22nd May2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/22/20

by Will

 

I considered renaming this thing “Joy Sparkers”, but I was scared Marie Kondo’s people would come after me. You see, there’s just so much negativity in the world right now, and I thought I’d just focus on the things I’d been enjoying lately. The problem is that “positive” doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. So I kinda abandoned that idea, but I’m still gonna give it a try.

If you’re a regular to the site, then you know that this is usually the week of my annual TV upfronts post, where I take a look at the shows slated for the networks’ fall schedules, and give my opinion on whether or not they had a fighting chance. Unfortunately, due to the events in the world, the networks cancelled their upfronts. They were going to do them online, but nothing major really materialized outside of a few press releases and announcements. I’m kinda glad, as I really didn’t have it in me right now. As you know, there’s usually Bloody Friday the week before the upfronts, when the networks cancel a slew of shows to make room on the schedules they’re about to announce. Well, since all productions have ceased, they didn’t really swing the ax too much this year. As I write this, here’s where we stand with cancellations:

Fox:

Outmatched

Almost Family

Deputy

ABC:

Single Parents

Bless This Mess

Emergence

Schooled

Kids Say The Darndest Things

CBS:

Broke

Man with a Plan

God Friended Me

Carol’s Second Act

Tommy

As for upcoming shows, there’s pretty much nothing I’m excited about, mainly because a lot of networks, like The CW, aren’t starting their seasons until 2021. So, I guess I’ve got time to catch up on all the great Netflix shows I’ve been missing!

One of my favorite movies of all time is Steve Martin’s The Jerk. I remember my mom and I had watched it on TV when I was little, and both thought it was hilarious. So, she decided to rent it so that her 80 year old mother could watch it – not knowing about all of the jokes in the original, unedited film. Jokes like “I think next week I’ll be able to send some more money as I may have extra work. My friend Patty promised me a blow job.” Ah, good times! Anyway, if you’ve never seen it, The Jerk stars Steve Martin as naive idiot Navin Johnson – a White man raised by a poor Black family who has to eventually leave the nest and go out into the world. With all the things that end up happening to him, you could almost say it’s a wackier Forrest Gump. Well, I was yesterday years old when I learned that there was actually a “sequel”, called The Jerk, Too, which was released in 1984 as a made for TV movie. I put sequel in quotes because it’s more of a reimagining of the original film instead of a story that takes place afterward. So, I fired up the YouTube and got to watching.

In this movie, Navin was played by Mark Blankfield, a cast member on Fridays, which was ABC’s short-lived take on Saturday Night Live. Whereas the original film had Carl Reiner and Steve Martin involved, this one clearly did not. While serving as producer, Martin was nowhere near this thing and, after watching it, I can understand why. There’s no real heart to it. Martin’s Navin really came off as a sweet guy who did dumb things, while Blankfield’s Navin comes off as a dumb guy who does sweet things. In the original movie, Navin had occasional flashes of brilliance, as shown by many of his inventions. This version, however, just dumbs it down to “He’s really good at cards”. In the original film, Navin leaves home because it’s time for him to become his own man, while in this movie, he’s just going to Los Angeles to attend his pen pal’s wedding. Oh, and can I mention that Pearl from 227 was in this thing, and looked just as old as she always did? The same way Tom Cruise is a vampire who was bitten at 35, Helen Martin was a vampire who was bitten in 1972, at the age of 76. She would be 76 until her death in 2000.

Anyway, Navin’s good at cards, he links up with some hobos who take advantage of him, and then there’s a love story. It’s almost like a pilot, in that it sets things up for the next chapter in Navin’s life, and I kinda would like to see where it goes. I just think it’s sacrilege for them to tie the legacy of The Jerk to whatever it was they were doing here. On its own, though, it’s a predictable, yet serviceable, 80s TV romantic comedy.

 

On the TV front, I discovered a new show that I immediately fell in love with, and have been bingeing all week. First off, though, did y’all know that SYFY has their own Adult Swim clone on the weekends, called TZGZ (it’s just SYFY adjusted by one letter)? At the moment, this programming block includes the Harley Quinn animated series from the DC Universe streaming service. It also includes a little one-season animated Canadian show, called Gary and His Demons. Now, I don’t know how this thing only got one season, but it is excellent.

Gary and His Demons focuses on a demon hunter who is the Chosen One, and he dropped out of high school to do a 15-year stint with the Demon Ministry. Since they haven’t been about to find his replacement, he’s now a 45 year old man, in his 2nd stint, and he’s been talked into doing one more. He hates his life, as his one true love was killed 20 years ago by a demon, and he’s just tired of the life. On paper, it wouldn’t be my type of show, but I ended up watching an episode after Harley, and I was hooked. Since the show is over, Comcast has them all On Demand, and I’ll finish it up after I put the finishing touches on this post. It’s got QUITE the Rick and Morty meets South Park vibe, without being up its own ass as much as R&M has been lately. Seriously, that show has gotten TOO meta for me the past few weeks. Anyway, I’m hoping it sticks the landing, as I’ve loved everything I’ve seen so far. Plus, like a true Adult Swim clone, the episodes are only about 11 minutes long, so it’s a quick watch.

Trailer Park

The Old Guard

This is apparently “based on the acclaimed graphic novel”, but I’ve never read it. Heard of it, but never read  it. Looks pretty good, although it feels like Charlize is carrying this thing on her shoulders. Still, it’s on Netflix, which means I already pay for it and won’t have to go anywhere. Sold!


The Last Days of American Crime

If you can believe it, I’ve been waiting over ten years for this movie. You see, when I was working at Diamond, a new publisher came on the scene, called Radical Studios. Radical was basically an IP farm that used comics as testing ground for movie ideas. Their comics were pretty much illustrated screenplays. That was done quite a bit at the time (Remember Cowboys vs. Aliens?). Anyway, one of the miniseries they published was The Last Days of American Crime, which I really enjoyed.

If you couldn’t tell from the trailer, it’s about the near future, when the government emits a signal that prevents anyone from committing crime. So, this guy decides to go on one last heist before the signal goes out. Funny thing is I don’t really remember many of the details right now, other than the fact I thought it was good. So, watching this trailer, I can’t tell you if it’s faithful to the book or not. Apparently Sharlto Copley is in this thing somewhere, but I didn’t see him. Other than that, I don’t know anyone else in this film. Also, considering Radical was also behind the Dwayne Johnson Hercules, well, I’m not exactly holding my breath for quality. But, like with The Old Guard, I can watch it at home in my underwear, so that’s good enough for me.


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

This is less of a trailer, and more of a truncated music video. Still, it combines my love of the Eurovision Song Contest and Will Ferrell, so it’s a no-brainer. In case you’ve not familiar, the Eurovision Song Contest is like the Olympics of music on the European stage. Started in 1951, it’s an annual event (except for this year, of course), but the US can’t compete in it ’cause we just had to break away from England.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • This week saw the 20th anniversary of the release of the second album from Britney Spears, Oops!…I Did It Again
  • CBS All Access announced they were developing Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a spinoff of Discovery, focusing on the original crew of the Enterprise.
  • It was revealed that the next season of Power Rangers would adapt Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger, and would be known as Power Rangers Dino Fury. Personally, I feel like it’s too soon for a return to dinosaurs, but whatever. I’ll still watch it.
  • Many viewers thought they were witnessing Ryan Seacrest having a stroke on Sunday night’s American Idol. Apparently, he started slurring his words and his left eye was trying to close. His people claim it was just “exhaustion”, but he didn’t show up to work at Live with Kelly and Ryan the next morning.
  • FX has renewed two of my favorite new shows for a second season: Dave and Breeders
  • In a surprising move, The CW’s Batwoman and star Ruby Rose have parted ways after just one season. While it was initially posed as Rose’s decision, word on the street was that it was a “mutual parting of ways”, as she was unhappy on the show, which resulted in a difficult set.

So I made a vow to myself that I wasn’t going to discuss this on social media and, for the most part, I’ve kept that vow. Remember, I’m trying to be more positive, and I didn’t really have good thoughts about it. Still, it’s a pretty big deal this week, so I guess we’ve got to dive into it.

Justice League was released three years ago, in the fall of 2017, to great expectations. As it was inevitably going to be compared to what the MCU had done up to that point, it had a lot going against it. Directed by Zack Snyder, who’d already helmed Man of Steel, as well as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the movie was actually completed by Joss Whedon after the sudden death of Snyder’s daughter. The result was a passable, yet mediocre, movie that should have been so much more.

