The Rundown: Find Yourself A Nice Friday Night Chill-Out TV Show

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 — Relax sometimes, you deserve it

This is not an advice column. There are already enough of those online. Too many, some would say. A solid chunk of them written by people who should not be giving advice to anyone about anything. I know this because I am one of those people. Just this week I tried to poke through a freshness seal with a knife the length of my forearm. It wasn’t even a tricky freshness seal. I could have gotten through it with a spoon and a reasonable amount of force. I only used the knife because it was six inches closer to me at the time. So, again, no advice from me. I do have a tip, though. Tips are less formal. Anyone can give a tip. Here’s mine: Find yourself a nice little chill-out Friday night television show.

If you’re someone who tries to keep up with the best and buzziest types of television shows, you can find yourself in a trap of bleak and dark dramas. This year alone we’ve had Chernobyl and Unbelievable and When They See Us and The Handmaid’s Tale and The Act, to rattle off a few. All critically-adored, all telling an important story, none of which are ideal for chilling the hell out on a Friday night. Those are some real Sunday through Thursday shows. You need something simple, something fun, something where the bad guy gets caught at the end of the episode and everyone has drinks at the beach as the credits roll.

I’ve had two solid Friday night chill-out shows this year. One was Blood & Treasure, a CBS show about an FBI agent and a master thief who team up to stop a terrorist who funds acts of violence with proceeds derived from historical artifact heists. It started slow but picked up as it went along and everyone was very, very attractive and, look, did any of you expect me to not watch the show about the FBI agent and the thief investigating heists? Come on. It didn’t even air on Fridays. I just saved it for then.

The other show is the new Magnum P.I., which does air on Friday nights, also on CBS. I don’t know if I’d describe it as, like, good. It’s fine. It is aggressively fine. The new Magnum is played by Jay Hernandez and he’s very likable. Higgins — who, in the original, was a stuffy British caretaker of the estate — is now a woman who is a stuffy British caretaker of the estate and also a former MI6 agent who appears to be the world’s greatest computer hacker. Dave from Happy Endings is in there, as are lots of helicopter shots of the Hawaiian landscape. Sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for on a Friday night, you know?

Maybe you’re looking for something like that, too. Maybe you should be. Things are stressful enough out there, man. You deserve a break. Shut your brain down a little and watch something easy. Something with attractive people in sunglasses. Pull up Burn Notice on your streaming service of choice and don’t let anyone judge you for it. Those other shows will still be there next week.

And if you’re one of those “cool” people who is “popular” and has “a healthy and active social life” and doesn’t watch television on Friday nights because you’re out at a yacht party with your good-time pals, well, find some other night to watch a chill-out show. Friday night television is a state of mind. You can make Tuesday your Friday, see what I care. The important thing is that you’re giving your brain a breather.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to cut the tag off of this shirt. Where is that giant knife?

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Janet pulled an Ann Perkins


On this week’s episode of The Good Place, Janet — a sort of sentient afterlife Alexa with the power to conjure anything into existence, for those of you who don’t watch the show (and why don’t you?) — revealed that she had added streaks of red dye to her hair as she attempted to get over her breakup with noted human idiot and diehard Jacksonville Jaguars fan, Jason Mendoza. It was a nice little bit and a sign that Janet is beginning to grasp the essence of being human and also a total Ann Perkins move.

Let’s hop in our time machine. The year is 2011. The third season of Parks and Recreation is curre-… wow, it is nice here in 2011. Sorry, got distracted. Season three of Parks and Recreation. Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger have just broken up. Ann is at the Harvest Festival helping Donna set up. This happens.


Two things are probably true here:

  • Mike Schur, the creator of both shows, is doing a fun little cross-show callback, which, if you’ve got a bunch of shows, I mean, why not?
  • My ravaged brain has cataloged decade-old television facts like this to a degree that I saw Janet’s red hair and immediately shouted “ANN PERKINS” even though I occasionally forget my home address

I’m sure it’s fine.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — I will always support a rascal

Bong Joon-ho directed Snowpiercer. Snowpiercer is a good movie. Bong Joon-ho also directed the movie Parasite. Based on early buzz from people whose opinions I trust, Parasite might be even better. It’s all very exciting. As is this anecdote from an interview with Vulture.

