08th Mar2010

Power Rangers: Super Legends – AKA “I Saved Angel Grove, and All I Got Was This Lousy Game.”

by Will

I honestly only decided to write this at the behest of my TRU pal Mike “Special Forces” Johnson, but you’re all welcome to read along if you have even the slightest interest in the pop culture phenomenon known as Power Rangers.

Last weekend, I dropped by a Hollywood Video that happened to be going out of business. Their used games were 40% off, so $6 didn’t seem like to much to pay for Power Rangers: Super Legends. Released in 2007 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, Super Legends was released for Nintendo DS, PC & PlayStation 2. I’d never really heard anything good about the game, but I had a desire to use my PS2 as something other than a DVD player, and I’m a sucker for cheap Power Rangers merch. I ended up beating the game in 2 days, an amazing feat considering I haven’t beaten a video game in 10 years (and THAT was Super Mario Bros 2. Long story short: I like to take my sweet time). In the end, I’ve got a couple of issues with the game, but let’s have a Ranger primer before we get to all that.

Power Rangers debuted in 1993 as part of Fox Kids. It was basically the story of five teens, who were given powers in order to defend the Earth against evil space aliens – sure, there were some seasons when the number of rangers went up to 8, and there were times where the median age was about 25, but that was the main gist.

The first six seasons comprise the Angel Grove Era, as that was the name of the town where the Rangers lived. The show changed names a few times (Mighty Morphin‘, Zeo, Turbo and In Space), and the teens changed, but they all followed the same overarching storyline. Everything is pretty much wrapped up in the Power Rangers In Space finale, and the show changed its formula where each subsequent series only lasted 1 season, and they were only loosely related. Also, the rangers weren’t exactly teens anymore. This was basically the School’s Out Era, which included Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, and Wild Force.

In 2002, Disney purchased the Fox Kids holdings, including the Power Rangers franchise. Wild Force was the final series to air on Fox Kids, and it was believed that Disney would just shut down production, and sit on the library. Instead, Disney moved production to New Zealand, where it experienced higher production values including more wire work and special effects. Each incarnation still lasted 1 season, but seeing as how New Zealand only seems to have 25 actors, the same people kept popping up as different characters. From 2002 to 2009, The Disney Era gave us Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury and RPM. Power Rangers: RPM aired its last episode on the last Saturday of 2009, effectively ending the production of new live action Power Rangers series. Currently, they air “remastered” episodes of the original 1993 series.

So, Power Rangers: Super Legends follows a temporal plot, where second season villain Lord Zedd steals some time crystals and starts fucking up the timeline. This is noticed by Omega Ranger, who’s the curator of the Ranger Hall of Legends. Realizing that Zedd must be stopped, Omega visits various timelines, recruiting rangers to help with his mission. Since it’s a 2-player game, the plot has a built-in caveat that only 2 rangers can be active at one time. You’re given 2 preselected choices in each timeline, with the ability to unlock additional rangers throughout the game.

So, what were my problems with the game?

-Why is Zedd the villain? The game already acknowledges that he was “cured” of his evil in the PRIS finale. Plus, it’s not like he was the biggest bad the rangers ever faced to begin with.

The Angel Grove Era worked in a formula where each season presented a villain more powerful than the last. We start with Rita, who’s replaced by Zedd, who marries Rita in almost WWE fashion, who are then “replaced” by Rita’s father, Master Vile. Next, they’re all evicted by The Machine Empire, who are replaced by Divatox, and then we find out they ALL were working for Dark Spectre.

So, with that logic, shouldn’t Dark Spectre be the villain in the game? I mean, he was considered the greatest evil in existence! Also, they try to explain that the game’s Zedd is from an alternate timeline, but that just seems a little too convenient, especially once you get to the end of the game.

-Considering it’s the 15th anniversary of the franchise, not all incarnations are represented. I’ve noticed this happen in a lot of the post-Fox Kids merchandise. In fact, outside of Lost Galaxy, there’s not much emphasis on the Fox years. This can be understood, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s like the Zeo-Turbo-In Space seasons never occurred, and they’re just represented by MMPR. I realize it’s the root source of those jilted incarnations, but they’re still missed.

To compound the problem, Time Force, Wild Force and Ninja Storm are ONLY represented on the DS version.

The most glaring omission of all, however, is that of Tommy Oliver.

Arguably the Greatest Ranger of ALL Time, Tommy was originally the Green Ranger, who lost his powers only to return as the new team leader, The White Ranger. He went on to become the Red Zeo Ranger before his “retirement”. Years later, after the Disney purchase, he returned in Dino Thunder, acting as team mentor and black ranger. The man was FOUR different rangers, always with the best weapons and zords, and you mean to tell me they just FORGOT him?! It makes me wonder if Jason David Frank was on the outs with Disney at the time.

-The Zord battles are shit. They are puzzle/combo based, where you’re shown what’s basically a still image, and given a button combo to enter. Do it correctly, and you successfully attack/block. Considering that past ranger games included Zord battles that utilized the same fight game engine of most games in 1997, this is a step WAY back! At the bare minimum, I was looking forward to something akin to Killer Instinct. Instead, I got Power Rangers: Simon.

