TV

The Rundown: ‘Joe Pera Talks With You’ Is The Nicest Show On TV

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 — You deserve a nice show

I would like to talk with you about Joe Pera Talks With You, an Adult Swim series currently in its second season. What a lovely show it is. Pera, a comedian known for his unrushed and deliberate delivery, plays a choir teacher from Michigan who goes through just about the most ho-hum series of activities you can imagine. Episode titles include “Joe Pera Takes You To Breakfast,” “Joe Pera Waits With You,” and the season two premiere “Joe Pera Talks With You About Beans,” which opens with this line: “Beans. They’ve got it all: protein, carbs, fiber, affordable.” Find one lie in there.

The show is calming and funny and just really very nice, in a way I almost don’t know how to describe. It has a pacing and style to it that is entirely its own. Each episode is about 10 minutes long and there’s rarely any conflict. It’s mostly just Joe Pera in very normal situations and telling you about them and why he likes them in slow, soothing tones. It’s all bordering on ASMR at times, only to be punctuated with a hilarious burst of action, like in the bean episode when he suddenly begins driving stakes into the ground with a violent flurry of strikes.

I accept that this show might not be for everyone. There’s a very real chance you’ll pull up an episode after reading this — they’re all on the Adult Swim website, if you have a cable subscription — and say “What is this? Nothing is happening. Brian is weird as hell for liking this.” Which, I mean, I am weird, as the backlog of these columns proves beyond any doubt, but still. It’s fine if that’s your reaction. But I will also tell you that I stumbled upon the show one day earlier this year and watched all of season one in a single sitting. My current routine has been to fire up an episode or two when Friday afternoon gets slow so it can soothe me into the weekend. It is very much my kind of stuff.

It’s also so unique to Pera. He does comedy in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Here’s his appearance on Seth Meyers from this week, to give you an idea of what I’m getting at.

And here’s him doing a bit about the Buffalo Bills. This is one of the funniest bits I’ve ever seen. Stick around until the end. I promise you that you won’t see the closer coming. Zero chance.

Please do give the show a shot, if only so I have more people to talk with about it. I recommend starting with “Joe Pera Reads You The Church Announcements” from season one. That’s as pure of a distillation of the show as you’re going to get. The progression from “What is this?” to “When does it get funny?” to full immersion in this world happens in a matter of minutes and, if it clicks for you, it’s really, really going to click. I suspect you will not see where this one is going either.

Joe Pera Talks With You is a nice, relaxing show about a nice man who lives in Michigan and likes to grow beans and go for hikes. I can’t imagine what this pitch meeting must have been like. I’m glad it went well, though, and I’m glad this show exists.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — If I had to sum up the film 6 Underground in one screencap…

Netflix

… I guess it would be this one, for reasons I will explain using the annotated numbers and arrows above.

1. This is a neon green sports car in the middle of a pulse-pounding, drifting, high-speed chase through the streets of Florence, Italy. The car is being driven by Dave Franco, with Ryan Reynolds in the passenger seat holding a dangling eyeball by its recently attached optic nerve above a cell phone in an attempt to unlock it, and two beautiful women in the backseat, one of whom is a spy who is bleeding profusely and the other of whom is the doctor trying to keep her alive.

2. The car is crashing through a large window and barreling through a historic building because, to quote director Michael Bay (yes, this is a real quote, I swear): “I don’t change my style for anybody. Pussies do that.”

3. This portion of the chase, which is very long and twisting and is not even close to the wildest scene in the movie (at one point a sniper takes out a glass-walled swimming pool on the top floor penthouse of a Hong Kong high-rise, causing a waterfall to rush down to the street below), is set to a techno version of “O Fortuna.” This is perfect.

4. All of these things are happening at once and, as you can see by looking at the progress bar at the bottom, within the first 15 minutes of the movie.

Would I say 6 Underground is “a good movie”? No, I don’t think I would go that far. But it is a lot. It is definitely a lot. No one can take that from it, not even by removing its eyeball.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Cats!