After its release, Snyder fans swore that there existed a “Snyder Cut” of the film that was a masterpiece, and that Warner Bros was conspiring to ensure that it never saw the light of day. Snyder, himself, fueled the fire by saying that he filmed 4 hours worth of movie, so there’s bound to be a lot missing that could have strengthened the film – as well as some stuff that could have definitely been cut, like that Russian family. Seriously, what was that all about? Anyway, a #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement started to grow. And this wasn’t exactly peaceful demonstration. The Snyder Cut fans were some of the most obnoxious, overbearing fanatics on social media. You mention a comic movie, and they’d jump into your mentions to tell you Guardians of the Galaxy was garbage, but somehow Batman v Superman was this jewel of a film. And before you say “Not ALL of us”, let it be known that *enough* of you fit that description. I mean, the DCEU fan is already in a special, yet unfortunate, situation because they feel like they’re constantly the underdog to what Marvel accomplished with the MCU. “Why can’t people see what Snyder was trying to say instead of fawning over these films made for children?!” I feel bad that they feel that way. Why can’t the two just coexist? No, this Marvel vs DC rivalry has been going on before there were even movies of the characters, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I just sort of hoped the discourse would be a bit more civil.

Anyway, one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood was that Snyder was hosting a watch party for Man of Steel, where he was going to reveal that his version of Justice League would finally be released. And, sure enough, it was announced – but there’s a twist. You see, there IS no Snyder Cut. At least, not yet. Doesn’t exist. But it will. Warner Bros, needing new content for HBO Max (seriously, they shelled out all that money for Friends, but didn’t invest in new shows?!), is going to pump $20 million into developing Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which doesn’t even have a true format yet. Will it be a 4-hour movie? Will they break it into “chapters”, as they’ve been batting around? Who knows? Won’t know til 2021, and I don’t know about you, but I kinda don’t look forward to anything more than a week out these days.

Here’s where I’m conflicted. You see, on the one hand, this feels like another case of toxic fandom getting its way. I was never really on board with the changes demanded on the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, because I felt it set a dangerous precedent. Like it or not, all of this stuff is “Art”. Now, while art can be interpreted by the public, it really shouldn’t be influenced or directed by the public. That’s when art becomes fanfic. We live in this culture where everyone has to have it their way, when life isn’t Burger King. I feel like we don’t teach that enough, but it’s probably because we also live in a time when you pretty much can get what you want, when you want it. Hell, Amazon will get it to you in 48 hours. Fo’ free! So there’s this unrealistic notion of ownership and privilege that just shouldn’t exist. If you like something, become a patron of it. If not, keep it moving, but don’t try to change it to fit your whims. Justice League came out, it was what it was, and WB spent the next couple of years cutting ties with it. A better version of the film doesn’t exist. It’s not like it was in the water tower, being guarded by Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. Plus, I know some people who LIKED the film for what it was. You don’t get do-overs in Hollywood, until they decide to remake your movie in 20 years. What other studio is gonna say, “Hold up, if you let us pump another $15 million into it, we can get you a better version of ________”? Instead of rebooting the Fantastic Four, what if Disney just did that on the Josh Trank movie? It was 2/3 of a decent film, so it’d work. But no, it doesn’t work like that.

In the middle, I kinda don’t care because I don’t know if it’ll be drastically different enough to matter. It would be nice if they explained a few things, and maybe actually showed Darkseid instead of leaving Steppenwolf as the Big Bad. It was a movie made by committee, so it might benefit from a singular voice, especially if WB is hands off in the process.

On the other side of it, this is something of a redemption story, and everybody loves those. They say you can’t change anyone’s mind on social media, but I’m here to say someone changed mine. Someone pointed this out to me: Snyder had to step down at probably the worst time in his life. He had a vision for this entire DCEU, and it all ended at that moment. So, from an artistic vision standpoint, this is something of a triumph. Like I was saying above, THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN. Studios don’t care about “art”, and they take their losses and move on to the next thing. So while I am afraid of the precedent this sets, I’m glad to see that Snyder will actually get to see his vision come to fruition. And who knows? Maybe they can actually salvage the DCEU through all this. I mean, Wonder Woman ’84 and SHAZAM 2 still take place in that universe. Who am I kidding, though? We’ll probably all be dead by then. See? I told you I don’t do “positive”.

In any case, for making dreams come true, Zack Snyder’s Justice League had the West Week Ever.

03rd Apr2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/3/20

by Will

I tried. I really did. I wanted to give you entertainment without mention of COVID-19, but at this point we’re in the New Normal, and it’s kinda hard to ignore it. So much for all that quarantine productivity I’d been looking forward to! In the two weeks since I was last at work, I’ve read nothing besides blogs and Twitter, and the only movie I’ve watched is Moana. It was good. That’s honestly all I have to say about that movie.

Meanwhile, everything in pop culture has been either cancelled or postponed. Ghostbusters: Afterlife has been moved to next March, the Black Widow film has been postponed indefinitely, and the fabled San Diego Comic-Con is still hoping it can take place in July (I don’t see it happening). The TV season has been cut short, before many shows filmed their season and, in some cases, series finales. Right now, America Ferrera’s departure from Superstore will no longer happen this season, it’s unclear how the Supernatural series finale will be handled, and Fox is using Empire‘s 18th episode as its premature series finale, as the true finale will not be filmed.

Still, it’s not all gloom and doom, as networks and studios are finding ways to keep going. Several current movies have been prematurely released to be purchased on digital, such as Bloodshot, The Hunt, and The Invisible Man, so that they can find an audience among the captive homebound viewership. Shows that have episodes in the can are splitting up them up so they’ll last longer. Soap operas are airing “flashback” episodes, while other networks are coming up with things on the fly, such as Fox’s iHeart Living Room Concert for America, which gave us this gem:

Yup, the Backstreet Boys performing their hit “I Want It That Way” from 5 different locations. I wish I could’ve posted the whole thing, but it appears Fox has been snatching all the links since the special is going to have an encore broadcast next Monday. By the way, I found out my wife’s favorite Backstreet Boy is Kevin. Friggin’ Kevin?! The one who looks like Jesus got a haircut and Botox? Man, who did I marry?!

Anyway, the stay at home orders in 90% of the country haven’t been great for some industries. While Target and Walmart are considered “essential”, restaurants and smaller businesses are having to subsist on carry out and delivery options to keep the money rolling in. Another industry that’s been heavily affected is the comic book industry. Diamond Comic Distributors, which is North America’s largest comic book distributor, announced two weeks ago that last week’s new shipment of comics would be the last for the foreseeable future. Once the Coronavirus curve has been flattened, they’ll resume distribution, right? Well, that’s what we thought until Monday, when it was reported that the company wouldn’t be able to pay its vendors this week, due to lack of stable cash flow.

A lot of folks have taken this news to either predict the worst for the industry, or start writing Diamond’s obituary. If you’re new here, I was a brand manager at Diamond for about 2 years, so I’m something of a Diamond apologist. I have an understanding of the distribution model that most folks don’t have, instead listening to their local comic shop owner bitch and moan about how Diamond “screwed” them again. Since Diamond has exclusive contracts to distribute comics from the biggest publishers (Marvel, DC, Image) to comic and specialty shops, people have taken to calling Diamond a “monopoly”. The company has beaten this accusation in court due to some tricky interpretation of language, but at the end of the day, Diamond is kind of the only game in town. If you want your book widely distributed throughout the country, then you’re going to have to go through them. So, imagine folks’ fears when the only road to Oz is under construction?

Tuesday night, there were rumblings of “HUGE NEWS” that would be a positive change for the comic industry. Sadly, it was expected to be revealed on Wednesday – April Fools Day – so a lot of people weren’t going to take it too seriously. When the news finally hit, it might as well have been a joke, because it just made me laugh. Let’s see if I can break this down to its key components. Like with BOOK books, you can buy print or digital comics. Comic shops kinda hate digital, though, because it takes away foot traffic from their stores. In a perfect world, a digital book would be something like $1.99 compared to the $3.99 that printed comics cost, as there are fewer costs involved to production. Unfortunately, digital comics cost the same as print because brick & mortar retailers would shit a brick if they felt they were being undercut by the digital side. Nowadays, when you buy a Marvel or DC comic, it usually comes with a digital code – kinda like when you buy a Blu Ray. That way, the retailer gets his money, and you still get the comic in 2 formats. Well, this point of sale product called Comic Hub was the “big news”, where customers would essentially pre-buy their comics, benefiting the retailer, but would be able to read the books digitally instantly and then receive a print copy once distribution resumes. The pro is that it helps the retailer’s current lack of cash flow, while also gets new product into the marketplace. The con is that something like this ain’t really gonna work. Smarter people than me have chimed in about it, but at the end of the day, it’s an ambitious goal. TOO ambitious.

Here’s the thing I always say about Diamond: nobody can do what they do, nor does anybody want to. Like, retailers and consumers would love a replacement, but no company is actually stepping up to the plate. Having been on the inside, I can say that even Diamond doesn’t want to be the lone wolf in this game. For a little history lesson, this all goes back to the late 90s, when Marvel tried to handle their own distribution through a company called Heroes World. It was a colossal failure, leading into the Marvel Bankruptcy Era, and Diamond kinda swooped in to sign the big guys to exclusive contracts to make sure the industry kept going.

