22nd Nov2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/22/19

by Will

Not a ton to talk about this week, so it’ll be a short one. Yay?

In a somewhat surprising move, Warners announced that the upcoming DC Comics series Stargirl will debut on the DC Universe streaming service, with episodes, then, airing on The CW the very following night! If they’re gonna be doing this, then what even is the point of DC Universe going forward? I mean, they’re already moving a lot of their development slate to HBO Max (which is where Doom Patrol will air in addition to DC Universe), and it’s starting to make DCU look obsolete. Of course, DCU subscribers are mad because they wanted some sort of exclusive content from the app, when they’re only getting the first dibs on it by a very small margin. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a quiet announcement that DCU is being absorbed into HBO Max by year’s end.

 

Speaking of The CW’s DC shows, it only just now occurred to me that we’re not getting all of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event in one week. In the past, these crossovers were contained to the same week, but here we’re getting the first 3 parts (Supergirl, Batwoman, and The Flash) starting December 8th. Meanwhile, the final 2 parts (Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow) air January 14th. Now, I know they’re trying to get some mileage out of this Arrow “victory lap”, but that is a momentum killer.

A Twitter friend pointed out that at least it’s better than the year folks had to wait for the conclusion of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic series, but that’s no consolation to me. The first parts will air, there’ll be some shocking cliffhanger death, which will promptly be spoiled on Twitter, and then folks will speculate until January 14th. Yeah, I’m probably just gonna wait and watch it all in January.

I know we live in this whole world of the “fall finale” now, but most of these are so forced that I hate that it’s even a concept now. It used to be understood that shows simply went on hiatus in the winter because folks had better stuff to do than watch TV, like drunkenly hit on their secretaries at office Christmas parties. But now we have no more “secretaries” and no more drinking at the office parties. Thanks a lot, Harvey Weinstein! So, now we have to break it to folks that their beloved shows need a rest, by introducing the fall finale. It’s like saying “Don’t worry! We promise to finish explaining how one does get away with murder, but we need a bit of a production reset.” It just feels so unnecessary.

It looks like the 4th Star Trek film, set in the “Kelvin Timeline”, is back on! Noah Hawley, of Fargo and Legion fame, has been brought on to direct. They’re saying Chris Pine is coming back, but it’s unclear if this is the same Kirk Meets His Father story that they’d been pitching when Chris Hemsworth was still on board. I guess this is good news. I mean, I still haven’t seen Star Trek Beyond, but I’ve heard it’s better than Into Darkness. That said, I thought the Kelvin Timeline wrapped up as a nice little experimental trilogy, but I’m ready to get back to the “prime” timeline, in a medium that’s not a subscription-based television show.

Tesla introduced the Cybertruck, which is a hideous, pixelated-looking vehicle that shouldn’t even exist. It looks like something from the syndicated 1-season wonder Team Knight Rider, or those later seasons of Viper when the Defender had an off-road mode. God, I miss Saturday afternoon syndicated shows! Even more than Saturday morning cartoons. Here, let’s watch some videos of those 2 shows:

 

So, I hear you’re looking for some of them “Baby Yodas”. Well, you’re not alone! Debuting at the end of the premiere of Star Wars: The Mandalorian, this little critter is all anyone can talk about! It’s not actually THE Yoda, but that doesn’t matter, since Yoda’s race and homeworld were apparently never named. So, “Baby Yoda” it is!

Now, the race is on to see who’s gonna pump out the first Baby Yoda merchandise first. At first it was believed that nothing would be out in time for the holidays, but now I’m hearing that’s not the case? Well, good luck with that! I’m still over here, waiting for KB Toys to open all those stores they’ve promised us the past couple of years.

I still haven’t seen The Mandalorian yet, but I feel like I’m already quite familiar with this character, as I’ve known about it since TMZ spoiled the appearance Friday morning 2 weeks ago. I go to TMZ for celebrity gossip, not space baby spoilage! I guess they saw a winner and ran with it. Can’t really fault them for that…even though most folks hadn’t seen the episode yet. Then, when last week’s episode rolled around, the spoiler moratorium was over, so folks just let their adoration fly. So, look out Porgs, as you’re no longer the belle of the ball! Just like when a sitcom brings in a new, cuter kid when the youngest enters their “awkward period” (my favorites include Billy from Who’s The Boss, Sam from Diff’rent Strokes, and Seven from Married…with Children), Baby Yoda is here to knock Porgs off the block. Let’s just hope little Baby Yoda isn’t horrifically wiped from existence like those cute replacement kids I just listed. In any case, Baby Yoda had the West Week Ever.

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.

01st Mar2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/1/19

by Will

Yay, there’s finally pop culture to discuss again!

In TV news, Fox has picked up a mockumentary starring MOST of the original cast of Beverly Hills 90210, following them as they try to pitch a reboot of the show. That’s some meta bullshit right there. Anyway, the news was so catastrophic to Luke Perry that he had a massive stroke, and is currently hospitalized. Now, it was never announced that he would be joining the show (probably due to commitments on Riverdale), but now it’s pretty much a definite NO. Anyway, prayers up for Dylan McKay.

The latest Power Rangers incarnation, Power Rangers Beast Morphers premieres tomorrow morning on Nick. I remember a time when I looked forward to those days like it was Christmas morning, but life happens and I’ve gotten older. Still, it’s not all my fault. It’s the franchise’s. I know times change, but I can think back to how we all knew the Black Ranger was played by Walter Jones (the Emmanuel came later). I don’t think there’s any kid out there, sitting around talking about Davi Santos, but I could be wrong. Now, I don’t even learn their names anymore – the actors or the characters, ’cause none of it matters. Kinda like the Spice Girls, you can convey all you need to know just by saying “Red” “Yellow” “Pink”. There is just nothing interesting about these folks. They’re all pretty, but they’re also bland as fuck.

The “Neo Saban era” (when creator Haim Saban purchased the franchise BACK from Disney) is when it just completely shat the bed. It was clear Haim was just trying to make his nut off the franchise one more time, but there is no *love* to those seasons. They just exist. Still, Beast Morphers is the debut season from the franchise’s new owner, toymaker Hasbro, so we’re all interested see what they’ve got in mind for things. Adult Power Rangers fans are like football fans, in that every new season is the one where “we’re going all the way to the Super Bowl!” And we never do. So, I guess you could say we’re, at most, cautiously optimistic.

We also got what, I assume, is the final trailer for Dark Phoenix – Fox’s swan song for the X-Men franchise before it heads over to Disney. Someone online said this earlier, and I didn’t believe them. However, after watching it I felt the same: Nothing. No anticipation. No real disdain. If anything, I felt a tinge of shame for all involved.

Say what you will about the pre-Apocalypse films, they at least made us care about *some* characters – even if it was just the same 4 every time. But I do not give one iota of a shit about any of this team except for Quicksilver, so they can all die for all I care. Seriously, which movie was it where I was supposed to begin to care about Nu Scott Summers? Was it during some scene of Apocalypse that I missed? If we KNEW that Scott grows up to be James Marden’s Scott, this would be character work. It’d be filling in blanks. But they’re redoing the same goddamn movie, but about 15 years earlier for that character? And everyone loves Nu Jean’s actress because you’re all doped up on Game of Thrones, but I feel she lacks charisma or presence.

Whose plan was this?! It’s like Kinberg took a bar bet to remake X-Men: The Last Stand, but WORSE. And that movie at least got some emotions out of folks, even if they were negative. I’ve never felt more uncomfortable by such a feeling of nothingness that this movie is generating inside me. Am I dead?

Anyway, this isn’t me hopping on the “I can’t wait to see what Marvel does with the franchise!” bandwagon. Unless you’re new here, you already know how I feel about that merger. Instead of looking forward to what’s to come, just let me mourn for what might have been.

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • AMC is developing a second spinoff for The Walking Dead, ’cause, why the fuck not?! Even George Romero looks at Robert Kirkman at this point, and just goes “Jesus, fuck, man! Enough with the zombies.”
  • Will Smith will reportedly not be back for The Suicide Squad, which is the sequel to Suicide Squad. I’m sure his agent was like, “Hey, Will. You gonna do The Suicide Squad?” And Will replied, “Bro, I just did Suicide Squad.” And the manager is like “No, that was Suicide Squad. THIS is The Suicide Squad.” And they just go back and forth, as Will gets increasingly angry, and breaks his no cursing rule with “Stop fuckin’ with me, man!” and hangs up the phone.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine was renewed for a seventh season by NBC, while Fox is busy basically remaking frickin’ Curb Your Enthusiasm with Tori Spelling…
  • Star Trek: Discovery was renewed for a third season on CBS All Access, which just means another season I refuse to pay to watch.
  • Josh Orpin will be playing Superboy next season on DC Universe’s Titans, which is just another show I refuse to pay to watch.
  • NBC announced that Jenna Bush Hager will be replacing Kathie Lee Gifford on the fourth hour of The Today Show when Gifford leaves the show in April.
  • Dick Wolf’s bank account will never run dry, as NBC also just renewed his trio of Chicago shows (Fire, Med, and PD). Know what would really bring in some ratings? If they did some stunt casting with Jussie Smollett next season…
  • Black Panther won an Oscar. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won an Oscar (beating DISNEY, no less!). Oscars for everybody!
  • I don’t expect us to find out any time soon. However, in 25 years, when Lady Gaga writes her autobiography, she’s gonna “reveal” that she and Bradley Cooper were fucking during and after A Star Is Born, and we’re all gonna be like “Duh, bitch”. I’m so sure of this, in fact, that Cooper’s baby mama, model Irina Shayk, almost had the West Week Ever along with her legal team.

Topher Grace is a name you don’t hear much these days. After a string of poorly received movies, it seems he retreated to his house to play around with film editing. One project he’d been focusing on was a recut of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. There’d been stories for years, how he’d invited folks over for private viewings, though his cut would never be able to be publicly revealed.

Well, Grace is at it again, as he made a trailer that references all 10 Star Wars films so far. And folks seem to like it – not an easy feat when it comes to Star Wars fans. I don’t really have a horse in this race, but it seemed to bring folks joy, and that’s what this is about – most of the time. So, Topher Grace’s Star Wars trailer had the West Week Ever.

18th Jan2019

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2018

by Will

2018 was the longest year in the history of years. It’s funny – I always look at past posts to figure out if I ever decided on a format for this wrap-up, and the past few years all start with “Man, this year SUCKED!” So, I guess things are just getting worse, huh? Anyway, when I first started doing West YEAR Ever, it was two-fold: 1) to bring attention to some of the “evergreen” posts I’d written throughout the year that you might have missed and 2) provide something of a director’s commentary to the West Week Ever choices I’d made over the past year. Here’s the rub, though: I didn’t really write any evergreen posts this year. Nope, my focus was pretty much solely on West Week Ever, which are totally disposable posts – which is a great way to think of 2018: disposable.

Between HarassmentWatch(TM), Trailer Park, Things You Might Have Missed This Week and, of course, West Week Ever, we talked about the celebrity wang danglers (reigning WYE Champ of 2017), looked at some movie trailers, I gave you bulletpoint news, and then I tried to point out something about the week that stood out above everything else. That’s the West Week Ever formula you’ve come to know over the past 6 years.

The most interesting stuff about the year is probably the stuff I didn’t write about. For example, I was interviewed by Vulture in anticipation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as I was considered a Miles Morales “superfan”. I sat on that chestnut for a couple months, anxiously waiting for the article to come out. Finally, my views on something would get more exposure! Well, it came out, and none of my contributions made the finished article. Womp womp.

Or the fact that I won a $50 gift card at the county fair by DOMINATING at 90s song trivia. I promptly used it to buy a gaming chair from Staples. I’m not even a gamer, but that’s a sweet ass chair!

Or the the fact that I won a pair of Google Home Hubs the week before Christmas, because I was miraculously caller #9 to a radio station (Thanks, WMZQ and iHeartRadio!).

Nah, I didn’t write about any of that. Probably should have. Oh well. Hindsight, and all that.

Anyway, let’s take a look back on 2018, and see if anything really stood out about it.

2018 In Movies

As far as movies went, I only saw 15 – down from last year’s 18, and WAY down from 2015’s 78.

1. Gotham By Gaslight
2. Black Panther
3. Ready Player One
4. Blockers
5. Avengers: Infinity War
6. Pitch Perfect 3
7. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
9. Sorry to Bother You
10. Teen Titans Go to the Movies
11. The Meg
12. Venom
13. Megamind
14. The Christmas Chronicles – I have to review these last two here, as I watched them in that gap between my last post of 2018 and my first of 2019. This was a cute movie. Kurt Russell as Santa actually works, but I have SO many questions about the universe in which the movie is set. I mean, Santa is real, but he only comes to Believers. Are we sure this thing wasn’t sponsored by The 700 Club?
15. Commando Ninja – I didn’t know anything about this movie until someone in a Facebook group mentioned it. After about 5 minutes of research, I felt like it looked like Kung Fury, so I was immediately on board. I think I’ve said it before, but I didn’t grow up watching 80s action movies. And I still haven’t seen most of them. So, I’m sure this thing hit all the right notes for some folks, while some of it just goes over my head. Still, it was hilarious, it was free on YouTube, and it was short. What more could you ask for?

