22nd Mar2019

Thrift Justice – Physical Education

by Will

I swear, I’ll eventually get back to pop culture ephemera and old toys, but I’ve spent so much time taking in physical media “strays” that I still have some stuff to say on the matter. I know folks love seeing crazy “Oh my gosh! Can you believe it?!” stuff, but I also know folks like to see complete busts, because it’s 2019 and schadenfreude rules the day! Here’s a situation that falls somewhere in the middle.

While I pick up a lot of stuff from thrift stores, during my Thrift Justice posting break, I adopted a new approach, where I scour yard sale apps for deals. I mean SCOUR! You know how folks spend a ton of time on Twitter or Instagram? That’s me on Facebook Marketplace. My wife says that I have an addiction, but I don’t think I’d ever perform oral sex on a stranger in a dark alley for any of this stuff. THAT’s addiction! So, to her, I say “Whatever”.

I already explained my strategy last time, so you should now be familiar with the stuff that I feel looks promising and what kind of stuff I’d pass on. Let’s talk about a recent example, where I initially passed, eventually caved, and then learned a valuable lesson.

I saw these pics on OfferUp a few weeks ago, and there was some pretty interesting stuff there. Just at a glance, you see the complete Six Feet Under, the complete Sex and the City, the complete 24, most of Nip/Tuck, and some Star Trek: Voyager seasons sticking out here and there. Not a bad lot. The bad thing, however, is that this fool wanted $200 for everything. Yeah, unless your name is Samuel J. Goody, you have no right asking for that kind of money for this – especially when it’s all used. Here’s the thing, though: with all the stuff I listed, it was definitely WORTH $200, but here’s where psychology comes into play: This is a great profit for a reseller, but it’s a terrible price for a reseller to PAY.

If you’ve watched American Pickers, or any show like that, you know that you’ve got to be able to make some money on your acquisitions. There needs to be “meat on the bone”. There’s not a lot of meat on that bone at $200. A used complete series of most television shows is in the neighborhood of $30-40. You can get a bit more if it’s out of print (For example, the season 1 & 2 set for California Dreams will still net you about $40 by itself. No such thing as a complete run, as they never released the final season. Not even in one of those on demand programs). Keep in mind, though, the series needs to have at least 5 seasons. Don’t expect to make any money off Da Ali G Show or something like that (for example, Chappelle’s Show is borderline worthless because everyone owned it at some point. They might as well have given it out at stoplights). So, just looking at the series I mentioned above, that’s a good $150-200 right there, and those were just a fraction of what I saw.

I saw the listing, but it was too rich for my blood, so I passed on it. I knew he was never gonna sell it at $200, though, and that was proven by how it just sat for weeks. So, I wasn’t surprised when one night I noticed he’d slashed the price to $50. Now we were in business! I messaged him, but we were also in the middle of a snowstorm and my car was in the shop. I wasn’t gonna miss out on dis bitch, tho!

I manage to get over to my mother’s house, and steal her car while she’s still asleep (CRIME!). I drive down to the guy’s apartment, which is in complete disarray. Ya see, he’s actually moving to Richmond that day, which is the reason for his desperation price drop. He can’t take the stuff with him, so he dropped it to fire sale prices. There are boxes everywhere, as he’s waiting for the movers to come. Still, on the far wall, I see that familiar media case, with the Star Trek: Voyager sets on it. He’s out of boxes by this point, and apparently expected me to bring my own. I did not, so he hands me some garbage bags. And I start bagging. He tells me that everything on this side of the apartment is up for grabs, ’cause it’s not coming with him. I don’t know if that means I’ve got to pay more or that he’s throwing it in with the DVDs. We’ll come back to that.

As I’m bagging, I’m kinda overwhelmed by everything he has. I mean, for one thing, there are about 25 travel DVDs and Blu Rays. I don’t even know who would watch those things, and he clearly wasn’t the type, as none of them had been opened. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re the kind of video you’d play for ambiance if you ran a nail salon. Top 10 National Parks and Europe In A Day. Stuff like that. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice that 24 season 7 is on the floor, off to the side of the case. I didn’t think much of it, as the rest of the series was in one of my trash bags, so I just grabbed it and threw it in.

He also had quite a few collections from motivational speaker Anthony Robbins, and I wasn’t sure if they were included in the sale. I’ve had a strange fascination with Tony Robbins over the years (Does that stuff really work?), but I knew I probably couldn’t sell it, ’cause that Guthy-Renker/BeachBody infomercial stuff is always covered by copyrights that can get your eBay account deleted. Anyway, I said “Screw it”, and threw them in the bag, as well.

As I’m shoveling stuff into bags, I start to notice all the stuff I hadn’t been able to see in the pics on the app. For one, dude really loves musicals. And the Royal Family. So, if I had to do a sidewalk assessment of the guy, I’m picking up “gay man who learned to love himself through the power of Tony Robbins”. I start looking at other stuff over on the side, but nothing really catches my eye other than 2 things: a new Xbox One remote/keyboard, and a new pair of furniture covers to protect your couches from pets. You see, we were headed to Richmond that afternoon to go check out the dog that would eventually become ours. Oh, I haven’t mentioned we have a dog now? Yeah, he shits in the house and terrorizes the children. I’m not a fan right now. Anyway, I knew I didn’t want this potential dog messing up my furniture so I grabbed those covers. I had already thrown the Xbox remote into one of the bags, but I actually showed the covers to the guy, ’cause I wanted him to know I was taking them, and didn’t want to get shot in some stranger’s apartment over a pet cover dispute (You laugh, but a guy in TN was murdered by the guy offering him $200 for his Xbox One from Facebook Marketplace just a few weeks ago). At that point, he’s like “OK, how about $10?” Oh, so he’s gonna monetize everything he’s got, huh? Should I tell him about the remote? I think NOT. So, I only have $5 left after the DVD purchase, and tell him I’ll only take one since that’s all I’ve got. Some folks might be like “Don’t worry about it. Take both.” He was not one of those folks. So, I shove the cover into one of the bags, give him the $5 bill, thank him, and leave.

As I’m driving home, I’m giddy about these 2 giant trash bags of physical media that were going to make me a mini fortune of “walking around money”. Maybe I can finally show my face at the comic shop that’s been holding merchandise for me since October. I’m kinda hoping they think I’m dead by this point. Then, as I’m driving, I’m starting to have my Usual Suspects moment. I’m piecing together all the Keyser Soze stuff in my head, reliving the past hour or so. And it starts to occur to me all of the stuff I don’t remember seeing. Despite what I had seen on the app, I now couldn’t remember actually putting Six Feet Under in one of the bags. Or even Sex and the City. As I kept driving, other stuff was now apparent that it wasn’t actually there when I got there. No wonder he had dropped the price – THE MOTHERFUCKER HAD PULLED A BAIT & SWITCH AND REMOVED ALL THE VALUABLE STUFF! At this point, the lot was basically worth the $50 he was asking.

You’d think I’d rush home and immediately take inventory, but you would be wrong. I kinda stewed in it for a while. Life got in the way, we got this shit machine of a dog, and the bags sat in the back on my car for about 2 weeks. When I finally got around to seeing what it was I’d actually gotten, my theory became truth. There was no collection about a sad looking White family that runs a funeral home. There was no collection about Carrie Bradshaw and her antics in a pre-cell phone New York City. There was no collection about plastic surgeons with no moral compass. Don’t get me wrong – there was still stuff there. I mean, he had all of Prison Break, and most of Oz and 24 – all still sealed. He had some new Martha Stewart collections, for the DIY folks out there, as well as some rare Wilton cake decorating tutorial DVDs. He had some musicals I could add to the personal collection. But the lot was no longer the goldmine it was teased as being.

