TV

The Rundown: Television’s Awkward Kings Are Thriving Beyond Belief

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 — Joe and John, my sweet boys

We are living inside a powerful moment for awkward gentlemen whose names begin with the letter J. Right now, on television and/or online if that’s your preference, you can watch new episodes of both Joe Pera Talks With You and How to With John Wilson every week. This is… it’s kind of wonderful. I recommend both shows as strongly as I can recommend any shows. Sometimes I like to watch an action movie like a John Wick or a Fast Five and zip right into one of these episodes just for the whiplash effect of it all. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up.

I’ve written about Joe Pera before, sometimes in this column, sometimes a lot. I love his show a lot. It runs on Adult Swim on Sunday night in back-to-back little 10-12 minute episodes, and the first two seasons are on HBO Max. It’s almost impossible to explain, like most good shows. Pera plays a high school choir teacher named Joe who lives in Michigan and speaks directly to the camera sometimes. He’s a sweet man. Each episode takes on a single topic — examples include “Joe Pera Reads You The Church Announcements” and “Joe Pera Talks With You About Beans” — but eventually reveals itself to be about much more. There’s always a twist. Sometimes it’s charming, sometimes it’s absurd. Sometimes he just cooks pierogies for his drunk girlfriend.

pera pierogies
Adult Swim
pera pierogies
Adult Swim

It’s one of those five percent shows, where the jokes and style and general vibes of the show will land with about five percent of the general population, but that five percent will love it deeply. The most recent episode was about Joe flying a drone around Michigan and it was honestly kind of profound and beautiful. It’s a good show.

Speaking of good shows that are kind of profound and beautiful, How to With John Wilson is back for a second season on HBO. This is terrific news. The first season was… also kind of hard to explain. Wilson sets up each episode as a guide to teach the viewers how to do various things — examples include “How to Make Small Talk” and “How to Cook the Perfect Risotto” — but, again, reveal themselves to be about much more. Like, the entire human experience. It’s a lot. I adore it.

Wilson has been making the rounds for interviews to promote the new season, which premiered last week. He spoke to our Jason Tabrys in an interview I will link to here and encourage you to click on because it’s good. He also spoke to Alan Siegel at The Ringer, which I will blockquote now to highlight two important facts. First:

This season, journalist and bestselling author Susan Orlean and absurdist comedian Conner O’Malley joined Wilson, Michael Koman, and Alice Gregory in the writers’ room. Both brought their own sensibilities to the show. It was Orlean who came up with the idea that formed the basis of the upcoming episode “How to Throw Out Your Batteries.”

It is cool/wild that Susan Orlean is a writer on this show. It makes sense because Susan Orlean rules, which I would say about anyone who has written articles about both teen surf girls and absurdist horse-based Twitter accounts, but still, just cool. Also cool: Conner O’Malley being involved. Which brings me to my second blockquote.

Their first meeting, however, didn’t go well. “I really pissed him off,” Wilson says. “I had a hand buzzer with me, during a very annoying phase of my life. I hand-buzzed his friend, and his friend got really upset. This was years ago. Conner didn’t want to talk to me.” But they eventually reconciled, he adds, and “I ended up approaching him to write on the show. He was super into it.”

And now here’s the best part: I get to bring it all full-circle. Conner O’Malley is also a writer/actor in Joe Pera Talks With You. And he’s in a bunch of sketches from I Think You Should Leave. It’s really cool that these three shows — all different and weird and funny and a little groundbreaking — have this one unifying figure. He’s like the Forrest Gump of strange little comedies your friends who are too online tell you to watch. (Hi.) He was also in the Samberg-Milioti comedy Palm Springs, which a) is great/weird, b) is on Hulu, c) features him doing whatever this is.

conner dance
Hulu

The lessons here are as follows:

  • Please watch the shows/movies I have mentioned here
  • All of them
  • In any order you want

I do recommend watching Joe Pera Talks With You at bedtime, though. That show is a peaceful delight. This was a nice little chat.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Speaking of strange little things I enjoy…

It appears we have found ourselves in yet another situation where two things can be true at once. This time those things are:

  • I still have a massive case of Game of Thrones fatigue after everything that went down in the last season, which ended about two and half years ago, which somehow feels both too long ago to be right and too recent to be right
  • I am wildly excited about one of the proposed spin-offs that HBO is tinkering with, titled Dunk and Egg and based on a series of novellas that I have not and will not read

These two things appear at odds. And they would be at odds, had there not been an announcement this week that the potential series will be written by Stephen Conrad, creator of both my beloved Patriot and Ultra City Smiths. Variety had the announcement, the highlight of which I will paste into this box riiiiiiight now.

