24th May2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/24/19

by Will

Welcome to a special PRIME TIME edition of the post! I didn’t want to skip this week, and I had a ton to do today (I don’t get paid to blog!), so we’re doing this a little later than usual.

Did any of y’all watch the Norman Lear/Jimmy Kimmel Live In Front of a Studio Audience special this week? In case you missed it, an all-star cast (and some lesser stars) were assembled to recreate episodes of classic TV series All In the Family and The Jeffersons. Since the All In The Family episode was the first appearance of George Jefferson, it served as something of a crossover into the next installment, with Jamie Foxx in the role of George.

I’m still on the fence as to what I thought about it. Some folks were surprisingly good, like Kerry Washington and Will Ferrell as Helen and Tom Willis. Meanwhile, some were grossly miscast (Ellie Kemper as Gloria Bunker? Stephen Tobolowsky as Mr. Bentley?!). Meanwhile, some of the actor brought out new sides to the characters. For instance, Jamie Foxx couldn’t seem to nail down the seriousness of George, and instead played up the funny aspects of the character. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson’s Archie was a little darker than Carroll O’Connor. Like, I could almost believe that he hit Edith a time or two, and I never got that vibe from the original series. Did Woody need to tone it down a bit? Was he miscast? Or did I completely miss something about Archie that was always right in front of me? Anyway, we can all agree that J.Hud appearance was FIRE!

In the end, it was a neat little experiment but, as I said on Twitter, I don’t want ABC to learn the wrong lesson here. The ratings for it were great, but I don’t want this to be a regular thing to the point where it’s 2035, and we’re waiting to see Tom Holland star in a reenactment of the ALF series finale. ‘Cause I know I’ll watch it, but I’ll hate myself the whole time.

In comics news, word on the street is that current Batman writer, Tom King, will be off the book by issue #85 – contrary to the fact that he had frequently mentioned that he was telling a 100-issue story. A lot of folks believe it could be due to this interview he gave The Hollywood Reporter, where he mentioned wanting to do something to leave his mark on the character. Yeah, other folks don’t like it when you write on their toys, Tom.

I like King. He’s a good writer who’s always been nice to me. I haven’t read his critically acclaimed stuff, like The Vision or Mister Miracle, rather I actually discovered him through his Middle East-set Vertigo comic, The Sheriff of Babylon. I used to find him at cons and say “I may not understand what’s going on half the time, but damn do I enjoy your book.” It got to the point where he started to recognize me. So, that said, it’s been interesting watching his career trajectory.

He’s a lot like Gwenpool, who is a character I love, with a lot of potential, who got a big push too soon. It wasn’t handled well. Marvel was determined to shove her down our throats. Like, have you seen a new character get a Marvel Legends figure that quickly? King got a lot of acclaim for Mister Miracle, but then seems to have lost all that goodwill with Heroes in Crisis. But to lose Batman from it?

It might not just be that, though, as I know some folks didn’t appreciate his bait & switch with the whole marriage to Catwoman, but did anyone really think that wedding was gonna take place? I have to admit that I haven’t read a single Rebirth-era Batman comic, so King’s run is foreign to me. I heard good stuff in the beginning, but not as much good stuff after the wedding point.

I feel DC put too much pressure on King, especially when the gamble that was the hiring of Brian Michael Bendis away from Marvel didn’t work out as well as they’d expected. It was unfair, and now King’s paying the price. The only other person who could get Batman right now is probably Bendis. So, congrats to anyone happy about that. That’s gotta be the worst thing about working in comics. You’re just plugging along, plotting your book, and then the publisher nabs some big name in a major coup, and that name is gunning for your book. They smile at the summits, but it’s been their dream to write your book. Anyway, DC hasn’t released an official statement yet, so here’s hoping for the best for all involved.

UPDATE

Here’s one of the perks of a later post. So, it was announced this evening that King and Clay Mann would be moving over to a spin-off title called Batman/Catwoman. Meanwhile, the Batman title will move back to a monthly schedule, so that it can more closely align with DC continuity. This is basically them saying, “Here’s some bullshit title for you to finish your little story while we clean up the mess you made.” So, since BM/CW is a 12-issue series, and King’s Batman run ends at #85, he’ll basically be getting his 100 issues, but they can easily say anything he does in it “doesn’t count” since they’ve committed the main Batman book to being all about continuity. Kinda sucks, but that’s the business, I suppose.

Trailer Park


Terminator: Dark Fate

One of the biggest issues Terminator fans seem to have is the matter of continuity. Basically, there’s always the question of When Does This Take Place? Seeing as how this is considered a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that question is pretty moot for the other sequels in the franchise now. And, seeing as how I’ve never been a “Terminator person”, this won’t be an issue to me, as I’ve only ever seen Judgment Day. Never saw Rise of the Machines, Salvation,nor Genisys. Hell, I’ve never even seen the original. So I think I’m in a pretty good place. I’ll see this, but probably not in a theater. The trailer, though it ends on a cool airborne scene, feels pretty flat to me. Am I alone there?


Star Trek: Picard

I’m gonna upset some people here, but I’ve got to be true to myself. This looks like a commercial for erectile dysfunction meds. It has all the hallmarks of one: older White man, taking part in some hobby out in nature, somewhat soothing voiceover. ED drugs always have to show active White men. It’s like “Look, Trevor! You can still go sailing!” They don’t do that for us. The most active Black folks get in medicine ads is we might be playing basketball. Otherwise, we’re sitting somewhere, with a hat on, maybe playing checkers. But I digress…

This is NOT a very good teaser, but CBS knows that they can pretty much give us anything with Picard in it, and folks will get excited. This doesn’t feel…organic. It definitely feels like a fake ad that was created within the world of a television show. It’s just odd to see something of a news teaser in a society that I thought had long moved past such things. I know they have reporters, as Jake Sisko was one, but we’ve never really SEEN what a reporter does in the world of Star Trek. Anyway, I’m still not sure this is gonna get me to pay for CBS All Access, especially hearing the behind the scenes issues the show has been having.

Links I Loved

  • This is pretty self-serving of me, but I was a guest on the Nerd Lunch Podcast this week, as we revisited the Amalgam comic event, where popular Marvel and DC characters were mixed together, and came up with some of our own. It was a really fun show, so you should give it a listen.
  • My good buddy Tim got a chance to interview writer Jonathan Hickman about his upcoming X-Men run. I don’t care much about the comics, as they relaunch the X titles every 18 months. I’m more impressed by how much traction Tim’s piece is getting, even linked to by Marvel.com.
  • My other good buddy, Kevin, has launched a new podcast, The Team Hellions Podcast. It’s still in its infancy, but one day you’ll be able to tell folks you got in on the ground floor of something great. He’s a great storyteller, and it’s been fun seeing him make the jump from blog to pod.
  • Unless you’re new here, you already know about The Surfing Pizza. Well, good ol’ SP is creating Taco Bell Quarterly, which is a literary zine dedicated to the love of Taco Bell. Well, it’s so much deeper than that, actually. Yeah, I know. It’s gonna be awesome!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Adam Levine has decided to stop pretending to give a shit about discovering new pop stars, and will be leaving The Voice.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog movie has been moved to 2020 so they can continue to “fix” it. Ugh, the “Bad Guys” won on this one…
  • It was Ecto Cooler Mania all over again, when folks learned that the 80s New Coke formula would be revived as a tie-in with the Netflix series Stranger Things. Coca-Cola lovingly gave fans the opportunity to pay $20 for a pack of the stuff that nearly drove them out of business 35 years ago. Ain’t nostalgia funny?
  • WWE, always with their finger on the pulse of what fans want, had Brock Lesnar – part-time, half-hearted wrestler – win Money in the Bank. Needless to say, the fans were livid, but they’re always mad about something.
  • Game of Thrones ended this week. The less said about that the better. Ya know, until 2027, when folks start lauding the finale as some kind of masterpiece, sorta like they’re doing with The Phantom Menace right now.
  • Despite seemingly getting that axe before last week’s Upfronts, there are rumblings that ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier may get a stay of execution.

So, if you were on Twitter this week, you sure read the EPIC thread by web designer Shane Morris. You see, he recounted the tale of the time he found a brick of heroin in a used van he’d purchased, and then proceeded to “move weight”, as the kids say, through a friend. Oh, and to make matters worse, he then told of how he ripped off the son of the original van owner – ya know, the guy whose heroin he’d sold – who also just happened to be a member of one of the worst gangs in the world. And he lived to tell about it.

