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The Rundown: The ‘Mythic Quest’ Quarantine Episode Was A Straight-Up Triumph

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 — Congrats to everyone

You can be forgiven if Mythic Quest slipped by your radar when it debuted earlier this year. The show is an Apple TV+ original and it got way less initial buzz than some of the new streaming service’s other offerings, like the star-packed but mostly underwhelming The Morning Show, or the shows with Jason Momoa or Chris Evans. Apple pushed those pretty hard with big fancy pictures of the big fancy stars and they all kind of scooted right on by. It happens. There are a lot of streaming services and a lot of shows to choose from. There will be collateral damage.

But Mythic Quest is very good. It is a comedy from the Always Sunny brain trust that stars Rob McElhenney as the massively narcissistic creative director of a massively popular video game called, you guessed it, Mythic Quest. The rest of the cast is great, too. Danny Pudi from Community is in there as the deranged monetization guru. F. Murray Abraham plays the drunken head writer. Charlotte Nicdao, who I was not familiar with before this series, plays Poppy Li, the brilliant but overlooked head coder who ends up being the beating heart of the whole thing. The show is very silly and sometimes sweet and might end up surprising you with an emotional wallop here and there. Again, it’s very good. I dig it a lot.

Which brings us to this week, when the show released a special quarantine episode. We’ve seen a few of these now, most notably the Parks & Rec reunion. That was fun. I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t really an episode of television as much as it was a neat diversion to check-in on our old friends. That seemed to the general vibe of most of these specials: a feel-good glance at familiar faces doing goofs into their iPhones. It could be worse. It could also be better. Mythic Quest was the first show I saw that figured that out.

The plot of it all was pretty simple. McElhenney’s character, Ian (pronounced Eye-an), was terrified to leave his compound. Poppy was burying herself in her work. Everyone else was trying to figure out how to deal with a socially-distanced work and personal life through video calls. It all seemed very much like any other quarantine special, with slightly more hot tubs.

APPLE

But then the back half of the episode hit, and hit it did. Things got real. Cut between silly gags about shaving eyebrows and the development of a multi-person, multi-screen, Rube Goldberg-style chip-eating system, we discovered why Poppy had been burying herself in her work: because, like a lot of us, she was depressed and scared and not sure what to do or how to start once all the distractions peeled themselves away. It all culminated in an emotional moment that I won’t spoil for you except to say this: I watched the episode at about 2 a.m. this week and found myself lying in bed afterward for about 45 minutes, just blown away, staring at my ceiling. It was an emotional hammer, in the best way possible, in the way television and movies can be when they invest in their characters and the story. It was gutting and hopeful and kind and one of my favorite episodes of the year, period, not just quarantine-related.

And then it all ended with the Rube Goldberg reveal set to the Rocky music. I suspect it marked the first time I have ever cried a little while watching someone eat a single chip. The whole thing was a triumph of storytelling and capturing a moment in a human way. If you can find your way into yet another streaming service and can find time for yet another show, seek out Mythic Quest. It’s a good piece of business.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — What a shockingly good week it was for the song “Kokomo”

“Kokomo” is a song by The Beach Boys that was released in 1988. It is famous for two notable reasons: One, it is played at every tourist-y beach bar in the Western Hemisphere every hour on the hour, all day and night, or at least it feels like that; two, yes that is John Stamos on drums in the music video. It was a whole thing. You can look it up if you want to. I don’t have time to get into it right now because we are here to talk about the present, not the past. And in the present, here, this week, somehow, “Kokomo” is having a bit of a moment.

First, Space Force, and yes, there will be some mild spoilers in the next few sentences. Nothing that will ruin your life or potential enjoyment of the show. The short version goes like this: In the first episode, Steve Carell’s character, the head of the titular Space Force, is having a very bad day. He needs to calm down. So, he takes a deep breath, stares out the window, and…

Netflix

… sings a substantial chunk of “Kokomo” to himself in his office. It was pretty funny and I enjoyed it when I watched my screener a few days ago and I was pretty sure it would be the last time I saw a reference to “Kokomo” on a television comedy for a while. Months, at least, if not years. But then I flipped on this week’s episode What We Do in the Shadows — a very good show — and blammo.

