13th Nov2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/13/20

by Will

I’ve come to realize I’ve now entered the Britney Spears era of my blogging career. No, I’m not trying to get out of a conservatorship. It’s just that I’m so inconsistent with releases that every new post is billed as a “comeback”, and then I disappear for an extended period of time afterward. Looking at my records, it’s been about 4 months since my last confes…post. A LOT has happened in the world since then. No, we won’t be talking about it. Well, not all of it.

Since we last met, I did a rewatch on the FXX series You’re The Worst. Regular readers might remember I talked about the show quite a bit while it was on, but I missed the last 2 seasons during its original run. Instead of picking up where I’d left off, I decided the best course of action would be to start at the beginning. Everyone has their show that they can watch all the way through countless times. For some, that’s The Office. For my wife, it’s The West Wing. For me, it’s probably You’re The Worst. I love the writing, the characters, everything. And it probably has one of the most appropriate-for-its-characters finales that I’ve seen in a long time.

If you’ve never heard of it, You’re The Worst follows Gretchen and Jimmy – two horrible people – who end up hooking up after a wedding, and then navigates their developing relationship, as they insist that they’re not “Relationship People”. It’s really more of an ensemble show, though, as their best friends, Edgar and Lindsay, figure into their antics, as well as supporting characters like Vernon, Becca, Paul, and “Shitstain”. I highly recommend it, and it’s been a bright spot in this crazy world recently.

I was right there with y’all on the front lines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but whenever I hear an update now on something like WandaVision, my immediate thought is “We’re still doing this?” Say what you will about the quality of the films, what they pulled off, with a commercially successful interconnected universe, was incredible. And it shouldn’t be attempted again. I don’t wanna get on that ride again. Ready to move on.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think the MCU will ever really recover from COVID, and there’ll be tons of thinkpieces about what REALLY “brought down” the MCU. If you look at Phase 4, they were really counting on goodwill built up from Avengers: Endgame, which has dissipated by now. No heavy hitters. Phase 4 is chock full of unknowns. Eternals? I don’t even know who the Hell they are. Shang Chi? Gonna be hard to get it right without coming off as Orientalism. Thor 4 was the biggest bullet in the chamber. Even Black Widow was about 7 years too late. The entire phase is just a mixed bag of Meh. No Black Panther 2, no controversy generating Captain Marvel 2. No Guardians Vol 3. You’ve just got Dr Strange and Thor doing the heavy lifting.

Five to ten years from now, I think the MCU will still be a thing, but it’ll be looser, less interconnected. Probably more like what DC is doing now, especially if they introduce the Multiverse.

At the end of the day, Money is always going to win out. Doesn’t mean, as an audience member, that I can’t feel a bit of ennui about the whole thing. Anyway, this is a long, drawn-out way to announce that WandaVision will be premiering on Disney+ on January 15th.

In the time since I’ve been away, I joined TikTok. I only have one video up now, but I think it’s funny. I don’t really know what to do with that account, as I’m not an egirl with an OnlyFans, so I’m open to suggestions.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fox’s primetime schedule is imploding when it comes to anything not featuring Ken Jeong. They’ve cancelled L.A.’s Finest, Filthy Rich, and Next, but all 3 will finish their original orders, as there’s nothing on the bench to replace them with.
  • There were rumors that country chart toppers Florida Georgia Line were cruisin’ for a breakup, due to differing politics. Left-leaning Tyler Hubbard and his wife unfollowed bandmate Brian Kelley on Instagram, and Kelley’s wife responded with a salty post about how we live in a democracy and are entitled to a difference of opinion. Supposedly a refollowing has occurred, but this is how we fight in the year of our Lord 2020.
  • The Weeknd will headline the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Ya know, for whatever teams aren’t sidelined by COVID by then.
  • The Friends talking heads “reunion”, which nobody really asked for, has been rescheduled to March for HBO Max
  • John Mulaney has joined Late Night with Seth Meyers as a staff writer, so I guess I’ll have to start watching that show now.
  • As a result of their contentious divorce, Johnny Depp was asked to resign from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, yet Amber Heard will still reportedly star in Aquaman 2. Huh.
  • Reportedly, the new Blumhouse film Freaky will debut on VOD only 17 days after its theatrical release today. That’s good, ‘cause I wanna see it, but I won’t be going to a movie theater anytime soon.
  • The Undertaker’s “Final Farewell” is set for Survivor Series, which makes this around his 3rd retirement.

Ugh, this is really hard to write. It’s odd that the very last time I wrote this column, I gave Jeopardy! the West Week Ever for captivating me with a reairing of Alex Trebek’s first episode, and here I am, talking about the show again, but for sadder reasons. If you didn’t already know, Alex passed away on Sunday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. While everyone knew he was sick, as his fight had been documented the past 2 years, I don’t think anyone really thought he was as close to the end as he was.

I’ve written before about my dream of competing on Jeopardy! It, and Alex, have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. He and the show also touched other facets of pop culture, popping up in shows like Cheers and Mama’s Family. After meeting Stan Lee and Adam West, I always boasted that I had met everyone I’d ever wanted to meet, but that wasn’t entirely true, as I never met Alex, and now I never will.

To me, and many others, Alex Trebek WAS Jeopardy! and he had some pretty big shoes to fill. If I’m being honest, my dream of competing sort of died along with him. There’s some petition going around to get Levar Burton as the new host, but I think we’re all kidding ourselves if we think that job’s going to anyone other than Jeopardy! GOAT Ken Jennings. They have clearly been grooming him for it, even bringing him aboard in a producer and regular on-air capacity this season.

Based on everything I’ve watched and read this week, no one can seem to say a bad thing about him, which is refreshing in this day and age. They say “Don’t meet your heroes”, for fear that they’ll disappoint you, but it seems like former contestants loved meeting him, and he was described as a consummate professional. Over the course of 37 seasons, Alex hosted more the 8,200 episodes of Jeopardy!, surpassing Bob Barker who previously held the record for most number of hosted game show episodes. His last day in the studio was just 2 weeks ago and, at the time of his death, he still had 35 episodes that had yet to air.

I know a part of my daily routine is changed forever, and weeknights at 7:30 just won’t be the same to me. I guess I’ll have to really get into Access Hollywood or something. Anyway, Alex Trebek was like a member of our family, coming into millions of living rooms every night. It’s like losing a really smart uncle. I guess I’m just rambling at this point, but I’m still processing it. In a year in which we’ve all lost so much, this was just another blow to the gut. In any case, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Alex Trebek had the West Life Ever.

22nd May2020

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

by Will

 

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

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

Fox:

Outmatched

Almost Family

Deputy

ABC:

Single Parents

Bless This Mess

Emergence

Schooled

Kids Say The Darndest Things

CBS:

Broke

Man with a Plan

God Friended Me

Carol’s Second Act

Tommy

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Trailer Park

The Old Guard

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


The Last Days of American Crime

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

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


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th May2020

Ain’t No Lie: 20 Years of *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached

by Will

In these uncertain times, it’s sometimes hard to remember important milestones as the days just blend together. That’s why I completely forgot the 20th anniversary of one of the most important albums of my youth, *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached. Released on March 20th, 2000, this record-setting album sold 2.4 million copies in the US in one week – a record that would stand for 15 years, until Adele’s 25 was released. This was something of a crossover album for the group, as its R&B leanings showed that boybands didn’t have to adhere to such a bubblegum sound. Before we get into the album, though, let’s talk a bit about the group itself.

*NSYNC was formed in 1995 by boyband impresario Lou Pearlman, who’d already experienced success forming the Backstreet Boys. Pearlman was the first cousin of Art Garfunkel, which gave him a window to the music industry. As the story goes, the New Kids on the Block chartered a few flights via Pearlman’s Trans Continental Airlines, and Pearlman thought to himself “I could do that.” By the time the Backstreet Boys were formed, America was already over the New Kids, so Pearlman shipped them off to Europe, where they became a huge success. Seeing if lightning could strike twice, Pearlman decided to create another boyband, as he had pretty much gotten the process down to a science by that point. This second group would be comprised of Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, Jason Galasso, and JC Chasez – and the group would be called *NSYNC, created by the last letter of each of their first names. Jason quit early on, as he didn’t like the vocal direction of the group, so Justin’s vocal coach recommended Lance Bass as a replacement, and for the group name to still work, promotional materials said Lance’s nickname was “Lansten”.

Originally, *NSYNC was basically the Pepsi to Backstreet Boys’ Coke. They shared the same manager (Johnny Wright, former manager of NKOTB), songwriters, and producers. They also shared the same shady business structure. You see, in both cases, Pearlman assumed a membership stake in the group, so all proceeds were split six ways, with him as the “sixth member” – this was on top of every other way he was swindling them (This would actually become a common Pearlman tactic. One of the best episodes of the original Making The Band is when Pearlman’s latest group, O-Town, is about to sign their record contracts on the very day news broke about *NSYNC’s lawsuit. Like, they’re watching the news break, with pens in their hands). The Backstreet Boys were the first to realize his sixth member status, and filed a lawsuit while recording their Millennium album. *NSYNC, meanwhile, found out about it while recording their second album in 1999, and the resulting lawsuit delayed its release. Once they settled for an undisclosed amount, the album was named No Strings Attached to signify that they were no longer the victims of their corporate puppeteers. They severed their ties to RCA, and quickly signed with Jive Records, who slated the release of that album for March 20th, 2000.

With a new lease on life, *NSYNC wanted to make sure they sounded different from everyone else on the scene. They were content to work with the same producers as their “rivals”, but they didn’t want to sound the same as them. So, in addition to pop hitmakers Max Martin and Kristian Lundin, they also brought in Teddy Riley for his R&B pedigree and 80s balladeer Richard Marx. For the US market, this all resulted in the 12-track No Strings Attached.

