24th May2019

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE

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

Trailer Park


Terminator: Dark Fate

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


Star Trek: Picard

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

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

Links I Loved

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT?! YOU DON’T SAY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Live In Front Of A Studio Audience had the West Week Ever.

08th Feb2019

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18th Jan2019

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2018

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 In Movies

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

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

2018 In Television

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

2018 In Music

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

West Week Ever Recipients of 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21st Dec2018

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

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park

Hellboy (2019)

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

Men In Black International

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

Die Hard

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

Mapplethorpe

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

Home Alone via Google Assistant

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

07th Dec2018

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

by Will

 

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trailer Park

Captain Marvel

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts, though:

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

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

30th Nov2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park


Artemis Fowl

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


The Lion King

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


Once Upon A Deadpool

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


The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

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

Runaways Season 2

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

02nd Nov2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/2/18

by Will

So, not much has really happened since last we met. Sure, Megyn Kelly Today got cancelled, and the WWE’s Crown Jewel is taking place in Saudi Arabia as I type this. So, “Ya win some, ya lose some”? I pretty much have nothing “newsy” to talk about today. So, I thought we could have a conversation instead. Have a seat. Not that one. That one’s my seat.

OK, so talking to some friends lately has made me aware of a sense of existential dread that I didn’t fully realize I had. I mean, what am I doing here? I’ve never really looked back to see when West Week Ever started, but I know it’s been almost 5 years at this point, if not longer. All those years, looking at pop culture, trying to be funny and snarky where possible. That’s all fun and good, I guess, but what does it ultimately get me? These days, I “critique”, and sometimes even “soapbox”. And not all that well. It’s just MY take on things, but not THE take on things. Nothing I do is definitive. I don’t have that clout or experience. So, I’m dealing with the question of whether I want to critique or create.

I used to be creative. “Artsy”, even. I played piano, did all the high school musicals. All that jazz. And let’s not even touch on the a cappella stint. I had expectations of doing something with that. Anything. Maybe it’s the fault of the millennial trap, where all of our parents assured us that we were special. I kinda thought I’d be a bigger deal by now. How? Doing what? Who the Hell knows.

Sure, I’ve got my family and a job and all that, but something is missing. I miss being creative. I miss having that outlet. Every year when NaNoWriMo comes out, I’m like “I could do that.” Folks have told me I’m a good writer, so even if they were blowing sunshine up my ass, why haven’t I listened to them? I have people who’ve come into my life who are award-winning writers and music producers. They found their thing and went after it. What’s my thing? I’m having what I would like to call my John Tesh Moment.

At some point over the past 20 years, John Tesh became this pop culture joke, brought up whenever anyone deigns to talk about New Age music. I don’t think folks really understand the whole picture there, though. That was, like, Phase 2 of his life. He started out in news, as both an anchor and sportscaster. That got him noticed for the job where you were probably introduced to him, as co-host of Entertainment Tonight. For 10 years he held down that desk with Mary Hart, and they were THE de facto ambassadors of Hollywood to the common man. There was no Extra, Access Hollywood, TMZ, etc back then. Just like Robin Leach let us know how the rich and famous lived their lives, Tesh and Hart could actually take us to the movie set, where the “magic” was happening. Still, while doing this, he had ambitions of his own: music.

With no real onstage experience, he asked his pal Yanni if he could join him on tour as a keyboardist. This opened a LOT of doors for him, as he’d go on to compose the theme song to Bobby’s World, as well as the NBA on NBC theme. Seven years after that tour with Yanni, Tesh was headlining his own shows at Red Rocks. That’s when he became JOHN TESH. Now, because folks like to make fun of his genre, it’s also when he might’ve become the joke, as well. Still, this was John Tesh 2.0, and boy has he been successful! He’s released over 30 studio albums and his concerts are a mainstay of PBS pledge drives. When he comes up in conversation these days, it’s never about Entertainment Tonight. Instead, it’s either about his music or this new self-help guru role in which he seems to have found himself. He and wife, 80s actress Connie Sellecca, manage a brand called Intelligence For Your Life, and he’s got a syndicated radio show. He’s 66 now, and he left ET when he was about 44. That’s a late in life career shift, but it is possible.

What am I getting at? I don’t know. I’m not trying to leave West Week Ever behind. I just feel like I could be doing more (and don’t you DARE say a podcast).  Critiquing only goes so far. I want to create. I want to leave some sort of impact. Anything to not feel like I didn’t put all the cards on the table.

