Welcome to the Anniversary Extravaganza Edition of Popculturology. Yes, it’s been a full year since Popculturology was reborn as a newsletter on Nov. 1, 2022. Over that time, I’ve published 124 editions of Popculturology, which includes 14 installments of Deep SNL Thoughts.
Some of my favorite editions include chatting with Jim Henson biographer Brian Jay Jones about the legendary A Muppet Family Christmas, and diving into the generation of Saturday Night Live castmembers lost to an era of celebrity cameos.
Before we dive into the 125th edition of Popculturology, can we all acknowledge that celebrity Halloween costumes aren’t news? I just don’t care. At all. (Halloween is an excellent time, though, to rewatch the animated David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special, an underrated gem.)
I also need to highlight that I’ve wrapped up the Father of the Year Award thanks to my success in teaching our 22-month-old daughter to say “all outta cash” and ask to watch the “Del Taco” SNL sketch “again.”
Here’s to another year of Popculturology. If you’ve been a subscriber since the beginning or have just signed up, thank you for reading. And if you’re not a subscriber yet, please hit the green button below to become one.
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NEWS, NOTES AND TRAILERS
Jonathan Majors, the original Avengers and the state of the MCU
Look, things are weird over at Marvel Studios these days. After a decade of rewriting the rules of Hollywood and releasing critical and box office hit after hit, the studio’s post-Avengers: Endgame period hasn’t been as smooth. (“Hasn’t been as smooth” for Marvel Studios is still the level of success that other studios would accept any day.)
As we get deeper into the Multiverse Saga, the overarching storyline that follows the Infinity Saga, the Marvel Cinematic Universe faces some significant challenges: Delays from the writers and actors strikes, a fundamental rethinking of how the Disney+ shows operate, and the fate of Jonathan Majors and his role as Kang.
Variety published a deep dive into the state of Marvel Studios by Tatiana Siegel on Wednesday. As always, I recommend checking out the story for yourself, but here are the highlights.
A Majors problem: Since he was arrested on assault charges in March, people have been asking what Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios would do with Jonathan Majors. The actor is already firmly ensconced in the MCU, playing He Who Remains and Victor Timely in Loki and Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania — not to mention having the upcoming fifth Avengers film, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty — named after the villain he plays.
“Marvel is truly fucked with the whole Kang angle,” someone who has seen the Loki season finale told Variety, noting that the WGA strike kept Marvel from rewriting Loki in wake of the Majors allegations. Guessing this means we should expect the Loki finale to cement Kang’s role in the MCU.
Majors is a tremendous actor, and he’s a thrill to watch. Pairing that with the assault allegations, though, is a difficult thing to reconcile. (As I struggle with while watching Loki and discuss later in this edition of Popculturology.) But few actors in the MCU are irreplaceable. Marvel Studios swapped out Terrence Howard for Don Cheadle and Edward Norton for Mark Ruffalo. They can do it again with Majors and keep Kang as a major piece of the Multiverse Saga if they want. Or they could shift gears …
The Doctor (Doom) is in? If Marvel Studios really is “fucked” when it comes to Kang, they could completely shift gears. “Executives discussed backup plans, including pivoting to another comic book adversary, like Dr. Doom,” Variety reports. Bringing Doctor Doom in as the saga’s big villain wouldn’t be that out of the blue. The Fantastic Four reboot is currently scheduled to hit theaters in May 2025, preceding both Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. Doctor Doom was also a major character in 2015’s Secret Wars storyline, the comics that the sixth Avengers film takes its name from.
Getting the gang back together: One of the juicier bits in the Variety piece is the news that “sources say there have been talks to bring back the original gang for an Avengers movie. This would include reviving Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, both of whom were killed off in Endgame.”
Honestly, I think this has always been the plan for Avengers: Secret Wars. Anyone who has ever played anything Marvel should be considered in the mix for an Avengers film that will play with the idea of the multiverse crashing in on itself.
Blade was the fourth lead in his own movie? I’ve lost track of how many times Marvel Studios, despite announcing Mahershala Ali as the title character (and featuring his voice in an Eternals credits scene) has gone back to the drawing board on Blade. Variety pulled back the curtain on that chaos, reporting that “the story at one point morphed into a narrative led by women and filled with life lessons. Blade was relegated to the fourth lead, a bizarre idea considering that the studio had two-time Oscar winner Ali on board.”
