TV

The Rundown: Something Fascinating Is Happening On ‘Fargo’

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 love him

Are you watching Fargo? I hope you are. I hope you are watching Fargo for a lot of reasons. It’s a good show. And I want more people who I can talk to about it. And because there are many worse things you can be doing — probably are doing — with the hour a week the show would cost you. You could be spending that hour doomscrolling through your social media platform of choice, or something slightly less self-destructive like repeatedly smashing yourself in the foot with a hammer. But mostly I hope you are watching Fargo so you can see what Salvatore Esposito is doing with the character of Gaetano Fadda.

Quick background: Gaetano Fadda is the younger brother of Josto Fadda, played by Jason Schwartzman, which is great because the size difference between the two men is massive. Gaetano is huge, and just back from Italy, and violent and short-tempered, and he has this teeny-tiny mustache on his big body. At one point he said the sentence, “In the land of taking and killing, Gaetano is king,” which is great on a few levels before we even get to the third-person part.

He is also — and I must stress here that this next part is not hyperbole — doing so much, all the time. You have never seen so much acting. It’s not that he’s just chewing up the scenery. This isn’t a Kevin Spacey in House of Cards situation, or even a John Travolta in anything but especially the O.J. show situation. He’s going big — HUGE — with every single line, with every movement, on purpose, in a way that is extremely Fargo. Look at what he does with this cigarette.

FX

Did you see it? Did you see my beautiful ornery rhinoceros take a lit cigarette out of his mouth and crush it with his massive fist? Why would he do that? Why would anyone do that? Other than to delight me, I mean. Because if that was the goal, baby, consider the mission accomplished. I don’t know if any show on television mixes the dramatic and absurd quite like Fargo. It’s got long thoughtful speeches about what it means to be American when America is a nation of immigrants, and who gets to be considered American first, and those speeches are occasionally delivered by a man named Doctor Senator who is neither a doctor nor a senator. Two of this season’s first three episodes featured powerful farts that played a legitimately important part in the action. Fargo contains multitudes.

But I’m getting off-topic. Look at Gaetano take this shot.

FX

I adore it. I love it so much. Every single time he’s on-screen he is just doing the absolute most he can. Every movement is exaggerated as far as it can go, every staredown results in his eyeballs bulging halfway out of his head, every line is delivered as though it might be the last thing the character ever gets to say. It’s kind of like the show plopped a character from a silent film right into the action and let him start speaking two languages. I know it might not be for everyone. I’ve spoken to a few people who find it a little grating. And that’s fine. The nice thing about this country is that you can be as wrong as you want in public and we usually won’t throw you in jail for it. But again, I do love it very much. It’s one of the reasons I appreciate Fargo, this mix of the smart and the ridiculous, the subtle and the huge. Gaetano Fadda sums this up perfectly.

I hope, before the end of the season, someone whacks him on the head with a frying pan and a big red lump grows out of his head and a bunch of little tweeting birds start circling it, like he’s in a cartoon. This would make me happy.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Whatever, reboot everything, see what I care

Showtime

Well, guess what: Dexter is back. It doesn’t matter if you wanted Dexter back, or if you had even considered Dexter coming back to be a thing you could want, or if you had kind of forgotten Dexter even existed. It’s back. Showtime is bringing it back. For a 10-episode limited series. That continues the story where it left off. Which, as I have been informed by people who watched Dexter after the first season, ended with Dexter becoming a lumberjack for some reason? Not important. Or maybe it is. Who knows? The point here is that Dexter is back.

And this is where the logical and what I’ll call “thinky” part of my brain wants to start throwing stuff. It’s mostly because of the thing we discussed last week where lots of good and fun shows with more niche-type audiences are getting axed — after being renewed — due to the COVID of it all (rising budgets, goofed-up schedules, etc.) and it is bumming me out tremendously. There’s a future we’re staring down in the entertainment industry that mirrors what we’re staring down in the restaurant industry, with lots of neat little spots disappearing and the massive chains and their larger cash reserves being the only survivors. The Dexter revival series, despite being something no one asked for and something not half as interesting as a GLOW or High Fidelity, will probably do numbers those shows never did. Maybe the better analogy is Hollywood going all-in on blockbusters and sequels a few years back because they knew those would get butts in seats. Maybe I only used the restaurant analogy because I’m hungry right now. I guess we’ll never know.

There is a second part of my brain, though. This part is not as logical. This is the part that loves anarchy and rascals and cackling at truly awful scenes from television and movies. And that part of my brain saw “Dexter is coming back” and immediately remembered the treadmill scene from the final season. A season I did not even watch. That’s how flabbergasting the scene is. It has embedded itself in the deepest parts of my subconscious and set up a dwelling there for over five years despite the fact that I have no idea what is happening or why. You might be with me on this. Or maybe you’re about to be. Watch this clip twice.

