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.

04th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/4/18

by Will

 

It has been a week. Over the past seven days, I’ve had Internet fights with racist veterans, old friends, and complete strangers. Last Friday I bought a house, only to immediately discover that everything in my mother’s house was breaking down. I’ve been through a flood, a new hot water heater, 2 unresponsive plumbing companies, and 2 failed inspections. So, it would be safe to say that I’m in a bit of a mood…

So, I had been really looking forward to writing about Avengers: Infinity War. I had a lot of thoughts. Sure, a lot of folks left the Thursday night showings with their minds blown, but I wasn’t really happy. I had to process a lot of what I’d seen. There were simply SO many moving parts. I needed to really grasp what I’d seen. I saw it again with my wife on Saturday morning, and I think I came back with a better understanding of the film. Then the weekend happened. On top of the rampant speculation that follows the release of these movies, I also found myself in the middle of drama over on Facebook. It turned into this MCU vs DCEU stuff that I really didn’t want to get into. This shit is about men in capes and tights. It’s not Schindler’s List. Anyway, it kinda put a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing, so I’m not that excited to talk about it anymore. But “The show must go on!”, so here we are (NOTE: I also owe @zacshipley an apology ’cause we were supposed to podcast about all this before my world started crumbling apart, as detailed above!).

Oh, yeah – SPOILERS

Let me preface this all to say that I am amazed by the tapestry woven by this whole feat. You can like or hate the MCU, but you have to give credit where it’s due that 18 movies culminated in this payoff. The Russos did an amazing job handling characters who weren’t originally theirs (Directors Taika Waititi and James Gunn pitched in to make sure their characters’ voices – Thor and the Guardians, respectively – stayed true). For fans of the world that Kevin Feige has guided, this was pretty much everything you could’ve wanted. Again, SO many moving parts, but they handled it deftly. If you haven’t seen all the films, well, in the words of the great poet laureate Jay-Z, “I feel bad for you, son.” I feel bad because this thing probably made very little sense to you. I joked on social media that my new favorite thing is following Black folks who were introduced to the MCU via Black Panther, only to check out Infinity War and leave, going “What the f-?!”

There’s a review from The New Yorker making the rounds, where the writer basically says that the film is just a culmination of ads for other Marvel films. It lends itself to the argument that there was nothing to grasp onto for the newcomer. First, you’ve got to ask if a newcomer should even be watching this film, and I answer that with a resounding “No!” This isn’t gatekeeper mentality, either. It’s just that you won’t get the full experience of what’s happening. It’s like watching the season finale of a show you’ve never seen before. You might be able to follow it, but you’re still gonna miss some important stuff. The problem with the review is that most folks who are bashing it are too close to the source material to understand where he’s coming from. He’s not wrong. Take, for instance, how the movie treats Steve Rogers.

Steve Rogers is treated as a real life “splash page” in the film (if you’re not a comic fan, a splash is 1-2 pages that showcase some impressive artwork, typically of a battle or character introduction, with minimal dialog or panels to detract from its impact). He shows up in the shadows, catches Proxima Midnight’s staff, and emerges to look badass. Later, he flexes on General Ross (“Who is THAT guy?” asks an unfamiliar audience member), still looking badass but there’s no real context. Yes, you’re reading this, yelling “He’s mad because of the Sokovia Accords!” Yeah, I know that, but I’m immersed in this shit. Still, this film does a poor job of explaining WHY this group is on the outs. The mention of the Accords is brief, and you’d really only get it if you’d seen Civil War – which you probably did, but not everyone did.

There is no substance to Steve Rogers in this entire movie. He shows up, looks badass, the end. Outside of the blurbs on the toy packaging, we don’t know what he and his team have been doing the past 2 years. We don’t know how those years, combined with the events of Civil War, have affected him. They choose a weak rendition of “Show, Don’t Tell”, by giving him a beard, long hair, and a darker costume, but that’s it. Steve Rogers is basically a man who has lost his religion. His religion was Uncle Sam, and he began to sour on it in The Winter Soldier. It was completely Uncle Bad Touch after Civil War. So who is he now? WHAT is he now? How has it all changed him? Is he better for it, or is he now a man with nothing more to lose? Yes, this movie had a lot of moving parts, so we couldn’t get what we wanted in terms of deep character moments for everyone. Still, seeing as how he’s the leader of this whole Earth-bound defense force, I’d kinda like to know more about the man leading everyone into battle. The Captain America movies had done a really good job of showing us the growth of Steve Rogers, and I just didn’t get that here. Oh, and folks love to fawn over everything about and from Wakanda, but those shield gauntlets were stupid. It made Agent Coulson’s TV budget holo shield look better in comparison, which is QUITE the feat!

Another problem I had: The Black Order. I’ve seen the debates on various Facebook pages, but the Black Order didn’t live up to their hype. Now, I realize they’re recent additions to the Thanos mythos, having been created by Jonathan Hickman in his recent Avengers run, but I just never felt they displayed WHY they should be feared. These are the “Children of Thanos”, by his side as he annihilated 50% of PLANETS. They come to Earth, and fail to rack up ONE KILL. Now, sure we can talk about the “formidable human spirit” or how “anything is possible when your back is against the wall”, but Black Widow and Akoye should not have survived that fight. I don’t care if Black Widow is the best graduate of the Red Room or that Okoye is the fiercest warrior in Wakanda. They’re facing an unfamiliar, extraterrestrial threat that kills people like it’s their job. Because it IS. People are saying “It was an even match when it was 1:1, and the Black Order took the L when folks teamed up against them.” Doesn’t matter. They couldn’t even successfully kill a ROBOT. Daddy had to come finish that job. So, I felt they went out like some bitches, even if I do want Ebony Maw to record my voicemail message.

Next problem: Because we, as fans, are so close to the source material – and the business behind it – it’s hard to really take the “deaths” seriously when you know the business side of things. First of all, I wasn’t affected by the deaths because they weren’t graphic. They weren’t impactful. Folks just turn to dust. Remember how I was disappointed by the Black Order? That could’ve been rectified here. Instead, it was more like the characters were *erased* than that they died. The only one that held any weight was Peter Parker’s, which was reportedly ad-libbed. Still, when the vast majority of the stars of the movies that Marvel has in the pipeline are the ones who “die”, it’s like “Whatever”.

And people love to be so smug with their “It’s comics. Characters always comes back from death.” Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s a common trope today, but that wasn’t always true. It wasn’t really until Superman where publishers realized the life/death yo-yo was a cash cow they could return to time and again. No, because the MCU hasn’t established this to be true within the confines of what has been set up.

 

One thing a lot of folks don’t seem to reflect upon is that the MCU has more ties to the Ultimate Marvel Universe than the regular, “616” Marvel Universe. Sam Jackson Nick Fury, Hawkeye with a Black Ops background, – just a few examples of how The Avengers film franchise owes more to the widescreen cinematic depiction of the team in The Ultimates comic than it does to the team seen in The Avengers comic. The Ultimate Universe, as a publishing imprint, ran between 2000-2016, and in that time death meant DEATH. When a character died there, they stayed dead (Don’t talk to me about Peter Parker because I’m proving a point here, and I’m convinced Bendis wrote that arc because someone was holding his family for ransom). Though Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum event is generally considered a poorly-written gorefest, a shit ton of important characters died, and STAYED dead, forcing that universe and its characters to move forward and grow from it. With that said, the MCU has never really established that resurrections occur. There’s the Coulson thing, but it’s not exactly a routine occurrence, so they still could’ve played it that way here. Instead, though, they took all their cash cows with active contracts and sequels in the works, and “killed” them. Even if we KNOW they’re gonna “comic book” it and bring them back, they kinda shot the pooch in the selection of who stays and who goes.

In true comic fashion, it’s a story where ultimately nothing happens. Sure, there are some amazing set pieces and character moments, but it plays like one of those summer comic events where “The Marvel Universe will never be the same!!!!” Until next summer, when something else happens over 6-10 horribly delayed issues, and we get the same threat/promise. I feel almost like Feige and the lot lied to us when they promised that Infinity War was no longer a Part 1 & Part 2 deal, since it told its own story, just as Avengers 4 would. Nah, that dog don’t hunt. This is clearly a Part 1, even if not in name, and there is no complete story here. There’s a hell of a first (and possibly half of a second) act, but this is the MCU’s The Empire Strikes Back. At least we don’t have to wait 3 years for the resolution.

Last thing I hated: the after credit sequence. I think it might be the first one to make me groan. Why? Because I’m NO fan of Captain Marvel. I’ve followed her for some time, and I’m not against her, but I’ve never really understood the “Carol Corps” and the fan base that has developed around her.

If you’re not familiar, Carol Danvers was a pretty forgettable character for the first the 40 years of her existence. She went back and forth between codenames, calling herself Ms. Marvel, Binary, and Warbird at different times. Until about 10 years ago, her biggest claim to fame was that X-Men member Rogue stole her powers of flight and super strength (also why these powers are missing in the X-Men films, since Fox didn’t have the rights to Ms Marvel to do this). Then, about 10 years ago in the House of M event, Carol gets a glimpse of what she could be. Instead of a recovering alcoholic, C-list jobber, she could actually be the most powerful hero in the universe. So, she really starts to apply herself, and gets promoted from Ms. to Captain. And in a rare feat for comics, it stuck.

Usually when a former sidekick or lesser hero gets a “promotion”, it’s to goose sales and it’s temporary. With Captain Marvel, though, we’re ten years in and it seems like she’s going to stay this way. Good for her. My problem is I just don’t feel like having her Deus Ex Machina her way into Avengers 4 to save the day. As far as the comics go, she’s just not a likable character. Now, there’s some argument to be made that “Maybe you just don’t like strong women!” I don’t think that’s it, YET I feel like she’s written in a way to force folks to have that conversation. She was on the wrong side of history with the Superhero Registration Act. She was on the wrong side of history in Civil War II. In big crossover events, she tends to be written like a headstrong character who’s not really a great team player. “But, the same could be said about Tony Stark, Will!” Yeah, but he’s rich and charismatic. Can’t the same about Carol. Outside of her own book, she’s just kinda written like a fuck-up, yet I’m supposed to take her as the most powerful hero on Earth. Maybe I’ll gain a new appreciation for her after her movie drops in March, but right now, I’m just like “Ugh.”