I don’t want to paraphrase anything. You should just go read the thread for yourself.

Shit is CRAZY, right?! So, that’s why Shane Morris had –

Wait. We’re getting a live update as I type this. Apparently Shane has responded to the story with this:

WHAT?! YOU DON’T SAY!

Here’s the thing: after publishing that story, one of two things was gonna happen: 1) he was telling the truth, and he was gonna be murdered OR 2) he was lying, and he was gonna be murdered. He mentioned, by name, a gang that I don’t talk about in conversation. It’s THAT bad. They don’t just kill you. They kill everyone close to you. And he did this shit to sound like a big man on Twitter? Whew!

If you don’t feel like clicking the link, he basically said he did it in an attempt to see if he could top his own story about the time he ate 8 grams of mushrooms. When he saw how that had blown up, he just wanted to see if he could outdo his own story. Basically, he’s just a boring, 30-something, married software developer who wanted to have some Big Dick Energy for a bit. And I’ve GOT to know how his wife feels about the whole thing, now that they’re fearing for their lives and all.

I really hate to go there, but there is a hint of White Privilege at play when you think you can spin a yarn like this, citing one of the worst organizations around, and think there’ll be no repercussions. I’m not saying he thought he’d get away with it because he’s White, but I AM saying his “aloofness”, by virtue of his Whiteness, is why it never even occurred to him that some folks are not to be trifled with. At first I wondered if I was alone in that thinking, until in his confession, he states that his weed man even says to him, “Bro, that is the fucking whitest shit I have ever heard in my entire life.” Vindicated!

Morris went from being cock of the walk, with a movie deal in place for his story, to hiding on a friend’s couch, all in the span of 72 hours. That internet: she’ll make ya and then she’ll break ya!

I will say that I have never felt more seen than by this statement: “You might not understand this yet, but there’s a point you reach in your early 30s, after you get married, when you stop showering for 3–4 days sometimes, and you’re watching yoga videos, and you’re like, ‘Holy shit. What the hell happened to me? I feel like the least cool person on the planet.'”

I feel ya, Shane, but I’ve never woken up from that to the realization that I should start a gang war. So, you’re on your own now, buddy. Let this be a cautionary tale for you kids out there: don’t court trouble to impress strangers!

So, Live In Front Of A Studio Audience 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.

03rd May2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/3/19

by Will

Well, would you look at this! A whole post dedicated to recent happenings in pop culture! Been a while since we’ve had one of these, huh? I took last week off because I knew a lot of folks had gone dark so as not to have Endgame spoiled for them. And the week before that, I took you back to some of the great fires in sitcom history (and the stats showed me you care for stuff like that WAY more than this post! Guess I ought to do something about that). Anyway, I’m back to pop culture because, honestly, I need the practice. My annual TV network upfronts post is coming in 2 weeks, and I’m actually pretty scared. Not only am I somewhat out of touch, but it’s looking like this was a terrible pilot season. How bad was it? Well, The CW cancelled NOTHING. That…that just doesn’t happen. This means there was nothing in development that they felt was strong enough to join their schedule. The CW. So, if things are this bad for them, I can only imagine how bad it’ll be for the big boys. One doesn’t simply walk into an upfronts post – especially in a year full of dogs. So, I’m here to brush off the cobwebs.

Didn’t really expect to spark the CGI Furry Civil War this week, but it almost happened. Late last week, I tweeted that I didn’t really understand for whom Detective Pikachu was made. I mean, sure, it’s an engaging world where Pokémon are just regular creatures, but there are certain choices that don’t make sense to me, like Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu. Did Tara Strong turn them down or something? Reynolds is not the voice I’d imagine coming from Pikachu, so it makes me feel like they’re going for that Deadpool sardonic wit as opposed to cutesy. Anyway, after posting that, a bunch of 40 year old men came to the movie’s defense, like “This movie is for ME!” Okie doke.


So, imagine my surprise when there was such backlash to the release of the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer this week. The world that had embraced Detective Pikachu with open arms was shitting all over Sonic. I mean, I get the complaints. He looks weird, it’s a tired “CGI character in the real world” plot, it looks nothing like the games, and then there’s the reemergence of 90s Jim Carrey. It’s a lot. But you’d think the trailer jumped out of the computer and shot folks’ grandmothers in the face. Some Poindexter online tried to argue that Pikachu was clearly a universe crafted with care, where the characters are accepted residents, while Sonic is just lazy by throwing him into our world in a tired battle against the military. I told this person they sure knew a lot about a movie that wasn’t even out yet. Got blocked.

My argument is, at the end of the day, it’s the same shit. It’s all part of a new “genre” that you might as well call “CGIve Action”, and there’s a spectrum. You can have CGI creature in human world, like these two movies, and it runs all the way to Disney’s upcoming “live action” The Lion King. This is just the world we live in now. But to argue if one furry property is better than another just seems stupid. It’s really just a popularity contest. In 2019, Pokémon is more popular than Sonic. It’s really that simple, though folks will come up with all sorts of reasons as to why I’m wrong. It’s a lot like the concept of harassment. It’s “harassment” if you’re not attracted to the harasser. Otherwise, it’s simply “courting”. Everyone wants to be “booed up” with Pikachu, while Sonic is the ugly girl they hooked up with at camp but won’t acknowledge when they’re all back in school.

Anyway, the Let People Enjoy Things! crowd is real vocal until it comes time to shit on something they don’t like. I got response after response from strangers with anime avatars about how lazy Sonic looked, while so much care had clearly been put into Detective Pikachu. I just stopped responding after a while because life is short and I was never gonna get back that time I was wasting. I thought that would be the end of it, until last night, when reports started coming out that Paramount was going to “fix” Sonic’s design.

Like the movie, hate the movie, this is a terrible decision by Paramount. A project was changed due to audience backlash. Whatever happened to creative and artistic vision? For all we know it was a very vocal minority. Sure, you might support this decision because it’s for something you didn’t like. However, remember all those folks who hated Rose Tico? Or the Release the Snyder Cut folks? This just emboldens them. Seriously, whoever made this decision at Paramount needs to be fired, because this gives hope to every Fuck Star Wars or Fuck Captain Marvel psychotic out in these streets. A studio bowed to the pressure of a vocal minority who’ll swear they were the majority. I can’t even begin to fully capture how horrible a precedent this sets, yet here we are. The funny thing is, though, there simply isn’t enough time to fix anything. Even if the VFX team works overtime, it just means they’re screwing over all the licensees, as Sonic’s appearance will no longer match any of the movie merch that’s already been created. Paramount should’ve just taken the loss and moved on to the next thing. To be honest, outside of their cable channel that no one watches, I didn’t even realize Paramount was still a thing. If they keep making decisions like this one, they won’t be for much longer.


Burger King was trending on social media for this video yesterday. There’s been a lot of chatter online about their new marketing campaign addressing mental health. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety (“Not YOU, Will!”), the campaign speaks to me, but probably not in its intended fashion. You see, when I was in 7th grade, it was my lone year in public school. I remember that someone put snot on my locker in much the same way the “skank” finds gum on hers. I’m sure it was one of the kids who routinely called me “faggot” that year. Ain’t kids a buncha stinkers?

Anyway, I feel like the commercial would’ve worked without the associated boxes. Instead, like my pal @thesurfingpizza said, I just wanna collect the boxes. Can you choose a box or is it at random? Can I just go up and order a DGAF Meal? Plus, it feels kinda juvenile. Case in point: the wife and I toured a preschool over Spring Break, and they had this thing where the kids come in and put a clothespin on the emotion board to show how they’re feeling that day, so the teachers will know how to approach them. This feels like that. Like, if I come home with the PISSED Meal, and slam it on the table, the family is gonna go “OH SHIT!” and scatter immediately. Actually, that might be kinda cool…

Trailer Park

The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)

This show is sure to ruffle some feathers when it premieres, but it looks SO GOOD. The only people offended will be the folks who need a wake up call from megachurch-owning televangelists, but it’s also gonna give cynical atheists quite a bit of ammunition. I don’t even have HBO, but I love everyone in this, so you’d better believe I’m going to find some way to watch it.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6 (ABC) 

I just can’t get excited about this show anymore for 2 reasons: 1) the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame are pretty much a big “Fuck You” to this series (I’ll get more into this later) and 2) the show’s inability to let go of actors is really starting to grate on me. I love Clark Gregg as much as the next guy, but let the dude go. This whole “He only looks like Coulson, but isn’t Coulson” is just the Ward saga all over again. I don’t feel like sitting through that again. Plus, it can only end one of two ways: he truly is evil and gets defeated in some ambiguous manner (he totally gets defeated ’cause the show has already been picked up for season 7) OR he’s redeemed somehow. Knowing the show, and the Whedon DNA in it, I’d bet on option #2. I know folks say last season was great, but I didn’t even make it through the 2-hour season premiere. I’ve fought long and hard about “No, guys! This is the show that actually matters to the MCU!”, but I no longer see how that’s possible. I feel like it’s overstayed its welcome at this point, and if everything truly isn’t connected, then I’m ready to get off this ride.

