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The Rundown: The Three-Part Case For Making A Little More Low-Stakes TV

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 – Please chill out

Television is pretty intense lately. There are dragons and demons and whodunnits and mysteries and so so so many tie-ins to existing intellectual property. Disney pretty much churns out a dozen Star Wars and Marvel things every couple months and makes things go boom in them a bunch. HBO is turning over its next couple of months of primo Sunday night airtime to The Last of Us, its new video game-inspired series starring Pedro Pascal in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s a lot. Everything is very big and stressful out there. This is, for the most part, okay, kind of. Big events are fine. Television and movies have always depicted extraordinary people and/or extraordinary circumstances. The tricky thing is when it’s, like, all there is. Which is something we are teetering toward a bit.

There are reasons for this, of course, some having to do with a massive wave of programming hitting us every day and some having to do with this just kind of being the way things are when big money gets involved. Again, it’s fine. Kind of.

It does tend to squeeze out lots of other programming, though. The quieter, slower, more thoughtful stuff, mostly, but also the chill little shows about, like, a cool dude named Phil who lives in Key West and has a dog and they go on little adventures. It’s weird that we have 50 streaming outlets and almost literally millions of hours of content at our disposal and it still feels like there’s no room for that. Before, it was a matter of limited resources. Now, it’s a matter of needing big loud crashboompows to cut through the noise. It’s a bummer either way. And it makes me miss shows like Lodge 49. That show was a hoot. I’m sad about it again.

And so, to help, I will now present the three-part case for bringing back some chill little shows.


It would! Just relaxing on your couch and watching some show about… let’s keep going with “a guy named Phil”… going on harmless little adventures in his town, with no zombies or apocalyptic wastelands or mythical beasts hellbent on destroying humanity. I could watch four of those in a row some Friday night. What’s Phil up to this week? Well, his tropical fish is missing and he has to find it. Knock on some doors, meet some kooky neighbors, maybe get in the wrong Uber and end up on the wrong side of town. There. That’s an episode. And it turns out the fish was in the tank all along, just hiding behind the little treasure chest. Classic Phil.


Things are stressful enough out there. All the technology we have created blasts information into our faces all day long in ways designed to make us angry at each other and/or ourselves. We just went through a pandemic. Every election results in otherwise sane(-ish) people sticking signs in their lawns and wearing buttons and hats and yelling at people in the supermarket. That’s too much. We need a break. A nice little show. Maybe Phil buys a go-kart in one episode and starts driving it around town instead of taking an Uber, especially after that mix-up the other week. Maybe he gets a little scooter with a sidecar that his dog rides in. Maybe he uses that to pick people up when he starts driving Uber himself. Oh, Phil, always running into characters. The point is that I can be flexible here. So can Phil.


Isn’t this the point? Isn’t this the whole reason to have all these options at our fingertips? To have a variety of choices? Yes, sure, dragon shows and shows where someone has a bomb in the future and people in the present have to figure it out with various puzzles and such, but also chill little shows about a guy named Phil going to the zoo for a week and maybe hitting it off with one of the trainers in the primate enclosure and a bunch of the monkeys getting a little jealous and doing pranks on him every time he tries to ask her out. That could be a show, too. There’s room for that. There should be, at least. Let guys like Phil thrive and flail a little. On television. With a dog. It could work.

ITEM NUMBER TWO – The thing about the Golden Globes


Award shows are silly. Mostly. That’s the main thing. The most attractive people in the world get together and put on outfits that cost as much as your car and then they all hand each other hunks of gold and talk about how important and challenging it is and then people at home watch it on television and develop opinions about everything. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s even weirder when the award shows are kind of stuffy and pretentious about it, like at the Oscars. Think about it for a while some day. Or don’t. I’ve been thinking about it enough for both of us, apparently.

Anyway, this brings us to the Golden Globes, which aired this week after a year in purgatory due to various revelations about corruption and the blindingly white make-up of its organization. That wasn’t ideal. I was still kind of glad to have them back, though, if only because the Globes are the award show — of the biggies, at least — that seems to accept how silly it all is. Everyone sits at tables together. The champagne flows. The jokes are looser. Jennifer Coolidge gives speeches. It looks like everyone is at least having a decent time. I appreciate that.

