TV

The Rundown: Name A Better Show Than ‘What We Do In The Shadows’

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 — A near-perfect half-hour of television, every time

What We Do in the Shadows ended its third season this week. I won’t get too deep into the weeds with spoilers, especially not from the finale, at least not here in what amounts to a general interest round-up of a column. But I will gladly discuss it with you if you call me on the phone or accost me on the street this weekend. The whole season was just about perfect, again, for the third straight time. It’s all so fun and devoted to being just as silly as you could ever want, jokes for the sake of jokes, preposterous visual gags, all of it. We discussed it just the other week, but at one point a fitness-obsessed vampire was incapacitated with a hula hoop. It’s a good show.

In fact… yeah, screw it. Let’s do this. Try to name one show that’s better than What We Do in the Shadows right now. I’ve already made the case that it’s the funniest show on television, but let’s just go ahead and zoom out to television writ large. Succession? Great show. Love it dearly. Would very much like to see Matt Berry from Shadows pop up there and do… anything. And seeing Cousin Greg interact with a vampire would be a blast. But no. No, I’m sorry. I’ll give you “as good as,” like a tie, but I can’t give you “better.” Not today. Not after, out of nowhere, Matt Berry said this line of dialogue with his perfect voice.

FX

It’s such a treat, a full-on gift, to be watching a show hit on all cylinders like this. The premise alone is delightful, adapted from the movie of the same name: Four vampires live in present-day Staten Island and attempt to adapt to the modern world while filming a documentary about it. Kind of like if The Office was about undead horny mythical monsters who cussed a lot. None of this does any of it justice. Again, it’s all just so powerfully silly, the goofiest twists you’ve ever seen popping up out of nowhere for what seems like no reason at all. You’ve all seen at least the screencap of Matt Berry’s character, Laszlo, on the run as Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender, right? This one…

FX

But do you remember why he was on the run? Because that might be even funnier: He was fleeing a rival vampire — played by Mark Hamill! — because he had skipped out on a month’s rent for a beach house in San Diego. Like, think about that. Think about how that was the event that set the whole nutso chain of events in motion. Go ahead and watch all the serious dramas you want. Watch all the comedies with surprising amounts of heart. Do whatever you like with your time. But do not come in here and try to tell me they’re better than this show. We will get in a whole fight. Hula hoops might be involved.

And this is before the shoutlaugh-inducing twists the show dropped in the closing moments of the finale. I know I said I won’t spoil it. Not yet, at least. But two things happened that will turn the entire show on its head going into next season and I am so excited about both of them that I might start vibrating at a fast enough clip that I start humming.

Please watch it as soon as you can, if you haven’t. Talk to me about it on the sidewalk. Maybe not if I look busy. But even then, I mean, if you have a coffee and a donut to spare, I can always make time. Or just shout “UNITED DING-DONG, MORE LIKE” from across the street and let us both go the rest of our days with that little moment bouncing around our heads.

United Ding-dong. Just beautiful.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — What if I start going everywhere with a parasol?

HBO

There’s plenty to take away from the first installment of the Dune universe. (Duniverse.) (Sorryyyy.) There were the massive sandworms and the creepy grumblewhisper nuns and the Action Chalamet of it all. There was a rad warrior named Duncan Idaho who was played by Jason Momoa and fought with swords even though we were far enough into the future that it feels like he should have had lasers. At least one laser. But there was also this guy and his parasol.

You don’t see a lot of dudes with parasols these days. I’m not sure if you ever did. That’s kind of a shame. This guy looks like he loves it. It looks like it’s making him so happy, the parasol of it all. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week. Pretty much ever since I saw it in the movie. I might have paused it right smack in the middle to take this screenshot. It’s one advantage that streaming has over the theater experience. Most projectionists frown on people shouting “HEY GO BACK AND FREEZE IT ON THE PARASOL GUY” in the middle of the movie. It’s a shame, really.

All of it got me thinking, though… what if I started carrying a parasol? Like, what if that became my thing? Could I even pull it off? Do I have the right vibe for a parasol? I lean no, if only because I have a reputation for being a goof and people would think I was doing it as a bit. I suppose I could always try it out once and see what the reaction is and then play it off like it was a bit if people aren’t feeling it. That’s one option.

There’s also the complicating factor where I use a wheelchair. I probably couldn’t even hold it while I moved around, because I need to use my good hand for the joystick. Maybe I could attach it to the back and just drive around with the parasol over my head? But that kind of defeats the purpose of carrying a cool little parasol. I might as well just use a golf umbrella then. Really a lot of angles to look at here, with the whole parasol business.

