The Rundown: HBO Has The Market Cornered On Powerful Patriarchs

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 — Sunday nights are for imposing dads

For about two months now, HBO has been running Succession and The Righteous Gemstones back-to-back on Sunday nights. This is notable for a few reasons:

  • Both shows are very good
  • They provide a nice little one-two punch to wind down the weekend
  • They both feature powerful patriarchs and their doofus children

This last thing is the part that really intrigues me. Succession has Logan Roy, a cranky old dinosaur and media titan who built his company from the ground up and is now struggling to decide what to do with it going forward. The Righteous Gemstones has Eli Gemstone, a big-time televangelist who built his church from the ground up and is now struggling to decide what to do with it going forward. Both of them cast long shadows. Both of them are powerful presences, the kind of born alphas who command every room they enter before they say a word. Both of them have dealt with insubordination via slap. Neither of them suffers fools for a second.

They even have the same problems with their children. They both have an older son (Logan has Kendall, Eli has Jesse) who has drug problems and a crippling need to prove himself and has done things that could cause the family a great deal of legal trouble. They both have a middle daughter (Logan has Shiv, Eli has Judy) who seems more competent than her brothers but has been pushed into the shadows a bit until recently. They both have a youngest son (Logan has Roman, Eli has Kelvin) who appears about as sharp as a volleyball. All of their children are fighting and clawing over and through each other for their father’s approval. It’s a whole thing.

There are differences between the two. Eli appears to be more caring toward his kids, whereas Logan might collapse back into himself like a dying star if he tried to express real affection. Eli also appears to be more willing to move his kids into real positions of power, whereas Logan plays his kids against each other by building one up and putting the others down as his competition-crazed brain moves pieces around. They’d probably hate each other so much. Logan would view Eli as a pious fool and Eli would view Logan as an empty heathen. That doesn’t mean they’d never work together. You don’t get that powerful by only working with friends. It would be a fascinating dinner.

The strangest outcome of this Sunday night block is that it’s made me weirdly more sympathetic to the failsons of the world. It’s still fun to point and laugh sometimes, and I suspect it always will be. But there’s a real struggle there, one that can get glossed over by the money and the acting out and the various public meltdowns that various children of various powerful parents have gone through. You’re somehow born on third base and also behind the eight ball, a hopelessly mixed metaphor that probably defines the internal push and pull as well as anything. What can you do? How can you define yourself? It’s a little strange that this is what I’m taking away from these shows. Maybe it’s not strange at all.

Consider the failson. I guess that’s my point.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — The lack of Giamatti chatter right now is, frankly, concerning


It would not be entirely accurate to say Paul Giamatti popped up on Lodge 49 out of nowhere so, because this column strives for accuracy above all else, I will not say that. He’s an executive producer on the show. His voice has appeared throughout the show’s run. He’s deep inside the show’s DNA. But still, what’s happening right now is really wild. Someone needs to talk about it. If that someone has to be me, so be it.

Some context will help. Not too much context, though, because I still want you to watch Lodge 49 and I can’t just run around giving it all away. But here goes. Giamatti is playing a man named L. Marvin Metz. The show introduced the character in season one as the writer and narrator of a series of audiobooks that other characters on the show listen to. That was pretty crazy for me because I spent the first few episodes like “Hang on, why does that voice sound so familiar?” until it all hit me in the head like a wall I was smashing my face through.

Which brings us to the image above. And this image, too.


Do we know why L. Marvin Metz insists on hurling himself face-first through any number of solid objects? No. Not yet. It’s happened at least three times in the last handful of episodes, though. And we know from the flash-forward cold open in the premiere that he also ends up hurling himself out of an airplane at some point. You really need to see Giamatti hamming it up here. It’s a sight to behold.

Anyway, again, please do consider watching Lodge 49. It’s funny and weird and thoughtful and sometimes sad. The second season is winding toward a conclusion and three different groups of people are racing to Mexico in search of scrolls that may or may not unlock hidden mysteries or the exact workings of Bitcoin. It’s impossible to explain. I’ll just say this instead: There might be better shows on television right now, but there’s no hour of television I flat-out enjoy watching more.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — My contribution to the Joker discourse

Warner Bros.

Joker comes out this weekend, which is weird because it feels like Joker has been out for months already. The discourse around the movie has been that exhausting. I honestly can’t remember another movie that set off this amount of opinions and vitriol and piping hot takes before it even became available to the public at large. There are valid reasons for this, sure, ranging from early critical acclaim to a very loaded history of the character to boneheaded comments by its director. You know all this, though. You’ve been online.

And so, rather than contribute anything additional to all of that, I would instead like to share this paragraph from Joaquin Phoenix’s Wikipedia page.

On January 26, 2006, while driving down a winding canyon road in Hollywood, Phoenix veered off the road and flipped his car. The crash was reportedly caused by brake failure. Shaken and confused, Phoenix heard someone tapping on his window and telling him to “just relax.” Unable to see the man, Phoenix replied, “I’m fine. I am relaxed.” The man replied, “No, you’re not,” and stopped Phoenix from lighting a cigarette while gasoline was leaking into the car cabin. Phoenix then realized that the man was famed German film director Werner Herzog. While Herzog helped Phoenix out of the wreckage by breaking the back window of the car, bystanders phoned for an ambulance. Phoenix approached Herzog to express his gratitude, but Herzog downplayed his heroism and returned to his home nearby.

