17th May2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture in Review 5/17/19 (Upfronts Edition)

by Will

Here it is, folks! My biggest post of the year, as I tackle the new shows that are coming to the broadcast networks this fall. I’ll admit, though, that I kinda had to go into training for this one. I felt somewhat out of practice, and I really wasn’t jazzed by anything I’d seen or heard up to this point. After seeing the trailers, though, I think this season shows some promise after all. Still, your mileage may vary on some of these shows. Let’s see what NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and The CW have to offer!

NBC


SunnysideThursday 9:30 PM

I dunno about this one. I mean, I trust Michael Schur, but I’m also kinda tired of the “disparate group of people become support group” trope. It started for me with Dear John, but it’s been used as recently as ABC’s Single Parents. This is one of those shows where I’m left asking “What’s the endgame?” Where is it going? I mean, they’re trying to get citizenship, so he’s teaching them for the test. When does the test occur? Season 2? Are they just making this up as they go along?

There’s a lot of potential for this show to convey the “American Dream” to the folks of Middle America who might not understand the immigrant struggle. It’s something of a “foot in the door” tactic, where they’ll make you laugh while teaching you a new viewpoint. I like that about it. Still, there’s something about Kal Penn that I just don’t really like. It’s funny, because I loved the Harold & Kumar movies, but I’ve never really taken to “grown up” Penn. Maybe this will change that. Who knows? Anyway, it’s got that plum post-The Good Place time slot, so NBC clearly has faith in it.

Bluff City LawMonday 10:00 PM

I won’t watch it, but I like this. I think it’s because Jimmy Smits is just so damn hard to dislike. Maybe it’s the Cornell aspect (MFA, ’82), but I love that dude. This has a This Is Us meets Law & Order vibe to it, which really can’t fail when you look at those ingredients. It’s also getting that plum time slot after The Voice, which is basically like having the post-Super Bowl slot. I know I’m reaching here, but I almost feel like there’s a twist. NBC likes to do stuff like that in these heartfelt shows. Like, maybe Smits is actually dead, and the daughter is the only one who sees him (a la, NBC’s old show Providence). Perhaps he tries to recruit her back to the firm in the pilot, dies in a car accident, and then she agrees to join the family firm, setting the show in motion. Then he proceeds to inspire her to “change the world” from the spirit realm. Then again, I’m spitballing here. Wouldn’t be surprised if I was right, though.

Perfect HarmonyThursday 8:30 PM

Man, NBC’s creator pool really has an axe to grind with the Ivy League. First, we had A.P. Bio feature a Harvard professor who’s fallen from grace, and this show gives us a Princeton professor who’s fallen from grace. I love Bradley Whtiford and Anna Camp, but I have the same issues with this that I had with Sunnyside: just throw a bunch of weird folks together and watch what happens. Is this the only way to make a sitcom now? I mean, most sitcoms are like this, but they have a stronger setting: a bar, a workplace, an apartment. This is a small-town church choir. Is this gonna appeal to Big City types?

Plus ,I’m scared this is gonna follow a Glee trajectory. So, you put the choir together, you make them better, then you make them compete. What happens next? Do they win the competition, or do they fail to give the show more time and something else for them to strive towards? When I see a show, I always want to wonder “What does the finale look like?” Do we meet the Mother? Does he finally make it back to his home planet? What does that look like HERE?

In all, there are no real broad strokes for NBC as the season kicks off, as they’re saving a lot for midseason, including new shows Council of Dads, The Kenan Show, Indebted, Lincoln, and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. With this in mind, they’re playing it safe for fall, but will likely have a bold midseason strategy in order to launch all those shows, as well as bring back returning things like Good Girls, Will & Grace, and Manifest. AS always, NBC got to debut their schedule first, so they become the ones everyone else is compared to. With powerhouses like The Voice and This Is Us, I don’t really see them making any moves that indicate fear on their part. They’re confident in their shows, and the lack of big moves shows this.

FOX

Prodigal SonMonday 9:00 PM

I know I say this a lot, every year, but they just keep proving me right: this is the kind of show FOX picks up merely to cancel. I mean, it’s from Greg Berlanti, so they’ll probably give it more of a chance than most shows, plus folks love Michael Sheen. That said, I’m not sure if 9-1-1 is the best lead-in, even if it does provide decent counterprogramming to reality fare like Dancing with the Stars and The Voice, which will air at the same time. I probably would’ve held this one til midseason, when these sorts of shows generally debut. This makes me feel like FOX didn’t have a deep drama bench this year. Anyway, I won’t watch it, but I know there’s an audience for it out there.

Not Just MeWednesday 9:00 PM

Based on the Australian show Sisters, this is FOX coming late to the This Is Us game – fitting, since Friday Night Lights/Parenthood creator Jason Katims is one of the executive producers. Brittany Snow works for her father, a demanding infertility doctor played by Timothy Hutton. Well, her world comes crashing down when it’s revealed that Hutton was using his own sperm to impregnate women. So now Snow has instant siblings, including Vixen from Legends of Tomorrow and Haley Joel Osment’s sister. I’m gonna go out on a limb here, so I hope you can follow me: this is an NBC show run through a FOX filter, with FOX cast and budget. This show has no place on this network, even though it’s obvious why they’d want it. It’s being given the time slot following The Masked Singer, which was a surprisingly massive hit for FOX, so they definitely have faith in it. Still, I don’t know if that’s the most appropriate lead-in, nor do I know if the audience for this show will find it.


Bless The Harts – Sunday 8:30 PM

OK, so I’ve got some gripes about FOX’s Sunday night schedule, and this seems like the best place for it. First of all, Animation Domination hasn’t been around 30 years. It’s been around about 15, so that’s a slap in the face to all the live action shows that failed on the night over the past 30 years. And there have been A LOT of them! Also, in order to add this to the schedule, they’ve “promoted” Bob’s Burgers to 9, and given Family Guy the ghetto, this is where shows go to die, 9:30 slot. I only see this as a temporary move, though, as this show won’t last.

Animation Domination has been dominated by The Simpsons and Family Guy. Sure, Bob came along and has held his own, but let’s not forget all the others that could not, like Bordertown, Allen Gregory, Son of Zorn and The Cleveland Show. I like the title here, as it’s a play on “Bless your heart”, which is the treacly Southern way of basically saying, “Well, aren’t you a sad little piece of shit?” It’s also got a great cast, with Wiig, Rudolph, and more. Still, I HATE the animation style. THIS should be the 9:30 show, and not Family Guy. But this will all be rectified when Bless gets canceled. Because it WILL be canceled.

DeputyMidseason

Now, THIS is a FOX SHOW. I can only assume that it wasn’t ready for a Fall debut, as this is what should be paired with 9-1-1 and not Prodigal Son. If they’ve got anyone smart in scheduling, it’ll be paired with the forthcoming 9-1-1: Lone Star, starring Rob Lowe. Hell, I might even watch this thing.

Now, just because it’s a “FOX Show” doesn’t mean it can’t be canceled. The odds are still against it, but they needed a kickass law show to fill the void left by the corpse-isn’t-cold-yet Lethal Weapon, but I’m very intrigued to see where this goes. At the same time, I could also see this appealing to the crowd that has those “Don’t Tread On Me” license plates. This is a lawman, who only cares about justice. By season 2, he’ll be taking on illlegals, and then it’s gonna be a shitshow.

Filthy RichMidseason

Since the sale of the non-network assets to Disney, it seems like FOX is doubling down on what makes them FOX. I just don’t know why they’re saving their best stuff for midseason. Just like Deputy, this is a natural fit for the network. Before I even saw the executive producers, I said “This is White Empire“, and that’s exactly what it is. I want to say I’ll watch the Hell out of this show, but I also know that these things get pretty over-the-top quickly, and I’ll be burnt out by season 3. Knowing how Fox schedules, it’ll probably be scheduled during Empire’s Winter hiatus, but I’d kinda like them on at the same time. Show the nation that both Black and White rich folks can be just as trifling.

neXtMidseason

Damn, midseason FOX is KILLING IT! I love Roger Sterling in anything, but he’s taking on evil Alexa?! Sounds like somebody’s been watching Black Mirror. The thing I love about this, though, is it’s an “event series”. That means it’s contained – probably about 10 episodes – and if it fails, it can just be a One & Done. If it succeeds, then they’re gonna have to figure out how to make Alexa even more evil for a second season. Or maybe he’ll take on Ring doorbells or something. I am ALL IN for this one.

OutmatchedMidseason

I feel like this show was D.O.A. the minute Biggs was attached to star in it. Doubly so when Maggie Lawson was added, ’cause she can’t catch a post-Psych break. This feels like Andy Richter’s FOX sitcom Quintuplets all over again, only it’s 4 kids instead of 5. Even with the “3 of them are geniuses” angle, it’s still the same “Oh my God, the kids are taking over and we’re outnumbered” premise. Still, it’s fairly obvious that it’ll end up wherever FOX puts Last Man Standing, since Friday belongs to WWE SmackDown this fall. Paired with that show it might do OK, but I see this as a One & Done.

Looking at their Fall schedule, the boldest move FOX made was moving Empire to Tuesdays, leading out of The Resident. That’s a terrible pairing, but it was also announced that this would be Empire‘s final season, so it’s not like they really care at this point. It’s a lame duck, with no aims at a renewal, so it’ll do what it does, and that’ll be it. In the end I’m not so excited about their fall schedule, but I CAN’T WAIT for midseason.

