Jason is Jason. Cillian, when you meet him, isn’t Tommy, obviously, but I was stupid enough not to understand that. . . . He sent me a text saying, ‘Remember, I’m an actor,’ which is absolutely the thing, because he can transform himself. If you meet him in the street he is a totally different human being.
I like this story a lot. I like it because it contains a very cool move by Cillian Murphy to land the part, and I like it because it’s a very Tommy Shelby thing to do (to whatever degree Tommy Shelby would send texts if he were alive today instead of the 1920s), and I like that I’m now picturing Jason Statham in Peaky Blinders, just kicking people in the sternum and scowling at them. It’s a totally different show. It might not be a better one. It’s definitely different, though, which I say as someone who loves Jason Statham. Like, picture Tommy Shelby doing this.
Yeah, different show. I kind of want them to make a whole second series, completely parallel to the one on now, shot for shot and line for line, but starring Jason Statham. Please consider this. I don’t ask for very much.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Woody Harrelson rules
Some things we know about Woody Harrelson:
- Has had a long and successful career in Hollywood
- Loves to smoke pot
- Lives in Hawaii most of the year
- Plays poker with Willie Nelson a lot in Hawaii
- Son of an actual hitman
- Seems to have things pretty well figured out
We also learned, this week, that he is almost definitely not a racist. We learned this because a racist who looked kind of like him popped up in a viral video, which caused his name to begin trending on Twitter, which led to dozens of people filling the trending topic with cool stories about how Woody rules and is, again, almost definitely not a racist. Do yourself a favor. Click on this tweet and scroll through the replies. Read a whole bunch of them. So many people have “Woody Harrelson is cool” stories. He’s like if Bill Murray was way, way more chill. It’s fascinating.
Woody Harrelson is trending because people think he's the racist guy in a video. I was his waiter once and he stayed late and felt bad so he invited me, his waiter, to join his group, let me smoke a full joint, and then went into the racist history of Robert Moses. It's not him.
— Grant O'Brien (@GrantOB) June 9, 2020
It also reminded me of this very fun Woody profile from Esquire a little while back. Bookmark this and come back to it this weekend if you want to read about Woody and a reporter scaling walls and wandering around New York on the hunt for a vegan restaurant (you do), but here’s a taste.
He’s still in his T-shirt and shorts, though he’s added sandals, which appear to be made out of some all-natural, cruelty-free fabric and which shouldn’t work on anybody yet do on him, and a baseball hat with the words drugs and wine stitched above the brim. No one has ever looked less like the son of a gunned-up, mobbed-up, bad-hombre jailbird. Halfway out the door, he smacks his forehead and says, “Wallet, keys!” then trots back inside.
The greatest. I would give anything to hang out at one of those poker games in Hawaii. I bet they’re fun.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Sheeeeeeeesh, Nicole
There’s a nice profile of Reese Witherspoon in the Los Angeles Times this week. It’s about how she rose from struggling and typecast movie actress to dominant television force with multiple big fancy dramas on multiple big fancy premium services, from Big Little Lies on HBO to Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu to The Morning Show on Apple+. The woman is a force, an absolute dynamo, a mover and shaker in a big way, and none of that is what I want to talk about. Look at the opening of the profile. Look at the second paragraph.
Sitting next to Nicole Kidman in makeup on the set of “Big Little Lies,” Reese Witherspoon had questions. Loads of questions. What was it like to work with Stanley Kubrick? How did you do the musical numbers in “Moulin Rouge!”? Witherspoon loves movies. At age 44, she has been working on sets for three decades and enjoys nothing more than digging into film lore.
Kidman, though, had more existential musings she wanted to explore. “Do you ever think about dying, Reese?” Kidman would ask her costar. “Because I think about it all the time.”
It’s fun to picture Nicole Kidman with like jet-black hair and taking a deep drag off a clove cigarette while she says this. Goth Nicole Kidman. It’s also fun to picture her saying that in other situations.
KIDMAN: Do you ever think about dying? I think about it all the time.
CASHIER: Ma’am, this is a Panera Bread.
Just delightful. Play around with it yourself this weekend. You’ve earned it.
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.
In your column about Mythic Quest’s quarantine episode, you wrote that after watching it, you found yourself “lying in bed afterward for about 45 minutes, just blown away, staring at my ceiling.” Me too. I can recall two other episodes of television that knocked me for a loop like that: the season 3 finale of Lost (“We have to go back!”) and the train robbery episode of Breaking Bad (Todd shoots the little scorpion boy). Can you recall other episodes of TV shows that left you lying in bed staring at the ceiling?
A few things are true here, most notably that this is a very good question. Also true: I am a bit of a crier. A good happysad show or movie will really get me going. So I am not unfamiliar with this kind of reaction. It’s happened after the final season episode of Halt & Catch Fire when a main character died, it happened after multiple episode of Bojack Horseman, it happened at the end of Fleabag’s second season, and it definitely happened at the end of The Wire’s season about the Baltimore public schools. There are more examples but there’s a thread that runs through them all: they are great shows.
That’s the sign of a great show, isn’t it? That it makes you feel things? Even a mostly silly show like Parks & Rec or The Simpsons would sometimes drop that emotional hammer. It’s even more effective there, in a way, because you don’t see it coming. I think that’s why the Mythic Quest quarantine episode got me. I wasn’t expecting that deep level of feeling and then blammo, the ending was sweet and powerful and the first thing I’ve seen that accurately depicted the fried and confused stress of the quarantine. It was good. I’m thinking about it again. Might stare at the ceiling for a bit.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
Swedish prosecutors have named the man who they say killed former Swedish prime minister Olof Palme in 1986, ending years of mystery.
They said it was Stig Engstrom, a graphic designer known as “Skandia Man” who killed himself in 2000.
It brings me great pleasure to announce that Swedish authorities believe they have solved a 34-year-old assassination cold case that I knew nothing about until this week and then immediately read everything I could find about it.
Palme was shot in the back as he walked home from the cinema with his wife in Stockholm.
He had already dismissed his security team for the day. The assassination took place on Sweden’s busiest road, Sveavagen, and more than a dozen witnesses saw a man fire the shots before fleeing the scene.
Palme’s son Marten told Swedish radio that he believed prosecutors had reached the right conclusion and were right to close the case.
It has to be a real mixed bag for the family. On one hand, there’s some semblance of closure. On the other hand, the suspected perpetrator is gone and there are still a lot of questions. And this emotional quandary is something I might have examined at greater length had I not stumbled across this passage about the suspected killer’s wife from a piece about the case from last year.
His wife, who he divorced the previous year, believes he was too much of a coward to assassinate Palme.
What a great moment this must have been for her. It’s not every day you get to call your ex of 20+ years a coward in print, on the record. Bad situation all around, but I am kind of happy for her.