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 — I like when cool people do fun stuff
I’ll tell you what, there aren’t many things in this world that I enjoy more than a nice story about people I like working together on something that sounds like fun. Sometimes it ends up working out great (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers), other times less so (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Holmes & Watson), but it’s more about that initial announcement than the end product. The hope of the unknown. How cool it is to read sentences like, well, like these, which are all summaries of things that were announced in this week alone.
- Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd are making a dark comedy TV series about “how a seemingly normal doctor-patient dynamic morphs into an unprecedentedly exploitative one filled with manipulation, power grabs, and dysfunction at its finest”
- Adam McKay will direct Jennifer Lawrence in a feature comedy about “two low-level astronomers who embark on media tour to warn mankind of an approaching asteroid that will destroy planet Earth”
- Taika Waititi will direct Jude Law in “a gonzo horror-comedy” TV series about “a desperate to make a great horror movie after a massive bomb, a film producer accidentally traps his production on a backlot with a serial killer”
- The Safdie Brothers will direct Nathan Fielder in a TV series about how “an alleged curse disturbs the relationship of a newly married couple who star in Flipanthropy, their troubled HGTV show”
That’s a lot of stuff, all of it good. Or at least good-seeming. Again, the execution could fall through on some or all of them between today and the day they exist, but that’s not the point. The point is how fun it is to read stuff like that and think about the possibilities. Ferrell and Rudd together again in a very weird Anchorman reunion? Sure, love those two. Taika Waititi — director of Thor: Ragnarok and Oscar-winning screenwriter of Jojo Rabbit — working with Jude Law? Hell yeah, I’m here for a project involving Korg and The Young Pope. Jennifer Lawrence in a space comedy from the director of Anchorman? Yup, that, too. And while I love the idea of Nathan Fielder and the Safdies making a project together, I am already averting my eyes from whatever screen it will be on because can you even imagine how awkward a Fielder/Safdie collaboration will be? It’s somehow the one I’m looking forward to the most out of these and also something that is filling me will dread. I can’t wait.
It’s even more fun when you realize there’s a MadLib quality to these. Here, play around with this for a while.
[Actor/actress/director] will team up with [second actor/actress/director] for a [genre] [film/series] about [insert plot]
Here are a few I’ve been batting around for the last few minutes.
- Matthew McConaughey will team up with DMX for a mockumentary series about dog breeders in the Florida panhandle
- Helen Mirren will team up with Quentin Tarantino for kung-fu film about a vengeance-seeking Queen Elizabeth
- Michael Pena will team up with Beyoncé for a comedy series on Quibi about rival hedge fund traders who are hellbent on ruining each other no matter the cost
And so on. Do a few yourself. Have a blast with it. Who knows, maybe you can even speak one or two into existence. That would be fun. I’m still relatively sure that the upcoming movie Red Notice — starring The Rock and Gal Gadot and about an Interpol agent tracking the world’s most notorious art thief — was plucked straight out of my subconscious. Again, will it be good? No one knows. But until we find out, we’ll have that wonderful description. Sometimes that’s the best part.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — Westworld is officially… good
This is the trailer for the upcoming third season of HBO’s always confusing, time and consciousness-bending robotsexmurder series Westworld. The new season, as you can see, appears to take us off the Delos ranch and into a new setting, where the show’s main characters — Maeve, Dolores, Bernard, the… other guy, Tessa Thompson’s character, etc. — will run into a new character player by Breaking Bad alum Aaron Paul. I’m not sure exactly what to make of any of it but I thinkHOLD ON WAS THAT SKITTLES LOVING NFL RUNNING BACK MARSHAWN LYNCH? BACK THERE. BEHIND JESSE PINKMAN?
It looks an awful lot like him. Let’s check the press release to see if HBO has any informatiIT IS MARSHAWN LYNCH LOOK HIS NAME IS RIGHT THERE AT THE END.
The third season of the Emmy-winning drama series WESTWORLD debuts SUNDAY, MARCH 15 at 9 pm on HBO. Season 3 cast includes returning stars Evan Rachel Wood, Emmy winner Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Luke Hemsworth, Simon Quarterman, and new cast members Aaron Paul, Vincent Cassel, Lena Waithe, Scott Mescudi, Marshawn Lynch, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Ealy, and Tommy Flanagan.
