The Gube, The Bad, and the Ugly
On Matthew Gray Gubler's authorised Unauthorised Documentary, Lady Gaga's mystery Actors on Actors partner, and The Real Housewives of Tatooine. (Disclaimer: none are bad or ugly.)
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I’ve been sick for the last couple of days, so this week’s newsletter will be short but sweet. Hopefully. I really need to rest.
So, whilst I have been sick, I’ve had my mum keep me company. She’s been watching a lot of Criminal Minds.
It’s a show I remember a lot about very vaguely—AJ Cook (of Virgin Suicides fame) in a purple tee wistfully standing inside an elevator the episode her character JJ was written off, Paget Brewster’s bangs, and her character Emily Prentiss faking her death to do the sixth season of Community, word of Thomas Gibson’s altercation with a writer that got him fired. You know, the works.
Of course, I remembered Matthew Gray Gubler.
Gubler plays Dr. Spencer Reid, the supergenius baby G-Man in the show’s fictional branch of the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Reid has an eidetic memory, clasps his watch over the cuff of his sweater, wears mismatched socks, and carries a revolver instead of a standard-issue piece because, well, that’s just who he is. He’s the FBI’s prodigy, the youngest to ever join up with 3 PhDs to boot before the age of 25.
I remember Reid and Gubler being one of Tumblr’s skinny It Boys. Like if the Onceler was a cop or, as I consider him, Zooey Deschanel for boys (Gubler’s appearance in 500 Days of Summer notwithstanding). Gubler isn’t just an actor; he’s a model, author, director, haunted paraphernalia enthusiast, the voice of Simon in Alvin and The Chipmunks, and more that I’m just not aware of yet. He is prolific and he tweets in lowercase, the former I wish I could relate to more than the latter.
What I became aware of recently, however, was the mockumentaries he has been making based on his life, almost exclusively on the set of Criminal Minds. They’re called Matthew Gray Gubler: The Unauthorized Documentary and are available to watch on his YouTube channel. I am very, very late to the party.
The Unauthorized Documentary follows an exaggerated version of Gubler, an obnoxious almost troubled version—almost a Hollywood stereotype. It’s all too self-aware but thinks very little of the show and Gubler’s own self-awareness. He’s just having a lot of fun making fun of himself, and his co-stars and co-workers are all game. There’s actually a really adorable (and very unhinged) episode from twelve years ago where Gubler attempts to teach Anton Yelchin ‘how to act’. Sweet Anton Yelchin is more than game, intently following along every ridiculous gesture and exercise Gubler throws at him.
The second season focuses on Matthew ‘devolving’ in the final weeks of filming Criminal Minds. Docu-Gubler fixates on co-star Daniel Henney, projecting his insecurities onto Henney’s height, blaming Henney for the departure of former co-star Shemar Moore, and thinks someone’s baby was hired by the network to replace him. He’s incredibly clumsy, and sensitive, but is always looking for a way to not do any work (and go to Coachella).
He plays an insecure diva with delusions of grandeur inhabiting the body of an earnestly trying manchild. When the day comes to shoot their final scenes, Gubler runs away, taking his props with him, hoping they can’t end the show if he refuses to shoot the scene. Aubrey Plaza is often disinterested in him, and Paget Brewster says Gubler still blames Yoko Ono for breaking up One Direction.
I think these videos are really funny. I’m impressed with the almost network-TV quality of the mockumentary despite being presumably shot on his or someone else’s phone. As much as he pokes fun at his profession, industry, and his own self-awareness, the spirit of this series—and most of Gubler’s work outside of Criminal Minds—is his sense of youth and his not very serious pursuit of self-actualization. And, lest we forget, his undying love for Shemar Moore.
Gubler is 41 now, he was turning 40 when Criminal Minds was ending. He started the show when he was 26, only a few years older than me now. In a way, he’s honouring his time there the only way he knows how: by being himself. Or in this case, by playing himself. It’s a meta-examination of a meta-examination. Am I giving him too much credit? Was this at all his intention aside from having a little fun and the compulsion to just make something while he was at work?
He also undercuts a difficult goodbye with a laugh at his own expense, masking the bittersweetness by teasing out the bitter into a punchline. The ending of any show must be hard for the people who work on it as much as the people who love it. God knows I’m still wounded from the last season of Community, desperately waiting on the And A Movie.
I also think the jarring juxtaposition of Criminal Minds as a show versus Gubler’s very lighthearted behind-the-scenes look endlessly fascinating. Criminal Minds comes in a long line of police procedurals whose group of co-workers become a found family, a band of Bureau misfits often breaking protocol to protect and care for each other. They’re Mindhunter Lite, with hints of some interesting cases that barely scratch the surface of the ideas they could explore.
