TV

The Rundown: Let’s All Take A Minute To Appreciate Kenan Thompson

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 — Kenan is the greatest

Have you ever stopped for a second and thought about the longevity of Kenan Thompson? I mean, really. Think about it now if you haven’t. If you’re under, say, 40, Kenan has been a fixture of television and movies since he fired knuckle pucks at various European goalies in the sequel to The Mighty Ducks. If you’re under 30, he’s been a cast member on Saturday Night Live as long as you’ve been aware that a show called Saturday Night Live exists. He’s led television shows and movies and been a straight-up fixture in entertainment for so long that it’s easy to take him for granted. This is one of the many reasons it’s so great that he finally has his own television show.

He does have his own television show, just to be clear. It premiered this week and it’s called Kenan and the first episode was pretty solid, or at least as solid as the first episode of any comedy can be when it has to introduce a bunch of characters with different personalities and motivations and at least one of them, in this case Kenan himself, is raising two daughters by himself because his wife passed away at a young age. Comedies take a while to find their footing, even when they have less going on. Parks and Recreation didn’t get really good until it was a chunk of the way into its second season. Same with New Girl. And, anyway, none of that is even the point. The point is that I just like living in a world where Kenan Thompson gets a crack at leading man stardom. It’s time for that. It’s past time for that. It’s been past time for that.

Can you think of another comedic performer who has been so relentlessly consistent for as long as Kenan has? I’ve been cranking away on this question for the better part of a week and the best answer I’ve come up with is another longtime SNL castmember: Tim Meadows. Tim Meadows is also very good, as has been forever, and this is where I urge you to watch Walk Hard again, possibly as soon as tonight. But honestly, think of all the sketches Kenan has held together just by being a professional laugh-getter. Think about him as the host of a zillion fake game shows. Think about him playing the straight man in the “Black Jeopardy” sketches and stealing giggles out of little comments and reactions between the punch lines. Think, primarily, about “What’s Up With That?”

What a perfect running character that was. What a perfect sketch. You can tell it was a perfect sketch because it was almost exactly the same every time and it was still funny. Watch Kenan’s face when the music starts kicking in. Watch the little twinkle in his eyes that lets you know something is cooking behind them. This is a skill. It’s a real skill that a tiny number of people have in their toolbox. Going big is easy. Going small is harder. Kenan can do both.

And another thing: Go read or listen to any interview with anyone who has written for SNL in the past 15 years. Almost all of them will, at some point, circle around to how good Kenan is, what a stabilizing presence he is, or how they’ll just put a note in the script like “[Kenan reacts]” and let him make their idea work. Again, none of this is the big flashy stuff — the Bill Hader as Stefon, the Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet — that gets turned into a viral video or movie. It’s the stuff that makes everything else work, though. That’s what Kenan has been doing for most of your life. Making stuff you like work. It’s good to stop every now and then to really appreciate that. And it’s even better when the people who do that get a crack at doing something more.

I don’t know if Kenan will work. It is far too early in the process and far too many unknowns are still floating around the world to say with any confidence which way all of this will go. I just like that it’s happening, finally. Kenan Thompson deserves a moment. Let’s try to give it to him. He’s done so much for all of us.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — I’m not sure you can create a cooler television show on paper

AMAZON

The thing about a story like “Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge will team up to make a television version of the 2005 film Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is that it sounds made-up. It doesn’t even sound real enough to be made-up, honestly. Like, if I made some nutso list titled Some Shows That Would Be Cool If They Existed, and I put “Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in a television version of the 2005 film Mr. and Mrs. Smith” on it, you would roll your eyes at me. You would! You’d be like “Okay Brian, I’ll accept the one where we reboot Matlock with Tracy Morgan, but this one is a bit much.” And yet, against odds so staggering that this hypothetical version of you wouldn’t even let me have fun with this idea, it’s real. It’s a real show. It’s coming to Amazon in 2021.

And that is… cool. It’s cool. Two of the smartest and funniest people in the industry, both of whom have created their own wildly inventive and acclaimed projects, are going to write and star in a show where they play a husband and wife who are spies. What’s cooler than that? I love when smart and funny people decide to work together even though they don’t have to. They really don’t, either. Both of them have the clout to get almost anyone on the phone and pitch them any idea they came up with over breakfast, but instead, they’re like “Hey, should we do our own take on that Pitt/Jolie movie that was airing on TBS the other night?” And then they did. I’m sorry, but that’s cool.

I do hear you, though. I hear you grumbling, saying things about how you wish they would use their power to keep creating new projects instead of getting sucked into the quicksand of remaking existing intellectual property. And my response to that grumbling is this: shut up! Just shut up! Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge — the creators of Atlanta and Fleabag, the people who made Teddy Perkins and Hot Priest cultural icons — want to make a show where they play married spies. Isn’t that half the point of having this power, like how George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh woke up one day and decided to make Ocean’s Eleven with a bunch of their friends? I think it is. Good for them.

