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.

11th Jan2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/11/19

by Will

Welcome to the first West Week Ever of 2019! Not to worry – West Year Ever is coming early next week, but I had to keep the trains running on time. A LOT has happened since last we met, and I’m exhausted even thinking about it. Let’s see if I can make it entertaining for ya!

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Ya know, I was really thinking I could retire this feature this year. I mean, it started getting a little stale, even though new names were added to the #MeToo list by the week. The problem, however, is that the whole thing ran out of steam. We’re 11 days into 2019, and I can honestly say that #MeToo is dead. Sure, there are some last vestiges around, but it seems most folks just don’t give much of shit anymore. It’s hard for outrage to mean anything when your constant state is “outraged”. It’s simply the new normal, and we’re seeing not much coming from it. Take these examples:

John Lasseter Update – Lasseter, the former head of Pixar, is a great example of the problem with #MeToo. Everyone says they want “justice” for the victims, but they’ve never come to consensus as to what that looks like. From everything I read, Lasseter just liked to hug ya too long, like the creepy uncle at the family reunion. He wasn’t dangling jobs, nor was he having sexual contact with these women. So, as long as he learns from his mistake, and says “Sorry, the Hug Factory’s closed”, shouldn’t that be enough? Still, folks had problems with him being named the head of SkyDance Animation this week. I mean, the man has got to eat. He’s got bills to pay. But folks seem to want him to never work again. So, if we run these people out of their industries, what then? How will they live? Who will support them? Ya can’t put him in jail ’cause what he did was hardly a jailable offense. What happens when we finally put down the pitchforks?

Bryan Singer – The rumors and allegations about Singer have been flying around for years, and it’s reportedly his unprofessional behavior that prompted Rami Malek to get him fired from directing Bohemian Rhapsody (which is interesting, since Malek has nowhere near that kind of clout, so whatever Singer was doing must’ve been pretty bad). Still, that didn’t stop the film from winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama Motion Picture AND Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture. Hate to break it to ya, but a lot of that comes down to the director, which is why it’s funny that nobody mentioned Singer that night. It’s even reported that when asked, some involved said “Tonight is not the night to discuss that.”  Still, Singer was still credited on the film, so he won an award, too. Here’s how he handled that:

He’s like the Gotham City villain who boasts when Batman fails to catch him.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Update – Whenever more news breaks on this story, I’m giddier than Roscoe P. Coltrane when he thinks he’s finally about to nab those Duke boys! National Geographic has decided to temporarily shut down production on Tyson’s talk show, StarTalk, until the investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against him is concluded. Considering that National Geographic is currently owned by Fox, this could all be some conspiracy to attack the science community, but I don’t care. Somebody that smug had it coming, as “the bill comes due.”

R. Kelly – Do I have to talk about R. Kelly? Do I? OK, well the Black Community has been glued to their TV sets watching the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, in which the sexual abuse allegations against the singer are explored. If you don’t have time to watch it, CNN has a great timeline of the R. Kelly scandal. It has forced everyone to take a side. Either they’re like, “Naw, he’s cancelled!” or they’re defending him with “But what about ‘I Believe I Can Fly’?!” Artists who’ve worked with him in the past are now denouncing the collaborations. For example, Lady Gaga apologized for her duet with him, and said that she would be removing the song from streaming services. Increasingly there are cries of “Why isn’t R. Kelly in jail?!”, but it took 30 years for Bill Cosby, so maybe it’ll take just as long here. After all, a criminal investigation on him has been opened in Georgia following the airing of the documentary. That said, he still has his supporters, as his sales and streams surged following the broadcast. I mean, they could prove that Kelly filled Aaliyah’s luggage with rocks, and some folks would still defend him, so…

Harvey Weinstein Update – How fitting that a discussion on #MeToo should end where it began. Old Harv’ is still in the shit, but this week a judge threw Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment suit against him out of court. It was ruled that a hotel encounter between the two did not count as “workplace sexual harassment”. The court, however, was quick to state that it was not doubting that Judd had been sexually harassed, but rather she had not been harassed under the California statute under which she had filed her suit. Judd plans to pursue her other cases against Weinstein for defamation and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

It’s been an interesting time in the world of professional wrestling. First off, Jason David Frank, known for his portrayal of the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Tommy Oliver, will be stepping into the ring for the Laredo Wrestling Alliance in Texas. Um, really? He doesn’t even have the clout to get into TNA or something? I’m really hoping he’s just doing this as a favor to some high school friend who owes money to a loan shark. Anyway, he appeared at LWA’s last show of 2018, sparking an angle with some wrestler named Brysin Scott, who more assuredly works at a Jiffy Lube during the week. Seriously, I have 2.5 times this guy’s Twitter followers. When’s my match?!

Meanwhile, there was a wrestling match in a bar, so you know it was one of the classiest matches in history. Wrestler Priscilla Kelly horrified the world when she pulled a bloody tampon from her tights, and shoved it down her opponent’s throat. The video of the incident went viral, making her the talk of the squared circle. While she’s being criticized by older wrestlers, she has admitted that it wasn’t an actual menstrual tampon, and that the act was in line with former gimmicks from male wrestlers, like Mick Foley’s Mr. Socko from WWE’s Attitude Era.

Finally, on the heels of the success of September’s “All In” independent wrestling event, All Elite Wrestling was announced this week, with Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks as both in-ring performers and executive vice presidents for the promotion. Financially backed by Tony and Shahid Khan (owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars), the creation of this promotion will undoubtedly be a blow to Ring of Honor, from which most of the wrestlers came. Right now, though, the biggest name on the roster is Chris Jericho who, at 48, probably doesn’t have much gas left in the tank. In any case, between Vince McMahon bringing back the XFL, the Khans investing in this, and the Bezos divorce, 2019 is looking to be a big year for billionaires throwing their money away.

