29th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/29/18 (TRU Edition)

by Will

I’m gonna take some liberties with the format this week, as it’s sort of a special occasion. I’ll cover this week’s news next week, and I hope you’ll forgive the departure.

As you probably already know, today is the final day of business for Toys “R” in the United States. Some stores closed earlier this week, but all will be closed by tonight. I’m still processing what this means to me. Sure, as a child of the ’80s, and a pop culture junkie, TRU has meant a lot to me over the years. I’ve touched on it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you my Toys “R” Us origin story. So, there’s no time like the present!

I’ve been talking with a lot of “cohorts” lately, and they’ve said things like “It didn’t mean that much to me.” Or “The toys were too expensive.” They also say they don’t have any real nostalgic connection to the brand. I can’t diminish someone else’s experience, but that simply wasn’t the case for me. I will admit that Toys “R” Us has suffered from something of an identity crisis over the past decade or so, but I think we all remember the golden age of cartoon Geoffrey the Giraffe, and his extended family (Gigi, etc).

For me, TRU was a magical place that I always hoped to sneak off to while my mom and grandmother were visiting the garden center down the plaza from it. I also didn’t get many toys from TRU back in the day, because toys used to be everywhere: People’s Drug, Kmart, Sears, Woolworth’s. But getting a toy from those places was merely pedestrian. To get a toy from TRU was like visiting Mecca. It’s like the song said, “From bikes and trains to video games” – it was the biggest toy store there was!

You know how when you’re a kid, folks are always asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My blanket answer was “I want to own a McDonald’s and a Toys ‘R’ Us.” Yes, young Will didn’t know about franchising and commercial real estate leases. He thought you could own one of those just like some rando can own the corner store. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or cops, and I just wanted to work with Geoffrey. Can’t say I didn’t aim high!

As I got older, I learned that folks actually look down on McDonald’s as a place of employment if you’re not a teenager (which is pretty messed up, if you ask me!). Still, that kinda marred the brand in my mind, so I gave up on that dream. That became a dream deferred. I didn’t give up on Toys “R” Us, though. I decided I was going to work for Toys “R” Us corporate. After all, everyone respects a businessman, and I’d still be working with toys!

Unlike most teenagers, I didn’t have an afterschool job. No, I didn’t get my first job until the week after my high school graduation. Where? Toys “R” Us. I had actually applied during the previous Christmas season, when I handed my application to the store director, Erin. Of course they never called (‘cause they never do. The onus of the job hunt is on the hunter), but I tried again the following summer.

Now, if you’re new here, you don’t know much about me. My dad died when I was 3, and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. To say I was a “Mama’s Boy” would be something of an understatement, but it gets the image across. So, while most teenagers would confidently saunter into a place and ask if they’re hiring, I had my mom with me, and I think she did most of the talking. So, they didn’t call me. However, when I went back the next summer, Erin recognized me because I was the one who had brought his mother with him to apply. She either thought it was cute or sad. I never did find out. Anyway, she hired me and put me to work the next day.

Yay, I was finally working with toys! My dream job! Oh, the smiles I would put on kids’ faces! The funny thing about TRU is that, once you work there, you realize just how big (and kinda unnecessary) that store truly is. I began to realize that I’d spent my childhood worshiping aisles 6D and 7D (action figures), not even acknowledging that there was a whole lot more store than that. More, for which I did not give a shit. They kept putting me in bikes or in diapers, but I’d find a way to sneak back to action figures.

Plus, because I was seasonal (I was leaving for college at the end of the summer), they never saw any need to train me on the register. I worked at that place for 3 seasons before they trained me on register. By the time I was in Year 8, they were like “Here’s Paco. It’s his first day, and we want you to train him on the register.” That was so weird to me. We don’t know that dude, so why are we so quick to let him near the money? Anyway, since I held no “floor value” for them, they had me unload trucks, organize the stockroom, and bring up any big ticket pickup requests, like bikes, swings, etc.

Here’s why TRU means a lot to me: as someone who grew up pretty sheltered, that job gave me a crash course on LIFE. The cute girls, the old ladies – those were the ones they put on the floor. The guys in the back, however, were a rougher bunch. Some of them were ex-cons, while some of them were clearly headed for incarceration. It’s funny looking back on it because I had two very distinct Toys “R” Us employment experiences: the Wheaton era, which was basically Training Day, and the Columbia era, which was Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

These guys were telling me stuff about the women they were seeing, as well as what they were doing to those women. They’d also tell me about their wives. Yup, same dudes. Seventeen year old Will would naively point out “But you’re married!” One thing I will never forget is when Ramone laughed at me, saying “Man, you don’t marry for love. You marry for security.” That was deep, especially at 17.

That place was filled with a cast of characters, and that television show, despite being set in a toy store, would have to air on Netflix or premium cable. There was chainsmoking mumbler, Garrett, who built the bikes. I was working there when JFK Jr. and his wife died, and Garrett was the one who offered up his theory that sky head was to blame. You’ve heard of road head? Well, same thing, but in a privately chartered helicopter. In the sky. Garrett loved his conspiracies.

There was David, the other bike assembly guy, who’d just gotten back from overseas, and was clearly going through some kind of PTSD. He either looked like a fatter Tony Hale or a skinnier Bubba Ray Dudley. The jury’s still out on that. His arms were covered in sleeves, so management made him wear a light blue Oxford to cover his arms so he wouldn’t offend the guests. I remember he was really blinky, and I was always expecting a Falling Down episode from him. He totally took advantage of me because I was young and dumb and had more money than I needed. He had brought some Pocket Monsters stuff back with him from Japan (remember, Pokémon had just hit the US, so this was the original, pure shit), and I remember him selling it to me for some price that really didn’t make a lot of sense. But I hate conflict, and don’t know how to back out of a deal, so “Here’s your money, David.” The sad post-script is that most of that stuff ended up going to my then-girlfriend’s little brother. Yup, I did it all for the nookie. Or was trying to, at least.

Barbara was the first Black lesbian I’d ever encountered, and she scared the shit out of me (not the first lesbian, though – I’d seen the Ellen Degeneres-starring Mr. Wrong almost a decade prior, and well, I just knew…). She was mean, and if she threatened to cut you, I truly believe a cutting was in your future. She had a nice side racket going, where the old White G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels collectors would pay her to put the new cases aside for them, so they could get the good stuff before it hit the floor. I’m sure they were terrified of her, too, but those Treasure Hunts weren’t gonna scalp themselves. Anyway, I clapped back at her one day about something trivial (I was young and stupid) , and stayed on her bad side after that.

Ron was one of the managers, and he made me question every naïve thing I’d ever thought about leadership. Later, in college, I’d learn the difference between management and leadership, but at the time I thought they were the same. He had come from Foot Locker, and I spent a lot of time wondering “What’s he doing here? Shoes have nothing to do with toys.” See, I hadn’t yet hit that realization that retail is just a job. As the youngest person working in the store, I never stopped to think that I was the only one who WANTED to be there due to a love of toys. It was hilarious, though, watching him pursue a phat ass through the store. It’s like he had a sixth sense for it, and then he’d get on the walkie, telling the other guys to meet him in whatever aisle she happened to be in. That shit was pure harassment, but I’d never seen anything like it before. And, to be honest, none of the women ever seemed that offended. If anything, they were just happy to receive some kind of customer service which, as you know, has been lacking in a lot of places in recent years.

Finally, as the ringmaster of this motley crew, Erin was a short woman who wore a tight French braid. In some other life, she was a detective or a parole officer, but here she made sure that Mr. Potato Head was “edged off” (the practice of pulling the boxes to the very edge of the shelf, to give the illusion that the shelves are more full that they actually are. Plus, it brings the item closer to the customer’s reach). You knew it was a rough day when she would pitch in with the clean-up, and release her hair from that braid. She was tough, but fair. She had a maternal, Captain Janeway quality to her, and we were all her Sevens of Nine. They’d eventually transfer her to the Frederick store. I saw her a few years later, and she barely had any recollection of me, my mom, any of it. Through squints, she seemed to sort of register who I was, but I’m sure so many folks had passed through her “finishing school” by that point that they all start to blend together. Still, thanks for not letting Barbara cut me, “Mom”.

In all, I worked for the Wheaton store over the course of 7 years, during summers and Christmas when I’d come home from college, as well as some stints afterward. In early 2006, the company announced plans to close 75 stores across the country, which we thought was unheard of at the time. Still, I didn’t think much about it until I came in one day soon after Christmas to see Store Closing signs hung everywhere. These days you’d probably at least get an email or something, but not then. Were we so primitive in 2006? So, I found out the same way our customers did – seeing the signage in the store.