ABC

EmergenceTuesday 10:00 PM

So, in a weird, last minute upfronts move NBC passed on this and ABC swooped it right up. It’s probably for the best, as I can’t really see this on NBC. Still, ABC has tried this exact same show every Fall since Lost ended and it never works. This is one of the rare times when it’s a female protagonist (which ABC does well) instead of a schlub like Steve Zahn, but I don’t see this show lasting long enough to solve its core mystery. If they had somehow shoehorned it into TGIT, it would’ve given it a boost, but instead it’s getting the Tuesday Night Death Slot, which is being vacated by The Rookie. I just don’t see this one working.

mixed-ishTuesday 9:00 PM

Somewhere along the line, ABC said “Screw the present – we’re gonna tell a coming of age tale from every decade prior.” The Goldbergs gave us the 80s, Fresh Off the Boat gave us the 90s, and The Kids Are Alright tried to give us the 70s. Well, they’re mixing recipes from two of their biggest current shows: The Goldbergs and black-ish, and taking us back to the 80s for mixed-ish. I feel like this probably came out of the contract negotiations with Tracee Ellis Ross, as she was about to walk off the show a few years back, citing the fact that she made considerably less than costar Anthony Anderson. It was pointed out that he was an executive producer on the show, so that’s why he made more. So, now she has her own spinoff. Sure, it’s something of the Young Sheldon model (make a prequel to your aging hit to stave off having to replace it any time soon), but it works. I’m actually really looking forward to this – moreso than grown-ish, for which I’ve never seen an episode, as I don’t know what channel Freeform is on my cable service. Perhaps I’ll get an email about it when I get my period. Anyway, I like the chances on this one, and it serves as the lead-in to black-ish on Tuesdays, so it’s good they’re not splitting up the family, so to speak.


StumptownWednesday 10:00 PM

Personal story time: so, back when I worked at Diamond, one of the accounts I managed was Oni Comics, who would go on to publish the Stumptown comic on which this show is based. When I left the job, Oni was nice enough to keep my on their comp list for a few years, so I could stay in the loop of what they were doing. In the tail end of that arrangement, before I was unceremoniously removed from said list, I was sent the first issue of Stumptown, and was immediately drawn to it. It’s got a strong female protagonist, which you kinda come to expect from creator Greg Rucka, and it was reminiscent of the best parts of Alias, the Brian Michael Bendis comic that introduced Jessica Jones. Dex, like Jessica, is a flawed character, who’s just trying to get by. She’s a relatable character who’s easy to root for. So, needless to say, I’m very excited about this show. Add in that it stars Cobie Smulders, whom I’ve loved since How I Met Your Mother, and I think you’ve got a winner. I don’t know if the audience will love this show, but I’m definitely rooting for it, and hope to tune in every chance I get.

As far as scheduling goes, ABC is playing it pretty safe, with only two notable moves: American Housewife moves to their sad excuse for TGIF (it’s unclear if they’re still using that branding this season), while The Rookie moves to Sunday night. In a somewhat puzzling move, ABC ordered a reboot of Kids Say The Darnedest Things, hosted by…Tiffany Haddish? I remember when everyone was eager to get on Oscar Isaac’s jock, and look where that got us. This feels like that, all over again. Companies’ desire to get into the Tiffany Haddish Business has her getting jobs that aren’t necessarily the right fit (see: The LEGO Movie 2). I just don’t know how you take a show, last hosted by Bill Cosby, and immediately think “Tiffany Haddish!” Does she even LIKE kids? They’re saving some of their heavier hitters, like American Idol, The Bachelor, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for midseason, so their fall is rather tame.

CBS

There was a lot of drama with the CBS dramas as we headed into Upfronts week. First, it was announced that Bull had been renewed for a 4th season, leading Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment to cut ties with the show due to the #MeToo accusations against star Michael Weatherly. Then, it was announced that the upcoming sixth season of Madam Secretary would be its last. Still, the network had some new shows to debut, as well as some high profile moves to announce.

All RiseMonday 9:00 PM

I’ll give CBS credit for their recent diversity push, as they’re trying and it shows. That said, a Black woman leading a legal drama has ABC written all over it, so I wonder how this ended up at CBS. It doesn’t look salacious enough to have joined the TGIT lineup, so maybe that explains how it got here. Still, I see CBS is doing the divide and conquer to get the Black audience as this is counterprogramming to Black Lightning over on The CW. I like this kind of show because it’s not trying to do too much. It’s not exactly high concept. If it finds an audience, a show like this could last 10 years. Will it? Time will tell.

Bob Hearts AbisholaMonday 8:30 PM

This is cute, and it might do well paired with The Neighborhood. It’s like Chuck Lorre looked back on Mike & Molly, and realized some of the best scenes were when Billy Gardell interacted with Black folks – one of whom was African. I always felt kinda bad for Gardell, as Melissa McCarthy’s star kept rising while the show went on, and the focus ended up more on her. He seems like a good dude, so I’d like to see him with another series. I just don’t know if this is it. This would make a cute rom-com, but a 22-episode sitcom? Do I really feel like watching their romance unfold? I might binge it, like I did The Neighborhood, but I don’t see this as weekly, destination television. Maybe I’ll be surprised, though.

Carol’s Second ActThursday 9:30

I’m just gonna ask it: Does Patricia Heaton really need money? I mean, does she have a drug problem or a gambling addiction? She had a successful long run on Everybody Loves Raymond, followed by another successful long run on The Middle. She’s had to have made millions – a good portion of which she’s used to fund Republican efforts (you can thank her for shit like Alabama). Anyway, if she’s looking for the triple crown, she’s out of luck, because this looks terrible. The supporting cast isn’t dynamic, and the “Hey, she’s an old intern” joke is gonna get old halfway through the premiere. Even with a plum spot after Mom, this won’t work. Maybe when this fails, she’ll finally go sit down somewhere and rest.

EVILThursday 10:00 PM

So, is this a commercial for the Catholic Church, or was it made in spite of them? It’s basically The X-Files meets The Exorcist, but maybe you can eke two or three seasons out of it. Nice to see Mike Colter bounced back from the cancellation of Luke Cage rather quickly. This is the kind of show that would go either way on FOX. Not too sure how CBS is gonna handle it, though. I’ll bet it has a really strong pilot, but then settles into a procedural rather quickly. People seem to think CBS is an older audience, closer to both God and death. Will they cotton to something of this ilk? I’m not so sure.

The UnicornThursday 8:30 PM

Ya know, with the exception of Young Sheldon, CBS hasn’t really figured out how to crack that single cam comedy nut. Sure, Life In Pieces got 4 seasons, but they never knew what to do with it, as it didn’t fit the rest of their multi cam schedule (for those not in the know, single cam is like Modern Family, with no studio audience. Multi cam is the opposite, or the “typical” sitcom that folks are used to seeing). I’ve also got an issue with the casting. Folks love Walton Goggins, but they love to HATE him. He’s everyone’s favorite villain. He’s not beloved family man. Now, maybe he’s trying to show he has range, but I can think of a list of other folks who could’ve fit this role (starting with Nat Faxon). Part of me wonders if Rob Corddry and Omar Benson Miller auditioned for this show on their lunch break from Ballers. Anyway, I don’t see this one as a hit. Sorry, Walton.

BrokeMidseason

THIS is a CBS sitcom: multi cam, a familiar CBS star in Pauley Perrette, and a snarky butler, a la The Nanny. This show will last, at least, 5 years. Mark my words. If they hurry up and cancel Carol’s Second Act, this would be perfect paired with Mom. As much as I have loathed Natasha Leggero’s “rich bitch” caricature from her stand-up, it works here. I just hope she tones it down a bit after the pilot.

FBI: Most WantedMidseason

Julian McMahon is an odd choice to lead this show, but so was Missy Peregrym when she was cast to lead the main FBI. I do, however, feel like it’s a bit early for spinoffs, seeing as how this season was FBI‘s first, and there was a tumultuous situation behind the scenes as the showrunners kept changing. Still, this team was introduced, in CBS fashion, via a backdoor pilot on FBI this season, and it must have tested well, ’cause here’s a show for them. This could go either way. It’s pretty common for CBS to build franchises, as CSI, Criminal Minds, and NCIS showed us. That said, they aren’t always successful, as CSI: Cyber and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders showed us. So, this is something of a gamble that might pay off. We’ll just have to see where it lands.

TommyMidseason

Now, THIS feels like a TGIT show, which makes me wonder how ABC missed out on it. Edie Falco seems like she’s channeling Cathy Lanier, who was the DC Chief of Police until she left to work for the NFL. As I said above, ABC is the Strong Woman Protagonist network, so I don’t know if CBS knows how to handle something like this. Still, if paired with a show like All Rise or Madam Secretary, it might just find its audience.

Like the other networks, CBS is playing it safe for the fall. The biggest move I can see is they moved Magnum P.I. to Friday, while holding MacGyver to midseason. Like FOX, I don’t know if they’ll really shine til midseason, and I see Broke as their breakout hit of the season.

The CW

BatwomanSunday 8:00 PM

So, it happened pretty gradually, but The CW has basically positioned itself as FreeForm for Poor People. Basically, if you can’t afford cable, here’s where you can get your teen drama fix. It’s something of a smart play, even if it’s not that daring. At this point, 75% of the network’s fare is either comic book adaptations or reboots of older WB shows. They learned what worked for them, and they went ALL IN. Which brings me to Batwoman. I fell off the Arrowverse shows last season because kids, but if Gotham lasted as long as it did on FOX, this show will last until its stars are begging to be let out of their contracts. I see no reason this won’t get succeed. Why? Well, for starters, The CW cancelled NOTHING this season, proving they didn’t have a deep pilot bench. Also, they’re losing Supernatural and Arrow by the end of the 19-20 season, so all Ruby Rose has to do is not get caught up in some kind of scandal, and she’ll have gainful employment for years to come. It’s paired up with Supergirl on Sunday night, which will probably be packaged as some night of “Girl Power”, but I expect that to change when midseason hits.