This was a “teachable moment” to me, as it made me aware of some things I do in these transactions that probably need to change. For one, when I make a sale, I never count the money in front of the person. I think it comes down to not wanting to insult them, and then have that escalate into me being shot. I’ve never been stiffed, but I just try to be “Cool Dude” who’s all “Oh, it’s no problem. Thanks for meeting me!” Another thing I need to do is take my time and really assess what it is I’m buying in these transactions. I used to forget to do this when I first started reselling. I’d go to the thrift store, find something like an old G.I. Joe vehicle that was about 70% complete, and swear there was a buyer out there for it. Sure, maybe ONE, but I wasn’t on his radar, and I’d end up sitting on junk. In that setting, I learned to take my time and really inspect the stuff I was buying, so I wouldn’t end up with a ton of Beast Wars Transformers, with exposed ball joints indicating there were limbs missing. Here, I should have at least glanced before I started just shoveling into bags, and I should’ve had the balls to ask about the missing stuff had I noticed it while I was still in the apartment.

For a brief moment, I considered messaging the guy to ask “Hey, what the Hell?”, but I didn’t really think that was the best approach. Plus, Tony Robbins might have instructed him to stand his ground and curse me out, and I simply couldn’t have that! He didn’t mark the lot as sold on the app for weeks, so I wasn’t being asked to leave a review for how the transaction went, which was actually a relief. I mean, I don’t blame him for removing the more valuable stuff if he had another channel to sell where he’d make more money. No, I blame him for not updating the pics on OfferUp, making it seem like I, the buyer, would be receiving things I did not, in fact, receive. To borrow from the vernacular of the day, his ad was simply FAKE NEWS!

I’ve already flipped Prison Break for $35, and the Xbox remote for $25, so I’ve gotten my money back, but 24 was missing the final season, and one of the Voyager seasons was missing a disc, so it’s gonna be an uphill battle unloading some of this stuff. Look before you leap, True Believer!

Notes From The Road

When I first started Thrift Justice, it was supposed to end with this little segment where I give a little tip or trick that I’ve learned while thrifting. Since this whole post was something of a cautionary tale, however, I figured it already took care of that. So, instead, I wanted to connect you to some others out there with thrifting experience.

 

First up, there’s my brother from another mother, Team Hellions. He’s got quite the reselling cottage industry going, where he specializes in anything from VHS to old print ads. He’s also one Hell of a writer, and he just celebrated his 10th blogging anniversary. Visit his site to see the massive magazine lot he probably just acquired, but stay for the in-depth coverage of his latest project: the pop culture of 1983!

Also, be sure to check in on The Surfing Pizza. When I discovered this site, it was incredible writing about nostalgia – ya know, “Here’s something you probably remember.” In recent years, however, the focus has changed into “Here’s something that you probably remember, and here’s how it affected me.” That personal touch made all the difference, and the site has been firing on all cylinders ever since!

They’ve both got some thrifting stories to tell, so be sure to check them out!

01st Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/1/16

by Will

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Welcome back to a brand new installment of West Week Ever! I’ve got a confession to make, though: I’m tired. Between writing all the Spring Break posts this week, and that fact that today is April Fool’s Day and nobody believes anything they read anyway, I’m gonna keep it short today.

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So, about those Spring Break posts. You may not know what I’m talking about. Remember how MTV used to have special programming during Spring Break? They’d set up in a beach house, and have a week full of special programming. Well, that’s what I tried to do here. Sure, there was no beach house, but I tried to cover some topics that don’t get discussed enough around here: forgotten/maligned television theme songs and bad comic books. In case you missed any of the posts, here’s what you missed:

Monday – The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: Webster
Tuesday – The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: California Dreams
Wednesday – Just Imagine Stan Lee Wrote The Worst Batman Story Ever Published
Thursday – The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: Enterprise

Anyway, I had a lot of fun with those, so let know if you’d like to see any of that kind of stuff return in the future. Now, let’s get on with the pop culture news!

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In the world of comics, we finally got creative team announcements for DC’s Rebirth initiative. And it’s really nothing to write home about. Outside of the surprise of Scott Snyder getting a new series called All-Star Batman, and Jim Lee handling the art chores on Suicide Squad, the rest of the announcements simply feel like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. While DC might have a decent bench of up and comers, they don’t have any marquee names or exclusive creators to “bring all the boys to the yard”, so to speak. Most DC creator announcements can be met with a simple “Who?” There are some bright spots, though. For example, it appears that Terry McGuinness will be returning as Batman Beyond, but it also kinda pisses me off that we’ve wasted the past year or so with the Tim Drake incarnation of the character. David Finch as the Batman artist is pretty cool, but I’m not sure he ever mastered a timely, monthly schedule. There are also some questionable moves being made, though. Why bring back Nightwing when the Grayson book was such a fresh, and popular, take on the character? And why give Bryan Hitch a Justice League book that he’s not drawing, considering nobody really flocks to him for his writing? It all sounds interesting, but it doesn’t sound exciting. This isn’t the shot in the arm that DC Comics desperately needs, and the fan base is getting bored. I fear we’ll be right back here with Super Rebirth or Born Again or something in another year.

In comic movie news, the folks over at MCU Exchange really need to be hired by Marvel. The editing on this Civil War primer is better than most of the trailers we’ve gotten so far for the movie. I won’t say it gets me jazzed for the film, but it does a great job of summarizing everything that brought us to this point. It even ties in Jessica Jones and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – something that Marvel couldn’t be bothered to do themselves. That’s really been bothering me lately: Marvel’s unwillingness to take advantage of their shard universe by sprinkling more references to the movies into the TV shows. Would it kill Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to put a Stark delivery truck in the background of a street scene? Couldn’t they have put Stark/Avengers Tower in the background of a scene of Jessica Jones? It’s the little things that add up to build a much richer universe. This week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got major points in my book for not only referencing Stark and Sokovia, but for also sneaking in a Daredevil reference. More of that, please!

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In other comic movie news, there are reports that Suicide Squad is filming reshoots to make the film more “fun”. After all, that was a complaint that folks had about Dawn of Justice, but if it doesn’t fit tonally, don’t force it. Reshoots on a film of that caliber aren’t unusual, but folks seem to be falling over themselves trying to explain why these particular reshoots are any different than those for any other blockbuster film.

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So, here we are, at the end of this week’s post. This is the point at which I usually tell you who had the West Week Ever. Well, despite not liking the film myself, I’d be a fool to not acknowledge that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had the best week. It made a shit ton of money, even though it still “fell short” of some box office expectations. Whatever. I don’t really have much more to say about the movie, though, because I’ve kind of taken myself out of the discussion. I’m not sure if you’ve been on social media over the past week, but the discourse is FAR from civil. On both sides. I’ve seen some critics forge past the bounds of professionalism just to get their jabs in on the movie, but I’ve also seen fans of the movie berate folks for being “not smart enough to understand the movie”. Yeah, well, I got it, but I still didn’t like it (*dusts off Ivy League degree on wall*). So, I’m kinda done talking about it as, like with politics, nobody’s gonna sway anyone to their side – nor should they try. It’s OK for people to have different opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with saying “Ya know, that just wasn’t for me”, without being berated by those who did enjoy it. I never said it was a “bad movie” in my thoughts last week. I just said that I didn’t like it, but there are still people out there who would like to tell me that I’m wrong. How am I wrong in my feeling? Anyway, I had the pleasure of joining The Chap Report this week, where we discussed the film at length. It was nice to be able to talk about it in a non-hostile environment, and I believe I got out everything I needed to say. So, if you really want to know how I felt, complete with story spoilers (which I avoided in last week’s post), take a listen. It is my definitive take on the film, and I see no reason to discuss it further. If anyone asks “What did you think of the film?”, I’m just gonna post the link to the podcast. So, in closing, giving credit where it’s due, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Marthas of the world had the West Week Ever.

