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!

21st Jul2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/21/17

by Will

I haven’t been doing such a great job with my movie tally for 2017. We’re more than halfway through the year, and I’ve barely watched anything. Well, I kinda made up for that last weekend, as I caught Keeping Up With The Joneses on HBO. This is one of those movies that came and went, and might find a fan base on TV, but will probably just be forgotten. If it should be remembered for anything, it’s that it features both Gal Gadot and Isla Fisher in lingerie. That’s about all it’s got going for it. What’s it about? Well, Isla Fisher and Zack Galifianakis star as a milquetoast suburbanite couple who become suspicious of their new neighbors, Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot. So, they’re pushed out of their comfort zone when they find out Hamm and Gadot are spies, and they get wrapped up in their latest mission. This is the kind of movie I would’ve killed a chunk of a Saturday afternoon on had it aired on Fox 5, but I can understand why nobody went to see it in theaters. Folks loved Don Draper, but for whatever reason, they have no desire to help along Jon Hamm’s movie career. And this was pre-Wonder Woman Gadot, so there was no heat on her yet. It doesn’t suck, but it’s got no Wow Factor either. Once it hits FX, it might be a good way to waste away a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I finally got around to watching The Nice Guys, too. I’d tried a few months ago, but I only got as far as the Ryan Gosling fully clothed in the bathtub scene, where I went, “What the eff am I watching?” I wasn’t ready for the absurd that night, but I was ready now. Like everyone had told me, it was really good. I still have trouble with heist/mystery films because my brain doesn’t work as fast as the film, so sometimes I have to reflect back on the thing when it’s over just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Ryan Gosling is a private investigator who teams up with local tough guy Russell Crowe to track down a missing girl. Sure, there’s some stuff about porn, and the Detroit auto lobby, but that’s the gist of the movie. It’s got a precocious kid, a cool 70s aesthetic, and titties. Can’t really hate on any of that. Anyway, I could see this as one of those movies I drop everything to watch whenever I see that it’s on. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out.

My new favorite reality show debuted this week on Bravo, called A Night With My Ex. It’s just what the title says: a former couple spends the night together to see if the spark is still there and/or to reopen old wounds. In the premiere, 28 year old virgin Rachel is reunited to smarmy douchebag ex-boyfriend Fabian. They dated for four years, but he cheated on her with a sexy Tinkerbell at a Halloween party because he had a major case of blue balls. When the show starts, you don’t think Fabian is really that bad of a guy. He knows he made a mistake, and he even plans to propose to Rachel because he wants her in his life forever. But things go south quickly. He chastises her for scraping her plate with her fork as she eats, and he tries to make her give him a handjob once they’re in bed. All the while, she’s trying to actually apologize for basically pushing him to cheat by withholding sex, but he never lets her get a word out before saying/doing something stupid. Finally she declares that she deserves better than him, and basically laughs in his face when he proposes. That was some damn good television! If anything, I’d say the show is too short at 30 minutes, but they only spend one night together, and not the whole weekend, so I guess that’s all they could edit together. It’s a lot like MTV’s old show, The X Effect, only the couple’s current partners aren’t spying on the date like they were in that show. Anyway, it’s only been one episode, but I count me in for the next nine!

In TV news, it was announced that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have lined up their post-GoT project, Confederate, which is an alternate history series set prior to the United States’ 3rd Civil War. Well, this rang some alarm bells for some folks, as you can’t really get into the Confederacy and Civil War without dealing with slavery. And folks weren’t really happy about these White showrunners making what some considered to be “slavery fanfic”. What hasn’t been covered extensively, though, is that the project is really just coasting on the fact that the GoT showrunners are attached, but they’re not the only ones involved. Husband-wife team of Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman , who are Black, will be partners on the show along with Benioff and Weiss. Plus, the show it’s so deep in its infancy that there aren’t even character names or an outline yet. It was originally developed as a two-hour movie, but they decided it could be fleshed out and taken to television. There’s basically nothing on paper for it yet, though, so there’s not much for folks to be upset about at this stage other than mere speculation. The Spellmans acknowledge the criticism, but say that they’d rather it had followed the premiere of the show instead of starting now, as it’s being announced. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that this criticism will go into shaping the show going forward, so we may never get what they originally intended to put out.

