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 — Let’s settle this once and for all
Earlier this week, when we were all still innocent and blind to the potential horrors of living in permanent isolation with beloved characters from a long-running children’s television series, someone on the Sesame Street social media team logged into Twitter and put this into the world.
Nothing has been the same since. Nothing will ever be the same. How can it be, with this type of question ping-ponging around our brains forever, like a screensaver where an item bounces around off the sides of the screen and never quite lands exactly in a corner, even when it looks like it might, infuriating anyone with OCD or a semi-regular diet of edibles? I… I do not want to be stranded on a desert island, at all, with anyone, even a Muppet. But thanks to this tweet, it’s all I’ve been thinking about this week. Welcome to the future. It’s terrifying.
Anyway, the post caught fire. The masses weighed in. Celebrities weighed in. Everyone had opinions that were held very firmly. The medium was not ideal, though. You can’t answer something this complex in 280 characters. There are layers to peel back here, high-level analysis at every turn. Someone needs to unpack this. Really get in there. Luckily (kind of), I have a weekly column and an editor who rarely says no to me, so I will be that person. Let’s settle this once and for all.
First things first, Elmo is out. It’s nothing personal. I love Elmo. Everyone loves Elmo. But there are only two ways this whole thing can go. In one, Elmo’s relentless positivity begins to wear on you around week three of being marooned on an island. You suck it up and deal with it, though, because like, it’s Elmo. It’s his thing. But time goes on — weeks, months, years, heaven forbid — and you start to crack. This is your fault, not his. You’re the weak one. And one day, when Elmo comes back from the food search with a smile and a single rotten coconut, you finally snap and heave his tiny fuzzy body into the ocean. He survives, thank god, but things get weird. You can’t come back from that. And, if you do ever get rescued, you can’t have Elmo, American Treasure, telling that story to Ellen on national television. It won’t do. You’ll be canceled so fast.
The other way it could go is the hopelessness of the situation getting to Elmo and Elmo getting catastrophically depressed. That’s… unsettling. I do not want to think about a depressed Elmo. He’s out.
Next up is Cookie Monster. He’s out, too. This one is easy. He’s a glutton and a lunatic. He’ll eat all the food and stare at you with his googly eyes. He’s also the largest of the characters offered up in the hypothetical, which causes another set of problems. What if, when the hunger really sets in, he looks at you one day and his addled brain changes the vision of your human body into a large cookie? What if a crazed Cookie Monster charges at you with menace in his eyes and drool on his lips? What then, hotshot? Can you take the Cookie Monster? I’m not sure you can.
So then, maybe Grover? Grover is pretty cool. Incompetent and clumsy as all heck, sure, but pretty cool and laid back. Grover wants to help, man. He’s not always great at the execution, but he’s trying. That’s a personality I can deal with if I’m stuck on an island. If I’m there forever with no hope of escape, Grover is my choice. If escape is an option, though, we run into what I’ll call the Super Grover problem.
We remember Super Grover, yes? Cape, ability to fly, other powers that one would assume could be useful in a deserted island situation? Sounds great. And it would be, if not for the thing where Super Grover is also incompetent and clumsy and rarely ever successful in a mission. Imagine how infuriating that would be. You’d be like “Okay, Super Grover, remember. You fly off the island, in any direction, it doesn’t matter, and you find the first person who looks like they can help. Got it?” and then Super Grover would wash up on shore three weeks later covered in seaweed, alone, again, with no great explanation how any of it happened. I’d scream. Not sustainable.
That leaves Oscar the Grouch. You’d think Oscar would be a terrible choice. His attitude and general demeanor are not conducive to your long-term island-based mental health. But — BUT — he does have that trash can. You get some wood, some makeshift string, fashion a flotation evict out of it, you can put the trash can on top and row to safety. You can put the lid over your head if it storms, too. It’ll be an annoying trip, for sure, with all of his comments. But you can do it. For freedom.
Oscar the Grouch is the only logical choice.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — John Wick 3: Canine Revenge!