29th Mar2016

The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: California Dreams

by Will

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Back in 1992, two shows premiered about beautiful people forming bands. One show aired on NBC Saturday mornings (California Dreams), while the other aired during primetime on Fox (The Heights). The Heights went on to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, but then got canceled a week later. Meanwhile, California Dreams went on to enjoy 4 more seasons on the air, but never achieved the mainstream musical success that I felt it could’ve had. But first, let’s backtrack.

If you were too cool for school, then you probably didn’t watch NBC’s live action Saturday morning fare. After all, some folks think that Saved by the Bell killed Saturday morning cartoons (it didn’t; cable did that), while others simply didn’t like the hokey nature of the show. Well, after Saved by the Bell‘s success, executive producer Peter Engel was at it again with California Dreams. As it could pretty much be described as “Saved by the Bell with music”, I like to call it “Saved by the Bell if the Zack Attack didn’t suck” (C’mon, “Friends Forever” was some garbage and you know it!). Set in Southern California, the show initially focused on siblings Matt and Jenny Garrison, and their garage band, the California Dreams. During the first season, it was more of a family ensemble show, but NBC was all about the pretty teens, so they had the producers get rid of that family aspect when the second season rolled around. From that point on, the focus was on the band, its members, and their struggles to hit it big. Oh and, since they were high school students, there was plenty of homework and dating drama.

This might be sacrilege to some, but I’ve always loved California Dreams more than Saved by the Bell. Most of the “Engelverse” reused storylines, so they were basically telling the same stories, but I liked that you got an original song with most episodes of Dreams. Plus, I had a huge crush on Heidi Noelle Lenhart (the brunette). Based on when the show hit, it was a sound that was so indicative of the era. When it comes to California Dreams songs, they’re pretty much just Wilson Phillips songs. Now, personally, this was a point in my life when I was listening to country, so I didn’t really know this sort of stuff got airplay. Had I known, I would’ve been all over pop radio at the time. Still, there’s something sugary sweet about their sound. It’s soothing to me, and it doesn’t really carry much of a message. Sometimes you just wanna kick back and not think, and the Dreams excelled at that kind of song. Whether it was “Castles on Quicksand” or “Rain”, it was hard to be disappointed by a California Dreams song. That said, I think their best song is the theme song to the show. Even listening to it now, it takes me back to a better time.  For me, the early 90s were perfect. No bills, no puberty, no worries. Just close your eyes and listen:

Those harmonies! Smooth like butter. Most folks can rattle off “When I wake up in the morning, and the alarm gives out a warning…”, but they don’t know about this. I hear something like Wilson Phillips’ “The Dream Is Still Alive”, and wonder how that got airplay and the Dreams didn’t (that’s a “real world” California Dreams song if I’ve ever heard one). Was that just something the producers didn’t pursue with the show? They must not have, as you’ve never heard a California Dreams song on the radio and I think that’s a shame. With all of the throwaway pop groups of the 90s, like The Party, there was certainly a place on the radio for the California Dreams. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Oh, and that other group I mentioned – their song didn’t suck, either. I actually really dig “How Do You Talk To An Angel”, so I’ll leave you with that, as something of a “bonus track”.

06th Feb2015

West Week Ever – 2/6/15

by Will

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Well, the week started out with me watching Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of. I’d known of this documentary for a while, but I had planned to wait until it aired on HBO later this year. Well, the movie was released On Demand and theatrically at the same time, and I had nothing to do Friday night, so I fired up that On Demand. I’m a boyband fanatic, so this was really a no-brainer, but I was surprised to learn a bunch of stuff that I never knew before. Here’s the gist of the documentary: to celebrate their 20th anniversary tour, as well as the return of group member Kevin Richardson (he took a few years off), the Backstreet Boys decide to visit each member’s hometown in order to learn more about each other. It’s designed to tug on the heartstrings, as you relive familial deaths, fights, and other drama. You also get to see what it’s like being a grown man in a “boyband”. Hint: it ain’t pretty. Brian’s voice now unreliably comes and goes, while AJ has had two knee replacement surgeries. Some stuff I knew, like how the guys felt betrayed that their manager Lou Pearlman essentially created their competition when he created *NSYNC. Some stuff I didn’t know, however, like the fact that Howie D sang all of the leads before the guys started recording. Once they got the “Max Martin sound”, he was pushed to the background, and has quietly resented it the past 20 years. The documentary is not for young viewers, however, as they say “fuck” a LOT. There’s even a pretty intense screaming match between Brian and Nick that’ll leave you uncomfortable. In fact, Nick seems uncomfortable throughout the entire affair.  This is especially apparent when they visit Lou Pearlman’s old mansion, seeing as how there were allegations that Lou may have molested the Carter boys. If you’re a Nick fan, you’re just gonna worry for him. Anyway, if you’re a longtime fan of the group, it’s a great documentary and I recommend checking it out.

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On the Netflix front, I caught Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats. I was familiar with Peretti from her acting gigs, such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but I’d never really heard her standup. She’s funny, though it wasn’t hilarious. It was striving to be surreal in ways that I’m not quite sure worked. For example, she’d tell a joke, and then they’d randomly pan to a dog in the audience, to elicit a “There’s a dog in the audience!!!” response. There was also a bunch of awkward audience participation bits. It probably played better on paper, but the execution was left wanting. Anyway, it’s a decent way to kill an hour, as her material was pretty good.

 

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I also checked out the FXX series Man Seeking Woman, which is a really quirky show. For lack of a better description, it’s kinda like a live action Family Guy, with metaphorical cutaways. It stars Jay Baruchel, who breaks up with his college sweetheart and has to get back into the dating world. In the pilot, his sister sets him up with a literal troll named Gorbachaka, while his ex-girlfriend is now dating Hitler. Yes, that Hitler. Apparently, he faked his death and is now 127 years old. See, that’s the kind of thing Family Guy would try to pull. I watched the first 3 episodes, and I love anything that Baruchel does, so I’ll be keeping up with it for the rest of the season. It’s just a shame that it airs opposite Broad City, so it’ll be an a DVR show for now.

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ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat debuted a week earlier than its announced premiere date, and it seems like folks loved it. Based on the memoirs of Eddie Huang, it follows a young hip-hop loving Chinese kid whose family moves from DC to Florida so that his father can achieve the American Dream. ABC showed 2 episodes Wednesday night (before and after the hit Modern Family), and I was able to catch the pilot. In all, it was a funny show. It’ll be interesting to see how the racial politics play out. I was kinda disappointed that it had to be the black kid to call Eddie a “chink”, but if that’s how the story actually happened, then so be it. I wish we could’ve heard what Eddie called him back, but I’m sure you can’t say those words on network television. Anyway, the real test will be when FOTB moves to its regular timeslot, Tuesdays at 8. That’s a hard night, as it’ll be going against The Flash, Masterchef/Masterchef Juniors, and Parks & Recreation. ABC is having a hard enough time with Tuesdays, as Selfie and Manhattan Love Story failed there earlier this season, meanwhile Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. haven’t been ratings blockbusters. Fresh Off The Boat won’t have the benefit of a lead-in, so the night will land squarely on its shoulders.