I had somehow forgotten about this until a few days ago. I don’t know how. It seems like the kind of thing that should lodge itself into your brain and take up residence there. I hope that writing this all down now will remedy that. It’s a good story.

In fact, it’s so good that it almost sounds made up. I might have questioned it if not for the footnotes on the page that back it up. Can you… can you imagine crashing your car and almost dying and having your life saved by Werner Herzog? By Werner Herzog!

ME: Holy crap. Holy crap. I smell gasoline. Holy crap. Dude, call 911!

WERNER HERZOG: Life is stupidly fragile and pointless. Everything that lives must die. It is the nature of being.

ME: What?

WERNER HERZOG: We are but beasts at our core, no better than the soulless creatures of the jungle. We would happily tear each other limb from limb at the smallest sign of adversity.

ME: Wait a second. You’re Werner Herzog.

WERNER HERZOG: Yes, it is me.

ME: Well, this is a story I certainly won’t forget.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Some fake names I’ve been thinking a lot about lately


Alonzo Magenta
Dick Mediterranean
Peggy Thunder
Flip Gurple
Jackie Driftwood
Tito Cannoli
Kiki St. Juice
Boozy Seltzer
Dina Vegas
Felicity Parquet

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — The Wine Show is the only good show


Are you familiar with The Wine Show? I hope so. It is the most delightful show on television. I’ve written about it before and I’ll undoubtedly write about it again. The first season featured Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys traveling all over Italy to taste and learn about wines. The second season moved to France and added James Purefoy. That’s really all the show is. It’s very handsome and charming British people galavanting across Europe with wine glasses in their hands. It’s on Hulu. It is incredibly relaxing. Everyone should watch it.

And as if all that weren’t enough, Vulture reported this week that the third season is now set and it will add Dominic West to the wine-slugging crew. They’ll be in Portugal this time. McNulty from The Wire. In Portugal. Learning about wine. Come on. Come on. That’s a television show.

I hope the show runs for 25 seasons and keeps adding charming Brits to the cast like a snowball tumbling down a mountain. Get Hugh Grant in there. And Helen Mirren. And Tom Holland. And Tom Hardy. And Statham. Good God in heaven, put Statham in The Wine Show. Give them all spinoffs and then bring them all back together again. Make it like the Marvel movie but with wine. The Wine Show Cinematic Universe. I don’t ask for much. I am asking for this, though. Some might even say I’m demanding it. Whatever gets it done.

Speaking of Statham…


If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at (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’ve had this question rattling around my brain since Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw came out. If you get Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren to play Deckard Shaw’s mom, who’s on the short list to play his dad?

My money’s on Patrick Stewart. But I’m sure I’m missing an obvious gem or two.

Lauren, this is an excellent question. One that had somehow not dawned on me until this very moment. It’s difficult, too, because the actor in question needs to be believable. This has to be a person capable of creating Jason Statham and being worthy of Helen Mirren. That’s a short list. Patrick Stewart is a good start. But consider this: Michael Caine.

It’s easy to forget what a badass Michael Caine used to be. There’s a whole recent history where he plays Alfred in Batman and Scrooge in A Muppet Christmas Carol that clouds it up. But go back and watch Get Carter. Go watch it now. It’s on Netflix. The timing even works out. Jason Statham, in real life, was born in 1967. Get Carter came out in 1971. We’re right in that window. It checks out. And it gives me an excuse to post this tweet again.

It’s settled. Book it.


To Indiana!

50,000 apples are believed to have been stolen from a local orchard.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have an apple heist.

[Orchard owner Jon] Drummond says he was shocked to discover that amount of apples missing from his orchard.

“To be able to see an entire block of trees, nearly cleanly picked, when just days earlier there were thousands and thousands of apples on them, we just couldn’t even fathom it,” said Drummond.

Hmm. Yeah, this checks out. I think I would do a straight-up cartoon double-take if I looked out into my orchard one morning and a huge section of trees — 50,000 apples’ worth — were just naked. Would it be as weird as, say, Werner Herzog saving your life after a car accident, to pick one other option at random? No. Of course not. Unless Werner Herzog was the one who broke the news to you. “Someone has stolen a great number of your apples” is a fun sentence to say out loud in your best Werner Herzog voice. Please do try it.

Since there aren’t any apples on the ground, they believe the thieves came through, shook the trees and let the apples fall on a tarp to collect into bins.

I am very pleased to report that the answer to the question “How does one go about stealing 50,000 apples?” is exactly as dumb as you think it is. Dudes were just out there in the middle of the night shaking the hell out of some trees. My favorite part is that, just based on a combination of the physics and the odds, it’s not unreasonable to assume that everyone involved got bonked on the head by at least one falling apple.

How much money would the apples have sold for? Drummond says around $27,000 dollars.

Look, I’m no criminal mastermind. I’m not even a criminal amateurmind. But I’ve got to believe that, if you’re that hard up for $27,000, there are more efficient ways to go about it than shaking dozens of trees in the middle of the night and running off with 50,000 apples. I hope they already had a buyer lined up. Otherwise, I mean…

GUY ON STREET: Hey. Psst. Hey. You looking for some apples?


GUY ON STREET: You looking to buy some apples?

PEDESTRIAN: I… I guess I could use a few apples. Sure.

GUY ON STREET: How bout 50,000?

PEDESTRIAN: Excuse me?