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 — Come on
AMC canceled Lodge 49 after two seasons and it sucks. There’s no way around that. It just sucks. The show was really something special. It dealt with real issues like debt and loss and family, both biological and not, and how sometimes finding the second is as important as cherishing the first. It was sweet and sad and strange and profound and profoundly funny. It was so funny. Holy Toledo. Paul Giamatti showed up in season two as an unhinged author who flung himself through windows and walls and crapped his pants in Mexico. It’s pretty much impossible to explain. I know because this is something like the fifth time I’ve tried and I don’t feel like I’m getting any closer. It was good. Maybe I should just leave it at that.
But this isn’t about me banging the table in the hopes of saving the show and getting it another season on another network. I get why AMC made the decision. The show was watched by a small group of passionate fans but that small group wasn’t enough to make the math work. Whatever. Fine. I’m not going to complain if someone picks it up, though. It would be great. I would celebrate. So would Tom Hanks, apparently. Me and Tom Hanks, whooping about Paul Giamatti. You’re invited, too.
The bigger issue for me is what it says about where television is now, as an industry. There are 5,000 shows on 300 networks and streaming sites with 200 more streaming sites on the way. Every massive media entity is building its own little silo and stuffing it with known quantities. You want reboots and reimaginings and continuations of shows you watched 10 to 30 years ago? No problem. You want a bunch of shows based on existing intellectual property like Marvel comics and Star Wars? That’s coming in hot, too. You want a quirky examination of life with real people and teeny tiny stakes and enough heart to pump blood through the ice-cold veins of the most cynical among us? Ehhhhh, good luck.
There are a few out there. Fleabag and Russian Doll were great in their limited runs. Catastrophe, too. But the key word there is “limited.” Those shows were built to burn fast and bright. Lodge 49 could have lasted, maybe not “Law & Order: SVU has been on television for close to two decades” last, but at least a few more seasons. You would think, with all the options and outlets out there, that someone could find a place for a show like that. A show like Lodge 49. Not even Lodge 49 specifically, although, again, that would be fine. I’m talking about the next show. The hypothetical future Lodge 49-like show.
My fear is that all of this is starting to bend in the direction movies have gone, in a way that won’t be course-corrected any time soon. Sequels, reboots, remakes, with very little oxygen for cool smaller stuff. That would bum me out. A lot. Television has been eating film’s lunch when it comes to weirdo creative projects for the last 20 years, after an eternity of the opposite. It’s been cool. It’s been too much at times. There’s no way to watch every show your friends tell you to watch and it sometimes feels like a personal attack when they suggest another one. (“I’M DOING THE BEST I CAN, JEFF!”) But I’d rather have that problem than one where every show is a slightly different version of a show or movie I’ve already seen.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just bummed someone took away my show. That’s a possibility, too. It was a really good show, largely because it wasn’t like anything else out there. I hope I’m wrong. To be fair, I’m wrong a lot. But either way, I think the point stands: What’s the point of having a zillion outlets for a zillion shows if we can’t find room for a few shows like Lodge 49?
I repeat: Come on.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — What a weird week for Game of Thrones
It might actually be an understatement to call it a weird week for Game of Thrones. More like a weird year. Remember back in January how excited everyone was about the final season? Remember how excited everyone was about the premiere? All that hype? All the articles? And then it started and … wellllllllll. There were some issues. Some problems. Some less-than-ideal storytelling. You remember. It was a big deal.
Cut to: this week, when all of the following things happened:
- One prequel starring Naomi Watts was shelved before it saw the light of day
- One prequel about the Targaryen family got greenlit, and George R.R. Martin blogged about how he wants to write some episodes once he finishes the next book
- We found out whose fault the coffee cup fiasco was
- The creators of the show stepped away from their plans to produce a Star Wars trilogy for Disney
The Hollywood Reporter had a solid, speculation-filled look at the hows and whys of that last one. There was talk about Benioff and Weiss overextending themselves with their Netflix deal. There was talk about how maybe the dicey final season of Thrones gave the Star Wars higher-ups some pause. There was also this.
Meanwhile, Benioff and Weiss were also feeling the heat and began having second thoughts about jumping into Star Wars due to what one source described as “toxic fandom.” […]
To go from Thrones to Star Wars, where fans have bullied actors off social media and taken aim at filmmakers like Johnson? “Who wants to go through that again? Not them,” notes another source with knowledge of Benioff and Weiss’ thinking. “This was in the ‘Life’s Too Short’ category.”
I don’t know what, if any, of the reasons for their exit are true but, if it’s this last one, I get it. People are out of control. I got a character’s name wrong in a Game of Thrones post once (not even a serious post, just a goof post), and I got yelled at in two separate emails. I can’t even imagine being in charge of the actual story. It seems weird and not fun. I would much rather take that Netflix check and go make a show about, like, Deion Sanders stealing the Mona Lisa. There you go. There’s one idea. Wow. This is way easier.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — Am I the only one who remembers Kid Notorious?