Now, what effect did this album have on me? Well, let’s take a step back, as I wasn’t always a boyband fanatic. I grew up listening to country until about the age of 12. And then it was Ace of Base that really brought me into the world of pop. This means I missed the entire New Kids on the Block movement. I mean, it wasn’t “cool” for boys to be into that stuff anyway, but I’ve since gone back and don’t really think NKOTB were great vocally (Sorry, not sorry). I can see the appeal of harmony and dance moves – Hell, those qualities launched Motown – but I find very little to like about classic NKOTB. So that means I wasn’t exactly a guaranteed audience when Backstreet Boys hit the scene. While they didn’t get a ton of regular airplay, they did get played on Radio AAHS, which was this kids radio station I could sometimes get if the weather was nice and the antenna was pointed the right way. I remember their debut single was NOT “Quit Playin’ Games”, but was actually “We’ve Got It Goin’ On”. When that single failed to land, Pearlman shipped them off to Germany, they became huge, came back to America with “Quit Playin’ Games”, and the rest is history. I didn’t immediately glom onto them, though. They didn’t pique my curiosity until “As Long As You Love Me”, and by the time “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” hit, I was in it just like everyone else.

Since Lou learned from his BSB launch mistakes, he launched *NSYNC in Germany instead of trying them out here first. So, their debut US single was “I Want You Back”, which came out around the time of “Backstreet’s Back”. They’re similar songs, due to the fact they’re both written by Denniz Pop and Max Martin, and I was a fan of both. However, I didn’t sign my soul over to *NSYNC fandom until “Tearin’ Up My Heart” came out. I don’t know what it was about that song, but I kept it on repeat for about 2 years. My mother can attest to this. I DEVOURED their self-titled debut album, from “Thinking of You (I Drive Myself Crazy)” to their cover of the Christopher Cross hit “Sailing”.

If you don’t remember the Pop Renaissance of the late 90s/early 00s, then you probably don’t remember that it was constantly building. You were on the edge of your seat to see who would do what next. BSB hit the scene, then there was NSYNC, then we got Britney, then we got Christina. BSB set the one-week bestselling record with Millennium selling 1.1 million copies. It would go on to sell 9.4 million copies, making it the bestselling album of 1999. Then, all eyes were on *NSYNC, and they delivered when No Strings Attached sold 2.4 million in one week. It would become the bestselling album of 2000. When the ball was back in BSB’s court, following their own legal battles, they released Black & Blue, which sold a respectable, but not record-breaking, 1.6 million copies in its first week. It was at this point that folks started to realize the bubblegum era of pop was coming to a close, meaning that the release of No Strings Attached was pop at its peak.

As I was caught up in the anticipation, I’ll admit that I was more hyped about everything going on than the actual album that was delivered. The thing to remember is that you pretty much knew what you were gonna get from Max Martin around this era. They were all chart toppers, but it got to the point where he was using the same synth progressions, and the lyrics were interchangeable. Half of these albums were filler garbage – usually any songs not written by Martin and the rest of the Cheiron Studios crew. Backstreet Boys had actually made the first foray into R&B tinged pop when they released “Larger Than Life”, a song I dislike for a myriad of reasons. So, when No Strings Attached came out, I wasn’t exactly surprised to find that it was just an album of “Larger Than Life”. After all, everything we were getting was just building on what had come before it. So, at the end of the day, I only really enjoyed 6 of the US edition’s 12 tracks.

For an album as big as it was, it’s somewhat surprising that No Strings Attached only generated 3 official singles in the US: “Bye Bye Bye”, “It’s Gonna Be Me”, and “This I Promise You”. This is one less than their self-titled debut album, but it should also be noted that they toured and performed those debut album songs for 3 years before releasing No Strings Attached. Meanwhile, the group would release their 3rd and final album, Celebrity, just a year later in 2001. So, for as successful as it was, its shelf life was somewhat truncated by the release of an album I like even less than this one. As most of y’all were around in 2000, I won’t waste time explaining the cultural significance of those three singles. I mean, “Bye Bye Bye” was EVERYWHERE, and meme culture has immortalized “It’s Gonna Be Me”. Meanwhile, “This I Promise You” is the best song by Richard Marx that you didn’t know what written by Richard Marx.

As with most pop releases of the time, however, I gravitated to the UK Edition of the album. No, I didn’t have some sort of European CD hookup, but seeing as how these were the halcyon days of file sharing, it was pretty easy to track down. You see, the European market always gets the songs that they don’t think will make it in the US, and that just happens to be the sound that I LOVE. Two of my favorite songs made the UK edition: “I’ll Never Stop” and “If I’m Not The One”.

“I’ll Never Stop” was actually released as the second single from the album in the UK, and it was accompanied by a simple tour video. I hate tour videos because they’re cheap, and don’t really show much more than “Here’s a bunch of crowded shows, and fans going crazy over us”. No, I prefer the artistry of a real video, even if it’s just the band made up like marionettes, escaping from a toy store. Remember how I said Martin’s songs pretty much ran together at this point? This is just “Tearin’ Up My Heart: Part II”, but I ain’t mad at it.

Meanwhile, “If I’m Not The One” would eventually be released in the US at McDonald’s, of all places. It was included on the Your #1 Requests…And More! CD sampler, which had 4 *NSYNC songs and 4 Britney Spears songs. Backstreet Boys would later have a similar promotion at Burger King, so this was merely a custom of the time. Written by Swedes Fredrik Thomander and Anders Wikstrom, it’s clear they were students of Martin, as they delivered that Euro pop sound I’d come to love.

The inclusion of these songs on the US version would have made it an overall more enjoyable experience for me, but I can understand that they represent a sound that the group was trying to move away from in this market.
*NSYNC would delve even deeper into R&B with their next album, Celebrity, of which I’m not really a fan. If CDs were comic books, Celebrity would be the #0 issue to Justin Timberlake’s solo debut, Justified. He’s front and center on Celebrity, and it really doesn’t feel like a group effort. That would be the last time that all 5 members recorded together.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years since *NSYNC told us “Bye Bye Bye” which, come to think of it, probably would been a bomb ass final song from them. Imagine going out on that note! Anyway, it was a farewell to their label and the old way of doing things more so than them telling the audience they were leaving. Still, it was the era of TRL, low-rise jeans, and doing it all for the nookie. I was a freshman in college, and those were the days when anything was possible. Back then, the sky was the limit. Now, however, the limit is the sky. I may not love the entire tracklist, but it’s an album that always takes me to my happy place – a place of possibility, filled with smooth harmonies and a bumping baseline. Plus, I even managed to get my a cappella group to let me solo on both “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and “This I Promise You”. So, let’s raise a glass to Justin, Chris, Joey, “Lansten”, and JC for giving us this pinnacle of the 90s/00s Pop Era. Sure, since then we’ve had One Direction, BTS, and more, but with the current state of the music industry, it’s hard to believe there’ll ever be another album this big.

03rd Apr2020

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

17th Jan2020

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2019

by Will

I won’t say 2019 was a complete dumpster fire, but it certainly wasn’t very noteworthy. It was a year that many are glad to have behind them, and we’re looking forward to a better 2020. As you probably know, I took about 1/3 of the year off from posting because, well, there wasn’t a whole lot worth talking about. It was just such a Meh year. However, this is the time when we look back, so let’s see how the year shaped up, shall we?

I remember back in an early West Year Ever, I watched about 70 movies that year. This year I landed on unlucky number 13. Comic Book movies and Rambo films were the name of the game in 2019. The Rambo thing, however, was a fluke, as I did a Rambothon to prepare me for a podcast appearance.

Movies I Watched
1. Captain Marvel
2. SHAZAM!
3. Avengers: Endgame
4. Spider-Man: Far From Home
5. Barbershop: The Next Cut
6. First Blood
7. Rambo: First Blood Part II
8. Rambo III
9. Rambo
10. Rambo: Last Blood
11. White Chicks
12. The Grinch
13. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: I never wrote about this, because I feel like people should be more willing to say “I don’t know enough about this topic to have a strong opinion”. I mean, I enjoyed it in the theater, but it’s got fan service out the ass, and feels like it panders. Still, the lifelong fans seem to love it, so I guess “mission accomplished”? I will say that I’m disappointed in Finn’s character arc. Sure, I was one of the fools who initially fell for “Whoo hoo! Black Jedi!” Even when that didn’t come to pass, however, they never did anything with him. He’s such a blank slate that he’s come to be known by his relationships. That’s why everyone’s constantly trying to ship him with Poe Dameron. EVERYONE Finn encounters becomes a potential love interest. Rey, Poe, Rose, Jannah. He can’t meet someone without catching feelings. I don’t know if that’s because he was snatched as a child so he never had any real nurturing, or if it’s simply bad writing. But they didn’t do my man right.

Top Posts of 2019

While my West Week Ever posts are somewhat disposable, as they don’t mean much once the week has passed, every now and then I write something that I feel is sort of “evergreen” and can be read at any time. 2019 saw the return of my fan favorite segment Thrift Justice, with a heavy focus on physical media I acquired over the year. Then there was also a healthy dose of nostalgia. Check out these posts:

Thrift Justice: Operation Kondo
Thrift Justice: Let’s Get Physical! Physical! Media!
Thrift Justice: Physical Education
The Great Sitcom Fires of the 80s & 90s
Kickin’ It Old School at Retro Con 2019
West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – I Love The 80s REMIX!