2018 In Television

  • Roseanne announced that her character would be a Trump supporter when her show returned. She subsequently said some dumb shit and the show got cancelled. Then her TV family made deals to return to the show without her. Awww, family!
  • Murphy Brown also returned, to the delight of…well, nobody, really. She fired off her Trump jokes, and will probably be put back in moth balls by CBS.
  • ABC pulled an episode of Black-ish that would deal with the NFL kneeling issue. While it was reported as a “mutual decision” between the network and series creator Kenya Barris, Barris would go on to leave ABC for a 7-figure deal with Netflix.
  • The Fox adaptation of Lethal Weapon was a hotbed of problems. First there were reports of misconduct by show star Clayne Crawford, which put the show’s renewal chances in jeopardy. Then, Crawford was fired and replaced by Seann William Scott (the extra “n” is for flavor!). Then the show’s other star, Damon Wayans, announced he was leaving after fulfilling the season’s original 13-episode order.
  • The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running, scripted primetime series on television, with 636 episodes.
  • After 27 scandalous seasons, The Jerry Springer Show went out not with a bang but with a whimper.
  • The Sharknado franchise came to an end with The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time. Yes, it was time.
  • The Power Rangers 25th anniversary special aired, with obligatory Jason David Frank cameo. Hell, the whole thing was a JDF wankfest.
  • Brian Robbins was announced as the new head of Nickelodeon, which is significant since he and his former Head of the Class costar, Dan Schneider, got their behind the scenes careers started by creating All That for the network back in 1994. It’ll be interesting to see if he throws any work to Schneider, whose Schneider’s Bakery production house was sent packing by Nickelodeon earlier in the year after allegations surrounding Schneider arose.
  • DC Comics debuted the DC Universe streaming service, which is still struggling to find subscribers
  • Kanye West went on TMZ to declare “Slavery was a choice!”
  • And, of course, I wrote my annual Network Upfronts post, with my thoughts on the upcoming TV season.

2018 In Music

Yeah, I already covered that. No, you didn’t read it because you’re scared of the unknown!

West Week Ever Recipients of 2018:

1/12/18 – Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
1/19/18 – Black Lightning
1/26/18 – Vince McMahon
2/2/18 – WWE Royal Rumble
2/9/18 – Quincy Jones
2/16/18 – Black Panther
2/23/18 – Black Panther
3/2/18 – Atlanta
3/9/18 – DC Black Label
3/16/18 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer
3/23/18 – Nothing
3/30/18 – Roseanne
4/13/18 – Wrestlemania 34
4/27/18 – James Shaw Jr.
5/4/18 – Avengers: Infinity War
5/11/18 – Donald Glover
5/18/18 – CBS
5/25/18 – The Middle series finale
6/1/18 – Solo: A Star Wars Story
6/15/18 – Charley
6/22/18 – Nothing
6/29/18 – West Life Ever: Toys “R” Us
7/13/18 – Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
7/20/18 – DC Entertainment
7/27/18 – Teen Titans Go to the Movies
8/3/18 – Lebron James
8/10/18 – Patrick Stewart
8/17/18 – Omarosa Manigault Newman
8/24/18 – Crazy Rich Asians
9/7/18 – Nike
9/14/18 – John Legend
9/21/18 – Marvel Studios
9/28/18 – Lady Gaga, “Shallow”
10/5/18 – Venom
10/12/18 – Kanye’s MAGA Hat
10/26/18 – Roman Reigns
11/9/18 – Jeopardy! Champion (and friend of the site!) Mary Ann Borer
11/16/18 – West Life Ever: Stan Lee
11/30/18 – Wolverine: The Long Night
12/7/18 – Avengers: Endgame trailer
12/14/18 – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
12/21/18 – Nothing

This is normally where I’d give you some insight on my thought process, but I feel like a lot of this needs no explanation. It’s either obvious why it was chosen, or it’s indicative of just what kind of a shitshow pop culture was for that particular week. I’m particularly proud of my West Life Ever posts, for both Toys “R” Us and Stan Lee. Unbeknownst to most, the West Life Ever distinction was created with Adam West and Stan Lee in mind. As they got older, we all knew it was only a matter of time, and they both meant a lot to me. While the designation has been given to a few other things, (like TRU), it was custom made for those two, and I don’t know when, or if, it’ll ever be used again. I can’t think of anyone else in pop culture that meant as much to me, but I guess time will tell.

The year basically started with Black Panther and ended with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In between the two, we all lived about five lifetimes and have the scars to prove it. I spent a lot of time thinking about what this is all about, and why it is that I do it every week. In the end, I guess I want to make some kind of an impact – leave something behind. While pop culture is fleeting, I pour a lot more into “disposable” posts than makes actual sense. I know I’ve said that I stop caring about these things once the clock strikes 12:00 on Saturday morning, but up until that time, I’m as wired as a kid waiting for his dad to come back from “going out to get cigarettes”. “Are they reading it?”, I anxiously wonder as I constantly retweet the links and look for engagement. Like the aforementioned kid, whose dad is never coming back, the audience never really comes. It leads to a lot of existential questions, like “Well, who am I?” and “Why would anyone care what I think?” Maybe the posts were too long. Everyone’s in a hurry, and don’t like reading long things. I don’t want to contribute to “Hot Take Culture”, and I try to write reasoned arguments for my opinions. Yeah, yeah blogs are dying. I get it. Maybe I need a podcast, ya know, ’cause everybody has a podcast. Maybe this should be video, but that hardly seems worth the effort. Still, in all this introspection, one thing stood out – one thing that proved my “impact”, and would withstand the test of time.

If you’re a longtime reader, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, ’cause I did it for my first kid, and I don’t need to look like I’m playing favorites. Still, the best thing about 2018 was Charlotte Bruce West. I know it’s the hip thing now to hate kids and love the Hell out of dogs instead, so if that’s you, then you should probably stop reading.

This was not a fun year for anyone, and some days were harder than others. The thing about Charley, which was so surprising to me, is that she’s such a happy baby. Sure, those first few months she didn’t realize she was smiling, and it was just something her mouth was doing. Over time, though, they became genuine smiles. Smiles that could make a bad day better. She’s just such a happy baby. Where does she get that from? Was I ever that happy? If so, what happened? I only hope it’s something she can hold onto throughout life. I hear a positive attitude can take ya places, and I sure as Hell wouldn’t know. I’m not one of those parents who’s all “She’s going to be President someday.” She could be a blogger with readership in the double digits, and that’d be just fine. At least she came by it honestly.

I read this Conan O’Brien interview in The New York Times the other day, and it really resonated with me. If you’ve run out of free NYT articles for the month, or just don’t feel like clicking, it’s him discussing the decision to change his TBS show from a full hour to a half hour format. After 25 years in late night, he looked back on what he had done, and thought about how he would like to go forward. He said that, while it might seem selfish, he wanted an experience that allowed him to have the most fun because, in the end, none of it matters. “This is going to sound grim, but eventually, all our graves go unattended.”

On the worst days, I can come home and play “Grocery Store” with my oldest, while keeping the youngest from swallowing a Hatchimal. I’ve made, and continue to make, my impact on them, and that’s what matters. As for this, let’s make it fun again. No more “writing for the audience”. I want to be as blissfully happy as a 7-month old baby, and that’s accomplished by focusing on things a lot of people don’t care about, like 90s boybands and forgotten teen sitcoms. Let’s bring back Thrift Justice! Let’s dive into that backlog of comics that’s only been growing. No more expectations, as I’m leaving that mentality in 2018. It won’t be an overnight process, but it’s the destination I’m working towards. I’ve already made a mark somewhere, so let’s see where that takes us. As a great, rich man once yelled, “You wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!” Let’s consider 2019 the year of How Will Got His Groove Back. In the meantime, let’s leave 2018 behind like the garbage year that it was.

So, for being the best thing to happen to me in 2018, and for inspiring this introspection, Charley West had the West Year Ever.

21st Dec2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/21/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

CBS – This is like one of those movies where a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated plotlines converge and turn out to be related to one another in the giant, overarching story.

Over the past few months, I’ve pointed out the Les Moonves situation, as well as last week’s Michael Weatherly allegations from Eliza Dushku. Well, Dushku has shed a bit more light on the whole quagmire in a post for The Boston Globe. In it, she revealed that Weatherly used to boast about his friendship with Moonves, and that he would use Moonves’s plane, and they’d vacation together. While it probably originally seemed like Weatherly was bragging, it’s now clear that this was also something of a threat, as he was indicating he had sway with the big guy, and Dushku realized this the hard way when she got fired. 

Well, in an interesting twist, it has now been revealed that Moonves was behind the $9.5 million settlement to Dushku, as he was trying to quietly resolve the matter as CBS was in talks to (unsuccessfully) merge with Viacom. Oh, and he allegedly snuck the payment into Bull‘s production budget in order to “keep it off the books”.

Now, here’s where I get messy: ever since Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, wrote that op-ed revealing an affair that Joss had on the Buffy set, it’s been rumored that the other party in that was Dushku. This theory has been seemingly bolstered by the fact that Whedon kept insisting on creating opportunities for them to work together (like with Dollhouse, which was picked up by Fox without a fully fleshed out concept, and was merely “a show from Joss Whedon, starring the other Slayer from Buffy“), and the fact that Dushku wasn’t invited to the Buffy 20th anniversary. With this in mind, you could say that Weatherly was just “shooting his shot”. By no means does it make what he did right, but it does shed a bit more light on the context here. Cole specifically painted the other party in the affair as one of the “beautiful, needy, aggressive young women” that Whedon claimed to be surrounded by, which, if it was Dushku, would’ve made her the perfect target for Weatherly.

Now, let’s bring things back to Moonves. He was formally fired this week by CBS, and denied his $120 million severance package. The fact that he was involved in the Dushku payout certainly didn’t help matters for him, but this situation is hardly over. You don’t just roll over and let $120 million slip out of your hands. Plus, to make things even MORE complicated, it was revealed that part of his original separation agreement was that CBS must pay his legal fees. That said, he could, in theory, take CBS to court to fight for his severance package, and the suit would be on CBS’s own dime. Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta, I guess. By no means am I Team Moonves; I’m just constantly amazed by how corporations enter into these agreements that will do nothing but fuck them over in the end. This is about to be VERY expensive for CBS, where Moonves will walk away with something, plus he will have gotten away with all the lives and careers he’s ruined.

Stoney Westmoreland – Not a household name, but Westmoreland currently plays the grandfather on Disney Channel’s Andi Mack – or, he did until he was caught trying to solicit sex online from a 13 year old girl. He actually took an Uber to the girl’s house in Utah (where the show films), and was promptly arrested, and subsequently fired from the show. Oh, and did I mention that, in the show, he’s the grandfather to a 13 year old? This could’ve been much, MUCH worse, but here’s hoping he hasn’t been successful in any of these attempts in the past.

Salim Akil – Black folks are familiar with Akil, as he and wife, Mara Brock Akil, were behind shows like Girlfriends, The Game, etc. White folks probably best know him as the reason you feel slightly uncomfortable watching Black Lightning, as he’s the showrunner for that series, and the source of its “unapologetic Blackness”. Well, he and his wife were also the creative forces behind OWN’s Love Is ____, which was based on their relationship. The show had been renewed for a second season, but that decision was reversed this week. You see, Akil is being sued by a woman who alleges he abused her during an extended extramarital affair. While an investigation found no evidence of misconduct on the set of Love Is____, or on Black Lightning, OWN execs felt it was challenging to the narrative of the show to have these abuse claims out there. I mean, how do you keep up the guise of a “love story”, when it’s possible Akil was cheating for years? OWN seems to be taking the stance of “Hey, if this shit happened, it was before you worked for us, but it’s bad for business.” It feels like the kind of thing the Akils could fight if they wanted to, but it remains to be seen if they’ll pursue legal action.

Frankie Shaw – Here’s something we don’t get too often in HarassmentWatch(TM): a woman! The star/creator of Showtime’s SMILF is being  acccused of abusive behavior onset, especially stemming with how she filmed a particular sex scene. She told the actress that it would be a closed set, but then proceeded to turn on the monitors during the scene. That may not sound like much, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. You see, there are also reports that she segregated the writing staff, placing Black and White writers in different rooms. In all, it’s reported that she’s creating a chaotic and abusive work environment, and ABC Studios (which produces the show) is launching an investigation.

Morgan Spurlock Update – So, I’ve already written about how Mr. Super Size Me pretty much outed himself about past #MeToo behavior, which resulted in him losing a TON of work in its wake. Well, this week he was ordered to pay $1.18 million to Turner Entertainment to settle a lawsuit for his Who Runs The World? docuseries that was shelved after his confession. I was reading the comments section on Deadline, and someone pointed out how Spurlock ruined his whole life for nothing. That, despite telling on himself and his past behaviors, nobody ever came for him. No women popped up to corroborate the story. I just found that to be such an interesting perspective. Another commentor said that maybe he did it so “he could sleep at night”. Still, if a #MeToo falls in the woods, and no one’s there to hear it, was a dick pic truly sent?