I’ve already shared some stories about those final days in Wheaton, but that store just kept on teaching me things. In this case, I learned how fun retail could be if you simply didn’t give a shit anymore. Sure, it’s probably not best for the customer, but I had a lot of fun during that liquidation period. Still, it was a part-time job for me, so it didn’t hit me like it probably affected others there. By that point, all the folks I mentioned had already moved on. As I saw it, my education was complete, and I was fine with the store closing. Plus, there was still a TRU across town, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have a local store.

The Wheaton store closed, and I thought that was it for my Toys “R” Us time. In college, I majored in Human Development, with a concentration on early childhood. The whole “I want to work with toys” wasn’t just a pipe dream to me. I took courses on play interaction, and interned at a daycare to study how kids play with each other. The problem, though, is that there was no real career path for that at the time. Sure, now there are schools with toy curriculums, like F.I.T., but that wasn’t a thing in 2001. Once I graduated, nobody knew what to do with me. I sent a bunch of blind letters to Hasbro, TRU, Mattel, and more. See, it turns out toy companies care more about design than intent. It’s more likely they’ll make a cool-looking toy educational instead of making an educational toy cool-looking. If it teaches something, great, but the aesthetic came first. So, the folks who did gave me the time of day wanted to see my portfolio – a portfolio that I did not have. I remember I got a really nice letter from some VP at TRU corporate that was basically “We don’t know what to do with you, but don’t give up on your dreams.” Sorry, lady, but I gave up.

After a stint in commercial real estate, I got a chance to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. It wasn’t quite toys, but it was as close to the toy industry as I felt I was going to get. The sad thing, though, is that you have to sacrifice for your dreams. So, I took a huge pay cut and then found myself with a life I couldn’t afford anymore. My commute was 100 miles a day round trip (that’s not an exaggeration), and I could barely pay my rent. So, I was going to need a second job, and I realized the Columbia Toys “R” Us was halfway between work and home. It also helped that a few of the managers from the tail end of the Wheaton days had transferred to that store. I had an “in”.

Remember when Saved By The Bell: The College Years got cancelled, and Screech kinda crawled back to Bayside in Saved By The Bell: The New Class? That was pretty much my experience here. I had started my TRU career as the youngest person in the store, and now I was something of an elder statesman. Everyone I worked with now was somewhere between 19 and 22, and I thought it was going to be my turn to teach them life lessons. It would by my Training Day. Yeah…that didn’t happen. The Columbia staff had different interests and were in different places in their lives than the Wheaton staff. The Wheaton folks were just working there until a better retail job came along, while the Columbia kids were working their way through community college and didn’t see retail as the end for themselves. With my prior experience, I expected to walk into some kind of Degrassi environment, but it was a lot more madcap than that.

I’ll admit that I probably wasn’t the best person to manage at this point. I mean, I was a good worker – a hard worker – but I did what I wanted. I just kinda took action figures for myself, and made it clear “Don’t you even think about putting me somewhere else.” And I provided good customer service to folks in those aisles, but I did not give a shit about anything outside of Boy’s World. The location of the store made sense on weekdays, as it was on the way home, but it made no sense for me to drive 30 miles on a Saturday morning, to work 5 hours – I was just wasting gas at that point. So, I kinda did what I wanted to “justify” the inconvenience. Yeah, I know it’s a job, and it was my choice to make that commute, but they let me get away with “creating my own experience”, so I guess I “won”?

While my early time with the company was about life’s hard lessons, the latter time was really just about decompression. I looked forward to my Saturday shifts as “Wow, I really tricked this company into paying me to hang out with my friends.” We had a lot of fun, and I still think about a lot of those folks.

Patrick was an interesting kid. He was Chinese, but somehow had a redneck, Tea Party uncle whom he idolized, so he was basically a Chinese redneck. He never understood the contradictions in that, but he never let that stop him. Still he was a lot of fun, as we’d talk about cartoons and Power Rangers. We would team up in the boy’s department, and called ourselves Team Bumblebee.

Crystal was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, which is why it was perfect that they put her at customer service. Customers loved her, while she had an apple bottom that some folks would’ve paid to take a bite out of. She was our Kelly Kapowski, hands down.

If Crystal was our Kelly, then Amber was definitely our Jessie Spano. She and Crystal looked like they could’ve been sisters, but Amber was the spitfire of the two. She had little Lisa Loeb glasses, and took her supervisor role seriously – almost too seriously at times. That’s why it was even more interesting when she lightened up, and found herself in a love triangle with managers Paul and Jesse.

Bryan was the most responsible 19 year old I’ve ever met in my entire life. He had actually come from the Wheaton store, and was one of the reasons I was looking forward to working at Columbia. He had a mad-on for law enforcement, though. His dream was to go to the police academy, and he’d go on ride alongs during his free time. In the grand scheme of the Columbia store, Bryan was “The Adult”.

Marvin was basically Lord of the R-Zone, which was the electronics department of the store. I never really got a read on him, despite working in his orbit for years. Was he shy? Did he just not like me? I dunno, but I still run into him at comic conventions, as he has segued into the life of a cosplayer in recent years.

The best of the bunch, however, had to be Mike, whom we affectionately called “Special Forces”. Ya see, when he started, he was seasonal and those guys didn’t wear TRU uniforms because A) I don’t think TRU wanted to “waste” them on seasonals, and B) they didn’t want them to be instantly recognizable as employees to customers, as customer interaction would affect their ability to move in the background of everything. So, he wore a black shirt and black jeans, which made him look like some sort of special forces agent, so… Mike’s still around to this day, as many of you know of him from my Thrift Justice posts. He’s one of my best friends, and definitely one of the better things to come from that last TRU stint.

As much as I wanted to think I was the oldest, non-manager there, that wasn’t true. No, that “honor” belonged to “Stanley” (Yeah, that’s not his real name. You don’t need to know that). I’m gonna level with you here: there’s a good chance Stanley was some kind of molester. He was in his 70s, creepy, and wore a Dora the Explorer cap that he found in a shopping cart one day. I know for a fact that he offered $50 to a young employee to have sex with him. I also know she strongly considered it. He knew where all the hooker pickup spots were, and he had some stories. Just as earlier in my career, TRU was still teaching me things. I learned how you can like people who are possibly horrible. Like, I didn’t have *proof* that he had done anything illegal, but I also didn’t have proof that he had not done those things. Still, something about him still came off as “kindly”. I still think about him, and wonder if he’s still with us.

I made it 10 years with TRU, and not much longer. They even gave me a catalog of shit to choose from for my anniversary gift. I never did get that cordless screwdriver… Anyway, I had my performance review, and found out I wasn’t good enough to receive my $0.25 raise. I took a long hard look around, and wondered why I was fighting for a quarter. I’d been raised with the “Every little bit helps” mentality, but here was a company that didn’t think I was worth an additional quarter. Yes, I know that adds up when it’s a quarter for everyone, but TEN YEARS! Call it “Millennial Entitlement” if you want, but that was it for me. I was tired of the commute. I no longer had the job that made this one convenient in the evenings, and I had pretty much just met Lindsay, so I had other stuff I’d rather be doing. So, I basically quit that day of the review. I’d worked out my schedule, and I didn’t owe them any time. I’d show them!

In the years since, I’ve sort of regretted how it ended. I definitely missed the excitement of the holiday season, and even wondered if I was rehireable. I once applied to the closer Rockville store, but never heard back. Ya know, ‘cause the onus of the job hunt… So, my TRU career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s not how I would like to have gone out, but that’s how life is sometimes. My time at Toys “R” Us was filled with those life-affirming moments, so this just seemed like a natural, if not completely satisfying, end.

As a customer, I’ll definitely miss Toys “R” Us. Sure, Target and Walmart have a foothold in the industry, but their 7 toy aisles don’t hold a candle to the selection at TRU. I used to stop and think about how almost unnecessary a store like TRU was. I mean, think about it: it’s a big box store devoted solely to toys. Only in a capitalistic society could that idea fly and, as we have learned, that same capitalistic society would be what killed it.

Still, folks don’t realize that the concept of “childhood” is fairly young. Before, say, the end of the Industrial Revolution, kids were just seen as tiny adults. Sure, take them to that public execution, nobody cares! So, it’s always amazing to me that, not only did the concept of childhood develop, but that successful businesses arose to capitalize on that. Folks say that toy sales are down, with the internet and other time wasters available, so I often wonder what that means for the evolution of childhood. I guess time will tell.

Anyway, we’re not here to forecast the future of the toy industry. No, we’re here to say goodbye to an old teacher, an old friend. I got to take my oldest to say “goodbye” a few months back, but it saddens me that my youngest will know nothing of Toys “R” Us. She’ll know nothing of the place that helped to shape her father’s worldview. She’ll know nothing of Geoffrey the Giraffe. I only hope that she one day experiences something that affects her the same way that my Toys “R” Us experience affected me. That’s why Toys “R” Us had the West Life Ever.