FX

“Kokomo” again. This is… this is still just a coincidence. Barely. For now. But if another television show starts hitting the steel drums and a character starts singing about Key Largo… if, say, Wags from Billions gets drunk and starts belting it out at karaoke… I’m going to look into it. I’m going to figure out why. I’ll take it all the way to the top if I have to.

It’s not the only 80’s song that is popping up in multiple shows this year. Earlier in the same episode of What We Do in the Shadows (again, a good show), in the event that triggered all the musical goofs in a goof-filled episode, a car passed by blasting “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners.

FX

And that’s notable because the song also played a prominent role in the premiere of Hulu’s — also good! — reimagining of High Fidelity.

HULU

It’s a good thing I have this column to dump these thoughts into. Otherwise, I’d just be shouting them out my window at people in the parking lot. My neighbors would hate me so much.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Sure, crash a plane, who cares

I understand very little about Tenet, the upcoming movie from Christopher Nolan. I think that’s the point. I’m in this weird space where I’m both excited about it and already kind of exhausted by it even though it doesn’t come out until mid-July. I’ll tell you what would get me a little more pumped, though: some completely nutso story from the set. Something just wilder than a sack of wasps. Something like “Christopher Nolan purchased and crashed a real commercial airplane because it was cheaper than doing it in CGI.” From Total Film:

“I planned to do it using miniatures and set-piece builds and a combination of visual effects and all the rest,” Nolan tells TF. However, while scouting for locations in Victorville, California, the team discovered a massive array of old planes. “We started to run the numbers… It became apparent that it would actually be more efficient to buy a real plane of the real size, and perform this sequence for real in camera, rather than build miniatures or go the CG route.”

Yes. Yes, this will do just fine. I hope this starts a trend. I hope the 10th Fast & Furious comes out in a few years and Vin Diesel says “At some point, we realized it would just be cheaper to film on the actual moon rather than do it with computers.” I hope he’s wrong, too, and the exorbitant price tag of sending the entire cast and crew into the cosmos bankrupts an entire studio. That would be fun. I mean, for me.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Snack chat

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Adam Horovitz, better known as Ad-Rock from Beastie Boys, is one of my favorite people in the world and has been for some time. There are a bunch of reasons for this, many of which I’ve documented in this very column in the past few weeks as the press tour for Beastie Boys Story kicked into high gear. One of the biggest is his refusal to take interviews seriously. The man is impossible to nail down, in large part because he refuses to give more than two straight answers in a row before he starts screwing around. He did it again this week, in the prestigious pages of The New Yorker. The interviewer tried to talk about the movie. Ad-Rock obliged, for a while. But then he wanted to talk about snacks.

When I was kid, my aspiration was to have snacks—to be able to have whatever snacks I wanted. That’s not what my house was like. My friend Neil and I talked about success, like, what success really is. And I was, like, “If you have a washer/dryer in your apartment, you’re fucking big time.”

This is not the first recent interview he yoinked off the rails with Snack Chat. He did it on Desus & Mero, too. The man really loves snacks. And shopping for them at the grocery store. As you can see.

Maybe I’ll continue writing and talking about all the stupid shit that I’ve done. The whole thing is so weird. That I’m fifty-three is fucking weird. I have money; I can buy whatever I want at the supermarket. I’m very lucky.

So, two things here:

— This is actually a very deep point. Food insecurity is a real issue for a lot of people and there’s something profoundly comforting about knowing you can just grab anything you want off the shelf and bring it home. I remember being very broke in my early 20s and making hot dog quesadillas for dinner because all I had in my fridge were hot dogs, tortillas, store-brand cheese slices, and a few barbecue sauce packets. They were actually kind of good, but that’s not that point. Maybe it is. I’ve admittedly lost the thread a bit here.

