I know it's been mentioned a thousand times, but I'd be failing in my duties as a recapper if I didn't note that Paul Rudd has obviously made a deal with the devil. Or scientists. Maybe a vitamin company. He is 44 years old, but he is not 44 years old. Why has his face stayed the same for 20 years? I'm not superficially interested; I'm curious on a molecular level. I'm staring at this and it's destroying everything I thought I knew about life, mortality, and acceptance. (This is a topic of special significance to any of us old enough to recognize the revival of Bill Brasky from the late-’90s SNL catalogue. Paul Rudd has beat us all.)
Rudd hosted Saturday Night Live with musical guests One Direction this week, and even with special cameos from some of his Anchorman 2 costars (along with SNL alumni Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen), it didn't quite one-up the show's delightfully weird previous episode, hosted by Josh Hutcherson. Whaaaat? I know! It's not that Rudd wasn't a great host or that there weren't several funny sketches — Dan Charles the One Direction super-fan, a divorcing couple who caught the Fleetwood Mac dance bug, and a woman haunted by memories of past boyfriends were among my favorites — but the relative quiet surrounding Hutcherson and Haim created a lot of room for new, oddball material and characters that I found myself missing this week when Dooneese and Ron Burgundy crashed the party.
And, finally, we have the logical conclusion of the sprawling, reality-bending press tour in the lead-up to Anchorman 2: an entire local North Dakota newscast co-anchored by Ron Burgundy. Here's the whole thing, in all its delightful Black Friday–shoplifter-apprehended, excited-about-the-Santa-parade-through-Mandan, Bismarck-man-wins-no-shaving-bet glory. You will want to savor every precious minute, even if it's ultimately the world's greatest movie trailer. Sometimes it's fun to let yourself be used.
A regional inevitability in Los Angeles is finding yourself at The Grove. Maybe you need something that is only available at one of The Grove's many shops, or you're starving and brain-blocked and are enticed by the options of the farmers market, or your friend bullies you into it. You can try to avoid it, but like death, it will come for you and trap you in its maze of parking structures and glass elevators. The Grove is an outdoor mall, but it's a very strange outdoor mall: There is a trolley ("built on an historic undercarriage from a 1950s Boston street car"), a fountain that spurts in time to Lionel Richie or Harry Connick Jr. tracks, and seasonal snow. It's insanely clean for being constantly packed with people, and though the (early-aughts Art Deco–style) buildings and enormous Christmas tree are real in that they aren't Tupac holograms, there's something unsettlingly fake about the place. It's a shopping theme park, but unlike Stew Leonard's, for instance, it insists on being perceived as classy. If you're feeling cynical, you might think that its class is sort of like Ron Burgundy's, hopelessly unaware of its position on the classy ladder. In that way, The Grove's Barnes & Noble is the perfect place for Anchorman’s Burgundy to sign copies of his autobiography, Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings.
The Grove's bookseller actually has hosted a pretty formidable list of guests this month, including Mike Tyson, Demi Lovato, and Vince Gilligan (with Bryan Cranston, Dean Norris, and Bob Odenkirk), with Stevie Nicks scheduled to sign copies of her DVD documentary on December 4. But something about a fictional character such as Burgundy signing copies of his own fake autobiography in this setting made a lot of sense. Look at the photos: Will Ferrell was a wax statue in polyester and leather promoting his sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, from behind the armor of his '70s mustache. Outside, a trolley would be circling the premises on its three-quarters-mile track.
You might not necessarily peg Ron Burgundy as a crack guy — it's not always the classiest drug, even if you flare out your pinkie while lighting the pipe — but things can get real in the back of San Diego jazz lounges when your dear, dear friend from Toronto's visiting and the bourbon's not quite getting the job done. Then maybe you both wake up at 4 p.m. the next day, facedown in your shag carpeting, a Loverboy record skipping on the hi-fi. You tuck that away: That'd be a great campaign song for your buddy. You spit out a couple of teeth and write that down before inspiration fades. It'll come in handy one day.