Let’s set the stage. Bong Joon-ho is in the editing stage of Snowpiercer. Harvey Weinstein, the producer on the film, very much wants him to cut the scene I have embedded above, in which a guard on the train guts a fish in front of the rebels to intimidate them. Bong Joon-ho very much does not want to cut the scene. This goes back and forth for a bit. We pick up our story here.

Bong remembers. “I had a headache in that moment: What do I do? So suddenly, I said, ‘Harvey, this shot means something to me.’ ”

“Oh, Bong? What?” Bong-as-Harvey booms.

“It’s something personal,” Bong replies. “My father was a fisherman. I’m dedicating this shot to my father.”

Weinstein relents immediately: “You should have said something earlier, Bong! Family is the most important. You have the shot.”

“I said, ‘Thank you,’” Bong says, laughing. “It was a fucking lie. My father was not a fisherman.”

This is awesome. I love it so much. And I love that he’s able to tell this story now. There are many great results of Harvey Weinstein being toppled and run out of Hollywood, almost all of them more serious and important than this, but the fact that Bong Joon-ho could tell this story with no fear of repercussions… it’s pretty cool, too.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Okay, let’s get a list of all the ghosts Helena Bonham Carter has spoken to

Getty Image

My favorite kinds of celebrities, pretty much across the board, are ones who I would describe as charmingly eccentric. Not totally unhinged or dangerous, just about 10-15 degrees off-center. Think Matthew McConaughey, a fascinating man who speaks in mystical circles in such a way that you can listen to him talk for 30 minutes and nod along with every word and then think back later and realize you actually understood no more than 40 percent of what he said. Like that. And like Helena Bonham Carter, too.

Helena Bonham Carter is set to play Princess Margaret on the upcoming season of The Crown. It’s a really great development because Princess Margaret — as played by Vanessa Kirby, who has since landed roles in both the Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious franchises — was the most fun character on the first two seasons of the show and Helena Bonham Carter will be great in the role. Also, because people are going to interview her about it and she is going to say things like “I went to a seance and spoke to Princess Margaret about me playing the role.”

From the Guardian:

“She said, apparently, she was glad it was me. My main thing when you play someone who is real, you kind of want their blessing because you have a responsibility.

“So I asked her: ‘Are you OK with me playing you?’ and she said: ‘You’re better than the other actress’ … that they were thinking of. They will not admit who it was. It was me and somebody else.”

Hell yes. Go on. Please keep talking.

“Then she said: ‘But you’re going to have to brush up and be more groomed and neater.’ Then she said: ‘Get the smoking right. I smoked in a very particular way. Remember that – this is a big note – the cigarette holder was as much a weapon for expression as it was for smoking.’”

Apparently the ghost of Princess Margaret is just out here floating around and chiming in on who should play her in dramatic representations of her life and how they should smoke cigarettes when they do. I respect it. Probably not much else to do.

Between this and Bong Joon-ho’s fish story, it was a truly powerful week for fun celebrity anecdotes. More of this, please.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Shoutout Smashboy

A bit of a goof on Jeopardy this week. Alex Trebek, the show’s longtime host and man who once told people who were “in a stew” over him shaving his mustache to “get a life,” read this clue to contestants: “The seven rotatable blocks used in this video game have names like Orange Ricky, Hero, and Smashboy.”

The problem, dear reader, is that this clue was based on faulty information, which makes the fact that Jessica correctly guessed that it referred to Tetris pretty incredible. As incredible as the staff of Jeopardy getting tricked by a viral tweet that claimed one of the Tetris pieces is named “Smashboy”? Well, no. But that is what happened.