-Omega Ranger. I feel that if anyone should be the M.C. of this thing, it should be Zordon. Sure, he’s “dead” but when did that ever mean anything? Especially, since the time crystals you’re hunting are exactly like the kind at the bottom of Zordon’s tube. His whole schtick was that he was trapped in the space-time continuum, so it was a no-brainer. Instead, they give us Omega Ranger.

Now, I didn’t watch a lot of SPD, but I know that Omega Ranger was essentially the Other Ranger of the SPD team. He was composed of pure energy, so he never unmorphed. The thing is, the Omega Ranger in the game is NOT the SPD Omega. However, he ends up recruiting 2 rangers from the SPD timeline – one of whom is…the Omega Ranger? Huh? WTF? The SPD version shows some confusion, and they riff on that in the video interludes, but they never explain that whole thing. That confusions could have all been avoided if they’d just gone with Zordon.

– It lacks in geographical accuracy. In the Angel Grove levels, you fight in a bustling metropolis. In fact, a major fight takes place on the freeway, in the middle of rush hour. Angel Grove ain’t Gotham City. The only time Power Rangers ever depicted it as a bustling city was in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, and that’s, technically, not even canonical. Either fight in a park, a juice bar, down by the docks, or a quarry. Similarly, the Lost Galaxy levels take place in the innards of Terra Venture, when we never saw most of that on the show. Maybe the designers felt they were showing us a “different side” of the cities – one which we hadn’t seen in the episodes. Unfortunately, it just seems like they were reusing boards from other games.

So, there you pretty much have it. In what could have been a decent celebration of a (then) 15 year old franchise, fans were instead given a shoddily thrown together money grab of a game. Power Rangers is no stranger to the notion of nostalgia. Even in the Disney era, they continued the tradition of the crossover between different teams. They’ve also had several incredible anniversary episodes, like “Forever Red” (10th anniversary) and “Once A Ranger” (15th anniversary). Unfortunately, none of that was successfully replicated by this game. I understand that it was, essentially, made for younger children (otherwise, how could I have beaten it so easily?). After all, this is Power Rangers for a new generation. That said, if you’re not going to appropriately celebrate what came before, then why make an anniversary game?

02nd Mar2009

Wolverine and the X-Men – A Review

by Will

“All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy”

So, I had another post lined up, but I had to push it aside to let the world know about a show that they should be watching:

In case it’s not apparent, this is gonna be a “comic post”, so only about 2 of you reading are gonna understand it, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldnt try. Now, back to the show.

So, Wolverine and the X-Men. I didn’t want to believe it either. I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and say that it’s probably the best cartoon of the past 12 years (NOTE: For those keeping score at home,I’m dating back to Batman Beyond. Ben10 isn’t as consistent as it should be, while I never liked Justice League as much as people said I should have). It’s even better than the original Fox Kids X-Men. Yeah, I said it.

To fully understand why it’s so good, you have to understand the failings of past X-Men shows. The original cartoon pilot, Pryde of the X-Men, is almost perfect. It’s a snapshot of the team of the time, but it also featured the “core” team, AKA everyone who starred in that kickass arcade game. The thing even had Dazzler! The only real error of that pilot was that they made Wolverine Australian. Other than that, it holds its own against any other cartoon of the time, and seems like it would have been pretty true to the source material. It’s biggest “fail” was that the series was never produced. Oh, and they called him “Mag-NET-o” (without the long “e”).

Next, we have the Fox Kids show. Yes, everyone knows it’s awesome. Unfortunately, the same thing that was a boon for the Pryde show was a shortcoming for the FK show: the team is a snapshot of the team at the time. Most people would say that wasn’t a bad thing. After all, the show debuted in 1992, around the time of the launch of “Adjectiveless” X-Men #1, which sold 1,000,000 copies. It’s true: I have a retailer-only hologram to prove it. So, the franchise was clearly at the height of it’s popularity. Not bad for a series that spent half of the Seventies reprinting older stories just to stay afloat.

Despite the “required” members, like Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm, you also got the fan favorites, such as Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee. It’s funny to watch that thing now because the first question I ask myself is “Where the Hell is Jubilee these days?” Sure, I know the answer, but it just goes to show how dated that lineup is. The problem with the makeup of the team is that the show was really striving to adapt classic X-Men stories, such as the Bishop/Cable dynamic, The Dark Phoenix Saga, and even Days of Future Past, yet most of the team wasn’t even present for most of those classic events. The Dream Team of 1992 hadn’t been assembled at the time of the franchise’s most iconic storylines. So, you were left with Gambit and Beast being shoehorned into roles that didn’t fit. Or, you had Xavier and Jean around with nothing to do.