Nancy DrewWednesday 9:00 PM 

This ain’t your mom’s Nancy Drew! Forget the book series, as this is basically Veronica Mars by way of Riverdale – fitting, since Riverdale will serve as it’s lead-in. Besides the interracial lovin’, I don’t really have much to say about this ’cause I’m not a 15 year old girl. It’ll probably find its audience, and it has a great timeslot. Still, it’s just more Poor People FreeForm.

Speaking of Riverdale, here’s a direct spinoff of the show (and not one of those, “Well, maybe it’s in the same universe” deals like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina over on Netflix). I’ve never seen an episode of Riverdale, so I don’t know how prominent a character Katy Keene was. It’s pretty cool that Josie’s a character over there, though. I want to say it’ll be a success, but I’m getting the same vibe from it that I got from that Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries, and that show didn’t last too long.

I don’t have a ton to say about The CW’s schedule. It’s nice to see Arrow and The Flash reunited on Tuesday night. I also notice it’s a shame the network, like FOX, only programs 2 hours a night, as it could really benefit from a 3-hour model in some places. For example, Charmed is a horrible lead-in for Dynasty, and would be better suited rounding out Wednesday with Riverdale and Nancy Drew, or even Thursday with Supernatural and Legacies. It lost its Sunday perch to Batwoman, and now it’s the odd show out. They probably should’ve held it to midseason, so it could be paired with Roswell, New Mexico.

To do your own comparison, here’s the Fall 2019 schedule grid, courtesy TVLine.com

Trailer Park

BH90210 (FOX)

I still don’t know what to make of this mockumentary of the original 90210 cast pitching a reboot of the series, but I guess we’ll find out when it premieres August 7th. Apparently, there’s already trouble in paradise, as there’s a new showrunner coming on board, and several writers have departed the show. My only takeaway from this trailer is that Gabrielle Carteris is old as Hell! I mean, I always knew she was the oldest, but DAMN… Part of me feels like Luke wouldn’t have done this even had he not died, but at least they have an “excuse” for his absence now.

Party of Five (FreeForm)

I’ve mentioned FreeForm so much this week that they owe me a check. Anyway, they’re the home of the reboot of 90s FOX hit Party of Five, which introduced the world to Jennifer Love Hewitt, Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell, and Lacey Chabert ( I feel like Scott Wolf had done something prior, but I could be wrong). In this version, however, the focus is on a Latino family and, instead of the parents dying in a car accident, they’re deported back to Mexico. So, the older brother has to raise his siblings who are left behind. This is pretty “ripped from the headlines”, so it is certainly pressing a hot button issue. I don’t know much about FreeForm’s audience, though, so will they flock to it? Guess we’ll have to see. I really hope the theme song is The BoDeans’ “Closer to Free”, but sung by a Mariachi band.

Chad (TBS)

Who allowed this?! Who sees someone as hot as Nasim Pedrad and says “Yeah, let’s make her a 14 year old boy”? Oh, I guess Nasim, as she’s the one who created this show. It’s on TBS, so it’ll probably get 2 seasons (Hell, Wrecked got that), but I wouldn’t expect much more out of it.

Always Be My Maybe (Netflix)

I love everyone in this, AND I don’t have to leave home to see it? SCORE!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Not Spoon! but rather Fork! as Amazon has canceled The Tick after 2 seasons.
  • Well, congratulations to everyone on Fresh Off the Boat, ’cause this is either your last season or they’re gonna “Hogan Family” your mom. This comes after star Constance Wu posted an expletive-laden reaction on social media to news that the show had been renewed as, she says, it meant she had to give up another opportunity for which she had been excited. It was a messy few days, and I’m sure things will be chilly on set for a bit, as it was a bit of a slap in the face to her costars and crew.
  • Though originally developed for TNT, it was announced that the Snowpiercer series will be moving to TBS. It’s also been renewed for a second season prior to a single episode even airing.
  • The Christian Right lost their shit when it an episode of PBS series Arthur featured Mr. Ratburn marrying his male partner.

  • In anticipation of the release of Rocketman, Elton John and star Taron Egerton released the new song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”. I love Elton to death, but this one doesn’t do much for me. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
  • Marvel Comics announced the upcoming release of Marvel Comics #1000, a special book that will feature one-page comics from some of their biggest creators to commemorate Marvel’s 80th anniversary. Seeing as how it’s a $10 book that will be in dollar bins by next summer, I can wait.
  • The Big Bang Theory capped off a 12(!) season run last night, airing its final episode. I know most of you hate it, but there are millions and millions of folks who enjoyed it and will miss the show. While I fell off in the past season, I count myself among that number.
  • Some outlets are reporting that Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson will be the next Batman, while others are saying that X-Men‘s Nicholas Hoult is still in the running. Personally, I’m holding out for Hoult.

Since this is the Upfronts post, I usually pick the network that I feel had the best presentation and schedule. While nobody has me jazzed for Fall, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jonseing for FOX’s midseason schedule. Despite the future failure known as Outmatched, the dramas they have lined up look like they’re firing on all cylinders. Usually ABC or NBC walk away with the crown, but I feel FOX shows the most promise for the overall season, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

03rd May2019

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

by Will

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Trailer Park

The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)

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

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

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

Will’s Jukebox


“More Hearts Than Mine” – Ingrid Andress

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


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

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


“Me” – Taylor Swift ft Brendon Urie

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

Links I Loved

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

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

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

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

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

15th Feb2019

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

by Will

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

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

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

Trailer Park

MA

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


Yesterday

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


Aladdin

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


Frozen II

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25th Jan2019

Thrift Justice – Operation Kondo

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18th Jan2019

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2018

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 In Movies

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

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

2018 In Television

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

2018 In Music

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

West Week Ever Recipients of 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04th Jan2019

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2018

by Will

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

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

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

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

39. Travis Denning – David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs

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

38. Brantley Gilbert – The Ones That Like Me

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

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


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

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

36. LANCO – Born to Love You

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

35. Florida Georgia Line – Simple

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

34. Thomas Rhett – Life Changes

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

33. Jason Aldean – You Make It Easy

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


32. Dylan Scott – Hooked

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

31. Dustin Lynch – Good Girl

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

30. Chris Jansen – Drunk Girl

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

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

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

28. Luke Combs – Beautiful Crazy

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


27. Luke Bryan – Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset

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

26. Lindsay Ell – Champagne

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

25. Jordan Davis – Singles You Up

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


24. Kenny Chesney – Get Along

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

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

23. Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty

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

22. Brett Young – Mercy

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

21. Dan + Shay – Speechless

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


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

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

19. Midland – Burn Out

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


18. Thomas Rhett – Marry Me

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


17. Maren Morris – Rich

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


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

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


15. Luke Combs – She Got The Best of Me

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


14. Dierks Bentley featuring Brothers Osborne – Burning Man

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


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

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


12. Brett Eldredge – The Long Way

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


11. Morgan Wallen featuring Florida Georgia Line – Up Down

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


10. Tim McGraw – Neon Church

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


9. Luke Bryan – Most People Are Good

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


8. Jake Owen – Down To The Honkeytonk

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


7. Luke Combs – One Number Away

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

6. Blake Shelton – Turnin’ Me On

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


5. Dierks Bentley – Woman, Amen

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


4. Dan + Shay – Tequila

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


3. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow

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


2. Jimmie Allen – Best Shot

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


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

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

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

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.

 

16th Nov2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/16/18

by Will

So, it’s been THREE WEEKS since I actually covered “pop culture” on here. And ya know? Ain’t a whole lot happened in that amount of time. I mean, I’ve been fighting to get my White House press credentials restored, but other than that things have been pretty lame. Sure, you may think there was news, but there really wasn’t. Let’s see what I can pick out this week, shall we?

So, I did something I haven’t done in a while: I watched a movie. At home! Lindsay went out to the store, and Evie was mesmerized by Ryan’s Toy Reviews on her tablet, but the TV was left on Megamind. From the beginning. Lucky me! Now, I know I’ve seen parts of it before on a plane, but I fell asleep on it, so that doesn’t count. Why did this movie bomb? I seem to remember it bombing. *checks Wikipedia* Yup, one of the lowest-grossing DreamWorks CG movies to date. That’s a shame, ’cause I really enjoyed it.

If you’ve never seen it, it’s Will Ferrell at his “hamiest”, voicing the supervillain Megamind. He and the hero Metro Man both crashed on Earth as babies, but they ended up with very different lives, despite growing up around each other. Jealous of the attention that Metro Man got from peers, Megamind eventually turned to villainy, and this cat and mouse game develops over the years. That is until Megamind goes too far in one of their battles, seemingly killing Metro Man. Now, without a foe, Megamind begins to realize that villainy really isn’t that fun – especially when he falls in love with reporter Roxanne Ritchi. Now he has to lead a double life as both Megamind and “Bernard” (the guy he’s disguised as when he dates Roxanne), while a new villain rises in Metro City. Will the villain become the hero? That’s all I’ll give ya, ’cause I really think you should see it yourself.

It was one of those rare times when I couldn’t identify the voice actors, and I don’t know if they took me out of it, or if it actually helped to pull me in. I mean, I was surprised to discover that Tina Fey was Roxanne, but even more surprised to find that Brad Pitt was Metro Man. Jonah Hill’s character? Totally thought it was Nick Swardson. So, cute movie, great cast. I’d recommend it. I am tired of seeing those Happy Meal toys at thrift stores, though…

Nothing convinced me of the fact that I’m simply not a Star Wars fanatic more than the news than came out over the past week. First up, there’s going to be a Rogue One prequel series on the Disney+ streaming service, starring Diego Luna reprising his role as Cassian Andor. Yeah, that’d be great if I didn’t already know how he dies. I don’t like prequels for characters who we’ve seen die because there are absolutely no stakes. It might as well be Star Wars: Cassian’s Root Canal. That’s how interesting that sounds to me. It’s always odd to me that fans love Rogue One and hate The Last Jedi when I had the opposite feeling on both of those movies. I don’t need gritty suicide missions in my Star Wars. I felt like every character in that movie was a cliche. That’s why nobody knows their names. Sure, there are fans who’ll get butthurt when you say that, and respond “It’s Chirrut Imwe!”, but I’m content just calling him “Blind Guy”, thankyouverymuch. Anyway, they were created simply to die, and die they did.