It’s kinda like wrestling. There used to be a lot of smaller wrestling promotions, just like there were smaller distributors. Vince McMahon came along and rounded up the smaller promotions under his WWWF umbrella (later the WWF, then WWE), and Steve Geppi did the same with comic distributors. The problem, however, is that Diamond is now so entrenched in the process that I don’t know if you could extract them if you wanted to do so. The hobby is a lot smaller than it was in the go go hologram cover 90s, and it has sort of collapsed around the load bearing wall that is Diamond. At this point, they’d probably welcome the competition – especially to take away some of the small press publishers that barely make them any money (small press publishers are NOT exclusive to Diamond, but their best shot at mainstream exposure is through Diamond’s Previews catalog).

People come along and say stuff like “To Hell with Diamond!”, but they really don’t understand that there’s nobody else vying for the crown right now. As the kids say, “You don’t want that smoke”. There’s no AEW, ROH, or even TNA to Geppi’s WWE. And it’s not like Geppi is really that hands-on with the company anyway, as it’s currently being run by some former Pepsi executive.

Comics are a weird business, as it’s the only one I can think of where the consumer is trained to hate the distributor. You don’t know who distributes the eggs to your local Wegman’s. You probably didn’t realize that Lash Tamaron distributed your toys to Toys “R” Us back in the day. But with comics, the first time you stepped in a comic shop, you most likely heard an employee bitching about Diamond to anyone who’d listen. And I’m not saying that Diamond is perfect, because it has a LOT of problems. But most of the problems that the consumer knows about are actually *retailer* problems or *publisher* problems, but not distributor problems. The same retailers bitching about how it’s insane for a distributor to have pretty much exhausted its cash flow after a 10-day shutdown are the same ones who should be wondering how they exhausted their own cash flow in the same amount of time. There are VERY thin margins in comics, from the distributor on down. I know we’re talking about some people’s livelihoods here, but it really is going to be a case of “Survival of the fittest”. The cutting edge shops are innovating, through things like Third Eye Comics’ Battle Bonds program, where you can buy a gift card that accrues valuable perks over time, while also giving you access to future VIP events. It’s going to take “outside the box” thinking to weather this storm, but Comic Hub ain’t it, champ.

When last we met, I mentioned a secret project I’d been involved with, and it’s been released to the public: I was a guest on episode 7 of Wizards: The Podcast Guide to Comics! Adam and Michael are basically doing a deep dive of each issue of Wizard: The Guide to Comics from the very beginning. Wizard was a huge part of my teenage years, and was the bible of my comic collecting heyday. It was a blast taking a trip back to 1992, which was such an exciting time for comics. The Image guys were about to strike out on their own, and there was a new X-Men comic on the scene. Anyway, those guys are doing a great job reigniting my love of the hobby, so if you, too, were buying comics in the 90s, then you should definitely be listening to this show!

Speaking of podcasts, my good friend Kevin just launched a new wrestling podcast over on The Retro Network (which is also the home of the Wizards podcast). The House Show will take a look back at WWF’s In Your House pay-per-view promotions of the 90s. Originally launched as a way for the WWF to have premium pay-per-view events in between the tentpoles, like Wrestlemania and SummerSlam, In Your House was a staple of late 90s WWF programming. Funny story: I remember seeing ads for the promotion, and I thought they were actually going to be wrestling in people’s homes. So many questions ran through my head: How would they find homes big enough? How would they fit a ring in a house? Would there be an audience? Sadly, my interpretation wasn’t correct. It’s a shame, as I would have loved to see Tatanka wrestle I.R.S. in a McMansion. Anyway, be sure to check out the debut episode of this great podcast!

What a difference a week makes. Had I written a post last week, then Star Trek: Picard totally would have had the West Week Ever. I swore I wouldn’t buy into CBS All Access’s cash grab (and I feel even more foolish now that they’ve made the series free to view for the next few weeks), but I signed up for the service the week Picard debuted. And then I proceeded to not watch it. And I continued to not watch it. All the while CBS was gladly taking $5.99 out of my account every month. Well, with the season finale planned for last Thursday, and a premature announcement of a season 2, I decided there’s no time like the quarantined present to finally see what was what with ol’ Jean-Luc.

Like with most things in today’s fast-paced world, I heard a lot about the premiere, and then didn’t hear much else. Sure, I heard rumblings that it was a wildly uneven show, but nobody really seemed to know how they felt about it. They were torn, as they were glad to see Picard again, but they weren’t sure if this felt like Star Trek. I, too, would echo those sentiments. On paper, Picard was everything I’d been wanting since the end of Voyager: a show that focuses on the present-day, post-Dominion War status of Starfleet. We’d had SO many prequels, between Enterprise, Discovery, and the Kelvin Universe, and I just wanted to know what Starfleet looked like NOW. And here it was, and I, too, wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

For one thing, the state of humanity didn’t really match up to what we’d been led to believe in The Next Generation. In that series, humanity was said to have moved past material things and money, and everyone was kind of stiff and, for lack of a better word, sterile. Meanwhile, Picard‘s timeline is dirty, and money is very much a thing. Were it not for the fact that the star is a 94 year old Picard, I’d almost think it was another prequel. The Earth-based stuff doesn’t feel that futuristic, and I almost felt like I was watching Gene Roddenberry’s redheaded stepchild, Earth: Final Conflict.

Also, I know they do this in Discovery (which I have yet to watch), but I still can’t get over swearing in Star Trek. I mean, I guess it makes it more “realistic”, but I’m just so used to how the most shocking thing about The Next Generation was how they got away with so much underboob in that one episode. You know the one. While I’m sure there were moments in “The Best of Both Worlds” where Riker would loved to have said “Fuck you, Locutus!”, you weren’t getting away with that in syndication. In Picard, though? They totally would’ve gone there.

The interesting thing is that the series is almost designed to serve as a resolution to Star Trek: Nemesis, which is a movie I barely remember, and did not enjoy. I had forgotten so much about that movie, especially the destruction of the Romulan homeworld. So, now that race is a bunch of refugees spread out across the galaxy. And Picard, through a series of events, is basically their fallen Moses. It’s an interesting take, and not necessarily how I imagined Picard’s final days in Starfleet would have looked.

I binged it over 3 nights, in preparation for last Thursday’s finale. I definitely feel it’s a show to be binged, as it would have seemed uneven in weekly installments. I don’t really want to discuss plot points, as it gives too much away. There are some great cameos, as well as some interesting callbacks to other Trek shows. At the end of the day, Picard creates a new crew out of a ragtag group of broken people who become something of a family. Meanwhile, it explores just what it means to be “human”. A friend pointed out that it’s a great bookend to the TNG episode “The Measure of a Man”, and that’s an apt description. I’d love to talk more about it once I feel more people have watched it, as I have a lot of questions about that finale. It ends with something that I don’t think Picard would’ve been cool with, but he just sort of brushes it off. As I said earlier, a second season has been formally announced, so hopefully it will tackle some of those questions that I have.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC announced a Dick Wolf-produced Law & Order spinoff, starring Chris Meloni’s Elliot Stabler character from Special Victims Unit
  • HBO is making several of their hit series and documentaries free to view to ease the quarantine blues. Starting today, the content is available for a limited time to anyone who downloads the HBO Now or HBO Go apps
  • During Adult Swim’s April Fools programming, it was revealed that the second half of Rick and Morty‘s 4th season would premiere Sunday, May 3rd at 11:30 PM.
  • One door opens, while another door closes, as Netflix has cancelled the freshman series V Wars, Messiah, and The October Faction.
  • After 7 years and 180 episodes, Steven Universe came to an end last week. The series is currently available to watch in its entirety on the Cartoon Network app.
  • This great Vulture article spoke with the showrunners of some of your favorite shows to see how they would’ve handled an episode about the Coronavirus.

You probably saw this coming from a mile away, but it had to be done. You probably watched the documentary, but you’ve definitely seen the memes. This week, everyone was talking about the “Tiger King”, Joe Exotic.

The subject of the 7-part Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, Joseph Schreibvogel is a gay redneck zoo operator who goes by the name “Joe Exotic”. Specializing mainly in big cats, he ran the G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. This, of course, garnered the attention of animal rights activists, who didn’t feel that Joe’s “zoo” was the right habitat for those kinds of animals. Joe’s biggest critic, however, was a woman named Carole Baskin, who ran the Big Cat Rescue in Florida. Baskin wasn’t without her own shadiness, as her rescue was basically being run by money she inherited from her wealthy second husband – who happens to have disappeared without a trace. So, to antagonize Baskin for coming after his livelihood, Joe started floating the notion that Baskin had killed her husband and fed him to the tigers at her animal rescue. And so began a years-long feud. It involves hired killers, a thruple, a Prince Albert, swingers, runs for political office, and amputation. It has it ALL! I don’t want to say anymore, because you really need to just watch it unfold in front of you, and I promise it doesn’t feel like 7 hours.

