09th Feb2021

A Farewell To Farms: Bidding Adieu To My FarmVille Empire

by Will

I’m not much of a “gamer”, which has left me out in the cold as my oldest daughter has gotten sucked into the worlds of Roblox and Among Us. Every evening, she tries to tell me about that day’s exploits, and I just have no clue what the Hell she’s talking about. Who cares? Who gets that obsessed with an online world? I just don’t get it. Then I took a look in the mirror, and realized I didn’t recognize who I had become. You see, while I was never really into video games, I did have a stint where I was totally immersed in the world of social gaming, in the form of FarmVille.

Launched by Zynga in 2009, FarmVille was a Flash-based browser game that you could play via Facebook, which somehow made the world of agriculture seem exciting. And I was OBSESSED! If you were a Facebook friend of mine at that time, I undoubtedly asked you to send me some crops at one point or another. In fact, seeing as how the game tricked users into thinking their friends were active players of the game, these crop requests probably came across as harassment, and you most likely unfriended me because of it. Still, I didn’t care – I had candy canes to grow! While the game has somewhat been forgotten in recent years, I can’t stress how big FarmVille was for this brief moment in time. There were 7-11 tie-ins, with Farm Cash and Slurpee cups! For 2 years, it was the MOST popular game on Facebook. Do people even play games on Facebook anymore, other than “Spot the Q-Anon” or “How’s Your Racist Aunt?” A different time, I guess!

Like a real farmer, I used to start and end my day tending my farm. I’d milk the unicorns and pick the starfruit, while planting a bunch of carrots to pick later that night (If I’m not mistaken, carrots were one of the faster growing crops, with a decent ROI). Yeah, unicorns and starfruit. If you were looking for realism, I guess you could’ve gone that route, but FarmVille basically had a “climate be damned” mentality to it, where you could grow stuff that never should have been grown on a midwestern farm. As the game went on, they added new farms for you to add to your agricultural portfolio. At one point, I had a base farm, a farm at the North Pole, and I had a farm in England. Digital Me was jetting back and forth to tend to these multiple farms, and that’s when the cracks started to show. It was hard enough with one primary farm. I mean, you celebrated the successes, but you also felt the losses, like when you didn’t come straight home from work, only to find your crops had withered and died.

I wasn’t an immediate convert, though. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) was into it, and I was just kinda condescending about the whole thing. “Oh, you’ve got to get home to tend to your farm?”, I’d ask, dripping with sarcasm. I’m not sure what finally did it for me – maybe it’s because our relationship was still new, so we were still willing to lie to each other, kinda like how she pretended to like comics – but I eventually gave the game a shot, and never really looked back. She would soon get bored of it, but I was ALL IN. I’d beg her to log in, just to send me crops, but her heart was no longer in it. It didn’t matter, though, as I tracked down every FB friend who was an active player, and proceeded to beg them for crops.

Don’t get me wrong, though – it wasn’t all begging. It truly was a communal experience, where you helped each other out, like good “neighbors”. As I said before, though, the game had a habit of making you think some of your FB friends were active players, when maybe they had just opened the game once in the past. Didn’t matter to FarmVille; this person was now your neighbor, and fair game for asking for shit. Yeah, I rubbed some folks the wrong way because of that. To quote Wedding Crashers, “We lost a lot of good men out there.”

Anyway, as big a part of my life as FarmVille had become, one day it all just…stopped. Like I said, it was becoming too time-consuming managing 3 farms in different parts of the “world” (No, really. When you moved from farm to farm, you’d actually board a little plane that would fly you across the ocean!). It also didn’t help that there was no mobile counterpart for the game, unless you had an Apple product, so it pretty much demanded you be in front of your computer at designated times. Then I started hearing rumblings about a FarmVille 2 on the horizon. A NEW GAME?! But what about my current farms? My crops? All my investments? Nah, son. It was time to get out of farming. I would go on to channel all that time and energy into Twitter instead. I got married, had kids, worked some jobs, and never spoke of my farming days again.

While I did walk away from the game,  I never completely forgot about it. I had a morbid curiosity about the sequel game, but never enough to play it. I also wondered if my old farms still existed. I actually romanticized a blog post where I would “go back to the family farm”, and see what sort of emotions it would trigger in me. If nothing else, it would make for a good excuse to fire up the game again, and it seemed like it would be a funny post. I wouldn’t get that chance, however, as Zynga announced last September that the game would close up on December 31st, 2020, to coincide with the retirement of the Adobe Flash Player, which was integral to the browser-based game. September to December seems like enough time to get something like that done, right? Too bad I didn’t read about it until December 30th 2020. Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to revisit paradise before it was paved to put in a parking lot.

I’d like to say I made a bunch of friends playing the game, but I never really broke out of my circle of “knowns”. I’d love to say I gained a newfound appreciation of farming, but I know it’s a much harder industry than clicking a 4×4 plot of land. No, I didn’t really grow as a person from the game, but it gave me something to look forward to at a time when I needed it most. I haven’t transitioned very well to The Real World. I spent my college career singing every weekend, while dressed like some kind of waiter. Sounds kinda dumb now, but I thought I was cool. So it wasn’t easy to go from that to being a 9-5 cog in various jobs that didn’t depend on any “specialness” that I brought to the table. So FarmVille gave me something I could control. I could see the fruits of my labor. I got just as much back as I put into it. For that, I’m thankful. There are a ton of social media influencers who’ll tell you that people and things come into – and leave – your life for a reason. I guess I now have a better understanding as to why FarmVille came into mine. As an extension, I can also understand why Roblox has come to mean so much to Evie. Here she is, a 5 year old, starting school in the middle of a pandemic, and having to do Kindergarten over the internet. These games are the socialization that she needs right now, even if she can’t read, so the Among Us players keep ejecting her for being “sus”. It’s nice to see her really excited about something, which isn’t an easy feat in this day and age. So, I’ll try to be more understanding, knowing that this, too, will pass. Plus, I’ll probably look back one day and long for the innocence of this time, compared to what will come. I just wish I could have have shown her the family farm. I think she would have liked that.

04th Jan2021

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2020

by Will

Welcome to the WBW40! To say that 2020 was a “challenging year” would be an understatement. That said, there was a silver lining in the form of music. A lot of great songs came out this year, and I just wanted to take a look back at the 40 that I enjoyed most. Some of these songs weren’t necessarily released in 2020, but they made the greatest impact on pop culture during that year. If you’re new here, a guiding principle of this post is “Genre Is A Social Construct”. A lot of these blur the lines of classification, and are sometimes ghettoized because they are played predominantly on one radio format over another. All I ask is that you try to go in with an open mind, and maybe you’ll find your new favorite song!


40. Britney Spears feat. Backstreet Boys – Matches

There’s something about this slot on the countdown that tends to skew “Retro”. Last year’s #40 was Backstreet Boy AJ McLean with “Boy and A Man”, and he’s back with the rest of his squad this year, featured on a Britney track. This is the closest thing to a participation trophy as you’ll find on this year’s countdown. The song is here due to my unabashed love of late 90s bubblegum pop, but there’s nothing really great here, and the collaboration is about 20 years too late. Considering this is the first collaboration between the former powerhouse franchises, I’ve gotta say that I expected more.


39. Parmalee & Blanco Brown – Just The Way

This is Blanco’s second time on the year end countdown, as his song/dance “The Git Up” was #38 last year. I like this song because it’s something of a modern-day reinterpretation of *NSYNC’s “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You”. with a dash of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”. It’s got the same basic message of “What you perceive as imperfections are the things that make you who you are”. Plus, Blanco serves as something of a South of the Mason-Dixon Line T-Pain here, which works when it totally shouldn’t.


38. Parker McCollum – Pretty Heart

This song appealed to me because it sounds like something we would’ve gotten in the late 90s from The Wallflowers.


37. Niko Moon – Good Time

This is just the most laid back song, and Moon comes off sounding like a country Jack Johnson.


36. Trey Lewis – Dicked Down In Dallas

This song…wow. I had already come up with the list for the countdown when my good friend Marcus Dowling introduced me to this song. It’s crazy because it’s the last thing you’d expect from country, even though it follows the “I lost my woman” trope common for the genre. No, the problem is that Lewis went balls out on a song that can’t get mainstream radio airplay, nor do I think CMT is rushing to play the video. I mean, just listen to that chorus! The song basically JUST came out, but once we get clear of COVID and folks turn their attention to it, I think you’ll be hearing a lot about this track.


35. Rascal Flatts – How They Remember You

The farewell song from one of the biggest acts of the past 20 years. Their farewell tour was cancelled, so this is pretty much how they’ll go out: with a song that grapples with how one leaves a legacy behind. I gravitate toward meta stuff like that. For a lot of folks, Rascal Flatts will probably be remembered for their cover of “Life Is A Highway” from Cars, which is a shame because there was so much more to them than that, but that was the song that crossed over the most for them.


34. Rina Sawayama – XS

I kinda cheated here, as I had never heard of the song or the artist until I saw someone else’s year end list, and I immediately fell in love. It’s got that early 2000s pop sound that I love. I’ll definitely be checking out more from her.


33. Thomas Rhett – What’s Your Country Song?

The basic gist of this song is that there’s a country song for everyone out there, and you just have to find it. The driving force behind it, though, is the fact that Rhett drops little references to classic songs here. I like corny stuff like that. It’s not a number 1 song, and it’s sort of odd that a star at TR’s level would waste a single slot on a song that everyone on his team had to know was a #2 song AT BEST. It’s a cute little ditty, but this is why it’s so low on the countdown.


32. Lady A – Champagne Night

What a year they’ve had, huh? Things haven’t been great for ol’ Lady A. First they decide it’s time to change their name, as the old one (Lady Antebellum) conjured up images of the slavery South. So, they chop their name down to Lady A – without doing their research. Turns out there’s already a blues singer named Lady A. So, both sides sue each other, which is still ongoing. Seems like that drama affected the music, as they dropped from #2 last year to #32 . The song is serviceable, but I think I like the chorus here most of all.


31. Darius Rucker – Beers and Sunshine

I think I’m always going to be a Rucker fan, mainly because I’m impressed that he figured out a way to lengthen his career by changing almost nothing about his act. I maintain that Hootie Rucker and Solo Rucker are the same dude, but he just started sending his songs to different radio stations. The sound, however, is the same. This isn’t one of his better tracks, but it’s got a catchy little beat. Would’ve been a nice summer song, had we all actually experienced a typical summer.


30. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

That voice! This is a man who’s seen some stuff, and felt some things. While I don’t love this as much as I did his “Broken Halos”, it’s still a great song. I’m not alone in thinking that, as it made Barack Obama’s end of year playlist, as well.


29. Conan Gray – Heather

This year there were two songs that stood out to me as telling a story of a love triangle. First, there was Taylor Swift, with “betty”, which wasn’t initially clear as to what it was about. Was it a lesbian anthem? Was Taylor the “boy” there? I had to look it up to find out what it was about. Well, this is the other song, where Conan is in a love triangle where the person he loves is in love with Heather, causing him to develop a somewhat irrational hatred of Heather for getting in his way. Even without all the backstory, though, I think you can agree that it’s a beautiful song.


28. Matt Stell – Everywhere But On

This is Stell’s second time on the countdown, as his debut, “Prayed For You”, came in at #24 last year. I honestly like this song more, but that just goes to show how great the songs are on this year’s chart.


27. Thomas Rhett featuring Jon Pardi – Beer Can’t Fix

“Ain’t nothin’ that a beer can’t fix.” This song came out the second week of 2020, and the year replied “Oh, really?” What would’ve just been a run-of-the-mill country drinking song took on new meaning in the quarantined existence of 2020. This is TR’s second appearance on this year’s countdown, and I doubt he realized just how necessary this song would become in the months ahead.


26. Sam Smith – Diamonds

I love Sam Smith, and this song is a good example as to why. It’s the kind of thing you hear in a department store and instantly have to Shazam so you can download it later.


25. Luke Bryan – One Margarita

Poor Luke Bryan! He had what was probably meant to be THE Spring Break (and possibly Summer) anthem about relaxing at the beach. The problem? He released it March 13th – the day the world stopped. It’s a fun bop, but it was marred by the fact that you couldn’t really relate to the song unless you were blatantly breaking COVID travel protocols. Oh, what might have been…


24. Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande – Rain On Me

This should have had more of an impact than it did. Chromatica was supposed to be Gaga’s return to the Weird that built her career. She’d spent the past few years acting and singing with Tony Bennett, and this was supposed to be a return to her “roots”, so to speak. Well, it came out, and then sank like a rock. I still haven’t listened to the whole thing, but this song was inescapable, as it was used in ad campaigns all over television this year. It’s no “Bad Romance” but, really, what is?


23. Luke Combs featuring Eric Church – Does To Me

Why isn’t Eric Church a bigger deal? Does he not play by the rules? I get the feeling he might be difficult. Anyway, it’s odd that a relative newcomer like Combs has a feature from Church rather than the other way around. To be honest, Church puts in a serviceable verse, but it doesn’t make or break the track. It almost feels like a waste of his time. Still, I love the song, and it’s got a catchy hook.


22. Dua Lipa – Break My Heart

She’s an artist I’d heard by name all throughout the year, but it was much later when I could actually name one of her songs. This is such a great song, as it reminds me of a UK sound that doesn’t typically float over here. I’m glad to see it caught on and that she’s experiencing the success that she is.


21. Mickey Guyton – Black Like Me

You may not know this, but there is a Black woman fighting her way through the White world of country music. She gets almost no airplay, but she’s still nominated for awards, so the folks that matter have noticed her, even if the general public has not. This is a great track where she tries to convey to her audience what it’s like to be Black like her. I’m not really surprised this isn’t getting a ton of spins, but could you imagine what would happen if it did? It might feel more genuine than Jimmie Allen thanking Charley Pride every time someone hands him a mic…


20. Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion – WAP

OK, we’re into the top 20 now, which is where the titans come to spar. I’ll admit that this isn’t necessarily a “Will song”, but it was hard to ignore, especially on social media. I’ve seen way too many videos of moms rapping to it, moms reacting to their daughters rapping to it, etc. You couldn’t really escape this song this year, and it sparked a lot of dialogue as to whether folks were comfortable with women being so up front about their sexuality. I’m sure there’s some college course discussing it next semester


19. Eric Church – Stick That In Your Country Song

Oh boy! Eric Church is back, and now I can understand why he’s not a bigger name. He does NOT play by the rules. This song is a full-on pro-BLM, your country isn’t as great as you think it is, ANTHEM. He’s basically taking the country music industry to task for ignoring what’s going on in America, and I am HERE FOR IT. You’ve got to blast this song to get the full effect. Crank that thang up to 11!


18. Keith Urban featuring P!nk – One Too Many

P!nk is a freaking chameleon. She started out with her whole party girl R&B routine, then she morphed into “What If Gwen Stefani Actually Grew Up?” In recent years, however, she’s dipped her toe into the country world. Her first collaboration was with Kenny Chesney on 2016’s “Setting The World On Fire”, which predates the WBW40 but certainly would’ve been on there. This track actually had to grow on me, but I think the chorus is what really does it for me, with the backing choir. This is a great song with a lot of crossover appeal.


17. Shawn Mendes – Wonder

This is such a great power ballad, which was inescapable if you’d set foot in a Target this year. I don’t know a ton about Shawn Mendes, as I tend to confuse him with Charlie Puth sometimes, but I know he’s dating Camilla Cabello. This is just a top notch soundscape, which has me wanting to check out more of his stuff.


16. Dua Lipa – Levitating

Is that disco I hear? Is Dua Lipa helping to usher in a new wave of disco? Just close your eyes, and you’ll be teleported back. This song is “The Sex”. Do kids still say that? Did they ever say that? Let’s get that going!


15. The Chicks – Gaslighter

I love how, all these years later, they’re STILL not ready to “make nice”. This was the year that country radio seemed to finally forgive The Dixie Chicks – a mere 17 years after they were blacklisted for their views on then-President George W. Bush. This song was never really in heavy rotation, as it peaked at #36 on the US Country Airplay chart. When I put these posts together, I tend to opt for the lyric video as opposed to the official video, as I don’t want the visuals to take away from the song. In this case, however, I love how the song and visuals are woven together to get across the warning against propaganda.


14. Brad Paisley – No I In Beer

Well, first of all, Paisley clearly doesn’t know German. I shouldn’t like this song. It’s corny, It’s a little too “retro country”. All that said, I LOVE it. It was one of the first songs put out after the lockdowns, in the spirit of “We’re all in this together”. He crafted a drunken singalong for the Zoom generation, and it doesn’t get more 2020 than that.


13. HAIM – The Steps

I LOVE HAIM. They didn’t make it onto last year’s countdown, but they made it the year prior. Seriously, the only time they’ve ever disappointed me was on their collab with Taylor Swift, “no body, no crime”. “The Steps”, however, is reminiscent of Sheryl Crow at her All I Wanna Do-est, which is my favorite Sheryl Crow.


12. Morgan Wallen – More Than My Hometown

This is SUCH a country song. Small town couple has the whole town rooting for them to make it, while her big city dreams are in contrast to his love of small town living. Ultimately he chooses to stay because, well, he can’t love her more than his hometown. Wallen became a household name this year when his Alabama maskless makeout sesh got him booted as the SNL musical guest, for violating COVID protocols. He would be invited back on later, at which point he would NOT perform this song – what I considered a misstep, since this was his biggest song of the year.


11. The Weeknd – In Your Eyes

I should just cut and paste what I end up writing about The Weeknd’s songs every year: WHY DON’T I LISTEN TO MORE STUFF FROM THE WEEKND?! Seriously, I am absolutely in love with his sound, with every hit sounding like What If Michael Jackson Had Leaned More Into Synthwave? This isn’t the last time we’ll see him on this year’s chart.


10. Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky

The 80s are BACK, baby! Seriously, between Miley, Dua Lipa, and The Weeknd, I have to constantly make sure I wasn’t sucked down a warp zone back to 1986 or something. I was saying on Twitter the other night that it’s a shame that Miley has so much baggage because I don’t think we give her enough credit for her talent. Just the sound of her name conjures up memories of “The Climb” and “Party In The U.S.A.”, when it should make you think of her cover of “Edge of Seventeen” or THIS song right here. This song is so damn good. I can’t wait to hear this entire album.


09. Blake Shelton & Gwen Stefani – Nobody But You

This is the kind of collaboration that I feel should be avoided. Sure, they’re a high profile couple, and they’re both judges on The Voice, but I feel like recording a song together is the music industry equivalent of tattooing your spouse’s name on you. Kiss of death. And these two gumps went and released TWO duets this year! Still, this is by far the better of the two, and it grew on me pretty quickly.