Plus, what is there to really do with Cassian? They’re gonna make him a lovable rogue who hates authority. Congrats, Disney: you’re effectively giving us Mexican Bootleg Han Solo! Anyway, I’m curious to know if there’s a version of Rogue One out there that I’d actually like. I mean, between reshoots and edits, what we got was an entirely different movie than the one they initially set out to make. Maybe that’ll come through on the series? I’m not sure, but I’m not the target audience.

Next up, they announced some casting for The Mandalorian, and again, I was unable to go from 6 to 12 from that news. Game of Thrones actor Pedro Pascal is reportedly going to be the lead in the series, but I’ve never watched Game of Thrones so that means nothing to me. Meanwhile, someone somewhere is going “Why they fillin’ up mah Star Wars wit’ Mexicans?!” Yeah, he’s from Chile, but the person saying that doesn’t know the difference between the two… Also, they announced that former MMA star Gina Carano had been cast. That’s the moment I lost all interest. Are we still trying to make her a star? Look, I’m sure she’d make a fine stuntwoman, but acting ain’t her strong suit. Has everyone forgotten how all her dialogue from Haywire had to be overdubbed?! Is she going to be a droid? Anyway, y’all have fun with The Force, but none of this is for me.

Trailer Park


Toy Story 4

Yeah, I don’t need this. Look, I know y’all love Toy Story, and I know it put Pixar on the map, but I’ve never really taken to this franchise. Yeah, go ahead and be shocked, but that’s how I feel when one of y’all tries to say that the first 10 minutes of Up do nothing for you. BASIC! Anyway, I know the last movie kinda served as a springboard for new adventures, but it doesn’t mean they have to show them all to us. It was enough to know that the toys got a new home and a new lease on life. I don’t need to watch Bonnie grow up, and then pass them on to some other kid like Andy did. They had a GOOD stopping point. Why ruin that? Oh yeah. Money.

Fighting With My Family

Huh. I never had any interest in this film until watching that. Sure, I love Nick Frost and Vince Vaughn, but I’ve never really cared much about Paige. I mean, when “the leak” happened, I ended up seeing way more of her than I ever imagined, but I’ve never cared about her wrestling. I know WWE is giving the women’s division more of a push these days, but I’m kinda cold on the company right now, plus Paige isn’t really in-ring talent at the moment. So, this won’t bring me back to wrestling, but I’d definitely like to see this movie.


Spies in Disguise

What the fuck is this?! Does Will Smith need money? Do we need to start a GoFundMe, or is he already on Patreon? This movie looks like it was spawned from those “Why can’t James Bond be Black?” thinkpieces, and then Hollywood got involved and was like, “OK, he can, IF he can also be a bird”. There’s this longstanding stigma in Hollywood that every Black comedian has to, at some point, don a chicken suit in some Stepin Fetchit attempt to make them less threatening to some White audiences. This is Will Smith’s chicken suit. Plus, I don’t care if Blue Sky made the Ice Age franchise – I’m commoner trash, so I want my animation from Disney or Dreamworks. Otherwise, GTFO!


Detective Pikachu

So, this is basically family friendly Ted, right? I mean, I can dig it. I’ve got a lot of questions about the world in which it’s set, but there’s already a built-in audience for this, considering Pokemon GO almost settled the Israel land disputes. Seriously, I was amazed when the entire world was playing it, and I’m still amazed that there are millions of folks still playing it undercover. I see you walking in that park! I know you don’t give a shit about fitness!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Apparently the title for the third installment of the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence cop franchise will be Bad Boys for Lif3. Huh. Why not just go the extra mile and replace “for” with “4”? Oh, and the “s” with a “z”? Bad Boyz 4 Lif3. There’s your edgy title!
  • Speaking of Will Smith, son Jaden may have come out as gay this week, as he told a festival crowd that Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator was his boyfriend. I’m not really surprised, as I always considered him gender fluid anyway. Plus, he’s weird Hollywood royalty, so you could tell me he’s in a serious relationship with a Mitsubishi Eclipse, and I’d be like “Huh. Nice choice.”
  • Netflix has cancelled The Good Cop after one season. Let me tell you, I had NO IDEA this thing was a cop drama starring Tony Danza and Josh Groban. I saw an ad for it, and I thought it was about a Black cop who doesn’t give a shit because he’s so close to retirement. Apparently that IS one of the characters, but he’s not the star. I actually wanted to watch that show.
  • Tom Cruise is done with the Jack Reacher franchise, as he is reportedly too short for the role. It’s not like it matters, though, because they’re refocusing it for television instead of movies, and Tom Cruise ain’t doing TV any time soon.
  • Fans won’t be saying “Happy Christmas” to The Doctor this year, as there will be no Doctor Who Christmas special for the first time in 13 years. Instead, however, there will be a New Years special, but fans already seem ready to start a war about this.
  • Since CBS All Access is really just CBS: We Have Star Trek So Please Give Us Money, there are reports that there’s ANOTHER Trek show being developed – this time, focused on Michelle Yeoh’s Star Trek: Discovery character, Philippa Georgiou. I still haven’t watched season 1 of Discovery, but every news story spoiled what happened to her character, so I’ll let you look up the details yourself.
  • 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for STDs, as MTV’s Spring Break will make its triumphant return, along with a reboot of Temptation Island on USA Network.
  • Tim Tebow will be hosting a new competition show called Are You There, Jesus? Kidding. It’s actually called Million Dollar Mile, where it’s basically American Gladiators against professional athletes. Yeah, I think my show sounds better.
  • Malibu! Malibu! Malibu is on fire! We don’t need no water, let that motherfucker…Oh shit, there goes the Westworld set!
  • Alec Baldwin punched a guy over a parking space, but that’s basically a regular Tuesday for him.
  • Hey, remember how y’all hated Venom? Well, it still debuted at $111 million in China, as Sony’s biggest Chinese launch of all time. Oh, and it’s made $674 million globally. Yeah, we’re getting that sequel, and I ain’t mad.
  • Vanessa Bayer, formerly of Saturday Night Live, is developing Big Deal for Showtime, in which “a woman overcomes childhood leukemia to achieve her lifelong dream of being an on-air host on the Home Shopping Network. Huh. This just sounds like an SNL sketch. And not a good one. Apparently, Bayer did overcome childhood leukemia, and it’s nice to see she’s creating her own roles, as Hollywood is otherwise just gonna pigeonhole her as “perky best friend” in the rom-com genre.

So, I took last week off because it was a holiday weekend, but I gave a rare social media-only West Week Ever to my friend Mary Ann Borer. We “met” through a Facebook group a couple of years ago, and she’s become quite the friend of the site. So, imagine my surprise when she became the reigning Jeopardy! champion. She even went viral for her Sailor Moon salute. The Teen Tournament is currently going on, but I can’t wait for it to end so she can get back to kicking ass. So, for the record, last week, she had the West Week Ever.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. I’m not going to eulogize him ’cause enough sites have done that. I don’t even know if I can do a “What Stan Meant To Me” angle. I’ve spent the past few years pretty much waiting for what happened on Monday. I had made my peace with it once the stories of the suspected elder abuse surfaced earlier this year. To me, Stan “The Man” Lee was already gone, and his handlers were pretty much Weekend at Bernie’s-ing him to get at his fortune. When Wizard magazine went under, the first thought I had was how they wouldn’t be around to have a special commemorative edition when he passed. But I still wasn’t ready on Monday. We lost Stan.

As much as I love pop culture, I’ve never been much of a “starfucker”. I’ve come in contact with a handful of celebrities in my life, but there were only 3 that I ever simply HAD to meet: Adam West, Stan Lee, and Jason David Frank, the greatest Power Ranger of all time. For two of those, I knew the clock was ticking as they were getting older, but they were surrounded by vultures, so the cost of that opportunity kept going up. I paid $300 for a VIP package to meet him at Baltimore Comic Con back in 2011. That’s a lot of money, but not once did I ever question it. This was STAN LEE. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money with that little thought put into it. To me, it was a given. I was meeting The Man. After all, “He’s not going to be with us long” was always in the back of my head. And now he’s not.

I always hate the whole “He’s in a better place now” phrase, but I honestly feel that way for Stan. His last few years just seemed miserable, and it was sad to watch him go through it all. Ever since he lost his wife, Joanie, he hadn’t been himself. And now he’s with her again. I don’t care what you believe. There could be an afterlife, or maybe they’re just together in the ground, turning into dust. I feel like whatever it is is probably better than drifting in and out of coherence, while my slacker daughter keeps visiting to ask for money.

Stan meant a lot to a lot of people. That goes without saying. Like any man, he had his faults. And as great as his creative highs were, he also had creative lows. He was a man who would put his name on literally anything. He was the epitome of “Fuck you, pay me”, but he always did it with such enthusiasm, and a smile on his face. The cash grabiest cash grab seemed like a decent idea when he went out to cheerlead for it. The Backstreet Project? Even at the height of the Backstreet Boys’ fame, this was a long shot. Chakra: The Invincible? Over 1.2 BILLION people in India, and none of them gave a shit about that thing. But that’s just a testament to the Stan Lee name. His past paid for his future. Co-creating X-Men, Spider-Man, and the rest opened every door for him for the rest of his life. And I don’t think Stan ever came across a door that he didn’t enter.

