TV

The Rundown: ‘Fleabag’ Is As Good As All Your Cool Friends Say It Is

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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 will vary, as will 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 — Turns out all those smart and cool people you know had a point

There are a lot of television shows out there and I can’t watch all of them. That’s what I said. That was the best reason I had for not watching Fleabag, the BBC/Amazon comedy created by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, even though all of my friends and colleagues with good taste raved about the first season and started raving again last week when season two came out. I’m a busy man, after all. I have things to do. I’d just have to live with having this as a cultural blind spot.

But then this week I broke down and decided to check out the first episode. And then I watched another one. And another one. And the next thing I knew, I had watched both seasons in under 24 hours. That’s not some sort of mighty feat, considering each season consists of six 30-minute episodes and each of those episodes breeze by, but it was still not how I expected to spend six of those 24 hours. I couldn’t help it. Turns out all of those people were very correct. Fleabag rules.

Quick background: Waller-Bridge plays a character nicknamed Fleabag, although we never really hear people use her name. She runs a tiny cafe that she started with her best friend, a woman named Boo who recently passed away. She’s smart and fun and funny and kind of a mess, drowning her pain in alcohol and casual sex. Her family is a trip, too. Her wildly successful sister is stuck in a miserable marriage to a world-class creepo (played by Brett Gelman, who commits to a degree that is almost inspirational), her widowed father is now dating an awful, passive-aggressive, condescending new woman (played by Olivia Colman, who also revels in being terrible in the role), and things are just all-around not great.

I’m not selling the show very well so far. I know that. What I just described sounds like any other awkward comedy you can find on any other cable channel or streaming service. That’s not what makes Fleabag so good, though. What makes Fleabag so good is the execution. Each episode is a perfect little story that feels lived-in and personal and then the next thing you know, blammo, everything has tied together and you’re blown away. There are twists and reveals and sad moments and deep moments and victorious moments. It’s a heck of a ride.

It is also wildly funny. Waller-Bridge breaks the fourth wall repeatedly through the show, sometimes talking directly to the camera and sometimes stealing little glances, and she gets more laughs out of just her facial expressions than most people get out of the best jokes crafted by the best writers money can buy. It’s not a mockumentary like The Office, though. It’s more intimate than that, in part because none of the other characters are aware of it. (Well, almost none of the other characters.) She’s not so much talking to the camera as she is confiding in you, the viewer, giving little winks that reveal the character’s true feelings and motivations. Sometimes she’ll do this thing where she’ll deliver the same line twice in a row, once to the camera with one inflection and once to another character with a different one, and it never fails to kill me.

The first season is really good. The second season is really, really good. She falls in love with a priest. It’s a whole thing. I’m not going to say too much more about it because I refuse to give anything away if you haven’t seen it yet. All I’ll say is that the last five minutes are somehow heartbreaking and hilarious and triumphant and left me staring at the screen in awe for what felt like a full minute. If that doesn’t sound like a long time to you, go set a timer. Stare at a blank screen for a full minute. It’s an eternity. That’s how good of a show Fleabag is. It turned me into a catatonic weirdo. I have no higher compliment to give.

So this is your project for the long holiday weekend. Watch Fleabag if you haven’t. Maybe re-watch it if you have. It’s only six hours in total. I know you don’t have better plans because you’re reading this on a Friday afternoon in May. Do it. Join us. You’ll become an evangelist, too.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — A great day for America

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Guy Fieri got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week. This feels… correct. It feels correct. Guy Fieri is famous as heck, probably more famous than most professional athletes, if we’re counting fame as “people know who you are.” He’s on television like five hours a day. His most popular show promotes small businesses across the country, for free and with gusto. He is by almost all accounts a very good dude. Yes, the hair and the wardrobe choices, fine. I’ll give you that. He does sometimes feel more like a cartoon character than a real person, and I still find it massively funny that a teenage supervillain once stole his Lamborghini, but you really can’t argue he doesn’t deserve this star.

That’s not the point, though. That’s the stuff that gets us to the point. This is the point: Look at the speech that was given at the presentation.

“Fifteen or so years ago I was living in an Airstream, traveling across America. I lived on the road and I came across this show, ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives,’ and it quickly became my favorite show.”