08. Jake Owen – Homemade

I feel like Jake Owen came almost out of nowhere. I mean, he’s been on the countdown in the past, with “Down To The Honkytonk”, but before that he really wasn’t a “name”. With this song, he just kinda knocked it out of the park. Like Morgan Wallen, it’s another song about loving your small town existence. It’s funny I love these songs so much, seeing as how I can’t really relate. I guess it’s that part of me that wants to live on a farm, where my nearest neighbor is “down the road a few miles, past the old Coke sign”.


07. Blackpink featuring Selena Gomez

I have to admit I missed the entire K-Pop boat. I knew it was happening, but I didn’t know where to enter, who were the hot groups, etc. The girls of the world were screaming for BTS, meanwhile I was introduced to Monsta X on an episode of We Bare Bears, and I thought I was doing something. This song, however, is AMAZING. This won’t be the last K-Pop entry on the chart, either.


06. Sam Hunt – Hard To Forget

I was scared we’d heard the last from Sam Hunt. He had that Alanis Morissette career trajectory, where his debut album, Montevallo, was huge, but his follow up stalled out of the gate. He was the first male country solo artist to have 4 songs from his debut album go to #1. Then he released “Downtown’s Dead”, which did nothing for anyone, peaking at #96 on the Hot 100 chart. He seems to have gone back to his roots with the wordplay, which makes him something like a southern Jason Mraz, and he hit pay dirt with this song.


05. Gabby Barrett – I Hope

This song is SO good. It’s hard to believe she’s only 20, as this sounds like it’s coming from someone with some miles on them. She’s one of the rare success stories from American Idol 2.0, as she came in 3rd place in season 17 of the show. There’s a crossover remix that was sent to pop stations, making it a duet between Barrett and Charlie Puth, but I feel the solo version is the superior edition. I can’t really explain it but it almost sounds like a spiritual cousin of Alannah Myles’s 1989 hit “Black Velvet”.


04. Brett Eldredge – Gabrielle

I wrote about this song before the earth stood still, but it has stayed with me the whole year. To me, it’s the best song that Bruce Hornsby never wrote. You might only know Hornsby and The Range from “The Way It Is”, but between that and “Mandolin Rain”, I’m definitely hearing some Hornsby here. And ain’t nothing wrong with that!


03. BTS – Dynamite

I told you there’d be more K-Pop! How many of them are there? I feel like I’m watching the Boyz12 episode of American Dad. At least 2 of them are girls, right? They’re breaking all the boyband “rules”! But I don’t care because this song is so damn catchy. I’d heard it in commercials before I finally sought out the source, and I was not disappointed. This is the kind of fun pop that the Britney/BSB collab SHOULD have been, but wasn’t. I couldn’t ask for anything more in a pop song. This song delivered.


02. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

This is a first, as we have a holdover from last year’s countdown, and it has jumped from #22 to #2. In case you’re just skimming the list, let me remind you that I LOVE THE WEEKND. When they were trying to say he was snubbed by The Grammys, I didn’t really think much of it at the time. I’m here to say, however, that he was totally snubbed by The Grammys. This song was inescapable due to Tik Tok challenges. During the earlier days of lockdown, families were going viral to dances they’d choreographed to the song. All that aside, it’s just such a great song. The synthwave makes me want to just go speeding down a dark highway.


01. Dan + Shay – I Should Probably Go To Bed

Another amazing song that didn’t get the airplay it deserved. iHeartMedia does this thing, where they debut a song and play it at the top of every hour for the whole day. They gave that treatment to this song, and then I basically never heard it again. I don’t know if program directors hated it, or if there was some other conspiracy against the band. Maybe they flew too close to the sun with their Justin Bieber collaboration last year. I don’t know what it was, but radio did not love this song, which just made me love it more. I’d find it in the weirdest places, like how they bought a YouTube ad which was the entire music video. I wish I could take credit for this assessment but I think it was Billboard that said it sounded like something off the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and that’s a perfect description for it. It’s got that Wall of Sound all over it, and it’s just such a beautiful, enveloping song. I’m about 17 years removed from a cappella, but I immediately thought “This would make an incredible arrangement.” I know this is the first time a lot of you are experiencing it, so I hope you can understand where I’m coming from, as this was, hands down, my favorite song of the year.

So, there ya have it: my top 40 favorite songs of 2020. How many of these were on your list? How many were new to you, but you kinda dug? Let me know in the comments below!

13th May2020

Ain’t No Lie: 20 Years of *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached

by Will

In these uncertain times, it’s sometimes hard to remember important milestones as the days just blend together. That’s why I completely forgot the 20th anniversary of one of the most important albums of my youth, *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached. Released on March 20th, 2000, this record-setting album sold 2.4 million copies in the US in one week – a record that would stand for 15 years, until Adele’s 25 was released. This was something of a crossover album for the group, as its R&B leanings showed that boybands didn’t have to adhere to such a bubblegum sound. Before we get into the album, though, let’s talk a bit about the group itself.

*NSYNC was formed in 1995 by boyband impresario Lou Pearlman, who’d already experienced success forming the Backstreet Boys. Pearlman was the first cousin of Art Garfunkel, which gave him a window to the music industry. As the story goes, the New Kids on the Block chartered a few flights via Pearlman’s Trans Continental Airlines, and Pearlman thought to himself “I could do that.” By the time the Backstreet Boys were formed, America was already over the New Kids, so Pearlman shipped them off to Europe, where they became a huge success. Seeing if lightning could strike twice, Pearlman decided to create another boyband, as he had pretty much gotten the process down to a science by that point. This second group would be comprised of Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, Jason Galasso, and JC Chasez – and the group would be called *NSYNC, created by the last letter of each of their first names. Jason quit early on, as he didn’t like the vocal direction of the group, so Justin’s vocal coach recommended Lance Bass as a replacement, and for the group name to still work, promotional materials said Lance’s nickname was “Lansten”.

Originally, *NSYNC was basically the Pepsi to Backstreet Boys’ Coke. They shared the same manager (Johnny Wright, former manager of NKOTB), songwriters, and producers. They also shared the same shady business structure. You see, in both cases, Pearlman assumed a membership stake in the group, so all proceeds were split six ways, with him as the “sixth member” – this was on top of every other way he was swindling them (This would actually become a common Pearlman tactic. One of the best episodes of the original Making The Band is when Pearlman’s latest group, O-Town, is about to sign their record contracts on the very day news broke about *NSYNC’s lawsuit. Like, they’re watching the news break, with pens in their hands). The Backstreet Boys were the first to realize his sixth member status, and filed a lawsuit while recording their Millennium album. *NSYNC, meanwhile, found out about it while recording their second album in 1999, and the resulting lawsuit delayed its release. Once they settled for an undisclosed amount, the album was named No Strings Attached to signify that they were no longer the victims of their corporate puppeteers. They severed their ties to RCA, and quickly signed with Jive Records, who slated the release of that album for March 20th, 2000.

With a new lease on life, *NSYNC wanted to make sure they sounded different from everyone else on the scene. They were content to work with the same producers as their “rivals”, but they didn’t want to sound the same as them. So, in addition to pop hitmakers Max Martin and Kristian Lundin, they also brought in Teddy Riley for his R&B pedigree and 80s balladeer Richard Marx. For the US market, this all resulted in the 12-track No Strings Attached.

Now, what effect did this album have on me? Well, let’s take a step back, as I wasn’t always a boyband fanatic. I grew up listening to country until about the age of 12. And then it was Ace of Base that really brought me into the world of pop. This means I missed the entire New Kids on the Block movement. I mean, it wasn’t “cool” for boys to be into that stuff anyway, but I’ve since gone back and don’t really think NKOTB were great vocally (Sorry, not sorry). I can see the appeal of harmony and dance moves – Hell, those qualities launched Motown – but I find very little to like about classic NKOTB. So that means I wasn’t exactly a guaranteed audience when Backstreet Boys hit the scene. While they didn’t get a ton of regular airplay, they did get played on Radio AAHS, which was this kids radio station I could sometimes get if the weather was nice and the antenna was pointed the right way. I remember their debut single was NOT “Quit Playin’ Games”, but was actually “We’ve Got It Goin’ On”. When that single failed to land, Pearlman shipped them off to Germany, they became huge, came back to America with “Quit Playin’ Games”, and the rest is history. I didn’t immediately glom onto them, though. They didn’t pique my curiosity until “As Long As You Love Me”, and by the time “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” hit, I was in it just like everyone else.

Since Lou learned from his BSB launch mistakes, he launched *NSYNC in Germany instead of trying them out here first. So, their debut US single was “I Want You Back”, which came out around the time of “Backstreet’s Back”. They’re similar songs, due to the fact they’re both written by Denniz Pop and Max Martin, and I was a fan of both. However, I didn’t sign my soul over to *NSYNC fandom until “Tearin’ Up My Heart” came out. I don’t know what it was about that song, but I kept it on repeat for about 2 years. My mother can attest to this. I DEVOURED their self-titled debut album, from “Thinking of You (I Drive Myself Crazy)” to their cover of the Christopher Cross hit “Sailing”.

If you don’t remember the Pop Renaissance of the late 90s/early 00s, then you probably don’t remember that it was constantly building. You were on the edge of your seat to see who would do what next. BSB hit the scene, then there was NSYNC, then we got Britney, then we got Christina. BSB set the one-week bestselling record with Millennium selling 1.1 million copies. It would go on to sell 9.4 million copies, making it the bestselling album of 1999. Then, all eyes were on *NSYNC, and they delivered when No Strings Attached sold 2.4 million in one week. It would become the bestselling album of 2000. When the ball was back in BSB’s court, following their own legal battles, they released Black & Blue, which sold a respectable, but not record-breaking, 1.6 million copies in its first week. It was at this point that folks started to realize the bubblegum era of pop was coming to a close, meaning that the release of No Strings Attached was pop at its peak.

As I was caught up in the anticipation, I’ll admit that I was more hyped about everything going on than the actual album that was delivered. The thing to remember is that you pretty much knew what you were gonna get from Max Martin around this era. They were all chart toppers, but it got to the point where he was using the same synth progressions, and the lyrics were interchangeable. Half of these albums were filler garbage – usually any songs not written by Martin and the rest of the Cheiron Studios crew. Backstreet Boys had actually made the first foray into R&B tinged pop when they released “Larger Than Life”, a song I dislike for a myriad of reasons. So, when No Strings Attached came out, I wasn’t exactly surprised to find that it was just an album of “Larger Than Life”. After all, everything we were getting was just building on what had come before it. So, at the end of the day, I only really enjoyed 6 of the US edition’s 12 tracks.

For an album as big as it was, it’s somewhat surprising that No Strings Attached only generated 3 official singles in the US: “Bye Bye Bye”, “It’s Gonna Be Me”, and “This I Promise You”. This is one less than their self-titled debut album, but it should also be noted that they toured and performed those debut album songs for 3 years before releasing No Strings Attached. Meanwhile, the group would release their 3rd and final album, Celebrity, just a year later in 2001. So, for as successful as it was, its shelf life was somewhat truncated by the release of an album I like even less than this one. As most of y’all were around in 2000, I won’t waste time explaining the cultural significance of those three singles. I mean, “Bye Bye Bye” was EVERYWHERE, and meme culture has immortalized “It’s Gonna Be Me”. Meanwhile, “This I Promise You” is the best song by Richard Marx that you didn’t know what written by Richard Marx.

As with most pop releases of the time, however, I gravitated to the UK Edition of the album. No, I didn’t have some sort of European CD hookup, but seeing as how these were the halcyon days of file sharing, it was pretty easy to track down. You see, the European market always gets the songs that they don’t think will make it in the US, and that just happens to be the sound that I LOVE. Two of my favorite songs made the UK edition: “I’ll Never Stop” and “If I’m Not The One”.

“I’ll Never Stop” was actually released as the second single from the album in the UK, and it was accompanied by a simple tour video. I hate tour videos because they’re cheap, and don’t really show much more than “Here’s a bunch of crowded shows, and fans going crazy over us”. No, I prefer the artistry of a real video, even if it’s just the band made up like marionettes, escaping from a toy store. Remember how I said Martin’s songs pretty much ran together at this point? This is just “Tearin’ Up My Heart: Part II”, but I ain’t mad at it.

Meanwhile, “If I’m Not The One” would eventually be released in the US at McDonald’s, of all places. It was included on the Your #1 Requests…And More! CD sampler, which had 4 *NSYNC songs and 4 Britney Spears songs. Backstreet Boys would later have a similar promotion at Burger King, so this was merely a custom of the time. Written by Swedes Fredrik Thomander and Anders Wikstrom, it’s clear they were students of Martin, as they delivered that Euro pop sound I’d come to love.

The inclusion of these songs on the US version would have made it an overall more enjoyable experience for me, but I can understand that they represent a sound that the group was trying to move away from in this market.
*NSYNC would delve even deeper into R&B with their next album, Celebrity, of which I’m not really a fan. If CDs were comic books, Celebrity would be the #0 issue to Justin Timberlake’s solo debut, Justified. He’s front and center on Celebrity, and it really doesn’t feel like a group effort. That would be the last time that all 5 members recorded together.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years since *NSYNC told us “Bye Bye Bye” which, come to think of it, probably would been a bomb ass final song from them. Imagine going out on that note! Anyway, it was a farewell to their label and the old way of doing things more so than them telling the audience they were leaving. Still, it was the era of TRL, low-rise jeans, and doing it all for the nookie. I was a freshman in college, and those were the days when anything was possible. Back then, the sky was the limit. Now, however, the limit is the sky. I may not love the entire tracklist, but it’s an album that always takes me to my happy place – a place of possibility, filled with smooth harmonies and a bumping baseline. Plus, I even managed to get my a cappella group to let me solo on both “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and “This I Promise You”. So, let’s raise a glass to Justin, Chris, Joey, “Lansten”, and JC for giving us this pinnacle of the 90s/00s Pop Era. Sure, since then we’ve had One Direction, BTS, and more, but with the current state of the music industry, it’s hard to believe there’ll ever be another album this big.

15th Nov2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/15/19

by Will

HELLO?! IS ANYBODY HERE?! *echo*

 

I feel like I go on hiatus way too much because I find myself apologizing for having done so way too much. This year, West Year Ever is gonna be pretty easy to compile since I took off, like, 1/3 of the year. Seriously, I even considered switching the format to West Month Ever for a while.

So, where have I been? That’s a great question. Long story short: I had nothing to say. Or, better yet, I had nothing positive to say. And you know the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice…” Sure, there was plenty of stuff to rant about, but I couldn’t balance it out with anything I *LIKED*, and that was a problem. The internet is toxic enough, so I really didn’t feel like feeding into that. So, I spent my time catching up on Power Rangers: Beast Morphers episodes, and trying to clean up my basement. There were times when I was on the verge of posting something, and then life would throw a monkey wrench into my plans. One week, I was working at the work site that has my site blocked, so no posting then. Another week, I was in a car accident and had my car battery die (resulting in a 2.5 hour wait for AAA), all in the same Friday. So, I guess I was just supposed to skip the month of October.

This week, though, couldn’t be skipped because just TOO much happened, and it felt like the perfect time to make my grand return.

In the movie realm, I got around to watching White Chicks the other day. No, I’d never seen it, even though I know it’s a guilty pleasure for a lot of folks. At the end of the day, I didn’t love it. I mean, it’s problematic in a way that only a movie from 2004 could get away with, but I also didn’t find it to be that funny. It could be because we’ve sort of left the era of the socialite behind. Sure, the Kardashians are always considered “famous for being famous”, but they’ve built a business empire upon that. Outside the Hadid girls, we don’t really have the Paris & Nicole Simple Life era socialites anymore, even if we still have spoiled, rich White girls. To be honest, though, I probably would’ve preferred a movie about the Dominican bodega owners that Shawn and Marlon are disguised as in the beginning. I’ll also note that I watched this thing on TV One, so it was probably edited for television with all the good stuff taken out. For you fans out there, is it worth revisiting in, say, an unrated DVD sort of way?

One thing that took the past week by storm was the McDonalds Happy Meal 40th anniversary promotion, and BOY do I have thoughts on that! Designed as a limited run from November 7th through 11th, the promotion first leaked from some YouTuber posting about it. Then, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula tweeted about it, at which point he said McDonalds “kindly” asked him to take down the tweet. Then McDonalds formally announced it: for 5 days only, they would be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal by releasing reproductions of some of their most iconic toys. Oh, and in blind bags.

Let me tell you a little bit of my own history with McDonalds Happy Meal toys, as I was once something of a superfan. This is where my collecting lifestyle began. When there was a new promotion, it was my weekend mission to get my mom to drive us all over town so I could complete those sets. This went on from about Kindergarten to maybe 8th grade. I got to a point where I was modding Happy Meal orders to come with Big Macs and Quarter Pounders with Cheese (I was a “husky”, hungry child) until some employee eventually told me “You know, you can just BUY the toys.” That’s when I moved the to the Extra Value Menu, occasionally shelling out an additional $1.89 for Happy Meal toys. So I had the originals of everything in this anniversary promotion. I would have liked a proper tribute to those old toys, but this wasn’t it.

OK, so here’s the first problem: why reproductions? I know you’re all not like me, spending all your free time in thrift stores, but lemme tell ya something: McDonalds toys are NOT hard to find. Plus I feel like there’s got to be some sort of McDonalds Area 51 with a stockpile of old toys they could’ve drawn from. Even if this doesn’t exist (prove me wrong, cowards!), they could’ve really made this special in other ways. Maybe team up with the American Pickers guys, and have them go out and find some dead stock for them to use. It’d make a great special episode of the show, and it would look like some kind of effort went into it. It could’ve been a yearlong buildup, with webisodes and whatnot. Instead, we get this lame promotion that was shoehorned into a week that McDonalds needed to fill between the Hello Kitty/Pokémon promotion and the Frozen II promotion.

Next problem: blind bagged, though numbered. Why act like it’s such a surprise about what you’ll get when everyone knows there are 17 in the US (#9, believed to be a Barbie, was pulled from the promotion before it began), and the numbers are right there on the polybags? It’s not “blind” if you can read numbers. And I’m not talking some sort of secret Braille code, like the LEGO minifigures use. I’m talking a clear as day number, right on the front, that corresponds to a checklist that most social media influencers posted online after they received a promo shipment from McDonalds. When I didn’t get a special box from McDonalds, that’s when I knew I wasn’t shit.