Xavier has 2 purposes in the X-Men franchise: he’s the father figure, and he has a rich history with Magneto. When that gets stale, they make him disappear (as the team works best without a father figure), and he comes back with the ability to walk. That is, until the use of his legs is taken away. It’s as cyclical as the seasons. Recently, in the comics, they’ve tried to come up with a 3rd purpose: Xavier’s secretly an asshole, and his motives weren’t purely on-the-level or altruistic back when he first created the team. It’s not that far-fetched, but it’s a bit “too little, too late”. Nothing quite like “dancing between the raindrops of continuity” when storylines get a bit weak. So, he really shouldn’t have been present for that show, as he also wasn’t present for most of those important storylines. Jean shouldn’t have been in that show either, if for no other reason than the fact that no one has known what to do with that character *since* the Dark Phoenix Saga. Whenever you have a reboot/reimagining of the X-Men, Jean is merely present as you wait for the inevitable appearance of the Phoenix. Once that’s done, her usefulness is over. The show lasted 5 seasons (the last of which featured animation so poor it looked like someone’s high school project), and is considered a classic. I’m not trying to take anything away from it, but Batman: The Animated Series is a classic. X-Men is like really good karaoke: it might be really good, but it still ain’t the real thing.

The less said about X-Men: Evolution the better. Sure, I know there are people out there who like it, but I don’t feel that it ever really grasped the notion of the X-Men. Sure, it had characters who looked like, and shared the names of, popular X-Men, but I didn’t feel it ever really “got” it. Not that it didn’t have it’s high points. After all, it introduced Wolverine’s “sister”, X-23, and it put the creative team of Kyle/Yost on the map who now not only write for the comics, but also are behind the new show, Wolverine and the X-Men. Again, the main problem with Evolution is the cast. The whole “some X-Men are gonna be students while some are gonna be adults” doesn’t work. Don’t keep some X-Men as adults, while de-aging others. If you want that concept, make it The New Mutants, and have the few adult X-Men leading some younger kids at the academy. Plus, it was always weird to me that the show aired on a network owned by the competition (The WB, aka Warner Bros, the corporate parent of DC Comics). I almost felt like the show sucked out of spite, like notes and suggestions were coming down from the network just to screw it over.

Now, we have Wolverine and the X-Men on Nicktoons. When I first heard of this show, I thought it was a terrible idea, mainly because Wolverine is more overexposed than young starlets’ panties over the past 5 years. Plus, I didn’t like the concept: Wolverine leading the X-Men. You know, I’d be all about a cartoon just featuring Wolverine, where we learn about his past and he goes on solo adventures, kinda like his comic series. But the notion that Wolverine was going to lead the team just seemed like exploitation of a brand. It was the comic/cartoon equivalent of “David Ruffin and the Temptations” – we know you’re the star, but you don’t have to be so egomanical about it. It’s clear that this was meant to position him for the theatrical release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so I kinda gave Marvel a pass. Then, I really thought about it, and it’s not that far-fetched of an idea, especially if you’ve seen X2: X-Men United. In that movie, Wolverine proved himself an effective leader when he had to help those kids get away from Striker in the mansion. Sure, he’s a reluctant leader, but he really steps up to the challenge when forced. Fortunately, this is the Wolverine that we see here. He’s been given a mission that he doesn’t want, but he realizes someone’s gotta do it. For those who don’t know the set-up for the series, here we go. If you look closely, you’ll immediately realize why I love this concept now:

When the show begins, the team is already exhibiting classic behavior, doing their thing in the Danger Room. You’ve got your Colossus/Kitty dynamic, you’ve got the playfulness of Nightcrawler, and my personal fave, you’ve got the Scott/Jean/Logan love triangle. Plus, for an added bonus, it looks like Logan’s finally winning that battle (I always felt Cyclops was too insecure for a relationship with Jean, especially when it’s clear that she wants the bad boy. She may tell herself she needs the stable, predicatible guy, but she wants the rebel). Everything’s going fine until the mansion is attacked by unseen forces that appear to be targeting telepaths. So, in a flash,Xavier and Jean disappear to parts unknown. Cut to one year later, Wolverine is roaming the country, trying to leave his past behind, when forces from Senator Kelly and the Mutant Registration Department drag him back into the game. He feels that the war between mutants and humans is brewing but the team has disbanded over the past year, and he’s got no allies. He realizes he’s got to get the band back together. After the pilot, each episode is pretty much consumed with the idea of him finding another former member of the team and convincing them to come back. It’s odd to see him in the the recruitment role, but he handles it effectively. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that most of them don’t need much convincing : they had just figured the team was no more, so as they see signs that it’s being reformed, they’re usually more than willing to come back.

The strength of the show is the cast. If you look at the image above, the core team consists of Wolverine, Beast, Nightcrawler, Shadowcast, Storm, Cyclops, and Emma Frost. That’s the beauty of it: it’s hint of the old and a hint of the new. The Emma Frost addition to the team has been a pretty controversial aspect of the comics over the past few years, so it’s such a bold move that they’d add that dynamic to this new show. Also, the characterization of some of the team members is so spot on for what they’re trying to accomplish: it’s a cross section of all of the working concepts from the various incarnations of the team. The character design of Toad, “double agent” Rogue, Logan winning Jean, and black Nick Fury are from the Ultimate Universe, brooding, unshaven Cyclops is from X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine’s basic mood is from X2: X-Men United, and Xavier’s primarily out of the picture, as he was for most of the good “616” storylines. Instead of trying to retell stories that have been told, retold, and retconned in the past, the show focuses on new stories that still capture the essence of the franchise. You still have Senator Kelly, Bolivar Trask, Magneto, and Sentinels, but you’ve also got the concept of the Registration Act thrown in for good measure.

