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!

 

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.

08th Feb2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/8/19

by Will

So, is this a monthly thing now? I’m not entirely sure. I mean, I was thinking of ways to kind of retool this feature and make it more engaging. I know folks don’t like to read, so I thought in terms of stand-up comedy, trying to come up with my “tight 15”. However, that plan isn’t gonna work this week. There’s quite a bit to talk about, but I’m gonna be selective. We’re not gonna cover everything from the week ’cause, well, it was a dumpster fire.

I’ve been wavering about whether to address this, but I kinda feel like I owe it to some folks. You see, almost ten years ago, I did this thing on Twitter for the month of February, chronicling great moments in Black History. A year later, I kinda refined it and made it into a blog post. I had a lot of fun writing those things, and I guess it was some ploy to try to go viral. Over the years, February would roll around, and I would start with the tweets again. Some of them I LOVED, while some were just kinda “meh”, and I swore that I’d spend the next year thinking of better things to supplant the weaker jokes. However, the next thing I knew, February would roll around again, and I’d have nothing to show for that promise of new tweets. About 2 years ago, something changed.

I don’t really need to rehash politics on here, as y’all have eyes and ears. You know what’s going on in this country. Anyway, back when those seeds started to bear fruit, I kinda noticed a change in what I was seeing when those tweets went out. Now I’m not trying to say I’m on his level at all, but I had what I called my “Chappelle Moment”. If you don’t know, back before he infamously walked away from his Comedy Central show, he said one of the reasons was that he noticed that the laughter had changed. He found certain crowds were laughing at him rather than with him. It was like he had lost control of the audience, and I completely felt that. I noticed folks with MAGA accounts retweeting the stuff, and I wasn’t really liking the interactions I was seeing. So, that kinda put a bad taste in my mouth. However, we’re about to employ that “both sides” argument that’s so popular these days.

While this was going, there were other changes going on across social networks. #BlackTwitter was becoming something of a monolith, but I can’t get arrested by that crowd. They have never given a shit about anything I’ve done unless I’ve “caped” for a White man that had fallen out of favor for that particular period of time (this was prior to the rise of Cancel Culture). What I was doing was far from original, but just as the 1 Gotta Go dude saw a bunch of imitators rise up, I was seeing the unfunniest “Today in Black History” tweets going viral over there, and I guess I was like “Why are you drinking Dr. Thunder when you can have Dr. Pepper?” On top of that, this “friend” from high school had a moment on Facebook, where she felt the need to ask me why I only refer to Blackness to poke fun at it. “I only see you talking about Black people when you’re making jokes.” It’s like, “C’mon, Stephanie. We were all having a good time til you showed up with your bullshit.” So, I did a lot of thinking.

The whole “Why aren’t they retweeting MY stuff?” is clearly sour grapes, but at the end of the day I felt I’d lost control of the thing anyway. People would retweet them out of order (there actually is an ebb and flow to them), or blast them all out on one day. It wasn’t “mine” anymore. So, I stopped. I might do it again one day. Maybe I’ll keep my promise and actually spend the next 11 months thinking of new stuff for a grand return. I really don’t know what will happen, but all of that is why there are no Today In Black History tweets this year.

So, enough with the narcissism. Let’s take a look at the what happened in the world this week.

Oh, WORD? Blackface? He wanted to kill a random Black man? THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER IS BLACKMAILING THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD?!

OK, if you follow me on Twitter (@williambwest), I’ve already addressed some of this. Can’t look at the past through 2019 eyes. Northam was in blackface in 1984, yet the movie Soul Man, in which C. Thomas Howell dons blackface in order to scam an affirmative action scholarship, made $35 million (approximately $84 million today) just 2 years later. My thoughts have changed over the week regarding Neeson. Might talk about that another week. Might not. No, today, we’re gonna talk about Jeff Bezos. Again, this thread was on Twitter this morning, but I feel it needs to be restated here.

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is being blackmailed by the National Enquirer‘s parent company, American Media Inc (AMI). See, Bezos has been poking the bear into AMI’s ties to the Saudi Arabian government, so AMI (believed to be acting under direction from their ally Donald Trump) tried to persuade Bezos to drop his investigation by threatening to release some salacious texts and pics that he may have sent to his new girlfriend while he was still married. Oh, did I mention that his private investigator believes these texts were intercepted by a government entity, possibly indicating that Trump is using the governmental tools at his disposal to target his enemies? Anyway, Bezos decided that he wouldn’t be bullied, so he got in front of it and revealed the whole thing, including the emails that AMI sent him. Wait a minute, though – he didn’t reveal the WHOLE thing. He never said “I sent these texts while I was still married, but that is a personal matter.” So, maybe AMI actually was on to something, but he burst their bubble.