18th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/18/18 (Upfronts Edition)

by Will

HarassmentWatch (TM)

Nev Schulman – The creator/producer/host of Catfish: The TV Show has been accused of sexual misconduct, resulting in MTV halting production on the show. A former Catfish…contestant? guest? I dunno. A woman who had appeared on the show in 2015 said that Schulman didn’t believe she was actually a lesbian, and propositioned her for sex. This was all in a video that she posted to YouTube last week. Schulman denies the accusations, but production has been halted until the investigation is completed.

Brad Kern – The showrunner for NCIS: New Orleans has stepped down amid reports that surfaced from December 2016 when he was the subject of two different human resources investigations. He was reported to have undergone sensitivity training, but I guess it didn’t take. He’ll still get paid, though, as he’ll remain on the payroll as a consultant. Interestingly enough, this happened on the heels of recently departed NCIS star Pauley Perrette tweeting that she had experienced physical abuse on set, which motivated her to leave the show.

Before we get to all the Upfronts stuff, let’s take a look at a few of the cancellations/renewals that have occurred since last week’s post.

Cancellations

CBS: 9JKL; Me, Myself & I; Scorpion; Kevin Can Wait; Superior Donuts

ABC: Inhumans; The Mayor; Ten Days In The Valley; Kevin (Probably) Saves The World; The Crossing; Deception; Alex, Inc.

NBC: Rise; Great News

Renewals

CBS: Elementary; Man With A Plan; Instinct; Life In Pieces; Criminal Minds

ABC: Fresh Off The Boat; Black-ish; Station 19; For The People; American Housewife; How To Get Away With Murder; Splitting Up Together; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (for a 13-episode season to debut in Summer ’19)

NBC: The Blacklist; Brooklyn Nine-Nine (yup, they swooped in and saved it from its cancellation at Fox)

Fox: Bob’s Burgers; Family Guy; Gotham (final season)

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Another Batman prequel series, called Pennyworth, will follow Bruce Wayne’s butler before he comes to work for the Waynes. This idea is stupid, but it’s also being developed for Epix, which means about 55 households will be able to watch it.
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt is replacing Connie Britton on Fox’s 9-1-1, who originally only signed a one-year contract.
  • The CW announced that next season will be the last for iZombie, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Jane the Virgin.
  • There are talks that Designated Survivor is being shopped to Netflix. It was cancelled last week by ABC after execs were concerned that there was no clear direction planned for the story.
  • Speaking of The CW, Arrow star Stephen Amell revealed that the next crossover between the shows will introduce Gotham City and Batwoman to the Arrowverse. Yay?
  • TNT’s The Last Ship will end after its upcoming 5th season.
  • CBS is reportedly eyeing (get it? ‘Cause their logo is an eye?) the Mad About You revival as a midseason show.
  • Lost In Space has been renewed for a second season on Netflix
  • Fox said there are no plans for a 12th season of The X-Files after Gillian Anderson left the series. Anderson clapped back on Twitter and said that the real reason was because viewership had dropped 77%.
  • Lethal Weapon was narrowly renewed as it was announced that Sean William Scott will be replacing the outgoing Clayne Crawford. Stiffler as a cop? I feel this idea is about 10 years too late, but I might check it out.
  • DC announced a Doom Patrol series for that DC Universe streaming service that I have no faith in…
  • While we’re about to discuss a lot of shows that were picked up for the fall season, some other high profile pilots didn’t get series orders, including Gabrielle Union’s Bad Boys spin-off at NBC, the Cagney & Lacey reboot at CBS, and the Supernatural spin-off The Wayward Sisters on The CW.

Well, in what has become a tradition on this site, this is the 5th year that I’ve taken a bullet for you. That’s right: I watched ALL of the trailers for the Fall’s new shows, to give you a better idea of what’s probably worth your time, and what will most likely end up in a ditch, like Firefly or Andy Richter Controls The Universe. If you remember, last Friday was basically “Bloody Friday”, where 19 shows were cancelled within 24 hours in order to make room for the incoming shows. This week, the 4 major broadcast networks held their upfront presentations, where they presented their fall schedules, as well as introduced their incoming shows. This is QUITE the undertaking on my end, so I don’t expect ya to read all of it, but it’s here if you’re interested. So, let’s get this show on the road!

Courtesy TVLine.com

ABC

A Million Little Things (Wednesday, 10 PM)

After the success of NBC’s This Is Us, everybody wants their own non-linear tearjerker. This is ABC’s attempt at that. For starters, it’s got a great cast. I mean, it’s LOADED with folks who bring a fan base with them: James Roday (Psych), Ron Livingston (Office Space), Romany Malco (Black people). I’ve also loved Stephanie Szostak since USA’s Satisfaction, though you may recognize her from Iron Man 3 or R.I.P.D. I hope this one works out ’cause I like a lot of these people. Will I be watching? Probably not. I’ve got enough anxiety and depression without deliberately putting my emotions through a meat grinder on a weekly basis. It’s up against Criminal Minds on CBS and Chicago P.D. on NBC, so it’s the definition of “counter programming”. It’s a wide open timeslot that this show should have no problem finding a foothold.

The Fix (Midseason)

You’ve got to feel kinda bad for attorney Marcia Clark. In her own Hillary Clinton way, she’s clearly still dealing with the fact that she never got OJ Simpson. Sure, justice eventually won in the end, but not on her watch, and she’s been stewing about that for the past 25 or so years. Well, this show, executive produced by Clark, is basically “What if OJ not only did it, but then did it AGAIN?!” Here’s where this show is gonna backfire, though: this is NOT the right time for a show like this, what with the way the world is right now. From the trailer, there’s nothing sympathetic about the female lead. Some might say she’s “driven”, while others might just say she’s a “bitch”. So, she’s lost the audience. Then, you’ve got Not OJ who, while not exactly charismatic, seems way more interesting as the villain than the chick does as the “hero”. Then, throw in how the OJ thing played out in real life: the show should want you to root for her, but the Black audience (if there is one) might end up rooting for him to continue evading her. I don’t have high hopes for this one. I see it getting that Tuesday night “death slot” of 10 PM, and then being burned off on Saturdays after a few low-rated outings.

Grand Hotel (Midseason)

This just looks like a Univision adaptation of Dynasty, BUT it does go after that audience that ABC held in the palm of its hand during the early Desperate Housewives years. It’s got diversity going for it, and it’s rich Latinos instead of gangbangers and whatnot, so it’s aspirational, even if they do owe a ton of money to the mob. I think there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s being held til midseason, in that it wasn’t strong enough to launch the season on. It could also be that it didn’t, tonally, fit what they were coming out of the gate with. This could go either way, to be honest.

The Kids Are Alright (Tuesday, 8:30 PM)

Ugh. It’s one part Just The Ten of Us and one part The Goldbergs, with a dash of The Wonder Years. I’m SO tired of the Retro White Family Memories, Narrated By Some Dude Pretending To Be the Creator shows. It’s That 80s Show Syndrome. Fox said “Well, That 70s Show is doing well. How about we make That 80s Show?” Well, here ABC said “The Goldbergs has got the 80s covered, but what about the early, yet non-specific, 70s?” It’s a working class show, so it’s paired well with Roseanne as its lead-in. That said, it’s a HORRIBLE lead-in for Black-ish. If this show is smart, they’ll try to sprinkle in a witty Black kid as one of the sons’ best friends, but this family doesn’t seem like they’d fraternize with Negroes. I think Retro Fatigue is a thing, and this show could fall victim to it. It’s got a Real O’Neals vibe to it, without the gay son angle – HOWEVER, the jury’s still out on the little one, even though I doubt the show has the balls to go there in its first season, given its time period and everything. With the Roseanne lead-in, it’s really the show’s game to lose. It’s prime real estate, but does it DESERVE it, other than the fact that they’re both blue collar families? I guess time will tell.

The Rookie (Tuesday, 10 PM)

This is stupid. Look, I’ve never understood folks’ love affair with Nathan Fillion, but I also didn’t really love Firefly, so there’s that. I feel like there’s a lot of William Shatner Syndrome there. It’s like “I loved this one thing this actor did, so I’m just gonna pretend to love every other thing he does.” I’d watch this as a movie, starring Kevin James, on Netflix. This, however, is not a series to me. First off, Fillion is 47 years old, and it looks like they’re going to great pains to make him only look 40. Next, I HATE when the woman (ex wife?) tells him he was brave during the robbery. NO! From what we see, he was stupid, and people could’ve gotten killed. And let’s say this show does last 5 seasons – what’s the draw when he’s no longer a rookie? He’s just an old ass cop at that point. It’s like when Doogie Houser grew up and his whole Kid Doctor shtick wasn’t that impressive anymore after his balls dropped. The show has the Tuesday Night Death Slot – 10 PM, where ABC shows go to die. But y’all really love your Nathan Fillion, so maybe this will end that curse.

