Conan O'Brien returns

The former late-night host will travel the world for HBO Max. PLUS: Trailers for ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ and ‘The Creator,’ and Schwarzenegger talks ‘Terminator’ future.

Conan O'Brien returns
Conan O’Brien in the promo for Conan O’Brien Must Go. / HBO Max

Welp, a cycle of colds has hit our household. I’d blame our daughter for this one, but it’s on both her and me at this point. It’s thankfully not Covid (I’ve tested), but being a bit down has put a crimp on the energy and time needed to watch new shows and write about them here. (I take no responsibility for any typos in this edition.)

Don’t worry, though, there’s still a ton in this edition of Popculturology. Excellent new movie trailers for Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, Killers of the Flower Moon and The Creator.

We’ve caught up on Ted Lasso, and — WOW — has that show gotten bad. It wasn’t always bad, right? Are they trying to make it bad? The show seems to think it’s earned moments of emotional payoff that are actually empty.

And most importantly, Conan O’Brien is returning to our TVs with a new travel show.

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In Today's Edition
  • Feature Presentation: ‘My fans around the globe never asked me to visit them, so I did’
  • Bonus Feature: Jimmy Fallon’s Bluesky debut doesn’t go so well
  • The News: Arnold Schwarzenegger on his Terminator future, release dates for Loki and Echo
  • Trailer Watch: Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, Killers of the Flower Moon, The Creator, Haunted Mansion, Futurama
  • What to Watch: Monsters
  • Odds and Ends: ‘The last adventure’ for Indiana Jones

Feature Presenation
Conan O’Brien in the promo video for Conan O’Brien Must Go. / HBO Max

‘My fans around the globe never asked me to visit them, so I did’

It’s been almost two years since Conan O’Brien ended Conan. The retirement of his TBS show officially wrapped up a late-night TV career that began in 1993 with Late Night. Besides the period between the end of O’Brien’s tenure as host of The Tonight Show and the launch of Conan, he’s never been away from TV for as long as he’s currently been.

That absence ends soon. Or, as soon as the writers’ strike ends and O’Brien can get back to work.

HBO Max announced this week that Conan O’Brien Must Go will send O’Brien back onto the road as he visits people he’s talked with while recording his podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.

“My fans around the globe never asked me to visit them, so I did,” O’Brien said in a statement released by HBO Max.

HBO Max, er, “Max” as it now wants to be called, calls Conan O’Brien Must Go a “new international travel series from Conan O’Brien.” The series is set to run for four episodes — which is hopefully just the start of O’Brien’s return to TV.

“Conan is a national treasure … at least that’s what he keeps telling me,” HBO Programming Executive Vice President Nina Rosenstein said in a statement. “It’s been an absolute dream to work with him, [Jeff Ross], and the whole Conaco team. They’re everything you’d hope for – insanely smart, ridiculously funny, and nicer than they’d probably want to admit.”

This definitely seems like a great fit for O’Brien. He’s been at his best in recent years when he’s traveling and doing bits outside of the studio. While writing this, I looked up when O’Brien embarked on The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour, and it was 2010. How has it been 13 years since the whole Jay Leno fiasco?

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Bonus Feature
Jimmy Fallon during an episode of The Tonight Show. / NBC

More from the writers’ strike

Jimmy Fallon’s non-writing staff put on non-paid leave

Unless something changed between when I hit send on this edition of Popculturology and when you’re reading it on Friday, the non-writing staff of The Tonight Show will now be on non-paid leave.

HuffPost reported on Tuesday that while “several sources told HuffPost that fellow late night hosts Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel are reportedly continuing to keep their staff paid,” Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show aren’t.

Fallon made this worse on Tuesday evening when he made his Bluesky debut. The late-night host posted a photo of himself playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Jimmy Fallon’s first skeet on Bluesky.

Fallon could’ve posted something to show solidarity with his writing staff and the WGA (or just not posted at all), but he chose to announce that he was having a relaxing break, playing the most popular video game in the world.

Bluesky users were not kind to Fallon in response. Just about every variation on “pay your staff” you could think of in the comments below his post.