His huckster enthusiasm is what we know most about him, though, and it was infectious. He really made you feel like he believed in everything he put his name on. Even as you were at home, shaking your head in disbelief, he was telling you, “No, seriously, this cartoon about Pamela Anderson as a stripper/superhero is gonna knock your socks off!” Instead of the guy who had already made his nut, he approached everything like it might finally be his big break. I’m not sure if there was some guilt over who created what back in the day, or if he just needed to keep the creative juices flowing. Either way, you believed HE believed in Stripperella, even if you and everyone you knew had no intention of ever watching it.

It’s amazing to see someone that enthusiastic about anything in this day and age – to believe in the things to which you’ve aligned yourself THAT MUCH. He could say, “Well, donkeys sleep upside down, True Believer!” and you’d be like, “Well, fuck. I never knew that!” HE MADE YOU BELIEVE. That’s why his creations are so effective, and have touched so many people. You KNEW a Peter Parker. You KNEW a Bruce Banner. And even if it was something you’d never encountered, he made you believe and understand it, too. Name someone else who can do that. I’ll wait.

I don’t think it has fully hit me. I had to get offline when the news hit because it’s the Internet, and the pro-Kirby/pro-Ditko, pro-any collaborator crowd was sharpening their pitchforks and practicing their grave dancing moves. I didn’t feel like dealing with any of that. Now the dust has settled, and everyone has posted their own eulogies and retrospectives, so I appreciate you taking the time to read mine. I think it goes without saying that Stan Lee had the rare distinction of having the West Life Ever. Excelsior!

26th Oct2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/26/18

by Will

Sometimes I need to take a week off just so I can come back fired up – and I am FIRED UP this week!

Whatever happened to the days when we just let people say stupid shit and we just shook our heads and kept it moving? Yes, I’m talking about Megyn Kelly. The NBC talk show host came under fire this week, as she was discussing Halloween costumes with a panel of guests, which included Melissa Rivers and Jenna Bush Hager. Kelly was appalled by the restrictions that some universities were putting on certain Halloween costumes, such as prohibiting people from dressing as things like cowboys.

The conversation soon switched to the topic of blackface, as Kelly mentioned that you get in trouble as a White person for dressing up in blackface, but that it was seen as OK when she was younger, as long as you were dressed as a character. The panel somewhat disagreed, and Rivers pointed out that the concepts of politeness and decency seem to be missing in today’s society, and that if you think you might be offending someone, then you probably are. Kelly seemed to sort of take this in stride, the segment ended, and she moved on to talk about some other morning show fluff, like “How to clean your sock drawer potpourri” or whatever. That’s what you’ll see in this clip:

See? Not really a huge thing. I mean, sure, Kelly was wrong, but this is the same chick who argued that Santa Claus was White (Psst! He’s not real!). But you wouldn’t think the situation played out like that based on every report of it on the internet. It was Racist Megyn Kelly Strikes Again! And Tone-Deaf Kelly Doesn’t Understand Racism of Blackface! Um, did you watch the same clip I did?

Let’s point out a few things. First of all, her audience was ’bout it ’bout it when it came to this topic. And it was a diverse audience. I’m not saying what she said was OK, but I’m saying that she was clearly among “her people”. Next, I think it bears pointing out that the topic didn’t really linger. In what’s an 11 minute clip, the whole blackface part took up about 2.5 minutes. It’s not like she dwelled on it, or even tried to argue her side too much. She evoked the image of Real Housewives of New York cast member LuAnn de Lesseps dressed in blackface as Diana Ross, and said, “I thought ‘Maybe she just wanted to be Diana Ross for a day’.” If you ask me, what Kelly said was ignorant, but not racist.

We live in a society that shuns ignorance. No one wants to be the one to ask the “stupid question”, or admit when they don’t know something. At times this coincides with some dicey topics, like race. You’re not really going to get an understanding, however, unless you confront these things in conversation. We have to talk about things! Yet that’s not how we live. We all pretend to know everything, since all knowledge can be found in the palm of our hand. And when someone deigns to ask a question, the impatient simply retort “Google is your friend.” Great. Good talk.

Sure, racism is a by-product of ignorance, but ignorance can sometimes be innocent. Now, we can paint all sorts of things we want onto Megyn Kelly because, again, she’s the chick who swore up and down that Santa Claus HAD to be White. I get it. But I’m not seeing the Evil White Media Racist here that everyone seems to want me to see. I’ve had a lot of opinions where I was probably on the wrong side of history, and this is just another one of them.

Now Kelly’s future with NBC is in jeopardy. She had to apologize for her statements later that day, and then her words were publicly denounced by NBC News chairman Andrew Lack. Then it was reported that the cast of House of Cards pulled out of a planned appearance on her show, due to her remarks. Later on, however, House of Cards cast member Greg Kinnear (remember him?!) said that the cast was told that Kelly had jury duty, which is why the appearance was cancelled. Whatever happened, reruns have been airing instead of live episodes since the event. There are reports that Kelly had met with NBC brass recently and expressed the desire to get back to “real news” coverage, as she hasn’t taken to the lighter side of morning talk. Now, however, it appears the network wants her out, and she’s reportedly demanding a payout of the rest of her contract.

OK, meanwhile, Fox News just announced that their streaming service, Fox Nation, will launch November 27th. So, you mean to tell me that former Fox News darling Megyn Kelly’s highly publicized NBC deal is falling apart just as Fox announces their entry into the streaming market? A streaming service that’s going to need a big name to help launch it? And I’m supposed to think these are just coincidences? This is all orchestrated. Ya know how I know? Because I look at that clip, and I don’t see any fireable offense taking place there. No, this is a mountain being made out of a molehill, and social media and the court of public opinion are being used to throw fuel on the fire. Someone at NBC clearly wanted her gone (word on the street is that it’s Al Roker), while she needs somewhere to land when they snatch the rug out from under her. Mark my words: she’s going back to Fox, and she’s going to double down on her “conservative Megyn Kelly” persona. After all, the folks who were behind her sexual harassment claims at Fox are either gone and/or dead. The time is ripe for a homecoming, and she’s got a lot of fuel against the Liberal Media for how she was treated during this “ordeal”. Great job, Liberals: you just helped one of your greatest foes level up.

So, you got Megyn Kelly fired. Meanwhile, trans folks are potentially about to be erased, and bombs are being sent to prominent Democrats. But I’m glad to see y’all focused on the real issues…

You thought I was done? Oh, I’m just getting started!

So, during my blogging break, Netflix cancelled Iron Fist, and all the folks who were like “How the fuck they gonna have a White dude as Iron Fist? They better cancel that show before it airs!” suddenly turned into “Oh Noez! How dare Netflix cancel Iron Fist?!” people. It was actually quite the thing to witness. I wish I’d kept the receipts from a year ago. Anyway, Netflix totally doubled down, and cancelled Luke Cage just a few days later. And then the armchair quarterbacks came out: “Oh, they’re totally gonna make Heroes for Hire instead.” Or “Disney’s just gonna put them on their streaming service.” I don’t know about the former, but you’re wrong about the latter, and here’s why:

While we don’t know streamer ratings, we know that pretty much everyone hated the first season of Iron Fist, while they felt Cage seasons were too long. Add in the fact that the Netflix shows are tangential, at best, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney is putting actual MCU actors on the streaming network, so I don’t see them wasting their time and resources on the Great Value properties.

Next, let’s look at the politics at play. The Netflix shows are produced by Marvel Television, while the Marvel Cinematic Universe films are produced by Marvel Studios. Those two divisions HATE each other. Lots of bad blood, which is why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only show that takes place “firmly” in the universe of the films, as it was established before all the shit went down. Everything established later has been in this nebulous “Maybe it’s in the MCU/maybe it’s not” gray area. When the streaming service was announced, they specifically pointed out that the Marvel shows on the service would A) be entrenched in the MCU, and B ) produced by Marvel Studios (and not Marvel Television). So, long story short, the Netflix shows didn’t get invited to the party because of their origin with Marvel Television. Also add in the mature nature of the Netflix shows, while it’s been pretty widely reported that Disney Play won’t venture past PG-13 content.

So, Iron Fist and Luke Cage may live to fight another day, but it ain’t gonna be on Disney’s streaming service. One theory I’ve heard is that they might end up on Hulu, should Netflix ever give up the rights, as Disney will be the majority shareholder of Hulu after the Fox deal closes. As with most things, however, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Yesterday it was announced that Rick & Morty head writer Mike McMahan has been hired to develop the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks series for CBS All Access. And I think this is a horrible idea. I know that the Trek TV franchise has been pretty dormant in recent years, but CBS All Access is wasting no time diluting the fuck out of it now. Seriously, there is an announcement of a new Trek series almost weekly, to the point that I’ve lost track. Right now, there’s Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Short Treks, Star Trek: There Are Four Lights (which is my working title for the Picard-centered show), and now there’s Star Trek: Lower Decks – all for CBS All Access. There are about to be a LOT of discussions about what IS and ISN’T “Star Trek“. Animated series from a Rick & Morty writer? Yeah, that ain’t Trek.

I know I’m biased, but as a lifelong Trekker, I’ve always felt there was some pomp and ceremony to the Star Trek franchise. In a lot of ways, you could say that it’s a franchise that tends to take itself too seriously. That’s why I hesitate to embrace something, officially licensed, that pokes fun at that. Sure, over the years there have been fanzines and things like Star Wreck that parodied Trek, but this show, which is supposed to focus on the unnamed crewmen who help run things on an unimpressive Starfleet vessel, sounds like something in the vein of those parodies, and I think it takes away from the franchise rather than adds to it. It feels a lot like Star Trek selling out. Maybe they’re trying to make it accessible to new audiences – ones who may have been put off by the “rigidity” of prior series, but I’d argue that rigidity is part of what makes Star Trek what it is.