I have been laughing about this on and off all week. It’s just so beautiful. Do you think Alex Trebek had ever said the word “Smashboy” before this? There’s no chance, right? Like exactly zero percent?

If we’re being fair, though, and why shouldn’t we be, older video games did have a weird as hell flair to them. It’s not entirely impossible that someone in the Tetris development team named a piece “Smashboy” because of a translation issue or something. I say this because this exists.

I’m going to put something out there right now and immediately move on to the next section but you have to promise me you’ll think about it over the weekend: Bobson “Smashboy” Dugnutt.


Earlier this week, I wrote a long thing about Paul Giamatti’s performance on Lodge 49 and how it is the only thing in the world I care about right now. I wrote about it in this column last week, too. It’s remarkable. I could go on and on, again, for paragraphs, and I am a little tempted to, but instead, I’m just going to share this outtake of him listing wild street names for cocaine.

“Smashboy” would have also worked here, for the record.


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.


Through a series of events too dumb to explain, Cousin Greg, NoHo Hank, Coach Steve, and Your Sweet Boy Henry Jennings are all trapped on a sinking boat. You can only fit one of them in your lifeboat. And also, this boat is sinking in 2019, so Your Sweet Boy Henry is now, like, 55 years old.

Who do you choose?

Jason, this is cruel and unfair. I will answer it because I am nothing if not willing to take on the toughest questions of our times, but still. How could you do this to me?

Here’s what I’m thinking. As you pointed out, my original sweet boy, Henry Jennings from The Americans, is now much older because that show was set in the 1980s. He’s had a tough life. It might be time to let him go. Coach Steve from Big Mouth… I don’t know. I feel like he’d just end up floating to safety on a piece of driftwood propelled by a dolphin. I’m not entirely sure he’s mortal. He’ll be fine.

This leaves us with Cousin Greg from Succession and NoHo Hank from Barry, two of my favorite characters on television and two men who are entirely too nice to be wrapped up in the morally dicey worlds they occupy. I have hope for them. That’s why I would heave myself out of the lifeboat and let the two of them journey safely to shore together as I sank to the bottom of the sea.

Am I cheating here? Yeah, probably. But my answer gives me an excuse to share this note from the always-correct Mo Ryan:

So, Barry and Succession are both shows on HBO that are set in the present day. We can’t rule out a shared BarrySuccession universe. Think about it: Someone needs a pesky business rival taken out, and suddenly NoHo Hank is on the scene, asking people if they want sandwiches and take care of the kind of tasks that only a connected guy can take care of. I am mainly asking so that you game out this question for me: What happens when Cousin Greg and Hank hang out??

Greg and Hank on a lifeboat stranded at sea. This is how we get there. I would watch this movie.


To Georgia!

An invasive fish species that can breathe air and survive on land has been found in Georgia for the first time. And officials are warning anyone who comes into contact with the species to kill it immediately.

Done. You don’t even have to tell me twice. You probably didn’t even need to tell me once, to be honest. I would have gotten as far as “IS THAT FISH BREATHING AIR? WHAT KIND OF HELLBEAST IS THIS? IS IT COMING FOR US AND OUR WAY OF LIFE? IS THIS HOW IT ENDS?” and just smashed it out of pure unfiltered terror. I’m not proud of this. It’s no way to interact with the beauty of nature. But I’ve seen the television show Zoo and I know what this means.

While this is the first time it’s been discovered in Georgia, snakeheads have been reported in 14 states nationwide. The long, thin fish has a dark brown blotchy appearance and can grow up to three feet in length. It can also breathe air, and survive in low oxygenated systems, including on land, officials said.

Hang on. Haaaaang on. You did not tell me this thing was THREE-FEET LONG. I thought we were talking about a little guy, like maybe the size of a salmon, tops. Oh, no. No thank you. I will not be taking responsibility for killing these. It’s too dangerous. You’re going to have to send out a team, possibly led by some guy named like Brick Cannon who always has a five o’clock shadow even though no one has even seen him shave. He’s our only hope.