TV

The Rundown: Welcome Back To Assassin Season On TV


HBO/BBC America

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 — Assassin season!

Head for cover and run in a serpentine path on the way there, people. The assassins are coming. One of them is already here. The second season of Barry debuted last weekend, bringing with it dark tales of snipers with PTSD and goofy Chechen crime bosses that I love unconditionally. This weekend, Killing Eve returns, with its stylized cat-and-mouse game between a spy and a sociopath, and about 20 gallons of sexual tension. That’s right. It is officially assassin season.

Again. It is assassin season again. That’s what I should have said. These two shows actually aired at the same time last year, too. It was great then, and it’s great now. The shows are a good fit, too, in the way that they don’t fit together at all. There’s very little overlap between them beyond the fact that they each have a main character who kills people for money.

Barry is a bleak comedy, dark as night in the woods, that digs into the effects all that killing has on a person. It asks if and how a person can change and move on from that. Henry Winkler is there. It’s a whole thing. Killing Eve, on the other hand, is a sashaying festival of colors and flash. It has substance, too, plenty of it, and it also goes to very dark places (wait until you see Sunday’s premiere, holy heck), but it does so with style. It’s kind of like Ocean’s Eleven crossed with Atomic Blonde but with jokes and Sandra Oh. One show is a half-hour comedy that is heavier in places than a lot of dramas. The other is an hour-long drama that is lighter in places than most comedies. Like two pieces of the same amulet whose jagged grooves fit together perfectly.

(I’ve said this before but please do imagine Barry and Villanelle on a job together. He would be so miserable and his misery would bring her so much joy. I really want to see it now. Kind of. I know these two things must remain separate for the universe to stay in balance. But, like, come on.)

And guess what, baby: Game of Thrones returns next weekend and is bringing Arya Stark along for the ride. Arya is also a highly trained assassin. This means that, starting April 14, you can watch assassins on your television from 8 p.m. straight through 10:30. (Killing Eve at 8, Game of Thrones at 9, Barry at 10.) And that’s assuming no one on Veep hires an assassin to try to kill Jonah in the 10:30 slot some week, which we absolutely can not assume. It’s a miracle it hasn’t happened already.

Point being: Spring has sprung. The flowers are starting to bloom, the days are getting longer, and the temperatures are creeping up. More importantly, television is absolutely chockablock with assassins. A great time to be alive.

Until an assassin gets you.

Boom! Assassin season!

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Ghouls

How many times have you listened to Adam Driver say the word “ghouls” in the trailer for The Dead Don’t Die since it dropped earlier this week. Five? Ten? One million?! I’m probably somewhere between those last two, although as we near the weekend I’m getting closer and closer to the outer reaches of those boundaries. I will not apologize. I love it.

It’s just such an impressive feat of pronunciation. Ghouls is already a fun word to say, without any added flair. Say it out loud right now, wherever you are. It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about the people looking at you. They’re just jealous. They wish they had an excuse to say it. They’ll probably sneak off to somewhere quiet later today and say it into a mirror anyway. It’s a great word to slip into your repertoire, just in general. I like to use it when I’m ranting about political pundits I disagree with. “That morally bankrupt ghoul,” I’ll grumble at whoever has upset me with some garbage take about a subject I knew nothing about as recently as 10 minutes ago but now fancy myself an expert on. The internet is a blast.

Listen closely to Driver say it, though. This is where it really gets good. Ghouls, the way you and I say it, the way it’s been said for hundreds and hundreds of years, is a one-syllable word. Adam Driver, that damn visionary, gets at least three full syllables out of it (“goo-ull-suh”) and maybe even four if you want to give him credit for the tiny catch before he starts (“h-goo-ull-suh”), which I do and will. It’s remarkable. I’m so proud of him. I’m so proud of all of us. We did it.

ITEM NUMBER THREE –Every actor is either a Batman or a Joker

Here’s the trailer for Joker, Todd Phillips’ new origin story about the Batman villain that features Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. It’s okay, as far as trailers go. I don’t know. Watch it again if you want. I’m only putting it in here so I can launch into a theory I’m working on. A theory I’m going to share with you now.