I bet you thought I was kidding when I said I’ve been thinking about it all week. I would never lie to you.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Will Ferrell gets it

Paramount Pictures

There’s a new profile of Will Ferrell over at The Hollywood Reporter. You should read it. It’s good and informative and full of cool little tidbits about his career, like the thing where he thought he’d be finished after Elf. But you can read all about that in the profile. I want to talk about Will Ferrell talking about his approach to comedy.

I want to talk about this.

You won’t see him pursuing straight-up Oscar bait, or using his work to make pointed political statements, even if the winds of comedy have blown in that direction. And while he’s not going to throw shade on projects that set out to say something — “because those are great,” he says, “and more than needed” — he wants to laugh at unabashed silliness again, and he’s hopeful you do, too.

And this…

“There’s just so much going on in the world, and sometimes it’s nice to turn your brain off,” says Ferrell, who’s reminded of one of his heroes, Steve Martin, who has talked about comedy in the 1970s this way. “Coming out of the ’60s, which were so contentious, Steve was like, ‘Everyone’s doing message comedy, and I just want to walk out with an arrow shooting through my head,’ and that’s kind of how I feel  right now.”

… and this, too, where he discusses his split with his longtime production partner Adam McKay.

“Adam was like, ‘I want to do this, and this, and this’; he wanted growth and a sphere of influence, and I was just like, ‘I don’t know, that sounds like a lot that I have to keep track of,’ ” says Ferrell, discussing the breakup publicly for the first time. “To me, the potential of seeing a billboard, and being like: ‘Oh, we’re producing that?’ I don’t know. … At the end of the day, we just have different amounts of bandwidth.”

I dig this. I like that Will Ferrell just wants to make stuff that is cool and funny and silly. I like that he’s not out here trying to jam his square peg into a round hole. I like that he’s looking around at the rest of the scene and being like, “Hmm, actually I’d just like to make weirdo one-off beer commercials and do movies entirely in Spanish.” I like it for a lot of reasons, too, starting with the thing where I’m wired in a similar way, to skew goofy in the face of serious business, and moving on to the thing where there’s room for all kinds of stuff, from sharp-edged satire like Succession to nuts-walloping relentlessness of Jackass.

It’s good. Good for Will Ferrell. I hope he keeps making crazy stuff for decades, up to and including another Anchorman movie, maybe with Walton Goggins in it as another rival anchor. I would like that. A little treat for Brian.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Something to consider in all of this… Luzz Bightyear

So here’s what I’ve been able to figure out so far:

  • This is the trailer for an upgrade coming Pixar movie titled Lightyear
  • Lightyear is a kind of Toy Story prequel about a quote-unquote real astronaut named Buzz Lightyear who the toy in the later movie is based on
  • I think I love it

I think I love it for three main reasons, and yes, let’s go right back to the bullet points again for those:

  • We are far enough down the Existing Intellectual Property path at this point that we might need to start accepting it and just taking the best we can get, and “a prequel based on the fictional real person who inspired the fictional talking doll in a cartoon from 25 years ago” is nothing if it is not needlessly chaotic and weird, which I appreciate
  • I hope it inspires people to go ahead and get wild as hell with their own intellectual property instead of just rolling out, like, another version of the other thing but now everyone has smartphones or whatever
  • I might actually be willing to watch a feature-length movie where the people involved just try to explain the premise to the rest of us

I’m barely joking about this last thing. Look at the director trying to explain it.

“‘Set in the world of Toy Story’ is kind of weird. Another way to get at it, it’s a straightforward sci-fi action film about the Buzz Lightyear character,” MacLane, who co-directed Finding Dory and multiple Toy Story shorts for Pixar, tells EW over Zoom. “In the Toy Story universe, it would be like a movie that maybe Andy would have seen, that would have made him want a Buzz Lightyear figure.”

“The movie doesn’t end and then you see Andy eating popcorn,” the filmmaker clarifies. “This is its own thing… This is standalone. It’s the Buzz Lightyear movie. It’s that character but as the space ranger, not as the toy.”

And look at Chris Evans, who voices this real/fake historical version of Buzz, try to explain it in a tweet from last year when it was announced.

It’s incredible. I should note here that I’m not poking fun about all this. I kid because I respect the struggle. I tried to explain the concept of this movie to someone in person, out loud, after watching the trailer, and I pretty much sputtered out halfway through like a car running out of gas. Try it yourself. Don’t practice or rehearse. DO NOT CHEAT. Just call someone into the room or on the phone and try to explain what is happening in Lightyear. See how that goes.

We desperately need more films like this. I’m thriving on the awkwardness.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — I have terrific news about Harrison Ford’s missing credit card

lucasfilm

Terrific news, ladies and gentlemen: Harrison Ford’s credit card has been recovered. Maybe you didn’t even know it was missing. That would be fine considering it’s still unclear if Harrison Ford even knew it was missing. But I’m getting ahead of the story again.

