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 – We must protect her
Things are not going too great for anyone on Succession right now, as we zoom toward the conclusion of the series. Kendall Roy is manic and spiraling and stretching numbers out so thin you can see through them. Roman is kind of just firing people a lot. Shiv is crying alone in an office and holding a lot of alcoholic drinks for a person who, last time we checked, is zeroing in on her third trimester of pregnancy. And mostly, if I’m being real about it all, it’s fine. None of these dopes are super sympathetic. They’re all billionaire nepo babies who are high-ranking figures of an evil business conglomerate that stands for pretty much everything I stand against. The fact that I feel any sympathy for them at all is basically Stockholm Syndrome setting in after three-plus seasons. Even my beloved Karl is a black-hearted corporate snake, deep-down. The season finale could be every character on this show getting rounded up and herded onto a chunk of ice and shoved out to sea and it would be fine. It really would.
Actually, wait. No. There is one character we need to save from this frigid death at sea: Jess Jordan, Kendall’s poor assistant, who pops up every now and then looking almost exactly as exhausted as any human would look after another day serving at the whims of the world’s wealthiest sad little boy. Here she is on a tarmac looking more relatable than anyone on this show has ever looked.
Here she, in heels and business attire, tending to a rabbit, which is almost definitely not something she expected to be doing when she landed a job working closely with the top-level executives at one of the largest corporations in the world.
Here she is playing messenger between family members who are so broken and bitter that they can only communicate through a flustered and overworked person on the company payroll, one who probably has a degree in business and thought this would be a good learning experience and is now stuck playing babysitter to spoiled failsons.
Here she is looking at a literal Trojan Horse that showed up in an elevator and asking if they should pop it open, which is somehow both a normal thing that happened on this show and a blast to picture her explaining to some old college friends over drinks one night.
Look at her face in all of these. Look at her face every time she’s on screen. It’s become maybe my favorite part of the whole show. She’s almost definitely my favorite character, or at least the one I root for most, especially now that my sweet boy Cousin Greg is turning into a goon. I want to get her out of this snake pit. I do not care what happens to anyone else on this show. But I need Jess Jordan to be okay. It is my one request in all of this.
Hmm. That’s not true. I have two requests, although this second one is kind of tied into the first one. I am sure Jess Jordan has signed many ironclad confidentiality forms and NDAs written by many high-priced lawyers who are somehow less sympathetic as humans than the other monsters who litter this fantastic little show, but I want her to write a tell-all. Just spill all the dirt on the Roy family in book form and promote it on primetime in an interview with Oprah. Full national scandal about it. Millions flooding into her bank account as the family battles a devastating and deserved public relations catastrophe. I would like that.
Do take a second to think about this, though, for real. Think of all the things we’ve seen these people do and all the rooms these things have happened in where Jess Jordan was just standing silent in the background. Jess Jordan has seen things. Jess Jordan knows things. It would be fine with me if the entire series finale is a six-month flash-forward that just follows Jess Jordan prepping for that hypothetical Oprah interview and ignoring panicked phone calls from Kendall. I would enjoy that a lot. I think Jess Jordan would, too. This is the face of a woman who has some things to get off of her chest.
LET JESS JORDAN THRIVE
MAKE THE LAST SHOT OF THE ENTIRE SERIES HER RIDING OFF INTO THE SUNSET IN A SPEEDBOAT
DO THE OPRAH INTERVIEW
ITEM NUMBER TWO – If we are gonna do this again, I mean…
Welllllllll there’s another writers’ strike happening in Hollywood. There are lots of issues at play this time around, some of them having to do with a zillion shows running on a zillion streaming services in ways that no one really foresaw — or could have — the last time a contract was hammered out and some of them having to do with the potential of AI-generated scripts and some of them having to do with… other stuff. It’s a lot. I recommend you go read about it a little this weekend, preferably not from a guy who is planning to end his 3000-word Friday column with some jokes about Fruit Roll-ups. Yes, that is coming. Yes, I feel okay about it.
The last time we did all of this was back in 2007 and things got… weird. Then, like today, the first productions affected were the late-night shows that churn out new episodes every day. Unlike today, however, Conan was on television back then. Which was good. Because Conan is the kind of guy who can turn “a man spinning his wedding ring on his desk” into compelling television. That’s the video of it up there. Watch it now and remember what a freaking natural that dude is.
Conan went back to his show in large part because he’s a performer and the boss and he wanted to save as many of the other staffers on the show from losing their primary source of income (camera operators, sound guys, etc.), but he also made sure to stake his claim as one of television’s all-time good dudes. From a report in Deadline way back when.