Even if your favorite member isn’t on the team, you still might see them: Gambit popped up in Episode 5 in what may have been his best onscreen characterization EVER (and a better accent than the 90s Gambit; thanks, Phil Lamarr!). Pixie and Sammy the Squidboy showed up in Episode 6, as Nightcrawler fought against Mojo’s pirates. Angel is the team’s money man, while Forge keeps the Blackbird running. We even saw Boom Boom, Dust, and Rockslide in the pilot, as Wolverine and Beast liberate the MRD cells. This show is great because it makes use of all of the toys in the frachise without being bogged down with the idea of “So, when should we bring in the Phoenix Saga?” Sure, they still have time to fall into that trap. After all, they’ve only aired 7 episodes in America, so I might be lamenting the show’s downfall 2 seasons from now. At the moment, however, the show captures the strengths of the X-Men franchise, while also showcasing Wolverine as an effective leader, which is something that many fans haven’t had the chance to fully embrace. Anyway, why are you even still reading this? Head over the Nicktoons.com, watch the episodes, and see for yourself.

02nd Jul2007

Surf Dudes, With Attitudes…

by Will

“I’m walking on eggshells here, when I’m used to fucking throwing eggs.”

I f’ing love youtube, for this alone:

Not just the credits, but the music video! This takes me back to such a better time. No student loans. No underpaid job. No heartbreak. No Quartlife Crisis. All I cared about was whether or not I’d get McDonald’s that afternoon (I was a fat kid, and I got McDonald’s almost every Saturday) and I wondered if I’d ever end up with a girl like Heidi Noelle Lenhart (“Jenny”, aka “the brunette”). God, did I love that girl. And she pretty much never worked again. Little known fact: her stepfather is Haim Saban, creator of the Power Rangers and former owner of the Fox Kids Network. That bitch’ll never have to work again!

Why is this show not on DVD?!! The fucking Waltons series is on DVD and that demographic doesn’t even know how to operate a DVD player. It’s a travesty…

16th May2007

Dress My Nest, Scrubs, Reality TV Background Characters, and The Future of Syndication

by Will

“And when the sky is falling, don’t look outside your window.”

So, I actually posted the other night, but due to a faulty wifi connection, it has been lost to space. Yup, no backup and nothing in the drafts folder. It sucks, too, because it was pretty stream of consciousness. I don’t even remember what it was about at this point.

Anyway, I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately, and this is sort of my State of the Television Address:

1) On Dress My Nest, former Queer Eye decorator Thom Filicia redesigns womens’ living areas to reflect their clothing style. This premise sounds sort ot hokey, but I’ll go with it. My problem, though, is with his assistant, Erika. I’ve read a lot of reviews on the show, and the general conclusions is that she’s probably there for Thom to bounce ideas off of, yet comes off sort of useless.

After watching the past 6 episodes, I’ve come to realize what she *really* is: She’s Thom’s hag. You see, we’ve got this whole stereotyped culture where no gay man is complete without his best galpal. And there’s the counter stereotype that no Big City single woman is complete without her “gay husband”. Yet, what strikes me is that Erika is very attractive. Not your standard hag material, which then made me realize that she’s the worst kind of hag: she’s single hottie hag who’s high maintenance as Hell. She’s the chick who just can’t find that “perfect guy”, and falls in love with Thom between her failed relationships. He ain’t having it, and would rather help her pick out a new pair of shoes. Or maybe this is all in my head and I’m going too far…

2) I don’t think there’s a better comedy than Scrubs on TV. That said, I find that Scrubs is usually so wrapped up in gimmicks that the special gimmick episodes don’t work. Case in point, the “sitcom” parody episode was on last night, and it’s really not that funny. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be unfunny, as a sort of slight at the genre, or if the formula just didn’t work for them. Scrubs never would have made it as a multi-camera, live-studio-audience sitcom. Then again, Three’s Company never would have made it as a single camera, non-laughtracked comedy. The musical episode of Scrubs also left a lot to be desired.

3) Man, what happened to The Riches? It started out so promising, and now I don’t even care anymore. I feel that’s the problem with most shows on FX. They are all about these amoral, anti-hero characters, that you don’t know whether you want to root for them or see them get caught in their lies. Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, the Shield, Dirt, The Riches… all of these shows are mired in this, and while it has proven successful, I wish FX would stop going back to the well.

4) I feel bad for the employees of work-based reality shows who *don’t* get to be cast members. From Inked, to King of Cars, to Work Out, there are people who work at these establishments who just aren’t considered “TV” enough to be featured. How does this happen? I mean, do they film really early before the rest of the employees get to work? Do they give them paid days off to repay them for stealing their shot at fame?

If you hop over to www.skysportspa.com, you’ll see that there are about 22 trainers working for Jackie Warner, yet only 7 are in the Work Out cast. Now, I understand the need to keep things contained, but I’d love to swap out a few people. Erika contributed almost nothing to this season, so I’d love to replace her with Aimet, who appears to be the most ripped Black woman I’ve ever seen. In fact, Aimet and a few other of the female trainers snuck into episode 2 this season, when Jackie decided to have her girls night slumber party. They still didn’t let Aimet speak, though. I think they should rotate the cast in and out, because I like the show, but I’m tired of most of the trainers.

