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 hate it
Reasons it stinks that Netflix canceled GLOW, presented in no particular order:
— GLOW was a very good and very fun show. I love good and fun shows and think there should be more of them. Any time one gets canceled — even in a situation like this, where the previously greenlit fourth and final season was scrapped for COVID-related reasons — it bums me out a lot.
— GLOW was a smart show with cool stuff to say about women and work and figuring out how to get through life and becoming an adult and finding your own family when you would otherwise be alone. It did all of these things while also doing a number of very silly professional wrestling scenes. I have, on a number of occasions, mentioned what a sucker I am for shows that dance successfully across that serious/goofy line. GLOW was one of those shows that could make you laugh or tug your heart halfway out of your chest, sometimes in the same episode.
— It is certainly not the most important reason on this list, at least not in the grand scheme of things, but at one point GLOW introduced us to a crappy teen rock band named “Shitpope” whose big showstopper was an anti-Reagan anthem called “Mourning in America,” and the mascara-wearing shirtless lead singer made sure to specify for the audience that it was “mourning with a U.” Also, this guy was in the band and I’m still convinced, even though I know for a fact it’s not true, that he’s a Kyle Mooney character. Any show that does all this should get to end on its own terms.
— Between GLOW getting canceled this week and High Fidelity getting canceled by Hulu earlier this summer, it has been a real brutal run for smart and fun shows about women getting cut short for stupid reasons. It’s not even just those two. Netflix killed off Tuca & Bertie, Showtime just shut down On Being a God in Central Florida after one season despite its previous renewal, etc. But those are the two that are sticking with me because I liked them so much.
— Netflix gave Ryan Murphy $100 million to make various shows about murder but they can’t free up enough money to hang onto a cool show about lady wrestlers who care about each other? Get outta here.
— It stinks especially when a streaming service cancels a show because, like, what then? Anytime a network or cable show is canceled, you hear the drumbeat among its fans who hope/beg/plead for it to get “saved” by a streaming service. But when the streaming service is the one doing the canceling, it gets dark fast. The show I can think of that made the streaming-to-cable jump is One Day at a Time, another warm and fun show that Netflix axed after a few seasons.
— In some ways, it seems like the end of an era, even though I should have been smart enough to see this coming. Streaming services started out as this oasis of content where everything just lived peacefully in massive numbers. But that was the first step. What it led to was growth and algorithms and very specific user data information that gave them numbers they could use to make very cold decisions about the products they offer. There’s a future in all of this that I don’t like. At least network executives could sometimes be shamed into keeping a good show around an extra year or two through passionate fans yelling at them about it. This feels more like three accountants looking at a spreadsheet and selecting “delete cells.” Again, I know this is naive of me to pretend like it was going anywhere else, but it still stinks.
— I will miss Alison Brie doing her hilarious Russian accent and flinging herself off the top rope of a wrestling ring.
Not a fan of any of this, frankly.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — Just a fantastic week for movie trailers, really
We have discussed the upcoming holiday movie Fatman before. In fact, I’m pretty sure we discussed it here in this column the week it was announced. I say this not to pull an “I KNEW ABOUT THIS BEFORE THE REST OF THE INTERNET,” because I am juuuuuuust barely not that obnoxious. I say just to state the obvious: the premise of this movie is basically perfect, and was so even when it was only available in text form. Here, look.
The action-comedy directed by Ian and Eshom Nelms centers on a neglected 12-year-old boy (Chance Hurstfield) who hires a highly skilled assassin (Walton Goggins) to take out Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson) after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking. Cringle proves himself a worthy adversary as he is not so jolly or festively plump, and more so skilled in weaponry after being forced into a partnership with the U.S. military to save his declining business.
A child hires a hitman to kill Santa. I could not possibly love it more. And that’s before we get to the part where the hitman is played by the great Walton Goggins and is credited on IMDb as “Skinny Man.” I could maybe do without Mel Gibson as Santa, for reasons that have nothing to do with his performance, which will probably be great because his performances were never the problem. You know the reasons I’m talking about. You’ve heard or at least are familiar with the audio. The pluralization of “reasons” is not a typo. It’s not an ideal situation.
This all comes up now because there is a trailer for Fatman, and it is just about as delightful as its premise. Does it feature a broken and beaten Santa trying to retire before being lured back into some sort of action with one last job? Yes. Does it feature Walton Goggins behaving like a maniac, shouting “FATMAN” at the top of his lungs and all-in-all just being as perfect as one expects Walton Goggins to be when one sees Walton Goggins is playing a hitman who is tasked with killing Santa Claus? Of course. Does it feature a haunting cover of “Jingle Bells” for no clear reason beyond “because that would be hilarious”? Baby, you know it does. I am very much on board for this strange and possibly deranged film. This one and the Dolly Parton Christmas movie I mentioned last week, the one where Christine Baranski fulfills her destiny by becoming a Scrooge-type character in a holiday movie. Yes, I’m aware that the two movies could not be more different once you get past the holiday theme. No, I do not want to examine my excitement about them anymore. Let’s just call it a Christmas miracle and move on.
