The Rundown: Bless ‘Fargo’ And Its Commitment To Ridiculous Character Names

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.


The good news here is that Fargo is back. It was almost back months ago, but then everything happened, and the fourth season of FX’s anthology crime series got put on hold like every other project that had not been finished by March of this year. But again, it’s back, again, starring Chris Rock and debuting in September and dropping this new switchblade-filled teaser as a promise that it is really, finally happening.

This is good news for a number of reasons. It’s good news because Fargo is a good show. It’s good news because there’s a vast television wasteland on the horizon as the production shutdowns catch up to what’s already aired, and a season of Fargo can help hold that off for at least a little while. And it’s good news because the new season looks cool as heck, from both the teaser and the official description, which I will now blockquote

In 1950, at the end of two great American migrations — that of Southern Europeans from countries like Italy, who came to the US at the turn of the last century and settled in northern cities like New York, Chicago — and African Americans who left the south in great numbers to escape Jim Crow and moved to those same cities — you saw a collision of outsiders, all fighting for a piece of the American dream. In Kansas City, Missouri, two criminal syndicates have struck an uneasy peace. One Italian, one African American. Together they control an alternate economy — that of exploitation, graft and drugs. This too is the history of America. To cement their peace, the heads of both families have traded their youngest sons.

Chris Rock plays the head of one family, a man who — in order to prosper — has surrendered his youngest boy to his enemy, and who must in turn raise his enemy’s son as his own. It’s an uneasy peace, but profitable. And then the head of the Kansas City mafia goes into the hospital for routine surgery and dies. And everything changes. It’s a story of immigration and assimilation, and the things we do for money. And as always, a story of basically decent people who are probably in over their heads. You know, Fargo.

But mostly, this is all good news — for me, at least — because it means we get to have the discussion about the fantastic collection of character names the show has given us so far. It started right away, back in season one, with a demonic hitman named Lorne Malvo and a Minnesota cop named Molly Solverson. The second season gave us a slew of additional Solversons and added a teenage butcher shop employee named Noreen Vanderslice, a drunk lawyer named Karl Weathers (with a K), Gale and Wayne Kitchen, Constance Heck, and, I swear to God, a man named Skip Sprang. The third season somehow topped both of those, thanks in large part to a season-long game of cat and mouse between a hustler named Nikki Swango and a cop named Gloria Burgle, with a Donnie Mashman and a Ruby Goldfarb sprinkled in here and there. I really must insist you read all of these names out loud at some point this weekend. They are a real treat for your entire mouth, from the soft mushy consonants of Lorne Malvo to the carnival ride of Nikki Swango. You deserve this.

And when you’re done with that, take a gander at the list of names in this upcoming fourth season. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but I really think these could be the best yet. Chris Rock plays Loy Cannon. There’s a Thurman Smutney and a Constant Calamita and a Zelmare Roulette. There’s an Odis Weff and a Josto Fadda and a Swanee Capps. There is, for some reason that I can’t wait to discover, a person named Doctor Senator, which is somehow more perplexing to me than the fact that the second season featured a full-on alien visitation.

I love all of them very much. The one I love the most, though, is the character who will be played by Timothy Olyphant: a U.S. Marshal named Dick “Deafy” Wickware. Dick “Deafy” Wickware! At first glance, it might lack the showmanship of the others. It’s not the smorgasbord of syllables that Constant Calamita is. But again, say it out loud. Do it right now. Do it quietly if there are people around who might judge you for it, but do it. Hit the hard consonants extra hard. Make a meal out of “Deafy,” a completely unnecessary addition to the already perfect U.S. Marshal Dick Wickware that somehow puts a ribbon on the entire thing. Dick “Deafy” Wickware. I can’t stop saying it now. I’m not joking. I’ve been saying it over and over out loud as I type this paragraph. Right now I’m enjoying the Wickware of it all. I can’t wait to hear a character say it out loud on the show.

Dick “Deafy” Wickware.

Dick “Deafy” Wickware.

Dick “Deafy” Wickware.

I missed you so much, Fargo.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Listen to Mike Schur, always


Mike Schur created Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, co-created The Office, and was a big part of the team behind Fire Joe Morgan, quite possibly the best website in the history of the internet. He is smart and funny and kind and thoughtful. He is at least partially responsible for the screencap you see above, in which Ted Danson pretends to be a dance troupe leader named Zach Pizazz. I point all of these things out for two reasons: One, when Mike Schur talks, it’s generally a good idea to hear him out; two, it is infuriating to me that he is good at so many things, which proves that he is more kind than I am again, which makes me upset that I’m being jealous and petty, which just spins the cycle around again.