I love this. I fully support television shows casting charismatic professional athletes. Put Allen Iverson in Succession as a burgeoning media titan and billionaire. Cast Rasheed Wallace as a bad boy hedge fund trader on Billions. Let Diana Taurasi play a homicide detective on literally any show, even if it is not about homicide, generally. Make more television shows with me in mind, specifically. Westworld is off to a good start. Thank you, Westworld.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — Quite possibly the most revolting thing I’ve ever seen on television
McMillion$ is an interesting show. The HBO documentary series tells the story of the mob and a crooked ex-cop teaming up to turn the McDonalds Monopoly game into a-… hold on.
[retching as I think about the mobster’s brother ordering a coffee with ten creams and five sugars]
Sorry, I’m back. Anyway, the show… excuse me one second.
Wow. I really do apologize. As I was saying, McMillion$ is a nopenopenope his wife’s order is even worse.
I am usually a strong believer in the principle of “it’s your food, prepare it however you like.” As long as I don’t have to eat/drink it, it could not matter less to me. It’s why I never understood people getting bent out of shape about other people putting ketchup on a hot dog. But… ten creams and five sugars? Ten creams and five Equals? That’s… that’s basically coffee-flavored sugarmilk. Is it even still hot? Wouldn’t all that cold cream take the temperature down?
This is important. Coffee has this weird existence where it’s great when it’s piping hot or ice cold and it is truly disgusting at any temperature in between. If this concoction comes out of that drive-through window lukewarm, I…
PUT AGENT DOUG BACK ON THE SCREEN
DOOOOUUUUG SAVE ME
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Pontius Tonight
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Harris Wittels. Wittels was a really funny comedian and frequent guest on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast as well as a writer (and occasional guest star) on Parks and Recreation. Poke around YouTube for a bit if you’d like to see and hear some of him in action. The video at the top of this page is a solid jumping off point.
Shortly after Wittels passed away, his friend and frequent collaborator Aziz Ansari wrote a tribute to him that was full of funny and sweet stories. It was moving and joyous and I recommend you read or re-read the whole thing some time, but for now, I just want to talk about Pontius Tonight.
Quick background: Where we pick up the story, Aziz and Harris and a third partner, director Jason Woliner, are out pitching a movie that never ended up getting made. Take it away, Aziz.
One of my favorite Harris stories was before writing this script we’d pitch the story to studios. In one part of the pitch, we had a bit where the two leads became quasi-famous and started attending B-level celeb parties. In describing this scene in our practice session, Harris would say, “Guys like Chris Pontius would be there.” I’d say, “Alright Harris, none of these execs know who Chris Pontius from Jackass is, don’t say that.”
At that point, he knew he had me. Every pitch, and keep in mind these are important pitches with studio heads, etc. – I would lead and then as soon as I got to that scene, he would throw it in with glee, “you know, guys like Pontius would be there.” He even dropped the Chris and was just saying Pontius. Last name only. Jason and I were dying.
Then, in an even more absurd move, he added a second part to this bit. During the pitch, he started saying, “then the guys get famous and they do all the talk shows Letterman… Conan… Pontius Tonight…” To be clear, Pontius Tonight is a fictional show hosted by Chris Pontius that he made up just to make me laugh/fume. He said that execs would assume this was a real thing as to not seem out of touch. It was great. Harris would rather make all of us laugh than worry about jeopardizing these meetings.
I know we’ve all ruined the phrase “I think about this constantly” by using it to describe things we think about occasionally at best, but I really do think about this story a lot. It’s kind of perfect. I love a rascal and I love doing very stupid things to make my friends laugh and this story is pretty much the apex of that genre. It makes me sad we didn’t get a chance to see what his next move would be. We’ll always have Pontius Tonight, though, and that’s not nothing.