And when we move on, let’s move on to this: the trailer for The 355, which also dropped this week:
This movie is about a group of lady spies led by Jessica Chastain who are trying to prevent an international incident. Within the first 45 seconds, we have an “I’m putting together a team” moment and a “because you’re the best, that’s why” moment when she tries to recruit Lupita Nyong’o. I have no complaints about any of this and I suspect I will watch this movie 700 times when it makes its eventual appearance in the basic cable rotation. I could easily see TNT running this and The Accountant back-to-back some Friday night. I’ll be in heaven.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — All hail the Chaotic King
The thing not enough people realize about Timothy Olyphant is that he’s a goof. Yes, sure, he looks terrific in a cowboy hat and delivers a witty one-liner as well as anyone. But the man is an unrepentant goof, just as silly as your most childish uncle, right down to the devious smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye. Perhaps you did know this. Perhaps you’ve seen him yoink entire interviews right of the road in service of a joke. Perhaps you’ve seen him torment late-night hosts who just want to ask him about his latest project. Perhaps you listened to his podcast appearance with Conan, where he kept interrupting the host to read his own entirely fictional advertisements. Timothy Olyphant is the best.
Anyway, you don’t have an excuse to not know about it now, in part because I just told you and in part because you have either seen or should see his appearance via Zoom on Seth Meyers’ show this week. Part one is up there and is a masterclass in sewing chaos, starting right at the beginning when he gets up and goes offscreen to make a drink.
Part two might be even better.
I’ll tell you what I love: I love an actor or actress who treats the whole Hollywood machine with exactly the amount of respect it deserves, which is about *thismuch*. I don’t know if I’d want everyone to behave like this because it might get to be a little much, even for me. But drop it in every now and then to remind everyone that this is all a pretty dumb exercise that we all just decided to accept as normal? Yeah. Heck yeah. Especially if the person doing it has a habit of showing up in cool shows and being cool in them in addition to being a lovable rascal. Real double whammy, this Olyphant guy.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — I’m sorry but I respect it
Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd has written a new book-length oral history of Game of Thrones. Little tidbits are spilling out in the pre-release promo push, from cruel on-set pranks to revealing anecdotes and so on. There will probably be more tidbits in the coming days. People love tidbits. I do, too. In fact, I’d like to tell you about my favorite tidbit to date. It’s this one.
According to Hibberd, the fourth season battle between Pedro Pascal’s Oberyn Martell and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson’s The Mountain was shot in a Croatian amphitheater that overlooked a stable of yachts. A deal was made that each of the yachts would back off a quarter mile so they wouldn’t be in the shoot during filming. “Everybody agreed to do it—except one person,” says director Alex Graves. That person, according to “multiple people working on Thrones,” was Bruce Willis.
My reasons for liking this so much are twofold:
- The reveal at the end of the paragraph that it was Bruce Willis made me gasp and cackle for reasons I still do not fully understand
- Bruce Willis is behaving exactly like Dennis Frank’s character thinks he’s behaving in Die Hard 2, which has always cracked me up, because hero cop John McClane is telling him about a shooting in his airport and his reaction is all like “Whatever, hotshot” for reasons I also still do not fully understand
It continues, thank heavens.
“[The yacht] circled trying to say, ‘Fuck you, I’m in your shot,’ a couple times and we were all laughing because we were aimed away from the water at that time anyway.” Crew members called the attempted sabotage an act of “yacht rage.”
I’m sorry. I am. But I adore the idea of Bruce Willis sitting on his yacht in a Croatian lake and just deciding on a whim that he’s going to ruin the dragon show for an afternoon. Good for him. And given the way things ended for Game of Thrones, you could make a decent argument that history has vindicated him.
It is funny to picture Dennis Franz as the director he’s tormenting. Just red-faced and shouting at anyone within shouting distance. A fun visual for you to take into your weekend.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Book chat
I read The Dog of the South by Charles Portis this week. I had been meaning to read it for a while because a lot of people whose opinions I respect have spoken highly of it. I’ll tell you what, buddy: they were not wrong. The book is 40 years old and still an absolute blast from beginning to end. It’s beautifully weird, too. It toes that line between nothing happening and so much happening, like a Coen brothers movie. The premise is simple: There’s a guy named Ray and his wife leaves him for a doofus named Dupree and he tracks them both from Arkansas to Central America to find out why and to retrieve his car and personal effects, which they took. But that’s barely what it’s about. The whole thing is one digression after another, furious action building to nothing, anarchy introduced every few pages through new characters with ridiculous opinions about life and the world. A pelican gets struck by lightning. It’s great.