Production on The Mandalorian Season 4 delayed

A fourth season of The Mandalorian has yet to be announced, but it’s reportedly been delayed as the studios refuse to meet the writers’ terms. Deadline reports that filming wasn’t set to begin until September, but I guess that’s not enough time to get things going if the strike ends.

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The News
Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger on a poster for Terminator Geniys. / Paramount Pictures

Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘done’ with Terminator

There may be more Terminator movies in the future, but don’t expect Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a part of them. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter released this week, the actor revealed that his time with the franchise is over.

“The franchise is not done. I’m done,” Schwarzenegger told THR. “I got the message loud and clear that the world wants to move on with a different theme when it comes to The Terminator. Someone has to come up with a great idea. The Terminator was largely responsible for my success, so I always would look at it very fondly. The first three movies were great. Number four [Salvation] I was not in because I was governor. Then five [Genisys] and six [Dark Fate] didn’t close the deal as far as I’m concerned. We knew that ahead of time because they were just not well written.”

Yikes. Way to throw the writers of Terminator Genisys and Terminator: Dark Fate under the bus there, Arnold.

Here’s the problem with the three most recent Terminator sequels: None of them have gone far enough. And weirdly, if you were to combine them, they would be the perfect Terminator sequel. Terminator Salvation took us into the future. Genisys played with the timelines and made the bold choice of making John Connor a Skynet asset. And Dark Fate brought Linda Hamilton back into the fold.

Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino in Loki. / Marvel Studios

Marvel announces premiere dates for Loki and Echo

Marvel revealed earlier this week that the second season of Loki will premiere on Oct. 6 and the entire run of Echo will drop on Nov. 29.

There had been some expectation that Loki would return this summer. Is the fall premiere date a sign that Marvel is exploring a recast of Jonathan Majors as Kang? Is the extra time so viewers forget about the whole thing?

As for Echo, this will be the first Marvel Cinematic Universe show to debut its full run of episodes on a single day. While I’d like to think that Marvel Studios is doing this because it makes the most sense for Echo’s story, I’m unfortunately inclined to believe that the studio isn’t happy with the show and just wants to get it out there and over with.

‘More likely than not’ that Comcast will sell its Hulu share to Disney

After Disney CEO Bob Iger announced last week that Disney would merge its Disney+ and Hulu streaming apps into one app by the end of 2023, there was the lingering question of how Iger planned on doing that while Comcast still owned 33 percent of Hulu.

Turns out Comcast already sees the writing on the wall.

“I think it’s more likely than not,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said about the possibility that his company would sell its share of Hulu to Disney (via Variety). “I’m pretty certain if and when we sell our Hulu stake, it will be for more than what we have in it.”

Under Iger’s watch, Disney has paid $7.4 billion for Pixar, $4 billion for Marvel, $4.05 billion for Lucasfilm and $71.3 billion for 20th Century Fox. I’m guessing the bill for Comcast’s share of Hulu will be a bit more than what Disney paid for Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm — and obviously less than what it cost them to acquire 20th Century Fox.

Speaking of Disney+ and Hulu …

It was hinted at last week that Disney would begin removing some content from its two streaming platforms, which is apparently some kind of cost-saving tactic. I dunno. I write a newsletter about pop culture. Vulture confirmed on Thursday which shows will get cut from Disney+ and Hulu, with Willow and Y: The Last Man being two of the big ones.

Head over to Vulture for the full list.

It’s absolutely wild that Disney is taking something like Willow, a show that hasn’t even been out for a year, off streaming. I’d say this is why you should still buy physical copies of the movies and shows you love, but Disney hasn’t released physical copies of the Disney+ material.

Fast X and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts tracking below franchise highs

Tracking numbers are out for Fast X, which hits theaters this weekend, and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, which hits theaters on June 9.

Deadline reported on Tuesday that Fast X is on pace for a domestic opening weekend of at least $60 million. This would be a disappointing debut for the latest entry in the franchise. F9: The Fast Saga, the most recent Fast and Furious movie, opened with $70 million as theaters were reopening after the pandemic. The four Fast and Furious movies prior to F9 all cracked $80 million their opening weekends, with Furious 7 opening at $147.2 million and The Fate of the Furious opening at $98.8 million. Are moviegoers tired of the Fast and Furious movies?