He spoke to Vulture’s Jen Chaney this week about the final season of The Good Place and about a dozen other things, including the one I want to discuss: The process of improving yourself. The context here is the recent controversy over bad old tweets by longtime Parks and Good Place writer Megan Amram, but the general theme applies on a much more broad level.

The theme of the show is, “Look, you’re going to blow it sometimes. You’re going to make mistakes. Everybody does.” So the question isn’t how to avoid making mistakes. The question is, once you make mistakes, how do you go about improving yourself?

In this case, those things she tweeted were, I don’t know, eight, nine years ago. So I knew her not as that person but the person who came after that. And that person has spent pretty much every waking moment of her life fighting for LGBTQ rights and radical equality among all people in the world, especially marginalized people, women, and gay people. So when it came out, it was like, “Well, the advice that I would give you is the advice that you’ve not only already taken but have actually been acting on for the last nine years, which is to be a better person than that.”

I like this a lot. It’s a good policy, and it’s one I’ve touched on before. If we always hold each other to the worst things we’ve done, there’s no point in any of us trying to improve ourselves. Improving yourself a little bit every day — or at least trying to — is the whole point of being alive. Yes, it’s important that people apologize for past bad acts and do the work to move forward. Yes, it’s fair to say “Hey, this thing was kind of messed up. Do you still feel that way?” But it’s also okay to look at the person in front of you and decide if that person has grown and changed since they did or said the crappy thing. It’s not good or healthy for all of us to be stuck in a non-stop game of gotcha with each other, like we’re all the kind of gross political hacks who make the kind of gross attack ads we all complain about every other fall. Sometimes it’s okay to accept someone’s apology, thank them for not being that person anymore, and move along with your own life.

There’s too much bad stuff worth fighting against to spend all our time ripping each other to shreds. Try to get better, let other people try to get better, eat more onion rings. These are the pillars of a happy life.


You know what I like? I’ll tell you. I like Walton Goggins. I like the HBO Wimbledon mockumentary 7 Days in Hell. I like completely insane things that have no reason other than “because it is funny and awesome.” And so, with that said, I give you the first teaser and the official description for John Bronco, a completely insane thing starring Walton Goggins and directed by the director of 7 Days in Hell, Jake Szymanski.

Some have said that if you were famous before the internet, you might as well never have existed. Such is the case for John Bronco, the greatest pitchman who ever lived. In 1966, Ford tapped him to race their new prototype SUV at the Baja 500 in Mexico. Not only did he win, but he gave a rousing speech that rallied a nation. Legend has it that Ford named the new car “Bronco” after John, made him the face of their campaign and skyrocketed him to stardom. His commercials were on every channel and his jingle went triple-platinum. John launched his own cologne, breakfast cereal, video game, action figure, you name it. He was the very embodiment of the American dream, that is, until it all came crashing down

We are all watching John Bronco. To be fair, I would be saying this about almost any project titled John Bronco, including but not limited to a CBS procedural about a hotshot Colorado defense attorney who plays by his own rules but has a rock-solid moral core under his wild playboy exterior, but it’s especially true here. It’s got so many things I like. And it has Tim Meadows in it. You know what other projects had Tim Meadows in them? Walk Hard and Popstar. Am I saying this will be as good as both of those? No. Maybe. I don’t know. But it looks really good on paper, though.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — There is no limit to the amount of “James Gandolfini loved Green Day” content I will consume


It was only a short time ago that we all learned about Sopranos star James Gandolfini’s deep love for the Green Day album Dookie. This was a thrilling and profoundly upsetting development. Thrilling because, like, have any of us stopped hearing Green Day songs in James Gandolfini’s voice in our heads ever since? And profoundly upsetting because he’s gone and we cannot ask him 40,000 questions about this news. Real twister of a factoid, this one.

That’s why I am both happy and deeply sorry to tell you the story has a new development. Michael Imperioli, the person who broke the news the first time in an Instagram comment, provided an update to Stereogum.

“Gandolfini would also sing basket case and make up his own lyrics about HBO and the writers and producers of the sopranos,” Imperioli wrote to us. “Usually when he was feeling overworked and overexposed, and his lyrics would reflect that. Some of the more musical crew members would add a verse or two. Great fun.”

A few hours later, he followed up: “He also named his dog dookie and used it in his email address.”

[taps microphone, clears throat]

Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I keep on seeing ducks
Am I just paranoid?
Or I am just Ton’?