I just learned that Conan O’Brien has made arrangements to pay his staff who will be laid off by NBC as of Friday. About 80 production people — like talent bookers, producers, production assistants — will be taken care of by the Late Night host who is supposed to move to The Tonight Show in 2009. Sources tell me this is on a week-to-week basis for the moment until or if Conan, who’s a WGA member and got his start as a comedy writer, goes back to work. Obviously, NBC is dying for him to return to the air because its late night ratings for the repeats have tanked. None of the late night shows have been in production during the entire November sweeps and the networks have to give sponsors free spots or “give backs” at a cost of millions.
Sooooooo… a couple things here. The first is, wow, what an absolute time capsule that paragraph is. It’s from back when Deadline — now a major industry publication — was mostly just one lady typing into a box. And it mentions Conan taking over The Tonight Show in 2009, which, uh, yeah. I actually winced a little when I read that again. We were all so young and naive back then. Conan, too. But the main takeaway here, I think, is that Conan was really just one of one as a host and dude, especially when he was at his peak. Like he was when he was spinning that ring. And like he was… here.
everyone talking about Conan spinning his ring, no one talking about how during the last strike he started playing with the camera switcher because he had nothing else to do pic.twitter.com/cc85PLDstA
— Rachel Paige (@rachmeetsworld) May 2, 2023
I don’t know if any of our current late-night hosts have this level of chaotic energy, the kind to not just think of this stuff but actually follow through and do it on television. I guess we’ll find out. Things are going to get pretty weird, and it’s going to start happening pretty soon.
ITEM NUMBER THREE – Legitimately one of the best shows on television
They rigged Kenny’s chair so Shaq and Ernie could win the big board race
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) May 2, 2023
The basketball playoffs are happening and my beloved Philadelphia 76ers are still alive and that means I am watching a lot of TNT at night right now. And that means I am watching a lot of the NBA on TNT guys being goofballs. And that’s always a lot of fun. This clip is exactly what the description in the tweet says it is and I must insist you stop and watch it now whether you have seen it or not. The greatest comedic minds in America could not come up with something that makes me laugh harder than this. As hard? Maybe. But not harder.
They’ve been doing it for so long that I worry we take it for granted sometimes. Please do not do this. Cherish it. Take a spin online and watch some of the highlights they’ve produced over the years. Charles Barkley running his mouth, Shaq being Shaq, Kenny Smith egging them both on, Ernie holding it all together by his fingernails. Just a perfect piece of television.
Our sports guys — hi Bill and Robby! — put together a top ten list of the crew’s best moments, which you should definitely spin through. And they also included this helpful summation of why it’s all so great.
It has become the studio show all others try to emulate, but the magic of Inside is there’s not really a formula to follow. The combination of insight and fun is difficult to replicate, as is the freedom they’re given to go long with a conversation or just get really weird compared to other networks. It’s so natural compared to other shows that are clearly trying to hit their beats, and their comfort with each other is never more apparent than when they go off the rails and start making jokes, typically at each other’s expense.
This is correct. And it gives me another excuse to post the video where Shaq implies California might be further away from their Atlanta studio than the moon. I must insist you watch this one again, too.
I honestly do not think I have looked up into the sky at the moon a single time since watching this clip without stopping and thinking “I can see the moon… I can’t see California.” I will probably think that every time I look at the moon for the rest of my life. I want Shaq to start a podcast where he interviews scientists three at a time to tell them other theories he has. I am not joking about any of this.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR – Aubrey Plaza had a good time at the Met Gala
The Met Gala happened this week. It’s a big deal for fashion types and celebrities, many of whom get dressed up in fancy outfits that cost more than your car. Here ends my analysis of the Met Gala, in large part because I am typing this while wearing pajama pants at 4pm on a weekday and I do not see how anyone could be less qualified to discuss high fashion.
Two important things did happen at this event, though, at least as far as I was concerned:
- Jared Leto came dressed as a cat
- Aubrey Plaza appeared to have a blast
The first thing is true and you can go look it up or click here to see… whatever he was doing. The second thing is more fun, though. Look at her in that picture up there. Look at her hamming it up in this one down here.
This is exactly the right attitude to bring to an event like this. She’s basically cosplaying as her Janet Snakehole alter-ego from Parks and Recreation, but in real life, at one of the most self-important events on the celebrity calendar. Just being a huge goof, not taking any of it seriously, which probably annoyed the people who take it too seriously, which is great. Good for Aubrey Plaza, man. She’s a demonic little chaos agent and she terrifies me deeply and I am so happy someone invited her to the fancy party.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE – The hottest trend in television is scheduling time to cry
This week on Succession, after a meeting, Shiv Roy, played by Sarah Snook, snuck off into an empty room and sat down at the table and started crying. Moments later, two other people opened the door and walked in, thinking it was unoccupied. They saw her sitting there with tears running down her face and asked what was wrong, and she replied by saying this.