It is also powerfully funny in almost every paragraph, in an offbeat way that made it obvious to me in hindsight that someone like Bill Hader would love it and want to option it for a movie even though it would be an impossible movie to make. From a great piece about the book at The Ringer:
In a quixotic gesture, Hader obtained the film rights to The Dog of the South, fully aware of the virtually impossible challenge of bringing such an elusive and internal-monologue-driven novel to the screen in any recognizable form. “It’s incredibly hard to make it a movie. Part of what makes Portis fun is that you’re sitting at a bar with this unassuming guy and he’s telling you this hysterical story, but if you went home and told that story to your girlfriend or husband, it wouldn’t be as funny because Charles Portis isn’t telling it. Unless he’s sleeping with your girlfriend or husband, I guess.”
Yes, this just about sums it up. What a fun and good book. Go to your library and see if they have it. I bet they do. And they’ll just let you walk out the door with it as long as you promise to bring it back. Some kind of world we got here, man.
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.
I remember you saying a while back that The Right Stuff is one of your favorite books. It’s one of my favorites too. I give it as a gift to everyone and have re-read my old paperback copy at least five or six times. I’ve been seeing the commercials for a new series based on the book that’s going to air on Disney+ and I’m getting really excited. Are you getting excited, too? I don’t know many people who have come out and said they enjoyed the book as much as you, so I figured this was the place to come.
My friend, thank you. Both for being a fan of my favorite book ever and for reminding me that I had not done book chat in a while, which is how I ended up doing that section on The Dog of the South. This was a good email.
Unfortunately, this is where I deliver the bad news: The Right Stuff, the TV show is… fine. It’s fine! I imagine people who have not re-read Tom Wolfe’s masterpiece more than once — people unlike you and me — will like it. It’s a pretty straightforward story about the first astronauts and their families and it follows the general trajectory of the book pretty closely. I’ve seen the first few screeners and… yeah. It’s fine. It’s really fine!
What it is not, however, is the same as the book or even the movie. For example, there is no Chuck Yeager. Like, none. Not even a little. He doesn’t show up once. It’s an understandable omission from a storytelling perspective because he never becomes one of the astronauts in that initial program, but still. Come on. The chapter about him in the book — titled, accurately, Yeager — is legendary for a reason. It might be my favorite chapter of any book, and it’s on the shortlist for my favorite piece of writing. It’s weird to consume a project called The Right Stuff based on the book The Right Stuff and not mention Chuck Yeager a single time.
I don’t know. I’ll probably still watch the rest of it. And please don’t let me dissuade you if you were planning to dive in. But be prepared going in that’s it’s not going to be the same as the book. Which is fine. Just maybe less so for you and me, Henry.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
To New York City!
A creature from the late Cretaceous period smashed sales records on Tuesday in an auction that also included works by Picasso, Pollock and Monet, leaving auction watchers wondering which anonymous buyer now owned a multimillion-dollar Tyrannosaurus rex.
Okay, yes, this article has my attention. An anonymous buyer purchased a full T-Rex skeleton at an auction. I must know everything about this all at once. Please, continue.
The T. rex skeleton, nicknamed Stan, closed the 20th Century Evening Sale, nearly quadrupling its high estimate of $8 million to bring in $31.8 million, with fees. In the 20-minute bidding war that ended with buyers on the telephone in London and New York, the price rocketed up from a start of $3 million, with the final bid ultimately taken in London by James Hyslop, head of the auction house’s Scientific Instruments, Globes and Natural History department. The buyer has not been identified.
I need to be very clear about something, just so there’s no confusion: It is extremely important to me that someone — you, Harrison Ford, an attractive person in a tuxedo or ball gown, anyone — steals this entire skeleton as soon as possible. I can wait a little bit. A few months, I suspect. We have to figure out who bought it first, and then we have to come up with a plan. I don’t know why I said “we” in that sentence. I am not planning to steal this dinosaur, as far as you or any police officer or insurance investigator knows. But I do want someone to steal it. You can’t possibly imagine the joy I would feel deep in my soul if I wake up one morning and see a news story about some stupid billionaire getting his $30 million dinosaur skeleton stolen. I would shout. And cheer. Out loud. I would read the magazine article about it and watch the movie based on the article that comes out a year later. It is very important to me.
Please. I need this.
Standing 13 feet high and 40 feet long, Stan casts an imposing shadow. Over the last two decades, researchers have theorized that punctures in Stan’s skull and fused neck vertebrae demonstrate that this Tyrannosaur was a warrior, one likely to have survived attacks from his own species. Scientists also estimate that the dinosaur would have weighed nearly 8 tons when it was alive, more than twice the weight of a modern African elephant.
Okay, so it won’t be easy. That’s fine. You don’t just not do something because it’s hard. You figure it out. It’s more rewarding, too. Think about how proud we’ll all be when we steal this freaking dinosaur. Again, I don’t know why I said “we.” It’s almost like I’m planning it out in my head.
Which I’m not.
Again, as far as you know.