Universal Pictures

As I have discussed recently in this very column, the entire concept of the upcoming Cats movie is very thrilling to me. It has been since I first saw the trailer and realized that the whole thing could be a glorious mess, a menagerie of very horny feline-human CGI creations singing songs to and about each other. Reading the Wikipedia plot summary of the musical did nothing to disabuse me of this notion because that all sounds completely insane in a way that makes me giggle just thinking about it. Please go read it if you are unaware of what Cats is and is about. My Christmas gift to you.

Anyway, this week the review embargo lifted for the film and buddyyyy did it ever lift. Reviews and reviews and more reviews, flooding in all at once, all describing unbridled chaos, many of them using terms like “unhinged” and “madness” and “disquieting.” I am pleased to report that none of this has put even the tiniest dent in my interest. If anything, it’s done the opposite. I love a good consensus “this is bonkers” review flood. It’s what I am about.

It is also, apparently, what famed writer T.S. Eliot was about, as the estate of the man behind the source material for the musical explained to the Guardian as the reviews tumbled in.

Eliot himself, she said, would probably have approved. “We know he would have liked the lines because he wrote them. Then, he loved dance … his nickname at Harvard was Elbows Eliot, he loved dance so much. He also used to go to musical theatre all the time with [his wife] Valerie. So I can’t see how he wouldn’t have liked it, with all those things he loved being in one film. I think he would have had a sense of humour about it, he was very open-minded, he liked having his head blown. He was an unusual person and this is such an unusual thing.”

Being the spokesperson for an estate must be so weird. You can probably go years between making a comment about anything and then blammo, you’re on the horn explaining that, no, the ghost of T.S. Eliot is not mad about the reviews of a Cats movie that uses technology he couldn’t have fathomed in his wildest fever dream, and that, actually, he thinks it’s funny. I need more statements from the estates of deceased celebrities about what they are not mad about. Or just about Cats. Either way.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Let (make?) Joe Pesci play the Pope

Netflix

Two things have been going on in the world of television and film lately:

  • There is a not-insignificant amount of Pope-related material coming out soon, between Netflix’s The Two Popes and HBO’s The New Pope, the latter of which is the follow-up to The Young Pope and also features two popes
  • Joe Pesci returned from semi-retirement for a role in The Irishman

This brings me to my point: We should let (make?) Joe Pesci play the Pope. Any Pope. I base this statement on two equally important factors. One, I think he would make a good Pope; two, I would like to see it. Let’s get working on this after the holiday.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Wait until you see Gyllenhaal in this sucker

I am pleased to report that I have seen the screener for Netflix’s upcoming special John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch and it is wonderful. It is also very weird in parts, and the part I am mostly referring to here is a song at the end performed by Jake Gyllenhaal in character as a lunatic named Mr. Music, which you must see to believe. The rest of the special is weird, too, but good weird, with Mulaney leading a crew of very talented children and teens through a number of songs and candid interviews that are at once silly and sweet and occasionally quite thoughtful. I recommend it highly.

I also recommend reading this interview with Mulaney, which was conducted by Alexander Bonanos, the 10-year-old son of New York Magazine’s Christopher Bonanos. The interview is really quite good and proof once again that most children can probably do this job better than I have and can. Here is my favorite exchange, on the subject of the title:

J.M.: I was basing it off something I don’t know if you’ve ever read or come in contact with, “The Nutshell Gang,” that series of books by Maurice Sendak. I became acquainted with them through the album Really Rosie, and I wanted something like that. And at Saturday Night Live, I had a sketch that was cut multiple times called “The Scrapyard Gang.” A scrapyard is like an old …

A.B.: I am aware what a scrapyard is.

J.M.: Sorry, sorry!

A.B.: No, it’s fine!

“I am aware what a scrapyard is.” Incredible. Totally flipped the power dynamic with one sentence. I’m in awe. Now I want to read dozens of Cats reviews written by children. Put the children to work, I say. They’ve had it too good for too long.

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 Anonymous:

I read that, sadly, Coach Herman Boone (Remember the Titans) passed away yesterday, which got me thinking about sports movies. Specifically, team sports movies which pretty much all follow the same formula – team is dysfunctional for whatever reasons (disorganized, institutional racism, aliens stole their skill), gets leader, comes together to win and overcome adversity, and both the leader and team learn important life lessons (see: Mighty Ducks, Remember the Titans, Space Jam).