Steve Conrad has been tapped to serve as writer and executive producer on the potential series under his Elephant Pictures banner. As Variety exclusively reported in January 2021, the one-hour show would be based on the series of fantasy novellas by George R. R. Martin, which follow the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall (Dunk) and a young Aegon V Targaryen (Egg) 90 years prior to the events of “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

This is awesome. Not so much that there’s more Game of Thrones stuff coming because, again, the fatigue. But the thing where Conrad is getting to take this swing. The two shows I mentioned earlier, Patriot and Ultra City Smiths, were legitimately unlike anything I’ve seen on television, in a really cool way. Funny and heartfelt, dry and absurd, one of them (Patriot) about a depressed spy and folk singer running around doing missions for a character played by Kurtwood Smith who loves breakfast and cocaine equally and a lot, the other (Ultra City Smiths) a stop-motion musical about a detective investigating the death of a wealthy local businessman. They’re so weird. I love them a lot. Please go watch them and come over and then we can watch them again together and talk about them.

So, yes, I am now in on the Game of Thrones spinoff. This one, at least. Because they did a good thing and I want to support that, and also because I like good things and Steve Conrad has a track record of making good things I like. I mean, the man created a puppet called The King of the Night who was voiced by John C. Reilly and would only answer a detective’s questions if that detective defeated him in a dance fight.

It’s good. I like it. I still don’t care too much about the Thronesiness of it all, but I don’t think I cared about stop-motion murder mystery musicals too much before Ultra City Smiths. I’m willing to keep an open mind here.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — What if the third Magic Mike is just my sweet glistening boys traveling the world and thrilling various gas station employees with impromptu striptease performances?

magic mike
RatPac

Well, guess what: There’s a third Magic Mike movie on the way. Channing Tatum announced it on Twitter and then everyone else caught up and got the rest of the facts out as fast as they could. Facts, for example, like these at Entertainment Weekly:

Provocatively titled Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the new screenplay is apparently written by Reid Carolin (who wrote both of the previous films) and will be directed by Soderbergh, who helmed the first entry in the series but took a step back for Magic Mike XXL. Soderbergh shot and edited the sequel but it was ultimately directed by his longtime collaborator Gregory Jacobs. Jacobs returns for the third film but as a producer alongside Carolin, Nick Wechsler, and Peter Kiernan.

The Magic Mike movies are so good. They are so, so good. And the coolest thing is that they’re good in such different ways. The first one was kind of like if Rocky had been a stripper from Florida instead of a boxer from Philly. Like, a real, serious piece of cinema. The second was an absolute blast, a road trip movie about a squad of oiled-up dancers traveling to a big convention and learning and growing on the way. If the first movie was like Rocky, which I just said it was and will not take back here or ever, then the second was like Rocky IV, but fun on purpose.

It also contained this scene…

… which resulted in easily a Top Ten Hardest I’ve Ever Laughed In A Theater moment. I was howling. I laughed again just now watching it while putting this together. I might stop typing this sentence and watch it again. And I did. It’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking.

And now they’re all getting together for one last job… er, dance. I hope, for reasons that can be but do not have to be explained, they rob a casino this time. Or a museum. Or the home of a Tampa billionaire who wronged them. Just thrusting between lasers in a well-guarded room, redirecting the beams by letting them bounce off their glistening torsos. The people need and deserve it.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Rest in peace to Brandy the Pig

Good news and bad news, everyone. The good news is that Pig, starring Nicolas Cage as a truffle hunter who “returns to Portland to find the person who stole his beloved pig,” is still a real movie that is still getting good reviews and you can watch it anytime you like on Hulu or your VOD streaming outlet of voice. What a world, you know?

The bad news, however, and it pains me to say this, is that Brandy, the real pig who played the pig in Pig, apparently passed away last year and no one bothered to tell us (me) until someone went and interviewed director Michael Sarnoski about it.

We couldn’t afford a trained acting pig so we just had to go to farms and find a pig that had a nice personality and looked nice. Brandy just looked very sweet and she was mostly sweet, although she was a pig and you know, did not love being on set sometimes and got a little moody about it. There was something very adorable and special about her. I’d never quite seen a pig that looked like that. They’re just an adorable breed. She was a huge challenge to work with but also one of those things where when it worked, it was just really fun to see emotion coming across from this pig. It was a great joy and a great difficulty.

I just heard that she died.

She did. She got a jaw infection, actually, at the beginning of COVID, and the sad thing is because of COVID all of the vets weren’t taking, like, new clients, so they couldn’t treat her. So she passed away, which was really sad. But she actually was pregnant while we were shooting Pig, so she does have some piglets still running around today.

What a freaking emotional rollercoaster this section turned out to be. I’m sorry for doing this to you on a Friday. I’ll try not to do it again. No promises, though.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — I might just go ahead and make “Talk Your Shit, Ridley Scott” a recurring section

gaga sopranos
UA

So, here’s what’s happening: Ridley Scott, the legendary director who has made everything from Alien to Gladiator to The Martian, made House of Gucci. I haven’t seen it yet but everyone who has says it’s… a lot. Just over-the-top and wild and fun, with huge performances galore and some liberties taken and Lady Gaga and Adam Driver doing truly powerful nose-related acting. I have no issue with any of this.

