TV

The Rundown: Maya Rudolph Makes Everything Better

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 — A position without a flaw

There are some things that are just true, always and forever. Examples include:

  • The ocean is big and wet
  • Lasagna is good
  • Doctors offices should put on the Food Network or HGTV in the waiting room instead of 24-hour news channels

Another one you can add to that list is “Adding Maya Rudolph to your television show will make it better.” There’s plenty of evidence to back it up at this point. We can start with the most recent and fresh example, which is her role as the judge on The Good Place. She’s so good in that little role. Goofy and stern and serious and silly all at once. I would watch a whole show about that character even though that character is very thinly drawn by design. The dialogue she has isn’t even that funny on the page. She just Rudolphs it up and, blammo, comedy. It’s almost like a magic trick.

Or take Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph plays Connie the Hormone Monstress on Big Mouth. It’s just a voice role on an animated show, which can be hard to bring personality to because you’re just talking into a microphone by yourself in a recording studio. She does, though. Lord Almighty, does she ever. The performance is as big and bright as the sun, peppered with brassy pronunciations of words and phrases that become instantly funny and memorable. Pharmacy becomes “pha-warm-acy.” Google becomes “joojle.” My favorite is her work with “bubble bath.” She adds letters and syllables and passion to the phrase in a way that makes it sound luxurious and almost salacious. I’ve tried many times to write it out phonetically — I’m normal, leave me alone — and the closest I’ve come is “bawubba bay-ettthhh,” but even that doesn’t capture the percussive breathiness of her version. She hits all the b’s so hard that the rest of the letters just kind of tumble out and hang on for dear life. I wish there were Emmys just for pronouncing things. It would be her and Andre Braugher (as Captain Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Catherine O’Hara (as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek) in a battle royale every year.

And then there’s this, too.

Netflix

That’s her appearing in one song from Lonely Island’s Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience and setting the world on fire. This screencap is good because there are not many sentences in this or any language funnier than “shake four halves of butt” but you really do need to watch the video to grasp what’s happening. The song takes a turn about halfway in and her eyes go almost black with power. She does that better than anyone. Maya Rudolph is the best.

The lingering question here is, “Yes, this is all true, so why doesn’t Maya Rudolph have her own big star vehicle yet?” And that’s fair. She should have one or more of those by now, probably, like how her SNL colleagues Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Andy Samberg all have or had beloved long-running network sitcoms. And I would love for that to happen someday. But I also love the idea of her as a comedy mercenary, just parachuting into a few shows a year and spraying comedy bullets around for a bit before hopping on a chopper and disappearing. As a greedy man, I think I even prefer it. More Maya in more places. Put her in everything. You can’t go wrong.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Cats on drugs

Universal

In the early 1970s, two young Washington Post reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein made history with their reporting on Richard Nixon and the Watergate coverup. Even today, almost 50 years later, it remains one of the proudest moments for journalism in this country, and something the Post remains justifiably proud of. There’s a movie about it and everything, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford’s immaculate hair. It was and is a big deal, and I mention it here for two reasons:

I mean, look at this.

In New York, a 26-year-old man named Ryan, who messaged The Post while still high on the edibles he took for that evening’s screening, expressed his lust for “a particular cat I would love to do bad things to me.” (It was Munkustrap, played by chiseled ballet dancer Robbie Fairchild).

And look at this, too.

In Los Angeles, a 23-year-old actor named Davis, who went to the movie with some friends, took a huge hit of amyl nitrite (i.e. “poppers”) at a key moment. “It was literally as Jennifer [Hudson] screams out, ‘Touch meeeeee, it’s so easy to leave meeeeeee,’ the poppers for all three of us kicked in,” he says. “I felt myself hit the Heaviside Layer like Grizabella, the glamour cat.”

I love this. I love this so much. I love that people are getting blasted to see Cats and I love that they are ripping off extremely horny emails about it to reporters as they leave the theater and I love that one of our nation’s finest newspapers is documenting it for the ages. I’m not joking or being sarcastic at all here. This is a lot of fun. Read the whole thing if you haven’t already. Cats may be a historic flop and a disturbing mess of fur and chaos, but if this ends up being its legacy… well, things could have been worse.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Alex Trebek

The Jeopardy GOAT tournament is taking place this week and it is fabulous television. The show’s three greatest champions — James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter — are doing battle in a primetime free-for-all for $1 million and I can’t and won’t stop watching. It’s always fun to watch people at the tippy top of their field push each other in competition. It’s also fun to sit and home and play along and watch them wipe out an entire board while you struggle to answer the $400 questions. My favorite was the time I knew an answer that none of them got and I started mentally strutting around my apartment like a peacock. Big day for me.

It’s also a nice way to recognize Alex Trebek and give him a big deal showcase before he steps away. There’s no word when exactly that will happen (Trebek says he hasn’t even told producers), but it will, sooner than later, and it will be a huge bummer. Alex Trebek is the best. For a lot of reasons. Look at the video at the top of this section. And look at this video.

And read this quote about his decision to shave his mustache, from a profile in The New Republic.