Will’s Jukebox


“More Hearts Than Mine” – Ingrid Andress

The gist of this song is to not bring anyone you’re dating home to meet your friends and family. Why? ‘Cause if/when y’all break up, they’ll be breaking more hearts than just yours. Actually, the chick in the song is pretty resilient, ‘cause she’s like “I’ll get over it, but you’ll be hurting these other people.” It’s more about protecting your loved ones than the other way around. I just found it an interesting angle for a song. And I know folks think I skew too country, but I’d say this song is without genre. Seriously, in the early 00s, there were all these artists like Jem and Nellie McKay and Rufus Wainwright who really didn’t fit standard “genres”. I loved all of them, and I’d put this in that club.


“Late Night Feelings” – Mark Ronson ft. Lykke Li

I liked Lykke Li’s “Little Bit”, which is now about ten years old. Damn. And in ten years, she still hasn’t really become a household name. That’s really a shame. In any case, on this song, she sounds like she’s vying for the Gaga Belt, which Stefanie vacated when she went off to bang Bradley Cooper. I love the vintage feel of this one, but I wonder if I’d love it as much without the visuals of the video. Seriously, she even kinda looks like a Gaga impersonator here. Anyway, it’s actually Mark Ronson’s song, and I’m convinced he’s a goddamn Time Lord. He has mastered these long gone genres that don’t really get a lot of play these days. Remember that Amy Winehouse’s 60s-tinged Black to Black was pretty much masterminded by Ronson. I swear that, without Ronson, she would’ve died an unknown. Or she might still be alive, struggling along, ‘cause she wouldn’t have had the fame she got following the success of Black. Want proof? Check out her Ronson-less debut, Frank. Anyway, with this song, I see Ronson’s managed to move up a decade.


“Me” – Taylor Swift ft Brendon Urie

I haven’t really fucked with Taylor since 1989. I only saw this video because it auto-played as an ad following another video I watched. That’s shifty! Or is it SWIFTY? Anyway, this song is saccharine but does little for me. Honestly, in this pairing, I’m here more for Panic at the Disco dude than Taylor. Such an odd choice to have him here, but it works. This is the kind of song that will be a hit merely because it’s Taylor, but isn’t really a “hit song”.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Did you know that great storytelling doesn’t rely on gimmicks and can’t be ruined by “spoilers”? No? Then you clearly haven’t tweeted this week with someone who self-published a fantasy novel!
  • So, get this: Hulu has picked up 2 Marvel series, including Ghost Rider and Helstrom. To even put the cherry on top, Gabriel Luna, who played Ghost Rider on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be starring in this show. HOWEVER, this show will not be related to the character he played on AoS. HUH? Meanwhile, Helstrom is the Son of Satan, so I can only imagine they’re trying to tap into that Lucifer fanbase.
  • At some point during my hiatus, retro channel MeTV started airing their first original program, Collector’s Call. Hosted by Lisa Whelchel of The Facts of Life fame, each week focuses on someone’s strange and interesting collection. I don’t think MeTV even airs in the DC market anymore, but you can watch past episodes on the channel’s website.
  • The -ish empire is growing, as not only has Black-ish been renewed for a 6th season, but its prequel, Mixed-ish just got the greenlight from ABC, which will focus on Tracee Ellis Ross’s Rainbow growing up in the 80s/90s.

Links I Loved

This used to be a regular part of West Week Ever, but y’all weren’t clicking the links, so I killed it. Still, there’s so much great writing out there that needs to be shared, so let’s give it another shot.

Avengers: Endgame. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Or felt? By now, most of you have seen the film, so we can now relate to one another on that level. Sure, it wasn’t the best movie ever made, but considering it was the endcap to 11 years and 21 movies, it was a friggin’ masterpiece! So many moving parts, so many characters to showcase. And it did the damn thing. The way I see it is, if you never really cared for the MCU (I see you, James, Jenn, and Chad), this movie ain’t gonna be the one to convert you. However, if you’ve been a fan for most of this journey, then you’ll be pretty satisfied by what Endgame delivers.

Since everyone and their father has opinions on this film, I’m not gonna review it, per se. Instead, I’m just going to share the thoughts that went through my head following my two viewings of the film:

  • Hated Smart Hulk. Was really expecting a moment where he would forego that and truly HULK OUT
  • Not a fan of John Slattery as middle-aged Howard Stark. I know they don’t like to reference the TV shows much, but I feel like Dominic Cooper should’ve reprised the role, as he was Stark on Agent Carter, during this phase of Howard’s life. Plus, they had TV’s Jarvis! It just would’ve made sense.
  • Speaking of TV, we’re on a 24 timeline now. Despite the fact that 24 lasted 9 seasons, the seasons were set some distance apart – some as little as 18 months, while some were around 5 years. That means that the 24 timeline, once said in done, spanned about 17 years. What I’m getting at is Where does this leave Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Since it seems to take place in “real time”, and premieres in about a week, is it now set in the post-snap 5 year period? And, if they are gonna acknowledge that aspect of Endgame, how are they gonna explain how NONE of the team got dusted from The Snap?
  • I thought it was a bad move to just bring everyone back in the present day INSTEAD of backing up the clock 5 years. That leads to so many problems in the “real world”. Did insurance companies go bankrupt from all the payouts from The Snap, and did they get that money back when everyone returned? So, Peter Parker is just gonna go back to school, with a bunch of kids who were in elementary school when he disappeared? Think of all the folks who died during that period of time, either through suicide or natural causes, who still won’t see their loved ones again.
  • Great character work from Thor
  • So, a lot of the Timey-Wimey stuff didn’t make a lot of sense. We start with time travel, then we move to predestination paradoxes, and then we get to branch off into alternate timelines. In standard science fiction, Present Day Nebula would’ve disappeared when she killed Past Nebula because killing herself in the past would prevent her from existing in the present. This, however, was not “standard science fiction”, and I guess all of our time travel knowledge truly was shaped by Back to the Future.
  • As cute as the A-Force scene is, can we admit that Hope Van Dyne is hopelessly outclassed in this fight, and probably should’ve died on the battlefield? What makes it even funnier is how she’s the one with the most swagger as they’re slow-walking into battle.
  • Um, Clint murdered a LOT of people. Sure, they were “bad” people, but he straight up murdered them. Is he not gonna pay for those crimes?
  • Howard Stark says that he rarely chooses the greater good over self interest, and that shows in Tony, as well. Think about it: the only reason he doesn’t want to turn back the clock is that it would erase Morgan from existence. He told Cap and co that he had too much to lose from the time heist, but let’s be honest that there’d be a lot fewer questions to answer had they just reconstituted the universe at an earlier point in time or some shit, instead of just bringing everyone back to life five years later. Sure, his sacrifice is selfless, but the timeline, man, the timeline…
  • The Morgan stuff really got to me, since my oldest is her age. I’m not about to go die to save the galaxy, but it was still like “Huh, Tony Stark and I have something in common.”
  • I said this on social media, but it’s still true: In the MCU, after his Winter Soldier programming is broken, Bucky’s characterization can best be described as “Older brother, just home from rehab, who really hopes the treatment sticks this time”.
  • It’s interesting to see what Steve Rogers will look like when he’s addressing an empty chair onstage at the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Anyway, all these thoughts aside, it was such an amazing experience. It’s also a film that you MUST see in the theater. Now that the spoilers are out, I’m not sure if it’ll have the same effect, but it was transformative sharing those emotions and twists and turns with a room full of strangers. I had never given much of a shit about the “movie-going experience” until I saw this film. It just… *chef’s finger kiss*. As you can probably figure out by now, Avengers: Endgame had the West Week Ever.

