'Beef' escalates quickly

‘Next time somebody honks at you, maybe let it go.' PLUS: Denis Villeneuve might be the favorite to direct the next 'Bond,' and was 'The Mandalorian' even supposed to have a third season?

'Beef' escalates quickly
Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in Beef. / Netflix

My childhood movie theater closed over the weekend. Before I moved to Washington, D.C., the Regal in Henrietta, N.Y., was my main movie theater.

It’s where I stood in the longest line I’ve ever stood in for anything for the 10 p.m. preview screening of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith back in 2005. It stretched across the three neighboring parking lots, and local pizza places were selling food to the people in the line.

This closure is one of many for Regal Cinemas. The chain’s parent company, Cineworld, filed for bankruptcy in September, and they’ve been shuttering locations in waves. It’s hard to support the theatrical experience when chains like Regal are closing locations or barely keeping them updated.

Anyways, welcome to the first Tuesday edition of Popculturology! (I’ll work on these transitions.)

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In Today's Edition
  • Feature Presentation: ‘Next time somebody honks at you, maybe let it go’
  • Bonus Feature: Sure seems like The Mandalorian was supposed to end after two seasons
  • The News: Will Denis Villeneuve direct Bond? Pete Davidson set to return to SNL
  • Trailer Watch: John Mulaney: Baby J, The Idol, Bupkis, The Last Voyage of the Demeter
  • Playlist: Barry, Succession, Ted Lasso
  • Odds and Ends: The story behind Succession’s theme song

Feature Presentation
Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in Beef. / Netflix

‘Next time somebody honks at you, maybe let it go’

I was late to Beef by a week, but the buzz around the show had it high on our watch list. When we started watching last week, we were quickly hooked. You know how there are some shows that you start watching but then put aside to jump back into your normal viewing schedule? Yeah, that’s definitely not Beef.

A ten-episode limited series, Beef tells the story of an escalating feud between two people who cross paths during a road rage incident. The show ups the ante with each episode, pitting Ali Wong’s Amy and Steven Yeun’s Danny against each other in increasingly threatening ways.

Beef is if someone took Ron Burgundy telling his Channel 4 News Team that their street melee escalated quickly and turned it into a TV show.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Beef is fantastic. For this newsletter, I usually take notes while I’m watching a show that I want to discuss here. I figured we’d spread out the ten episodes over the course of the week, which would’ve given me a few newsletters to break down the show.

We wound up flying through Beef, finishing the series in just three nights.

There’s no way I’m going to bombard you with ten episodes’ worth of notes here, but I can share a few of my favorite elements from the show.

Wong and Yeun are great.

If you loved their previous work, you’re gonna love them in this too. While I enjoyed Always Be My Maybe, you could see Wong still figuring out who see is as an actor in that one, but she fully embodies Amy in Beef. Yeun has been on a career tear these past few years, earning an Oscar nomination for Minari and appearing in Jordan Peele’s Nope. The time that has gone by since most us of first met Yeun as Glenn in The Walking Dead now allows him to bring a weary weight to a role like Danny.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably also love the show’s soundtrack. There are so many iconic 1990s/2000s bands featured on Beef (Incubus! Hoobastank!) that Netflix put out a playlist for anyone wanted to make sure they caught them all.

I’ve had to second guess the enjoyment we had watching Beef because of the controversy surrounding David Choe. (We basically only knew him from various David Chang Netflix shows.) A video of Choe telling a graphic story about forcing himself on a masseuse recently resurfaced and has led to outcry over his inclusion in the show. Wong has since turned her Twitter account private.

I’m not sure what this means for the future of Beef. It’s one season. Or, at least it’s supposed to be.

“Cards on the table, we did pitch this show as a limited anthology, so there is sort of a close-ended-ness to the story [of Danny and Amy],” Beef creator Lee Sung Jin told Elle. “But, if given the opportunity, of course, I'd love to explore them further, because Danny and Amy, I love those characters. But yeah, by design, though, this a close-ended narrative.

Will people want a second helping of Beef? The Choe controversy aside, making the jump from a limited series can be risky. It worked for The White Lotus. It kind of worked for Dead to Me, but not well enough to lure me back for a third season. And we don’t know yet if it’ll work for The Bear.


“Jesus did all those nice things. Look what they did to him.” — Isaac to Danny

“I realize it’s like bringing Linkin Park a copy of Hybrid Theory.” — Danny to George

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Bonus Feature
Grogu and Din Djarin in The Mandalorian episode “The Spies.” / Lucasfilm

I’m starting to think The Mandalorian was supposed to end after two seasons

The Mandalorian airs its third season finale tomorrow, which means it’s the perfect time for me to ask: Was The Mandalorian even supposed to have a third season?

The second season of The Mandalorian wrapped up with Din Djarin removing his helmet and revealing his face to Grogu before sending his adopted son off with Deepfake Luke Skywalker to resume his Jedi training. Over two seasons, The Mandalorian showed Din’s evolution from solo bounty hunter with no connections to a father figure who had taken his first step into a larger world.