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

  • We bid adieu to HarassmentWatch(TM), as #MeToo seemed to have calmed down.
  • All Elite Wresting debuted, finally giving WWE some competition
  • My pals at the Nerd Lunch Podcast announced that their show would be winding down
  • The latest incarnation of Power Rangers, Beast Morphers, debuted
  • The X-Men film franchised limped to the finish line with Dark Phoenix
  • Aunt Becky got caught cheating to get her daughter into USC
  • The Bat Penis made an appearance in Batman: Damned #1
  • The public outcry following the debut of the Sonic: The Hedgehog trailer caused Paramount to go back and change the character’s design.
  • Taco Bell Quarterly took the literary world by storm
  • Adam Levine left The Voice – ya know, that show that has never made a household name
  • We celebrated the 30th anniversary of 1989’s Batman
  • DC Comics shuttered the critically acclaimed Vertigo imprint
  • One of my favorite shows, The Amazing World of Gumball, came to a sudden end.
  • A bunch of y’all crowdfunded a $600 Transformer, so there’s that.
  • The X-Men comics got a major overhaul by writer Jonathan Hickman
  • Verizon, which paid an estimated $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr, offloaded the site to WordPress’s parent company, Auttomatic, for a mere $20 million. At least the porn’s back.
  • Avengers: Endgame unseated Avatar to become the highest grossing movie in the world.
  • Sony opted not to renew their agreement to allow Spider-Man to be used in Marvel Studios films. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. And then they changed their mind.
  • Get ready for the purple pill, as a fourth Matrix film was announced
  • SNL made history by hiring an Asian guy, but they also hired a guy who liked to make fun of Asians. And hilarity ensued! Not really. They fired that second guy.
  • NBCUniversal announced their own streaming service, peacock, which will carry the NBC library, as well as revivals of older shows, like Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell
  • Taylor Swift released my favorite album of the year, Lover
  • McDonald’s celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal, with a strange 5-day promotion that featured shoddy reproductions of old toys.
  • John Legend was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive, and even his wife, Chrissy Teigen, is like “Huh?”
  • Disney+ showed up on the scene and changed the streaming game. It’s a wonder Disney makes any money on it, though, as it seems like there are about 6 different cheat codes to get your first year for free.
  • I counted down the top 40 songs of 2019, as decided by moi.

West Week Ever Recipients of 2019
1/11/19 – Marie Kondo
2/15/19 – HardRockNick
3/1/19 – Star Wars: Always trailer
3/8/19 – Power Rangers Beast Morphers
3/15/19 – Captain Marvel
4/5/19 – SHAZAM!
5/3/19 – Avengers: Endgame
5/17/19 – Fox Network
5/24/19 – Live In Front of a Studio Audience
6/21/19 – Blanco Brown
7/19/19 – FaceApp
7/26/19 – Marvel Entertainment
8/16/19 – Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich
8/23/19 – Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich
9/20/19 – Taylor Swift: Lover
11/15/19 – Disney+
11/22/19 – Baby Yoda
12/6/19 – Xfinity’s E.T. commercial
12/13/19 – Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer

 

So, normally we get to this point, and I add up how many things got the West Week Ever more than once, and the West YEAR Ever recipient becomes sort of obvious. That’s not the case this year. While the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich did get the WWE twice, I refuse to consider 2019 The Year of the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich. No, some special math is needed here.

If you notice, Disney made the list 5 different times (I’m not counting the Star Wars: Always entry, as that was a fan project). Disney was behind the 2 most anticipated films of the year, they tied up the Thanos Saga of the MCU deftly, and they introduced the character of the year: “Baby Yoda”. On top of those successes, they closed to deal to acquire 21st Century Fox, bringing several other franchises, such as X-Men and Alien into the Disney fold. Ya hear that? Ellen Ripley is a Disney Princess now!

So, even though those sandwiches had folks lined up around the block, they eventually lost momentum and now you can just get one whenever you want. Disney, however, is still making moves to increase their vast empire. Some think they’re evil. Some say it’s “just business”. Whatever it is, it’s hard to deny Disney’s success, which is why they had the West Year Ever in 2019.

There you have it. We can finally close the book on 2019 and start focusing on what 2020 has to offer. There’ll also be some changes on the site, but we won’t get into that too much right now. As always, thanks for reading, as Lord knows there are 1,000 other things vying for your time these days. I truly appreciate it!

03rd Jan2020

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2019

by Will

With another year behind us, that means it’s time to look back on some of the music that made an impression over those 365 days. If you remember the past WBW40 posts, then you pretty much know what you’re in for. If you’re new, I should preface this by saying I have the musical taste of a 15 year old White girl from Norfolk, Virginia. I hate genre, so a lot of these would blur the lines of certain classifications. Still, it tends to skew to what’s typically played on country stations, with some pop sprinkled in. In fact, there’s more pop this year than in recent years, so that should make a few of you happy. I’m also proud to say that we had such a full deck that nobody made the countdown twice this year. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in, shall we?

 


40. AJ McLean – Boy and A Man

Yes, it’s THAT AJ McLean, of Backstreet Boys fame. He’s taken a few stabs at solo work in the past, but nothing has really stuck. Then, in a weird roundabout way, he decided to record some country music, as he felt that the genre was more aligned with the stories he wanted to tell at this stage of his life. Still, while he debuted this song on country radio, it’d be right at home on your adult contemporary station that airs Delilah.


39. George Strait – Every Little Honky Tonk Bar

I just like this little ditty. I’m not even really a George Strait fan. I know he’s the “Elder Statesman of Country Music”, but he’s never really done it for me. In fact, I think I drunkenly walked out of his concert a few years ago. Don’t ask me how I got there… Anyway, it’s just a fun song about dive bars. Garth also released a song about the same thing this year, but this one is far superior to his!


38. Blanco Brown – The Git Up

You’re already familiar with this one, as I introduced it to my readership earlier this year, swearing it was gonna be THE family reunion line dance of the summer. Now, I can’t confirm if that was true, as I didn’t have a family reunion this year, but I’d like to think my prediction came true, somewhere out there.


37. Jon Pardi – Heartache Medication

I buried a lot of the REAL country at the bottom of the list, but since you’re reading it as a countdown, I’m probably alienating you at this point. Oh well. I like Jon Pardi because he knows what works for him. He’s either singing about hearts or boots. His big single was “Dirt on My Boots”, then he followed that up with “Heartache on the Dance Floor”, followed by “Head Over Boots”, and then he gives us “Heartache Medication”. Somebody needs to let him know there are other words in the dictionary. Anyway, it’s got a catchy chorus.


36. Justin Moore – The Ones Who Didn’t Make It Back Home

So, I actually kinda hate this song, but I thought it would be disingenuous to leave it off the list. You see, this is an example of shrewd business by Moore’s management. To use a wrestling analogy, Justin Moore is what you’d consider a midcarder in the country industry. He’s not really groomed for a championship shot, but maybe he wins the Intercontinental title on a fluke, right? So, what does he do? He releases this patriot-bait song that would make it a crime for him NOT to get the #1 song on the country charts, because that simply wouldn’t be American! All of a sudden, he’s now moved from the midcard, and is a serious contender – all because of this one, heavyhanded song for soldiers/first responders. I’m not even the most patriotic, but it can bring a tear to my eye if it catches me on the right day.


35. Jimmie Allen – Make Me Want To

I love Jimmie Allen, as I know it can’t be easy for him as a Black man trying to make it in country music. It’s not like Darius Rucker has taken him under his wing or anything. Shit, I bet when they’re at the same event, it’s like the party scene from Not Another Teen Movie. Anyway, I LOVED Jimmie’s debut single, “Best Shot”, so it pains me that this song isn’t anywhere near that song’s level of beauty. This is a fun enough song, but nothing too special. It’s the kind of thing that would’ve been buried in the middle of a late 90s boyband album. I’m not even talking *NSYNC or even 5ive. I’m talking BBMak or LFO.


34. Thomas Rhett – Remember You Young

Rhett started the year with “Look What God Gave Her”, where he pretty much just bragged about his wife and her haters. I’m so tired of him singing about his wife. We get it. You’re in love! So, he ended up making the countdown with another love song that’s not so obviously about the mother of his children. Nothing groundbreaking her, but it’s a pretty song.


33. Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend

Couldn’t have a 2019 music countdown and NOT mention Billie. I’m sure most folks would have expected “Bad Guy”, but I simply liked this one more. I’m still not entirely in love with her sound, which is sorta like if they let Harley Quinn make beats while she’s locked up in Arkham. That’s why she’s so far down the list. But I’m gonna keep an eye on her, ’cause she’s clearly going places.


32. Zac Brown Band – Someone I Used to Know

I like Zac Brown, and there’s something about this that just hits right for me. That’s pretty much it.


31. Marshmello & Bastille – Happier

I’m ashamed to say that I know this more from Kidz Bop than the actual recording, as my oldest tends to walk around singing the chorus. That’s as juvenile as this countdown will get, though, since I took “Baby Shark” off the list (What? It hit the Billboard chart this year!)


30. SHAED – Trampoline

They’re actually a local band, but I didn’t know that when I discovered the song. I like its vibe, but it’s also the kind of thing where we’ll probably never hear from them again. It’s got One-Hit Wonder quality to it. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, though.


29. George Michael – This is How (We Want You To Get High)

I already blogged about this earlier in the year, as George’s sister and father released the song. Then she died on Christmas – 3 years to the day that HE died. Ain’t that crazy?! Anyway, it seems like it would’ve been right at home on his Ladies & Gentlemen album from ’98.


28. Russell Dickerson – Every Little Thing

This was a great summer song, with its whistles and happy beat. And it was so much nicer to hear Russell sing about something other than his blue truck.


27. Mitchell Tenpenny – Drunk Me

Weird name for an artist, but a great song. Seriously, “Mitchell Tenpenny”? Is he an accountant? Or an actuary? I’ll be he’s an actuary. Anyway, I feel like this song could’ve worked just as well sung by an R&B artist.


26. Dan + Shay w/Justin Bieber – 10,000 Hours

What a surprising collaboration! I already love Dan + Shay because they’re not really country. If anything, they’re the second coming of Savage Garden, and the only reason they’re on country radio is because of the low barrier to entry. Their roots are NOT in country, and they work so well, vocally, with Bieber on this track.