Oh, and what is Nick Fury’s job now? I mean, he fakes his own death in The Winter Soldier, returns to the land of the living with helicarrier, like “What up, motherfuckers!” in Age of Ultron, and now he’s here. He has his own Personal White Woman (TM) in Maria Hill, but he ain’t the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Right now, he’s a private citizen with his own flying death machine, which really needs to be explained. Or maybe it doesn’t. Hell, in the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. has 2 different “Executive Directors” at the same time, depending on what book you’re reading.

So, since we slogged through all of that, and you might be mad, let’s get to what I liked: All of it. Despite the fanboy nitpick stuff I just pointed out, I really had an amazingly enjoyable time at this movie. I just take things further than the casual moviegoer, since I’ve sort of lived a lot of this stuff for the past 25 years. The things I pointed out didn’t make me hate the movie. They were just observations I had while others swore the film was perfect.

  • I loved Thanos, even if basic knowledge about population growth and sustainability point out the flaws in his plan. “Why didn’t he just create more resources?” Shut up! The movie would’ve been 10 minutes long, and you’d be pissed you paid $15 to see that. And how many times do you get to see the villain win?
  • Thank sweet baby Jesus that M’Baku survived. I was ready to throw my popcorn if he turned to dust.
  • Even though I have no clue how it’s possible, I’m glad that Thor’s little soliloquy established that Thanos only killed HALF of his people, so there’s still hope for Valkyrie and Korg to pop up in the future. I’m just imagining the potential showdown between Valkyrie and Sif (who ain’t dead ‘cause she didn’t take time off from her struggling NBC show just to come back and get killed. Respect!).
  • Even though some folks hated it, I enjoyed the erectile dysfunction joke with Hulk. When he finally does appear next movie, it’ll mean something, and hopefully he’ll get redemption. Still, it had to happen to prove that Thanos was a formidable foe. If he scared Hulk, then he should scare everyone.
  • Xandar got destroyed offscreen, so I’m glad I didn’t have to watch Nova Prime Glenn Close get killed along with John C. Reilly and his little pink daughter. And, with the Corps’ destruction, it certainly does pave the way for a Nova film – just as Feige’s been teasing lately.
  • Thor was SO good here. It’s a damn shame it took them 3 movies to get him right, but with the original team’s contracts expiring, I hope he’ll come back for more. He seems to be having as much fun as we are watching him, and they’ll need a thru-line from the original team to whatever is left standing at the end of the next film. The Avengers cannot live by Black Widow kicks alone.
  • I was glad that this film “fixed” the MCU timeline ‘cause I was really messed up by that “8 Years Ago” from Homecoming, yet Tony establishes here that the Battle of New York was SIX years ago. I know, fanboy problems.

Thoughts about Avengers 4:

  • I don’t think Gamora comes back in this film. I think she’s in the Soul Stone, and I could totally see GOTG 3 as The Search for Gamora.
  • I’m still not convinced Cap ever dies in this franchise. Look at it this way: yes, people are clamoring for a heroic sacrifice, so Bucky (or less likely Falcon) will take up the shield to honor him. I don’t think he needs to die. Bear with me here: Steve Rogers never got a life. Just as he was becoming a man, he volunteered for a way to fight for his country. He was frozen for 70 years, only to thaw out and be thrown right into the next fight. I think he deserves to walk off into the sunset. He’s done more than enough for his country. Now, he could buy himself a fishing boat and find himself a nice girl. It’s what Peggy would’ve wanted for him.
  • Also don’t think Downy dies. If he was gonna go, this was going to be his window. A lot of folks think Pepper was trying to tell him she was pregnant when the comm link cut out, so I could see him taking a step back, and just providing tech and money to the team while he focuses on his family. Can’t you see him giving Clint a new bow, saying something like “Be careful with that. It cost more than that farmhouse of yours!”?
  • To be honest, I see this era of the MCU ending without any meaningful deaths that stick. I know some folks would be fine with that, but when looking back on 19 movies, it leads one to wonder “What were the stakes?” At this point, the only real deaths we’ve had were Coulson, Quicksilver and Agent Carter – and one of those was simply from old age. I’m not some morbid deathmonger, but I feel a calling like this comes with a price. And nobody *important* has paid that price. If that’s how they wanna play it, then so be it, but it’s definitely something that sticks out to me.
  • Completely never realized there was no deal in place for Doctor Strange 2. Feige’s explanation is that he felt like Strange got so much time in Infinity War that he didn’t need a second movie so soon. I could see that, but it’s just odd how a franchise that can’t keep its 5 year plan a secret doesn’t have anything lined up for him (officially) in the next five years. Oh, and I kinda hated him in this movie during my first viewing. I feel like MCU Doctor Strange is Great Value Tony Stark, but I came to appreciate him more during viewing #2.
  • If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does end this season (which is looking less likely, even though this season’s finale was written as a series finale), I really hope it’s acknowledged in this film. No, I don’t think we need a cameo from the whole damn team, but I think the Avengers finally need to learn about Coulson, and they’re clearly setting Chloe Bennett up for something, so she could cameo, too. Sorry, fans of Melinda May. I also don’t need cameos from the Netflix folks. I’m fine with just acting like that’s its own thing, but AoS is supposed to be part of the “Everything is Connected”ness of the MCU. That’s what we were promised, so that’s what I expect. The tangential shows, like Runaways and Cloak & Dagger, can do whatever they want ‘cause I’m never gonna accept them into this family.

I’ve got more to say about Infinity War, but we’ll get to that a bit later down the page.

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Harvey Weinstein Update – Ashley Judd has sued Weinstein for “torpedoing” her career when she rebuffed his advances. Peter Jackson already reported that he was convinced not to cast Judd in The Lord of the Rings due to influence from Weinstein. So, she’s suing him for defamation, sexual harassment, and for violation of California’s unfair competition laws. I swear, if he cost us Where The Heart Is 2: Forney’s Revenge, then I say let the bastard fry!

Bill Cosby Update – The Cos, along with Roman Polanski, found himself expelled from The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, who are responsible for the Academy Awards. While this probably seems like a huge gesture to some, it’s not like they’re taking away his Oscar. Can’t win an Oscar when you’re cranking out shit like Ghost Dad and Leonard Part 6. Nope, he just can’t vote anymore. That’s cool, ’cause convicted felons can’t vote anyway, so… Meanwhile, his wife Camille issued a statement that this is the result of mob mentality, and that he’s being railroaded. If you ever want to feel sad for humanity, hop over to his Facebook page for the litany of “I stand by you, Mr. Cosby!” The motherfucker gave us a TV show. He didn’t cure cancer. Let that shit go. It’s a numbers game. Even if you think some of those women lied, ALL of them aren’t lying. We’re talking over 50 women! People want to act like it’s a giant conspiracy, but you can barely get 50 women to respond to an Evite, let alone corroborate a rape story. How many do you need? What’s your threshold on sexual assault? Get back to me if you need to think on that.

So, I guess we should get this out of the way since everyone in my life has asked my thoughts on it: in a somewhat surprising move, toymaker Hasbro announced they have purchased the Power Rangers franchise from Haim Saban for a reported $522 million. They also bought some other stuff, like 80s property My Pet Monster, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I say “somewhat surprising” because we knew it was a possibility. After all, it was in the fine print when Hasbro acquired the master license to produce Power Rangers toys in the United States. The company would have the first right of refusal should Saban ever decide to sell. It looked like this was a sure thing down the road – ya know, after they’d had a season or two under their belt, making product. Instead, they pulled the trigger before the next incarnation of the show, and before the Bandai license has fully lapsed. It kinda makes one wonder: “What’s the rush?” I mean, does Saban need to send an envelope of cash over to Israel or something?

OK, sidebar – if you’ve never been to this site before, or don’t know much about Haim Saban, then you saw that last sentence and said, “Whoa, Will! That was kinda anti-Semitic!” Not exactly. You see, Saban has always called himself a one-issue voter, and that issue is Israel. He’s quite the political donor, and has no real political allegiance except to anyone who promises to make the affairs of Israel a priority. He was quite the donor to the Clintons (which was always intriguing to me, as early on the Clintons railed against violence in children’s programming, like Power Rangers. Nothing that a few million dollars couldn’t fix!). He would go on to publicly lambaste both Bernie Sanders and DNC chair candidate Keith Ellison as being “anti-Israel”. Oh, and he firmly believes that the key to political power is to control media outlets. Yup, that old conspiracy theory about the media is actually one of his dreams. Betcha didn’t know all that about the guy behind your favorite spandex heroes! Anyway, the dude is worth over $5 billion, so it wouldn’t be shocking if a quarter of this sale is earmarked for Israel.

Anyway, the writing was on the wall with this sale. Hasbro needs something to bolster the aging Transformers franchise, and the essentially lifeless G.I. Joe franchise. This is a something of a renaissance for them, as owning something like the Power Rangers franchise changes the game. It’s not one of those “It’ll keep the lines on” situations like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is for Playmates Toys, but it’s definitely the shot in the arm that Hasbro could use these days. Meanwhile I don’t think Saban ever really recovered from the anemic box office for last year’s Power Rangers movie. He knows, as any smart man would, that the franchise’s best days – as far as he was concerned – were behind him. He would never again experience the Beatlemania that accompanied the 93-94 era of the franchise, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be a valuable franchise for someone else.