I don’t mean to be dismissive of the #MeToo movement, but it really did devolve into something of a witch hunt with no real closure. And I deliberately use “witch hunt” because, to my knowledge, I don’t remember Salem immediately issuing an apology to all the “witches” they killed. No, that shit took HUNDREDS OF YEARS for those people to be exonerated. It’s sort of the same here. There are so many accusations, which are enough to ruin a career, but rarely any follow-up. For example, have we forgiven Ryan Seacrest? I don’t remember us deciding, as a culture, that he was off the hook. Shit, I remember how he was shunned on the red carpet for The Golden Globes because of those accusations from his former stylist. Still, that didn’t prevent him from taking Michael Strahan’s job, seated next to Kelly Ripa. So, I guess all is forgiven? Still, did that investigation close? Was the chick proven to be a liar? Did Hollywood’s elite say “Sorry for being an asshole to you while you were trying to do your job, Ryan”? No, I don’t think any of that happened, and that’s dangerous. I say that because for every Ryan Seacrest, who has the clout and money to bounce back, there are about 200 other dudes without those resources. The #MeToo movement shined the light on a lot of things that needed to be dealt with, and we all had fun with our finger pointing, but the 2018 model of the movement appears to finally be out of steam, and I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

Trailer Park

Hellboy (2019)

So, the HellHeads (Is that a thing? I’m gonna try to make that a thing) seem to HATE this trailer, but I see nothing wrong with it. I didn’t love those Ron Perlman movies as much as a lot of y’all did. I mean, they were OK, but I have this thing where I almost immediately discount anything with Jeffrey Tambor in it. Yes, I know he did Arrested Development and Larry Sanders, but to me he’ll always be the bumbling buffoon who somehow played, like, 14 different characters in the Three’s Company universe. So, those first 2 movies aren’t sacred (heh) to me. I won’t be seeing this in a theater, but I’ll totally watch it on FX late one night while trying to get my youngest to go to sleep.

Men In Black International

So, I really wish we were getting MIB23 instead of this, but here we are. Expect to hear reports of a ton of reshoots before this thing comes out. Why? Um, probably because everyone and their mom has already figured out that Liam Neeson is the villain. Shit, the voiceover at the beginning of this trailer, about how fate puts you where you’re supposed to be, is more than likely part of his reveal as the villain. No, they did a really shitty job of keeping that a secret, so I totally expect them to rewrite it so that Emma Thompson turns out to be the mole instead. Anyway, I’m getting something of a Spy Kids vibe from this trailer, and that’s not a good thing. I can’t even fully explain what I mean. It’s either that something is off or that it’s cheap, but that’s definitely what I’m getting here. Folks love Tessa Thompson (seriously, I’m almost surprised she didn’t get top billing over Hemsworth), so it’ll do well, but I’m not all that jazzed for it. I also still haven’t seen the 3rd one, so maybe I’m not the target audience.

Die Hard

I will NEVER understand you “Die Hard Isn’t a Christmas Movie!” people. IT TAKES PLACE DURING A GODDAMN OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY! That’s literally ALL you need. I know Hallmark and Lifetime have skewed your idea of what makes a “Christmas movie”, but it doesn’t require a moral or a cameo by Santa Claus. Some might say that it requires the reunion of estranged family members, which, guess what: THIS MOVIE HAS! Get outta my face with that “It’s not a Christmas movie” shit.

Mapplethorpe

I’m uncultured swine, but I’m also under the age of 50, so my only exposure to Robert Mapplethorpe was through a Family Guy cutaway gag about a coked up giraffe. That said, this looks really good. There’s no way I’m seeing it in a theater, ’cause it’s not a comic book movie, but I’ll definitely pick it up at a thrift store when I run across it.

Home Alone via Google Assistant

So, not really a trailer, but I still had to post it. I’m really glad Macaulay’s come around and seems to be embracing this role. I mean, it only took him 28 years! Seriously, though, he’s been shrouded in so much darkness much of that time, so I hope this is a sign that he’s finally emerging from all of that. Sure, he’d pop up every now and then in stuff like Saved! or Party Monster, but I really feel like we’ve been worse off for not experience what he could have been capable of doing. Between his family drama, the Michael Jackson shit, and all the drugs, it just seemed like such wasted talent. It’s nice to see him seemingly having fun. Even if it was just for a paycheck.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Timeless ended last night, despite being cancelled TWICE. I’m sure 2 of you out there were happy about that. I’ve never seen the show, but I’m over here, pissed off that they named the Black guy “Rufus”.
  • Speaking of franchises that just won’t die, there’s yet another Beverly Hills 90210 reboot on the horizon. Unlike the reboot on The CW from a few years back, this one is poised to focus more on the original cast, with Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, and Gabrielle Carteris slated to reprise their roles. Gabrielle Carteris?! Ain’t she, like, 80 now?! Anyway, since this revival is actually being developed by the producers of the 90210 CW reboot, there are talks that some of that cast may also return.
  • Ray Donovan has been renewed for season 7, so brace yourself for another batch of episodes filled with Liev Screiber looking constipated. Seriously, what’s the show about? Every still I see looks like Liev just ate some bad cheese.
  • The Voice crowned a winner for season 15, but I’m not even going to look up their name. It’s not like it matters. The Voice has never launched a career that mattered. Nope, let’s just move on to the next thing.
  • Bravo is reportedly developing a reboot of Queer As Folk, which better be called Queer AF.
  • Elementary‘s upcoming season will be its last, which seems like interesting timing since Moonves is now fired, and he seemed to have a thing for Asian chicks. Was HE keeping that show on the air due to a thing for Lucy Liu?!
  • Speaking of CBS renewals, there’s a strong chance that Mom won’t be back next season. Both Allison Janney and Anna Faris are at the end of their 6-season contracts, and they want substantial raises to continue. Considering CBS is about to lose The Big Bang Theory, which is America’s #1 sitcom, you’d think they’d open up their wallets to save America’s #3 sitcom. I guess we’ll have to see.
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has been renewed for a second season at Netflix. I dunno, I kinda always thought Kiernan Shipka was gonna be THE next big actress, so I almost feel like she’s slumming it, but y’all seem to love the show, so what do I know?
  • Peter Jackson better stick to Hobbits and shit, ’cause he apparently doesn’t know how to get audiences to care about The Mortal Engines, which is slated to lose $150 million.
  • Kaya Scodelario is replacing Emma Roberts in the Netflix ice skating drama, Spinning Out. If I’ve learned anything from Scodelario’s past roles, this show will be filled with young men who will do anything to sleep with her, and possibly end up dead once they do. #EffyStonemsVaginaIsDeadly
  • Somebody is leaking unreleased Beyonce tracks online, under the name Queen Carter. This has Matthew Knowles’s fingerprints all over it!
  • Alfonso Ribeiro is suing the makers of Fortnite for including his Carlton dance in the game. Ya know, the same dance he stole from Courteney Cox in the “Dancing in the Dark” video? Yeah, this should be interesting.
  • Former ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey has just joined Netflix as their Negro Wrangler. No, seriously, her title is Vice President of Original Content, but they’re putting her in charge of the projects from Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris and the Obamas, so… When she starts making changes on Stranger Things, then maybe I’ll change my mind.
  • Speaking of Black Excellence, Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker wasn’t unemployed for long, as he just signed a development deal with Amazon. I still say nobody signs up for Prime for the TV shows, but maybe he’ll prove me wrong?
  • We got our first look at Disney’s live action Aladdin, and well…I mean, with all the beautiful Persian girls in the world, and they give us Movie Pink Ranger? Still, I love how Will Smith has entered the “Fuck It” stage of his career. THIS is when he should’ve made Wild Wild West. Seriously, between Aladdin and that stupid animated film where he’s a spy turned into a pigeon, he’s simply saying “Fuck you, pay me” now.

So, in a fitting end to 2018, nothing had the West Week Ever this week. I tried, but nothing really stood out. Sure, everyone loved Into the Spider-Verse, but I wasn’t about to give it the WWE 2 weeks in a row. My birthday’s Sunday, but I can’t give it to myself because that would, technically, be for next week’s post. If there is a post next week.

In all the rigamarole of life, I forgot to celebrate the 6th anniversary of this little column. I started West Week Ever in November of 2012, and for 6 years I’ve tried my best to bring you recaps of the best the week had to offer. Some weeks were harder than others. Hell, some years were harder than others, but I kept chugging along with the whole “The Show Must Go On” mentality. And that worked. To a point.

Now, it feels like blogs are truly dying. I mean, Google basically put the bullet in their head when they retired Google Reader. No, folks now like their entertainment to come via podcasts and YouTube. So, where does that leave blogs? Better yet, where does that leave me? You’d think a world with fewer blogs would mean that there’s a bigger stage on which to shine, but that’s not the case. Instead, it’s like trying to be the next big radio star while everyone else is out buying those newfangled “televisions”.

Anyway, lots to think about. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, a kickin’ Kwanzaa and, if you have a time machine, a Happy Hanukkah! If something big happens over the next few days, we’ll be back here next week. If not, see ya in 2019!

07th Dec2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/7/18

by Will

 

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Neil deGrasse Tyson – It’s the return of everyone’s favorite segment – and just look at that smug son of a bitch! Yeah, I know you all love him, but I never have. Sure, he’s a brilliant guy, but I’ve never liked the condescending manner in which he imparts knowledge. To me, he’s a prime example of why Conservatives abhor the concept of education: they feel the educated talk down to them the same way he talks down to EVERYONE. So, forgive me if I’m a little giddy that even the smartest in science couldn’t avoid the #MeToo movement.

According to reports, three women have come forward with allegations. Musician Tchiya Amet was a former classmate of Tyson’s back in grad school, and she recounted a time when he Bill Cosby’d her, by giving her some water from a coconut shell. She said she passed out, and came to only to find him performing oral sex on her. When he noticed she was awake, he penetrated her, and she passed out again. She actually came forward with this in 2010, but her story is only now getting attention. The experience was so damaging to Amet that it resulted in her dropping out of school.

Meanwhile, Katelyn Allers, a professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell University, reports that Tyson grabbed her at a social function, insisting she show him the tattoo of the solar system that she had on her arm , to see if she had included Pluto. While Allers didn’t consider it “assault”, she did ask out of a dinner in Tyson’s honor later that weekend, and she also suggested that female students not be allowed near him without a faculty member present.

Next, there’s Ashley Watson, who was Tyson’s production assistant on Cosmos. He invited her over to his place for wine, and she only felt compelled to go because he was her employer. Once there, he began to play slow jams, and started talking about how everyone needs “releases – even physical releases”. As she got up to go, he told her that he wanted to hug her, but that he’d “only end up wanting more”. When she confronted him about his behavior, he told her she would never advance in her career because she was “too distracting”, so she quit, telling her employer not to hire any more female assistants for Tyson. While the supervisor sided with Watson, she was instructed to claim a “family emergency” as the reason for her departure, so as not to cause an uncomfortable situation.

Anyway, Tyson, of course, denies all of this on a Facebook blog post. He claims that he briefly dated Amet in the 80s, but that they were never serious. Amet, however, says they never dated, and were merely friends. As for Allers, he said he doesn’t remember the situation, but that looking for the existence of Pluto in a tattoo sounds like something he would do. For Watson, he says all he did was invite her for a little wine & cheese, and offer her a Native American “special handshake”. OK, Neil.

The #MeToo train seems to be running out of steam, but a lot of folks are wondering if it’ll get a second wind, as you never know who might be outed next. Still, I’m not really surprised that a guy I always perceived as a dick turned out to be a dick.

I had more to say about this earlier, but it’s late in the day and I’m tired. Kevin Hart took a job that reportedly NOBODY wanted by signing on to host the Oscars. I mean, it’s a thankless job, and the ratings decline every year. Folks just don’t care about watching movies they’ve never heard of win awards over the popcorn movies that they have seen. Everything was fine for, like, a day. Then it was reported that Hart was quietly deleting homophobic tweets from his Twitter account. Anyone who’s seen his act knows the kind of stuff to expect. Anyway, last night, he posted on Instagram that the Academy wanted him to apologize for the tweets, or else he couldn’t host. Refusing to apologize, he decided to step down from the hosting job.

Here’s where this gets dicey to me: I just find it interesting that the “Rehire James Gunn!” folks are all over this, when both people apologized for it in the past. It’s just that Hart is polarizing. He’s the Black Will Ferrell – you either LOVE him or HATE him, but hardly anyone merely *tolerates* him. So, because these folks we already saying”Kevin Hart is trash” they feel emboldened right now, even though it makes them hypocrites.

And while people say “He should’ve just apologized”, what would that get him? First off, those same folks would just say the apology was under duress, and not genuine. Plus, in a lot of ways, he was doing the Oscars a favor. After all, it’s a job nobody wanted, so he wielded the most power here. Now whoever gets the job is gonna know they were the second choice and they’re gonna know WHY. At the end of the day, I don’t think Kevin Hart has really lost any fans from this because Kevin Hart fans don’t give a shit about the Oscars anyway. Soul Plane didn’t win an Oscar, and they’re still mad about that!

Apparently an Ohio radio station has removed “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from its Christmas playlist because of perceived “rapey” lyrics. Now, yes, the song was written during a different time, and is often misinterpreted. I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about outrage to outrage. In these situations, I tend to hear more from the people outraged that people might find something offensive than I do from the people who supposedly find it offensive. There’s a whole bunch of “What happened to this country?!”, which is just another way of screaming, “How dare you make me question something I learned as a child?!” God forbid you actually experience some personal growth! A lot of this stuff is triggering to people, yet the Knights of Nostalgia don’t give a fuck ’cause, well, “Screw ’em!”

