TV

The Rundown: Something Kind Of Incredible Is Happening In Season Three Of ‘Harley Quinn’

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 – It’s a good show!

Are you watching the third season of Harley Quinn on HBO Max right now? I hope you are. I hope you are mostly because it is almost unreasonably good and fun but also because I’ve told everyone to watch it a bunch of times and I like when people listen to me. It’s an absolute blast, an interesting twist on stories we’ve heard and seen 100 times, with Commissioner Gordon as a grizzled mess who plays with the Bat Signal to have someone to talk to about his marriage and Bane as a hapless sadsack who has spent most of this season fretting about his missing pasta maker. I adore it.

But anyway, this gets us to the point I’m making, which is that some truly incredible things have played out in the last few weeks on this show and someone needs to document it somewhere. And that someone is me. Other people have documented it, too. But I’m doing it here. There is so much going on that we are just going to brush right past the thing where the Joker is now a suburban dad who has moved in with a nurse named Bethany and her adorable children and recently ran for mayor of Gotham on a platform somewhere slightly to the left of Bernie Sanders. Look at this freaking guy.

JOKER
HBO MAX

But more importantly, all of this is going on, too:

  • Harley and Poison Ivy, who are a couple now, are planning to terraform Gotham, just blanketing it in plant life
  • Ivy’s talking plant friend Frank (voiced by JB Smoove, which is great) has both developed powers to bring dead plant life back into lush green existence and has been kidnapped by Bruce Wayne
  • Bruce Wayne is trying to genetically alter Frank to bring back the dead parents he lost as a child in Crime Alley after that play
  • The formula goes wrong and it looks like they are coming back as demonic hellzombies?

So there’s that. But there’s also this: Harley and Ivy kidnap Bruce and use various mind control powers — it’s a thing, watch the show — to get into his head to locate Frank, and while they’re in there, they see Bruce has a loop of his parent’s murder playing over and over in his head, non-stop, forever, which is not helped by the fact that — in the show — James Gunn is making a movie about it all. Vulture has a cool breakdown of the episode but here’s the gist.

Harley Quinn thrives in the “fucked up” zone, and in breaking this season the writers slowly started to develop their Batman into a main antagonist. It started with the idea that a Thomas Wayne biopic — directed in the world of Gotham by actual The Suicide Squad director James Gunn — would be in production, and spiraled from there. The question for the writers then became this: What would it be like to be Bruce Wayne and see trailers for a movie about your parents being shot? How much would that mess you up?

But you’re probably reading this and thinking, like, “Hey, if Harley Quinn is banging around inside Bruce Wayne’s brain, wouldn’t she stumble across other important information in there? Like, for example, the thing where he is secretly Batman?” Well, ladies and gentlemen…

HARLEY
HBO MAX
HARLEY
HBO MAX

Incredible, all of it, up to and including the thing where her tour guide through Bruce’s brain is the child version of Bruce who saw his parents die and tries to do the little gravelly Batman voice when he delivers that line. I gasped a little when it happened. And that wasn’t even the biggest reveal from the episode. I’ll let you discover that on your own. Just a wonderful piece of television.

I am glad this show just got picked up for a fourth season. Very few things out there are this weird and delightful and happy to revel in being both. Please get in there if you haven’t already. You deserve this. Listen to me.

ITEM NUMBER TWO – Keanu rules

keanu-duck-head-matrix.jpg
Via Warner Bros.

The internet is loaded with stories about Keanu Reeves being cool as hell. You can find them anywhere. Google “Keanu Reeves stories” right now — not, like, right now, please finish reading my precious words — and click around. You can find dozens of them, I bet. You probably don’t even need to work that hard. There might even be one in the comments under this post by the time you get around to reading it. He’s a famously good dude, is my point. The ice cream cone story is my favorite. Definitely look that one up if you don’t know it. Later, though. We have another Keanu story to get to first.

This one goes something like this: A couple is at a hotel for their wedding reception. The husband goes to the hotel bar to get a drink beforehand, because this is what husbands do on their wedding days. He bumps into Keanu Reeves down there, because sometimes Keanu Reeves is at the bar in your hotel. He shoots his shot, as his wife told Newsweek and anyone else who would listen, one assumes.

“My husband saw him in the bar area and told him he’d just got married and invited Keanu to come over to say hello and have a drink with us if he wanted to.

“He was very friendly and said he would later on. We didn’t know if he would or not but it was cool that my husband had spoken to him!”

Well, guess what…

Guess if Keanu showed up at the wedding reception.

Guess if he posed for pictures and schmoozed with the guests and pretty much just charmed everyone for an hour or so.

Imagine how funny it would be if I set it all up like this and the answer was “no, he blew them off and went to bed.”

It’s not, but still.

Of course he showed up.