And I saw this happen and had two thoughts, pretty much immediately. The first was that, man, that seems really sad, the idea of being so busy and fried that you schedule time to grieve and unwind alone in a room while you’re at work. The second thing was that this seemed really familiar.
But the episode was still moving and I knew I had to write about it so I pressed on and filed that second thing away. For a few hours. And I forgot about it. But then, later that night, pretty much out of nowhere, the reason why it seemed so familiar came screaming into my brain like a hawk dive-bombing at some doomed rodent…
This exact thing had just happened a few weeks ago on Ted Lasso. On that show, it was Keeley who was scheduling time to cry at work, also because she was too busy to do it any other time. I have made screencaps of this, too.
This is really funny. Succession, the razor-sharp media/politics satire that can teeter into being mean in a delicious way, did the same bit as Ted Lasso, the sweet soccer show about nice people just trying to make things work. You could not find two much more different shows, at least in terms of style and tone, and yet they both landed on the same idea in the same year. It probably says a lot about the state of the world in 2023 that multiple shows are doing “scheduling time to cry at work” bits for their main female characters. It’s also probably best if we don’t stop and think about it too much, at least not on a Friday. So… let’s move on!
My favorite thing about this is the mental image I have right now of the first episode of Ted Lasso dropping this season and someone running into the Succession writers’ room like, “Guys, you know that scene we just shot the other day? The one where Shiv schedules time to cry at work? Well, look at this…” and then showed them Keeley doing it and everyone groaning and swearing and trying to figure out if they could leave it in.
I like to think there was at least one guy in there like “eh, it’ll be fine, the shows are so different I doubt anyone is a fan of both and will pick it up…”
JOKE’S ON YOU, BUDDY.
I SPOTTED IT.
MAYBE GO CRY IN AN OFFICE ABOUT IT.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at email@example.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.
Brian, quick thing.
I think I discovered a hack for great fake names: pretty much any make and model of car or truck.
Some of these work better than others. Geo Storm sounds like he would be a second baseman for the Seattle Mariners in 1994. Cadillac Seville absolutely has a toothpick in his mouth at all times, even in the shower. Pontiac Sunfire played an acoustic set on a side stage at Coachella that a bunch of very stoned people enjoyed very much.
Detective Dodge Caravan smelled the smoke and growled at the hippies.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
At least two American couples have been caught by Israeli customs for attempting to smuggle a total of more than 650 pounds (295 kilograms) of Fruit Roll-Ups into Israel, as the country experiences a dire shortage of the snack due to a TikTok craze.
Read this sentence through a few times. Read it out loud. Read it to a stranger this weekend in your favorite coffee shop or lunch spot. It’s just a lovely little treat for the eyes and ears.
Why did he fill two checked bags with Fruit Roll-Ups? “It has something to do with ice cream,” the man’s voice says.
The man was almost certainly referring to a viral TikTok trend, ongoing since at least March, in which users of the video social network wrap the sweet, sticky roll-up around a small scoop of ice cream, which then freezes over and becomes hard and crunchy.
I like to picture some tough-as-nails 70-year-old Israeli man working at the security desk and having all of this explained to him as he sits there cracking his knuckles and grumbling about kids these days and what it was like when he grew up. Just surrounded by Fruit Roll-Ups and people trying to justify themselves by showing him videos on TikTok.
I love this man very much.
Around the country, supermarkets, convenience stores and online retailers have reportedly sold out of Fruit Roll-Ups, driving up the cost of the snack. According to Israeli press reports, enterprising merchants are selling individually wrapped Fruit Roll-Ups for prices exceeding $5 or $6 each. By comparison, a box of 10 Fruit Roll-Ups in the United States typically costs less than $3.
FIRST PRISONER: What are you in here for?
SECOND PRISONER: Firebombed a rival’s restaurant for encroaching on my turf. You?
FIRST PRISONER: Choked out my daughter’s dipshit boyfriend for putting his hands on her.
SECOND PRISONER: Good for you, buddy.
FIRST PRISONER: Hey, pal. You over there. What did you do to get in here?
THIRD PRISONER: [sitting in a dark corner, puffing a cigarette, clouded in tobacco smoke and mystery like Keyser Soze] Roll-ups.
SECOND PRISONER: What, like a gang thing? Like you rolled up on some guys who crossed you and bashed their heads in?
THIRD PRISONER: [flicks cigarette on ground, stomps it out] No. Fruit.