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 — I hate that I’m asking this
Alex Trebek is gone, and it sucks. I’m sad. Sadder than I expected to be. I figured I’d be a little prepared, in part because of his age and in part because of his very serious cancer diagnosis. Well, guess what: I was not prepared. I got a text on Sunday afternoon that broke the news and then I watched a bunch of Jeopardy clips and then I teared up a little bit. Especially when I saw this one from a few weeks ago. I mean, damn.
Alex's impact is immeasurable. Thank you for sharing, Burt! pic.twitter.com/XgGGwJ8GlH
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 6, 2020
The thing is that Trebek had crossed over from game show host to cultural institution in a way I’m not sure anyone else has. He was synonymous with Jeopardy, a show that succeeded for decades without any gimmicks. It was just three smart people answering questions and — this part was a more recent development but still an undeniable undercurrent in every episode — trying not to disappoint Alex. There were multiple parodies of him in multiple formats and he seemed to get a kick out of all them. He took his work seriously, but not himself. I don’t know if anyone else in his profession has pulled off all of that to a degree that even gets close. Maybe Bob Barker, based on his longevity and legendary Happy Gilmore cameo, but even that doesn’t quite get there. Alex Trebek was one of one, the true and only Jeopardy GOAT.
Which makes this next part uncomfortable and kind of impossible: At some point, sooner than later, we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about who attempts to replace him as host. Replace is probably the wrong word. One does not “replace” Alex Trebek as host of Jeopardy as much as one stands in the places he stood and tries not to steer the whole operation into a lagoon. Some people and websites have already started the conversation, including some weirdo gambling-type places that created preposterous odds meant more to drive clicks/conversation than to be serious. Joe Rogan will not be the next host of Jeopardy. Neither will Nick Cannon or Piers Morgan. I will very likely start a riot in the street if Piers Morgan becomes the next host of Jeopardy. I am not joking. This is serious.
You know who else will not be the next host of Jeopardy? Wolf Blitzer. There is a reasonable case to make for him, I suppose, given that he’s another authoritative gray-haired man who society at large associates with being smart on account of him saying the news into a camera for a number of decades. Also, his name is “Wolf Blitzer,” which is one of those things that is objectively funny even if we’ve all become a little immune to it over the many years he’s been a cultural figure, kind of like how we all just rolled with there being a notable actor whose name was Rip Torn. That counts for something. But still, Wolf can’t be the host for one simple and hilarious reason, which can be summed up in one image that is, I swear to God, real.
So he’s out. And that gets us back to square one. Who?
The smart money seems to be on Ken Jennings, he of the record winning streak and victory in the recent GOAT tournament. This makes sense. Ken is smart and funny and viewers already associate his face with the show, so it won’t feel like as much of a shock, or like someone is trying to “replace” Trebek as much as continue his legacy. Also, thanks to his status as a legend on the show, he can believably continue the illusion Trebek created that the host actually knows the answers to all the clues, even though we all know he has them on the card. This is important to me because I am a child.
Another good one who is picking up steam: Levar Burton. Hell yeah, Levar Burton. Between his long career as an actor and his role as host of Reading Rainbow, he’s another one who is ingrained enough in the culture and perceived as smart enough to pull this off. I could very much get into Levar Burton as host. This is acceptable.
Other acceptable choices, in my opinion:
Anderson Cooper — See above, re gray hair and knowledgeable. Good personality.
Katie Couric — Another good news-type person who is undeniably fun.
Kelly Ripa — A stretch, perhaps, but workable.
Aisha Tyler — Did you know Aisha Tyler has an IQ of 154? I mean, she’s qualified for other reasons, but I like knowing the host might be smarter than any of the contestants.
Various Dan Patrick types — Tall dudes with authoritative voices who we have grown used to seeing on television, etc.
That feels like a good place to start. I still think Jennings or Burton is the correct play, and Jennings does appear to have the inside track on account of him coming on as a producer/consultant for the show recently, which seems to imply a torch-passing might have taken place. But who knows? Maybe they’ll want to take a hard left and change things up completely to move on as fast as possible. I would hate this, and I suspect most of the viewers at home would, too. But my stance on matters like this remains “if you’re going to be bad, at least be hilarious about it,” which gets me to this: Jeopardy host Tracy Morgan.
