TV

The Rundown: ‘Succession’ Is The ‘Mad Men’ Of 2019

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 — Everyone you know watches Succession, but only people you know watch Succession

Well, the second season of Succession is over. It was good. It was really very good. And, you might think, a big ratings smash for the post-Game of Thrones HBO, just based on all the tweets and articles about it. My God, the social media buzz and articles written about it. There were so many of each, many of them by me. I wrote somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 words about the show throughout the season and I’d bet that figure doesn’t even represent 0.1 percent of the total amount of Succession content posted online over the last few months. It was kind of crazy out there. People really like Succession.

Here’s the thing, though: Not all that many people like Succession! Or, at least, not as many people watch as you might think. The Nielsen ratings are an increasingly silly and outdated measure of who watches what when, but it’s all we’ve got, so let’s start there. This Sunday’s big finale pulled in about 1.1 million total viewers. While 1.1 million people is a lot to stuff into one physical location (like, say, a Burger King), it is also 150,000 fewer viewers than the Food Network had tuned in to Halloween Wars in the same time slot. It is about as many viewers as Investigation Discovery had for a show that night called American Monster. It is almost two million fewer viewers than TLC had for an 8 p.m. airing of 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, which is an objectively hilarious title for a show.

HBO would dispute some of these figures, which, fair. When you add in DVR and streaming — and I’m guessing Halloween Wars isn’t quite the same draw here — the estimates trend up a few million. But the general fact still stands: The hottest and buzziest show on television aired its huge season two finale on Sunday night, and the show even ended its previous episode with a cliffhanger than featured the phrase “blood sacrifice,” and there were dozens and dozens of articles leading up to it, and… more people tuned in live to watch a spooky cooking show on basic cable. It’s weird. I mean, it’s okay. People should watch what they want. I’m not here to shame anyone for watching professional and/or amateur chefs make pumpkin pie. But it’s weird. Especially when you compare the coverage of the shows. If you ever needed proof that you live in a bubble, hey, there you go.

None of this is exactly new. Shows like NCIS and Big Bang Theory have been lapping big fancy prestige shows in the ratings for over a decade. Netflix just released a list of its 10 most-watched shows of the year and, apparently, 45 million people watched The Umbrella Academy. (I watched The Umbrella Academy. It was… fine. It was fine.) There’s some degree of apples-to-oranges there just based on total subscribers, but still. I wouldn’t overthink it. You’ll pull all your hair out if you try to make sense of everything and then you’ll have a bright red bald head and hair all over the floor. Not a great solution.

I will say this, though: This season of Succession was almost definitely the most “everyone you know watches is, but only the people you know watch it” show we’ve seen in a long time. The last one I can think of that was close was Mad Men. Remember how wild people went about Mad Men? I used to joke that the show had one million viewers and all of them had WordPress accounts. That’s basically what Succession is. It’s the 2019 Mad Men. It’s a show about rich white people in the media business stabbing each other in the back and it’s watched almost entirely by people who work in media. I say this with love.

I say this with love, too: Picture Pete Campbell and Roman Roy sitting next to each other in first class for a cross country flight. Now picture the faces of everyone sitting around them around the midpoint of that flight. Mad Men and Succession are fun shows to think about.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Big week for lightning

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It was air conditioners for a while. Television show after television shows featured accidents involving air conditioners. The Good Place killed a character with a falling air conditioner, Russian Doll killed a character with a falling air conditioner, Fargo murdered someone with a falling air conditioner. Even when air conditioners were firmly secured, they were dangerous. A character on The Leftovers fell off a roof while trying to fix one and crushed the man he landed on. It was, shall we say, a trend.

It appears a new trend is developing. This week alone, two different shows featured main characters getting struck by lightning while holding garden tools. I’m going to give you the proof in a second, in case you think I’m making all of this up (why would I?), but first, a note: this proof will contain spoilers for both The Righteous Gemstones and Lodge 49. Scroll to the next item if that’s a problem.

First, Gemstones: As his brother-in-law and family confront him about missing money and threaten to whoop his ass, Baby Billy (Walton Goggins), a 70-year-old preacher who had a hit song titled “Misbehavin’” decades ago, wields a pitchfork in self-defense when suddenly…

HBO

So that’s one.

And here’s another: One day after that episode aired, during the second season finale of AMC’s Lodge 49 (a good show!), the main character, Dud, started digging a pool in an empty lot during a thunderstorm. I think you can see where this is going…

AMC

Blammo.

Look at that, two characters struck by lightning while holding garden tools and neither of them was from 9-1-1. I did not see that coming. Not even a little. Crazy week, ladies and gentlemen. Stay safe out there.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Yes, okay, that counts as a splurge, James Cameron

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Okay, what was your last big splurge? Did you get the chocolate cake for dessert after dinner even though you were way over your calorie count on My Fitness Pal? Did you book that vacation to Hawaii you’ve always dreamed of? Did you take a day just for you to get a massage and relax in the middle of the week?

Those all sound nice. But James Cameron built a submarine.

LAST BIG SPLURGE

“Building a sub.”

This is from the brief Q&A that accompanied his entry in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful People in Hollywood list and I love it so much. It’s so perfectly dismissive and so perfectly James Cameron. There’s no explanation, no funny little anecdote, no humility at all. James Cameron used his Titanic money to build a deep-sea submersible because James Cameron likes exploring the ocean. That’s what he’s about. That’s what he’s splurging on. His own personal submarine.

Enjoy that chocolate cake, though.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Something to think about

NBC

The universe, exactly the same in every way, all the birds and the trees and the mountains completely unchanged, all the people you know and the people you don’t know still doing the things you love and/or hate, with only one difference: Ted Danson’s name is now Dan Tedson.