Then something weird happened. The final episodes of The Book of Boba Fett, a show about, well, Boba Fett, were devoted to Din and Grogu reuniting. Jedi training time was over. Season 3 of The Mandalorian kicked off as if the duo had never separated. Oddly, though, Din and Grogu turned into background characters in this season.

I previously pitched the theory that Grogu wasn’t supposed to be in Season 3. When Jon Favreau and company made the decision to bring him back, The Book of Boba turned into the vehicle to undo his separation from Din. And if you look at what Grogu has done in Season 3 of The Mandalorian, he’s barely had an impact on the plot. (Where were his Force powers when his dad was taken by Gideon in the most recent episode?)

Let’s take this theory to another level: There wasn’t supposed to be a third season of The Mandalorian.

The reveal at Star Wars Celebration that Dave Filoni is working on a movie to conclude the stories being told across The Mandalorian and Ahsoka made it clear that Lucasfilm needed to get several major pieces into position for that movie to work.

We needed to see how former Imperial officers and scientists were treated after the fall of the Empire. We needed to see the Imperial remnant’s Shadow Council. We needed Thrawn positioned to take control of all these elements to challenge the New Republic.

Was it easier to just roll The Mandalorian along for a third season instead of launching a new show to tell those stories? Maybe a lot of these stories were supposed to be in Rangers of the New Republic, the show that Lucasfilm disappeared after Gina Carano was fired from Star Wars.

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The News
Denis Villeneuve on the set of Dune. / Warner Bros. Pictures

Is Denis Villeneuve the favorite to direct the next Bond?

Directing a James Bond movie is like directing a Star Wars movie these days. No matter what you do, people aren’t going to be happy with what you did. (And, unless you’re Rian Johnson on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, there are probably going to be production delays.)

Is this what Denis Villeneuve wants his life to be for the next few years?

A report from World of Reel on Monday names Villeneuve as the favorite to direct the next Bond movie. The site admits that the source behind this rumor isn’t the most reliable, they say the possibility reflects what they’ve been hearing for a few months.

Villeneuve is no stranger to franchise films, previously directing Blade Runner 2049 and currently wrapping up his two-part Dune adaption. (Not to mention directing Arrival, one of my favorite films ever.) He was previously courted to direct No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s final Bond film, but chose to helm Dune instead.

Will the Bond producers go with a splashy name like Villeneuve or Christopher Nolan when they reboot the franchise?

Writers Guild authorizes strike

The combined Writers Guild of America West and East revealed on Tuesday that their membership had voted to authorize a strike, with 97.85 percent of participants voting in favor.

While this doesn’t mean a strike is a certainty, the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers now have until May 1 to reach a deal to prevent one.

The 2007-08 WGA strike changed the landscape of television, with reality TV taking advantage of the opportunity. Several shows either came to a premature end or saw their episode orders shortened.

Pete Davidson and Colin Jost during Weekend Update. / NBC

Pete Davidson to host SNL in almost record time

Saturday Night Live confirmed during Saturday’s show that Pete Davidson will host its May 6 episode. The former castmember left SNL at the end of last season.

If you’re thinking, huh, this seems like Davidson didn’t stay away very long, you’re right. By my count, the May 6 episode will be the 19th episode since Davidson departed SNL.

Of the 38 people who have both been part of SNL’s cast and hosted the show, and removing the handful of castmembers who either hosted while they were part of the cast or before they were part of the cast (the early years were messy and the period where Lorne Michaels was gone played by its own rules), only Billy Crystal pulled off the castmember-to-host move quicker, returning just twelve episodes after he left the show.

Davidson squeaks by Kristin Wiig on this list, beating her back to the hosting role by an episode.

Of course, the looming potential of a writers’ strike could wipe out the rest of this season, making Ana de Armas’ episode the season finale.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is tracking behind its predecessor

The upcoming stretch of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are going to be a test for the megafranchise. The recent box office crash for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (after opening with $106.1 million, the film has only barely broken $200 million domestically) has people wondering if the MCU’s box office glory days are over.

Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the next MCU film to hit theaters. TheWrap reported on Thursday that it’s current tracking for an opening weekend between $125 million and $130 million. That’s not a bad debut, but it’s behind the $146.5 million that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opened with in 2017.

If this tracking holds, it’ll be only the third time that an MCU sequel didn’t open higher than its predecessor, joining The Avengers ($207.4 million)/Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.3 million) and Black Panther ($202 million)/Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($181.3 million).

Quick hits

  • Adam Pally will be trained by Idris Elba’s Knuckles. Welp, that was a weird thing to write, but the Happy Endings star has joined the Sonic the Hedgehog spinoff series.
  • Glenn Powell and Anthony Ramos storm Twister sequel. The Top Gun: Maverick and In the Heights actors join Daisy Edgar-Jones with Minari director Lee Isaac Chung at the helm.
  • Olivia Wilde will direct A Visit From the Goon Squad. Deadline reported on Friday that the Don’t Worry Darling director will helm a TV adaption of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book and its sequel. I’ve had this one on my book shelf for years and probably should read it.