5) I am all about the Andy Griffith Show right now. I’m not sure why, but something about its downhome sensibility hits all the right notes lately. Also, Sheriff Taylor has some beautiful girlfriends, from Ellie the Pharmacist to Teach Extraordinaire, Helen Crump. It’s amazing that such a slackjawed everyman pulled women like that. Don’t get me wrong; I know that Andy Griffith was considered a handsome man back then, but there was something very “Clark Kent” about that role. Almost like they didn’t want him to come off too suave, so instead, he becomes this slow, drawling nice guy.

6) Speaking of frumping up for a role, I’ve had a real hard time watching I Love Lucy in recent years. The more I learn about that cast, the more I wish the show had been a reality show moreso than a sitcom. First, Vivian Vance was the hot one, but was uglied up so that she wouldn’t overshadow Lucille Ball. Vance had the more established career, until that show came along and pretty much had her typecast for life. Also, though, anytime I see a Fred & Ethel scene, it’s weird knowing that they’re not acting. William Frawley *hated* Vivian Vance, and on numberous occasions, referred to her as “That cunt”. Sure, it’s a classic sitcom, but I’m wondering “what if?” What if Vance had broken out as a sitcom star? What if she had been cast as Lucy? Would she have, then, married Desi Arnaz instead? It boggles the mind…

7) How I Met Your Mother is renewed for another season! Rock on! This actually wasn’t a surprise to me. I had a conversation with a guy from CBS last week, and I asked him about the fates of The Class and HIMYM. So, when CBS made the announcement yesterday, I was in the know. Man, it’s nice to actually “know a guy”.

8) Nick @ Nite’s qualifications are really starting to piss me off. So, everything I grew up with is now on N@N, yet there are glaring omissions. Family Matters? Hogan Family? Alf? My Two Dads? I know that these things are wrapped up in contracts, but it seems like Nick’s hurting when they resort to showing AFV. I mean, America’s Funniest Videos already comes on 2 other cable networks, which *aren’t* owned by Viacom, so what’s the need to take away a valuable N@N slot with something you can already see 3 times a day. it would be like giving Seinfeld a N@N slot (which, mark my words, should be about 3 years away.)

9)I think The CW or MyNetworkTV should buy up all of the TNBC library and run it weekday afternoons. People my age don’t realize it, but there aren’t any kids programs on basic TV in the afternoon anymore. Fox Kids was sold to Disney back in 2002, Kids WB went weekend only back in 2005. The only programming is on PBS, and it’s mostly for toddlers. The Saved by the Bell rights are always snatched up since it’s considered this “classic”, but I would kill a man to see California Dreams again. Or Hang Time. Or City Guys. Or even the horrible Malibu, CA or USA High (not TNBC, but still Peter Engel shows). When Aaron Spelling died, people always spoke of how many shows he’d created. That’s great and all, but when Peter Engel passes away, I hope he gets the same accolades. The man single-handedly programmed NBC’s Saturday morning for more than 10 years. Sure, a lot of it was crap, but so were most of Aaron Spelling’s creations.

10)Everyone’s worried about global warming. OK, I’ll take on a lesser cause. I’m worried about syndication. There used to be a rule that, to be syndicated, a show needed to be on the air for 3 seasons OR 100 episodes (whichever comes first). 3 seasons would yield about 66-70 episodes, but once you hit the 100 mark, you were set for life. That’s why Tina Yothers doesn’t work. That Family Ties money is still rolling in. You won’t be rich, but you won’t starve either.

Nowadays, though, shows aren’t lasting that long. It used to be that I could predict which shows would be entering sydication the next season. Then, the internet came about, and it would announce these things. But the cold, hard truth is that we’re running out of shows for syndication. These slots are being filled by court shows. Around here, *nothing* entered syndication this year. All they did was shuffle what was already there. Will & Grace, Girlfriends, Friends, Raymond…Nothing new.

Next fall, there’s Chappelle and Family Guy. One is good and one is bad. Family Guy has enough episodes to keep it nightly, but Chappelle only has about 30 episodes available. This can’t be “stripped” (meaning shown 5 days a week) because you’d burn through it in a month. Hence, this is the type of show that you put on Saturday nights, after the news and Mad TV. When no one’s watching. Plus, it’ll be cut for syndication (all syndicated episodes are trimmed about 2 mins to make room for commercials) and edited for content.

I’m not saying that I want crap shows to last just for us to have syndicated shows (this actually happens a lot, especially when a studio is trying to recoup their money). I am saying, however, that we need to find alternative show sources. Maybe go back to the 80’s concept of 1st-run syndication. This is when you take a show that has never been on a network before, and you just put it on a crap station like a former UPN affiliate during a saturday afternoon. Small Wonder, Hercules, Too Close For Comfort, Mama’s Family, Xena and Baywatch were all successful in first-run syndi. Also, game shows, like Jeopardy & “The Wheel” are considered 1st-run syndi. I know that “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” is adopting the concept this summer, but it’s also simulcast on TBS, so it really doesn’t count.

