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.

27th Sep2019

Kickin’ It Old School at Retro Con 2019

by Will

That’s right, folks – we’re putting West Week Ever back on the shelf this week for me to, instead, regale you with my trip up to Oakes, PA two weeks ago for Retro Con 2019. Now, this was far from my first trip to Retro Con, as it’s been something of an almost annual excursion for me since around 2012. Oh, wait. You haven’t heard of Retro Con? Well, the official website describes it as a pop culture and memorabilia show catering to anything considered “retro”, especially the 80’s! Transformers, Star Wars, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, He-man, classic video games, etc.. We’ve got 215+ tables of collectibles and art for sale, special guests, video games, a costume contest, raffles, a trivia contest, panels, replica props, and much more! Basically if you answer “yes” to the questions “Do you like old toys” AND “Do you wonder what happened to that character actor who was on The Fall Guy that one time?”, then Retro Con is the place for you!

I’m not trying to knock their guests, but they certainly are not the draw for this show. The guest list tends to be comprised of voice actors from classic 80s cartoons, and they had a couple of guys from The A-Team last year (ya know, the ones who either aren’t Mr. T or dead). Throw in an old school WWF wrestler who never really held a belt (in the past, Sgt Slaughter; this year, Hacksaw Jim Duggan), and you’ve got the Retro Con guest list!

No, if you’re making the trek to Oakes, PA, then you’re headed there for the TRUE stars of the show: the collectibles! The show never disappoints, and it is THE destination for anyone looking to fill some holes in their vintage collection. While you’ll still find convention mainstays, like Funko Pops and seriously overpriced vintage comics, you’ll also find guys with bins who’ll practically say “Make me an offer ’cause I don’t want this shit in my garage anymore.” I will say, though, that the sliding timeline of what it means for something to be “vintage” sort of changed the makeup of what was available for sale. For one thing, there were fewer G.I. Joes and Transformers, and a LOT more Power Rangers. While there were recent Rangers, the sweet spot of what was there were the toys from Mighty Morphin‘s peak, around ’94-’95. Also, the bootleg video guys have upgraded to Blu Ray, which is somewhat puzzling, since that just means their substandard rips are just gonna look like shit in High Definition. Still, there was cool stuff to be found on the showroom floor, so sit back and take a gander at my award winning* cell phone photography!

As the original 8′ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers figures were almost impossible to find for most early collectors, the 5.5″ Auto Morphin line (disgustingly referred to as “Head Flippers” by some Troglodytes) became the line that most people flocked to. Flick the morpher on their belt, and the human head would flip into the figure’s chest to reveal a helmeted head. I always thought that was a concept that had originated with Bandai of America for the US line, and had no idea that Bandai of Japan had used the same feature on the figures for Chouriki Sentai Ohranger (which would be later adapted here as Power Rangers Zeo).

They don’t make playsets like this anymore! Despite the fact that you can get Playmates Star Trek figures for essentially pennies on the dollar now, that’s less true for the playsets and vehicles. Galoob had designed an Enterprise bridge playset for their own Star Trek: The Next Generation line, but it never made it to retail. This Playmates one, then, became one of my grail pieces while I was still into that line. If I had the room for it, I probably would’ve tried to swing a deal. I mean, I’ve still got the figures, and I currently have the Transporter playset sitting in the middle of my basement floor, waiting to be tested.

There was once a time when kids WANTED to dress up like a disgruntled Vietnam vet with a penchant for urban terrorism. Yet they say THESE are the end times we’re currently living in! Pfft!

I’m not sure what’s more interesting to me in this pic: the fact that the Burger King predates my recollection OR the Rambo villain who looks like Vladimir Putin cosplaying as Die Hard‘s John McClane. “Yippee Ki-Yay, Comrade!”

I love those M.A.S.K. boxes so much! And there were toys in them, too!

Whatever’s happening with Slimer here, he’s clearly having an amazing time!

Sometimes you see things and wonder “Where has this been stashed for the past 30 years?!” This is one of those things.

Things of which I am a huge fan:

  • Batman
  • Super Powers
  • The condition of this packaging

Things of which I am NOT a huge fan

  • These prices

I know @DorketteTweets will get a kick out of this Spectra stuff they had.

It ain’t a convention without old lunchboxes, and I would love to meet whomever owned that Fame lunchbox, merely to commend him/her/them for their bravery.

Just look at the condition of this box! This is an almost 30 year old toy! Looking back, I probably should’ve just thrown the $10 at it.

This figure brought back fond memories as to how I’m bad with money. You see, this was the first time I ever overdrew my checking account, buying this figure at a Spencer Gifts when I was in college. I didn’t really know how “balancing checkbooks” worked yet, and this $5 figure ended up costing me about $35. That was a quicker financial lesson than Suze Orman could’ve taught me!

I actually really like the simple packaging design of vintage Barbie, and I’d never heard of Dazzle until that day. I guess it’s an equestrian line?

Ya know, John Rambo deserves to treat himself every now and then!

In hindsight, this was an amazing concept and design. I think we took it for granted at the time, but they managed to shove entire games into a shell the size of a “regulation” cassette tape! It deserves to be in the Toy Hall of Fame!

They were selling their vintage $400 Fireball Island around the corner from the Kickstarter $70 repro Fireball Island. So, um, yeah. Good luck with that…

G.I.Joe charitable group had a nice U.S.S. Defiant on display.

Another HTF vintage piece in BEAUTIFUL shape!

I don’t care if it’s 90% complete. I’m more fascinated by the fact that the box survived this long and doesn’t look any worse than it does!

I was late to Ghostbusters toy fandom, so I missed out on the original suit Real Ghostbusters. These guys here were more my speed, with their track suits and their wacky action features.

While not a “vintage toy”, this was a cool 3-D collage that someone created using parts of the recent Fisher Price Imaginext line, as well as panels from the Boom! Power Rangers comic series.

As a huge Baywatch fan, I’ll admit that it was a little hard leaving this guy behind.

Plus, it’s not a modern-day pop culture convention without cosplay, and the following folks did not disappoint!

So, there ya have it: Retro Con 2019. While it’s always cool to see all these random toys, the best part of the weekend is that it has become something of an annual meetup between my online friends. This year was no exception, and it was great seeing Dean, Jordan, [REDACTED], Jason, and Wyatt!

Oh, we also can’t close out without showing what I got. I’m proud to say that I played it cheap this year, and didn’t pay more than $5 for a single thing you see here. That’s how you con!

Anyway, thanks for taking this look back with me, and be here next week, when West Week Ever returns!

*No actual prizes have been awarded to Will for his photography, but it’s 2019 and people don’t fact check shit anymore, so…
26th Jul2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/26/19

by Will

Look at that – I’m back a week after my last post! Speaking of that post, I had a lot of good engagement. I reconnected with old friends, and another good friend even wrote a response piece. That’s what I like to see!

I’ve been really slacking in the movie-watching department ever since my second daughter was born. I think I watched something, like, 13 movies last year. The year my first was born, I watched around 71! So, I’m trying to work on that, which is why I sat down and watched Barbershop: The Next Cut when I caught it on TV last week. Luckily it was only rated PG-13 in theaters, and you can get away with murder on basic cable these days, so it was hardly edited.

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for years, as I was a big fan of the first one (I barely remember the second one), but just never got around to it. At the end of the day, the plot isn’t what these movies are about. No, the star of the franchise is the barbershop itself, as a safe haven where Black men (and now women) come to learn the news and gossip of the day. It’s akin to a community center and church, but you can also get shape-ups. The thing about these movies is that I always felt on the outside looking in, as I haven’t traditionally had the Black barbershop experience. When I was much younger, my mom would take me to Mr. Bill’s, which was a traditional Black barbershop just over the DC line. Shit was dangerous and inconvenient, though, so I ended up at the Hair Cuttery near our house for the next few years. Then, there was the stint where she’d just cut it herself, as it’s pretty easy to just do the same length all over with clippers. So, it wasn’t until college that I got the TRUE barbershop experience. And, in true Will fashion, I fucked it up. Gather ’round, children, as I’m gonna tell you a lost adventure of which I’m not very proud.

So, at Cornell (did I tell you I went to Cornell?), there were really only 2 ways to get a haircut if you were Black: 1) you got it cut by someone at Ujamaa (the Black dorm – no, dorms weren’t segregated, but it was an option if you wanted to live amongst your people. I did not live in Ujamaa. I lived across the street, and looked at them from my window like a Jewish kid looking at the Christian family on Christmas morning) or 2) you went to JC Knight downtown. Every time I went over to “The Uj”, the reception was basically “Who the fuck are you and why are you here?” So, JC Knight it was. Knight’s shop was downtown, just off the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall, and was highly popular. Every Black person in town knew him and his shop. So, one day I went down there and sat down waiting for my turn. Bad move. At the Cuttery, you just took whoever was available, so I didn’t understand the politics that I needed to request someone. So I think I sat a good hour before they even acknowledged me and were like “Um, you waitin’ for somebody?” I meekly said “Anyone who will take me.” Thus began my immersion into the Black barbershop experience.

I would go down to the shop about once a month (or whenever I hadn’t blown all my money on comics), and learn what had been going on in the Black world while I’d been studying up on The Hill. Sophomore year I started going less and less because that was the year of my S-Curl Experiment. Oh, you don’t know what an S-Curl is? Ugh, I need more Black readers.

So, an S-Curl is kinda like a Jheri Curl, in that your hair is processed, and you keep it wet looking by spraying “activator” on it every now and then. Think 80s Michael Jackson. It’s a lye process that basically straightens Black hair, but then you can do shit to it, like style it with gel and stuff. So, in my “Man, I sure would like to look like I’m in a boyband” year 2000 desperation, I did this to my hair. As such, I didn’t need as many haircuts because you wanted it to get long so you could do more with it. Every now and then you’d just need the sides touched up. And this was the beginning of the end.

You see, Knight and his boys knew I was sheltered and really didn’t have much “street cred”. I was just some innocent kid from Wheaton, Maryland, but I’m sure they probably said stuff like “He thinks he’s White.” People always said shit like that when I was in predominantly Black situations. It has taken me years to come to this realization that I’m about to share with you, but it just goes to show that I’m somewhere on the spectrum that it never occurred to me sooner. So, one time he cleaned up my sides, and when he was done it was time to pay him. God…I hate just thinking about this now. You know how you MEAN to say one thing, but something else comes out? OK, so the haircut was $20, and I wanted to tip, but I only had two $20 bills. I gave him both, and he was like “Are you sure?” *Sigh*

OK, like I had said above, I was spending every last cent on comics, because I could Cornell Card anything else I needed, and just charge it to the bursar. So, I knew that money in my hands would be a bad situation. What I MEANT to say was “Hey, it’s better in your hands than in mine.” However, I’m awkward and nervous at times. What I DID say was “Hey, you probably need it more than I do.” FUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKK. I basically pulled a Rich Frat Boy on him, and the saddest part was I didn’t even realize it at the time. It was years later when I was like “Oh, wait, that said in that way is pretty fucking bad.” I just walked out of the shop, thinking everything was hunky dory. So, the next time I went, nobody could fit me in. I had been blackballed by the barbershop. Knight DID do me a sold, though, by giving me a referral. He wasn’t gonna mess with me anymore, but his friend Carol, this White lady who worked at the salon in the mall, could cut Black hair. I think he played it off as not knowing what to do with the S-Curl, but we know what the real reason was. So, cast out of Black Eden, I proceeded to get my hair cut by Carol until I graduated.

About 10 years ago, I tried to reenter the barbershop world. I found a place in Silver Spring, but there are so many unspoken politics of the shop – not only the different ways to get into someone’s chair, but also learning what you can and can’t talk about. Does this shop think Obama does enough for Black people? Does this shop think Obama is a sellout? What about the Hotep guy in the corner? He’s probably got some off-the-wall thoughts on things. That stuff was just tiring, so I retreated back to the Cuttery, where some woman asks me how I’m doing, in broken English, and leaves it at that.

Anyway, Barbershop: The Next Cut was like revisiting an old acquaintance. We were never close enough to be friends, but our association was enough that I could wonder what might have been. If you’ve never seen this one, the gang violence around the shop in the south side of Chicago has increased, and Ice Cube’s Calvin struggles with the decision of whether or not to move the shop to the north side. Meanwhile, a bunch of stuff is going on in the shop, like Common is married to Eve, but Nicki Minaj is trying to break up their marriage (why did it take this movie for me to finally see Nicki and say “DAMN!”?). There are new barbers, played by New Girl‘s LaMorne Morris and The Mindy Project‘s Utkarsh Ambudkar added to the mix. When the violence reaches its peak, the shop decides to sponsor a weekend ceasefire to bring to community together. Meanwhile, you got all that good barbershop banter: What did Obama do for US? Can you blame THOTS for unfaithful men? And to quote a deplorable man, “There were good people on both sides.” Anyway, it was an enjoyable little movie, even if Hella predictable at times (that straight-laced, good boy didn’t stand a chance).

This week in comics, the X-Men franchise got something of a housecleaning when Jonathan Hickman took over, with House of X #1 as the start of his run. Now, I’m always apprehensive when Marvel starts touting a grand plan for the X-Men because of two reasons 1) I tend not to like those grand plans and 2) I feel it shits on the journeymen who were struggling to keep the books afloat between grand plans. Imagine you finally get your dream job of writing X-Men, only for your run to be forgotten as some palette cleanser between 2 big name writers. You either die Grant Morrison, or you live long enough to become Chuck Austen.

Now, one of the biggest X-Men relaunches was when Morrison took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and renamed it New X-Men (meanwhile, Chuck Austen was cranking out massive turds over in Uncanny X-Men). Morrison had a grand plan where humans discovered that they would be extinct in a few generations and mutants would become the dominant species. Characters were experiencing “secondary mutations”, resulting in newer appearances and powers. In true Morrison fashion, his ideas were “out there” and, while they brought a lot of attention to the line, Marvel proceeded to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he had done. As then-Editor in Chief Joe Quesada said, they “had to put the genie back in the bottle”. So, enter Scarlet Witch, whose utterance of “No More Mutants” reduced the Earth’s mutant population down to a mere 198 characters. There goes any designs of taking over humanity when your entire species could fill a 737. Secondary mutations? Fake. Sure, a few characters from his run remained, like the Stepford Cuckoos and Xorn, but Marvel did their damnedest to erase the broad strokes of his story.

So, imagine my surprise when they started touting Hickman’s upcoming run as the most drastic, sweeping thing they’ve done since Morrison’s run. Well, first of all, RIP to all the writers who’ve manned the books since Morrison’s run ended in 2004. And next, I already know how this is going to play out. My fears were confirmed when I went to a midnight release for House of X and read the book. Verdict? NOT FOR ME. It really does feel just like a remix of the Morrison run, even though I’m sure there will be Hickmanian twists and turns. I can’t do Mutants Have The Upper Hand because I always wait for other shoe to drop.