25. Lauren Alaina – Ladies in the 90s

I also blogged about this one earlier in the year. Just a fun song about Lauren’s female singer role models while growing up.


24. Matt Stell – Prayed For You

You’d think that he was a Christian artist, but you’d be wrong. Sure, the song is kinda straddles that contemporary Christian line, that’s not what pays his bills. We do have one of those artists coming up, though.


23. Ingrid Andress – More Hearts Than Mine

I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it, as Ingrid is warning her boyfriend that he shouldn’t get too attached, as their potential breakup would end up hurting more people than just her. My wife hates that sentiment, as she said it’s not the guy’s fault if her family’s all clingy and gets attached to him. Still, as someone who’s been in that situation, I completely understand where the song’s coming from.


22. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Every time I listen to The Weeknd, I ask myself “Why don’t I listen to more stuff from The Weeknd?” So much of what he puts out sounds like it was unearthed from an 80s time capsule, and that’s right up my alley. This one doesn’t disappoint in that department.


21. Ryan Hurd – To A T

Oh, such great wordplay in this song! I was afraid that Hurd was just gonna end up being known as Mr. Maren Morris, but I’m glad to see he’s carving out a niche of his own. There’s a clear Jason Mraz influence here, and I like it.


20. Miranda Lambert – It All Comes Out In the Wash

Somebody needs to bring that Dixie Chicks fire that’s been missing from the boys’ club of country music, and this single from Miranda does just that.


19. Blake Shelton – God’s Country

Blake’s in an interesting place in his career, where he just kinda tosses out singles every few months just to remind folks that he’s more than just a coach on The Voice. Some of them never really even chart, but he does it to keep his country dues paid up. Every now and then, one of them actually has something to it, and this is one of the best. I love the chorus, where he pretty much takes us right up to the church door without leading us in. Still, it’s like you can hear the choir from the other side of the doors.


18. Luke Bryan – Knockin’ Boots

Speaking of reality show judges, America has gotten to know Luke Bryan as a judge on ABC’s American Idol reboot, and I don’t know if that’s been the greatest thing for his career. I say that because it’s almost like he’s changed songwriters now that he’s in the spotlight, and his song choices just ain’t that great lately. That said, I like the swing of this track. It’s hokey, and kinda like the joke of how all American fads reach Europe late, here you wonder why country music is just picking up on “knockin’ boots”.


17. Luke Combs – Beer Never Broke My Heart

Remember the midcarder conversation about Justin Moore? Well, sometimes someone comes out of the developmental territories, and you just know that’s gonna be The Guy. That’s Luke Combs. It’s clear that the industry expects big things from him, and everything he touches is a hit. Now, he did release “Even Though I’m Leaving” this year, which I thought was something of sappy low point for him, I LOVE this song. The chorus is just built for drunken singalongs.


16. Lee Brice – Rumor

Ooh, the blues influence here is incredible, and I’m glad to see that Brice has this kind of range in him. More like this!


15. Harry Styles – Adore You

This was something of a late entry, as Harry’s album just came out a few weeks ago, but this song really left an impression on me. It reminds me of the kind of stuff we’d get from Timberlake before he had a kid and lost all of the sexy he’d painstakingly brought back.


14. Michael Ray – One That Got Away

This is just a fun singalong song. I don’t know what else Michael has in the chamber, but I hope it’s more like this.


13. Maren Morris – The Bones

Maren’s really got the crossover appeal, thanks to Target featuring her in a lot of their ad campaigns. Her biggest song of the year was probably “GIRL”, but this is my favorite song from the album of the same name.


12. Chris Young – Raised On Country

Yeah, I know I know. Y’all hate country, but this song speaks to me. You see, I, too, was raised on country. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, as my mom listened to the blues, but from the age of 4 to 11, I listened to nothing but country. I think Ace of Base was what ushered me into the world of pop. So I can relate to this song.


11. Lizzo – Juice

I was late to the Lizzo train, and I’m still not fully aboard, but I’m thinking of buying a ticket. I heard this in Target and it stuck with me. Immediately came home to hear it again.


10. Backstreet Boys – Chances

If you weren’t looking for it, you’d probably never know that the Backstreet Boys released an album last year. In fact, it was released during such a new release drought that it debuted at #1 – their first #1 album in 19 years! Still, the whole thing was kinda terrible as, for whatever reason, they didn’t work with Max Martin, who was responsible for basically every one of their hits. So, this is probably the best song from that album, which shows they’ve still got vocal chops.


09. Lauren Daigle – You Say

Remember when Debbe Boone would sing about God but you thought it was about a lover? Well, get a load of this, as Lauren here is actually a Christian artist, but the song gets play on adult contemporary stations as a love song. It works both ways, but it just drives home the fact that contemporary Christian music has some of the best melodies out there.


08. Old Dominion – One Man Band

On the production side, this is a simple song, but it hits in all the right ways.


07. Jonas Brothers – Sucker

I was never a JoBro fan, but this song got a ton of airplay earlier this year, and it was impossible to escape it. While I never got into their old stuff, I dig their new sound. Marriage has done them some good!


06. Chris Lane – I Don’t Know About You

I love the picture this song paints. “What’s your wrist tattoo Bible verse say?” That is SUCH a type!


05. Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes

I kinda stumbled into this song because I think Panic!’s Brandon Urie sounds a lot like Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy. So, I thought Stump had a new song when it was actually Urie. Still, I love that sound, so the song stuck with me.


04. Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved

I had heard this song, and I had heard the name Lewis Capaldi, but I didn’t realize this song was BY Lewis Capaldi. Great ballad here, and I need to check out more of his work.


03. Morgan Wallen – Whiskey Glasses

I am SUCH a Morgan Wallen stan, ever since “The Way I Talk”, followed by “Up Down”. The play on words here is great, and this ended up being one of my favorite songs of the year.


02. Lady Antebellum – What If I Never Get Over You

If we’re doing the genre thing, this was my favorite song by a country artist. It was ALMOST my favorite of the year, overall, but we’ll get to that. It’s just got such beautiful harmonies, as Lady A brought their A game to this one.


01. Taylor Swift feat Brandon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – ME!

It was hard to narrow down to just ONE Taylor Swift song to put on this countdown. Her album, Lover, was my favorite album of 2019, but it’s also not really fair to boast about that, as I didn’t listen to a ton of albums. What really made it stand out, however, was the fact that I loved pretty much every track on that thing. It’s got everything from peppy pop like this one to vaporwave tracks. Ms. Swift really outdoes herself on that album, but the standout to me was this song because it’s just so FUN. Not to mention the fact that Brandon Urie, from Panic!, shows up with his Patrick Stump soundalike vocals. That just sealed the deal for me.

So, there you have it. My favorite songs of 2019. Which were your faves? Did you discover anything new here? Leave a comment below!

18th Dec2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – I Love The 80s REMIX!

by Will

As we head into the holidays, I know fewer folks will be online (especially those avoiding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker spoilers), so I thought I’d give you an early treat. Now, I briefly considered a West Decade Ever, but I really don’t have that in me. Instead, I kinda wanted to dabble in something different. You see, I don’t really get too musical on this site because I have the musical taste of a 15 year old White girl from Norfolk, Virginia: just enough pop knowledge, with a heavy dose of Tim McGraw sprinkled in there. Since I can’t attract that demographic without ending up on some sort of watchlist, I keep most of the music to the WBW40 post at the end of the year. That said, most of us here are Children of the 80s, and if Stranger Things has taught us anything, we eat that nostalgia shit right up! So, I thought I’d mix a little then with the now, and showcase some amazing 80s remixes I found of recent-ish songs. Some of these might not be new to you, but cut me a break, as I’ve been listening to Darius Rucker and Florida Georgia Line the past few years. This year, my holiday gift to you is a musical trip through time, where hopefully you’ll discover something that knocks your socks off as much as these did mine.

In my albeit brief research, one of the kings of this 80s remix movement seems to be a guy named Johan Olsson. If Max Martin, ABBA, and Ace of Base taught us anything, it’s to never rule out the Swedes when it comes to an earworm. He doesn’t do much to the existing songs, but what he does is SO spot on to the era. He basically isolates the original vocals and puts them over a standard 80s synth beat, but the end product sounds like something that actually charted 35 years ago.  Here’s a few of his best tracks:

“Helena” – My Chemical Romance

This was actually my introduction to this whole scene, when a friend posted the link on Facebook (See, Facebook isn’t ALL evil these days!). This could totally have been a hit by Breathe (of “Hands To Heaven” and “How Can I Fall?” fame). This has got “Awkward Slow Dance at Homecoming” written all over it, which is saying something since you can’t really dance to the original. And that sax solo! I thought it was a perfect homage already, and then that sax kicked in. And then the overlay of the sax on the final chorus? *Chef’s kiss* I would totally do this for karaoke if it were an option.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down” – Fall Out Boy

If you’re new here, then you don’t know much about my love of California Dreams. An early staple of the 90s TNBC Saturday morning lineup, it was basically Saved By The Bell with a band (a REAL band, and not that Zack Attack crap). I would go so far as to say that I love California Dreams MORE than Saved By The Bell, primarily because of the music. Now, even though the show debuted in 1992, much of the music had that laid back, beachy sound that gave it something of a late 80s vibe. This rendition, right here, is a California Dreams song. Hence, I LOVE it. I already loved Fall Out Boy since their album Infinity On High. Loved them even more when they were part of the Teen Titans Go! The Night Begins To Shine special. With this, I don’t think it’s possible for me to love them more. Sure, they didn’t have a part in the production of this, but they provided the main ingredient, and that’s enough in my book!


