TV

The Rundown: A TV Wasteland Is Coming, Prepare Your Rewatches Accordingly

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 — It’s about to get pretty ugly out there

Well, guess what: We’re almost out of shows. I did not expect to type that sentence at all when this year started. I expected to have the opposite problem, a waterfall of televised content tumbling down onto me in a neverending rush, battering me about the head and face as I gasped for air, or perhaps some other slightly less dramatic but still accurate analogy. I kind of can’t believe we’re here. But we are. It’s going to get weird.

We’ve seen it with movies already. This has been a summer without a box office, not because the movies aren’t finished, but because studios want to hold them until people can pack into the theaters to see them. It’s a little infuriating to know that the ninth Fast & Furious movie, with its magnet plane and possible jaunt to the cosmos, is done and sitting in a damn vault somewhere and I can’t have it until next year. I know it’s probably not in a vault. I know it’s just a file on a computer. But if I pretend it’s in a vault, I can pretend we’re going to steal it like they stole the vault at the end of Fast Five, complete with millions of dollars in property damage to downtown Rio de Janeiro. I need this. Do not take it from me.

Television has been scooting along in a more normal fashion, though, largely because things were filmed and banked and could be distributed through the normal channels to the content-starved homebound populace. That reservoir is quickly drying up. A look ahead at the coming premieres is… it’s kind of dicey. HBO has Lovecraft Country, Amazon has season two of The Boys, and Netflix claims to have a mountain of produced shows hidden away, which a) includes a new cartoon in which an animated Jake Johnson cusses at a youth basketball team, which has all of my support; and b) makes me picture a scenario where they’re the only outlet with new shows in a few months, and they start holding us hostage and extorting us to release them. Real supervillain stuff. Headquarters in a hollowed-out volcano and everything. Can’t rule it out.

The big takeaway here is that we’re all going to have to switch it up and start some rewatches if we want to stay sane. Or continue our rewatches. It’s not as easy as it sounds. There’s an art to a rewatch. Some shows work better with multiple viewings than others. There are some shows I loved very much that I never want to watch all the way through again. An example will help: The Americans is a near-perfect show. I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it and needs something to watch. I never want to watch it again, though. It was so stressful. I’m convinced it took six months off the end of my life. But it’s good. Same with a show like The Leftovers. God, did I love The Leftovers. But do I want to rewatch a show about mass sudden death and the ensuing, society-wide grieving process during a real-life pandemic? No. No, I do not.

So then, like, what? You can tell from the image at the top of this page that I’m going to mention Justified again. That’s a perfectly rewatchable show. It’s smart and funny and cool and doesn’t rely on twists that lose their punch a second time through. The Sopranos is always a good choice. So are hangout sitcoms like New Girl and Happy Endings. I started Watchmen again a few weeks ago, just flicking on an episode here and there, and that has proven to be both timely and a blast. Any show that lets Regina King do this is good for multiple viewings in my book.

HBO

You know what isn’t working so well for me right now, surprisingly? Parks and Recreation. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, one I’ve watched straight through a few times, one I used to leave on all day while I did other things, one that has occasionally soothed me to sleep. But something feels weird about it now. Maybe it’s the boundless optimism clanging against the present situation. Maybe it’s the sting of watching people get through difficult situations by being together in small enclosed rooms. I still haven’t put my finger on it, not exactly. It’s very strange and yet not even a top 100 strangest part of the year. I hate it.

This is what I mean, though. We’re all going to have to think through this rewatch situation more carefully than we expect. Some shows we think we’ll turn to are going to hit a little different right now. Some shows are just not meant to be watched a second time. It’s going to get really weird out there, really soon. I’ve been watching episodes of Columbo from before I was born, which, to be fair, is not a brand new development, but the pace has picked up significantly. There’s going to come a point before this is all over where this column contains an 800-word screed about the episode where Columbo solves a murder using his knowledge of women’s underpants. I was not ready to hear Peter Falk say the word “panties” even once, let alone many times. In my defense, there’s really no way to prepare for it.

See what I mean about things getting weird? We’re still months away from a vaccine. This is just the tip of the weirdness iceberg. The important thing to remember is that we’re all in this together. And that Regina King rules. Those two things, basically.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Cash those checks, people

There’s this great quote from Michael Caine. Way back in 1987, the veteran actor appeared in Jaws 4, a not very good movie that had no business at all having someone like Michael Caine in it. He was asked about all of this sometime later, as will happen when one conducts many interviews over the course of a long Hollywood career, and replied with this terrific collection of words: “Somebody said, ‘Have you ever seen Jaws 4?’ I said, ‘No. But I’ve seen the house it bought for my mum. It’s fantastic!’”