When the toys actually hit, the third problem became apparent: cheap, inaccurate reproductions. The new toys weren’t as well made as the originals, and they all had 2019 date stamps so as to not confuse folks into thinking they were the vintage toys. A lot of strange decisions had been made. The Changeables burger was no longer a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, as both the cheese and sesame seeds had been removed from the mold. And the one that really grinds my gears: the Red Power Ranger. It’s bad enough McDonalds included this thing when the Power Rangers figures were NOT Happy Meal toys (they were add-on items that you could buy for $1.99 each when the original movie was in theaters), but this Red Ranger they’d included only had one arm and one leg that moved, while the opposite limbs were fixed. Why?! Then they included Bugs Bunny from Space Jam, which was odd because A) I wouldn’t call that promotion “iconic” and B) the gimmick of that toy line was that the different characters were on pieces of basketball court that you assembled into something akin to a train. One toy from the line was kind of boring, but to have them all was sort of special. Here, you got one toy. It’d be like if they had just given you one piece of the Inspector Gadget build a figure promotion. What the Hell are you gonna do with ONE piece?!

Anyway, I found myself on the wrong side of history on this one because the nostalgia bloggers were eating it up. I, however, didn’t get it. Surprisingly, even my wife was like “We’re gonna get Happy Meals every day!” I understand the nostalgia factor, but it just felt so poorly executed. Since the promotion was only 5 days long, restaurants got limited stock and a lot of them seemed to have depleted that stock before the 11th even hit. Plus, I can’t believe that McDonalds contracted factories all the way in China to make such subpar repros for this promotion, especially when the marketing department seemingly screwed the pooch. If you enjoyed it, great, but something just felt rushed and disorganized about the whole thing. Here’s hoping they do a better job for the 50th anniversary, but we’ll be so “woke” by then that Happy Meals will be a salad and a toothbrush.

In the world of comics, there was a lot of hubbub about Jonathan Hickman becoming the new architect of the X-Men line. Everything kicked off in the companion series House of X and Powers of X, which were released weekly over the summer. These led to the release of a new X-Men #1, which I grabbed at a midnight release party (Thanks, Third Eye Comics!).

Now, I had read House of X #1 and thought “Interesting start, but I’m not paying $6 a week for this story.” So, I skipped those minis and dove right into the first issue of the ongoing. And my verdict? These aren’t my X-Men. I like the X-Men who are hated and feared, but always recharge after a huge battle by playing baseball at their school in Westchester county. Hickman’s X-Men, however, has too many moving parts, and I’m not on board with a lot of it.

In a lot of ways, Hickman’s vision is basically just a remix of what Grant Morrison brought to the line when he took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and it became New X-Men. Both share the premise that mutants now have the upper hand, causing frightened humanity to go to desperate measures to prevent their own extinction. It’s an interesting viewpoint, but it’s one where I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. With X-Men, sometimes that takes years (see: Emma Frost), but to paraphrase Karl Mordo, “The bill comes due. Always.”

I have always felt that the life cycle of superhero comic fandom is about 15 years, because audiences cycle in and out, but that’s about how long it takes for Been There, Done That to set in. I feel like I’ve seen this before, and that just might be a sign that my time with Charles Xavier’s mutants is up. Maybe folks are into that sort of journey, but I don’t wanna stay on this ride.

While I was away from blogging, I was still keeping busy, running my mouth on a few podcasts. First up, I recorded a look back on Batman ’89 with my pal Chad at the Horror Movie BBQ back over the summer, and he never told me that the episode was posted. I’d been over here, stewing for the last 5 months, that he had yet another unreleased episode with me (We recorded an Adam West tribute a while back that devolved into chaos and has never seen the light of day), meanwhile it had been on his site the whole time. So, sorry about that, Chad. It was a good discussion, though, as I talk about my Bat Amnesia and more, so check it out!

Next, I joined the guys over at Nerd Lunch for the final “Ned Lurch” episode. As they prepare to “sunset” their show, they’re taking one last stab at some of their themes, and Ned Lurch is a guy whose friends and advisors are constantly giving him bad business advice, in an attempt to see him fail. In our episode, Ned is talked into launching the worst action figure line ever. Check it out, as I give the worst improv performance you’d ever expect from me, but it was a fun show. Speaking of improv, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how I actually auditioned for the improv group in college. Yeah, there was a period of time when I was bored with a cappella and wanted to try something different. The problem with that plan, though, was that group was led by my girlfriend’s ex boyfriend. At least I made it to the final round, though…

Finally, get ready for the Christmas season by listening to me talk about everyone’s favorite “That’s Not a Christmas Movie!” No, not Die Hard. Instead, podcast extraordinaire, Michael May, had me on his Sleigh Bell Cinema show to discuss Iron Man 3. The same way you’ve got to look at Superman III as “Hey, it’s a Richard Pryor movie, featuring Superman”, you’ve got to do some mental gymnastics with this one, as well. What do I think about Tony Stark’s final solo outing? Take a listen to find out!

Trailer Park


Sonic the Hedgehog

I can’t deny that he looks better now, but I loathe the precedent this movie set. In case you don’t remember, the original design for Sonic had fans so outraged that the backlash to the initial trailer led the studio to delay the film and retool Sonic’s look. On the one hand, folks are like “Great job for listening to the fans!” Meanwhile, I’m over here, like, “Ugh, you listened to FANS!” Half the time fans don’t know what they want, and they tend to stick to the familiar because they hate change. That’s fine. I also dislike change. That said, this movie was never going to be a blockbuster, but now folks feel guilty that they have to support it since they raised such a stink. But you see, the internet is full of folks who love a good fight with no vested interest. A lot of the people the most upset about Sonic’s design were never going to see the movie in the first place. So, was the redesign worth it or in vain? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


SCOOB!

Is this basically a reboot of A Pup Named Scooby Doo? ‘Cause I was ALL about that era in the 90s when everyone got a “Lil” version of their franchise. The Flintstone Kids, Life with Louie, Hell, even Little Rosey (who’da thunk they would’ve given a cartoon to Roseanne?! But they did). I won’t be seeing this in theaters, but I’ll totally grab it on Black Friday for my girls.


Holiday Rush

This looks kinda cute. You don’t get a ton of Black Christmas movies, and I’m a fan of Romany Falco. The beauty of this is that I’d never go see this in a theater, not even if the tickets were free, but I can watch dude hit on First Officer Michael Burnham, while sitting at home in my underwear? Sure, I’ll buy that for a dollar!


Harley Quinn

Looks fun. Still not signing up for the DC Universe service. There’s got to be a plan to rehome these shows on HBO Max going forward, as the existence of DCU is making less sense by the day. They could repurpose that site to be a purely comic hub, like Marvel has Marvel Unlimited, but it doesn’t make sense to keep the shows on there, especially when Warner Media is trying to brand HBO Max as THE streaming portal for their catalog. So, I’ll watch this when I eventually cave and get HBO Max, since Rick & Morty will probably be exclusive to that service by 2025 or something.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Legend was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive, and even his wife, Chrissy Teigen, is like “Huh?” I mean, he seems nice enough, but kinda soft. Then again, he’s a former collegiate a cappella kid, so I guess I’ve gotta support him in this endeavor.
  • Not content to stand on the sidelines of the upcoming Streaming Wars, Nickelodeon has signed a deal with Netflix to develop movies and shows based on their properties. Personally, I can’t wait for Are You Afraid of the Black Mirror?
  • The sand might be running out of the hourglass for one of your grandma’s “stories”, as the entire cast of Days of Our Lives has been released from their contracts. Many feel this is a negotiation tactic by the show’s producer, Corday Productions, as they head into contract negotiations. Worst case scenario is everyone is fired and they all get recast. Best case scenario is everyone is rehired, but now at a lower, take it or leave it, rate negotiated in new contracts. Despite the fact that soap operas are a relic of the past, NBC seems committed to providing a home for Days for the foreseeable future.
  • For a brief moment this week, folks thought that Ecto Cooler’s return had been confirmed, coinciding with the release of next year’s Ghostbusters film. That shit turned out to be fake, though. Ya know, until it’s not.
  • As if Constance Wu’s Twitter rant last Spring was going to be forgiven so easily, ABC confirmed that this season of Fresh Off the Boat would be its last. Cute show, but everyone seemed ready to move on, and they’ll all be fine. I know the show was symbolic as the longest running Asian American sitcom, but there will be others. One day. Hopefully.
  • Rick & Morty came back to Adult Swim this week, and I…didn’t love it. Probably because I hadn’t seen this episode 37 times like I have the others. No, seriously, it airs daily and there are only about 30 episodes. It only takes a month to run through the existing 3 seasons. I’ve seen this show more than anything else on TV and I’m not even a superfan. Maybe I’ll grow to love this season.
  • Three year after his death, George Michael’s estate released “This Is How (We Want You To Get High)” for the Last Christmas soundtrack. I’m a sucker for both George Michael AND songs with parentheses in their names, so this song is a hit to me!

  • After it was first announced, like, 10 years ago, The Rock’s Black Adam movie finally got a release date: December 22, 2021. Too bad it’s never gonna happen.
  • I know y’all claim you don’t like country, but I know some like Halsey, and here she guested with Lady Antebellum on one of my favorite songs of the year at this week’s CMA Awards.

  • Screw it. Here’s another amazing performance from the CMAs, from Dan + Shay:

  • Music industry supervillain Scooter Braun recently purchased Taylor Swift’s back catalog, and won’t allow her to perform a medley of her past hits as she receives an achievement award at the American Music Awards. Dick move, but a powerful move.

Well, you couldn’t swing a dead cat online this week without hitting something having to do with Disney+. The anticipated streaming service launched Tuesday, and it’s all anyone can talk about. The launch, however, wasn’t without its hiccups. For one thing, they didn’t allow you to download the app until launch day, so there was no testing to make sure all your ducks were in a row before the big day. Also, a lot of people got error screens when trying to watch their desired selection. That said, it’s a repository of a HUGE amount of Disney programming – from Star Wars to Disney Channel Original Movies – and all for a mere $6.99 per month.

I am not a Disney evangelist, so this wasn’t exactly the Second Coming to me that it was for some folks. Regular readers know I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Fox buyout, but I’ve got kids, and kids like Disney, so I got Disney+. In fact, I have TWO accounts! You see, I signed up on Monday to make sure we were good to go, but then I remembered that, as an unlimited data Verizon customer, I actually get a year of the service for free. So, we had my wife sign up that way, and then I just need to remember to cancel my trial before they charge me on Tuesday. Hell, I probably should be doing that instead of writing this. I need that $70! Oh well, I said I wanted to live dangerously…

Despite the minor gripes that folks have had, including series episodes being out of order and the constant error screens, I feel the roll out could’ve been MUCH worse. I think the demand for the service exceeded even Disney’s expectations (with a reported 10 million sign ups), I think things settled down rather quickly. Folks online began to post the “true” viewing order for episodes, and the error screens decreased.

Another pseudo controversial aspect is that they’ve added disclaimers to properties, like Dumbo, stating that they contain outdated views and representations. Some folks feel like those programs shouldn’t be on the service at all, but I disagree. At least Disney is owning up to its past, and making it something of a teachable moment. With the disclaimers, they can have their cake and eat it, too. That said, it’s just gonna rile up the “Where’s Song of the South?!” crowd even more. Personally, I think Disney handled this the right way, but you can’t please everyone, and you can barely please anyone in 2019.

The biggest show at launch was undoubtedly the Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian. I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, and it clocks in at only 38 minutes. Score! Hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend. Meanwhile, everyone else on social media was posting about the first thing they watched after setting up the service. I’ve got a big audit at work today, so didn’t have time to play around with things myself. My oldest, however, watched Frozen, like we don’t already have 3 copies of that thing around this house somewhere. I’ve got to remind myself that it’s just $6.99, and not a total waste of money. Wait. It’s free. Whatever. She can watch Frozen all day long, ’cause that ain’t costing me a dime!

Anyway, after my long hiatus, I think I can dust off the title, and present it to Disney+, which clearly had the West Week Ever.

25th Jan2019

Thrift Justice – Operation Kondo

by Will

I miss writing, and by that I mean that I miss writing about more than just the week’s pop culture news. If you look at the slider on the homepage, there used to be other columns here: Adventures West Coast, which was my graphic novel/trade paperback review column; Best of the West, which showcased the jewels of my various collections; Track Star, which was my music post that sadly never really found its identity. And, of course, my baby – Thrift Justice, where I showed you all the stuff I managed to find while scouring the local thrift stores.

As I was telling some friends recently, Google killed blogging. When Google Reader was taken out behind the shed, nothing came along to capably take its place. Yes, I said capably, just to ward off all of y’all who are about to go, “Well, Feedly…” A lot of folks quit, while others pivoted to other media, like video or podcasting. I, however, am still a fan of the written word. I feel a lot of videos could’ve been blogs, and that also goes for a lot of podcasts (especially the short ones). I’m too old and fat to move to video, so blogging is where I shall stay.

So, this is all a long-winded way of bringing us to why we’re here today. I’ve been sitting on this idea for about 6 months, as I know it should probably be a video, but that’s just not my bag, baby. Instead, I feel like this would be a great way to bring back Thrift Justice: We’re going to liveblog an unboxing. This could be really interesting OR it could end up like that time Geraldo found Al Capone’s vault. Either way, it’s new content, so yay? But first, some backstory.

Back on the 4th of July, I was at a family cookout, when a cousin of mine told me she had something for me in her car. Apparently, I had let her borrow some toys when her nephews came to town, and she had run across them while she was cleaning her house. There are some very important things you should know here, though. First of all, those nephews are about 18 & 20 now, so if I’m doing my math right, this took place around 2004. Secondly, I’m not exactly the world’s greatest sharer, as I’ve had a bad track record of visiting relatives breaking my shit. So, one of two things happened here: 1) I let them have some stuff about which I didn’t give two shits OR 2) my mother gave them some stuff behind my back, which I clearly didn’t care about if I haven’t missed it in 15 years.

Anyway, for the life of me, I could not remember what these kids had of mine. As I followed my cousin to her car, she handed me a shoebox (think Timberland size) in a shopping bag. I’ve got a toddler, and the last thing I need is to be opening toys around her, so I figured I’d just get around to checking out the contents once we got home, and she went to bed. Instead, the box rode around in the back of my wife’s car for months until she eventually had to put it into the shop for body work. So, there’s no time like the present, right?

Here’s how we’re going to make this interesting, though. Thrift Justice is usually about the stuff I get from the thrift store, but this installment is going to be about stuff I’m sending to the thrift store. Everyone in the world is Marie Kondo-ing, by reducing the clutter in their lives by ridding themselves of the possessions that fail to bring them joy. Will anything in this mystery box bring me joy? Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

Somebody call Geraldo, ‘cause I think I’ve got him beat. Man, what a box of garbage! Ugh, let’s take a closer look, though. I mean, we’ve come this far.

So, first up we’ve got Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, along with his…friend? Enemy? Anyway, let’s call him Pinkeye McGillicuddy. I vaguely remember buying this set because I thought Aang’s wind blaster pack was kinda cool. I’ve never seen one episode of Avatar, but I knew it was one of the hip things back then, so I guess I wanted to gain entry by getting the toys. Plus, when I first got it, Aang’s pack lit up or made noise or some shit. The batteries are dead now, and I’m too lazy to change them.

Look at Aang’s eyes, though? It’s like he’s been radicalized. What the Hell was that show even about?! Isn’t “air bending” just a polite way of saying “farting”. I’m bending air as I write this.

Next up, we’ve got these Masters of the Universe 200X Happy Meal toys from McDonalds. I remember these being pretty cool because they were decent action figures, in a 4-ish inch scale, with just a hint of an action feature. They were highly detailed, and we’d kill for something like this today. Sadly, though, nobody gave much of a shit about that show, as the Internet had yet to evolve into the geek hive of scum and villainy that it is today. Thrift stores are littered with these figures, and they’re about to get 4 more.

What the Hell?! Is this alien being LYNCHED?! I don’t even know what this is. It’s the same texture of those spiders you throw at the wall in order to watch them crawl down, but I don’t know what the goal is here. Do you swing him around by the loop? You can kinda yo-yo him, but that doesn’t feel right, either. This is like 2 of the darkest periods of American history rolled into one pathetic gashapon toy.

Gather ‘round, kids, as I tell you a tale from the turn of the century! You probably know (recently deceased) Stan Lee as That Old Man Who Keeps Popping Up In The Marvel Movies, but this wasn’t always the case. Back around 1999, ol’ Stan wasn’t exactly on the best terms with Marvel. Sure, he was getting an annual salary for being the company mascot/cheerleader, but he wanted MORE. So, he decided to start Stan Lee Media, which would go on to inspire a quagmire of lawsuits that continue to this day. From this venture, nothing they threw at the wall stuck, but one of the highest profile creations was The Backstreet Project.

Starring boyband The Backstreet Boys, The Backstreet Project was a comic concept that envisioned the group as superheroes. Remember, this was 1999, and things were different. The Backstreet Boys were one of the biggest pop acts in the world, while comics were on the decline. In 2018, you’d ask “Why would anyone make a comic about the Backstreet Boys?!” but in 1999, it would have been more fitting to ask “Why would the Backstreet Boys slum it in the comic industry?” Since Stan Lee Media was poised to harness the true potential of this newfangled thing called The Internet, the focus was more on webisodes than print.

Anyway, Burger King somehow found itself as the official restaurant of the Backstreet Boys, as they were selling CDs and VHS tapes to go along with your diarrhea-inducing Whopper. And for the kids, they had Backstreet Project toys in the Burger King Kids Club Meals. I actually had the entire set at one point in time, as I thought the concept was pretty cool, plus I had a mad-on for any boyband. If you’ve been to this site before, none of this is news. Hell, a friend of mine was actually working at Burger King at the time, so I just asked him to grab the stuff for me from his job. I wasn’t eating that shit! Because I was a huge BSB fan (until Brian had to go and get all political), there was no way I was letting those kids have my prized BSB toys, so these were probably my doubles.

Here you have Brian (the one holding the basketball), as “Top Speed”, while Nick is the one dressed like a ninja, named appropriately enough “Ninja Man”. Jesus, Stan. Were you even trying? Anyway, the gray thing in the middle is some sort of stasis tank that Brian breaks out of. I have to remind myself that this was an era when these guys could’ve pissed in a Sprite bottle, and it would be distributed all across Europe, but in hindsight there’s not a lot of care or attention invested in this concept.