I am not, however, as far as I know, a member of the Gucci family. They do have an issue with it. A bunch of them. They put out a whole statement and everything. Here, look:

“The production of the film did not bother to consult the heirs before describing Aldo Gucci — president of the company for 30 years [played by Al Pacino in the film] — and the members of the Gucci family as thugs, ignorant and insensitive to the world around them,” the statement said.

It added that the pic attributes “a tone and an attitude to the protagonists of the well-known events that never belonged to them.”

“This is extremely painful from a human point of view and an insult to the legacy on which the brand is built today,” it noted.

Which was great news for me because, as we’ve discussed before, Ridley Scott rules and has no qualms about responding to things like this in the press, loudly and colorfully, as is one’s right when one has made both Alien and Gladiator. And he did respond. And it did not disappoint me even a little, even with my sky-high expectations. Please, read this. All the way to the end.

“The people that were writing from the family to us at the onset were alarmingly insulting, saying that Al Pacino did not represent physically Aldo Gucci in any shape or form,” Scott says. “And yet, frankly, how could they be better represented than by Al Pacino? Excuse me! You probably have the best actors in the world, you should be so f*cking lucky.”

I cannot express just how happy this makes me. I don’t think I know enough words. It’s a problem because communicating with words is quite literally my job but, I mean, look at this. The man made a movie about the Gucci family and the Gucci family got mad about it and he said, basically, “YOU SHOULD BE THANKING ME YOU UNGRATEFUL SLOBS!” To the Guccis! He said it! And now they’re probably going to respond, too. And I’ll read that response and be excited about it. It’s a perfect feud because I don’t know either party personally and they’re all millionaires and everyone will be fine even though they’ll convince themselves the world is ending.

Make a movie about this next. Cast The Rock as Ridley Scott and Vin Diesel as all of the members of the Gucci family, Nutty Professor-style. And let Ridley Scott direct it. Screw it. Let’s do it all.

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 Brandon:

This is going to sound weird but I’m curious about your screencap system. From following you on Twitter and reading you at Uproxx for years now, I know you have a lot. Do you have them sorted into folders by show? By topic? By reaction? How does one go about cataloguing hundreds of images of Mike from Breaking Bad and GIFs from Zoo? I just want to know how the sausage is made, I guess.

Oh, Brandon. Oh, buddy. It is adorable that you think I have anything resembling this kind of system. I suuuuuper do not. Everything gets saved as a string of letters and words I think I might remember and then it gets plopped onto my Desktop and then I search for it later when I’m hoping to find it. Like, all my Succession screencaps start with “succ” and then a character name, except for this one, which is named “Roman Fart.”

roman-fart.jpg
HBO

Is this helpful or useful in any way? No. Do I laugh every time I open it because I immediately think about a person whose name is Roman Fart? Of course. Was I able to pull up this image in seconds because I knew exactly how to find it? Well, yes.

You know how sometimes there’s a character in a movie or television show whose office is a mess of piles everywhere, tumbling over and spread over any surface flat enough to balance them, and whenever someone asks them about a specific piece of paper they’re like, “Ah, yes, one second. I think I just saw it over by the window”? That’s me with files on my computer. I’m that guy. It’s a miracle anything ever gets done around here. Especially with all the extra wasted time giggling about Roman Fart.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Europe!

It is called the “wine train,” and every weekend it rumbles out of the port of Tilbury, east of London, on a 100-mile journey to a depot in central England. It looks pretty much like any other freight train, but it carries an unusual cargo: Almost 650,000 bottles of wine.

STEAL THE WINE

SOMEONE

SOMEONE STEAL THE WINE FROM THE WINE TRAIN

WINE TRAIN ROBBERY

WINE HEIST

ANYONE

PLEASE

This 32-car, 1,600-foot-long traveling wine rack is the latest, and one of the more creative, answers to the supply shortages that have bedeviled Britain and caused the government to fret about disruptions to the Christmas holiday.

CHRISTMAS WINE HEIST

THEY CAN WEAR LITTLE SANTA HATS

A CREW OF SANTAS

STEALING THE WINE

FROM THE WINE TRAIN

BROSNAN

STATHAM

HATS

The wine train has been running from this busy port for a month or so, reducing the reliance on truck drivers, who have been in short supply in Britain, and ensuring that Britons will at least have a decent stock of alcohol during the holiday.

KELSEY GRAMMER IN MONEY PLANE 2: WINE TRAIN

GIMME

WRITE IT

HURRY

GIMME

Freightliner suggested that the weekly deliveries on the wine train — whose cargo takes several hours to load — had not yet satisfied the demand during the holiday season.

“We are looking to increase the frequency of this service to daily,” the company said.

DAILY WINE TRAIN

MOTHER GOD

PEOPLE

SOMEONE

ROB THE TRAIN

FOR ME

FOR CHRISTMAS

WINE HEIST

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