I bring this up because Quibi is still at it. The fledgling, bite-sized streaming service is still plugging away. There’s that trailer for a new show with Kevin Hart from a few weeks ago. There was a Fugitive show starring Kiefer Sutherland re-announced this week. There was an animated show starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds announced this week, too. This week. At the end of July. After about three weeks of progressively worse updates about the state of the company and its disturbing lack of a subscriber base. If Quibi is going to go down, it’s going to go down swinging. Or spending. Definitely spending.

Which brings me back to that Michael Caine quote. I am honestly so proud of the many celebrities who are cashing checks from Quibi this year. Especially the ones who are just signing up to work with the company now. Talk about a no-lose situation. If the show works, you get to be the hero who saved Quibi. If it doesn’t, no one remembers it 10 years from now except for you and maybe the contractor who built your new pool house. Probably not even the contractor. He’s just happy the check cleared, too. Even if Quibi never makes an impression on the entertainment industry, at least it stimulated the economy during a pandemic, I guess.

It’s kind of like… I’ll tell you what it’s kind of like. Before the internet made everything accessible the second it is created, celebrities used to pad their bank accounts by flying overseas to do commercials for foreign markets. Some of them, because cultural differences are never more pronounced than in frantic 30-second blasts of commercialism, would have seemed weird as hell to American audiences. But no one cared, because they never aired in America. It was just an easy check. That’s Quibi right now. No one is watching, but the money still spends. It’s got to be kind of liberating. Good for them.

Actually, now that I think about it, my feelings about these people padding their income on Quibi’s dime — the celebrities, yes, but also all the writers and crew members and craft service workers — can also be summed up with a Michael Caine quote. A nice little bookend. Take it away, Mike.

The man has a way with words.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — I do not see a situation where it ever comes up in this job, but let’s be clear anyway: Please do not spray me with tear gas

HBO

Everyone’s favorite number one boy, Succession’s Kendall Roy himself, actor Jeremy Strong, is about to appear in a movie called The Trial of the Chicago 7, directed by Aaron Sorkin, about the arrest and prosecution of a group of counterculture figures who protested the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. These are the facts, and the facts are important, because the facts provided context for this next blockquote, which is taken from Vanity Fair’s inside look at the film and is freaking astounding.

The most die-hard Method actor was Jeremy Strong, who once worked as Daniel Day-Lewis’s assistant and seems to have inherited his role model’s relish for total immersion. Filming the riot scenes on location in Grant Park, he insisted, before the cameras rolled, that a former Chicago cop playing one of the storm troopers hurl him to the ground before every take. “Jeremy begged me to spray him with real tear gas,” adds Sorkin. He declined.

A few things:

  • Please consider this your periodic reminder that actors are very strange people, not always in a bad way, but always in some way
  • This raises a number of questions, most importantly “Did Jeremy Strong poop in his own bed to prepare for the scene in Succession where Kendall pooped the bed?”
  • Imagine overhearing this conversation on set, as you, not as a jaded Hollywood lifer

Anyway, I repeat: Please do not spray me with tear gas, even if I ask you to.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Marthaaaaaaa

Noted lifestyle enthusiast Martha Stewart set portions of the internet ablaze this week by posting the above selfie on her Instagram page. The clamor is understandable. Martha Stewart is about to turn 79 years old. Most people that close to 80 have trouble taking selfies let alone looking glamorous in them and posting them on Instagram. Good for her. Good for Martha Stewart. It’s not what I want to talk about, though.

The selfie caused such a ruckus that CNN got Martha on the phone to talk about it. This was a good decision on their part. Because when you ask Martha Stewart things, you get answers like this.

“Well, I had just had a very dear friend over for lunch and then I took a long swim and I was getting out of the pool. I was trying to take pictures of my gardens out there. And then the camera automatically went to, you know, selfie mode. I don’t know why,” Stewart said in an interview Thursday. “And I looked at it and I looked so nice because of the sun streaming down. So I snapped the picture and I sent it to the internet.”

I love the phrasing of “I sent it to the internet,” like you would send a package to a friend. I’m going to start talking about my tweets like this. It won’t work nearly as well. Maybe I won’t do it. Either way, this is also not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about this.

She said she had no idea it would solicit so much reaction.

“No, I don’t post to cause a stir,” Stewart said. “I post to treat my audience.”

“I post to treat my audience.” What a legend. What an absolute maniac. I love her. I hope she lives forever and remains exactly the same. I hope she does so for a few reasons, but mostly that one, and definitely this next one. You see, comedian Chelsea Handler posted her own pool selfie as a tribute to Martha, and lots of people hopped in her replies to praise her for it. Martha hopped in, too. Not so much to praise her, though. To say this: “I’m so happy that you liked my post well enough to emulate it. I do think my pool is a little bit prettier than yours and that my facial expression is a little more relaxed.”