And to take it one more step, it’s always some dumpy, middle-aged White guy. The same guy who’ll say “I ain’t experienced White Privilege!” I get it. It SUCKS to be a dumpy, middle-aged White guy today. Everything you knew is changing, and there’s a new -ism every week. I assure you, though, you’ll get through life a lot more smoothly if you go with the flow than if you try to plant your Confederate flag in the dirt and say you won’t be moved. I know change is hard. I HATE change. I also know, however, that we do a lot of shit in this country just “because” or “it’s always been done that way”, without questioning any of it. Personally, I’m more offended by “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, ’cause any kid with half a brain can piece that together to realize there’s no Santa Claus. Or Mommy’s a whore. Either way, that’s some damaging shit.

 

Trailer Park

Captain Marvel

We got a second trailer for this film, and I don’t think I’ve ever been this underwhelmed by a Marvel film. Did Zack Snyder work on this movie? Outside the “Carol Corps”, I don’t know anyone excited for this movie, but I’ve always found Captain Marvel to be an unlikable character. From this trailer, I’m most impressed by how boring they manage to make Nick Fury. I’m not sure I like Everyman Agent Fury. I look forward to him losing his eye, which I assume will usher in the era of him becoming a cool muthafucka.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I always like when a frontman with a successful solo career throws a bone to their old band. So that’s why I’m happy to announce that Hootie & The Blowfish will be going on a reunion tour next year.
  • Tumblr will be deleting all adult content come December 17th. Don’t worry, though – all the Nazi shit will still be there. It’s just the tits and pussies they’re getting rid of. Don’t wanna be giving kids the wrong idea, right? Anyway, RIP Tumblr.

  • TVLine revealed that Mack will be the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns – which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me other than the fact that they’re determined to have a bald Black guy in a leather coat in the big chair.
  • Speaking of Marvel, there are reports that they are developing a movie for their Asian martial artist character, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu. I’m kind of surprised by how many people I saw asking “WHO?” considering whenever someone said that Iron Fist didn’t have to be White, a lot of folks would chime in with “But there’s already Shang-Chi!”
  • The Good Place has been renewed for season 4 by NBC. Now to just find time to watch all these season 3 eps I have on my DVR…
  • According to some youngsters I was eavesdropping on at the mall, apparently something called a “Cardi B” has split up from Offset. Are those companies? Does that mean anything to anyone?

  • There was a pic of a “reunion” of cast members from The Office, and everyone started saying “It’s happening!” They better fucking NOT bring that show back any time soon. It practically JUST ended. And how many more stories are there to be told about the Scranton paper industry? I LIKED the eps with no Michael Scott. I LIKED how it ended. Don’t bring it back.
  • Because everything old is new again, ABC is reportedly developing a reboot of the 90s Fox series New York Undercover. Ya know, the show with Malik Yoba and the Puerto Rican dude from the “Beat It” video? And every episode featured some 90s R&B act that you never hear of anymore? I’d rather they just give us a Fastlane reboot instead.
  • Since I guess there was some kind of Mandatory Asian Clause in someone’s contract, Julie Chen’s seat on The Talk will be filled by Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba.
  • This week’s WWE Monday Night Raw was the lowest rated telecast in the show’s history. What a great time for Vince McMahon to be shoveling money into his XFL revival. I mean, the man clearly knows what the people want, amirite?
  • Ice Cube will produce and star in a reboot of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch. Back when that show was popular, it was funny to think of celebrities fake fighting each other. Now, however, the celebrities will actually fight you! Don’t believe me? Just steal a parking space from Alec Baldwin.
  • The reteaming of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will take place in Men In Black International, which sounds like the name of a fancy escort service.
  • This is pretty juicy: former Martin star, Tisha Campbell-Martin, and husband, Duane Martin, are going through a messy divorce. Duane got a loan from Will & Jada Smith, which he used to buy a home. Sounds OK, right? Well, the Martins had declared bankruptcy. So, not only did Duane sell the house for a profit that he pocketed, but Tisha is claiming that Duane has been hiding money throughout their whole marriage. She said that the only reason she came clean was so that she could be around for their two kids. Damn, Gina!

Yeah, so this one’s a no brainer. Folks were clamoring for this trailer this week more than the maggots were waiting for HW. What? Too soon?

Some thoughts, though:

  • According to an interview, the denizens of the MCU refer to Thanos’s snap as “The Decimation”. Mathematics definition aside, I think it makes sense, because unless you personally know an Avenger, you wouldn’t know that *exactly* 50% of living things were gone. I mean, an accounting of that undertaking would require a census. And I doubt enough time has passed for them to conduct an emergency census.
  • I like the way that Tony says a particular line pretty much confirms how his situation is going to be resolved.
  • A friend online said that being upset about the title is “fanboy entitlement”, and I don’t agree. I’m not upset, per se, but I just think it’s odd that they’ve been running this whole “We can’t tell you the name of the movie too soon or it’ll spoil too much!”, only for it to turn out to be “Endgame”, which tells us NOTHING.
  • Maybe I’m dead inside, but folks online were saying it bummed them out – much like the same folks say Toy Story 3 made them cry. Neither had that effect on me. I think it’s because nobody actually died. They were essentially “wiped out”. I guess it’s a great visual way to get a PG-13 rating, but none of the Infinity War “deaths” stuck with me because they weren’t DEATHS. They were dustings. Everything goes back to dust. But life also comes from dust. I just kinda feel like it’s Marvel really trying to make us feel like there are stakes in an environment where they’ve proven that there are pretty much no stakes.

Still, I’m not griping. These are just initial thoughts. This is probably the most anticipated trailer since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, so there’s no way the Avengers: Endgame trailer didn’t have the West Week Ever.

30th Nov2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/30/18

by Will

I took last week off ’cause it was Black Friday, and I know this site was the last thing on y’all’s minds. Gotta get them $199 PS4s! Anyway, that just means we’ve got twice as much stuff to talk about this week!

First, allow me to rant. Every time there is a celebrity death, the internet instantly becomes filled with tribute art to the person. Sure, the artists typically mean well, but a lot of it is very, very bad – sometimes just in poor taste. Stan Lee died a couple weeks back, and what did we end up seeing? Stan Lee at the pearly gates, Stan Lee being hugged by his creations, Stan Lee with his creations surrounding his hospital bed, Stan Lee with the MCU stars photoshopped into his funeral. You get the picture. The one that really got me, though, is the one above: Stan and his dearly departed wife, Joanie, reunited in space, wearing spacesuits. This comes off as some kind of secular desire to have an afterlife, but still trying to apply Earth logic to things. Why are they in space? Is that where you think “souls” go? Why are they in spacesuits? Shouldn’t they no longer have the need to breathe? Bottom line, I thought this was stupid. This was just stupid. And I said so when someone posted it in a Facebook group I’m in, with a bunch of crying emojis. And the floodgates opened!

Let me give you some backstory about this group. I’ve met some great folks in there, but it’s chock full of Brits who are constantly making fun of EVERYTHING. For example, you can’t mention people being offended by Apu, because “Everyone’s too sensitive”. Seriously, every serious conversation on there is derailed by a bunch of guys chiming in with “Well, they’re being cunts!” So, imagine my surprise when I found the limits of the rapscallions! So, I had to reply:

A few days later, a few of the same folks were laughing about that missionary who got killed by the tribe. You know the one. And, yeah, I have my issues with missionaries and all that, but if you’d seen some of the stuff they were saying, and LAUGHING at…And I’M the asshole for thinking somebody’s DeviantART space pic is stupid? Oh, hell the fuck no! It took everything in my power not to run back into that group and tear it apart like Jesus in the temple. So, I subtweeted with my own status.

So, imagine my surprise when the group founder commented on it:

That’s where it pretty much ended – until now. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Trump Administration, it’s the art of doubling down. And I’m here to say that a LOT of that fan art shit is stupid. Sometimes a beloved artist will do some, and maybe sell it and give the money to charity. Nice use of the moment. What I don’t like is Johnny Cash Grab who decides he’s going to throw together a shitty t-shirt to sell to capitalize on the moment:

But also, money isn’t everything. There’s a lot of FREE fan art out there that’s stupid. The minute SpongeBob SquarePants creator Steven Hillenburg succumbed to ALS earlier this week, I immediately asked “How long before the fan art of SpongeBob meeting Stan Lee?” And while it’s not exactly what I described, the Internet did not disappoint:

WHO IS THIS FOR?! But, “let people mourn how they want to mourn.” It doesn’t mean I can’t question it.

Trailer Park


Artemis Fowl

This just looks like Great Value Harry Potter to me, only he’s in the Men In Black now? I mean, if Harry Potter knockoffs are what’s bringing in the big bucks, I’ve been sitting on the Charlie Panner franchise for about a decade, and I need to talk to someone pronto! Yeah, I know it’s based on a book series, but I’m not 14, nor do I hang around any since the court case. So, I’m gonna need a little bit more from my teaser trailers. This? This was just meh.


The Lion King

OK, but WHY? I get it. It’s stunning, and it’s a beloved story, but we already have the original. I feel like those people who get upset when their favorite old property is rebooted. No, this one doesn’t mean that the old one doesn’t exist, but there are so many other things Disney could be doing with this money and technology. I feel like Disney is creatively stale, like they were prior to The Little Mermaid, and live action versions of their 90s hits ain’t really impressing me all that much. Still, I’ve never had the same love affair with Disney movies as some folks, so I guess I’m just dead inside. Nice job they’ve done here, though.


Once Upon A Deadpool

A PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2? Sure, it’s a cash grab, but I respect their hustle. Maybe it would’ve been cooler to have had this as a bonus feature on the Blu Ray, but if there’s theatrical money, and it fills a hole in Fox’s schedule, then do it. I still haven’t seen Deadpool 2, so I guess I’ve got homework before December 12th. And I kinda like Nickelback more than the Beatles…


The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

So this is the second trailer we’ve gotten for this movie, and it really wasn’t doing much for me until Rex Dangervest showed up. That’s cute what they did there. I mean, I’ll see it, but nothing about this is like “WOW, I CAN’T WAIT!” Plus, if you cast Tiffany Haddish, you’re only going to get “Tiffany Haddish”. Make sure that voice works with the character, ’cause if it doesn’t, then…you get this.

Runaways Season 2

This looks like the Freeformiest Freeform show that ever Freeformed – which is odd, since it’s NOT on Freeform. It’s like if Claire’s, Urban Outfitters, and Hot Topic decided to go in together on a TV production deal. I’m sure the teens and tweens probably love it, but I can’t see myself watching a single episode of this show – which probably why I never watched any of season 1. Plus, I don’t have Hulu, so…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • ABC’s Sue Sue In The City spinoff of The Middle will not be going forward. It’s kinda sad, as I liked Eden Sher in the role, but I also felt like it wasn’t necessary, as The Middle gave a nice ending to her story. This show would’ve had to serve as an “Inbetwequel” to the ending the show had set up for her. This is probably for the best.
  • Speaking of ABC spinoffs, Schooled, the 90s-set AJ Michalka starring spinoff of The Goldbergs, will debut on January 9th. Oh, look -Tim Meadows is in the cast. Yup, this show is D.O.A.
  • In a somewhat surprising move, Netflix has cancelled Marvel’s Daredevil series. I’m gonna say this one more time, for the cheap seats in the back: DISNEY IS NOT PICKING UP THE CANCELLED MARVEL NETFLIX SHOWS! I’ve already explained the WHY, and I’m just tired of the same time armchair speculation.
  • I can admit when I’m wrong, and I once said that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t be around for Avengers 4, yet not only will it, but it’s been renewed for it’s seventh season before the sixth even launches next summer. I felt like the show was going to be the “connective tissue” of the MCU around that Winter Soldier/pre-Age of Ultron era, and then go away. Then it kinda distanced itself from the movies except when it couldn’t be explained away (due to the politics), and started doing its own thing. They say last season was great, but I’ll have to check that out for myself.
  • Country radio personality Bobby Bones won season 27 of Dancing with the Stars, which has fired off this outcry of how the show is “broken”. “It’s just a popularity contest now!” Um, EVERY reality show is a popularity contest, Doris!
  • Jon Cryer has been cast as Lex Luthor in Supergirl and, while I have no interest in watching that show, I don’t hate that casting. I don’t hate it at all.
  • Back in 2012, ABC aired a series called GBC, based on the semiautobiographical book Good Christian Bitches. Of course it didn’t last, as we’re not currently talking about the 7th season of GCB, are we? Well, The CW is developing a reboot of the show, and it will retain its original title. Man, there are gonna be SO many evangelical groups up in arms about this one.
  • It was a busy week for celebrity profiles, as one focused on the renaissance of Amanda Bynes (glad she’s not dead!), while the other focused on Lena Dunham coming to terms with the fact that she’s a bit much to handle at times.
  • There are rumblings of a revival of the 90s CBS series Northern Exposure, with most of the cast – including original star Rob Morrow – back on board. This is interesting, seeing as how most of the cast and crew reportedly hating working with Morrow. I guess they loved that money more than they hated him, huh?
  • There was a One Tree Hill Christmas movie on Lifetime that was NOT a One Tree Hill movie. WTF? Yeah, they cast about 60% of the One Tree Hill cast in The Christmas Contract, yet it wasn’t a One Tree Hill project. Who does that? That’s like if I brought in Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer and was like, “OK, in this show, you guys all work in a bar”…
  • Jerry Springer will be bringing original content to your syndicated airwaves next season, when his court show, Judge Jerry, launches. I’m not kidding. What bothers me is that his talk show fizzled instead of going out with a bang. Its best years were probably 20 years ago, but it still deserved more of a sendoff than it got. To me, this court show is just the Three’s A Crowd to his Three’s Company.
  • Even though Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse isn’t even out yet, Sony is reportedly developing an animated Spider-Women spinoff probably focusing on Spider-Gwen, or Ghost Spider, or whatever they’re calling her this week. I’ve got thoughts about Into The Spider-Verse, but you’ll hear more of them in the coming weeks.
  • Netflix is developing animated series based on the works of the “ORIGINAL J.K. Rowling” himself, Roald Dahl. Debuting in 2019, they’re set to be event series and specials.