Plus, let’s just look at the numbers here: Saban originally sold Fox Family Worldwide (which included Power Rangers and the Fox Kids library) to Disney for $5.3 BILLION in 2001. Yes, Disney paid more for that than they paid for Star Wars OR Marvel. Disney, then, proceeded to junk everything from that sale (Where’s my Eek! The Cat, bitches?) except Power Rangers, while never really figuring out what to do with it. They went on to produce seven original Power Rangers seasons of varying quality, from Ninja Storm to RPM. After a rumored failed animation pilot, and a half season where they just added Batman ’66 effects to old Mighty Morphin episodes, Disney sold the Power Rangers franchise back to Saban for a reported $43 million. He spends a few years doing basically the bare minimum as far as maintaining the brand, and then sells if off for half a BILLION dollars. You can say a lot of things about Haim Saban, but you can’t say he’s not a smart businessman!

So, what do I think? I’m not really sure. We’ve had multimedia franchises owned by toy companies before, but I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen a transition like this. I mean, it’s basically going from Saban’s Power Rangers to Hasbro’s Power Rangers, and I don’t entirely know what that will mean. That’s like if it went from Jimmy’s G.I. Joe to Hasbro’s G.I. Joe. Will all of the wit and charm that Jimmy brought to the franchise be honored and respected by the new owner? Who knows? And we don’t know in my scenario, as there was no Jimmy and Hasbro always owned Joe. So, the question is How does Hasbro put its mark on Power Rangers, while retaining what it has come to mean over the past 25 years?

From a toy perspective, I don’t think we have a lot to worry about. Hasbro is a friend to the “adult collector”, so I’m confident we’ll get some sort of 6″ Black Series/Legends action figure line to rival what we got with Bandai’s Legacy Collection. They’re also good at articulation, when they want to be. So, we could end up with 4″ Rangers with 5 points of articulation, in some sort of weird, retro throwback model, or they could give us the $13 Walmart exclusive Star Wars figure articulation. Plus, with their “Big Toys for Poor Kids” Titan Heroes line, they can continue to give us the same unnecessary 12″ shampoo bottle figures that Bandai cranks out. Where they will fall short, however, is when it comes to role play toys.

Kid sized Ranger weapons and morphers are a big part of the Power Rangers toyline legacy, and that just ain’t Hasbro’s strong suit. The closest they’ve come to a morpher in recent years is the Star Wars Force Link, which has now died on the vine in two different iterations (three, if you count its “father”, the CommTech Reader from the Star Wars prequel toylines). They have never simply gotten the consumer to care about those things, though it might help if it’s an item that’s actually featured in the show, instead of some weird, out-of-left-field piece of tech that isn’t featured in the source material. On top of that, Hasbro goes the extra mile for role play stuff that the marketplace isn’t really demanding. Take the recent Hero Vision Iron Man helmet for Avengers: Infinity War, which is an augmented reality experience where you put your cell phone into an Iron Man helmet to pretend you’re fighting Thanos. Cute idea, but not for the $50 price point. This is not something that works at mass market retail. You know how I know? Because Walmart can’t even sell $15 VR sets, so the addition of a plastic Iron Man helmet ain’t gonna make these fly off the shelves. No, this is a hobby piece. This is the kind of thing you MAKE yourself, with the help of a YouTube tutorial. It’s not the kind of thing that you BUY. For other recent role play offerings, it’s clear the Action Figure folks just farmed the development out to the Nerf team. So, I really hope they’ve got some PR experts on the team (possibly from Bandai) instead of trying to acclimate their current folks to the Power Rangers brand.

I guess my biggest worry surrounds the show itself. Does Hasbro know how to produce a weekly live action kids show? Will it stay in New Zealand? Is this the end of the franchise’s love affair with actor Jason David Frank? He’s spent years ingratiating himself to the folks at Saban and Bandai. I mean, the current comic book storyline is based around his character. What happens now that he has a new master to please? Will Hasbro allow Nickelodeon to keep forcing so many breaks between new episodes? Can Hasbro void the Nick contract Saban just signed, and take the show elsewhere? Those are the questions I have. The toys will be fine, but Power Rangers, while toyetic in nature, wasn’t necessarily a brand created to sell toys. Sure, like anything else, it was created to make money, but not primarily to sell toys. How does that change when its new owner is primarily in the business of selling toys? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

On the other end of the pop culture spectrum, Kanye West went on a bit of a press tour this week, and proceeded to make a fool of himself. Most notably, he went on TMZ and said that slavery was a “choice”. He went on to give this extended rant:

He also gave an interview to Charlamagne tha God on The Breakfast Club, where we learned the following things about him:

  • He developed an Opiod addiction after getting liposuction. Now, let me just say that if my mom died on a plastic surgeon’s table, I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t catch me getting plastic surgery. Most folks won’t even return to a restaurant that gave them food poisoning!
  • He was hurt that Jay-Z and Beyonce didn’t come to his wedding
  • He likes that Trump won because it gives him hopes for his own political aspirations. He feels that Trump’s win means that anyone can win, and that inspires him.
  • He turned on Obama because Obama once said that Kanye was his favorite artist, but then proceeded to call him a “jackass” when asked about more recent antics. That hurt Kanye’s widdle feelings.
  • He recently bought 300 acres on which to build a community

Here’s the thing: some of what he says isn’t the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. His issue is he’s conflating physical slavery with mental slavery, which are 2 different things. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of Hoteps out here, saying “He’s right!” It saddens me that there are modern day Black people who hear about slavery, and then think “They wouldn’t have made ME no slave!” Yes, they would have. Slavery was more than just the fact that White people owned us. There are psychological underpinnings to that system that held us, and continue, to hold us down. I am all for ignorance being brought into the light, but in the year of our Lord 2018 there are way too many White Supremacists who’ve been waiting for someone like this to come along to bandy about. This would be a “mistake” if he’d said the dumb stuff ONCE, but he just keeps digging his hole. This is a full on meltdown, but to what end? At what cost? The “bad” people hear his words, and it just empowers them. Kanye lives in an ivory tower, so he doesn’t have to deal with a lot of the day to day stuff folks face. He’s out of touch, and making things worse for those who are not.

The problem with Kanye is he’s all over the place and, as they say in the South, he “can’t get to Hell fast enough”. It’d be one thing if he wanted to talk Black empowerment. It’s an entirely other matter when his “argument” is merely used as a distraction from his MAGA hat wearing photo op. He’s not the guy saying “Let me show you another way of thinking”, at least not eloquently. Instead, he’s a petulant child who’s saying “I do what I want, and your reasons for your views don’t apply to me.” OK, cool. But he shouldn’t expect folks to take his views seriously when he’s been so dismissive of theirs. People don’t forget so easily, yet they see what they want to see. It’s like Cosby, who we’re supposed to hold up as this paragon of Black greatness, who also spent the past 20 years berating the Black community. Like Kanye, a lot of what he said wasn’t “wrong”, but it was HOW he said it. Context AND delivery are just as important as the words themselves.

I don’t feel “betrayed” by Kanye West. If nothing more, I hate how he’s giving my “family” a bad name (even though there’s no relation…I hope). No, I have NEVER given Kanye money (thank you, Shawn Fanning, for teaching me about the wonderful world of free music!), and he’s never been a “musical genius” to me. No, I reserve that praise for folks like Max Martin, because I have the musical taste of a 14 year old girl who was punted forward in time from the year 1998. I just think this thinking is dangerous. It’s one thing to have this kind of discussion in the parlor, over brandy, but it’s another to go on the steaming pile of muckraking shit that is TMZ and hold court. I give TMZ some credit because they’re the first ones to let us know when a celebrity dies, but Harvey Levin would make PT Barnum clutch his pearls. When he looks at you like you’re a piece of shit, well, it’s pretty clear that you’re a piece of shit. And the same folks who are saying that “We need to stop being divisive and love each other” are just suffering from “Winner’s Bullshit”. They weren’t worried about divisiveness when they were trying to prove the last president was a secret Kenyan Muslim who killed Santa Claus. Nor did they apologize when they couldn’t prove it. So, in conclusion, fuck Kanye West, fuck Kenny Chesney, and fuck anyone else who wants to tell me that all my great grandmother had to do was clock out at the end of the day on the plantation, and everything would’ve been hunky-dory.

Wow. That felt good to get out. Sorry to the White people (which is pretty much all of you) who are feeling some kind of way right now. I’ll lighten things up at this point. Promise!

In TV news, it was reported that Conan on TBS will switch to a 30-minute format. I don’t really know what to think about Conan anymore. I mean, yes, he got royally screwed by NBC. That said, he’s basically now the Hillary Clinton of the late night world. He needs to read the room and realize he’s never going to be Johnny Carson. There are other things he could do, though. Leave the late night space to the other guys, and focus on producing. The Conaco brand isn’t that strong right now, and it could use his stewardship. Out of the three shows he’s currently producing (Conan, People of Earth, and Final Space), only one of them is actually good. His late night show isn’t breaking new ground, nor does anything from it go viral, which is the new measure of “worth” in that sector. Final Space is just a miss all around, and People of Earth isn’t the kind of show that’s gonna last 10 years. I just don’t know what he’s trying to prove at this point. TBS has been a great home for him and his projects. It’s to his benefit that he didn’t go to Fox when his non-compete was over ’cause they would’ve cancelled Conan YEARS ago. Over on TBS, he’s a big fish in a small pond, but he’s not contributing much to the late night space anymore, and it seems like TBS doesn’t want to hurt him by showing him the door, but clearly realizes that they could be doing more with the timeslot. Sadly, they could probably bring in more eyes just by bringing back those reruns of Cougar Town.