We got a new trailer for Marvel’s Inhumans. Still looks like garbage. I’ve loved Iwan Rheon since Misfits, but I can’t follow him here. This just looks so bad. Look, I’m gonna watch it, but I really don’t see how there’s any damn way I’m paying for an IMAX ticket to see it in theaters.


We also got a new teaser for The Defenders, which teases the Punisher series at the end. People are going nuts online about this thing because it’s narrated by Stan Lee, but I actually think he’s tonally wrong for this clip. When I think of Stan, I think of his marquee, larger than life characters – NOT the street-level vigilantes. I almost feel like it would’ve been better narrated by Bendis or Brubaker, but they don’t have the recognition factor that Stan has. I get that. Still, it just feels like a hollow waste of a cameo.

 Things You Might Have Missed This Week
  • The good Lord answered my prayers, as Chris Hardwick and Comedy Central have “mutually decided” to end @midnight. I won’t miss his smarmy face or those stupid hashtag games.
  • I guess the third time’s the charm, as Paige Davis will start her 3rd hosting stint on Trading Spaces when it returns to TLC later this year
  • Ed Sheeran was on Game of Thrones this week, and I guess some folks didn’t like that. I dunno. I kinda couldn’t care less about Sheeran or GoT, but folks were hatin’!
  • Meanwhile, it was reported that Lena Dunham will join American Horror Story for season 7, and folks lost their shit about that, too. Apparently she’ll only be in one episode, but that was enough for some folks to claim they weren’t gonna watch anymore.
  • Transformers: Titans Return will debut in November as an animated micro series on the Go90 app, featuring the voices of Green Ranger Jason David Frank and the original Rodimus Prime himself, Judd Nelson.
  • MTV is in talks to reboot Teen Wolf before this iteration’s final season has even concluded. Slow it down!
  • Sega broke up with Archie Comics over Twitter, thereby ending the Sonic The Hedgehog comic after 24 years of publication
  • Seacrest IN! Ryan Seacrest has officially signed on to host ABC’s revival of American Idol. I feel like I’ve written this sentence 3 times in the past already, but now it’s for real for real.
  • Coming as no real surprise since The Vampire Diaries ended, The CW announced that its spinoff, The Originals, will end after its upcoming season.
  • In an odd choice, the directors of the original Catfish documentary (the movie, not the show) are in talks talks to helm a Mega Man film that will be produced by Masi Oka of Heroes fame.
  • Words with Friends is being developed into a television game show. Ya know, so it’s basically the Scrabble game show being rebooted.
  • Meanwhile on Black Twitter, R. Kelly is allegedly running a sex cult, Usher paid a woman $1.1 million for her to keep quiet about the fact that he gave her herpes, and Kevin Hart allegedly got caught cheating on his pregnant wife. I’m just waiting for some crazy Steve Harvey news to round out the week.
  • At San Diego Comic Con, MGM announced Stargate Origins, which appears to be a prequel webseries that will run on the Stargate Command website this fall.
  • Shazam! will be the next DC film to go into production, following Justice League and Aquaman, but it’s unclear if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will co-star as Black Adam.
  • There might soon be a new Cutco salesman on the block, as OJ Simpson has been granted parole from the armed robbery that landed him in prison nine years ago. The Juice is almost loose!

I love those weeks when the West Week Ever recipient presents itself early in the week, ’cause it’s pretty much smooth sailing after that. This was one of those weeks, as history was made across the pond. The Doctor Who franchise is over 50 years old, but every time the Doctor regenerates (a clever in-story mechanism for recasting the actor), he just turns into another White dude. That’s pretty much been the unending pattern since 1966, when the first regeneration occurred. Folks have been saying it’s time for a change, and they were hoping we’d either end up with a Doctor of color (with The IT Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade coming up in a lot of the discussions) or a woman Doctor. Well, half of them got their wish, as Attack the Block‘s Jodie Whittaker was announced as the 13th Doctor. And, as you’re probably not surprised, folks lost their shit.