Give this one 48 hours or so to marinate and get back to me.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Well, now you’ve done it, you’ve annoyed Hugh Grant

Heydey Films

Hugh Grant went to see Joker recently and he left the theater absolutely livid, or whatever reasonable facsimile of livid Hugh Grant gets. Can you picture Hugh Grant angry? I’ve been trying for a good 10 minutes over here and I’ve got nothing. The closest I’ve gotten so far is him doing the classic “Ah, well, you know, I suppose I am a bit bothered” Hugh Grant thing that comes across more charming than anything else. Try to picture Hugh Grant screaming and throwing a vase. You can’t do it. It’s impossible.

Anyway..:

Well, there you go, movie theaters. Now you went and did it. You’ve annoyed Hugh Grant. You’ve annoyed him so much that he sat around bickering with the theater about the problem for multiple tweets. He even named the specific theater and showtime.

Two things here: One, I kind of love that social media turns even our most handsome and charming specimens into hateful Yelp reviewers, just so far as it levels the playing field for the rest of us ogres; two, please do imagine being the social media manager for this theater.

FRIEND: How’s work been? You’re doing social media for that theater chain now, right?

YOU: Yeah. It’s been okay. Hugh Grant yelled at me this week.

FRIEND: Excuse me?!

And guess what: Hugh Grant isn’t the only popular actor who is livid about the theaters. Look how mad Ed Norton is!

If I had to say the single biggest contributor to people preferring to watch things on Netflix versus going to theaters, it’s that the theaters nickel and dime on bulbs. People have no idea how many theaters do this. A lot of filmmakers and cinematographers that I know that have really started to look into this say that more than 60 percent of American theaters are running their projector at almost half the luminosity that they’re required by contract to run it at. It’s the theater chains that are destroying the theatrical experience. Period, full-stop. No one else.

They are delivering crappy sound and a dim picture, and no one is calling them on it.

I hope they make a movie about two mismatched guys who are fed up with their poor theater experiences and decide to team-up to do something about it. Give Hugh Grant a gun. Take the whole system down, I say.

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.

Jim:

How come there haven’t been any good TV shows about heists? There might be some good foreign shows about heists, but the only ones I could find that were from America were both from the mid-2000’s: Heist with Dougray Scott and Thief with Andre Braugher. Both of these didn’t even last a full season. I’m thinking a 6-8 episode Netflix show which would be enough time to get the backstories of all of the heist crew and the details of the heist, but not too long where it drags in the middle. What do you think?

Jim, thank you, both for saying something out loud that I’ve been thinking for years and for giving me another excuse to pitch my idea for a project called Clone Heist

Mitch Casino has a problem. He has a job ready to go, a theft of priceless jewels that will remain vulnerable for one week only, but none of the members of his crew are available. One retired, two are in prison, two got married and are on their honeymoon in Paris. Mitch wants to do the job, badly, but he needs a new five-man crew, and there’s only one man on Earth he trusts to do this right: himself.

Enter Victor Oslo, a mad scientist Mitch encountered during a previous job. Victor offers Mitch a solution: cloning. He tells Mitch he can make five Mitch clones to assist in the heist, with two small catches:

  • He can only clone someone one time, which means that to get the other Mitches they’ll have to clone the clones
  • Each time he clones someone, the clone loses 10-15 percent of the original’s brainpower

Cut to: Madness. Mitch has to try to get all these progressively dumber Mitches in line in one week to pull off the heist on his timeline. The dumbest ones keep locking themselves out of the warehouse. It’s a whole thing. The show is basically Ocean’s 11 meets that Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity, except it stars, you guessed, Jason Statham.

Cut the check, Netflix.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Maui!

In a contest that pits avocado growers against an arduous verification process, a Kula family finally learned that they hold Guinness World Records’ heaviest avocado.

Oh hell yes, I love a good “look at the size of the freaking vegetable or piece of fruit” local news story. Tell me about this monstrous avocado. Did they make a huge bowl of guacamole out of it? I bet they did.

Mark, Juliane and Loihi Pokini received the Guinness certificate this week declaring their avocado the world’s heaviest — at 5.6 pounds (5 pounds, 9.6 ounces). They applied for the recognition in December.

“We were excited,” Juliane Pokini said Wednesday. “But at the same time, we were like, finally. It was such a long wait.”

That’s a big avocado! There are babies that don’t even weigh 5.6 pounds at birth. Think of all the guacamole you could make with it. I’m sorry to keep bringing up the guacamole of it all, but… that’s where this is headed, right? We’re going to make a huge vat of guacamole with an avocado the size of a regulation NFL football? I’m going to be pretty mad if there’s no guacamole at the end of this story. I mean, what else are you going to do with the thing? Knock out an intruder? And even then you can make guacamole with it while you wait for the cops to get there.

Mmm, evidence.

Most avocados don’t even come close to the ones found on Maui and Hawaii island — according to Guinness, the average avocado weighs about 6 ounces.

Yes, yes, I get it, it’s a huge avocado. We’ve covered this. Did they make a big vat of guacamole with it or not? Come on. Stop burying the lede. The people have a right to know. People like me. I have a right to know.

DID THEY MAKE GUACAMOLE WITH THE DEMON AVOCADO OR WHAT?

TELL ME.

I KNOW THEY DID.

DON’T LIE.

COME ON.

Juliane Pokini said their award-winning avocado wasn’t wasted.

“We cut it open and made a whole bunch of guacamole, sharing with family and friends,” she said. “It fed a lot of people. We even gave some away.”

I knew it.

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