Wow. That’s a little perfect, right? They got some Triple D superfan who crisscrossed the country in a camper to honor him. I dig this story already. It has a little mystical flair to it. Kind of reminds me of someone. I can’t put my finger on it, though. I wonder if rea-…

“One day on the road I get the number of the host, Guy Fieri, and I call him up and I say, ‘Listen, hey man, it’s Matthew McConaughey.'”

!!!!!

Okay, a few things:

  • Matthew McConaughey gave the speech at Guy Fieri’s Walk of Fame ceremony
  • Please do take a second and think about how you’d react if you got a call from an unknown number, decided to answer it, heard the rickety background noise of an Airstream barreling through the southwest, and then heard a voice that sounds exactly like Matthew McConaughey’s say “Listen, hey man, it’s Matthew McConaughey”
  • Now think about how Guy Fieri reacted
  • Matthew McConaughey gave the speech at Guy Fieri’s Walk of Fame ceremony

Fascinating. All of it. Top to bottom. Especially the part where Matthew McConaughey introduces himself with “Listen, hey man.” You can hear him doing that, right? You’re hearing it right now, I bet. And if there’s any part of you that doesn’t believe me, well…

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Moving on.

“We cooked a lot of food. We ate a lot of food. We drank a lot of spirits. We talked about life, and we talked about being authentic to who you are, and that’s the night that I met you, Guy Fieri.”

I have never in my entire life wanted to be a fly on the wall more than I do right now. A time-traveling fly. One who can go back to the night this happened and hear Matthew McConaughey and Guy Fieri have this conversation. I would pay $100 for a complete transcript and another $700-800 to hire Matthew McConaughey and Guy Fieri impersonators to perform it on my birthday. I’ll go up to $1,000.

“You’ve been you the whole time, and that ain’t easy.”

Please have Matthew McConaughey give my eulogy. Tell him to wing it. Tell him he has to wing it. He can’t say no if I put it in my will, right?

ITEM NUMBER THREE — The saga continues

Did you watch Of Mics and Men, the four-part Wu-Tang Clan documentary that aired on Showtime? I hope you did. It was a joy. It followed the basic outline of most music documentaries — struggling to make it, getting big, things falling apart, tentative peace — with the main difference being that it was about the Wu-Tang Clan. So it was better. That’s what I’m saying.

It’s tough to nail down my favorite part. There’s a huge section about ODB, which is obviously great, and a little sweet. There’s a ton of old footage that shows very cool moments in music history happening in real time. There are extended interviews with everyone in the group, including Ghostface and Method Man, two of history’s greatest truthtellers, talking a mountain of trash about the single-copy album that was infamously purchased by disgraced pharma bro Martin Shkreli. All good.

But I think, if I had to choose, I’d go with this:

Showtime

Context is important. This is a screenshot of RZA’s brother, Divine, who funded the group with drug money in its early days and later became its business manager, denying that he stole or hid money from group members while sitting on the back of a luxury boat he named after himself.

Now, I don’t want to say Divine stole that money. I have no proof to make a claim like that, nor do I want to defame someone who could very well be innocent. But I will say that denying you participated in shady financial trickery while sitting on the back of a luxury boat you named after yourself is, well… it’s a little suspicious. And a lot of hilarious. I want to hug the directors. I might kiss them.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — The New Pope will save us all

There’s a lot of talk this week about what will “replace” Game of Thrones. About what show will capture the nation’s — nay, the world’s — attention, bring back fun water cooler chat, and keep various pop culture websites in the black with a fire hose of traffic once a year (please click). People are pessimistic. Apparently, they didn’t see this tweet that HBO sent out earlier this week. There’s your answer.

To recap: The New Pope (the sequel series to The Young Pope, a totally insane and kind of beautiful series that starred Jude Law and featured a kangaroo and miracles and the two greatest lines on dialogue — “I am the young pope” and “I was praying so hard I nearly shit my pants” — in premium cable history), which stars John Malkovich as the aforementioned new pope, has now added Sharon Stone and Marilyn Manson, the latter of whom could very well be playing the devil.