Something to consider.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — The Christmas content machine is out of control and I love it
There was a time, not unreasonably long ago, maybe five years, back that Christmas movies were almost exclusively the domain of the Hallmark and Lifetime channels. Yes, there were reruns of holidays classics on other cable channels, and, yes, there were a handful of new studio releases, but even those were kind of dwindling. What’s the last true, original classic Christmas movie that came out in a theater? Probably Elf, right? Well, that was 2003, almost 20 years ago. And with Hallmark and Lifetime cranking out a few dozen every year, they were basically running unopposed in the race for Christmas dominance.
Well, no more. Streaming services are throwing their bright red Santa hats in the ring, too. In a big way. Look at the trailer at the top of this section, for a movie titled Happiest Season that comes to Hulu this Thanksgiving. We’ve got Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie David in a queer holiday comedy that also features Alison Brie and Dan Levy and Aubrey Plaza and Victor Garber and freaking Mary Steenburgen. Look at that cast. The trailer even looks good, which I say as someone who usually thinks trailers stink. This is not your usual Hallmark-y “a big city TV reporter gets stuck in a small town after a blizzard and learns the meaning of Christmas from the hunky local woodworker” movie. This is a big deal.
And look at Netflix. Netflix is cranking out a slew of Christmas stuff. We talked about the Dolly Parton Christmas Carol movie a few weeks ago, the one where Christine Baranski fulfills her destiny by finally playing Scrooge. But there’s also this.
There’s a lot to love here, starting with the fact that the movie is a sequel to 2018’s The Princess Switch and it is titled The Princess Switch: Switched Again. Just perfect. And then there’s the description that I have lifted directly from the film’s Wikipedia page.
The story follows Margaret Delacourt, the Duchess of Montenaro, who suddenly inherits the throne to her home country of Montenaro. As her Christmas coronation approaches, she and Stacy switch places once again so Margaret can fix her relationship with Stacy’s friend Kevin. Unbeknownst to both women, a third look-alike, Margaret’s wicked cousin Lady Fiona, disguises herself as Margaret in a scheme to steal the throne.
The streamers are here to crash the Christmas content party, and they have a bunch of big stars and wicked cousins with them. It’s a whole thing. Please make a note.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — Hey look, a television show and a movie for me
The first thing you need to know is that the screencap above features Sam Richardson in the television show Detroiters, which was very good and was canceled after two seasons, which I’m still angry about. The second thing you need to know is that the universe appears to be trying to make it up to me with an upcoming series from Apple that is being produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who have a very solid batting average when it comes to producing things I enjoy.
“The Afterparty” is an eight-episode murder-mystery comedy set at a high school reunion afterparty. Each episode will feature a retelling of the same night told through a different character’s perspective, each with its own unique visual format and film genre to match the teller’s personality.
I love big huge high-concept swings and Apple has done a surprisingly good job with comedies out of the gate between Mythic Quest and Ted Lasso, so this is already intriguing. And look at the cast, bullet points and character descriptions via the press release.
- Tiffany Haddish as ‘Detective Danner,’ the eccentric detective assigned to solve the high-profile case
- Sam Richardson as ‘Aniq,’ a loveable escape room designer who hopes to reconnect with his high school crush, Zoe.
- Zoë Chao as ‘Zoe,’ a former artist turned school administrator who is newly separated from her high school sweetheart
- Ben Schwartz as ‘Yasper,’ Aniq’s relentlessly positive best friend who dreams of a career in music
- Ike Barinholtz as ‘Brett,’ Zoe’s ex-husband, an arrogant, former high school athlete
- Ilana Glazer as ‘Chelsea,’ the former high school valedictorian and class president
- Dave Franco as ‘Xavier,’ once a dorky high school drama student, now a famous pop star and actor
- Jamie Demetriou as ‘Walt,’ ignored throughout high school, Walt attends the reunion with hopes to be remembered
- John Early as ‘Detective Culp,’ Detective Danner’s overly-eager partner.
Yes. Yes, I can dig that. I have no idea if the show will be any good, but you’d have a hard time doing much better on paper without a phrase like “and a troublemaking beagle voiced by Paul Rudd.” Good job, everyone.