 

Another Burger King premium. Who was eating all this Burger King? It sure as Hell wasn’t me. Anyway, this is some Dragon Ball thing. I don’t know if it was Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, or Dragon Ball GTFO. I know nothing of that franchise, but I know this little guy does some sort of balancing act. I just don’t seem to have the base upon which he does the balancing.

My Ronin Warriors! Man, I loved that show. That might’ve been my first anime, come to think of it. Anyway, I used to have the whole team because when KB Toys was in their death throes, Ronin Warriors were a mainstay in the 3 for $10 bin. Sadly, I donated mine some years back because I couldn’t find them all and didn’t feel the need to keep an incomplete team around. Well, I couldn’t find them all because they were chilling at my cousin’s house. As you can see, they lost a good portion of their shit, as well as a figure (where’s the White one?). These are probably the best thing in the box, but I’m met with the fact that I don’t want an incomplete team, so maybe these figures will be reunited with their brothers in the thrifting afterlife.

Ooh, this one tickles me to no end. If you know me, then you know I don’t give a shit about Harry Potter. In my mind, JK Rowling just stole all of Roald Dahl’s best ideas, and nobody’s called her on this because they teach the wrong things in school these days. Anyway, my hatred aside, I’m a sucker for a good, translucent action figure. Whether it’s the Spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi that I got from Lays Potato Chips, or this boy wizard I picked up from Toys “R” Us (a moment of silence, please), I love them all. The reason this is funny to me, though, is that those boys’ mom is really pro-Black and pro-Jesus. If she knew her boys were playing with a plastic representation of the White Devil, slinging his witchcraft around from his cloak of invisibility, she would shit a brick. I’m actually gonna see her in about 2 weeks, so maybe I’ll just drop that into conversation to see what happens.

This is probably the worst Optimus Prime toy ever made. I tend to think of Happy Meal toys along the lines of rack toys, as they’re all “toys for poor kids”. But this Transformers Armada Happy Meal toy is so bad that even a poor kid would say, “Man, get that shit up out my face!” There have been many bad Transformers Happy Meal toys over the years, and this is merely one of them.

This isn’t even a quality yo-yo. This is no Duncan, and is more like the kind of thing the dentist gives you at the end of your cleaning if you were a good boy.

Good old little green army men. A true classic. Hey, wait a minute. What the Hell happened to the dude in the middle at the top?! He ain’t got no arms! What did my cousins DO to him? I hope they at least said a prayer over him. It’s what their mom would’ve wanted.

“How are your crayons hanging?”
“Low, and to the left”

How does this happen? I mean, I guess they got hot or something and then cooled down, but they’re all curved like that. It’s eerie. It’s somewhat perverted. I have questions.

This is a Wild Planet motion alarm. Whenever there are commercials for things like this, it’s always some little boy trying to protect his worthless shit from being touched by some bratty little sister. I don’t think they really work like that. I’ve never actually used it, but my pal Tarek got it for me in college on an a cappella gig I wasn’t able to attend. Looking back, though, I could think of quite a few uses for this thing for a growing man…

Ah, we come to the end, featuring a pair that will set off all your nostalgia boner alarms. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow here were from a G.I. Joe two-pack that I think contained a DVD. I remember they were on clearance, and I think I only bought them for that DVD. I don’t even collect this scale, ‘cause these are just “dolls” at this point, but it must’ve been quite a good price, because here they are. They came with a shit ton of accessories, half of which you see strewn about here. There are also a lot missing. Like, where are Storm Shadow’s ninja booties? I’m not even gonna try to put this stuff back on them. To the thrift store they go, and their next owner can worry about all that.

So, there ya have it. My journey back in toy time ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. You win, Kondo!!!! None of that brought me any joy. Still, it was nice to take a stroll down memory lane, thinking of all the terrible ways and reasons I’ve wasted good money. I hope you’ve gotten some kind of enjoyment out of this, and if you want more like it, then leave a comment below. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe! I don’t know what I mean by that…I just hear the YouTubers saying it all the time.

02nd Nov2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/2/18

by Will

So, not much has really happened since last we met. Sure, Megyn Kelly Today got cancelled, and the WWE’s Crown Jewel is taking place in Saudi Arabia as I type this. So, “Ya win some, ya lose some”? I pretty much have nothing “newsy” to talk about today. So, I thought we could have a conversation instead. Have a seat. Not that one. That one’s my seat.

OK, so talking to some friends lately has made me aware of a sense of existential dread that I didn’t fully realize I had. I mean, what am I doing here? I’ve never really looked back to see when West Week Ever started, but I know it’s been almost 5 years at this point, if not longer. All those years, looking at pop culture, trying to be funny and snarky where possible. That’s all fun and good, I guess, but what does it ultimately get me? These days, I “critique”, and sometimes even “soapbox”. And not all that well. It’s just MY take on things, but not THE take on things. Nothing I do is definitive. I don’t have that clout or experience. So, I’m dealing with the question of whether I want to critique or create.

I used to be creative. “Artsy”, even. I played piano, did all the high school musicals. All that jazz. And let’s not even touch on the a cappella stint. I had expectations of doing something with that. Anything. Maybe it’s the fault of the millennial trap, where all of our parents assured us that we were special. I kinda thought I’d be a bigger deal by now. How? Doing what? Who the Hell knows.

Sure, I’ve got my family and a job and all that, but something is missing. I miss being creative. I miss having that outlet. Every year when NaNoWriMo comes out, I’m like “I could do that.” Folks have told me I’m a good writer, so even if they were blowing sunshine up my ass, why haven’t I listened to them? I have people who’ve come into my life who are award-winning writers and music producers. They found their thing and went after it. What’s my thing? I’m having what I would like to call my John Tesh Moment.

At some point over the past 20 years, John Tesh became this pop culture joke, brought up whenever anyone deigns to talk about New Age music. I don’t think folks really understand the whole picture there, though. That was, like, Phase 2 of his life. He started out in news, as both an anchor and sportscaster. That got him noticed for the job where you were probably introduced to him, as co-host of Entertainment Tonight. For 10 years he held down that desk with Mary Hart, and they were THE de facto ambassadors of Hollywood to the common man. There was no Extra, Access Hollywood, TMZ, etc back then. Just like Robin Leach let us know how the rich and famous lived their lives, Tesh and Hart could actually take us to the movie set, where the “magic” was happening. Still, while doing this, he had ambitions of his own: music.

With no real onstage experience, he asked his pal Yanni if he could join him on tour as a keyboardist. This opened a LOT of doors for him, as he’d go on to compose the theme song to Bobby’s World, as well as the NBA on NBC theme. Seven years after that tour with Yanni, Tesh was headlining his own shows at Red Rocks. That’s when he became JOHN TESH. Now, because folks like to make fun of his genre, it’s also when he might’ve become the joke, as well. Still, this was John Tesh 2.0, and boy has he been successful! He’s released over 30 studio albums and his concerts are a mainstay of PBS pledge drives. When he comes up in conversation these days, it’s never about Entertainment Tonight. Instead, it’s either about his music or this new self-help guru role in which he seems to have found himself. He and wife, 80s actress Connie Sellecca, manage a brand called Intelligence For Your Life, and he’s got a syndicated radio show. He’s 66 now, and he left ET when he was about 44. That’s a late in life career shift, but it is possible.

What am I getting at? I don’t know. I’m not trying to leave West Week Ever behind. I just feel like I could be doing more (and don’t you DARE say a podcast).  Critiquing only goes so far. I want to create. I want to leave some sort of impact. Anything to not feel like I didn’t put all the cards on the table.

The world’s a crazy place right now. I don’t need to get into all of that. Still, what can I bring to the world that it needs? What do I have that the world wants? What am I going to do with my John Tesh Moment?

Anyway, I think we’re good here. You can get out of that chair now. I’ve got to go pee, so just lock the door behind you.

05th Oct2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/5/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Brad Kern Update – the former NCIS: New Orleans showrunner was fired by CBS Studios after a THIRD misconduct investigation. He had already stepped down after the 2nd, but he remained on the payroll as a consulting producer. He reportedly had a history of belittling women, and making insensitive racial remarks.

Vincent Favale – What the Hell is going on over at CBS?! Man, they are draining the fucking swamp! Favale, the senior vice president of talent at the network has been placed on administrative leave after reports of sexual and homophobic remarks – many of which were reported by staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Favale reportedly once said that he “got four erections” while watching Jennifer Hudson rehearse for a Late Show appearance. Sounds like a real great guy…

*Takes long drag off cigarette* “Geoffrey? Now, that ain’t a name I’ve heard in about a month.” So, this week, Toys “R” Us called off the auction meant to sell off their IP and trademarks, as they reported they felt there was more value in relaunching the brand. Paperwork reveals that they registered the name “Geoffrey’s Toy Box”, but for what nobody is sure yet. Meanwhile, the Dallas Toy Fair is going on, and there have been sightings of Geoffrey walking the aisles, wearing a cape that says “Back from vacation”. All of a sudden, every news outlet lit up with “Toys ‘R’ Us is Coming Back!” Hold on there, cowboy.

Toys “R” Us rushed into bankruptcy, leaving long-time employees without severance, and owing toy manufacturers millions for unpaid product. That giraffe can’t just mosey back in like nothing happened. While the man on the street might be happy about TRU returning, there are a lot of folks who are going to feel some kind of way about that. And if it turned out that they only filed bankruptcy to divest themselves of debt, overhead, and responsibility, that’s going to cause even more problems. Had they been a public company, I’m pretty sure the SEC would be stepping in right about now, but they were private, so I don’t really know what happens next. All I do know is that they need to read the room and understand it’s too soon. The body ain’t even cold yet. I mean, I’m half expecting the next marketing image to be Geoffrey rolling back the stone from his tomb. That’s how this feels right now. They really need to give it a bit more time before rushing into this – if only so I don’t have to hear all the armchair quarterbacks talk about “They better lower their prices! That’s what drove them out of business in the first place!” Not exactly, Poindexter, but you keep on thinking that…


I was hesitant to post this ’cause y’all are never on the same page as me musically, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the stuff I think is good. Now, I know some of you see “country” and just think “NEXT!”, but I will die on the hill that modern country isn’t what you think it is. There are tons of artists who get airplay on country stations, yet if I played the song for you without telling you that, you’d never know it. Today, I can’t really do that ’cause I think everyone knows Tim McGraw is a country artist. Still, yesterday evening, he released his latest song, “Neon Church”, that I’ve been streaming for the past 24 hours.

While I love the wordplay, likening a bar to a church, I’m really here for the melody and what’s going on in the background. The first time I heard it, I was like “That’s ‘Purple Rain’!” In an interview this morning, McGraw said that while recording, he and his band were listening to a lot of Prince and Journey, and it shows here. I played it for Lindsay, and she didn’t like it – I somehow managed to marry the only White woman who hates Journey. Anyway, listen near the bridge and the at the end – that guitarist is doing his best “cruise ship ‘Purple Rain'”. It’s something of a vocal stretch for McGraw, as it’s at the top of his range, but I’m still really digging what’s going on here.

Trailer Park


Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

So, we got a new trailer for this one. Again, I am one of the BIGGEST Miles Morales fans, and this movie does nothing for me. I’m not digging the animation style, which I’m finding to be just as jarring as the MTV Spider-Man animated series based on the Raimi movies. Plus, I’m not sure Jake Johnson is how I imagined Peter Parker would sound. And Miles’ dad isn’t a cop. I get they had to take certain liberties or whatever, but I’m not feeling it. Maybe it’s not meant for me, which is sad, ’cause I pretty much glom onto any and all Miles merchandise and comic appearances.

Plus, I just don’t know if this is a theatrical project. I mean, I look at this, and think it would be a cool animated special that airs on ABC during primetime on a Wednesday in June or something, but to actually go pay to see it in a theater? I don’t think so. It feels like a nice special one-off event, like that Toy Story That Time Forgot special or something. Maybe even a special event on Disney XD. But this ain’t an “I’m headed to Fandango to order tickets” kind of thing.


Daredevil Season 3

So glad they quickly got this out there, ’cause the teaser I showed you last week left me scratching my head. Apparently this is adapting the “Born Again” storyline, but I read that thing over 10 years ago, and don’t remember it, so don’t take my word for it. It looks good – SO good, that I might just skip that other Netflix shows I haven’t seen and skip right to it.


Runaways Season 2

I’ve never watched an episode of this show, and that’s because A) I don’t have Hulu and B) it looks hokey as Hell. From the special effects to the way the kids all look like “teen outcasts” straight from central casting, it just doesn’t look good to me. I was a big fan of the comic series when it launched, but I watch these trailers, and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you’ve read the comic, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s like, if you think they’re on the run NOW, you just wait! There’s a twist coming, and I might jump onboard if/when I hear they’ve pulled that trigger. Until then, I’m content being in the dark on this one, Cloak & Dagger, and all the teen-centric Marvel stuff.


Harley Quinn

So, they announced that Kaley Cuoco would be voicing Harley, and I was like, “Huh?” I mean, were Tara Strong or Arleen Sorkin busy? But I guess they wanted a “name” behind this, since it’s one of DC Universe’s more high profile upcoming launches. After seeing this trailer, Cuoco does a decent job. And I really love Poison Ivy doing her best Daria. I like that DC seems able and willing to poke fun at them themselves here. I’m curious to see how this plays out since it’s marketed as an “adult animated series”. Let’s just hope the show is good, and not another Stripperella.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fox announced the release of Untitled Deadpool Movie slated for December 21st, which will reportedly be a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2. Keep in mind that this is also the weekend that Aquaman and Bumblebee hit theaters. I was kinda hoping it would be a new movie made up of deleted scenes and cut subplots, kinda like Wake Up, Ron Burgandy. Anyone ever seen that? It’s HORRIBLE but, as an Anchorman completist, I had to see it.
  • Speaking of Fox, they made a lot of schedule moves, as Untitled Deadpool Movie takes the release date of James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel, which, itself, is moving to Dark Phoenix‘s previously announced date of February 14th, 2019. Dark Phoenix, meanwhile, is moving to June 7th. Also, Channing Tatum’s X-Men spinoff, Gambit (ya know, that movie that’s never gonna happen?), has been pushed to March 13th, 2020.

  • So, those pitches are teasing a Pitch Perfect 4, and I’ve got to beg them to stop. The only thing they could even possibly do is have it based on NBC bringing back The Sing Off, and having the Bellas compete on it. Anything else would be absurd. No, the 3rd one was just not worth it, so I say we let it die as a trilogy.
  • Before the first episode has even aired, Titans has been renewed for season 2 on the DC Universe streaming service. Ya know, why not? It’s not like they’re sitting on anything else amazing to throw on that thing.

  • Speaking of bad DC live action ideas, Lobo is going to debut on Syfy’s Krypton next season. This looks like a Spirit Halloween ad! Ugh, fucking Lobo. He’s just the absolute WORST. Even though he debuted in the 80s, he’s the 90s at its 90iest, and I hate everything about him. I’ve always said that you can tell a lot about a person if they’re a Lobo fan. They’re usually Special Ed. Probably ate paste in school. They either grow up to own a landscaping business or become a Best Buy stereo installer. Fucking Lobo…
  • Realizing he’s getting too old for this shit, Damon Wayans has announced that he’s leaving Lethal Weapon at the end of season 3’s initial 13-episode commitment. Man, how mad do you think Fox is at the Lethal Weapon office right now? They already had to replace Clayne Crawford with Sean William Scott just to keep the show going, and now THIS?! Somebody’s GOT to be saying “We don’t need this shit! We could’ve renewed Lucifer!” As I said on Twitter, they should replace Wayans with Bill Bellamy, then kill off Scott, and replace him with Peter Facinelli. Then, I’ll get my backdoor Fastlane revival I’ve been wanting since 2003!
  • Kanye did some dumb shit on SNL, and water is wet.
  • Looks like Robert Kirkman is going to have to be content living off his The Walking Dead empire, as Cinemax has cancelled his series Outcast after 2 seasons.
  • Everyone wants in on the fantasy genre, as Netflix is adapting the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia for series and movies, while Amazon is developing a series based on Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novels.
  • Remember Mischa Barton? Ya know, the It Girl from The O.C. who went nowhere? Well, she’s going to be joining the cast of The Hills: New Beginnings on MTV.
  • Chelsea Peretti announced that she won’t be returning to Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a series regular when the show debuts on NBC this season.
  • Amy Schumer was detained yesterday in DC during the #KavaNope protests, but she blocked me on Twitter ages ago, so she’s dead to me. YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, AMY!

  • We got this poster for the upcoming Hellboy reboot, starring David “You Wouldn’t Even Know My Name Were It Not For Stranger Things” Harbour.
  • Elon Musk took one step closer to becoming The World’s First Supervillain, as he was forced to resign as Tesla chariman, and was fined $20 million by the SEC, due to a tweet where he implied he had secured funding to take Tesla private.
  • Last night marked the finale episode of the hour-long version of Conan on TBS, as he bid farewell to his house band, Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band (formerly the Max Weinberg 7). The future show will switch to a half hour format, with no musical guests, but with more special events, like shows from foreign countries.
  • Brian Robbins was announced as the new head of Nickelodeon, which is significant since he and his former Head of the Class costar, Dan Schneider, got their behind the scenes careers started by creating All That for the network back in 1994. It’ll be interesting to see if he throws any work to Schneider, whose Schneider’s Bakery production house was sent packing by Nickelodeon earlier this year after allegations surrounding Schneider arose.
  • Talk about an “unfortunate Situation”! Jersey Shore star, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, was sentenced to 8 months in prison for tax evasion.
  • Jon Favreau will write and produce Star Wars series The Mandalorian, which appears to follow another Fett, after the events of Empire, but before the rise of the First Order. The series will stream on Disney Play.

I know you’ve gotten this far, and you’re like “Wait, didn’t he have Venom in the header pic? He hasn’t even mention…wait. He WOULDN’T!”

OK, bear with me here. I know the critics gave this film a shellacking, and I can understand why. In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, to some extent, the DCEU, Venom isn’t what we’ve come to expect from a comic book movie in 2018. And I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. I swore that I wouldn’t spend money to see Venom, and I kept that promise, as Special Forces wanted to see it, and it was his turn to pay. That said, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I really enjoyed it. Now, I am known for liking shit, so don’t equate “Will liked it” with “It’s a good movie”. I don’t know if I’m “Film Twitter” enough to say it’s good or bad, but I definitely enjoyed it.