So there’s this controversy in Rochester, NY, where meteorologist Jeremy Kappell was fired for an on-air slip gaffe, where he referred to a local park as Martin Luther Coon Park. Now, he has said that it was an accident, as he was trying to say the name too quickly and stumbled over his words. Are people really still using “coon” as a slur in 2019? There’s been a bunch of back and forth online about whether or not it was intentional, with NBC’s Al Roker coming to his defense. Here’s how I’d say you determine it: is the park located in the Black part of town? Considering everything named after MLK is usually in the absolute worst parts of towns, I’ll bet it is. If so, there’s a good chance it was an intentional, though antiquated, slur. Even as a Freudian slip, that shit came from somewhere. However, if it somehow is miraculously located in the suburbs, nestled between a Whole Foods and an Orangetheory Fitness, I think it was truly an accident. According to Wikipedia, “The park is open year-round and features an ice skating rink and live music venue.” Yeah, that was an accident. Maybe Fox News will hire him, as they fight “PC culture” and all that jazz. Do they even have weather on Fox News, or do they just blame all the precipitation on the Liberals and call it a day?

Speaking of controversies, Oscar favorite Green Book is MIRED in them. First off, co-writer Nick Vallelonga came under fire this week when an old tweet of his surfaced, where he appeared to support Donald Trump’s claims that Muslims were cheering on rooftops on 9/11. Not a good look when 1) Vallelonga’s father is one of the main characters in the movie, which is about racism & tolerance and 2) the film’s star, Mahershala Ali, is Muslim. Womp womp. He issued the same meaningless apology that folks issue when these things happen these days, but it’s unclear if it will affect the film’s Oscar chances. It did win the Best Screenplay Golden Globe Sunday night, which was also shared with director Peter Farrelly. Farrelly is involved in a bit of controversy, as it’s surfaced that he used to flash his genitals to the stars and crew on his film sets. And to cap it off, the family of Dr. Don Shirley – the man the film is ultimately about – said that they were never given any input on the film. So, is this a perfect storm of fuckery, or is it a hit job meant to sink the film’s award chances? The world may never know…

Trailer Park

IO – How many times is Hollywood gonna keep making this movie? I don’t even really watch that many movies, and I’ve seen this movie. This is basically The Mountain Between Us – IN SPACE! One of two things happens: they eventually make it to the launch site, despite adversity and challenges OR they stay on Earth and repopulate. If you ask me, I’d take fucking over the risk of space travel ANY day.

Russian Doll – Season 1

I love how Natasha Lyonne is notoriously batshit crazy, yet still manages to get work. Good for her! Anyway, I’d watch this as a movie, but I can’t see staying engaged enough to come back for multiple episodes. I also feel like it’s a stretch to want to get more than one season out of this premise, but what do I know? Sure, it’s got that “Produced by Amy Poehler” attached to it, but that didn’t help I Feel Bad.

Little – As much as I love the actress who plays Diane on Black-ish, this premise is EXHAUSTING. I will, however, give them credit for the White love interest.

Carmen Sandiego – NO! NO, NO, NO! Let’s take it back to the source. Carmen Sandiego is a stone cold bitch. She’s a former ACME agent who, somehow, fell from grace and used everything she’d learned to become the world’s greatest thief. She is NOT Robin Hood. Everything doesn’t have to be black and white. Do we always have to teach kids that there’s right and wrong? Can’t we teach them there’s sometimes a “wright”, gray area where some things dwell? Carmen is in that gray area. She doesn’t need some deep cover justification for what she does. She just steals shit because she’s a disgruntled former employee and she’s sticking it to her old bosses. THAT’s the cartoon I wanna see!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • A whole bunch of shows nobody was really watching were cancelled, including Marlon (NBC), Midnight, Texas (NBC), and Z Nation (SyFy).
  • After the success of the “Elseworlds” crossover, The CW has formally ordered a pilot for Batwoman.
  • NBC announced that Al Roker, Dylan Dreyer, Craig Melvin, and Sheinelle Jones will be the permanent replacements for Megan Kelly’s vacated 9 AM slot of Today.
  • Paramount has quietly cancelled Star Trek 4, which isn’t much of of a surprise considering that cast was getting to be too big for those individual roles. Then you’ve got to factor in how the mob killed Chekov…
  • Toddler favorite “Baby Shark” entered the Billboard Top 100 this week at #32. Luckily the song hasn’t really taken over the West household, as we’re more of a “Finger Family” crowd.
  • Karen Gillan is slated to star in the film Gunpowder Milkshake, which would sound more interesting if we didn’t already live in a world that gave us Lollipop Chainsaw
  • Criminal Minds has been renewed for a 15th, and final, 10-episode season. I guess your grandpa will just have to spend that time watching NCIS: Boca Raton or whatever the fuck CBS puts in its place.
  • Aquaman has made over $1 billion dollars at the international box office. If you needed proof that we’re living in the Darkest Timeline, I think that’s it right there.
  • It’s official – a Venom sequel is coming! Seeing as how the first one did really well, and Sony is in the business of making money, this was a no-brainer.
  • Luke Wilson has been cast as Pat Dugan/S.T.R.I.P.E. in Stargirl on the DC Universe streaming service. Meanwhile, some blog no one has ever heard of reported that the DC Universe service is having trouble getting subscribers. Well, take it from this blog no one has ever heard of that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Besides Timothy Dalton in Doom Patrol, I think Wilson is the biggest star on the “network”. Do you really wanna build your empire on Luke Wilson? The lesser of the Wilson brothers?!
  • Apparently there are radio signals coming from 1.5 billion light years away, which is unfortunate because we do not have the proper leadership for an alien invasion right now.
  • Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Batman Beyond (Batman of the Future, for you international folks). While we only got 3 seasons, it was a great show worth checking out. Also, look for some Batman goodness on this site pretty soon!
  • Kevin Smith has a Jay & Silent Bob reboot moving into pre-production, which is where most of his projects go to die. Remember Clerks 3? Mallrats 2? All dead. But Pepperidge Farm remembers.

  • Walmart impressed even their haters with this love letter to pop culture during the Golden Globes last Sunday. This almost had the West Week Ever it’s so good!
  • I mentioned it earlier, but the world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, might have to settle for being 5th richest, as he and wife Mackenzie announced they’re divorcing after 25 years of marriage, and she could easily get half (no pre-nup). This would make her the richest woman in the world. Think of all the shoes she’ll be able to buy!
  • While on the circuit to promote Upside, Kevin Hart is still apologizing for not apologizing. His next stand-up special will probably be called something like “Done Being Sorry”. I don’t even care if it comes out a year from now. He just can’t let go.
  • In order to focus on brands that they own, Mattel relinquished the DC Comics boys toy license, which has been picked up by Spin Master. While a bunch of folks online are like, “Good riddance, Mattel!”, I don’t think Spin Master knows what they’re getting themselves into.

