TV

The Rundown: Are You Prepared To Grapple With A Gritty Scrooge?

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 will vary, as will 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 — Much to ponder here

It is my opinion that Scrooge should be an old man. An old man with white hair and a British accent. An old man with white hair and a British accent who sleeps in one of those old-timey unisex sleeping gowns that comes with the matching floppy sleeping cap. It is dawning on me as I type this that I am pretty much just describing Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol. With good reason. The Muppet Christmas Carol was and is the best adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel. More adaptations of classic novels should feature narration by a small blue monster and his wisecracking rat sidekick. I have always said this.

This comes up now for two reasons: One, because I will happily take any opportunity to point out how much The Muppet Christmas Carol rules; two, because apparently Scrooge is gritty and handsome now.

This is the trailer for FX’s fancy new adaptation of the book. It stars Guy Pearce as Scrooge and is executive produced by Tom Hardy and is written by Steven Knight, the mind responsible for Peaky Blinders, which I probably didn’t have to tell you because you saw the industrial flames and grimy British streets in there, too. This is easily the most Peaky Blinders Christmas content I’ve ever seen. I half-expected to see Arthur Shelby as the Ghost of Christmas Future, just snorting mountains of cocaine and bludgeoning other ghosts into a bloody pulp with a half-drunk bottle of bootleg whiskey while shouting “BY ORDER OF THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT” as Tommy watches in terrifying silence through his tiny John Lennon eyeglasses. You can see it too now. Don’t lie. Aunt Polly is in the corner smoking a clove.

The press release describes the special event series as “a haunting, hallucinatory, spine-tingling immersion into Scrooge’s dark night of the soul,” which, judging from the trailer, seems to check out. It looks… dark. Really dark. Too dark, perhaps. If I’m interpreting this trailer correctly, Scrooge gets visited by the spirits because he forced Bob Cratchit’s wife to strip for him to get money for Tiny Tim’s health care (or whatever this version of the tales’ take on Tiny Tim is), and so she sends a Yuletide curse on him to teach him a lesson.

That’s a lot. It’s disturbing. Perhaps even more disturbing than a pig and a frog mating and having children and half of their children being all-frog and the other half being all-pig, which is a thing that happens in The Muppet Christmas Carol that has always disquieted me. Although it’s not like I’m itching to see a bunch of half-frog, half-pig hybrid abominations hopping and squealing around. I guess there’s no great solution to that issue. Every option is upsetting. Let’s stop talking about it!

Anyway, this whole thing gives us quite a bit to chew on. Is it okay that Scrooge is handsome? Because let’s be clear about this, and I say this with no disrespect to Michael Caine, who is the best: Scrooge is very handsome now. Look at Guy Pearce’s jawline in his top hat. You could slice a Christmas turkey with that thing. Should Scrooge be… hot? I really don’t think I’m comfortable with a hot Scrooge. What’s next? A hot Santa? No. I do not want a hot and gritty Santa, not even in an origin story, not even if someone thinks outside the box and casts Jason Statham as Santa Claus.

Wait. No. Okay, I take that back. Of course, I would watch a Santa origin story starring Jason Statham as a young and sternum-kicking Kris Kringle. Let’s not get crazy here. Gonzo and Rizzo can narrate. Holy hell, I just went and talked myself into all of this. So, I guess, if handsome and predatory Peaky Blinders Scrooge gives us nothing else, he’s at least given us that. Given me that. Has to count for something.


ITEM NUMBER TWO — Sweaters

Lionsgate

Knives Out is an almost unreasonably fun movie experience. Rian Johnson’s twisty whodunit has everything you could possibly want: murder, intrigue, Daniel Craig doing a Southern accent that is so far over the top that it circles the entire globes and actually sneaks back up on you from the bottom, Michael Shannon, bickering rich people, and more. I’m not joking about Daniel Craig in this movie, by the way. His whole performance is something to behold. He looks like he is having an absolute blast. At one point, he approaches a crime scene and addresses his fellow investigators by saying “What’s the cheese?” It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s also not the point of this section. The point of this section is sweaters. There are so many comfortable-looking sweaters in Knives Out. Like, for example, the cream-colored fisherman’s sweater that Chris Evans is wearing in the image up there. Look at that thing! It looks so comfortable. I’m not even a big sweater person. I’m more of a Wear A Hoodie From October Until April person. And despite this, the night after watching this movie, I found myself lying in bed with my phone in my hand at 2 a.m., thisclose to buying a $300 cream-colored fisherman’s sweater. This would have been a disaster. Who do I think I am? It would have sat in my closet for months. I would have been livid about it. And then I would have put it on and realized I don’t look like Chris Evans in it and then I would have been furious again. It’s just not a sustainable situation.

I will not be surprised if we find out six months from now that this entire film was financed as a marketing strategy for L.L. Bean.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Shoot this program directly into my sternum with a circus cannon

Getty Image

Well well well, what do we have here? A television program just for me? How thoughtful. From THR:

Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux are returning to HBO for a limited series about Watergate.

The pair will star in and executive produce The White House Plumbers, which centers on E. Howard Hunt (Harrelson) and G. Gordon Liddy (Theroux), who planned the Watergate burglary that eventually brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Yes, I will watch Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux in a Watergate series. I will watch all of it, every last scene. I love both of these guys and I love Watergate stuff. I just wonder… why now? Why make a big-deal limited series about Watergate now, in 2019? I mean, if there was some type of similar story in the news today, maybe then I could see it. Some kind of story about abuse of presidential powers and using the office to attempt to interfere in elections. Some sort of scandal involving Congress and the courts and an executive branch that seems intent on stampeding both of them with various strong-arm tactics.

