TV

The Rundown: Stephen Root Does Not Miss

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 — One of the greats

If you’re looking to kill 10 or 15 minutes in the next few days, I recommend swinging by the IMDb page for Stephen Root. The first thing you’ll notice as you scroll — and scroll and scroll — is that it is absolutely stacked. The man has credits galore, something like 50 listed acting and voice roles in the last five years alone. And it’s not like he’s taking filler roles in VOD movies to keep busy. This is not an Eric Roberts situation. Stephen Root has appeared in like half of your favorite shows and he’s usually one of the best parts of those shows when he does. Stephen Root does not miss.

How far back do you want to go? Office Space, where he played the stapler-obsessed office drone who eventually followed through on his threats to burn the building down? How about King of the Hill, where he voiced Bill Dauterive and a collection of other characters for 13 seasons? The West Wing, 24, True Blood, From the Earth to the Moon, just popping up here and there throughout the last 25 years of television like a small-screen Forrest Gump, which I mean in only the best way. And this is before we get to his role as Jimmy James in Newsradio. You could choose any number of clips to represent his time on the show as the cutthroat businessman and owner of the station, but my favorite is probably the time he lost Phil Hartman’s character to a rival station in a poker game.

Perfect. Wonderful in every way. Does anyone on earth play a charming but kinda scummy authority figure better than Stephen Root? I honestly cannot think of anyone who can top him. Think about his turn as the eccentric Judge Reardon on Justified, a character who enjoyed both excitement and giving people the business. I loved seeing him pop up every now and then on that show. You knew it was going to be a good episode when Judge Reardon showed up to give Raylan a little hell.

And Barry. Good Lord is Stephen Root a blast in Barry as Bill Hader’s Svengali-like handler Monroe Fuches. He does this thing when he starts processing information where you can see the devious gears grinding behind his eyes, where you can almost see the little thought bubbles pop up outside his head, all of them filled with ways to game the situation in his favor, people and/or property be damned. He does this as most of his characters at one point or another. It is one of my favorite things. Very few people alive do the specific thing they do as well as Stephen Root does the thing he does. He’s like an NBA player who sticks around the league for 15 years because he can hop off the bench for 20 minutes a game and make 40 percent of his three-pointers. He’s basically Kyle Korver. Stephen Root is the Kyle Korver of actors. I stand by this.

Also, and this is admittedly less important than the other things I’ve mentioned but I’m still scrolling through his IMDb page and it’s becoming unavoidable, he has played some characters with some really tremendous names. A sampling: Hawthorne Abendsen, Rick Ocean, Mortimer Begoyle, Bud Gleeful, Gaston Means, Hank Maestro, Professor Robert Tubing, Clarence Sweetwater, and Steven Fingerman. His first credit is a small role in Crocodile Dundee II as a character listed as “DEA Agent (Toilet).” The man has been a legend from the beginning.

All of this is why I was so excited to see him show up this week in Perry Mason as the slimy district attorney. No one is better suited for a role as a slimy district attorney in a noir-y HBO drama. He even got to grow that thin little mustache for the role. It’s basically a perfect match of actor and role. Stephen Root does what Stephen Root does so well that it almost feels like we should create a separate category for it at the Emmys every year and give him the trophy. In fact, yes, let’s go ahead and do that. I would enjoy it. And he deserves it. Look at that, two good reasons.

It’s settled.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Let’s check in with Paolo Sorrentino, creator of The Young Pope and The New P-… and he’s playing with figurines

Netflix

That’s not fair. He’s not “playing with figurines” as much as he is “making a short film for a Netflix project called Homemade, in which a bunch of filmmakers put together little movies while quarantined at home.” But still, there are definitely figurines in his. And that’s not the best part. We’re getting to that, I swear.

But first, the plot. Queen Elizabeth goes to the Vatican to visit the Pope. Not long after she gets there, news of the pandemic hits, and the two of them end up stuck in there together. They realize they have a lot in common: they are both leaders of a huge group of people, they both often feel alone and isolated by their power, they both… like to dance. Which they do. The figurines of Queen Elizabeth and the Pope share a dance. And a skinny dip. It’s really quite a lot packed into about seven minutes. I adore it. But none of this is the best part, either.

The best part of the short comes right near the beginning when the news of the pandemic first hits and is broken to Queen Elizabeth and the Pope, in the Vatican, by, and I’m going to include a screencap with dialogue so you all don’t think I’m making this up… The Dude from The Big Lebowski. In figurine form. Complete with someone doing a really terrible impression of Jeff Bridges. Look.

Netflix

Everyone is going a little nutty in quarantine. Some of us are handling it poorly, yelling at strangers online or watching our morale sink through the floor. Paolo Sorrentino is dreaming up platonic love affairs between figurines of Queen Elizabeth and the Pope, featuring brief appearances by a weed-seeking Jeffrey Lebowski, and filming it all with his cell phone. I would argue this is much healthier.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Listen to Hanks

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Tom Hanks is, among other things:

  • A multiple Oscar winner
  • A coronavirus survivor
  • The nicest man alive

The first two are objective facts and the third is basically one too, based on every story you’ve ever heard and also this New York Times profile of him. The point I’m getting at is that when Tom Hanks says something from the heart, you should hear him out. Let’s hear him out.

“There’s really only three things we can do in order to get to tomorrow: Wear a mask, social distance, wash our hands.”