“It was all very exciting and I went to say hi and introduce myself, and I offered him a drink but he declined that and said he’d just had a long flight so wouldn’t stay long but he was so kind and friendly and congratulated us on our wedding,” she said. “He was kind enough to do some pictures and our wedding photographer was able to capture some too! Then he took the time to speak to some of our guests and have more photos done!”

There are a few takeaways here, which we will cover quickly via bullet points:

  • Keanu Reeves is the coolest
  • Always poke your head into the bar when you are staying at a hotel just in case Keanu Reeves or another cool celebrity is in there chilling
  • Weddings are a blast
  • I am a lot of fun at weddings
  • I get out on the dance floor in my wheelchair and start spinning around and giving rides to children and bridesmaids and reasonably spry nanas
  • You should invite me to your wedding
  • And Keanu
  • Invite us both
  • It will be fun

This was a good chat about weddings. Also, coincidentally, today is Keanu’s 58th birthday. Look how happy Patti Smith is to be with Keanu. The man is a delight. Happy birthday, Keanu!

ITEM NUMBER THREE – Important sequel news

There are a ton of sequels worth watching for right now. There’s the tenth Fast & Furious movie, Fast X, which is kind of a wild collection of words if you think about them a little. There’s the second Knives Out movie, which sounds awesome even if it does not feature a single Muppet, as far as we know. There’s the fourth John Wick movie, which we can ask Keanu about when you invite both of us to your wedding. It’s all very exciting.

But most exciting of all, maybe, if you’re a sicko like me and a bunch of other goofs on the internet, is this: AMC is making a second movie theater commercial with Nicole Kidman. You know the one. The one that plays before every movie at an AMC theater. The one where she says “somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this,” like a maniac. The one I posted at the top of this very section.

Vanity Fair broke the news along with an interview with the writer of the ad, Hollywood screenwriter Billy Ray. Here’s a taste.

Luckily, there’s now another one in the works. “I’m very, very excited about it,” Ray says. When asked what the new ad might look like, though, the screenwriter was relatively tight-lipped. “All I can tell you about it is we are not dumb enough to fly in the face of the one we’ve already done and try to top it,” he says. “So it’s a very, very different approach that is a little bit of a wink to the one we’ve already done.”

Here’s the thing, and I need to stress here that I am being serious: This is thrilling to me. I am legitimately excited about this. I can’t wait to see where they go with this. Part of me hopes it picks up right where the last one left off and continues her story. Part of me hopes it picks up just after the movie she’s watching in the first one ends and she gushes about how great it all was. A big part of me hopes it’s just like her at the grocery store and she doesn’t even mention the magic of the cinema, like all we’re doing is extending the universe of the character she’s playing here, who I choose to believe is not “Nicole Kidman” and is instead a cinema-loving woman named Denise Roulette who attends movies alone because her husband died in a freak pizza-related accident. No, YOU have an overactive imagination.

Leave me alone.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR – Oh look, a movie for me

This is the trailer for the upcoming Weird Al biopic. “Biopic” might be a strong word. It is to an autobiographical movie what a Weird Al song is to the original, which is to say a little deranged and maybe better. It looks kind of like if Walk Hard starred Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al, which I mean very much as a compliment. Here’s the official synopsis.

Daniel Radcliffe is “Weird” Al Yankovic in the unexaggerated true story about the greatest musician of our time. From a conventional upbringing where playing the accordion was a sin, Al rebelled and made his dream of changing the words to world-renowned songs come true. An instant success and sex symbol, Al lives an excessive lifestyle and pursues an infamous romance that nearly destroys him. With Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, and an A-list cast of thousands their agents won’t let us reveal.

Good. Great. I love it. I love everything about it. I love that it looks nutty as hell. I love that Daniel Radcliffe banked all his Harry Potter money and is out here doing the weirdest and coolest stuff he can think of, kind of like how Jon Hamm finished Mad Men and started doing goofball guest appearances on all your favorite comedies. I love that Evan Rachel Wood is channeling Madonna in a way I find deeply intriguing. Like I said, all of it.

We are watching this movie. All of us.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE – I would have paid $100 to see Regis Philbin at McDonald’s

What we have here is a clip from The Dan Lebatard Show in which Michael Schur — creator of Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, co-founder of FireJoeMorgan, and, most importantly for our purposes here, husband of JJ Philbin, the daughter of Regis — tells a story about longtime morning show host and television icon Regis Philbin trying and failing to use a “free McDonalds for life” card. It’s a good story, as one might expect from a story that begins with the premise of “Regis Philbin had a card that guaranteed him free Mcdonald’s food for life,” which is apparently a thing that exists.

This was written up this week at The Big Lead. Here’s the relevant chunk of text.

“The cashier would just stare at it confused, because it was like ‘what is this, why is Regis Philbin in this random McDonald’s demanding free $3 hamburgers?'” Schur said. “They would go ‘I’ve never seen this before, I need to call someone and it’d be this confusing thing.”