My pal Peter pointed out that it’s worth comparing how CBS is treating Trek to how Disney is treating Star Wars. At a glance, Lower Decks feels like something you’d get from the Star Wars franchise. It seems like it’s in the same spirit as the Tag & Bink comic series that Dark Horse put out many moons ago. That was a comedic take on the Star Wars movies, as seen through the eyes of two Jedi in training, who kind of “Forrest Gump” their way through the important events of the original trilogy. A lot of folks liked that series, but keep in mind that it was a comic. It wasn’t seen by the vast majority of Star Wars fans. So, it was treated like the niche thing it was. Lower Decks, however, is being given the same platform as the current, “core” Trek series, Discovery. If they wanted to make some web shorts or something, fine, but a full series (with a 2-season order, at that), just seems to legitimize something that shouldn’t really exist.

Back to the Trek/Wars comparison, I feel like, despite the backlash to The Last Jedi, that Disney is doing it right when it comes to the Star Wars franchise, primarily because they “spread the wealth”. There are the movies, but there’s also the animated series on cable, there’s the upcoming series for Disney Play, and other outlets. Meanwhile, CBS is blowing their entire wad on All Access. They know folks aren’t shelling out a monthly fee for that Tim Meadows cop show, or that spinoff of The Good Wife. No, the ones who are subscribing are doing it, begrudgingly, for Star Trek, BUT there are a LOT of Trek fans (myself included) who can’t even be swayed by that. Instead of being forced to pay for another streaming service, I’m content to just refuse to acknowledge that Discovery even really exists. And even if I acknowledge its existence, I refuse to believe it’s actually contributing anything worthwhile to the mythos. I realize I could be completely wrong about that, but it’s the fault of CBS for hiding it behind a paywall. The insistence on continuing to do this with this ONE particular franchise isn’t going to soften my resolve, but rather just make me resent CBS even more. So, bring on your hateful, sardonic Star Trek cartoon, but I most likely won’t be watching it.

Had I written a post last week, the West Week Ever probably would’ve gone to The Conners, for pulling off an unnecessary, but adequate feat. You see, the show doesn’t really need to exist. Sure, there are the stories of John Goodman saying that they “owed it to the fans”, and sure people were worried about the cast and crew who were out of jobs after the abrupt cancellation of the reboot. To that, I have 2 thoughts: 1) they owe the fans nothing. It could’ve stood as a Done In One “special” season, like the kind of thing you’d get in the UK, and everyone could’ve kept it moving and 2) It’s not like this all happened during season 10 of a long-running series. Yes, it was technically season 11, BUT 20 years had passed in between. The cast already had lives they’d established. Sara Gilbert still has The Talk to go back to, and Michael Fishman could probably get his job back at the Winn Dixie. It’s not like folks had totally uprooted their lives during the ONE season of this reboot, and it’s Hollywood, so the crew would have no trouble getting work on the next project they throw at Joel McHale.

No, The Conners was an experiment that we have to live with even if we weren’t sure we wanted it. I was one of the early champions of the whole “Why not just ‘pull a Hogan Family‘, and keep going with the rest of the cast?” Yeah, I said it, but I didn’t mean it. I really just wanted to see if Hollywood still had the balls to pull off a move like that. That was one of my “Wanting to watch the world burn” moments. Anyway, much to my surprise, they did have the balls to do it. I feel like I’ve also gone on record saying that I didn’t really get why Roseanne was fired. Sure, what she said was fucked up, but it was only the most recent fucked up thing in a string of Roseanne’s fuckedupness. She really hasn’t been stable for the past 15 years or so. Someone had to know she was capable of this, but they still gave her a chance. Back in my day, you’d say something fucked up and racist, you’d do a mea culpa, and then you’d do a photo op with Al Sharpton after donating to the NAACP. So when did the rules change? ABC got her out of there with the quickness, and I’ll bet James Gunn was even somewhere like “Man, I hope they never do that to me!” [Editor’s Note: That is exactly what ABC/Disney would end up doing to him]

The thing that really strikes me about The Conners is the notion of “family”. One of the strengths of the original Roseanne was the family unit, and it’s what a lot of folks were anticipating upon its return. Once the reboot was announced, the cast was making the talk show rounds, about how they were a family and how great it felt to be back together. So, when Roseanne fucked up, where was her family? They turned on her. I know it’s naive (and not always true), but I like to think family sticks together. That’s not what happened here. When the shit hit the fan, they denied her like Peter denied Jesus, and they were all like, “Hey, I’ve got bills”.

I mean, it’s cutthroat Hollywood, but something doesn’t sit right with me. Roseanne tried to make it right, by signing over her rights and financial ties to the show, so that the cast and crew could carry on steering the ship that she built. And yeah, (spoiler alert), they killed off her character with a drug overdose, which is just so…unglamourous. I mean, there was a precedent for it, as it was established last season that she had an opiod addiction, but it was also established that she was worried about dying on the table during her knee surgery. Would it have killed them to go with the latter instead of the former? It reminds me of the overkill the South Park guys did to Chef went Isaac Hayes got all sanctified and quit the show.

Anyway, The Conners picks up a few weeks after Roseanne’s death, and the family is trying to adjust with her not around. They assumed her heart gave out, but midway through the episode, the coroner’s office calls, saying she had actually died of a drub overdose. Well, this is news to Dan, as well as Darlene and Becky. When they find out Roseanne had gotten drugs that had been prescribed to some other woman, Dan goes all “small town vengeance” on her, by putting a sign on his truck naming the woman, and blaming her for killing his wife. Eventually, the woman shows up to the house to apologize for Roseanne’s death, but also to ask Dan to remove the sign as it’s ruining her life. So, I guess the show is going to tackle the opiod crisis that’s plaguing Middle America right now, but it just feels so…unnecessary. If it were a story about recovery and redemption, that’s a story that I’d be interested in seeing how it plays out. But it’s not that story, as Roseanne is already dead, and she ain’t coming back. So what now? I truly don’t know the answer to that. I wonder if anyone associated with the show does, either, or if they’re just cashing their checks and keeping their heads down.

I had the pleasure of joining my buddy, Corey Chapman, on his podcast The Chap Report this week. It was a really fun time, as we discussed Halloween and modern scary movies, as well as the current state of the WWE. Plus a bunch of other stuff. It was fun to record, and just as fun to listen back to, so check it out and put it in your ear holes!

Trailer Park

F is for Family

This show is one of those hidden Netflix gems that nobody talks about, like LoveSick (AKA Scrotal Recall). I really enjoyed season 1, but totally missed season 2. I’ll probably catch up so I can watch this when it debuts on November 30th, ’cause I really liked it.


Broad City

We got this trailer for the 5th, and final, season of Broad City, and I guess it looks OK? As they say in the South, this show “got out from good”. When it debuted, I LOVED it. Crushed hard on both Abbi and Ilana. Then I feel like they jumped the shark somewhere around the Hillary cameo. And I bailed halfway through last season ’cause it just felt like it’d lost its spark. If I could find it somewhere, I’d watch the eps I missed, but I think I’m ready for this show to end.


Nobody’s Fool

I love a good red band trailer. Apparently Tiffany Haddish made the “Kevin Hart” deal with the Devil, in which she is required to appear in one movie a month. Good for her, I guess. I won’t see it in a theater, but I’d watch it if it were convenient to do so.


Bird Box

Folks are saying they’re getting A Quiet Place vibes from this trailer, which is another film I need to watch. I tend not to like stuff like this, but I’m intrigued, and I like Sandra Bullock. Plus, I already have Netflix, so it’s a plus that I won’t have to leave home to see it.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • As anyone with a brain could’ve predicted, Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson are dunzo!
  • Marvel fired Star Wars comic writer Chuck Wendig after he was told that his social media activity was too political and profanity-laden.
  • There was some casting on that Pennyworth series for Epix (Ya know, Batman’s butler before he was Batman’s butler?). Anyway, you don’t know who any of the folks are, nobody has Epix, and the show’s a terrible idea, so I’m just gonna jump to the next item.

  • Speaking of ill-advised DC TV moves, we got our first look at Shane West as Bane on Gotham. Oh man, did they run out of money? It’s like a poor kid’s homemade Darth Vader costume or something.
  • DC Comics revealed The Other History of the DC Universe, written by John Ridley, which will focus key events in the DC Universe through the eyes of its Black heroes. It’s part of DC’s Black Label imprint, but it’s mostly prose, with a $7.99 per issue price tag. Yeah, PASS!
  • Avengers 4 spoilers are starting to trickle out, including a pic of Ms. Gwenyth Paltrow. I’ll just leave it at that.
  • Disney had met with the writers of the Deadpool films about a potential reboot of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It’s unclear if Johnny Depp would be involved this time.
  • Alan Tudyk will voice The Joker on the upcoming Harley Quinn animated series on the DC Universe streaming service.
  • Steve Carell has been cast in Apple’s untitled morning show drama, also starring Reese Witherspoon. Do Apple shows ever come out? I always hear about them in development, and then something stupid happens, like “Whoops! We shot all 13 episodes but forgot to put film in the camera!” Seriously, name ONE Apple series that is complete and ready to go.
  • Speaking of Apple, they’re reportedly going to launch their own streaming service ’cause, y’know, everybody’s doing it. I guess it’ll be the home of all these shows that live in Canada that they keep talking about.
  • There are rumblings that Fuller House will end after its 4th season, though Netflix commented that no decision has been made at this time (translation: Time to look for work, Jodie Sweetin!).
  • Netflix has definitely made up its mind about Orange Is the New Black, as this will be its last season.
  • An NYPD Blue reboot is in the works, which would focus on the son of Andy Sipowicz (played by Dennis Franz in the original series). In this series, Sipowicz Jr will be investigating the murder of his father. Naw! They done killed Sipowicz?! They couldn’t let him retire to fish or some shit?
  • It’s the end of an era, as Caroll Spinney, the Sesame Street puppeteer behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for the past 50 years (!), would be stepping away from the roles. My oldest calls it Elmo Street anyway, so I guess he picked the right time to go…
  • Your HBO sex scenes are about to get lame, as the network has hired Intimacy Coordinators to be on set whenever a sex scene is to occur between actors. Due to the #MeToo movement, they want to ensure that consent is there, and that the actors are comfortable. Meanwhile, Shannon Tweed is somewhere, going “What a crock!”
  • So, MTV is reviving The Real World, but on Facebook Watch? What is that? Is that free? Seems odd they’d farm out one of their most iconic franchises. Anyway, I’m closer to 40 than 20, so this ain’t for me. Plus – and I’ve said it before – the show won’t return to its hard-hitting glory until they start casting ugly people again.
  • Speaking of Facebook, they will soon add the ability for you to add songs to your profile. Hey, 2006 MySpace called and boy do they have some shit to say!
  • CMT is reviving the ABC series Wife Swap, which will premiere in February. I will always think of this Chappelle sketch whenever that show, or its clone Trading Spouses, comes up.
  • The Wonder Woman sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, has been moved to June 5th, 2020, so as not to crowd out the Todd Phillips Joker movie coming out next fall. There are also rumors that the film will serve as a Flashpoint-like reboot to the DC movie universe.