And guess what: This isn’t the only show Glover will make for Amazon. He just signed a 10-figure deal to work with the streaming network, and one of his first shows there sounds interesting as heck.

The Amazon deal, which has been in the works for weeks, will also see Glover exec produce other projects for the retail giant and streamer. Sources note one such project is already beginning to come together: a potential series called Hive, which is rumored to revolve around a Beyoncé-like figure and stem from writer Janine Nabers (Watchmen, Away). The project has already begun staffing a writers room, with sources noting Malia Obama is among those recruited to work on the series.

A lot of names in that paragraph, including Malia Obama, which is kind of hilarious because her parents rather famously signed a huge deal with Netflix a couple years ago. And don’t worry, Atlanta still has at least two seasons to go, and they’re being filmed together, soon. All good news here. Good vibes only.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — I still think it would be hilarious if the Cruella origin story was that a Dalmation killed her parents

This is the trailer for the upcoming movie Cruella, in which, apparently, Disney asks that age-old question “What if Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians were a young rascal played by Emma Stone?” It’s one of those movies where you’re not exactly sure why it exists and you’re not exactly sure why the Cruella de Vil origin story is that she’s kind of Harley Quinn and you’re not exactly sure if the point of the whole thing is to make a fun antihero out of a lady who will go on to try to murder 100+ puppies.

But it’s also a movie that features two of our best Emmas — Stone and Thompson — in tremendous wigs and ball gowns, just giving it somewhere north of 100 percent, as a film like this basically requires. I don’t know. We probably don’t need origin stories for all of our most famous villains. We probably didn’t need this one. But also… it looks fun? I reserve the right to backtrack on this if the movie comes out and it stinks, but I also think, if we’re going to keep doing this stuff, we could do worse than this. Not exactly the type of ringing endorsement Disney can use as a pull-quote in the commercials, but I do like Emma Stone a lot, so consider the benefit of the doubt given here.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Is it weird that I’m, like, really, really happy for Jesse Plemons?

Big news for people like me who have been watching Jesse Plemons be awesome in movies and television shows for years and wondered when he’s going to get a real shot at a starring role in big movie directed by someone like, oh, let’s say Martin Scorsese: Jesse Plemons will play the lead in the upcoming star-studded film Killers of the Flower Moon, which will be directed by Martin Scorsese. It’s all happening, people.

The casting is a major coup for Plemons, who for years has anchored productions or stole scenes with his performances in supporting roles. And it coincides with him being wanted for lead roles not just by Scorsese, with whom he worked on 2019’s The Irishman, but also by Jordan Peele, who had offered him a major role in his latest thriller.

He had to pass on the Peele movie to take this role, which is a bummer for the dude I loved to hate very much on Breaking Bad as Todd, but is pretty wild when you consider the circumstances here.

Regardless, Plemons now finds himself in a role that was originally to have been played by DiCaprio before the Oscar winner segued to a secondary lead.

Plemons is out here landing roles that were at one point booked by Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s wild, buddy. I’m, like, really happy for him. Seriously. I am so happy for Jesse Plemons right now. I don’t even know him. I’ve just been a fan and I’ve enjoyed watching him absolutely own smaller roles in other projects and I think it’s awesome that this is happening for him. I kind of want to hug him. Is that weird? It might be a little weird. I’ll own it.

Also: When this news broke, my colleague Martin Rickman and I started sending each other dozens of Slack messages about how good Jesse Plemons is in the ensemble comedy Game Night. That’s why I put that video at the top of this section. And why I will probably watch Game Night again soon. It’s a good movie. Plemons is so creepy. You should watch it, too.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Annie Murphy is the best

Annie Murphy… excuse me. Let me start that over. Emmy-winning Schitt’s Creek alum Annie Murphy, the woman who brought Alexis Rose to life and made her likable when she had no right to be for the first couple seasons at least, has a new show coming out. It’s called Kevin Can F Himself and it has a pretty funny concept and a new trailer, too, that kind of explains the concept, but here are some words about the concept anyway. From EW:

A general meeting at AMC became a pitch meeting once the network read the script, and all of the sudden Armstrong got the green light to make her first TV series, a show “about a woman who we all grew up thinking that we knew, the sitcom wife, and she is surrounded by these people who prop up her husband. She is the butt of most of the jokes and seemingly fine with it… But on our show, we follow her out of that sitcom world where there is no laugh track. Her dramatic life is full of grit and emotion that she’s not afforded in that sitcom.”

Hmm. Full of grit and emotion, you say? I wonder what exactly that means. Like, she’s not, to choose an example at random, doing cocaine in an alley or anything, right?