In other TV programming news, DC Comics began teasing the DC Universe streaming service. Details are scarce at the moment, so we don’t know price point, or what will make up the bulk of the programming. We do know that the previously announced live action Titans will be joined by a live action Swamp Thing series, as well as the third season of Young Justice and an animated Harley Quinn series. Meanwhile, the ill-conceived Metropolis, that featured Lois Lane and Lex Luthor solving mysteries, is being “redeveloped”. This all sounds TERRIBLE to me. I feel like this is going to be the home of the shows they couldn’t sell to other networks. I mean, if you remember, TNT passed on Titans. TN-fucking-T. Their schedule is nothing but Bones reruns and NBA games. Sure, you could make the argument that “Maybe it just didn’t fit their network image”, but I can assure you more people get TNT than will initially sign up for this service. Plus, are folks really creaming their jeans over a Swamp Thing show?

Wanna make this thing a Must Have expense? First, pull all existing shows from networks and put them on the service. Sure, The CW would collapse, but Fox wouldn’t have to worry about renewing a bubble show like Gotham, and the service would officially become THE exclusive home for DC programming.  ‘Cause even if the service has every DC production in history, it should be acknowledged that a lot of that stuff was shit. Yes, there’d be Justice League Unlimited and the rest of the DCAU, but there’d also be Lois & Clark, that really bad 80s syndicated Superboy, and The Zeta Project. People talk about how Disney is buying Fox to bolster their streaming service, but there’s REALLY nothing about DC’s catalog that’s gonna bring all the boys to the yard. You really going to pay a monthly fee just so you can watch Superman III whenever you want? The shit is in the $5 bin at Walmart. Knock yourself out. Your credit card will thank you. Anyway, I’m putting this in the Need More Information file for now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We got this new trailer for Teen Titans GO! To The Movies, and I cannot wait! I posted how I’m more excited for this movie than I am for Deadpool 2, and some dude on Twitter felt the need to tell me that it’s going to make no money. Cool story, bro! Why is the Internet full of people who simply don’t want you to be happy about something? Anyway, Will Arnett as Deathstroke…I mean, “Slade”? Sign me up!
  • I have never loved Arrested Development as much as a lot of folks, but I’ve been meaning to give it a second chance. I became even more inspired to do so when, this week, series creator Mitch Hurwitz announced that a “remix” of season 4 would actually be dropping on Netflix today. Due to the conflicting schedules of the cast, season 4 was originally filmed with each episode focusing on one character. This new edit, however, treats it like a traditional sitcom, much in the way the first 3 seasons were filmed. New jokes, and actual character interaction. This should be interesting, even if just as a case study to see if such a thing can be done well.

  • *NSYNC received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week. Three things stood out to me about this: 1) I’m amazed Justin Timberlake actually showed up for the ceremony, as I was certain it was just gonna be the 4 less successful ones there. 2) Apparently Loki is real, and he now goes by the name “JC Chasez” on Midgard. 3) Chris Kirkpatrick still looks like the kid that you only let hang out with you because he either has a hot, slutty sister OR his brother is your weed dealer.
  • On a related *NSYNC note, they popped up on Ellen, where it was revealed that Timberlake once hooked up with a Spice Girl. If it was Sporty, he will have my undying love. It was probably Scary or Ginger, though.
  • Comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner, and the butthurt, snowflake libtards couldn’t take a few jokes! Wait…we’re receiving an update on this story. Oh, so it wasn’t the Liberals? How interesting…

  • We got the new trailer for Ant-Man and The Wasp, which looks like a MUCH needed, light fare palette cleanser after the heavy events of Infinity War.
  • Taking a page from DC’s marketing of The Dark Knight, Fox is dropping X-Men from the title of the series’ next installment, which will now just be called Dark Phoenix. Yeah, I think the great Dwayne Johnson put it best when he said, “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!”
  • Speaking of The Rock, he just cast John Cena as the lead in The Janson Directive, which Johnson is producing, based on a Robert Ludlum book. A Robert Ludlum book that sounds a lot like The Bourne Identity
  • Detective/Captain/Mayor Quentin Lance is leaving the Arrowverse, as actor Paul Blackthorne is exiting Arrow at the end of the season. I’ve felt he’s been living on borrowed time since season 2, but I grew to love him. Here’s hoping he gets to walk off into the sunset instead of getting killed off.
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt will be ending after its upcoming 4th season, with a planned movie that will wrap up any loose ends. Sad to see it go, but I never made it through season 2, and I guess this gives Tina Fey time to work on that 30 Rock revival she’s been teasing.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), The Good Fight (CBS All Access), and Westworld (HBO) were all renewed for a 3rd season this week.
  • Thought I’ve never encountered anyone who liked the show, Netflix somehow renewed Friends from College for a second season, and Sarah Chalke will be joining the cast.
  • The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running, scripted primetime series on television, with 636 episodes.
  • Because we’re in the midst of a conservative TV family renaissance, with the success of Roseanne, it’s being reported that Fox is close to reviving Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing for a 7th season. I get the Why, but Fox ain’t the right home for that show. They don’t have any other multicam sitcoms to pair with it. It’ll be an anomaly on their schedule, but it ain’t my money, so…
  • Speaking of Fox, they renewed Empire for season 5. I can only imagine that Lucious spends half the season in space, only to return to an Earth where everyone has seemingly forgotten about Dre.
  • The current story arc on Black-ish makes it seem like Dre and Rainbow are headed for splitsville. There are so many things at play here. It’s rare to have a positive, Black nuclear family on television, so they’d spit in the faces of a lot of fans to destroy that. It’s also reportedly based on the real-life relationship of show creator Kenya Barris, and he and his wife (also named Rainbow) worked through their problems. Still, this is a matter dictated by business. Star Tracee Ellis Ross is upset that she doesn’t make as much as costar Anthony Anderson. She’s said she’s willing to reduce her role to part-time in order to take work on another series to make up the difference. Negotiations are ongoing, and there’s no renewal deal yet for next season. Oh, and Barris is trying to get out of his ABC deal. So, yeah, this is gonna come down to the 11th hour, and it doesn’t look good.

  • We got this cast pic from the upcoming Murphy Brown revival. I love how Faith Ford’s face basically says “God, I wish my husband hadn’t racked up all that gambling debt…” Anyway, before conservatives get all upset, they didn’t recast Murphy’s kid with that Indian dude. No, he’s the social media manager for FYI, which is only slightly less offensive…

  • 16 year old Isabela Moner has been cast as the lead in the live action Dora the Explorer film. Look, I know I grew up in a time when high schoolers were played by 30 year old actors, but I draw the line at a 16 year old Dora. The Sketchy Dad contingent, however, is gonna eat this up!

So, I bet you thought we were done with Infinity War. Well, you were wrong, sucka! Up top we discussed opinions, but now we’re gonna talk about facts.

  • It’s the culmination of 18 films, released over the past 10 years
  • The film is expected to pass $1 BILLION worldwide this weekend – just ONE WEEK after its release, and it doesn’t even in China until May 11th

  • The film beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens to have the biggest opening of weekend of all time, with $250 million. Game recognizes game. And they have the same corporate parent, but whatever.
  • It was the payoff of a decade’s worth of film-making, and it provided an experience that a lot of comic fans never dreamed they ever see on film.
  • It’s the endgame of Book 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the dust settles, we’ll have the entire story of Steve Rogers as Captain America, Tony Stark as Iron Man, and possibly more. And what a ride it has been!

All of this is just a long winded way of saying that Avengers: Infinity War, hands down, without a doubt, had the West Week Ever.

23rd Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/23/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Fred Savage – Just weeks after former The Wonder Years costar Alley Mills revealed that the show ended because ABC was trying to squash a harassment claim against star Fred Savage, now he’s being accused of assault on the set of his cancelled Fox series The Grinder. A former costume designer said that he was abusive to women on set, and that the studio allowed his behavior to continue unchecked. She went on to recount a time he hit her in the arm after she brushed dandruff off his jacket. Yeah…America loves Fred Savage, and she doesn’t seem to have enough to really back this up. I don’t see much happening with this one.

There were a lot of big moves in the wrestling world this week. First up, Daniel Bryan was cleared by WWE doctors for his in-ring return. You see, he retired in 2016 due to health concerns arising from multiple concussions, and he remained with WWE as the “general manager” of SmackDown. Like most athletes, though, he wasn’t really finding life outside the ring to be that fulfilling, so he was going to end up wrestling again somewhere. Most folks believed that when he contract was up he’d bolt for Japan, where they’d probably have him wrestling in a burning ring with barbed wire ropes. They simply don’t give a shit over there. So, it comes as little surprise that WWE doctors would “miraculously” clear him just as that contract was set to expire.

I’ve never liked Daniel Bryan. I’ll admit that a lot of his “heyday” was during a time I wasn’t really watching wrestling. Still, his whole bearded Vegan thing just didn’t work for me. I like my wrestlers on The Gas, and he was built too much like me. I shouldn’t be able to look at a wrestler and say “Oh, I could look like that.” No, we live in a world of the chiseled in-ring physique, so little guys like Bryan and CM Punk just don’t impress me. Get some steroids! Everyone’s on the steroids! Anyway, Bryan’s return seems to have ignited a fire in some long dormant parts of the fandom, so it’s clearly a good business move. I joked on Twitter, though, that he should be subjected to nothing but chair shots to the head until he’s forced to retire again. What? In wrestling, we wish bad things on the stars we don’t like! We all have a part to play in this!

Then, on RAW we were presented with The Ultimate Deletion match between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Where to even begin with this? I actually gave the Final Deletion the West Week Ever last year because it was so groundbreaking. It was the last gasp of a wrestling promotion struggling to remain relevant. While the owners were having their own issues, that pretty much paved the way for the writers to basically say “Fuck it, Hardy. Do whatever you want.” And what he did was SO strange, and SO weird, but it kinda worked. He became this Phantom of the Opera-esque villain with a Shakespearean bent to him. He was now “Broken” Matt Hardy, as it appeared the years of Team Xtreme, the drugs, and everything else had finally caught up to him. He started feuding with his brother, Jeff, who he now referred to as “Brother Nero”. In the Final Deletion, the culmination of the entire TNA gimmick, he defeated Jeff in a crazy pre-taped match at the Hardy Compound. Again, it was like nothing we had ever seen, and for a minute folks were saying “That TNA might just be OK.” And then he left and went to Ring of Honor.