 

Chances are you didn’t make it through this week without hearing about Marie Kondo. Her Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, debuted last week, and she’s been the talk of the town. You see, she developed the KonMari method of organization, where you hold your belongings, and get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. She emphasizes that the art of tidying up is not in deciding what to throw away, but rather in deciding what to keep.

Yeah, yeah. it all sounds well and good, but people are fickle creatures. For example, there are songs I hated 20 years ago that I enjoy now. Still, when I download new albums (yes, I’m the guy who still does that), I immediately delete the songs I don’t like. I could be missing out on something that’s an acquired taste! Maybe I just needed more time. This happens a lot with collectors, as we buy and sell the same items multiple times. Maybe it didn’t bring us joy at that very minute. Maybe we had an emergency bill to pay. Either way, it’s a cycle and not a final path to decluttering your life.

Despite my lack of faith in the method, though, it’s taking the world by storm. Everyone is going through their belongings, hoping to feel joy from any of them. Meanwhile, the thrift stores are piling up with new donations, which is always a good thing for thrifters like me #chaching.

So, I may not like what you do, Marie Kondo, but I’m sure glad that you’re doing it. For that, Marie Kondo and her KonMari method had the West Week Ever.

04th Jan2019

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2018

by Will

Well, here we are again, with another year behind us. While this is the second year of me compiling this list, I’m actually starting to enjoy it more than West Year Ever. I know that most of you don’t listen to “my” music, so it’s basically me introducing new stuff to you rather than boosting things you’ve already heard. I have, however, changed the way it works this year. You see, last year I had this rule that the song had to be released in 2017. This was problematic because it left out a lot of songs that came out near the tail end of 2016 that didn’t really get exposure until 2017. So, this year I’m throwing that out the window; if it was released as a single, released to radio, or just plain became “popular” in 2018, it counts.

Remember, this is just me, talking about music I loved during the year. It doesn’t necessarily take into account chart position or anything like that. Some of these songs will be hugely popular, while some you’ll be experiencing for the first time. And, yes, while a lot of these are part of the “country” genre, I put that in quotes because format really means nothing anymore. You could put the vast majority of them on Z100, Hot 99.5, or KIIS-FM (basically any iHeartMedia station with a Jingle Ball) and they’d be right at home. Don’t believe me? Then let’s take a closer look!

40. Dean Summerwind (Dustin Christensen) – Parked By The Lake

Let’s start out with a joke track, huh? After 2018, I feel like we need a laugh. I was introduced to this song by The Bobby Bones Show, as Bobby had stumbled upon it online and felt the world needed to hear it. The beauty of it is its earnestness. I mean, Summerwind sings it like he’s NOT just singing the same 6 words over and over again. The song is actually by season 9 contestant of The Voice, Dustin Christensen, who released it online as “Dean Summerwind”. I’m not sure if the exposure really did much for the song, but it has a little over 400,000 streams on YouTube, so maybe it’s helping to get him some attention.

39. Travis Denning – David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs

I swear, I didn’t put 2 joke tracks back to back! This is actually a REAL song. Still, I love a song that tells a story, and this one does it in spades. In case you didn’t click “Play”, let me break it down for ya: Denning is singing about the guy whose fake ID he’d bought in order to buy beer. Since he knew he’d be quizzed about his demographic info, the chorus is basically him running down all the stats he’d memorized from the ID. Well, I thought this was a kinda clever idea for a song.

38. Brantley Gilbert – The Ones That Like Me

First, some backstory. I wasn’t so sure about Brantley Gilbert. I mean, you see him in the video, and we all know what we tend to think about country artists. He wasn’t necessarily a guy I think I’d want to befriend. Then, something earlier this year changed my mind about him. Remember that Waffle House shooting, where James Shaw Jr (a Black man) overpowered the gunman? Well, when the dust settled, Gilbert started a fundraiser for Shaw and the victims of the shooting. Immediately, I was like, “You OK, Gilbert.”

So, this song. It really speaks to me – so much so that, were I a tattoo person, I’d probably get the chorus put on my back or something. I’ve been blogging for 15 years, and pretty active on social media for, like, 11. I think this song definitely describes me both IRL and online. I’ve come to find I’m somewhat polarizing. You either love me or you don’t give a shit. At least that’s what my Google Analytics stats would tell ya!


37. Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – The Rest of Our Life

So, you’ll know this song is “country” just by looking at the artists, right? Well, did you know it was co-written by Ed Sheeran? Huh? Well, did ya? Anyway, this entry exemplifies a problem I have with the format of these posts. Ideally I’d throw together a Spotify playlist, but not everyone uses Spotify, so I use YouTube. That, however, is problematic because sometimes the video distracts from the song. That’s what’s happening here. What the Hell is up with McGraw’s hat? It’s not even a normal cowboy hat, and he’s wearing that with a tuxedo?! And I love how it’s trying to convey “We fight like everyone else”, yet they have to get their limo driver to stop and let them out, and you just know Faith didn’t have any money to pay that diner. Anyway, it’s a nice song about spending your lives together, so close your eyes and listen to really get that message.

36. LANCO – Born to Love You

LANCO made last year’s list with “Greatest Love Story”, and they’re back this year with this song. Did you realize that the Backstreet Boys never really stopped recording or performing? No, they’ve spent the past 10 years or so cranking out forgettable songs that sound just like this. That is when OneRepublic doesn’t put out something like this first. What I’m saying is that it’s not an amazing song, but it’s pretty catchy and would be right at home outside of country radio, where it hasn’t really performed too well.