Robert Evans passed away this week, which is a shame because Robert Evans was a complete original in a time when true originals are hard to come by. He was a maniac, sure, as anyone who read his book, The Kid Stays in the Picture, or saw the documentary of the same name can attest. Did he have a distinctive way of speaking? You bet. Was it imitated by a million people in a million different projects? You know it. My favorites are the old Mr. Show sketch and the two-part Documentary Now! episode, the former featuring Bob Oderkirk and the latter featuring Bill Hader. Check them out this weekend. And the documentary. Guy had a wild life.
Speaking of his wild life, am I the only person who remembers Kid Notorious, the Comedy Central cartoon from the early 2000s that starred Evans as himself as James Bond? It was very weird. And funny. It had a bit of an Archer vibe to it. But it was mostly weird. Look at some of the other characters on the show, via Wikipedia:
— Puss Puss, Evans’s beloved cat, who follows him wherever he goes; she plays chess and smokes marijuana. Puss has a hate-hate relationship with English which has included pistol-whipping, neck crushing, releasing flatulence into face and placing piranha in the sauna.
— Saul “Slash” Hudson (himself), the former lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses. As in real life, Slash is Evans’s close friend and next-door neighbor.
— Donald Rumsfeld (Billy West), the United States Secretary of Defense at the time. He is depicted as a sidekick and poker buddy of Evans and Slash.
I can’t stress this enough. Robert Evans and Slash voiced themselves in a cartoon in which they hung out with a cat and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. I think. That or this has all been a very elaborate prank targeted directly at me. Either way, I appreciate the effort.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Happy Halloween from Anthony Hopkins
Have a safe evening.
Happy Halloween pic.twitter.com/3bk3YeTHbj
— Anthony Hopkins (@AnthonyHopkins) October 31, 2019
Social media has its flaws, sure, no one will argue with you there. The politics, the yelling, the yelling about politics. I could do without most of it. There is a silver lining, though, one we’ve discussed a few times in this space and will discuss again now: Older celebrities revealing themselves to be charming goofballs. Look at the video up there. That is Anthony Hopkins, Academy Award winner, knight of the British empire, just messing around with his cell phone and a Halloween mask like a TikTok teen. I love it. It’s delightful.
It’s not just him, either. Dr. Ruth is hilarious, Sam Neill posts jokes from his farm all day, Henry Winkler goes on vacation and posts a dozen fish pictures every summer. It’s wonderful. An argument could be made that the only people using social media correctly are teens and celebrities over the age of 70. The rest of us are just screwing it up for them. Let’s get it together.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Range, baby
I’ve been reading Range, a very interesting book about how having a broad base of knowledge and skills is actually better than the hyper-targeted 10,000-hours approach Malcolm Gladwell made famous. I bring this up now for two reasons:
- You should check it out if that kind of thing interests you
- The Good Place, a television comedy about ethics and what it means to be a good person, a show that tackles huge issues with surprising depth and warmth and is just about the most life-affirming examination of humanity you’ll ever see on network television, opened this week’s episode with what the captions on Hulu called a “squelching fart” that started before the opening credits and finished after
The Good Place has a ton of range. I respect this.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
As a longtime fan and Twitter follower of yours, I have to ask: How many pictures of Paul Giamatti do you have on your computer? Like, exactly how many? Give me a number.
Sam, this is a good question. It’s a good question in more than one way. It’s good in context, because I do have a lot of pictures of Paul Giamatti between screencaps of Billions and Lodge 49 and his various other appearances. It’s also good stripped of its context. More interviews with celebrities and world leaders should include this question, just out of nowhere.
BORIS JOHNSON: … and that is why Brexit must go forward as planned.
REPORTER: [very British] Prime Minister, how many pictures of Paul Giamatti do you have on your computer?
BORIS JOHNSON: Four.
ASSORTED PRESS IN BRIEFING ROOM: [sudden commotion and hurried typing]
Anyway, the answer is 43. I just counted. It was 27 but then I found 16 more in a file titled “GIAM” because I’m not very organized. It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is very normal. Cheers.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
In a baffling act of thievery, a 1-ton boulder was somehow snatched from the side of a highway in Arizona’s Prescott National Forest about two weeks ago. Now, Forest officials are reaching out to the public for help recovering the hefty loot.
I did not expect to ever type these words next to each other but here we go: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a BOULDER HEIST.
“It’s unfortunate when we lose a treasure such as the Wizard Rock,” said Sarah Clawson, district ranger for the Bradshaw Ranger District, in a statement. “Our hope is that it will be returned to us, and these recent recurring events will become an educational opportunity.”
Hmm. I suppose some context is necessary. The boulder in question is, as you can see, called the Wizard Rock. It’s a notable landmark that people stop at and snap pictures with and nooooooooooope I can’t do context anymore. I must know everything about this.
Why? How? What’s the endgame? What are you going to do with a one-ton Wizard Rock? Where are you going to keep it? How long did this take to plan? How did it come up? I could go on. But then we might not get to this…
Prescott National Forest has been the victim of boulder pilfering in the past, though sometimes with a happy ending.
This story has my full, undivided attention, which is really saying something because I’m a person who also has 22 tabs open in his browser at this very moment.
In 2009, an 80-pound heart-shaped rock was snatched from Granite Mountain Wilderness. After reading a story in the local paper about how much the rock meant to local residents, the thief returned it.
Benioff and Weiss… make this show, too. Add it to the list. See? There’s two already. Here to help.