In the book, it appears that Xavier and Magneto’s dreams have finally learned to co-mingle, and Xavier has a bunch of wonder drugs he’s willing to offer to humanity in exchange for them recognizing his sovereign nation of Krakoa (yeah, the island from 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1).  We learn a lot about what the drugs do, and how the world’s governments feel about them. In true Hickman fashion, there are charts in infographics, so reading it makes you feel like you’re studying for a final, trying to glean every important detail from the page. Once again, we discover that not only is humanity on the verge of extinction, but that it’s approaching more rapidly than previously thought. The book ends with Magneto introducing mutants as the new gods of Homo Sapiens.

As we saw in Avengers/Secret Wars, Hickman is ALL about playing the long game. He will mine history and go for some deep cuts. It’s probably a rich experience for those who really commit to it, but I found myself bored early on with his Avengers run, and only came back for the pseudo-satisfying Secret Wars. I’m sure y’all are in for an interesting 4-5 year ride, but I don’t think I want a ticket for it. It’s a pretty sizable dose of Been There Done That, with more than a dash of I Simply Don’t Care. Not trying to be cynical because I WANTED to like it. It’s just not BOLD enough.

Meanwhile, characterizations didn’t feel right. Other than the Magneto/Cuckoos scenes, everyone else felt strangely out of character. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I’m not sure I care to invest 3 months in finding out WHY. Because we ALL know that the only way to get this genie back in the bottle is gonna be to have some kind of devastating No More Mutants event around 2024. If comics are still around by then…

The problem with comics is that they’re cyclical. They have to give the appearance of change without offering actual change. And I’ve often said that the average life cycle of a comics fan is about 15 years. Marvel’s counting on folks to have not read the Morrison run because, well, it was 15 years ago. So it’s not really a “crime” that Hickman seems to borrow heavily from it, as the fan base that read that story should have already cycled out of comics by now. Sure, some have stuck around, and they might be as vocal as I am about it, but I just feel it’s kinda cheap to go back to that well, no matter how much time has passed. It’d be like trying to mount the full-on Age of Apocalypse again (which would be nigh impossible in the Internet Age).

At SDCC, it was announced that the House of X/Power of X miniseries wrap up in October, at which point the actual ongoing series will launch. Maybe the dust will settle by then, and I’ll check out the franchise at that point. House of X, however, didn’t grab me enough to come back to this party on a weekly basis. If anything, I’ll read it once it’s collected.

Over the weekend, I took on the Herculean task of cleaning out my Gmail. I’m terrible with email, and I often say if you want to get in touch with me you’d better just tweet at me. On Saturday night, my inbox was over 7,000, but I got it to 198 by Monday morning. The biggest problem is that I don’t delete the junk immediately when it comes in. It also doesn’t help that I have Twitter set up to email me whenever I get a DM or a Like/RT.

The DM thing is funny because I have a record of conversations long after some folks have unfollowed me. If you’ve ever DMed me, I still have it in Gmail. And it was quite the trip down Memory Lane. People I’d forgotten about, who just, one day, stopped tweeting. Did they die? Were they deported? In most cases, I’ll never know. In a lot of ways it was sad. “Oh, here’s that trans gal who I supported during her difficult transition, but unfollowed me out of the blue.” Or “Oh, here’s the girl who might’ve catfished me, but I’ll never know because her sister now says she’s dead”. Yeah, I’ve lived a crazy life online. It’s just interesting how people can come into your life, and you make what you consider to be meaningful connections with them, and then they can leave just as easily as they entered.

Trailer Park

Ready or Not

Man, White people won’t let us have anything! This is just White Get Out.

Zombieland: Double Tap

I honestly didn’t care about this thing until Rosario Dawson showed up. I mean, I enjoyed the original, but it really doesn’t hold a special place in my heart, nor did I just love the characters. I guess it’d be interesting to see what they’ve been up to all these years, but this is not a theater movie for me. I’ll be streaming it somewhere.

Playmobil: The Movie

First and foremost, I’m just bracing myself for folks to mispronounce the brand’s name. It’s Play-mo-BEEL. It’s European, you uncultured swine! Second, this is just sad. We all know WHY they’re doing it, but they never seemed to stop to discuss whether they SHOULD. They’ve kinda sold out, and this is a prime example of that.

When I was growing up, Playmobil was a high-end brand, bought by upper middle-class White parents who wanted their kids to have the “action figure experience”, without it being tied to some sort of cartoon or movie. It promoted creativity and, while not a brick system, its pieces were modular. You know the kids who had Playmobil: unless their parents were European, it was usually that kid who was allergic to something weird, like foods that were red. And he always wore corduroy. In recent years, however, they’ve tried to “diversify their bonds” by taking on licenses, like Ghostbusters and How to Train Your Dragon. I get it. Gotta do what you can to survive. But a movie? One that doesn’t even look remotely GOOD? PASS. I just hope this thing doesn’t drag the toys down with it.

The Rocketeer (Disney Junior)

Surprisingly no one is talking about this trailer that debuted last weekend at SDCC. OK, honesty time: I’ve never seen The Rocketeer. Based on the ratio of Likes to Dislikes on YouTube, those who have seen it aren’t too keen on this show. I think it looks cute, and I know my girls would enjoy it. This might be as close to superhero stuff as I’m gonna get with Evie, so I’ll take it.

Power Rangers: Beast Morphers (Nick)

Though the show is currently on hiatus, this trailer that also debuted at SDCC confirmed a longstanding rumor: original Red Ranger, Jason (played by Austin St. John), would be returning to the franchise next season. Now, I always felt that Austin AND his character had the charisma of a wet paper bag, but I think everyone is tired of Green/White Ranger Jason David Frank, so I’ll take it.

Harley Quinn (DC Universe)

I enjoyed this sizzle reel of the upcoming series, but not enough to actually subscribe to the DC Universe streaming service. The animation looks choppy at times (see the scene where she’s flossing out of the room), and I think I’d prefer Rauch to Cuoco if we HAD to cast a Big Bang alum. I don’t think the service is long for this world, so hopefully this show doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, and at least comes out on Warner’s streaming service, HBO Max.

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE? TAKE IT!

I have been adamantly against the CBS All Access “experiment”, and my love for Trek wasn’t strong enough for me to subscribe for Discovery. But THIS?! Seven of Nine?! And Sirtis and Frakes have confirmed that Riker and Troy are coming back?! Oh, sign me the fuck up! You got me, CBS.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a surprising move, Seth MacFarlane announced that his sci fi drama The Orville would be moving to Hulu for its 3rd season. Apparently he needed more time to deliver the episodes, while Fox needed to fill its schedule. So, with the Hulu arrangement, the show won’t return until late 2020.
  • Thank you, Yahweh! Avengers: Endgame has finally unseated Avatar as the highest grossing movie in the world. Now, I’ve actually never seen Avatar, but it always bothered me that something with absolutely no pop culture footprint sat atop that chart. Yes, I know the film was responsible for advances in film making, but that’s not enough for me. I want lunchboxes! So, bye, Avatar!
  • It was announced yesterday that the Will & Grace revival would end after this fall’s 11th season. I guess that’s sad news to someone, but I never acknowledged the revival since it would have to retcon the show’s original finale.
  • Damon Lindelof has clarified that the upcoming HBO Watchmen show is NOT a reboot of the classic comic miniseries, but rather a sequel set 30 years after the original.
  • It was a big week for comic adaptations, as AMC is developing a series based on Image Comics’s Farmhand, meanwhile Amazon is developing a series based on Image’s Paper Girls.
  • Brandon Routh will be suiting up again as Superman for the first time since Superman Returns, in The CW’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths” event this fall. Since they can’t use the Returns suit, he will actually don the “S” of Kingdom Come Superman.
  • After “saving” it following its cancellation at ABC, Netflix has cancelled Kiefer Sutherland’s Designated Survivor. It’s almost like it was based on a shaky premise with no real longevity, huh? Look for talk of that 24 movie to heat up in the next few months…
  • Lifetime is prepping a movie based on the Lori Loughlin college bribary scandal, and I’m left wondering if she can play herself. I mean, who else is a “Lori Loughlin type” whose quote is in line with what Lifetime is willing to pay? Some good recommendations from Twitter were Dina Meyer, Paige Turco, and Jennie Garth.

It was a huge week for Marvel Entertainment, as they revealed a ton of things during San Diego Comic Con last weekend. First, we got new Marvel Legends toy reveals, including some figures a lot of folks had been clamoring for, such as Squirrel Girl, a redesigned Jean Grey and a beautiful Doctor Doom.

And for their MCU figures, they revealed that “Dude” Thor would be the Build A Figure for an upcoming all MCU wave of figures:

For a full list of what’s coming out from the line, check out my pal over at AwesomeToyBlog!

But the excitement didn’t end with the toys. Marvel also unveiled their Phase 4 slate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We already knew about the Disney+ shows, including WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If? and Hawkeye. No, the real surprises were the film reveals, including Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Widow, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings. And just when everyone thought they were done, they announced Mahershala Ali would be starring in a new Blade film.

While these announcements took folks by surprise, there were some glaring omissions: Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, etc. Kevin Feige promised, however that these are still in development, as well as plans for the Fantastic Four and the mutant contingent.

Quick thoughts on each film:

Eternals – I know nothing of the source material, but it’s got Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Brian Tyree Henry in the cast, so that’s good enough for me. Maybe it’ll take us by surprise, like Guardians did.

Thor: Love and Thunder – I don’t really know if we needed Thor 4, but I guess they’d be leaving money on the table by not doing it. The biggest surprise is that Natalie Portman is returning as Jane Foster, who will also become the Mighty Thor, just as in the comics a few years back. It’s just funny that, for years, I heard Portman was difficult to work with, but apparently not that difficult if they’ve brought her back.

Black Widow – I still say this thing is a day late and a dollar short. Plus, if Scarlett keeps opening her damn mouth, she’s gonna kill any goodwill folks have towards this movie.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Finally, a movie that will do what Far From Home did not: explore the Multiverse. Still, I felt Doctor Strange’s first movie was “meh” (It was basically a remixed Iron Man, with half the charisma), and it’s being billed as the MCU’s first horror film, which ain’t exactly my genre. I’ll still see it, though.

Shang Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings – This one was somewhat surprising in that it actually seemed to confirm a fan theory that I’d seen online before it was announced. Someone had said “What if Shang Chi’s father is the REAL Mandarin?”, instead of the fraud we got in Iron Man 3. And while that’s not necessarily the plot (that we know of), it does seem to be headed in that direction, with the mention of the Ten Rings.

Blade – I don’t love those Wesley Snipes movies like the rest of y’all. I think I only saw the first one anyway. So, I welcome a change. Snipes is too old anyway, but I’m sure they’ll work him in there as something. Maybe a mentor character or something.

So, while they walloped us with surprises, I still feel like the slate is missing a bit of Wow Factor. With Thor as the elder statesman of the MCU, I’d like a few more familiar properties to anchor this phase, with the newer stuff sprinkled in. Like, it’s time for Doctor Strange 2, but Blade could’ve waited, as could Eternals. I guess they’re trying to get a new trilogy off the ground, but there are a lot of untried concepts here. It’s not like they can easily make a Black Widow 2 by just shoving the movies between preexisting films, as there are no stakes if we already know how her story ends. I mean, Chadwick Boseman is already 41. We need to crank out 2 more Panthers while he still can! Anyway, they’re taking a lot of chances here. It’s not that it’s unearned, but it does feel a bit like hubris.

At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say that Marvel won Comic Con. Back in the day, that was a thing. “Who won SDCC?” This year, I couldn’t even tell you any comic news that was announced, other than some auxiliary X-books that don’t sound too interesting. Did DC even show up? So, some might say it wasn’t even a competition this year, but whatever. Marvel came away from the show on everyone’s lips, and that’s why Marvel Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

21st Jun2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/21/19

by Will

Hi! Are you there, readers? It’s me, Will. Yeah, I took a month off. I just wasn’t that excited about anything in popular culture, and you know the saying “If you can’t say anything nice…” I mean, it felt like folks were losing their shit over upside down Whoppers and a re-release of a soda that was universally hated, and I just didn’t understand why. Still, if you say anything, you’re a “hater”, so I decided to “just let people enjoy things”.

So, what have I been up to since I’ve been gone. Well, I’ve been rewatching NBC’s Superstore from the beginning. I usually don’t understand how folks have time to *rewatch* things in this day and age when there are always about 6 shows on everyone’s To Watch List. This came down to logistics. I’ve been trying to clean my basement, and I don’t have cable down there. I do, however, have a Fire Stick and the NBC app, so that led me to Superstore – a show I’ve always loved, but seemed to have missed some episodes here and there. Anyway, if you’ve ever worked retail, it speaks directly to your soul. Plus, I hung out once with Ben Feldman – the actor who plays Jonah – because he’s a friend of a friend from college. Yeah, I’m namedropping. I figure when I’m done with Superstore, I’ll double back to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s something to do until this season of The Good Place hits Netflix.

Another thing I’ve been doing is watching a lot of teen sitcoms. If you’re new here, then I should probably let you know I was obsessed with TNBC growing up. I’m that rare person who loved California Dreams more than Saved by the Bell, and I prefer The New Class to SBTB original recipe. I watched all those Saturday morning shows, and I miss them the way other folks miss Saturday morning cartoons. That said, Nick and Disney Channel stepped in to fill that void, but it’s a little weirder because those shows skew younger. TNBC was all high school stuff, but Disney and Nick are middle school aged, yet applying the same “weight” to storylines as the high school shows. It’s kind of funny because everyone knows that nothing in middle school matters. It’s MIDDLE SCHOOL! Still, they drop a smoothie on their fanny pack, and somehow get a 22-minute plot out of it.

Now, before you think I’m some kind of R. Kelly, I’m watching these shows because I’m a terrible parent, and I let my 4-year old choose her own entertainment. She has no idea what’s going on. She just likes watching tweens do shit because she’s dying to grow up. Last night, she came into my bedroom and said “This place is SICK!” I was like “Do you even know what that means?” And she was sheepishly like “I dunno.” Anyway, since I want to know what she’s watching, I end up watching too.

When did live action kids shows become so convoluted?! When we were younger, it was enough to say “These kids are in high school”. That was it. That’s all you needed to know. California Dreams came along, and it was “These kids are in high school, and they’re in a band.” Fine. But then Disney Channel came along and just kinda lost their minds. It really all goes back to That’s So Raven, back in 2003. If you never saw it, Raven-Symoné played Raven Baxter, a regular high schooler – WHO HAD GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE! HUH?! Yeah, Raven would have these half-assed psychic visions, but not really know the context of them. And hilarity would ensue! I guess kids loved that shit, ’cause it lasted 5 seasons, and it’s even back as the sequel series Raven’s Home.

One show my oldest is really into right now is Some Assembly Required, which was a Canadian show that is now considered a “Netflix Original”. A 14 year old kid sues a toy company when a defective chemistry set blows up his house, and he wins the toy company. So, it’s a teen sitcom about him and his friends running this toy company, while the former owner schemes to get it back from him. I really like the show because it combines my love of dumb TV with my love of toys. Still, though, I’m like “When do these kids go to school?” and “What are the legal ramifications of something like this?” Meanwhile, my daughter is all “Look, they’re dressed like cupcakes!” It’s the little things.