This is such a weird throwback to the 2000s approach to superhero movies, back when studios had to add characters who could serve as audience surrogates. (Think the random agent in the first Hellboy movie.) Just make a Blade movie. (It’s already been done three times!)
New showrunners, directors for Daredevil
Speaking of Marvel Studios, the reported recalibration of how its Disney+ shows work is already making news. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Daredevil: Born Again has added Dario Scardapane as its showrunner and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead as directors.
Scardapane wrote multiple episodes of The Punisher and Jack Ryan. Benson and Moorhead have directed several episode of Moon Knight and Loki.
🎞️ The next generation of the Planet of the Apes begins
Absolutely. Yes. Let me buy a ticket for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes today. I have money. I’ll give you money right now, Disney.
I’m a huge fan of where director Matt Reeves took the Andy Serkis Planet of the Apes trilogy, and I can’t wait to see where Maze Runner director Wes Ball takes the franchise with this new generation of characters. (And check out that orangutan wearing a necklace that matches Caesar’s window symbol from the last trilogy.)
Disney seeks full control of Hulu
The Walt Disney Company is now the sole owner of Hulu, announcing on Wednesday that it had acquired the 33 percent stake in the streaming service owned by Comcast.
If Disney’s opening bid is accepted by Comcast, they’ll pay an estimated $8.61 billion and should close the deal in 2024.
With Disney now owning 100 percent of Hulu, the question is what CEO Bob Iger will do with the streaming service? The expectation is that that Disney will merge Hulu with Disney+.
The name is Bladerunner. Carl Bladerunner.
While promoting a video of Tesla’s Cybertruck getting shot with an arrow, Elon Musk attempted to praise the polygonal vehicle by calling it “an armored personnel carrier from the future — what Bladerunner would have driven.”
Yes, Musk — the smartest man in the world — apparently thinks that Harrison Ford’s character in Blade Runner (two words) was named “Bladerunner.” Does he think that Ryan Gosling played Bladerunner Jr. in Blade Runner 2049? I feel sorry for the poor Twitter employee getting screamed at by Musk as he demands to know why the main character in The Terminator was the Terminator but the main character in Blade Runner wasn’t Bladerunner.
“Happy birthday, I got you a network show”
We’ve known for awhile now that CBS planned on replacing The Late Late Show with a new version of @midnight, the Comedy Central show once hosted by Chris Hardwick. Turns out the new version won’t just have a new host. It’ll have a new name: After Midnight.
Comedian Taylor Tomlinson was named the host of After Midnight on Wednesday night, with After Midnight executive producer Stephen Colbert making the announcement during an episode of The Late Show.
CBS also announced the first group of hires for After Midnight on Wednesday. Former @midnight Jack Martin executive producer will serve that role alongside Eric Pierce with Jo Firestone as the show’s head writer.
“We are thrilled to be reunited with our friends at Funny Or Die,” Colbert said in a statement. “My hope is that, every night, After Midnight will be just as ridiculous as the internet is every day. Plus, the original @midnight aired after The Colbert Report, so welcoming this new show to 12:30 feels like coming home.”
With James Corden stepping down from hosting The Late Late Show, Paramount decided to retire the long-running show and go in a new (cough, cheaper, cough) direction.
🎞️ “‘Profesh’ is my middle name.” “You said your middle name was ‘Danger.’”
If you take Drive, mash it up with The Nice Guys and add a touch of Kenergy, you’ll get the trailer for The Fall Guy. This one stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt and is helmed by John Wick director David Leitch.
Sesame Street getting a “reimagining”
Changes to Sesame Street are something that people love getting angry about. I’ve easily fallen into that camp in the past. What do you mean they redesigned the set? Why is Elmo getting his own segment?
Now that I have a daughter who watches Sesame Street, though, I’ve realized that the show has constantly evolved. When we complain about changes to the show, we’re holding onto the version of Sesame Street that we remember from childhood — a version that likely hasn’t been true for a very long time.
News of a major “reimagining” to Sesame Street this week triggered those same unjustified reactions. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sesame Street will ditch its “magazine” style in favor of two longer segments with a new animated segment between them.
The most significant change will see the program drop the “magazine”-style format it has long used in favor of two longer, more narrative-driven segments, which will be paired with a new animated series, Tales From 123. The new format will feature two 11-minute story segments, with the new animated series sandwiched in between them.