Matt eventually made his way back to WWE last year, but he didn’t legally acquire the rights to the Broken gimmick until January of this year. So, time to do something fresh with it, right? Nope, more of the same. Instead of targeting Brother Nero, Woken/Broken Matt Hardy has spent most of his recent WWE run going after Bray Wyatt in a series of matches. This week, he invited Wyatt to a match at the Hardy Compound for the Ultimate Deletion, which played out pretty much like the Final Deletion. Which is sad. When TNA did it, it was outside-the-box thinking. It was something you weren’t getting from the competition. Now, however, said competition is just repeating the same gimmick, without increased production values or anything. Wyatt ended up losing the match, which means he’s been “deleted”. So, this has really been a months-long process to repackage Wyatt – once considered the heir to The Undertaker’s supernatural corner of wrestling, but lately more of a wrestler that WWE didn’t know how to handle. Wyatt will return after Wrestlemania as Danny Sunshine or something, but what of Hardy? The Broken thing helped the WWE out with the Wyatt problem, but what’s the future for it? It already feels stale, and he’s just gotten the rights to use it. I realize Wyatt wasn’t making waves, but it’s starting to feel like Hardy’s the one who needed repackaging.

The situation for Toys “R” Us got more dire, as liquidations were announced to start yesterday. Then, when folks showed up at stores, they were met with signs telling them that the liquidations wouldn’t be starting yet, due to “unforeseen circumstances”. This prompted folks to joke that TRU couldn’t even successfully go out of business.

Meanwhile, a new challenger entered the arena. Ya see, Kay-Bee Toys announced an upcoming return, with scant details on what that meant. If you remember, Kay-Bee (later just KB) was “The Toy Store In The Mall”, which was basically their claim to fame. They typically had about a 25% markup on their items because the mall rents were too damn high. Near the end of their life, they were pretty much a clearance depot for Toy Biz Marvel figures, repackaged Power Rangers, and obscure wrestling toys.

Anyway, it appears that Strategic Marks, LLC acquired the KB rights when Toys “R” Us (which had bought them years ago) allowed them to lapse. Claiming “We’re Going To Save the Toy Industry”. Strategic Marks founder Ellia Kassoff said they had accelerated their plans to revive the KB brand in light of the TRU liquidation, and they plan to have pop-up stores ready by Christmas. He said, “We’re in discussions with many of the toy manufactures, as we try to find out the best way to support them and the 20% loss of the US toy market due to the Toys R Us liquidation. We believe we will have the infrastructure in-place and [hopefully] save the toy industry.” Uh-huh. Cool story, bro.

Then, @realkbtoys popped up on Twitter, and seemed like it wasn’t connected to the Strategic Marks initiative. In fact, it seems like the work of some fanboy. They’re touting dumb initiatives, like subscription boxes of 90s toys, and talking about focusing mainly on online sales, to which I said:

the subscription box idea prompted this response from me:

I know I’m something of a TRU apologist, with my history with them and all, but this just feels like opportunist claptrap. They’re taking advantage of the TRU situation in the worst way. And that whole “innovative” plan to have pop-ups ready by Christmas? WE ALREADY HAVE THOSE. Go! Toys & Games pretty much came along to fill the vacuum left by KB’s demise. They open around late October, close around late January. No fuss, no muss. So what’s KB going to have that Go! doesn’t, other than playing up nostalgia? Right now, I’m putting this in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” file.

Speaking of the TRU situation, I had a great chat about it with my pal Zac Shipley on The Zac Shipley Show this week. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already!

Over in Power Rangers land, we got something you don’t see every day: a trailer for an upcoming comic book event. This summer, the various Boom! Power Rangers comic series will join together for Shattered Grid.

If you’re not familiar with the comic, it originally was set during the period of time immediately following the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers “Green With Evil” TV storyline, which introduced Tommy, the Green Ranger. The comic dealt with the Rangers learning to trust their mysterious new teammate. Well, somewhere along the way, they kinda got away from that timeline and introduced Lord Drakkon, who’s an amalgam Green & White Ranger Tommy from an alternate dimension if he’d stayed evil. And that’s pretty much all we’ve had to go on. We never really knew his motivations, or why he stayed evil or any of that.

Suddenly stuff started to not make sense with the continuity that had already been set up. For example, Saba, the White Ranger’s saber, appears in the comic, even though he’s not supposed to debut until Tommy becomes the White Ranger, which is a season 2 development. And now, this Shattered Grid event is supposed to affect Ranger team picked from throughout the franchise. So, it’s a nice grand spectacle – something that makes this year’s 25th anniversary of the franchise feel more special – but something still feels off about it to me.

First off, there’s a growing part of the fandom that’s really tired of the Tommy character being the end all, be all of the franchise, partly because they find the actor, Jason David Frank, insufferable. From merchandise on down, the Power Rangers machine simply won’t let us forget about Tommy – sometimes at the expense of other characters. The franchise can have a decent thing going on, and suddenly JDF shows up and sucks all the air out of the room. He just has that effect.

Secondly, I applaud Boom! and Saban Brands for working together on this, but I can’t help but feel that this sort of thing should’ve been happening to promote last year’s film. If that film had gotten this level of promotion, perhaps we’d be getting a sequel. I’m not sure if I should fault Lionsgate for not doing enough to hype up the film OR Boom! for doing too much to hype up a mere comic book.

I’ll say that it definitely feels like an *event* with all corners of the franchise playing a part (well, except the current show, Super Ninja Steel), and I’m curious to see that state of things when it’s over. After all, this was a comic that was supposed to “dance between the raindrops of continuity”, but it’s now clear that it has its own continuity. Still, this trailer falls somewhere between “really good toy commercial/merely decent fan film” territory for me.

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • After weeks of teasers, we finally got the full-length trailer for YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai series. OK, you got me. This started out sounding like one of the dumbest concepts I’d ever heard. The more I saw, though, the more I liked it. Plus, I never really liked Daniel Larusso, so if this paints him as the antagonist, then I’m ALL for it. Bring it, YouTube Red! NO MERCY!

  • We also got a new trailer for Deadpool 2, and I think I’m starting to care about this movie. I didn’t just love the first one like every else did, but now that we’re seeing some semblance of a plot, I’m curious. It feels like the tired “save the chosen kid” trope, but they’ll probably throw us a curveball, seeing as how it’s Deadpool and all.
  • Apparently former Making The Band castmember/Danity Kane member Aubrey O’Day had an affair with Donald Trump Jr back in 2012, after she was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. If ya ask me, 2007 Aubrey was the GOAT. The milk had gone sour by the time DJT got to her. Oh, and she recorded a song about the whole thing, called “DJT”.
  • Sexual Chocolate/The World’s Strongest Man Mark Henry will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
  • Tomb Raider had an opening weekend gross of $23 million, based on a reported budget of $100 million. For some reason, however, nobody is calling it the box office bomb that it clearly is. Did Warner Bros pay off the press?
  • Matt Ryan’s John Constantine will join Legends of Tomorrow as a series regular if the show is renewed for a 4th season.
  • Sex and the City‘s Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. I’m fairly certain that more people hated Miranda Hobbs than hated Hillary Clinton, but good luck with that campaign…
  • Spike Lee may direct a Nightwatch movie, based on a Spider-Man character. I have no clue who that is, but Sony seems determined to mine every corner of those Spider-Man film rights.
  • The X-Files may FINALLY be done, as the revival aired its season finale this week, and Gillian Anderson has stated that she’s ready to move on from the character with which she has been associated for the past 25 years.
  • For my fans across the pond, TV host Ant McPartlin (of the duo, Ant & Dec – they were in Love Actually) was caught “drink driving” as the Brits call it. That’s so cute. It sounds so classy and dainty. “Yes, I’ll have spot of tea, and then go out for some drink driving.” When we call it “drunk driving”, the “drunk” implies you’re already a shitshow, but “drink driving” makes it sound like you could still have your shit together. Anyway, the duo’s losing sponsorships, as Ant heads to rehab.

Nothing really blew me away this week. Did I miss something? If you felt like something had the West Week Ever, chime in below of find me on social media. Otherwise, I’m calling it: nothing had the West Week Ever this week.

22nd Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/22/17

by Will

 

So, like most people in America, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In fact, I saw it last Thursday night, but I wanted to save my thoughts until most folks I had a chance to see it. Little did I realize this would be one of the most polarizing films of my lifetime. I’m the furthest thing from a huge Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed The Force Awakens, so I was cautiously optimistic about this installment. And ya know what? I LOVED IT. I was kinda dreading going to the theater that night, as I was tired but I’d already bought the ticket. What I got, however, was a highly entertaining movie. Was it “Star Wars“? I dunno. I don’t feel like I’m a big enough fan to weigh in on that. Those of you who are don’t seem to believe that it was. That’s the divide I’ve been noticing: The casuals, like myself, had no issue with it, while the hardcore fans seem to be the ones with the most issues – a lot of this due to unfair expectations they took with them into the theater. Here are my random thoughts on the film, in no particular order:

  • So, Luke was banging those fish nuns, right? I mean, we’re all on the same page there, I hope.
  • This film gave us something we’d never seen in a Star Wars film before: I swear, if the N-Word exists in a galaxy far, far away, Phasma totally would’ve used it on Finn when she said “You were ALWAYS scum”, and he replied with REBEL scum.” Replace “scum” with the N-word and you get just how powerful that scene was.
  • Um, is Poe banging Leia? There was some weird subtext there which wasn’t quite mother/son, nor was it leader/subordinate. Was there some May/Life Day relationship going on there?
  • Episode IX should just be called Star Wars: What’s The Fucking Point? I mean, they’re down to about 25 rebels at this point. And, for a middle movie, it sure felt kinda like a finale in a lot of ways.
  • I LOVE that Rey is the child of nobodies. It really bothered me that fans were insistent that she was a Skywalker or a Kenobi, when the galaxy is so much larger than those two families. As I said on Twitter, my favorite part of the movie is how it broke fanboys’ speculation boners like reverse cowgirl gone horribly wrong.
  • Canto Bight was dumb, and the animal cruelty message was hamfisted
  • Speaking of Canto Bight, you’ve got a planet dedicated to gambling, and the galaxy’s most famous, Colt 45-swigging gambler ain’t there? Whatever, dude.
  • Boyega was just…there. He brought very little to this movie except to give Rose some company over the on the B plot. I expect so much more from Finn than we’ve ever actually gotten. Maybe it’s just me, foolishly rooting for the Black guy, but he just feels like wasted potential.
  • I totally never realized Poe had never met Rey (I only watched TFA the one time, when it first came out). Was there something there between them in that interaction? Is there now a Love Rhombus between Finn/Rey – Finn/Rose – Rey/Kylo – Rey/Poe?
  • I love how Rose got “Finned” at the end of the movie, and I hope that’s a running joke from here on out. Every Star Wars movie should end with someone in a coma, only to wake up as window dressing in the next movie.
  • Does the vacuum of space work differently in Star Wars? I mean, they open bomb bay doors, but without some force being applied, those bombs wouldn’t just drop down the surface of the First Order dreadnought. Also, when Rose’s sister opens the bomb bay doors, shouldn’t she have been sucked out instead of just hanging out on that ledge?
  • While it was a visual spectacle, what was the purpose of the red salt? Was it to give the appearance of troop blood while retaining a PG-13 rating?
  • “We don’t fight against what we hate, we fight for what we love” is the hokiest, most 2017 statement they could’ve shoved in the film. It’s almost as hokey as the “You don’t mess with New Yorkers!” scene from Raimi’s Spider-Man.

All that said, I do understand why the hardcore fans are mad. For a movie franchise essentially based on an ancient religion, this movie basically comes in and says “Your god? Yeah, doesn’t matter anymore.” It’s all “Let the past die” this,  and burn up the magical tree that. To come out of this movie as a hardcore Star Wars fan is akin to graduating from college with a fine arts degree. All that time, learning trivia and minutiae, wasted. Plus, there are legitimate questions. Who was Snoke? Where were the Knights of Ren? The fan theories were all over the place, and none of them were validated. But, you know what happens when you assume…

Anyway, the best film I saw in the past week was Coco. It was my daughter’s first movie in a theater, so I was equal parts enthralled by what was onscreen, while also being terrified she was gonna act a fool. I didn’t know much about the film going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised. On the Day of the Dead, aspiring musician Miguel pulls a “Home Alone” and tells his family he doesn’t really care about them because they won’t let him play his music. Well, after a strange sequence of events, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, where he needs to get the blessing of a departed loved one in order to cross back over into the real world. It was a visual spectacle, but also highly emotional. I hate the phrase “the feels” with an unbridled passion, but it would be appropriate to use it here. Did I cry? No, YOU cried! Shut up! Anyway, I’d be really interested to know how the movie performed in the “Build the Wall!” segments of America, ’cause it’s really ethnic. If they’re not seeing it because of that ignorance, however, then it’s their loss because it’s an amazing film.

HarassmentWatch (TM)

TJ Miller: The comedian/actor has been accused of sexual assault during his time at George Washington University. You ask me, nothing bad about that dude surprises me. In fact, I almost wonder if he left Silicon Valley before they got a chance to fire him. Anyway, he denies the allegations and posted that awkward ass pic of him and his wife on Instagram. Meanwhile, Comedy Central will not be moving forward with The Gorburger Show.

Mark Schwahn Update: The One Tree Hill creator has been fired as showrunner of The Royals following investigation of his sexual misconduct.

Chris Matthews: The MSNBC anchor allegedly made inappropriate jokes about a female staff member in front of other staff, and NBC News had to pay a separation settlement back in 1999.

Paul Haggis: The Crash director/The Facts of Life writer was accused of sexual assault by publicist Haleigh Breest in 2013. He says they had a “fun, and sometimes flirtatious, relationship” and that she’s trying to extort $9 million out of him. She says he forced himself on her, while he says a recent back surgery prevented him from even having the range of motion to do such a thing.

Morgan Spurlock Update: Who Rules The World, an unscripted show that tackled women’s issues, suspended production after severing ties with Spurlock following his admission last week. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! has also been yanked from the Sundance Film Festival

David Eaton: The VP and executive editor of NFL Media resigned following HUNDREDS of sexually explicit tweets he’d sent to prostitutes and adult film actresses over the years were reported by Deadspin.

Gary Goddard Update: He has now been accused by eight former child actors in a Santa Monica theater group. There were hands on thighs, and abuse during overnight stays.

Harvey Wenstein Update: Peter Jackson confirmed that Weinstein blackballed Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, as Jackson wanted them to appear in the Lord of the Rings trilogy when it was set up at Miramax, but Weinstein told him the two women were a nightmare to work with. It is believed that Weinstein did this to many other women in regards to their careers.

Glenn Thrush Update: Thrush is back, baby! The New York Times has completed its investigation of its star reporter and said “While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired”. So, he’ll be given a new assignment. Must be nice.

Johnny Iuzzini: The celebrity pastry chef (that’s a THING? God bless America!) and judge of The Great American Baking Show was accused of sexual harassment and abuse by multiple women. As a result, ABC severed their relationship with them, but in a move that screwed over everyone involved with the show, they decided not to air the remaining episodes. So, the winner was announced via a video posted to Facebook. Womp womp.

Matt Damon: Tone deaf Damon released a statement that was basically “Why aren’t we applauding the guys who aren’t sexual predators?” Oh, you mean the ones who are doing what they’re SUPPOSED TO DO, Matt? Ugh…

Papa John?:  While it’s not clear if it’s due to any accusations (yet), John Schnatter will be stepping down as CEO. Sure, he got a lot of heat for saying that the NFL protests were bad for his business, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story. So, do you think it was the protest hate that got Papa John, or did he get caught blasting his garlic sauce all over some female coworkers and he’s working out settlements?

They’re calling it a “bloodbath” over at Marvel, as the following books are getting cancelled:

  • Generation X
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Hawkeye
  • Iceman
  • Jean Grey
  • Luke Cage
  • Royals
  • Secret Warriors
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool
  • U.S. Avengers
  • Uncanny Avengers

The Gwenpool cancellation hits me the hardest, as I really love that book. It’s cute and fun, but I guess it wasn’t gritty enough or “matter” in terms of whatever Marvel’s next big event might be. The minority community has latched onto the Luke Cage cancellation with the usual outcry of “Why doesn’t Marvel support books like this?” Have a seat, ’cause I’m about to take you on a Rant Ride.

I hate the hot takes where folks are like “Marvel didn’t do a good job promoting this book!” You’re asking too much. Why go the extra mile to promote Luke Cage when Spider-Man over there does what’s expected of it month in and month out. These books got the same house ads and same lenticular covers as everyone else. I don’t think they deserve more effort to sell just because they appeal to a marginalized audience. At the end of the day, they ain’t fucking with comics like that anyway.

This ain’t 1963. You can take out all the TV ads for comics you want, and folks respond with a “They still make those?” Or a “You mean I gotta buy this shit EVERY month?” Next, you’ll be complaining about the publishing model, and that ain’t gonna change just for America Chavez. The angry fans want them doing shit they don’t even do for the books that sell. “Did you contact any movie theaters to show ads before films? Did you buy any TV spots? Did you go out into the community?” See, I don’t even think the community outreach would work because, at the end of the day, you’re still asking sometimes underserved communities to waste $4 a month on some stale entertainment. And trade-waiting “kills books”, so…

At this point, complaining about comics not selling is like complaining that you can’t find stamp collecting supplies. It’s a dying art, folks. Y’all saw The Last Jedi. Let the past die. Stop acting like there’s some shot in the arm that’s gonna save it.

There’s no conspiracy to kill minority books. You should be glad the books are even out there to begin with. Then it comes down to A) are the books good? B) are people actually gonna buy instead of flap their gums? At some point, it’s just bad business to keep publishing a book that’s losing everyone money. I’ve worked for the distributor. I’ve been a buyer. And when you consider the scale, the desired numbers aren’t outrageous. Sometimes you simply lose and there’s no angle to it.

So, let’s pour one out for The Unbelievable Gwenpool. Long may she reign!

In other Marvel news, there’s an update on the C.B. Cebulski situation. While Marvel hasn’t issued a statement, Cebulski did issue an apology to The Atlantic, saying:

I’m truly sorry for the pain, anger, and disappointment I caused over my poor choice of pseudonym. That was never my intention. Throughout my career in anime, manga, and comics, I’ve made it a point to listen and learn from my mistakes, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to do with this misstep. Building honest relationships with creators has always been important to me, and I’ve continued to do that in my new position. I’ve spoken with talent close to this issue, and have had candid and productive conversations about how we can improve the industry and build better stories, while being mindful of the voices behind them. My passion has always been about bringing the best talent from across the world to work on the best stories in the world, and I’m hopeful that fans and creators alike will join us in that continued mission.