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Deep SNL Thoughts
Bowen Yang, Molly Kearney, Ana de Armas, Ego Nwodim and Punkie Johnson in this weekend episode of Saturday Night Live. / SNL

Deep SNL Thoughts is Popculturology’s deep dive into every episode of Saturday Night Live. It’s one of the awesome features available to paid Popculturology subscribers.

Deep SNL Thoughts: Ana de Armas delivers with an ‘American Girls’ trailer and the return of Lisa from Temecula
This season of Saturday Night Live is unstoppable. Bolstered by a handful of freshman castmembers and an impressive string of hosts, the show has found new life. Ana de Armas gave us the latest fantastic episode in a string of great episodes that now stretches back into 2022.

If you’re not already a supporting subscriber, make the jump today.

Trailer Watch

John Mulaney: Baby J

Baby J is John Mulvaney’s first standup special since 2018’s Kid Gorgeous at Radio City. It’s also the first special he’s doing since going back to rehab, beginning a relationship with Olivia Munn and becoming a father. This teaser is brief, but I’m looking forward to seeing what a standup special from this version of Mulaney looks like.

Baby J premieres on Netflix on April 25.

The Idol

If you haven’t read Rolling Stone’s piece on The Idol and the show’s behind-the-scenes drama, I highly recommend it. It might be more interesting than the show itself.

The Idol premieres on HBO on June 4.


Davidson must’ve enjoyed playing a fictionalized version of himself in The King of States Island since he’s doing it again in TV form with Bupkis. The former SNL castmember has assembled quite the cast for his show, with Edie Falco and Joe Pesci on board as regulars and a roster of guest stars that includes Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Charlie Day, Kenan Thompson and more.

Bupkis premieres on Peacock on May 4.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

The What We Do in the Shadows prequel movie looks great.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter opens on Aug. 11.

💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!

The Box Office Report
The Super Mario Bros. Movie held onto the No. 1 spot at the box office. By a lot. / Universal Studios

The Box Office Report is Popculturology’s look at the weekend box office. It’s another great add-on available to paid Popculturology subscribers.

The Box Office Report: ‘Super Mario Bros.’ levels up with $87M weekend
Hello! Welcome to The Box Office Report for the weekend of April 14-16, 2023. 1. The Super Mario Bros. Movie Weekend gross: $87M Total domestic gross: $347.8M Last weekend: 1st Percent drop: -41 Another dominant weekend for The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Bill Hader and Stephen Root in the Barry episode “bestest place on the earth.” / HBO


Episodes: “yikes” and “bestest place on the earth”

Quick thoughts

Barry might be a perfect show. It returned for its fourth and final season on Sunday with a two-episode mastery of balancing the gravitas of Barry’s downfall with the humor of something as absurd as Hank and Cristobal making a pitch at Dave & Busters.

HBO thankfully included a very lengthy recap of what happened previously on Barry. It’s been awhile since the third season wrapped up, and there’s a ton going on already in these first two episodes. I have no idea where this season is going — a prison break with the goal of killing Barry?

Man, that Bill Hader. It’s astounding that someone with the skill to bring the world Stefon can also bring to life Barry, a character who is now all rage and despair poured into a broken shell of a human being.


“The guy I was dating in LA killed my acting teacher’s girlfriend.” — Sally

“Shame on you, turning pals into enemies. It’s a dick move.” — Fuches

Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin in the Succession episode “Honeymoon States.” / HBO


Episode: “Honeymoon States”

Quick thoughts

After three and a half seasons of Succession, we finally have a succession. Thanks to an undated note found in Logan’s safe that has Kendall’s name written on it, the Roy scion now finds himself sharing power as co-CEO with Roman, leaving Shiv with the promise that while she’s not officially in charge, she’ll be a part of their power sharing agreement.

“Honeymoon States” had its share of brutal moments. Karl explaining to Tom why he had no shot at CEO. Kendall snapping at his sister that their father’s note “sure as fuck doesn’t say Shiv.” Kerry attempting to secure any memento of her time with Logan, only to be rejected by the resurgent Marcia.


“You need to get a new mommy. I’m not your mommy.” — Roman to Greg

Ted Lasso

Episode: “Signs”

Quick thoughts

Was Ted Lasso’s slow and sweet start to this season a setup? After spending several episodes stuck on how great things were, the past few episodes have shaken things up. Zava quit on AFC Richmond. The team has plummeted in the standings. Keeley had to fire her friend. And Ted seems to be one panic attack away from disaster.

Here’s how Ted Lasso is going to end: Rebecca doesn’t fire Ted. Ted quits to return to America to be with his son.


“Belief doesn’t just happen because you hang something on the wall.” — Ted Lasso

The Links

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Odds and Ends

The story behind Succession’s theme song

Is this the greatest theme song in TV history?

SNL’s new cast gets chatty

I love these new castmembers. Between Marcello Hernández, Molly Kearney, Devon Walker and Michael Longfellow and recent cast additions like James Austin Johnson and Sarah Sherman, SNL is in great shape for the next few years.

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