“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – Green Day

This has that dark, pulsing beat of a Pat Benatar song. If it were used in a movie, it would most definitely be during a driving sequence through the “bad part of town”. Maybe 80s Times Square, before Giuliani came and supposedly cleaned up the streets.


“Dani California” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

I can’t help but feel like this version would’ve been a great song to use in Beverly Hills Cop, just as Axel arrives in California. They could just use a bunch of standard California B-roll, with bikini girls rollerskating down the sidewalk and beautiful people playing beach volleyball.


“Side to Side” – Ariana Grande feat Nicki Minaj

Coming to a shopping mall near you is this new hit singer, Ariana Grande, and her bouncy hit “Side to Side”! This version puts a happier spin on the song, as the original sounds like snake charmer music. I will say that the Nicki verse doesn’t work as well with what Olsson is trying to emulate, but he kills it on the Ariana parts.


“Perfect” – Ed Sheeran

Know what’s funny? If this had come out in, say, 1986 Sheeran would’ve probably been a One-Hit Wonder, but this song would still be played at Black family reunions to this day. Instead, in the wacky world of 2019, he’s been named the Artist of the Decade! Not Olsson’s strongest offering, but he makes it work. This is actually one of his earliest remixes, so you can contrast this with “Helena” to see just how far he’s come in only a year at doing these.


“Symphony” – Clean Bandit feat Zara Larsson

I actually wasn’t familiar with the original in this instance, so I discovered TWO songs in this case. Immediately took to the Clean Bandits song, especially with that powerful music video that accompanies it. Still, I really like what Olsson does here. It’s understated, but could easily play over the end credits of some 80s thriller about a dystopian future. Anybody ever see that Tom Selleck/Gene Simmons movie, Runaway? Yeah, that movie would’ve been perfect for this. Again, this is one of Olsson’s earliest, but he stuck the landing on it right out of the gate.


“Poker Face” – Lady Gaga

Rest assured that Olsson isn’t the only one out there, doing the Lord’s work, and some artists just lend themselves well to the 80s remix treatment. One such artist is Lady Gaga, and this mix by D.A.M.I.A.N is pure perfection.


“Wrecking Ball” – Miley Cyrus

GK Starwalker turns in this “1987 Version” of Miley’s hit, which fires on all cylinders from the first beat. Nothing crazy is really done here, but it’s a great alternate take on the haunting song. A good, by-the-numbers 80s conversion.


“We Found Love” – Rihanna feat Calvin Harris

I really love what Rath Remix did with his one, and I’m a big fan of the original. I love how the synth comes in at the pre-chorus. This kinda sounds like Saved By The Bell music in a weird sort of way. It even ends like a TV theme song.


“I Want It That Way” – Backstreet Boys

I’ll close things out with one everyone knows. Here, Mohamad Shaxi delivers the song you hate to love, but can’t help but sing along to. You could almost call this the “GTA Mix”, as I feel like it would play in the in-game car, as you’re going to collect money from your bitches. It’s a standard synth beat, but it works. Back when I used to buy maxi singles, I could totally hear this being one of the remixes on there. After all, there wasn’t a ton of difference between late 80s pop and early-mid 90s European disco.

Well, there ya have it – 11 songs you didn’t know you’d hear when you woke up this morning. I fell down quite the rabbit hole, and I thank you for coming along with me. Which were your favorites? Do you know of any good ones I need to check out? Do you want posts like this in the future? As they say in my kids’ YouTube videos, leave a comment below! In the meantime, have a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and a Kickin’ Kwanzaa!

06th Dec2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/6/19

by Will

So, did everyone have a good Black Friday? I didn’t post, ’cause y’all weren’t gonna read it anyway. There were deals to be had! I did my typical spree on physical media that I’ll probably never watch:

  • I already own both Deadpool movies, but I got this Blu Ray 2-pack for $1.96. I COULDN’T leave that behind!
  • Yes, I know Dark Phoenix sucks, but I still haven’t seen it, and I own all the others, so I had to complete the set.
  • Booksmart always kinda looked like it was basically Girl Superbad, which doesn’t sound like the worst thing to me. Hope I’m right!
  • I didn’t read anything good about Rocketman, but Elton’s my favorite artist of all time, so I’ve gotta see it.
  • Yes, everyone who’s seen Holmes & Watson has wasted no time telling me it’s horrible, but I’m a sucker for that comedy duo, plus it was $3.

The rest of my haul came in last night. These online orders were my “Wait for Black Friday” babies that I’d passed up over the course of the year:

  • Was not fan of Captain Marvel, but I’ve got all the rest, and it was just $7.99, so…
  • I know this is sacrilege, but I enjoyed Venom. Hell, I enjoyed it more than Captain Marvel, which is why it’s here.
  • SHAZAM! was fun, and deserves to be revisited. On the flip side, I never saw Aquaman, but feel it deserves a fair shake.
  • Can’t wait to watch Cooper and Gaga’s Not Relationship play out in A Star Is Born!
  • Everything else here I’ve never seen (Yes, that includes Jingle All the Way and 3/5 of the Transformers films), so they’re New to Me.

I’m convinced that I’ll be the key to the physical media infrastructure after The Collapse, so I guess there’s that.

Trailer Park

No Time To Die

I like to think I’m a James Bond fan, but my favorite of the franchise is Moonraker, and I’ve never seen a Daniel Craig Bond film, so I guess I’m just kidding myself. This looks fine for the folks who are true fans, but that ain’t me. I feel like I’m missing some backstory here or something, but maybe it’s just how the trailer is edited. Yay for Black 00 agent, but she’ll probably die ’cause she’s way too cocky (ugh at the thinkpieces that’s gonna trigger), and Bond never dies. He’s got no time to die! I’ve got nothing against this film, but I’ll probably never see it.


Crisis on Infinite Earths (The CW)

I get that this is supposed to be EPIC, but I also feel like I’m missing something by not being All In on the Arrowverse right now. In fact, I feel like those novices who were like “Can I see Infinity War/Endgame if I haven’t seen the other Marvel movies?” I realize that Flash has been building to this since its pilot, which is why it’s kinda odd to me that, somewhere along the way, this became an Oliver Queen story. In the original 80s comic series, the big deaths were Flash and Supergirl, but I can’t help but feel that basic knowledge of the TV industry kinda puts the kibosh on that happening here. I mean, there are contracts in place. You kill those 2, what are you gonna do for the back half of each of their seasons? Meanwhile, Arrow only has, like, one episode left after this crossover, so… My point is that, while this has become quite the smorgasbord/clusterfuck mishmash of DC properties that some folks have always wanted, I can’t possibly imagine anything they could throw at me that would blow my socks off. And I’m not trying to be difficult here. I stopped regularly watching Arrow when Lian Yu got blown the Hell up, so I’m 2 seasons and change behind. It’s just that I feel really detached from those shows right now, so I’m probably just not the target audience they’re trying to reach. Crossing my fingers that it’s good, though.


Mulan

I’ve actually never seen the animated feature (I know, I know), but that might work in this one’s favor. I’ve made no secret that I’m not a fan of Disney’s recent “Let’s ‘live action’ that bitch!” initiative they’re applying to all their past animated hits. I feel like, outside of Pixar, Disney’s recent films are stagnant, and they don’t really know what to do next. People like to rip on the MCU for being formulaic and lacking stakes, but Disney Proper really isn’t taking many risks these days. Sure, it’s not “easy” translating a lot of these things to live action, but why do it anyway? Just because? Anyway, this looks pretty amazing, and I’m prepared to watch the Hell out of it. Also, it looks like the kind of thing best seen on the big screen, and that’s not something I do for just any movie. But I’m picking up what you’re putting down, Mulan, and I’m ready!


Troop Zero

“As a father of daughters”, I find this looks cute. I’d never pay to see it, and I’d never rent it. However, it’s perfectly placed on Amazon Prime, where I can watch it at my leisure without ever living my house. Ain’t The Future grand?


Black Widow

I’m not completely dead inside yet, but this did absolutely nothing for me. I’m trying not to let the whole “She’s a dead character/Endgame was the perfect coda to the MCU” mentality creep in. All that aside, this movie is a day late and a dollar short. Regardless of the stuff I just mentioned, this should have been ensconced in Phase 2 and NOT all the way in Phase 4. Will I watch it? Sure. Am I excited about watching it? Not at all. This would be like if they said “Hey, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is gonna have a movie”, which is another property that could’ve benefited from some early theatrical love. Widow is not my favorite Avenger, but you say that shit on Twitter, and they’ll cancel ya for hating women. No, I just don’t care that much for how she’s portrayed in the movies, despite the fact there’s been some great comic stories with her (like Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s recent Black Widow series). I know they’re just calling this a teaser, so I’m sure Disney is hard at work on an official trailer, chock full of footage that won’t be in the actual movie.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Almost 2 years after Hasbro’s purchase of the property, the “Saban’s” prefix will finally be removed from the Power Rangers logo in 2020. While Haim Saban had acted in a consultant role on the brand, his future with it is now uncertain.
  • After debuting just last weekend on the DC Universe streaming service, the premiere episode of the animated Harley Quinn series is set to air on TBS this Sunday night. While the worst words will be censored, a move like this is still enough to make folks question why DC Universe is even still around, as far as original programming is concerned.
  • Speaking of animated shows, it’s been reported that the showrunner and writing staff of the Tigra & Dazzler animated series, set to stream on Hulu, have been let go. There are reports that it’s undergoing a “creative overhaul”, but I doubt those Hulu shows ever see the light of day. They were Jeph Loeb’s babies, and his departure was announced during my most recent blog break. Everyone knows the new boss throws out the old boss’s shit so they can do their own shit. I don’t care if Kevin Smith and Chelsea Handler were attached to that planned animated universe, it ain’t happening.
  • In the “Get Yo’ Money, Playa” move of the century, tortured Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best is returning to the franchise to host the Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge game show for Disney+
  • There are reports that Disney is looking to revive the Planet of the Apes franchise in some capacity, as it is seen by some as the most viable property in the recently acquired Fox portfolio.
  • Since John Witherspoon’s passing, there are now reports that actress Jenifer Lewis is interested in portraying Granddad’s sister in the upcoming Boondocks revival.
  • If you’re like me, in thinking that The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths could probably stand to be more than 5 parts, then you’ll be glad (or mad) to know that DC felt the same way. This is why they’re releasing a 2-issue Crisis comic series that will be part of their 100-Page Giant series sold at Walmart. These comics, co-written by original Crisis writer Marv Wolfman, will feature the Arrowverse characters, and fill in some of the blanks that won’t make it to the screen. Issue #1 will be out 12/15, with #2 out on 1/19.
  • Justin Timberlake has publicly apologized to wife, Jessica Biel, for being spotted holding hands with his film costar, Alisha Wainwright. He’s blaming it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol, and swears nothing happened. This is such a juvenile non-scandal that I half expect him to go public with his Cootie Test results.