We’re always taught the the Brits are so proper and upstanding, but the comments sections of several sites proved that they can troll with the best of them. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of folks who are afraid of change. A friend of mine, however, did point out that the victors in these circumstances also tend to trigger the backlash against themselves. For example, it would be one thing if this was seen as a bold move forward for a progressive franchise. The problem, however, is that some people take it too far, and get on the “I’m savoring these fanboy tears” soapbox, making it about something that it really didn’t need to devolve into. Sometimes the winners can suck just as much as the losers in these scenarios. This can be seen as a “win” for some without it being a “loss” for someone else. How about framing it as a win for everyone? Nah, the internet doesn’t really work like that.

I have never gotten into the Doctor Who franchise because it just seems so daunting. Sure, folks claim you really only have to start with the Eccleston season, but when I get into something, I go ALL IN. To me, that’s like telling someone they can start Star Trek with The Next Generation (which I’d probably do, since I hate The Original Series, even though I’d still feel like I was cheating them out of an experience). I feel like I’d have to watch all 54 years of the show, which is impossible because those seasons ain’t streaming anywhere, and a good chunk of them have been lost to time. It’s a franchise that cannot be wholly consumed! I hate mysteries that can’t be solved. Still, I can respect a longstanding institution, and I understand when change is a big deal. It’ll be interesting to see how fans take to the new Doctor, but the one thing to remember is that she’ll probably do it for 2 years, and then regenerate into another old White guy (the Doctor role has the retention rate of a community college). So, everyone gets their wish! I am kinda curious about the next season, though, as rumor has it Kris Marshall (Colin: God of Sex from Love Actually) is going to be the Doctor’s next companion. I loved that dude!

Anyway, I know which side of history I want to be on, and it’ll be interesting to see this all play out. The way the franchise works, we won’t see her until the Christmas special, and then won’t see her again until late 2018 at the earliest. So, folks have got some time to get used to the idea. Still, I think it goes without saying that Jodie Whittaker had the West Week Ever.

13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

23rd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/23/16

by Will

Happy Birthday to me!!! Seriously, I should’ve just taken the week off, since A) it’s my birthday, B) I blew my blogging wad earlier this week, and C) nobody ever reads this thing on holiday weekends. So, brace yourself for the most phoned in West Week Ever you’ve ever seen!

Earlier this week, I posted The Greatest Threat To The Direct Market Comic Retailer IS The Direct Market Comic Retailer. Plainly put, comic retailers are their own worst enemy, but the industry also isn’t helped by the dinosaurs (both retailers and consumers) who refuse to grow with the times. There’s not really much more I can say that I didn’t say in the post, but check it out if you haven’t yet. It’s gotten some great feedback, and I’m pretty proud of it.

Justice League Action finally premiered last Friday as a “special” on Cartoon Network. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my DVR. Look for a review next week. In the meantime, when looking for this image, I found a lot of YouTube clips using the word “FAIL” in regards to the series, so I guess folks aren’t liking it? Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s geared towards younger kids while older folks were probably hoping for a JL show like we had 10 years ago? Like I said, I’ll form an opinion by next week.

In Power Rangers news, Lionsgate continues to fail at properly marketing the film, as the toys keep revealing more than the studio. Earlier this week, a Toys “R” Us commercial online revealed the movie design for Rita’s henchman Goldar, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It’s interesting that he shares similar design aspects to the Megazord, complete with wings and head shape. It just looks like someone poured melting gold on the Megazord. Is that what happened? After all, Rita’s suit is clearly a damaged Green Ranger suit, so is Goldar a damaged zord? Anyway, I’m hoping this is one of those designs that just doesn’t translate well to plastic, but will look better onscreen. Maybe? Hopefully?