Molly Lambert: I am so sad about Eastbound & Down ending that in true Kenny Powers fashion, I am angry. Why must you go, Kenny? What is the world worth without you in it? I know Danny McBride will keep making movies, but what if we all go Misery on him and just tie him up until he promises to be Kenny for us again, one last time? Still, the legend of KP will live on in boxed sets, GIF sets, and HBO GO, but most of all in our hearts, minds, and groins.
I love Eastbound so much that I made eight mixtapes based around it concurrent with each season that are probably the most complete record of my life during the years the show spanned. I've been reflecting on how much time and thought I'd invested into this fandom, and how it's probably the last time I'll ever invest so much of myself in a thing I did not make. I feel a lot like Stevie Janowski, losing the sense of purpose I'd been grounded to for years. Who am I without Kenny? Who did I possibly think I was before? Regular television feels bland, network sitcoms limp, everything is colorless in the wake of Kenny's flaming margarita of a run through culture, backed by Jody Hill and David Gordon Green's impeccable tag-team direction. This clip is from the second season, when Kenny flees to Mexico. I like to compare Season 2 of Eastbound to Season 2 of The Wire, which had a similar sophomore shift in location and supporting cast, only to revert back to the original setup for the remaining seasons after that. Season 2 has great guest spots from Michael Peña and Ana de la Reguera. Choosing a favorite clip from Eastbound is difficult. Every moment of the show is the best moment. So here's a small offering of Kenny freestyling in the booth and misinterpreting obvious social cues. "Kenny Powers's girlfriend. Kenny Powers's girlfriend's song." I love you, Kenny. With Mad Men's end also approaching, I might just throw my TV into the ocean. Maybe I'll make a pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach.
When we first met Kenny Powers, four years and 28 chapters ago, he appeared more caricature than character: a couple catchphrases, a mullet, and two proudly erect middle fingers. As with many of the projects to vaporize out of the heads of Danny McBride and his frequent collaborators, there was a distinct eau de dorm room about the whole thing. McBride hated sports and had no idea how to throw a baseball, he just liked the idea of an unreconstructed dummy getting by on velocity and bullshit. Peacocking around in Kenny's cleats seemed like a promising way to get him and his buddies paid for giggling about their favorite things: Southern suburban malaise, herculean drug use, and cursing in front of children.
Let me be clear: I would have had no trouble with Eastbound & Down had its lone storytelling goal been to make stoners laugh until they sneezed Cheeto dust. Plenty of sitcoms aspire to much less. But the hunger for greatness burning inside Kenny Powers began as more than mere munchies in the minds of his creators. Jody Hill and fellow director pal David Gordon Green had visions of cinematic grandeur, treating each half-hour installment as a mini-movie, replete with the beats and bumps of a '70s blockbuster. And with the goateed, hyper-verbal K.P., McBride created the perfect avatar for his louche precision. (Nobody delivers gassy nonsense with the delicacy and rigor of McBride. He's like a Swiss whoopee cushion.) Thanks to their efforts, Eastbound crossed over from making fun of its hyper-specific milieu to having fun with it. That first season, in which a humbled Kenny, exiled from baseball, returns home to work as a substitute teacher and wrestle with the twin shackles of failure and humiliation, managed to be that rarest of flowers: something that celebrates the very thing it's satirizing. In McBride and Hill's hands, a lonely Jet Ski ride was imbued with pathos, not pity. It was funny because it was sad, sure, but that's the easy part. It was also sad because it was so terrifically funny.
There's a new trailer for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues loose in the world this morning, gracefully pirouetting through our minds like a deep fryer–equipped ’Bago freed from the bonds of gravity by an inattentive chimichanga cook and an improperly deployed cruise control. There are the obligatory nods to the plot, but did we just gulp down that scorpion for plot? Will the knowledge that Harrison Ford is Ron Burgundy's executive nemesis or that Veronica Corningstone has taken his job — the selfsame Corningstone who mounted the carnal unicorn with him and took a bareback gallop across the slippery rainbow bridge to Pleasure Town — put the proverbial fannies in the seats?