19th Apr2019

The Great Sitcom Fires of the 80s & 90s

by Will

In today’s crazy world, it’s hard to imagine there was once a simpler time. You didn’t have to worry about collusion with foreign powers or the reemergence of diseases long defeated. No, if you travel back to the 80s, there were 3 big things you had to worry about if you were a kid:

  1. Kidnappers: If there was a pirate flag for the decade, it would be emblazoned with the silhouette of a van and a bowl of candy. To hear grownups tell it, kidnappers were everywhere. They were watching you at the park, they were scoping you out in the supermarket aisle, and they were waiting for you to get lost at the mall.
  2. Radon: an odorless, colorless gas that could kill you at ANY TIME?! I’m amazed we don’t still talk about this silent murderer, but I guess carbon monoxide had a better agent.
  3. FIRE

Yeah, #3 is what we’re going to talk about today. In the America of the 1980s, fire could strike at any time. You could just be enjoying your fresh pack of Bonkers, and burst into flames right in front of your friends. Yes, it was THAT dire! As with all things dangerous, the anti fire lobby teamed up with Hollywood to give us a bunch of Very Special Episodes of our favorite shows to drive home just how important it was to be prepared for fire to strike. Every school class did the field trip to the fire house where, if you were lucky, you got one of those red fire hats made out of the same cheap plastic as a Ben Cooper Halloween costume mask. We were all instructed to have a fire evacuation plan at home, where you were supposed to have those little rope ladders ready to go if you lived above the ground floor. The bottom line is that in the 1980s fire, like the Wu-Tang Clan, was nothing to fuck with. Fire was so prevalent that Billy Joel released a public statement to let people know that he wasn’t the one responsible for all the blazes.

As I was raised on all things television, a lot of these episodes have stuck with me over the years, and I thought we’d take a look back at them and see if any resonated with y’all, too.

When I think of sitcom fires, the first one that comes to mind is from Webster. If you don’t remember Webster, it was ABC’s Great Value version of NBC’s hit Diff’rent Strokes. Instead of little person Gary Coleman being adopted by a rich White man, little person Emmanuel Lewis was adopted by a White yuppie couple, whom he affectionately called “Ma’am and George”. Webster’s parents were killed in a car accident, but he’s taken in by George, who was both his godfather and one of his father’s old NFL teammates. Kinda like if OJ took in one of Al Cowlings’ kids. So, when the show starts, Ma’am and George live in this swanky Chicago condominium – until shortly into second season. You see, Webster gets a chemistry set, and he defies his parents’ wishes by messing with it after bedtime. Well, the whole thing gets away from him rather quickly, and he ends up burning up the apartment.

Let’s look at a few things here, because there’s a lot to unpack. They weren’t in a single family residence, but rather an apartment. That means when fire strikes one unit, it affects several others. And whatever isn’t damaged by fire is damaged by the water used to put it out. I remember Webster didn’t really seem to get in trouble, and the family moved to a house out in the suburbs where he had a sweet dumbwaiter he could use to go up and downstairs. Now, I don’t know what the appropriate punishment is for destroying an apartment, as well as several adjoining units, but whatever it is, Webster sure as Hell didn’t get it. If anything, it seemed like this actually made his life better. I’m supposed to be scared of fire, right? ‘Cause it’s deadly and causes a lot of destruction? Instead, it just made me terrified of chemistry sets. Try harder next time, Hollywood!

So, next on the docket of memorable sitcom fires was Punky Brewster. If ya don’t remember Punky, she was an orphan (the 80s were big on orphans – probably because all these kids had run away from their kidnappers) who was taken in by cantankerous widower Henry Warnimont. Punky was a free spirit who marched to the beat of her own drum, with her trusty dog, Brandon, at her side. Henry made a living running a photography studio at the mall. What’s that, young fella? Oh, well, before digital cameras, people actually used to get their film developed down at the mall. Huh? Oh, well, a mall is a big building with lots of stores where people used to shop? Well, yeah, I guess it was like a brick & mortar Amazon. Can I finish my story here?

So, Henry ran the studio but, just like Webster‘s second season retool, Punky Brewster also resorted to fire to shake things up. And it sparked an INFERNO. It all happened at the worst time, as Henry was only Punky’s foster parent at the time, so when the fire resulted in him hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer, Punky found herself placed into Fenster Hall, which was the local orphanage. In a five-part saga that wouldn’t be topped until Mighty Morphin Power Rangers‘ “Green With Evil” story arc, Punky tries to escape from Fenster Hall, she’s placed with a wealthy foster family, and she’s finally adopted by Henry by the end. All of this because of one fire. Everyone remembers the series for one particular episode. Yeah, that one. The one with the refrigerator. But this saga ranks right up there with that one for me, as I was a big Punkyhead. Was that a thing? Let’s see if we can make that a thing.

 

The most memorable sitcom fire is one I’ve discussed before, and it took place on The Facts of Life. A spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes, the show began set at the Eastland School for Girls. As the series went on, through some sort of slave labor/internship program, the most popular girls ended up working for house mother, Mrs. Garrett, in her baked goods shop, Edna’s Edibles. In 2019, this name would indicate an entirely different type of business, but I assure you Mrs. Garrett’s brownies weren’t the “special” kind. Introduced in season 4, Edna’s Edibles was one of the main sets of the show until season 7, when a fire destroyed the fuck out of that store.

This kicked off a three-part saga (very rarely could a sitcom fire and resolution be contained to just one episode), where the store was reborn as a prototypical Gadzooks/Spencer wacky gift shop, called Over Our Heads. Need a giant prop pencil, or an ironic pink flamingo, or just a piano necktie? They’ve got ya covered. It didn’t get more 80s than Over Our Heads, and it was a very forced gesture to bring the late 70s series into the then “NOW”.

Here’s an entry that most folks never talk about, but seeing as how it aired in the same block as ALF, I know more folks saw it than probably realize. Yeah, I’m taking about The Hogan Family. Launched in 1986 as Valerie, it starred former The Mary Tyler Moore Show/Rhoda actress Valerie Harper as the matriarch of a middle class Chicago family. She had three sons (one of whom was played by Jason Bateman), and she was married to an airline pilot, played by Josh Taylor (also known as Jack McKay from Beverly Hills 90210). It was a fairly popular show, especially when it was moved to the post-ALF timeslot. And that’s when the trouble started. You see, Harper attributed the increase in ratings to her performance, so she felt that she deserved a pay increase. She just stopped showing up for work, as similar tactics had worked in her favor back on Rhoda. Well, then-Head of Programming at NBC, Brandon Tartikoff, didn’t have time for her shenanigans. Between the second and third seasons, they killed off her character in a car accident, and renamed the show Valerie’s Family: The Hogans, where Sandy Duncan and her glass eye move in to help her newly-widowed brother take care of his sons.

Photo courtesy of Allison’s Written Words

By this point, you’re probably like “Where’s the fire, Will?” OK, I’m getting to that. You see, in a third season episode called “Burned Out”, the sons are playing around in the attic, and stumble upon an old lamp. They try to turn it on, but nothing happens, and they go on about their business while forgetting to unplug it. Well, it begins to spark, one thing leads to another, and it burns up the house. What’s memorable about it is two-fold: 1) it was something of a Scorched Earth Protocol, as the fire basically wiped any trace of Valerie that was left in the house and 2) It made me deathly afraid of faulty wiring. Like, I unplug EVERYTHING because I’m always scared it’s going to start sparking when I leave the room. 75% of my possessions are paper. You know how much I’d have to lose if something like that occurred?! That’s right: 75% of my stuff. I’m glad to see y’all excel at critical thinking. In an interesting twist, apparently McDonald’s sponsored that episode to spread the word about fire safety. In fact, they covered the bills for the fire damage to the set, and they also aired fire safety ads during the episode. Anyway, the next season, the show was officially renamed The Hogan Family, as the fire had successfully removed Valerie from the equation once and for all.

Sometimes a sitcom fire isn’t really a scary thing, but rather a plot device to give purpose to a secondary character. That was certainly the case with Family Matters. If you don’t know what Family Matters was, then you’re too young to be reading this site, but here’s the gist for the cheap seats in the back: a spinoff of Perfect Strangers, Family Matters was a staple of ABC’s Friday night TGIF lineup as it originally followed the lives of Harriet and Carl Winslow, as well as their kids, all living in the suburbs of Chicago. Then lighting struck with Steve Urkel – originally planned to be a one-off character, the stereotypical nerd was so popular that he eventually took over (and some might argue ruined) the series.

Anyway, on the road to becoming The Urkel Show, the series had too many characters that it didn’t know how to handle. The first to go was younger daughter Judy, played by Jaimee Foxworth. As the scythe kept swinging, it appeared that the target was gonna land on Telma Hopkins who played Rachel – sister to Harriet, and mother to Little Richie. You don’t just fire a member of Tony Orlando & Dawn without cause, though, so the producers gave her something else to do.