And there’s more. Look at this description of an upcoming movie called Nobody with Bob Odenkirk, Saul from Better Call Saul and one-half of the legendary Mr. Show operation.
[Odenkirk] becomes an improbable action star in the Universal thriller Nobody (out Feb. 19), playing Hutch Mansell, an unassuming family man who cowers and folds during a home invasion. His post-traumatic shame disorder reignites a long-cooled fire within, and he summons a secret lethal skill set for a revenge mission, only to see it backfire spectacularly and put his family in greater jeopardy.
And it gets better. Nobody was written by Derek Kolstad (who wrote John Wick) and will be produced by David Leitch (who directed Atomic Blonde and John Wick and Deadpool 2) and will co-star RZA (who is RZA). Again, this could all play out in any direction from here, but it’s a heck of a place to start. I will almost definitely see this movie.
Also, and let’s call this one a bonus throw-in, here is the one-line description of an upcoming Netflix movie starring Millie Bobby Brown.
In Damsel, Brown will play Princess Elodie, who thinks she is marrying Prince Henry, only to find out that she is being sacrificed to a dragon.
I mean, who among us, right?
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — No
Well, here’s a tweet.
Friendly reminder Emily in Paris is supposed to be pronounced with a French accent so 'Emily' and 'Paris' rhyme
— Netflix (@netflix) November 11, 2020
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Larry David is exactly the way you think he is
There’s a profile of Cazzie David in the Los Angeles Times this week. Cazzie David is a writer who has a new collection of essays coming out and is also the daughter of Larry David, a person you may be familiar with from being a pillar of American comedy for like 30 years now. The profile is interesting. It gets into Cazzie David’s apparently inherited anxiety issues and the self-worth problems children of very successful parents often deal with and her difficult breakup with Pete Davidson right before he started dating Ariana Grande. This last part is where we pick up the story. Cazzie David had a tough go of it in the immediate aftermath and her father… well, her father is still extremely Larry David at all times.
She was devastated. On the plane to her sister’s college graduation, David was held by her dad as she “shook uncontrollably in his arms for the entire flight.” She curled up in the hotel’s bathroom, crying and sucking on her weed pens. She woke up “screaming in agony,” her dad pulling her from the bed to stop her spiraling.
“CAZZIE, COME ON!” Larry David told her. “YOUR ANCESTORS SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST!”
You can picture him saying this, right? Not, like, hypothetically picture it. I mean you have this image, with audio, running crystal clear in your brain right now. I know I do. I can even see his face doing the exasperated Larry David thing. It’s somehow comforting to know he’s always like this.
ITEM NUMBER SIX — Leta rules
Currently obsessed with Leta Powell Drake, the greatest interviewer of all time. pic.twitter.com/3oCYAd9vZD
— John Frankensteiner (@JFrankensteiner) November 12, 2020
This video went viral as hell this week, and with good reason. It features clips from interviews done by a Nebraska television personality named Leta Powell Drake. The interviews are all from the 1970s and 1980s and include celebrities of the era like Telly Savalas and Roy Schneider and show Leta Powell Drake asking them all a series of questions ranging from silly to weird to straight-up awkward. My favorite one is her asking Elliott Gould — who, against staggering odds, has been an important part of two viral videos in the last month, with the other being the celebrity basketball game against Michael Jordan — if he regretted not doing the M.A.S.H. television show because everyone involved made a lot of money. It’s great. More interviews should be like this.
Anyway, as I was watching the video the first time through, I got this overwhelming sense that this lady had to be a fascinating character. Had to be. You can’t be this interesting in one aspect of your life and not in any others. So, I went to her Wikipedia page and I am pleased to report that I was correct. Some highlights:
- Began her career in 1956 as began as “the ‘Bingo Girl’ on a live Bingo program”
- “Has been inducted into the Nebraska Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Nebraska Press Women’s Hall of Fame”
- “Is a licensed private pilot”
- “Is one of the creators of the Star City Holiday Parade”
- “Has won city championships in horseshoe pitching, golf, and bowling”
That’s a heck of a life. I don’t know if this is weird, but I think I’m most impressed by the thing where she created a parade. I don’t think it would ever dawn on me to create a parade. I’m not sure I even fully grasped that parades are created by, like, people. I just always thought of them as things that happened and never put any more thought into it. Imagine waking up one day and deciding to throw a whole-ass parade and actually following through with it to the degree it becomes an annual event. Imagine having “created a parade” on your Wikipedia page. All the other stuff is impressive, please don’t mistake me, but that’s the one that’s bending my brain. Leta rules, present tense, because she is still alive and giving interviews about going viral. Let’s throw her a damn parade.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at email@example.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.