On the night of Sunday, September 29, millions of Americans tuned in to witness the beginning of an entitled narcissist's final act. This goateed sociopath had chosen drugs and glory over the more simple pleasures of family, and, along with a foul-mouthed associate, had created an alter ego whose name rang out on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. The end of his blinkered, bumpy journey promised blood, stimulants and — if audiences were lucky — Jet Skis.
As it turned out, Heisenberg's return to suburbia was a lot more violent — and popular! — than La Flama Blanca's. But I'm not sure it was necessarily more successful. In its fourth and final season, HBO's Eastbound & Down hasn't so much found another level as it has reclaimed its glorious, tarnished crown. Kenny Powers's pilgrimages to Mexico and Myrtle Beach were plenty exotic and often deeply, appallingly funny. But neither matched the highs or the strangely affecting lows of that impeccable first season, when Kenny — a dim-witted, drug-hoovering buffoon, recently furloughed from his 10th and final major league baseball team — was forced to confront a fate worse than death: real life.
The Spoils of Babylon isn't coming to IFC for another three months, so we've got a while to ponder this brazenly mysterious trailer. Is it There Will Be Blood meets The Royal Tenenbaums? Casino meets Walk Hard? The family saga about amorous siblings (Kristen Wiig and Tobey Maguire) comes from Will Ferrell and Casa de Mi Padre director Matt Piedmont; Ferrell will introduce each episode as a fictional author who wrote the work being "adapted." A grandiose piano score may or may not be part of the final product. And still, knowing so little, we'd like to hibernate until January 9, please, if we may.
We can all agree that we love Ron Burgundy, yes? At least as much as one can love a catchphrase-generating fictional character whose influence on the culture has become so outsize that San Diego was forced to install "Welcome Into the Whale's Vagina" signs at its city limits and the mere mention of "Sex Panther" triggers olfactory hallucinations of fetid jungle-cat musk accompanied by painful, nine-hour erections. We can also agree that Ron Burgundy is better than this. He is not a Dodge Durango pitchman, as hard as he tries, as committed as he is to the sale, whether stumbling through the pronunciation of "MPG" or singing the praises of its luxurious glove box. He is a newsman. Sure, an anchorman's gotta eat, but this seems beneath him.
Ever since last December, when the Anchorman team teased a 2013 Christmastime Ron Burgundy rebirth that will pull all the focus from the baby Jesus, fans have been impatiently waiting for their sumptuously coiffed hero to return and drench them in Sex Panther. The time for that drenching has finally arrived. And now we know what awaits us six months hence: Burgundy and his team will be dragged from the local desk and into the world of 24-hour cable news. In the '80s.
There's this one episode of Married With Children where Al Bundy fills his attractive ditz daughter's brain with all of his worldly information so she can compete on a local sports trivia show in his stead. Everything goes great until the final question: Who rushed for four touchdowns for the Polk High School Panthers in the 1966 championship game? The answer, of course, is Al Bundy — but Kelly only has a finite amount of information she can fit into her brain, and the answer, devastatingly, eludes her. The moral of this very important story is that, if we only have a finite amount of pop culture information we can squeeze into our brains, knowing who won what at the MTV Movie Awards is one thing we're probably safe skipping. That said: The MTV Movie Awards were last night, and some stuff happened.
Host Rebel Wilson and the cast of best movie ever Pitch Perfect opened the show. And the question on everyone's minds: Seriously, what the hell was Anna Kendrick doing that was more important than this?
Harmony Korine's Letterman legacy gave us the inspiration for this week's HOF: a look back on all the times the predictable rhythm of a talk show has been shaken up by its guests and taken to another level, for better or, oftentimes, for worse.
Where has Kristen Wiig been since Bridesmaids made her a bankable movie star? Straight stackin’ ’em, yo. Since her big cinematic breakout in 2011, Wiig's got five flicks wrapped up and ready to go: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Despicable Me 2, Girl Most Likely, The Skeleton Twins, and Hateship, Loveship. And that's not even counting Anchorman: The Legend Continues, shooting now.