35. Florida Georgia Line – Simple

I actually really like Florida Georgia Line, and have ever since Nelly helped them put “Cruise” on the map all those years ago. The problem, though, is that for every 3 songs they put out with the impact of “Cruise”, we get a “Simple”. It just didn’t leave an impact on me like a lot of their other stuff. That’s why this isn’t higher. Still, who doesn’t love a song that teaches you how to count AND spell?! Anyway, this probably won’t be the last time we hear from them on this list…

34. Thomas Rhett – Life Changes

Again, a catchy song that tells a story. A few years ago, nobody really knew who Rhett was. As his star was rising, he and his wife adopted a baby from Uganda, only to find out that his wife was pregnant. So, now he’s juggling his new family with his career. He put out a few songs this year, but this one wasn’t my favorite, which is why it’s down here. We’ll come back to him later.

33. Jason Aldean – You Make It Easy

I like its bluesy sound. It’s that easy. Still, it’s not my favorite Aldean release of the year, which we’ll get to in a bit.


32. Dylan Scott – Hooked

Scott is just BEGGING to cross over to other formats. I mean, his last single’s chorus talked about how he loved when his wife rapped Eminem songs. It was a decidedly country song, but I don’t feel that way about this offering, which is pretty catchy. If he keeps putting out stuff like this he just might get his crossover wish.

31. Dustin Lynch – Good Girl

The chorus here is just great to me. This might be too country for some, but I don’t care, I don’t care. “I could take you home to mama, take you to the church right down the street!” It was a song that definitely grew on me, but it’s more infectious than you might think right now. Anyway, this is a case where I actually like what the video does for the song, as it’s the antithesis of what the song is talking about. She is NOT a good girl!

30. Chris Jansen – Drunk Girl

OK, if you’ve made it this far, thank you. And also, I’m sorry. Why? Because you’re going to HATE me for this one. It’s basically the country version of “The Christmas Shoes” in how cloying it is, but I do think it’s a clever spin on what you think it’s going to be about. Still, it’s a good message for those willing to heed it, and it’s kinda weird the video comes with a trigger warning, but I get it. In the words of every man after a scandal, “as a father of daughters”, I get it.

29. David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

There’s not a lot here, but it got a lot of airplay and eventually worked its way into my heart. It’s just got that laid back beat, and it’s the kind of thing you’d expect from Chesney. It’s “White folks smoking weed on the beach” music. White people can actually get away with that shit! It’s basically a modern, Caucasian “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

28. Luke Combs – Beautiful Crazy

You’re going to be seeing Combs a lot on this list. I feel like country, more than other genres, operates like pro wrestling. Certain artists get a “push” to the top more than others. For whatever reason, the labels decided that Combs was going to get that push. I’m not taking anything away from him. I enjoy pretty much everything he puts out. I just find it odd how some get the push while others don’t. He doesn’t look like every other country star today, so maybe that’s why. His look is “relatable”. Anyway, this is just a nice little ballad, but we’ll see more of him down the line.


27. Luke Bryan – Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset

When my wife first hear this song, she said “That’s a guaranteed way to get skin cancer.” While she’s not wrong, it’s a catchy song. A lot of the country was introduced to Bryan as he joined the judges panel on the American Idol reboot. I didn’t watch any of that, so I don’t know if they ever used any of his music. I will say this is probably his strongest song on this list, from a “musical” perspective, but he will appear later for reasons.

26. Lindsay Ell – Champagne

Remember I was talking about Bobby Bones? Well, he also introduced me to Ell. You see, they were dating and he gave her music a lot of exposure on his show. That backfired, though, because a lot of other country radio shows hate him, so they wouldn’t play her music. He felt bad that he was affecting her career, and they broke up. And she started getting more airplay elsewhere. I don’t understand what her affinity is for the country genre, though, because this song is NOT country, and she would do so much better as a Top 40 artist.

25. Jordan Davis – Singles You Up

I like the phrase “singles you up” better than “breaks up with you”. Like, you’re talking to your friend about his relationship, and you just drop, “Oh, she’s about to single you up!” I really hope that becomes a thing, but everyone knows that slang is stolen from the gays and the Blacks, so unless one of them created it, it ain’t gonna stick. Anyway, it was a big song this year, and it’s just so fun to sing along to.


24. Kenny Chesney – Get Along

I hated this song when it came out, and I remember even linking to it with “Fuck Kenny Chesney” back when it came out. You see, I hated the timing of the song, as it was when everyone was calling for civility while doing nothing to actually promote it. It was that “There’s bad people on both sides” argument, when one side had Neo Nazis who were running over protestors, while the other side had knitted pussy hats. NOT the same.

Anyway, after cooling down, and if you can actually stand the cloying sentimentality of it, it’s a catchy song. Plus, I love how stream of consciousness it gets at the end of the chorus: “Learn to dance, call your mom, buy a boat.” Um, some of these are easy, and some are gonna require a loan agent. Anyway, I think the video is tone deaf, because while Chesney probably thinks it’s something of a love letter to his fans, it doesn’t promote the diversity the song speaks of. Ain’t no Black people at a Kenny Chesney concert. Shit, I once had a country mega ticket, but I wasn’t going to a Kenny Chesney concert. If you get bored, just look up how many fights and 911 calls those things typically generate.

23. Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty

Ah, the debut of Underwood’s new face. You see, a little over a year ago, she had a bad fall at her house and her face required a bunch of stitches. She was holed up like Jack Napier for a bit because she didn’t want folks to see her. Anyway, this was something of her “comeback” from that ordeal and, surprise, she looks exactly the same. Anyway, it’s a pretty good power ballad, but it wasn’t strong enough to really get her into my top 20.

22. Brett Young – Mercy

Last year, Young made #33 on this list, with “In Case You Didn’t Know”. Just like that song, this is a beautiful ballad, with nothing inherently country about it. I’m starting to think that country is the new contemporary Christian genre, in that it attracts new artists because of the ease of entry. Then, once established, they gravitate to their natural genre (see: Creed, Katy Perry).

21. Dan + Shay – Speechless

Dan + Shay are prime examples of what I was saying in the last entry. Listening to the Bobbycast (Man, I pimp Bones so hard he ought to be paying me!), these guys did NOT set out to be country artists. Hell, Shay was a solo artist on T-Pain’s Nappy Boy Entertainment before the duo was formed. No, these guys are less Brooks & Dunn, and more Savage Garden. Anyway, pretty song, but not my fave D+S track of the year, which we’re getting to. You know how some movies are clearly made for “Oscar season”? Well, this was clearly made to cash in on Wedding Season.