The world’s a crazy place right now. I don’t need to get into all of that. Still, what can I bring to the world that it needs? What do I have that the world wants? What am I going to do with my John Tesh Moment?

Anyway, I think we’re good here. You can get out of that chair now. I’ve got to go pee, so just lock the door behind you.

06th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/6/17

by Will

So, I guess I’ve got to start off by talking about Vegas, huh? Ya know, it’s been really hard writing this column in 2017. Like, I’m sure some of y’all are thinking, “Man, Will is slipping” or you’ve put me in the category with The Simpsons where “This isn’t as funny as it used to be.” Sadly, it’s just the state of the world, and all I can do is my best to mine the entertainment news that still manages to trickle out. That said, it is really hard talking about pop culture in 2017.

But anyway, Vegas. Unless you’ve been offworld fighting the Jem’Hadar or whatever, then you already know some dude (not gonna name him ’cause why should I?) shot up the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival, killing 59 people, and injuring over 500, in the deadliest US gun attack in history. And while this was a horrific loss of life, I’m kind of numb to these things now. I mean, sure, you wonder “Is anywhere safe anymore?” but at the same time, this is America, and these sorts of things have become somewhat annual, if not more frequent. After all, this is only the deadliest gun attack since the Pulse shooting in Miami back in June of 2016. It’s saddening and exhausting, yet nothing seems to be changing.

I’m seeing a lot of sentiments, post-Vegas, about how we’re all Americans and should now unite and, basically, “cut the bullshit”. But what does that ultimately mean? I mean, around what ideal are we uniting? It sure as Hell ain’t gun control. Or mental health. There’s no “evil foreigner” trope for us to pursue. If anything, it seems to be a plea to stop protesting and kneeling and all that jazz, because it’s “divisive”. Nah, I’m good. I know these things teach us that life is precious and we shouldn’t waste time on squabbles, but the stuff folks are mad about isn’t menial. And I think it’s gonna take more than a “lone wolf” at a country festival to sweep all the issues under the rug, for the sake of “unity”.

Anyway, as you can imagine, Vegas cast a bit of a pall on pop culture this week, and this wasn’t more evident than with the return of MTV’s TRL.

Members of the N’SYNC pose with Carson Daly at MTV Studios in New York City’s Times Square on January, 26, 2000. (photo by Todd Plitt)

Originally Total Request Live, the video request countdown was a powerhouse on the pop music landscape at the turn of the century. It put Carson Daly on the map, and it was what everyone watched when they came home from school (unless they were watching 106 & Park). You weren’t shit if you didn’t stop by TRL to promote whatever new project you had coming up. It was THE place to be. Then the internet got bigger, and you could watch music videos whenever you want on YouTube (and later Vevo). So, the show packed its shit and left us in 2008.

Feeling a bit of nostalgia, I suppose, Viacom decided to revive the show this year with a team of hosts. With the internet being what it is now, surely it’d be more interactive than the original. What nobody told us, though, is that it wouldn’t have any videos!

Monday’s premiered chugged along, despite having to deal with a national tragedy and experiencing technical difficulties, and didn’t air a single video. Yeah, they still make videos. CMT plays ’em, so at least they’re still viable for country. Taylor Swift and Katy Perry still make them. There are videos out there, yet the show known for its video countdown ain’t got no videos! Exactly WHAT is the audience expected to request? Instead, the show featured live performances from Ed Sheeran and Migos, and displayed some awkward banter between the hosts as they tried to fill out the intermittent silences.

People have said “What’s the point of then showing videos if you can get them online?”, and while that’s true, I’d counter with “Then why bring back the show at all?” Imagine if VH1 revived Pop-Up Video, but didn’t actually do the pop-ups because “folks do that better on YouTube now”? That would be a useless show. And in an age where MTV seems to want to get back into the music business somewhat, and they still host an awards show for music videos you’d think they would see this TRL reboot as a golden opportunity. Anyway, maybe they’re just experiencing first week growing pains, but things certainly don’t look all that great for this incarnation at the moment.