Another one we’ve watched is Sydney to the Max, on Disney Channel. Sydney is a tween who lives with her widower father, Max, and grandma, played by Caroline Rhea. Its so sad to see Sabrina’s thicc aunt now playing grandma roles, but time marches on. Sydney and her friend Ava get into wacky adventures, and they’re contrasted by flashbacks to 1992 where her dad and his best friend Leo get into wacky adventures. On paper, it’s meant to show how certain things are timeless, regardless of the generation. However, in the episodes I’ve watched, the Sydney/Ava stories have very little to do with the Max/Leo stories. It’s kinda interesting to see a show lose its way during its first season. I get what they wanted to do, but the execution doesn’t really work. Still, it’s an enjoyable show, and a few episodes have been directed by Topanga herself, Danielle Fishel.

There’s one Disney Channel series, though, where I was like “OK, you’ve finally gone too far.” Officially premiering this week, Just Roll With It is a show about an interracial blended family. Black Dad with son marries White Mom with daughter, and the kids have to learn to embrace their new existence as siblings. This could’ve been an interesting premise, and considering the strides Disney made with gay representation in Andi Mack, I was curious to see how/if they’d tackle the interracial thing here. Sure, Andi Mack is a drama, and this is a sitcom, but laughter is a good “foot in the door” for an agenda. Well, they threw out any sort of seriousness with the show by adding a certain conceit: there are certain scenes where the audience gets to decide what happens to the family. The story is just moving along, and then this air horn goes off. The audience is, then, given 3 choices of what they want to happen in the scene, regardless of what the scene is about. In the premiere, it was a heartfelt scene where the kids tell each other they’ve got their back, as they’re now siblings. Meanwhile, the audience decides that this should happen during an earthquake, so the set rocks back and forth, throwing the cast from side to side as they try to deliver their lines. I get that it’s this “Anything Can Happen!” improv vibe, but it’s so dumb that I actually HOPE they avoid anything with meaning. I don’t want a very special episode where dad gets pulled over by the cops, and then the audience decides that everyone should speak in Pig Latin.

Anyway, I also joined my buddies @chapmanrunner and @HorrorMovieBBQ to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Batman (1989). It was a fun podcast, where you might learn a dark secret about me! Give it a listen here.

So, that’s where I’ve been. Guess we ought to look at some pop culture news, huh?

Trailer Park

Bad Trip

I actually love everyone in this, but there’s no way I’d pay money to see it. This is one of those things where you end up watching it on MTV at 1 AM and hope they haven’t edited out the best stuff.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In its quest to unseat the undeserving Avatar, the majestic Avengers: Endgame will be re-released in theaters with additional footage.
  • The Today Show celebrated 25 years in Studio 1A, but in their video package Matt Lauer was retconned from existence.
  • A Daily Beast article reminded the world that piece of shit Max Landis is still a piece of shit.
  • Fresh off the cancellation of Fox’s The Passage, Mark-Paul Gosselaar has been cast as the dad in ABC’s Mixed-ish, after Anders Holm was let go after the pilot was picked up.
  • DC Comics confirmed the rumor that the Vertigo imprint would be going away, with all imprints moving under the DC Comics brand, with age recommendations
  • After speculation ran wild that Marvel would be adapting Sam Raimi’s script for the unmade Spider-Man 4, in comic form, the announcement was actually something less interesting: J.J. Abrams, and son Henry, will be writing a 5-issue Spider-Man miniseries debuting in September. I know we’re supposed to be excited about this, but it really just feels like Successful Director Uses Connections to Secure Job for Son.

By now, everyone has heard of Lil Nas X and his song “Old Town Road”. Hell, I even wrote about it. Well, the Black invasion of country music didn’t end there. As I said on Twitter, we’ve cracked the code. We took the White House, and we’re coming for the Waffle House! The next artist you should familiarize yourself with is Blanco Brown, whose song/dance The Git Up is about to invade your family reunion.

I heard an interview with Blanco this week, and he seemed like a real cool dude. Plus, he can SANG! Seriously, if you hear him sing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”, you’ll wonder why he’s doing novelty songs like this. Anyway, you’ve got to find your joy in life, and this brought me joy, so I’m giving Blanco Brown the West Week Ever.

24th May2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/24/19

by Will

Welcome to a special PRIME TIME edition of the post! I didn’t want to skip this week, and I had a ton to do today (I don’t get paid to blog!), so we’re doing this a little later than usual.

Did any of y’all watch the Norman Lear/Jimmy Kimmel Live In Front of a Studio Audience special this week? In case you missed it, an all-star cast (and some lesser stars) were assembled to recreate episodes of classic TV series All In the Family and The Jeffersons. Since the All In The Family episode was the first appearance of George Jefferson, it served as something of a crossover into the next installment, with Jamie Foxx in the role of George.

I’m still on the fence as to what I thought about it. Some folks were surprisingly good, like Kerry Washington and Will Ferrell as Helen and Tom Willis. Meanwhile, some were grossly miscast (Ellie Kemper as Gloria Bunker? Stephen Tobolowsky as Mr. Bentley?!). Meanwhile, some of the actor brought out new sides to the characters. For instance, Jamie Foxx couldn’t seem to nail down the seriousness of George, and instead played up the funny aspects of the character. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson’s Archie was a little darker than Carroll O’Connor. Like, I could almost believe that he hit Edith a time or two, and I never got that vibe from the original series. Did Woody need to tone it down a bit? Was he miscast? Or did I completely miss something about Archie that was always right in front of me? Anyway, we can all agree that J.Hud appearance was FIRE!

In the end, it was a neat little experiment but, as I said on Twitter, I don’t want ABC to learn the wrong lesson here. The ratings for it were great, but I don’t want this to be a regular thing to the point where it’s 2035, and we’re waiting to see Tom Holland star in a reenactment of the ALF series finale. ‘Cause I know I’ll watch it, but I’ll hate myself the whole time.

In comics news, word on the street is that current Batman writer, Tom King, will be off the book by issue #85 – contrary to the fact that he had frequently mentioned that he was telling a 100-issue story. A lot of folks believe it could be due to this interview he gave The Hollywood Reporter, where he mentioned wanting to do something to leave his mark on the character. Yeah, other folks don’t like it when you write on their toys, Tom.

I like King. He’s a good writer who’s always been nice to me. I haven’t read his critically acclaimed stuff, like The Vision or Mister Miracle, rather I actually discovered him through his Middle East-set Vertigo comic, The Sheriff of Babylon. I used to find him at cons and say “I may not understand what’s going on half the time, but damn do I enjoy your book.” It got to the point where he started to recognize me. So, that said, it’s been interesting watching his career trajectory.

He’s a lot like Gwenpool, who is a character I love, with a lot of potential, who got a big push too soon. It wasn’t handled well. Marvel was determined to shove her down our throats. Like, have you seen a new character get a Marvel Legends figure that quickly? King got a lot of acclaim for Mister Miracle, but then seems to have lost all that goodwill with Heroes in Crisis. But to lose Batman from it?

It might not just be that, though, as I know some folks didn’t appreciate his bait & switch with the whole marriage to Catwoman, but did anyone really think that wedding was gonna take place? I have to admit that I haven’t read a single Rebirth-era Batman comic, so King’s run is foreign to me. I heard good stuff in the beginning, but not as much good stuff after the wedding point.

I feel DC put too much pressure on King, especially when the gamble that was the hiring of Brian Michael Bendis away from Marvel didn’t work out as well as they’d expected. It was unfair, and now King’s paying the price. The only other person who could get Batman right now is probably Bendis. So, congrats to anyone happy about that. That’s gotta be the worst thing about working in comics. You’re just plugging along, plotting your book, and then the publisher nabs some big name in a major coup, and that name is gunning for your book. They smile at the summits, but it’s been their dream to write your book. Anyway, DC hasn’t released an official statement yet, so here’s hoping for the best for all involved.

UPDATE

Here’s one of the perks of a later post. So, it was announced this evening that King and Clay Mann would be moving over to a spin-off title called Batman/Catwoman. Meanwhile, the Batman title will move back to a monthly schedule, so that it can more closely align with DC continuity. This is basically them saying, “Here’s some bullshit title for you to finish your little story while we clean up the mess you made.” So, since BM/CW is a 12-issue series, and King’s Batman run ends at #85, he’ll basically be getting his 100 issues, but they can easily say anything he does in it “doesn’t count” since they’ve committed the main Batman book to being all about continuity. Kinda sucks, but that’s the business, I suppose.

Trailer Park


Terminator: Dark Fate

One of the biggest issues Terminator fans seem to have is the matter of continuity. Basically, there’s always the question of When Does This Take Place? Seeing as how this is considered a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that question is pretty moot for the other sequels in the franchise now. And, seeing as how I’ve never been a “Terminator person”, this won’t be an issue to me, as I’ve only ever seen Judgment Day. Never saw Rise of the Machines, Salvation,nor Genisys. Hell, I’ve never even seen the original. So I think I’m in a pretty good place. I’ll see this, but probably not in a theater. The trailer, though it ends on a cool airborne scene, feels pretty flat to me. Am I alone there?


Star Trek: Picard

I’m gonna upset some people here, but I’ve got to be true to myself. This looks like a commercial for erectile dysfunction meds. It has all the hallmarks of one: older White man, taking part in some hobby out in nature, somewhat soothing voiceover. ED drugs always have to show active White men. It’s like “Look, Trevor! You can still go sailing!” They don’t do that for us. The most active Black folks get in medicine ads is we might be playing basketball. Otherwise, we’re sitting somewhere, with a hat on, maybe playing checkers. But I digress…

This is NOT a very good teaser, but CBS knows that they can pretty much give us anything with Picard in it, and folks will get excited. This doesn’t feel…organic. It definitely feels like a fake ad that was created within the world of a television show. It’s just odd to see something of a news teaser in a society that I thought had long moved past such things. I know they have reporters, as Jake Sisko was one, but we’ve never really SEEN what a reporter does in the world of Star Trek. Anyway, I’m still not sure this is gonna get me to pay for CBS All Access, especially hearing the behind the scenes issues the show has been having.

Links I Loved

  • This is pretty self-serving of me, but I was a guest on the Nerd Lunch Podcast this week, as we revisited the Amalgam comic event, where popular Marvel and DC characters were mixed together, and came up with some of our own. It was a really fun show, so you should give it a listen.
  • My good buddy Tim got a chance to interview writer Jonathan Hickman about his upcoming X-Men run. I don’t care much about the comics, as they relaunch the X titles every 18 months. I’m more impressed by how much traction Tim’s piece is getting, even linked to by Marvel.com.
  • My other good buddy, Kevin, has launched a new podcast, The Team Hellions Podcast. It’s still in its infancy, but one day you’ll be able to tell folks you got in on the ground floor of something great. He’s a great storyteller, and it’s been fun seeing him make the jump from blog to pod.
  • Unless you’re new here, you already know about The Surfing Pizza. Well, good ol’ SP is creating Taco Bell Quarterly, which is a literary zine dedicated to the love of Taco Bell. Well, it’s so much deeper than that, actually. Yeah, I know. It’s gonna be awesome!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Adam Levine has decided to stop pretending to give a shit about discovering new pop stars, and will be leaving The Voice.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog movie has been moved to 2020 so they can continue to “fix” it. Ugh, the “Bad Guys” won on this one…
  • It was Ecto Cooler Mania all over again, when folks learned that the 80s New Coke formula would be revived as a tie-in with the Netflix series Stranger Things. Coca-Cola lovingly gave fans the opportunity to pay $20 for a pack of the stuff that nearly drove them out of business 35 years ago. Ain’t nostalgia funny?
  • WWE, always with their finger on the pulse of what fans want, had Brock Lesnar – part-time, half-hearted wrestler – win Money in the Bank. Needless to say, the fans were livid, but they’re always mad about something.
  • Game of Thrones ended this week. The less said about that the better. Ya know, until 2027, when folks start lauding the finale as some kind of masterpiece, sorta like they’re doing with The Phantom Menace right now.
  • Despite seemingly getting that axe before last week’s Upfronts, there are rumblings that ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier may get a stay of execution.

So, if you were on Twitter this week, you sure read the EPIC thread by web designer Shane Morris. You see, he recounted the tale of the time he found a brick of heroin in a used van he’d purchased, and then proceeded to “move weight”, as the kids say, through a friend. Oh, and to make matters worse, he then told of how he ripped off the son of the original van owner – ya know, the guy whose heroin he’d sold – who also just happened to be a member of one of the worst gangs in the world. And he lived to tell about it.

I don’t want to paraphrase anything. You should just go read the thread for yourself.

Shit is CRAZY, right?! So, that’s why Shane Morris had –

Wait. We’re getting a live update as I type this. Apparently Shane has responded to the story with this:

WHAT?! YOU DON’T SAY!

Here’s the thing: after publishing that story, one of two things was gonna happen: 1) he was telling the truth, and he was gonna be murdered OR 2) he was lying, and he was gonna be murdered. He mentioned, by name, a gang that I don’t talk about in conversation. It’s THAT bad. They don’t just kill you. They kill everyone close to you. And he did this shit to sound like a big man on Twitter? Whew!

If you don’t feel like clicking the link, he basically said he did it in an attempt to see if he could top his own story about the time he ate 8 grams of mushrooms. When he saw how that had blown up, he just wanted to see if he could outdo his own story. Basically, he’s just a boring, 30-something, married software developer who wanted to have some Big Dick Energy for a bit. And I’ve GOT to know how his wife feels about the whole thing, now that they’re fearing for their lives and all.

I really hate to go there, but there is a hint of White Privilege at play when you think you can spin a yarn like this, citing one of the worst organizations around, and think there’ll be no repercussions. I’m not saying he thought he’d get away with it because he’s White, but I AM saying his “aloofness”, by virtue of his Whiteness, is why it never even occurred to him that some folks are not to be trifled with. At first I wondered if I was alone in that thinking, until in his confession, he states that his weed man even says to him, “Bro, that is the fucking whitest shit I have ever heard in my entire life.” Vindicated!

Morris went from being cock of the walk, with a movie deal in place for his story, to hiding on a friend’s couch, all in the span of 72 hours. That internet: she’ll make ya and then she’ll break ya!

I will say that I have never felt more seen than by this statement: “You might not understand this yet, but there’s a point you reach in your early 30s, after you get married, when you stop showering for 3–4 days sometimes, and you’re watching yoga videos, and you’re like, ‘Holy shit. What the hell happened to me? I feel like the least cool person on the planet.'”

I feel ya, Shane, but I’ve never woken up from that to the realization that I should start a gang war. So, you’re on your own now, buddy. Let this be a cautionary tale for you kids out there: don’t court trouble to impress strangers!

So, Live In Front Of A Studio Audience had the West Week Ever.