  • British police are on the case to catch a David Schwimmer lookalike who stole some beer from a liquor store.

So this is a tough one. I can’t say this person had a “good” week, but he certainly had an important week. I haven’t been the biggest wrestling fan in recent years, but you couldn’t get near the WWE without knowing about Roman Reigns. The biggest reason is that the company seemed to be giving him a push that the fans didn’t really support. Over time, I was pretty much conditioned to dislike him, just like “everyone else” supposedly did. I knew he was part of The Shield, and pseudo-related to The Rock (since all Samoans seem to be born from 3 women), and he wasn’t bald (which meant he wasn’t a heel). Other than that, though, I had never really seen him wrestle, so I was peer-pressured into disliking him. That all changed on Monday night, though.

On Monday Night RAW, Roman broke character and introduced himself as “Joe” (his real name is Joe Anoa’i), and told the world that his Leukemia had returned. He was apparently diagnosed 11 years ago, and had beaten it. Unfortunately, it’s back, leading him to relinquish his WWE Universal Championship title. It was an emotional moment, especially when you watched the reaction of the WWE starts backstage. Even if the fans didn’t love him, it was clear he was loved by his colleagues, and they were genuinely concerned for him.

Since I’m dumb, I immediately texted my friend “Does this mean we’re not allowed to hate him anymore?” The thing is, though, that I never had a real reason to hate him. And instead of merely tolerating him, I now find myself concerned for his well-being. It’s a crazy string of emotions, and it all happened so fast. He made a point to say that this wasn’t a retirement speech, and he has every intention of coming back. I certainly hope that’s true, and I look forward to seeing how the fans will regard him on that day. Is this the thing that he “needed”? Did he have to show he was human to get over with them? Wrestling is such a strange thing sometimes. Anyway, prayers up for Roman Reigns, who had the West Week Ever.

05th Oct2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/5/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Brad Kern Update – the former NCIS: New Orleans showrunner was fired by CBS Studios after a THIRD misconduct investigation. He had already stepped down after the 2nd, but he remained on the payroll as a consulting producer. He reportedly had a history of belittling women, and making insensitive racial remarks.

Vincent Favale – What the Hell is going on over at CBS?! Man, they are draining the fucking swamp! Favale, the senior vice president of talent at the network has been placed on administrative leave after reports of sexual and homophobic remarks – many of which were reported by staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Favale reportedly once said that he “got four erections” while watching Jennifer Hudson rehearse for a Late Show appearance. Sounds like a real great guy…

*Takes long drag off cigarette* “Geoffrey? Now, that ain’t a name I’ve heard in about a month.” So, this week, Toys “R” Us called off the auction meant to sell off their IP and trademarks, as they reported they felt there was more value in relaunching the brand. Paperwork reveals that they registered the name “Geoffrey’s Toy Box”, but for what nobody is sure yet. Meanwhile, the Dallas Toy Fair is going on, and there have been sightings of Geoffrey walking the aisles, wearing a cape that says “Back from vacation”. All of a sudden, every news outlet lit up with “Toys ‘R’ Us is Coming Back!” Hold on there, cowboy.

Toys “R” Us rushed into bankruptcy, leaving long-time employees without severance, and owing toy manufacturers millions for unpaid product. That giraffe can’t just mosey back in like nothing happened. While the man on the street might be happy about TRU returning, there are a lot of folks who are going to feel some kind of way about that. And if it turned out that they only filed bankruptcy to divest themselves of debt, overhead, and responsibility, that’s going to cause even more problems. Had they been a public company, I’m pretty sure the SEC would be stepping in right about now, but they were private, so I don’t really know what happens next. All I do know is that they need to read the room and understand it’s too soon. The body ain’t even cold yet. I mean, I’m half expecting the next marketing image to be Geoffrey rolling back the stone from his tomb. That’s how this feels right now. They really need to give it a bit more time before rushing into this – if only so I don’t have to hear all the armchair quarterbacks talk about “They better lower their prices! That’s what drove them out of business in the first place!” Not exactly, Poindexter, but you keep on thinking that…


I was hesitant to post this ’cause y’all are never on the same page as me musically, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the stuff I think is good. Now, I know some of you see “country” and just think “NEXT!”, but I will die on the hill that modern country isn’t what you think it is. There are tons of artists who get airplay on country stations, yet if I played the song for you without telling you that, you’d never know it. Today, I can’t really do that ’cause I think everyone knows Tim McGraw is a country artist. Still, yesterday evening, he released his latest song, “Neon Church”, that I’ve been streaming for the past 24 hours.

While I love the wordplay, likening a bar to a church, I’m really here for the melody and what’s going on in the background. The first time I heard it, I was like “That’s ‘Purple Rain’!” In an interview this morning, McGraw said that while recording, he and his band were listening to a lot of Prince and Journey, and it shows here. I played it for Lindsay, and she didn’t like it – I somehow managed to marry the only White woman who hates Journey. Anyway, listen near the bridge and the at the end – that guitarist is doing his best “cruise ship ‘Purple Rain'”. It’s something of a vocal stretch for McGraw, as it’s at the top of his range, but I’m still really digging what’s going on here.

Trailer Park


Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

So, we got a new trailer for this one. Again, I am one of the BIGGEST Miles Morales fans, and this movie does nothing for me. I’m not digging the animation style, which I’m finding to be just as jarring as the MTV Spider-Man animated series based on the Raimi movies. Plus, I’m not sure Jake Johnson is how I imagined Peter Parker would sound. And Miles’ dad isn’t a cop. I get they had to take certain liberties or whatever, but I’m not feeling it. Maybe it’s not meant for me, which is sad, ’cause I pretty much glom onto any and all Miles merchandise and comic appearances.

Plus, I just don’t know if this is a theatrical project. I mean, I look at this, and think it would be a cool animated special that airs on ABC during primetime on a Wednesday in June or something, but to actually go pay to see it in a theater? I don’t think so. It feels like a nice special one-off event, like that Toy Story That Time Forgot special or something. Maybe even a special event on Disney XD. But this ain’t an “I’m headed to Fandango to order tickets” kind of thing.


Daredevil Season 3

So glad they quickly got this out there, ’cause the teaser I showed you last week left me scratching my head. Apparently this is adapting the “Born Again” storyline, but I read that thing over 10 years ago, and don’t remember it, so don’t take my word for it. It looks good – SO good, that I might just skip that other Netflix shows I haven’t seen and skip right to it.


Runaways Season 2

I’ve never watched an episode of this show, and that’s because A) I don’t have Hulu and B) it looks hokey as Hell. From the special effects to the way the kids all look like “teen outcasts” straight from central casting, it just doesn’t look good to me. I was a big fan of the comic series when it launched, but I watch these trailers, and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you’ve read the comic, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s like, if you think they’re on the run NOW, you just wait! There’s a twist coming, and I might jump onboard if/when I hear they’ve pulled that trigger. Until then, I’m content being in the dark on this one, Cloak & Dagger, and all the teen-centric Marvel stuff.


Harley Quinn

So, they announced that Kaley Cuoco would be voicing Harley, and I was like, “Huh?” I mean, were Tara Strong or Arleen Sorkin busy? But I guess they wanted a “name” behind this, since it’s one of DC Universe’s more high profile upcoming launches. After seeing this trailer, Cuoco does a decent job. And I really love Poison Ivy doing her best Daria. I like that DC seems able and willing to poke fun at them themselves here. I’m curious to see how this plays out since it’s marketed as an “adult animated series”. Let’s just hope the show is good, and not another Stripperella.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fox announced the release of Untitled Deadpool Movie slated for December 21st, which will reportedly be a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2. Keep in mind that this is also the weekend that Aquaman and Bumblebee hit theaters. I was kinda hoping it would be a new movie made up of deleted scenes and cut subplots, kinda like Wake Up, Ron Burgandy. Anyone ever seen that? It’s HORRIBLE but, as an Anchorman completist, I had to see it.
  • Speaking of Fox, they made a lot of schedule moves, as Untitled Deadpool Movie takes the release date of James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel, which, itself, is moving to Dark Phoenix‘s previously announced date of February 14th, 2019. Dark Phoenix, meanwhile, is moving to June 7th. Also, Channing Tatum’s X-Men spinoff, Gambit (ya know, that movie that’s never gonna happen?), has been pushed to March 13th, 2020.