For anyone who has watched the documentary, I highly recommend you check out this thread on Twitter from Robert Moor. He had created a podcast about Joe long before the Netflix doc hit the scene, and he adds a bunch of additional context to the major players in the saga, as well as gives updates on a few of them.

It’s been a busy week for Joe Exotic. First, everyone seemed to watch the documentary over the weekend. Then TMZ uncovered footage of Joe being upset that he can’t use the “N-word”. And just last night it was reported that Joe had been placed in COVID-19 isolation, as he had been exposed to the virus via an inmate at another prison. Man, life comes at ya fast! In any case, it goes without saying that Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness had the West Week Ever.

17th May2019

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

by Will

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

NBC


SunnysideThursday 9:30 PM

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

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

Bluff City LawMonday 10:00 PM

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

Perfect HarmonyThursday 8:30 PM

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

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

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

FOX

Prodigal SonMonday 9:00 PM

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

Not Just MeWednesday 9:00 PM

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


Bless The Harts – Sunday 8:30 PM

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

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

DeputyMidseason

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

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

Filthy RichMidseason

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

neXtMidseason

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

OutmatchedMidseason

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

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

ABC

EmergenceTuesday 10:00 PM

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

mixed-ishTuesday 9:00 PM

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


StumptownWednesday 10:00 PM

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

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

CBS

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

All RiseMonday 9:00 PM

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

Bob Hearts AbisholaMonday 8:30 PM

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

Carol’s Second ActThursday 9:30

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

EVILThursday 10:00 PM

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

The UnicornThursday 8:30 PM

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

BrokeMidseason

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

FBI: Most WantedMidseason

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

TommyMidseason

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

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

The CW

BatwomanSunday 8:00 PM

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

Nancy DrewWednesday 9:00 PM 

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park

BH90210 (FOX)

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

Party of Five (FreeForm)

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

Chad (TBS)

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

Always Be My Maybe (Netflix)

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

08th Mar2019

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

02nd Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/2/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Brendan Fraser – So, first a correction: last week I said there’d been no Wang Dangler Hanky Panky (that would’ve been a great name for an early 90s Country song), but I was wrong. There was a GQ interview with Brendan Fraser that I didn’t have the chance to read before I wrote the post, where he explained why he had “disappeared” from Hollywood. It turns out a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had grabbed his buttcheek and sort of fingered his taint, in a public situation much like what happened to Terry Crews. His reps demanded an apology from the HFPA, and he believes that’s what led to his career downturn.

Ryan Seacrest – A few months ago, a former stylist accused Ryan Seacrest of sexual misconduct. Oddly enough, the investigation just ended, and he wasn’t found guilty of any wrongdoing, but the woman still went public with the full account of what happened to her. E! says they’re standing by her, and Seacrest must be Teflon, because this is sliding right off of him.

We’re beginning to get more information on Marvel’s big “fresh start”, as Black Panther writer Ta-Nehisi Coates will add the Captain America comic to his workload. Anyone who thought that this was a return to the “old days” is wrong, because Coates is going to bring anything but an old fashioned approach to the character. That said, I can’t say I’m excited because I find his Black Panther run boring as fuck. It’s like watching paint dry. You came for the Vibranium and the jungle fights, but all you end up with is African political intrigue. Pass! It’ll be interesting, though, to see how folks receive his Cap run. I mean, it was one thing when he was on Black Panther, but it’s another thing for him to be writing the Star Spangled Champion of Freedom.

Meanwhile, former Captain America writer, Nick Spencer, is taking over Amazing Spider-Man once Dan Slott’s ten-year run ends. And the crowd is butthurt! See, they still haven’t gotten over Secret Empire, where Cap was basically turned into a sleeper Nazi agent. Fans need to realize that these are not their personal toys, and that things can be done with them that they might not have considered. I will admit that Secret Empire wasn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that’s more in the execution and not the concept itself. You had people deriding it online who had never read a comic book. I felt the lead-up to the event, especially in the Sam Wilson: Captain America comic, was some of the best character work I’d read in years. It’s just the execution of the event itself, marred by fan outcry, left me wanting. Anyway, those same folks feel like Spencer ought to be punished for not properly “landing the plane” instead of being “rewarded” with the main Spidey book. Spencer will be joined by Ryan Ottley on art, who’s just coming off a LONG stint on Invincible. I think Ottley’s style works, but it’ll take me some getting used to.

Meanwhile on the distribution side of comics, a sort of “White Flight” is taking place in the Previews catalog. You see, Previews is the “phone book” that retailers use every month to place their orders, and there’s a hierarchy in how publishers are listed. Your “premiere publishers” are in the front of the book. This includes Marvel, DC, Image, and IDW, leaving all the small publishers in the back under simply “Comics & Graphic Novels”. Or it did. A few years back, Marvel began to feel they weren’t getting enough coverage in the catalog, so they introduced their own spinoff catalog, Marvel Previews, which is still published by Diamond, and comes free with the purchase of the main catalog. I knew this was a terrible precedent to set, and now that’s coming true, as DC announced that in about 3 months, they’ll be introducing DC Previews, which is their own standalone catalog for ordering their books – and it will come free with the purchase of Previews. So, now Previews is comprised of 4 books (the main catalog, Marvel Previews, DC Previews, and Adult Previews), but that made room up front in the catalog, so it was announced that BOOM! and Dynamite will now be promoted to “premiere” status in the front of the main catalog. But how long until we get Image Previews, huh? This is just a dumb concept all around.

 


Have I ever told y’all how much I hate YouTube? To me, it should be used for nothing but watching movie trailers, music videos, and old commercials. I only watch one or two shows, and when it comes to “YouTube personalities” and web series, I just don’t get it. That’s how I’m feeling about The Has Been, which is a new web series from every early Millennial’s first crush, Amy Jo Johnson. Yes, the original Pink Ranger has a web series about an A-list actress, who started out on a children’s TV show, who finds out she now has nothing and has to resort to going on the convention circuit. So, she’s basically using cons as the backdrop for this show. Isn’t that, basically, the same thing as Con Man – the other web series with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk?

Sure, the whole thing is kinda tongue-in-cheek. I mean, AJJ was never A-list, not even in her Felicity days. But she has recently thrown herself into the convention world, with the help of her old TV beau, Jason David Frank. Still, the whole Hollywood Bitch Falls From Grace and has to Grovel to the “Little People” shtick has been done countless times. But here’s where my issue with a lot of web series comes in: it’s not really even a finished product. At this stage, it’s an idea, with a trailer. The thing ends with “Help us get this made”. So, she’ll probably set up some crowdfunding thing, while she’s basically amassing free footage from conventions, for which she’s already being paid to attend. I don’t really think that’s fair. Anyway, YouTube is littered with vanity projects like this that go nowhere, and I’m not too swayed by the trailer. What say you?

There’s a new social network everyone’s talking about called Vero. While it’s been around since about 2016, its claim to fame is that it doesn’t have any adds, so there’s no data mining in the background, plus there’s still a chonological timeline. It got a lot of attention last week, and it also helped that Chris Hardwick mentioned he had joined the network during Sunday’s Talking Dead. It got SO much attention, actually, that the servers couldn’t handle the demand, so you couldn’t really do much with it until around Wednesday. One interesting aspect is that you can divide your audience into Close Friends, Friends, and Acquaintances. Silly ol’ me, though, just put everyone down as “Friend” to make it easy. Still, if you wanted to talk shit about someone, you could just switch them to Acquaintance, and then send the message about them out to your Friends only. So, it’s got a lot of Cyberbullying/backstabbing potential.

Of course, whenever there’s something new, meant to be the “Twitter Killer” or “Instagram Killer”, folks just kinda laugh and wonder when it’ll peter out, like Ello and Mastodon did before it. Well, apparently the co-founder of Vero wasn’t paying his workers or some shit, and folks got on their high horses to tell everybody that’s why it’s bad to use the app. Um, the PRESIDENT routinely didn’t pay workers, and that didn’t stop some of y’all for voting for him. So the guy used “slave labor”. Most of y’all are reading this very post on a smartphone made in a sweatshop. My point is that you have to pick and choose your battles, and that you’ll find horror stories for anything if you dare to pull back the curtain. If you wanna say that the Vero interface sucks, you can, because it does, but when you bring the other stuff into it, I feel it just sort of weakens your argument. Not a sermon, just a thought. Anyway, I expect to be done with Vero by Easter unless something amazing comes along and gives it a shot in the arm. If you wanna find me, just look for William Bruce West on there!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We got another teaser for Youtube Red’s Karate Kid spinoff, Cobra Kai, and just like with the first one, I’m left asking “…why?”
  • Because Marvel loves us, and only wants good things for us, Avengers: Infinity War‘s release date has been moved up a week to April 27th.
  • Snootchie Bootchies! We almost lost Kevin Smith, as he suffered a massive heart attack during a stand-up special he was filming on Sunday.
  • Random aside: am I the only one not feeling A Wrinkle In Time? Nothing about its marketing campaign makes me wanna see that movie. It makes me wanna read the books, but not see the movie. I think it’s Oprah. She’s just taking me out of the whole thing. And let’s hear it for Mindy Kaling’s agent, who somehow got her in the film, even though she manages to look out of place in a world where everything is meant to look out of place…
  • ABC is doing a stealth release of Alec Baldwin’s new talk show, Sundays with Alec Baldwin, this Sunday after the Oscars. It’s based on his podcast, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, which I used to love until I somehow forgot it existed. No, seriously, I think the WNYC site stopped posting them or something. Anyway, his first guests will be Jerry Seinfeld and Kate McKinnon.
  • Speaking of the ladies of Saturday Night Live, apparently Kristen Wiig is in talks to play the villain Cheetah in the Wonder Woman sequel. OK, so now we’re at the point where those fabled monkeys with typewriters are coming up with the DCEU’s ideas now, huh?
  • I only know one person who watches this show, and I’m about 98% sure he doesn’t even know I have a blog, but he would be happy to know that The Magicians has been renewed for season 4 on Syfy