Another way that Vegas affected pop culture is that Netflix pulled their Punisher panel that was planned for this weekend’s New York Comic Con. While some folks are asking “What’s that gonna change?”, I selfishly applaud the decision. I say selfishly because I don’t understand anyone who holds The Punisher as their favorite comic character. At least no one over the age of 13, that is. Why, in this day and age, is he still a thing? Sure, he has his roots in the whole Dirty Harry/Death Wish popularity of decades past, but let’s not forgot that comic are just power fantasies. So who does he appeal to?

If you’re not familiar with The Punisher, Frank Castle was originally a Vietnam vet whose family was murdered because they witnessed a killing in Central Park. He then begins his one-man war on crime. Sure, this was “cool” in the 89s, but now? Do you really wanna give a Vietnam vet with a screw loose a bunch of weapons? Shit, most of y’all wouldn’t even give him a dollar!

In recent years, they’ve tried to make him more “comic booky”, sending him after Hydra and having him somewhat idolize Captain America, but at the end of the day, he’s not a good dude. And it’s not like he does it in a funny way, like Deadpool (and I’ve got thoughts about that, too). He’s so “ripped from the headlines” that I’m surprised there aren’t Punisher copycats running around in the streets.

They say that every character is somebody’s favorite, but if yours is Punisher, not only do I want to know who hurt you, but I’m also afraid of you. We’ve got comic retailers pissed that Iron Man is currently a Black girl, or Captain America was a Black man, but don’t bat an eye that there’s this White dude who’s been on a killing spree since the mid 70s. I just don’t know if we need that character anymore.

Anyway, enough Vegas talk. Over at ABC, they finally locked their judges panel for the American Idol reboot and I’ve got problems with it.

The lineup on the judges panel will be Katy Perry, country star Luke Bryan, and 80s superstar Lionel Richie. And my problem is that these judges are current recording artists, so what’s to keep them from torpedoing the hopes of a contestant that they night see as competition? We already know Katy’s petty from her feud with Taylor Swift, so I wouldn’t put it past her.

When the original Idol aired, the judges were comprised of a producer, a hasbeen, and a pop music magic maker. None of them were active recording artists. The only show that has active recording artists as judges is The Voice, and notice how that show has yet to produce a household name after 13 seasons. Not even in the first season, where all eyes were on this newfangled show to see what it was all about, did the winner become a “star”. That show has always been, and will always be about the judges. You think Blake Shelton is gonna choose someone who might compete with him over a CMA? No the fuck not!

Katy’s experienced a lot of success, but I don’t know if she’s really anyone to be judging singing. Despite the fact that she’s the biggest star on the panel, and making the most money, Katy fills the Paula role, as she’s more of an entertainer than a vocalist. Luke, while he’s paid his dues in the country industry, is still a novice to stardom. Not really sure what advice he has to offer the next generation of stars. And Lionel is just there to fill that Randy Jackson, elder statesman role. If you’ll notice, the panel is missing a Simon. There’s no one there who truly understand the behind the scenes aspect of the industry. How to package an artist, how to match them with the right songs, etc. Katy has been packaged, and Lionel has written songs, but there’s no “godfather” on the panel, which I think will be to the show’s detriment.

In comic news, it was announced at NYCC yesterday that DC would be completely rebooting the “urban” Milestone properties, led by a new Static Shock series from Kyle Baker and Reginald Hudlin.

The minority pockets of comic fandom have been claiming for years that they’d support a Milestone reboot, so now it’s time for them to out their money where their mouth is. Frankly, I don’t believe them. It’s the “woke”, socially conscious thing to say, but when you’re faced with paying $3.99 a month for Static, your attitude is gonna change.

Several companies have tried to fill the void left by the Milestone books, and the only one that has come close to succeeding is Lion Forge’s current Catalyst Prime universe. While it’s still very early to tell where this imprint might go, they’ve delivered a quality product, with known creators, and even their footprint doesn’t seem to be that large. Retailers are ordering conservatively, as they, too, aren’t sure how things will shake our. Sure, Milestone will have DC Comics money behind it, but is DC giving then just enough rope with which to hang themselves? I guess time will tell, but I’m not overly optimistic about their chances. Plus, there have been so many bait & switch Milestone announcements over the years that I’ll believe it when I see the books on shelves.

Speaking of DC, there are reports that they’re backing away from their shared DC Extended Universe films, as they’ll downplay the interconnectedness going forward. While I, for one, applaud this decision, money talks, so the success or failure of Justice League will most likely dictate the future of their film universe. It’s increasingly seeming like the Flash movie will be Flashpoint, which is odd because we’re not even invested enough in the characters yet to go through a universe-changing event like that.