20. Jake Owen – I Was Jack (You Were Diane)

Funny story – I always hated “Jack & Diane”. Even with its iconic intro, I couldn’t deal when the lyrics started. I didn’t even like when Jessica Simpson sampled it. Then some things started happening in pop culture, which softened my stance on the song. First, there was Black-ish, where the twins are named Jack & Diane, which I thought was kinda cute. Then, Jake Owen came along with this song. I like Owen, and I felt he did something different with the source material. It’s basically a Jack & Diane remix, and who doesn’t love a good remix? Anyway, I think I may like “Jack & Diane” now.

19. Midland – Burn Out

Midland made #5 on last year’s list, with “Drinkin’ Problem”. This song is more of the same, and it’s not higher because I just can’t vouch for their “authenticity”. Like I said last year, it’s almost like they’re cosplaying country. They don’t come from the industry, and it feels like their act was put together studying game tapes. Still, they’re so fucking good at the vintage country formula that you can’t help but be impressed by what they’re cranking out. I also love how all their videos take place in this early 80s yesteryear.


18. Thomas Rhett – Marry Me

Hey, Rhett’s back! This time, he’s singing about “The One That Got Away” – only now he’s got to go to her wedding. I don’t feel like this got as much airplay as “Life Changes”, but I felt it was the better song.


17. Maren Morris – Rich

Last year, Morris was #15 on this list with “I Could Use a Love Song”. Again, another artist who could be doing so much more if she crossed over, as we’re going to see in a bit. Anyway, it’s so coquettish how could you NOT love this song?


16. Jason Aldean, featuring Miranda Lambert – Drowns The Whiskey

I love the play on words here, about how whiskey’s supposed to drown the memories, but instead it’s the other way around. I feel like the song kinda misses its mark, though. With the addition of Lambert, you’d think it was supposed to be like the old country duets, but this is no Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitter collaboration. Lambert really doesn’t bring enough to the song to warrant her being here. Any up and coming country startlet could’ve done this harmony. Did Kelsi Ballerini not answer Aldean’s calls or something?


15. Luke Combs – She Got The Best of Me

Our old buddy Luke Combs is back, breaking the top 20 with this hit. I don’t know if the voiceover in the video is true, but if he really didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 21, he’s done AMAZING things in the past 7 years. Kind of inspirational, really. Again, though, the video is distracting because you’re led to believe the “she” is the chick from the breaking news segment at the beginning of the video, and he she got the best of him because he can’t get over her death. But then it turns into a standard on the road/tour video, and just kinda kicks that narrative to the curve. Anyway, good song.


14. Dierks Bentley featuring Brothers Osborne – Burning Man

Bentley’s first appearance in the Top 20 won’t be his last. We’ll get to that later. No, I really like this song, and can’t really categorize it. It’s not “country”, but it’s not “rock”. It’s got that bar band vibe to it, where it wouldn’t have been out of place for it to be a Hootie and the Blowfish song.


13. Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey – The Middle

If you’ve set foot in a Target this year, then you’ve no doubt heard this song. It’s just as infectious as Zedd’s entry from last year, “Stay”, featuring Alessia Cara, and it shows just what Morris is capable of doing outside the country genre. More of this, please!


12. Brett Eldredge – The Long Way

A ballad about a guy wanting to know more about his new girl by her showing him around her hometown, taking the “long way” around. I think it’s a beautiful song and sentiment. He wants to know her in and out and thinks this is best way to know where she comes from. I like Eldredge and he’s had a bunch of songs that would’ve made the list had I been doing this longer than 2 years. Anyway, I expect to see more of him here in the future.


11. Morgan Wallen featuring Florida Georgia Line – Up Down

I told ya Florida Georgia Line would be back! I love this song but I just couldn’t let it crack the Top 10. If you remember, Morgan got to #7 with “The Way I Talk”, but this song didn’t speak to me as much as that one. Still, it’s a great FLAGA Line collab, and just a fun song. It’s a song about drinkin’ and the weekend. What’s more country than that? Plus, bonus points for shoving “BFE” into a song that gets national airplay.


10. Tim McGraw – Neon Church

Who knew McGraw and his wacky hat would make it back to the countdown? Well, if you’re a regular West Week Ever reader, then it shouldn’t be too much of a suprise, as I basically spotlighted it one week. Yeah, it’s Tim McGraw, but this is basically his rendition of “Purple Rain”. Now, some of you might call that sacrilege, but I’m talking more about what’s going on in the song’s background than I am about him attempting to evoke Prince. I looped this song for an entire work day once, so if that’s not enough for it to crack the Top 10, I don’t know what is.


9. Luke Bryan – Most People Are Good

OK, I feel like I should apologize for this song first. Isn’t that sad? I mean, I really like the song, even if it’s not Bryan’s strongest vocals of the year (those would’ve been in “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset”). No, I’m apologizing because I know how treacly the message of the song is going to come across. Hell, it’s almost the same as Chesney’s with “Get Along”. The difference here, though, is that there’s a subtle message that gets lost: in the chorus “I believe you love who you love, ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of.” That’s the closest country music has ever gotten to not only acknowledging, but also embracing, its LGBTQ fan base. Plus, it really does have a positive message. For the record, this is the video Chesney should’ve shot for “Get Along”.


8. Jake Owen – Down To The Honkeytonk

I love the Hell out of this song, and let me tell you why. A few years ago, I had a shortlived feature (“shortlived”? I think I wrote TWO posts) called “Reboot That Bitch” where I’d take an old concept and reboot it. Ya know, kinda like what Hollywood is doing now. Anyway, I chose the Lee Majors 80s drama The Fall Guy, and I feel like this song would be PERFECT as the theme song for a reboot of that show. As the original theme sung about the lack of glory behind being a stuntman, this song is about a regular guy who might not be spectacular, but in his neck of the woods – the honkytonk – he’s The Man. Press play, close yur eyes, and picture a Rounded-Line 1981 GMC K-2500 Wideside jumping over shit.