  • At long last, we’re finally getting full-fledged DC Comics characters in the next series of LEGO Minifigures blind bags! I’m SO glad I won’t have to buy full sets to get some of these characters now.

Since we skipped last week, we never got a chance to talk about E.T.’s grand return. You see, during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, 80s pop culture icon E.T. came back! No, he wasn’t a parade balloon, nor was he in the booth with Hoda and Al. I wish I could say it was a trailer for a long-awaited sequel, but I can’t say that, either. No, the folks at Xfinity decided to dust him off to tug at nostalgia to help them sell bundle packages.

11 million views later, and I’m left here with a lot of questions. I mean, just think of all of Elliott’s therapy that was done by this return! And why wasn’t his wife more frantic? What’s SHE hiding? And where’s Gertie? Please tell me Gertie’s OK! It couldn’t have been easy growing up knowing what she knew.

It’s a cute ad, but luckily E.T. doesn’t hold much of a special place in my heart, so I wasn’t over here weeping like some Evangelical listening to “The Christmas Shoes” for the umpteenth time. No, your trickery didn’t work on me, Xfinity! Plus, I already have your services, so you have nothing left to sell me right now.

I could get used to this, though. Maybe next year, they could do Weird Science with a CGI Kelly LeBrock. I’d LOVE to see Wyatt and Gary try to explain that to their wives and/or husbands. “Um, we created her…for science!”

It’s a cheap ploy, but nostalgia is an instant warp zone into the hearts of many. They used a day meant for family to showcase E.T. being reunited with his own. Well played, Xfinity. Anyway, it’s safe to say that E.T. had the West Week Ever.

15th Nov2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/15/19

by Will

HELLO?! IS ANYBODY HERE?! *echo*

 

I feel like I go on hiatus way too much because I find myself apologizing for having done so way too much. This year, West Year Ever is gonna be pretty easy to compile since I took off, like, 1/3 of the year. Seriously, I even considered switching the format to West Month Ever for a while.

So, where have I been? That’s a great question. Long story short: I had nothing to say. Or, better yet, I had nothing positive to say. And you know the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice…” Sure, there was plenty of stuff to rant about, but I couldn’t balance it out with anything I *LIKED*, and that was a problem. The internet is toxic enough, so I really didn’t feel like feeding into that. So, I spent my time catching up on Power Rangers: Beast Morphers episodes, and trying to clean up my basement. There were times when I was on the verge of posting something, and then life would throw a monkey wrench into my plans. One week, I was working at the work site that has my site blocked, so no posting then. Another week, I was in a car accident and had my car battery die (resulting in a 2.5 hour wait for AAA), all in the same Friday. So, I guess I was just supposed to skip the month of October.

This week, though, couldn’t be skipped because just TOO much happened, and it felt like the perfect time to make my grand return.

In the movie realm, I got around to watching White Chicks the other day. No, I’d never seen it, even though I know it’s a guilty pleasure for a lot of folks. At the end of the day, I didn’t love it. I mean, it’s problematic in a way that only a movie from 2004 could get away with, but I also didn’t find it to be that funny. It could be because we’ve sort of left the era of the socialite behind. Sure, the Kardashians are always considered “famous for being famous”, but they’ve built a business empire upon that. Outside the Hadid girls, we don’t really have the Paris & Nicole Simple Life era socialites anymore, even if we still have spoiled, rich White girls. To be honest, though, I probably would’ve preferred a movie about the Dominican bodega owners that Shawn and Marlon are disguised as in the beginning. I’ll also note that I watched this thing on TV One, so it was probably edited for television with all the good stuff taken out. For you fans out there, is it worth revisiting in, say, an unrated DVD sort of way?

One thing that took the past week by storm was the McDonalds Happy Meal 40th anniversary promotion, and BOY do I have thoughts on that! Designed as a limited run from November 7th through 11th, the promotion first leaked from some YouTuber posting about it. Then, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula tweeted about it, at which point he said McDonalds “kindly” asked him to take down the tweet. Then McDonalds formally announced it: for 5 days only, they would be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal by releasing reproductions of some of their most iconic toys. Oh, and in blind bags.

Let me tell you a little bit of my own history with McDonalds Happy Meal toys, as I was once something of a superfan. This is where my collecting lifestyle began. When there was a new promotion, it was my weekend mission to get my mom to drive us all over town so I could complete those sets. This went on from about Kindergarten to maybe 8th grade. I got to a point where I was modding Happy Meal orders to come with Big Macs and Quarter Pounders with Cheese (I was a “husky”, hungry child) until some employee eventually told me “You know, you can just BUY the toys.” That’s when I moved the to the Extra Value Menu, occasionally shelling out an additional $1.89 for Happy Meal toys. So I had the originals of everything in this anniversary promotion. I would have liked a proper tribute to those old toys, but this wasn’t it.

OK, so here’s the first problem: why reproductions? I know you’re all not like me, spending all your free time in thrift stores, but lemme tell ya something: McDonalds toys are NOT hard to find. Plus I feel like there’s got to be some sort of McDonalds Area 51 with a stockpile of old toys they could’ve drawn from. Even if this doesn’t exist (prove me wrong, cowards!), they could’ve really made this special in other ways. Maybe team up with the American Pickers guys, and have them go out and find some dead stock for them to use. It’d make a great special episode of the show, and it would look like some kind of effort went into it. It could’ve been a yearlong buildup, with webisodes and whatnot. Instead, we get this lame promotion that was shoehorned into a week that McDonalds needed to fill between the Hello Kitty/Pokémon promotion and the Frozen II promotion.

Next problem: blind bagged, though numbered. Why act like it’s such a surprise about what you’ll get when everyone knows there are 17 in the US (#9, believed to be a Barbie, was pulled from the promotion before it began), and the numbers are right there on the polybags? It’s not “blind” if you can read numbers. And I’m not talking some sort of secret Braille code, like the LEGO minifigures use. I’m talking a clear as day number, right on the front, that corresponds to a checklist that most social media influencers posted online after they received a promo shipment from McDonalds. When I didn’t get a special box from McDonalds, that’s when I knew I wasn’t shit.

When the toys actually hit, the third problem became apparent: cheap, inaccurate reproductions. The new toys weren’t as well made as the originals, and they all had 2019 date stamps so as to not confuse folks into thinking they were the vintage toys. A lot of strange decisions had been made. The Changeables burger was no longer a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, as both the cheese and sesame seeds had been removed from the mold. And the one that really grinds my gears: the Red Power Ranger. It’s bad enough McDonalds included this thing when the Power Rangers figures were NOT Happy Meal toys (they were add-on items that you could buy for $1.99 each when the original movie was in theaters), but this Red Ranger they’d included only had one arm and one leg that moved, while the opposite limbs were fixed. Why?! Then they included Bugs Bunny from Space Jam, which was odd because A) I wouldn’t call that promotion “iconic” and B) the gimmick of that toy line was that the different characters were on pieces of basketball court that you assembled into something akin to a train. One toy from the line was kind of boring, but to have them all was sort of special. Here, you got one toy. It’d be like if they had just given you one piece of the Inspector Gadget build a figure promotion. What the Hell are you gonna do with ONE piece?!

Anyway, I found myself on the wrong side of history on this one because the nostalgia bloggers were eating it up. I, however, didn’t get it. Surprisingly, even my wife was like “We’re gonna get Happy Meals every day!” I understand the nostalgia factor, but it just felt so poorly executed. Since the promotion was only 5 days long, restaurants got limited stock and a lot of them seemed to have depleted that stock before the 11th even hit. Plus, I can’t believe that McDonalds contracted factories all the way in China to make such subpar repros for this promotion, especially when the marketing department seemingly screwed the pooch. If you enjoyed it, great, but something just felt rushed and disorganized about the whole thing. Here’s hoping they do a better job for the 50th anniversary, but we’ll be so “woke” by then that Happy Meals will be a salad and a toothbrush.

In the world of comics, there was a lot of hubbub about Jonathan Hickman becoming the new architect of the X-Men line. Everything kicked off in the companion series House of X and Powers of X, which were released weekly over the summer. These led to the release of a new X-Men #1, which I grabbed at a midnight release party (Thanks, Third Eye Comics!).

Now, I had read House of X #1 and thought “Interesting start, but I’m not paying $6 a week for this story.” So, I skipped those minis and dove right into the first issue of the ongoing. And my verdict? These aren’t my X-Men. I like the X-Men who are hated and feared, but always recharge after a huge battle by playing baseball at their school in Westchester county. Hickman’s X-Men, however, has too many moving parts, and I’m not on board with a lot of it.