I come to you for this because I don’t know where else to go, and because you seem like a good source of information. I’ve been following the news like everyone else for the last few weeks. It seems like every two of three days there’s a new insane story coming out of Pennsylvania. There was the stuff with Elmo and Gritty leading the celebrations after the election. There was the Four Seasons Landscaping debacle. There was the thing about a white politician pretending to be black gay man on Twitter and then Patti LaBelle’s nephew got involved somehow. I’ve seen you tweeting about all of these things and you seem to have your finger on the pulse of the state so I’ll just come out and ask: What is going on with Pennsylvania?
Greg, this is a good email. And it brings up an important point that I need to stress to you and everyone reading this in the strongest terms possible: Pennsylvania is very weird.
Some of that is just a matter of geography. Any state that contains rabid Eagles fans and an entire subculture of dudes riding four-wheelers through a city and, like, the Amish has by nature a hell of a range. Philadelphia itself is especially weird. When the Eagles played in the Super Bowl a couple years back, city officials spent hours greasing downtown light poles to try to prevent drunken goofs from scaling them and injuring themselves, and it backfired because the drunken goofs saw it as a challenge. The city has long had a tough reputation, and please do insert here the “they threw snowballs at Santa” story that everyone brings up, but it’s nice to see the tide turning a bit to acknowledge that the city is more a bunch of mischievous rascals than dangerous goons. Also, that Santa had it coming. Look it up.
To answer your question… I don’t know. Pennsylvania is kind of always like this. We’re not as weird as, say, Florida, but we’re much weirder and more fun than I think most people realize. We had a huge scandal a few years ago that involved online pornography and resulted in two of our Supreme Court justices resigning. Our Lieutenant Governor is a tatted-up 6’8 progressive icon who lives in a converted car dealership and looks like he plays bass in a metal band that once opened for Metallica. We get in heated arguments about which gas station has the best hoagies. It’s a lot. It also explains why I am the way I am, I think.
In summation, as always, Go Birds.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
Fort Worth coffee shop Ampersand is on the hunt for a fiddle leaf fig tree that was brazenly stolen by a customer in the middle of the day.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a broad daylight tree heist. That’s one of those sentences you never fully expect to type in your life. I’m very pleased I got to do it, though. My job is very silly and weird and I do not especially love trying to explain it to a well-meaning stranger who asks what I do for a living, but I assure you I do not take it for granted. Especially now. Especially given what I’m about to show you.
After looking around furtively, she grabs the tree by the trunk, pulling it out of its pot, and absconds with it. The entire episode takes about two seconds.
I imagine you read those sentences and thought something like “Hmm, I wonder why they’re writing about it like they’re watching it happen, almost like there’s a video of the theft somewhere.”
Folks, there is a video. Posted by the store. On their TikTok. Set to music.
She really did just run off with that tree. Right there in front of God and the other customers and the damn security cameras. What a maniac. I hope she didn’t even plan it. I hope she just looked at the tree and then looked at the door and said “I can make it” to herself, preferably out loud. She had to bring it all the way home. And now she just has the tree. People probably ask her where she got it. There’s a very real chance she gets arrested in the near future and ends up having to explain this to people. How she stole a tree. I’m kind of proud of her, but also terrified of her. I hope she has hundreds of stolen houseplants, too.
“It’s so random, but so funny at the same time,” Ampersand operating partner Toan Luong told the Fort Worth Star Telegram. “We’re just trying to make the best of the situation honestly. We had that plant since we began the shop. That’s why it’s so significant for us.”
Okay, let’s get these people their tree back. Let’s maybe steal it back, though. A full-on operation with night-vision goggles and grappling hooks and everything. It’s been too long since my beloved gold bucket heist. I need this in my life right now. Please, help me.