7. Luke Combs – One Number Away

If I were doing a West Year Ever of just music, it’d go to Luke Combs. Making his THIRD appearance on the chart, and OH SHIT! THIS VIDEO IS THE PREQUEL TO “SHE GOT THE BEST OF ME”!!! Yeah, I’m just watching this video for the first time. Huh. So, he took this and made it a Don’t Talk and Drive PSA. Interesting choice. Anyway, I feel like, as with all of Combs’s songs, he really puts his soul into this one. It was kinda hard ranking his 3 biggest singles of the year, but I definitely feel this was his best.

6. Blake Shelton – Turnin’ Me On

This song isn’t as fun as Shelton’s entry last year, “I’ll Name The Dogs”. Still, there was something haunting about this song, and I didn’t realize what it was until a local DJ spelled it out for me: It’s basically a Stevie Nicks song. You can get lost in its retro sound, and I recommend that you do, because otherwise you’ll realize he’s singing about Gwen Stefani, and it’ll take you completely out of it (I’m pretty sure her kisses taste like Bubble Yum and NOT whiskey). Anyway, this song achieves that same yesteryear vibe that Midland specialize in.


5. Dierks Bentley – Woman, Amen

A bombastic ode to women, from a country star no less! I really like this track, and it became something as an inside joke in our family. My wife and I would listen to it, and I’d say something like, “Man, she sounds terrific. I wonder where I could get a wife like that.” Yeah, I’m an asshole, but we all had a good laugh.


4. Dan + Shay – Tequila

They’re back! While they closed out the year with “Speechless”, they dominated most of the year with “Tequila”. It’s just so smooth – something tequila is not. Still, it is highly relatable in how the taste of something can bring back so many memories. I really hope more people discover this duo.


3. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow

Another song that got a mention in West Week Ever. In fact, it HAD the West Week Ever. From the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, this song is just so much better than it has any right to be. Cooper handles his part deftly, but Stefani (I’m not even gonna call her Gaga here because she’s shed that disguise effortlessly) really swings for the fences in the second half of the song. Another song I looped for an entire work day, as I kept discovering new things about it.


2. Jimmie Allen – Best Shot

I’m sure some of y’all skimmed this list, and said “What, Will? No Black people at all?” Well, here ya go. It’s not that I’m holding out on you, but there just aren’t many Black artists on the stations I listen to. For the longest time, there was just Darius Rucker and Cowboy Troy. Well, that changed this year, as Jimmie Allen made his way onto the scene. It’s good to see a brother make his way in an industry not necessarily cut out for him, and he also just seems like a genuinely good guy. I’ve listened to a ton of his interviews this year, and followed his rise. “Best Shot” is such a great song.  He probably doesn’t do enough vocal runs to get on R&B radio, but he’s a force that really deserves to be out there, and I’m glad he’s found his way in a genre that might surprise some.


1. Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line – Meant To Be

Funny story – this song just missed making it onto the bottom of the 2017 list, but I didn’t think it was going to make much of an impact. The thing I like about FLAGA Line is that they don’t always have to be the center of attention. Sure, they’ve got their own hits, but they spent a good chunk of the past year and a half just doing guest spots for other artists, like Morgan Wallen and Rexha here. Meanwhile, I felt like Rexha was just another flash in the pan Pop THOT who’d be here today, and gone tomorrow. Surel she’s hot, but was that going to matter on the charts? Well, it made Rexha the first female artist to debut at the top of the Hot Country Songs chart, and proceeded to spend FIFTY WEEKS at the top spot. It spent the majority of the year as the #1 country song. It’s gone 4 times platinum in a music industry where songs and albums just don’t perform like that anymore. It was without a doubt the biggest country song of the year and, with its crossover appeal, was one of the biggest songs, period, of 2018.

So, there you have it. They might not have all been the best songs of 2018,  but they were certainly my favorite songs of the year. I’m sure that you stumbled upon something up there that you liked, so drop me a comment down in my shiny new Disqus commenting system!

21st Dec2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/21/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

CBS – This is like one of those movies where a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated plotlines converge and turn out to be related to one another in the giant, overarching story.

Over the past few months, I’ve pointed out the Les Moonves situation, as well as last week’s Michael Weatherly allegations from Eliza Dushku. Well, Dushku has shed a bit more light on the whole quagmire in a post for The Boston Globe. In it, she revealed that Weatherly used to boast about his friendship with Moonves, and that he would use Moonves’s plane, and they’d vacation together. While it probably originally seemed like Weatherly was bragging, it’s now clear that this was also something of a threat, as he was indicating he had sway with the big guy, and Dushku realized this the hard way when she got fired. 

Well, in an interesting twist, it has now been revealed that Moonves was behind the $9.5 million settlement to Dushku, as he was trying to quietly resolve the matter as CBS was in talks to (unsuccessfully) merge with Viacom. Oh, and he allegedly snuck the payment into Bull‘s production budget in order to “keep it off the books”.

Now, here’s where I get messy: ever since Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, wrote that op-ed revealing an affair that Joss had on the Buffy set, it’s been rumored that the other party in that was Dushku. This theory has been seemingly bolstered by the fact that Whedon kept insisting on creating opportunities for them to work together (like with Dollhouse, which was picked up by Fox without a fully fleshed out concept, and was merely “a show from Joss Whedon, starring the other Slayer from Buffy“), and the fact that Dushku wasn’t invited to the Buffy 20th anniversary. With this in mind, you could say that Weatherly was just “shooting his shot”. By no means does it make what he did right, but it does shed a bit more light on the context here. Cole specifically painted the other party in the affair as one of the “beautiful, needy, aggressive young women” that Whedon claimed to be surrounded by, which, if it was Dushku, would’ve made her the perfect target for Weatherly.