17th May2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture in Review 5/17/19 (Upfronts Edition)

by Will

Here it is, folks! My biggest post of the year, as I tackle the new shows that are coming to the broadcast networks this fall. I’ll admit, though, that I kinda had to go into training for this one. I felt somewhat out of practice, and I really wasn’t jazzed by anything I’d seen or heard up to this point. After seeing the trailers, though, I think this season shows some promise after all. Still, your mileage may vary on some of these shows. Let’s see what NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and The CW have to offer!

NBC


SunnysideThursday 9:30 PM

I dunno about this one. I mean, I trust Michael Schur, but I’m also kinda tired of the “disparate group of people become support group” trope. It started for me with Dear John, but it’s been used as recently as ABC’s Single Parents. This is one of those shows where I’m left asking “What’s the endgame?” Where is it going? I mean, they’re trying to get citizenship, so he’s teaching them for the test. When does the test occur? Season 2? Are they just making this up as they go along?

There’s a lot of potential for this show to convey the “American Dream” to the folks of Middle America who might not understand the immigrant struggle. It’s something of a “foot in the door” tactic, where they’ll make you laugh while teaching you a new viewpoint. I like that about it. Still, there’s something about Kal Penn that I just don’t really like. It’s funny, because I loved the Harold & Kumar movies, but I’ve never really taken to “grown up” Penn. Maybe this will change that. Who knows? Anyway, it’s got that plum post-The Good Place time slot, so NBC clearly has faith in it.

Bluff City LawMonday 10:00 PM

I won’t watch it, but I like this. I think it’s because Jimmy Smits is just so damn hard to dislike. Maybe it’s the Cornell aspect (MFA, ’82), but I love that dude. This has a This Is Us meets Law & Order vibe to it, which really can’t fail when you look at those ingredients. It’s also getting that plum time slot after The Voice, which is basically like having the post-Super Bowl slot. I know I’m reaching here, but I almost feel like there’s a twist. NBC likes to do stuff like that in these heartfelt shows. Like, maybe Smits is actually dead, and the daughter is the only one who sees him (a la, NBC’s old show Providence). Perhaps he tries to recruit her back to the firm in the pilot, dies in a car accident, and then she agrees to join the family firm, setting the show in motion. Then he proceeds to inspire her to “change the world” from the spirit realm. Then again, I’m spitballing here. Wouldn’t be surprised if I was right, though.

Perfect HarmonyThursday 8:30 PM

Man, NBC’s creator pool really has an axe to grind with the Ivy League. First, we had A.P. Bio feature a Harvard professor who’s fallen from grace, and this show gives us a Princeton professor who’s fallen from grace. I love Bradley Whtiford and Anna Camp, but I have the same issues with this that I had with Sunnyside: just throw a bunch of weird folks together and watch what happens. Is this the only way to make a sitcom now? I mean, most sitcoms are like this, but they have a stronger setting: a bar, a workplace, an apartment. This is a small-town church choir. Is this gonna appeal to Big City types?

Plus ,I’m scared this is gonna follow a Glee trajectory. So, you put the choir together, you make them better, then you make them compete. What happens next? Do they win the competition, or do they fail to give the show more time and something else for them to strive towards? When I see a show, I always want to wonder “What does the finale look like?” Do we meet the Mother? Does he finally make it back to his home planet? What does that look like HERE?

In all, there are no real broad strokes for NBC as the season kicks off, as they’re saving a lot for midseason, including new shows Council of Dads, The Kenan Show, Indebted, Lincoln, and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. With this in mind, they’re playing it safe for fall, but will likely have a bold midseason strategy in order to launch all those shows, as well as bring back returning things like Good Girls, Will & Grace, and Manifest. AS always, NBC got to debut their schedule first, so they become the ones everyone else is compared to. With powerhouses like The Voice and This Is Us, I don’t really see them making any moves that indicate fear on their part. They’re confident in their shows, and the lack of big moves shows this.

FOX

Prodigal SonMonday 9:00 PM

I know I say this a lot, every year, but they just keep proving me right: this is the kind of show FOX picks up merely to cancel. I mean, it’s from Greg Berlanti, so they’ll probably give it more of a chance than most shows, plus folks love Michael Sheen. That said, I’m not sure if 9-1-1 is the best lead-in, even if it does provide decent counterprogramming to reality fare like Dancing with the Stars and The Voice, which will air at the same time. I probably would’ve held this one til midseason, when these sorts of shows generally debut. This makes me feel like FOX didn’t have a deep drama bench this year. Anyway, I won’t watch it, but I know there’s an audience for it out there.

Not Just MeWednesday 9:00 PM

Based on the Australian show Sisters, this is FOX coming late to the This Is Us game – fitting, since Friday Night Lights/Parenthood creator Jason Katims is one of the executive producers. Brittany Snow works for her father, a demanding infertility doctor played by Timothy Hutton. Well, her world comes crashing down when it’s revealed that Hutton was using his own sperm to impregnate women. So now Snow has instant siblings, including Vixen from Legends of Tomorrow and Haley Joel Osment’s sister. I’m gonna go out on a limb here, so I hope you can follow me: this is an NBC show run through a FOX filter, with FOX cast and budget. This show has no place on this network, even though it’s obvious why they’d want it. It’s being given the time slot following The Masked Singer, which was a surprisingly massive hit for FOX, so they definitely have faith in it. Still, I don’t know if that’s the most appropriate lead-in, nor do I know if the audience for this show will find it.


Bless The Harts – Sunday 8:30 PM

OK, so I’ve got some gripes about FOX’s Sunday night schedule, and this seems like the best place for it. First of all, Animation Domination hasn’t been around 30 years. It’s been around about 15, so that’s a slap in the face to all the live action shows that failed on the night over the past 30 years. And there have been A LOT of them! Also, in order to add this to the schedule, they’ve “promoted” Bob’s Burgers to 9, and given Family Guy the ghetto, this is where shows go to die, 9:30 slot. I only see this as a temporary move, though, as this show won’t last.

Animation Domination has been dominated by The Simpsons and Family Guy. Sure, Bob came along and has held his own, but let’s not forget all the others that could not, like Bordertown, Allen Gregory, Son of Zorn and The Cleveland Show. I like the title here, as it’s a play on “Bless your heart”, which is the treacly Southern way of basically saying, “Well, aren’t you a sad little piece of shit?” It’s also got a great cast, with Wiig, Rudolph, and more. Still, I HATE the animation style. THIS should be the 9:30 show, and not Family Guy. But this will all be rectified when Bless gets canceled. Because it WILL be canceled.

DeputyMidseason

Now, THIS is a FOX SHOW. I can only assume that it wasn’t ready for a Fall debut, as this is what should be paired with 9-1-1 and not Prodigal Son. If they’ve got anyone smart in scheduling, it’ll be paired with the forthcoming 9-1-1: Lone Star, starring Rob Lowe. Hell, I might even watch this thing.

Now, just because it’s a “FOX Show” doesn’t mean it can’t be canceled. The odds are still against it, but they needed a kickass law show to fill the void left by the corpse-isn’t-cold-yet Lethal Weapon, but I’m very intrigued to see where this goes. At the same time, I could also see this appealing to the crowd that has those “Don’t Tread On Me” license plates. This is a lawman, who only cares about justice. By season 2, he’ll be taking on illlegals, and then it’s gonna be a shitshow.

Filthy RichMidseason

Since the sale of the non-network assets to Disney, it seems like FOX is doubling down on what makes them FOX. I just don’t know why they’re saving their best stuff for midseason. Just like Deputy, this is a natural fit for the network. Before I even saw the executive producers, I said “This is White Empire“, and that’s exactly what it is. I want to say I’ll watch the Hell out of this show, but I also know that these things get pretty over-the-top quickly, and I’ll be burnt out by season 3. Knowing how Fox schedules, it’ll probably be scheduled during Empire’s Winter hiatus, but I’d kinda like them on at the same time. Show the nation that both Black and White rich folks can be just as trifling.

neXtMidseason

Damn, midseason FOX is KILLING IT! I love Roger Sterling in anything, but he’s taking on evil Alexa?! Sounds like somebody’s been watching Black Mirror. The thing I love about this, though, is it’s an “event series”. That means it’s contained – probably about 10 episodes – and if it fails, it can just be a One & Done. If it succeeds, then they’re gonna have to figure out how to make Alexa even more evil for a second season. Or maybe he’ll take on Ring doorbells or something. I am ALL IN for this one.

OutmatchedMidseason

I feel like this show was D.O.A. the minute Biggs was attached to star in it. Doubly so when Maggie Lawson was added, ’cause she can’t catch a post-Psych break. This feels like Andy Richter’s FOX sitcom Quintuplets all over again, only it’s 4 kids instead of 5. Even with the “3 of them are geniuses” angle, it’s still the same “Oh my God, the kids are taking over and we’re outnumbered” premise. Still, it’s fairly obvious that it’ll end up wherever FOX puts Last Man Standing, since Friday belongs to WWE SmackDown this fall. Paired with that show it might do OK, but I see this as a One & Done.

Looking at their Fall schedule, the boldest move FOX made was moving Empire to Tuesdays, leading out of The Resident. That’s a terrible pairing, but it was also announced that this would be Empire‘s final season, so it’s not like they really care at this point. It’s a lame duck, with no aims at a renewal, so it’ll do what it does, and that’ll be it. In the end I’m not so excited about their fall schedule, but I CAN’T WAIT for midseason.

ABC

EmergenceTuesday 10:00 PM

So, in a weird, last minute upfronts move NBC passed on this and ABC swooped it right up. It’s probably for the best, as I can’t really see this on NBC. Still, ABC has tried this exact same show every Fall since Lost ended and it never works. This is one of the rare times when it’s a female protagonist (which ABC does well) instead of a schlub like Steve Zahn, but I don’t see this show lasting long enough to solve its core mystery. If they had somehow shoehorned it into TGIT, it would’ve given it a boost, but instead it’s getting the Tuesday Night Death Slot, which is being vacated by The Rookie. I just don’t see this one working.

mixed-ishTuesday 9:00 PM

Somewhere along the line, ABC said “Screw the present – we’re gonna tell a coming of age tale from every decade prior.” The Goldbergs gave us the 80s, Fresh Off the Boat gave us the 90s, and The Kids Are Alright tried to give us the 70s. Well, they’re mixing recipes from two of their biggest current shows: The Goldbergs and black-ish, and taking us back to the 80s for mixed-ish. I feel like this probably came out of the contract negotiations with Tracee Ellis Ross, as she was about to walk off the show a few years back, citing the fact that she made considerably less than costar Anthony Anderson. It was pointed out that he was an executive producer on the show, so that’s why he made more. So, now she has her own spinoff. Sure, it’s something of the Young Sheldon model (make a prequel to your aging hit to stave off having to replace it any time soon), but it works. I’m actually really looking forward to this – moreso than grown-ish, for which I’ve never seen an episode, as I don’t know what channel Freeform is on my cable service. Perhaps I’ll get an email about it when I get my period. Anyway, I like the chances on this one, and it serves as the lead-in to black-ish on Tuesdays, so it’s good they’re not splitting up the family, so to speak.


StumptownWednesday 10:00 PM

Personal story time: so, back when I worked at Diamond, one of the accounts I managed was Oni Comics, who would go on to publish the Stumptown comic on which this show is based. When I left the job, Oni was nice enough to keep my on their comp list for a few years, so I could stay in the loop of what they were doing. In the tail end of that arrangement, before I was unceremoniously removed from said list, I was sent the first issue of Stumptown, and was immediately drawn to it. It’s got a strong female protagonist, which you kinda come to expect from creator Greg Rucka, and it was reminiscent of the best parts of Alias, the Brian Michael Bendis comic that introduced Jessica Jones. Dex, like Jessica, is a flawed character, who’s just trying to get by. She’s a relatable character who’s easy to root for. So, needless to say, I’m very excited about this show. Add in that it stars Cobie Smulders, whom I’ve loved since How I Met Your Mother, and I think you’ve got a winner. I don’t know if the audience will love this show, but I’m definitely rooting for it, and hope to tune in every chance I get.

As far as scheduling goes, ABC is playing it pretty safe, with only two notable moves: American Housewife moves to their sad excuse for TGIF (it’s unclear if they’re still using that branding this season), while The Rookie moves to Sunday night. In a somewhat puzzling move, ABC ordered a reboot of Kids Say The Darnedest Things, hosted by…Tiffany Haddish? I remember when everyone was eager to get on Oscar Isaac’s jock, and look where that got us. This feels like that, all over again. Companies’ desire to get into the Tiffany Haddish Business has her getting jobs that aren’t necessarily the right fit (see: The LEGO Movie 2). I just don’t know how you take a show, last hosted by Bill Cosby, and immediately think “Tiffany Haddish!” Does she even LIKE kids? They’re saving some of their heavier hitters, like American Idol, The Bachelor, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for midseason, so their fall is rather tame.

CBS

There was a lot of drama with the CBS dramas as we headed into Upfronts week. First, it was announced that Bull had been renewed for a 4th season, leading Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment to cut ties with the show due to the #MeToo accusations against star Michael Weatherly. Then, it was announced that the upcoming sixth season of Madam Secretary would be its last. Still, the network had some new shows to debut, as well as some high profile moves to announce.

All RiseMonday 9:00 PM

I’ll give CBS credit for their recent diversity push, as they’re trying and it shows. That said, a Black woman leading a legal drama has ABC written all over it, so I wonder how this ended up at CBS. It doesn’t look salacious enough to have joined the TGIT lineup, so maybe that explains how it got here. Still, I see CBS is doing the divide and conquer to get the Black audience as this is counterprogramming to Black Lightning over on The CW. I like this kind of show because it’s not trying to do too much. It’s not exactly high concept. If it finds an audience, a show like this could last 10 years. Will it? Time will tell.

Bob Hearts AbisholaMonday 8:30 PM

This is cute, and it might do well paired with The Neighborhood. It’s like Chuck Lorre looked back on Mike & Molly, and realized some of the best scenes were when Billy Gardell interacted with Black folks – one of whom was African. I always felt kinda bad for Gardell, as Melissa McCarthy’s star kept rising while the show went on, and the focus ended up more on her. He seems like a good dude, so I’d like to see him with another series. I just don’t know if this is it. This would make a cute rom-com, but a 22-episode sitcom? Do I really feel like watching their romance unfold? I might binge it, like I did The Neighborhood, but I don’t see this as weekly, destination television. Maybe I’ll be surprised, though.

Carol’s Second ActThursday 9:30

I’m just gonna ask it: Does Patricia Heaton really need money? I mean, does she have a drug problem or a gambling addiction? She had a successful long run on Everybody Loves Raymond, followed by another successful long run on The Middle. She’s had to have made millions – a good portion of which she’s used to fund Republican efforts (you can thank her for shit like Alabama). Anyway, if she’s looking for the triple crown, she’s out of luck, because this looks terrible. The supporting cast isn’t dynamic, and the “Hey, she’s an old intern” joke is gonna get old halfway through the premiere. Even with a plum spot after Mom, this won’t work. Maybe when this fails, she’ll finally go sit down somewhere and rest.