If you’re unfamiliar, Flashpoint was the DC Comics event that changed the DC timeline and resulted in the New 52 relaunch a few years back. Most of the DC heroes started with a clean slate, and the books picked up early in the heroes’ careers. While a Flashpoint movie wouldn’t have to be so drastic, as they haven’t really established much of that universe yet, it is interesting that they would do a soft reboot of the films so soon. My feelings is that they’ll keep what works and throw out what doesn’t. Gal Gadot ain’t going anywhere. And Aquaman is probably safe, too.

I think the biggest wild card is Affleck. It was sort of dumb for them to build a film universe around an older Batman, where the most interesting stuff about him occurred before we even meet him. I know they wanted to go all The Dark Knight Returns with his battle against Superman, and that required an older, more skilled Batman. However, Affleck and the DCEU are like a couple who’s clearly unhappy, but neither is willing to pull the trigger on a break-up. Plus, it doesn’t help that Affleck’s most recent non-DC films have been flops, so he’d be a fool to walk away from a sure thing. The films might not be universally loved, but they do make money.

Anyway, we got some character posters for Justice League this week, which is something I guess. It comes out 2 weeks after Thor: Ragnarok, yet I’ve seen almost no promotion for it, while Thor has had TV spots since late August. In fact, the only time I even remember there’s a Justice League movie coming is when I’m in the toy aisle and see those uninspired basic figures on the pegs. They’re really gonna need to pump up the hype machine in the next few weeks. With the way DC’s acting, I almost feel like they’re ready to take the L and move on to the next phase of their movie-making.

Last weekend I went to TFCon 2017, which was a Transformers convention held locally. While I had a great time finally meeting Twitter pals @briantruitt and @brock626, and catching up with my bud @FakeEyes22, the show itself was meh. Like, I can’t believe that people actually travel for that show. Imagine paying for tickets to a music festival with big name acts, only to get their and they say “Psych! Most of these are cover bands!” That’s TFCon, ’cause about 40% of the “convention floor” (AKA hotel ballroom) was nothing but 3rd party knockoff toys and Reprolabels. After all, why buy a legitimate Optimus Prime when you can buy a $70 “Supreme Leader”? I know that 3rd party stuff is popular amongst Transformers fans, but I didn’t think you could prop up a convention with it, especially since it seemed like Hasbro was starting to crack down on those knockoff peddlers. Anyway, I bought my first 3rd party Transformer, KBBMP 21+ Beetle Wasp , who is really just a large G1 Bumblebee.

Song of the Week

You know why. My a cappella group used to sing this and it was one of my favorite arrangements to sing. I tried to find our version on YouTube, but the one that’s up is the quality of hot garbage, so you get the original instead.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Film sites are teasing that “big star” Kate Winslet is reteaming with James Cameron and joining the Avatar franchise. Sorry, but she hasn’t been a star since 1997.
  • Fast 9 has been given the release date of 4/10/20, while the Fast spin-off starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham now has a release date of 7/26/19.
  • Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/actress Jill Scott has been cast as the villain Lady Eve in The CW’s Black Lightning. I still feel like they’re dooming this show to fail by not connecting it to the preexisting Arrowverse.
  • OJ Simpson was released from prison last Sunday morning at midnight, after serving a 9-year term. He immediately resumed his hunt for the real killers. Just kidding. He’s reportedly staying on a golf course somewhere.