— This quote also cracks me up because he’s a Beastie Boy and could probably buy a small-to-midsize island if he wants, and he’s probably talking about, like, Dunkaroos here.

It also led to this follow-up exchange.

Right. That makes sense, given that you once thought that making it meant you could get a lot of snacks.

Like Shane, my friend in junior high. He had fucking Mountain Dews. He had so many snacks.

This is what I mean, man. Stuff like this from your childhood sticks with you. This is why he loves snacks so much. That and all the weed he cops to smoking at another point in the interview. Probably a little of both.

Anyway, big shouts to Shane.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — MURDER DOG

MURDER DOG HAS A TRAILER.

REMEMBER MURDER DOG?

HERE. LOOK AGAIN.

The film centers on Maggie (Judy Greer), a woman who gets an emotional support dog to help quell some of her anxiety. Only, she finds him to be even more effective than she could have imagined because, unbeknownst to her, he kills anyone who adds stress to her life… [Steve] Guttenberg [plays] Don, Maggie’s “misanthropic but at times soft around the edges” boss, while Wong is Annie, a former baby-sitting charge of Maggie’s who recently moved to Los Angeles and rekindles their friendship.

MURDER DOG.

HULU

MURDER DOG.

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 Seth:

I started watching What We Do in the Shadows on your recommendation the other week and I love it. I don’t think I’ll ever get over Laszlo going on the lam as a bartender named Jackie Daytona. I gotta ask, as an expert in the fake name department, what name you would choose if you had to go on the lam. I think I’d go with Rex Telluride. It’s no Jackie Daytona, but it’s a decent start.

REX TELLURIDE!

That’s terrific, Seth. I can picture him now. He definitely has a cowboy hat. He chooses his words carefully. He’s basically Raylan Givens from Justified but for some reason, I’m picturing a mustache. And maybe he loves to play craps. Rex Telluride, mustachioed dice-thrower. Yes, this definitely plays.

As for me, my answer remains the same as always: I will become Mitch Casino. I still need to work on the rest of the cover identity, but I feel like the name gets me at least halfway there. I imagine I just need to say “My name is Mitch Casino” into a mirror a few times and the rest will fall into place.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Vermont!

Like any politician, humans aren’t the only ones in the middle of an election cycle. One small town in Vermont appoints a mayor of the four legged variety. Meet Lincoln, a Nubian goat and the first pet mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont, elected to office in 2019.

Oh hell yes. We have an incumbent goat mayor up for re-election. And there are other candidates. There are so many other candidates.

“A lot of students in the Fair Haven grade school wanted to nominate their own pets, so we had a bunny, a hamster, a horse. I think there were five or six dogs. Five cats. There were 18 candidates, but were three main candidates that stood out to voters: Lincoln, the incumbent goat; Sammy, the police canine; and Murfee, the therapy dog. Lincoln had a very successful first term as mayor and, being an incumbent, a lot of people knew her name already so she was definitely a front runner.”

How funny would it have been if that sentence listing the dozens of animal candidates and the three front runners ended with “and a human named Doug Jenkins, the longtime town treasurer who has made it his life’s goal to clean up the town’s finances after decades of frivolous spending by its animal mayors”?

I’ll tell you. It would have been very funny. Classic Doug. But I’ve buried the lede here: A new candidate captured the hearts and minds of the populace and rode that wave to an upset victory.

“They were a little disappointed, but it didn’t take long for them to start cheering and applauding for Murfee. They were very excited that passing the torch on and it’s a new year. I think they’re looking forward to seeing what Murfee will do with his mayoral seat.”

This is great. The only thing that could ruin it is if there is another paragraph that makes it all less fun. Like if they reveal that the animal mayor is just for show and is not allowed to govern.

“I don’t think that Fair Haven will have a human mayor anytime soon, because Fair Haven has a human town manager, which is essentially sort of the same thing as a mayor. He makes a lot of the big decisions. He oversees that select board. So I think the town government is comfortable with just having a town manager. But I think they also really love having a pet mayor.”

Ugh, fine.

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