The Rundown: ‘Mr. And Mrs. Smith’ Is A Blast (And Would’ve Been With Any Title)

PRIME

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 – Good show

Most of the pushback I’ve heard about Amazon’s new Mr. And Mrs. Smith series has been related to the reboot/remake of it all. Which, yeah, I get. These things can be lazy sometimes and tiresome at others and sometimes a combination of both that just smells funky straight through. There’s a real fatigue there, with a steady stream of reimaginings and recasting that feels a little like the people in charge are just squeezing dry every piece of fruit they already have instead of going to the yard to pick some fresh stuff off the tree. Again, I get it. Believe me.

But maybe it will help to look at it this way…

Throw out the Brangelina of it all. Look at it fresh. Imagine all you knew about it was “Donald Glover and the creative team from Atlanta are working with Maya Erskine from PEN15 on a fun little series about two spies who had never met before getting paired up as a married couple and there are a ton of great guest stars and action and a travel budget that would make a real-life adventurer jealous.” You would watch that show, right? I definitely would. And I am. And it’s a blast so far.

I say “so far” here because I’m only halfway through. Amazon dumped the whole eight-episode season last week and I didn’t have to do the review and I enjoyed the first two so much that I decided to chill and savor it. I’m enjoying that, in part because there’s a “case of the week” aspect to it that makes each episode its own little story and in part because it’s nice to have little things to look forward to. Hey, speaking of the review I didn’t have to write, my colleague Kimberly Ricci handled it for us and she knocked this part out of the park.

Things go incredibly wrong in the business of death, and also, you have to consider this: how f*cked up are people who agree to do this for a living? Pretty screwed up, as it happens. In a departure from the film, Glover and Erskine’s “John” and “Jane” were hired before they knew that they would be paired with anyone, let alone “married.” They work that discomfort and the sense of discovery hard, in the most entertaining way. Glover is incredible as always, but Erskine steps up to take control of the screen, and boy, their onscreen relationship is as much of an occupational risk as their assignments themselves.

This is what I’m saying here. The show is so much its own thing, and such a different take on the premise, that I wonder if it’s actually being hurt by the title. Glover and Erskine come at it all from such a different angle, less focused on the glamour and “holy crap, look at these two almost unreasonably attractive people on the screen” part than they are about the real-life implications of two spies meeting and having what is basically their first actual date be a stakeout of an old lady. It’s kind of cool. I still wonder what the original version with Phoebe Waller-Bridge would’ve looked like, but hey. I’m fine just accepting the cool thing as is.

Glover actually discussed some of this in a sit-down with the Hollywood Reporter about it all when the season dropped.

“I don’t really do remakes,” he told his buddy, an exec at New Regency, which produced the 2005 original starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as married spies. Of course, he’d never actually seen the film, just the tabloid saga surrounding its stars, who’d later wed. In fact, Glover’s still convinced that was key to the project’s appeal. “When people are like, ‘I love this movie,’ I’m like, ‘What did you like?’ Not to say that the movie’s necessarily bad,” he says, “but I think it just had to do with the chemistry and what was happening between them.”

Yes, correct, accurate. Three notes in conclusion:

I think you will probably like this show if you give it an honest chance
Maya Erskine is so good in this show and I think we should all devote more of our time and resources to making her a huge star
If any of you spoil this for me I will let the air out of your car tires when you’re at dinner

Good show. More like this, please.

ITEM NUMBER TWO – Let Ryan Gosling hang out in the water tower

WB

Ryan Gosling got nominated for an Oscar for his role as Ken in Barbie (good), which means he’s now stuck doing hundreds of interviews about it (bad) (for Ryan) (probably), which means we get to read lots of things Ryan Gosling thinks and says out loud (good). He seems like a rascal. I love a rascal. He’s always being about 10-15 weirder and funnier in these things than he needs to be. I enjoy this both as a person who likes when people have a blast with otherwise tedious stuff and as someone who has to fill up a 3000-word column every Friday with fun stuff from the world of entertainment. Thank you, Ryan Gosling. I appreciate this. I would appreciate it a teeny bit more if you weren’t so handsome, but still. I appreciate it.

One of those interviews he did dropped earlier this week. It’s a big huge profile in Variety that touches on his early career and his big breaks and a whole lot of stuff related to playing Ken. It’s a good read. Go check it out. But I want to focus on this.

“When I was very little, there was a show called ‘Animaniacs,’” Gosling says of the zany, reality-bending ’90s cartoon. “And they lived at Warner Bros. in the water tower — that was like their clubhouse. I loved that show. And I think it planted some seed in my head. That’s what making movies was like: The lot was just your home, and you wander in and out of Western sets, and you can hang out in the water tower.”

Okay, I am serious about this. I promise I am serious. I think we should let Ryan Gosling hang out in the Warner Bros. water tower. It’s still there. Let Ryan Gosling hop in there. I bet he’d have fun. People would be on tours of the lot and he’d just be up there waving as their tram rolls by. (“Honey, look! It’s Ryan Gosling!”) That would be cool.