  • Speaking of Netflix, they’ve announced a 10-episode order for a live action adaptation of the Cowboy Bebop anime, and this could either be the best or worst thing they could ever do. People love the Hell out of that series, and I can already hear the cries of “They’re whitewashing characters!” I only know two things: 1) they’d better cast Ben Schwartz as Spike (I’d also take David Tennant) and 2) the in-show bounty hunter series Big Shot better be worked into this version.

So I have this slightly narcissistic thing about me where I don’t listen to a podcast unless the hosts have had me on as a guest at some point or another. I just like having the ability to interact more than just yelling at the computer, and when I know the hosts, I can drop them a line, or even go on a future show to add to that conversation. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but that’s pretty much how my Stitcher playlist is designed.

Anyway, I had a long drive home from Richmond last weekend, and I was all out of my usual podcasts, having listened to them on the way down. I didn’t really feel like music, either, but I needed something to listen to. Then I remembered that a coworker had recommended Wolverine: The Long Night to me when he was trying to pitch the idea of audio books to me (I still prefer print). He said that this was more of a radio show than an audio book, but I might like it. What it was, actually, was a podcast that was a co-production between Marvel and Stitcher. Broken up into 10 chapters, all were available to listen to, ad-free, so my bingeing began!

Wolverine: The Long Night takes place in its own sort of timeline (which they’re hinting might expand into the Marvel Podcast Universe), so you can’t really place it in the movies or the comics. Some grizzly murders have occurred in the small Alaskan town of Burns, where everyone is hiding, or running from, something. The police are simply telling the public that the murders were committed by a grizzly bear, but could there be something more? Could the short, mysterious loner who just came to town be responsible for the deaths? Well, that’s what Special Agents Pierce and Marshall are there to find out. They are our “eyes” through the whole story, so we see everything from their viewpoint. We’re able to check in on other characters because of bugs that the agents placed around the town. Otherwise, you don’t know it’s happening unless Pierce & Marshall have somehow documented it.

Despite the title, the series is less about Wolverine, and more about how his mere presence has affected everyone in the town. We don’t “see” him much, but when we do, it counts. Meanwhile, there’s some other stuff going on in the town that could be connected to the murders. There’s the mysterious Aurora cult, who have come to the town to establish a base. There’s the wealthy Langrock family, whose money and generosity have kept the town afloat for years, but are they hiding something? As it should come as no surprise to anyone, all of these things overlap heading toward the conclusion of the story.

I really want to discuss this thing with someone else who’s listened to it because there are a lot of 3rd act issues with it. There’s a swerve that you saw coming a mile away, but it doesn’t go in the direction in which you thought it would have gone. Plus, because it’s in its own universe, things happen for which there’s no in-canon precedent. I don’t want to spoil it here, but if you have listened, give me a shout.

Wolverine is voiced by English actor Richard Armitage, who comes off sounding like an angry George Clooney – which doesn’t exactly sound like it fits on paper, but it surprisingly works very well. The rest of the cast is fleshed out by Scott Adsit, Bob Balaban, Brian Stokes Mitchell and more talented folks. I really didn’t know if I was going to take to the whole thing, but I got home with about 3 hours left in the story. I went down to the basement, and just listened to the rest like I was in the ’40s or some shit. What’s a “television”?

Would I listen to more like this? Sure and, as I said before, there are even talks of expanding this into a whole universe. I really enjoyed the experience, and it’s an engaging story. I’m not entirely sure it stuck the landing, ’cause that last episode…whoa. Still, of the experience as a whole, I give it an A, and as the best thing I experienced in the past week, Wolverine: The Long Night had the West Week Ever.

 

16th Nov2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/16/18

by Will

So, it’s been THREE WEEKS since I actually covered “pop culture” on here. And ya know? Ain’t a whole lot happened in that amount of time. I mean, I’ve been fighting to get my White House press credentials restored, but other than that things have been pretty lame. Sure, you may think there was news, but there really wasn’t. Let’s see what I can pick out this week, shall we?

So, I did something I haven’t done in a while: I watched a movie. At home! Lindsay went out to the store, and Evie was mesmerized by Ryan’s Toy Reviews on her tablet, but the TV was left on Megamind. From the beginning. Lucky me! Now, I know I’ve seen parts of it before on a plane, but I fell asleep on it, so that doesn’t count. Why did this movie bomb? I seem to remember it bombing. *checks Wikipedia* Yup, one of the lowest-grossing DreamWorks CG movies to date. That’s a shame, ’cause I really enjoyed it.

If you’ve never seen it, it’s Will Ferrell at his “hamiest”, voicing the supervillain Megamind. He and the hero Metro Man both crashed on Earth as babies, but they ended up with very different lives, despite growing up around each other. Jealous of the attention that Metro Man got from peers, Megamind eventually turned to villainy, and this cat and mouse game develops over the years. That is until Megamind goes too far in one of their battles, seemingly killing Metro Man. Now, without a foe, Megamind begins to realize that villainy really isn’t that fun – especially when he falls in love with reporter Roxanne Ritchi. Now he has to lead a double life as both Megamind and “Bernard” (the guy he’s disguised as when he dates Roxanne), while a new villain rises in Metro City. Will the villain become the hero? That’s all I’ll give ya, ’cause I really think you should see it yourself.

It was one of those rare times when I couldn’t identify the voice actors, and I don’t know if they took me out of it, or if it actually helped to pull me in. I mean, I was surprised to discover that Tina Fey was Roxanne, but even more surprised to find that Brad Pitt was Metro Man. Jonah Hill’s character? Totally thought it was Nick Swardson. So, cute movie, great cast. I’d recommend it. I am tired of seeing those Happy Meal toys at thrift stores, though…

Nothing convinced me of the fact that I’m simply not a Star Wars fanatic more than the news than came out over the past week. First up, there’s going to be a Rogue One prequel series on the Disney+ streaming service, starring Diego Luna reprising his role as Cassian Andor. Yeah, that’d be great if I didn’t already know how he dies. I don’t like prequels for characters who we’ve seen die because there are absolutely no stakes. It might as well be Star Wars: Cassian’s Root Canal. That’s how interesting that sounds to me. It’s always odd to me that fans love Rogue One and hate The Last Jedi when I had the opposite feeling on both of those movies. I don’t need gritty suicide missions in my Star Wars. I felt like every character in that movie was a cliche. That’s why nobody knows their names. Sure, there are fans who’ll get butthurt when you say that, and respond “It’s Chirrut Imwe!”, but I’m content just calling him “Blind Guy”, thankyouverymuch. Anyway, they were created simply to die, and die they did.

Plus, what is there to really do with Cassian? They’re gonna make him a lovable rogue who hates authority. Congrats, Disney: you’re effectively giving us Mexican Bootleg Han Solo! Anyway, I’m curious to know if there’s a version of Rogue One out there that I’d actually like. I mean, between reshoots and edits, what we got was an entirely different movie than the one they initially set out to make. Maybe that’ll come through on the series? I’m not sure, but I’m not the target audience.

Next up, they announced some casting for The Mandalorian, and again, I was unable to go from 6 to 12 from that news. Game of Thrones actor Pedro Pascal is reportedly going to be the lead in the series, but I’ve never watched Game of Thrones so that means nothing to me. Meanwhile, someone somewhere is going “Why they fillin’ up mah Star Wars wit’ Mexicans?!” Yeah, he’s from Chile, but the person saying that doesn’t know the difference between the two… Also, they announced that former MMA star Gina Carano had been cast. That’s the moment I lost all interest. Are we still trying to make her a star? Look, I’m sure she’d make a fine stuntwoman, but acting ain’t her strong suit. Has everyone forgotten how all her dialogue from Haywire had to be overdubbed?! Is she going to be a droid? Anyway, y’all have fun with The Force, but none of this is for me.

Trailer Park


Toy Story 4

Yeah, I don’t need this. Look, I know y’all love Toy Story, and I know it put Pixar on the map, but I’ve never really taken to this franchise. Yeah, go ahead and be shocked, but that’s how I feel when one of y’all tries to say that the first 10 minutes of Up do nothing for you. BASIC! Anyway, I know the last movie kinda served as a springboard for new adventures, but it doesn’t mean they have to show them all to us. It was enough to know that the toys got a new home and a new lease on life. I don’t need to watch Bonnie grow up, and then pass them on to some other kid like Andy did. They had a GOOD stopping point. Why ruin that? Oh yeah. Money.

Fighting With My Family

Huh. I never had any interest in this film until watching that. Sure, I love Nick Frost and Vince Vaughn, but I’ve never really cared much about Paige. I mean, when “the leak” happened, I ended up seeing way more of her than I ever imagined, but I’ve never cared about her wrestling. I know WWE is giving the women’s division more of a push these days, but I’m kinda cold on the company right now, plus Paige isn’t really in-ring talent at the moment. So, this won’t bring me back to wrestling, but I’d definitely like to see this movie.


Spies in Disguise

What the fuck is this?! Does Will Smith need money? Do we need to start a GoFundMe, or is he already on Patreon? This movie looks like it was spawned from those “Why can’t James Bond be Black?” thinkpieces, and then Hollywood got involved and was like, “OK, he can, IF he can also be a bird”. There’s this longstanding stigma in Hollywood that every Black comedian has to, at some point, don a chicken suit in some Stepin Fetchit attempt to make them less threatening to some White audiences. This is Will Smith’s chicken suit. Plus, I don’t care if Blue Sky made the Ice Age franchise – I’m commoner trash, so I want my animation from Disney or Dreamworks. Otherwise, GTFO!


Detective Pikachu

So, this is basically family friendly Ted, right? I mean, I can dig it. I’ve got a lot of questions about the world in which it’s set, but there’s already a built-in audience for this, considering Pokemon GO almost settled the Israel land disputes. Seriously, I was amazed when the entire world was playing it, and I’m still amazed that there are millions of folks still playing it undercover. I see you walking in that park! I know you don’t give a shit about fitness!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Apparently the title for the third installment of the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence cop franchise will be Bad Boys for Lif3. Huh. Why not just go the extra mile and replace “for” with “4”? Oh, and the “s” with a “z”? Bad Boyz 4 Lif3. There’s your edgy title!
  • Speaking of Will Smith, son Jaden may have come out as gay this week, as he told a festival crowd that Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator was his boyfriend. I’m not really surprised, as I always considered him gender fluid anyway. Plus, he’s weird Hollywood royalty, so you could tell me he’s in a serious relationship with a Mitsubishi Eclipse, and I’d be like “Huh. Nice choice.”
  • Netflix has cancelled The Good Cop after one season. Let me tell you, I had NO IDEA this thing was a cop drama starring Tony Danza and Josh Groban. I saw an ad for it, and I thought it was about a Black cop who doesn’t give a shit because he’s so close to retirement. Apparently that IS one of the characters, but he’s not the star. I actually wanted to watch that show.
  • Tom Cruise is done with the Jack Reacher franchise, as he is reportedly too short for the role. It’s not like it matters, though, because they’re refocusing it for television instead of movies, and Tom Cruise ain’t doing TV any time soon.
  • Fans won’t be saying “Happy Christmas” to The Doctor this year, as there will be no Doctor Who Christmas special for the first time in 13 years. Instead, however, there will be a New Years special, but fans already seem ready to start a war about this.
  • Since CBS All Access is really just CBS: We Have Star Trek So Please Give Us Money, there are reports that there’s ANOTHER Trek show being developed – this time, focused on Michelle Yeoh’s Star Trek: Discovery character, Philippa Georgiou. I still haven’t watched season 1 of Discovery, but every news story spoiled what happened to her character, so I’ll let you look up the details yourself.
  • 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for STDs, as MTV’s Spring Break will make its triumphant return, along with a reboot of Temptation Island on USA Network.
  • Tim Tebow will be hosting a new competition show called Are You There, Jesus? Kidding. It’s actually called Million Dollar Mile, where it’s basically American Gladiators against professional athletes. Yeah, I think my show sounds better.
  • Malibu! Malibu! Malibu is on fire! We don’t need no water, let that motherfucker…Oh shit, there goes the Westworld set!
  • Alec Baldwin punched a guy over a parking space, but that’s basically a regular Tuesday for him.
  • Hey, remember how y’all hated Venom? Well, it still debuted at $111 million in China, as Sony’s biggest Chinese launch of all time. Oh, and it’s made $674 million globally. Yeah, we’re getting that sequel, and I ain’t mad.
  • Vanessa Bayer, formerly of Saturday Night Live, is developing Big Deal for Showtime, in which “a woman overcomes childhood leukemia to achieve her lifelong dream of being an on-air host on the Home Shopping Network. Huh. This just sounds like an SNL sketch. And not a good one. Apparently, Bayer did overcome childhood leukemia, and it’s nice to see she’s creating her own roles, as Hollywood is otherwise just gonna pigeonhole her as “perky best friend” in the rom-com genre.