She went on to compliment Chelsea on other things, which is fine, but not the point. The point is that you should never cross Martha Stewart. This is how she responds to tributes, for the love of God. She will absolutely gut you like a fish if you look at her wrong. Metaphorically, for sure, and maybe literally, too.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — There is nothing less surprising than Tom Cruise making a movie in outer space

Getty Image

A few weeks ago, we learned that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk want to make a space movie. Not just a movie about space, mind you, or a movie set in space: a movie actually shot in space. This was quite possibly the least surprising news any of us will hear all year. Tom Cruise and Elon Musk are both very ambitious, very intense, kind of loopy dudes. The bigger surprise here is that they had not already shot a movie in outer space. That feels like some extremely 2015 news, when you think about it, which you really should.

And things with the space movie are continuing apace. A studio has been sucked into the project’s orbit. Everything is becoming more real by the day. Variety has a look at the nuts and bolts of the project and where it stands now. As you can probably imagine, there are a few logistical problems here.

The stakes are also high from a filmmaking standpoint. As one person familiar with the project put it, “you can’t be sure what you’re going to get up there, and you have one shot to do it.”

That’s a good point. You’re not going to be doing a bunch of re-shoots if you whiff on something. And you’re not going to get multiple takes of the trickier shots. And there’s also, well, this.

A major issue for any company considering the project is insuring Cruise and the filmmaking team, as no scripted production has ever conceived of shooting action sequences outside of Earth’s orbit. The movie is also said to not yet have a script.

I love that the last sentence is just tacked on there, in large part because it raises two very funny possibilities: One, that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk basically got a $200 million movie greenlit with nothing more than “but we shoot in space”; two, until the script is written, there remains a slim chance that the movie they shoot in space won’t even be about space. They could just shoot a regular-ass movie in space. God, that would be hilarious. Hundreds of millions of dollars and all the scientists in the world for a movie about, like, Tom Cruise as the principal of a troubled high school. Put a green screen on the space station and CGI-in the classroom around him. Sell it to Quibi for all I care. Let’s do it all, people.

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 Roger:

Can we talk for a minute about the Bachelor-themed Holey Moley episode? You think a show about people getting violently thrown into pools of water can’t get any better and then they go and put everyone in tuxedos and cocktail dresses. The one girl was wearing a dress so short they actually had to blur it out when she got wiped out by the windmill. That’s a real double whammy of embarrassment.

My friend, we can absolutely talk about the Bachelor-themed episode of Holey Moley. We should have talked about it two weeks ago when it aired. This is on me. I let us both down. I can and will do better.

That said, I think you hit the nail on the head here. Adding formalwear to what I have lovingly referred to as “a bozo circus of misadventure” was an all-time genius television programming decision. It was perfect. Just a perfect hour of nonsense summer television. About as perfect as Roger’s email, which came with the subject line “An excuse for you to post more Holey Moley GIFs.”

Roger, thank you. I will do just that.

ABC

BLAMMO

ABC

POW

ABC

THWACK.

Truly our nation’s finest television program.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Italy!

Police in Italy have intercepted a package containing hundreds of coffee beans that were hiding illegal drugs inside them.

This raises a number of questions. Like, for example, how? And why? Mostly those two. How and why? The why applies to a few things, including “why is that sentence structured in a way that makes it seems like the coffee beans did this of their own volition?” But let’s do the how first.

Around 500 beans had been cut open, stuffed with cocaine, and carefully taped closed again with dark brown tape.

Well, okay. That seems magnificently inefficient, but okay. I’m not a drug smuggler. I’ve never smuggled a single drug. Maybe I’m just some naive doofus. Maybe this is just how things work. Maybe these guys are criminal geniuses who have unlocked the secret to drug smuggling. Although… they did get caught. So maybe not.

Anyway. How did they get caught? How does one discover cocaine stuffed inside coffee beans?

Police said suspicions were initially raised when they saw the name “Santino D’Antonio” on the packets — a mafia boss in the American action film John Wick.

This, to be clear, is hilarious. These goofballs went to the extremes of meticulous planning, cutting open hundreds of individual coffee beans to stuff them with cocaine before taping them shut, only to get busted because they couldn’t stop themselves from getting cute on the packaging. This is one of the main reasons I am not a drug smuggler, for the record. I’d get on the burner phone and be like “Hello, this is… uh, this is… Picasso… Valentine and I th-…” and the agents on the wiretap would look each other in the eye, laugh, and say “We got him.”

So I get it, is my point.

Police intercepted the beans after they had been sent from Medellin in Colombia to Milan’s Malpensa airport.

The 2kg package contained 150g of cocaine powder.

Police also released a picture of the operation’s mastermind in the moments after the seizure.

Netflix

I’m sorry, but Sad Pablo Escobar Sitting On A Bench Swing On Narcos will never not be funny to me.

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