Then I read your latest heist tweet, which got me thinking: what type of movie better epitomizes what a team should be – the sports movie or the heist movie? When you look at the heist teams from movies like Ocean’s 11, Inside Man, The Italian Job (post Ed Norton defection), I would say that is exactly what you want from a team. I guess the real question is – from the universe of heist and sports films – who sits on top the pyramid for greatest team?

Well, this is a very good email and one I tried to put a lot of thought into so I could give it the answer is deserves. I really, really tried. Unfortunately, all I can think about at this moment is a basketball team made up of the members of the crew in Fast Five. Fast Five is a heist movie. I’m not crazy. Here’s what it looks like.

PG – Ludacris
SG – Paul Walker
SF – Gal Gadot
PF – Vin Diesel
C – The Rock

BENCH
Tyrese
Sung Kang
Jordana Brewster

It’s a small lineup, sure, although we never have gotten The Rock’s exact dimensions in this franchise. He appears even bigger than usual. I would not be surprised if they goosed the character’s height and tried to pass him off as 6’8 or 6’9. Still a tad undersized for a center but I still don’t think, like, Hassan Whiteside is going to push him around under the basket. And I see Gal Gadot as a kind of like Paul George figure, playing strong defense and creating her own shot on offense. Ludacris is Chris Paul, Paul Walker is JJ Redick, Vin Diesel is like a bald Draymond Green. I’m sure of this.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be thinking about only this and Cats until 2020.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Boston!

A team of workers had been loading crates of the precious crustaceans into the back of a box truck at around 12:38 a.m. Tuesday morning for a large shipment bound for Europe. About $10,000 worth of fresh Boston lobster had been schlepped into the vehicle when—as if in a scene cooked up by particularly lazy scriptwriter—a thief emerged from nowhere and jumped into the driver’s seat and sped off with the loot.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Boston lobster heist. It’s beautiful, made even better by the fact that “lobster” is easily the most fun word to say in your most borderline-offensive Boston caricature accent. (“Lawbstah.”) And I am pleased to report that it gets even better. Quickly. Like “the group of Boston lobstermen who were robbed got into an empty lobster truck and chased him down, eventually cornering him, at which point he rammed the empty lobster truck and everyone subdued him until the cops came” better. The best kind of better!

Employees at the facility jumped in another lobster truck and gave chase, following the suspect a half-mile down the road to a spot outside the Boston Fire Department outpost at the intersection of Medford and Main streets. A confrontation ensued, and according to a Boston Police report, “The suspect refused to stop but instead deliberately crashed the stolen truck into the second box truck. The employees of the lobster company were able to detain the suspect until police arrived on scene.”

This sounds like the most Boston thing that’s ever happened. Must have been a very Boston experience for everyone involved.

“It’s probably the most Boston thing that’s ever happened,” says Peter Lagorio, the company’s sales and marketing manager, in a phone interview. “It was a very Boston experience for everyone involved.”

I knew it!

And guess what: This wasn’t the only shellfish heist this week. It was a two shellfish heist week. A coast-to-coast two shellfish heist week! That’s right…

To Southern California!

A thief stuffed a total of 30 bags of frozen shrimp down his pants in back-to-back burglaries of a Southern California grocery store.

EMPLOYEE: Hey, are those 30 bags of frozen shrimp in your pants or are you just happy to s-…

THIEF: [shivering, turning blue]

EMPLOYEE: Oh, it is 30 bags of frozen shrimp.

The man took the shrimp from a Vons market in the city of Riverside by entering the store three times in a span of 15 minutes on Dec. 14.

Nothing suspicious here. Just a man shoving ten bags of frozen shrimp into his pants every five minutes or so. Imagine watching this security footage live as it’s happening. Imagine your reaction to seeing him come back a second and third time. I’m not even sure I would have called the cops right away. I might have waited to see how many times he tried it. I would have been back there taking bets on it. “I’m taking 3-to-1 he comes back a fourth time, 80-1 he goes for double digits. Get your bets in now.”

The point is that I would be a very bad security guard.

Each time he went to the frozen food section and concealed the shrimp in his pants, Riverside police said in a statement.

“Concealed the shrimp in his pants” is really just a fun phrase. I’m glad we all go to experience it together.

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