“It’s going to give us an opportunity to dive further into the narrative,” says Kay Wilson Stallings, the executive vp and chief creative development and production officer for Sesame Workshop, calling the changes a “reimagining” of the show, and adding that the longer segments will allow for more “dynamic” and “sophisticated” stories.
You don’t even have to be familiar with current kids programming to recognize this format. Not only is it exactly what Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has been doing since it launched in 2012, but it’s also what Arthur did for its entire run from 1996 to 2022. Segment, interlude, segment.
🎞️🍔 Welcome to the Good Burger trailer
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series in the works
Despite being turned into successful Swedish-Danish movies starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, Hollywood has yet to fully crack the Millennium series for American audiences.
The Girl With the Dragon tattoo, which was directed by David Fincher and starred Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, earned five Oscar nominations (winning one) but that creative team didn’t return for the next film in the franchise. The Girl in the Spider’s Web saw Claire Foy step into Mara’s role — and bombed at the box office, grossing just $35 million worldwide.
Amazon Studios will now take a stab at the Millennium series, with Veena Sud, who developed The Killing for AMC, serving as showrunner.
🗓️ Release dates shakeup
The studios still aren’t willing to agree to a fair deal with SAG-AFTRA, but they are willing to scuttle months of release dates instead. We got a few more calendar shifts over the past week …
- Disney moves Snow White, Elio: The live-action Snow White remake starring Rachel Zegler (who you can see in the title role in a first look image above) has been shifted from March 22, 2024, to March 21, 2025 while Pixar’s Elio moves from March 1, 2024, to June 13, 2025. (The Hollwood Reporter)
- Another shift for the Aquaman sequel: OK, so this one isn’t a drastic change. Warner Bros. has moved Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22. Yup, that’s it. (Variety)
🍗 BuzzFeed selling Complex, keeping First We Feast (and Hot Ones)
BuzzFeed is on the verge of selling Complex Networks for less than $140 million, cutting ties with the company it paid $400 million for just two years ago. BuzzFeed reportedly will hold onto First We Feast, the division that’s responsible for Hot Ones.
WHAT ABOUT THE YEET?
Timothée Chalamet set to host again
Timothée Chalamet’s hosting gig in December 2020 gave the world a fan-favorite Saturday Night Live sketch: “Rap Roundtable.”
SNL announced over the weekend that Chalamet will return to host the show again on Nov. 11. (SNL gets its first break of the season this weekend.) Will we see Pete Davidson return to reunite with Chalamet for another breakdown of TikTok rap?
Taylor Swift wrote “a perfect SNL monologue”
Taylor Swift has hosted SNL once, leading an episode in 2009. (Yikes, that long ago?) Despite a few cameos and musical guest appearances since then, Swift has yet to host the show ago — surprising, since she was a fantastic host.
SNL icon Seth Meyers feels the same about Swift. During a recent appearance on The Howard Stern Show, the former Weekend Update anchor revealed that Swift wrote her own monologue.
“It really speaks to what a force of nature she is and the depths of her talent,” Meyers told Stern. “Here’s a 19-year-old who nobody is really helping out; nobody gave her a manual of how to do that show. And yet, she came to us and said, ‘I wrote a song for the opening monologue.’ So we brought Taylor into [Lorne Michaels’] office, and she sings this song which is not only a beautiful song by a beautiful singer, it’s a perfect SNL monologue. Fully formed. … To this day, I’ve never had a moment like that where someone brings you a fully gift-wrapped present and it's exactly what you need it to be.”
“I CAN REWRITE THE STORY”
A few weeks ago, I critiqued the second episode of Loki’s second season as “uneven.” I no longer feel that way. “Heart of the TVA” and “Science/Fiction” were two of the best episodes of Marvel Cinematic Universe television we’ve seen.
That cliffhanger: Welp, that didn’t go how we expected. After volunteering to fix the Temporal Loom, Victor Timely was instantly spaghetti’d the second he stepped outside. With Victor gone, the Temporal Loom imploded, sending a flash of light and energy toward the TVA. And cue credits.
“I want my friends back. I don’t want to be alone.” But now we know that Loki was able to move through time to rebuild his team of Casey, B-15, Mobius, O.B and Sylvia. Faced with the fear of being alone and losing his friends, Loki was mastered his ability to control his time-slipping — and set us up for a season finale where he’ll try to set things right.