  • We got a trailer for Syfy’s Happy!, based on the Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson graphic novel of the same name. While this left me with a feeling of “What did I just watch?”, this feels like it’d be more at home on FX than Syfy.
  • It seems like Universal’s Dark Universe is falling apart, after The Bride of Frankenstein just lost its release date. The actors, including Javier Bardem and Angelina Jolie, are on hold until the script can be worked on.
  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley has been upped to series regular for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so expect to see her yo-yoing through space this year.
  • Black superhero series Raising Dion is being developed by, and will co-star, Michael B. Jordan. The show has received a 10-episode order from Netflix.
  • Apparently there’s a Bob’s Burgers movie coming in 2020. Just like the show, I’ll have no direct interest in seeing it, but I’m sure I’ll eventually catch it on FXX one day and enjoy every minute of it.
  • Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring fame, will reportedly direct Channing Tatum’s Gambit film spin-off of the X-Men franchise. Man, what kind of blackmail material does Tatum have to keep this movie in production?! I’ll bet it’s some dirt from his days as a stripper!
  • Bruce Willis’s Death Wish reboot has been moved from later this year to March 2nd, 2018. They claim it’s because the Thanksgiving film corridor is crowded, but it’s more likely the fact that a movie about an old White guy shooting up people ain’t so kosher right now. But we’ll have forgotten all about this stuff by March, so it’s cool.
  • The future of Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn is in question, as they ain’t got no Dicky! Actor Mace Coronel (are we sure he’s not a video game character with that name?) abruptly left the show over the summer, and announced his departure on Instagram this week.
  • TNT announced that the upcoming 6th season of Major Crimes would be its last, despite the fact that it’s the highest rated show on the network. This is like when CBS initiated the Rural Purge, where they cancelled all their high-rated “bumpkin” shows because they wanted to change their image.
  • Alyssa Milano is developing her comic series Hacktivist into a TV series for The CW
  • Freshman ABC drama The Good Doctor has scored a full season order after only airing 2 episodes.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog film has jumped from Sony to Paramount, and announced director Tim Miller (Deadpool) will now produce, as Jeff Fowler will be making his theatrical directorial debut on the film.
  • After 15 seasons, Pauley Perrette is leaving NCIS at the end of this season. In other news, NCIS has somehow been on for 15 years…

  • CBS is adding Will Ferrell-produced comedy No Activity to the All Access streaming service, to debut by end of year. However, Tim Meadows just joined the cast as the co-lead, so the show is already cancelled.
  • Larry Wilmore and Viola Davis are developing the comedy Black Don’t Crack for ABC, which sounds like an older Girlfriends reboot
  • Co-head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider have left Saturday Night Live to work on a pilot for Comedy Central. Kelly also wrote for Broad City, while Schneider wrote for Master of None.

  • We also got a trailer for Hulu’s Future Man from Seth Rogen. It looks funny, but Hulu doesn’t seem like the right home for it, as it feels like a Fox show.
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling issued a plea in his child pornography case. One of the stipulations of sentencing means he’ll have to stay away from events frequented by minors, such as “video arcade facilities”. Here’s hoping he not a pedophile AND a time traveler!

So, this has been a Hell of a week. One great thing about it, though, is that today is my 5-year wedding anniversary. Yup, on October 6th, 2012, I married a girl I met on the Internet, and she hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve actually been together 9 years, but only 5 in the eyes of the District of Columbia. It has certainly been a ride. She got skinnier, I got fatter. We’ve had a kid together, which is pretty cool. Sometimes I feel like said kid gets the attention that I used to get, but I’m not supposed to be jealous of a toddler, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, when things like Vegas happen, you do realize that you’re lucky/blessed to be alive, and you look at the life you’ve built around yourself. I certainly could’ve done a lot worse, and probably not much better. Look, I was a lot better at writing this kind of stuff 9 years ago, when we were both still in the “OMG, you love breathing? I love breathing, too!” phase. Life comes along, and shit gets hard. I’m not even going to lie about that. But it’s a lot easier to handle when you’ve got a good person beside you to deal with it together. So, I think the West Family is having the West Week Ever. I love y’all!

29th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/29/17

by Will

So the week kicked off with me heading to the Baltimore Comic-Con. A tradition of mine for the past 14 years or so, I’ve only missed one in that span of time and, while I was kinda under the weather, I’m a stickler for tradition! How was it? It was OK. It felt sort of smaller this year, but that could just be the result of the odd layout of the place. It wasn’t in the main hall, as there was some sort of waste management convention going on in that space. I honestly think it was called WasteCon. I wanted to sneak in just to see what kind of swag they had to offer. Anyway, you get into the exhibit hall, and the photo ops section split up the main floor from the food court. The publishers were set up closest to the photo ops, while the vendors took up most of the floor. Meanwhile, the smaller press, Artist Alley folks were shoved into the back. It might’ve been the same layout as last year, but something just felt off about it. The way things were jumbled together just kind of overwhelmed me – a feeling I’d have for the rest of the show.

The cosplay was pretty decent, though. I was somewhat disappointed by what I had seen at Awesome Con back in June, and I felt like these costumes were actually creative. I spent most of my time digging through longboxes, though, so I probably missed out on much of the “con experience”. Didn’t get to say “hi” to a lot of my publisher friends. Didn’t really meet any comic writers or artists. Just spent a few hours digging for gold.