Whatever, C.B. That’s all we’re getting, folks, so I guess it’s time to move on…

So, while channel surfing last Saturday night, I ran across a rap battle show on TBS called Drop the Mic, based on a segment from The Late Late Show with James Corden. What brought me in was a rap battle between funny man Wayne Brady and country artist Jake Owen. Owen held his own, but Brady came out victorious in the end. I’m glad I stayed for the whole thing, however, because the next battle had 10 year old Will written all over it: Kenny G vs Richard Marx. I’m a HUGE Marx fan, and I was really rooting for him. Amazingly, somehow Kenny G beat his ass. I mean, he just wiped the floor with him. I’m going to have to check this show out again in the future, but here’s the full G/Marx battle:

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • BBC America has cancelled the Elijah Wood-starring Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency after two seasons
  • John Legend will star in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live on Easter, facing off against Alice Cooper as King Herod. A Black Jesus and a rocker king. So, no one in the Bible Belt will be watching Jesus Christ Superstar Live
  • Apple admitted that it used software updates to limit the performance of older iPhones. They claim this was done to prevent taxing the aging batteries, which would result in the phones shutting off suddenly. Whatever, dude.
  • Team owner Jerry Richardson will have to sell the Carolina Panthers following workplace misconduct accusations. He didn’t end up in HarassmentWatch because his sin was more along the lines of calling folks the N-word than for dangling his wang. Diddy and Colin Kaepernick are interested in buying the team.
  • Following the ouster of Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion has officially been renamed Live From Here. Man, that’s some lazy shit right there. Or should that be right HERE?
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling pleaded guilty to possession of over 25 THOUSAND images of child pornography. Jesus! Was he running a server?! Anyway, his plea deal will most likely result in a 4-7 years sentence, followed by registering as a sex offender with 20 years of monitoring.
  • Mindy Kaling had a baby, which was the TRUE “Mindy Project” all along!
  • Cash Cab producers are working on Cash Lift, which will basically be the same show, but set in a hotel elevator instead of a taxi. It will stream on the Discovery Go and Facebook Watch platforms.
  • Something called EPIX has cancelled something called Graves. Who knew Nick Nolte was still working somewhere? Anyway, not anymore.
  • Because they haven’t figured out how to greenlight Sharknado: The Series yet, Syfy has renewed Van Helsing for a 3rd season.
  • A Christmas Story Live aired on Fox, and it seems like nobody cared, based on the ratings.
  • A Scooby Doo remake film is scheduled to be released May 15th, 2020.
  • The Netflix Gillian Jacobs/Paul Rust sitcom Love will end after the upcoming 3rd season, which premieres March 9th.
  • Chicago P.D. has been acquired by Fox Television stations for weekday syndication in Fall 2018.  Though not the first Chicago series, it’s the first to syndication because it’s procedural nature lends itself more to the model than the soap operatic nature of Chicago Fire.
  • Analysts say that 5,000-10,000 jobs will be eliminated by the Disney/Fox deal. Maybe they can all get jobs as extras in Avengers vs. X-Men
  • The IT Crowd is being adapted for the US for the THIRD time, but this is the first time original series creator Graham Lineham has taken a swing at it.

  • We got our first look at Hawk & Dove from the upcoming live action Titans series. Just like the Robin we saw a few weeks back, it still looks like a Spirit Halloween ad to me…
  • The Roseanne revival begins its unnecessary 9-episode return to the airwaves March 27th, bumping The Middle to 8:30 – which I think it something of a dick move to do to a show in its last season, in its homestretch of original episodes.
  • Speaking of unnecessary revivals, word on the street is that NBC is working on a revival of The Office for the 18-19 season. While Steve Carell isn’t involved, the show is supposed to include a mixture of returning and new characters. So, I’d wager Oscar, Phyllis, and Angela will be back. I mean, they’re the ones who haven’t gone on to much after the original show.
  • The Revenant‘s screenwriter Mark L. Smith will write the script for Quentin Taratino’s Star Trek film, in which James Kirk finds himself molested by a bear.
  • Everything old is new again, as it’s rumored that Vince McMahon is reviving his ill-fated XFL football venture. In fact, he has filed with the SEC to sell of 3.34 million shares of WWE in order to fund his new startup, Alpha Entertainment, which is believed to be the vehicle through which the XFL will return.
  • Hasbro and Paramount are rekindling their relationship, with a third G.I. Joe film scheduled for March 27th, 2020, and a Micronauts film planned for Ocotber 16th, 2020.
  • A streaming-only prequel series, called Stargate Origins, will premiere after Valentine’s Day, on February 15th. Nothing says “Who the Hell did I just wake up next to?!” like rolling over and watching some good old Stargate on your phone. Focusing on Catherine Langstrom, daughter of the man who discovered the Egyptian Stargate, each of the 10 episodes will be about 10 minutes in length. I’m not sure how exciting it could actually be, seeing as how Catherine doesn’t even figure out how to activate the gate until the movie…

NOTE: If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, then what are you doing with your life?), you’ve already seen most of the following thread, but I felt it needed to be posted here for posterity. 

Let’s talk about gatekeepers. Yes, they can suck for new fans of something, but I’m gonna take a page from political discourse: Have any of y’all tried to understand where they’re coming from? It tends to happen in geek circles a lot, be it comics, Trek, Star Wars, etc. Old fans pull rank on new fans because they “were here first”. Let’s take a closer look at that, shall we?

A lot of these gatekeepers experienced some trauma, inflicted by those who are now banging at the gate. Most of this shit was not “cool”, and a lot of them took a lot of shit for being passionate about it. For some, it was just teasing. For others, it might’ve been worse.

So imagine waking up to find the shit that both got you through/kinda also ruined your adolescence is now THE thing. Quarterback running around, pretending he has a lightsaber. The head cheerleader has Leia Buns. Cool rebel kid has a “My other car is a TIE Fighter” bumper sticker. That shit can be kinda jarring. Plus, I think it’s a bit much to expect those fans to just welcome the “oppressor” because now they share common ground. That’s a lot to get over. So, the old fans become gatekeepers and they’re assholes about it. I get it.

Until we really acknowledge the cause of this divide, nothing’s gonna get any better. I’m not saying former bullies need to apologize for tormenting nerds, but there needs to be some kind of acknowledgement of “I used to think this was stupid, but you were onto something”

I dunno. At the end of the day, gatekeepers can be assholes, but I don’t know if it isn’t, in some cases, justified. The problem is they take this rage out on everyone. Not every new fan was like what I described. Some were just late to the boat. But as we’re seeing, fandoms will just eat themselves, so the gatekeepers aren’t in a sustainable place. They’ll either alienate the new fans and their beloved franchise will die or they’ll be outnumbered by them. In some cases (comics), gatekeepers will just die out.

A big problem with the gatekeepers, though, is the inability to let go. After all, this is the thing that *got them through* tough times and now that bitch from high school is internet famous for wearing a Chewbacca mask. It’s almost a bastardization of something they held dear.

The issue there, however, is they feel like they own this stuff and they don’t. All those years of purchases and memorizing trivia was *not* an actual recognized investment in the property. You don’t own these things. You are not a shareholder. It’s a lot like sports. Monday morning, that coworker of yours will come up and say, “Man, we really played some game yesterday, didn’t we?” No, Ron. You didn’t play shit. I don’t know what this “we” stuff is all about.

Everyone likes to belong to something, but it’s really hard to find your “corner of the sky”, only for it to become this multimedia explosion. I don’t think we process that enough. It’s almost like folks are going “Hey, nerd! I like your shit now. We cool?” And while I don’t think anyone should tell anyone the “right” way to be a fan, I guess I understand that the old school fans come with some knowledge of the property & don’t feel their contributions are welcomed by the new fan. I guess I come from a “Respect your elders” mindset.

Anyway, with the Star Wars kerfuffle this week, it’s clear that the gatekeepers were out in full force for this one. I hate that the pendulum has swung this way, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the gatekeepers wielded a lot of power this week. So, with that in mind, fandom gatekeepers had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: Next Wednesday, come back as I will be presenting the WBW Top 40. Yes, I’ll be reviewing my 40 favorite songs from 2017, and I know you’ll find something in the batch that you like. I don’t typically cover music because I know my tastes aren’t shared by a lot of you, but I’m confident there’ll be something on this list that’ll make you smile, Plus, in what has been a pretty shitty year overall, I figured we could all send it off with some good music. So, be here Wednesday! In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a kicking Kwanzaa! Is Hanukkah over? If not, you show that oil who’s boss!

15th Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/15/17

by Will

I don’t expect a ton of folks to read this week’s installment, as I know a bunch of my audience is on self-imposed exile from the Internet until they get a chance to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So, this is my chance to just write a bunch of random shit with no challenge or repercussion. And don’t worry, as I’m saving my Last Jedi thoughts for next week.

HarassmentWatch (TM)

I can’t tell you how tired I am of writing this section every week, but dudes just can’t seem to keep their dicks in their pants, so here we are.

Mario Batali: The week started off with celebrity chef Mario Batali being accused of sexual misconduct. Four women came forward that Batali has touched them inappropriately over a span of 20 years. While he didn’t know the identities of the women, his response was basically, “Yup, that sounds like me.” As a result, he has stepped away from the business operations of his restaurants, and has been fired as a co-host of ABC’s talk show The Chew. I just want to point out that, out of all of the celebrity chefs, they got Batalo before they got Guy Fieri. It just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its frosted tips!

Tavis Smiley: The PBS host was accused of having engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates – in many cases where it was implied that the women’s employment was contingent upon them complying. He said anything that might’ve happened was consensual. PBS said “No way, José!” Or maybe something like “Who’s Smiley now?” I don’t know. I bet they said something really clever. In any case, they’ve suspended distribution of his show.

 

Blake Farenthold: The US Representative from Texas announced that he won’t seek re-election following accusations of sexual harassment. Ah, he’s taking the Conyers package. Excellent choice, sir! Anyway, unlike most of these dudes, who turn out to be wang danglers, Farenthold’s offense was that he was unprofessional and liked to make off-color jokes to subordinates. For example, when one of his aides was leaving for his wedding, Farenthold reportedly said, “Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.” So, in addition to looking like Captain Planet villain Hoggish Greedly wearing a toupee, Farenthold is also clearly a prophet. Oh, and he also had a habit of calling those around him “fucktards”.