  • We got our first teaser for Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. Yeah, never saw the first one. I do, however, think Wreck-It Ralph would be a great porn franchise, where a guy named Ralph just WRECKS that…well, you get the picture.
  • There’s a rumor that Time Warner is interested in selling off Warner Bros and DC Comics if their merger with AT&T doesn’t go through. Disney might as well just swoop in a buy it. They own everything else already…

Donald’s Glover’s Atlanta came back last night, and it was just as great as I remembered it. While engaging, there’s this underlying discomfort about it. Remember how The Office used to get when Michael would say something more cringeworthy than funny and you just had to sit in the discomfort? It’s sort of like that, where I kinda feel like someone’s about to get shot any second, even though it’s supposedly a “comedy”. The entire first season finale made me feel that way, even though everyone made it out unscathed. Can’t say the same about the second season premiere, though, ’cause there was definitely some shooting. Still, I think we can say that Glover has created a masterpiece, which could be to his detriment.

You see, a New Yorker article on Glover went up this week, and man was it a doozy. He’s kinda hit his John Lennon “We’re more popular than Jesus” phase, though he’s not exactly talking out of his ass. To hear his process, and his general philosophy on where the world is, and where it’s going, it’s both intriguing and frightening. If he were any other person, I might say he needs to be on suicide watch. I only trust that he knows what he’s doing, and can handle his shit. All that aside, whatever he’s going through, he’s channeling it into his work, which has given us some damn fine television. So, with that in mind, Atlanta had the West Week Ever.

 

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!

08th Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/8/17

by Will

I just want to thank you all for all the kind words following last week’s announcement. I’ve already got one little fearless spider monkey, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with TWO, but I’m glad I’ve got all of y’all on my side 🙂

HarassmentWatch (TM)

It wouldn’t be a week in 2017 without an update to the HarassmentWatch tracker.

  • Danny Masterson – The former That 70’s Show star has been written out of the third season of The Ranch – the Netflix comedy he stars in with former costar Ashton Kutcher. While reports surfaced that Netflix basically told one of Masterson’s accusers that they didn’t believe her, the network finally took action this week and fired him from the show.
  • US Representative John Conyers – I forgot to mention him when the allegations first came out about him, but the longest continuously serving lawmaker in the House of Representatives was swamped with sexual harassment allegations. Well, he announced his retirement this week. And considering he was one of the lowest paid reps, he probably lives with his kids now. Speaking of those kids, Conyers endorsed his son, John Conyers III, as the one who should replace him. So, that dude ain’t winning. On top of that, another Conyers relative has also expressed interest in running for the seat, so get your seats now for the title match-up at Conyergeddon!!!!
  • Senator Al Franken – Following the allegation shitstorm kicked off by radio host Leeann Tweeden, pressure mounted on Franken to resign, which yesterday he announced he would do. It’s kind of a shame that this happened because he was good enough, he was smart enough and, doggone it, people loved him. Also, there are reports that Tweeden is a birther who had been coached on how to take down Franken. Whatever it was, he seemed like a dude who just liked to take wacky pictures. He wasn’t a wang dangler like the rest of these guys. Still, I guess we’ve got to hold these guys to a higher standard. Well, Democrats feel they have the moral high ground now that they’ve forced Conyers and Franken to resign, but they’ll soon find out that ain’t worth shit in 2017.

It was a big week for comic-related TV shows, as we got the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the premiere of Happy! First, let’s talk about S.H.I.E.L.D. It was a two hour premiere, but I only made it through the first hour. Hey, it’s hard to focus on a show when you’re trying to put a toddler to bed who’s about as manageable as Family Guy‘s Greased Up Deaf Guy! Anyway, the first hour kinda bored me. Sure, they were in space, but the speculation boners had been hard all summer for something that I don’t think we got. So, I went online and read the summary of the hour I missed just to see if it was worth my time. It wasn’t. I’m sure I’ll catch up on it at some point, but what I read just makes me more upset that this show is considered a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

SPOILER

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So, apparently the agents are in space, in the FUTURE, AND EARTH HAS BEEN DESTROYED! Oh, and Daisy caused the destruction of Earth, ’cause she’s the equivalent of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to make fetch happen. So I’m to believe that, in a world, with a Tony Stark and a Bruce Banner and all the rest, an emo hacker with earthquake powers would be able to get away with this? Kinda like how folks felt about Blake Shelton being named Sexist Man Alive, the only way this happens is if everyone else is dead and there are no more heroes and villains. Is that what they’re trying to convey here? I know they’re trying to raise the stakes of the show, but I’m just not buying it. Hell, the Avengers still don’t even know Coulson is alive, so the only way I can stomach this show is to just assume it’s another universe. You know how those folks who watch Gotham have to trick themselves? Yeah, I’m gonna have to do the same thing here.

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END OF SPOILER

Meanwhile, on Syfy, Grant Morrison’s Happy! debuted, and I was bored about 15 minutes into the show. SVU‘s Christopher Meloni plays a disgraced former cop/current hitman who, following a mob hit gone wrong, ends up being able to see animated blue flying horse. Like most Morrison stuff, this just went over my head. I guess he’s trying to say something that I’m just not picking up. I will say, however, that I’m still not used to them being able to say “Fuck” so freely on basic cable now, but 2017. They say it a LOT here. The aesthetic of the show makes it look like it’d be more at home on FX, but I guess FX saw the script and was like “Didn’t we just do this with Wilfred?” Anyway, I’m glad Bobby Moynihan has a job (he’s the voice of the horse – UPDATE: Moynihan voiced Happy in the pilot, but not in the series. I guess he couldn’t juggle two shows at once. Now he has no shows. Womp womp. Patton Oswalt now voices Happy in the series), but I don’t think I’ll be returning to this show.

I was dreading writing this week’s post solely for this part right here. I’m probably gonna be seen as “on the wrong side of history”, but I just feel strongly about this one. You see, talks have resumed between Fox and Disney, with it looking like Disney will be purchasing 21st Century Fox in an estimated $66 billion deal sometime next week. And I think this is a horrible idea. Sadly, a lot of folks can’t seem to see the forest for the trees because they have something personal to gain from it, be it finally having the X-Men/Fantastic Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or being able to get the original cut of Star Wars on blu ray. Let’s look at why this is bad, shall we?

First off, media consolidation is rarely a good idea. This will result in one less studio to pitch to, one less voice in the creative realm, and a loss of jobs. “But what about Pixar and Lucasfilm?” This isn’t an apples apples comparison. When Pixar and Lucasfilm were purchased by Disney, each was an autonomous, independent studio. They knew how to do their shit, and Disney, for the most part, got out of their way. THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING. Instead of acquiring a single independent studio, Disney is about to assume a media conglomerate. DISNEY, which already owns half the world, is about to acquire another quarter of it. There are banners within Fox that may be left alone, like Fox Searchlight, but the entire company is NOT going to be handled the way that Pixar and Lucasfilm were handled.

Disney is not a monopoly, but they’re damn sure close to being one. The same people who will pop up in your Twitter mentions to tell you that Diamond Comic Distributors is a monopoly (eh, it’s a bit more nuanced than that) are the ones championing this deal because Star Wars. Or because Fantastic Four. I have had people with no knowledge of the industry whatsoever insist to me that Disney is doing this deal simply to get the Marvel licenses it doesn’t have. No, they’re not. They’re trying to bolster their inventory for their upcoming streaming service, and Fox’s library will help them do it. Plus, let’s stop acting like Fox isn’t sitting on some popular franchises, such as Alien, Die Hard, Ice Age, Planet of the Apes, and Predator. Sure, they’re older franchises, but they’re lucrative, and everything’s getting rebooted these days. Yes, Disney has a ton of programming that they could throw on their streaming service, but is it all stuff that people want to watch? They need to have a strong inventory at launch, and you don’t do that when you’re touting the fact that Quack Pack is available for streaming. Plus, you don’t pay $66 billion for Fantastic Four. You just don’t. I’m not saying the additional Marvel licenses didn’t sweeten the deal, but let’s stop acting like Marvel runs the world. I love their movies, too, but let’s just be logical here. And, GOD! Can we stop it with all the Marvel Phase 4 speculation already? Folks are already fancasting these reboots, trying to fit them into the existing MCU landscape. Hey, if that helps you sleep at night, but your speculation boner is poking me in the back.