I had the pleasure of joining my pal Corey Chapman for the latest episode of The Chap Report, where we discussed a LOT of politics. Like, a lot. If you only like me ranting about toys and comics, you’d probably best skip to halfway into the episode. Otherwise, enjoy as I talk about Russia, Trump, and Rogue One. Check it out here!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The old folks just don’t know when to quit, as we got word that both The Expendables 4 and Sex and the City 3 are happening. I’ve never seen any of The Expendables franchise, while I skipped out on SATC after the first one where we learned Miranda had let her bush become a forest. Poor Steve…
  • Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, Tupac, and some other folks will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yeah, Tupac. I’m just happy about Journey and E.L.O.  Now, let’s just hope former Journey frontman Steve Perry shows up for the ceremony.
  • Seth MacFarlane’s unfortunately unfunny Patrick Stewart vehicle, Blunt Talk, has been canceled by Starz after 2 seasons.
  • Some chick named Camila Cabello left something called Fifth Harmony. I am old, and don’t know what either of those things are. No, I’m kidding. It’s a girl pop group, but I can’t name a single one of their songs. Anyway, the other 4 Harmonies will carry on, but that can only work for so long.
  • Blizzard confirmed that the character Tracer in the video game Overwatch is a lesbian, and a certain corner of fandom lost their shit. No, I’m not gonna say their name because they’re always searching for that kind of thing. Let’s just say it rhymes with Hamerhate.
  • Blac Chyna took her baby and left boyfriend/baby daddy Rob Kardashian. I feel bad for Rob, but that’s what you get for having a baby with a chick whose name makes her sound like a really racist supervillain.
  • The Ghostbusters 101 comic was announced, which will see the original Ghostbusters travel to an alternate dimension to team up with the 2016 “Answer The Call” Girlbusters.

So, I guess it’s pretty obvious that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the belle of the ball this week. I mean, I haven’t seen it, but people I trust saw it and really liked it. I hear there’s so many great characters, like Trixie Bang Bang, Gay Karate Man, and Sass Bot. To be honest, I’m in no real rush to see it. Just like I don’t like my Trek without an Enterprise (with DS9 as the exception), I don’t like my Wars without Skywalkers. I get that this sets up A New Hope and everything, but that just isn’t enough to get my butt in a theater seat right now. Still, it has made $290 million in the US at this point, and that’s nothing to shake a stick at. So, in a week where very little happened, nothing even came close to the status of Rogue One, and that’s why it had the West Week Ever.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kickin’ Kwanzaa, and maybe I’ll see ya again before the new year!

09th Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/9/16

by Will

 

 

In Marvel news, we got a new teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Why are there so many teasers these days? We already got a short teaser that actually TEASED. Sure, this was only about 2 minutes long, but back in my day, that was the trailer! Anyway, enough old man ranting from me. It looks good. I love Baby Groot because he reminds me of my toddler. Other than that, I’ve got no real thoughts on it one way or another. I guess I’m looking forward to it? I mean, it’s not marked on my calendar like Logan, but I’ll get excited once it’s closer.

In movie news, it was announced that Amy Schumer was cast as Barbie in an upcoming live-action movie. Yup, that Barbie. And the universe laughed and laughed! Look, I’m probably being more cruel than I need to be, but there’s a reason for it: I discovered last week that she had blocked me on Twitter. Now, I can’t remember ever saying anything disparaging about her, and I say a lot of shit about a lot of people. I certainly don’t remember saying anything block-worthy. So, I’m a little butthurt about that, even though if I were a Black Twitter star, I’d put “Blocked by @amyschumer” in my Twitter bio like some sort of trifling badge of honor. I just don’t get this casting other than the fact that she’s blonde. It also doesn’t help that the movie is reportedly rated PG, so she can’t bring her typical brand of comedy to the mix. Wrong body type, wrong personality. Couldn’t they just put Amy Adams in a blonde wig? Isla Fisher? Is Heidi Klum too old? Katherine Heigl? This casting just seems uninspired. Schumer looks like Barbie after a lot of bad decisions – kinda like how Chelsea Handler looks like someone rode her hard and put her away wet. It’s more a case of Sony and Mattel trying to capitalize on her rising fame than actually trying to cast someone right for the role.

