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 — Streaming warz!
Apple waded into the streaming business earlier this week. Perhaps waded is not a strong enough word. They rolled out Oprah and Spielberg and about half a dozen A-list stars as part of the big announcement. That’s more of a cannonball than anything else. Still, the point stands. We don’t know how much the service will cost and we don’t know exactly when its growing collection of shows and movies will roll out, but we do have definitive proof that Apple and its $1 trillion war chest are entering the streaming wars sooner rather than later.
Which… cool? I guess it’s cool. In theory, I like the idea of another outlet pumping money into quality programming. The more the merrier. Load ‘em up. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell will all star in one show that’s financed by your cell phone. I’ll see what that’s about, for curiosity’s sake, if nothing else. It’s like the setup to a joke, almost. “Elle Woods, Michael Scott, and Rachel from Friends walk into a bar…”
Here’s my question, though, and I want you to really think about it: What’s your price point on this? How much are you willing to pay, per month, for another streaming service? You probably already have Netflix. You might have Amazon Prime and Hulu, too. If you have all three, that checks in around $35-45/month, depending on your plan. Are you willing to add another $10 a month to see what Apple has to offer? How about $15? Where do you draw the line?
And when you think about that, think about this: Disney is coming out with a streaming service in the next year or so, too, and that will have original programming plus the Marvel movies plus the Star Wars movies plus the classic Disney movies. How much are you willing to pay for that? Are you willing to cancel one of your other streaming services to get one of these instead? If not, how much are you willing to miss out on? Where does it end?
Think about a show like The Good Fight. CBS’s Good Wife spin-off just started its third season and it’s very good and I’m convinced that no one who isn’t a television critic watches it. It’s not the show’s fault. It’s fun and fast and smart and everything you could want out of a binge-y streaming show. The problem is that it’s on CBS All Access, CBS’s premium streaming service, and the type of person who signs up for unlimited access to the Big Bang Theory and NCIS back catalogs probably isn’t the type of person who watches a prestige legal drama in which Christine Baranski rails against Donald Trump. That’s not a judgment statement. To each their own. But if you’re not interested in other CBS shows and just want to see The Good Fight, is it worth the monthly fee to you? Or do you just go without this one show? Lord knows you have other options.
The funny thing is that, after years of ranting and raving about a la carte cable packages where we could pay for just the networks we want, we’re kind of getting it and it’s kind of not looking great. Everything is separate and it probably won’t end up saving us much money at the end of the day, if we want everything. If only someone would house all the shows I like in one place, you know? With all the networks I like. For one price. Package them together, if you will. In a bundle. Maybe lump in my internet service with the bill, to keep things simple. Yeah, I think that would be easier. It’s a shame no one throughout all of history has thought of this idea before.
Wait a second.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — Three thoughts about Rob Lowe’s new game show, Mental Samurai
ONE: Mental Samurai is not particularly good or compelling. It’s a trivia/quiz show, sort of, but a lot of the questions are either painfully simple or matters of luck more than skill. There are memory games and chronology questions and it’s all a little like someone threw 40 different shows into a blender and hit purée. I can’t in good conscience suggest you watch it unless you are very bored and forgot all your streaming passwords, especially when Jeopardy is still on five nights a week and is still a fundamentally perfect television program. Just watch that.
TWO: Look at this hot nonsense.
I probably should have led with this part. Contestants on Mental Samurai are loaded into some sort of astronaut-training crane and whizzed around the studio from question to question. It’s profoundly goofy and extremely 2019. This is where we are now. Sure, you might be smart. But are you smart… upside-down? Whoooooaaaaa zoom bzzzz bonk vroooooom. And so on. Maybe I spoke too soon. Maybe you should check this show out. Somebody might get motion sick and puke while answering a question. Can’t miss that.
THREE: This show would probably be better if they meant “mental” the way British people use it — slang for like crazy or deranged — and it was the exact same show but now hosted by an unhinged, sword-wielding samurai warrior. That, I would watch. Especially if they let him control the crane. Something to think about.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — What is any of this?
Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg have a cooking show on VH1. This is not a new story. The show has been around for a couple years now. I wrote about it when it premiered. It’s still worth mentioning every now and then, though, even if you don’t have a great reason to, just because of how wild that bit of information is. Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg have a cooking show on VH1. Really let that rattle around your skull for a while and see what it shakes loose. And then think about this: On the show, Snoop Dogg — a man who was once on trial for murder and made a song titled “Murder Was The Case” and was a key figure in the Death Row v. Bad Boy feud that resulted in bi-coastal bloodshed — is the straight man who takes the show into and out of commercials, and Martha Stewart is the loose cannon who says anything. What a country. What a world.
Anyway. Here’s the teaser for the upcoming season. If you thought all of this couldn’t get weirder than everything I typed in the first paragraph, click on that video. Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg are re-enacting scenes from Titanic to promote the cooking show they have on VH1. If the next teaser features the steamy-glass/handprint scene, I… I don’t know what I’ll do, actually. Probably write about it. In this very column.