Plus, let’s take a closer look at Disney and their practices. Folks have a short memory, as it was just ONE MONTH AGO that Disney banned the LA Times from screenings because they didn’t like a report the paper had done about Disney’s business practices in Anaheim. They played that card because they knew they could, and the only thing that brought the ban to an end was after fellow journalists refused to cover Disney until they reconsidered (Man, if only journalists could do shit like this more often, when more is at stake than Mickey-shaped waffles). Disney is a bully, and this deal just gives them more slingshots and spitballs to use on everyone else. And speaking of misappropriation of resources, think of what a deal of this caliber would do for Fox. In the ultimate nightmare scenario that has been touted online, this would mean Fox would, then, have $66 billion more dollars with which to buy CNN. Goodbye, fair press! So, on one side you’ve now got a multimedia conglomerate large enough to shut out the press, while on the other side you’ve got an ultra conservative press that is now basically ALL the press. If you think Net Neutrality is bad, wait until Fox dominates 2/3 of cable news.

So, in a possible reality, Fox now owns Fox News and CNN, while Disney owns everything Comcast doesn’t already own, but you’re getting Galactus in your Guardians movie, so yay? You could say that I’m overreacting, but our president is The Rich Guy from the 80s, and Alabama’s electing a pedophile next week. I’d say this isn’t even close to as bad as it could get.

Meanwhile, Marvel still hasn’t addressed the Cebulski controversy, but they did announce Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors. Yep, it’s an animated concept based on their diverse characters like Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and America Chavez. God, I hate America Chavez. Dove Cameron will voice Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen (now called Ghost Spider), which she has done before in Ultimate Spider-Man. Oh, and Milana Vayntrub will voice Squirrel Girl – the same character she’ll portray in the live action New Warriors if a network would finally pick it up. Anyway, it seems they will start as shorts and then lead into a feature-length animated movie at some point. No home has been announced yet for the project.

There are talks that Quentin Tarantino and JJ Abrams will produce an R-rated Star Trek film. In fact, Tarantino insisted on the R-rating to allow for his signature banter between characters. Look, I know a lot of folks are intrigued by this, and some feel it’ll bring new folks to the franchise. That said, THIS MOVIE WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Either he drops out before filming starts, or he walks off the set while filming. This movie will never see the light of day, so I’m not even going to give it more attention than this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

    • It was announced that House of Cards will continue, without Kevin Spacey, with Robin Wright as the lead
    • Everyone, make sure you congratulate Jerusalem for being named the US recognized capital of Israel. ‘Cause that’s not gonna end poorly…
    • Russia has been banned from the 2018 Olympics Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea following the country’s doping scandal. Russian officials are banned from attending, the Russian flag will not be flown, and the anthem will not be heard. The last one is the most disappointing, as the Russian National Anthem is a real club banger!

  • I had no interest in Netflix’s One Day at a Time reboot until I saw this. It’s cute, plus I always had a weird thing for Mackenzie Phillips.
  • JK Rowling defended Johnny Depp remaining in the Fantastic Beasts sequel by basically saying, “Hey, it’s just one chick who decided to pop off. That’s not the Johnny I know.” So, I guess we’re back to using that defense again.

My guest spot on 3 Black Geeks’ Morphin Metacast , where we discussed Power Rangers Samurai, dropped this week, so go over to their site and check it out!

You read everything I said up there about the Disney deal. If you were a Marvel Cinematic Universe Fanboy, then you were happier than a pig in shit. There was no stopping you, ’cause every thought and action was fueled by “Omigod, a House of M movie!” or “They can do AvX now!” God bless you sons of bitches, and that’s why you had the West Week Ever.

29th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/29/17

by Will

So the week kicked off with me heading to the Baltimore Comic-Con. A tradition of mine for the past 14 years or so, I’ve only missed one in that span of time and, while I was kinda under the weather, I’m a stickler for tradition! How was it? It was OK. It felt sort of smaller this year, but that could just be the result of the odd layout of the place. It wasn’t in the main hall, as there was some sort of waste management convention going on in that space. I honestly think it was called WasteCon. I wanted to sneak in just to see what kind of swag they had to offer. Anyway, you get into the exhibit hall, and the photo ops section split up the main floor from the food court. The publishers were set up closest to the photo ops, while the vendors took up most of the floor. Meanwhile, the smaller press, Artist Alley folks were shoved into the back. It might’ve been the same layout as last year, but something just felt off about it. The way things were jumbled together just kind of overwhelmed me – a feeling I’d have for the rest of the show.

The cosplay was pretty decent, though. I was somewhat disappointed by what I had seen at Awesome Con back in June, and I felt like these costumes were actually creative. I spent most of my time digging through longboxes, though, so I probably missed out on much of the “con experience”. Didn’t get to say “hi” to a lot of my publisher friends. Didn’t really meet any comic writers or artists. Just spent a few hours digging for gold.

I walked away from the show with an epiphany: I’m seriously considering giving up buying comics on a monthly basis. While I enjoy the weekly ritual of going to the comic shop, and grabbing the latest books off the shelf, the money really starts to rack up. Your average comic costs $3.99 today, and that can go up to $9.99 sometimes (looking at you, Deadpool). While my local shop gives you a 10% discount, that only goes so far. At the show, it was clear that the industry has changed, as the majority of the vendors were selling comics for $1 each. And I’m not talking about old, dead stock. Some of those books had just come out last Wednesday. Over the course of the show, I bought about 120 comics to fill in some holes in my collection. And you know how much I paid? $120. Had I bought those books at retail, at minimum they would’ve cost $478.

If you’ve talked to me recently about comics, you know the sort of To Read backlog that I’m dealing with. I buy the books when they hit, but don’t read them for 6 months. I have an unread longbox of Marvel and an unread longbox of DC. Why am I sinking all this money into something that’s just going to sit in a box? If I time the conventions correctly, I can buy everything I need every 6 months or so, and be caught up by the time the next show, and the next batch of $1 boxes hits.

I also don’t feel like being taken advantage of by publishers. I got into an argument with Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool because of a matter I felt he should be covering but wasn’t. You see, DC recently wrapped up Frank Miller’s third entry into the Dark Knight series, Dark Knight III: The Master Race. This was an 8-issue series, expanded to 9 issues over the course of the series, priced at $5.99 each. So, right there, a $47.92 commitment became a $53.91 commitment. Fine. These were higher end comics, with a thicker stock cover and a mini comic inserted into each issue. So, $5.99. I think it could’ve been done for $4.99, but whatever. So, fast forward to last Wednesday, when the hardcover collection of the series was released for $29.99. Yes, I said HARDCOVER (which is typically priced much higher than a trade paperback). All 9 issues are included, plus the mini comics are included at natural size. You’re basically being punished for being an early adopter if you purchased the series on its pseudo-monthly schedule. Johnston tried to say that it’s commonly understood that collections are cheaper than the individual issues, but I say not by that kind of margin! Single issue buyers, like myself, almost paid TWICE what trade-waiters will pay, and I don’t think that’s the right way of doing business. Again, Johnston tried to say that the thicker cover and inserted mini comic would’ve made production costs higher, but not by that much. People always forget I worked at Diamond in Purchasing. Needless to say, Johnston thought it was a non-story because he had to go dig through some Marvel exec’s dumpster, but I think it’s an important issue. People want to blame stories and SJWs and all that for the demise of the comic industry, but ultimately it’s gonna come down to price. Always follow the money. And I’m going to rethink how I invest mine in this hobby.

Speaking of money, Toys “R” Us doesn’t have any, and they filed for bankruptcy last week. Keep in mind, vultures, that they filed for Chapter 11 protection so don’t start waiting for the going out of business sales any time soon.

I worked for Toys “R” Us off and on for 10 years of my life, so I’ve got some thoughts on the whole matter. Right now, they’ve got to restructure, and I think one thing they need to do is eliminate their in-house brands. Nobody wants Fastlane when you’ve got Hot Wheels for a dollar. It’s kind of hard to compete with that price point. Also, I feel like their footprint is too large. I remember growing up, thinking that I loved Toys “R” Us. Then I started working there, and realized I only loved aisles 6D & 7D – action figures. When I had to work other departments, I was like “What is all this shit?” They need a more concentrated assortment of merchandise, taking up less space. Also, seeing as how they own the Kay Bee rights, they should spin off that brand and resurrect it as “The Toy Store in the Mall”. Of course, malls are dying, so these would mainly be located in town centers which are all the rage in commercial real estate these days. A decent sized Kay Bee had all that you needed, except for larger stuff like bikes and the baby stuff. They can keep Babies “R” Us as it is, as that’s the moneymaker these days, but they should really strive for smaller stores. I’m sure I could rattle off some more suggestions, but nobody’s paying me for my ideas, so I’ll just sit here quietly and see what the professionals come up with.