If we don’t act now, what will our fat children watch on the weekends, as they resist our pleas for them to go out and play? What about the kids?!

17th Aug2005

The “Power Ranger Murderer” Was Not A Power Ranger…

by Will

“This is high school, huh? I’ve been here four seconds and I hate everyone.”

So, finally my geekspertise comes in handy. Today’s gossip sites have been going on and on about Skylar Deleon and the supposed
Power Ranger Murders .

Now, many of you all haven’t been with me long, but if there’s one thing I know in this world, it’s Power Rangers. I’ll spare you the details, but I know things about that franchise that will make you weep in pity for my soul.

I don’t know who Skylar’s publicist it, but he/she KICKS ASS! Why? Because he was NEVER a Power Ranger! If you dig deep enough, you find out that he was merely an extra. You know how many extras Saban used? Thousands! Why? Because he didn’t pay them! In 1993, a kid would’ve signed away his soul to lick dog shit off a Power Ranger’s boot. Saban only used non-union actors, which is why this guy can’t be found on IMDB. In Hollywood’s eyes, Skylar Deleon does not exist, so it’s funny his claim to fame in this trial is that he was a “Power Rangers regular.”

The reports even go as far as calling him a former child star. I know most of the cast of “Diff’rent Strokes” have either died or are busy with their security guard shifts, but have we run out of child stars enough that we bestow the label on just anyone? That Mikey kid was a child star. Soleil Moon Frye was a child star. Hell, for a hot minute, the kids on “Alf” were child stars. But Power Ranger extras? That’s the equivalent of a doctor telling you: “The bad news is you have diarrhea. The good news is there’s no blood in it.” Those kids were the lowest of the low.

My favorite comment about it came from Defamer.com:

“This could be an important test case, helping to further define the level of fame required to beat a murder rap, which now hovers somewhere between “Beretta” and “rental car pitchman/former football star.” Our suspicion is that “former Power Ranger” isn’t quite going to make the cut. (Unless he was the Green Ranger. Then all bets are off.)”

I laughed ’cause the minute I heard that some “Power Ranger was wanted for murder”, the first thing I thought was, “Damn, Tommy! How could you let me down like that?!!” Yup, the Green Ranger was gonna be my OJ, and I was starting to plan my courthouse vigil. I was gonna stand outside the trial everyday, wearing a child’ version of the Green Ranger costume. I was gonna hire non-union actors to have mock fights with me in front of the newshounds. And when Tommy was acquited, I’d be the guy releasing the doves.

So, the good news is I don’t have to track down some green doves. The bad news is…well, I guess there IS no bad news. Unless you’re Skylar Deleon. Dumbass wannabe…

30th Jul2005

Lawdy, Lawdy! Superfly Had A SEQUEL?!

by Will

“Logan would join a limbo contest if it had a redhead in it.”

It’s back! About 6 months ago, I wrote a scathing article about The African Heritage Movie Theatre, and it’s MC’s, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Well, much has changed in that time. Mr. Davis has gone to that theatre in the sky, and Ms. Dee is MIA. So, the franchise has been renamed. Yes, I give you the Uptown Movie Network. And get this: it’s now hosted by Ms. Shar “F you, Federline!” Jackson. But worry not, because they’re still cranking out those movies that make us Black folks feel so proud! This week’s offering: “Superfly T.N.T”

Yes, as if “Superfly” wasn’t enough, someone came up with the bright idea to give us a sequel. But this ain’t yo daddy’s Blaxploitation movie (actually, it’s from 1973, so it probably is…). Don’t look for the ghettos and the Cadillacs. No, allow me to provide you with the movie’s synopsis:

“Superfly comes out of his Roman retirement to free a tiny African nation from the grip of a cruel dictator.”

Oh, Superfly must be a hero, right? Well, for those of you who don’t know the story of Superfly, as depicted in the first movie, let me break it down for ya. Superfly, known as Youngblood Priest, was a cocaine dealer who simply realized he’d had enough of the life. But he needed one last score to provide him with the cash for his escape. So, I guess he used that cash to get to Rome. Yeah…Rome. I didn’t even think they let Black people in Rome in 1973!

Oh, but it gets better. You ever seen a 6’4” Black dude with a perm, dressed from head to toe in horseback riding gear? Better yet, have you ever seen the same guy chase a mugger down narrow Roman streets?You will if you see this movie. I don’t know if Superfly is the most famboyant pimp or the gayest ass kicker, but it certainly is a sight to see.

The highlight of this movie has GOT to be Roscoe Lee Brown, who has one of the most iconic voices in entertainment history. Screw James Earl Jones. Roscoe’s “Kingpin” from the Fox Spider-Man cartoon stomps all over Mr. “This is CNN”. Anyway, Brown plays the part of an African diplomat. Not that it takes much. In this day and age, all you had to do was show up to work. And he does that nicely.

