It’s Thanksgiving Day, and we have a tradition around here where we like to spend Thursdays in November giving thanks for the people and things in pop culture that make us happy. There are obviously too many to list, so consider this a sampling rather than a whole buffet. And then let us know what you’re thankful for!
Jason Mantzoukas – It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the man known as Zouks. He first hit our radar in his days as Rafi on The League and then we got obsessed with How Did This Get Made?, the bad-movie podcast he co-hosts. He brings this awesome lunatic energy to every endeavor, whether he’s playing a character who’s completely unaware of social norms or demanding that audience members at HDTGM live shows bring him their babies (“I’m just gonna keep getting filthier and it’s only going to be funnier if I’m holding a baby.”) Since then he showed up on Parks and Recreation as Dennis Feinstein, Brooklyn Nine-Nine as Adrian Pimento, The Good Place as Derek, and a regular role on Big Mouth as dirtbag kid Jay. And in recent weeks, artists Mitch Gerads drew him into the finale of Mister Miracle (a comic Jason’s been shouting out at live shows), and he’s hit the talk show circuit to promote his movie The Long Dumb Road, which looks great. And he’s been so funny – Seth Meyers knew what he was in for, but Stephen Colbert had never met Jason before and thank goodness he rolled with Jason’s claim that he could get three audience members to commit murder in his name. (A claim we assume has never been made by any talk show guest.) We love the guy and we’ll follow him anywhere.
Jameela Jamil – Podcast Guest – Jameela Jamil is hilarious on The Good Place. Like, better than somebody who hadn’t acted before has any right to be. She’s holding her own with Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, for cry pete But not everybody who can play a funny role is actually funny by themselves. Well, Jameela has been making the podcast rounds and holy smokes, she’s the best guest. On Jimmy Pardo’s Never Not Funny, she was maybe the best first time guest I’ve ever heard. On Why Won’t You Date Me? she told a hysterical story about maybe the worst Tinder date of all time. Then she showed up on Hollywood Handbook to discuss great TV with Sean and Hayes. She was so funny there and on Twitter, referred to herself as “a dick”, which was an excellent character choice. And he was the special guest on Spontaneanation where she had some amazing stories about injuring herself on live television, and then she actually participated in the improv segment, but only to play Dennis Quaid and warn people of impending doom. It was very good. We’re hoping we can still get a Comedy Bang! Bang! or Doughboys appearance. Especially the latter, because you can already imagine how much she’s going to intimidate Mitch. She’s funny on TV, she’s funny (and progressive) on social media, and funny on podcasts. What more could you ask for?
The Doom Patrol – I’m a big fan of the Doom Patrol. In the world of DC Comics, they’re second only to Batman and company. Basically, they’re a team of freaks and outcasts with a wheelchair-bound leader and they premiered the same month as the X-Men. And they’re the ones who didn’t become one of comics’ biggest franchise and spawn a dozen movies. Heck, when their series was cancelled, the writer killed them off and asked the readers to send letters demanding their return. That didn’t happen, and the characters stayed dead for almost twenty years. Every few years now they get a series, but they remain off the radar.
But… they’re getting a series on the DC Universe streaming service next year. And a recent episode of Titans introduced them. Now, it’s important to note that Titans is hot garbage. But the stuff with the Doom Patrol was quite good. The team we meet in the backdoor pilot is the original team of Robotman (human brain in a robot body), Negative Man (burn victim in bandages, can release a powerful energy being but he dies if the being doesn’t return in sixty seconds), and ElastiGirl (former movie star has the ability to stretch and grow but sometimes completely loses control of her physical cohesion). Beast Boy left the team to join the Titans, and we met the Chief, Niles Caulder, though in the series he’s going to be played by Timothy Dalton and not the guy who was fine in Titans but was never a James Bond. The show nailed the weirdness of the team and got the right tone. And I was happy to see Negative Man looking more like his “Rebis” incarnation from the Grant Morrison run, not to mention a shout-out to Morrison’s Danny the Street. I’m interested to see how these weirdos who’ve resolved never to leave their mansion become actual superheroes and really I just want to watch a TV show starring my favorite freaks. Make my subscription worth it, DC Universe!
Widows – Director Steve McQueen teamed with Gone Girl and Sharp Objects writer Gillian Flynn to make the smartest, darkest heist movie you’ll ever see. Short, non-spoilee version – when a job goes horribly wrong and everybody dies, a crime lord forces the titular widows of the previous team to get his money back. It gets weirder and more complicated from there, including some fascinating politics. And the cast. Man, every scene brings in another amazing actor. Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Brian Tyree Henry, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Carrie Coon, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Michelle Rodriguez, Garret Dillahunt, Daniel Kaluuya, the dog from Game Night. It’s so good and you should see it. The ad campaign seems to be marketing it as an Oscar Film rather than a cracking crime movie, and I think that’s a misstep. But it’s awesome.
Disenchantment – I didn’t get around to reviewing this Netflix series properly, but it’ll come up when I get to my best of list. But in the meantime, you should definitely check out this animated series from Matt Groening. Yes, “EJ likes Matt Groening show” is not exactly breaking news, but still. A lot of Simpsons and Futurama people are involved with the show (the showrunners are the classic Simpsons team of Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and plenty of Futurama writers and a lot of the voice cast are involved). It’s a medieval fantasy comedy about the rebellions Princess Bean (Abbi Jacobson), lovestruck and homesick elf Elfo (Nat Faxon), and the demon with a mysterious mission Luci (Eric Andre). And initially it just plays with the genre tropes but it quickly turns into a pretty continuity-heavy story with an absolutely maddening cliffhanger that leaves the entire cast dead or imprisoned. I loved it, and by the time you hit the midseason finale, you will too. I also feel obligated to note that Luci has already appeared on The Simpsons, and there’s an awesome Futurama Easter Egg near the end of the season. Plus, John DiMaggio (Bender) kind of steals the show as Zog, who I can only describe as a working-class king. It’s very good.