I will say this as someone who very much enjoys making and/or posting GIFs of beloved television figures doing cocaine in hilarious settings, and yes, this is where I pause the sentence with an ellipsis to post the GIF of Judith Light doing cocaine at the rodeo on the short-lived TNT Dallas continuation series…

TNT

… I am intrigued by the ambitious television comedy in which Emmy-winning Schitt’s Creek Annie Murphy alum breaks bad and does street drugs in an alley.

ITEM NUMBER SIX — Hell yeah, Sandman

This is a video of Adam Sandler whacking a golf ball with the Happy Gilmore swing. He appears to have filmed it himself, for no great reason, and posted it to social media. It makes me very happy. Adam Sandler comes across like the most well-adjusted dude in Hollywood. Are all his movies great? Eh, your mileage may vary. But even when they’re bad, he uses them as an excuse to take his buddies to Hawaii on the dime of some giant soulless corporations. Everyone he works with loves him. He makes one legitimately good movie every 7-10 years to remind everyone he can, and then when he’s not working he launches golf balls into the cosmos by doing a ridiculous swing made famous by a character he created 25 years ago. In many ways, it’s all any of us can really ask for.

The complete 180 I’ve done on Sandler and Guy Fieri in the last five years probably says more about me getting older than anything else, but seriously. There’s value in just being a good dude. That’s a good lesson to learn.

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 Kari:

I’m currently in my last semester of law school, and I occasionally come across names in my casebooks that I think would delight you. You may already be familiar with them given your law degree, but just this week I learned about “C. Martin Lawyer III” in Remedies and “Spicer Breeden” in Wills. Being able to chuckle at these certainly made the endless reading much more endurable.

I also have a question. I recently watched Philadelphia for the first time (is this the part where I say “go birds”? I don’t follow sports except for Gritty, who is a national treasure), and I loved Denzel’s portrayal of a plaintiff’s lawyer. It made me think of who hasn’t played a lawyer yet and who might be fantastic at it. If you could pick any actor or actress to play the classic clever, shouty, objection-drawing counselor, who would you pick? Would your picks change for a criminal versus a civil case? Plaintiff/prosecutor versus defense counsel? Pedro Pascal and Natasha Lyonne came to mind for me, but I’m sure you have some even better ideas.

Well, first things first: Congratulations on being in the home stretch of law school. That sucker is stressful even with the fun names. I still wake up sometimes in half a panic after a dream where I missed most of a semester of a class and have to show up for a final. My favorite memory was the time my criminal law professor led us in this deep philosophical discussion about who a society chooses to punish and why they do, and at one point he asked “What is a duty?” and I chuckled to myself and muttered “dooty.” You will be a much better lawyer than I would have been.

To answer your question: I, uh, don’t think I can beat Pedro Pascal and Natasha Lyonne thundering away at each other in a trial. Especially considering I already burned off my “Tracy Morgan is Matlock now” idea earlier in this column. Natasha Lyonne would be such a good lawyer in a show or movie. I just pictured her approaching the bench and being like “Uh, Your Honor, I think I’m gonna need a recess” as a fire breaks out in the gallery and started laughing. Yes, she is smoking a cigarette and wearing a trench coat. God, now I want to watch this. Someone make it. I don’t care who. Preferably Natasha Lyonne, though.

This was a really good email.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To the United Kingdom!

Two men who ran out of fuel as they tried to bring £200,000 worth of cocaine into the UK on a jet ski have been jailed.

I don’t know what they’re teaching people in journalism school these days but if there isn’t an entire course built around this opening sentence by next fall at the latest, I think it’s safe to assume the entire endeavor is a waste of time and money.

The men, both from Skelmersdale in Lancashire, took their jet ski from the Lowestoft area of Suffolk to a pick up point in the Netherlands.

The pair were carrying the cocaine in a backpack when they approached a survey vessel and “asked the crew for some fuel” on their return journey, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Additional notes that I think are important:

  • One of the two men is a boxer who did this after a fight fell through and he lost out on a significant payday
  • The other one is an out of work plumber
  • This is a Guy Ritchie movie

Moving on.

Mr Vass said helicopter crew members alerted police after becoming suspicious of the men’s behaviour and they were arrested on arrival.

The prosecution lawyer said that Brogan told officers he had been “fishing by jet ski but ran into difficulty when they ran out of fuel”.

I don’t want to go around questioning the decision-making of two dudes who tried to smuggle cocaine across an icy sea on jet skis, but “we were just out here fishing by jet ski” might be the most suspicious-sounding thing I’ve ever heard. It’s not a good alibi. It’s kind of the reverse of a good alibi, in that if someone actually was planning to go fishing by jet ski and told me they were going to do it, I would probably just go ahead and assume they were attempting to smuggle cocaine. Think this through, gentlemen. Or, uh, don’t. It’s much funnier this way.

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