TV

The Rundown: Quite Frankly, It Is Jarring To See Paul Giamatti Without Facial Hair

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 — Billions is back and things are weird

Good news and… not necessarily “bad” news. It’s not bad. It’s just a little unsettling. But we’ll start with the good because it is Friday and on Friday we prioritize good vibes.

Billions is back. Finally. The Showtime series aired half of its fifth season back at the beginning of the pandemic (yes, it’s strange how easily we throw around phrases like “back at the beginning of the pandemic” now), and then it went on a lonnnng hiatus, and now it is back to wrap up its season. I’m happy about this because Billions is the best. It’s so much fun. There are zero likable characters. Everyone is either an awful hedge fund person or a slimy lawyer or someone who enables one of those two for money. They spend one hour a week trying to ruin each other. That’s it. That’s the show. Just revenge and treachery from opening credits to closing credits, briefly interrupted by Paul Giamatti going to BDSM clubs and having women beat the hell out of him. It’s a good time.

This brings us to the weird news. When the show came back after this long hiatus, about four or five minutes into its first new episode in months, Paul Giamatti — who plays a former U.S. Attorney who just got himself elected Attorney General of New York and is already using his office to try to pressure inmates into giving a kidney to his ailing father, because Billions, bless its jet-black soul, never stops being Billions even for one second — looked like this.

SHOWTIME

I…

I mean…

The bottom line here is that I was not really prepared to see a clean-shaven Giamatti. It’s not like I’ve never seen him clean-shaven. He’s been clean-shaven in movies and stuff before. It’s just that it’s been so long and he has such a perfect face for facial hair and… I don’t know. The episode aired back on Sunday and I’m still thinking about it. I’ve been talking about it all week. When I pitched it to my editor as the lead section of this column, his response was “lol you are so disturbed by this.” Which is true. It’s not quite “Sam Elliott showing up on Justified without a mustache and looking like a turtle that lost its shell,” but it’s close. I will not post a picture of that one here because I need all of us to focus, but Google it when we’re done. And watch Justified if you haven’t. Or again if you have.

The best part is that the other characters on the show noticed, too. Right after we saw him for the first time, another character walked in and commented on it. And when that character commented on it, Giamatti’s character said this.

SHOWTIME

It worked on the show. It did not work here. I am making a whole thing out of it, quite literally. I’m telling everyone. I’m still typing words about it right now even though most rational people would have given it one paragraph, maximum. I apologize to Paul Giamatti and most of you for how worked up I am about this. It’s just… I don’t know. It’s not that he looks bad. He looks good! This is definitely more of a me thing than a him thing. I’m self-aware enough to realize that.

I’ll get over it, eventually. I’m sure I will. I got over Sam Elliott’s naked upper lip a few episodes into the season. I mean, well enough to focus on the action, at least. I’m obviously not over it all the way, based on the thing where I’m still talking about it today, years after it happened. I suspect this Giamatti thing will stick with me for a while, too. It’s just how my brain works. I could have a conversation with you today and forget it all by tomorrow but these suckers are locked in the vault for good. I’m sure it’s fine.

Anyway, if you were wondering if this lack of facial hair prevented him in any way from being his delightful and expressive self, from delivering lines and gestures like the goddamn champion of the arts he is and has been for decades, please be assured that you do not have to worry about that at all.

SHOWTIME

All hail our newly hairless king. May his reign be long and fruitful. Although if he wants to grow back the goatee…

I mean…

That would be okay, too.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — MKW

Getty Image

Michael K. Williams passed away this week. He was 54 years old. It’s a huge bummer any way you look at it, not just because he was a talented actor. He was that, though. He was one of those guys who made everything he was in a little bit better. Sometimes he made things a lot better. All of the tributes to him started with his performance as Omar on The Wire, which is fair, because that’s on a short list of both the best characters and best performances in television history. A gay stickup man who makes a living by robbing Baltimore’s most notorious drug dealers. Making all of that work, not letting it slip into caricature, especially almost 20 years ago when the show premiered… that’s something. And it’s even more impressive when you read stuff like this that drives home how involved he was in making it all happen:

“They kept writing,” Williams told me. “I knew that dude was gay. All they kept doing: Omar rubs the boy’s lips. Omar rubs the boy’s hair. Omar holds the boy’s hand.”

In one first-season scene, Williams and Michael Kevin Darnall, who played one of Omar’s early stickup partners and love interest, decided that the two should share an unscripted passionate kiss.

It caught the director off guard. But the scene stayed in, adding a new layer of complexity and realism to an early 2000s show that was initially centered on pitting cops against drug dealers. And it fit seamlessly into “The Wire,” and Omar’s story.