We go to Sicily, where Harrison Ford has been filming the next installment in the Indiana Jones franchise. Harrison Ford drops his credit card. A German tourist picks it up…

The tourist found a credit card with Ford’s name emblazoned on it Thursday, and turned it in to the local police station in the beach town of Mondello. Officers tracked the actor down and returned the card, police said. It wasn’t clear if the actor was aware that the card had been missing.

Italian media published a photo of the smiling actor wearing a T-shirt and what appears to be bathing trunks, holding the card up for the camera alongside two officers and the local commander.

Okay, here’s what I need you to do. Close your eyes. Not now. After this paragraph. Clear out your brain as best you can. Take a broom to the scattered loose thoughts in there and brush them straight out your ear. And then get the best mental image you can conjure up of a German tourist in a Sicilian police station trying to explain — in German, to Italians — why he is handing them a credit card that belongs to the world-famous Hollywood icon Harrison Ford. Imagine being a fly on that wall, or maybe an Italian pickpocket just sitting there in handcuffs on a bench watching it all unfold. Really get the whole vibe of that scene, the multiple layers of confusion happening. Because I’ve been picturing it a lot and, buddy, it is a hoot.

It’s amazing I’ve gotten anything done this week between and the parasol thing.

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 Daniel:

When you recommend a show or write a review I almost always end up watching it. So I’m a bit perplexed why you have yet to write anything about Wu-Tang: An American Saga which I think is the best show on TV right now. One of the many reasons I think this show is so good is that you don’t even need to know anything about the Wu-Tang Clan to enjoy it. I barely knew anything about the group other than the songs and I now find myself completely engrossed in the story and the characters. A couple of episodes ago they did a remake of the final scene from John Woo’s The Killer with Raekwon and Ghostface in the starring roles. If that doesn’t convince you to write a review, nothing will.

They did what now?

Well, this certainly changes my plans for the weekend. I’ll be honest: I hadn’t started watching the show because I assumed it was just like a straightforward biography. But if… if we’re doing this… then…

Yes, I will watch this show. This was a good email. Please never hesitate to reach out if you see a show in which semi-fictional versions of famous rappers recreate violent scenes from John Woo movies. This goes for all of you.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Peoria!

Somebody who ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog has made off with an Elvis Presley bust from a Central Illinois saloon.

Back to the bullet points, for clarity:

  • ELVIS HEIST
  • I am so proud of whoever slipped the hound dog reference into the first sentence of this story
  • I am also livid that they didn’t go with “Suspicious Minds” instead

Moving on.

“To walk off with that took some guts,” said Jimmy Spears, the bar’s owner for 39 years. He said the heist can’t have taken much planning or work since he never bothered to bolt down something that he never thought anyone would want to steal.

Here’s the thing about the song “Suspicious Minds”: It is a perfect karaoke song. You don’t even need a good voice to sing it. You just have to do like a C/C+ Elvis impression and give it a little charisma. If you play your cards right, you can get the rest of the crowd to start singing the backing vocals, the various cascading ooooos and the “with Suspicious Minds” in the chorus that the choir ladies do. Listen to me on this. I have very few legitimately good ideas. This is one of them.

But we’re getting off track.

Spears said nobody has claimed responsibility or sent a ransom note. And he didn’t call the police because he didn’t want to bother officers who might have something better to do. Spears said his niece brought the bust about 15 years ago at a garage sale for $20.

Let me tell you one thing: Right now, I am on the side of Jimmy the Bar Owner. I want him to get his Elvis statue back. He seems like a good dude. But…

But if the thieves had sent a ransom note for a $20 Elvis bust…

I mean…

No jury would convict them. At least not one I’m on. That one gets filed under the writ of Boys Will Be Boys. Smash the gavel. Case closed.

But even though Spears isn’t “some big Elvis fan,” the bust has enough sentimental value that when its nose came off when a customer accidentally knocked it to the floor, he let a regular give Elvis a nose job with a little glue and paint.

Sorry, I have “Suspicious Minds” in my head now. None of the words in this paragraph even registered. Let me try to pull it together. Give me a second.

Now, Jimmy’s wants Elvis back badly enough to post this on the bar’s Facebook page:

“Elvis has left the building. 😞 Please bring him back whoever took him. No questions asked.”

WE CAN’T GO ON TOGETHER

WITH SUSPICIOUS MINDS

[points microphone towards disinterested crowd for the backup vocal part]

[gets no reaction]

Ahhhh, come on. I thought we had a thing going here.

Dammit.

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