Single Parents (Tuesday, 9:30 PM)

This looks horrible, and I say that as a fan of Taran Killam and a closet fan of Brad Garrett. There’s this growing trend of shows that were clearly developed from what was originally a movie concept. You could eke 90 minutes out of this idea. A perfect 3 acts where Killam ends up with Leighton Meester, and learns how to be an adult again. Instead, to make it a show, they’re going the Community route: “Look how much these folks from disparate backgrounds have in common.” And, frankly, the ensemble isn’t dynamic enough to pull that off. I wish they’d gone with a murderer’s row of supporting characters from recently cancelled sitcoms, as these shows are prone to do. For example, I’d really love some Sara Rue on here, but I love Sara Rue in anything. Plus, this is a waste of a Modern Family lead-in, which is pretty good real estate. The one that’s really gonna suffer, though, is A Million Little Things, as this show is going to kill any potential carryover audience from Modern. I’m calling it: DOA.

Whiskey Cavalier (Midseason)

I was a little more into this show after watching the trailer because all the promo stills made me think “This shit is just Castle all over again.” Seriously, I was wondering why they didn’t just call it Rook. Anyway, this show is SO ABC that it just might work. I, however, ain’t got time for that Will They/Won’t They? dynamic, ’cause they always WILL and it’s simply a matter of WHEN (if they’re smart they’ll wait 3 seasons). Anyway, it’s being held til midseason so Cohan can hurry up and get killed on The Walking Dead. The idea of the show seems kinda fun, but I’m still hung up on the casting a bit. I don’t find Cohan that dynamic, but that’s probably because I’ve never seen anything she’s been in. At the same time, I just find Scott Foley boring. I mean, he seems to work here, but I’ve always felt the most interesting thing he ever did was marry Jennifer Garner. While there appears to be chemistry, the casting on this show just feels like ABC pulled the trigger on a bunch of talent holding deals that were about to expire. Anyway, the midseason bow gives it a better shot at renewal, and I think this one will succeed.

Scheduling Thoughts

Sunday is a bit perplexing to me. I’ve always hated that they moved Shark Tank to that night, and I feel Child Support (scheduled for Fridays at 9) would be a better companion to the upcoming Dancing With The Stars: Juniors. The Alec Baldwin Show is a vanity project that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s probably relatively cheap to produce, and its only real competition is Madame Secretary on CBS. It’ll last either until Baldwin gets bored with it, or he hurls a slur at a staffer and the network is forced to distance themselves from him (which would, then, put Match Game in jeopardy). Meanwhile, Fresh Off The Boat and Speechless are left to fend for themselves on Friday. It would be one thing is ABC was committed to bringing comedy back to Fridays. Maybe even rebuild TGIF. This is not that. This is just a “Well, put ’em wherever you can fit ’em in.” Again, I’d move Child Support to Sunday, hold Shark Tank for a better night later in the season, and then I’d pull Modern Family to Friday as that night needs a strong anchor, and it’s in its last season, so it really doesn’t have to be much of a performer. They could even throw in Schooled, which is the horribly titled retool of that spinoff of The Goldbergs – still starring Tim Meadows and Brian Callen, but now with more AJ Michalka – which has been picked up to debut sometime during the season.

CBS

FBI (Tuesday, 9 PM)

Ah, Dick Wolf is at it again. I kinda wish they’d put this on Wednesday, so he’d be competing with his Chicago shows on NBC. I’ll bet there’s a dude at CBS whose job is just to find all the federal agencies with cool abbreviations. One day, after having his pitch for NCIS: SUV: EX rejected, he was like “Fuck it! How about just FBI?” And the network execs were like, “Wait, how’d we miss that one? It was in front of our faces the whole time!” I love how Missy Peregrym got the Mariska Hargitay SUV makeunder. One look at her, and they were like “She’s too hot. Frump her up and make her scowl a lot.” This show will do just fine. It’s Dick Wolf, who apparently knows where bodies are buried, so folks don’t like to piss him off. Plus, it’s meant for your grandpa, who’s really the only one who can tell all these shows apart.

God Friended Me (Sunday, 8 PM)

Fresh off the cancellation of ABC’s The Mayor, Brandon Micheal Hall is in a new starring role in what’s basically a mashup of Early Edition meets Touched By An Angel meets Joan of Arcadia. First off, I hate the title. I get what they’re going for, but was that really the best one they could come up with? I didn’t want to like this when I hit Play, because I initially thought this was going to be another quirky, single cam half hour sitcom. Instead, it’s a one-hour dramedy, which changes things a bit. It’s got the PERFECT timeslot, as that’s about when Black folks get home from all-day church services. I think it’ll pose some important questions, and as long as it doesn’t get too preachy, can at least get folks to think about whether there’s something out there bigger than themselves. I will point out the most interesting aspect to me, though: Facebook. Like, Facebook is basically a character in the show. Not some made up social network, like FaceSpace, or MyFace, or SpaceBook. No, this is full-on Facebook, which makes me wonder if they paid for product placement or if they were even involved in the development of the show. If they were, then I’m a little skeeved out by all the spiritual stuff, being passed down from Zuckerberg on high. Anyway, it could work. Touched By An Angel lasted 9 seasons, Early Edition lasted 4, and Joan of Arcadia lasted 2. I think that also charts the progression of America becoming more cynical. Anyway, who knows? Living Biblically didn’t work, but I think it’s because it was a terrible idea for a 30-minute, multi-cam sitcom with a studio audience. I’m on the fence with this one, but it couldn’t have possibly been scheduled better.

Happy Together (Monday, 8:30)

Let me preface this by saying I LOVE Damon Wayans, Jr. I also LOVE Amber Stevens West. I do not love this pilot. It’s apparently executive produced by James Corden, and based on a time when he lived with Harry Styles. This is another one of those “I’d see it as a movie, but…” ideas. I mean, how long does this charade last? How long can the British rocker put up with the quiet suburbs? How do you get 7 seasons out of this? Too many shows don’t seem to have the long game in mind these days, and it they end up painting themselves into a corner, creatively. I hate to turn on my folks, but this one doesn’t last.

Magnum P.I. (Monday, 10 PM)

I loved this trailer WAY more than I wanted to. Originally, I only wanted this show to succeed so that Anthony Anderson wouldn’t be the only Hang Time alum still working today. And I really wanted to hate this concept. The 80s reboots just keep coming, but this one I like. I fear it’s gonna be like MacGyver was for me, though: never watched the original, enjoyed the reboot pilot, and then never made any attempt to watch it again. Plus, are we going into this knowing the whole Robin Masters twist? I mean, are they going to play that up? Are we just supposed to play dumb? Anyway, I love this cast. Since Happy Endings, I will watch Zachary Knighton in anything, and he’s a GREAT choice for Rick. As for Magnum himself, are we gonna have an AC Slater situation, where we later find out his name is really Thomas Rodriguez? ‘Cause, I mean, c’mon… Anyway, CBS seems to be planning Monday as “Diversity Night”, kicking things off with The Neighborhood, followed by Happy Together, and capped off with this. They COULD have scheduled a Reboot Night, with MacGyver, Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum, but I’m glad they showed some restraint. The interesting thing is that there are some Tom Selleck die hards out there who may not accept this reboot, and they’re the primary CBS audience. That said, those folks have Blue Bloods now, and this is meant to skew younger. I think it’ll work.

Murphy Brown (Thursday, 9:30)

Ugh, another “zombie” show. You know, those shows that are dead, but don’t realize they’re dead, so they just keep coming? I get how the political climate kinda paved the way for this one, but did we really need it? I mean, about a year ago, The BBC did a one-off Are You Being Served? special. It was nostalgia and something new, all at once. And it was only one episode. That’s what I’d like here. What Does Murphy Brown Think of the Trump Administration? There’s an interesting special there. It’s not, however, a 13-episode series. The same way I didn’t need Roseanne throwing her views in my face through her reboot, I don’t really see what Diane English and the Murphy Brown crew have to say about the state of the world that’s not already being said by every Liberal late night talk show host. Plus, the narrative device doesn’t really work here: in TV news, how often does a network “get the gang back together”? It DOESN’T. These people would all scatter to different networks, and maybe, just maybe, end up together at CNN or something. But there’s NO WAY FYI would reach out to a bunch of former employee “olds”, as the social media guy calls them, to provide a “fresh voice” on the state of the world. Unless FYI has been retooled to be the 60 Minutes of this universe, I’m just not buying it. And let’s talk about that social media guy: I hate him. I hate that archetype because it just doesn’t work. The whole “look at the Millennial who’s all tech savvy and here to show the other characters that they’re dinosaurs.” These characters are typically brash, somewhat unfeeling, and unsympathetic. Two seasons ago, Joel McHale’s failed sitcom The Great Outdoors was built on a group of these characters, on the same network. That character is always a douche and never paints Millennials in a positive light. The trailer gives us an early dose of what to expect from him, and I feel like they could’ve left him on the cutting room floor if it wasn’t for that fact that he brings some semblance of “diversity” to the series. Anyway, I say they do their 13 episodes and they’re out, but I don’t expect this to be the Liberal counterpoint to Roseanne. It won’t nearly be as much of a ratings smash, which is sad, but is where we are today.