He was good in other stuff, too. He was good as Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire, a show that always felt like it was one or two degrees away from being another HBO classic. People went nuts about his performance in Lovecraft Country. He popped up as a professor in a later season of Community and showed everyone he could do comedy, too, which should not have been much of a surprise, really.

He was also, by almost all accounts, a good dude who was chased by some demons. Go read a bunch of tributes that were written this week. No one has a bad word to say about him. Go watch his appearance on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. It is deeply sad that both of those guys are gone now, but it’s also deeply cool that they both made such an impression in the time they were here.

There’s not much else to say that hasn’t been said already and better by a ton of people. Mostly, it’s just really sad. If there’s any silver lining to be found anywhere, it’s that a lot of us ended up spending a week talking about how great Michael K. Williams was. It’s just a shame we didn’t do it under better circumstances.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — I’m sorry but I cannot get over this David Chase story

This is the second trailer for the upcoming Sopranos prequel movie Many Saints of Newark, from the creator of the series, David Chase. It’s got Ray Liotta in it, which is good. It’s got James Gandolfini’s son Michael playing Young Tony, which is also cool. It does not have a now-79-year-old Tony Sirico playing a teenage Paulie Walnuts, which is kind of a bummer because that would have been hilarious, but still. Pretty good. I’m excited. I might just go ahead and rewatch The Sopranos now. I need a winter project anyway.

But that’s not the point right now. The point is that David Chase is out doing press for the movie and, as part of that press, he gave one of the wildest answers to any question you’ll ever see. Look at this, from the very end of a lengthy chat with Deadline.

DEADLINE: Anything you want my readers to know that I should have asked you?

CHASE: Well, I’ve dreamed about people asking me this question because I’ve dreamed about finally giving the answer to it.

DEADLINE: Let’s hear it.

CHASE: And the answer to the question is this. It says in Wikipedia that my name was David DeCesare, but that’s not true. My name was never David DeCesare, and I’ve tried to get them to remove all this. My name, I was born with the name David Chase. My father was born with the name DeCesare, and he changed it back in the ’30s. So I didn’t change my name. That was never my name, and when we first started The Sopranos, I said to HBO, should I go back to my Italian name, our family name? And they said no because you’re known. I wasn’t even that well known, but people know you by this name. So, I didn’t, but it turns out the name DeCesare, it turns out that my father’s father…how can I put this? My grandmother had six children by a guy named DeCesare up in Provincetown, and then a lodger moved into the house who was like 17, and she took up with him and had two more children, which she pawned off as the original guy’s, but actually were kids of the lodger. And so, my father was one of those kids. So, my name really isn’t even DeCesare. The other guy’s name was Fusco, and that’s what my name really should be.

That’s incredible. David Chase is out here airing all his family business — the secret stuff, too, that most people don’t even tell their oldest friends or possibly spouses — and he’s doing it more or less unprompted in a widely read industry website. The dude was like, “Hey, what else you got?” and instead of saying something like, “Actually, Meadow Soprano goes on to become the Governor of New Jersey,” he really just dropped a whole story about his grandma having secret love children with a teenage lodger and tricking his grandpa into raising them. Just marvelous.

Easily the best answer to a question I’ve seen since the time former Clippers owner Donald Sterling did, well, this in an actual deposition.

“Is this your handwriting?” A million comedy writers with five million cans of LaCroix couldn’t have come up with a better punchline. Just perfect.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Bless Lana Wachowski for making a movie where Keanu Reeves has a rubber ducky on his head

Well, guess what: There’s another Matrix movie on the way. You probably knew that. It’s called Matrix Resurrections. You probably knew that, too. The trailer came out yesterday. I’ll stop telling you things that you already know.

I have no idea if this movie will be good. The original Matrix movies weren’t really my thing from a storytelling perspective. I know and understand why a lot of people dug them, and I watched them all in the theater, but they weren’t something that resonated with me the way, say, Speed or John Wick did, to stay on the Keanu-related topic at hand. I’m a simple man with a short attention span. Bus can’t slow down? Got it. Man goes on a murderous rampage because Theon from Game of Thrones killed his dog? Sure. A three-film examination of free will with robots and bendy spoons and reality itself twisting into a pretzel? I can dig it, but you’ll need to give me a second to get my bearings.

They did look cool as hell, though. All the time. The Wachowskis made three visually stunning and inventive movies. And now Lana Wachowski appears to have done it again. That trailer is cooler and more intense than most of the full-length movies I’ve seen this year. Watch it right now. Watch it again if you’ve already seen it. Look at Jonathan Groff popping in this thing. Good for him.

My favorite part, though, to the surprise of no one who has read this column even one time, was this…

WARNER BROS

Bless Lana Wachowski.