In a lot of ways, Hickman’s vision is basically just a remix of what Grant Morrison brought to the line when he took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and it became New X-Men. Both share the premise that mutants now have the upper hand, causing frightened humanity to go to desperate measures to prevent their own extinction. It’s an interesting viewpoint, but it’s one where I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. With X-Men, sometimes that takes years (see: Emma Frost), but to paraphrase Karl Mordo, “The bill comes due. Always.”

I have always felt that the life cycle of superhero comic fandom is about 15 years, because audiences cycle in and out, but that’s about how long it takes for Been There, Done That to set in. I feel like I’ve seen this before, and that just might be a sign that my time with Charles Xavier’s mutants is up. Maybe folks are into that sort of journey, but I don’t wanna stay on this ride.

While I was away from blogging, I was still keeping busy, running my mouth on a few podcasts. First up, I recorded a look back on Batman ’89 with my pal Chad at the Horror Movie BBQ back over the summer, and he never told me that the episode was posted. I’d been over here, stewing for the last 5 months, that he had yet another unreleased episode with me (We recorded an Adam West tribute a while back that devolved into chaos and has never seen the light of day), meanwhile it had been on his site the whole time. So, sorry about that, Chad. It was a good discussion, though, as I talk about my Bat Amnesia and more, so check it out!

Next, I joined the guys over at Nerd Lunch for the final “Ned Lurch” episode. As they prepare to “sunset” their show, they’re taking one last stab at some of their themes, and Ned Lurch is a guy whose friends and advisors are constantly giving him bad business advice, in an attempt to see him fail. In our episode, Ned is talked into launching the worst action figure line ever. Check it out, as I give the worst improv performance you’d ever expect from me, but it was a fun show. Speaking of improv, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how I actually auditioned for the improv group in college. Yeah, there was a period of time when I was bored with a cappella and wanted to try something different. The problem with that plan, though, was that group was led by my girlfriend’s ex boyfriend. At least I made it to the final round, though…

Finally, get ready for the Christmas season by listening to me talk about everyone’s favorite “That’s Not a Christmas Movie!” No, not Die Hard. Instead, podcast extraordinaire, Michael May, had me on his Sleigh Bell Cinema show to discuss Iron Man 3. The same way you’ve got to look at Superman III as “Hey, it’s a Richard Pryor movie, featuring Superman”, you’ve got to do some mental gymnastics with this one, as well. What do I think about Tony Stark’s final solo outing? Take a listen to find out!

Trailer Park


Sonic the Hedgehog

I can’t deny that he looks better now, but I loathe the precedent this movie set. In case you don’t remember, the original design for Sonic had fans so outraged that the backlash to the initial trailer led the studio to delay the film and retool Sonic’s look. On the one hand, folks are like “Great job for listening to the fans!” Meanwhile, I’m over here, like, “Ugh, you listened to FANS!” Half the time fans don’t know what they want, and they tend to stick to the familiar because they hate change. That’s fine. I also dislike change. That said, this movie was never going to be a blockbuster, but now folks feel guilty that they have to support it since they raised such a stink. But you see, the internet is full of folks who love a good fight with no vested interest. A lot of the people the most upset about Sonic’s design were never going to see the movie in the first place. So, was the redesign worth it or in vain? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


SCOOB!

Is this basically a reboot of A Pup Named Scooby Doo? ‘Cause I was ALL about that era in the 90s when everyone got a “Lil” version of their franchise. The Flintstone Kids, Life with Louie, Hell, even Little Rosey (who’da thunk they would’ve given a cartoon to Roseanne?! But they did). I won’t be seeing this in theaters, but I’ll totally grab it on Black Friday for my girls.


Holiday Rush

This looks kinda cute. You don’t get a ton of Black Christmas movies, and I’m a fan of Romany Falco. The beauty of this is that I’d never go see this in a theater, not even if the tickets were free, but I can watch dude hit on First Officer Michael Burnham, while sitting at home in my underwear? Sure, I’ll buy that for a dollar!


Harley Quinn

Looks fun. Still not signing up for the DC Universe service. There’s got to be a plan to rehome these shows on HBO Max going forward, as the existence of DCU is making less sense by the day. They could repurpose that site to be a purely comic hub, like Marvel has Marvel Unlimited, but it doesn’t make sense to keep the shows on there, especially when Warner Media is trying to brand HBO Max as THE streaming portal for their catalog. So, I’ll watch this when I eventually cave and get HBO Max, since Rick & Morty will probably be exclusive to that service by 2025 or something.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Legend was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive, and even his wife, Chrissy Teigen, is like “Huh?” I mean, he seems nice enough, but kinda soft. Then again, he’s a former collegiate a cappella kid, so I guess I’ve gotta support him in this endeavor.
  • Not content to stand on the sidelines of the upcoming Streaming Wars, Nickelodeon has signed a deal with Netflix to develop movies and shows based on their properties. Personally, I can’t wait for Are You Afraid of the Black Mirror?
  • The sand might be running out of the hourglass for one of your grandma’s “stories”, as the entire cast of Days of Our Lives has been released from their contracts. Many feel this is a negotiation tactic by the show’s producer, Corday Productions, as they head into contract negotiations. Worst case scenario is everyone is fired and they all get recast. Best case scenario is everyone is rehired, but now at a lower, take it or leave it, rate negotiated in new contracts. Despite the fact that soap operas are a relic of the past, NBC seems committed to providing a home for Days for the foreseeable future.
  • For a brief moment this week, folks thought that Ecto Cooler’s return had been confirmed, coinciding with the release of next year’s Ghostbusters film. That shit turned out to be fake, though. Ya know, until it’s not.
  • As if Constance Wu’s Twitter rant last Spring was going to be forgiven so easily, ABC confirmed that this season of Fresh Off the Boat would be its last. Cute show, but everyone seemed ready to move on, and they’ll all be fine. I know the show was symbolic as the longest running Asian American sitcom, but there will be others. One day. Hopefully.
  • Rick & Morty came back to Adult Swim this week, and I…didn’t love it. Probably because I hadn’t seen this episode 37 times like I have the others. No, seriously, it airs daily and there are only about 30 episodes. It only takes a month to run through the existing 3 seasons. I’ve seen this show more than anything else on TV and I’m not even a superfan. Maybe I’ll grow to love this season.
  • Three year after his death, George Michael’s estate released “This Is How (We Want You To Get High)” for the Last Christmas soundtrack. I’m a sucker for both George Michael AND songs with parentheses in their names, so this song is a hit to me!

  • After it was first announced, like, 10 years ago, The Rock’s Black Adam movie finally got a release date: December 22, 2021. Too bad it’s never gonna happen.
  • I know y’all claim you don’t like country, but I know some like Halsey, and here she guested with Lady Antebellum on one of my favorite songs of the year at this week’s CMA Awards.

  • Screw it. Here’s another amazing performance from the CMAs, from Dan + Shay:

  • Music industry supervillain Scooter Braun recently purchased Taylor Swift’s back catalog, and won’t allow her to perform a medley of her past hits as she receives an achievement award at the American Music Awards. Dick move, but a powerful move.

Well, you couldn’t swing a dead cat online this week without hitting something having to do with Disney+. The anticipated streaming service launched Tuesday, and it’s all anyone can talk about. The launch, however, wasn’t without its hiccups. For one thing, they didn’t allow you to download the app until launch day, so there was no testing to make sure all your ducks were in a row before the big day. Also, a lot of people got error screens when trying to watch their desired selection. That said, it’s a repository of a HUGE amount of Disney programming – from Star Wars to Disney Channel Original Movies – and all for a mere $6.99 per month.

I am not a Disney evangelist, so this wasn’t exactly the Second Coming to me that it was for some folks. Regular readers know I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Fox buyout, but I’ve got kids, and kids like Disney, so I got Disney+. In fact, I have TWO accounts! You see, I signed up on Monday to make sure we were good to go, but then I remembered that, as an unlimited data Verizon customer, I actually get a year of the service for free. So, we had my wife sign up that way, and then I just need to remember to cancel my trial before they charge me on Tuesday. Hell, I probably should be doing that instead of writing this. I need that $70! Oh well, I said I wanted to live dangerously…

Despite the minor gripes that folks have had, including series episodes being out of order and the constant error screens, I feel the roll out could’ve been MUCH worse. I think the demand for the service exceeded even Disney’s expectations (with a reported 10 million sign ups), I think things settled down rather quickly. Folks online began to post the “true” viewing order for episodes, and the error screens decreased.

Another pseudo controversial aspect is that they’ve added disclaimers to properties, like Dumbo, stating that they contain outdated views and representations. Some folks feel like those programs shouldn’t be on the service at all, but I disagree. At least Disney is owning up to its past, and making it something of a teachable moment. With the disclaimers, they can have their cake and eat it, too. That said, it’s just gonna rile up the “Where’s Song of the South?!” crowd even more. Personally, I think Disney handled this the right way, but you can’t please everyone, and you can barely please anyone in 2019.

The biggest show at launch was undoubtedly the Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian. I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, and it clocks in at only 38 minutes. Score! Hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend. Meanwhile, everyone else on social media was posting about the first thing they watched after setting up the service. I’ve got a big audit at work today, so didn’t have time to play around with things myself. My oldest, however, watched Frozen, like we don’t already have 3 copies of that thing around this house somewhere. I’ve got to remind myself that it’s just $6.99, and not a total waste of money. Wait. It’s free. Whatever. She can watch Frozen all day long, ’cause that ain’t costing me a dime!

Anyway, after my long hiatus, I think I can dust off the title, and present it to Disney+, which clearly had the West Week Ever.

20th Sep2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/20/19

by Will

So, my whole two weeks on, two weeks off schedule went off the rails last weekend, but there’s been a lot going on in my world, so forgive. Or not. Whatever. You own me. Anyway, I better get all this out before Tekashi 6ix9ine flips on me for the crew that I rep!