Yeah, it’s fun to watch powerful people fight each other, but let’s not forget that some bystander always gets killed by debris. I’m not about to be so quick to cheer on Bezos, even if he IS “standing up to a bully”. To continue my comic analogy, this is like when The Hulk fights Namor. Sure, they’ve both been on the side of angels at one time or another, but it’s not always clear which one is the “good guy” in any given engagement, at first glance.

Of course we want Bezos to “win”, ’cause fuck the National Enquirer. However, when it’s all over, Bezos will still go back to being the richest man in the world, giving pretty much nothing to charity, and continuing to subject his employees to harsh working conditions. Not to mention the little alarm bells the letter set off for me. For example, sure, we encounter folks from all walks of life in our travels, but why has Bezos known the best private investigator in the business for 20 years? What else has that guy done for him? Or the fact that he takes credit for delivering all of Amazon’s initial orders to the post office HIMSELF, when it’s been confirmed many times over the years that his soon-to-be-ex-wife did a lot of the “courier” work in those days – the same ex-wife who’s kinda being slighted if the AMI narrative of “Married Executive Cheats on Wife and We’ve Got Proof!” turns out to be true.

At the end of that day, that’s none of our business. Nobody should be extorted. I’m just saying look at the actors in the roles before you decide to buy tickets to the show.

I’ve been watching a lot of television lately, and saw some stuff I wanted to discuss with you beautiful people.

I’ve got to admit that I kinda betrayed Conan O’Brien when he lost The Tonight Show. I’d been by his side since his NBC debut, yet while he was at his lowest point, I was kinda like “Eh, it wasn’t a great fit, so get over it.” When he and Andy moved to TBS, I never watched the show, and as he never entered the next morning’s watercooler conversation like his contemporaries, I found myself wondering why he was still doing this to himself. Just quit, and go fishing.

However, Conan recently entered the pop culture conversation as it was announced his TBS show was being retooled into a 30-minute format, forgoing suits and the band. I read a bunch of interviews with about about what we could expect from the new format, and to get a “temperature check” on where his head is at right now. I was really intrigued by a lot of what I read, and found myself checking out his Conan Without Borders travel specials on Netflix. This led to me falling down a YouTube rabbit hole, watching clips of the TBS show that I’d ignored the past 10 years.

Oh my God! What was wrong with me?! This stuff is so good! From his ribbing of associate producer Jordan Schlansky to the wacky adventures he gets into with his assistant, Sona, it felt like Old Conan. Late Night Conan, and not the guy who was trying to be “normal” for the earlier timeslot. I’m sure it’s documented on here, but I ALWAYS felt The Tonight Show was the wrong move for him. I understand it’s The Big Chair, and I was proud that he was “graduating”, but a lot of what made him special was not going to work in that timeslot. You think Leno could’ve had the Masturbating Bear? I’m sure he would have LOVED something that risky, but instead he had to stick to Jaywalking, asking randos stupid questions on street corners.

Anyway, all of this primed me for the debut of the new, sleeker Conan, and so far I’m not disappointed. Still get a monologue. Only one guest per show. There’s no padding. Still has that “We’re figuring this out as we go along” feel that he originally had on NBC – the same feel that made me a fan. So, if you haven’t checked it out, definitely catch up on Conan (we’re only 3 weeks into the new format).

Tropical Cop Tales – I don’t even know where to begin with this. Airing Fridays at midnight on Adult Swim, I can’t describe it. On the surface, it’s about 2 city cops who transfer to an island, and the crazy adventures that ensue. That’s basically all I can say. It’s, by far, one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. When it started, I immediately wondered “What the fuck am I watching?” In fact, it gave me an appreciation for drug users, ’cause I know they would embrace the shit out of this show. By the end of the second episode, though, I found myself loving it more than I ever thought possible. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. It has to be seen to be believed. Oh, and I had a nice chuckle when I realized the title was a play on “tropical cocktails”.

Teen Titans Go! Three of the shows I regularly watch on Cartoon Network had some great “homage” episodes this week. It kicked off with TTG, where the writers throw some MAJOR SHADE at Stranger Things. In fact, the title of the episode is “Nostalgia Is Not A Substitute For An Actual Story”. Fuuuuckkkkkk. I should point out that this kinda aligns with my initial impression of the show, which is why I’ve never cared to watch it. Anyway, it’s a time travel episode, where the team goes back to the 80s. If you loved that part of Teen Titans Go to the Movies, then you’ll LOVE this episode.