So, why am I ranting? Well, the whole commercial nature of this franchise was to show movies that, supposedly, had a cultural and classic impact on the Black cinematic experience. I understand that there are only so many times one can watch “The Color Purple” and “The Tuskeegee Airmen”, but it’d be more honorable if someone just came out and said, “OK, we’re all out of movies.” Don’t pass this dreck off and try to make people think it means something. Hell, “Superfly T.N.T” doesn’t even come up immediately on an IMDB search. You’ve got to dig to find that bad boy. I guess that’s supposed to make me think it’s a hidden cinematic treasure. Well, I’m on to your game!

“Superfly” had cultural significance. It is one of the more memorable Blaxploitation movies. Was it a “good” movie? I’ll leave that in the eye of the beholder. But it had cultural significance. These were Black made films, for Black audiences. As deplorable as the subject matter may have been, these tales were real to many people. Can’t say the same about “Soul Plane”. But I digress…

But you can’t tell me that Superfly’s sequel holds the same meaning in time. In the words of Judge Judy, “Don’t piss on my knee and tell me it’s raining!” The fool is in Rome! Who came up with this locale? How did a coke dealer become an African savior? I mean, I’m all about redemption, but DAMN!

Everybody knows that a sequel is simply another trip to the well. Typically, you had success, and now you’re trying to milk the idea dry. The “message” was in your first movie, but the sequel is all fo’ da scrilla. With that in mind, any lesson or message to be conveyed was in the first Superfly. And I guess said message was: “if you’re gonna deal, make sure you rollin’ high, and you get yo’ ass to a safe place for the fallout.” OK, I can live with that. A lot of young folks could do well to know that message. But the only message in the sequel is: “if you take your Black ass to Rome, they gonna find you!”

Thanks, “Uptown Movie Network”. I sure am glad y’all decided to show “Graffiti Bridge” instead of “King” back in January. And I really appreciate the effort, but I think I’ll take care of my cultural education on my own. But holla back when y’all start showing reruns of “Girlfriends”…

29th Jun2005

Preparing To Say Goodbye To Kids WB and Weekday Children’s Programming

by Will

So, this Fall marks a dark era for daytime television. Why? Because Kids WB, the last survivor in the weekday afternoon cartoon programming act, is pulling out of the game.

For over 30 yrs, children could look forward to coming home from school, plopping down in front of the TV, and watching their favorite shows. In the beginning, the shows were all syndicated. Eventually, the Saban-Fox powerhouse known as Fox Kids entered the playing field, and gave us 10 yrs of quality toons (and some crappy imported shit, too) before going to that network in the sky back in 2002.

But the kids still had Kids WB to entertain them. Of course, they had to have an appreciation for Jackie Chan and Pokemon out of the ass! Actually, Kids WB became the official Otaku Poseur Network. It was a showcase for the latest gotta-catch-em-all-collectible-card-game shit being peddled to us from the East. That shit gave kids seizures! (Yes, I DO realize that episode of Pokemon never aired in the US, but oh how we were willing to forget). But did we learn our lesson? No! Kids WB became the little shitty anime store behind the mall, and the viewers fled to cable. So now, Nicktoons is sweeping the ratings board, while Kids WB is still hoping someone cares about Ash & Misty.

No, this isn’t an anime-bashing post. I love me some Cowboy Bebop and Sailor Moon. My issue is that networks never seem to stick to what they know, and it’s hurting them.

To me, I never really understood the practicality of a studio owning a network. I mean, I get it, but it never worked out like I had envisioned it in my head. I remember when UPN was about to debut,and there were all of these commercials listing every show Paramount had contributed to society. The list rattled through “Star Trek”, “Family Ties”, etc. Now, a studio-owned network was a strange, unfamiliar beast at this time. GE owned NBC. Capital Cities owned ABC. Westinghouse owned CBS. And Fox…well, it was a bastard orphan.

Now, imagine my surprise at this new development. I was under the impression that this UPN would be a place where I could find all of the great shows of the past. It was to be a network of “class and tradition”. After all, they were sitting on a vast library of shows that they’d already produced, and surely they’d crank out new shows at the same level of quality. Right? Right? WRONG. People love to think of UPN as “that Black channel”, but if we go back to the beginning, we’ll find a different story. After all, WB was the Black network in its infancy. UPN, on the other hand, just gave us a lot of bad shit across the color spectrum. Anybody remember these shows: “Marker”, “Nowhere Man”, “Platypus Man”, “Diresta”? I’ll bet you don’t, but check IMDB; they all exist. These fools tried to build a network on the shoulders of Richard Greico, Bruce Greenwood, and Richard Jeni. Who? Exactly. For much of that network’s life, “Voyager” was its lifeblood. Why? Because it was the only show that understood what it meant to be “Paramount”. The rest was just a couple of bad phases in a 10 yr-long identity crisis.

“But Will, I thought we were talking about The WB.” Oh, I’m getting there. You see, the WB started not only at the same time, but also on the same foot, as UPN. Only WB was on the other side of the railroad tracks. They wanted that “urban market”, which consisted of picking up every Black show that had been canceled from the previous season of TGIF. Namely, “Sister, Sister.” Man, did they get some mileage off of those twins! The only speck of White on that network was “Savannah” (anybody remember that show? Mmm…Jamie Luner). Warner Bros, one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, sitting on a celluloid dynasty, insisted on going out on a limb to be a “niche network”. Well, turn on WB50 and let me know how well that worked out for them.