So, I took last week off because it was a holiday weekend, but I gave a rare social media-only West Week Ever to my friend Mary Ann Borer. We “met” through a Facebook group a couple of years ago, and she’s become quite the friend of the site. So, imagine my surprise when she became the reigning Jeopardy! champion. She even went viral for her Sailor Moon salute. The Teen Tournament is currently going on, but I can’t wait for it to end so she can get back to kicking ass. So, for the record, last week, she had the West Week Ever.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. I’m not going to eulogize him ’cause enough sites have done that. I don’t even know if I can do a “What Stan Meant To Me” angle. I’ve spent the past few years pretty much waiting for what happened on Monday. I had made my peace with it once the stories of the suspected elder abuse surfaced earlier this year. To me, Stan “The Man” Lee was already gone, and his handlers were pretty much Weekend at Bernie’s-ing him to get at his fortune. When Wizard magazine went under, the first thought I had was how they wouldn’t be around to have a special commemorative edition when he passed. But I still wasn’t ready on Monday. We lost Stan.

As much as I love pop culture, I’ve never been much of a “starfucker”. I’ve come in contact with a handful of celebrities in my life, but there were only 3 that I ever simply HAD to meet: Adam West, Stan Lee, and Jason David Frank, the greatest Power Ranger of all time. For two of those, I knew the clock was ticking as they were getting older, but they were surrounded by vultures, so the cost of that opportunity kept going up. I paid $300 for a VIP package to meet him at Baltimore Comic Con back in 2011. That’s a lot of money, but not once did I ever question it. This was STAN LEE. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money with that little thought put into it. To me, it was a given. I was meeting The Man. After all, “He’s not going to be with us long” was always in the back of my head. And now he’s not.

I always hate the whole “He’s in a better place now” phrase, but I honestly feel that way for Stan. His last few years just seemed miserable, and it was sad to watch him go through it all. Ever since he lost his wife, Joanie, he hadn’t been himself. And now he’s with her again. I don’t care what you believe. There could be an afterlife, or maybe they’re just together in the ground, turning into dust. I feel like whatever it is is probably better than drifting in and out of coherence, while my slacker daughter keeps visiting to ask for money.

Stan meant a lot to a lot of people. That goes without saying. Like any man, he had his faults. And as great as his creative highs were, he also had creative lows. He was a man who would put his name on literally anything. He was the epitome of “Fuck you, pay me”, but he always did it with such enthusiasm, and a smile on his face. The cash grabiest cash grab seemed like a decent idea when he went out to cheerlead for it. The Backstreet Project? Even at the height of the Backstreet Boys’ fame, this was a long shot. Chakra: The Invincible? Over 1.2 BILLION people in India, and none of them gave a shit about that thing. But that’s just a testament to the Stan Lee name. His past paid for his future. Co-creating X-Men, Spider-Man, and the rest opened every door for him for the rest of his life. And I don’t think Stan ever came across a door that he didn’t enter.

His huckster enthusiasm is what we know most about him, though, and it was infectious. He really made you feel like he believed in everything he put his name on. Even as you were at home, shaking your head in disbelief, he was telling you, “No, seriously, this cartoon about Pamela Anderson as a stripper/superhero is gonna knock your socks off!” Instead of the guy who had already made his nut, he approached everything like it might finally be his big break. I’m not sure if there was some guilt over who created what back in the day, or if he just needed to keep the creative juices flowing. Either way, you believed HE believed in Stripperella, even if you and everyone you knew had no intention of ever watching it.

It’s amazing to see someone that enthusiastic about anything in this day and age – to believe in the things to which you’ve aligned yourself THAT MUCH. He could say, “Well, donkeys sleep upside down, True Believer!” and you’d be like, “Well, fuck. I never knew that!” HE MADE YOU BELIEVE. That’s why his creations are so effective, and have touched so many people. You KNEW a Peter Parker. You KNEW a Bruce Banner. And even if it was something you’d never encountered, he made you believe and understand it, too. Name someone else who can do that. I’ll wait.

I don’t think it has fully hit me. I had to get offline when the news hit because it’s the Internet, and the pro-Kirby/pro-Ditko, pro-any collaborator crowd was sharpening their pitchforks and practicing their grave dancing moves. I didn’t feel like dealing with any of that. Now the dust has settled, and everyone has posted their own eulogies and retrospectives, so I appreciate you taking the time to read mine. I think it goes without saying that Stan Lee had the rare distinction of having the West Life Ever. Excelsior!

29th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/29/18 (TRU Edition)

by Will

I’m gonna take some liberties with the format this week, as it’s sort of a special occasion. I’ll cover this week’s news next week, and I hope you’ll forgive the departure.

As you probably already know, today is the final day of business for Toys “R” in the United States. Some stores closed earlier this week, but all will be closed by tonight. I’m still processing what this means to me. Sure, as a child of the ’80s, and a pop culture junkie, TRU has meant a lot to me over the years. I’ve touched on it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you my Toys “R” Us origin story. So, there’s no time like the present!

I’ve been talking with a lot of “cohorts” lately, and they’ve said things like “It didn’t mean that much to me.” Or “The toys were too expensive.” They also say they don’t have any real nostalgic connection to the brand. I can’t diminish someone else’s experience, but that simply wasn’t the case for me. I will admit that Toys “R” Us has suffered from something of an identity crisis over the past decade or so, but I think we all remember the golden age of cartoon Geoffrey the Giraffe, and his extended family (Gigi, etc).

For me, TRU was a magical place that I always hoped to sneak off to while my mom and grandmother were visiting the garden center down the plaza from it. I also didn’t get many toys from TRU back in the day, because toys used to be everywhere: People’s Drug, Kmart, Sears, Woolworth’s. But getting a toy from those places was merely pedestrian. To get a toy from TRU was like visiting Mecca. It’s like the song said, “From bikes and trains to video games” – it was the biggest toy store there was!

You know how when you’re a kid, folks are always asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My blanket answer was “I want to own a McDonald’s and a Toys ‘R’ Us.” Yes, young Will didn’t know about franchising and commercial real estate leases. He thought you could own one of those just like some rando can own the corner store. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or cops, and I just wanted to work with Geoffrey. Can’t say I didn’t aim high!

As I got older, I learned that folks actually look down on McDonald’s as a place of employment if you’re not a teenager (which is pretty messed up, if you ask me!). Still, that kinda marred the brand in my mind, so I gave up on that dream. That became a dream deferred. I didn’t give up on Toys “R” Us, though. I decided I was going to work for Toys “R” Us corporate. After all, everyone respects a businessman, and I’d still be working with toys!

Unlike most teenagers, I didn’t have an afterschool job. No, I didn’t get my first job until the week after my high school graduation. Where? Toys “R” Us. I had actually applied during the previous Christmas season, when I handed my application to the store director, Erin. Of course they never called (‘cause they never do. The onus of the job hunt is on the hunter), but I tried again the following summer.

Now, if you’re new here, you don’t know much about me. My dad died when I was 3, and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. To say I was a “Mama’s Boy” would be something of an understatement, but it gets the image across. So, while most teenagers would confidently saunter into a place and ask if they’re hiring, I had my mom with me, and I think she did most of the talking. So, they didn’t call me. However, when I went back the next summer, Erin recognized me because I was the one who had brought his mother with him to apply. She either thought it was cute or sad. I never did find out. Anyway, she hired me and put me to work the next day.

Yay, I was finally working with toys! My dream job! Oh, the smiles I would put on kids’ faces! The funny thing about TRU is that, once you work there, you realize just how big (and kinda unnecessary) that store truly is. I began to realize that I’d spent my childhood worshiping aisles 6D and 7D (action figures), not even acknowledging that there was a whole lot more store than that. More, for which I did not give a shit. They kept putting me in bikes or in diapers, but I’d find a way to sneak back to action figures.

Plus, because I was seasonal (I was leaving for college at the end of the summer), they never saw any need to train me on the register. I worked at that place for 3 seasons before they trained me on register. By the time I was in Year 8, they were like “Here’s Paco. It’s his first day, and we want you to train him on the register.” That was so weird to me. We don’t know that dude, so why are we so quick to let him near the money? Anyway, since I held no “floor value” for them, they had me unload trucks, organize the stockroom, and bring up any big ticket pickup requests, like bikes, swings, etc.

Here’s why TRU means a lot to me: as someone who grew up pretty sheltered, that job gave me a crash course on LIFE. The cute girls, the old ladies – those were the ones they put on the floor. The guys in the back, however, were a rougher bunch. Some of them were ex-cons, while some of them were clearly headed for incarceration. It’s funny looking back on it because I had two very distinct Toys “R” Us employment experiences: the Wheaton era, which was basically Training Day, and the Columbia era, which was Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

These guys were telling me stuff about the women they were seeing, as well as what they were doing to those women. They’d also tell me about their wives. Yup, same dudes. Seventeen year old Will would naively point out “But you’re married!” One thing I will never forget is when Ramone laughed at me, saying “Man, you don’t marry for love. You marry for security.” That was deep, especially at 17.

That place was filled with a cast of characters, and that television show, despite being set in a toy store, would have to air on Netflix or premium cable. There was chainsmoking mumbler, Garrett, who built the bikes. I was working there when JFK Jr. and his wife died, and Garrett was the one who offered up his theory that sky head was to blame. You’ve heard of road head? Well, same thing, but in a privately chartered helicopter. In the sky. Garrett loved his conspiracies.

There was David, the other bike assembly guy, who’d just gotten back from overseas, and was clearly going through some kind of PTSD. He either looked like a fatter Tony Hale or a skinnier Bubba Ray Dudley. The jury’s still out on that. His arms were covered in sleeves, so management made him wear a light blue Oxford to cover his arms so he wouldn’t offend the guests. I remember he was really blinky, and I was always expecting a Falling Down episode from him. He totally took advantage of me because I was young and dumb and had more money than I needed. He had brought some Pocket Monsters stuff back with him from Japan (remember, Pokémon had just hit the US, so this was the original, pure shit), and I remember him selling it to me for some price that really didn’t make a lot of sense. But I hate conflict, and don’t know how to back out of a deal, so “Here’s your money, David.” The sad post-script is that most of that stuff ended up going to my then-girlfriend’s little brother. Yup, I did it all for the nookie. Or was trying to, at least.

Barbara was the first Black lesbian I’d ever encountered, and she scared the shit out of me (not the first lesbian, though – I’d seen the Ellen Degeneres-starring Mr. Wrong almost a decade prior, and well, I just knew…). She was mean, and if she threatened to cut you, I truly believe a cutting was in your future. She had a nice side racket going, where the old White G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels collectors would pay her to put the new cases aside for them, so they could get the good stuff before it hit the floor. I’m sure they were terrified of her, too, but those Treasure Hunts weren’t gonna scalp themselves. Anyway, I clapped back at her one day about something trivial (I was young and stupid) , and stayed on her bad side after that.

Ron was one of the managers, and he made me question every naïve thing I’d ever thought about leadership. Later, in college, I’d learn the difference between management and leadership, but at the time I thought they were the same. He had come from Foot Locker, and I spent a lot of time wondering “What’s he doing here? Shoes have nothing to do with toys.” See, I hadn’t yet hit that realization that retail is just a job. As the youngest person working in the store, I never stopped to think that I was the only one who WANTED to be there due to a love of toys. It was hilarious, though, watching him pursue a phat ass through the store. It’s like he had a sixth sense for it, and then he’d get on the walkie, telling the other guys to meet him in whatever aisle she happened to be in. That shit was pure harassment, but I’d never seen anything like it before. And, to be honest, none of the women ever seemed that offended. If anything, they were just happy to receive some kind of customer service which, as you know, has been lacking in a lot of places in recent years.

Finally, as the ringmaster of this motley crew, Erin was a short woman who wore a tight French braid. In some other life, she was a detective or a parole officer, but here she made sure that Mr. Potato Head was “edged off” (the practice of pulling the boxes to the very edge of the shelf, to give the illusion that the shelves are more full that they actually are. Plus, it brings the item closer to the customer’s reach). You knew it was a rough day when she would pitch in with the clean-up, and release her hair from that braid. She was tough, but fair. She had a maternal, Captain Janeway quality to her, and we were all her Sevens of Nine. They’d eventually transfer her to the Frederick store. I saw her a few years later, and she barely had any recollection of me, my mom, any of it. Through squints, she seemed to sort of register who I was, but I’m sure so many folks had passed through her “finishing school” by that point that they all start to blend together. Still, thanks for not letting Barbara cut me, “Mom”.

In all, I worked for the Wheaton store over the course of 7 years, during summers and Christmas when I’d come home from college, as well as some stints afterward. In early 2006, the company announced plans to close 75 stores across the country, which we thought was unheard of at the time. Still, I didn’t think much about it until I came in one day soon after Christmas to see Store Closing signs hung everywhere. These days you’d probably at least get an email or something, but not then. Were we so primitive in 2006? So, I found out the same way our customers did – seeing the signage in the store.

I’ve already shared some stories about those final days in Wheaton, but that store just kept on teaching me things. In this case, I learned how fun retail could be if you simply didn’t give a shit anymore. Sure, it’s probably not best for the customer, but I had a lot of fun during that liquidation period. Still, it was a part-time job for me, so it didn’t hit me like it probably affected others there. By that point, all the folks I mentioned had already moved on. As I saw it, my education was complete, and I was fine with the store closing. Plus, there was still a TRU across town, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have a local store.