Then, We Bare Bears had a Power Rangers homage, where the bears are using their imagination to become a part of their favorite show, Ultra Meteorite Fighters. Since that show features 4 teens, and there are only 3 bears, they use their imagination to conjure up a 4th team member, Silver Bear, voiced by the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Jason David Frank (original Green Ranger). In a flip of the original Green Ranger Saga, Silver Bear starts out as the Bears’ ally, until they realize he’s out of control and try to cut him loose. That’s when he becomes the evil Black Stone, and they have to take him down. There’s Zord battles, and a Dragon Dagger. That 12-minute episode, though “unofficial”, was the best episode of Power Rangers I’ve seen in the past 10 years. Not even lying.

Finally, if you weren’t aware, Unikitty from The LEGO Movie has her own cartoon. I kinda hate it. It’s just got TOO much going on, and it gives me whiplash. Still, in the episode I saw the other day, Unikitty finds Batman’s suit at the laundromat, and proceeds to put it on and patrol the city. The entire time, LEGO Batman (again voiced by Will Arnett) keeps calling her, demanding that she return his suit. There are some funny in-jokes if you’re a Bat fan, and it was certainly the first episode of that series that I enjoyed.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the world of podcasts. First off, the guys over at Nerd Lunch announced that they’ll be winding down…soon? I really don’t know. They have a date in mind, but they’re not going to tell us until it gets close. This hits a bit close to home for me, as they’re probably the last show standing that invites me on as a guest. So, I guess I’m retiring from podcast guesting soon? I guess we’ll have to see.

Since I totally made their swan song about me, let’s continue on the narcissistic train, shall we? I kinda have this unspoken (until now) rule that I don’t listen to podcasts that have never had me on as a guest. It’s not that I’m so important, but I like having that relationship with them. I like that, instead of yelling at my phone or the computer, I can email or tweet them and say, “You meant to say ‘Hugo Weaving’.” Yeah, I’m an asshole. Plus, there are just WAY too many podcasts out in the world (approximately 630,000, according to CBS), so why waste time on something where I don’t have a personal connection? Anyway, with all “my” shows coming to an end (Did *I* kill them?), I’ve had to “diversify my bonds” when it comes to podcasts. Let’s see where that’s taken me, shall we?

Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend – This was discovered during my personal Conan Renaissance. Launched back around October, there are only about 15 or so episodes at this point, and I binged them all last week. the premise is that Conan is so busy working that he doesn’t have any friends. So, he invites former show guests/people he’s always admired to record with him, to see if they might become friends. I like it because it’s all surface. It’s none of that “What was your motivation when you played this role?” Instead, it’s like “So, back when we were at SNL, I remember you used to love eating White Castle while wearing gloves.” I like funny anecdotes more than critical analysis. If you’re in that boat, then check it out!

Gettin’ Better – This one is hosted by comedian Ron Funches, and I learned about it when he was a guest on Conan’s podcast. If you’ve ever seen Funches, you already love him. It’s impossible to hate that guy. From his voice to the fact that he just comes off as “huggable”, you’ll be an instant fan. Anyway, his show features his friends who come to discuss ways in which they’re trying to better themselves. For example, Funches has lost over 140 lbs over the past 3 years, so he’s just brimming with positivity and what’s people to find their “thing”. It might sound “self-helpy”, but it’s a really good show typically featuring fellow comedians (and X-Pac!), talking about how they’re trying to “get better”.

The Ron Burgundy Podcast – It’s funny how “exclusive” means nothing anymore. iHeartRadio spent the whole holiday season bragging that they were gonna be the exclusive home of The Ron Burgundy Podcast, with Will Ferrell reprising his role from the Anchorman films. It was gonna debut Jan 31st. Then, they bumped the debut a week and the next thing you know, the ads changed to “Available wherever podcasts are found”. So, it’s basically like “Thanks, iHeartRadio for handling the marketing work for your competitors!”

Anyway, that unsteady marketing plan seems to be a good measure of the show itself. I was really wondering how it was gonna work, because there’d have to be some degree of “time displacement” for it to work, since podcasts didn’t exist during Ron’s heyday. Would he be in modern times? Would it be more of a radio play? Whatever it is, it doesn’t fully work. Yet.

The first 20 minutes are basically Ferrell stretching the joke that Ron doesn’t exactly know what a podcast is. He’s got this weary producer named Carolina where it’s not clear if she’s real or a character. Her delivery is forced, and by the end of the episode, you’re not entirely sure whose side she’s on. Meanwhile, the premiere episode had Ron tackling the True Crime genre. Basically, think of what you’d get if Ron Burgundy hosted Serial. Yeah, that idea works for about 10 minutes – not the 49 minutes that we get.