Bless Keanu Reeves.

Bless bubble baths and rubber duckies.

Bless all of us for getting to experience this moment together. I don’t think any of us expected to see Keanu Reeves with a rubber ducky on his head back when this week started, but here we are. Life is never as dull as you think it is. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for a cool thing to happen. It’s a good lesson to remember.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — We are going to Ibiza

Twin Peaks creator David Lynch has a new nightclub in Ibiza, which I bring to your attention for three equally important reasons:

  • I wanted to type the phrase “David Lynch has a new nightclub in Ibiza”
  • I wanted to share that Instagram post with pictures from David Lynch’s new nightclub in Ibiza
  • We are all going to David Lynch’s new nightclub in Ibiza

Tell me everything all at once, please.

Right on the beach, the space is decorated with huge fabric tentacles, giant lips and swing seats. The whimsical decorations were created by Miranda Makaroff, an artist with a penchant for Instagram-friendly installations.

It’s on the east side of the island, and party-goers can expect DJ sets and cocktails at the bar. There’s also a very beautiful, Balearic-inspired restaurant, which is less Blue Velvet and more hand-fired ceramics.

I clicked on the link to this nightclub — called El Silencio, naturally — so fast I almost knocked my soda over. I looked at the pictures for a bit, but then I saw a link to the menu and I clicked on that so hard I almost spilled my soda again, because I am incapable of seeing a link to a menu and not clicking on it. And looking at that menu has resulted in an update to one of my previous statements.

We are all going to David Lynch’s nightclub in Ibiza and ordering churros. It’s settled.

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 Sonny:

Long time reader here. I’ve been thinking way too much recently about potentiel cross-overs between franchises, shows or just actors. Some are easy to forget, but there is one I just can’t and I think you are the expert on the matter. I think the best action franchises right now are Mission Impossible and John Wick (I mean no disrespect to Fast and Furious)
So it is just a simple question.

Would you rather have Keanu Reeves in a Mission Impossible movie or Tom Cruise or a John Wick movie ?

But then, every other cross over idea that I have between those two guys seems great. Even Keanu Reeves in space.

Please tell me if I am thinking way too much into this or help me kickstart a movie between those two.

My friend, you are thinking exactly the right amount on this. I’ve been thinking about it maybe five times a day since this email hit my inbox. And my answer is… actually a question. Are you ready? Because you’re either going to cheer or groan here. So know that going in. Okay…

What if we just take both of them and drop them into the sequel to The Accountant that I just found out about last week? I mean, if we’re letting our brains go wild on improbable things, if we’re operating the entire film industry with a mission of “let’s cater directly to Brian and Sonny,” then let’s go all out. Pull Statham in, too, as his character from Spy. Get Helen Mirren in there. Send Ludacris back to space. I would watch this movie 700 times on basic cable. I would show up late to a wedding and be like “Sorry, I was watchi-” and everyone would groan and say “Yeah, we know.” It would not be great. But it would be worth it,

Hey, looky here, a bonus second question…

From Kyle:

Parks and Rec established that Ginuwine wrote Pony out of his love for Li’l Sebastian. Only Murders in the Building heavily implies that Sting wrote Don’t Stand So Close To Me out of his hatred for dogs. Are there any other songs out there just waiting for a tv show to rewrite their history?

I don’t have any great reasoning or explanation here. I just want it. Sometimes that’s enough.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Paris!

Thieves struck the Bulgari store in Paris’s Place Vendome today, making off with around €10 million in jewellery after leading police on a high-speed chase that saw two of the suspects captured, sources told AFP.

PARISIAN JEWELRY HEIST

The attack on the luxury store in the heart of the French capital occurred around noon and officers arrived at the scene shortly after, a police source said.

PARISIAN JEWELRY HEIST IN BROAD DAYLIGHT

The suspects fled in a grey BMW and on two scooters, with one arrested after he was shot in the leg by police.

PARISIAN JEWELRY HEIST IN BROAD DAYLIGHT FOLLOWED BY HIGH-SPEED SCOOTER CHASE

It was the latest of several jewellery heists in Paris over the summer.

TELL ME OTHER PARISIAN JEWELRY HEISTS HAVE INVOLVED SCOOTER CHASES

PLEASE

I NEED THIS

On July 27, a man stole two million euros’ worth of jewels from a Chaumet boutique before escaping on an electric scooter. He was arrested the next day with an accomplice, and most of the items were recovered.

YES

YESSSSSS

PUT THIS ALL IN NEXT SEASON OF LUPIN

PUT IT IN EVERY MOVIE

I’M SO HAPPY

I MIGHT NEVER TURN OFF CAPS LOCK

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