Like, look at Mike White accepting his award for The White Lotus.

What’s the point of even winning an award if you can’t get up on stage in a tuxedo after a half dozen glasses of Moët and call out all of your enemies by name? Good for him. We should all be so lucky.

Look at Quinta Brunson, too.

God, I feel this one. Imagine you spend your whole life in a writer’s room grinding away and trying to get your break and then you finally do and you start to get recognition for it and they call your name at an award show and you get up there to give your big speech and you’re getting really into it and you look up for a second and freaking Brad Pitt is like 15 feet away just looking at you. I genuinely do not know if my brain could process it all. I might just go blank and freeze right there on stage in front of God and Seth Rogen and everyone. It would be so embarrassing. One of you monsters would probably turn it into a meme. I would deserve it given… well, everything I‘ve written online ever.

Best case scenario is I end up like Henry Winkler.

What a sweet man. Awards shows are still silly. But stuff like this can make it almost worth it. Let’s do it again next year. On a probationary period. I reserve the right to revoke all of this at a moment’s notice and deny I said any of it.

ITEM NUMBER THREE – Good for Frankie Muniz

Well, guess what: Frankie Muniz is a NASCAR driver now. That’s a sentence I sure did not expect to be typing back in like 2002 when I was watching Malcolm in the Middle, in part because it’s a wild collection of words to put in that order and in part because I don’t think I could have even conceived of this thing I’m doing right now being a real job that pays money. A lot of us are in very different places than we expected to be 20 years ago. Like Frankie Muniz. And me. And Bryan Cranston, who was a sitcom dad on that show and went on to become television’s most famous meth chef. Life is a journey.

But again, Frankie Muniz. Race cars. That’s a thing now.

“It’s with the utmost excitement, optimism and gratitude that I’m joining Rette Jones Racing for the full ARCA Menards Series schedule this year,” he said in a statement. “Ever since childhood, it’s been my dream to pursue racing in NASCAR, and it was important for me to partner with a team that aligned with my long-term objectives and vision, while providing every opportunity imaginable to grow mentally and physically as a full-time race car driver.”

I think this is pretty cool. Lots of child stars have a rough go of it as adults. They keep chasing that level of fame or acceptance or attention through whatever outlet they can. Things don’t always turn out too great. I don’t even need to tick off the names right now. You’re doing it in your head. It’s not a short list. So, like… cool. I’m glad Frankie Muniz has his own thing now. I hope he races those cars really good. Mostly, I hope he’s happy and doing well, but I feel like this is a decent start.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR – Look at Rob Lowe’s hair


So there’s this commercial for the Atkins diet that’s been airing during random sporting events lately. In my area, at least. Maybe you haven’t seen it yet. As far as commercials go, it’s not much. It’s just noted celebrity and longtime Atkins aficionado Rob Lowe looking into the camera and telling the world how great the Atkins diet is. Which is… fine. It’s fine. I googled “rob lowe atkins commercial” to find it and could only find screenshots and weird videos I couldn’t embed but I also learned this: Rob Lowe has done a lot of ads for Atkins. I did not know that. Maybe you didn’t either. Now, we both do. The world is funny like that.

The main thing I took away from the whole thing is… I mean, look at Rob Lowe’s hair in that screenshot. Look how thick and spiky it is. Rob Lowe is 58 years old. His hair should not look like that. It’s upsetting. The closest I’ve come to a solution so far is that he is a genetic marvel or that the Atkins diet is really just terrific for your hair. I’ll need to do more research. We’ll come back to this. Maybe we won’t. Either way, until then, look at Rob Lowe’s hair.







ITEM NUMBER FIVE – I am going to devote my life to robbing this dog

This is the trailer for an upcoming docuseries about a dog named Gunther who is very rich. There are three things I need you to know about Gunther:

  • I did not know he existed until this week
  • I clicked on this trailer expecting to enjoy it based on my long history or enjoying dogs with exceptional skills or traits, like Air Bud and Dog With a Blog and pretty much every other television dog
  • I did not enjoy it

Look at this prick.