Also, the teaser trailer for The Rock’s Baywatch adaptation was released yesterday. As a lifelong Baywatch fan, I was already a lock for seeing it, but it seems like they’re using the 21 Jump Street formula, so now I’m definitely all-in. It’s basically “What if Ryan Lochte joined the Baywatch team?” I love everyone involved, from The Rock to Zac Efron to Alexandra Daddario. I can’t wait for Memorial Day weekend!

In the world of toys, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the hot toys of the season are Hatchimals. Basically, it’s a real life Tamagotchi, as you buy an egg that eventually hatches into some electronic Furby-esque toy. They retail for about $70, but they’re being listed on the secondary market from $100-200. Earlier this week, I posted this article about author Sara Gruen who saw the popularity of the toy as an opportunity to raise money for a man serving a life sentence whom she feels has been wrongly accused of a crime. She won’t go into too much detail because there’s a documentary in the works about the whole thing, but she had contributed over $150,000 of her own money to his legal fees, and felt that reselling the popular toy might help put a dent in her debt (She fucking this dude? If I were her husband, I’d be asking a LOT of questions!). Anyway, she didn’t have any clue what she was doing, so she thought it was a good idea to pay 2X retail for 156 Hatchimals, putting her in about $20,000 of additional debt. She had the harebrained scheme to charge FOUR times retail to parents desperately searching for the toy in time for Christmas. OK, let’s look at where she went wrong.

To some, I might be considered a scalper. I, however, think of myself as more of a Collectibles Reallocation Specialist. I try to keep up with what’s hot and, if I come across any, I resell them at a premium. It sounds bad, but I did this to pay for my wedding and never really looked back. If you keep your finger on the pulse, and don’t risk too much money, you can do alright with it. The way I see it, you’re paying a premium for accelerated access. Most of the stuff I sell will become plentiful given time, but the desire to be the first person to post about it online/give your kid something to brag about at Show & Tell drives folks to pay crazy prices for things they could’ve waited on. I’m not a complete dick, though. Kids are my weak spot. You tell me it’s the only thing your kid wants for his birthday, and I cave. So, I’m pretty much just targeting adults because they’ve got the disposable income.

Anyway, I’ve monitored the Hatchimals thing, and considered picking one up if I ran across it. A friend of mine from college is looking for one for his daughter, and so far they’ve struck out. It feels really good to be that last minute Christmas Savior. Not Jesus, but something a few notches below Jesus, like Peter or Moses. Here’s how I would’ve played this whole thing. I would’ve bought 3 Hatchimals. One for my friend, one to definitely sell, and one to sit on. If the selling one went quickly, then the one I was sitting on would go in the chamber. And that’s it. It’s too close to Christmas to really move that many because your avenues are limited. If you were truly enterprising, I’d even say to buy a case. I’m not sure of the case quantity, but it’s probably about 6-8 in a case. With Craigslist, you could move that in time. Here’s where she messed up: she paid $140 for something that cost $70. There’s already no meat on that bone. Had she bought them at retail, she could’ve doubled her money. With what people have been willing to pay, that would’ve been a fine plan. But you NEVER pay more than retail in arbitrage! So, her plan was dead on arrival, mainly because too many people know the market. If the retail price of Hatchimals fluctuated, you’d have some wiggle room, but the MSRP is $69.99, and everyone knows it, so how do you expect someone to fork over a car payment of $280.00?