The Neighborhood (Monday, 8 PM)

Sigh. This just feels lazy. Cedric is here because of a talent holding deal he has with CBS, and the show has already been retooled since this pilot was filmed, as The White Guy (’cause let’s be honest, his name doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the show) was played by Josh Lawson (House of Lies), but has been recast with Max Greenfield, fresh off New Girl. That change kinda sucks because, while I haven’t seen Greenfield in the role, I think Lawson really nailed what they were going for here: The Aw Shucks, I Love Everybody Guy. I say it’s lazy because it’s just built on the foundation of race. Without the whole They’re Black and They’re White thing, there’s really no show there. I can see how this was an entertaining pilot but, again, there’s no long game here. Does Cedric’s character mellow over time? Does he indulge in a bit of White culture? Are both families better for the living arrangement? And I’ve loved Dreama Walker since Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23, but this isn’t going to do much for her resumé. Calling this one DOA, even though the cast is really strong.

Scheduling Thoughts

Nothing major here. It was interesting to see them basically pull out of Monday and focus on Thursday as their night of comedy. They had a pretty good stranglehold on Monday comedy, so it’s odd that they’d somewhat abandon it to try some diverse shows in those slots. It’s also odd that they’d waste 2 hours a week on Crimetime Saturday “drama encores” on Saturday night. Sure, it’s not the most popular night for viewership, but that’s just wasted real estate. That’s 2-4 pilots that got rejected just so they could rerun NCIS: Pittsburgh or whatever.

Fox

The Cool Kids (Friday, 8:30 PM)

This is the Foxiest show I’ve seen in a LONG time, and I love the cast. That said, I don’t care if it is from the guys behind It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This is the kind of show Fox greenlights simply to cancel. Usually it’s to shove into that Sunday 8:30 ditch between The Simpsons and Family Guy, so I’m surprised this is being farmed out to Friday nights. Anyway, this is a One and Done show. They’ll just cancel it to give one of the Seths (Green or MacFarlane) a new show.

Cosmos: Possible Worlds (Midseason)

I get it. The last Cosmos did really well and, even though they swore it was a one-time deal, you just knew they’d find a way to bring it back. These kinds of things take time, which is why that last Cosmos was back in 2014. It’ll do fine because it’s basically a National Geographic special (National Geographic is also owned by Fox) that’s being given a wider, primetime broadcast spotlight. It’ll do what it’s gonna do, and that’ll be it. If it does well, then expect another one in 2022. If it doesn’t, well, it wraps up the unintended Cosmos trilogy. Whew! I can’t believe I got through that without even touching on my hatred of Neil deGrasse Tyson. Whoops…

Last Man Standing (Friday, 8 PM)

This Fall, Fox trades one Last Man for another, as they pick up the cancelled ABC sitcom starring Tim Allen. Now, there was a lot of kerfuffle that the show was cancelled because the star is a Conservative, and I really don’t know if that’s true or not. It was never a ratings star, but it was also on Friday nights, so the bar was much lower. Still, just like everyone wants their own This Is Us, everyone also seems to want their own Roseanne revival. So, Fox jumped at the chance to add this to its schedule – a schedule in which it doesn’t truly fit. It doesn’t feel Fox to me, but maybe that’s a good thing. It had a dedicated audience, so maybe it’ll bring those viewers to its other shows. I actually don’t hate this show. I rarely saw it when it was on, but I’ve seen it in syndication. It’s bandied about like it’s this brash, Conservative voice, but Allen’s character is pretty much painted like a dinosaur in a changing world. I mean, he’s not quite Archie Bunker, but his wife and daughters are always reminding him that the world is changing and he’d better get used to it. Unlike NBC’s save of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this isn’t to give it a proper send-off (something it never got from ABC), but rather an investment that they’re hoping they can get a few seasons from. This will be season 7, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some deal to take them through 10 – as long as the ratings are there. I do, however, find it interesting that it’ll be going up against Fresh Off The Boat on ABC. That’s quite the bit of counter programming there…

The Passage (Midseason)

Doesn’t Fox’s schedule already have a Special Child On The Run from the Government Show in The Gifted? I don’t know anything about the books from which this was adapted, but I do know that it had been retooled a few times before it got picked up. I love Mark-Paul Gosselaar. I think it’s really impossible for anyone my age to hate him. I want him to do well. After stints on Pitch and those 4 seasons of Franklin & Bash, I really want him to get something that sticks. I’m just sick of vampires, and that’s ultimately what this show is about. Its survival will depend on its timeslot and competition, both of which are unknown at this point. Hell, Fox had Lucifer for 3 seasons, so they can probably keep this around if it finds an audience. I’m on the fence with this one.

Proven Innocent (Midseason)

Interesting concept, but I’m not sure Fox is the right home for it to succeed. You see, Fox these days seems to want to have it both ways: they want to be the 90s network that puts out worthless dreck like The Cool Kids, but then they also want to be taken seriously by airing stuff like Cosmos and this. You can’t do both. When CBS knew it wanted to change its image, and be taken seriously, we had the Rural Purge, where the joke is that they cancelled every show with a tree in it. This show belongs on ABC. It would even get bonus points if it were a ShondaLand show, but then every character would be screwing each other and that doesn’t seem like it would fit the tone of this series. Still, this is the kind of show that ABC would throw out there and probably fail with, but they would try. I feel like the only reason this is on Fox is because its executive producer is Danny Strong (remember him as Jonathan in that terrible season of Buffy?), whose Danny Strong Productions is behind Empire, and also seems to have a production deal with Fox. Still, Fox had a hit with 9-1-1, which also didn’t feel like a natural fit, so maybe if this gets paired with that, it could have a chance. For now, though, I’m thinking this one won’t go far.

REL (Sunday, 9:30 PM)

Since his role in Get Out, everybody has been rooting for Lil Rel Howery, but is it too soon for this? I’d rather see him in more movies than see him get a middling Fox sitcom. His former costar, Jerrod Carmichael, is the executive producer here, but I don’t expect this show to push any of the buttons that The Carmichael Show did. This is just a run of the mill sitcom. Good to see Sinbad, though. I’m reminded of how Fox really screwed the pooch with Mulaney, but the thing this has going for it that Mulaney did not is the fact that there’s a Black audience looking for representation. I don’t think the post-Family Guy timeslot is the best place for this, though. Hell, it ought to have gotten the post-Last Man Standing slot on Friday. They’re as different as night and day, but that’s going to be prime real estate, which is just wasted on The Cool Kids. It could be argued that folks aren’t watching TV on Friday nights, but in the DVR age, nobody’s watching live anyway. Still, for the few that are, I think scheduling should be done to keep them in mind. I’m sorry, Lil Rel, but this is a One and Done.

Scheduling Thoughts

Interesting that Fox is keeping most of its debuts for midseason. It’s not like they’re coming off the bench that strong, but I think it’s internal company politics at play, with the looming sale and everything. At the upfronts, they kept referring to themselves as New Fox, because they would no longer have to worry about how their shows play in the international marketplace. They’re taking a decidedly America First approach with their schedule, which could mean they’re gonna double down on what made them Fox in the first place. I mean, The Cool Kids and REL both feel like they’ve been sitting in a vault for the past 20 years. It’s a network that doesn’t know what it wants to be, especially in light of the fact that it won’t own its own production studio in a year. In discussing its future, some folks have even posited that they might make a play for the WWE contract, which expires with NBCUniversal next September, which means they’d lose Monday and Tuesday real estate to RAW and Smackdown. They’re a network without a master, or a roadmap, right now. One thing I will give them credit for: moving Bob’s Burgers to Sunday at 8:30. That 7:30 swing slot never worked because football is a fickle mistress, and I think it was to that show’s detriment. Anyway, another odd thing is that Fox has yet to cancel Ghosted or LA to Vegas. They both look terrible, and there have been shows in the past that were never officially cancelled, but it’d be interesting to see if they try to revive those midseason.

NBC

I Feel Bad (Thursday, 9:30)

So, I was formally introduced to star Sarayu Blue in the recent film Blockers, where she played John Cena’s wife. I like her, but it shows how much TV has changed in recent years, because just a few years ago she would’ve been the best friend instead of the lead. That’s not really a knock on her, but more so one on her resumé. Amy Poehler is the executive producer here, which is why this is on NBC. Honestly, if you put this on ABC, following Modern Family (where that horrible Single Parents is currently slotted), I think it’d have a chance. ABC is great at giving new comedic interpretations of the different types of families out there. There’s Modern, there’s Speechless, there’s American Housewife, Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, etc. I could go on, but you get the point. Now, it could be said they’ve reached their saturation point over there, but I still think this show would feel right at home. On NBC? Not so much. NBC is the yuppie network, loved by DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids). All of its shows have to be set in fast-paced NYC, and nobody has a great relationship with their family. This is slotted right after Will & Grace, and before Law & Order: SVU. If I were scheduling, I’d have swapped it with Will & Grace, so that The Good Place would be its lead-in, while Will & Grace can pretty much stand on its own at 9:30. I feel The Good Place and this show would share more of an audience than it would with Will & Grace. It’s not 1998 anymore, so they really need to stop holding that Thursday 9 PM slot as a “sacred badge of honor”. Seinfeld is gone and he ain’t coming back. Anyway, One and Done.