The Wheaton store closed, and I thought that was it for my Toys “R” Us time. In college, I majored in Human Development, with a concentration on early childhood. The whole “I want to work with toys” wasn’t just a pipe dream to me. I took courses on play interaction, and interned at a daycare to study how kids play with each other. The problem, though, is that there was no real career path for that at the time. Sure, now there are schools with toy curriculums, like F.I.T., but that wasn’t a thing in 2001. Once I graduated, nobody knew what to do with me. I sent a bunch of blind letters to Hasbro, TRU, Mattel, and more. See, it turns out toy companies care more about design than intent. It’s more likely they’ll make a cool-looking toy educational instead of making an educational toy cool-looking. If it teaches something, great, but the aesthetic came first. So, the folks who did gave me the time of day wanted to see my portfolio – a portfolio that I did not have. I remember I got a really nice letter from some VP at TRU corporate that was basically “We don’t know what to do with you, but don’t give up on your dreams.” Sorry, lady, but I gave up.

After a stint in commercial real estate, I got a chance to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. It wasn’t quite toys, but it was as close to the toy industry as I felt I was going to get. The sad thing, though, is that you have to sacrifice for your dreams. So, I took a huge pay cut and then found myself with a life I couldn’t afford anymore. My commute was 100 miles a day round trip (that’s not an exaggeration), and I could barely pay my rent. So, I was going to need a second job, and I realized the Columbia Toys “R” Us was halfway between work and home. It also helped that a few of the managers from the tail end of the Wheaton days had transferred to that store. I had an “in”.

Remember when Saved By The Bell: The College Years got cancelled, and Screech kinda crawled back to Bayside in Saved By The Bell: The New Class? That was pretty much my experience here. I had started my TRU career as the youngest person in the store, and now I was something of an elder statesman. Everyone I worked with now was somewhere between 19 and 22, and I thought it was going to be my turn to teach them life lessons. It would by my Training Day. Yeah…that didn’t happen. The Columbia staff had different interests and were in different places in their lives than the Wheaton staff. The Wheaton folks were just working there until a better retail job came along, while the Columbia kids were working their way through community college and didn’t see retail as the end for themselves. With my prior experience, I expected to walk into some kind of Degrassi environment, but it was a lot more madcap than that.

I’ll admit that I probably wasn’t the best person to manage at this point. I mean, I was a good worker – a hard worker – but I did what I wanted. I just kinda took action figures for myself, and made it clear “Don’t you even think about putting me somewhere else.” And I provided good customer service to folks in those aisles, but I did not give a shit about anything outside of Boy’s World. The location of the store made sense on weekdays, as it was on the way home, but it made no sense for me to drive 30 miles on a Saturday morning, to work 5 hours – I was just wasting gas at that point. So, I kinda did what I wanted to “justify” the inconvenience. Yeah, I know it’s a job, and it was my choice to make that commute, but they let me get away with “creating my own experience”, so I guess I “won”?

While my early time with the company was about life’s hard lessons, the latter time was really just about decompression. I looked forward to my Saturday shifts as “Wow, I really tricked this company into paying me to hang out with my friends.” We had a lot of fun, and I still think about a lot of those folks.

Patrick was an interesting kid. He was Chinese, but somehow had a redneck, Tea Party uncle whom he idolized, so he was basically a Chinese redneck. He never understood the contradictions in that, but he never let that stop him. Still he was a lot of fun, as we’d talk about cartoons and Power Rangers. We would team up in the boy’s department, and called ourselves Team Bumblebee.

Crystal was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, which is why it was perfect that they put her at customer service. Customers loved her, while she had an apple bottom that some folks would’ve paid to take a bite out of. She was our Kelly Kapowski, hands down.

If Crystal was our Kelly, then Amber was definitely our Jessie Spano. She and Crystal looked like they could’ve been sisters, but Amber was the spitfire of the two. She had little Lisa Loeb glasses, and took her supervisor role seriously – almost too seriously at times. That’s why it was even more interesting when she lightened up, and found herself in a love triangle with managers Paul and Jesse.

Bryan was the most responsible 19 year old I’ve ever met in my entire life. He had actually come from the Wheaton store, and was one of the reasons I was looking forward to working at Columbia. He had a mad-on for law enforcement, though. His dream was to go to the police academy, and he’d go on ride alongs during his free time. In the grand scheme of the Columbia store, Bryan was “The Adult”.

Marvin was basically Lord of the R-Zone, which was the electronics department of the store. I never really got a read on him, despite working in his orbit for years. Was he shy? Did he just not like me? I dunno, but I still run into him at comic conventions, as he has segued into the life of a cosplayer in recent years.

The best of the bunch, however, had to be Mike, whom we affectionately called “Special Forces”. Ya see, when he started, he was seasonal and those guys didn’t wear TRU uniforms because A) I don’t think TRU wanted to “waste” them on seasonals, and B) they didn’t want them to be instantly recognizable as employees to customers, as customer interaction would affect their ability to move in the background of everything. So, he wore a black shirt and black jeans, which made him look like some sort of special forces agent, so… Mike’s still around to this day, as many of you know of him from my Thrift Justice posts. He’s one of my best friends, and definitely one of the better things to come from that last TRU stint.

As much as I wanted to think I was the oldest, non-manager there, that wasn’t true. No, that “honor” belonged to “Stanley” (Yeah, that’s not his real name. You don’t need to know that). I’m gonna level with you here: there’s a good chance Stanley was some kind of molester. He was in his 70s, creepy, and wore a Dora the Explorer cap that he found in a shopping cart one day. I know for a fact that he offered $50 to a young employee to have sex with him. I also know she strongly considered it. He knew where all the hooker pickup spots were, and he had some stories. Just as earlier in my career, TRU was still teaching me things. I learned how you can like people who are possibly horrible. Like, I didn’t have *proof* that he had done anything illegal, but I also didn’t have proof that he had not done those things. Still, something about him still came off as “kindly”. I still think about him, and wonder if he’s still with us.

I made it 10 years with TRU, and not much longer. They even gave me a catalog of shit to choose from for my anniversary gift. I never did get that cordless screwdriver… Anyway, I had my performance review, and found out I wasn’t good enough to receive my $0.25 raise. I took a long hard look around, and wondered why I was fighting for a quarter. I’d been raised with the “Every little bit helps” mentality, but here was a company that didn’t think I was worth an additional quarter. Yes, I know that adds up when it’s a quarter for everyone, but TEN YEARS! Call it “Millennial Entitlement” if you want, but that was it for me. I was tired of the commute. I no longer had the job that made this one convenient in the evenings, and I had pretty much just met Lindsay, so I had other stuff I’d rather be doing. So, I basically quit that day of the review. I’d worked out my schedule, and I didn’t owe them any time. I’d show them!

In the years since, I’ve sort of regretted how it ended. I definitely missed the excitement of the holiday season, and even wondered if I was rehireable. I once applied to the closer Rockville store, but never heard back. Ya know, ‘cause the onus of the job hunt… So, my TRU career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s not how I would like to have gone out, but that’s how life is sometimes. My time at Toys “R” Us was filled with those life-affirming moments, so this just seemed like a natural, if not completely satisfying, end.

As a customer, I’ll definitely miss Toys “R” Us. Sure, Target and Walmart have a foothold in the industry, but their 7 toy aisles don’t hold a candle to the selection at TRU. I used to stop and think about how almost unnecessary a store like TRU was. I mean, think about it: it’s a big box store devoted solely to toys. Only in a capitalistic society could that idea fly and, as we have learned, that same capitalistic society would be what killed it.

Still, folks don’t realize that the concept of “childhood” is fairly young. Before, say, the end of the Industrial Revolution, kids were just seen as tiny adults. Sure, take them to that public execution, nobody cares! So, it’s always amazing to me that, not only did the concept of childhood develop, but that successful businesses arose to capitalize on that. Folks say that toy sales are down, with the internet and other time wasters available, so I often wonder what that means for the evolution of childhood. I guess time will tell.

Anyway, we’re not here to forecast the future of the toy industry. No, we’re here to say goodbye to an old teacher, an old friend. I got to take my oldest to say “goodbye” a few months back, but it saddens me that my youngest will know nothing of Toys “R” Us. She’ll know nothing of the place that helped to shape her father’s worldview. She’ll know nothing of Geoffrey the Giraffe. I only hope that she one day experiences something that affects her the same way that my Toys “R” Us experience affected me. That’s why Toys “R” Us had the West Life Ever.

25th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/25/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Mario Batali Update – The celebrity chef is now officially under criminal investigation by the NYPD for allegations against him for sexual misconduct. He will be bought out of his restaurant group by July 1st. Meanwhile, he must’ve been the backbone of The Chew, as ABC has cancelled the series (following his ouster) in order to expand Good Morning America to 3 hours. Anyway, when the allegations first came out, Batali said that they pretty much lined up with behavior he’d exhibited in the past, so there’s no real denial here.

Luc Besson – The French director, probably best known for Léon: The Professional, has been accused of rape by an actress, who said that Besson put something in her tea during a meeting. She lost consciousness, only to wake up to find Besson fondling and penetrating her. He allegedly fled the hotel, leaving her a wad of cash. French police are investigating the allegations, while Besson is in denial mode.

Jeffrey Tambor Update – In a New York Times interview with the cast of Arrested Development, costar Jessica Walter recounted a time when Tambor was verbally abusive to her – which resulted in a bunch of the male costars basically mansplaining and coming to Tambor’s defense. Costar Jason Bateman later had to walk back his remarks on Twitter after folks pointed out that he was basically minimizing Walter’s experience. Not a good look for a show promoting its return (May 29th on Netflix), but I sadly doubt it’ll really matter to many.

Morgan Freeman – What? NO! You don’t say! Anyway, the famed narrator/actor has been accused of sexual harassment by 8 different women. He would frequently comment on production assistants’ figures, and even tried to lift one woman’s skirt to see if she was wearing underwear. He issued a statement that he apologized “to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected” by his actions. Whatever. Dude is an 80 year old man who wears an earring. If you don’t realize he’s a guy who’s still “trying to get it in”, then of course you’re surprised. Still, he was dating his stepgranddaughter at one point, so nothing he does sexually surprises me anymore. I wrote him off, like, ten years ago.

Harvey Weinstein Update – Could this be the end of HarassmentWatch? The man who started it all, who inspired the #MeToo Movement, will officially be charged with a sex crime, and surrendered to the NYPD this morning. “Surrendered to the NYPD”. Yeah, I get he’s an asshole, but they make it sound like he’s a serial killer who’s been on the lam. Anyway, as we’re learning, taking him off the streets isn’t gonna stop this stuff from happening. This is basically Hydra at this point: cut off the head, and 2 more will appear.

Sigh. I really didn’t want to have to talk about this. Like, I’m really kind of exhausted by it, and I found myself ashamed of a lot of people because of it. Yet, here we are:

Last Friday, Cartoon Network released a video announcing ThunderCats Roar, which is a new take on the ThunderCats franchise. And 30-40 year old male Internet LOST. ITS. SHIT.

“It looks like shit! Why does it look like Steven Universe?!”

“I hate this CALARTS style! Why even call it ThunderCats?”

“They’re trying to do another Teen Titans Go!

Those are some of the tamer examples of what’s out there. At the end of the day, a bunch of grown men were making it their mission in life to make sure the world knew of their displeasure at the cat people cartoon. I sat there, reading these remarks, thinking, “Don’t y’all have prostate exams to schedule or something?” Seriously, the greatest trick the Devil ever played was creating the Internet and convincing everyone that their opinions matter (he said ironically on his vanity project blog). This was not created for the old school fan. This is an attempt to make new fans. And I’ve heard folks say “Well, how dare they make a show that’s NOT for the fans?” Probably because they figure you have lives to attend to, instead of obsessing over shit like this. Let me back up a bit, though, so you can understand where I’m coming from with this.

Unlike most people my age, the 80s mean very little to me. Yeah, I know I claim to be “pop culture guy”, and I was born in ’81, but I really didn’t glom onto much that the 80s had to offer. When it comes to the 80s, I care about Knight Rider, Small Wonder, and Night Court. That’s about it. I actually had more of a sophisticated palette as a child than I do now. During that decade, I was pretty much obsessed with public television, the local news, and Murder, She Wrote. I’m not kidding. When I was 3, my favorite show was Murder, She Wrote. What? I had old parents. Anyway, most of y’all have all these fond memories of G.I.Joe, ThunderCats, He-Man, etc, but I do not. Just didn’t watch them. Sidebar – most of these were weekday afternoon cartoons, and I used to carpool with a teacher who had to stay late, so I never got home early enough after school to watch most of those shows. My cartoon pop culturedom didn’t come to fruition until the 90s, as nothing really resonated with me until the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles era. That’s why I actually like the Slimer & The Real Ghostbusters seasons. That’s why I prefer the DiC G.I. Joe (“Got to get tough! Yo Joe!”) to the Sunbow era. And I was just cynical enough, even at that young age, to realize that, at the end of the day, they were just dumb cartoons.

