Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stephen Colbert has the next The Queen's Gambit all squared away

Illustration for article titled Stephen Colbert has the next The Queen's Gambit all squared away
Screenshot: The Late Show

Stephen Colbert—like all of us here at the A.V. Club—are fully aware that the Biden administration has its hands full, and that the resounding defeat of [redacted] and his Republican guard only means we’ve got that much more work to do. But, as evidenced by last night’s post-Inauguration Late Show and our post-Inauguration manifesto, both Colbert and the A.V. Club are sick of ceding so much brain space on the attention-hogging villainy of said redacted person. Colbert actually seemed a little shagged out on Thursday’s show, his voice a bit raspy with, one can only hope, a nice, cathartic bout of bourbon-flavored whooping. Still, it helps to have a very funny filmed piece to throw to, as Colbert did in introducing a meticulously produced trailer for his proposed new period streaming series based on a classic toy.

No, not The Queen’s Gambit, although (if aficionados will pardon us for calling chess a toy) Colbert did admit to taking inspiration from the runaway success of that particular pastime-based Netflix series. Instead, Colbert hopped over to that other, slightly newer, undeniably more colorful, equally frustrating logical nightmare-pursuit, the Rubik’s Cube, introducing his own, sure-to-inspire-sales cash-in, Turn The Left Bottom Middle Sideways Toward The Front-Facing Part. (“It’s not like chess—we don’t get to have cool names for things,” admits the show’s stern but dedicated cube-master.)

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Maybe not, but the piece turns (sorry) on the attention to detail, from the pitch-perfect casting of longtime Late Show and Conan O’Brien all-star side-man Brian Stack as the coach, and a fantastic Anya Taylor-Joy lookalike (Holly Hinchliffe) as the series’ cube-solving prodigy. And, like Taylor-Joy’s Beth, Turn The Left Bottom Middle Sideways Toward The Front-Facing Part’s protagonist finds her path to totally-existent Rubik’s Cube stardom a three-dimensional puzzle of obstacles, from wrist strain, to sexism, to that bout of temporary color-blindness. “Oh, also drugs,” our heroine admits in passing, “I do tons of drugs.” (She really does.)

As Colbert introduces his can’t-miss cash-grab, “It mixes elements of The Queen’s Gambit—with a strong desire to make a lot of money on the popularity of The Queen’s Gambit.” He also mentions the fact that there is actually a Rubik’s Cube movie happening (no really), and possibly even a cubist game show, where, undoubtedly, just peeling off the stickers and calling it solved is not an option. (He did not bring up the 1983 animated Rubik’s series, because those creators did not have the vision to peg their corporate-sponsored spinoff to a prestige TV phenomenon.) Plus, as Colbert assures all the “cubeheads” out there, Turn The Left Bottom Middle Sideways Toward The Front-Facing Part is fourteen, brain-scrambling episodes, and will air exclusively on a powerhouse streaming service that in no way will fizzle out faster than a young child’s enthusiasm over the gift of a Rubik’s Cube.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.