I’ll stick with it, ’cause I love Ferrell, and I love that character. Still, I’m not sure I’d recommend it yet. Anybody else listen to it and has any thoughts?

There’s no Things You Might Have Missed this week. Maybe next week. We’ll see. And nothing really stood out this week as being the BEST thing, so there’s no West Week Ever this week. Hang on, though, as we’re still getting our 2019 sea legs. We’ll figure this all out together. Anyway, leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe!

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!

07th Dec2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/7/18

by Will

 

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Neil deGrasse Tyson – It’s the return of everyone’s favorite segment – and just look at that smug son of a bitch! Yeah, I know you all love him, but I never have. Sure, he’s a brilliant guy, but I’ve never liked the condescending manner in which he imparts knowledge. To me, he’s a prime example of why Conservatives abhor the concept of education: they feel the educated talk down to them the same way he talks down to EVERYONE. So, forgive me if I’m a little giddy that even the smartest in science couldn’t avoid the #MeToo movement.

According to reports, three women have come forward with allegations. Musician Tchiya Amet was a former classmate of Tyson’s back in grad school, and she recounted a time when he Bill Cosby’d her, by giving her some water from a coconut shell. She said she passed out, and came to only to find him performing oral sex on her. When he noticed she was awake, he penetrated her, and she passed out again. She actually came forward with this in 2010, but her story is only now getting attention. The experience was so damaging to Amet that it resulted in her dropping out of school.

Meanwhile, Katelyn Allers, a professor of physics and astronomy at Bucknell University, reports that Tyson grabbed her at a social function, insisting she show him the tattoo of the solar system that she had on her arm , to see if she had included Pluto. While Allers didn’t consider it “assault”, she did ask out of a dinner in Tyson’s honor later that weekend, and she also suggested that female students not be allowed near him without a faculty member present.

Next, there’s Ashley Watson, who was Tyson’s production assistant on Cosmos. He invited her over to his place for wine, and she only felt compelled to go because he was her employer. Once there, he began to play slow jams, and started talking about how everyone needs “releases – even physical releases”. As she got up to go, he told her that he wanted to hug her, but that he’d “only end up wanting more”. When she confronted him about his behavior, he told her she would never advance in her career because she was “too distracting”, so she quit, telling her employer not to hire any more female assistants for Tyson. While the supervisor sided with Watson, she was instructed to claim a “family emergency” as the reason for her departure, so as not to cause an uncomfortable situation.

Anyway, Tyson, of course, denies all of this on a Facebook blog post. He claims that he briefly dated Amet in the 80s, but that they were never serious. Amet, however, says they never dated, and were merely friends. As for Allers, he said he doesn’t remember the situation, but that looking for the existence of Pluto in a tattoo sounds like something he would do. For Watson, he says all he did was invite her for a little wine & cheese, and offer her a Native American “special handshake”. OK, Neil.

The #MeToo train seems to be running out of steam, but a lot of folks are wondering if it’ll get a second wind, as you never know who might be outed next. Still, I’m not really surprised that a guy I always perceived as a dick turned out to be a dick.

I had more to say about this earlier, but it’s late in the day and I’m tired. Kevin Hart took a job that reportedly NOBODY wanted by signing on to host the Oscars. I mean, it’s a thankless job, and the ratings decline every year. Folks just don’t care about watching movies they’ve never heard of win awards over the popcorn movies that they have seen. Everything was fine for, like, a day. Then it was reported that Hart was quietly deleting homophobic tweets from his Twitter account. Anyone who’s seen his act knows the kind of stuff to expect. Anyway, last night, he posted on Instagram that the Academy wanted him to apologize for the tweets, or else he couldn’t host. Refusing to apologize, he decided to step down from the hosting job.

Here’s where this gets dicey to me: I just find it interesting that the “Rehire James Gunn!” folks are all over this, when both people apologized for it in the past. It’s just that Hart is polarizing. He’s the Black Will Ferrell – you either LOVE him or HATE him, but hardly anyone merely *tolerates* him. So, because these folks we already saying”Kevin Hart is trash” they feel emboldened right now, even though it makes them hypocrites.

And while people say “He should’ve just apologized”, what would that get him? First off, those same folks would just say the apology was under duress, and not genuine. Plus, in a lot of ways, he was doing the Oscars a favor. After all, it’s a job nobody wanted, so he wielded the most power here. Now whoever gets the job is gonna know they were the second choice and they’re gonna know WHY. At the end of the day, I don’t think Kevin Hart has really lost any fans from this because Kevin Hart fans don’t give a shit about the Oscars anyway. Soul Plane didn’t win an Oscar, and they’re still mad about that!