OK, so the movie starts out with investigative reporter Eddie Brock on top of the world. He’s got his own cable news show, where he roots out corruption, he’s engaged to corporate attorney Michelle Williams, and he’s about to get a chance to interview Elon Musk analog, Carlton Drake. Actually, that’s not how the movie starts. It actually starts with a space shuttle crashing upon reentry – a shuttle that happens to carry organic samples. All of the astronauts die except one, named “Jameson”, where I guess they’re alluding to J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son, John Jameson, who later becomes the Man-Wolf in the comics. Anyway, while transporting Jameson to the nearest hospital, it appears he’s got a symbiote in him that jumps from him to his EMT, wrecking the ambulance. Oh, and that shuttle? It was owned by Carlton Drake.

Brock’s boss wants him to interview Drake, but he doesn’t want to do it because he doesn’t trust Drake. His doubts are reinforced when he hacks into his fiancee’s computer (her firm happens to be representing Drake’s company, The LIFE Foundation), and discovers a wrongful death suit filed against the computer. When he gets his shot at interviewing Drake, instead of sticking to the script, he decides to ask about the wrongful death suit. Well, this doesn’t go well, as Drake kicks Brock out of his building, ends his career, and gets Williams fired from her firm, where she, then, gives Brock his ring back. In one fell swoop, Brock’s life is ruined.

Fast forward six months, and Brock is a drunk, “slumming it” in what has to be a $4500/month apartment (seriously, the thing is huge, and they’re in San Francisco!). He’s got no job prospects and no future, until a horribly miscast Jenny Slate shows up as Dora Skirth, a scientist at the LIFE Foundation who has doubts about the organization’s goals. See, Drake thinks humans have ruined Earth, and the only possible solution is to equip them with the means to survive – whether here or on another planet. He sees the symbiote samples as a means of doing that, and he has ordered trials to begin on humans. LIFE picks up vagrants and has them sign away their rights as they test the symbiotes to see if they’ll bond with humans. Well, this is too much for Dr. Skirth, who seeks out Brock to help her expose the company.

Dr. Skirth sneaks Brock in, who goes exploring while she tries to distract a security guard. While exploring, Brock finds his neighborhood homeless friend in one of the cells. When he breaks her out, she attacks him ’cause she’s got a symbiote in her, which she passes to Brock, unbeknownst to him. As he’s fleeing from security, he notices he can do things he shouldn’t be able to do, like shatter trees and quickly scale great heights. This is when he starts to realize something’s not right, as he starts to hear a voice in his head that wasn’t there before.

So, now he’s riding for two, as Venom’s in his head, but pops out when necessary – like when Drake’s hired security show up to take back the symbiote, and there’s a well-choreographed fight scene in the apartment, leading to a great car chase scene. The action is actually pretty impressive in the film. There’s one scene of Venom versus the SWAT team that plays out like a boss battle in a video game. They’re throwing flash grenades and shooting at shadows, while Venom bounces around the rafters.

I’ll stop spoiling stuff here, as you might actually want to see the movie one day. I’ll say there were a couple of things that bothered me. For one thing, Michelle Williams. I mean, the entire time, I’m watching the film, thinking, “You’re better than this, Michelle! You’ve been nominated for an Oscar FOUR TIMES, yet here you are, doing your worst Great Value Pepper Potts!” Also, there are continuity issues. There’s a scene where Drake is speaking to a field trip at his HQ, and a little girl tries to ask him a question. The rest of the class tries to stop her for interrupting, but Drake says something inspiring like, “No, speak. That’s what people do. They try to dissuade you from asking questions, but that’s how we learn.” He, then, gives her the pin off his lapel, but HE DOESN’T ACTUALLY LET HER ASK A QUESTION! he basically grandstanded, only to shoot her down. I mean, she was happy with the lapel pin, but nobody seems to notice she didn’t ask her question. Lost in editing maybe? Also, I didn’t really like Riz Ahmed as Drake. I thought it was another casting misfire. I would’ve gone for someone with more gravitas, like maybe Dev Patel, if they were going for a “type”. I also didn’t appreciate that it was clearly an R-rated film, edited down to PG-13, and Hardy has said that 40 minutes got cut, including his favorite scene.

Things I did like: Tom Hardy was great as Guy Who Ends Up As Venom’s Host. I can’t honestly say he was a great Eddie Brock, as I don’t have a ton of familiarity with that character. When he was ruling comics in the 90s, I still pretty much a strictly DC guy, so I haven’t read most of those iconic Venom stories. I know Brock was Peter Parker’s rival, so you’re not really supposed to be rooting for him, but you kinda have to here. That’s why I can understand why they wanted Spider-Man as far away from this film as possible. Still, I liked Hardy for what he was, and I loved his interplay with Venom in his head. I also LOVED Venom, as he was funnier than I expected him to be. The CGI wasn’t as troublesome as I was expecting, and I was even fine with no spider symbol on his chest.

As much as I enjoy the MCU movies, I’m getting a little tired of them. As a fanboy, they’re work. It’s not enough to just sit back and enjoy the movie, but Marvel really drives home the interconnectedness of it all. So, the first time you watch, you’re on guard for any Easter egg that might fly by. Like “Hey, he just mentioned Damage Control!”, etc. I get it, Marvel – you’re good at tying your shit together. But I don’t ALWAYS need that. Venom was a nice change of pace. It was still “In Association With Marvel”. I still got my Stan Lee cameo. It did everything it needed to do. And the mid credits scene has me hoping we get a sequel, ’cause there’s a lot of potential with what they teased.

Yes, this was a pretty slow week unless your name was Brett Kavanaugh, so there wasn’t a ton of competition here. So, I’m gonna shock y’all and say that Venom had the West Week Ever.

27th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/27/18

by Will

Well, this is a special week here at WilliamBruceWest.com, as it commemorates my FIFTEENTH year of blogging. Yeah, a lot of y’all just came aboard during the West Week Ever era, but the archives are there (personally, I wouldn’t check anything before 2007 or so, but that’s just me). I started blogging a month after I graduated from college, while I was temping in the Cornell registrar’s office. It’s funny because, about six months prior to that, I had no clue what a “blog” was. You’ve got to remember that these were the days before social media, and we got by with AIM. I’d heard folks met strangers through ICQ and chat rooms, but that made no sense to me. Then, while my a cappella group was updating their website, one member suggested we add a blog to the site. I remember I immediately said, “What’s a blog? Stop making up words, Ted!” He explained it was short for “weblog”, and said some more stuff, but we stopped listening at that point. Probably too busy shoving Gold Bond powder down our pants. What? Y’all never did that? Whatever. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, I was really bored at that temp job, and needed something to make the day more interesting. Prior to this point, I had never really spent much time on the internet. I had an AOL trial with dial-up for, like, a month in high school, and I think I had tried NetZero. We had Computers as a class in high school, and I remember I made a really shitty Power Rangers site on AngelFire or something. Still, in college, I had used the Internet to either do homework or illegally download music. I did a LOT of the latter. So, with a college degree in my hand, and boredom in my heart, I struck out and explored the Internet for what it was. I started finding sites that really engaged me – webcomics, like PvP, and nostalgia sites like X-Entertainment.com (the precursor to what’s now Dinosaur Dracula). The latter site really sort of lit a fire under me, as I could relate to so many of the posts. It was like the Robot Chicken of blogs: “Shark Bites, Fruit By The Foot, and Pogs – these are all things that existed!” Plus, and I think Matt (the site creator) would agree, it had a horrible archive/search function, so you kind had to fall down a rabbit hole, jumping from article to article, instead of being able to search the topics. I spent a LOT of time on X-Entertainment, and it started to show me the potential of blogging.

So, in a way to pass the time, I signed up for a Blogger account, and created The World According To A Russian Exchange Student. I’m not quite sure why I settled on that. While I was an exchange student to Russia when I was 13, that would’ve made me an American exchange student. I feel like I briefly wanted to do some kind of performance art thing where I’d imagine how my Russian host, Sergei, might look at the world. That lasted for maybe a day. At the end of the day, I think I just wanted something that sounded “haughty”. I’ve got a bit of a snob streak in me, and here I was, an Ivy League graduate who’d been spoon fed that the world would be mine, yet  didn’t have a clue what I’d be doing when this temp assignment ended. I was scared. So, I rambled. A LOT. I’d say that if you read the first 6-8 years (yes, years), I wrote like no one was reading. Because no one was. The site was basically a Livejournal without the stigma that Livejournal brought with it. Every now and then I’d post something that I thought would be timeless, but most of those posts are either relationship drama or self pity. Yay. Anyway, I rebranded to WilliamBruceWest.com rather quickly, but I don’t feel like the site really found its footing until the West Week Ever days. So, here we are. Anyway, from the bottom of my heart, thank you – all of you – who have taken the time to read my ramblings at some point over those 15 years.

The wife and I got the chance to see Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry To Bother You, and we left that theater like “What the fuuuuu…?” How to describe this movie? Is it a comedy? Is it satire? Science fiction? I guess you’ll have to be the judge if you see it. Stanfield stars as a down on his luck guy who lands a job as a telemarketer, and he doesn’t really have much success until he starts using his “White voice” at the suggestion of a coworker. Almost immediately his success increases, and he becomes a Power Caller, where instead of selling Time-Life books and encyclopedias, he’s now selling weapons and slaves to other countries. And that’s where shit gets CRAZY! I can’t say any more at this point without spoiling some twists. The movie reminded me a lot of Bamboozled, which was a 2000 Spike Lee Joint about a Black TV writer who sort of sells out in order to make his network successful, with a dash of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. If either of those movies is your cup of tea, then check this out. “Equesapiens, let’s be out!”

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update:  Late last week, it was announced that not only would Yvette Nicole Brown be taking over hosting Hardwick’s panels at SDCC, but she would also be hosting Talking Dead for a brief period. On Wednesday, however, AMC announced that Hardwick would be returning to the show, after an internal month-long investigation. Two things are odd about the investigation, however. First of all, his accuser, ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra, did not participate in the investigation, as she said she “didn’t believe in ‘an eye for an eye’.” In a statement she said that she never set out to ruin his career, though she still doesn’t name him.  The other odd thing is that the investigation seemingly wasn’t conducted by an impartial third party. Instead, Loeb & Loeb was hired, who reportedly have a history of working on business for the Hearst family (who happen to be Hardwick’s in-laws). He may have his job back, but is the stink off of him? Remember how folks shunned Seacrest at the Oscars? Will the geek crowd follow suit here?

James Gunn: This isn’t harassment, per se, but it’s still an inappropriate thing that got a celeb in hot water. You see, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn came up through the ranks of Troma – ya know, the folks behind The Toxic Crusader? He says he was a different guy at that time of his life, but to fit in with that world, you’ve got to be kinda shocking. Everything you do is done for shock value, and that’s exactly what he did when he was tweeting back in 2009. Stuff like rape and pedophilia jokes. He has since apologized for that time in his life, but that didn’t matter when Right Wing muckraker Mike Cernovich dub up the old tweets as something of a retaliation for Gunn’s staunch anti-Trump stance. Well, Disney reacted swiftly by firing Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. The public seems to be on Gunn’s side, saying Disney knew what they were getting, and that he had apologized long before the tweets resurfaced. There’s a petition circulating to get him rehired.

What Disney did was a business decision, as they can’t have something like this in the news just as the Fox deal is about to go through. Shareholders don’t tend to like rape jokes. That said, I’m sort of on the fence for this.

On the one hand, the stuff I’ve seen was kind of messed up, and I’m not sure I’d call them “funny”. Why not just delete the tweets? I mean, sure, everything is archived somewhere, but at least you tried to scrub things clean. I get it, though. I have an “I don’t delete tweets” policy, but I’ve never tweeted anything that bad. Cover your tracks, man!

On the other hand, he did apologize before they even became a thing. Had Disney done their due diligence, none of this would’ve come as a surprise. And I hate the fact that he won’t get to see his vision through to the finished GOTG trilogy. I really doubt he’ll be rehired, as he was fired and not suspended pending an investigation. Disney will likely stick by their decision, but this will have long-reaching effects. For example, Star Wars director Rian Johnson reportedly deleted 20,000 tweets over the weekend.

The Trailer Park

Last weekend was San Diego Comic-Con, which means we got a LOT of trailers for upcoming geek films. Since we’ve got a slew of them, I figured I’d give them their own section this week.

SHAZAM!

I really didn’t expect to like this. I thought the casting of Zachary Levi was wrong, and I just didn’t know how it would fit into the pre-established DCEU. That said, after seeing this trailer, this has the potential to be my favorite DCEU film. It seems to be more based on the New 52 origin of the character, which is just fine for me because that was one of the first times that I actually cared about the character (which reminds me I need to finish that story Geoff Johns started when they were backups in the Justice League comic). At the end of the day, it’s just “Big with powers”, which is a concept that has a lot of potential. Fans of the dark DCEU are gonna hate this, but I’m a fan of comic stuff that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m really looking forward to this one now.

Aquaman

Well, it looks pretty. I still don’t know if Momoa can carry a movie yet, and I’m not sure I’m on board with this Aquaman. I know there are Aquaman fans out there (looking at you, Classick), so how do y’all feel about his characterization? I mean, it doesn’t seem faithful to the comics, but Aquaman always seemed boring enough that any adjustment would be a welcome change. I’ll see it. Am I anticipating it? No, but I’ll see it.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I’m not a dumb guy. Not the smartest in the room, but not dumb. That said, I don’t know what’s going on here. So we want the Titans to rise? Wouldn’t they just come and fuck shit up? And whose side is Godzilla on? And I know folks got tired of the “slowed down pop song” trope in trailers, but I feel like the music here really doesn’t do much to convey the gist of things, and could’ve benefited from recognizable rock song or something.

Glass

I really liked Unbreakable all those years ago. Split was interesting, but I was more interested in it after its final scene. I think I was more excited about more Unbreakable than the idea of the movies being in a shared universe. It seems like a good ol’ villain team-up, but can old ass Bruce Willis really win here? I mean, comic movies are about folks doing the impossible, but I never really felt like Split committed to James McAvoy’s character being truly evil. Hell, even Mr. Glass was pseudo-sympathetic, as he couldn’t have a normal life due to his brittle bones. So who’s the real villain here? Is there a bigger bad? Is Willis somehow the villain? After all, this is Shyamalan, so there’s bound to be a swerve somewhere. I’m on board, but I kinda want more information right now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Reportedly Kelsey Grammer is in talks to reprise his role as Frasier Crane in a revival that would take him away from the Seattle setting of the last show. Sure, why not? I think he’s got crazy alimony payments, and has pretty much proven he’ll take any job (he did an FX sitcom with Martin Lawrence). Everyone else is doing it, so why not go back to that well again?
  • Speaking of revivals, there have been talks of a Buffy The Vampire Slayer reboot/revival(?). At first it seemed like a reboot, but the passionate fan base lost their shit, so showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen sort of backpedaled and insinuated it might be a continuation of the old show, this time following a new Slayer 20 years after the events of the old show. Reports are that they’re looking to cast a Black actress.
  • Demi Lovato was hospitalized for an apparent overdose after she was found unconscious in bed by an assistant.
  • Simpsons Comics is scheduled to end in October with issue #245 after 25 years of publication, leaving the future of its publisher, Bongo Comics, in question.
  • It turns out the third time was the charm, as the live action adaptation of the comic Locke & Key has received a 10-episode order from Netflix. Both Fox and Hulu had previously ordered, and then passed on, pilots for the series.
  • Robert DeNiro is supposedly in talks to join Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, with the rest of the world left asking “Dafuq?” Seriously, why would he hitch his star to that wagon?
  • R. Kelly released the song “I Admit”, where he denied he was a pedophile, but admitted his affinity for young girls. The song will probably appear on an upcoming album named Daddy’s Day Care or The Pamper Prince or some shit like that.

My most anticipated movie of the year wasn’t Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, or even Avengers: Infinity War (OK, maybe I was kinda looking forward to that last one). No, since the day I found out it was happening, I have been waiting for the release of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. I’ve made no secret of the fact that, aside from The Amazing World of Gumball (which may just be the smartest show on TV right now, I kid you not), Teen Titans Go! is my favorite show. It took me a while to get used to the modern day 11-minute cartoon format, but I feel it works perfectly for a show like this. So, I had a bit of trepidation that the show wouldn’t translate well to a full-length film. After all, Aqua Teen Hunger Force had tried it and failed. Well, after seeing it last night, I can say that not only did they pull it off, but they did an amazing job.

If you were wondering what it’s about, let me clue ya in: When Batman and Superman receive their umpteenth movie deal, Robin agonizes over the fact that he doesn’t have his own movie because nobody takes the Teen Titans seriously. It’s sort of meta in that way, as it addresses the fact that the shows haters feel the characters are just immature and not very heroic. So, determined to prove they deserve a DC film, too, the team heads to Hollywood, where they learn they’d be more appealing if they had their own archnemesis. Enter: Slade Wilson, otherwise known as Deathstroke: The Terminator. So, the team not only has to defeat Slade, but also convince the studio to make their movie.

It’s not a complicated plot, but they do so much with it. First of all, I didn’t expect it to be a musical. While songs have been pretty integral to the Teen Titans Go! experience, I didn’t stop to think they might pop up in the film. The music is GREAT, including a surprise appearance by Michael Bolton. Speaking of surprise appearances, there are cameos from a lot of DC characters who will NEVER appear on film ever again. I mean, The Challengers of the Unknown?! And did I mention the time travel? Like, I loved the time travel portion so much that I hope they dedicate a sequel solely to it.

Now, let me say that this movie isn’t going to convert you if you already hate the franchise. I know there are a lot of butthurt folks out there who go “They cancelled Young Justice for THAT?”, even though those decisions were made independently of each other. If you don’t go into it with too many preconceived notions, and you like comic-based properties that don’t take themselves too seriously, then Teen Titans Go! is perfect. And it’s not really even made for kids. I mean, sure, they’ll get enjoyment out of it, but there are jokes they’d never get. For example, a recent episode, “TV Knight 3”, featured a Knight Rider parody. That joke right there was for my generation. So it saddens me that so many folks refuse to give it a chance. Anyway, this film may not change many minds, but it’s a true love letter to fans of the show. It’s the show, but cranked up to 11, with crisper animation and longer runtime. It actually has a good story arc to it, it has some great Easter eggs, and the music!

Anyway, I enjoyed this film way more than I did Ant-Man and the Wasp last week, and it far surpassed my expectations. For that reason, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies had the West Week Ever.