In the second season (there’s that season two retool again!), Laura Winslow and Urkel were working at Leroy’s, which was basically the Family Matters version of The Max. Well, Urkel being Urkel, he burned down Leroy’s, with Leroy deciding he had no desire to rebuild. At this point, Rachel decides that she can use the site to open a restaurant. Unfortunately she doesn’t have the funds until Mother Winslow decides to kick in some coin. The former Leroy’s is rechristened Rachel’s Place and, just like Webster, Urkel is rewarded for his involvement instead of punished.

You don’t get episodes like these anymore. I hesitate to say “They don’t make ’em like they used to”, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a devastating fire used as a plot point in a sitcom. While kidnappings still occur, I almost wonder if Y2K retconned Radon and fire threats in some strange, Flashpoint-like fashion. Have there been some sort of anti-fire advancements made in the past 30 years? Nothing really comes to mind, but we really stopped sounding the alarm bells on that one. If it weren’t for the 25 fireman procedurals in primetime, you’d almost think firefighting was an antiquated profession, like blacksmithing or pager salesman. Anyway, heavyhanded as they were, these episodes have stuck with me for +30 years, so I guess they did something right. And no fires yet to speak of in my neck of the woods, so let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 

05th Apr2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/5/19

by Will

I took last week off, and the week before was a Thrift Justice, so I guess we’ve got a bit to cover, huh?

So a couple of weeks back, there was hubbub from a screening where Zack Snyder sort of kirked out and implied that anyone who expected a character not to kill was living in a fantasy world. Yeah, I’ve got to disagree with that.

First off, there’s a danger in applying real world politics to comics because, at the end of the day, comics are just what my friend James calls “White Male Power Fantasies”. They exist in a theoretical vacuum, so the minute you try to say “Look at the world around us! How would Batman interact HERE?” you’ve already broken the rules.

To think Batman should kill is a gross misunderstanding of what Batman is about.

Ya know, just because Keaton did it in Batman (1989) doesn’t make it *right*. Burton was railing against the most recent depiction of Batman at the time, which had been the ’66 Batman. So, he kinda went to extremes. Now, I wasn’t in theaters in 1989, but I still knew it was messed up when I eventually saw the movie on VHS. Keaton doing it doesn’t mean that Affleck can do it.

To think “Batman should kill. So effing what?” is a such a binary way of looking at things. You all feel he either should or shouldn’t do it, without factoring in the gray area where some outcomes are worse than death. Part of the thing about Batman is the power given to him by his urban legend status. He doesn’t HAVE to kill, because there are enough two-bit hoods out there telling folks they’ve seen him kill. Meanwhile, because of this storytelling, you never quite know WHAT you’re going to face if you even encounter him. And sure, he probably WON’T kill you, but he’ll make it so you walk with a limp for the rest of your life or can’t feel your right arm any more.

Also, let’s think of some other ramifications. If Batman were to kill, that would be terribly taxing on his relationship with the GCPD, who pretty much allow him to operate on their behalf. Sure, real world cops kill people all the time – in a lot of cases where it seems senseless but, again, you can’t “real world” this stuff.

Oh, and if Batman killed, then that would be the end of the villains you love so much. “Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker?” Probably because that would be the end of the Joker, and all storytelling regarding him. These are the same people who are mad at Peter Quill for screwing up the fight against Thanos. Um, they have an entirely separate movie to pad out so, no, they couldn’t allow Thanos’ defeat that easily. Sometimes you just have to think of the business aspect of things. Companies need you to come back every month, so how are they going to build any sort of drama or suspense, if you just know he’ll mow down that month’s villain, and then do the same to whomever pops up next month? You don’t want Batman. You want The Punisher.

For Batman to kill would make him no better than his rogues gallery, so who’s the “hero” in that case? These were originally considered aspirational characters in certain aspects. Sure, your parents may not get gunned down in an alley leaving you millions, but if life deals you a bad hand, you make the most of it and don’t just go out murdering people. Because that’s what that would be: murder. Now, there’s the argument that maybe he kills in self defense. Maybe, but he’s also been written as such a skilled tactician that it should/would never get to that point. I will say, though, there is a difference between killing and letting someone die. Take Batman Begins, for instance. He doesn’t kills Ra’s, but he sure as Hell doesn’t save him, either. I do think Batman would do that.

I know there are a bunch of y’all who grew up at a certain time, thinking Burton is gospel, but this is the same incarnation that says Joker killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. Sure the movies have shown us a Batman who kills because they wanna be edgelords, but at the end of the day, BATMAN DOESN’T KILL.

I’m about 2 years behind, but I binged the Dirty John podcast a few weeks ago, and now I want to talk about it with someone – primarily the fact that I don’t believe it. I mean, sure, it’s based on a true story, but that finale was so far-fetched that even Uwe Boll is somewhere saying “Yeah, I’m not sure if that’s believable.”

If you’re not familiar, Dirty John recounts the story of John Meehan – a con man with a history of wooing women and then taking them for all they had. Based on reporting from The Los Angeles Times, the podcast focuses primarily on Meehan’s relationship with successful interior designer Debra Newell, and how he basically psychologically abused her, while forcing her to alienate anyone in her family who he didn’t like. It’s a whirlwind courtship, followed by a quickie Vegas wedding, and then the craziness starts. Newell realizes that she doesn’t truly know the man she married, and begins to fear for her safety, as well as the safety of her loved ones.

I know there’s an adaptation on Bravo, starring Connie Britton, right now and, while I’m curious to see them reenact a lot of this stuff, I think I’ll just wait until it’s done to binge it at once. And I really hope they don’t try to make a season 2, because HOW? Then again, based on the ending of the podcast, I could see it and it wouldn’t be any less credible than that.

The always wonderful John Oliver devoted this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight to the working conditions in the WWE. If you didn’t know, wrestler’s contracts are structured where they are considered “independent contractors”, so they’re responsible for their own health insurance, while the company only covers injuries that occur in the ring. I’ve heard of stories where a wrestler might have a motorcycle accident over the weekend, but drag himself to work so that he can claim the injury happened in-ring just so it’ll be covered. This sort of thing might have flown back in the carny days of wrestling, but WWE is a billion dollar corporation, so this is pretty unacceptable. Past attempts by wrestlers to unionize haven’t gone anywhere, but Oliver points out that Vince McMahon does listen to the fans – the WWE Universe – so if there’s enough pressure from them, then things might change.

So, some interesting stuff is going in the world of music, as Lil Nas X went to #1 on the country charts with “Old Town Road”. The problem, however, is that many consider it a rap song instead of a country song, despite it having “country elements” as well as subject matter. So, after some outcry from labels, the song was removed from the charts.

Well, not to be outdone, Lil Nas X re-released the song last night, with an assist from Billy Ray Cyrus, who’s always down to make some coin. And the result still isn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as “Accidental Racist“.

I mean, I get it, but there does seem to be some shady stuff going on here to get it removed from the chart. And most folks are saying it’s based on race. It’s not easy for a Black man to chart in country music, as it’s still a recent phenomenon thanks to Darius Rucker and Jimmie Allen. Also, if you listen to anything by Sam Hunt or the Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem“, and you’ll hear that country has been biting hip hop beats for quite some time.

On the flip side, I don’t feel like this was a genuine effort. I mean, for one, the thing is about 2 minutes long. That’s not a song. That’s a snippet. Plus, what Lil Nas X did here was spit in the eye of the country music establishment. It’s not common knowledge to folks who don’t follow the industry, but country radio charts kinda come down to whose “turn” it is. Labels get together and sort that shit out instead of it actually being based on sales or anything. They’ll say “Well, it’s Blake’s turn”, so stations will follow suit and increase the number of spins that Blake Shelton gets that week, and voila #1. Then, the next week, it’ll be Jimmie’s turn. This is why nothing on the country charts sits like songs do on pop charts. You get your week and then you’re cycled out for someone else, which is why charting means SO much less in country. It means you got the seal of approval from the industry, but it’s not reflective of public opinion. It’s simply the labels telling you who they’re backing.