Anyway, when they launched Kids WB, it started just as half-assed as the prime-time half of the network. There they were, trying to compete with Fox Kids, being beaten in the ratings by Fox Kids shows….which happened to be produced BY Warner Bros! Did anybody get that? “Animaniacs”, “Tiny Toons”, “Taz-Mania”, “Batman: The Animated Series”… Fox Kids’ most popular shows were produced by Warner Bros, and WB didn’t have the rights to show them. Who was flying this plane? Why was I working a year in retail, while “network executives” made stupid decisions like these? It wasn’t until Kids WB acquired Pokemon that it gained footing, but that was also when the sound of the approaching Horsemen could be heard in the distance. It was all downhill from there…

It’s been said that the demise of Kids WB is not due to ratings, but rather FCC regulations. You see, the FCC considers any “on-air self-promotion” to be commercial time. And there ain’t a network out there more narcissistic & self-promoting than the WB. That’s been it’s claim to fame since it began. Sure, the shows might suck, but they all seemed to be having a blast on the backlot singing Dubba-dubba-WB with Michigan J. Frog. I always said that if I had a show, I wanted it on the WB ’cause it looked like they were having so much fun, and I could party with the kids from “7th Heaven”. You know how preachers’ kids can be! (Yeah, I have a tendency to blur fantasy with reality). Well, there are HELLA regulations for childrens’ programming ’cause it has to be clear where the show ends and where the commercial begins. Otherwise, it looks like you’re trying to deceive the child viewer (Yay, HD Degree!) So, in essence, Kids WB is one big commercial, with some shows interstitially worked in. For a while, that formula worked. It made it seem like they had a lot of programming, when they were actually getting by on the cheap. They’d recycle old Batman footage to make it look like he was hanging out with the Powerpuff Girls. Man, that shit made me mad…It’s not like they HAD to do this. After all, this is the network that owns frickin’ Bugs Bunny. They’ve got 60 yrs worth or animation, but they forget where they came from. They got experimental, and didn’t keep it real. It’s been said that Turner (majority owner of Warner Bros) keeps the library close to his vest, and doesn’t let Kids WB or Cartoon Network have free reign of the archives. OK…but if you care enough to invest in a NETWORK, you’re gonna have to loosen your grip a bit.

So, due to these developments, the afternoon version of Kids WB will be no more. Yes, they will try to carry on with the Saturday morning block, but Fox tried this and failed. You see, without the weekday block, you have nowhere to promote the weekend block. You can’t promote “Yu-gi-oh” during a “Very Special Episode of Gilmore Girls”. And with kids, it’s virtual peekaboo: out of sight, out of mind. Eventually, Disney will swoop in and buy whatever’s left over, so that they can wallpaper Hell so that it looks familiar when we all get there. Disney will be the death of us all. And it’s partly because a few dumb businessmen didn’t know what they were doing, therefore making it a cakewalk for Disney to become our new overlords. Yes, I give Disney AND the entertainment industry THAT much credit. They bought the Fox Kids library for close to $1 billion and all that did was give Haim Saban more money to shuttle into the Hilary Clinton campaign fund. Interesting side note there: Haim Saban, creator of the “Power Rangers” is a BIG Clinton donor, even though Hilary spent much of the first term trying to get that show cancelled. And it’s not like he’s paying them hush money; he’s supposedly a close personal friend of the family. Guess nobody told Hilary…

So, rest in peace Kids WB, you Pokemon-breeding bastard. Oh, and…Hail, Disney!

17th Jul2004

Marvel vs Disney

by Will

I’m beginning to think Marvel Enterprises LOVES the courtroom. They’re involved in so much litigation, I’m surprised they haven’t tried to make a comic/movie franchise out of their trials. First, Marvel sues Sony. Then, Stan Lee sues Marvel. Now, the big one….

Marvel vs. Disney!

This is like “Allah vs. God”. There’s no real winner here, since they’re both guilty of similar transgressions, and they both seem poised for world domination. Although, Disney never seems to lose these kinds of affairs.

Apparently, when Disney bought ABC Family from Fox and Haim Saban, Marvel got screwed over since Disney got to continue to show Marvel programming, such as the Spider-Man , X-Men & Hulk cartoons. At the same time, Disney got tons of mileage out of these shows, while preferring to promote shit like Beyblade; basically Disney only promoted Disney shows. Well, Marvel wants it’s cut. And, frankly, they deserve it. But I don’t know if Disney’s gonna see it that way. Meanwhile, Haim Saban’s wiping his ass with twenties, still wondering how such a whacked-out concept like “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” (I still love you, baby!) made him a billionaire…

28th Aug2003

10 Years of Power Rangers

by Will

10 years ago today, August 28, 1993, “Day of the Dumpster” first aired on American television. Little did we realize that it would spawn the Power Ranger empire that still reigns today. I have been watching this show for 10 years?!!! Not only do I feel like a tool, but I feel like an OLD tool 🙁

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