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The Netflix Daredevil trailer was released this week, giving us a taste of what to expect when the series hits this April. A lot of people are applauding the gritty tone of the trailer, but I think it looks kinda fan filmy. Maybe it’s because he’s not in his iconic suit yet, but it just looks kinda…low budget to me. This was just a teaser, though – maybe we’ll get a better look at the show closer to its debut.

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I got some of the best news ever this week when it was announced that Trina McGee and Blake Clark will be appearing on Girl Meets World. McGee played Shawn Hunter’s girlfriend, Angela, on Boy Meets World while Clark played his dad, Chet Hunter. McGee left the show when Angela’s dad, The Last Dragon‘s Sho’ Nuff, decided that he wanted her to come live with him. Meanwhile, Chet Hunter died in the later seasons of the show, but reappeared a few times to give Shawn advice. When Shawn appeared on the Christmas episode of Girl Meets World, it was revealed that he’s disappointed that he hasn’t found anyone to settle down with yet. I hope hope hope this means they’re going to reunite Shawn and Angela, as teenage Will lived for that relationship (and had a huge crush on Angela). For now, all we know is that the episode is titled “Girl Meets Hurricane”.

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Earlier this week, I wrote about former Power Ranger Ricardo Medina Jr and his alleged murder case. Well, it appears that he’s been released. The DA wants to make sure that he has all the facts, so no charges are being pressed at this time. So remember, if the sword don’t fit, Zordon must acquit. Yeah, that was lame…

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Speaking of Power Rangers, the latest season, Power Rangers Dino Charge, debuts tomorrow morning on Nick. The pilot was actually released on Nick.com last week, so I, and most fans, have already seen it. As a fan, this won’t come as much of a surprise, but I really liked it. It felt fresh, which is hard to do with a franchise that’s been around this long. I’ll also say that it’s the first Power Rangers incarnation that actually feels like a Nick show. I’m not sure if it’s the dialogue or the acting, but it actually feels like it’s on the right network for a change. I’m kinda tired of dinosaurs, and I hate the design of the suits, but I’ll be checking in on it every now and then.

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

-Damon Wayans Jr. is leaving New Girl at the end of the season.

-The Titans lineup for the in-development TNT series will include Nightwing, Hawk, Dove, Starfire, Raven, and Oracle.

Sports Illustrated is “making history” by featuring plus-size model Ashley Graham in an ad in the annual swimsuit issue.

Links I Loved

The Ever-Expanding Spider-Man Family of Comics – The Kliqnation

Breakdown of the Daredevil Trailer for Netflix – The Robot’s Pajamas

Lorne Michaels on 40 Years of ‘SNL’: Being “‘Feared’ Was Never My Goal” – The Hollywood Reporter

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You’ve all seen this already because it was on EVERY website, Jimmy Fallon had a Saved By The Bell reunion on The Tonight Show. I love that he finally got to do this, as it’s something he’d been working on since he was hosting Late Night. In fact, when he wasn’t able to get the whole cast, he went with a California Dreams reunion instead. I not-so-secretly love California Dreams more than Saved By The Bell (I think it was the musical aspect), so that was just fine with me. Still, I love when a plan comes together, so it was cool that he finally got his SBTB reunion. It’s funny how Screech and Lisa aren’t present, though they aren’t even missed. I always hated Lisa, while I could take or leave Screech most of the time, so I felt this reunion was perfect. My love of TNBC shows knows no bounds, so that’s why Jimmy Fallon’s Saved By The Bell reunion had the West Week Ever.

16th Jan2014

Track Star: Mr. Mister Vs. Boy Meets Girl

by Will

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Welcome to Track Star! Don’t know the rules? Read this first

Today’s Challengers:

Mr. Mister – Welcome To The Real World vs. Boy Meets Girl – Reel Life

Today, we’re pitting two ’80s acts against each other. Mr. Mister had a hit song to which nobody seemed to know the words, while Boy Meets Girl were a songwriting act who weren’t used to being in the spotlight themselves. This time around, we’ve got a sampling of 6 songs from each group. Who’ll take the crown in this round of Track Star?

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Mr. Mister is a group known for two particular songs and, luckily, they both happen to be on Welcome To The Real World. This was actually the group’s second album, but served as a breakthrough since it included the #1 singles “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings”. This is a VERY ’80s album, as evidenced by the song “Don’t Slow Down”, which seems like it was written for a movie montage. “Run To Her” is a beautiful ballad, reminiscent of “Broken Wings” – known to every child of the ’80s. “Is It Love” is so ’80s that it’s wearing legwarmers and shoulder pads. Everyone knows “Kyrie”, even if they don’t know what’s being said (for the record, it’s “Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel.” It’s Latin for “Lord, have mercy.”). The album wraps up with the title track, “Welcome To The Real World”, which sounds like another montage anthem.

Boy+Meets+Girl+-+Reel+Life+-+CD+ALBUM-500730

Best known for their song “Waiting For A Star To Fall”, Boy Meets Girl spent most of the ’80s in the shadows of other people. The group was comprised of the songwriting duo of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam. They wrote Whitney Houston’s hits “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, while they provided background vocals on Deniece Williams’s “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”. In 1988, they released Reel Life, which included their hit “Waiting…”, along with 9 other songs. I love this album because they sound like the prototype for the California Dreams – strong female vocals, great harmonies, and a sweet, poppy sound. The Dreams comparison begins with the opening track, “Bring Down The Moon”, which, then, leads us right into “Waiting For A Star To Fall”. Next up, “Stormy Love” and “If You Run” just further the comparison between Boy Meets Girl and the Dreams. “Restless Dreamer” is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Because this came later in the decade, I have to say that this feels and sounds more like a ’90s album than an ’80s album. Just listening to this and Mr. Mister back to back, it’s apparent that they weren’t contemporaries. The album closes out with “Someone’s Got To Send Out Love”, which is giving off a California Dreams ballad feel. Considering my love for that show and those songs, I’m really pulling for this album to win this round. Can it do it, though? Let’s find out.

You really could’ve seen where this one was headed, as I simply loved Reel Life. Sure, it suffers from “they all sound the same”-itis, but that’s not a problem if you’re a fan of that sound. At the end of the day, Reel Life just has more repeat “listenability” to me than Welcome To The Real World. Sure, there’s “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings”, but there’s not a whole lot other than those two. There are strong, serviceable tracks on the album, but they just aren’t as consistent as the songs on Reel Life. I feel like Boy Meets Girl have aged better, even though Mr. Mister are included on every 80s collection infomercial. It’s the “hidden gem” nature of Reel Life that really went a long way in this match-up.

The Winner:

Boy Meets Girl – Reel Life

Boy+Meets+Girl+-+Reel+Life+-+CD+ALBUM-500730

For those playing along at home, agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!