Apparently an Ohio radio station has removed “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from its Christmas playlist because of perceived “rapey” lyrics. Now, yes, the song was written during a different time, and is often misinterpreted. I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about outrage to outrage. In these situations, I tend to hear more from the people outraged that people might find something offensive than I do from the people who supposedly find it offensive. There’s a whole bunch of “What happened to this country?!”, which is just another way of screaming, “How dare you make me question something I learned as a child?!” God forbid you actually experience some personal growth! A lot of this stuff is triggering to people, yet the Knights of Nostalgia don’t give a fuck ’cause, well, “Screw ’em!”

And to take it one more step, it’s always some dumpy, middle-aged White guy. The same guy who’ll say “I ain’t experienced White Privilege!” I get it. It SUCKS to be a dumpy, middle-aged White guy today. Everything you knew is changing, and there’s a new -ism every week. I assure you, though, you’ll get through life a lot more smoothly if you go with the flow than if you try to plant your Confederate flag in the dirt and say you won’t be moved. I know change is hard. I HATE change. I also know, however, that we do a lot of shit in this country just “because” or “it’s always been done that way”, without questioning any of it. Personally, I’m more offended by “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, ’cause any kid with half a brain can piece that together to realize there’s no Santa Claus. Or Mommy’s a whore. Either way, that’s some damaging shit.

 

Trailer Park

Captain Marvel

We got a second trailer for this film, and I don’t think I’ve ever been this underwhelmed by a Marvel film. Did Zack Snyder work on this movie? Outside the “Carol Corps”, I don’t know anyone excited for this movie, but I’ve always found Captain Marvel to be an unlikable character. From this trailer, I’m most impressed by how boring they manage to make Nick Fury. I’m not sure I like Everyman Agent Fury. I look forward to him losing his eye, which I assume will usher in the era of him becoming a cool muthafucka.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I always like when a frontman with a successful solo career throws a bone to their old band. So that’s why I’m happy to announce that Hootie & The Blowfish will be going on a reunion tour next year.
  • Tumblr will be deleting all adult content come December 17th. Don’t worry, though – all the Nazi shit will still be there. It’s just the tits and pussies they’re getting rid of. Don’t wanna be giving kids the wrong idea, right? Anyway, RIP Tumblr.

  • TVLine revealed that Mack will be the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns – which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me other than the fact that they’re determined to have a bald Black guy in a leather coat in the big chair.
  • Speaking of Marvel, there are reports that they are developing a movie for their Asian martial artist character, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu. I’m kind of surprised by how many people I saw asking “WHO?” considering whenever someone said that Iron Fist didn’t have to be White, a lot of folks would chime in with “But there’s already Shang-Chi!”
  • The Good Place has been renewed for season 4 by NBC. Now to just find time to watch all these season 3 eps I have on my DVR…
  • According to some youngsters I was eavesdropping on at the mall, apparently something called a “Cardi B” has split up from Offset. Are those companies? Does that mean anything to anyone?

  • There was a pic of a “reunion” of cast members from The Office, and everyone started saying “It’s happening!” They better fucking NOT bring that show back any time soon. It practically JUST ended. And how many more stories are there to be told about the Scranton paper industry? I LIKED the eps with no Michael Scott. I LIKED how it ended. Don’t bring it back.
  • Because everything old is new again, ABC is reportedly developing a reboot of the 90s Fox series New York Undercover. Ya know, the show with Malik Yoba and the Puerto Rican dude from the “Beat It” video? And every episode featured some 90s R&B act that you never hear of anymore? I’d rather they just give us a Fastlane reboot instead.
  • Since I guess there was some kind of Mandatory Asian Clause in someone’s contract, Julie Chen’s seat on The Talk will be filled by Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba.
  • This week’s WWE Monday Night Raw was the lowest rated telecast in the show’s history. What a great time for Vince McMahon to be shoveling money into his XFL revival. I mean, the man clearly knows what the people want, amirite?
  • Ice Cube will produce and star in a reboot of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch. Back when that show was popular, it was funny to think of celebrities fake fighting each other. Now, however, the celebrities will actually fight you! Don’t believe me? Just steal a parking space from Alec Baldwin.
  • The reteaming of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will take place in Men In Black International, which sounds like the name of a fancy escort service.
  • This is pretty juicy: former Martin star, Tisha Campbell-Martin, and husband, Duane Martin, are going through a messy divorce. Duane got a loan from Will & Jada Smith, which he used to buy a home. Sounds OK, right? Well, the Martins had declared bankruptcy. So, not only did Duane sell the house for a profit that he pocketed, but Tisha is claiming that Duane has been hiding money throughout their whole marriage. She said that the only reason she came clean was so that she could be around for their two kids. Damn, Gina!