I walked away from the show with an epiphany: I’m seriously considering giving up buying comics on a monthly basis. While I enjoy the weekly ritual of going to the comic shop, and grabbing the latest books off the shelf, the money really starts to rack up. Your average comic costs $3.99 today, and that can go up to $9.99 sometimes (looking at you, Deadpool). While my local shop gives you a 10% discount, that only goes so far. At the show, it was clear that the industry has changed, as the majority of the vendors were selling comics for $1 each. And I’m not talking about old, dead stock. Some of those books had just come out last Wednesday. Over the course of the show, I bought about 120 comics to fill in some holes in my collection. And you know how much I paid? $120. Had I bought those books at retail, at minimum they would’ve cost $478.

If you’ve talked to me recently about comics, you know the sort of To Read backlog that I’m dealing with. I buy the books when they hit, but don’t read them for 6 months. I have an unread longbox of Marvel and an unread longbox of DC. Why am I sinking all this money into something that’s just going to sit in a box? If I time the conventions correctly, I can buy everything I need every 6 months or so, and be caught up by the time the next show, and the next batch of $1 boxes hits.

I also don’t feel like being taken advantage of by publishers. I got into an argument with Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool because of a matter I felt he should be covering but wasn’t. You see, DC recently wrapped up Frank Miller’s third entry into the Dark Knight series, Dark Knight III: The Master Race. This was an 8-issue series, expanded to 9 issues over the course of the series, priced at $5.99 each. So, right there, a $47.92 commitment became a $53.91 commitment. Fine. These were higher end comics, with a thicker stock cover and a mini comic inserted into each issue. So, $5.99. I think it could’ve been done for $4.99, but whatever. So, fast forward to last Wednesday, when the hardcover collection of the series was released for $29.99. Yes, I said HARDCOVER (which is typically priced much higher than a trade paperback). All 9 issues are included, plus the mini comics are included at natural size. You’re basically being punished for being an early adopter if you purchased the series on its pseudo-monthly schedule. Johnston tried to say that it’s commonly understood that collections are cheaper than the individual issues, but I say not by that kind of margin! Single issue buyers, like myself, almost paid TWICE what trade-waiters will pay, and I don’t think that’s the right way of doing business. Again, Johnston tried to say that the thicker cover and inserted mini comic would’ve made production costs higher, but not by that much. People always forget I worked at Diamond in Purchasing. Needless to say, Johnston thought it was a non-story because he had to go dig through some Marvel exec’s dumpster, but I think it’s an important issue. People want to blame stories and SJWs and all that for the demise of the comic industry, but ultimately it’s gonna come down to price. Always follow the money. And I’m going to rethink how I invest mine in this hobby.

Speaking of money, Toys “R” Us doesn’t have any, and they filed for bankruptcy last week. Keep in mind, vultures, that they filed for Chapter 11 protection so don’t start waiting for the going out of business sales any time soon.

I worked for Toys “R” Us off and on for 10 years of my life, so I’ve got some thoughts on the whole matter. Right now, they’ve got to restructure, and I think one thing they need to do is eliminate their in-house brands. Nobody wants Fastlane when you’ve got Hot Wheels for a dollar. It’s kind of hard to compete with that price point. Also, I feel like their footprint is too large. I remember growing up, thinking that I loved Toys “R” Us. Then I started working there, and realized I only loved aisles 6D & 7D – action figures. When I had to work other departments, I was like “What is all this shit?” They need a more concentrated assortment of merchandise, taking up less space. Also, seeing as how they own the Kay Bee rights, they should spin off that brand and resurrect it as “The Toy Store in the Mall”. Of course, malls are dying, so these would mainly be located in town centers which are all the rage in commercial real estate these days. A decent sized Kay Bee had all that you needed, except for larger stuff like bikes and the baby stuff. They can keep Babies “R” Us as it is, as that’s the moneymaker these days, but they should really strive for smaller stores. I’m sure I could rattle off some more suggestions, but nobody’s paying me for my ideas, so I’ll just sit here quietly and see what the professionals come up with.