He might not be. He might be playing a cardinal or something. But we definitely can’t rule out that he’s Satan in this picture. Not on this show. I’ll put the odds at 50-50 that he’s playing the devil, either imagined in a fantasy sequence or the real devil. Don’t tell me if I’m wrong. Just let me have this for a while.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Trouble in paradise

Saban Films

Good news and bad news. First, the good: John Travolta — the freshly bald John Travolta, which we have Pitbull to thank for, because they are good friends, as we all knew and expected — is starring in a new movie titled The Fanatic, which was written and directed by Fred Durst YES THAT FRED DURST and features Travolta as an unhinged superfan. This is just the latest in perplexing career choices from Travolta, starting with the Gotti biopic directed by Kevin Connelly YES THAT KEVIN CONNELLY and continuing through Speed Kills, a drug movie about speedboat racing that is the source of the above screencap. I’m beyond excited.

But now, the bad news:

The Fanatic was set to screen for buyers at the ongoing Cannes market until it was canceled at the request of Travolta, who allegedly didn’t like the cut of the film and decided to do a re-edit of the picture. An email was allegedly blasted out to buyers with this information.

Wait. Travolta pulled Fred Durst’s movie from Cannes so he could commission his own re-edit and possibly do one himself? Why did I think this was bad news? This is wonderful news. Possibly the best news. Remember the thing I said about wanting to be a time-traveling fly so I could sit on the wall to hear a conversation between Matthew McConaughey and Guy Fieri? Well, please add “John Travolta telling Fred Durst that he’s canceling the Cannes screening of the film Durst wrote and directed so he can produce a new version he approves of.”

I’ll be a busy fly. Please do not swat me.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or, like, whatever you want, shoot them to me at brian.grubb@uproxx.com and 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.

Liz:

You can only choose one movie franchise: John Wick, Fast & Furious, or Mission: Impossible. The others will cease to exist. What do you do now, hotshot?

What. Do. You. Do?

Liz, this is cruel. It was cruel enough when I just had to choose one and doubly cruel once you added the thing about wiping the others out of existence. Part of me wants to just dodge the question by answering one I wished you’d asked instead. (My specialty.) But I’ll try. Here we go.

I think John Wick is the first one out, even though I love these movies so much. There’s only three of them, though, whereas the others have double that number or more. It hurts because nixing this franchise now will prevent it from reaching those figures, which it might. The other franchises have at least one miss each, too (the fourth Fast & Furious is trash, the second Mission: Impossible is the weakest by far), whereas John Wick is three for three so far. I don’t like doing this. But it’s done.

This is where it gets even harder, though. I love the Fast & Furious movies. They’re big and loud and dumb in the best way. The progression from the first to the eighth is honestly my favorite thing in any franchise ever. Vin Diesel goes from running a lunch counter and stealing DVD players to saving the world from an anarchist cyberhacker who stole a nuclear submarine. There’s a chronological pretzel in the middle that means the third movie technically takes place between the sixth and seventh (or, if we want to be very accurate, during the credits of the sixth). It’s nuts and fun and I love it all more than some members of my extended family.

But I’ve got to go with Mission: Impossible. As my Uproxx colleague Steven Hyden has also noted, the movies are better, quality-wise, from top to bottom. The first one is a mindfreak, the later ones have some of the coolest action set pieces ever committed to film. They’re all compulsively watchable. One of them, my personal favorite, is named Ghost Protocol, which is cool. Yes, this is my selection. There.

Now please don’t ever do this to me again.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Colorado!

A Colorado man has been ordered to pay more than $28,000 to cover damages after he pleaded guilty to stealing a Sno-Cat painted to look like the “General Lee” car featured in the TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Really good sentence. Beginning to end, just a blast. Would read again. Did read again, actually. Might read it again right n-… yup, I read it again. My only complaint is that the AP write-up of it lacks substance. I need to know more. I need, hmm, maybe some local news flair. Yes, let’s to that.

To Vail!

[The thief] drove the stolen General Lee out of Eagle County to the high desert west of Grand Junction. There he planned to put it on a train and ship it to Alaska.

That’s what one of his social media posts says.

Oh hell yeah, that’s the stuff. And please do click on that link to see a picture of the General Lee Sno-Cat, which someone built and someone else stole. The only way this could get better is if he, like, gets turned in by his mom and also had previous legal problems that stemmed from trying to pay for truck repairs with weed. Or something. I don’t know why I jumped to that. Seems like a longsh-…

A couple of weeks later his mom exercised some serious tough love and told police they could find him at the Jefferson County auto dealership where he was having his small truck’s transmission repaired. He wrecked that hauling the General Lee. Some of his Jefferson County problems stemmed from trying to swap marijuana to cover some of that repair bill.

Well… dang.

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