The Rundown: The First Season Of ‘Poker Face’ Was A Freaking Blast

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 – God, this was fun

There was almost no universe where Poker Face was not going to be good. It just had too much going for it. Natasha Lyonne as a human lie detector who is crisscrossing the country like a raspy drifter, Knives Out mastermind Rian Johnson producing, inspiration drawn directly from Columbo, an almost gluttonous amount of notable guest stars, I mean… that’s a good formula right there. It would have been a bigger shocker if it stank. Which it didn’t. It was a freaking blast.

Here’s what I liked most about it: The thing where each episode could mostly stand on its own. There was an overarching story, yes, with casino shenanigans and Benjamin Bratt on her tail, which was a good piece of business they paid off nicely in the finale, but that was just the loose thread tying things together. Each week there was a new murder or crime committed by anyone from Judith Light to Lil Rel Howery to Tim Meadows to Joseph Gordon Levitt. Some were silly and some were dark and some were both. I developed a routine of watching each week’s episode on Friday night after work ended. It was very nice. I’m sad I won’t get to do it this week.

It also gave me this screencap, which I have been using a lot in texts and work chats lately. Admittedly not as important as the other stuff, but still. Pretty useful.


Freaking same, Charlie Cale. Freaking same.

My great hope is that this inspires some imitators. Talented ones. I love a good “actually, my show is a 10-hour movie” show when it’s done well, but we got a little carried away for a minute there. Every show was a journey like that, it seemed. And with 100,000 shows on 10,000 channels and streaming services, it was starting to get a little daunting, especially when a show would take a two-year break between seasons. I can barely remember where my car is parked when I come out of the grocery store. I don’t have the time to be out here doing homework before every decent show comes back. That’s a lie. I probably do have time. But I don’t want to. I’d rather, to choose an example at random, watch a fun show about a lady solving murders.

So yes. This was good. Let’s get other talented people with the juice to get projects off the ground and let’s put them on fun stuff like this. We don’t have to stop making dark and connected dramas completely, but it’s not all we have to make. Especially now. There are too many options. I do love a good binge and I do love to theorize about where things are going in a larger sense, but I need more crime shows I can watch on a Friday night.

It would help if they included a scene where Benjamin Bratt recites the lyrics to a song I like.

Poker Face was good. And just a solid hang for an hour a week, which is all you need sometimes. There were twists and turns and jokes and Nick Nolte at one point. I shouted a little when I realized who the voice on the phone was in the finale. I am now very amped for season two.

More like this, please.

ITEM NUMBER TWO – I am so mad it took us this long to let Jack Black play Santa and/or Satan

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The official position of The Rundown is as follows: Jack Black rules. He’s ruled for a long time, dating back to his work with Tenacious D and School of Rock, and he continued ruling through the 2010s and he still rules today. The man is a little round-ish ball of bearded chaos with a deeply soulful singing voice and I just generally do not think we spend enough time appreciating that. Or him. Some of this is my fault, seeing as I have a weekly column where I write about cool things I enjoy and I haven’t mentioned him in… months? Years? I don’t know. Pointing fingers won’t help us. You’re not so great either.

I do have some excellent news, though, regarding Jack Black and how much he rules: He’s going to be in a new comedy from the Farrelly brothers and the premise sounds kind of awesome. From The Hollywood Reporter:

After more than 20 years, Jack Black is reteaming with his Shallow Hal filmmakers the Farrelly Brothers for the Paramount comedy Dear Santa.

The feature centers on a child who intends to write a letter to Santa Claus, but mixes up the letters and sends it to Satan instead.

This is… cool. It’s very cool. And it’s cool pretty much any way the logistics of it work out. Look at the possibilities we have here right now, using only the information in this blockquote…


Perfect. Overdue. The man has had a beard and a belly and a jolly disposition for as long as we have known him. He should have played Santa a bunch of times by now. Young Santa, Metal Santa, Young And Metal Santa, etc. But the important thing is that we’re here now. Maybe. Probably. Unless…


Picture Jack Black in a fire engine red suit — or just in a fire engine, even if it’s not as relevant here, just as a little treat for you — with a pitchfork in his hand and little horns on his head and that mischievous little smile of his spread all the way across his face. It’s beautiful. Almost impossible to improve upon…






Was this all an excuse to post “City Hall” again? Hmm. No. It wasn’t all an excuse to post “City Hall.” It was definitely a little bit of an excuse to post “City Hall,” yes, sure, fine. But it was also an excuse to remind you that Jack Black rules. It was two things.