They’re still culpable for glorifying law enforcement, for oversimplifying or sensationalizing criminal profiling, serial, and other violent crimes for entertainment value (no duh, this is CBS, not National Geographic). Deductions and profiles on the show sound more like wild speculation as the show goes on, something I only noticed revisiting earlier seasons. The show had a fairly strenuous relationship with their female cast members, notably terminations caused by pay disputes. Cast members rotated in and out, and eventually landed on the most diverse line-up the show has ever had (equal amounts of men and women and more than one person of colour, for once! Insane that took 15 years!). No crimes would be solved without Reid or Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness), to the point where they eventually become plot armor. It’s just a show, one of the longest-running, about a group of profilers that are not only good at their job but love each other. Which, in hindsight, is pretty bizarre. And also sort of the premise to Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
There are some interesting character-driven episodes, some absolutely wild guest stars (Luke Perry, Frankie Muniz, Michelle Trachtenberg, or Aubrey Plaza as a Black Widow contract killer, to name a few), Mandy Patinkin solving crimes, and final seasons that revisit older storylines with a decade’s worth of hindsight. I get why the show had such a massive international following. I get why my mum and I can’t stop watching it whilst I’m on bedrest. It’s, ironically enough, easy to watch. And Gubler is easy on the eyes. It is my guiltiest of guilty pleasures, and that’s coming from someone whose favourite film is Showgirls (1995).
It is definitely worth re-examining the relationship I have to the kind of TV I watched growing up, especially with a lot of syndicated American shows in Asia being police procedural dramas, a market that (at least at the time) craved contained action and superficial ‘heroism’. Now, in their stead, we have the armed forces-loving superhero movies that just don’t know when to quit!
Matthew Gray Gubler: The Unauthorized Documentary has been a fun little respite from Criminal Minds itself, despite the two being inextricably linked to one another. It’s oddly affirming just to see this guy do whatever he wants whilst still on the job. I kinda want to be like that. Having the sheer audacity most white guys do might get me far in this silly little industry of ours.
I think the reason my brain has latched on to Gubler—albeit reluctantly—because there’s that prolificness in his artistic pursuits that a part of me wants to emulate, wants to be more like. And it doesn’t make me feel bad about any of my pursuits now. There’s a part of me that’s stopped projecting its own feelings of inadequacies onto complete strangers. I hope I can keep that up.
Surprise Mystery Guest
I know it was probably a booking delay or fluke but having Variety’s Actors on Actors line up announced with Lady Gaga and ‘A Mystery Guest’ only to find out that guest is Jake Gyllenhaal is really, really funny to me.
Like a supposed shroud of secrecy only to hide… Mysterio? The Man Who Would Identify Ted Cruz as The Zodiac Killer? The guy that doesn’t shower? Mr. Music from The Sack Lunch Bunch? The dad from Paul Dano’s Wildlife? Okay, the last one is a serve that’s worth some hype but it’s so funny that it’s just Jake.
Lady Gaga and Jake Gyllenhaal will have the most insane conversation two white people will ever have. I cannot wait to screencap the hell out of it for reaction images.
The Real Housewives of Tatooine
That subheading is what I always refer to The Book of Boba Fett as when I’m tweeting. It’s the most we’ve ever seen on Tatooine (outside of Anakin’s depressing ass childhood) and we have Boba Fett front and centre trying to get the girlies together to win a war. It’s exactly like Real Housewives!
The streets are saying that the father of my wrinkly green child makes an appearance on the show this week. I have yet to witness it with my own two eyes. Last week, Thundercat made an appearance as a mod-shop owner. If I were Boba or Fennec, I would’ve walked in there and asked for the 3AM HAIM special!
I’m enjoying the show so far, in a low-stakes way. It’s slow, which is what a lot of fans are complaining about, but I just like that Robert Rodriguez is taking his time and is having fun in his own way. It feels empty at times, which is really sad considering the legacy of Fett’s iconography, but there are moments that I’ve found to be super fun. And if you’ve been reading this newsletter long, you know I love to have fun! Especially if that fun is watching one of the hot girls from Yellowjackets on a silly little space Vespa! Temuera Morrison and Ming Na-Wen are excellent, Matt Berry does one of the droid voices, and I think Danny Trejo should be in every Star Wars property from this point forward. Machete in Space!
All I have left to say is to ask the question on everyone’s minds: where in the world is Timothy Olyphant then? Is he still galavanting about his little town playing Space Justified? Where is that silly little white man?
That’s all for this week! Sign up for the newsletter if you haven’t yet or buy me a coffee if you kindly feel so inclined to!