13th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/13/18

by Will

I’ve been in California the past few days, and haven’t really been that plugged into the world lately. It’s been so long since I wrote one of these that I’ve kinda forgotten how they work. I mean, it’s been 2 weeks since my last post, and that was the Toys “R” Us tribute. So, it’s been 3 whole weeks since we touched on pop culture news and events. I’ve gotta say, though, not much happened. I mean, stuff happened, but did any of it really matter? Let’s see, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update: Not only did Hardwick’s friend, Lady Sif herself, post this tone deaf tweet, but she also circulated a Change.org petition to reinstate him as host of his AMC shows. Read the room, Jaimie! Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite nerd auntie, Yvette Nicole Brown, will be moderating the SDCC panels that were originally to be hosted by Hardwick. She insists she’s not vying for his job, and is merely “helping out a friend”.

Nev Schulman Update: Production has resumed on MTV’s Catfish: The TV Series, as their investigation found that there was no credible evidence that he had committed the harassment reported by his accuser.

Terry Crews Update: While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on sexual assault, Crews admitted that he had turned down a role in The Expendables 4, after being threatened to drop the case by producer Avi Lerner. Lerner reportedly warned Crews that there could be “trouble” if he didn’t drop his case, and Crews decided that passing on the film was the best thing for his personal safety.

John “Papa John” Schnatter: OK, so everyone already kinda knew Papa John was a piece of shit, but this week he was forced to resign as chairman of the board when it came out that he had used the word “nigger” during a conference call. Reportedly, in response to a question about his opposition to NFL players kneeling, Schnatter said that Colonel Sanders used to call Blacks niggers and that there was never any blowback for KFC. Here’s where this gets dicey for me: while there’s no real evidence that the Colonel had a history of doing this, it’s not like Schnatter used the slur against someone on the call. At best, he was telling the truth and didn’t read the room to know “Maybe it wouldn’t be too Kosher for me to use that word.” At worst, he was lying about the Colonel, but still wasn’t slinging it an individual. In any case, there’s other evidence that he’s a shitty human being, so maybe this was just karma catching up to him, like how they got Al Capone on tax evasion. Shitty views, shitty pizza: Papa John’s.

Henry Cavill: Superman done fucked up, y’all. Admittedly, there’s hyperbole on both sides of this argument, but here it goes: In a GQ Australia interview, Cavill admitted his trepidation about dating in the post #MeToo world, saying

“There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman. There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice,” he remarked. “I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that.”

“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to called a rapist or something.’ So you’re like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and just go back to a relationship, which never really worked,”

Of course there was social media backlash to this, with the common response being “If you don’t want to be called a rapist, then don’t rape anyone.” I get it. I do. But it’s funny how the “We have to listen to both sides” folks are really selective in when they choose to speak out. I think he suffered from a poor choice of words, but his is still a viewpoint that should probably be acknowledged. Men DON’T know how to read cues anymore, and it’s leading to some bad situations (see: Aziz Ansari). Cavill admits his beliefs are old fashioned, but that’s how a lot of people were conditioned and raised. Sure, there’s concepts like “enthusiastic consent” now, but to many that’s just as foreign a concept as when men learned they’d have to wrap their penises in a tire to make sure they don’t die having sex. Change takes time, and getting these views out and discussing them is the only way folks are going to come to some kind of understanding to move forward. No, I’m not saying “Hug a Nazi”, but I AM saying that you can’t really change anything until folks are comfortable enough to speak, while others are willing to listen. Anyway, he apologized through one of his reps, so nothing was really accomplished here except a whole bunch of folks don’t like Henry Cavill anymore.

I’m not doing so well with the movie viewing this year. I think I watched something like 117 in 2016, and at this point I’ve seen about 7. On the flight home last night, I finally got a chance to watch Pitch Perfect 3. I’m not saying I regret seeing it, but I kinda regret that they made it.

As I’ve said before, I kinda relate more to the Pitch Perfect franchise than most folks do because I lived it. I was in the scrappy underdog college a cappella group that placed at competition. I dealt with the ennui that comes from riding that high, and then being thrust into the real world where nobody gives a shit. In fact, I thought the second movie captured that perfectly, even if it didn’t resonate with a lot of fans of the first movie. As much as I love the Barden Bellas, though, this didn’t need to be a trilogy. They go on a USO tour? Is it really that easy for the alums of a 7-year removed competitive collegiate singing group to get a spot on a USO tour? Are the troops that hard up for entertainment? I mean, even I would get tired of Carlos Mencia after one performance, but is this really all that’s left in the barrel for our boys overseas?

If you haven’t seen it, that’s what happens: the Bellas reunite because of a Three’s Company-esque misunderstanding, but decide to take one last shot at the stage by going on a USO tour – one that happens to be a proving ground for DJ Khaled to find his new opening act. Really? HIM? So, the aged Bellas (and Hailee Steinfeld, whose character must have taken a leave of absence from college) jet around the world, competing against three other acts: country-tinged Saddle Up, hip hop duo Young Sparrow & DJ Dragon Nutz, and the all-female Evermoist. Almost immediately the other 3 acts join forces in the traditional riff-off, to show the Bellas just how ineffective a cappella battles are in the real world. Chloe keeps trying to cite them for breaking non-existent rules, like “They used real instruments, so they’re disqualified.” Of course, the Bellas eventually prove themselves to the USO audiences, after a few embarrassing setbacks put into motion by Evermoist. I guess that would be a decent movie if it didn’t have so many other weird subplots floating around.

It’s a movie that tries to do too many things, and doesn’t do any of them well. There’s a weird B-plot about Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) crooked father (played by John Lithgow), who’s scheming to get the $180 million that her mother had put into a trust for her. This results in some crazy choreographed fight scenes between Amy and her dad’s goons, as well as a Die Hardian explosion on a boat.

Then, there’s a co-B-plot (’cause it’s not quite a C-plot) about Becca (Anna Kendrick) being courted as an artist by one of the members of DJ Khaled’s team. While this storyline eventually turns out well for Becca, it just dangles a romance that could have been pursued if they were audacious enough to make a fourth movie, but doesn’t really go anywhere.

Plus, I get that Kendrick is the star, but the whole Becca As a Solo Artist thing doesn’t work for her characterization. Sure, we’re reintroduced to her dealing with her dead-end producing job, but she was never a front and center showgirl. She was a reluctant performer whose musicality and choreo took the Bellas to new heights. If anything, though, her perfect place is behind the scenes, building new artists, and NOT as a headlining solo artist.

Then, you’ve got Aubrey (Anna Camp) dealing with abandonment issues from her dad (which are hastily wrapped up during the end credits), and Chloe (Brittany Snow) hastily falling in love with their USO liaison. Steinfeld is just there to be insulted by Fat Amy, and you don’t really see much of the fire from the last movie that propelled her to the leadership of the current group of Bellas.

The movie is missing a lot of its heart, which was provided in the previous two installments by love interests Bumper (Adam Devine) and Jesse (Skylar Astin) – both of whom are absent here and clearly missed. Jesse was great support for Becca, and it’s curious that they’d break up offscreen and he’s already moved on. Meanwhile, I didn’t expect Fat Amy and Bumper to get married or anything, but I did expect a cameo or something. I mean, Adam Devine is doing straight to Netflix movies these days, so he’s available.

The biggest thing missing here, though, is the musicality. While the first two movies really showcased what a cappella has become, this movie turns it into the butt of the joke. The riff-off is impressive, as they tend to be, but there are no real performances from any of the acts – Bellas to Evermoist – that are that impressive. It’s probably the only installment in the trilogy where I feel I could easily pass on the soundtrack.

Pitch Perfect 3 is a simple retread of Pitch Perfect 2‘s “There’s Life After A Cappella, But It Ain’t Singing” thesis. We got it, but we didn’t need it. It’s a shame because I really like these movies and the stars, but they didn’t leave the stage on a high note.

In Star Wars news, Keri Russell has reportedly signed on for a role in Star Wars: Episode IX, Seeing as how she’s JJ Abrams’ muse or whatever, this news isn’t that surprising. In another part of the galaxy, however, it was reported that Billy Dee Williams would reprise his role as Lando Calrissian and, for the life of me, I can’t imagine what the fuck for. I mean, all of his friends are dead, and he was absent for the one scene that would’ve made sense for him to be in (Canto Bight). So, I guess I’ll look forward to seeing him come back just to die.

In Marvel news, it was revealed that the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming will be called Spider-Man: Far From Home. Let the speculation begin! Does he get left in space after Avengers 4? Does he come back to Earth and end up in Wakanda, hanging out with Suri? The possibilities are endless.

When it comes to hope, though, Sony giveth and Sony taketh away. While Far From Home sounds intriguing, they also announced their continued plans to milk that Spider-Man license dry. Now they’re claiming there will be a Silk movie that’ll never happen. I mean, if they couldn’t get a film off the ground for Black Cat and Silver Sable, I really don’t know how “Asian Spider-Woman”‘s milkshake is gonna bring the fanboys to the yard. On top of that, there are reports that Jared Leto will star in a Morbius film. Yeah, Morbius is the vampire who debuted in the Spider-Man comic, but really has jack shit to do with Spider-Man. If you ask me, Sony making that deal with Marvel Studios was to their detriment, as it left them to play around with the dregs of the Spider-Man license. Imagine if you had a really hot, passionate girlfriend, but then y’all broke up and you ended up with an Amish girl. The Amish girl thinks she’s doing you a favor by flashing a little ankle, but you know what you used to have. That’s this situation right here.

FX announced the cast for their Y: The Last Man pilot, and the biggest surprise is probably that Diane Lane has signed on to play Senator Jennifer Brown, who also happens to be the mother of the main character, Yorick. If you’re not familiar with the story, Y: The Last Man was a comic series published under the DC Comics Vertigo imprint. Running for 60 issues, it featured a world where a virus has killed every male in the world – except for escape artist Yorick and his Capuchin monkey. Women rise up and take on roles that they hadn’t traditionally held in the old world, while Yorick is traveling the globe to be reunited with his girlfriend. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed series of the past 20 years, and I think it was an absolute disappointment.

I have a problem with series creator Brian K. Vaughan because I feel he doesn’t stick the landing when it comes to his long-form series. 60 issues was just enough rope for him to hang himself with. I couldn’t even imagine reading that series on a monthly basis at certain points, because there are YEARS that just drag. So, to me, this just means we might get a compelling show with a really weak season 4 & 5. And don’t get me started on the ending because I felt it was one of those “It’s not about the destination, but the journey” cop out. Anyway, I guess time will tell.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • A bunch of shows got cancelled, but don’t feel bad – they’re dead because nobody cared about them. Likewise, no one will miss them. They include: Famous In Love (Freeform), Nobodies (TV Land), Ghosted (Fox), Champions (NBC), and SIX (History). See? Bet you never watched any of them.
  • In other TV news, Charter Communications has picked up the Bad Boys spinoff, L.A.’s Finest, starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. It’s set to air on their Spectrum cable service, which is about a step up from ending up on the Playstation Network (Yes, that was a jab at Powers).
  • In a recent interview, Paul Reiser admitted that the Mad About You revival “likely won’t happen” for the sheer fact that no network seems to want it. It’s fine with me. Paul and Jamie Buchman had a terrible marriage, and I haven’t ONCE wondered “I wonder where those two crazy kids would be right now.” If anything, I spend time wondering why Leila Kenzle and John Pankow didn’t become household names from that show. They were the only reasons to tune in.
  • WWE SmackDown Live will officially air on Fridays next year on Fox, meaning that Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing revival is basically getting evicted before it even returns to the airwaves.
  • Speaking of WWE, there are reports that they will add a second Wrestlemania branded show in 2020. This sounds like a terrible idea because it’ll just take away the prestige of the now-annual event, especially if it’s a watered down ‘Mania, similar to the recent Saudi Rumble.
  • Classic Nickelodeon show Double Dare is back on the air, and I had stronger feelings about it when it debuted 3 weeks ago. All I can say now is that new host Liza Koshay is kind of annoying, while I wanted to kill this little prick who kept dabbing after every victory. It was a nice nostalgia trip to watch that first night, but it’s nothing I’ve returned to since. Apparently there’s a Kenan & Kel episode coming up, so I’ll probably tune into that, as they play for their favorite charity: Keeping Kel’s Lights On.
  • Jeremy Renner has been cast as Detective “Twitch” Williams in the upcoming Spawn movie. I know that announcement is supposed to be big news, but all I can muster is a Kanye shrug. Remember those? Ya know, before he married that Armenian donkey and lost his mind?
  • The TV series based on The Purge will debut September 4th, on both Syfy and USA Network.
  • Marvel Studios reportedly met with 70 different directors, and settled on Cate Shortland to direct the planned Black Widow solo film.
  • District 9/Chappie director Neill Blomkamp will direct a new Robocop movie for MGM. Have you ever seen any of his movies? Come for the hamfisted allegory on Apartheid, but stay for the wise-cracking alien go-kart that Robocop rides around in!
  • Djimon Hounsou has been cast as the Wizard in that SHAZAM! movie I can’t seem to get excited about.
  • Steven Universe featured the first lesbian wedding on a kid’s cartoon show, but does it count if they’re really space gems? I dunno. I’ve tried to watch that show, and it makes no sense to me, but yay for progress!

I’m amazed that it’s been 3 weeks since I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and it has still stuck with me. If you’re not familiar, the documentary is the story behind Fred Rogers and the creation of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And let me tell you – it is a life-changing experience. Seriously, they broke the mold when they made Fred Rogers, and no one has stepped up to fill the void that he left behind.

The movie focuses on what a remarkable man Mr. Rogers was, and how he impacted the lives or children. An ordained minister, he discovered television in its infancy, and realized the power that it could have in speaking directly to children. He didn’t like how a lot of children’s television seemed to talk down to the audience, so he wanted to meet them at their level, and help them through the roadblocks of life. It contained interviews with everyone from his wife to former crewmates and friends. I’m not a movie crier, but this thing pushes all the buttons of a Pixar movie.

The movie definitely left an impact on me as I left the theater. There’s one clunky part, where an old friend mentions that Rogers was a lifelong, card-carrying Republican. I guess it was meant to imply that his work was imbued with his sense of family values and whatnot, but all I could think was “What the fuck happened to the Republican Party?” Along those lines, how would he feel about the current state of things? He had retired prior to 9/11, but was consulted to create material to help folks cope with the events of that day – and it nearly broke him. As great as he was, even he wouldn’t be able to heal the divide facing the country. At least, not alone. The world needs more people like Mr. Rogers. “Look for the helpers.”

I’m not sure if it’s delusions of grandeur, or lack of sleep, but for a brief period of time after leaving the theater, I thought “I could do it!” I could pivot everything to be more family friendly, I have an early childhood background, and I love (and worry about) kids. But my wife quickly reminded me that I’m a hateful man online, but that it’s what I’m good at, so I wouldn’t be the heir apparent to King Friday’s empire anytime soon. Womp womp.

I can’t believe I still feel this way three weeks later, but nothing has come close to that experience. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time, and I think everyone should see it. That’s why Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had the West Week Ever.

11th Jan2018

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2017

by Will

 

God, did 2017 suck! It’s funny – if you go back and read the WYE 2016 post, it starts pretty much the same way. The problem with 2016, however, is that Death kept coming for all of our favorite celebrities, while 2017 was just a garbage fire through and through. To put in in Community terms, I like to write 2017 off as “The Gas Leak year” (for those who aren’t Community fans, let me explain: the 4th season of the show didn’t have the involvement of creator/showrunner Dan Harmon, so a lot of the stories and characterizations were off. When Harmon returned for season 5, he explained away a lot of the weirdness by saying that the school had experienced a gas leak during season 4, which was the cause of their odd behavior).

I had a rough time dealing with 2017 and it shows. I had to take a lot of weeks off from the site. I was basically on that schedule Regis had before they pretty much forced him to retire. When I did post, I don’t feel like much of it was that strong because I didn’t really have a lot to work with. The world of entertainment was kinda boring until Q4 (more on that later), and the major developments were happening in the world of politics, which is not what you come to this site to read. Still, I managed to crank out 41 West Week Ever posts, even though 4 of those weeks saw nothing crowned as having the West Week Ever. I also managed to post a handful of standalone things, like my tribute to the Toy Biz Hotline and my rundown of my top 40 songs of 2017. Still, with 2017 making it feel like we were constantly on the receiving end of a one-two punch, I feel a lot of stuff fell through the cracks. So, let’s take a look back at some of the stuff that I feel stood out about the year.

2017 was quite the year for “zombie shows” – shows that are long dead but just can’t seem to stay that way. NBC brought back Will & Grace, while ABC got the Roseanne gang back together. On top of those, there are talks in the works to bring back Frasier, King of the Hill, and Mad About You. I don’t have time for these shows. I watch the ones that continue the narrative for the next generation, a la Fuller House and Girl Meets World, but I’ve got no interest in these “The Quest for More Money” sequel series. After all, both Will & Grace and Roseanne had to retcon their series finales in order for these new seasons to work. While the Lottery Season of Roseanne is critically maligned, I was pretty OK with where Will & Grace left things. I don’t need to see these casts, 10+ years later, doing the same shit, and struggling with the same problems.

I recently called Roseanne “The White Good Times” on Twitter because I feel they both shared a lot of depressing traits. Will James get a new job? Is Dan gonna lose the bike shop? Is JJ gonna have to drop out of art school to provide for the family? Will the loose meat sandwich restaurant have to close? I watched these shows when I was younger, but as I’ve grown I just realize how damn poor these folks were and I don’t want to revisit that. The difference between the shows is that the Evans family DOES make it out of the ghetto in the series finale of Good Times. Roseanne, however, seems to be dealing with the same shit, in the same house, still struggling to make ends meet. And now they’ve tacked on that she and Dan are going to be Trump supporters? They clearly want me nowhere near this thing. I know a lot of y’all love Roseanne, especially for the Halloween episodes, so this revival is clearly a love letter to you and not for me.

It was QUITE the controversial year for the folks over at Marvel in 2017. First off, they announced an event where everyone’s favorite patriotic hero became a fascist dictator who was under the influence of Nazis. Sure, we can have the whole “Are Hydra soldiers Nazis?” debate, but it’s basically the same thing as far as the comics go. The fandom was spit, as they couldn’t believe Marvel would do this to Captain America. They’ve become so enamored with the Chris Evans portrayal of the character that they can’t let go of if enough for something different to be done with it. I actually thought it was an interesting idea because the buildup to it was so good. Nick Spencer was telling some great “Not MY Captain America” stories starring the Sam Wilson iteration of the hero. Of course the purists wanted Steve Rogers back, but they weren’t prepared to receive him in the state that he appeared: brainwashed by the Red Skull to believe he’d basically been a double agent. Not only did Marvel do a shitty job of damage control in marketing the story, but they also failed to stick the landing, as the buildup to Secret Empire was much more riveting than the Secret Empire miniseries itself.