The dog’s lineage dates back decades to when Gunther III inherited a multimillion-dollar trust from late owner German countess Karlotta Liebenstein when she died in 1992. Since then, a group of handlers have helped maintain a jet-setting lifestyle for a succession of dogs. There are trips to the Milan and the Bahamas, where the latest Gunther recently dined out at restaurants every evening — his handlers like to make sure he’s well socialized.

A chef cooks his breakfast each morning made of the finest meat, fresh vegetables and rice. Sometimes he enjoys caviar, but there’s never any kibble in sight. He travels by private jet, works on obedience skills daily with his trainer and sleeps in a lavish round, red velvet bed overlooking the bay.

I hate it. I hate it so much. My new goal in life — my only goal, effective immediately — is to rob this dog. Millions of dollars of his stupid fortune. Full-on Ocean’s Eleven situation. You can help if you want. We can make a big fancy plan and follow through with it and maybe one of us can lower ourselves into a vault on some wires or do gymnastics through some lasers or maybe we can just whip a tennis ball really hard in the other direction and take all his stuff while he is chasing it. I’m open to suggestions. This dog has had it too good for too long. The important thing is that we take him down.

For the people.

But mostly for us.

But for the people, too.


If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at (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 Mikael:

The pure enjoyment you take celebrating fun stupidity in your twitter feed makes me happy; “Zoo”, fake names and/or ridiculous real names, the feud between The Rock and Vin Diesel, etc.

The only problem is that now I feel like we’re letting you down when something very much in your wheelhouse happens and we don’t see you reveling in it – like when that 82-year-old went on a burglary spree in NYC by pretending to live in upscale buildings and whenever he was close to getting caught would act all befuddled like he got his buildings mixed up and walk away. It didn’t make your list of top heists that year, nor did you mention it on twitter! We collectively failed to bring Brian a small amount of joy at that time.

And based on that, I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t forward this tweet by Jon Bershad glorying in the unadulterated stupidity of the title for this upcoming Gerard Butler movie.

You have curated your brand well

Okay, a few things. Three, probably.

THING NUMBER ONE: This is a very nice email. I did not post it only because it was a nice email, though. I’m not that starved for approval. Not quite, at least. But you are always welcome to send me nice emails. That is a standing offer from me to you. That I will accept your nice emails. You are very welcome.

THING NUMBER TWO: Regarding the thing about my very stupid brand. I made a decision a while ago that I was just not going to be angry on social media anymore. I found I just genuinely got nothing out of it. It didn’t make me feel better, it was a crappy rain cloud over everyone else, it was just bad vibes all around. I still get angry. I swear at my computer so much. If someone was bugging my apartment they would legitimately think I am unwell. But it’s been a lot better for me to just use Twitter to do stupid jokes about movie cliches and weird heists and that kind of stuff. I like it. And it’s made my experience with social media better, too. I was mostly offline with COVID a few days last week and every time I checked my mentions on Twitter it was just people sending me links to stupid news stories or ridiculous names people have or screenshots of characters telling each other they’re not so different. That was nice. This strategy might not work for everyone but it has worked for me and it has made what is almost objectively a terrible website kind of fun. This is, in a nutshell, what I am about.

THINK NUMBER THREE: I freaking cannot wait to see Plane this weekend. My colleague Mike Ryan saw it and loved it and said the kinds of things about it that make me want to buy tickets for back-to-back showings just in case I want to watch it twice. This is, in the same nutshell, also what I am about. It’s a snug fit inside that nutshell. Nice and cozy.


To Wisconsin!

An industrial fire at a central Wisconsin dairy plant caused “significant” damage after it sent butter spreading throughout the building and into a nearby canal on Monday.


Portage Fire Chief Troy Haase told local reporters that a layer of butter roughly 3 inches thick coated the steps to the building, slowing firefighters as they tried to enter the building. Butter coated the hose line, leaving crews unable to hold onto it any longer.





After several hours with multiple agencies responding, the fire was contained and put out before it could spread past the firewalls and throughout the building.

The Portage Hazmat Team was also called to the scene to contain the butter runoff into the storm sewers and into the Portage Canal. The crews placed boom and other absorbents to control the runoff, according to the fire department.




Butter could still be seen floating in the canal on Tuesday.