EVILThursday 10:00 PM

So, is this a commercial for the Catholic Church, or was it made in spite of them? It’s basically The X-Files meets The Exorcist, but maybe you can eke two or three seasons out of it. Nice to see Mike Colter bounced back from the cancellation of Luke Cage rather quickly. This is the kind of show that would go either way on FOX. Not too sure how CBS is gonna handle it, though. I’ll bet it has a really strong pilot, but then settles into a procedural rather quickly. People seem to think CBS is an older audience, closer to both God and death. Will they cotton to something of this ilk? I’m not so sure.

The UnicornThursday 8:30 PM

Ya know, with the exception of Young Sheldon, CBS hasn’t really figured out how to crack that single cam comedy nut. Sure, Life In Pieces got 4 seasons, but they never knew what to do with it, as it didn’t fit the rest of their multi cam schedule (for those not in the know, single cam is like Modern Family, with no studio audience. Multi cam is the opposite, or the “typical” sitcom that folks are used to seeing). I’ve also got an issue with the casting. Folks love Walton Goggins, but they love to HATE him. He’s everyone’s favorite villain. He’s not beloved family man. Now, maybe he’s trying to show he has range, but I can think of a list of other folks who could’ve fit this role (starting with Nat Faxon). Part of me wonders if Rob Corddry and Omar Benson Miller auditioned for this show on their lunch break from Ballers. Anyway, I don’t see this one as a hit. Sorry, Walton.

BrokeMidseason

THIS is a CBS sitcom: multi cam, a familiar CBS star in Pauley Perrette, and a snarky butler, a la The Nanny. This show will last, at least, 5 years. Mark my words. If they hurry up and cancel Carol’s Second Act, this would be perfect paired with Mom. As much as I have loathed Natasha Leggero’s “rich bitch” caricature from her stand-up, it works here. I just hope she tones it down a bit after the pilot.

FBI: Most WantedMidseason

Julian McMahon is an odd choice to lead this show, but so was Missy Peregrym when she was cast to lead the main FBI. I do, however, feel like it’s a bit early for spinoffs, seeing as how this season was FBI‘s first, and there was a tumultuous situation behind the scenes as the showrunners kept changing. Still, this team was introduced, in CBS fashion, via a backdoor pilot on FBI this season, and it must have tested well, ’cause here’s a show for them. This could go either way. It’s pretty common for CBS to build franchises, as CSI, Criminal Minds, and NCIS showed us. That said, they aren’t always successful, as CSI: Cyber and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders showed us. So, this is something of a gamble that might pay off. We’ll just have to see where it lands.

TommyMidseason

Now, THIS feels like a TGIT show, which makes me wonder how ABC missed out on it. Edie Falco seems like she’s channeling Cathy Lanier, who was the DC Chief of Police until she left to work for the NFL. As I said above, ABC is the Strong Woman Protagonist network, so I don’t know if CBS knows how to handle something like this. Still, if paired with a show like All Rise or Madam Secretary, it might just find its audience.

Like the other networks, CBS is playing it safe for the fall. The biggest move I can see is they moved Magnum P.I. to Friday, while holding MacGyver to midseason. Like FOX, I don’t know if they’ll really shine til midseason, and I see Broke as their breakout hit of the season.

The CW

BatwomanSunday 8:00 PM

So, it happened pretty gradually, but The CW has basically positioned itself as FreeForm for Poor People. Basically, if you can’t afford cable, here’s where you can get your teen drama fix. It’s something of a smart play, even if it’s not that daring. At this point, 75% of the network’s fare is either comic book adaptations or reboots of older WB shows. They learned what worked for them, and they went ALL IN. Which brings me to Batwoman. I fell off the Arrowverse shows last season because kids, but if Gotham lasted as long as it did on FOX, this show will last until its stars are begging to be let out of their contracts. I see no reason this won’t get succeed. Why? Well, for starters, The CW cancelled NOTHING this season, proving they didn’t have a deep pilot bench. Also, they’re losing Supernatural and Arrow by the end of the 19-20 season, so all Ruby Rose has to do is not get caught up in some kind of scandal, and she’ll have gainful employment for years to come. It’s paired up with Supergirl on Sunday night, which will probably be packaged as some night of “Girl Power”, but I expect that to change when midseason hits.

Nancy DrewWednesday 9:00 PM 

This ain’t your mom’s Nancy Drew! Forget the book series, as this is basically Veronica Mars by way of Riverdale – fitting, since Riverdale will serve as it’s lead-in. Besides the interracial lovin’, I don’t really have much to say about this ’cause I’m not a 15 year old girl. It’ll probably find its audience, and it has a great timeslot. Still, it’s just more Poor People FreeForm.

Speaking of Riverdale, here’s a direct spinoff of the show (and not one of those, “Well, maybe it’s in the same universe” deals like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina over on Netflix). I’ve never seen an episode of Riverdale, so I don’t know how prominent a character Katy Keene was. It’s pretty cool that Josie’s a character over there, though. I want to say it’ll be a success, but I’m getting the same vibe from it that I got from that Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries, and that show didn’t last too long.

I don’t have a ton to say about The CW’s schedule. It’s nice to see Arrow and The Flash reunited on Tuesday night. I also notice it’s a shame the network, like FOX, only programs 2 hours a night, as it could really benefit from a 3-hour model in some places. For example, Charmed is a horrible lead-in for Dynasty, and would be better suited rounding out Wednesday with Riverdale and Nancy Drew, or even Thursday with Supernatural and Legacies. It lost its Sunday perch to Batwoman, and now it’s the odd show out. They probably should’ve held it to midseason, so it could be paired with Roswell, New Mexico.

To do your own comparison, here’s the Fall 2019 schedule grid, courtesy TVLine.com

Trailer Park

BH90210 (FOX)

I still don’t know what to make of this mockumentary of the original 90210 cast pitching a reboot of the series, but I guess we’ll find out when it premieres August 7th. Apparently, there’s already trouble in paradise, as there’s a new showrunner coming on board, and several writers have departed the show. My only takeaway from this trailer is that Gabrielle Carteris is old as Hell! I mean, I always knew she was the oldest, but DAMN… Part of me feels like Luke wouldn’t have done this even had he not died, but at least they have an “excuse” for his absence now.

Party of Five (FreeForm)

I’ve mentioned FreeForm so much this week that they owe me a check. Anyway, they’re the home of the reboot of 90s FOX hit Party of Five, which introduced the world to Jennifer Love Hewitt, Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell, and Lacey Chabert ( I feel like Scott Wolf had done something prior, but I could be wrong). In this version, however, the focus is on a Latino family and, instead of the parents dying in a car accident, they’re deported back to Mexico. So, the older brother has to raise his siblings who are left behind. This is pretty “ripped from the headlines”, so it is certainly pressing a hot button issue. I don’t know much about FreeForm’s audience, though, so will they flock to it? Guess we’ll have to see. I really hope the theme song is The BoDeans’ “Closer to Free”, but sung by a Mariachi band.

Chad (TBS)

Who allowed this?! Who sees someone as hot as Nasim Pedrad and says “Yeah, let’s make her a 14 year old boy”? Oh, I guess Nasim, as she’s the one who created this show. It’s on TBS, so it’ll probably get 2 seasons (Hell, Wrecked got that), but I wouldn’t expect much more out of it.

Always Be My Maybe (Netflix)

I love everyone in this, AND I don’t have to leave home to see it? SCORE!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Not Spoon! but rather Fork! as Amazon has canceled The Tick after 2 seasons.
  • Well, congratulations to everyone on Fresh Off the Boat, ’cause this is either your last season or they’re gonna “Hogan Family” your mom. This comes after star Constance Wu posted an expletive-laden reaction on social media to news that the show had been renewed as, she says, it meant she had to give up another opportunity for which she had been excited. It was a messy few days, and I’m sure things will be chilly on set for a bit, as it was a bit of a slap in the face to her costars and crew.
  • Though originally developed for TNT, it was announced that the Snowpiercer series will be moving to TBS. It’s also been renewed for a second season prior to a single episode even airing.
  • The Christian Right lost their shit when it an episode of PBS series Arthur featured Mr. Ratburn marrying his male partner.

  • In anticipation of the release of Rocketman, Elton John and star Taron Egerton released the new song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”. I love Elton to death, but this one doesn’t do much for me. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
  • Marvel Comics announced the upcoming release of Marvel Comics #1000, a special book that will feature one-page comics from some of their biggest creators to commemorate Marvel’s 80th anniversary. Seeing as how it’s a $10 book that will be in dollar bins by next summer, I can wait.
  • The Big Bang Theory capped off a 12(!) season run last night, airing its final episode. I know most of you hate it, but there are millions and millions of folks who enjoyed it and will miss the show. While I fell off in the past season, I count myself among that number.
  • Some outlets are reporting that Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson will be the next Batman, while others are saying that X-Men‘s Nicholas Hoult is still in the running. Personally, I’m holding out for Hoult.

Since this is the Upfronts post, I usually pick the network that I feel had the best presentation and schedule. While nobody has me jazzed for Fall, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jonseing for FOX’s midseason schedule. Despite the future failure known as Outmatched, the dramas they have lined up look like they’re firing on all cylinders. Usually ABC or NBC walk away with the crown, but I feel FOX shows the most promise for the overall season, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

05th Apr2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/5/19

by Will

I took last week off, and the week before was a Thrift Justice, so I guess we’ve got a bit to cover, huh?

So a couple of weeks back, there was hubbub from a screening where Zack Snyder sort of kirked out and implied that anyone who expected a character not to kill was living in a fantasy world. Yeah, I’ve got to disagree with that.

First off, there’s a danger in applying real world politics to comics because, at the end of the day, comics are just what my friend James calls “White Male Power Fantasies”. They exist in a theoretical vacuum, so the minute you try to say “Look at the world around us! How would Batman interact HERE?” you’ve already broken the rules.

To think Batman should kill is a gross misunderstanding of what Batman is about.

Ya know, just because Keaton did it in Batman (1989) doesn’t make it *right*. Burton was railing against the most recent depiction of Batman at the time, which had been the ’66 Batman. So, he kinda went to extremes. Now, I wasn’t in theaters in 1989, but I still knew it was messed up when I eventually saw the movie on VHS. Keaton doing it doesn’t mean that Affleck can do it.

To think “Batman should kill. So effing what?” is a such a binary way of looking at things. You all feel he either should or shouldn’t do it, without factoring in the gray area where some outcomes are worse than death. Part of the thing about Batman is the power given to him by his urban legend status. He doesn’t HAVE to kill, because there are enough two-bit hoods out there telling folks they’ve seen him kill. Meanwhile, because of this storytelling, you never quite know WHAT you’re going to face if you even encounter him. And sure, he probably WON’T kill you, but he’ll make it so you walk with a limp for the rest of your life or can’t feel your right arm any more.

Also, let’s think of some other ramifications. If Batman were to kill, that would be terribly taxing on his relationship with the GCPD, who pretty much allow him to operate on their behalf. Sure, real world cops kill people all the time – in a lot of cases where it seems senseless but, again, you can’t “real world” this stuff.

Oh, and if Batman killed, then that would be the end of the villains you love so much. “Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker?” Probably because that would be the end of the Joker, and all storytelling regarding him. These are the same people who are mad at Peter Quill for screwing up the fight against Thanos. Um, they have an entirely separate movie to pad out so, no, they couldn’t allow Thanos’ defeat that easily. Sometimes you just have to think of the business aspect of things. Companies need you to come back every month, so how are they going to build any sort of drama or suspense, if you just know he’ll mow down that month’s villain, and then do the same to whomever pops up next month? You don’t want Batman. You want The Punisher.

For Batman to kill would make him no better than his rogues gallery, so who’s the “hero” in that case? These were originally considered aspirational characters in certain aspects. Sure, your parents may not get gunned down in an alley leaving you millions, but if life deals you a bad hand, you make the most of it and don’t just go out murdering people. Because that’s what that would be: murder. Now, there’s the argument that maybe he kills in self defense. Maybe, but he’s also been written as such a skilled tactician that it should/would never get to that point. I will say, though, there is a difference between killing and letting someone die. Take Batman Begins, for instance. He doesn’t kills Ra’s, but he sure as Hell doesn’t save him, either. I do think Batman would do that.

I know there are a bunch of y’all who grew up at a certain time, thinking Burton is gospel, but this is the same incarnation that says Joker killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. Sure the movies have shown us a Batman who kills because they wanna be edgelords, but at the end of the day, BATMAN DOESN’T KILL.

I’m about 2 years behind, but I binged the Dirty John podcast a few weeks ago, and now I want to talk about it with someone – primarily the fact that I don’t believe it. I mean, sure, it’s based on a true story, but that finale was so far-fetched that even Uwe Boll is somewhere saying “Yeah, I’m not sure if that’s believable.”

If you’re not familiar, Dirty John recounts the story of John Meehan – a con man with a history of wooing women and then taking them for all they had. Based on reporting from The Los Angeles Times, the podcast focuses primarily on Meehan’s relationship with successful interior designer Debra Newell, and how he basically psychologically abused her, while forcing her to alienate anyone in her family who he didn’t like. It’s a whirlwind courtship, followed by a quickie Vegas wedding, and then the craziness starts. Newell realizes that she doesn’t truly know the man she married, and begins to fear for her safety, as well as the safety of her loved ones.

I know there’s an adaptation on Bravo, starring Connie Britton, right now and, while I’m curious to see them reenact a lot of this stuff, I think I’ll just wait until it’s done to binge it at once. And I really hope they don’t try to make a season 2, because HOW? Then again, based on the ending of the podcast, I could see it and it wouldn’t be any less credible than that.

The always wonderful John Oliver devoted this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight to the working conditions in the WWE. If you didn’t know, wrestler’s contracts are structured where they are considered “independent contractors”, so they’re responsible for their own health insurance, while the company only covers injuries that occur in the ring. I’ve heard of stories where a wrestler might have a motorcycle accident over the weekend, but drag himself to work so that he can claim the injury happened in-ring just so it’ll be covered. This sort of thing might have flown back in the carny days of wrestling, but WWE is a billion dollar corporation, so this is pretty unacceptable. Past attempts by wrestlers to unionize haven’t gone anywhere, but Oliver points out that Vince McMahon does listen to the fans – the WWE Universe – so if there’s enough pressure from them, then things might change.

So, some interesting stuff is going in the world of music, as Lil Nas X went to #1 on the country charts with “Old Town Road”. The problem, however, is that many consider it a rap song instead of a country song, despite it having “country elements” as well as subject matter. So, after some outcry from labels, the song was removed from the charts.

Well, not to be outdone, Lil Nas X re-released the song last night, with an assist from Billy Ray Cyrus, who’s always down to make some coin. And the result still isn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as “Accidental Racist“.