07th Apr2011

So, Which TV Network Are You?

by Will

I’m not sure if this is obvious to some, but the “television experience” has changed a LOT in just a few short years. Once upon a time, people were concerned about airdates and antenna positioning, however, the prevalence of DVR and cable have pretty much done away with all of that. The aspect which has experienced the greatest change, however, is that of network branding. Currently, networks no longer really have a specific identity, instead choosing to let their shows speak for themselves. This can be confusing, though, as what does it say about a network when its most successful shows involve crime scene semen or anti-social nerd caricatures? This wasn’t always the case. There was a time, not that long ago, when networks not only promoted their programming, but also their identities. This was true from the biggest network affiliate to the smallest local syndicated outlet. For example, Channel 5 used to show the same reruns of Mr. Belvedere, Three’s Company, and Who’s The Boss?, but for the summer of ’92, they expected you to refer to it all as “Camp Teeheehaha”. Sure, you’d seen the shows before, but they were taking advantage of the American experience of going off to summer camp in an attempt to rebrand the shows. That’s some Don Draper shizz right there! Networks did little things like this to show that they supported their series; after all, they’d already paid for the syndication rights, so they might as well get their money’s worth. Nowadays, all we have are court shows. If you miss one, another will be on right after it. There’s no real need to promote, as there’s no real difference: sassy black woman judge, sassy white woman judge, sassy might-be-Latina judge, etc. The shows have changed, but so has the promotion of said shows. So, where am I going with this? Well, growing up, I used to think about which network I’d want to be on were I to have my own series. As I grew from boy to man, in what was (to me) a golden age of television, I noticed certain things about each network that made me want to park myself on their prime-time lineup. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

ABC

This one is pretty much a no-brainer, as anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s knows where I’m going with this. ABC had a bunch of shows which made them seem like The Touchy-Feely Network, whether it was the family drama of Life Goes On, or the generational experiences of Thirtysomething. Judith Light starred in the riveting TV movie of The Ryan White Story, and families loved gathering around to watch dads across America get hit in the crotch on America’s Funniest Home Videos. All of those shows, however, had NOTHING on the powerhouse known as TGIF.

I’m not going to go into the history and lineup of the TGIF block, ’cause most of y’all were there. Maybe it’s the comic fanboy in me, but what I loved most about TGIF was the shared universe. I guess I’m always looking for a sense of community, and I loved how the early series tended to be related to each other in some way: Mark Cooper (Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper) subbed for Michelle Tanner’s (Full House) class, while Harriet Winslow (Family Matters) was the elevator operator at Larry & Balki’s job (Perfect Strangers). Steve Urkel (Family Matters) did a science project with Mark Foster (Step By Step), while Dana Foster (Step By Step) gave love advice to Cory Matthews (Boy Meets World) at Sea World. With all of this crossover action, it was kinda fun trying to imagine where I might fit in. Maybe I’d be friends with Eddie Winslow, like Weasel and Waldo Geraldo Faldo. Or maybe Karen Foster would reject me before her character oddly disappeared to pursue a country music career. Or maybe I’d be the black friend that Cory and Shawn used to have when Minkus was still around. The possibilities were endless!

One of this biggest perks of a perch on the TGIF lineup was that you also got to host the Saturday Morning Preview special. These are relics of days gone by, but back when networks still had Saturday morning cartoons, they always kicked off the season with the Saturday Morning Preview one Friday night in September (Sure, NBC had one, too, but those were usually hosted by Cosby kids or those awkward kids from ALF or The Torkelsons). The TGIF ones were great, as everyone was (usually) still in character and they genuinely seemed excited about dreck like Hammerman and Little Rosie. Everything was awesome in TGIF Land! As an added bonus, once Disney bought ABC, every show was pretty much required to do a stint at Disney World, so free vacation!

CBS

Growing up, I can’t ever remember wanting to be on CBS. That’s not to say that I didn’t watch CBS shows. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Up until the dawn of the CSI Era, CBS got a bad rap as The Old Folks’ Network. Yes, they had programming like Murder, She Wrote and 60 Minutes, but I never saw it like that. If anything, I always felt that CBS shows had a sense of maturity that couldn’t be found on other networks. I grew up watching Murphy Brown and Designing Women – both shows that spoke more to my experience of being raised by strong, single women from the South. So, I never wanted to be on CBS, as I felt I was already there. Next!

NBC

While ABC was courting me with TGIF, NBC had another acronym waiting in the wings for my affection: TNBC. By far, the most successful NBC branding of that era was “Must-See TV”, but I couldn’t really relate to that. I enjoyed the shows, but they all took place in Manhattan, as the protagonists seemed to have these fantasy jobs that paid for their massive apartments. As much as I love New York, I wasn’t gonna be on “Must-See Thursday” unless I sold a joint to Theo Huxtable or got transferred to Hillman College. Then, along came TNBC as a world of possibility for young black guys. Sure, Lisa Turtle didn’t do much for The Cause, but California Dreams came along and showed me that I could be a drummer. And there was that black dude on The Guys Next Door – sure, no one remembers that show, but I remember he was there. Then, we got Saved By The Bell: The New Class, which always seemed to have a slot for a hip, dancing black guy that needed to be filled. And Hang Time – a show about basketball! C’mon! As a teenager growing up in the late 90s, nowhere felt like “home” as much as TNBC. Yes, I realize that those shows were basically created for girls, but I still kinda felt like those characters were my people.

The BIGGEST perk of being on NBC, however, is one of these:

I don’t know if it’s contractual or what, but if you’re on an NBC show, you are pretty much guaranteed to film one of these public service announcements. A lot of PSAs just come off kinda clunky, but The More You Know has gained a special place in the annals of pop culture. Most PSAs are lame, but I always saw these as some kind of badge of honor. I’ll take one of these over those Truth.com kids ANY day!

Fox

Oh, Fox! It’s amazing how an entertainment network can be so edgy, while its news wing is so conservative. Fox was founded on Married…with Children, so that has colored its identity. While ABC was the Touchy-Feely Network, Fox was on the complete other end of that spectrum. Besides the early reality fare like World’s Greatest Police Chases, there was a “Fox Show” model: the aforementioned Married…, Top of the Heap, even Herman’s Head. Generally, if you wanted to make middle America uncomfortable for about 6 episodes, and your show wouldn’t work anywhere else, then Fox was the place to be. Even to this day, I’m surprised by how much Fox Standards & Practices allows on the air – the entire Seth MacFarlane franchise is a good example of this.

I’ve admired Fox because they are willing to take chances. They still carry shows that you just wouldn’t see anywhere else, and they miss more than they hit. The beauty of the network, however, is that it lives by American Idol alone. The show airs 5 months of the year, but the ratings are high enough to make Fox the #1 Network for the entire season. Growing up, all they had was The Simpsons, but the attitude seemed to be the same as it is now. Sure, reality programming has evolved, and Fox has taken advantage of that, but it’s still the same old Fox. I’d want to be on Fox ’cause they’ll promote the Hell out of your show during NFL and MLB games, but you’re still gonna get cancelled after they move your show to Sundays at 7:00 PM.

UPN

Has there ever been a network with more of an identity crisis than UPN? It’s remembered as The Black Network, but that’s not entirely accurate. Sure, the network had a lot of horrible black shows, like Homeboys in Outer Space and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, but there was so much more to it than that. The oddest part of UPN was the it’s prelaunch reputation didn’t match what ended up on the screen. Here’s the pre-launch promo for the network:

As you see, it’s relying on the reputation of the shows that had been developed by Paramount in the past, yet doesn’t really go into detail as to what we should expect from the network. Were they just going to rerun all those shows they just mentioned? Should we be expecting new stuff? Classical music! Rock music! Then, the network launched, and we were introduced to DiResta, Marker and Platypus Man. When your network is bolstered by shows starring a Mad About You costar and Richard Greico, you’re in trouble. Yeah, there was Star Trek: Voyager, but it could also be said that UPN was the nail in the Trek coffin, as both of its offerings were reviled by fans. Early UPN was the television equivalent of the Dot Com Boom, as they really just threw around a lot of ideas to see if they’d stick. Richard Dean Anderson as a cowboy. A Love Boat reboot. A bunch of shows NBC had knocked off their schedule because they apparently weren’t “New York” enough. Through all of this, there was one spot where I could see myself.