Fact: When Trebek shaved off his moustache in 2001, he did it in the middle of the day, himself, without warning the “Jeopardy!” producers. Renee was alarmed to come in and find him mid-shearing. He just felt like it, he says now. “And it got so much press, I couldn’t believe it. The wars with Iraq or whatever at that time, and people are all in a stew over my moustache. I have one response: Get a life.”

I bring up this quote anytime I mention Alex Trebek. In my defense, it’s a really good quote. It’s got a “the wars with Iraq or whatever” and an “all in a stew over my mustache.” That’s range. I am going to miss him tremendously when he leaves the show. The man is a legend and an icon and the real Jeopardy GOAT, results of this tournament be damned.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — “The meeting of the titans”

Some notes:

– I must know everything about this
– Who sat next to whom? Who set it up? When did Guy Fieri become friends with Sylvester Stallone? Why is Jay Glazer there? What did Guy cook? What did they talk about? Did Al Pacino say the word “Flavortown” at any point?
– I am absolutely livid that this video cuts off after 30 seconds
– I would have watched this entire meal
– Imagine overhearing a conversation between Stallone and Pacino, all the mumbling and shouting
– [Al Pacino voice] “These PORK BELLY quesaDILLAS are OUT OF BOUNDS”
– Now I’m wondering how many other weird celebrity pairings I’ve missed over the years

This is the best thing Sly Stallone has ever posted on Twitter, which is saying something because he’s also posted these:

Good tweet.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Brockmire, you beautiful bastard

IFC

Brockmire is a very good show. It stars Hank Azaria as a baseball announcer and trainwreck of a person and it is very funny and very wild. The first two seasons were a delight to watch, which makes the fact that the third season slipped through my fingers all the more confusing. What was I doing that I was so busy that I couldn’t watch Brockmire? Nothing important, I can guarantee that. I know myself pretty well. I know what I do with most of my time. I could have watched season three of Brockmire.

And now I will, soon and with purpose, because the premise of the fourth and final season was revealed this week and it is really something.

TV’s orneriest sitcom makes a hard right turn in its fourth and final season, jumping ahead to a dystopian, climate-changed 2030 when Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) — clean-and-sober but still eloquently nasty — is named commissioner of baseball.

My favorite part of this is that the dystopian, climate ravaged hellscape of a future they’re taking us to is… 10 years from now. It took me a second to wrap my head around that. I still see 2030 and picture, like, flying cars and condos on the moon. The future is here already, though, and it kind of stinks. Thank God for Brockmire, though.

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 Twitter user Sarcasm Detector:

Elton John is only an Emmy away from the full EGOT. Instead of the easy way and have him just write a song or host a one time variety show, can you pitch characters played by Elton John as a special recurring guest that could win him an Emmy? Elton John as a in over his head zookeeper on 911: Lonestar? Elton as a sad piano bar player in The Mandalorian?

This is a wonderful question. Let’s get Elton John an Emmy. Let’s get Elton John an Emmy. If we want to do it the right way, we’ll need to think about this. We’ll need to get him a role in an Emmy-bait kind of show. The obvious answer is for him to appear on Fleabag — British, critically-beloved, I would like it — but Phoebe Waller-Bridge swears that’s over. Okay, fine. I wanted him to play Hot Priest’s uncle. But as himself. The real Elton John as Hot Priest’s uncle. But fine.

Other options:

– A crime boss who gets assassinated on Killing Eve
– Some royal-adjacent so-and-so on The Crown
– New Mexico weed kingpin Rex Jackalope on Better Call Saul
– Murderous robot Elton John on Westworld
– Rival media titan on Succession
– Voice of a new hormone monster on Big Mouth
– Guest host of Last Week Tonight

I’m open to more suggestions but this feels like a solid start.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Florida!

“Let me out! Let me out! Ohhh! Ohhh! Ohhh!”

When a neighbor heard those chilling cries, the logical next step was to call 911. Four Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies pulled up and confronted a man who had his wife’s car on blocks in his driveway.

Uhhhhh this is starting out pretty dark. I’m not sure I like where it’s headed. It’s like the opening to one of those murder shows on the ID channel. If the phrase “scrubbed down with bleach to destroy the evidence” shows up anywhere soon, I’m going to be very upset.

Hopefully, it takes a fun and whimsical turn. Soon. I don’t know what I’m looking for, exactly, but I’ll know it when I see it.

“I was changing the brakes on my wife’s car and had my 40-year-old parrot, Rambo, on his outside perch where he sings and talks. Sometime later four police officers showed up saying a neighbor called because she heard a woman screaming for help. I promptly introduced the officers to Rambo and we all had a good laugh. Afterward, I also introduced Rambo to the neighbor who called in the screaming. She too had a good laugh.”

Yup, I do believe “the cries for help came from a 40-year-old rascal bird named Rambo” will qualify as fun and whimsical. Great job, everyone. Really pulled us out of a dicey situation. I appreciate it.

The person added, “Sometimes Rambo yells ‘help, help, let me out’. Something I taught him when I was a kid and Rambo lived in a cage.”

Rambo is a good bird.

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