That stunt double is so clearly a 33-year-old man that I’m surprised the actress playing his mom — Yvonne Strahovski — did not bring him a glass of scotch after the fall. I love it so much. So, look, while I do not, in principle, support unnecessary reboots, especially in a time when better shows are dropping left and right like blond children on treadmills, if each renewal can bring me as much fleeting joy as this one brought me, fine. I’ll sign off. I’m still mad about GLOW and High Fidelity, and I still want answers and/or heads at some point. But I’ll give you all a pass this time.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Congratulations to James Caan

James Caan is probably best known for playing tough guy Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, and for playing a string of similarly tough guys in movies and television shows over the next 40-plus years. I say this not to judge the man’s career, mostly because you can do pretty much whatever you feel like if you have The Godfather on your IMDb page. No, I say this because it makes the next thing I am about to say much funnier, which is all that matters to me in most situations. Here goes: James Caan is, today, in 2020, apparently, really into Angry Birds.

This was August. Fine. Great. We’re all looking for ways to pass the time right now. I have no issue with beloved actor James Caan developing an Angry Birds habit. There are far worse ways to spend your day. As long as it’s not consuming him and sending him into wild and/or hilarious conspiracy-fueled fits of fury that he also posts on Twitter or something. That would not be healthy. Anyway, let’s scroll ahead to Septemb-

Well, this certainly took a turn. Please do stop here to picture James Caan mustering all of his Sonny Corleone rage and absolutely exploding in his living room about the number of stars he’s receiving from a video game so old that there have already been multiple movies made about it. It’s a fun visual. Especially if the image in your head features him unshaven and manic, as though he was playing the game non-stop between the two tweets, letting his life go to hell as the birds and pigs consumed him.

Luckily, (or unluckily, depending where you come down on that visual), the story now has a happy (or unhappy) ending.

Because this is the future and everything is stupid, there’s at least a 30 percent chance that this is a bit concocted by a team of social media professionals to trigger discussions exactly like this one. I know that. I do. But I’m going to put the blinders on anyway, mostly because I just want it to be true. I want to live in a world where Sonny Corleone is sitting at home conquering silly video games from a decade ago that feature furious birds causing destruction. And so, if only through sheer force of will, I am living in that world. It’s nicer here. Come visit. Bring some barbecue chips and iced tea.

Anyway, congratulations to James Caan on his success.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Space stuff, continued

It was only a few weeks ago that we discussed the increasingly loony Hollywood space race, starting with the Fast & Furious franchise fulfilling its destiny and — allegedly! — launching itself into the cosmos at some point in the long-delayed ninth film, and extending to Tom Cruise trying to one-up everyone by fulfilling his destiny and actually filming an actual movie in outer space. I stand by everything I said at the time, but I also apologize, because I did not foresee just how far all of this would go.

First, Moonbase 8, which I forgot about, somehow. That’s the trailer up there. Here’s the description:

Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker and John C. Reilly star in this new comedy series as three astronauts stationed at NASA’s Moon Base Simulator in a remote part of the Arizona desert. While working vigorously to qualify for their first lunar mission, they encounter many obstacles including loneliness, self-doubt and their own incompetence. In spite of it all, they remain determined to prove they have the right stuff to reach the moon.

I love these guys. I like this idea. I should not have forgotten about it. My working theory is a combination of 1) me being too excited about Vin Diesel and Tom Cruise in outer space, and 2) my brain blocking out space comedies altogether after I was let down by Space Force and Avenue 5. It’s either that or I’m bad at my job. Hmm. Let’s move on. It’s about to get weirder.

How weird? Hoo, buddy. Is “a secret and possibly plotless movie about Disney World’s Space Mountain roller coaster, despite the fact that Space Mountain does not have a built-in mythology and is not even called Space Mountain anymore” weird enough for you. I bet it is. From THR:

The ride has no overarching theme nor memorable “scenes” or characters seen in such rides as Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact, Space Mountain in Disneyland has turned into Hyperspace Mountain and given a Star Wars make up on occasion. As such, the story is being created whole cloth with the ride acting as inspiration.

Logline details are being kept hidden amidst the rings of Saturn but it is described as a family adventure.

The funniest thing here would be if this is not, in fact, a movie loosely based on the roller coaster and set in outer space, but instead a movie based on the actual roller coaster, in Florida. Like, one where an armed militia takes over the park and sets up its headquarters inside Space Mountain and a Disney security guard — a disgraced Navy SEAL who drinks too much and is fighting for custody of his daughter and is played by Gerard Butler — is the only one who can stop them. I would watch that movie. On basic cable. If nothing else is on. Probably.

Moving on again! Back to TV! What the heck is this?????

The six-episode series “SpaceX” will be based on the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance. It will document how Musk, in pursuit of his lifelong dream to make humankind a multi-planetary species, handpicks a team of engineers to work on a remote Pacific Island where they build, and launch, the first SpaceX rocket into orbit. It spurred a new era of privately funded space exploration, culminating in the first manned Space X launch of the Falcon 9 on May 30, 2020.

To be completely truthful, I have no opinion about The Elon Musk Show at this moment, mostly because all I can think about right now is the thing where Billions had a character that was basically “if Elon Musk was more charming and handsome,” and he was played by Prince of Television James Wolk, and they killed him off by blowing him up in his own spaceship.