So confusing, in fact, that Philbin would inevitably pay out of his own pocket despite the unusual deal and the somewhat official-looking card.

Two things are true here and both are worth noting:

  • I would have given almost anything to be in a Mcdonald’s when Regis Philbin tried to get like a quarter pounder with a Free McDonald’s For Life card and sent every employee in the store into a state of panic over this situation that was almost assuredly not covered during orientation
  • Now that I know these exist, I must have one, even though I have not eaten at a Mcdonald’s in… I’m going to say three years?

Give it to me. I’ve been very good.

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:

I flew to Europe two weeks ago. I had an aisle seat and was looking at what the man one row ahead of me to my right was watching, as you do. With 30 minutes left in the flight (i looked at the time to the destination just to make sure) he put on the movie Michael. I immediately had so many questions. Is Michael a movie he loves and has seen many times so he wanted something comforting, as to not have to be worried about missing the ending? Had he never seen Michael? If so, why put it on then? If so, did he go to his hotel and immediately watch the rest of it?

So. Many. Questions.

Erik hit the most pressing questions here, but one I would like to add is… what in the world?! Michael! Of all the movies in the history of film to put on. I kind of wish Erik had sent this email to me right after he landed so I could have asked him to go on a little recon mission for me. I need to know more about this guy. I need to know more about the other choices he makes in his life. Like, what kind of car does he drive? What does he order for dinner at a restaurant? Is he married? What is his wife like? I know I said I only had one more question and then I immediately asked three more, but still. This is one of those things that makes everything else a little mystery.

I need to stop so this doesn’t consume me and ruin my whole Labor Day weekend. But I will be thinking about it every time I see the movie Michael on my cable guide. Or John Travolta. Or an airplane. What a maniac. To be clear, the maniac I’m talking about is the dude who started watching Michael in the last 30 minutes of a flight, not about myself. I can see how there could be confusion there. But there’s not. I’m normal.

I’m normal.

I swear.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To California!

Sometimes in Solano County, Calif., where more than half the land is used for agriculture, residents can smell the earthy odor of tomatoes as big-rig trucks carry the product south to the Bay Area. Those trucks typically hold about 50,000 pounds of tomatoes in a hulking pile of red. A few are occasionally lost over the side thanks to sharp turns or bumps on the road.

You probably know where this is headed. But still. I appreciate that we have a Chekhov’s Tomatoes situation brewing here.

But about 5 a.m. on Monday, more than 150,000 tomatoes were scattered across the heavily trafficked Interstate 80 in Vacaville, Calif., after a big rig that had been transporting them collided with a vehicle and swerved, striking another vehicle before driving into the center median, Officer Jason Tyhurst of the California Highway Patrol said.

TOMATO SPILL

TOMATOES EVERYWHERE

RED SAUCE AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE

“Those tomato skins, man,” Officer Tyhurst said. “Once they hit the asphalt, it’s like walking on ice.”

One car became stuck on the slippery roadway and then was struck by another vehicle, Officer Tyhurst said. The tomatoes quickly caused a chain reaction of crashes, he added: Another car struck the two vehicles, and then another was sideswiped by yet another swerving car.

I understand that this is serious and that crashing your car can be a health and financial disaster, especially if either or both are already issues for you, but with that stipulated, I very much want to see cars slipping and sliding around a tomato-covered highway. You should be able to buy tickets to it. Make it part of a demolition derby. Everyone would love it.

But hey, at least we can be sure this was the only large-scale sauce-based food spill that happened this w-…

To Memphis!

The Alfredo sauce was everywhere.

Oh my god.

Mile 11 of Interstate 55, in Memphis, was sauced up. Concerned local newscasters, summoning all of their training, dispatched their reports on Tuesday after a tractor-trailer carrying jars of Alfredo sauce struck a median shortly before 5 p.m.

Yes.

YES.

The white sauce on the road did not continue to smell great as the TV people waited along the highway to go live at 10:30 p.m. It took about an hour before it smelled “really bad,” she said.

“Unfortunately, this is Memphis, and we had some pretty intense sun beating down on that Alfredo sauce, and also humidity,” she said. “It was just not a great recipe for a highway full of Alfredo sauce.”

Three things here:

  • I know this was jars of sauce in boxes in a truck but it is much funnier to picture like an oil tanker filled with loose Alfredo sauce sloshing around, so let’s just go ahead and pretend that’s what we had here, just as a treat for ourselves
  • I got a little nauseous just now thinking about the smell of Alfredo sauce on a Memphis highway in August
  • Things often happen in threes, so if you are driving a truck filled with, like, pesto sauce this week, please be careful

In conclusion, please picture every single character on The Sopranos reacting to these news stories.

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