A new trailer for the third John Wick movie dropped this week. The first trailer featured Sixers backup center and gentle giant Boban Marjanovic as a hitman who John Wick appeared to murder via book to the throat, so this one had a high bar to clear. Did it succeed? I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. There’s a shot in there where he whizzes like five knives into a dude’s chest while standing over him. That was cool. And Ian McShane and Taylor from Billions were all up in there, too, which made me whoop a little. I love that McShane’s character always calls him “Jonathan.” It’s almost fatherly. If your dad ran an international hotel for assassins.
The trailer also featured this sequence.
I am, to no one’s surprise, very much here for Halle Berry’s big mean dogs chomping on a bad guy’s jimmies and taking another out with a teeth-first form tackle. This franchise opened with an unspeakable act of violence against a puppy. (It’s wild to think about how everything that has happened in all of these movies is a direct result of that.) The time has come for the dogs to get their own revenge.
In a related matter, Keanu Reeves did an interview with Collider about the film this week. You really should go read it all because it’s very good and very Keanu, but please do note these selected quotes, which bring me a great deal of joy.
I always thought it would be fun for John Wick, because the film takes place just after the second one finishes, so he’s on the run, which I thought was cool. I thought it would be cool if John Wick escaped on a horse, so we got John Wick riding some horses, fighting with some horses. That was fun.
When you open up that interview, do a quick CTRL+F for the word “cool.” You won’t be disappointed.
I thought would be cool if John Wick was in a suit in a desert, somehow. So, we’re going to go some desert. We got some cool story there that is opening up the world. We’re really fans of the world. I love the character, so I was like, “How do we get John Wick on a dune?”
There it is again. It appears most of Keanu’s ideas for this movie start with “I thought it would be cool if…” And do you know what? I think he’s right. Get the man a horse, a suit, and a dune. But that’s not all. Oh no, not even close.
What else we got. We got ninjas, John Wick on a horse, and in the desert, lots of fighting. Technique wise – oh, we got some swords. What else. Lots of guns.
I love how he’s just listing cool shit the movie has. It’s like — and I mean this very much as a compliment — they let the 16-year-old version of me make this movie.
ME: Okay, we need ninjas. Definitely ninjas. And horses. And dogs. Lots of dogs. And guns, and swords, and people on horses fighting ninjas with swords. In the desert. And guns. So many guns.
STUDIO EXEC: That it?
ME: Oh, and Halle Berry, too.
The best franchise.
“The first time [director] Josh [Cooley] and I talked with Keanu about the role, Keanu became Duke Caboom,” says producer Jonas Rivera. “Keanu was asking great questions that dug deep to find the soul of the character. At one point he stood up on the table in the middle of Pixar’s atrium and struck poses while proclaiming victory. It was so funny. It’s all in the movie and it’s all Keanu.”
Ahhh, whoops. This isn’t a quote from that Collider interview. This is part of Pixar’s description of the character Keanu plays in Toy Story 4, Duke Caboom. Still. Imagine being an entry-level employee at Pixar, in your first week, and you see Keanu Reeves standing on a table in a public area just shouting and doing action poses like a maniac. I’d probably quit. Nowhere to go from there but down. I’d want that memory in my brain, unsullied, encased in amber, for eternity.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — The eyes never lie
It was a huge week for trailers across the board. Here’s the first one for season three of Stranger Things. A few things jump out right away, like the apparently robust music budget the show has now. (I suspect at least one One Day at a Time fan saw this and screamed “YOU COULDN’T HAVE USED A ‘BABA O’RILEY’ SOUNDALIKE AND PUT THE MONEY TOWARD ANOTHER SHOW?”) Everyone’s there. It’s great. Hopper’s mustache is magnificent. But that’s not the moment that jumped out at me.
The moment that jumped out was Billy, our resident angry, basketball-playing, sex dirtbag, walking past Mike’s mom at the pool and Mike’s mom looking at him like this.
Look at those eyes. There’s nothing wholesome in them at all. Mike’s mom is looking at Billy like a damn snack. It’s a reverse Wendy Peffercorn situation, with the older pool patron lusting after the younger lifeguard. I hope she tries to pull a Squints on him.