Manifest (Monday, 10 PM)

Let me start off by saying Fuck YOU J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse. You’re why we are where we are today. Yes, this is Lost. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but at the end of the day, it’s just Lost again. Now, why am I mad at those 3 gentlemen? Well, it’s because they started us on this road of the mythological saga that poses more questions than it answers. Before Lost, no shows had really come along with such a woven mythology, insinuating a concrete payoff. Everything matters! That’s what viewers were told to consider. The lottery numbers, the seat numbers, the smoke monster, the bear. Nothing is as it seems! And then the show ended, disappointing many, and also revealed that a lot of that shit had no inherent meaning, and they were making it up as they went along. So, just as they introduced us to that type of storytelling, their inability to satisfyingly stick the landing effectively pulled the ladder up behind them so that no one else could succeed at it. Since then, we’ve had shows like The Event, FlashForward, The Crossing – all cancelled before they really got a chance to answer what was going on. Why? Because viewers were like “Nah, I’m not falling for that again!” I skipped Lost. Just didn’t interest me for various reasons. That said, I’d actually be interested in this show, BUT I know how the game is played, and I also know that they’ll never get a chance to reveal all of their answers – if they’ve even thought of them in the first place. One and Done.

New Amsterdam (Tuesday, 10 PM)

Ugh ANOTHER damn medical show?! Pretty soon, TV procedurals are just gonna be medical shows and shows about firefighters. I saw that little twist coming. You think I didn’t, but I did. Still, it’s the kind of show that’s not playing the long game. What does season 5 look like? We gonna do the UK thing where they just bring in a new lead? I was saying on Twitter last week that I love how in the UK, no star is bigger than the show. A show could’ve been on for 22 years, with 5 different leads. It just keeps on rolling along. America’s not like that, though. Meanwhile, when did Tyler Labine get so old?! I don’t know about this one. I mean, America hates the idea of free health care, but loves its medical dramas. It’s going against ABC’s The Rookie, but it’s also getting that prime This Is Us lead-in, so I’m not quite sure who the winner is in that race. I will say, out of all the NBC shows I’ve seen lined up for the Fall, this is the one with the best shot at survival.

Scheduling Thoughts

Not a lot to say here, as they’re ultimately playing it pretty safe. Just as I said with CBS, though, I feel like NBC is wasting a lot of good real estate on Dateline Saturday Night Mystery. That’s 2-4 pilots dead, just for that. I know it’s relatively cheap to produce, but it just seems like such a shortsighted decision.

The CW

All American (Wednesday, 9 PM)

I actually like what I see here. You couldn’t do this on any other broadcast network, as shows like this are heading to places like Freeform now. I’m digging the 90210 meets One Tree Hill meets Friday Night Lights, with a dash of Black Lightning. Plus, it’s got that Riverdale lead-in, suggesting the network has faith in it. I don’t even care about its competition on the other networks, because The CW plays by its own rules and standards. I think this one works.

Charmed (Sunday, 9 PM)

OK, who thought it was time to revive this? I never watched the original, but I know it lasted 8 seasons. I mean, 12 years have passed since its finale, but between this and the Roswell reboot, it’s like someone at The CW finally got that closet opened that’s been locked since UPN merged with The WB. So many wonderful properties to reboot! We’re about 4 years away from the One Tree Hill reboot at this point. Anyway, remember how I said shows like All American were ending up on Freeform? This show TOTALLY deserves to be over there, with their shows like Siren and Shadowhunters. I mean, it might do OK on The CW, but I’m not sure. I feel like any hardcore fan base that exists for the previous iteration probably isn’t going to be too happy about this. Meanwhile, I applaud their attempt to diversify it and all, but minorities don’t get down with witches like that. If you remember, there was only one Black chick in The Craft, and her career never recovered from that! It probably needs a stronger lead-in to guarantee success. This fall, The CW expands to Sunday nights, and this will be there, preceded by Supergirl, which is far from a ratings smash. Still, if they’re going for a Sunday Girl Power block, then I guess this is what they have to work with.

Scheduling Thoughts

I’ve got quite a few here, as there are a lot of moves going on. As I said above, their foray into Sunday nights is weak. They’ll need to work to strengthen that over time. Moving Arrow to Monday is interesting, but it’s an older show so at this point it’s going to do what it’s going to do, regardless of where it’s placed. it also frontloads the week with the DC shows, with Supergirl on Sunday, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow on Monday, and The Flash and Black Lightning on Tuesday. I’m sure this will help when planning next year’s crossover. On Thursday, after Supernatural, they’ve got the new series, Legacies, which is a spin-off of The Originals which, itself, was a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries. It’s the Good Times to The OriginalsMaude and The Vampire DiariesAll In The Family. Its trailer isn’t available right now, but I’ve got to wonder why it got that slot and not Charmed. I thought they had pretty much done everything they possibly could to the Vampire Diaries universe. Meanwhile, Dynasty is a HORRIBLE lead-in for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Friday. It’s Crazy‘s final season, though, so I guess they were just like “Fuck it! Put it wherever.”

So, who had the West Week Ever? Was it Yanny? Was it Laurel? I’m gonna look back one day, and that joke isn’t going to age well. Anyway, looking at the Upfront presentations as a whole, I think ABC and CBS had the strongest showings. Fox and NBC aren’t really taking any chances, while The CW is just shuffling deck chairs right now. For the ABC slate, there some shows that have potential, like The Rookie and A Million Little Things, but I’m just not sure yet. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure CBS has hits on their hands with FBI and Magnum P.I. Plus, they’ll get some great press for that Murphy Brown revival. So, I’m going to say that CBS had the West Week Ever.

09th Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/9/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Ryan Seacrest – Last week I said that he was basically Teflon, as the sexual misconduct allegations against him were sliding right off him. Well, last week I was wrong. Ya see, the Oscars were on Sunday, and celebrities were going out of their way to shun him on the red carpet. I mean, this is his livelihood, and he can’t do his job because the accusations are affecting that. Right now, American Idol seems to be standing by him as they prepare for their premiere this Sunday, but I really wonder what the end result of this is going to be. I don’t “cape” for him because I like the guy. I mean, I certainly admire his work ethic, but he’s not my favorite celebrity or anything. Still, I guess I’ve kinda put this into the Paul Haggis category – Haggis seemed more like the target of a Scientology smear job, while I thought we had all agreed as a people that Seacrest didn’t even like women. What happened to that?

Terry Crews – I don’t know if I ever even wrote about this when it initially happened (cut me some slack – I do this weekly, and my site search is broken), but Terry Crews was the victim of inappropriate physical advances by a high-level Hollywood executive. He was on the verge of being blackballed, as no one was really coming to his defense. Still, he continued his fight, suing talent company William Morris Endeavor – the company led by the exec – for sexual assault. Well, this year, prosecutors decided not to press charges, as the statute of limitations had passed because the incident occurred in 2016. It really seems like some powerful folks in Hollywood are trying to bury this, but Crews isn’t backing down. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.


Remember how Finn was completely wasted in Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Remember how he really didn’t have his “moment” – the thing you’d remember about him most from the movie? Well, it turns out such a thing does exist. They just didn’t use it. Here’s the alternate cut of his confrontation with Captain Phasma. I think this scene actually provides more depth to both characters, and it’s shame we lost it. I mean, up to this point, Phasma is just Boba Fett Mark II: she’s all style and no substance. Meanwhile, Finn really could’ve used a “win” in this film, and this would’ve done it. The only problem I have is that the effect of him blasting her away looked like it was straight out of an 80s movie, but I’ll just blame it on the fact that the effects were probably unfinished.

Another week means another Cobra Kai teaser, and I might slowly be coming around on this thing. I still think YouTube Red is just Yahoo! Screen Redux, and this series ain’t gonna get me to subscribe to it. Still, I’d watch this if it were right in front of me. I was hung up on the point that Karate Kid wasn’t a comedy. Still, over the years, there’s been that growing fan theory that Daniel is the real asshole of the story (Thanks for that, Barney Stinson!), and this series seems like it’s leaning into that. That’s actually a story I’d be interested in seeing. Plus, they made Daniel a car salesman. Name ONE car salesman in pop culture who isn’t The Asshole? Even Moesha’s father did a heel turn there for that last season, where we found out he was actually the father of his “nephew”.  Anyway, I’m down for a Johnny Lawrence redemption story.