Remember how I said there were limited avenues? That’s because Amazon bans toy sellers during the holiday season unless they’re having their orders fulfilled by Amazon. Hell, I’ve been selling on Amazon for 4 years, and I still can’t sell during Christmas. So, that wasn’t gonna be an option for her. Then, she went to eBay, but they’re already onto the Hatchimal racket, so they’re now limiting people from listing more than one a week. At this rate, she can sell about 5 before Christmas (based on when she started), and the day after Christmas the other 151 are gonna be worthless because A) the big day is gone and/or B) stock will catch up with demand. She’s NEVER going to make her money back, so she needs to make peace with that now. If she doesn’t want to sit on these things, she needs to start charging MSRP and accept the fact that she’s going to lose half her investment. As we get closer to Christmas, she could even charge about $80-100, but she still has them listed on her site for the recently reduced price of $189. Plainly put, you’re not gonna make the kind of money she needs with TOYS, especially alone and without a distribution network. She would’ve been better off if she’d bought a house from a sheriff’s sale and flipped it. There have since been updates that she received death threats from people who feel like she’s responsible for ruining their kids’ Christmas, which is a bit extreme. Right now, rest in comfort with the fact that she’s in tremendous debt and a horrible businesswoman. She doesn’t need your death threats.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC aired Hairspray Live, or as I affectionately called it Kristin Chenoweth’s Titties Live. Anyway, nobody watched it compared to the other recent live play adaptations.

  • It was announced that Mariah Carey will host YouTube Red’s The Keys of Christmas special. Based on the poster, it should be called Mariah Carey’s Titties Wish You A Merry Christmas, featuring DJ Khaled and Some Dude
  • Reportedly Beyonce’s recording of “Daddy Lessons” with the Dixie Chicks was rejected by the Grammy Country Music Committee. They’ll rue this day when she summons the Phoenix Force to destroy their lives.
  • Candace Cameron Bure is leaving The View, as it has gotten too hectic filming in NYC, while filming Fuller House in LA.
  • Disney released a new teaser for the DuckTales reboot, announcing that it would debut on DisneyXD next summer.
  • The trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming was released last night. It was OK. With the exception of Tony Stark, I didn’t see anything we haven’t seen before. I just hate how every time the franchise reboots, everyone’s like “They finally got it right!” Chill. They got it right in the past, too.

I have officially joined the Bourgeoisie! That’s right, kids – I’ve seen Hamilton. Before you get all excited for me, I didn’t actually go to Broadway and see the show. No, some intrepid soul decided to post a near perfect copy of the show on YouTube, which ended up being snatched down yesterday. Sure, it may lack the “theatre experience”, but if you’ve seen ticket prices AND know of the lack of availability for tickets to the show, then you realize this experience was just as good. In fact, based on the vantage point of the person who filmed it, it’s actually better than what you’d probably be able to afford. I mean, these were GOOD seats. I can imagine someone sneaking their phone in the show like Rerun when he was taping that Doobie Bros concert. Before I get into my thoughts on the show, however, let’s take a trip down memory lane for a minute, shall we?

Back when I was at Cornell, I was really obsessed with secret societies. There was one in particular that every Cornellian wanted to get into, and I made it a side project to get on their radar so I could be tapped. Well, senior year came, and the tap never did. I later found out that I’d been nominated for entry, but I guess I didn’t make the cut. Let me just say this: it was not an honor just to be nominated! Fast forward to some time later, when I was up there for an alumni function, and a friend of mine who had been tapped volunteered to give me a tour of their secret lair (apparently the society was OK with folks using their status to impress friends/troll for impressionable pussy). Tucked away in a Gothic tower, the meeting space he was allowed to show consisted of a stone room with a wooden table in the middle. No, nothing fancy like a Justice League table. This thing looked like it had been picked up off the side of the road. It looked like a Biblical jail or something. Needless to say, I was not impressed. Now, all of this isn’t to say that Hamilton disappointed me like that stone room did, but it is to point out that there’s power in mystery. Hamilton has the reputation that it does because people want to see it but can’t, which only makes them want to see it more. I can’t help but wonder if this YouTube leak was part of an alt-right revenge plot in conjunction with that whole Pence matter a few weeks back. They wanted folks to boycott the show, but seeing as how the vast majority of the population couldn’t get tickets anyway, I guess they decided the best revenge was to kill the mystique around the show, and disseminate it to the masses.