According to THR, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is tracking for a $68 million opening weekend. Once again, this would be a franchise dipping below its past debuts. While Transformers: The Last Knight and Bumblebee, the two most recent Transformers movies, debuted to $44.7 million and $21.7 million, three of the four Michael Bay Transformers films either opened above $100 million or just barely missed that number.

Shioli Kutsuna and Brianna Hildebrand in Deadpool 2. / 20th Century Fox

Quick hits

  • Brianna Hildebrand and Shioli Kutsuna returning for Deadpool 3. Deadline reported on Thursday that the actresses, who played Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio in Deadpool 2, will reprise those roles for Deadpool’s first entry in the MCU.
  • Gladiator sequel loses Barry Keoghan, gains May Calamawy, Lior Raz, Derek Jacobi, Peter Mensah, Matt Lucas and Fred Hechinger. Deadline reports that Keoghan had to leave the project due to a scheduling conflict, with Hechinger in talks to replace him.
  • There will be carnage for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Wait. No. That was the last one. Anyways, Deadline reported on Tuesday that the 12 Years a Slave actor has joined the cast of the third Venom movie — which shouldn’t be confusing at all considering he’s already an MCU actor …
  • Eddie Murphy to join forces with the Pink Panther. Murphy is in talks to play Inspector Clouseau, according to THR, in a movie that would have him teaming up with the animated Pink Panther himself.
  • Selena Gomez heads to Food Network. After four seasons of Selena + Chef on HBO Max, the actress will take her talents to another Warner Bros. Discovery outlet with a “celebration-focused series just in time for the holidays.”
  • Is Dave Filoni’s Star Wars movie called Heir to the Empire? One Twitter scooper thinks so. It wouldn’t be surprising considering that was the title of the book that introduced Thrawn.

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Trailer Watch

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One

This one is going to be wild. Sure, we all know that Tom Cruise jumps a motorcycle off a cliff in Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, but with the way Paramount is playing that one up in these trailers, what other big surprise does this movie have in store? I have a hunch the train fight is going to be the real wow moment here.

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One opens on July 12.

Killers of the Flower Moon

The Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio cinematic universes are finally going to collide with Killers of the Flower Moon. The first trailer for the anticipated Martin Scorsese film premiered on Thursday, giving us our first real look a the director’s adaption of the book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Killers of the Flower Moon opens on Oct. 6.

The Creator

Gareth Edwards hasn’t directed a movie since Rogue One, but he’ll make his return with The Creator, a science-fiction film set in a world where AI is on the cusp of wiping out humanity. I love this trailer. I didn’t know much about The Creator before watching this trailer. Now I’m fully on board with this one. If you haven’t seen Edwards’ Monsters, give it a watch while we wait for The Creator. It’s beautiful and is what put him in the director’s chair for Godzilla.

The Creator opens on Sept. 29.

Haunted Mansion

Disney very much wants Haunted Mansion to be their next Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. I’m not sure if this movie has the juice to match the original Pirates, but I’m interested in any attempt at a Disney franchise that stars LaKeith Stanfield.

Haunted Mansion opens on July 28.


Has it really been almost a decade since Futurama signed off? After its original run on Fox and revival on Comedy Central, the animated series is coming to Hulu.

Futurama Season 8 premieres on Hulu on July 24.

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The Links

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What to Watch
Scoot McNairy in Monsters. / Vertigo Films


I could tell you to watch Fast X in theaters, but if that’s your thing, you’re already going to do that. I could tell you to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, now on Disney+, but that seems like a cruel thing to do. (“Ant-Man was not great …,” a friend text me yesterday.)

There’s actually nothing major on my plate to watch this weekend, so here’s your homework: Watch Monsters, the Gareth Edwards movie I mentioned while talking about the trailer for The Creator. I’m not sure if it’s available to stream anywhere, but it looks like it’s available as a $2.99 or $3.99 rental across just about every platform.

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Odds and Ends

‘What could be the last adventure?’

I remember when the last Indiana Jones movie was the last Indiana Jones movie. (Fun fact: Today is the 18th anniversary of when Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, the last Star Wars movie, hit theaters.) I don’t hate Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was such a perfect note for the franchise to go out on, but Crystal Skull didn’t deliver that same feeling. Let’s see if Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny does.

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