Around the time the NBC’s TNBC block was at its peak, UPN started toying around with a similar concept for weekday afternoons. Comprised of reruns of Sweet Valley High and a new teen show called Breaker High, the network adopted the slogan “UPN is U’pn”, which was pronounced “oo-pin”. Sure, it made no sense, and to say it aloud sounds like something you’d hear in a commercial for Dunkaroos. Maybe they were implying that UPN was moving up? Maybe UPN was jumping? I don’t know, but where there are teen shows, I’ll be there. Anyway, Breaker High was about a bunch of kids who were in a semester-at-sea program. It had everything you’d come to expect from teen shows, but starred a charismatic Ryan Gosling and Tyler Labine. I loved the Hell out of that show, even though it didn’t even last an entire season. The U’pn block ran for about 3 months on a daily schedule until it just disappeared one day in November, as the timeslot was given back to the stations. Breaker High finished up its run on Sunday mornings, but the only time I ever saw anything worthwhile in that network was the 3-month U’pn Era.

The WB

OK, I already covered the fact that I’m drawn to things that give off a sense of community, and no network exemplified that as much as The WB. When it first launched, the network’s promos revolved around the image that all of the stars hung out on the Warner Bros backlot. Going to work seemed like it would be a ton of fun, as you’d see Nikki Cox on the elevator, and run into Tia and Tamara Mowry on the way to the set.

Plus, I was entering a point in my life where I really kinda wanted to be in a boyband. While girls my age were pining for heartthrobs, I wanted to be one, and nobody developed teen stars quite like The WB. The stars of those shows kept the teen magazine industry in business for the better part of a decade. If you were under the age of 20, and wanted to make it big, you either needed to fly to Orlando and audition for Lou Pearlman, or you needed to get yourself on a WB show.

Even though it’s a bit of a joke in some circles, The WB did more for pop culture over a decade than people realize. I explored this once before, and my feelings haven’t changed. For that reason, The WB is where I’d want my show to air. You can thank them for Buffy, even if you blame them for Katherine Heigl. To top things off, I think they had a really classy send-off video. A network hadn’t folded since the DuMont Network, so I had no frame of reference for these things. However, if you’ve got to go out, this is the way to do it:

09th Mar2011

Peter Engel’s Forgotten Children: Obscure Teen Sitcoms Part I

by Will

I’ve never made a secret of my love of bad teen television. My love for the TNBC franchise is only second to my Power Rangers obsession. That said, I watched that lineup from its inception to its demise at the hands of Discovery Kids. What some people may not know is that the bulk of the TNBC offerings were the work of one Mr. Peter Engel. Primarily a television producer, Engel’s professional journey has been somewhat unorthodox.  He got his big break producing teen sitcoms, primarily for NBC. Later on, he became Dean of Pat Roberson’s Regent University. Once that ended, he somehow found himself producing NBC’s Last Comic Standing. What I love most about Engel is that he found a way to build an empire by recycling the same tropes. We’re all familiar with the hits, such as Saved By the Bell and California Dreams, but I want to focus on the shows that never reached the same level of success as those shows, despite being cut from the very same cloth.

As I said before, we already know the bigger shows: Good Morning, Miss Bliss (which we now refer to as Saved By The Bell: The Junior High Years), Saved By The Bell, and its spinoffs The New Class and The College Years. Mixed in there was California Dreams (basically “Zack Attack: The Series”), which also had a lengthy run. Now, if we’re going chronologically, Hang Time would be next, however it’s not technically an “Engel Show”. Go watch the first season – it’s not even really a sitcom. Engel came onboard during the second season, and basically changed it into Saved By The Bell: The Basketball Team. No, even Hang Time isn’t obscure enough for what we’re here to do. I want to talk about USA High.

USA High was a Peter Engel show that aired, appropriately enough, on USA Network, from 1997-2001. It has been said that it was originally developed for TNBC, but it somehow became a companion show to Saved By The Bell: The New Class reruns when USA Network acquired the rights to them. At its core, USA High was Saved By The Bell: The Paris Years. Basically, it was all the SBTB adventures you’d already seen, only now they were set at the American Academy boarding school in Paris, France.

Oddly enough, it felt like the whole Paris thing was added as an afterthought, as there are no European qualities to the show whatsoever. The dorm where the kids live is just the Saved By The Bell: The College Years set reused. They hang out at Cafe USA, which is really just the American Chain Restaurant for Tourists version of The Maxx. There’s an outdoor nighttime set that they used for date episodes, but it was just some cafe tables next to a window. Honestly, the show could’ve been set anywhere, as the locale never really factored into anything that took place.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the characters, many of whom you’ll recognize. First up, there’s Jackson Greene (portrayed by Josh Holland), who’s our resident pretty boy schemer. Of course, most of his schemes are just attempts to date All American, albeit flatchested, Lauren Fontaine (portrayed by Elena Lyons). Oh, did I mention that Lauren is a waitress at Cafe USA? Next, we had our musclebound German heartthrob, Christian (portrayed by Thomas Magiar). Here’s where you might say, “Well, he’s German, so that’s European, right?” It might’ve been special if Saved By The Bell: The New Class hadn’t added a German kid to their cast the previous year. Then, there’s goody two-shoes honor student Ashley Elliot (portrayed by Kristen Miller), who traded in Jesse’s feminism for a cute British accent. In the “annoying little guy” role, we’ve got Bobby Lazzarini (portrayed by James Madio). Rounding out the cast is probably the biggest change from the SBTB formula, which was the role of Winnie Barnes (portrayed by Marquita Terry). While Lisa Turtle was originally a Jewish character (what? you didn’t know that?), it’s clear that Winnie was black from the get-go. She’s stereotypical enough that it wouldn’t be surprising to hear “I’ma cut you!” come out of her mouth. Switching things up, it’s Christian who’s madly in love with her instead of Lazzarini. All of their adventures happen under the watch of bumbling Headmaster (and Ashley’s father), Mr. Elliot (portrayed by Nicholas Guest). In the second season of the show, Lazzarini’s written out, and replaced by California Dreams alum William James Jones in the role of “Dwayne ‘Excess’ Wilson”.

Anyway, I’m always surprised that more people haven’t seen USA High, as there were a total of 95 episodes compared to Saved By The Bell‘s 86 episodes. I understand it never had the network/syndication exposure of Saved By The Bell, but I’m sure people just stumbled across it and said “What’s this show?”, without really knowing what they were watching.

Where Are They Now?

Most of the cast of USA High have faded into obscurity, as teen sitcom stars are prone to do. Engel’s really good at “keeping it in the family”, as shown by his decision to hire Jones from California Dreams. Josh Holloway went on to play a date rapist in City Guys (another Engel show), while Marquita Terry went on to join the cast of Malibu, CA (yet another Engel show). Elena Lyons appears to have gotten a boob job, and can be see in Broken Lizard’s Club Dread. Kristen Miller went on to costar in That’s My Bush, as well as She Spies. James Madio went on to appear in HBO’s Band of Brothers, and has a steady career in voice acting.

