TV

The Rundown: It’s A Great Time To Watch Stuff About The Moon


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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 — MOON STUFF

It’s wild that we went to the moon. It’s even wilder that we went to the moon in 1969, 50 years ago tomorrow, in fact. Think about that for a second. We didn’t even have reasonably priced microwave ovens until the 1970s. We put a man on the moon before we figured out how to make frozen dinners a commercially viable possibility. Cell phones didn’t hit the market until the 1990s. If you weren’t at home in 1969 and someone wanted to get in touch with you, you might as well have been in space with the astronauts. That’s… that’s a little crazy. It’s worth reflecting on a bit this weekend when we celebrate the anniversary.

The anniversary also makes this weekend a great time to consume moon content, and there’s some good moon content out there to consume. HBO has re-released its 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon — produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Tom Hanks, with intros from Hanks before the episodes — and made it available on its streaming service, HBO Go. I’ve been watching it for the past few days and I have been in heaven. It’s really good. Each episode tackles a different part of the space race, from the planning to the bureaucratic battles to the astronaut squabbles to the actual flying of some damn spaceships. It’s a tribute to accomplishing something many thought was impossible, and to smart people doing hard things against long odds.

It is also absolutely littered with names and faces you will recognize from other television shows. It’s got a pre-Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston and a pre-Mad Men John Slattery and a pre-Justified Nick Search, a mid-Newsradio Stephen Root and Dave Foley, a pre-NCIS Mark Harmon and a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn and a post-Wonder Years Dan Lauria, plus Cary Elwes and Rita Wilson and Kevin Pollack and Tim Daly and Ted Levine. That’s not even everyone. You’ll spend half the series pointing at the screen like “Hey! It’s the guy from the thing!” And you’ll always be right.

You could also, if you’re so inclined, head out to your local library and pick up a copy of The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, which tells the story of the earliest days of the space program and the test pilots who got this whole ball rolling. It’s probably my favorite book, so I’m biased, but man, is it ever informative and an absolute blast to read. The chapter on Chuck Yeager is legendary, as it should be, and will make you feel awed and totally insignificant in your own stupid little life, but in a good way. If you’re consuming moon content, you could find a much worse place to start.

So that’s the plan this weekend. The whole country will be baking anyway. Sit in the air conditioning, have some iced tea, and dig into some moon stuff.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — This week in kitties and fighter jets

Comic-Con kicked off this week and we all know what that means: it is trailer time, baby. Trailers galore. All kinds of trailers, too, including some that have absolutely nothing to do with actual comics. Like, for example, this teaser for the upcoming Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which will come out a smooth 30+ years after the original. That has to be close to the record for most time between the original movie and its non-reboot follow-up. I would say how silly this all is if I hadn’t been immediately sucked in within the first 20 seconds of this trailer. I’m such a sucker. No apologies.

Two notes about the trailer:

  • If this movie doesn’t feature a “because you’re the best, that’s why” scene in which Maverick is recruited back into live-action, I will eat my entire laptop with no condiments
  • Nothing in this trailer explicitly rules out the possibility that Goose returns as an evil zombie who is hellbent on destroying Maverick

Something to keep an eye on. And something we might all have had more time to focus on if another trailer hadn’t dropped like an hour later and set the internet on fire in a way we haven’t seen since Sonic and his human teeth terrified children and adults around the globe. Yes, it is time to discuss Cats.

A few questions:

What?
Why?
What and why?
Who did this?
Why are the cats doing that?
Why do the cats look like that?
Why didn’t they just put the actors in costumes or animate the whole thing?
What?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a thing. It’s all very strange and the world seems to have split into musical theater types who are very excited and the rest of us who are flabbergasted in ways we may never recover from. I’m sorry. I’m really trying. I just… I do not think I ever expected to see Idris Elba as a humanoid CGI cat. Maybe I’ll wrap my head around it by the premiere. I doubt it, but maybe.