I mean, I get it, but there does seem to be some shady stuff going on here to get it removed from the chart. And most folks are saying it’s based on race. It’s not easy for a Black man to chart in country music, as it’s still a recent phenomenon thanks to Darius Rucker and Jimmie Allen. Also, if you listen to anything by Sam Hunt or the Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem“, and you’ll hear that country has been biting hip hop beats for quite some time.

On the flip side, I don’t feel like this was a genuine effort. I mean, for one, the thing is about 2 minutes long. That’s not a song. That’s a snippet. Plus, what Lil Nas X did here was spit in the eye of the country music establishment. It’s not common knowledge to folks who don’t follow the industry, but country radio charts kinda come down to whose “turn” it is. Labels get together and sort that shit out instead of it actually being based on sales or anything. They’ll say “Well, it’s Blake’s turn”, so stations will follow suit and increase the number of spins that Blake Shelton gets that week, and voila #1. Then, the next week, it’ll be Jimmie’s turn. This is why nothing on the country charts sits like songs do on pop charts. You get your week and then you’re cycled out for someone else, which is why charting means SO much less in country. It means you got the seal of approval from the industry, but it’s not reflective of public opinion. It’s simply the labels telling you who they’re backing.

Since nobody actually cares about charts, this was just a publicity stunt, and a damn good one. I say let the song stay. Think of all the flukes and garbage that has made it to #1. Just let it go ’cause there’ll be a new Florida-Georgia Line single up there in about 3 weeks, and nobody will even remember this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Cho has been cast as Spike Spiegel in Netflix’s adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. I still think it should’ve gone to Ben Schwartz, but I don’t hate this.
  • Since the Disney acquisition of Fox, there are rumors that Disney might be in talks to revive the failed baseball series Pitch in an attempt to keep creator Dan Fogelman from jumping ship when his contract is up. Oh, I should mention that Fogelman also created the smash hit This Is Us, which is why folks would want to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.
  • Emily Bett Rickards announced that she’ll be leaving Arrow prior to its truncated final season, leading me to wonder “WHY?” She couldn’t hang on for 10 episodes? Is she THAT eager to jump back into pilot season?
  • Speaking of The CW, Lucifer finally decided to come collect the souls of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, as Supernatural will finally end after its 15th season. Don’t cry for these guys, though. They’ve got a long future of MonsterMania and other assorted pop culture conventions ahead of them – which I’m sure is their own personal version of Hell.

There’s nothing quite like going into a movie with ZERO expectations, but that’s exactly what I did last night with SHAZAM! While a lot of folks have already written off the DC movies, I’m still willing to give them a shot. I know almost nothing about the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel, and most of what I know is from Geoff Johns’s New 52 reboot of the character – which old time fans tell me is something of a travesty. Still, Johns has rarely steered me wrong, and I actually enjoyed what he was doing with the character. It was originally presented in back-up stories in the relaunched Justice League, but then the books hit the “Throne of Atlantis” storyline, and I stopped reading for whatever reason. So I never did see the tail end of what he was doing there. So, without too much continuity and prior knowledge to bog me down, I went into the theater last night not really knowing what I was about to see. And I am SO glad that I did. I REALLY enjoyed the film, and I think it’s more of a course correction for DC than Wonder Woman was.

If you’re not familiar, this take on the character is basically a superhero adaptation of the Tom Hanks classic Big (there’s even a call-out to the most famous scene from that movie). Fourteen year old Billy Batson encounters the wizard SHAZAM, who bestows his powers upon Billy once he says the wizard’s name aloud. He gains a different power from each of the gods. Flight from Socrates, Strength from Hephaestus. Electricity from Aesop, Anger from Zeus, Speed from Archibald, and Punching from Michael. Yeah, clearly I don’t know the pantheon nor do I know his entire power set. It don’t matter – ain’t nobody got time for that! He gets his magic from a wizard, says a magic word, and changes from Boy to Man. A Super Man (but not THE Superman. Yeah, they’ve already been to court about that). Meanwhile, the evil Dr. Sivana had been considered to assume the wizard’s power when he was a boy, but was deemed unworthy, so he’s spent his life and fortune trying to find a way to rectify that situation.

This story plays out over a backdrop showcasing the current foster parent situation in the country. Billy is taken into a group home, run by a married couple of former foster kids, filled with 5 other foster kids. There’s smart ass Freddy, adorable Darla, quiet Pedro, that kid from Fresh Off the Boat Eugene, and the pretty pretty Mary. It deals with what the notions of “home” and “family” mean to Billy, as he hasn’t been able to stay anywhere due to his unending search for his mother. Plus, just as American Pie introduced us to the MILF, Showtime introduced us to the SMILF, this film introduces us to the FMILF (*chef’s finger kiss*).

The thing I loved about the film is that it really doesn’t waste a lot of time world-building. It might be in the DCEU and it might not. There are signs that it could be, but they don’t beat you over the head with them. It’s a movie that pretty much gets in and out. Sure, there’s the obligatory stinger to tease a sequel that may or may not happen, but it didn’t exactly get me excited or anything. I’d be happy for this to just be a one-shot kind of deal, but Hollywood likes money, so it’ll probably, unwisely, become a franchise.

I was surprised by the level of violence in the film. From a special effects standpoint, I feel like the designers took a lot of visual cues from Infinity War, as the Thanos Snap “dusting” effect was employed quite a bit, while the embodiment of the 7 Deadly Sins looked a lot like Cull Obsidian. Still, even though it’s a fun movie about “family”, I don’t know if you want to take young kids, ’cause those monsters…WOW.

Did it have problems? Sure. Like most DC movies, it had a weak 3rd act. I didn’t even realize it was over when it was actually over. It went to the next scene, and you’re like “Oh. Oh, so that was it?” I’m also not sold on Zachary Levi as Captain Marvel. Maybe that’s part of the character, that he’s always 14 years old inside, but I didn’t feel like he ever really became a hero. He was a guy who did heroic things, but – at his core – was a HERO? Even by the end, I wasn’t too sure. He spends a good chunk of the movie Tony Starking: cleaning up problems that were of his own making.

My biggest issue with Levi, though, concerns the potential sequel that would most likely feature Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Captain Marvel’s nemesis, Black Adam. If you don’t remember, Warner Bros announced a Black Adam film WAY before they started any of this other stuff. Before Aquaman, Wonder Woman, or even Justice League had filmed, Black Adam was on the schedule because they wanted in on that hot D.J. action. The problem I had with it then is even exacerbated now that he’s MUCH more famous than he was when that deal was signed: NOBODY has the charisma to go toe to toe with him, especially with him in a villainous role.

Black Adam in the comics, especially around the time of Infinite Crisis, tended to go back and forth between villainy and being on the side of angels. He’s basically DC’s Namor. He’s on whichever side suits him best at the time. So, it’s unclear which side he would’ve been on for Johnson’s movie, though it was uncharacteristic at the time for DC to center movies around villains (that has since changed, as we saw from this week’s teaser for The Joker). SHAZAM!, however, not only sets up Black Adam as a villain, but states that he was a “mistake” made by the wizards when choosing a champion. He’s apparently still out there, so he’d likely butt heads with Levi’s Captain Marvel. My question is this: Is the audience prepared to accept The Rock as a villain, and actively cheer against him in favor of Levi’s Captain Marvel? I’m not so sure, which is probably what has held up the project for so long (though they always say it’s due to “scheduling conflicts”. The man makes a movie every 6 weeks, so I hardly believe that).

All that aside, I had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s highly entertaining and might be my favorite DC movie from their modern slate (NOTE: I have yet to see Aquaman. “Scheduling conflicts”). If DC continues just focusing on character instead of world-building, they might be on to something. There’s no need to try to follow the MCU formula, especially when there are other options. It’s got something for everyone, and even a little bit of representation snuck in there that I can’t say more about without spoiling the 3rd act. SHAZAM! was a great way to end the week, which is why it had the West Week Ever.

 

15th Mar2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/15/19

by Will

Some weeks, when I know I’m gonna be “on the wrong side of history”, I really don’t want to write this post. This is one of those weeks. Why do I say that? Well, it’s because of Captain Marvel.

As I was saying online last week, it sucks when you dislike something, but can’t vocalize your dislike because there’s a group of folks out there who dislike it for the “wrong” reasons. Ya see, there are all these Men’s Rights Activists upset about how the film’s star, Brie Larson, was regarding them on her press tour. Ultimately, she remarked that she didn’t want everyone reviewing the film to just be straight White guys. She was basically calling for more diversity, but didn’t sugarcoat it, so it was east for some folks to turn it into “Marvel didn’t slap her down, so they’re in on her anti-Male agenda!” They started leaving negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and spreading lies about how there were all these empty theaters where folks had claimed the movie had sold out. It’s so exhausting.

Meanwhile, I’m over here, not excited for the movie because I’ve pretty much always hated the character. I’ve gone into detail about it here before, so there’s no need to rehash all that. Basically, I’ve never found her likable, which is something I look for in my heroes. I’m sorry this skews awfully close to making women want to ask “Why does she have to be likable?”, almost like I’m saying some shit like “You know, you’d be prettier if you smiled more.” That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is Captain Marvel (in the comics) in recent years has been equal parts Bitch and Fuck-Up. Just go re-read Civil War II to get a taste of what I’m talking about. So, when I heard they were gonna make a film about her, I wasn’t exactly clamoring for it. When it was pretty much insinuated that she was being introduced now, in order to be the Deus ex machina in Avengers: Endgame, my reaction turned to “Come the fuck on!”

Anyway, like a good little fanboy, I was sitting in a theater last Thursday night, with my trusty buddy Mike. At the end of the day, I liked it, but didn’t love it. I found it to be kinda “meh” as far as Marvel films go. I mean, it’s decent, but we’re at a point where the films have become so epic that “decent” isn’t good enough anymore. I hate ranking things, but it’s easy to place stuff when it disappoints you. To me, this movie is on the level of Doctor Strange. It simply exists, but it’s not something that really left much of an impression on me. My biggest issue, and I’ve gotten in trouble on some message boards for using this language, is the virtue signalling of the whole matter. Like, you wouldn’t believe how many folks I’ve seen who are like “It wasn’t excellent, but man am I glad it’s sticking it to those manbabies!” Or “Incels”, or whatever it is we’re calling the people we dislike this week. I’m not about to act like a “meh” movie was excellent just because of some schadenfreude that it might produce. For all of you cheering this, you didn’t “win” anything in this scenario, and you’re kinda screwing with your own integrity.

The problems…where to begin? OK, let’s get this out of the way: the whole heel turn of the Kree doesn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as how Djimon Hounsou is playing the same character from Guardians of the Galaxy, and you see Starforce communicating with Ronan The Destroyer (who we KNOW is evil). Sure, they’re calling him off from doing what he does best (nuke the Hell out of planets), but they’re still keeping him on the bench, just in case. So, I guess this is one of those moments where the audience is meant to know more than the protagonist? I dunno, but I’ll chalk it up to that if I have to.

Then there’s the setting. The movie never feels like it takes place in the 90s, and they basically clobber you over the head with references like a late night CD infomercial. “Remember No Doubt?! Remember grunge?! OMG, remember BLOCKBUSTER?!” The setting just felt more forced than organic. The 90s are a hard decade to capture, so I get it, but it quickly became Family Guy‘s opinion of Robot Chicken: “Look! G.I. Joe, Transformers, ThunderCats, He-Man! Yay, those shows existed!” You know how a lot of folks hate Ready Player One because it’s just nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake? I felt that here. It’s like “Ooh, she hacked a pay phone with a Game Boy.”

I was also disappointed in Larson in the role. I know it’s hard to play an amnesiac, but she seemed so wooden at times. And I know they skewed younger, since the future of the MCU rests on her shoulders, but I’ve never been on board with her casting. I feel like Captain Marvel should’ve been an older, “worldlier” actor, like Charlize Theron. Someone with some “miles on her”.

One thing that stuck out to me is that it’s a movie built on the notion of platonic friendship, released in an age where everyone seems to have an ulterior motive. I’m not about to get into the sitcom trope of “Can Men and Women Be Friends?”, but there’s a weird subcurrent to the movie where you just never quite understand a LOT of the relationships on screen. I like how folks have pointed out that it’s the first Marvel film without a love interest, but is that completely true? There were quite a few scenes, whether between Carol and Fury, Carol and Space Jude Law, or Carol and Maria, where I’m like “So…they fuckin’?” I can completely admit that’s probably a personal issue on my part, but I still felt that, so I wondered if anyone else felt it, too.

Finally, and this is a big nitpicky thing but it’s my site and I do what I want, I HATED the thing with Fury’s eye. Now, I’ll completely take the blame here because a lot of us have our fan theories and start speculating about stuff with no real proof, and then we’re disappointed when faced with reality. For the past 11 years, I’ve been thinking he lost that eye in some bad ass op that we might one day see in flashbacks. After Winter Soldier, I kinda thought Pierce had something to do with him losing the eye, or was at least present when the shit went down. But, after all this time, it was the Flerken?! He got fucking scratched by a space cat, and I guess he let it get infected? What a letdown!

Anyway, it’s not all bad. I frontloaded this thing with the negatives, but there were things I truly enjoyed here. We got a Nick Fury movie without ever actually getting a Nick Fury movie. I’d love to see one where he’s actually seen some shit. I mean, here he’s like a cop who’s a few months from retirement. I know he works for S.H.I.E.L.D. but I’m not getting a “bad ass” vibe off of him. Maybe that comes once the eye is gone? Who knows? Anyway, I still like him here for what he was.

I also really loved Maria Rambeau, especially when she and Fury got to play off each other in space. We rarely get the experience of two Black people looking at each other like “Do you see this shit right here!?” in the MCU, so that was a rare treat.

And my favorite, favorite part that I loved, loved LOVED was Talos. I never knew I could love Ben Mendelsohn so much. I mean, I even liked him in his S.H.I.E.L.D. director Brick Tamland disguise, but it got so much better at the farmhouse, when he was just allowed to cut loose. He was SUCH a great character. Shit, I’d have preferred the movie have just been about him. He was just so damn entertaining!

Anyway, I can’t write the character off completely, ’cause I guess we’ll need her against Thanos, but I’m reserving judgement til I see what happens after that post-credits scene we got. I know a lot of people got a lot out of this, from the joy of representation, to the feeling of empowerment it provided. I’m glad it affected so many people positively, and I’m not trying to take away from that for anyone. I just wish I could join ya, ’cause it just kinda felt flat to me. Your mileage may vary. I give it 3 out of 5 Stan Lees.

Speaking of Marvel, we got another Avengers: Endgame trailer. Yeah, it’s nice and all, but I’m just ready for the movie already. I kinda hate how every trailer gets dissected and the fan theories run rampant. I mean, we all do it, but I at least try to keep mine to myself. Not record a 90-minute YouTube video about it. I’ve got no nitpicks here, and no fan theories. My body is ready!