Yeah, so this one’s a no brainer. Folks were clamoring for this trailer this week more than the maggots were waiting for HW. What? Too soon?

Some thoughts, though:

  • According to an interview, the denizens of the MCU refer to Thanos’s snap as “The Decimation”. Mathematics definition aside, I think it makes sense, because unless you personally know an Avenger, you wouldn’t know that *exactly* 50% of living things were gone. I mean, an accounting of that undertaking would require a census. And I doubt enough time has passed for them to conduct an emergency census.
  • I like the way that Tony says a particular line pretty much confirms how his situation is going to be resolved.
  • A friend online said that being upset about the title is “fanboy entitlement”, and I don’t agree. I’m not upset, per se, but I just think it’s odd that they’ve been running this whole “We can’t tell you the name of the movie too soon or it’ll spoil too much!”, only for it to turn out to be “Endgame”, which tells us NOTHING.
  • Maybe I’m dead inside, but folks online were saying it bummed them out – much like the same folks say Toy Story 3 made them cry. Neither had that effect on me. I think it’s because nobody actually died. They were essentially “wiped out”. I guess it’s a great visual way to get a PG-13 rating, but none of the Infinity War “deaths” stuck with me because they weren’t DEATHS. They were dustings. Everything goes back to dust. But life also comes from dust. I just kinda feel like it’s Marvel really trying to make us feel like there are stakes in an environment where they’ve proven that there are pretty much no stakes.

Still, I’m not griping. These are just initial thoughts. This is probably the most anticipated trailer since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, so there’s no way the Avengers: Endgame trailer didn’t have the West Week Ever.

30th Nov2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/30/18

by Will

I took last week off ’cause it was Black Friday, and I know this site was the last thing on y’all’s minds. Gotta get them $199 PS4s! Anyway, that just means we’ve got twice as much stuff to talk about this week!

First, allow me to rant. Every time there is a celebrity death, the internet instantly becomes filled with tribute art to the person. Sure, the artists typically mean well, but a lot of it is very, very bad – sometimes just in poor taste. Stan Lee died a couple weeks back, and what did we end up seeing? Stan Lee at the pearly gates, Stan Lee being hugged by his creations, Stan Lee with his creations surrounding his hospital bed, Stan Lee with the MCU stars photoshopped into his funeral. You get the picture. The one that really got me, though, is the one above: Stan and his dearly departed wife, Joanie, reunited in space, wearing spacesuits. This comes off as some kind of secular desire to have an afterlife, but still trying to apply Earth logic to things. Why are they in space? Is that where you think “souls” go? Why are they in spacesuits? Shouldn’t they no longer have the need to breathe? Bottom line, I thought this was stupid. This was just stupid. And I said so when someone posted it in a Facebook group I’m in, with a bunch of crying emojis. And the floodgates opened!

Let me give you some backstory about this group. I’ve met some great folks in there, but it’s chock full of Brits who are constantly making fun of EVERYTHING. For example, you can’t mention people being offended by Apu, because “Everyone’s too sensitive”. Seriously, every serious conversation on there is derailed by a bunch of guys chiming in with “Well, they’re being cunts!” So, imagine my surprise when I found the limits of the rapscallions! So, I had to reply:

A few days later, a few of the same folks were laughing about that missionary who got killed by the tribe. You know the one. And, yeah, I have my issues with missionaries and all that, but if you’d seen some of the stuff they were saying, and LAUGHING at…And I’M the asshole for thinking somebody’s DeviantART space pic is stupid? Oh, hell the fuck no! It took everything in my power not to run back into that group and tear it apart like Jesus in the temple. So, I subtweeted with my own status.

So, imagine my surprise when the group founder commented on it:

That’s where it pretty much ended – until now. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Trump Administration, it’s the art of doubling down. And I’m here to say that a LOT of that fan art shit is stupid. Sometimes a beloved artist will do some, and maybe sell it and give the money to charity. Nice use of the moment. What I don’t like is Johnny Cash Grab who decides he’s going to throw together a shitty t-shirt to sell to capitalize on the moment:

But also, money isn’t everything. There’s a lot of FREE fan art out there that’s stupid. The minute SpongeBob SquarePants creator Steven Hillenburg succumbed to ALS earlier this week, I immediately asked “How long before the fan art of SpongeBob meeting Stan Lee?” And while it’s not exactly what I described, the Internet did not disappoint:

WHO IS THIS FOR?! But, “let people mourn how they want to mourn.” It doesn’t mean I can’t question it.