 

*Climbs up on soapbox* I’m tired of the echo chamber. I’m tired of hearing the same shit, with nothing behind it except opinion and vitriol. What am I talking about? I got into a…discussion in a Facebook group the other day about The Big Bang Theory. Someone posted an article about how the show turned 10 years old and “still sucks”. I said that was a tired hot take because where it “sucks” or not, there are people out there who still like it. I won’t lie – I enjoy the show. It’s no marvel of modern television, but when’s the last time anyone said that about a multi cam sitcom? It’s the single cams that win all the awards. In this day and age, you’re bound to get hate just for having a studio audience. Liking it isn’t a hill for me to die on, but I find it almost obnoxious how people will go out of their way to tell you it sucks. OK, that’s great, but that’s your opinion. “But everyone thinks it sucks!” Everyone you talk to, maybe. We live in a time when opinion is routinely taken as fact and I’m just tired of the implications of that.

Let me learn ya something: this week’s 11th season premiere of The Big Bang Theory had 17 million viewers. I consider myself a student of television, and I can’t help but marvel at a show whose ratings trajectory is so strong after all this time. Find me another show, in the modern era, that has that kind of audience in its ELEVENTH season. It’s unparalleled. “But popularity doesn’t mean it’s good.” What are you looking for? Shakespeare? Some folks enjoy it. Isn’t that enough?

There’s a lot of cultural elitism going around, and it’s from the smallest things like TV shows to the biggest things like politics. When people say, “Oh, The Big Bang Theory is a piece of shit”, OK, that’s their opinion. To take that opinion as fact discounts the opinions of 17 MILLION PEOPLE. That’s when one of you will retort with “Well, the Nielsen system is broken”. Fine, I get it. There’s an excuse from everything.

I liken this situation to American politics. To go online, everyone supposedly hates Trump. Still, for all you’re seeing of that, somebody still voted for him. A lot of somebodies. But when you’re in your echo chamber, you don’t really think about that. It turns into “I can’t believe this! How did this happen?!” I’m not saying to go out and hug a Nazi because that would just be stupid, but just take some time to understand that someone has a different viewpoint than you. I’m not even saying you have to respect it, but at least acknowledge that it’s there.

I’ve done a lot of introspection over the past few weeks, and I’m reminded that I don’t want to review something with “That sucks” or “That’s horrible”, because other folks’ mileage may vary. It’s enough to just say “That wasn’t for me.” It’s times like these when I miss my pal Ryan’s podcast, Positively Nerdy. He would always strive to be positive about the stuff he talked about, and it even broke cynical old me. What do you all have to gain by being so negative about shit? Just let people enjoy what they enjoy, and stop acting like it’s some unexplained anomaly. It actually makes quite a bit of sense if you take the time to really think about it.

They announced a Teen Titans Go movie for next summer, and I’ve seen folks just shit all over it. Why? Because to a lot of folks “It’s the show that replaced Young Justice!” even though those decisions were made independently of each other. I love that show. Like, it honestly brings me joy. I work from home on Wednesdays, and the other day they had both a Neverending Story AND a Goonies homage. If you hate it, that’s fine, but it’s not a piece of shit to me. Also, Cartoon Network is a business. Sure, a lot of you hate that the show is ALWAYS on (I’d even probably hate that if I didn’t like the show), but it’s scheduled like that because it’s highly rated. “Well, those people have no taste!” There you go projecting your opinion on shit.

Anyway, I’m tired of hearing the same arguments and the same sentiments, and I’m going to do my best to broaden my horizons in that regard. *steps off soapbox*

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Billy Bush and his wife of 20 years are calling it quits. Man, if you told me former Z104 DJ Billy Bush would end up the fall guy for a presidential administration, I never would’ve believed you…
  • Looks like Gina Torres finally chose the Red Pill, as she and husband Laurence Fishburne have split up after 14 years of marriage.
  • James Cameron said it took him a week to muster up the courage to ask ex-wife Linda Hamilton to star in the 6th Terminator movie.
  • It’s looking like Marvel has no faith in the Inhumans TV series (which premieres tonight), as it is now being billed as “the complete series” instead of “season one”
  • Rumer Willis is now a series regular on Empire. Huh? I can only assume her mom got her the job when she joined the show. So glad I dropped it a while ago.
  • Apparently the Riverdale folks are developing a reboot of Sabrina The Teenage Witch for The CW. Based on the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, I doubt it’ll feature hot aunts this time around. PASS!

 

  • This year’s Arrowverse crossover will be a 2-night event called “Crisis on Earth-X”, and we got the promo image for it this week.

  • We also got this promo image for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where the team apparently heads to space.
  • After 5 seasons, Chip & Joanna Gaines are walking away from Fixer Upper. Knowing HGTV, they’re fast-tracking Fixer Upper Vegas to fill the void as we speak.
  • A female-led reboot of the 70s series Kung Fu has received a put pilot order at Fox. This means it pretty much HAS to make it to air or the network will be out of a ton of money. Considering there are some seriously messed up racial politics with that show, I’m counting down to the shitstorm.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris will write the script for Coming to America 2. I can only assume Eddie Murphy’s behind on child support or something.
  • The Mist has been cancelled by Spike after one season.
  • Reportedly the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty, Kylie, is 5 months pregnant, with rapper Travis Scott as the father. As fucked up as it is, I can only marvel at how savvy Kris Jenner is. The original cast members got old and boring, so she orchestrated the dawn of the next generation. If you don’t think Kris had a hand in all this, you don’t know the Kardashians. Kris could’ve been an amazing force as the head of a network or something.
  • The Russo Brothers are adapting Rick Remender’s Deadly Class comic for a pilot at Syfy
  • Amazon is developing Greg Rucka’s comics Lazarus into a television series
  • Former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a teenage girl. How on the nose is that? His name is “Weiner” and that’s what he was showing to people. Man, people better keep an eye on Senator Robert Scrotum!
  • BoJack Horseman has been renewed for season 5 at Netflix. One day I’ll finally catch up with that show. Never even started season 2…
  • Apparently Danny Elfman will be working the John Williams Superman theme into Justice League. Don’t really know what to make of that right now.

  • The Cartoon Network series OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes kinda confounds me, but it did find it cool that there will be a Captain Planet crossover on the October 9th episode
  • Saturday Night Live has hired new cast members Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, and Luke Null to fill the void left by departed cast members Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata.

  • I don’t consider myself much of a “movie guy”, but I remember trailers like this, so I thought this was pretty cool.

It was a big week for Star Trek, as Sunday saw the premiere of the long-delayed Star Trek: Discovery. In all, I didn’t hate it. That said, I’m starting to love Enterprise, so I’m not sure what the fanbase would say about that. For now, it feels like Star Trek in name only (like Enterprise), but I’ve only seen one episode. That said, it was a riveting hour, and I’m interesting in learning more about the main character, Michael Burnham.

According to online reports, about 9.6 million people watched the premiere, and CBS All Access had its highest signup day in history. Still, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the first month is free. I don’t think this show has staying power on All Access, especially with little other original programming to support it. It’s a lot like the situation Yahoo found themselves in with Screen. Sure, they got Community, but it was already a low-rated network sitcom, which wasn’t adequately supported by the other original programming on the platform. It folded after a season. I feel that if Discovery gets a second season, I doubt it will be on All Access. Right now, they can say “Well, at least we tried” if it ends up blowing up in their faces. It’d be hilarious if they pull a Supergirl and farm it off to The CW. I guess time will tell.

Also, this week saw the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What better way to celebrate a show that hardline fans said “Wasn’t really Star Trek” than with a new show that hardline fans are saying the same thing? I remember the day TNG premiered. Oh yeah, I’ve been there since the beginning. I remember because my mom’s boyfriend at the time was putting carpet down in our back room. He took me to Kmart and bought me WWF trading cards while he got supplies. He was a hardline TOS fan, and had no desire to watch TNG that evening. I think he finished the job before the show came on, and I watched it wondering “What the heck is this?” After all, I have no real affinity for TOS, but I like getting in on the ground floor of things. Even at a young age, I liked the idea of Star Trek, but didn’t really like the show, if that makes any sense. Anyway, that carpet’s still in that back room, I think that dude may be dead, and now we’ve got a new Star Trek on the air. The circle of LIIIIIFFEEE!

I didn’t love TNG in the beginning, as I argue that it didn’t get good until Roddenberry died. Cruel, I know, but that’s when they took off the kid gloves. I tend to dislike a lot of episodes people love, like “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…” Still, the turning point for me was “The Best of Both Worlds Pt I”, which is still the greatest season finale in the history of modern television. After that, there was no looking back for me. Man, 30 years! I feel so old…

Anyway, I think it goes without saying that the Star Trek franchise had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: I used to write about stuff I found at thrift stores. It was called Thrift Justice. It’s back. Check this space on Monday!