I’m really very sorry about this. Please know the original draft had a whole part about the “went to a shrink to analyze my dreams” line that referenced both Dr. Melfi and Big Pussy. It was awful. So awful that I deleted it for both of our sakes. Substantially worse than the awful thing I did print up there, which is saying something. I have regrets.


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This is a difficult subject for me because just last week I wrote a whole thing about how much I’ve missed going to a movie theater this summer, but I’m going to soldier on anyway, to be strong: This is not a good idea.

AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, will reopen in the U.S. on Aug. 20 with retro ticket prices of 15 cents per movie.

AMC Entertainment, which owns the chain, said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas — or about a sixth of its nationwide locations — on Aug. 20 with throwback pricing for a day.

THE WORLD: It’s probably not safe to sit in an enclosed movie theater for two to three hours during a pandemic, even if relatively strict social distance policies are enforced.

AMC THEATERS: But what if we made it cheaper???

During its opening-day promotion, AMC will show catalog films, including “Ghostbusters,” “Black Panther,” “Back to the Future” and “Grease.” Those older films will continue to play afterward for $5.

Two things worth noting before we move on here:

  • The silver lining in all of this is that between the cheap prices and minimal available seats, you could probably buy out an entire theater for a private screening of Ghostbusters or Black Panther for like $5, which is hilarious
  • It is always fun for me when AMC makes a weird decision like this because I get to point out that its current CEO was also the CEO of my beloved Philadelphia 76ers when the team made the disastrous 2012 trade for Andrew Bynum, which is also hilarious

I think that’s all I wanted to say on this. Yeah, I’m good.


If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at (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 Joe:

With your possibly (probably) successful prediction that the Fast and Furious franchise will go to space, I wanted to share with you my prediction for the John Wick Franchise. Basically at some point, we get a film called John Wick 10: The Quest to Kill God, where you guessed it, John Wick has to kill God. John, not wanting to do such a thing, gets an audience with the Pope asking what he should do, and the Pope, after reminding John that he is “excommunicado,” pulls out a gun and John Wick has to fight the Pope in the Vatican with all the Vatican guards also trying to kill John. Have either Jude Law or John Malkovich play the Pope so we also get a nice crossover. Needless to say, John wins and he begrudgingly takes on the quest to find and kill God.

This email is good. Almost… too good. It mentions the Fast & Furious movies going to space, it pitches a nutso plot for a John Wick movie, and it references the Young/New Pope universe. It’s so perfectly tailored to my interests that it feels like it might be a trap. Is this a trap, Joe? Are you hacking me? Did you already hack me? Have you had access to everything on my laptop ever since I opened this email earlier in the week? Are you doing cybercrimes to me? ARE YOU? You have to tell me if you are. That’s the law.

If you are not and I am just overreacting, then I apologize for accusing you of malicious intent. It’s just… I mean, come on. You have to see where I’m coming from here. This is almost exactly what a notorious cyberhacker would send as a trick to cybercrime me. It’s got all the pieces. Now I’m getting suspicious about John Bronco, too. That could also be a trap, now that I think about. I’m going to have my head on a swivel all weekend. Can’t be too careful.

The funny thing in all of this, even if it is a trap: I still want to see this Pope-based John Wick movie. Badly. I’m not a complicated man.


To Germany!

A nudist in Berlin got too close to nature for comfort when a wild boar snatched his plastic bag – which had his laptop inside.

You have undoubtedly seen these photos floating around if you’ve spent any amount of time on social media in the past week. If you have not, please click that link and go look at them now. A naked man chasing a boar that stole his laptop is high comedy. I don’t care who you are. That’s just pure humor.

Let’s learn more.

While the man was bathing, [the photographer] writes, the boars calmly ate a pizza from his backpack and then “they were looking for a dessert”.

“They found this yellow bag and decided to take it away. But the man who owned it realized it was the bag with his laptop.

This is such a fantastic multi-layered own by these boars. They didn’t just steal his laptop and make him chase them while nude. They ate his pizza and then stole his laptop and made him chase them while nude. I’m kind of… I’m kind of proud of them? I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting carried away. I have a soft spot for rascal swine, what can I say?

The onlookers “adored him how focused he stayed and when he came back with his yellow bag in the hand we all clapped and congratulated him for his success”.

I have a feeling this clapping was more than a little sarcastic. I wish we had the whole thing on video. And speaking of video… GUESS WHAT. This was not the only German boar incident this week. There was a second one! A second German boar incident! Here, look!

I don’t know what has gotten into German boars this summer, but as someone who watched every episode of the short-lived CBS animal revolution drama Zoo, I will say that we should probably keep an eye on this. Just baby steps from this to, well…


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