ITEM NUMBER THREE – I’m not crazy

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Something important happened at the Oscars this year. No, not related to the actual trophies that were handed out. No, not the fact that no one was assaulted by the person who would win one of those trophies shortly after. No, not the thing where Oscar the Grouch live-tweeted the ceremony. Those were all certainly important. But they’re not the thing I want to point out. I want to talk about the champagne carpet.

Maybe you heard about this. The red carpet outside the venue was champagne-colored this year. Some people got kind of mad about it, for reasons related to fashion or tradition or whatever. I do not care about any of that personally, which I say as someone who is typing this in gray pajama pants and a t-shirt I got for free in college many years ago. What I care about is the following two-step leap of logic:

  • If the red carpet doesn’t have to be red anymore, then it can be almost anything
  • We should replace the red carpet with a lazy river

My reasoning for this is simple: I would like it a lot. I really would. Think about it for a minute or many hours this weekend. Think about Hollywood’s biggest stars floating down a thin little pool on inner tubes. In my little funhouse brain, they are still in tuxedos and fancy dresses, but don’t let that influence you. Picture it however you want. I see Ryan Seacrest swimming up to them with little floaties on to do his interviews. Asking, like, Cate Blanchett about her next project as she gets splashed by Jimmy Kimmel. Someone tipping over Timothee Chalamet’s inner tube and dunking him in the water. Angela Bassett whipping Hugh Grant with a foam noodle. Again, there are no rules here. The red carpet isn’t red anymore. We can do whatever we want.

Please consider this. For me. And for the rest of the world, too. But mostly for me.

Thank you.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR – Ben Affleck actually seems like a decent dude

affleck dunkin
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I think Ben Affleck’s problem is his face. He just has one of those faces where the default setting reads as “having a bad time.” It’s not always like that. He’s a big movie star. He has charisma and a smile and can light up a room when he puts some focus on those kinds of things. You don’t get to be where he is and married to who he’s married to if you can’t flip that switch. But I do think, if he’s not vigilant about it, things can slide and get dicey. We’ve seen it a lot. In every paparazzi photo where he’s not holding a coffee from Dunkin. It happened again just the other week. I feel bad for him sometimes.

I don’t think I would feel bad for him if he didn’t scan as a reasonably solid dude. Which he does. To me. In any interview where he gets to give longer and more thoughtful answers instead of little sound bites that can be yoinked out of context. Interviews, for example, like this one at The Hollywood Reporter, which I am going to… uh, pull a little sound bite from and kind of strip of context. I’m sorry! Go read the whole thing! I just want to talk about the Michael Jordan and golf stuff! Look!

How did you approach Michael Jordan about the story you’re telling in Air? Did you know each other?

I periodically play cards sometimes with Michael, and we’ve got mutual friends, and … None of it sounds good, OK? And it’s not like he’d be like, “Oh yeah, Ben’s my boy.” (Imitating Jordan’s voice.) He’d be like, “Yeah, I know him.” Jordan is — he’s a hero to me. And I know how important and meaningful a figure he is, in particular in the African American community. If you’re going to fuck around with talking about Michael Jordan, do it respectfully. Nobody’s asking you to do a hagiography, but get it fucking right. I’ve never known anybody with that kind of charisma and power who walks into a room and it just reverberates. And is it him or is it the way people treat him? Is it your memories of him? I don’t know, but it’s powerful. I said, “Please, can I come out?” And he was great. “Yeah, no problem. Come to the golf course.” Went out, met with him. I waited for him to finish playing. I don’t golf myself. Because I just feel like it eats people’s lives up.


I look at golf like meth. They have better teeth, but it doesn’t seem like people ever come out of that. Once they start golfing, you just don’t ever see them again.

I need you to understand the degree of difficulty here. The man literally started an answer with “sometimes I play cards with Michael Jordan” and sounded like some Joey Bluejeans everyman by the end of it. I’m kind of proud of him. And I need to hear his Michael Jordan impression with my own ears.

He’s right about golf, too. I worked at a golf course when I was a teenager and I can very much confirm that the sport turns otherwise successful and respectable people into lunatics. One time I had to climb like 20 feet up into a tree to grab a club a bank executive whipped up there. One time I had to find three other people and lift a golf cart out of a creek because a group of dudes got it stuck in there during a bachelor party. I was working there on 9/11 and drove around the course telling people that airplanes were crashing into skyscrapers in Manhattan and most of the people I told were like, “But I can finish my round, right?” It was weird!