Morgan Spurlock: THIS piece of shit. Just look at his smug face. You know, I’ve had issues with Spurlock ever since Super Size Me. Yes, I have an irrational loyalty to the McDonalds Corporation, and I didn’t like the hit job he did on them with that documentary. A lot of folks don’t realize that his wife at the time was a vegan chef, and that was basically his diet. So, yeah, eating McDonalds 3 times a day is gonna make you throw up – not necessarily because of anything having to do with the McDonalds, but more due to the fact that your body just ain’t used to it. Anyway, he thought he was being noble by outing himself on Twitter, saying “I am also part of the problem”. He went into detail that he’d been accused of rape in the past, that he had paid a settlement to a former assistant due to sexual harassment, and that he had cheated on every wife and girlfriend he had ever had. He blamed it on a drinking problem that, according to him, he’s had for 30 years. Anyway, he stepped down from his production company in the wake of his “confession”.

Basically ALL of NFL Network: Former wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor worked for NFL Network for over a decade, and reported that she had been sexually harassed by Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, as well as analysts Ike Taylor and Heath Evans. She also included former employees Warren Sapp, Donovan McNabb, and Eric Davis in her allegations. Faulk fondled her when greeting her, Taylor sent her pics of himself in the shower, McNabb tried to sext her, Davis told her he wanted to have rough sex with her, and Evans sent her naked pictures of himself and constantly asked her to have sex with him. Oh, and Sapp gave her a sex toy at Christmas THREE YEARS IN A ROW, taking a page from the Matt Lauer handbook. NFL Network has suspended the guys who actually still work for them, but half of them had already been fired for other offenses. In fact, these allegations came out during a wrongful termination suit, in which it is alleged that Cantor herself was fired for stealing clothes from an unspecified on-air talent member.

Harvey Weinstein Update: Salma Hayek added her voice to the 70 women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. She said that Weinstein was her “monster”, and detailed the aggressive advances he made towards her after they established a business relationship to help her produce Frida. He even insisted that a full frontal love scene be included – a scene so distressing for her that she said she had to take tranquilizers just to get through filming it.

In politics, Omarosa Manigault, or just “Omarosa”, was reportedly fired from the Trump administration earlier this week. In fact, reports seem to imply that she was physically removed from the premises.  They dragged her out like a belligerent Delta passenger, yet the White House insists that she “resigned to pursue other opportunities”. To hear the story, they chucked her out like Uncle Phil used to do to Jazz. Womp womp. She was reportedly making $180,000 a year as the Special Assistant to Who The Fuck Knows. No, seriously, nobody seemed to know what she was doing there, and she didn’t even make it a full year. Well, good riddance to bad rubbish. She’ll probably be on Dancing with the Stars or have her own Fox News show by this time next year.

In movie news, some interesting stuff is going on with the Screen Actors Guild Awards. For starters, only women will present awards at the 2018 ceremony. The executive producer of the awards said that this is a “salute to women”, following a year in which they were “very, very brave.” Yeah, that’s all well and good, but considering things will just go back to “normal” in 2019 kinda kicks the wind out of the sails of this gesture. It feels like an overcompensation, rather than sustainable, meaningful change.

Meanwhile, Jordan Peele’s Get Out has been jerked all over the awards circuit, being nominated for Best Musical of Comedy Motion Picture for the Golden Globes, which resulted in an “It wasn’t a comedy!” outcry. Well, for the SAG Awards, the cast was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. However, breakout star Lil Rel Howery, got excluded this nomination due to a trivial SAG rule. You see, according to the rule, you can’t be considered a main cast member if you don’t have your own solo title card in the main title sequence. A lot of this billing stuff is decided arbitrarily as deals are being ironed out, but Howery appears in the credits on the same card as Erika Alexander, so it gives the appearance of perceived lesser star power, and neither will win an award if the cast wins this category.

In Power Rangers news, we got our first glimpse of the Super Sentai series that will air next season in Japan (with the assumption that the footage will eventually be adapted into a future Power Rangers season). Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patoranger looks stupid. It’s 2 teams of three: one group is a bunch of thief Rangers with safe tumblers on their Zords, while the other group seems to be detectives, with badges on their helmets. The designs are ugly, and it just sounds like a dumb premise. But Ranger fans are eating it up because, well, Ranger fans…Seriously, you could eat rainbow sherbet and shit in a bucket, and they’d still be mesmerized by all the colors. It doesn’t take much with them. Anyway, I hope Saban skips this season just like he did with the train series.

In comics news, it has been SEVENTEEN DAYS and Marvel still hasn’t addressed the Cebulski thing. Kinda have to admire the balls on them at this point. Like, at this point, they control the narrative, and they’re choosing to retcon the whole thing. Most conversations about it have died down, but that doesn’t make it any less worse. It’ll be interesting to see if any big name talent walks away from any projects over there. I doubt it, and it won’t be any of the White dudes. It’d have to be someone like Wilson or Coates. But jobs are hard to come by, and nobody wants to rock the boat…

With Disney’s backing, Marvel’s cock of the walk and probably feel like they don’t need to address it. That said, if the majority of readers don’t care, they have little to lose by briefly addressing it and moving on, with “an eye trained on the future and not the past”. It’s quite the thing to just leave dangling. Plus it may not affect marquee creators, but you’d better believe it will be a new barrier to entry for the next Asian writer. It’s going to be kind of hard to take a Sunfire miniseries seriously written by newcomer “Ryu Kurosawa” when everyone knows there’s a chance it’s really just Cullen Bunn, “taking the piss”. That’s where the real damage has been done.

I know how corporations work, and I don’t expect Marvel to get down on their knees. In all honesty, the window has passed. It’s just a really messy handling of the entire situation.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • USA renewed Mr. Robot for a 4th season. I bailed back in season 2, so maybe somebody can catch me up. Have they introduced Mrs. Robot yet, or is he swinging bachelorbot?
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm was renewed for a 10th season at HBO. Based on its production pattern, don’t look for it to debut until around 2023.
  • Archie Comics will be rebooting Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy in an ongoing series that launches in April.
  • Dreamworks and Netflix are teaming up for a reboot of She-Ra: Princess of Power. Based on how the reboots of other 80s cartoons have been received, I expect this to be ruined by the unrealistic nostalgia expectations of manchildren.
  • The Walking Dead television series took a major detour from the comics this week, solidifying the upcoming death of an original character. It’s funny – comics fans expect the series to end with Carl Grimes picking up where his father, Rick, left off, while the television series will probably just end with Rick and Michonne raising their halfy kids in the woods somewhere.
  • Sylvester Stallone will no longer be directing Creed 2, which will now be helmed by relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr.
  • Apple acquired music discovery app Shazam in a deal worth $400 million. I’ve got nothing snarky to say here. Next?
  • Hannibal Buress was arrested last weekend for disorderly conduct, which can only mean that Bill Cosby and the Black Illuminati are finally exacting their revenge on him for setting into motion the renewed interest in Cosby’s sexual assault allegations back in 2014.

  • The all-female Ocean’s 8 is actually called Ocean’s 8. I thought that was just a working title. It’d be funny if it’s a prequel, and they turn out to be the moms of everyone in Ocean’s 11. Think about it: they started at 8, meaning they have room for a full trilogy that leads right into the Clooney/Pitt installment.
  • John Wick 2 director Chad Stahelski is attached to an adaptation of Ed Brubaker’s comic, Kill Or Be Killed. I’m a big fan of the book, which follows a regular guy whose botched suicide attempt somehow results in him having to kill people to appease a demon. I know it sounds weird, but it’s really good.
  • Alabama narrowly avoided electing an alleged child molester to the U.S. Senate. Sure, the feel-good story everyone is telling is about how Doug Jones beat Roy Moore, with the help of Black women voters. Let’s not forget, however, Moore got 48.4% of the vote, which is about 48.4% too much for a dude with a penchant for 14 year old girls. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you people?!
  • Disney purchased Fox’s assets for a reported $52 billion. I’ve already gone into detail as to why I think this is a bad deal. Anyway, have fun with your Fantastic Four movies. I hope they were worth it.

  • I LOVE the Miles Morales character, so I’m interested to see how this animated movie, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is going to turn out. Honestly, this trailer doesn’t do a lot for me, but I’m hoping for the best.

Who had a great week? Hmm…Disney? Yeah, I guess so. That remains to be seen, however. Fox? I mean, they did just make a shit ton of money, but what are they gonna do with it? You know who had a great week? Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC who spearheaded this week’s vote to repeal Net Neutrality. That dude was on videos with alt-righters, mocking Net Neutrality supporters, and he got his wish when the vote passed. Still, this ain’t Time Magazine where we award “influencers”, and that dude’s a piece of shit. Ya know who had the West Week Ever? Black Women. Yeah, I know this is uncharted territory for the site, but let’s look at things here.

First of all, it was the Black female vote that helped to keep Roy Moore out of the Senate in Alabama. If you weren’t aware of that, it’s because you clearly have been in a coma, as everyone is falling over themselves to remind us that Black women did this. Well, thank you, Black women. It’s a shame that you had to come save the day, but you did it, and Alabama (and the country) thanks you. Here’s hoping politicians realize your influence in the future instead of hoping to just call on you like Toodles when shit gets bad.

Next, as a nice little “Thank you present”, Black women got to revel in the fact that “traitor” Omarosa was basically dragged through the White House Rose Garden, her Louboutins carving tracks behind her. While some might have once considered Omarosa to be a “strong, Black woman”, she really hasn’t endeared herself to her peers in recent years. Now she’s trying to act like it was lonely being her in the Trump White House. Well, no shit! Prominent Black women from Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts to journalist April Ryan all got in their parting shots at the former Apprentice contestant. In fact Omarosa was so incensed by Roberts’ “Bye, Felicia” remarks that she has declared a Black Woman Civil War, so I guess y’all have got that to look forward to, as well!

So, as you’re taking off your earrings and your high heels for this fight, rest well, Black Women, knowing that you had the West Week Ever!

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