A lot of folks, however, were introduced to these franchises as younger children, so they shaped their development. They have Christmas memories about getting the toys, and sometimes have some faded Polaroids as proof. Since the properties are so intertwined with their own development, folks take these things to heart and get fiercely protective of them. They also, however, never learned to let them go. I find this a lot with Star Wars fans, especially when discussing how The Last Jedi disappointed them. I liked the movie well enough, even if I thought Finn was wasted and Rose was an unnecessary character who only served to accompany Finn on his B plot. These people were introduced to Star Wars at a young age, it shaped their love of film/fantasy/slave girls and never thought they’d get more. Then, Lucas surprised them with a prequel trilogy. The less said about that the better, but they survived it all, and figured that’s all they’d get. THEN, Disney bought the franchise and started giving them NEW Star Wars. The thing that shaped them, but kept disappointing them like a deadbeat dad, continued to pop into their lives, with the promise of a return to the days of old. But, you can’t go home again.

These fans look to these things as comfort food – familiar guideposts that never change, and they can always return to them as “home base” in Life’s game of tag. As such, when they do change, they turn on them because they feel betrayed. Still, these concepts have to change and evolve or they become stagnant. People claim they want new ideas, but when they get them, they decide they just want more of the same. G.I. Joe fans are constantly saying “The line’s dead. Hasbro’s doing nothing with the property.” Well, good. ‘Cause Lord knows we don’t need an 85th version of Snake-Eyes. My generation seems to forget that there was a G.I. Joe before Cobra and Duke and Snake-Eyes even entered the picture. That generation doesn’t get to rant as much because the Internet came along and frightened them, but they’re out there. I also feel like there should be a Joe after the Cobra era. The G.I. Joe vs Cobra era has lasted, intermittently, for 36 years. That’s 36 years of fucking Snake-Eyes. I’m sorry, but a mute ninja just isn’t that cool anymore in 2018. The same folks lamenting the death of the line are also the ones who are basically saying “Fuck the kids! This is MINE!” Just as with comics, if you don’t attract a new audience, the thing you love will die right along with you. Many, I feel, wouldn’t have a problem with that.

Can you imagine the things folks would shit on had the Internet come along just a few years earlier? Take Batman ’89, for instance. Sure, it’s thematically in line with his pulp roots, but it’s NOTHING like Batman ’66, which was what most folks at the time were more familiar with. His suit’s black, there are no POW! effects, and he doesn’t have a Robin. “Why even call it ‘Batman’?” they’d ask. I listened to a podcast yesterday where they spent a good chunk of time railing against the new ThunderCats because it seems to “dumb down” the franchise by going the Teen Titans Go! route – a show the hosts despised because the characters in that show aren’t heroic and don’t act in ways that children should be emulating. They described it as an animated It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, because all of the characters act like assholes. I think that’s quite the stretch, but whatever. These guys hated TTG for its horrible “message”, yet in the same episode went on to laud the controversial comic book Jawbreakers (I’m not even getting into that, but trust me it’s not important for my point) because, and I quote, “Some things should just be fun. Not everything needs a moral.” Yeah, that’s moving the goalposts like a motherfucker.

Let me tell you something about your 80s cartoons. Bear with me here, it’s going to sound like the result of rogue Googling, but I actually went to school for this. I have an Ivy League degree in human development, with a focus on early childhood. Contrary to popular belief, these shows weren’t designed in some animation lab to bring pleasure to all the little girls and boys. No, the properties tended to be owned by toy companies (for example, Hasbro owns G.I. Joe), and the shows were merely vehicles for selling product. In the early 80s, thanks to President Ronald Reagan, the Federal Communications Commission deregulated commercial time limits in children’s programming. This led to the development of what is now known as the “program-length commercial”. He-Man? Program-length commercial. GoBots? Program-length commercial. Since toy companies were no longer bound to traditional commercials to advertise to children, the sky was the limit for toy companies. Whatever they wanted to sell, they could just line up a Japanese animation studio to put together a series for them. You grew up engrossed in the never-ending battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra, not realizing they were just subconsciously grooming you to ask your parents for the Trouble Bubble and the Terrordrome at Christmas. The laws kinda changed in the 90s, but the biggest change was that you couldn’t air commercials for a product while its show was on, because kids supposedly aren’t sharp enough to tell when a show ends and a commercial begins. This is why you won’t see a commercial for Power Rangers toys during an episode of Power Rangers.

All of this is to say that these properties don’t come from some wholesome place to remind you of your childhood. When they don’t have anything else to sell, they pack up and move on to the next thing. When you get butthurt about something from your childhood changing for a new audience, it basically means the company isn’t making enough money off your nostalgia anymore and they’re going where those dollars are. This isn’t to minimize your memories or feelings, but it is to remind you of a simple truth that corporations aren’t people and they ultimately have no obligation to you.

Now, back to ThunderCats. The original show? Not that great. It’s middling 80s fare, meant to sell toys. I hear the 2011 reboot was actually pretty good. I could get into the whole “Well, if you watched it, it wouldn’t have been cancelled” argument, but there are other factors at play, like toy sales and Cartoon Network’s erratic scheduling. Still, they tried doing it “the fans’ way”, and for it didn’t work out for whatever reason. So now they’re trying something new. And there’s also something to be said for not judging a book by its cover. As much as folks claim to hate the art style that’s being mimicked, folks love those shows. I never hear a bad thing about Steven Universe. And even though The Adventures of Gumball looks lazy at times, it might be one of the smartest shows on television. I’m not even joking when I say that (check out the episode on privilege to see what I’m talking about). One thing people need to internalize is that EVERYTHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE FOR YOU. It’s not to say that things should be exclusionary, but it’s OK to see something, say “It’s not for me, but good luck to them”, and walk away. This demand that everything be the way everyone wants it is insane. Life isn’t fucking Burger King. Instead, I’m seeing folks, who clearly have a history of being bullied and mocked, mocking the ThunderCats Roar creator for his man bun and shit like that. You’re just undermining your whole stance when you sink to physical attacks to express your displeasure. Anyway, I’ll be checking out the show, even when Cartoon Network decides to do something stupid with the scheduling, like air all the episodes in one day or some shit.

In a major coup for the Fox network, they’ve struck a deal with WWE to air SmackDown Live through 2024, worth a reported $1 billion. They would begin airing the show in 2019 when the NBCUniversal contract expires, while RAW will continue to air on USA Network. This might be the shot in the arm the SmackDown brand needs, as having it and RAW on the same network, two nights apart, just didn’t make it seem that special. In fact, I always felt that RAW‘s claim to fame was the fact that it was live, so SmackDown being pretaped was somewhat interesting to me. When it switched to a live format, it just became more of a Not RAW to me. I totally applaud this move, however, as I’ve been saying that there needed to be a free, broadcast WWE show ever since SmackDown moved to cable. A lot of folks don’t realize that, during the UPN years, SmackDown was the highest rated show in Spanish-speaking households. There is clearly a wrestling audience that are either cord cutters or simply rely on over the air TV, and they deserve a show of their own. This is a good chance to differentiate the brand from RAW as much as possible.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The sequel to The LEGO Movie has a title and release date. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part will be released February 8th, 2019.
  • It’s being reported that Amazon may save The Expanse, which was just cancelled at Syfy.
  • Speaking of Syfy, the Nope, No Superman Here series Krypton was renewed for a second season, the day before its first season finale aired.
  • Word on the street is singer Ariana Grande and Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson are now dating. Well, good for him!

  • We got a poster for DC’s SHAZAM!, starring Zachary Levi. I mean, this character means so little to me that I’m not going to really critique its “accuracy”, but the poster does nothing for me. It’d be find if it were promoting a lighthearted SHAZAM! on The CW next fall, but it’s not dynamic enough for a movie that they expect me to leave my house and pay money for.
  • One of the last question marks for the 17-18 TV season, Fox has officially cancelled airplane sitcom LA to Vegas.

  • YouTuber/TRL correspondent Liza Koshy has been announced as the host of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare revival this summer. Original host, Marc Summers, will offer “color commentary” – probably while hidden behind several layers of Plexiglass, while wearing 4 layers of clothes to make sure no slime touches him. Anyway, the show debuts June 25th at 8 PM.
  • Speaking of TRL, the show was renamed last month to Total Request List, since the show is now taped and is no longer live.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to play the villain Mysterio in the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’m still hoping it’s called Spider-Man: Sadie Hawkins Day, with the trilogy being rounded out by either Spider-Man: Prom or Spider-Man: Graduation Day.
  • Paramount removed the next Transformers sequel from its release schedule entirely, supporting reports of an upcoming franchise cinematic reboot.
  • The Obamas just signed a production deal with Netflix, which will see them produce docu-series, films, and both scripted and unscripted series for the streaming service. I need to send them my pitch for a revival of Breaker High!
  • Lifetime series UnREAL‘s fourth, and final, season will actually debut on Hulu, and it’s unclear if it will ever get a release date on Lifetime. I guess this is the 21st century version of “moving a show to Saturday”…

  • Unlike most people my age, I have no real affinity for the Muppets, so imagine my surprise when I found myself really excited for The Happytime Murders. I’m that guy who’ll watch anything with Melissa McCarthy (Sorry, not sorry), and it goes a LOT of places I never thought I’d see them go.
  • Deadpool 2 dethroned Avengers: Infinity War at the weekend box office, taking in $125 million.
  • To celebrate the franchise’s move from webisodes/DVD movies to full-fledged TV series, DC Super Hero Girls has undergone a makeover. I’m not really a fan, but it ain’t for me, so…
  • Logan director James Mangold has been tapped to direct a Star Wars spinoff about Boba Fett. That is until Kathleen Kennedy fires him in six months and replaces him with Todd Phillips or something.

I’ll bet a lot of y’all got to this point and expected to see Deadpool 2. Well, I haven’t seen it yet, plus it’s my site and I’ll do what I want! No, we’re going to talk about The Middle.

Debuting Fall 2009, The Middle came along and spent 10 seasons simply flying under the radar. For those who did check it out, though, they were introduced to the quirks of the Heck family. Neurotic Frankie, who’s still trying to find some meaning in her life outside of being a wife and mother. Stoic Mike, who hides his emotions as he spends his days as a manager at the quarry. Peppy, optimistic, yet awkward, Sue, who greets every day with a smile, even as the world continues to try to tear her down. Slacker son Axl, and Brick…well, what can I say about Brick? As the youngest son, he’s clearly on the spectrum, but he also has weird quirks, like repeating words in a whisper and licking cars.

Anyway, the show captured everything about living in “the middle”: they lived in the middle of the country, they were middle class, we saw Sue struggle to gain attention as the middle child, etc. It was never a “watercooler show”, with folks going to work the next day, asking each other “Did you see last night’s The Middle?” Still, it was a fine example of what ABC does best: offer sitcoms showing the different definitions of “family”. As the world seemed to be working against them, we were always rooting for the Hecks to get through it all. It never got too political (much to several of the stars’ chagrin), nor too preachy. It was really about making it one day at a time, and living to fight another day in this game called Life.

I’d been saying that the show was living on borrowed time for the past few seasons. While nothing about the show’s quality had changed, it didn’t really seem to be going anywhere. It lived right there in the middle. There were no real highs and no real lows. I think that’s probably indicative of how television has changed. We now expect some sort of huge cliffhanger or something to get us to come back for the next episode. Gone are the days of old, where every episode of a show was pretty much the same. The Duke boys were pretty much always evading Roscoe and thwarting Boss Hogg. With ALF, he always wanted to eat the cat, and had to be hidden from the neighbors. Every episode was pretty much the same for those shows, but they still managed to entertain and bring in an audience. Nowadays, though, everything has to have a death or a paternity mystery to keep folks on the hook. The Middle never played those games, which is probably why its ratings were solidly in…the middle.

When this season was announced as its last, I thought it was great that they announced it early so that the show would be able to take its well-earned victory lap. I mean, ten seasons is NOTHING to sneeze at in this day and age! And then ABC came along and screwed the pooch by giving the show’s timeslot to the Roseanne revival. I get it. I know it’s a business, and I get why they did it. Some might even say that, as a lead-in, Roseanne actually helped The Middle‘s ratings in this final season. OK, but ratings don’t matter for a show in its final season. The ad rates have been set, and it’s not vying for renewal. It could’ve gotten no viewers, and they would’ve just moved it to Saturdays. Plus, it ended up with something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: an hour-long series finale that started on the half hour. There are certain unspoken rules in scheduling, and one thing is that you don’t set an hour-long show at 8:30. Hour-long shows, traditionally, start at the top of the hour, unless delayed by a sporting event or something. Anyway, it didn’t seem to hurt it, as the ratings for the finale were up, while the ratings for Roseanne’s finale were down. Womp womp.

How was the series finale? Well, it was perfectly in the middle. I mean, the show ended doing what it did best. We got typical Heck shenanigans, we got a flash forward, we got some payoff for some secondary characters (I see you, Brad!), and we even got a wedding. Still, the episode wasn’t about the wedding. It wasn’t even about the build-up to the wedding. The wedding was just something that happened, much like everything else in the show. You knew going into it not to expect a big death or anything like that, because that’s not the show’s bread and butter. It would’ve been disingenuous to have a Good Times finale, with the Hecks finally getting out of financial servitude and moving to a better neighborhood. No, everything they had was just right for them. It was perfectly in the middle, and they always had each other to lean on. I don’t think they’d have wanted it any other way. So, for that reason, The Middle‘s series finale had the West Week Ever.

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