Also: Many people, myself included, just learned the actual plot of Cats this week in the aftermath of the trailer’s release. Here’s the shortest and most straightforward version I saw, from the Simple English Wikipedia:

Every year, a tribe of cats known as the Jellicle Cats meets for the Jellicle Ball. At the Jellicle Ball, Old Deuteronomy, the leader of the tribe, chooses one cat to ascend to the Heaviside layer to be reborn and return to a new life. Grizabella, an elderly (younger in some productions) glamour cat who left the Jellicle tribe’s junkyard home, comes back to her tribe, but they shun her. While the other cats dance at the Jellicle Ball, Grizabella watches in the background. She performs a simple dance when the other cats leave and sings about how she wants to be accepted. Old Deuteronomy sees this and sympathizes with her. In act two, Old Deuteronomy gets kidnapped by Macavity, a “mystery cat” who is the only true antagonist in the musical. As soon as he is successfully returned, it is time to choose who goes to the Heaviside Layer. Grizabella is chosen, and she is taken on a tire to fly into the Heaviside layer.

Well… sure. That’s really quite a lot of business going on, possibly too much, and I might take a second or two to poke fun at any of it if I weren’t also a person who has chosen to blindly accept the story trajectory of the Fast & Furious films. I can’t really goof on “some singing cats choose which one of them goes to heaven” when I’m fully prepared to whoop and holler for Jason Statham’s character in Hobbs & Shaw in a couple of weeks even though his character murdered Han a few films ago. We all have our things. Some involve neon Hondas, others involve Taylor Swift as a technicolor singing kitty cat. It’s fine. Kind of. I guess!

ITEM NUMBER THREE — The improbable double Manson

Sony Pictures

I think most people are at least somewhat aware of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Tarantino’s upcoming movie that stars DiCaprio and Pitt and Margot Robbie) and Mindhunter (Netflix’s serial killer show, which debuts its second season later this year). What some of you may not be aware of, however, and what I consider my duty to scream about until everyone is aware, is that Damon Herriman is playing Charles Manson in both projects. Damon Herriman! Dewey Crowe from Justified! Pulling a double Manson in 2019! That’s him up there as a young Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and here he is as older Manson in Mindhunter.

Netflix

I’m so happy about this. I’m so happy for him. Dewey Crowe was one of the best characters on Justified and almost certainly the funniest. He really grew on you, which is saying something considering he was a dimwitted criminal and white supremacist. He was just so sweet. I don’t know. You really need to watch the show to get it. Let’s do that. Let’s all watch or re-watch Justified. It’s the least we can do for Damon Herriman on the eve of his unprecedented Double Manson.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Fargo, you have done it again

FX

Fargo is a good television show. This is true for a bunch of reasons, one of which is the fact that it has the best and silliest collection of character names you’ll ever see in a project not involving aliens and/or wizards. Although I guess the show did feature aliens at one point. That was weird. Still, the point stands. The show has already brought us names of criminals like Lorne Malvo and Nikki Swango, and names of cops like Molly Solverson and Gloria Burgle, and names of civilians like teenage butcher shop employee Noreen Vanderslice. I’ll stop here but there are more. Lots more.

And more to come. The cast and characters for season four dropped this week and I am pleased to report that none of it was a disappointment.

JACK HUSTON as “Odis Weff”
JASON SCHWARTZMAN as “Josto Fadda”
BEN WHISHAW as “Rabbi Milligan”
JESSIE BUCKLEY as ”Oraetta Mayflower”
SALVATORE ESPOSITO as “Gaetano Fadda”
ANDREW BIRD as “Thurman Smutney”
JEREMIE HARRIS as “Leon Bittle”
GAETANO BRUNO as “Constant Calamita”
ANJI WHITE as “Dibrell Smutney”
FRANCESCO ACQUAROLI as “Ebal Violante”
E’MYRI CRUTCHFIELD as “Ethelrida Pearl Smutney”
AMBER MIDTHUNDER (recurring) as “Swanee Capps”

That’s really just wonderful. We’ve got a character named Constant Calamita, another one named Josto Fadda, and a Leon Bittle. Those are all fun but nothing on this list can top “Thurman Smutney.” I’ve been saying it out loud over and over for about 24 hours and I might never stop. Try it yourself. The syllables are a mix of hard stops and soft mush and it’s a real treat for your mouth. This season could end up being white-hot garbage and I would still cut it some slack for this alone. And I didn’t even get to Jack Huston as “Odis Weff.” Odis Weff! Come on!