Since nobody actually cares about charts, this was just a publicity stunt, and a damn good one. I say let the song stay. Think of all the flukes and garbage that has made it to #1. Just let it go ’cause there’ll be a new Florida-Georgia Line single up there in about 3 weeks, and nobody will even remember this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Cho has been cast as Spike Spiegel in Netflix’s adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. I still think it should’ve gone to Ben Schwartz, but I don’t hate this.
  • Since the Disney acquisition of Fox, there are rumors that Disney might be in talks to revive the failed baseball series Pitch in an attempt to keep creator Dan Fogelman from jumping ship when his contract is up. Oh, I should mention that Fogelman also created the smash hit This Is Us, which is why folks would want to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.
  • Emily Bett Rickards announced that she’ll be leaving Arrow prior to its truncated final season, leading me to wonder “WHY?” She couldn’t hang on for 10 episodes? Is she THAT eager to jump back into pilot season?
  • Speaking of The CW, Lucifer finally decided to come collect the souls of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, as Supernatural will finally end after its 15th season. Don’t cry for these guys, though. They’ve got a long future of MonsterMania and other assorted pop culture conventions ahead of them – which I’m sure is their own personal version of Hell.

There’s nothing quite like going into a movie with ZERO expectations, but that’s exactly what I did last night with SHAZAM! While a lot of folks have already written off the DC movies, I’m still willing to give them a shot. I know almost nothing about the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel, and most of what I know is from Geoff Johns’s New 52 reboot of the character – which old time fans tell me is something of a travesty. Still, Johns has rarely steered me wrong, and I actually enjoyed what he was doing with the character. It was originally presented in back-up stories in the relaunched Justice League, but then the books hit the “Throne of Atlantis” storyline, and I stopped reading for whatever reason. So I never did see the tail end of what he was doing there. So, without too much continuity and prior knowledge to bog me down, I went into the theater last night not really knowing what I was about to see. And I am SO glad that I did. I REALLY enjoyed the film, and I think it’s more of a course correction for DC than Wonder Woman was.

If you’re not familiar, this take on the character is basically a superhero adaptation of the Tom Hanks classic Big (there’s even a call-out to the most famous scene from that movie). Fourteen year old Billy Batson encounters the wizard SHAZAM, who bestows his powers upon Billy once he says the wizard’s name aloud. He gains a different power from each of the gods. Flight from Socrates, Strength from Hephaestus. Electricity from Aesop, Anger from Zeus, Speed from Archibald, and Punching from Michael. Yeah, clearly I don’t know the pantheon nor do I know his entire power set. It don’t matter – ain’t nobody got time for that! He gets his magic from a wizard, says a magic word, and changes from Boy to Man. A Super Man (but not THE Superman. Yeah, they’ve already been to court about that). Meanwhile, the evil Dr. Sivana had been considered to assume the wizard’s power when he was a boy, but was deemed unworthy, so he’s spent his life and fortune trying to find a way to rectify that situation.

This story plays out over a backdrop showcasing the current foster parent situation in the country. Billy is taken into a group home, run by a married couple of former foster kids, filled with 5 other foster kids. There’s smart ass Freddy, adorable Darla, quiet Pedro, that kid from Fresh Off the Boat Eugene, and the pretty pretty Mary. It deals with what the notions of “home” and “family” mean to Billy, as he hasn’t been able to stay anywhere due to his unending search for his mother. Plus, just as American Pie introduced us to the MILF, Showtime introduced us to the SMILF, this film introduces us to the FMILF (*chef’s finger kiss*).

The thing I loved about the film is that it really doesn’t waste a lot of time world-building. It might be in the DCEU and it might not. There are signs that it could be, but they don’t beat you over the head with them. It’s a movie that pretty much gets in and out. Sure, there’s the obligatory stinger to tease a sequel that may or may not happen, but it didn’t exactly get me excited or anything. I’d be happy for this to just be a one-shot kind of deal, but Hollywood likes money, so it’ll probably, unwisely, become a franchise.

I was surprised by the level of violence in the film. From a special effects standpoint, I feel like the designers took a lot of visual cues from Infinity War, as the Thanos Snap “dusting” effect was employed quite a bit, while the embodiment of the 7 Deadly Sins looked a lot like Cull Obsidian. Still, even though it’s a fun movie about “family”, I don’t know if you want to take young kids, ’cause those monsters…WOW.

Did it have problems? Sure. Like most DC movies, it had a weak 3rd act. I didn’t even realize it was over when it was actually over. It went to the next scene, and you’re like “Oh. Oh, so that was it?” I’m also not sold on Zachary Levi as Captain Marvel. Maybe that’s part of the character, that he’s always 14 years old inside, but I didn’t feel like he ever really became a hero. He was a guy who did heroic things, but – at his core – was a HERO? Even by the end, I wasn’t too sure. He spends a good chunk of the movie Tony Starking: cleaning up problems that were of his own making.

My biggest issue with Levi, though, concerns the potential sequel that would most likely feature Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Captain Marvel’s nemesis, Black Adam. If you don’t remember, Warner Bros announced a Black Adam film WAY before they started any of this other stuff. Before Aquaman, Wonder Woman, or even Justice League had filmed, Black Adam was on the schedule because they wanted in on that hot D.J. action. The problem I had with it then is even exacerbated now that he’s MUCH more famous than he was when that deal was signed: NOBODY has the charisma to go toe to toe with him, especially with him in a villainous role.

Black Adam in the comics, especially around the time of Infinite Crisis, tended to go back and forth between villainy and being on the side of angels. He’s basically DC’s Namor. He’s on whichever side suits him best at the time. So, it’s unclear which side he would’ve been on for Johnson’s movie, though it was uncharacteristic at the time for DC to center movies around villains (that has since changed, as we saw from this week’s teaser for The Joker). SHAZAM!, however, not only sets up Black Adam as a villain, but states that he was a “mistake” made by the wizards when choosing a champion. He’s apparently still out there, so he’d likely butt heads with Levi’s Captain Marvel. My question is this: Is the audience prepared to accept The Rock as a villain, and actively cheer against him in favor of Levi’s Captain Marvel? I’m not so sure, which is probably what has held up the project for so long (though they always say it’s due to “scheduling conflicts”. The man makes a movie every 6 weeks, so I hardly believe that).

All that aside, I had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s highly entertaining and might be my favorite DC movie from their modern slate (NOTE: I have yet to see Aquaman. “Scheduling conflicts”). If DC continues just focusing on character instead of world-building, they might be on to something. There’s no need to try to follow the MCU formula, especially when there are other options. It’s got something for everyone, and even a little bit of representation snuck in there that I can’t say more about without spoiling the 3rd act. SHAZAM! was a great way to end the week, which is why it 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.

01st Mar2019

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

15th Feb2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/15/19

by Will

No real rants this week, but I guess we should talk about the Marvel/Hulu deal. Hulu announced 4 upcoming Marvel animated series, including Howard the Duck, M.O.D.O.K., Tigra & Dazzler, and Hit-Monkey. Now, for some reason, folks are excited by this announcement. I, however, do not understand why.

There’s nothing amazing here. No marquee characters. Sure, it’s been pointed out that this is Marvel’s first crack at working with a former Fox character in Dazzler but, I mean, it’s Dazzler. The biggest aspect is probably the folks behind the scenes: Kevin Smith will executive produce Howard the Duck, while Chelsea Handler will be the EP on Tigra & Dazzler, and Patton Oswalt will be EP on Hit Monkey. Still, so? I haven’t really liked anything Smith has done in a very long time, while they’re describing Tigra & Dazzler as “woke” which is a buzzword that’s polarizing to some. Put them all together, and it just sounds like a UPN fall schedule circa 1996.

Anyway, all 4 shows will culminate in a crossover called Marvel’s Offenders, which is a clear rub against the Netflix deal, where the initial four shows culminated in the poorly received Marvel’s The Defenders. Hey, you can’t like everything, nor can everything be tailored to you. That said, I won’t be subscribing to Hulu for these.

Trailer Park

MA

I’m not a horror guy, and if you’re a regular reader, you probably already know that. Still, something about this intrigues me. I figure Octavia Spencer is just getting revenge on the people who bullied her in high school by fucking with their kids, but maybe there’s something deeper to it. Still, definitely intrigued.


Yesterday

A world without The Beatles? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?! Yeah, yeah, I know that just triggered some folks, but I maintain that they were a boyband who eventually got into some psychedelic shit. Anyway, this movie looks really good, and I will definitely be seeing it…on Netflix.