Do we really have to talk about that college scam bullshit? OK, for anyone not in the know, a bunch of folks were rounded up and arrested for bribing college officials and testing coordinators to help get their kids into prestigious schools. Amongst that group were Felicity Huffman, and Mrs. Rebecca Donaldson-Katsopolis herself, Lori Loghlin. We’ve all fired off our “Aunt Becky” jokes on social media, but my final word on this is that it’s a New Money problem.

Did you ever read The Great Gatsby? It delineates between New Money and Old Money. If you won the lottery tomorrow, you’d be New Money, because you’re not used to wealth, and you’ll probably do stupid things with it, like trick out an Escalade or make it rain at the local strip club. Old Money, however, is institutionalized. Old Money have buildings named after them, they have rare and exquisite art collections on loan to the world’s biggest museums. New Money spends, while Old Money invests. Old Money knows how this college system works because they’ve been doing it since the beginning of higher learning. You donate enough money to have a library named after you, and the school really can’t say no. I mean, why risk you taking back your generous gift when all they have to do is open up a seat for your kid? Easy math.

New Money, meanwhile, is up to stupid tricks, like bribing test prep folks, and having coaches create spots on athletic teams for sports the kids don’t even play! Y’all were doing too much and, in the words of DJ Khaled, “Ya played yaself!” Loughlin allegedly paid close to $500,000 to get her Instagram influencer daughter into USC. Half a million dollars for USC?! Look, when I graduated from Cornell, they sent us a catalog detailing what we could get for each level of donation. Think of it like the PBS pledge drive, but with real estate involved. For example, $10,000 got you a practice room in the music hall, without a piano. Meanwhile, $30,000 would get you one with a piano. I remember somebody donated for the piano room, and they dedicated that shit to Jerry Garcia. There was a plaque and everything. And it still both bewilders and angers me that someone had enough money to just throw it away like that. Sure, maybe he’s a big fan of The Grateful Dead, but if I’m throwing $30K at something, I’m either naming it after my mother or Maria Stark.

Anyway, this group of “elite parents” really need some Old Money friends, ’cause there were a ton of folks, laughing their asses off, while greasing the right palms this week. I’d recommend everyone find them an Old Money friend, ’cause it’ll teach you wonders about money.

It was announced last night on The Tonight Show that YouTube star Lilly Singh will be taking over the timeslot being vacated by Carson Daly’s Later. Her show will be called A Little Late with Lilly Singh. Is that where all the hosts of the future will come from? YouTube? I mean, they got the new Double Dare host from there, and now this. Meanwhile, I’m just becoming an old man, and all these kids have names like Chad Zachary Chad and I can’t tell them apart.

In the world of comics, I’m sort of surprised that DC Comics had a bit of a Come to Jesus moment all due to the Bat Penis. If you weren’t aware, DC launched this edgier imprint, called Black Label, last year that was going to take their signature characters in some interesting directions. Well, in the first issue of Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo’s Batman: Damned, you can see Batman’s penis. I have the issue, but haven’t read it. Haven’t even seen the panel in question online. Still, it caused quite the stir, forcing delays on the rest of the series for it to be rewritten. At a comic retailer summit last weekend, DC co-publisher Dan Didio said the whole incident made them question who they had become as a publisher. Even though the image was waved off by co-publisher Jim Lee as a result of lightening the page, Didio felt like they had done some damage with their relationship with retailers, and that they had to take a step back and really think about where they were headed. Now, this is a summit for retailers – some of the most cantankerous folks alive – so of course Didio is going to try to sweet talk them. Still, I always find it refreshing when a brand openly admits “We made a mistake.” Learn from it and move on. So few companies, OR PEOPLE, seem to be able to do that in this day and age.

Finally, social media was ablaze yesterday as folks voiced their displeasure in Netflix cancelling the critical hit reboot of One Day at a Time. With this incarnation of the show focusing on a Cuban-American family, it had become quite the beacon of representation in media. So, folks felt that Netflix had a commitment to keep this show going, even when Netflix said that the audience wasn’t large enough to make a 4th season viable.

Have a seat. Let’s chat. I know you’re upset about losing a show you liked, but it’s just business. Ratings are funny because we ultimately don’t need to see them. Folks are always like “Well, what were the ratings?” when their favorite shows are cancelled. Ratings are used to SELL ADS. It’s why streamers don’t have to give us viewer numbers. We don’t know what a network has invested in a show, so we can’t really sit back and ask “Oh, you mean that wasn’t enough people watching?” And if we DID get the ratings, and they were, like, a million viewers short, what then? You gonna call a million of your closest friends? Is a network really supposed to take a loss for “representation” when the represented don’t show up to support it?

Why spend money on a show that has no audience? It ain’t a charity. Now, sure, we don’t know streaming numbers, but they weren’t enough to make them keep the show. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Folks want them to keep airing the thing so they get some kind of “brownie points” in their “commitment to diversity”. They’re just gonna create a diverse show, in house, that they’ll OWN. See, that’s the clincher right there: Netflix has to pay the show’s production studio, Sony, a pretty hefty licensing fee to carry the show. This is why Netflix has been cancelling most of the shows they don’t own, like the Marvel series. Still, some folks didn’t like that Netflix didn’t mention this in their statement. What, throw Sony under the bus when they may have to do business with them in the future?

Then I’ve seen folks use the argument that “Well, they could afford it if they hadn’t paid $100 million for Friends!” No! Stop using that defense. They threw $100 million at Friends because White people STILL love Friends and it performs well in syndication. Were that not the case, they’d have paid a lot less than $100 million. Friends is basically a “loss leader”. It cost them a lot on the front end, but they hope it’ll be an investment that brings eyes to the service. It’s not like they just flushed $100 million down the drain. The mentality is basically “Come for some familiar flavor that you know you like, and then try something new.” You need a big show for that to work, not some middling critical darling.

I know y’all out there loved the show and, no, I never saw it. I haven’t fired up Netflix since 2017. There’s just too much shit to do and watch these days. Still, I heard great things so it seems like it was quite a loss. That said, stop taking all this business stuff personally. Channel that anger elsewhere. Create your own stuff. This isn’t the end of representation and it’s possibly not even the end for this show, as Sony plans to shop it around. Based on the groundswell of support it’s gotten over the past 24 hrs, a network would be a fool to instantly pass on it. Only time will tell, but there’s more to these decisions than we like to believe.

OK, it may not have knocked my socks off, but I still know a cultural phenomenon when I see one. Captain Marvel had the highest grossing opening for a film with a female lead. It’s already crossed $500 million. And it put us at the doorstep of Avengers: Endgame. So, giving credit where credit is due, Captain Marvel had the West Week Ever.

08th Mar2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/8/19

by Will

 

There’s quite a bit of pop culture-y goodness to discuss this week, which is a welcome change of pace.

First off, yeah, I’ve seen Captain Marvel, but we’ll talk about that next week. Give y’all some time to see it, ’cause I’ve. Got. Thoughts.

In movie news, Warner Bros announced a new animated Scooby-Doo film, that’s to kick off the shared Hanna-Barbera Universe, with the gang taking on Dick Dastardly. Well, in a controversial move, WB replaced Matthew Lillard as the voice of Shaggy, recasting him with Will Forte. It left a bad taste in folks’ mouths because 1) Lillard found out about the recasting along with the rest of the world, and 2) he’s been voicing Shaggy since Casey Kasem stepped down from the role in 2009 (plus he starred in the role in the 2 live action films). So, if you’ve seen Scooby-Doo and the Dairy Queen of Death or whatever the fuck straight to video thing they’re slinging, that voice you heard was Lillard.

I get that Lillard’s had the role for a bit, but I can also see WB wanting more of a “name” for their Hollywood offering, since it’s going to be positioned as a bigger deal than the Warner Home Entertainment releases. And we just happen to live at a weird time where Will Forte can pull up on Matthew Lillard. What’s next? Michael Pena taking roles from Freddie Prinze Jr? Anyway, I get it. It sucks – especially for voiceover actors – but that just seems to be where Hollywood is headed. Tara Strong has voiced Harley Quinn forever, but the upcoming DC Universe animated series has tapped The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco for the role. Why? Because TBBT is the #1 sitcom on television (cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth). I’m not saying the practice is right, but I’m not surprised by it in the least.

Sticking with Warner Bros productions, it was revealed that Arrow will return next Fall for an abbreviated 10-episode final season. Ten episodes would take them right up to next year’s crossover, so I guess we know who dies in “Crisis”? Which, ya know, would be a fitting sacrifice. He’s more than avenged his city, and has grown in his quest. He’s no longer about simple revenge, and he’s inspired countless others. It works. I guess this means I’ve got to catch up on the show now, as I fell off early last season.

And one last, BIG, WB tidbit: Idris Elba is reportedly replacing Will Smith as Deadshot in The Suicide Squad. Frankly, I think Idris should actually play Bronze Tiger. I’m not one of those who feels like Deadshot HAS to be on the Squad. In the comic series, he and Harley are mainstays, which kinda throws a wrench in that whole “Anyone could die on any mission” threat. If he’s killed – even if offscreen – it proves there are actual stakes to the team. And it’ll be the second time Will Smith gets killed off a sequel off panel

 

I give you the most boring toy commercial I’ve ever seen. It lacks energy, and it’s almost like they don’t know their audience. Kids commercials have to be loud and bombastic. Make the kids WANT the shit. This voiceover sounds like she’s my therapist. The movie will do just fine, but I’m not sure the merch sales are gonna be so hot for Captain Marvel

The Kickstarter went live this week for WHITE, which is the sequel to the critically acclaimed graphic novel BLACK, which came out a few years ago. That story dealt with a world where superheroes exist, but the powers are only available to Black people. This sequel (the second part of a reported trilogy) appears to follow how White folks are coping with the fact that they can’t have powers. Well, just looking out the window, I can assume they ain’t gonna be too cool with that.

I’m tempted to pledge to this project, as I did support BLACK. That said, I also find BLACK in the $5 bin A LOT, making it hard for me to justify the $30 pledge when this volume is likely to experience a similar fate. Plus, while I haven’t read the entire story yet (despite having 2 years to do it), I did read the first issue, and it wasn’t very…good. Add to the fact that the Tuskegee Heirs Kickstarter has pretty much killed my faith in that platform for promoting new creative endeavors.

Speaking of comics, this tweet went viral from creator Jimmy Palmiotti, and I couldn’t disagree more. Looking at a lot of the replies, I’m not alone.

Nope, nope, nope! It’s NOT our job, as fans, to provide a living wage for comic professionals, and it’s wrong for said industry to try to guilt us into doing it. Palmiotti’s own friends, like Joe Quesada, prop up an industry that underpays their talent, and then goes out and expects fans to make up the difference. If you wanna give a little more to comics, that’s your choice, but it’s not your job or role to make sure Johnny Comic Book Artist can pay his bills. That’s on his publisher.

Meanwhile, it’s such a tacky ploy to try to pit fans against the “millionaire actors”, who are also there to give back to those fans/make their nut. There is NO money in comics. Most of us, regardless of our place in the pecking order, went into the industry knowing that. Whether the Diamond customer service rep, or the newbie Marvel artist, everybody’s just trying to get by. And it’s the individual’s choice as to what they should do with their money.

This song – “Ladies in the ’90s” – was actually released by Lauren Alaina back in October, but it’s just starting to gain traction with airplay. Seeing as how it’s been out so long, I think this lyric video is all we’re gonna get, which is sad because I can think of a lot of fun stuff to do with this concept. Anyway, the song has been stuck in my head all week, so maybe you’ll find it as fun as I do.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Alex Trebek announced that he is fighting Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In a recorded message, he jokingly said that he’d have to beat it, as he still has 3 more years on his contract. I’ll say this: when Trebek is done with Jeopardy! I want them to put it on ice for a few years. Family Feud disappeared after the Ray Combs era, and it had to slog through Richard Karn, Louis Anderson, and J. Peterman before they hit pay dirt with Steve Harvey. I’d rather not endure that slog with Jeopardy! any time soon. Let it stand as a monument to the man’s work until quite some time has passed.
  • The Mad About You revival has finally found a home on Spectrum, along with the Bad Boys spinoff, LA’s Finest. The 10-episode “event series” will focus on Reiser and Hunt’s characters dealing with “empty nest syndrome” as their daughter goes off to college. And I don’t know a single person who wants to watch this. I was a Mad About You FAN, and I don’t want this. All I know is Ira better be there, or they can go straight to Hell.
  • I don’t normally cover death here, but Luke Perry sadly passed away earlier this week after the massive stroke he suffered last week. The thing that’s been most surprising to me, however, are all of the great stories folks have shared about his kindness. I always kinda figured the former 90210 star was something of a douchebag (though I had absolutely nothing to back that up), so it was great to hear that I was wrong and had judged him too quickly. It doesn’t seem like Hollywood is filled with NICE people, but it certainly sounds like they just lost one with the loss of Perry.
  • The Twitter Sleuths are on the case! Between the release of the documentary Leaving Neverland, focused on the Michael Jackson sexual assault allegations, and the Gayle King/R. Kelly 2-day interview, folks got their fill of juicy morsels to dissect and try to figure shit out. Nevermind the fact that these are situations that ruined kids’ lives. I blame Serial for this, but it’s also 2019, which is a blanket excuse for anything these days.

  • I’m not really one to do food reviews, but I HAD to grab the brand spanking new Orange Vanilla Coke Zero. I don’t taste even a HINT of Coke. It might as well just be some Orange Fanta with some vanilla syrup in it. It’s not to say I don’t like it, but it’s not something I can guzzle back to back. I can tear through some Vanilla Coke Zero, but I need something of a refractory period after drinking just one of these.

I am a Power Rangers fan. That’s no secret to anyone who’s been to this site before. Still, being a fan of that franchise for the past few years has been like cheering on a losing sports team. I’ve checked in every now and then, but nothing really piqued my interest. I made a promise to myself, some 20 years ago now, that I’d watch the show as long as it was on the air. It had been good to me in rough times, so I would never leave it. I had no idea, however, that the friggin’ thing was gonna follow me to the grave! Over the years, watching every episode became watching every premiere and finale, which became watching every premiere. It was just enough to keep my promise to myself, but it kept me from getting engrossed – a good thing, since I would just end up focusing on how bland the Neo-Saban era of Power Rangers had become. Last year, however, toymaker Hasbro purchased the franchise from creator Haim Saban, with a desire to breathe new life into the property. Now, suddenly I realized I didn’t have to be an Orioles fan anymore because now we had the Nationals (did I do the sports right there?)!

Hasbro’s first offering premiered last Saturday morning, as Power Rangers Beast Morphers. I was cautious. Not cautiously optimistic. Simply cautious. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew everything about what had come before. So there was an uphill battle ahead of Beast Morphers. That said, this was the first time I’d felt open to a new incarnation since Power Rangers Samurai, which was a disappointment out of the gate (WHY didn’t Nick air the PILOT as the first episode?!).