Engel Extra!

While USA High was cranking along on USA Network, Engel got One World added to the TNBC schedule. Basically, the show followed a couple who had taken foster kids into their home. It was heavier stuff than typical Engel fare, but it was still teen-focused. Honestly, the fact that it was on the TNBC schedule was a testament to how much the television landscape had changed by that point. Ten years prior, the show would’ve aired in the same primetime slots as ALF or The Torkelsons. As primetime got edgier, “family shows” were now being seen as kid’s fare. Anyway, the most recognizable cast member was Alisa Reyes, who had grown up as a cast member on All That. Apparently, she’s a DJ for Playboy Radio now. Oh, and it had that kid who starred in all those Johnny Tsunami Disney Channel movies. Anyway, One World tackled those hard hitting questions, like “Do foster kids hook up with each other?” No, seriously.

Join us next time, as we tackle City Guys, and a little known gem called Malibu, CA.

25th Aug2010

RePlay: Natural – Keep It Natural

by Will

When last we met, I covered Solid Harmonie and their place in the long line of forgotten groups from Trans Continental Records. For every ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Jordan Knight, there was C-Note, The Lyte Funky Ones (LFO), and Natural. Well, this week, I want to talk about that last group, Natural.

When it came to bubblegum pop, one of the biggest gripes from the “music snob community” was that the artists didn’t play their own instruments. As far as boybands went, Lou Pearlman had already delivered the harmony group (BSB), the dance group (‘NSYNC), and he decided to finally give the critics what they felt had been lacking: a boyband where the members played their own instruments. Since their acoustic foundation would give them a more “natural” sound, that became their group name.

Natural came about after Lou’s boyband empire had peaked, post-BSB/’NSYNC lawsuits, and right around the time of O-Town. There are conflicting reports as to how the group actually got together, but the main point is that Lou did what he did with most of his boybands: he sent them off to Germany for grooming. When you get down to their look, they were just like every other boyband: there was the blond, sensitive one; the edgy one, with the spiky hair; the one who’s your mom’s favorite, etc. The gimmick, of course, was that they were a band made of boys, but not a boyband. To break it down, they acted as if the music came first, while avoiding some of the common tropes of that era’s boyband, such as smooth dance moves. In execution, the music came off as “BBMak, by way of California Dreams“.  It’s very reminiscent of Guys Next Door (am I the only one who remembers that old NBC show?).There’s definitely a camp factor, as the songs are cheesier than Velveeta, but they’re damn catchy! It was a different sound, as this period was still dominated by the sound of Max Martin, and the rest of the guys are Cheiron Studios. While there were cutsey pop acts of the time who depended on a more acoustic sound (The Moffats, the afore-mentioned BBMak), most of those groups failed to really make a dent in the landscape. Trying something different may have been the wrong call for Natural.

Keep It Natural, like so many other lost Trans Con albums, was released in Germany. Here’s the video for their first single, “Put Your Arms Around Me”. Hey, remember the days when every TV show/movie ripped off The Matrix, even in cases where it didn’t fit? Wait for it

Bet they’re wishing they hadn’t taken the red pill…

In the US, the single was released as a promo in Claires stores, yet wasn’t universally released until the exclusivity window closed, resulting in Natural not getting much airplay outside of Orlando.

Musically, Natural weren’t “bad”, per se – especially in the pop climate of the time. It just seemed that they were being molded, visually, into something that they were not. The next single, “Will It Ever”, wouldn’t have been out of place on Backstreet Boys’ Millennium album. You’ll notice, however, the addition of another forced dance break. The cut scenes and wacky angles are meant to mask the fact they they are not ‘NSYNC 2: Electric Boogaloo.

This video is a crane shotstravaganza! With a hint of Liquid Dreams…

One of the final singles from their debut was “Let Me Count The Ways”, which ended up as their highest charting German single (#11). Again, this is a pretty catchy song, but it’s not the kind of thing being delivered by their labelmates in the States. I will admit, though, that this video may have hurt them. I know Europe is a bit more liberal with things, but what is she, like, 14? These boys are so lucky they were out in a pre-Chris Hansen world…

We were just gonna watch some movies and hang out. Well, yeah, I brought beer…

Natural went on to release another album, It’s Only Natural, before parting ways with Lou. That’s when things really got ugly. Lou tried to keep the “Natural” name, as he was going to replace the guys who had broken his boyband rules (no facial hair, no girlfriends, etc). Meanwhile, the guys tried to rebrand themselves as more of a rock group, but nothing came from it. Neither album was released in the US, and Natural’s only real impact on North America was that their 2 lead singers provided the singing voices for Bart & Millhouse in the boyband episode of The Simpsons.

At the end of the day, Keep It Natural is a really enjoyable pop album. It’s not representative of the “2000 Boyband Sound”, and that may have been a blessing and a curse. It set Natural apart from the countless other boybands, but it simply wasn’t what the audience wanted at the time. I always feel I have to reiterate that the reason I do this column isn’t as a “This Is A Thing That Exists” piece, but rather it’s an attempt to show value in something that may have originally been overlooked. This music isn’t going to change the world, and it’s not groundbreaking. At the same time, it also doesn’t require you to follow a tweets for hidden meaning, nor does it force you to wonder if the guys eat truffle fries. It’s good old fashioned “Hey, ‘phone’ rhymes with ‘alone'” pop. It’s catchy and it’s fun – definitely earworm material. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and pop is just pop. I, for one, don’t see anything wrong with that.

11th Mar2010

Don’t Wake Me Up If I’m Dreamin’

by Will

californiadreamsheader-764917

OK, so my love for California Dreams has been documented on this site before. That said, I pretty much thought I was alone in the CD fan camp. That’s when Jimmy Fallon came along and rocked my shit.

About a year ago, Jimmy Fallon took over Conan’s job, as the host of Late Night. Nobody really knew what to expect, as his SNL work was decent, but his movies had been terrible. As he took over the position, it was clear that his tenure would be quirky and off the wall.

As an example of this quirkiness, Jimmy decided that one of his first goals would be to organize a Saved By The Bell cast reunion. After all, it was the 20th anniversary of the show, and he wanted to pay tribute to a show we had all watched back in the day. Well, he got everyone to agree (including an AMAZING skit with Mark Paul Gosselaar AS Zack Morris), except Tiffani Thiessen and Dustin Diamond. Tiffani didn’t want to really be associated with the show, as that’s not what she “wanted to be remembered for today”. Dustin, on the other hand, is just an asshole now. So, no reunion.

Fast forward to last Thursday night: Jimmy’s been spending all week celebrating his 1 year anniversary, and he mentions his inability to reunite the cast. It was unfortunate, HOWEVER, he has gotten the next best thing. Without any promos or prior announcement (besides a twitter spoiler from a TV insider), Jimmy has managed to reunite the cast of California Dreams!

They all come out onstage, most of them looking great. Not only does Jimmy let each one give an update on what they’ve been up to, but then he had them perform the theme song! I just about died. In any case, I’ve always got an opinion, so here were my thoughts on the reunion:

-As great as it was to see everyone, not everyone was present. They were missing Lorena Costa (Diana Uribe) and Sly’s cousin, Mark Winkle (Aaron Jackson). It may seem insignificant, but these were 2 regular characters. Not only did the band practice in Lorena’s loft for the majority of the series, but she was also co-band manager with Sly. Plus, she was the rotating love interest whenever the guys got sick of Kelly Packard. Mark was the band’s keyboard player and handled vocals. His character was a bit of a whiny bitch, but he was still a Dream.