I suspect he doesn’t actually want to live in the water tower anymore, for any number of reasons (he’s a busy working actor, he’s raising a family with Eva Mendes, his mansion probably has a lot more square footage than a water tower, it doesn’t hold water anymore so he’d get really thirsty, I don’t think it has WiFi, climbing up and down that ladder every time you want a snack seems exhausting, it probably gets really hot in there in the summer, there’s no toilet or shower, it might tip over one day, and so on), but if he ever really asks, I think we should let him.

ITEM NUMBER THREE – Arnold Schwarzenegger bullied Jake from State Farm into getting ripped

Look. You read the heading up there. I don’t know if the words in it really sunk in, though. Read it again: “Arnold Schwarzenegger bullied Jake from State Farm into getting ripped.” That’s true. That’s a real thing that happened. They made a Super Bowl commercial together and Arnold Schwarzenegger — The Terminator and the former Governor of California — kind of yelled at Jake from State Farm to get in shape. He told everyone about it. Here, look.

“Well, we worked out together. I had to get him in shape for this because when I heard that he has 10% body fat, that was unacceptable,” Schwarzenegger tells PEOPLE of spending time with Miles. “So I said to him, I said, ‘By the time we do the commercial, you have to have 8% body fat.’ And so he really whipped himself in great shape and he was a lot of fun to work with. He’s a really funny guy and he’s of course a great actor. So it was fun.”

Okay, here’s the fun part. I know they probably worked out at Arnold’s private gym or whatever but forget that part for now. Picture you’re at like a Planet Fitness a few weeks back, before this commercial was announced. You’re on the recumbent bike pedaling away, maybe ripping through an episode or two of Slow Horses on the cell phone you have balanced precariously in front of you. And you look up for a second over by the weight machines and… hold on. Wait. Is that… is that Arnold Schwarzenegger showing… Jake from State Farm the correct form for a lat pulldown? Are… are they friends? Do they hang out? Does Arnold just train commercial spokespeople now? What exercises is he giving Flo?

You would never shut up about it. It would just live in your head forever. Kind of like how this quote Arnold gave Variety in another interview promoting the commercial lives in my head forever now.

Schwarzenegger plans to have some friends over to watch the Big Game: “I’ll throw some steaks on and have some good pizza and watch for my commercial.”

How does he like his pizza? “With everything on it,” Schwarzenegger said. “Totally load it up with every vegetable and every meat and every kind of junk you can find on the kitchen floor.”

Please read this in his voice. Thank you.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR – Here are some things I will watch

What we have here is the first trailer for the upcoming Roku original film First Time Female Director. It stars Chelsea Peretti, who also wrote and directed it. Here’s the official description:

Aspiring writer Sam (Chelsea Peretti) is thrust into the role of director when the Regis Theatre’s director is fired. Hand-picked by the theatre’s artistic director, Sheldon (Andy Richter), Sam is asked to direct the Regis’ upcoming Southern-inspired play, ‘Rain’s Comin’ In.’ Sam dives into the opportunity, and hilarity ensues as she struggles to wrangle the eclectic cast—including classic theater kid Rudy (Benito Skinner); over-trained amateur Clara (Kate Berlant); vain, tech-addict Davina (Meg Stalter); theater vet Marjory (Megan Mullally); acting savant Simon (Jak Knight); and Corden (Blake Anderson), whose minor acting credits give him high status in the company. Barely making it through each rehearsal, Sam vents to her eccentric therapist, Meg (Amy Poehler) and even turns to the Regis’ arrogant-but-dorky usher, Robbie (Max Greenfield), for drunken comfort. As Sam struggles to understand why she can’t seem to nail her production, she tries different tactics to make her play a success. Will she finally hit it big? Or will being a first-time female director lead her to try a totally different career?

The facts here are not in dispute:

Chelsea Peretti rules and has ruled dating back to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and even before
This cast is freaking incredible
I am going to watch this movie

Moving on…

What we have here is the first trailer for Secrets of the Octopus, the latest entry in the Secrets Of… franchise that National Geographic does with James Cameron. Here is the relevant chunk of the press release:

Octopuses are like aliens on Earth: three hearts, blue blood, and the ability to squeeze through a space the size of their eyeball. But there is so much more to these weird and wonderful animals. Highly intelligent, octopuses can use tools, transform their bodies to mimic other animals and even communicate with different species, including us. The secrets of the octopus are more extraordinary than ever imagined.

“It’s been an incredible journey learning about these mysterious creatures and their interconnected lives. I can’t imagine audiences won’t be as blown away with the secret lives of octopuses as I was working on this series,” said PAUL RUDD. “If you’re going to dive deep into natural history, you have to do it with National Geographic. I’m thrilled to be working with James Cameron and the Nat Geo team to deepen our connection with the ocean and all of its creatures and curiosities.”

The facts here are not in dispute either:

Paul Rudd rules and has ruled dating back to Wet Hot American Summer and even before
Paul Rudd seems really freaking jazzed about narrating this octopus documentary
I am going to watch this, too

Very exciting stuff here.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE – Guys… does Stephen A. Smith think the rat from Ratatouille is named “Ratatouille”?