So, I know nothing of the current state of hip hop, but apparently there’s a dude named Vince Staples who seems to have a lot of haters. So many haters, in fact, that he set up a GoFundMe where he’s asking those haters to raise $2 million for him. In return, he will simply GO AWAY. Yup, he said, he’ll stop performing, doing interviews, all of it. He’ll take his ball and go home. A lot of this is in response to recent negative reviews of his live performances,  He basically gives the audience an alternative: “Get off of my dick OR fund my lifestyle”. So far, he’s raised over $1500. To add to the campaign, he just released the song “Get The Fuck Off My Dick”, to further drive home his point:

I’ve gotta say, I admire his business sense. He’s taking “Fuck you, pay me!” to a whole new level.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Apparently Amazon Alexa-powered devices are laughing at their owners, and folks don’t seem to know why. “First they laughed at the Socialists. And I did not speak out…”
  • The Oscars were this week, with a lot of fan favorites taking home awards, including The Shape of Water winning Best Director and Best Picture, Coco winning Best Animated Feature Film, and Get Out won Best Original Screenplay.
  • Following a recent domestic violence arrest, Heather Locklear is heading to rehab. If I know my Hollywood, Dr. Drew is talking to his people as we speak.
  • Box office wunderkind Black Panther could possibly top $1 BILLION worldwide today.
  • Tom Cruise may be in talks to play Green Lantern for DC/Warner Bros. So, I guess that means there’ll be at least one scene of him running. After seeing the Mission Impossible: Fallout trailer, where he’s just treated like a death-defying ragdoll, I’d pay to see CGI’d Tom Cruise slamming into shit. I don’t hate this idea.
  • Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins confirmed that Kristen Wiig has been cast as Cheetah for the sequel. I guess I’m just gonna have to trust Patty on this one…
  • In light of Marvel moving the Avengers: Infinity War release date up a week, from May 4th to April 27th, New Line Cinema has moved the Rampage release date up a week, from April 20th to April 13th. Gotta make sure The Rock gets all the ticket money has has coming to him!
  • Jon Favreau will be producing a live action Star Wars series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service. He also apparently has a role in Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was news to me!
  • Vin Diesel has been cast in the Bloodshot movie, based on the Valiant Comics character. If you spend a lot of time online, you know that former Power Rangers actor Jason David Frank had been cast as the character for a web series, and it was pretty obvious he was using that to lobby for the big role. Folks might wanna stay out of is way for the next few days!
  • Bronson Pinchot has been cast in Netflix’s Sabrina series, as the title character’s principal. Sounds like he’ll be more Principal Snyder than Mr. Belding, as he’s described as a “constant thorn in her side”.
  • An upcoming episode of Supernatural, called “Scoobynatural”, will feature the Winchester brothers being sucked into a Scooby-Doo cartoon and teaming up with the Scooby Gang. I’m kinda surprised Warner Bros is giving this away for free instead of selling it from Warner Bros Home Entertainment.
  • There are reports that Barack and Michelle Obama are in talks for a production deal with Netflix. I…don’t really know what to think about that. I mean, won’t this void his membership in The X-Presidents? WILL HE BE MAKING AN X-PRESIDENTS SERIES?!

  • Here’s a pic of Zachary Levi in his SHAZAM Captain Marvel costume. I guess it looks OK. I mean, I’m not about to lose my shit over SHAZAM until I see a trailer.
  • Speaking of ill-advised DC movie ideas, the rumored standalone Joker film will position the character as a failed comic from the 80s. Do you know how much you had to suck to bomb in the 80s? Was Joker losing gigs to Yakov Smirnoff?

  • Luke Cage season 2 will debut on June 22nd on Netflix, and it’ll be interesting to see how the show is received in a post-Black Lightning/Black Panther world. Cage tends more to Lightning than Panther, with his street level heroics, but it seems like Lightning has achieved what Cage was trying to do in that first season. From what I’ve read, at least. Technically, I’m still on Daredevil season 2. Hopefully I catch up by this release date. Meanwhile, Jessica Jones season 2 debuted this week, and nobody”s saying shit about it. Are folks over MCUFlix (patent pending)?

  • This thing is depressing as Hell. Up until the 30-second mark, I thought, “Are they remaking Schindler’s List?” I don’t think Christopher Robin is for me. And when you think about it, this is just a socially-acceptable, family friendly Ted. I’ll stick to the original recipe, thank you very much!

  • Why is every upcoming live action Disney movie set in some sort of 1930s dystopia?! What the Hell, Disney? Anyway, I don’t remember the first Mary Poppins, so this thing didn’t tug on any heartstrings for me. Your mileage may vary.
  • The Toys “R” Us situation has gotten more dire, as complete liquidation of their assets in the United States is now an option on the table – one that several creditors are hoping they’ll choose. On Monday, we’ll find out if Geoffrey is headed to the dog food factory.

This week’s I’ve got less of a “This blew my socks off!” and more of a “Hmm…This Could Be Interesting”. You see, DC Comics announced the DC Black Label imprint, which will feature high-profile creators on outside-of-continuity stories about their biggest characters. Ultimately, and they make no bones about this, this is their quest for the next The Dark Knight Returns – the classic Frank Miller Batman story that changed the world of comics, for better or for worse. DC has always positioned themselves as a legacy publisher, which I’ve felt is sometimes to their detriment. After all, at times it seems they spend so much time reminding folks of where they’ve been that they don’t focus enough on where they’re going. This seems like a little bit of both. They’re trying to make more timeless, evergreen stories that they can keep in print, and also get out into the book market as another channel of revenue. The titles and creators announced are kinda interesting, though. Let’s take a closer look at the creative teams and synopses for the upcoming stories:

SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE from Frank Miller (THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT: MASTER RACE) and John Romita Jr. (ALL-STAR BATMAN, SUPERMAN)
A groundbreaking, definitive treatment of Superman’s classic origin story in honor of his 80th anniversary. This story details new revelations that reframe the Man of Steel’s most famous milestones—from Kal-El’s frantic exile from Krypton, to Clark Kent’s childhood in Kansas, to his inevitable rise to become the most powerful and inspiring superhero of all time.

Will’s Thoughts: Sounds like a pass for me. The teaser art is horrible, and John Romita Jr. hasn’t really tried in a LONG time. Outside of Kick Ass, everything else he’s done recently has been lazy, and Miller is batshit crazy these days. Plus, how many times do we have to get Superman’s origin? That’s gonna be a “No” for me, dawg.

BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the creative team behind DARK KNIGHTS: METAL
Batman wakes up in a desert. He doesn’t know what year it is or how The Joker’s head is alive in a jar beside him, but it’s the beginning of a quest unlike anything the Dark Knight has undertaken before. In this strange future, villains are triumphant and society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes. Fighting to survive while in search of answers, Bruce Wayne uncovers the truth about his role in this new world—and begins the last Batman story ever told.

Will’s Thoughts: I’m oddly intrigued. A lot of the problems I had with the Snyder and Capullo Batman run was their treatment of continuity. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do without those shackles. And I’m sucker for “Last ____ Story Ever” tales.

BATMAN: DAMNED from Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, the creative team behind JOKER
On a deserted Gotham City bridge, a body is found. Whispers spread the news: Joker is dead. But is this a dream come true or a nightmare being born? Now Batman and DC’s outlaw magician John Constantine must hunt the truth through a Gotham City hellscape. The city’s supernatural recesses are laced with hints about a killer’s identity, but the Dark Knight’s descent into horror will test his sanity and the limits of rationality, as he must face a horror that doesn’t wear a mask.

Will’s Thoughts: Out of the two Batman stories launching with Black Label, this is probably the one I trust the most. I know what I’m getting from this creative team, based on their work on Joker and Lex Luthor: Man of Steel – both of which I loved. Azzarello “gets” Batman, while Bermejo’s style is a treat that you don’t get on a monthly book.

WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS from Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet) and Phil Jimenez (INFINITE CRISIS)
A Homeric epic of the lost history of the Amazons and Queen Hippolyta’s rise to power. Featuring monsters and myths, this three-book saga spans history from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, changing our world forever.

Will’s Thoughts: I’m curious to see this, as it’s DeConnick’s first real work for DC. That said, I’m not sure I’m what you’d call a “DeConnick fan”. I read Bitch Planet, and I was like “Yeah, I don’t get intersectional feminism enough to appreciate this.” I also don’t love Wonder Woman, but I know Jimenez has a strong track record with the character. I’ll check it out, but it’s still an unknown to me at the moment.

WONDER WOMAN: DIANA’S DAUGHTER (working title) from Greg Rucka (WONDER WOMAN, BATWOMAN)
It’s been 20 years since the world stopped looking to the skies for hope, help, and inspiration. Now the world keeps its eyes down, and the powers that have risen have every intention of keeping things that way. Amongst a scattered, broken resistance, a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten, and on the way will learn the truth about herself, her heritage, and her destiny.