Then, continuing to be tone deaf to their audience, Marvel entered into a partnership to print a comic focusing on an elite group from Northrup Grumman. If you’re not familiar with NG, they’re a defense contractor, which is a nice, friendly way of saying “arms dealer”. They had collaborated on a joint comic that was to be distributed that New York Comic Con, but when word got out that this was basically a recruitment tool, Marvel had to act fast, cancelling both the scheduled panel and the distribution of the comic. A few copies got out, making it a sought after item, but mainly the whole thing left fans scratching their heads, wondering why Marvel would enter into such a partnership.

Then there was the CB Cebulski situation. If you’re unaware, CB Cebulski was announced as Marvel’s latest editor-in-chief, but it was soon revealed that some years ago he (a White male) posed as a Japanese writer in order to get work from Marvel – during a period when Marvel employees weren’t allowed to pick up writing work on top of their salaries. Also during a time when Marvel was actively seeking diverse voices who would be able to tell different stories than what everyone had been used to. So, he basically stole somebody else’s shot, and there was never any comeuppance for it. It seems like it was a loosely guarded secret, with some other folks surely in the know. Still, Marvel refused to address it as a company, and Cebulski was left to eventually issue an apology in The Atlantic after a few mainstream publications caught wind of the controversy.

To cap things off, DC Comics pulled off a major coup by poaching writer Brian Michael Bendis from the House of Ideas. Bendis had been THE Marvel Company Man since 2000, and the idea of him at the Distinguished Competition seemed like something that would eventually happen (comics is an incestuous industry, and you really just end up jumping back and forth for work), but not something that would happen anytime soon. Well, things didn’t go as smoothly as they could have. Immediately after the Bendis move was announced, he got a MRSA infection which almost killed him and caused a delay on his remaining Marvel work. So, now not only was Marvel losing him, but they weren’t even sure when, as he had some outstanding deliverables he still needed to get to them. It’s since been announced that his first big DC property will be Superman, while Marvel doesn’t have anyone in their stable who even comes close to having the brand loyalty to them that Bendis had. So, it begs the question: what did Marvel do to make him leave? Whatever it was, it was just another blunder in a long year of mistakes from the House that Stan Built.

Not every relationship made it out of 2017 alive, as there were some fairly high profile splits. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt split up, while Billy Bush continued to shoulder the blame from the Access Hollywood/Trump debacle as he split with his wife of 20 years. Gina Torres and Laurence Fishburne separated after 16 years together, and Fergie took her lovely lady lumps and packed her bags to get away from Josh Duhamel.

Movies I Watched This Year:

I REALLY fell short in this department, as I only managed to watch 18 films in 2017, down from SIXTY-FIVE in 2016. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we moved in with my mom after her stroke. When we lived on our own, I had every premium channel, DVR, and I was up all hours of the night. Now, I don’t even have HBO, no DVR, and my night is split into 2 different shifts. Plainly put, I have neither the time nor resources to watch a lot of movies these days, though I’ll point out that the majority of the movies I did see this year were seen in the theater, which is something of a novelty for me. I’m not a “movie guy”, so the fact that I managed to get to the theater for 13 of 18 movies is somewhat impressive to me.

I know a lot of y’all use Letterboxd to keep track of your movies and reviews, but I’m wary of those kinds of sites. I mean, what happens when Amazon buys it and decides to just wipe it? Back in the early 00s, Wizard: The Guide to Comics used to have a comic portfolio option on their site. Since they were a price guide, you could just enter all the books you owned and it would give you a value. I spent a lot of time on that site. And then, one day, without warning, they yanked it. No option to export what you had or anything. So, at that point, I said “Never again!” I’ll just use my own rinky-dink site to track stuff like that. Anyway, here’s what I saw. If you wanna know my thoughts, just click the links.

  1. Split
  2. The Lego Batman Movie
  3. Central Intelligence
  4. Logan
  5. Power Rangers
  6. Get Out
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. The Founder
  10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  11. Keeping Up With the Joneses
  12. The Nice Guys
  13. The Mountain Between Us
  14. Thor: Ragnarok
  15. Justice League
  16. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  17. Coco
  18. Daddy’s Home – I’m going to talk about this here because I watched it between my last post of 2017 and now, and never got a chance to write about it. The basic premise of this movie is that Linda Cardellini’s character is a bitch who puts new husband Will Ferrell in an uncomfortable and unnecessary situation. When her first husband, played by Mark Walhberg, comes to town, we find out she’s never even told him that she’s remarried, and it’s clear that he still gets her wet (which she barely even tries to hide). Ferrell is a dutiful and doting stepfather to her kids, but he’s scared he’s going to lose them to their real dad who’s now back on the scene, and is also a total badass. And Cardellini really doesn’t pitch in to help matters. She basically tells Ferrell he needs to establish some ground rules and boundaries for Wahlberg – a situation that could’ve been mitigated had she only told Wahlberg about Ferrell in the first place. Of course the whole thing ends with them as friends and co-fathers, but I can’t get the taste out of my mouth as to how much I disliked Cardellini’s role. I do, however, want to see the sequel now because I loved how they set things up at the end of this one, and I’m curious to see if Cardellini gets her comeuppance.

Surprisingly, while I didn’t see many movies this year, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did see – including some of the more maligned pics, like Justice League. It wasn’t perfect, but I was entertained. I’m not a cinephile, so I’m not gonna rank them, but I will say that The Founder may have been my favorite film I saw this year. Keaton is just so good in it, I love the McDonald’s story, and I feel like a lot of folks missed out on this gem.

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

January

  • 80’s pop star Richard Marx and wife, former VJ Daisy Fuentes, subdued a crazed passenger on a Korean airline. In other news, how the Hell did Richard Marx land Daisy Fuentes?!

  • In Arizona, folks reported seeing a winged demon, heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. We should’ve known then that we were fucked…

  • Adorable 4-year old, Daliyah Marie Arana, had already read over 1,000 books and visited the Library of Congress as Librarian for the Day

February

  • Playboy gave up on its quest to get on supermarket shelves, and brought back the titties!

March

  • Scientology traitor Leah Remini was announced to star in a gender-swapped What About Bob? sitcom. This would later be scrapped when she joins the cast of a revamped Kevin Can Wait with former The King of Queens costar Kevin James.
  • Han Solo is not the character’s real name. His birth name was Handsome Solowitz, but his manager made him change it

April

  • Barry Manilow came out as gay, which makes me realize that he’s actually been singing about Man D all these years…
  • In news that will only matter to you if you’re a Cornell alum, all-male a cappella group The Cayuga’s Waiters were kicked off campus for hazing. And let me tell you, this couldn’t have happened to a shittier group of douchebags.

May

  • Universal’s Dark Universe shared monsters universe was announced, to be kicked off by Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. By November the idea will be abandoned, as architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan leave the project.

courtesy of TVLine.com

June

July 

  • CBS basically said “Bye, Felicia” to the Asian cast members of Hawaii Five-0 when Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park asked for raises on the level of what their White costars were making.
  • The Master of Bar Science himself, Jon Taffer, favorited some of my tweets during a Bar Rescue marathon:

  • Completely tone deaf to the political climate, the showrunners for Game of Thrones announced that their next project would be called Confederate, based on an alternate reality where slavery still exists and the Civil War never ended. This was not well received by folks.
  • After 24 years, Archie Comics ceased publication of the Sonic The Hedgehog comic
  • The directors of the documentary Catfish (which inspired the MTV series) were announced to direct a Mega Man film
  • It was a Black sex scandal trifecta, as R. Kelly was accused of running a sex cult in his house, Usher was accused of paying a woman $1 million to cover up the fact that he’d given her Herpes, and Kevin Hart was caught cheating on his pregnant wife
  • I discovered the All Star Trek block on the Heroes & Icons channel

  • My elementary school friend and her husband did some kickass Saga cosplay at SDCC
  • Amy Schumer dropped out of the Barbie film – a film which I originally mocked, which resulted in her blocking me on Twitter
  • Apple discontinued the Shuffle and Nano models

August

  • On the heels of the Confederate announcement, Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder announced Black America – a show that takes place in an alternate reality where Blacks have established a thriving nation state via the reparations they received after the Civil War.
  • MTV’s Total Request Live rose from the dead to return to airwaves. Only it seems like they’ve eliminated the video portion now, so what’s the point?
  • There was a Nostalgia War going on between streaming services as Hulu added the TGIF library, while Amazon added the Carsey-Werner catalog, including Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and A Different World
  • Social media app Sarahah was popular for about a week. Used by teens to cyberbully each other, it gained a spike in popularity as grown folks used it to fish for compliments.
  • Netflix acquired Mark Millar’s Millarworld comic imprint. It’s the best of both worlds, as it gives them an IPO farm, without the overhead of running an actual comic publisher (Millarworld books are published through deals with Image and Marvel).
  • Drama hitmaker Shonda Rhimes moved her Shondaland production house from ABC to Netflix after signing a major deal with the streaming service
  • A My Cousin Vinny sequel was released in book form as Back to Brooklyn, which catches up with the characters 25 years later. ‘Cause some goomba out there wanted that.
  • Wizard Magazine was slated to return as an online website called WizPop to be hosted on the WizardWorld website. As of this post, there’s no sign of that ever having occurred on the site.
  • Controversy struck the Hellboy reboot as British actor Ed Skrein was cast as a character who was originally intended to be of Japanese descent. He eventually dropped out of the role, which was quickly snatched up by Daniel Dae Kim – who was jobless after CBS cut him loose from Hawaii Five-0 last month.
  • Joss Whedon went underground after his ex-wife wrote a scathing tell-all article for The Wrap, where she accused him of serial infidelity and of being a hypocritical feminist. His Whedonesque fansite was shuttered soon afterward.

September

  • There was a LOT of Star Wars shake ups, as Colin Treverrow was fired as director of Episode IX. This was following the earlier firing of Lord and Miller from directing the Han Solo movie. The Solo movie would be picked up by Ron Howard, while it was announced JJ Abrams would return to write and direct Episode IX. Oh, and Episode VIII director Rian Johnson was given his own Skywalker-free Star Wars trilogy.
  • I experienced what is probably my most popular tweet to date:

  • ABC announced a reboot of The Greatest American Hero which will now star an Indian-American woman named Meera. I see you, ABC!
  • There was a lot of controversy in the G.I. Joe fandom as the current writer on the series was driving away the dwindling fan base with his social media tirades.
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for Charlie Bucket to be a Black child until his agent intervened and advised him against it.
  • Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because they don’t understand the word “sale” and are constantly getting their asses handed to them by Target and Amazon.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was announced to be working on the script for the completely unnecessary Coming to America 2, as Eddie Murphy must be behind on child support or something.

October

  • Milestone Media announced their return to the world of comics at New York Comic Con. And nothing has been mentioned about it since. I expect another reboot announcement somewhere around 2022.
  • The Juice is loose! OJ Simpson was released from prison.
  • AOL announced that Instant Messenger would be shut down on December 15th.
  • Just as easily as I found Heroes & Icon’s All Star Trek block I walked away from it. Oh, and I ranked the pre-Discovery Trek series. 

November

  • Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter for 11 minutes thanks to the inside work of an intrepid engineer. Remember, kids – not all heroes wear capes!
  • Funko experienced the worst IPO in 17 years as the stock opened at $12 and dropped to $7 by the end of the day
  • Smallville star Allison Mack was reported to be allegedly running a sex slave cult in Los Angeles.
  • People Magazine named country star/The Voice coach Blake Shelton the Sexiest Man Alive, and the internet had a field day with that one!
  • Taraji P. Henson will star in What Men Want, inspired by the Mel Gibson film What Women Want. The movie will reportedly only be 10 minutes long, as she will learn the answer is “Pussy and sandwiches”.

December

  • Jay-Z told The New York Times that he cheated on wife Beyoncé because he was in “Survival Mode”, whatever that means. Look for Hallmark to come out with a new line of “I’m Sorry I Survival Moded You Last Weekend” cards
  • THERE’S A NEW BABY WEST ON THE HORIZON!
  • Disney bought Fox for a reported $52 million. And I had thoughts…
  • Quentin Tarantino announced that he wants to direct a Star Trek film. I maintain that it’ll never see the light of day.
  • Apple admitted that they slowed down the performance on older iPhones, supposedly to preserve their batteries, but were then forced to offer low cost replacement batteries to make amends.

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2017 (with commentary)

1/6/17 – The Mick

See, this is the kind of thing I like: spotlighting a new show that a lot of folks may have missed. Considering It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been around for 12 seasons, it clearly has a fanbase. Since Kaitlin Olsen is essentially playing the same character that she plays on that show, you can basically consider it The Further Adventures of Sweet Dee. Still, it felt very “Fox”, so I was expecting them to cancel it. Imagine my surprise when it got picked up for a second season!

1/13/17 – Donald Glover

He won the Best Musical or Comedy in Television Golden Globe for his nearly perfect series Atlanta, inked an exclusive development deal with FX Networks, AND got to film scenes as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo movie. Everything was coming up Milhouse for that guy!

1/27/17 – The Women’s March on Washington

I guess I should’ve known what kind of year 2017 was going to be when this event happened so early in the year. See, I kinda thought of it as some kind of royal “F You!” to the establishment. The inauguration had just occurred, drawing anemic crowds, yet here was this march by the opposition to show that there was strength in numbers, and that those numbers weren’t on Trump’s side. Like I said in the post, I’m not the guy to explain the nuances of what the women were fighting for, and there were some interesting takes about how feminism and race haven’t always gone hand in hand. In fact, many feel that the women out there wearing the “pussy hats” were the same White women who had voted Trump into office. Again, I don’t know about all that. What I do know is that I hadn’t seen an organized demonstration like that since the Million Man March, so it certainly seemed noteworthy, even if it wasn’t the most “pop cultury” moment to come along.

2/3/17 – Winona Ryder

So, she made some funny faces at the SAG Awards ceremony. Was she high? Was she ACTING? Who knows? That’s just how low pressure the world of pop culture was at the start of the year. Sure, the progression of faces was amusing, but surely there should’ve been something more attention-worthy happening that week, right? Right? Wrong.

2/10/17 – The New England Patriots

Those sons of bitches Patriots! I’m not a sports guy, and we basically live in a Broncos home. Still, you don’t have to know much about sports to know that everyone who isn’t a Patriots fan hates them for being cheaters, while their fans defend them adamantly. I mean, I’m still amazed you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same season. Still, the Patriots pulled off an amazing comeback during Super Bowl LI, as Atlanta blew a TWENTY-FIVE point lead. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. Yeah, I don’t care about football, but I gotta give credit where it’s due.

2/17/17 – CeeLo Green/Gnarly Davidson

So, musician/escaped mutant from Genosha CeeLo Green showed up to the Grammys looking like King Midas himself, calling himself “Gnarly Davidson”. Everyone had a good laugh for about 24 hours, but I bet 9 out of 10 people today couldn’t even tell you what or who Gnarly Davidson is supposed to be. I like to think that things that earn the WWE have made some sort of impact on popular culture, and this wasn’t even a mosquito bite in terms of magnitude.

3/3/17 – Logan

Great comic book movie. Great movie in general. As the year went on, Logan would enter the conversation, but it would quickly be overshadowed by anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was even brought up in Oscars speculation. It was a great note for Jackman to go out on, and it’s just a shame that the Wolverine film trilogy is so uneven. Totally deserved the WWE.

3/10/17 – Man Seeking Woman

This was such a great show, and while I’m sad to see it go, I felt it told a very tight story. It didn’t wear out its welcome, and it smartly used the time that it had available to it. Clocking in at 3 seasons, it started with Jay Baruchel’s Josh stumbling out of a failed relationship, trying to get back on his feet in the dating world. It ended with him getting married to the perfect girl for him. Sure, it could’ve dragged along with them being newlyweds, having a kid, etc, but it didn’t want to insult our intelligence or waste our time as it devolved into just a run of the mill sitcom. Part of what made it special was that it was such an absurd show at times. I mean, Josh’s sister had an affair with Santa Claus at one point. But that just added to its charm. This is a great example of one of those “The Best Show You’re Not Watching”, because none of y’all were watching it. Still, it managed to chug along, and tell the story that it originally set out to tell. Most shows can’t say that, so it totally deserved the WWE. I think it’s streaming on Hulu if you ever want to check it out, which you should!

3/17/17 – Tyra Banks

Tyra had a pretty big week, as she was announced as Nick Cannon’s replacement as the host of America’s Got Talent, plus it was announced that she’d be returning to her old stomping grounds as head judge/host of America’s Next Top Model. In the same week, Banks became the grand arbiter of America’s standards of talent and beauty. That’s quite the coup!

3/24/17 – Nothing

As I always say when this happens, “As Nina Simone said, ‘It Be’s That Way Sometimes’.” Not happy with the trajectory the West Week Ever “honor” was on, I just couldn’t throw it at something willy nilly. We were seven posts into the year, and nothing chosen had really blown anyone’s socks off, except maybe Logan. I needed a week to regroup.

3/31/17 – Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

It was a trailer for a new Marvel movie. When don’t those get the West Week Ever? Sure, we were all hype for the film, but we’re at a point in society where Marvel doesn’t really even have to try anymore with these things. Did it deserve it for the week? Sure. Can I even remember that first Homecoming trailer? Nope, I cannot.

4/7/17 – The Undertaker

By now, most of you know of my love for The Undertaker. In a world where wrestlers basically use some juxtaposition of their real names for their in-ring names, he was a relic of a bygone era of gimmicks and kayfabe. His retirement had been commonly rumored over recent years, but he was on a part-time schedule where he pretty much only came back for Wrestlemania. Well, at Wrestlemania 33, he jobbed to Roman Reigns, left his trademark hat and coat in the ring, kissed his wife, and walked out of the arena – all to chants of “Thank you, Taker”. For all intents and purposes, that seemed to be all she wrote. Now there are reports that he’ll be back for Raw‘s 25th anniversary. I really hope that’s not true, as it was a beautiful way for him to go out. The card for Wrestlemania 33 was weak sauce, but it being the swan song of Taker was what would make it stand out in the history books. I cried when Flair retired, and even though he eventually crawled back, it didn’t take away the experience of his retirement run. If Taker does return, I’m hoping I can feel the same way.