Over the last 20-30 years, we’ve had a fair collection of Batmans and Jokers. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck etc. on one side, and people like Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and now Joaquin Phoenix on the other. It’s enough of a data set for us to start drawing some conclusions. One of the conclusions I’ve drawn is that every actor, with a few very small exceptions that we’ll discuss in a moment, is either a Batman or a Joker, with very little overlap.

Examples will help. Will Smith is a Batman. So is Armie Hammer. And Keanu Reeves. The Rock is probably a Batman. Mahershala Ali is definitely a Batman. His True Detective co-star Stephen Dorff is a Joker, though. So is Billy Bob Thornton. The cast of Atlanta is tricky because you think Donald Glover is a Batman at first, but then you realize he and Lakeith Stanfield could both be incredible Jokers, and Brian Tyree Henry is the Batman of the crew. Matthew McConaughey has a fascinating career because he was extremely a Batman until about 8-10 years ago and now he’s the most Joker actor alive.

Who else, who else…

Michael B. Jordan is a Batman. Robert Downey, Jr. is a Batman. Paul Rudd would be a fun Batman. Seth Rogen is a Joker. Daniel Day-Lewis is definitely a Joker, and please do imagine him staying in character as the clown prince of Gotham between takes. Jeff Bridges is a Batman. John Mulaney is a neurotic Batman opposite Nick Kroll’s unhinged Joker. I could go on and on but I’ll stop here. I do recommend that you keep doing it, though. It’s a gut feeling, mostly, one you know is right as soon as you hit on it. Don’t overthink it. Just run through a list of actors and go with whatever pops into your head. It works for everyone.

Well, almost everyone. I spent a good 10 minutes trying to wrap my brain around where Timothee Chalamet falls. He’s not a Batman. Not yet, at least. Maybe after five years and a high-protein diet. But he doesn’t have the edge to be a Joker yet, either. I was really struggling with it. It threatened to ruin my entire theory. This bastard. This sweet, talented, universally adored bastard.

But then it hit me. A loophole. It was so obvious. Timothee Chalamet is a Robin. Possibly the most Robin person to ever walk the earth. Close your eyes for two seconds and picture it. You know it’s right.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Venom kills Thanos at the end of Avengers: Endgame

Sony

He doesn’t, really. I mean, as far as I know. I haven’t seen Endgame yet. But I think we can pretty much guarantee it, what with the lengths everyone went to when Venom came out to explain that he doesn’t exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. The only way it could happen is through some sort of Spider-verse manipulation that slides him into the one where the surviving Avengers and their pals are trying to save the universe.

I don’t care. I just think this would be a fun rumor to get out there for the three weeks between today and the premiere. If you’re good at spreading disinformation online, please take a break from snapping democracy in half like a Kit Kat bar and devote your energy to this. Right now, all I’ve got is this blurb and about 48 hours of trying to throw my voice in the supermarket so the people in the next aisle think they’re overhearing a conversation.

“Hey,” I’ll mutter out one side of my mouth. “Did you hear Venom kills Thanos at the end of Avengers: Endgame?”

“No,” I’ll reply, doing a girl voice now, for some reason. “That’s wild and probably true!”

It’s not going great so far. This is why I need your help. It’ll be fun. Go on your various reddits and such. Use the Dark Web. You’re the rascals here.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE –Sword heist!

HBO

To Radio City Music Hall, where the big fancy Game of Thrones premiere was held, complete with stars and props from the show, including the Iron Throne itself:

The throne landed in New York on Tuesday, ahead of the red carpet premiere of “Game of Thrones” Season 8 at Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday night. Security guard Michael David, who’s tasked with protecting the structure, told Variety that he’s had to keep people from climbing on it and trying to snap off pieces as a souvenir.

“Somebody already stole one of the swords,” David said.