07th Apr2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/7/17

by Will

 

So, last night I became the last person in America to see Get Out. As I joked on Twitter, I’m totally getting a divorce now. No, I kid, I kid. Like everyone said, it’s really good, though it may be a tad overrated. Just a tad. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Get Out is the story of Black man Chris Williams who joins his White girlfriend Rose Armitage on a visit to her parents’ home for the weekend. And then crazy shit starts to happen. I can see what the appeal of the film is. I really can. But I’ve got to level with you: this movie hit a little too close to home. Yeah, I know that one Black reader I have is like “That’s what you get for datin’ them White girls!” No, seriously, I probably would’ve ended up just like Chris. First of all, I have a thing for Allison Williams. Even as bitchy, self-centered Marnie on Girls, I still have a thing for her. When her father fell from grace, I just wanted to tell her everything would be all right. So I would’ve taken the bait. In addition to that, I’ve dated that kind of family. Yes, in those cases, you’re dating the whole family. They had the same socioeconomic status as the Armitages, their friends were the same way, with the same weird questions. Sometimes you don’t realize how Black you are until that’s ALL you are to some folks. What some folks saw as just fun entertainment is something that I kinda lived. They’d do weird shit, where I felt like they were testing me. I remember the first time I went to stay for the weekend, they put me in a room with, like, three Rolexes just laying about like they were nothing. No, I don’t think they would’ve killed me, but I can totally see how something like this could happen. Meanwhile, I’m here thinking that I need to get me a friend as good as TSA Rod. I’ve got a lot to unpack from that movie right now. I’d love to have a conversation with Jordan Peele, ’cause that movie came from a place of experience. I wonder if I’d ever see it again, or if it’s like Bamboozled, where it’s just gonna make me hate White people for a while. Naw, I can’t hate y’all. You’re the only ones who read my site!

In movie news, it was reported that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are set to produce a film based on the Image comic Invincible. I used to read the series back when I worked at Diamond and got the hardcovers for free, and I really loved it. It follows Mark Grayson, who’s half human and half Viltrumite. His father, who’s full Vultrimite, is the hero known as Omni-Man, and Mark seems to have inherited a lot of his powers. Mark becomes the hero Invincible and a bunch of other stuff happens. Hey, what do you want from me? I only read the first 48 issues, and that was, like, 7 years ago. The thing I like about the series is that Mark is allowed to grow and change. People die and stay dead. In comics, there’s always the approach where they give the semblance of change without actual change, but that’s not how Invincible works. I mean, he’s currently married with a kid, and they haven’t resorted to having the Devil erase it all, unlike some heroes… Anyway, I like the idea of a movie, but I don’t know if Rogen and Goldberg are the guys to do it. After all, they’re the team behind AMC’s Preacher – a show that I’ve yet to really hear anything good about. Mainly, I heard season one was just boring. So, I guess we’ll just have to see what they bring to the table.

In other movie news, Scarlett Johansson’s live action Ghost In The Shell adaptation bombed, and the congregation rejoiced. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the film because it was felt that the main character, played by Johansson, was whitewashed. They felt she should’ve been portrayed by an Asian actress, and even the studio is now saying the movie failed to meet expectations due to the whitewashing controversy. I’m really not educated enough to weigh in on this one. I mean, I’d always heard that Japanese identity politics went a little deeper than we might think, which is why their cartoon characters always have blue hair and shit, but never really look Asian. But again, before I say something uninformed, I’m gonna bow out of this one. For a better understanding of the controversy, check out my friend Jenn’s post on the film.

Speaking of outrage, there was a Pepsi commercial that ruffled some feathers this week. I’d post the video, but Pepsi is trying to scrub all reference to the thing. In it, Kendall Jenner breaks away from a fashion shoot to join a peaceful protest, capping it off by offering a stern looking cop a Pepsi. He accepts, takes a swig, and everyone rejoices. The problem, however, is that the ad was kind of tone deaf. It seemed to trivialize the act of protesting, and to add insult to injury, it installed a pretty White girl as the face of the protest. Now, I saw the thing, and it was hamfisted, but I’m not sure it was worth all the threaded tweets and thinkpieces that it generated. Like, I get why folks didn’t like it, but I’m not sure I’m “woke” enough to see the whole matter. Anyone wanna weigh in on this one?

In television news, Disney Channel officially ordered Raven’s Home to series. Serving as the sequel to That’s So Raven, it features Raven Symone reprising her role as Raven Baxter, only now she’s the divorced mom of twin tweens. She also lives with her best friend, Chelsea, who’s ALSO a divorced single mom. Things start to get crazy, though, when Raven’s kids start to exhibit her psychic powers. See, that was always my thing with that show. Sure, I was too old for it when it was a hit, but I love a good tween TV show. That said, I feel like Raven and her friends could’ve had zany adventures without the whole psychic powers gimmick. I mean, the kids of iCarly didn’t need superpowers in order to be entertaining. The psychic stuff made it too much like a mystical tween Three’s Company which, on paper, sounds perfect, but isn’t that great in execution. Anyway, I just typed all this to justify posting a pic of costar Anneliese Van Der Pol. This whole thing just sounds like Fuller House with powers. I’ve got no nostalgia for the original show, so I doubt I’ll be checking this out.

In other TV news, Freeform has ordered New Warriors to series, featuring fan favorite character Squirrel Girl. I’ve got to admit that I know next to nothing about that character except that she was the nanny to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s daughter, Dani. I know she was a Great Lakes Avenger, but she was never a New Warrior. Still, they’ve been trying to find a vehicle for that character FOREVER, so I guess they finally figured it out. Based on how WB/DC has handled Powerless, I’m not too eager to see another comedy set in a comic book universe. The one bright spot in the whole thing is that Kevin Biegel is rumored to be the showrunner. Not only does he follow me on Twitter, but he’s the creator of the Fox series Enlisted (which I loved), and he co-created Cougar Town. Knowing that, I think the show is in good hands. I still feel weird about being a 35 year old man watching Freeform. It’s like you’re paying for The CW. The news, however, makes me sad that The Middle is still going. If you didn’t know, a few years ago, when it looked like the writing was on that wall for that show, Eden Sher had a meeting with Marvel. While we don’t really know what was discussed, her name was thrown around in the same discussions of Squirrel Girl. With The Middle already renewed for next season, though, that takes her out of the running. Sucks because I think Sher’s perky, Sue Heck personality would be perfect for Squirrel Girl.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Barry Manilow came out as gay, which makes me realize that he’s actually been singing about Man D all these years…
  • Speaking of gay, on Doctor Who it was revealed that The Doctor’s latest female companion, Bill, is gay. I mean, her name is “Bill”, so, surprise?
  • NBC ordered 2 additional episodes of the Will & Grace revival, bringing the total up to 12.
  • Also in the Department of Things We Don’t Need, there are apparently outlines for 14 more Transformers movies


I’ve written about my love of The Undertaker a few times here on the site. Basically, he’s a relic of a bygone era in professional wrestling – an era of kayfabe, when enemies wouldn’t fly on the same planes together, or be seen hanging out together at IHOP. He’s from a time when people had flashy names and in-ring gimmicks to set them apart. The industry has changed a lot since then, but you could always depend on Taker. If I were to be a professional wrestler tomorrow, my in-ring name would be Bruce Williamson. That’s how they do it now. Other business ventures came along, like Total Divas, which even further blurred the lines between real and fake, but you could always depend on Taker.

In recent years, he’s basically been a part-timer. Ever since The Streak was broken, there wasn’t really much need for him to be around. The mystique was kind of gone by that point. But, like clockwork, he still showed up to Wrestlemania and did his job. In my heart, I knew the end was near. I’d always said that, given some advance warning, I’d even try to attend his final show. He means that much to me. Well, I didn’t even get to watch his final appearance, which was last Sunday at Wrestlemania 33. The card looked weak, and I felt I had better shit to do. Little did I realize I’d be missing history in the making. The Undertaker jobbed to Roman Reigns, narrowly missing out on his 100th pay per view victory. While the rumors of retirement had been floating for years, no one was ready for what would happen next. He donned his signature coat, gloves, and hat, and took one last look at the crowd. Then, he removed them, placed them in a pile in the center of the ring, and walked away. He kissed his wife, pretty much breaking character, and proceeded to walk up the ramp, where he was lowered until he disappeared. As the crew dismantled the ring, they refused to move his belongings – a gesture of respect to the man who brought us all nearly 30 years of entertainment. I hate that I wasn’t there, but I especially hate that I didn’t even watch it. Sure, in this technological age we can always find what we’re looking for, but I feel like I let him down. He doesn’t know me, doesn’t give a shit about me, but I know him, and I thank him. So, with that in mind, Mark Calaway, AKA The Undertaker had the West Week Ever.

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