-Brent Gore, it was good to see you! As leader of the Dreams, Matt Garrison, Brent left the show after the 2nd season. He looked good, but he kinda looked like Aging Rock Star (think Rick Springfield).

-William James Jones, as drummer, Tony Wicks. Acting hadn’t been so kind to WJJ after California Dreams, as he was only getting cameo roles on shows like Living Single. He looked good, though, and it was great to hear that he’s got a wife and kids at home.

-Jay Anthony Franke, as mysterious heartthrob, Jake Summers. Basically, The Fonz of the Dreams. Oh, Jake, Jake, Jake…it was a brave move coming on TV. There were a lot of expectations, and I’m not sure they were met. He’s gained a bit of weight, and he’s bald. He was still kinda mysterious. Looked a bit like Duff from Ace of Cakes, though…He’s living in Australia with his wife, and they just shot a pilot. Lord knows what it’s about, as he didn’t elaborate. That said, he clearly wants the world to know about it. So there.

-Heidi Noelle Lenhardt, as Jenny Garrison. Full disclosure: Growing up, I was IN LOVE with her! She had an amazing voice, and she was just a striking brunette. She left the show after the first season, so she definitely left me wanting more. Seeing her at the reunion, however, was bittersweet.

First of all, she’s blonde now. Not really a fan. Also, it seemed like she was coming in slightly flat on her part of the song, so maybe she hasn’t been singing much these days. Anyway, I did love the tongue ring she was rocking!

-Kelly Packard, as Tiffany Smith. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much from her. She’s certainly been the most active, as she went on to Baywatch, and co-hosted Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Like Heidi, she said she’s taking care of her family, but mentioned that she had a movie coming out soon. It seemed almost like she was shy, and I felt she should’ve said more since she’s been doing more.

-Jennie Kwan, as exchange student Samantha Woo. She was so cute and nervous, but she was also gracious. Though she didn’t mention it, she was also a member of girl pop group Nobody’s Angel (you’ve seen ’em. They were on that Boy Meets World episode at that diner. Remember?). She was also the voice of Suki on Avatar: The Last Airbender.

-Michael Cade, as sleazy band manager with the heart of gold, Sylvester “Sly” Winkle. Cade looked good. I’ll give him that. He’s charismatic, and he’s still trying to make the acting thing happen. And he’s pretty ripped, especially for a 37 year old.

-When they performed, I wonder how they decided who would sing what parts. After all, “Matt” and “Jake” sang the same parts during different times in the series, as did “Jenny” and “Sam”. I felt kinda like Heidi should’ve sung more (since I felt she was better, vocally, than Jennie), but I guess it was only fair how they did it, seeing as how Jennie Kwan had been on the show longer.

Anyway, here’s the video so that you can follow along at home:

12th Oct2008

How’s Usher Gonna Get Off That Damn Mountain? And Other Reality TV Stuff…

by Will

“You want White Castle, need White Castle, long as you got me it won’t be no hassle.”

– I’m usually not the biggest Weird Al fan, but his cover of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” had me laughing for about 30 minutes. Absolutely priceless!

– I really wanna work for the company in Britney’s new “Womanizer” video. I mean, I never knew the fauxhawk to be “corporate”, but it seems to fly at that organization. Let’s hope this really is her comeback this time. Not the biggest fan of the song, but the video helps to sell it. MUCH better than that anime shit for “Break the Ice”…hey, didn’t that video end with “to be continued”? Let’s hope they don’t make good on that promise. Anyway, Brit’s looking pretty damn hot, so I guess we could all use a dose of crazy, if it does a body that good.

– Speaking of “to be continued” videos, Usher just released the video for “Trading Places”, but it’s just a random-ass R&B video. Last I remember, Mr. Raymond was stuck up on that mountain. How the Hell did he get off that damn mountain?!

– I’ve gone from a state of loving everything on MTV to hating everything on MTV. I guess I finally caught up with the rest of the real world (no pun intended). I was looking forward to Exiled, but realized I’d never watched enough My Super Sweet 16 to really care enough about those girls. I’m SO over The Hills, as well as the fact that Audrina and Whit have spin-offs coming. Don’t care about The Island, ’cause I really wanted a C.T./Dunbar ‘roid rage face-off, but that wasn’t in the cards.

Who the Hell thought Man & Wife deserved to be ripped off the web? It’s like the old Loveline, but nowhere near as informative. If anything, it actually makes me a bit uncomfortable. It’s like an interactive version of those shitty, traveling Black stage shows. You know, they always have names like, Seeing Jesus on the Downlow, and star hasbeens from Good Times & What’s Happening!!.

Sex…with Mom & Dad? Really? Dr. Drew, is this the best you could come up with? Do you miss your boy, Adam? Was he the brains of the operation? Now, this show does NOTHING for me. In the past, MTV sex shows were edgy, like the afore-mentioned Loveline. That was pretty groundbreaking for TV, but this is like Drew needed something to hold him over between Celebrity Rehab sessions. I don’t really think the show accomplishes much other than making the teens, the parents, and the viewers EXTREMELY uncomfortable. If anything, you end up learning the mom used to be a whore, and doesn’t want the daughter to be a whore. But the daughter’s only gonna react with the whole “Let me live my life and be a whore if I want to” response. In some ways, I kinda agree with that, but they could’ve had that “breakthrough” off camera.

The only shows I can still stomach are Making the Band 4 (I TOTALLY called the Danity Kane break-up before the season started!) and Parental Control. Plus, True Life and Made are always good entertainment.

-If you love “meta” humor, you’ll love this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HE9OQ4FnkQ . It’s A-Ha’s “Take On Me”, only it’s been remixed to tell you exactly what’s going on in the video. Watch it and you’ll understand. It’s one of those things where I wish I’d thought of it first.

-I’ve been wondering this for a while, but HD Radio – why? So, you mean to tell me there are secret stations, hidden between the stations I know, playing a bunch of different songs? If these songs are so great, then why hasn’t Clear Channel already shoved them down my throat? They know exactly what I like! No, these songs are being hidden, like ugly children and incontinent pets. They try to sell the fact that it’s near-CD quality sound, but if I wanted that, I’d buy the CD. When it’s free, I can deal with a degredation of sound quality. After all, you get what you pay for, and free radio is workin’ out just fine. Nice try, HD Radio, but you’re gonna have to try harder than that!

So, last night J. Christ. (no, not Jesus – He’s got more important things to do than read this blog; He’s too busy hanging out with all those rappers) told me that I don’t nearly keep up this site enough. I’ve gotta say that she’s right. I mean, in my neglect, I forgot to acknowledge my 5-year blogiversary back in July. I’m a big fan of streaks, and I know I’m always citing the anniversary of when I started blogging, or the anniversary of when I bought the williambrucewest.com domain name, or the anniversary of when I started actually using that domain name – plainly put, I like milestones. Anyway, I started rambling a little over five years ago, and man have I done nothing since then. I find that whenever I do these milestone posts, it forces me to look back in a pseudo-pessimistic tone. Well, I’m gonna try not to do that this time around. But, man, what I’ wouldn’t give to go back to being 13, when all I really looked forward to was a new episode of California Dreams every Saturday, and the promise of a positive, yet unknown future. Well, we can only go up from here, right? In the words of (probably unknown to most of you) Swedish pop star, Bosson, “we live, we die, and we learn to find the things we live and die for.” Guess I’m still learning to find those things. Here’s to 5 more years of the journey.

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