 

*Climbs up on soapbox* I’m tired of the echo chamber. I’m tired of hearing the same shit, with nothing behind it except opinion and vitriol. What am I talking about? I got into a…discussion in a Facebook group the other day about The Big Bang Theory. Someone posted an article about how the show turned 10 years old and “still sucks”. I said that was a tired hot take because where it “sucks” or not, there are people out there who still like it. I won’t lie – I enjoy the show. It’s no marvel of modern television, but when’s the last time anyone said that about a multi cam sitcom? It’s the single cams that win all the awards. In this day and age, you’re bound to get hate just for having a studio audience. Liking it isn’t a hill for me to die on, but I find it almost obnoxious how people will go out of their way to tell you it sucks. OK, that’s great, but that’s your opinion. “But everyone thinks it sucks!” Everyone you talk to, maybe. We live in a time when opinion is routinely taken as fact and I’m just tired of the implications of that.

Let me learn ya something: this week’s 11th season premiere of The Big Bang Theory had 17 million viewers. I consider myself a student of television, and I can’t help but marvel at a show whose ratings trajectory is so strong after all this time. Find me another show, in the modern era, that has that kind of audience in its ELEVENTH season. It’s unparalleled. “But popularity doesn’t mean it’s good.” What are you looking for? Shakespeare? Some folks enjoy it. Isn’t that enough?

There’s a lot of cultural elitism going around, and it’s from the smallest things like TV shows to the biggest things like politics. When people say, “Oh, The Big Bang Theory is a piece of shit”, OK, that’s their opinion. To take that opinion as fact discounts the opinions of 17 MILLION PEOPLE. That’s when one of you will retort with “Well, the Nielsen system is broken”. Fine, I get it. There’s an excuse from everything.

I liken this situation to American politics. To go online, everyone supposedly hates Trump. Still, for all you’re seeing of that, somebody still voted for him. A lot of somebodies. But when you’re in your echo chamber, you don’t really think about that. It turns into “I can’t believe this! How did this happen?!” I’m not saying to go out and hug a Nazi because that would just be stupid, but just take some time to understand that someone has a different viewpoint than you. I’m not even saying you have to respect it, but at least acknowledge that it’s there.

I’ve done a lot of introspection over the past few weeks, and I’m reminded that I don’t want to review something with “That sucks” or “That’s horrible”, because other folks’ mileage may vary. It’s enough to just say “That wasn’t for me.” It’s times like these when I miss my pal Ryan’s podcast, Positively Nerdy. He would always strive to be positive about the stuff he talked about, and it even broke cynical old me. What do you all have to gain by being so negative about shit? Just let people enjoy what they enjoy, and stop acting like it’s some unexplained anomaly. It actually makes quite a bit of sense if you take the time to really think about it.

They announced a Teen Titans Go movie for next summer, and I’ve seen folks just shit all over it. Why? Because to a lot of folks “It’s the show that replaced Young Justice!” even though those decisions were made independently of each other. I love that show. Like, it honestly brings me joy. I work from home on Wednesdays, and the other day they had both a Neverending Story AND a Goonies homage. If you hate it, that’s fine, but it’s not a piece of shit to me. Also, Cartoon Network is a business. Sure, a lot of you hate that the show is ALWAYS on (I’d even probably hate that if I didn’t like the show), but it’s scheduled like that because it’s highly rated. “Well, those people have no taste!” There you go projecting your opinion on shit.

Anyway, I’m tired of hearing the same arguments and the same sentiments, and I’m going to do my best to broaden my horizons in that regard. *steps off soapbox*

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Billy Bush and his wife of 20 years are calling it quits. Man, if you told me former Z104 DJ Billy Bush would end up the fall guy for a presidential administration, I never would’ve believed you…
  • Looks like Gina Torres finally chose the Red Pill, as she and husband Laurence Fishburne have split up after 14 years of marriage.
  • James Cameron said it took him a week to muster up the courage to ask ex-wife Linda Hamilton to star in the 6th Terminator movie.
  • It’s looking like Marvel has no faith in the Inhumans TV series (which premieres tonight), as it is now being billed as “the complete series” instead of “season one”
  • Rumer Willis is now a series regular on Empire. Huh? I can only assume her mom got her the job when she joined the show. So glad I dropped it a while ago.
  • Apparently the Riverdale folks are developing a reboot of Sabrina The Teenage Witch for The CW. Based on the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, I doubt it’ll feature hot aunts this time around. PASS!

 

  • This year’s Arrowverse crossover will be a 2-night event called “Crisis on Earth-X”, and we got the promo image for it this week.