At some point this weekend, just for five minutes, please close your eyes and really, truly picture how much fun it would be to get in a time machine and show this video to literally any person in, say, 1997.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Here’s something that interests no one but me, but I have a column, so it’s coming in hot anyway
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is loaded with pop culture references. That’s fine and fun and something almost all movies do now. But it comes with complications. Take, for example, this scene from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, in which Star-Lord and Gamora dance and discuss their relationship. Star-Lord compares them to Sam and Diane on Cheers. This, taken to (semi-)logical conclusions, implies:
Ted Danson exists in the MCU, which implies…
The Good Place exists in the MCU, which implies…
Good Place creator Mike Schur exists in the MCU, which implies…
Parks and Recreation exists in the MCU, which implies…
The character of Andy Dwyer exists in the MCU, which implies…
Chris Pratt, the person, the man who plays Star-Lord in the movie, exists in the MCU.
This is a galactically stupid slippery slope we’re on here. And I can get even stupider. At one point in the series, Dr. Strange mentions Beyoncé. That means there’s a 50-50 chance that Beyoncé disappeared when Thanos snapped his fingers. He might have wiped her right off the face of the earth. Then he’d really be in trouble. Angering the Avengers is one thing. Angering the Beyhive is suicide. Now I hope that’s what Endgame is about.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — A groundbreaking moment for 9-1-1, almost
Something incredible happened on 9-1-1 this week. If you’ve followed the show at all, or even just the coverage of it, that probably made your ears perk up. 9-1-1 is a wild show, man. Last week, in one hour, a man was attacked by a shark on a freeway and a lady’s face fell off of her head. Angela Bassett’s character was once kidnapped by a crazy woman who wanted to cut her “good heart” out and stick it in the chest of the cheating boyfriend she murdered. A bouncy house floated away with children in it. Multiple marriage proposals have been ruined by disasters, including a plane malfunction and a mall escalator collapsing. A woman got most of her nose popped off by a mistletoe-carrying drone. I could go on.
Point being: If I’m saying something incredible happened on this show, you know it’s a big deal. And I’m going to tell you what happened. The firefighters actually fought a fire.
Hmm. I’m sensing that you’re not impressed. Let me put it in context. This is the first time on the show that the firefighters have fought a fire. They’ve showed up to deal with all the things I mentioned in that first paragraph. They’ve dealt with earthquakes and people with their heads stuck in tailpipes and one time they showed up at a bug-eating contest and the owner of the exotic pet store where it was held was so thankful for their help that she mailed them unmarked psychedelic-laced sweets and they all started tripping nuts. All of this is true. I promise.
So that’s why it’s notable that the firefighters fought a fire. It took them dozens of episodes, and even more truly bonkers emergencies, to do the thing that’s right there in their name. Although…
It did happen during a flashback. And only one of the regular characters was there. So it was only him fighting a fire. In the past. Hmm.
Nope. We set the board back to zero. No fires fought.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or, like, whatever you want, shoot them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
I have seen this commercial a number of times now, for a new show up here in Canada called ‘Hudson & Rex’, about a cop/dog crimefighting duo. So to pose it as a question, why did I have to find out about this by seeing a commercial? I would have thought you would have been all over this. It must be airing somewhere in the States, no?
For the record, the show is apparently a sort of remake of this, which aired in Austria (for 10 years!) a good while back.
I am pleased to report that Mike included a link to the promo in question.
Few things have ever torn me apart like this information. On the one hand, this show looks incredible. The hotshot cop has a hotshot sidekick and the hotshot sidekick is a dog named Rex. It’s everything I ever wanted. It’s like Turner & Hooch crossed with Castle and I want to live in a world where it’s the show that I always stumble into the last 10 minutes of while waiting for NBA games to start on TNT.
On the other hand, Mike, I am both devastated and infuriated to inform you that this show is not airing in America. It’s a Canada-only production. I’m almost as angry as I was when I discovered that Canadian children grew up with a show called The Littlest Hobo about a very good dog who pranced all over the country saving towns and solving mysteries. In the first episode, a child ate poisoned meat and the antidote was two towns over, so a pilot took the dog up in a small airplane and the dog parachuted out to get the medicine. Canada has better health care and better dog-based television shows than we have. A savvy politician could run on fixing this and win in a landslide.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
An art crimes investigator in the Netherlands said Tuesday that he had recovered Pablo Picasso’s 1938 painting “Portrait of Dora Maar,” which was stolen from the yacht of its Saudi Arabian owner in the south of France in 1999.
This is the greatest sentence I have ever seen. I can’t stop reading it. Look at all the moving parts. We have:
- A stolen Picasso
- That was taken from a yacht
- That was in the South of France
- And was owned by a Saudi billionaire
- And the crime was solved
- 20 years later
- By a dude in Amsterdam
This sentence is somehow my favorite movie now. I must know more.
Earlier this month, he said, he was contacted by “two persons with good contacts in the underworld,” who said the painting was in the Netherlands.
“They told me, ‘It’s in the hands of a businessman who got it as payment, and he doesn’t know what to do with it,’” Mr. Brand said in an interview. “I talked to the two guys and we made a plan to get it out of his hands.”
To recap: There’s a “businessman” who accepted a shady Picasso worth at least eight and maybe nine figures, as “payment” (for what?!), and then, when he realized you can’t just get cash for artistic masterworks of mysterious origin, contacted “persons with good contacts in the underworld” and had them return the painting, for free, to an independent art crimes investigator in the Netherlands.
Sounds extremely legit. I vote we ask no follow-up questions.
The owner in 1999 was a Saudi Arabian billionaire, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen, who had it on his luxury yacht at Antibes, France, when it was stolen. Mr. Brand said it probably came into the Netherlands as “payment for drugs or for arms deals.”
Yup. This is my favorite movie. Now I just need someone go make it.