As the show began, I was already seeing some familiar tropes. A gym & juice bar, and a young White guy leading a Karate class? Is it 1993 again?! OK, I was settling in. As the show went on, what I found I really enjoyed about it was how it honored and embraced what had come before. In the first episode, we not only get a reference to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain Rita Repulsa, but it was also tied to the most recent villain – a show of support for the continuity that Saban had dodged so deftly. This was a show that was built on what had come before. Sure, it was a clean slate, but it wasn’t a jarring hard reboot.

Plus, there were quite a few swerves when it came to the characters. This is the first group of Rangers, in about ten years, that I have actually found likable. I already care about them and want them to succeed. They’re not just bland pretty kids, which was the call sheet description from the past few seasons. AND (and this is a BIG and) it’s the first time in a very long time that I even liked the supporting characters. The wacky brother and sister who run Grid Battleforce security, the teen prodigy who has figured out how to tap into the Morphing Grid, even the stern, with a heart of gold, commander of Grid Battleforce – I loved them all.

It’s still early, and strong pilots can quickly turn into mundane series, but I think we might have a winner here. I think Power Rangers is actually GOOD right now, y’all. That’s CRAZY! Anyway, this is why Power Rangers Beast Morphers had the West Week Ever.

08th Feb2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/8/19

by Will

So, is this a monthly thing now? I’m not entirely sure. I mean, I was thinking of ways to kind of retool this feature and make it more engaging. I know folks don’t like to read, so I thought in terms of stand-up comedy, trying to come up with my “tight 15”. However, that plan isn’t gonna work this week. There’s quite a bit to talk about, but I’m gonna be selective. We’re not gonna cover everything from the week ’cause, well, it was a dumpster fire.

I’ve been wavering about whether to address this, but I kinda feel like I owe it to some folks. You see, almost ten years ago, I did this thing on Twitter for the month of February, chronicling great moments in Black History. A year later, I kinda refined it and made it into a blog post. I had a lot of fun writing those things, and I guess it was some ploy to try to go viral. Over the years, February would roll around, and I would start with the tweets again. Some of them I LOVED, while some were just kinda “meh”, and I swore that I’d spend the next year thinking of better things to supplant the weaker jokes. However, the next thing I knew, February would roll around again, and I’d have nothing to show for that promise of new tweets. About 2 years ago, something changed.

I don’t really need to rehash politics on here, as y’all have eyes and ears. You know what’s going on in this country. Anyway, back when those seeds started to bear fruit, I kinda noticed a change in what I was seeing when those tweets went out. Now I’m not trying to say I’m on his level at all, but I had what I called my “Chappelle Moment”. If you don’t know, back before he infamously walked away from his Comedy Central show, he said one of the reasons was that he noticed that the laughter had changed. He found certain crowds were laughing at him rather than with him. It was like he had lost control of the audience, and I completely felt that. I noticed folks with MAGA accounts retweeting the stuff, and I wasn’t really liking the interactions I was seeing. So, that kinda put a bad taste in my mouth. However, we’re about to employ that “both sides” argument that’s so popular these days.

While this was going, there were other changes going on across social networks. #BlackTwitter was becoming something of a monolith, but I can’t get arrested by that crowd. They have never given a shit about anything I’ve done unless I’ve “caped” for a White man that had fallen out of favor for that particular period of time (this was prior to the rise of Cancel Culture). What I was doing was far from original, but just as the 1 Gotta Go dude saw a bunch of imitators rise up, I was seeing the unfunniest “Today in Black History” tweets going viral over there, and I guess I was like “Why are you drinking Dr. Thunder when you can have Dr. Pepper?” On top of that, this “friend” from high school had a moment on Facebook, where she felt the need to ask me why I only refer to Blackness to poke fun at it. “I only see you talking about Black people when you’re making jokes.” It’s like, “C’mon, Stephanie. We were all having a good time til you showed up with your bullshit.” So, I did a lot of thinking.

The whole “Why aren’t they retweeting MY stuff?” is clearly sour grapes, but at the end of the day I felt I’d lost control of the thing anyway. People would retweet them out of order (there actually is an ebb and flow to them), or blast them all out on one day. It wasn’t “mine” anymore. So, I stopped. I might do it again one day. Maybe I’ll keep my promise and actually spend the next 11 months thinking of new stuff for a grand return. I really don’t know what will happen, but all of that is why there are no Today In Black History tweets this year.

So, enough with the narcissism. Let’s take a look at the what happened in the world this week.

Oh, WORD? Blackface? He wanted to kill a random Black man? THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER IS BLACKMAILING THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD?!

OK, if you follow me on Twitter (@williambwest), I’ve already addressed some of this. Can’t look at the past through 2019 eyes. Northam was in blackface in 1984, yet the movie Soul Man, in which C. Thomas Howell dons blackface in order to scam an affirmative action scholarship, made $35 million (approximately $84 million today) just 2 years later. My thoughts have changed over the week regarding Neeson. Might talk about that another week. Might not. No, today, we’re gonna talk about Jeff Bezos. Again, this thread was on Twitter this morning, but I feel it needs to be restated here.

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is being blackmailed by the National Enquirer‘s parent company, American Media Inc (AMI). See, Bezos has been poking the bear into AMI’s ties to the Saudi Arabian government, so AMI (believed to be acting under direction from their ally Donald Trump) tried to persuade Bezos to drop his investigation by threatening to release some salacious texts and pics that he may have sent to his new girlfriend while he was still married. Oh, did I mention that his private investigator believes these texts were intercepted by a government entity, possibly indicating that Trump is using the governmental tools at his disposal to target his enemies? Anyway, Bezos decided that he wouldn’t be bullied, so he got in front of it and revealed the whole thing, including the emails that AMI sent him. Wait a minute, though – he didn’t reveal the WHOLE thing. He never said “I sent these texts while I was still married, but that is a personal matter.” So, maybe AMI actually was on to something, but he burst their bubble.

Yeah, it’s fun to watch powerful people fight each other, but let’s not forget that some bystander always gets killed by debris. I’m not about to be so quick to cheer on Bezos, even if he IS “standing up to a bully”. To continue my comic analogy, this is like when The Hulk fights Namor. Sure, they’ve both been on the side of angels at one time or another, but it’s not always clear which one is the “good guy” in any given engagement, at first glance.

Of course we want Bezos to “win”, ’cause fuck the National Enquirer. However, when it’s all over, Bezos will still go back to being the richest man in the world, giving pretty much nothing to charity, and continuing to subject his employees to harsh working conditions. Not to mention the little alarm bells the letter set off for me. For example, sure, we encounter folks from all walks of life in our travels, but why has Bezos known the best private investigator in the business for 20 years? What else has that guy done for him? Or the fact that he takes credit for delivering all of Amazon’s initial orders to the post office HIMSELF, when it’s been confirmed many times over the years that his soon-to-be-ex-wife did a lot of the “courier” work in those days – the same ex-wife who’s kinda being slighted if the AMI narrative of “Married Executive Cheats on Wife and We’ve Got Proof!” turns out to be true.

At the end of that day, that’s none of our business. Nobody should be extorted. I’m just saying look at the actors in the roles before you decide to buy tickets to the show.

I’ve been watching a lot of television lately, and saw some stuff I wanted to discuss with you beautiful people.

I’ve got to admit that I kinda betrayed Conan O’Brien when he lost The Tonight Show. I’d been by his side since his NBC debut, yet while he was at his lowest point, I was kinda like “Eh, it wasn’t a great fit, so get over it.” When he and Andy moved to TBS, I never watched the show, and as he never entered the next morning’s watercooler conversation like his contemporaries, I found myself wondering why he was still doing this to himself. Just quit, and go fishing.

However, Conan recently entered the pop culture conversation as it was announced his TBS show was being retooled into a 30-minute format, forgoing suits and the band. I read a bunch of interviews with about about what we could expect from the new format, and to get a “temperature check” on where his head is at right now. I was really intrigued by a lot of what I read, and found myself checking out his Conan Without Borders travel specials on Netflix. This led to me falling down a YouTube rabbit hole, watching clips of the TBS show that I’d ignored the past 10 years.

Oh my God! What was wrong with me?! This stuff is so good! From his ribbing of associate producer Jordan Schlansky to the wacky adventures he gets into with his assistant, Sona, it felt like Old Conan. Late Night Conan, and not the guy who was trying to be “normal” for the earlier timeslot. I’m sure it’s documented on here, but I ALWAYS felt The Tonight Show was the wrong move for him. I understand it’s The Big Chair, and I was proud that he was “graduating”, but a lot of what made him special was not going to work in that timeslot. You think Leno could’ve had the Masturbating Bear? I’m sure he would have LOVED something that risky, but instead he had to stick to Jaywalking, asking randos stupid questions on street corners.

Anyway, all of this primed me for the debut of the new, sleeker Conan, and so far I’m not disappointed. Still get a monologue. Only one guest per show. There’s no padding. Still has that “We’re figuring this out as we go along” feel that he originally had on NBC – the same feel that made me a fan. So, if you haven’t checked it out, definitely catch up on Conan (we’re only 3 weeks into the new format).

Tropical Cop Tales – I don’t even know where to begin with this. Airing Fridays at midnight on Adult Swim, I can’t describe it. On the surface, it’s about 2 city cops who transfer to an island, and the crazy adventures that ensue. That’s basically all I can say. It’s, by far, one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. When it started, I immediately wondered “What the fuck am I watching?” In fact, it gave me an appreciation for drug users, ’cause I know they would embrace the shit out of this show. By the end of the second episode, though, I found myself loving it more than I ever thought possible. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. It has to be seen to be believed. Oh, and I had a nice chuckle when I realized the title was a play on “tropical cocktails”.

Teen Titans Go! Three of the shows I regularly watch on Cartoon Network had some great “homage” episodes this week. It kicked off with TTG, where the writers throw some MAJOR SHADE at Stranger Things. In fact, the title of the episode is “Nostalgia Is Not A Substitute For An Actual Story”. Fuuuuckkkkkk. I should point out that this kinda aligns with my initial impression of the show, which is why I’ve never cared to watch it. Anyway, it’s a time travel episode, where the team goes back to the 80s. If you loved that part of Teen Titans Go to the Movies, then you’ll LOVE this episode.

Then, We Bare Bears had a Power Rangers homage, where the bears are using their imagination to become a part of their favorite show, Ultra Meteorite Fighters. Since that show features 4 teens, and there are only 3 bears, they use their imagination to conjure up a 4th team member, Silver Bear, voiced by the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Jason David Frank (original Green Ranger). In a flip of the original Green Ranger Saga, Silver Bear starts out as the Bears’ ally, until they realize he’s out of control and try to cut him loose. That’s when he becomes the evil Black Stone, and they have to take him down. There’s Zord battles, and a Dragon Dagger. That 12-minute episode, though “unofficial”, was the best episode of Power Rangers I’ve seen in the past 10 years. Not even lying.

Finally, if you weren’t aware, Unikitty from The LEGO Movie has her own cartoon. I kinda hate it. It’s just got TOO much going on, and it gives me whiplash. Still, in the episode I saw the other day, Unikitty finds Batman’s suit at the laundromat, and proceeds to put it on and patrol the city. The entire time, LEGO Batman (again voiced by Will Arnett) keeps calling her, demanding that she return his suit. There are some funny in-jokes if you’re a Bat fan, and it was certainly the first episode of that series that I enjoyed.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the world of podcasts. First off, the guys over at Nerd Lunch announced that they’ll be winding down…soon? I really don’t know. They have a date in mind, but they’re not going to tell us until it gets close. This hits a bit close to home for me, as they’re probably the last show standing that invites me on as a guest. So, I guess I’m retiring from podcast guesting soon? I guess we’ll have to see.

Since I totally made their swan song about me, let’s continue on the narcissistic train, shall we? I kinda have this unspoken (until now) rule that I don’t listen to podcasts that have never had me on as a guest. It’s not that I’m so important, but I like having that relationship with them. I like that, instead of yelling at my phone or the computer, I can email or tweet them and say, “You meant to say ‘Hugo Weaving’.” Yeah, I’m an asshole. Plus, there are just WAY too many podcasts out in the world (approximately 630,000, according to CBS), so why waste time on something where I don’t have a personal connection? Anyway, with all “my” shows coming to an end (Did *I* kill them?), I’ve had to “diversify my bonds” when it comes to podcasts. Let’s see where that’s taken me, shall we?

Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend – This was discovered during my personal Conan Renaissance. Launched back around October, there are only about 15 or so episodes at this point, and I binged them all last week. the premise is that Conan is so busy working that he doesn’t have any friends. So, he invites former show guests/people he’s always admired to record with him, to see if they might become friends. I like it because it’s all surface. It’s none of that “What was your motivation when you played this role?” Instead, it’s like “So, back when we were at SNL, I remember you used to love eating White Castle while wearing gloves.” I like funny anecdotes more than critical analysis. If you’re in that boat, then check it out!

Gettin’ Better – This one is hosted by comedian Ron Funches, and I learned about it when he was a guest on Conan’s podcast. If you’ve ever seen Funches, you already love him. It’s impossible to hate that guy. From his voice to the fact that he just comes off as “huggable”, you’ll be an instant fan. Anyway, his show features his friends who come to discuss ways in which they’re trying to better themselves. For example, Funches has lost over 140 lbs over the past 3 years, so he’s just brimming with positivity and what’s people to find their “thing”. It might sound “self-helpy”, but it’s a really good show typically featuring fellow comedians (and X-Pac!), talking about how they’re trying to “get better”.

The Ron Burgundy Podcast – It’s funny how “exclusive” means nothing anymore. iHeartRadio spent the whole holiday season bragging that they were gonna be the exclusive home of The Ron Burgundy Podcast, with Will Ferrell reprising his role from the Anchorman films. It was gonna debut Jan 31st. Then, they bumped the debut a week and the next thing you know, the ads changed to “Available wherever podcasts are found”. So, it’s basically like “Thanks, iHeartRadio for handling the marketing work for your competitors!”

Anyway, that unsteady marketing plan seems to be a good measure of the show itself. I was really wondering how it was gonna work, because there’d have to be some degree of “time displacement” for it to work, since podcasts didn’t exist during Ron’s heyday. Would he be in modern times? Would it be more of a radio play? Whatever it is, it doesn’t fully work. Yet.

The first 20 minutes are basically Ferrell stretching the joke that Ron doesn’t exactly know what a podcast is. He’s got this weary producer named Carolina where it’s not clear if she’s real or a character. Her delivery is forced, and by the end of the episode, you’re not entirely sure whose side she’s on. Meanwhile, the premiere episode had Ron tackling the True Crime genre. Basically, think of what you’d get if Ron Burgundy hosted Serial. Yeah, that idea works for about 10 minutes – not the 49 minutes that we get.

I’ll stick with it, ’cause I love Ferrell, and I love that character. Still, I’m not sure I’d recommend it yet. Anybody else listen to it and has any thoughts?

There’s no Things You Might Have Missed this week. Maybe next week. We’ll see. And nothing really stood out this week as being the BEST thing, so there’s no West Week Ever this week. Hang on, though, as we’re still getting our 2019 sea legs. We’ll figure this all out together. Anyway, leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe!

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