Now, let’s bring things back to Moonves. He was formally fired this week by CBS, and denied his $120 million severance package. The fact that he was involved in the Dushku payout certainly didn’t help matters for him, but this situation is hardly over. You don’t just roll over and let $120 million slip out of your hands. Plus, to make things even MORE complicated, it was revealed that part of his original separation agreement was that CBS must pay his legal fees. That said, he could, in theory, take CBS to court to fight for his severance package, and the suit would be on CBS’s own dime. Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta, I guess. By no means am I Team Moonves; I’m just constantly amazed by how corporations enter into these agreements that will do nothing but fuck them over in the end. This is about to be VERY expensive for CBS, where Moonves will walk away with something, plus he will have gotten away with all the lives and careers he’s ruined.

Stoney Westmoreland – Not a household name, but Westmoreland currently plays the grandfather on Disney Channel’s Andi Mack – or, he did until he was caught trying to solicit sex online from a 13 year old girl. He actually took an Uber to the girl’s house in Utah (where the show films), and was promptly arrested, and subsequently fired from the show. Oh, and did I mention that, in the show, he’s the grandfather to a 13 year old? This could’ve been much, MUCH worse, but here’s hoping he hasn’t been successful in any of these attempts in the past.

Salim Akil – Black folks are familiar with Akil, as he and wife, Mara Brock Akil, were behind shows like Girlfriends, The Game, etc. White folks probably best know him as the reason you feel slightly uncomfortable watching Black Lightning, as he’s the showrunner for that series, and the source of its “unapologetic Blackness”. Well, he and his wife were also the creative forces behind OWN’s Love Is ____, which was based on their relationship. The show had been renewed for a second season, but that decision was reversed this week. You see, Akil is being sued by a woman who alleges he abused her during an extended extramarital affair. While an investigation found no evidence of misconduct on the set of Love Is____, or on Black Lightning, OWN execs felt it was challenging to the narrative of the show to have these abuse claims out there. I mean, how do you keep up the guise of a “love story”, when it’s possible Akil was cheating for years? OWN seems to be taking the stance of “Hey, if this shit happened, it was before you worked for us, but it’s bad for business.” It feels like the kind of thing the Akils could fight if they wanted to, but it remains to be seen if they’ll pursue legal action.

Frankie Shaw – Here’s something we don’t get too often in HarassmentWatch(TM): a woman! The star/creator of Showtime’s SMILF is being  acccused of abusive behavior onset, especially stemming with how she filmed a particular sex scene. She told the actress that it would be a closed set, but then proceeded to turn on the monitors during the scene. That may not sound like much, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. You see, there are also reports that she segregated the writing staff, placing Black and White writers in different rooms. In all, it’s reported that she’s creating a chaotic and abusive work environment, and ABC Studios (which produces the show) is launching an investigation.

Morgan Spurlock Update – So, I’ve already written about how Mr. Super Size Me pretty much outed himself about past #MeToo behavior, which resulted in him losing a TON of work in its wake. Well, this week he was ordered to pay $1.18 million to Turner Entertainment to settle a lawsuit for his Who Runs The World? docuseries that was shelved after his confession. I was reading the comments section on Deadline, and someone pointed out how Spurlock ruined his whole life for nothing. That, despite telling on himself and his past behaviors, nobody ever came for him. No women popped up to corroborate the story. I just found that to be such an interesting perspective. Another commentor said that maybe he did it so “he could sleep at night”. Still, if a #MeToo falls in the woods, and no one’s there to hear it, was a dick pic truly sent?

I don’t mean to be dismissive of the #MeToo movement, but it really did devolve into something of a witch hunt with no real closure. And I deliberately use “witch hunt” because, to my knowledge, I don’t remember Salem immediately issuing an apology to all the “witches” they killed. No, that shit took HUNDREDS OF YEARS for those people to be exonerated. It’s sort of the same here. There are so many accusations, which are enough to ruin a career, but rarely any follow-up. For example, have we forgiven Ryan Seacrest? I don’t remember us deciding, as a culture, that he was off the hook. Shit, I remember how he was shunned on the red carpet for The Golden Globes because of those accusations from his former stylist. Still, that didn’t prevent him from taking Michael Strahan’s job, seated next to Kelly Ripa. So, I guess all is forgiven? Still, did that investigation close? Was the chick proven to be a liar? Did Hollywood’s elite say “Sorry for being an asshole to you while you were trying to do your job, Ryan”? No, I don’t think any of that happened, and that’s dangerous. I say that because for every Ryan Seacrest, who has the clout and money to bounce back, there are about 200 other dudes without those resources. The #MeToo movement shined the light on a lot of things that needed to be dealt with, and we all had fun with our finger pointing, but the 2018 model of the movement appears to finally be out of steam, and I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

Trailer Park

Hellboy (2019)

So, the HellHeads (Is that a thing? I’m gonna try to make that a thing) seem to HATE this trailer, but I see nothing wrong with it. I didn’t love those Ron Perlman movies as much as a lot of y’all did. I mean, they were OK, but I have this thing where I almost immediately discount anything with Jeffrey Tambor in it. Yes, I know he did Arrested Development and Larry Sanders, but to me he’ll always be the bumbling buffoon who somehow played, like, 14 different characters in the Three’s Company universe. So, those first 2 movies aren’t sacred (heh) to me. I won’t be seeing this in a theater, but I’ll totally watch it on FX late one night while trying to get my youngest to go to sleep.

Men In Black International

So, I really wish we were getting MIB23 instead of this, but here we are. Expect to hear reports of a ton of reshoots before this thing comes out. Why? Um, probably because everyone and their mom has already figured out that Liam Neeson is the villain. Shit, the voiceover at the beginning of this trailer, about how fate puts you where you’re supposed to be, is more than likely part of his reveal as the villain. No, they did a really shitty job of keeping that a secret, so I totally expect them to rewrite it so that Emma Thompson turns out to be the mole instead. Anyway, I’m getting something of a Spy Kids vibe from this trailer, and that’s not a good thing. I can’t even fully explain what I mean. It’s either that something is off or that it’s cheap, but that’s definitely what I’m getting here. Folks love Tessa Thompson (seriously, I’m almost surprised she didn’t get top billing over Hemsworth), so it’ll do well, but I’m not all that jazzed for it. I also still haven’t seen the 3rd one, so maybe I’m not the target audience.