  • We also got this promo image for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where the team apparently heads to space.
  • After 5 seasons, Chip & Joanna Gaines are walking away from Fixer Upper. Knowing HGTV, they’re fast-tracking Fixer Upper Vegas to fill the void as we speak.
  • A female-led reboot of the 70s series Kung Fu has received a put pilot order at Fox. This means it pretty much HAS to make it to air or the network will be out of a ton of money. Considering there are some seriously messed up racial politics with that show, I’m counting down to the shitstorm.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris will write the script for Coming to America 2. I can only assume Eddie Murphy’s behind on child support or something.
  • The Mist has been cancelled by Spike after one season.
  • Reportedly the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty, Kylie, is 5 months pregnant, with rapper Travis Scott as the father. As fucked up as it is, I can only marvel at how savvy Kris Jenner is. The original cast members got old and boring, so she orchestrated the dawn of the next generation. If you don’t think Kris had a hand in all this, you don’t know the Kardashians. Kris could’ve been an amazing force as the head of a network or something.
  • The Russo Brothers are adapting Rick Remender’s Deadly Class comic for a pilot at Syfy
  • Amazon is developing Greg Rucka’s comics Lazarus into a television series
  • Former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a teenage girl. How on the nose is that? His name is “Weiner” and that’s what he was showing to people. Man, people better keep an eye on Senator Robert Scrotum!
  • BoJack Horseman has been renewed for season 5 at Netflix. One day I’ll finally catch up with that show. Never even started season 2…
  • Apparently Danny Elfman will be working the John Williams Superman theme into Justice League. Don’t really know what to make of that right now.

  • The Cartoon Network series OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes kinda confounds me, but it did find it cool that there will be a Captain Planet crossover on the October 9th episode
  • Saturday Night Live has hired new cast members Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, and Luke Null to fill the void left by departed cast members Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata.

  • I don’t consider myself much of a “movie guy”, but I remember trailers like this, so I thought this was pretty cool.

It was a big week for Star Trek, as Sunday saw the premiere of the long-delayed Star Trek: Discovery. In all, I didn’t hate it. That said, I’m starting to love Enterprise, so I’m not sure what the fanbase would say about that. For now, it feels like Star Trek in name only (like Enterprise), but I’ve only seen one episode. That said, it was a riveting hour, and I’m interesting in learning more about the main character, Michael Burnham.

According to online reports, about 9.6 million people watched the premiere, and CBS All Access had its highest signup day in history. Still, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the first month is free. I don’t think this show has staying power on All Access, especially with little other original programming to support it. It’s a lot like the situation Yahoo found themselves in with Screen. Sure, they got Community, but it was already a low-rated network sitcom, which wasn’t adequately supported by the other original programming on the platform. It folded after a season. I feel that if Discovery gets a second season, I doubt it will be on All Access. Right now, they can say “Well, at least we tried” if it ends up blowing up in their faces. It’d be hilarious if they pull a Supergirl and farm it off to The CW. I guess time will tell.

Also, this week saw the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What better way to celebrate a show that hardline fans said “Wasn’t really Star Trek” than with a new show that hardline fans are saying the same thing? I remember the day TNG premiered. Oh yeah, I’ve been there since the beginning. I remember because my mom’s boyfriend at the time was putting carpet down in our back room. He took me to Kmart and bought me WWF trading cards while he got supplies. He was a hardline TOS fan, and had no desire to watch TNG that evening. I think he finished the job before the show came on, and I watched it wondering “What the heck is this?” After all, I have no real affinity for TOS, but I like getting in on the ground floor of things. Even at a young age, I liked the idea of Star Trek, but didn’t really like the show, if that makes any sense. Anyway, that carpet’s still in that back room, I think that dude may be dead, and now we’ve got a new Star Trek on the air. The circle of LIIIIIFFEEE!

I didn’t love TNG in the beginning, as I argue that it didn’t get good until Roddenberry died. Cruel, I know, but that’s when they took off the kid gloves. I tend to dislike a lot of episodes people love, like “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…” Still, the turning point for me was “The Best of Both Worlds Pt I”, which is still the greatest season finale in the history of modern television. After that, there was no looking back for me. Man, 30 years! I feel so old…

Anyway, I think it goes without saying that the Star Trek franchise had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: I used to write about stuff I found at thrift stores. It was called Thrift Justice. It’s back. Check this space on Monday!

13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

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