Rest in peace, Wittels.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — I would like to discuss the dogman
Harrison Ford has a long and storied history of working with humans who are pretending to be furry creatures, and by that I mean mostly that he acted alongside Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies. But that was a man in a suit. Chewbaccca showed up for the scene in the costume and wore the suit throughout and then walked somewhere else to take the suit off. That, I can comprehend. It’s basically Halloween. I get Halloween.
What is a little more tricky to grasp, however, is the concept of the CGI dog in his new version of Call of the Wild, and the fact that a guy in a motion-capture suit was crawling around the set with famous crank Harrison Ford. There’s a brief clip of all of this around the 2:30 mark and I really must insist you watch it now if you haven’t seen it. Here’s a taste.
This is what I want you to do. Close your eyes. Picture a restaurant in Hollywood, maybe Malibu. Outdoor seating. One of those fancy casual places where you can show up in a thin hoodie but a single crab cake costs $53. Now picture Harrison Ford sitting a table at this restaurant with his agent and a producer on this movie as they explain to him that he’ll be rolling around and giving belly scratches not to a dog, but to some kid in a weird suit who is pretending to be a dog. Picture his face as he chews his pork chop.
That might be a more interesting movie than Call of the Wild.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at email@example.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.
Do you ever find yourself thinking about the time Will Ferrell went on Conan in character as Robert Goulet and kept calling Conan “Johnny” as though he thought he was on the Tonight Show in the 1970s? I thought about it out of nowhere the other day and immediately watched the video again. It was a good time. So if you haven’t thought of it recently, here you go.
Well, this will require a relevant YouTube embed.
Brad, what a good email. To answer your question: Yes, I do think about it pretty frequently. It cracks me up. My favorite part about it… well, maybe not my favorite, but still, is that Ferrell wasn’t even a big star at this point. He was just a cast member on SNL. And when he got booked on a talk show, instead of showing up as himself and promoting his work or whatever, he walked out with a martini and a cigarette in character as a semi-famous crooner whose career peaked 15 years earlier. I have so much respect for that. Just the brazenness of it. Burbank, California.
This email also marks what is probably the best and only legitimate excuse I’ll have in the foreseeable future to post the “Red Ships of Spain” SNL sketch, which I adore more than any other person I know, so let’s go ahead and get that in here, too.
I take it back, Brad. This wasn’t a good email. It was a great email. Thank you.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
The ‘Boner 4Ever’ building’s new developers want to pay tribute to its famous graffiti
Okay, some history is necessary here. This is the headline of an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article itself is about a building in North Philadelphia, a few blocks north of Temple University, where I went to college. The building is a huge Art Deco structure that once was home to the National Bank of Philadelphia and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places. It also has the words, and I must stress here that this is true, “BONER 4EVER” spray-painted on it in huge letters that are very visible from the busiest street in the city.
It’s a whole thing. Everyone calls it the BONER 4EVER building. It’s revered in the city the way people who are not from the area assume we revere, like, the Liberty Bell. It’s a big deal. I am not joking. A huge deal. And that’s why people are very upset that a new ownership group has taken over with plans to renovate the building and turn it into, among other options, a Marriott hotel.
All of which is to say, look at these quotes. Look at this one.
“We have had ‘Boner Forever’ on every presentation we make. I’m not kidding,” said Floss Barber, CEO of Floss Barber Inc. and the project’s interior designer. “It’s so important to the building. We’re incorporating it into the overall project in various ways.”
Shoutout to Floss Barber. And look at this one.
Brian Murray, the co-founder of Shift Capital, the company that bought the 14-story building in 2012, called the “Boner 4Ever” tag “urban lore in North Philadelphia.”
When asked if that marker would remain on the building, he said: “We are figuring out a way to appropriately pay homage, but I don’t have any immediate responses to that question yet.”
How much would you give to be in the room while a group of frazzled business bros figure out an appropriate way to “pay homage” to graffiti that says “BONER 4EVER” on the side of a huge building they want to turn into a mid-level chain hotel? I would pay $20, easy, for a one-day pass that includes a small box lunch.
Or, better yet, let’s make a documentary about it. Get the McMillion$ team on it. Six episodes on HBO. The people must know about BONER 4EVER.