  • So, those pitches are teasing a Pitch Perfect 4, and I’ve got to beg them to stop. The only thing they could even possibly do is have it based on NBC bringing back The Sing Off, and having the Bellas compete on it. Anything else would be absurd. No, the 3rd one was just not worth it, so I say we let it die as a trilogy.
  • Before the first episode has even aired, Titans has been renewed for season 2 on the DC Universe streaming service. Ya know, why not? It’s not like they’re sitting on anything else amazing to throw on that thing.

  • Speaking of bad DC live action ideas, Lobo is going to debut on Syfy’s Krypton next season. This looks like a Spirit Halloween ad! Ugh, fucking Lobo. He’s just the absolute WORST. Even though he debuted in the 80s, he’s the 90s at its 90iest, and I hate everything about him. I’ve always said that you can tell a lot about a person if they’re a Lobo fan. They’re usually Special Ed. Probably ate paste in school. They either grow up to own a landscaping business or become a Best Buy stereo installer. Fucking Lobo…
  • Realizing he’s getting too old for this shit, Damon Wayans has announced that he’s leaving Lethal Weapon at the end of season 3’s initial 13-episode commitment. Man, how mad do you think Fox is at the Lethal Weapon office right now? They already had to replace Clayne Crawford with Sean William Scott just to keep the show going, and now THIS?! Somebody’s GOT to be saying “We don’t need this shit! We could’ve renewed Lucifer!” As I said on Twitter, they should replace Wayans with Bill Bellamy, then kill off Scott, and replace him with Peter Facinelli. Then, I’ll get my backdoor Fastlane revival I’ve been wanting since 2003!
  • Kanye did some dumb shit on SNL, and water is wet.
  • Looks like Robert Kirkman is going to have to be content living off his The Walking Dead empire, as Cinemax has cancelled his series Outcast after 2 seasons.
  • Everyone wants in on the fantasy genre, as Netflix is adapting the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia for series and movies, while Amazon is developing a series based on Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novels.
  • Remember Mischa Barton? Ya know, the It Girl from The O.C. who went nowhere? Well, she’s going to be joining the cast of The Hills: New Beginnings on MTV.
  • Chelsea Peretti announced that she won’t be returning to Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a series regular when the show debuts on NBC this season.
  • Amy Schumer was detained yesterday in DC during the #KavaNope protests, but she blocked me on Twitter ages ago, so she’s dead to me. YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, AMY!

  • We got this poster for the upcoming Hellboy reboot, starring David “You Wouldn’t Even Know My Name Were It Not For Stranger Things” Harbour.
  • Elon Musk took one step closer to becoming The World’s First Supervillain, as he was forced to resign as Tesla chariman, and was fined $20 million by the SEC, due to a tweet where he implied he had secured funding to take Tesla private.
  • Last night marked the finale episode of the hour-long version of Conan on TBS, as he bid farewell to his house band, Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band (formerly the Max Weinberg 7). The future show will switch to a half hour format, with no musical guests, but with more special events, like shows from foreign countries.
  • 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 this year after allegations surrounding Schneider arose.
  • Talk about an “unfortunate Situation”! Jersey Shore star, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, was sentenced to 8 months in prison for tax evasion.
  • Jon Favreau will write and produce Star Wars series The Mandalorian, which appears to follow another Fett, after the events of Empire, but before the rise of the First Order. The series will stream on Disney Play.

I know you’ve gotten this far, and you’re like “Wait, didn’t he have Venom in the header pic? He hasn’t even mention…wait. He WOULDN’T!”

OK, bear with me here. I know the critics gave this film a shellacking, and I can understand why. In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, to some extent, the DCEU, Venom isn’t what we’ve come to expect from a comic book movie in 2018. And I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. I swore that I wouldn’t spend money to see Venom, and I kept that promise, as Special Forces wanted to see it, and it was his turn to pay. That said, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I really enjoyed it. Now, I am known for liking shit, so don’t equate “Will liked it” with “It’s a good movie”. I don’t know if I’m “Film Twitter” enough to say it’s good or bad, but I definitely enjoyed it.

OK, so the movie starts out with investigative reporter Eddie Brock on top of the world. He’s got his own cable news show, where he roots out corruption, he’s engaged to corporate attorney Michelle Williams, and he’s about to get a chance to interview Elon Musk analog, Carlton Drake. Actually, that’s not how the movie starts. It actually starts with a space shuttle crashing upon reentry – a shuttle that happens to carry organic samples. All of the astronauts die except one, named “Jameson”, where I guess they’re alluding to J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son, John Jameson, who later becomes the Man-Wolf in the comics. Anyway, while transporting Jameson to the nearest hospital, it appears he’s got a symbiote in him that jumps from him to his EMT, wrecking the ambulance. Oh, and that shuttle? It was owned by Carlton Drake.

Brock’s boss wants him to interview Drake, but he doesn’t want to do it because he doesn’t trust Drake. His doubts are reinforced when he hacks into his fiancee’s computer (her firm happens to be representing Drake’s company, The LIFE Foundation), and discovers a wrongful death suit filed against the computer. When he gets his shot at interviewing Drake, instead of sticking to the script, he decides to ask about the wrongful death suit. Well, this doesn’t go well, as Drake kicks Brock out of his building, ends his career, and gets Williams fired from her firm, where she, then, gives Brock his ring back. In one fell swoop, Brock’s life is ruined.

Fast forward six months, and Brock is a drunk, “slumming it” in what has to be a $4500/month apartment (seriously, the thing is huge, and they’re in San Francisco!). He’s got no job prospects and no future, until a horribly miscast Jenny Slate shows up as Dora Skirth, a scientist at the LIFE Foundation who has doubts about the organization’s goals. See, Drake thinks humans have ruined Earth, and the only possible solution is to equip them with the means to survive – whether here or on another planet. He sees the symbiote samples as a means of doing that, and he has ordered trials to begin on humans. LIFE picks up vagrants and has them sign away their rights as they test the symbiotes to see if they’ll bond with humans. Well, this is too much for Dr. Skirth, who seeks out Brock to help her expose the company.

Dr. Skirth sneaks Brock in, who goes exploring while she tries to distract a security guard. While exploring, Brock finds his neighborhood homeless friend in one of the cells. When he breaks her out, she attacks him ’cause she’s got a symbiote in her, which she passes to Brock, unbeknownst to him. As he’s fleeing from security, he notices he can do things he shouldn’t be able to do, like shatter trees and quickly scale great heights. This is when he starts to realize something’s not right, as he starts to hear a voice in his head that wasn’t there before.

So, now he’s riding for two, as Venom’s in his head, but pops out when necessary – like when Drake’s hired security show up to take back the symbiote, and there’s a well-choreographed fight scene in the apartment, leading to a great car chase scene. The action is actually pretty impressive in the film. There’s one scene of Venom versus the SWAT team that plays out like a boss battle in a video game. They’re throwing flash grenades and shooting at shadows, while Venom bounces around the rafters.

I’ll stop spoiling stuff here, as you might actually want to see the movie one day. I’ll say there were a couple of things that bothered me. For one thing, Michelle Williams. I mean, the entire time, I’m watching the film, thinking, “You’re better than this, Michelle! You’ve been nominated for an Oscar FOUR TIMES, yet here you are, doing your worst Great Value Pepper Potts!” Also, there are continuity issues. There’s a scene where Drake is speaking to a field trip at his HQ, and a little girl tries to ask him a question. The rest of the class tries to stop her for interrupting, but Drake says something inspiring like, “No, speak. That’s what people do. They try to dissuade you from asking questions, but that’s how we learn.” He, then, gives her the pin off his lapel, but HE DOESN’T ACTUALLY LET HER ASK A QUESTION! he basically grandstanded, only to shoot her down. I mean, she was happy with the lapel pin, but nobody seems to notice she didn’t ask her question. Lost in editing maybe? Also, I didn’t really like Riz Ahmed as Drake. I thought it was another casting misfire. I would’ve gone for someone with more gravitas, like maybe Dev Patel, if they were going for a “type”. I also didn’t appreciate that it was clearly an R-rated film, edited down to PG-13, and Hardy has said that 40 minutes got cut, including his favorite scene.

Things I did like: Tom Hardy was great as Guy Who Ends Up As Venom’s Host. I can’t honestly say he was a great Eddie Brock, as I don’t have a ton of familiarity with that character. When he was ruling comics in the 90s, I still pretty much a strictly DC guy, so I haven’t read most of those iconic Venom stories. I know Brock was Peter Parker’s rival, so you’re not really supposed to be rooting for him, but you kinda have to here. That’s why I can understand why they wanted Spider-Man as far away from this film as possible. Still, I liked Hardy for what he was, and I loved his interplay with Venom in his head. I also LOVED Venom, as he was funnier than I expected him to be. The CGI wasn’t as troublesome as I was expecting, and I was even fine with no spider symbol on his chest.

As much as I enjoy the MCU movies, I’m getting a little tired of them. As a fanboy, they’re work. It’s not enough to just sit back and enjoy the movie, but Marvel really drives home the interconnectedness of it all. So, the first time you watch, you’re on guard for any Easter egg that might fly by. Like “Hey, he just mentioned Damage Control!”, etc. I get it, Marvel – you’re good at tying your shit together. But I don’t ALWAYS need that. Venom was a nice change of pace. It was still “In Association With Marvel”. I still got my Stan Lee cameo. It did everything it needed to do. And the mid credits scene has me hoping we get a sequel, ’cause there’s a lot of potential with what they teased.

Yes, this was a pretty slow week unless your name was Brett Kavanaugh, so there wasn’t a ton of competition here. So, I’m gonna shock y’all and say that Venom had the West Week Ever.

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