Aladdin

During Sunday’s presentation of the Grammys, we got a “Special Look” at Disney’s upcoming live action adaptation of Aladdin. A few months ago y’all complained that Will Smith wasn’t blue in the Entertainment Weekly spread. Now, folks are complaining that he is blue. As I said on Twitter, there’s just no pleasing you motherfuckers. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll make a ton of money, but this isn’t my kind of film. Honestly, I wouldn’t watch this thing it it were free on the Disney Channel. This teaser does absolutely nothing for me.


Frozen II

I’m loath to admit this, but I’m beginning to realize Disney just doesn’t make movies for me – a difficult position to be in when you have 2 small children. There was a day, about a year ago, when we “watched” Frozen about 7 times. At no point, however, did I make it through the entire thing, instead just seeing disjointed scenes. What I saw, though, did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t wanna be one of those “Back in my day, we had The Lion King” folks, but I find it necessary to remind young’uns of that when they start spouting off about The Lion Guard. Anyway, since everyone loves making money, there’s a sequel coming. Based on this teaser, Girl Jesus steels herself to go up against her archnemesis, The Wave. I guess? I dunno. I just hope there’s a song called “Still Letting It Go”.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Echo Kellum is no longer a series regular on Arrow after this week’s episode, where his character Curtis Holt/Mr. Terrific moved to Washington, DC. Meanwhile, there are rumors that Carlos Valdes will be leaving his role as Cisco over on The Flash by the end of the season.
  • After 17 years, Carson Daly will be stepping down from his late night NBC series, Last Call, at the end of the season. He says that “It’s time”, and that he wanted to give the spot up to a younger voice. Look, I know how Hollywood works Nobody leaves a paying gig, where they’re pretty much left alone, on their own accord. That’s the kind of job you do until they pull the rug out from under ya, which I believe is exactly what NBC did. Still he had a good run, and he met his wife on the show, so it was a fruitful enterprise for him.
  • Even though it was always reported as returning “Summer 2019”, it was revealed this week that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s 6th season will premiere sometime in May, and will be set one year after the events of the season 5 finale.
  • Fox renewed Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy for next season, surprising no one. Oh, and The Simpsons was renewed for 2 more seasons, despite the fact that there are reports that Disney could make more money off the franchise by cancelling it, as the original syndication deal was made early in the show’s run and could be renegotiated at a higher rate.
  • Considering the new president of Nickelodeon is the creator of All That, it’s no surprise that he’s going back to the well in his attempt to get the channel back to its roots. Brian Robbins announced he is developing a reboot of the tween sketch show, with breakout former star, and SNL veteran, Kenan Thompson as an executive producer.
  • Marvel announced the upcoming Savage Avengers comic series, which will see Conan the Barbarian join the Marvel Universe. This is a confusing thing to me, from a business standpoint, because what happens when Marvel loses the Conan license, yet certain events will have been propped up from his time in the MU. I mean, ROM: SpaceKnight anyone?
  • In the wake of recent sexual misconduct allegations against director Bryan Singer, his adaptation of Red Sonja has been shelved by Millennium Films AFTER they had sworn their support of him and the project.
  • It was announced that McFarlane Toys has acquired the license to make collectible toys based on DC Entertainment properties. Personally, I feel like they squandered too much goodwill 20 years ago with their “staction figures”, but folks seem to love their recent Fortnite toys, so maybe that’s an indicator of what we can expect?
  • It was announced today that the next iteration of Power Rangers, Power Rangers: Beast Morphers, will premiere on March 2nd, at 8 AM (the franchise’s new timeslot). 8 AM is where you’d need to air Power Rangers to get kids to care about it live. I mean, by that noon timeslot, they were already at soccer or whatever.
  • I’m no longer wasting the time to document the many returns of Toys “R” Us, so NEXT!

  • As I get older, it’s harder for me to tell these pop starlets apart. Between Halsey and Charli XCX, I remember that Halsey is the Double Bi one (bisexual and biracial), while Charli XCX is “The Other One”. That’s not really a knock on her, but rather the fact that I feel they have similar “gimmicks”. Anyway, I caught the video for Charli XCX & Troye Sivan’s new song, “1999”, which was pretty impressive. If I wanted to nitpick, I could point out how most of this stuff actually took place around 1997, but I’ll give her points for effort and attention to detail. Also, I feel like Sivan, an openly gay man, impersonating Eminem, one of pop culture’s most notorious homophobes, is about 1,000 thinkpieces waiting to happen.

So I first learned about Instagram user HardRockNick, AKA Nicholas Rock Johannsen, last weekend while surfing Twitter. Someone had come across his profile, and basically commented that they had found The One in him. Of course, they were being facetious, but it led me, and scores of others, to check out his account just to see what they were talking about. And it did NOT disappoint!

I don’t even know where to begin with this guy. He’s allegedly a multimillionaire casino owner. His likes include banging porn stars, Trump, and Pure-White women (“not mixed with Mexican or Israeli and shit”). I watched as his followers went from about 500 to 10,000 over the course of the day. Of course, there’s the whole sentiment of “Stop Making Stupid People Famous”, but I was getting tired of hearing about the Andy, the Blowjob Guy from the Fyre Festival documentary, so I welcomed a new butt of jokes.

Everything about him is sad-funny. Whether it’s him trying to impress us by the fact that he found a “great little burger place in my neighborhood”, which is actually a Shake Shack, or him showing off the breakfast made for him by his “personal chef”, when the picture is clearly taken at an IHOP. Was he real? Was this performance art? That’s what we all wanted to know.

Any time you encounter someone just so obnoxious, the first question that comes to mind is “Who hurt you?” Well, after some sleuthing, a story began to take shape. HardRockNick at one time was also known as Aly Ashley Jash, who ran a pet grooming business with his wife, stage actress (and former fiancee to Jeff Goldblum) Catherine Wreford. As the business began to go downhill, Wreford allegedly had an affair with an insurance salesman. Jash, however, would have the last laugh, as he broke into Wreford’s house and took a shit in her kitchen sink (this event can be confirmed by court documents found online). The story, however, doesn’t have as jokey of an ending. Jash went on to become whatever it is you can call him now, while Wreford was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Then, we got the WHOLE truth. I’m not even gonna spoil it here. Click that link and go to town. However, if you’re like Lindsay – who was disgusted just looking at the guy – then you can hop off here. All I know is the internet had a nice little time following this guy’s story, even if it paled in comparison to that week when Pokemon Go brought us all together. In my mind, however, HardRockNick, AKA Aly Ashley Jash, had the West Week Ever.

25th Jan2019

Thrift Justice – Operation Kondo

by Will

I miss writing, and by that I mean that I miss writing about more than just the week’s pop culture news. If you look at the slider on the homepage, there used to be other columns here: Adventures West Coast, which was my graphic novel/trade paperback review column; Best of the West, which showcased the jewels of my various collections; Track Star, which was my music post that sadly never really found its identity. And, of course, my baby – Thrift Justice, where I showed you all the stuff I managed to find while scouring the local thrift stores.

As I was telling some friends recently, Google killed blogging. When Google Reader was taken out behind the shed, nothing came along to capably take its place. Yes, I said capably, just to ward off all of y’all who are about to go, “Well, Feedly…” A lot of folks quit, while others pivoted to other media, like video or podcasting. I, however, am still a fan of the written word. I feel a lot of videos could’ve been blogs, and that also goes for a lot of podcasts (especially the short ones). I’m too old and fat to move to video, so blogging is where I shall stay.

So, this is all a long-winded way of bringing us to why we’re here today. I’ve been sitting on this idea for about 6 months, as I know it should probably be a video, but that’s just not my bag, baby. Instead, I feel like this would be a great way to bring back Thrift Justice: We’re going to liveblog an unboxing. This could be really interesting OR it could end up like that time Geraldo found Al Capone’s vault. Either way, it’s new content, so yay? But first, some backstory.

Back on the 4th of July, I was at a family cookout, when a cousin of mine told me she had something for me in her car. Apparently, I had let her borrow some toys when her nephews came to town, and she had run across them while she was cleaning her house. There are some very important things you should know here, though. First of all, those nephews are about 18 & 20 now, so if I’m doing my math right, this took place around 2004. Secondly, I’m not exactly the world’s greatest sharer, as I’ve had a bad track record of visiting relatives breaking my shit. So, one of two things happened here: 1) I let them have some stuff about which I didn’t give two shits OR 2) my mother gave them some stuff behind my back, which I clearly didn’t care about if I haven’t missed it in 15 years.