Background first, quickly, only because I have important things to say here. Stephen A. Smith has a podcast now. It’s on video. Sometimes he takes questions from fans and then gives the answer the Full Stephen A. Smith, where he’s unwaveringly confident about things he may or may or not know anything about, which is really just very fun when the questions he’s answering are extremely silly. That happened this week when someone wrote in to ask who would win in a fight between the cartoon mouse from Stuart Little and the cartoon rat from Ratatouille, who we have now somehow mentioned in two consecutive editions of this column.

But anyway. Here’s a loose transcription of his answer.

“That’s an easy one. It’s Ratatouille. You see, Stuart Little, he lived in the confines of a nice habitat. Posh, affluent lifestyle. Comfort, meals, never had to worry about some cheese, never had to worry about any of that stuff. He was fine. Ratatouille, now he had it rought. He’s a rough rider. Scratch and claw! He don’t have no time to be messing around. Ratatouille is like one of those rats in the NY subways, that’s what that is. That’s Ratatouille. The kind of that cats run from, that the only thing that can get him to move is the train! Stuart Little isn’t even in Ratatouille’s class. Ratatouille all day every day.”

I can’t decide which aspect of this is funnier to me: the thing where Stephen A. Smith thinks the rat from the 2007 Pixar classic Ratatouille — whose name is Remy, for the record — is actually named “Ratatouille” or the way Stephen A. Smith thinks the word “ratatouille” is pronounced.

Oh.

Oh, did you not click play on that video before you started reading this?

Oh, please do that now.

Please listen to how Stephen A. Smith pronounces ratatouille.

I promise you that you do not see this coming.

I am not exaggerating even a little when I tell you that it will change your entire life.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me 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 Rob:

Here’s something I’ve always wanted to know… how do you tv critics and reapers watch tv? I assume advance screeners are involved, but what about the rest of the time? Are you a cord cutter? A standard cable channel surfer? Do you even want to watch tv when you’re off the clock or does it being your job kind of ruin it for you?

Hmm. I can’t speak for everyone here because I’m just me and also I have never done anything efficiently in my life. Case in point: I have access to a lot of screeners, but I also pay for most of the streamers (easier to watch on multiple devices, better for making screencaps, only way to get caught up on stuff I missed earlier), and I also pay for cable, mostly for live regional sports (go Sixers, go Phillies, etc.). It’s madness. I know some of the big players in sports broadcasting are coming together to try to get a live sports bundle going, which is nice, but even then I don’t see myself cutting the cord until two things happen:

Regional providers get lumped into a streaming service to allow me to watch every Sixers and Phillies game in a reliable way
Streaming figures out a way to recreate the kind of passive viewing thing where it’s a boring Saturday afternoon and you’re like “oh snap the last 40 minutes of The Bourne Supremacy are on TBS, guess I better settle in”

These are my demands.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Alabama!

The owner of an Alabama radio station is stunned, and out a lot of money, after thieves made off with his 200-foot radio tower.

Excuse me.

Brett Elmore, owner of WJLX in Jasper, then received an unexpected, and baffling, call.

“He said, ‘Brett, we’re down here and the tower’s gone.’’

“I said, ‘The tower’s gone?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, the tower’s gone.”

Okay, yes, confirmed. This call would indeed be unexpected and baffling. I mean, this time. If he rebuilds the tower and someone steals it again, then maybe not. Then it would be old hat. In fact, I bet this burned itself into his brain so vividly that he kind of expects to hear a tower was stolen every time he answers his phone. Or any time anyone else was on the phone.

“Hey, man. Sorry I missed your call. Was on the other line.”

“Did someone steal your radio tower?”

“Uh, no?”

“Oh, okay. Anyway…”

But this time, yes. The story checks out.

The small transmitter building had also been vandalized. At Elmore’s direction, the landscaper looked inside and described what he saw – a wooden table, a metal chair, and a box fan.

“And then I knew. I said, ‘Something bad, bad has happened,’’ Elmore said. “The transmitter was gone.”

I mean, I think “the 200-foot tower going missing suddenly” might have gotten me there, but everyone has different standards for what they consider bad, I guess.

“It’s one thing to break into the building and steal the transmitter,’’ he said. “But it’s another thing to steal a 200-foot tower.”

Okay, maybe we are on the same page after all.

Elmore called his engineers and the Alabama Broadcasters Association and then went to the Jasper Police Department to file the theft report.

“They said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’’’ Elmore said.

LOTS OF WEIRD AND UNEXPECTED PHONE CALLS WHEN A 200-FOOT RADIO TOWER VANISHES

Elmore said the thieves likely got some copper from the transmitter, but he assumes the tower will just be sold for scrap.

He can only guess how the tower was dismantled.

I know I joked about it earlier but I think, if I were this guy, this would haunt me for the rest of my days. Like, I would jolt awake up in an icy sweat just shouting “WHAT DID THEY DO WITH THE TOWER???” five or six times a year for the rest of my life.

I might do it anyway, actually.

 


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