“Those things are so simple, so easy, if anybody cannot find it in themselves to practice those three very basic things – I just think shame on you,” he added. “Don’t be a p—-, get on with it, do your part. It’s very basic. If you’re driving a car, you don’t go too fast, you use your turn signal and you avoid hitting pedestrians. My Lord, it’s common sense.”

I’m dying to know what that censored word is. I’m guessing it’s “prick.” Imagine making Tom Hanks so angry that he calls you a prick. I would dig a hole 30 feet deep and crawl into it for a month. Only reasonable response.

I would also like to point out, on the mask issue, that being on a ventilator sucks tremendously. I was on one for like a month after my spinal cord injury in 2005. I did not like it. I can say with almost 100 percent certainty that you would not like it. There are tubes going down your throat and big loud machines and it’s really just miserable. Way more annoying than, like, wearing a mask to the local Whole Foods. Even if, in the face of scientific research piled up to your abdomen, you’re pretty sure masks don’t work, it’s still a solid hedge just from a cost-benefit perspective. It costs you next to nothing and could increase your odds of staying off a ventilator. I’ll take that dice roll every time.

Listen to me and Tom Hanks. Wear a mask.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — A few relatively straightforward questions about Jason Momoa voicing Frosty the Snowman

Warner Bros.

Why is Jason Momoa voicing Frosty the Snowman?

Why hasn’t Jason Momoa voiced Frosty the Snowman before?

Who else was on their list if he didn’t want to do it?

What celebrity would be the funniest Frosty the Snowman?

Tracy Morgan, right?

If Aquaman controls the water and Frosty is made of frozen water, does that mean Aquaman can control Frosty?

What if Aquaman 3 features Jason Momoa and an army of snowmen battling evildoers on glaciers in the North Pole?

You would watch that movie, right?

What if they’re in the North Pole because the villain kidnapped Santa?

What if Aquaman has to save Christmas?

Who would be the funniest celebrity you could cast as the kidnapped Santa in this movie?

It’s Tracy Morgan again, right?

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Game Night rules

This week, inspired by the release of Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest, Uproxx’s Jessica Toomer wrote a very good and very correct piece about what an underrated comedic performer Rachel McAdams is, and one of the examples she mentioned was the 2018 film Game Night. I like that Jessica did this because Game Night rules. I just watched it again Tuesday night and can happily confirm it. The movie is just loaded. Jason Bateman does his thing, Billy Magnussen plays a charming idiot, Sharon Horgan kills it, Lamorne Morris from New Girl kills it, Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons kill it as very different kinds of lunatics. Just a good and fun movie. But we’re talking about Rachel McAdams here.

McAdams plays the plucky, ultra-competitive foil to Bateman’s stiff-lipped, dry-witted half, and she’s tasked with the heavy lifting as Bateman leans on his trademark sarcasm, leaving her to pull off the more exaggerated bits. She does, elevating a hostage scene with a wildly funny dance number that sees her character whipping a “fake” gun around and shoving it into men’s faces before accidentally shooting Bateman’s character and trying to clean his wound with a “nice chard,” a Good Housekeeping recipe, and a squeaky toy.

This is true. All of it. You can watch it in the scene I embedded up there.

In hindsight, both stars of The Notebook, McAdams and Ryan Gosling, might be better in comedies than dramas. Now I think I need to watch The Nice Guys again. I’ll do that while you watch Game Night. Fun little weekend we have planned all of a sudden.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at brian.grubb@uproxx.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.

From Manny:

What’s a movie speech you can recite word for word every time it comes on? I didn’t even realize it until recently but I can do the entire “farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse” speech The Fugitive. I bet I can do most of Jack Nicholson’s “You want me on that wall” speech from A Few Good Men, too. I’m sure there are more useful things my brain can be doing with that storage space. I feel like you can relate for some reason.

Buddy, can I ever. And I apologize for sitting on your question for a few weeks. I had a reason, though. It’s because my answer is President Whitmore’s speech from Independence Day. I wanted to save it for today.

I don’t think I can do the speech without the movie playing, the same way it’s easier to sing along to a song as it plays. And I’m not sure I can still do it word for word perfect. But once I get cranking I’m good for some table-banging and thundering at the “We will not go quietly into the night” part. I am not entirely sure I know the license plate number on my car but I bet I can still do this at around 85-90 percent accuracy. I’m okay with it.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Virginia!

Drivers got a shock Wednesday afternoon when a group of big hogs scattered onto Interstate 95 in Thornburg, leading a pair of crash scenes, miles of southbound backups and injured swine.

HAM ON THE LAM.

HAM ON THE LAM.

HAM ON THE LAM.

All but one of the hogs were placed back in the trailer at the scene closest to the Thornburg exit. One more hog was found to the south along I-95 just across the county line in Caroline.

The state police did not say how the hogs ended up in the roadway, but said the investigation continues.

I know they mean they are investigating what human is responsible for the pigs getting loose and how that human’s actions or inaction resulted in the calamity described above, but it is much funnier to picture a suspicious detective questioning a series of pigs like Denzel Washington does to the bank robbery suspects in Inside Man. Really get that visual bubbling away in your head. It’s a fun one.

Some people were with the hog on the ground, which looked to be covered with a wet towel. Others had put a leash around one of the hogs to keep it from running onto the interstate. Another hog looked seriously injured and couldn’t get up, she said, while a fourth had what she described as road rash.

From the back seat, her 2-year-old daughter, Bella, said: “Poor piggy, piggy crying.”

Well, dammit. Now I feel bad about typing HAM ON THE LAM so many times. Not bad enough that I didn’t just do it again in the last sentence, but still, pretty bad. In my defense, it is very fun to type.

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