Hmm. Well, I guess they know what they’re doing. We’ll see. Maybe there will be something in the news that comes up between now and then that will make it timely. Otherwise, this seems like a real wasted opportunity.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Happy belated Thanksgiving to Henry Winkler only

HBO

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time. A time to reflect on the gifts you’ve received in life. A time to sit around the table with family and friends and express gratitude. A time to, if you are television icon and all-around A+ human being Henry Winkler, tweet about the leftover sandwich you are planning to eat after the meal. Here, look:

I want to stress here that I am not sharing these tweets to poke fun at Henry Winkler. Quite the opposite, actually. I share them to show all of you what a beautiful and pure thing it is, these sandwich thoughts. Everyone could learn a lesson about social media usage from this. Stop complaining so much and start spending more time discussing sandwiches you like. Start today. Start now. I want to see nothing but sandwich tweets from now until January.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Sweet boy in the wild!

Here is Nicholas Braun aka Cousin Greg from Succession aka my sweet boy on the Jumbotron at a Toronto Raptors game this week. A few notes:

  • A heartfelt shoutout to whichever employee in the building noticed him and queued up the Succession theme music while he was on the screen
  • It would be kind of awesome to be associated with that music in a way that people just start playing it whenever you appear
  • Like, imagine if it came on every time you entered a room, almost as though you were a WWE star who used it as your entrance music
  • It would be really cool to have entrance music
  • The lights dim and the tinkly pianos kick in as you and the boys roll into Panera for a late lunch
  • As beautiful as all of this is, it is a little hurtful to me that he chose to attend a Raptors game after the Raptors broke my heart into a million pieces last year with the quadruple-doink fadeaway that Kawhi Leonhard hit to eliminate my beloved Sixers from the playoffs
  • Come on, guy
  • You’re killing me here

Ahhhhhhh, who am I kidding? I can’t stay mad at my sweet boy.

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.

Danny:

Love the column. Just wanted to bring your attention to the important news that Laura Dern claims to have seen Baby Yoda at an NBA game.

This is delightful and I can hardly think of a sentence more suited to your column than “Laura Dern saw Baby Yoda at a basketball game,” but what really puts it over the top is this follow-up tweet. The implications of her last line, “He’s here, I saw him,” are insane. This is not at the basketball game–this is a different day entirely. Am I to understand that Laura Dern is being stalked and/or haunted by Baby Yoda?? Please unpack.

Danny, this is a terrific email. The only problem is that I can’t decide if I want to know everything about Laura Dern and Baby Yoda or if learning one single thing more than this would ruin its perfect score.

Because, on one hand, I mean, look at all those words. “Laura Dern saw Baby Yoda at an NBA game.” The sentence just keeps getting better as it goes along. It’s got Laura Dern, Baby Yoda, Laura Dern attending an NBA basketball game, and the implication that Baby Yoda a) also attended an NBA basketball game, and b) had good enough seats that Laura Dern could spot him from her courtside viewpoint. I want to attend an NBA basketball game with Laura Dern and Baby Yoda. I will settle for either, separately. Timothee Chalamet just went to a game with Laura Dern recently and what has that guy ever done besides move the hearts of millions of people through the power of his acting and his bottomless soulful eyes. Jesus Christ.

See? This is why I didn’t want to think about this too much. Now I’m all fired up. The only way to fix this is to take my mind off of it. To think of something so insane, so objectively unhinged that it wipes my brain. Something like, hmm, something like… let’s go with “Baby Yoda as celebrity chef Guy Fieri.” But how can I get that mental image? How can anyone conjure up something that deranged? How can I be expec-…

Ahh. Problem solved.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Arkansas!

One of the most famous pig smokers in Arkansas, “Big Frank,” was stolen from its owners home in Little Rock over the weekend.

What an absolute whirlwind of an opening sentence, from the joy of discovering there is a beloved pig smoker named Big Frank to the heartbreak of discovering someone stole it. Just the range of emotions it covers. There are full-length motion pictures that cover less ground than this. I must know more.

Little Rock philanthropist Jennings Osbourne had the 20-feet-long, 14-feet-high cooker made and used it to serve barbecue at Razorback games for years before he died in 2011. Buddy Rhoads, a winner of the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue, won “Big Frank” in Osbourne’s estate auction.

Hmm. It appears that I have neglected to mention an important part of this story: You must click the link and see this pig smoker. It is an incredible thing to behold. It is also a terribly unwieldy and recognizable thing to steal. How are you going to drive down the road with it and not raise suspicions?

“I mean, who’s going to steal Frank?” Dena said. “How are you going to drive down the road with it?”

That’s what I said!

In any event, I am pleased to report that there is good news on the Big Frank front.

A beloved Arkansas pig smoker known as “Big Frank” has been found after it was stolen over the weekend.

WE DID IT.

A neighbor on Pitts Rd. recognized the cooker on the news and pointed police in the right direction, according to Dena.

Imagine going outside tomorrow morning and discovering that your neighbor has a giant razorback-shaped pig smoker sitting in his yard. Think about that conversation.

“Hey Larry, where’d you get that pig smoker?”

“Oh, I, uh, made it…”

“In the 12 hours since I saw you last night?”

“Uh, yes?”

“Without making any noise?”

“I was trying to be respectful.”

“Hey, that sure looks a lot like famous pig smoker Big Frank.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah. And wasn’t Big Frank just stolen the other day?”

“Huh. Well I don’t really follow the news, so…”

“What are you gonna call it?”

“Uh… Big… uh… [panicking, sweating]… uh… Frank…?”

“I knew it! I’m calling the cops!”

“Dammit.”

Classic Larry.

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