About a month ago, I cared absolutely nothing about the Rambo franchise. I’d never seen any of the movies, despite the fact that it was this FORCE in 80s action movies. Still, I have a lot of pop culture blindspots, and most action “classic” action movies fall into that category. So, I was probably the wrong person for my buddy @michaelmaycomix to ask to guest on the Rambo episode of his Nerd Lunch: Fourth Chair Army Invasion! Podcast. Still, I saw this as a challenge, and proceeded to binge the Rambo franchise over Labor Day weekend. We won’t get too into my thoughts here, as you should definitely go check out that episode, which dropped last week. All this is to say that I walked away from the experience with a newfound respect for those movies, and the 5th installment – Rambo: Last Blood – went from a movie that wasn’t even on my radar to one of my most anticipated movies of the fall. So, I found myself in the Alamo Drafthouse last night, with my buddy Brock, watching a Rambo film on OPENING NIGHT. I only do that shit for things with Stan Lee cameos, but I guess we’ve entered a brave, new era.

I know that not everyone can see a movie on Thursday night, and I know this movie isn’t a priority for most folks, so I won’t spoil anything here. I’ll just say it’s something of an uneven film, which doesn’t even feel like a Rambo movie until the second half. Still, it does a lot with its 89 minutes, with not a single one of them wasted. As I said on Instagram, if you’ve ever thought to yourself “I wonder what a Home Alone remake would be like, starring an old man seeking revenge”, then THIS is the movie for YOU! In the end, I totally enjoyed the film, but I also kinda think there’s a schism in the franchise that occurs around the 3rd film. While the first 3 are about Vietnam vet John Rambo, forgotten by his country, used as a tool of warfare, the last 2 are about a stoic old man who kills the shit out of his enemies with EXTREME prejudice. Even the gore of 2008’s Rambo made sense because it took place in the middle of Burma’s civil war, but the battle here takes place in Arizona, and there’s no real excuse or precedent for that level of violence.

Anyway, if you’re a Rambo fan, maybe check this out. If you’re a fan of Taken/Death Wish, definitely check this out. Oh, and make sure you stay through the first round of credits. There’s a nice montage of scenes from the last 4 movies, and then they sneak something in where you’re like “WHAT?!”

Whew, boy! It’s been a shitshow in Studio 8H, as it’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Saturday Night Live since last we met. First, there was the news that Kate McKinnon – whose deal had expired in the Spring – would actually be returning to the show. Meanwhile, Leslie Jones would not be coming back, with folks wondering if she’d been fired. Well, not even 2 days later, it was announced that she would be hosting (and serving as executive producer of) a revival of the game show Supermarket Sweep. As she put it on her social media, she wasn’t leaving but merely “graduating”, which was a nice way to look at it. I know a lot of folks who’ve left SNL over the years, however, who couldn’t say that.

Next, the show announced the new Featured Players for this season, and there was much rejoicing as Bowen Yang was hired as the first Chinese-American/third openly gay cast member on the show in its 45 seasons. They also hired Shane Gillis, a comedian who just might happen to dislike Asians and gays. Womp womp! If it weren’t for the fact that it’d probably cause a toxic work environment, this arrangement would make for a FIRE reality show! You see, Gillis has a podcast where he’s said some juvenile and inappropriate things about Asians and gays, and those recordings surfaced just as the news broke of his hiring. Then it turned into this whole thing about free speech vs cancel culture, as comedians felt he should be able to say whatever, and “civilians” wanted him fired because his hiring hurt the integrity of SNL. Immediately, Gillis issued a non-apology, saying he’d apologize to “anyone who was actually offended”. Gotta say, it was a shit statement, but I kinda commended him for not going with the boilerplate insincere apology. After a week of unrest, however, Gillis was fired from the show last weekend. His statement after the firing was still on brand, where he said he was disappointed, but was “always a MADtv guy anyway”. I’m sorry, but he kinda had the last laugh with that burn.

Here’s my take: Lorne and everyone else knew about this dude before hiring him, and any attempt to say otherwise is a lie. You know how I know that? The past 2 weeks, everyone is like “Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him.” Well, I’VE heard of him. See, I’m a big fan of The Bonfire, which is a SiriusXM show hosted by comedians Dan Soder and Big Jay Oakerson. Gillis is a frequent guest, so I already knew his humor. He’s that doughy goof from high school who was always trying to be the class clown. He’ll just say whatever he thinks will make you laugh. No filter. It’s not hard to find his material, so I refuse to believe SNL fell asleep at the wheel in the vetting process like they’re saying. They saw his stuff, and didn’t care, because they didn’t expect it to blow up like this. You see, SNL still likes to believe that they’re this subversive Bad Boy of Comedy that consistently has edge, but that hasn’t been true for a LONG time. No, they’re a very important brand to Kabletown, and corporate, like the house, always wins. Plus, it leaked that Lorne only hired Gillis to court conservative viewers, but look how that turned out. In the words of DJ Khaled, “Ya played yourself!” SNL can’t play both sides against the middle. Having one Affirmative Action conservative hire is not going to open up this untapped fan base waiting to see themselves onscreen. Meanwhile, they just did a bunch for Gillis’s career, as he’s now a household name, even if he’s infamous instead of famous. I never really saw him breaking out of Featured Player status, so it’s probably for the best all around.

So, NBCUniversal revealed that their upcoming streaming service will be called peacock. One of the first shows announced for it sounds like a fever dream. They announced a revival of Saved By The Bell, where Zack Morris is the governor of California and he’s closing all of the low-income schools. As a result, those kids are going to be bused to more affluent schools, like Bayside High. Huh. That seems kinda heavy for the format. Even more odd to me is the casting. While Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani Thiessen reportedly weren’t even contacted, Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley are expected to appear. That last one is the one that gets me: I mean, Berkley did Showgirls to distance herself from that show, and now she’s going back? Has there even been a precedent for this kind of return? Has anyone ever done a kids show, done something risqué, and then RETURNED to the kids franchise? I mean, I remember when Jessica Biel took those nudes at 17 so she’d be released from her 7th Heaven contract, but that wasn’t nearly as revealing as Showgirls was for Berkley. Is this show even considered for kids? I have so many questions! I mean, it’ll depend on the execution, but this doesn’t exactly sound *fun*. Just sounds like class warfare, but what do I know?

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There’s a rumor floating around that Marvel Studios is considering going with an actor of color for Magneto when the X-Men are introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This quickly turned into “DENZEL WASHINGTON IS GONNA BE MAGNETO!” I will say that I don’t totally hate the idea, mainly because it’s becoming increasingly unrealistic, just from a timeline perspective, for Magneto to continue to be a Holocaust survivor when the MCU doesn’t have the same established rebirths and resurrections that he’s experienced in the comics in order to make that possible. Plus, there are other genocidal conflicts that could stand in, just as Tony Stark’s origin has slid to more modern conflicts. Still, I don’t wanna live through the online shit storm such a move would trigger, so I’ll gladly pass.
  • Speaking of Marvel, word on the street is that the New Warriors series (ya know, which was gonna star Milana Vayntrub, AKA Lily The AT&T Girl, as Squirrel Girl) is basically dead because it couldn’t find a home. It’s a crying shame when a Marvel show “can’t find a home”, and Disney’s got a whole damn streaming service coming. That’s what it gets for being from Marvel Television and not Marvel Studios like the other shows. Sucks, though, ’cause I was looking forward to it.
  • Across the aisle, it was announced that Tom Welling and Erica Durance will reprise their Smallville roles as Clark Kent and Lois Lane, respectively, in the Arrowverse “Crisis”. I say Clark Kent because, true to Welling form, it hasn’t been confirmed that he’ll be in the Superman suit.
  • After 4 seasons, TBS has cancelled The Detour. It was a really good show that I, for whatever reason, dropped after S1. I need to catch up, but now I’m like “Should I?”
  • Netflix announced that GLOW has been renewed for a fourth and final season. I need to give that show another chance, but it’s in the middle of a very long To Do list right now.
  • My good online pal @thesurfingpizza masterminded the Taco Bell Quarterly literary zine which is such an insane undertaking that I can only look on with awe. If you love Taco Bell AND the arts, then you can’t do better than this collection. I wish I had some kind of connection to that brand to have contributed but I was a latecomer to Taco Bell. My mom always felt that tacos “don’t make no sense”, so…

I’ve got a confession: so, I went to Retro Con last weekend, and was going to do a whole recap post for it. Then, as time dwindled, I was like “Eh, I’ll just give it the West Week Ever” and kill two birds with one stone. Then I started writing this and it got pretty long on its own, so I started thinking it should have its own post again. So, long story short, Retro Con would have had the West Week Ever. Instead, I’m giving it to something else that has brought me joy since we last spoke.

When I first heard Taylor Swift’s Lover, I wasn’t impressed. I thought it was an album of vanilla Muzak that you’d hear while shopping in a Target – fitting, since Target has a massive display for the album, as they’re selling 4 (!) different special edition versions of it. It was a relatively quick listen, though, so I let it loop. And I kept it on loop. And then I fell in love with, basically, every song on that album. I considered doing a track by track review, like I’ve done with some boyband releases in the past, but my target audience doesn’t care what I think about Taylor Swift (then again, y’all didn’t care about Backstreet Boys, and I still did that, so…). So, I’ll spare you the nuanced “I see what she did here” review, and just point out some MUST HEAR tracks:

Cruel Summer

The Man

Cornelia Street

Death By A Thousand Cuts

Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)

False God

ME! (feat Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco)

Daylight

Honestly, I love the whole album, but those listed above are the best of the best. I spend so much time griping and bitching about stuff I don’t like that it’s nice to share something that I did truly enjoy. I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re just looking for a good, pure pop album, you really can’t do better than this. This might go down as my album of the year, but time will tell. In any case, for all these reasons, Taylor Swift’s Lover had the West Week Ever.

 

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