What a delightful television program.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Well, at least it turned out okay for Alfie Allen

Prior to this week, I was aware of both the 2008 song “Alfie” by Lily Allen and the existence of Game of Thrones actor Alfie Allen. What I was not aware of, however, was the fact that Alfie from the song, the dirtbag little brother who spends all day smoking weed and loafing about, is Alfie Allen. Because he’s Lily Allen’s little brother. I found out from this tweet. It’s been living in my brain ever since.

My God, what a completely devastating sibling own that song was. She didn’t even change his name. She just roasted her then-unfamous kid brother straight to hell in a wildly popular pop song. Think of the meanest and funniest thing you did to your sibling as a kid. Was it better than this? I bet it was not.

It all seems to have worked out for Alfie, though. He did get a job. And the character he played had one of the craziest redemption arcs you’ll ever see. And he got nominated for an Emmy after submitting himself for contention when HBO didn’t.

Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) and Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), who self-submitted, were both nominated in the supporting categories too. Plus: Self-submitted Carice van Houten (Melisandre) was nominated in the guest actress category.

Good for him. But I still hope Lily releases another song about what a wiener he is. The guy killed John Wick’s dog. I’m still not over it.

READER MAIL

Kyle:

What currently airing show could be most improved by the introduction of a talking dog?

I’m not sure if Kyle means “currently airing” like in the middle of its season right now or “currently airing” like still making new seasons, but in either situation, you could do a lot worse for an answer than Big Little Lies. The key would be that no one but home viewers could hear the dog. It would just add narration and commentary and maybe look dead into the camera with a confused head tilt when one or many of the more outlandish events take place. Just let the dog be the Greek chorus and shatter the fourth wall. Let it ask questions we’re asking at home like “Why is everyone so hellbent in covering up a killing that could easily be explained away by California’s defense of another laws?” or “Why is this homicide detective so hellbent on catching them in a lie? Does she not have other cases?” or “Should we be siding with Nathan now in his feud with Ed because at least Nathan is making an effort?”

It couldn’t hurt. I would also like to point out that I was joking about adding a dog to this show in the Uproxx Slack on Monday and then this email came in on Tuesday. Sometimes the world just works.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Miami!

“Small waist. Very curvy hips. Nice rear end. A lot of women are chasing that look,” said Asanyah Davidson, chairperson at Miami-Dade College’s Miami Fashion Institute. “It’s big business.”

Such booming business, in fact, that South Florida has spawned a sprawling black market for fajas fueled by a brazen and still unsolved Hollywood-style underwear heist.

Faja heist! Wait. Hold on. What, exactly, is a faja?

The faja, as it is known to Latin American consumers, is a cousin to old-fashioned girdles and more modern offerings like Spanx. Though various versions of corsets have been around for centuries — torturing women with everything from whalebone to steel to plastic — they have fallen out of fashion favor in much of America.

Ohhhh, so we’re looking at a girdle/Spanx situation? Girdle heist!

The haul: 34,000 high-end, Colombian-made fajas with a retail value of $2 million. The burglary, which occurred last year but wasn’t publicized until now, continues to have ripple effects. So far, seven people have been prosecuted for trying to hawk garbage bags stuffed with stolen undergarments but the masterminds of the great faja robbery have never been caught — and less than a quarter of the filched fajas have been recovered.

This story has it all, baby: Multimillion-dollar girdle heist — check; trash bags full of undergarments — check; the phrase “filched fajas” — check again. I really do recommend you read the whole story. It’s a wild tale. One of my favorite parts comes when they catch a small-time middleman with a bunch of fajas and his plan to get leniency consists of rounding up as many stolen fajas as he can find and dropping them off at his lawyer’s office.

“They were taking up half my waiting room. There was no place to put them,” Taquechel said. “In all my years of practice, this was a first. I had no idea there was a market for stolen fajas.”

Okay, now I want a season of Fargo about this. I know it’s set in Miami and Miami is probably the country’s least Fargo-like city. I don’t care. Call it Fargo: Vice City and start writing scripts today. Or at least consider adding a character named Faja Filcher to the upcoming season. I’ll also accept Filcher Faja. Either way.

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