Die Hard

I will NEVER understand you “Die Hard Isn’t a Christmas Movie!” people. IT TAKES PLACE DURING A GODDAMN OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY! That’s literally ALL you need. I know Hallmark and Lifetime have skewed your idea of what makes a “Christmas movie”, but it doesn’t require a moral or a cameo by Santa Claus. Some might say that it requires the reunion of estranged family members, which, guess what: THIS MOVIE HAS! Get outta my face with that “It’s not a Christmas movie” shit.

Mapplethorpe

I’m uncultured swine, but I’m also under the age of 50, so my only exposure to Robert Mapplethorpe was through a Family Guy cutaway gag about a coked up giraffe. That said, this looks really good. There’s no way I’m seeing it in a theater, ’cause it’s not a comic book movie, but I’ll definitely pick it up at a thrift store when I run across it.

Home Alone via Google Assistant

So, not really a trailer, but I still had to post it. I’m really glad Macaulay’s come around and seems to be embracing this role. I mean, it only took him 28 years! Seriously, though, he’s been shrouded in so much darkness much of that time, so I hope this is a sign that he’s finally emerging from all of that. Sure, he’d pop up every now and then in stuff like Saved! or Party Monster, but I really feel like we’ve been worse off for not experience what he could have been capable of doing. Between his family drama, the Michael Jackson shit, and all the drugs, it just seemed like such wasted talent. It’s nice to see him seemingly having fun. Even if it was just for a paycheck.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Timeless ended last night, despite being cancelled TWICE. I’m sure 2 of you out there were happy about that. I’ve never seen the show, but I’m over here, pissed off that they named the Black guy “Rufus”.
  • Speaking of franchises that just won’t die, there’s yet another Beverly Hills 90210 reboot on the horizon. Unlike the reboot on The CW from a few years back, this one is poised to focus more on the original cast, with Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, and Gabrielle Carteris slated to reprise their roles. Gabrielle Carteris?! Ain’t she, like, 80 now?! Anyway, since this revival is actually being developed by the producers of the 90210 CW reboot, there are talks that some of that cast may also return.
  • Ray Donovan has been renewed for season 7, so brace yourself for another batch of episodes filled with Liev Screiber looking constipated. Seriously, what’s the show about? Every still I see looks like Liev just ate some bad cheese.
  • The Voice crowned a winner for season 15, but I’m not even going to look up their name. It’s not like it matters. The Voice has never launched a career that mattered. Nope, let’s just move on to the next thing.
  • Bravo is reportedly developing a reboot of Queer As Folk, which better be called Queer AF.
  • Elementary‘s upcoming season will be its last, which seems like interesting timing since Moonves is now fired, and he seemed to have a thing for Asian chicks. Was HE keeping that show on the air due to a thing for Lucy Liu?!
  • Speaking of CBS renewals, there’s a strong chance that Mom won’t be back next season. Both Allison Janney and Anna Faris are at the end of their 6-season contracts, and they want substantial raises to continue. Considering CBS is about to lose The Big Bang Theory, which is America’s #1 sitcom, you’d think they’d open up their wallets to save America’s #3 sitcom. I guess we’ll have to see.
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has been renewed for a second season at Netflix. I dunno, I kinda always thought Kiernan Shipka was gonna be THE next big actress, so I almost feel like she’s slumming it, but y’all seem to love the show, so what do I know?
  • Peter Jackson better stick to Hobbits and shit, ’cause he apparently doesn’t know how to get audiences to care about The Mortal Engines, which is slated to lose $150 million.
  • Kaya Scodelario is replacing Emma Roberts in the Netflix ice skating drama, Spinning Out. If I’ve learned anything from Scodelario’s past roles, this show will be filled with young men who will do anything to sleep with her, and possibly end up dead once they do. #EffyStonemsVaginaIsDeadly
  • Somebody is leaking unreleased Beyonce tracks online, under the name Queen Carter. This has Matthew Knowles’s fingerprints all over it!
  • Alfonso Ribeiro is suing the makers of Fortnite for including his Carlton dance in the game. Ya know, the same dance he stole from Courteney Cox in the “Dancing in the Dark” video? Yeah, this should be interesting.
  • Former ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey has just joined Netflix as their Negro Wrangler. No, seriously, her title is Vice President of Original Content, but they’re putting her in charge of the projects from Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris and the Obamas, so… When she starts making changes on Stranger Things, then maybe I’ll change my mind.
  • Speaking of Black Excellence, Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker wasn’t unemployed for long, as he just signed a development deal with Amazon. I still say nobody signs up for Prime for the TV shows, but maybe he’ll prove me wrong?
  • We got our first look at Disney’s live action Aladdin, and well…I mean, with all the beautiful Persian girls in the world, and they give us Movie Pink Ranger? Still, I love how Will Smith has entered the “Fuck It” stage of his career. THIS is when he should’ve made Wild Wild West. Seriously, between Aladdin and that stupid animated film where he’s a spy turned into a pigeon, he’s simply saying “Fuck you, pay me” now.

So, in a fitting end to 2018, nothing had the West Week Ever this week. I tried, but nothing really stood out. Sure, everyone loved Into the Spider-Verse, but I wasn’t about to give it the WWE 2 weeks in a row. My birthday’s Sunday, but I can’t give it to myself because that would, technically, be for next week’s post. If there is a post next week.

In all the rigamarole of life, I forgot to celebrate the 6th anniversary of this little column. I started West Week Ever in November of 2012, and for 6 years I’ve tried my best to bring you recaps of the best the week had to offer. Some weeks were harder than others. Hell, some years were harder than others, but I kept chugging along with the whole “The Show Must Go On” mentality. And that worked. To a point.

Now, it feels like blogs are truly dying. I mean, Google basically put the bullet in their head when they retired Google Reader. No, folks now like their entertainment to come via podcasts and YouTube. So, where does that leave blogs? Better yet, where does that leave me? You’d think a world with fewer blogs would mean that there’s a bigger stage on which to shine, but that’s not the case. Instead, it’s like trying to be the next big radio star while everyone else is out buying those newfangled “televisions”.

Anyway, lots to think about. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, a kickin’ Kwanzaa and, if you have a time machine, a Happy Hanukkah! If something big happens over the next few days, we’ll be back here next week. If not, see ya in 2019!

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