Trailer Park


Artemis Fowl

This just looks like Great Value Harry Potter to me, only he’s in the Men In Black now? I mean, if Harry Potter knockoffs are what’s bringing in the big bucks, I’ve been sitting on the Charlie Panner franchise for about a decade, and I need to talk to someone pronto! Yeah, I know it’s based on a book series, but I’m not 14, nor do I hang around any since the court case. So, I’m gonna need a little bit more from my teaser trailers. This? This was just meh.


The Lion King

OK, but WHY? I get it. It’s stunning, and it’s a beloved story, but we already have the original. I feel like those people who get upset when their favorite old property is rebooted. No, this one doesn’t mean that the old one doesn’t exist, but there are so many other things Disney could be doing with this money and technology. I feel like Disney is creatively stale, like they were prior to The Little Mermaid, and live action versions of their 90s hits ain’t really impressing me all that much. Still, I’ve never had the same love affair with Disney movies as some folks, so I guess I’m just dead inside. Nice job they’ve done here, though.


Once Upon A Deadpool

A PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2? Sure, it’s a cash grab, but I respect their hustle. Maybe it would’ve been cooler to have had this as a bonus feature on the Blu Ray, but if there’s theatrical money, and it fills a hole in Fox’s schedule, then do it. I still haven’t seen Deadpool 2, so I guess I’ve got homework before December 12th. And I kinda like Nickelback more than the Beatles…


The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

So this is the second trailer we’ve gotten for this movie, and it really wasn’t doing much for me until Rex Dangervest showed up. That’s cute what they did there. I mean, I’ll see it, but nothing about this is like “WOW, I CAN’T WAIT!” Plus, if you cast Tiffany Haddish, you’re only going to get “Tiffany Haddish”. Make sure that voice works with the character, ’cause if it doesn’t, then…you get this.

Runaways Season 2

This looks like the Freeformiest Freeform show that ever Freeformed – which is odd, since it’s NOT on Freeform. It’s like if Claire’s, Urban Outfitters, and Hot Topic decided to go in together on a TV production deal. I’m sure the teens and tweens probably love it, but I can’t see myself watching a single episode of this show – which probably why I never watched any of season 1. Plus, I don’t have Hulu, so…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • ABC’s Sue Sue In The City spinoff of The Middle will not be going forward. It’s kinda sad, as I liked Eden Sher in the role, but I also felt like it wasn’t necessary, as The Middle gave a nice ending to her story. This show would’ve had to serve as an “Inbetwequel” to the ending the show had set up for her. This is probably for the best.
  • Speaking of ABC spinoffs, Schooled, the 90s-set AJ Michalka starring spinoff of The Goldbergs, will debut on January 9th. Oh, look -Tim Meadows is in the cast. Yup, this show is D.O.A.
  • In a somewhat surprising move, Netflix has cancelled Marvel’s Daredevil series. I’m gonna say this one more time, for the cheap seats in the back: DISNEY IS NOT PICKING UP THE CANCELLED MARVEL NETFLIX SHOWS! I’ve already explained the WHY, and I’m just tired of the same time armchair speculation.
  • I can admit when I’m wrong, and I once said that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t be around for Avengers 4, yet not only will it, but it’s been renewed for it’s seventh season before the sixth even launches next summer. I felt like the show was going to be the “connective tissue” of the MCU around that Winter Soldier/pre-Age of Ultron era, and then go away. Then it kinda distanced itself from the movies except when it couldn’t be explained away (due to the politics), and started doing its own thing. They say last season was great, but I’ll have to check that out for myself.
  • Country radio personality Bobby Bones won season 27 of Dancing with the Stars, which has fired off this outcry of how the show is “broken”. “It’s just a popularity contest now!” Um, EVERY reality show is a popularity contest, Doris!
  • Jon Cryer has been cast as Lex Luthor in Supergirl and, while I have no interest in watching that show, I don’t hate that casting. I don’t hate it at all.
  • Back in 2012, ABC aired a series called GBC, based on the semiautobiographical book Good Christian Bitches. Of course it didn’t last, as we’re not currently talking about the 7th season of GCB, are we? Well, The CW is developing a reboot of the show, and it will retain its original title. Man, there are gonna be SO many evangelical groups up in arms about this one.
  • It was a busy week for celebrity profiles, as one focused on the renaissance of Amanda Bynes (glad she’s not dead!), while the other focused on Lena Dunham coming to terms with the fact that she’s a bit much to handle at times.
  • There are rumblings of a revival of the 90s CBS series Northern Exposure, with most of the cast – including original star Rob Morrow – back on board. This is interesting, seeing as how most of the cast and crew reportedly hating working with Morrow. I guess they loved that money more than they hated him, huh?
  • There was a One Tree Hill Christmas movie on Lifetime that was NOT a One Tree Hill movie. WTF? Yeah, they cast about 60% of the One Tree Hill cast in The Christmas Contract, yet it wasn’t a One Tree Hill project. Who does that? That’s like if I brought in Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer and was like, “OK, in this show, you guys all work in a bar”…
  • Jerry Springer will be bringing original content to your syndicated airwaves next season, when his court show, Judge Jerry, launches. I’m not kidding. What bothers me is that his talk show fizzled instead of going out with a bang. Its best years were probably 20 years ago, but it still deserved more of a sendoff than it got. To me, this court show is just the Three’s A Crowd to his Three’s Company.
  • Even though Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse isn’t even out yet, Sony is reportedly developing an animated Spider-Women spinoff probably focusing on Spider-Gwen, or Ghost Spider, or whatever they’re calling her this week. I’ve got thoughts about Into The Spider-Verse, but you’ll hear more of them in the coming weeks.
  • Netflix is developing animated series based on the works of the “ORIGINAL J.K. Rowling” himself, Roald Dahl. Debuting in 2019, they’re set to be event series and specials.