This is instantly the thing I’m most interested about in the upcoming season now, which is really saying something about a show that has a literal monster-filled alternate dimension bubbling into the real world. God, Mike is gonna be so steamed.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Let’s check in on Nicolas Cage
From my inbox, all-caps theirs, not mine: NICOLAS CAGE TO STAR IN THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED MARTIAL ARTS FEATURE ‘JIU JITSU’ FROM DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS
Yes, I will open this press release about the Nicolas Cage jiu-jitsu movie. Tell me everything about it.
Every six years, an ancient order of expert Jiu Jitsu fighters faces a fearsome alien invader in a battle for Earth. For thousands of years, the fighters that protect Earth have played by the rules…until now. When Jake Barnes (Alain Moussi), a celebrated war hero and master Jiu Jitsu fighter, refuses to face Brax, the indomitable leader of the invaders, the future of humanity hangs in the balance. Injured and suffering from severe amnesia, Jake is captured by a military squad unequipped to fight the merciless intruder who have descended upon the planet. After a brutal alien attack on the military squad, Jake is rescued by Wylie (Nicolas Cage), and a team of fellow Jiu Jitsu fighters who must help him recover his memory and regain his strength in order to band together and defeat Brax in an epic battle that will once again determine the fate of mankind.
Everything appears in order here.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — “You Are My Sunshine” is a very dark song
This week’s episode of This Is Us was titled “You Are My Sunshine.” I didn’t watch it because I don’t watch the show. I’m only mentioning it so I can remind everyone that “You Are My Sunshine,” the sweet song that parents sing to sleeping babies, is actually darker than midnight. Listen to the Johnny Cash version I posted up there. Look at the other verses. Oh, did you not know this song had other verses? Well, this is about to get weird for you, because…
The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I bowed my head and I cried
Well, that’s sad. Not disturbing or anything, though, but sad. Maybe it doesn’t get wors-
I’ve always loved you and made you happy
And nothing else could come between
But now you’ve left me to love another
You have shattered all of my dreams
To recap: The song some of you thought was a sweet lullaby is actually a song about a disturbed man who is dangerously depressed — “You have shattered all my dreams” — because his lover left him for another man. Did… did I just ruin it for you?
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or, like, whatever you want, shoot them to me at email@example.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.
Did you see Dewey Crowe in the trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?! He’s playing Charles Manson! Dewey Crowe. I don’t know who else will care about this as much as I do, but I’m betting it’s you.
Brendan, you are correct. I am beyond tickled that Damon Herriman, the legendary Dewey Crowe from Justified, is playing Charles Manson in Tarantino’s next movie. And it gets better: He’s also playing Charles Manson in season two of Mindhunter. Dewey Crowe is double Manson. I love it so much. I want to see Charles Manson look at his followers with raging intensity in his eyes and say “the anus is on you.”
And guess what: It gets even better. Jeremy Davis, who played Dickie Bennet on Justified, also played Manson in the 2004 TV movie Helter Skelter. Justified was lousy with Mansons!
I miss this show. Every day.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
They are a collection of oversized, sometimes bizarre, objects that draw roadtrippers to country towns, known as Australia’s “Big Things” — the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, the Big Lobster, to name a few.
Now, a resident of the New South Wales town of Woodenbong wants to add another: a big wooden bong.
I see no flaws in the logic here. Proceed.
Mr. Pearson, an artist who moved to the town about six years ago, said he had been making bong art his entire life. But it was only in December that he started making wooden bongs — the largest of which is seven feet tall and still under construction.
“I want to inlay gemstones into all the caps and cracks,” he said of the project.
As one does, of course.
It’s not all rainbows and wooden bongs in this story, though. Some people in the town, for reasons I cannot even begin to comprehend, do not want their town associated with a giant wooden bong, in part because “Woodenbong” is actually an indigenous term that does not, in fact, mean “large bong made of wood.”
How is our hero handling all of this? Excellent question.
Others in the town have threatened him because he is different from them, he said, and “the bong thing is my way of retaliating.”
The triumph of the human spirit, folks.