Stealing a sword is a great crime because, as soon as you complete the act, you have a sword. What security guard is going to step in front of a guy with a sword? Not me, buddy. Not at your typical security guard wages. Hell, take a second sword for all I care. Once you have the first one, the entire balance of power flips. The perfect crime.

Please do yourself one favor, though. Get a good mental image of this guy on the subway home, just with a full-on medieval prop sword sitting in his lap. Really marinate in that visual. Your first instinct is probably to imagine a bunch of other riders shooting quizzical glances out of the corners of their eyes. This is folly, though. This is the New York City subway we’re talking about. A guy with a sword is probably, what, the third or fourth strangest thing you’ll see in any given subway car at any point of the day? Hell, he might not even be the only person with a sword on that particular train, you know?

The Big Apple, baby.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or, like, whatever you want, shoot them to me at brian.grubb@uproxx.com and 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.

Jon:

A bad guy holds a gun to your head and tells you that you can only use one TV GIF for the rest of your life. What do you go with? Do you pick one from Zoo and hope it holds up 20 years from now? Or do you pick a classic, from The Sopranos or Mad Men? Clock’s ticking, hotshot.

Jon, this is cruel. Cruel but simple. Because while I do love, say, James Wolk slapping an evil four-star general while shouting “Where’s the sloth?”…

CBS

and Pete Campbell falling down the stairs…

amc

and other contenders like Lance Reddick delivering a staredown for the ages on Bosch

Amazon

and the one from American Gods in which a woman kicks a goon in the jimmies with such force that his entire spine and skull exit his body through the top of his head…

Starz

there is only one answer here. And the answer is Judith Light doing cocaine at the rodeo on the short-lived TNT update of Dallas.

TNT

It has everything:

  • American treasure Judith Light
  • Doing cocaine
  • At a rodeo
  • On a short-lived cable series no one but me watched
  • And then saying “Hot damn. Mama like.”

No contest. Tell the guy with the gun to chill out.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Hollywood!

Sony Pictures Television is spinning its free Crackle streaming network into a joint venture called “Crackle Plus” — which doesn’t own rights to the crackleplus.com domain name. But Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, which is assuming control of Crackle as majority owner, says there’s no issue because there were never plans to launch a Crackle Plus-branded service.

Hmm. That’s a weird little throwaway line in there, right? The thing about these large corporations entering into a business agreement to create a new entity but not securing the domain name first. I wonder if it’ll come up again.

In a statement to Variety, CSS Entertainment said, “While Crackle Plus is the name of the joint venture and associated ad network, it was never intended to be a consumer-facing domain name. The ownership of crackleplus.com is a non-issue.”

Wow, there it is again. And they sure seem to be defensive about it, almost as though the ownership of crackleplus dot com is, in fact, an issue. I wonder why this keeps coming up. Hmm.

Currently, the crackleplus.com domain name is registered to a guy in Pakistan, who is asking $10,000 to transfer the rights.

To Pakistan!

According to [Muhammad] Abdullah, Sony tried to negotiate the purchase of crackleplus.com through the DomainAgents broker service. “But I don’t want to sell it at lower price,” he wrote in an email. “That’s why I ended the deal.”

Oh heck yeah. I love it. This is such a great long game. He must have been giddy when he saw the name they chose for their company. I hope he gets his $10,000. I hope he starts littering the page with like free ads for Netflix and Hulu and drives the price up higher. Cash in, my dude. Bleed them dry.

It’s honestly a little startling to me how quickly I’ve come around on domain squatters. I used to think they were scummy, just a bunch of greedy opportunists out to take money they didn’t deserve. Now I look at them like charming pirates. I think the turning point was the whole Qwikster debacle, where Netflix tried to re-brand with a new service only to discover the Twitter handle was already taken by some dude who loved weed a lot. He wasn’t even squatting in the purest sense of the word. He just lucked into it. What a hero.

Anyway, if anyone needs me, I’ll be registering domain names all weekend. If Hulu ever tries to branch out with a service called, like, HuluBrown, I’m taking us all to Sizzler.

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