The takeaway here is that golfers are insane. Wait. No. It’s that Ben Affleck seems like a decent guy. That’s where I was going with this. The golf thing is true, too, though.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE – Are you guys aware that Joe Pesci is gonna play Pete Davidson’s grandpa in a new television show?


There’s a new show coming to Peacock called Bupkis. It is created by and stars Pete Davidson, which is probably the biggest news here for most people, but it also co-stars Joe Pesci as his grandpa, which is the biggest news for me. Joe Pesci! In a television show! As Pete Davidson’s grandpa! I don’t know why that’s so exciting to me. But it is. Very much. Let’s get him in a Jersey Mike’s commercial with Danny DeVito next.

Oh hey, guess who else is in Bupkis? Edie Falco! From The Sopranos! This show is just littered with New Jersey royalty. Here’s what Edie had to say about it all.

Falco says she relished the extensive freedom she had to improvise with her costars, a chance she says she rarely gets. In the process, she witnessed the “fascinating, fascinated, rambunctious, boisterous” Davidson at play. “There’s a reason that so many people like this kid,” says Falco — who, later in the interview, was interrupted by her own boisterous family member, a new puppy. “Pete’s really exceedingly charming and self-effacing and humble. The jokes are always on him, and it’s very, very easy to be charmed by that.”

I know this is the obvious joke here and I apologize to everyone for making it but… what if Pete starts dating Edie?

It could happen.

I would like to see Joe Pesci’s reaction to that.

This is my review of the new Peacock series Bupkis.


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.

From Stephen:

Not sure if you saw Caity Weaver’s tweet about local news, but I really love that both of you two have such an affinity for weird little stories like this. I know that if someone named Lance Tornado steals a parakeet or something, I can count on you to inform me. It’s reassuring. Thank you for your service.

Oh, buddy, I did see her tweet, and I’m going to post it here just to be sure everyone else does, too.

A few things, in no particular order:

  • I love it
  • Local news is the best because it treats every little thing like Watergate, sometimes with like 800 front page words devoted to it, which is just a delightful use of resources
  • I would honestly read an entire book of silly local news stories like this

Speaking of local news, kind of, and I will happily concede that I am stretching the premise to its limits in order to post something that cracked me up, look at what my local Philadelphia meteorologist Cecily Tynan tweeted this week.

Really just excellent work by everyone here. Stephen, me, Caity, Cecily, that sloth that bit the little girl, whoever drew the Doppler dong, everyone. Very proud of us all today.


To England!

A wildlife rescue was called out after a concerned householder heard “bird noises” inside the wall cavity – but when the real culprit was found it had them howling.

This is already my favorite story. I must know what was in the wall. I hope it wasn’t, like, a child. That would be a bummer. But almost anything else works. Hit me.

But as volunteers drove to the house to help, the resident discovered the true source of the mysterious sounds – a Harry Potter Hedwig toy underneath the sofa. Luckily, it was found before any walls were damaged to find a “bird”.

To recap:

  • Someone thought they heard a bird in the wall
  • It was a Hedwig toy under the couch
  • I would very much like to hear the audio recording of both of these phone calls

Moving on.

“We were called to a house regarding strange bird noises believed to be coming from inside the wall! There was no obvious entry point that the resident could find so it was a mystery as to how any bird would’ve found its way into the wall cavity.

“However, as we drove to the location we received an update that we may not be needed and the residents may have found the bird… The next update didn’t half make us chuckle… Here it is: ‘I’m really sorry…it’s a Harry Potter Hedwig teddy one of the kids has been round and left it under the sofa.'”

The only problem here is that I kind of want to know everything about this. How and why did they jump straight to “there’s a bird in the wall”? Isn’t that a kind of weirdly specific thing to assume? Like, if you had kids and heard a strange sound in the living room, wouldn’t you go to “it’s one of the kids’ damn toys” before you careened toward “A BIRD IS STUCK IN THE WALL”? Have they had birds stuck in their wall before? Is that what is happening here? Or is this a thing they’ve heard about — “My neighbor’s husband’s coworker’s aunt had a bird stuck in her wall once… I bet that’s what this is…” — and that’s how it got lodged into their heads, much the same way an imaginary bird got lodged into their wall? I could go on.

But mostly, I’m just really enjoying the mental image I have of their faces as they found the toy under the couch and realized they would have to make that second phone call. I imagine there was a part of them that was so mortified and embarrassed that crazy thoughts like “Maybe we should just pack a bag and move to a new town right now before they get here” crept in.

Either way, very good. I hope it becomes a real episode of 9-1-1 Lonestar. I want to watch Rob Lowe sledgehammer a wall for nothing.