  • Speaking of Netflix, they’ve announced a 10-episode order for a live action adaptation of the Cowboy Bebop anime, and this could either be the best or worst thing they could ever do. People love the Hell out of that series, and I can already hear the cries of “They’re whitewashing characters!” I only know two things: 1) they’d better cast Ben Schwartz as Spike (I’d also take David Tennant) and 2) the in-show bounty hunter series Big Shot better be worked into this version.

So I have this slightly narcissistic thing about me where I don’t listen to a podcast unless the hosts have had me on as a guest at some point or another. I just like having the ability to interact more than just yelling at the computer, and when I know the hosts, I can drop them a line, or even go on a future show to add to that conversation. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but that’s pretty much how my Stitcher playlist is designed.

Anyway, I had a long drive home from Richmond last weekend, and I was all out of my usual podcasts, having listened to them on the way down. I didn’t really feel like music, either, but I needed something to listen to. Then I remembered that a coworker had recommended Wolverine: The Long Night to me when he was trying to pitch the idea of audio books to me (I still prefer print). He said that this was more of a radio show than an audio book, but I might like it. What it was, actually, was a podcast that was a co-production between Marvel and Stitcher. Broken up into 10 chapters, all were available to listen to, ad-free, so my bingeing began!

Wolverine: The Long Night takes place in its own sort of timeline (which they’re hinting might expand into the Marvel Podcast Universe), so you can’t really place it in the movies or the comics. Some grizzly murders have occurred in the small Alaskan town of Burns, where everyone is hiding, or running from, something. The police are simply telling the public that the murders were committed by a grizzly bear, but could there be something more? Could the short, mysterious loner who just came to town be responsible for the deaths? Well, that’s what Special Agents Pierce and Marshall are there to find out. They are our “eyes” through the whole story, so we see everything from their viewpoint. We’re able to check in on other characters because of bugs that the agents placed around the town. Otherwise, you don’t know it’s happening unless Pierce & Marshall have somehow documented it.

Despite the title, the series is less about Wolverine, and more about how his mere presence has affected everyone in the town. We don’t “see” him much, but when we do, it counts. Meanwhile, there’s some other stuff going on in the town that could be connected to the murders. There’s the mysterious Aurora cult, who have come to the town to establish a base. There’s the wealthy Langrock family, whose money and generosity have kept the town afloat for years, but are they hiding something? As it should come as no surprise to anyone, all of these things overlap heading toward the conclusion of the story.

I really want to discuss this thing with someone else who’s listened to it because there are a lot of 3rd act issues with it. There’s a swerve that you saw coming a mile away, but it doesn’t go in the direction in which you thought it would have gone. Plus, because it’s in its own universe, things happen for which there’s no in-canon precedent. I don’t want to spoil it here, but if you have listened, give me a shout.

Wolverine is voiced by English actor Richard Armitage, who comes off sounding like an angry George Clooney – which doesn’t exactly sound like it fits on paper, but it surprisingly works very well. The rest of the cast is fleshed out by Scott Adsit, Bob Balaban, Brian Stokes Mitchell and more talented folks. I really didn’t know if I was going to take to the whole thing, but I got home with about 3 hours left in the story. I went down to the basement, and just listened to the rest like I was in the ’40s or some shit. What’s a “television”?

Would I listen to more like this? Sure and, as I said before, there are even talks of expanding this into a whole universe. I really enjoyed the experience, and it’s an engaging story. I’m not entirely sure it stuck the landing, ’cause that last episode…whoa. Still, of the experience as a whole, I give it an A, and as the best thing I experienced in the past week, Wolverine: The Long Night had the West Week Ever.

 

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