Closing the loop: Turns out it was Loki who pruned Loki in the season premiere. As the TVA melted down, Current Loki saw Then Loki approaching the elevator where Sylvie was stuck. Realizing that Then Loki needed to be pruned to stop slipping through time, Current Loki pruned his past self. Phew.
An Ouroboros ouroboros: Lots of time loops in this episode. Turns out Victor based his work on O.B.’s work … while O.B. based his work on Victor’s work. Guess it’s just a coincidence that Ke Huy Quan’s character is named Ouroboros …
The branch timeline O.B.’s workspace gave off major TVA aesthetic vibes, right?
Majors watch: As I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to forget about Jonathan Majors’ legal issues while watching Loki. He’s a thrill to watch as Victor Timely (and as He Who Remains and Kang), but where’s the line here? Disney obviously didn’t do anything to alter Major’s presence in Season 2 of Loki and has yet to weigh in on his MCU future. The studio did pull Magazine Dreams, a film that was once seen as an Oscar contender for Majors, from its schedule last week, with The Hollywood Reporter making it clear the move is “unrelated to the [actors] strike” and “was widely expected due to Majors’ legal troubles.”
“You have a machine for that?” Like I said, Majors is great on every level in this show. Victor’s fascinating with the concept of a machine that made hot cocoa was fun.
Loki the hero: Will we ever see this version of Loki return to the main timeline? It seems like Tom Hiddleston would have to be a part of either Avengers: The Kang Dynasty or Avengers: Secret Wars based on Loki’s first-hand involvement with He Who Remains/Kang. Tell me a redeemed Loki coming to Thor’s rescue in one of those movies wouldn’t be the perfect way to make good on Loki’s promise that “the sun will shine on us again.”
Good bye, Renslayer? As Loki and Sylvie rescued Victor, an enchanted X-5/Brad pruned Renslayer. Will she now face Alioth? And will Alioth recognize Renslayer as He Who Remains’ former partner and once-general of his army during the Multiversal War?
“You’ll never be him”: You’re cold, Miss Minutes. As she went offline, the cartoon clock had one final message for Victor.
How this ends: With Loki now in command of his time-slipping and promising to rewrite things, does he go back to the beginning of the TVA? The moment Sylvie killed He Who Remains? Does he take control of the TVA and assume the burden of maintaining the Sacred Timeline?
- Hollywood Has Reached Peak Two-Part Movies (Aaron Couch and Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter)
- Kanye and Adidas: Money, Misconduct and the Price of Appeasement (Megan Twohey, The New York Times)
- Next Action Hero: Meet the New Generation of Ass-Kicking Movie Stars (Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter)
- How Osage influence brought Killers of the Flower Moon to life (Devan Coggan, Entertainment Weekly)
- Book Tour: At home with Stephen King (John Williams, The Washington Post)
AND FINALLY …
Matthew Perry 1969-2023
Friends star Matthew Perry died at age 54 on Saturday. His death sent a shockwave through friends, fans and anyone who had been touched by his career and openness about addiction.
- “Utterly devastated”: Perry’s five Friends costars released a statement about his death on Tuesday. “We are all so utterly devastated by the loss of Matthew. We were more than just cast mates. We are a family,” the statement to People from Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer read. “There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss.”
- “The One Where Our Hearts Are Broken”: Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane and executive producer Kevin Bright released their own statement, writing to The Hollywood Reporter: “He was a brilliant talent. It’s a cliche to say that an actor makes a role their own, but in Matthew’s case, there are no truer words. From the day we first heard him embody the role of Chandler Bing, there was no one else for us. We will always cherish the joy, the light, the blinding intelligence he brought to every moment – not just to his work, but in life as well. He was always the funniest person in the room. More than that, he was the sweetest, with a giving and selfless heart. We send all of our love to his family and friends. This truly is The One Where Our Hearts Are Broken.”
- “None of the Friends are supposed to die, and certainly not this soon”: Television expert Alan Sepinwall memorialized Perry for Rolling Stone.
- “So young forever”: The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon touched on Perry’s invaluable role as the “the secret ingredient” of Friends, an actor who could “pierce through the fog of confusion people are grappling with and pop the balloon that brings us all back down to reality.”
That’s the end of this edition of Popculturology. Thanks for reading the newsletter. If you don’t already subscribe or if you want to become a supporter, please hit the Subscribe & Support button.