The mystique of not being able to see it certainly helps propel the Hamilton legend forward. I mean, as I was watching it, I spent the first 20 minutes vacillating between “I can’t believe I’m finally watching this!” and “Please, God – Don’t let YouTube snatch this down before I finish watching it!” I didn’t really get into the play until around the point of the song “You’ll Be Back”. I wonder if that’s the same way people feel in the actual audience these days, taken aback by the fact that they’re ACTUALLY seeing Hamilton.

First of all, let’s deal with the pros. It’s really good. I mean, really good. Way better than it has any right to be. On paper, it’s a lame idea from that teacher you used to have who tried to hard to look “cool” to his students. You know the one: “No, ‘Mr. Smith’ was my father. You guys can call me Mark. Anyway, today we’re going to discuss our founding fathers through the medium of rap!” Seriously, it sounds like a trainwreck waiting to happen. But Miranda pulls it off, amazingly so.

Next up is the music. It’s great and it gets in your head and won’t leave. Even before you know the words, you’ll still be humming the melodies. That’s, like, the main goal of any musical composition: for it to make a lasting mark, have an impact. Hamilton certainly succeeds here.

Finally, my favorite character is a foppish King George III played by Jonathan Groff. If you’ve heard the soundtrack, then you already know his songs are funny, but his portrayal is just so great. It has to be seen to get the full effect.

Now for the cons. A friend of mine online pointed out that he didn’t care if he never saw the show, as the whole thing is on the album, and he’s right. A lot of musicals are dialogue-dialogue-BREAK INTO SONG-dialogue, but this entire play is sung or rapped. There’s nothing that isn’t on the soundtrack. That’s good for those who’ll never see the show, but it seems like you’re almost losing out by attending the play, as it has nothing more to offer other than the “Experience!”

I hate to disappoint the lot of you, but this really isn’t a show that needs to be SEEN. It’s not a visually stunning show. I can’t decide if the choreography is understated or just lazy, but I was somewhat unimpressed. By this point, you already know what Lin-Manuel Miranda looks like, so if you just play the soundtrack, close your eyes, and picture him in Colonial Williamsburg, you’ve got the gist of the imagery. The only thing I actually enjoyed seeing was Groff’s King George dancing along in the background of songs.

At the end of the day, it’s an amazing feat of theatre, and I’m glad I saw it. I’m also glad I didn’t have to sell a kidney in order to do so. Considering that the rap approach to Hamilton has made theatre interesting to those who may not typically care for the medium, it’s shame that the show hasn’t been made more accessible. I mean, I understand the idea of wanting to remain the hot girl of the Great White Way, but there are a lot of folks who’d really appreciate it who aren’t going to get to see it. Last time I checked, the YouTube file had already been viewed over 300,000 times. That’s almost better than the ratings for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (I kid, but they’re not much different!). Clearly there is an interested audience out there who simply can’t afford to see the show. Sure, they throw scraps to the proletariat, like the PBS special and The Hamilton Mixtape, but there is a clear class divide between those who can see the show and those who can’t. I think that’s part of the problem I’ve had with the Hamilton phenomenon: it takes the hip hop vehicle and uses it to entertain an audience outside the typical socioeconomic status that actually created hip hop. I don’t quite want to call it “cultural appropriation”, but it’s close. It’s a relatable story about life and legacy, and I think a lot of people would get something out of it. Anyway, if you ever get the chance to see the show, be it online or live, then definitely don’t miss out on the opportunity. Just don’t take out a second mortgage on your house or anything in order to do so. It just ain’t THAT deep.

Meanwhile, all the Hamiltonians were sitting by their iTunes last Thursday night, realizing they’d received volume 1 of The Hamilton Mixtape. Featuring covers and songs inspired by the show, fans are eating it up. I’ve only heard a few of the songs that leaked early, such as Kelly Clarkson’s version of “It’s Quiet Uptown”. I felt she took an emotional ballad and turned it into an overproduced mess that lacks nuance or dynamics. I can only hope the rest of the album is better than that example. Still, like I said, as with all thing Hamilton, fans are loving it. There was no better week to be a Hamilton fan, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

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