4/14/17 – Thor: Ragnarok teaser

Scroll up, and re-read what I said about the Homecoming trailer. Apply all of that here. Keep in mind, Thor was coming off a serviceable debut and a forgettable sequel. We didn’t have the highest expectations for this movie, even though it was apparent it had been dipping into the GOTG Cookie Jar of Humor. But, like I said, Marvel trailers pretty much always get the WWE, whether they deserve them or not. Actually, ya know what? Black Panther never got it. I think it’s because it debuted during one of my bye weeks, but I’m sure someone out there will say it’s due to my self-hatred or whatever.

4/21/17 – Girls Series Finale

While Girls pretty much became the poster child for Millennials, I’m not quite sure history will be kind to it. After all, the characters embodied everything we tend to hate about that demographic. They’re spoiled, they have delusions of grandeur, they don’t want to pay their dues, and they’re tremendously self-centered. Marnie sucked because she only used people to pursue her own happiness. Jessa sucked because she was a junkie succubus. Hannah sucked because she thought she was the Voice of a Generation, while commonly looking unwashed and unhygienic. She spent 6 seasons making us accept her body positivity while engaging in the unsexiest sex scenes imaginable.

Still, through all of that, the characters actually seemed to experience some growth in that final season. Hanna found herself pregnant, eventually giving birth to Grover (Fuck you, Lena Dunham. Just fuck you right in the ear for that shit). And she found out she had to grow up FAST. Marnie thrust herself into the role of doting aunt, as if to make amends for being such a shitty person to those around her. She soon found, though, that she couldn’t assume that role and still continue to grow. She had her path, and Hannah/Grover had their own. And the only character with some sense was strangely neurotic/possibly on the spectrum Shoshana, who managed to remove herself from the equation before the series finale because she realized she was better than those with whom she had surrounded herself.

As a whole, Girls is a forgettable mess that I hope I never see on any of those Greatest Series of All Time lists. That finale, though, made up for a lot of problems I’d had with those characters over the course of the show. I went from Hate Watching it to just Watching it. And, to her credit, as much as Hannah sucked, Dunham was the voice of a generation, like it or not. They say that the mark of a good series finale is that you can watch it and get a whole, fulfilling story even if you weren’t an avid viewer of the series. Since I’d been watching the show, I can’t attest to whether that’s true here, but I do feel like it was a damn fine finale that did more for its characters and narrative than the whole rest of the series put together.

4/28/17 – Nothing

I guess I felt like Girls had set a pretty high bar, and nothing came close to that in the week following its finale. Go figure!

5/5/17 – Ryan Seacrest

Next to maybe Steve Harvey,  Seacrest is the hardest working man in show business. It was announced that he would be taking over Michael Strahan’s cohost role on Live with Kelly, and a grueling schedule was floated that would allow him to maintain that job while also flying to the West Coast multiple times a week in order to host ABC’s reboot of American Idol. While he hadn’t officially signed on to the Idol revival at that point, he would later take the job, and that theoretical travel schedule would become reality. I know folks love to make fun of him, and make all the gay jokes, but I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for his work ethic. The man rarely sleeps and is constantly developing new projects. And he’s a shrewd businessman, as evidenced in how he pretty much just swooped in and assimilated Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

5/12/17 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I really enjoyed this movie, but I’m scared I’m falling into that cynical thing where I’m like “Well, it’s a Marvel movie”. We pretty much know what to expect at this point. I’m not getting bored by the formula or anything, but I don’t think it’s a surprise when these things come out and dominate the pop culture conversation for the week following.

5/19/17 – CBS

This was my annual upfronts post, and I felt like CBS had the most promising schedule for their Fall lineup. They had a few misses (Wisdom of the Crowd, Me, Myself, and I), but I still stand by that assessment, as Young Sheldon was a breakout hit and SEAL Team was the only successful military drama of the three that launched in the fall.

5/26/17 – Red Nose Day Actually

I still feel like bringing the Red Nose Day thing to America is the equivalent of trying to make “fetch” happen. I don’t think it’s going to catch on, but I won’t say anything bad about something that gives me a sequel to one of my favorite movies. Yes, I’m that guy who adores Love Actually. And this year we got a “sequel” short during the telethon that caught up with the characters in the present day. The Sam and Joanna portion alone made me want to cry, but it was like catching up with old friends. Totally the best thing that week had to offer.

6/2/17 – Wonder Woman

This was a great comic book film that seemed to right the ship for the DCEU. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a far cry stronger than BvS and Suicide Squad. We thought this was shades of things to come from Justice League. Perhaps we expected too much. Still, it’s a strong entry into the comic book movie universe, and totally deserved the WWE.

6/9/17 – Wonder Woman

This made me realize a problem with how this weekly post is scheduled. You see, I’m an avid Thursday night viewer of these movies. Since the post comes out Friday, I could theoretically post about it the next day. And many times I have. That’s what happened with Wonder Woman. I saw it Thursday night, and it got the WWE the next day – at a time when most of my readers had not had the chance to see the movie yet. This is problematic because they tend to not read that post for fear of spoilers. So, I’ve tried to change things up where I sit on my review for a week, giving folks a chance to see the movie first. This is the week when Wonder Woman should have gotten the WWE, but instead it just made me look lazy.

6/16/17 – West Life Ever: Adam West

Ah, the very first West Life Ever recipient. As you probably know by now, there’s a pretty strict No Death policy for this column. Sure, once in a blue moon, someone will come along whose death needs to be acknowledged, but I knew that there were a few people whose death would require me to make a bigger deal. Adam West was always at the top of this list. When I posted that entry, I called it the West Week Ever Hall of Fame, which never quite felt right. My pal Zac Shipley came up with West Life Ever, which was perfect. So, the post was changed and that’s what the honor will be called going forward. It’s still not something that I plan to abuse, but I’m glad it exists when I need to use it. Sadly, I would have to use it again not much later.

6/23/17 – Nothing

I guess I was still affected by West’s death, and I thought I was gonna be able to promote my appearance on a podcast where we looked back on his life. That episode has never seen the light of day (Looking at you, Chad!). So, nothing was worthy of the WWE mantle that week.

7/7/17- Michael Keaton

I had seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Founder that week, both films showcasing amazing performances by Keaton. The surprising thing to point out here is that Homecoming had been seen by me, but did NOT get the WWE. Keep in mind, though, I was moving to my schedule of waiting a week so that more folks have time to see the film. Will it get the WWE next week?

7/14/17 – Milana Vayntrub

Nope! Yes, in a world where there’s a new Marvel film in theaters, I give my highest honor to the AT&T Girl. I didn’t love Homecoming. In fact, it’s probably the first Marvel movie since I’ve been doing this column where I wasn’t just immediately smitten. I probably need to watch it again but the timeline of the film challenged my inner fanboy the entire runtime, and it ruined the experience for me. Why did Vayntrub get it? Well, she’d been cast as Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s New Warriors series for Freeform. I really thought it was going to be her big break. Well, later Freeform would decide that it didn’t have room for the show on its schedule, and its future is currently in limbo. Womp womp. Marvel thinks the show has a lot of promise, but they’re no longer allowed to farm out their shows to non-Disney owned networks, so that limits their possibilities. It was probably the biggest week she’s ever had, but it didn’t really pay off into anything. Yet.

7/21/17 – Jodie Whittaker

A female Doctor Who? That shit is history in the making! I don’t care anything about that franchise, but I know when history is being made. Totally deserved.

7/28/17 – West Life Ever: Jim Vance

When I first conceived of the WWE: Hall of Fame/West Life Ever, there were 2 particular people in mind for it. I never really thought it would expand outside of those two unless it was a rare, special case. And that’s exactly what it was when local newsman, and DC institution, Jim Vance succumbed to cancer. He was a great example of “Ya don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”, as it never felt like he’d made that much of an impact on my life until he was no longer in it. My whole response to his passing surprised me, and I’m sort of curious to see what other surprises are in store for the West Life Ever honor.

8/4/17 – Female Comic Editors

Some dumb shit about female comic editors going out for a milkshake to honor the passing of Marvel staple “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg, and ended up being heckled by a bunch of stupid dudes online. It somehow turned into this symbolic gesture throughout the industry. Fellow creators were posting selfies of themselves drinking milkshakes, and it all just kinda fizzled out. It’s really one of those “You had to be there” kinds of things because the whole “controversy” just sounds stupid to me in hindsight.

8/18/17 – DuckTales reboot

I watched the pilot and loved it. Then I promptly forgot about it. I kinda expected more from it, to be honest. I guess that’s my own fault. I thought it was just going to compel me to watch it every week, but instead if became just another forgotten animated show of 2017, like that Big Hero 6 premiere I would totally miss in November.

8/25/17 – Solar Eclipse of 2017

These things don’t happen that often! At least, that’s what the science folks always tell us, even though it feels like there’s some kind of eclipse every time we turn around. Well, I never claimed to be Thomas Einstein-Tesla, so I’m not the best person to get your science info from. Anyway, it was a big deal that week, as those free glasses needed to look at the thing were being sold for, like, $250 a pair, as if they came from Sunglass Hut or something. And the President even looked directly into the thing, ya know, ’cause he’s a stable genius and all. This thing was all anyone could talk about that week.

9/8/17 – Batman: The Animated Series

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the debut of the classic animated series which, I believe, changed animation for the better. It was a show that was gritty and intelligent enough for primetime, yet worked on a level to keep kids engaged – all the while dodging some incredible mandates from Fox Kids Standards & Practices, like “No blood” or “Can’t say ‘kill'”. In some ways it might be seen as a cop-out to look to the past for a WWE winner. After all, for all the fans of the show, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare surrounding the anniversary. Instead of Warner Bros making a big deal, it was more like the hardcore fans were holding thousands of little private wakes for the show. Still, 25 years ain’t nothing to shake a stick at, so I felt the show’s milestone needed to be acknowledged and honored.

9/15/17 – Cory Chase/Reality Kings

When this post originally went up, I put it to a vote: should the WWE go to horror remake IT OR should it go to porn star Cory Chase and the Reality Kings porn franchise? Ya see, IT had a successful week, but all anyone could talk about around the time of publication was the fact that Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account had Liked a video clip of some of Chase’s work. It was quickly blamed on a staffer, but the damage had been done by that point. Cruz was just like the rest of us, trawling the web for porn. Hell, if he’d been smarter, he could’ve spun that into some sort of political clout, but he took the coward’s way out. Anyway, the readers spoke and decided that Chase should be the victor. While I don’t disagree, I think it was very “2017” that such a salacious choice was even an option for Biggest Pop Culture Thing of the Week. We’d sunk so low, and we weren’t even close to the bottom yet.

9/29/17 – Star Trek franchise

This week not only saw the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS and CBS All Access, but it was also the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just as with Batman: The Animated Series, these were milestones deserving of recognition. I haven’t revisited Discovery since the free premiere on CBS, but I’ve heard enough good things that I’ll circle back around to it eventually.

10/6/17 – The West Family

Self-indulgent post because it’s my site, and I do what I wanna! It was my 5-year wedding anniversary, and nothing else was going on. If you go back in the archives, pre-2010 or so, this thing reads like a really bad LiveJournal. “I’m tired of my boss at H&M”, yadda yadda yadda. I later pivoted to a solely pop culture focus, but I left most of those posts up because I hate to delete anything. So, every now and then, I feel like I’ve written enough about celebrities that I’ve earned a personal post or two, so this was me pulling that trigger. Had it not gone to us, it would’ve been another week when it went to Nothing.

10/13/17 – Nothing

Kinda like this week.

10/27/17 – Super Mario Odyssey

I’m not a gamer, but it was easy to tell who the gamers were, as they were all anticipating this release. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this game, it I feel this was totally deserved.

11/3/17 – Stranger Things Season 2

I’ve never seen the show, have almost no real desire to see the show, and I’m kinda sick of seeing those kids everywhere. Still, I have to put my own issues aside for the good of “real reporting” sometimes. This was one of those times. Everyone was anticipating the second season of this show and, while the general consensus seems to be that it wasn’t as good as the first season, I’ve yet to hear anything actually negative about the season.

11/10/17 – Thor: Ragnarok

Here we are, back to having a Marvel film get the WWE. Earlier I said that I was beginning to wonder if all this hype was deserved, as we pretty much know what we’re going to get from the MCU franchise at this point, but I feel this was totally deserved here. Easily the best Thor film of the trilogy (not a difficult feat, really), but it presented a new side of the title character. And it totally took some creative notes from Guardians, which was to its advantage.

11/17/17 – Justice League

I kinda broke my own rule here. I know I was trying to wait a week before reviewing new, highly anticipated films, but I felt like this one needed a shot in the arm. So many folks were determined not to see it, that I felt I needed to post about it on opening weekend to get some more butts in seats. I’m hardly an influencer, but if I convinced just one person to see the movie who had been on the fence, then I guess I did my job. I hate to do a comparison, but it’s “No Marvel movie”. That said, I was happy it did something different, and I was thoroughly entertained. It’s not a “great” film by any stretch of the imagination, but nobody should expect Citizen Kane when one of the main characters runs around, dressed like a bat.

12/1/17 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer

Obligatory WWE for new MCU film trailer. All it did was fortify millions of speculation boners without really giving us anything other than eye candy. We’ve reached a point where I don’t even know if we’re capable of determining if these things are good anymore. Part of the problem is that they’ve yet to really have a “miss”, so would we even know it if/when it happened? Like, Black Panther could be the worst thing they ever put onscreen. It won’t be, but even if it is, there are certain communities who are going to refuse to admit it. It’s just fascinating to me how that works. Anyway, this came out while Marvel was avoiding the Cebulski controversy, while its parent, Disney, was making a play for Fox. It was a nice little distraction that caught everyone’s attention at just the right time. Their success rate is just so unprecedented that I guess I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, which is somewhat unfair to them.

12/8/17 – MCU Fanboys

Remember how I just said there are some folks who would refuse to acknowledge Marvel’s “failure” even if it were right in front of them? Enter the MCU fanboy. And nobody had a better week than them because Disney’s play for Fox became official, meaning that the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights were finally “coming home”. And you couldn’t swing a dead cat without running into one of them surmising how the X-Men would be integrated into the established MCU. Would Marvel honor everything Fox had done with the franchise, or would it be a complete reboot? These discussions were going on everywhere online, so this week truly belonged to those folks. Who cares if the acquisition would result in redundancies and the loss of anywhere from 5,000-10,000 jobs? You’re finally getting the chance at a House of M movie, right? Right?

12/15/17 – Black Women

While there was a tongue in cheek aspect to this, I totally meant it. It was a big week for Black women. Omarosa got kicked out of the Trump White House, to the delight of many, while the Black female vote helped keep suspected child molester Roy Moore out of office in a very close congressional race in Alabama. A lot of folks were taking a break from social media that week, for fear of being spoiled by those who had already seen The Last Jedi, so they missed this one. It’s a shame, because I felt there was a lot of good stuff in this post.

12/22/17 – Fandom Gatekeepers

You know how I was just talking about MCU fanboys? Well, this is what happens when that shit is cranked up to 11. It’s like the Chappelle’s Show sketch, When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong. These are the folks who take shit too far, and there was a lot of that going on due to the polarizing reactions to The Last Jedi. I felt kinda bad about this one, because I typically want the WWE to be a *celebration* of something, but I couldn’t not acknowledge it, and I had a lot of thoughts on the matter, born from a late night Twitter rant.

I had to do something different this year. Usually, to determine who had the West Year Ever, we look at the list of folks who earned the West Week Ever throughout the year. There are always entities that receive it multiple times throughout the year, like Marvel and DC, and then there’s a runoff between them to see who truly deserved it. That doesn’t work this year, though. You see, most of the WWE recipients this year had no real lasting impact outside of the week that they won. The only thing that got the honor more than once this year was Wonder Woman, but it surely didn’t have the West Year Ever. Close, but no cigar. No, I had to take a closer look at trends of the year, and get a feel for what truly dominated the news cycle.

Remember how I said that the entertainment world was boring until Q4? Well, once October hit, the whole thing blew wide open thanks to one man: Harvey Weinstein. The reports and allegations of his sexual improprieties opened the floodgates for more reports on other celebrities. All across the country, men in power were being exposed for the lotharios that they were. There seemed to be certain patterns that surfaced. For example, a lot of them liked to abuse their power by masturbating in front of women over whom they held some sort of influence. Every week, there was a new LIST of men to add to the list. I hate to create HarassmentWatch(TM) just to keep track of it all, and mine isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. Still, I managed to track allegations on the following men:

  • Producer Harvey Weinstein
  • The Loud House creator Chris Savino
  • Actor Kevin Spacey
  • Actor Jeremy Piven
  • Director Brett Ratner
  • Actor Dustin Hoffman
  • Actor Danny Masterson
  • Actor Charlie Sheen
  • Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner
  • Actor Jeffrey Tambor
  • Comedian Louis CK
  • Actor George Takei
  • Actor Richard Dreyfuss
  • Actor Tom Sizemore
  • Actor Ed Westwick
  • The Royals/One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn
  • Flash/Supergirl showrunner Andrew Kreisberg
  • Actor Steven Seagal
  • Producer Gary Goddard
  • Actor Sylvester Stallone
  • DC Comics Editor Eddie Berganza
  • Senator Al Franken
  • Producer John Lasseter
  • On Air Personality Ryan Seacrest
  • Singer Nick Carter
  • Producer Russell Simmons
  • Humorist Garrison Keillor
  • Newsman Charlie Rose
  • New York Times Reporter Glenn Thrush
  • Newsman Matt Lauer
  • US Representative John Conyers
  • Chef Mario Batali
  • Talk Show Host Tavis Smiley
  • US Representative Blake Farenthold
  • Documentarian and Fast Food Truther Morgan Spurlock
  • Comedian TJ Miller
  • NFL Media VP David Eaton
  • Newsman Chris Matthews
  • Director Paul Haggis
  • Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini
  • Half the damn NFL Network

That’s over FORTY instances reported just since October! And they’re still coming (tune into tomorrow’s West Week Ever for some new 2018 additions to the list!). This shit is crazy! Keep it in your pants, powerful men! Even though it was a phenomenon that came along later in the year, I feel like it colored the whole year, and fit tonally with what a trash heap fire the year became. So, in my mind, 2017 was the Year of the Wang Dangler. In October, the weather started getting cold and, for whatever reason, the wangs started coming out. There were reports of forced oral sex, public masturbation, walking amongst staff while naked, and secret buttons under desks to lock vulnerable women in uncomfortable places. What pieces of shit these men are! But they’re the official mascots of 2017. So, without further ado, the celebrity wang danglers had the West Year Ever. Here’s hoping we can aim a bit higher in our aspirations in 2018.

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