Anyway, for the life of me, I could not remember what these kids had of mine. As I followed my cousin to her car, she handed me a shoebox (think Timberland size) in a shopping bag. I’ve got a toddler, and the last thing I need is to be opening toys around her, so I figured I’d just get around to checking out the contents once we got home, and she went to bed. Instead, the box rode around in the back of my wife’s car for months until she eventually had to put it into the shop for body work. So, there’s no time like the present, right?

Here’s how we’re going to make this interesting, though. Thrift Justice is usually about the stuff I get from the thrift store, but this installment is going to be about stuff I’m sending to the thrift store. Everyone in the world is Marie Kondo-ing, by reducing the clutter in their lives by ridding themselves of the possessions that fail to bring them joy. Will anything in this mystery box bring me joy? Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

Somebody call Geraldo, ‘cause I think I’ve got him beat. Man, what a box of garbage! Ugh, let’s take a closer look, though. I mean, we’ve come this far.

So, first up we’ve got Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, along with his…friend? Enemy? Anyway, let’s call him Pinkeye McGillicuddy. I vaguely remember buying this set because I thought Aang’s wind blaster pack was kinda cool. I’ve never seen one episode of Avatar, but I knew it was one of the hip things back then, so I guess I wanted to gain entry by getting the toys. Plus, when I first got it, Aang’s pack lit up or made noise or some shit. The batteries are dead now, and I’m too lazy to change them.

Look at Aang’s eyes, though? It’s like he’s been radicalized. What the Hell was that show even about?! Isn’t “air bending” just a polite way of saying “farting”. I’m bending air as I write this.

Next up, we’ve got these Masters of the Universe 200X Happy Meal toys from McDonalds. I remember these being pretty cool because they were decent action figures, in a 4-ish inch scale, with just a hint of an action feature. They were highly detailed, and we’d kill for something like this today. Sadly, though, nobody gave much of a shit about that show, as the Internet had yet to evolve into the geek hive of scum and villainy that it is today. Thrift stores are littered with these figures, and they’re about to get 4 more.

What the Hell?! Is this alien being LYNCHED?! I don’t even know what this is. It’s the same texture of those spiders you throw at the wall in order to watch them crawl down, but I don’t know what the goal is here. Do you swing him around by the loop? You can kinda yo-yo him, but that doesn’t feel right, either. This is like 2 of the darkest periods of American history rolled into one pathetic gashapon toy.

Gather ‘round, kids, as I tell you a tale from the turn of the century! You probably know (recently deceased) Stan Lee as That Old Man Who Keeps Popping Up In The Marvel Movies, but this wasn’t always the case. Back around 1999, ol’ Stan wasn’t exactly on the best terms with Marvel. Sure, he was getting an annual salary for being the company mascot/cheerleader, but he wanted MORE. So, he decided to start Stan Lee Media, which would go on to inspire a quagmire of lawsuits that continue to this day. From this venture, nothing they threw at the wall stuck, but one of the highest profile creations was The Backstreet Project.

Starring boyband The Backstreet Boys, The Backstreet Project was a comic concept that envisioned the group as superheroes. Remember, this was 1999, and things were different. The Backstreet Boys were one of the biggest pop acts in the world, while comics were on the decline. In 2018, you’d ask “Why would anyone make a comic about the Backstreet Boys?!” but in 1999, it would have been more fitting to ask “Why would the Backstreet Boys slum it in the comic industry?” Since Stan Lee Media was poised to harness the true potential of this newfangled thing called The Internet, the focus was more on webisodes than print.

Anyway, Burger King somehow found itself as the official restaurant of the Backstreet Boys, as they were selling CDs and VHS tapes to go along with your diarrhea-inducing Whopper. And for the kids, they had Backstreet Project toys in the Burger King Kids Club Meals. I actually had the entire set at one point in time, as I thought the concept was pretty cool, plus I had a mad-on for any boyband. If you’ve been to this site before, none of this is news. Hell, a friend of mine was actually working at Burger King at the time, so I just asked him to grab the stuff for me from his job. I wasn’t eating that shit! Because I was a huge BSB fan (until Brian had to go and get all political), there was no way I was letting those kids have my prized BSB toys, so these were probably my doubles.

Here you have Brian (the one holding the basketball), as “Top Speed”, while Nick is the one dressed like a ninja, named appropriately enough “Ninja Man”. Jesus, Stan. Were you even trying? Anyway, the gray thing in the middle is some sort of stasis tank that Brian breaks out of. I have to remind myself that this was an era when these guys could’ve pissed in a Sprite bottle, and it would be distributed all across Europe, but in hindsight there’s not a lot of care or attention invested in this concept.

 

Another Burger King premium. Who was eating all this Burger King? It sure as Hell wasn’t me. Anyway, this is some Dragon Ball thing. I don’t know if it was Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, or Dragon Ball GTFO. I know nothing of that franchise, but I know this little guy does some sort of balancing act. I just don’t seem to have the base upon which he does the balancing.

My Ronin Warriors! Man, I loved that show. That might’ve been my first anime, come to think of it. Anyway, I used to have the whole team because when KB Toys was in their death throes, Ronin Warriors were a mainstay in the 3 for $10 bin. Sadly, I donated mine some years back because I couldn’t find them all and didn’t feel the need to keep an incomplete team around. Well, I couldn’t find them all because they were chilling at my cousin’s house. As you can see, they lost a good portion of their shit, as well as a figure (where’s the White one?). These are probably the best thing in the box, but I’m met with the fact that I don’t want an incomplete team, so maybe these figures will be reunited with their brothers in the thrifting afterlife.

Ooh, this one tickles me to no end. If you know me, then you know I don’t give a shit about Harry Potter. In my mind, JK Rowling just stole all of Roald Dahl’s best ideas, and nobody’s called her on this because they teach the wrong things in school these days. Anyway, my hatred aside, I’m a sucker for a good, translucent action figure. Whether it’s the Spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi that I got from Lays Potato Chips, or this boy wizard I picked up from Toys “R” Us (a moment of silence, please), I love them all. The reason this is funny to me, though, is that those boys’ mom is really pro-Black and pro-Jesus. If she knew her boys were playing with a plastic representation of the White Devil, slinging his witchcraft around from his cloak of invisibility, she would shit a brick. I’m actually gonna see her in about 2 weeks, so maybe I’ll just drop that into conversation to see what happens.

This is probably the worst Optimus Prime toy ever made. I tend to think of Happy Meal toys along the lines of rack toys, as they’re all “toys for poor kids”. But this Transformers Armada Happy Meal toy is so bad that even a poor kid would say, “Man, get that shit up out my face!” There have been many bad Transformers Happy Meal toys over the years, and this is merely one of them.

This isn’t even a quality yo-yo. This is no Duncan, and is more like the kind of thing the dentist gives you at the end of your cleaning if you were a good boy.

Good old little green army men. A true classic. Hey, wait a minute. What the Hell happened to the dude in the middle at the top?! He ain’t got no arms! What did my cousins DO to him? I hope they at least said a prayer over him. It’s what their mom would’ve wanted.

“How are your crayons hanging?”
“Low, and to the left”

How does this happen? I mean, I guess they got hot or something and then cooled down, but they’re all curved like that. It’s eerie. It’s somewhat perverted. I have questions.

This is a Wild Planet motion alarm. Whenever there are commercials for things like this, it’s always some little boy trying to protect his worthless shit from being touched by some bratty little sister. I don’t think they really work like that. I’ve never actually used it, but my pal Tarek got it for me in college on an a cappella gig I wasn’t able to attend. Looking back, though, I could think of quite a few uses for this thing for a growing man…

Ah, we come to the end, featuring a pair that will set off all your nostalgia boner alarms. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow here were from a G.I. Joe two-pack that I think contained a DVD. I remember they were on clearance, and I think I only bought them for that DVD. I don’t even collect this scale, ‘cause these are just “dolls” at this point, but it must’ve been quite a good price, because here they are. They came with a shit ton of accessories, half of which you see strewn about here. There are also a lot missing. Like, where are Storm Shadow’s ninja booties? I’m not even gonna try to put this stuff back on them. To the thrift store they go, and their next owner can worry about all that.

So, there ya have it. My journey back in toy time ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. You win, Kondo!!!! None of that brought me any joy. Still, it was nice to take a stroll down memory lane, thinking of all the terrible ways and reasons I’ve wasted good money. I hope you’ve gotten some kind of enjoyment out of this, and if you want more like it, then leave a comment below. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe! I don’t know what I mean by that…I just hear the YouTubers saying it all the time.

18th Jan2019

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2018

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 In Movies

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

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

2018 In Television

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

2018 In Music

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

West Week Ever Recipients of 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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