SHOWTIME

This was a very good chat about space.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — An incomplete list of television shows I would watch based on the title alone

ABC

Miami Justice
Miami Justice: South Beach Nights
Miami Justice: Monte Carlo
Justice Miami: Supreme Court Nights
Dirtbike Cops
Dirtbike Cops: Bermuda Nights
Dirtbike Cops: Monte Carlo
Ronda Biloxi: Private Investigator
Pablo Escobar and the Malfunctioning Time Machine
The Cheese Calamity
The Hot Dog Fiasco
Pizza Chaos
The Mustache Squadron
Non-Stop Car Chases Set To The Chicken Dance
The Saxophone Heist
Blade: Substitute High School Teacher
John Wick: Substitute High School Teacher
Atomic Blonde: Substitute High School Teacher
Hacker Dogs
Hacker Dogs: The White Hats
Hacker Dogs: Monte Carlo

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 Erik:

Other than the obvious #1 (Hitler), who would you say are the most commonly depicted historical figures in film and television? I was tempted to say Jesus has gotta be up there, but there really haven’t been that many movies with him (not counting weirdo Kirk Cameron-type stuff). Lincoln seems a good bet (historical dramas plus goofball stuff like “Bill and Ted” and “Vampire Hunter”). I also feel like Pablo Escobar is a real dark horse here. Who else ya got?

Erik, this is a good email. I had not thought about this subject even once before I received it, and now I am fascinated by it. Fascinated enough by it that I actually did some research to find an answer. Okay, I just googled “historical figure most often depicted in movies” and scanned the first page of results. But still! That’s more than I usually do for these questions!

In my “research,” I learned two things:

  • All of the results claimed that the most depicted historical figure was Napoleon
  • All of the results linked back to the same questionably sources study from like 20 years ago

Anecdotally, this just feels wrong, doesn’t it? I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of movies in my life and I can only think of one that had Napoleon in it. To be fair, that movie was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and most of the movies I’ve seen are shoot-em-ups where a hotshot or team of hotshots must get revenge and/or steal a large jewel, so this could be another one of those “Brian is not very cultured, it appears” situations. I don’t know. I still think you’re right that it’s Hitler or Lincoln. Maybe Julius Caesar.

The lesson here, which I should have known going in, is to never do research. That’s on me. I can and will do better going forward.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Albany!

An Albany Fire Department ladder truck was stolen sometime Sunday night or Monday morning.

Fire truck heist?

FIRE TRUCK HEIST!

Police were notified of the stolen fire truck when a passerby saw it parked in the 1500 block of State Street in Schenectady at 7 a.m. Monday. Colonie police are investigating the crime because the truck was stolen off the Municipal Training Center lot on Wade Road in the town, Lt. Robert Winn said.

FIRE TRUCK HEIST

FIRE TRUCK HEIST

FIRE TRUCK HEIST

Winn also noted that the severe storm that had recently blown through the Capital Region, knocking out power for days, had shut down surrounding surveillance systems they would have normally referred to. However, police recovered forensic evidence — including potential fingerprints and DNA — and are waiting for laboratory results.

I choose to believe, and I should note here that no amount of hard evidence can dissuade me, that the storm was caused by a massive weather satellite that some supervillain hijacked for the sole purpose of causing a storm strong enough to knock out power in this specific location so he could steal a fire truck. Let’s just go ahead and call it Geostorm 2. Gerard Butler can star in it after he makes the Space Mountain movie I just cast him in a few paragraphs ago.

Anyway, I think we can say without a doubt that this is the week’s best story about a large taxpayer-funded vehicle getting stol-..:

A Baton Rouge preschool program said Monday that a school bus taken on a joy ride by an 11-year-old boy was not stolen from its Scotlandville campus, and police determined late in the day that the vehicle actually belonged to someone else and had been taken from private property 2 miles away from the school.

Excuse me. A school bus heist? Masterminded by a child?

This changes everything.

McKneely said the chase lasted over a half hour and included several attempts to stop the bus, including when officers placed spike strips in the road. The boy spotted the spike strips and swerved to avoid them, McKneely said. At least 10 officers were involved in the chase, some stationed at intersections to stop traffic.

I want to be clear about something. I know this is bad, okay? I know that, in real life, I should not be excited about a child stealing a school bus and leading the police on a chase through town. There are probably dozens of reasons this story is sad and troubling once you look into it beyond the surface level. That’s why I’m not going to do that. That’s why I’m just going to show you this next paragraph and end the column. Didn’t we just talk about the dangers of research? Besides, I mean, come on. Look at this guy.

The child was so small that he apparently had to stand up to reach the pedals, McKneely said. He added that at one point, the boy reached his hand out the window and made an obscene gesture toward pursuing officers. The child’s name isn’t being reported because he’s a juvenile.

Giving police the middle finger from behind the wheel of a stolen school bus is the single most Bart Simpson thing I’ve ever seen. Let’s just call him not guilty on account of living out my wildest childhood dreams.

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