Will’s Thoughts: Rucka *gets* Wonder Woman – one of few creators from the past 25 years for which you could say that. I think they need to make sure he has the right artist here, but it sounds like an interesting concept. It’s basically an origin story with a new backdrop. Even without knowing the artist, if I had to bet on one of the Woman Woman Black Label series, this would be the one. Hopefully they’re trying to get J.G. Jones, so we get a reunion of the creative team behind the great Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia.

THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE from John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, THE AMERICAN WAY)
A compelling literary series analyzing iconic DC moments and charting sociopolitical gains through the perspectives of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including John Stewart, Extraño, Vixen, Supergirl, Katana and Rene Montoya, among others. At its core, the story focuses on the lives of those behind the costumes, and their endeavors to overcome real-world issues. It isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.

Will’s Thoughts: Out of all of the announced titles for the first wave, this is probably the one I’m most eager about. The story was teased over the weekend that DC in D.C. was taking place, and Ridley was present but couldn’t provide any details. When it comes to the minority lens, Marvel tends to do a better job at this than DC, but I think they’ve got the right guy here to do it, especially if you’ve read his series The American Way. Looking at the list of characters, it almost feels like “One of these things is not like the others” with Supergirl there. I know she’s an alien, but it’ll be interesting to see how she’s categorized as “disenfranchised”. Anyway, this has the potential to be DC’s own version of Marvels, which is just the kind of classic tale they’re trying to create here.

While Marvel is busy with their “fresh start” to right the ship over there, DC is finally thinking outside the box and taking some risks. At a glance, sure it seems like, “Ugh, MORE Batman, another Superman origin, and a bunch of uncertain Wonder Woman books.” On paper, I can see how it comes off that way. But DC is VERY protective of their continuity, so they’ve created a little corner where some industry stars can just go wild. I also think this is a more focused approach than DC’s more recent imprint, Young Animal, where “Weird!” seems to be the only driving principle. DC has been making a lot of moves that have impressed me, and this is just another one to add to that list. I think DC Black Label shows a lot of promise, and that’s why it had the West Week Ever.

02nd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Since I basically took off the month of November I guess this has got to be good, huh? Recently, some online friends were discussing taking breaks from blogging, and one of them said that you don’t need to offer an explanation as to where you’ve been. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around your blog, so it’s kind of egotistical to think anyone cares where you’ve been. I get that, but I don’t really agree with it. When people come to expect something regularly, you do kind of owe them an explanation as to why you broke your “promise”, so to speak. Plainly put, something inside me is broken. Yeah, I’m basically stealing Selena Gomez’s speech from the American Music Awards, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

When I started West Week Ever, it was to celebrate the week that was in pop culture. But can you honestly cite anything that had a great week over the past month? And I’m not even really going to delve into the political landscape of things. I’ll save that for a podcast, where it’ll be harder for someone to cut and paste my words without context. No, nothing had the West Week Ever for the past few weeks. I try to go by the whole “The show must go on” mentality, but I just couldn’t do it. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t go into these posts to be negative, but sometimes that’s what comes out. I couldn’t be positive lately, though, and I saw no reason to put that off on you. I wanted Fantastic Beasts to fail. I want Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s cancellation to be announced. I guess I’m one of those men who wants to watch the world burn. But I’m back in the saddle, trying to fight the good fight. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back and look at things, so that’s where I’ve been. So, ready to talk about pop culture? Let’s go!

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Seeing as how I usually enjoy the CW DC show crossovers, I’m sure some folks probably figured this year’s “Heroes vs Aliens” featuring the Dominators would get the West Week Ever this week. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I really didn’t care much for this year’s crossover. To start, I always thought it was a bit of heavy lifting by spreading it across 4 shows. The Berlanti Dilution Effect is full force on this one. Oh, you’ve never heard of the Berlanti Dilution Effect? It’s probably because I just named it. Basically, whenever the Berlantiverse adds a new show, it dilutes the quality of the preexisting shows, as everyone just seems spread too thin. Folks loved Arrow until The Flash came along. All of a sudden, it was the new hit show, while Arrow’s quality dropped. Then, last season, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow were introduced, while fans felt Flash’s quality dropped, and Arrow was damn near unwatchable. Fans seem to love Supergirl, while Legends is just kinda off to the side, not bad, but not great. Well, since Supergirl is the new kid on the block, I felt like she could’ve sat on the bench for this year’s crossover. This year should’ve just been Flash/Arrow/Legends, as they at least occupy the same universe. Adding Supergirl was just overstuffing the thing, and her addition didn’t really add much to things.

I also had another issue with the crossover: I don’t think Team Arrow should be fighting aliens. They’re too street-level for that. Now, they’ve dipped their toe into the supernatural with Damien Darhk and Ragman, but I’ve also felt those were creative missteps for the series. They should only be concentrating on street level threats, as something extraterrestrial is out of their wheelhouse. Plus, it’s no secret that Arrow is basically TV Batman, as a lot of Batman’s rogues and tropes have been added to the show. I don’t think Green Arrow should be fighting aliens as much as I actually don’t like Batman as a member of the Justice League. Bear with me a minute here. Prior to the New 52, about 10 years ago, the Bat books were united in the fact that they approached Batman as urban legend. He has more power as a mysterious being, whispered about amongst thugs and criminals than he does as a guy fighting next to Superman in broad daylight. I’m fine if Batman lends his support from the Watchtower, but he shouldn’t be a public face of the Justice League, as he really shouldn’t “exist” as far as the Man on the Street is concerned. I feel the same about the Green Arrow. That hero loses his clout if he’s seen running around with Flash and Supergirl, fighting aliens. He needs to stick to what he does best.

Now, for the crossover itself. I skipped the Supergirl episode because I really have no desire to get into that show, and the pertinent parts of the crossover were repeated in the next night’s Flash episode. Flash was just a little too cutesy for me, as everyone got acquainted, learning each other’s names and power sets, but they didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Sure, there was some Flash stuff going on that didn’t make a ton of sense to folks, like me, who are still basically on season one of the show. They did a pretty good job, though, explaining Flashpoint and how it had affected things. They even threw in some development for the Legends crew, following up on Professor Stein’s visions. Outside of that, though, most of that episode was fluff. I mean, aliens KILL the president, and even it’s kinda treated as an afterthought. Then we got to the Arrow episode which was one big dream sequence. Sadly, this was also the show’s 100th episode, so I felt bad that it was “squandered” on a crossover. And of course I didn’t like the episode, as it featured all the non-metas on a friggin’ spaceship, IN SPACE! The Legends finale was just more of the same. Kara acting too cutesy, Team Arrow being USELESS against aliens, and there were too many characters without a use for most of them. There was just WAY too much going on, with a threat that wasn’t entirely credible, vanquished in a manner that also wasn’t too credible. I realize I’ve gotta suspend disbelief a bit, but COME ON! And the episode ends with a private press conference with Green Arrow, front and center, meeting the new goddamn President! THE PRESIDENT SHOULD NOT BE PUBLICLY ASSOCIATING WITH A VIGILANTE! It’s like Flashpoint has got them living in Trump’s America or some shit! Anyway, there was a pretty clever Brandon Routh/Superman Returns joke near the end, so I’ll give them credit for that one.

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In television news, it was announced that the long-gestating Inhumans film had been demoted to a television series to debut on ABC in 2017. In fact, the first 2 episodes will debut in IMAX in theaters. This whole thing is laughable to me, but not surprising if you understand the nuances of Marvel. The Inhumans were a pet project of Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, as Marvel didn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, so he saw the Inhumans as plug and play “freaks with powers” that Marvel Studios could exploit. And he basically forced this idea on Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who really wanted nothing to do with the project. That’s why it was put on Marvel’s film schedule, but kept getting shuffled further and further into the future. Well, after the somewhat ugly divorce between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television last year, Marvel Studios now reports directly to Disney, while Marvel Television is still under the Marvel umbrella. This also dissolved the “brain trust” of comic pros who had given input on the movies up to that point. So, this means there’s even less hope of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever truly aligning with the movies, but it also allowed Feige to get The Inhumans off his plate and pass the buck on to the TV division.

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Anyway, the show is supposed to focus on the Inhuman royal family, such as Black Bolt and Medusa, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather see less of. That franchise has never interested me, and the idea of it on a TV budget isn’t too impressive, either. In its defense, the season will only be 8 episodes long, so they can hopefully apply 22 episodes worth of budget to those 8 episodes. The unofficial cancellation of Conviction, however, has me hoping Marvel might start conversations with Hayley Atwell to bring Agent Carter back for one more season. Adding Ghost Rider to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might’ve been a creative shot in the arm for the show, but it hasn’t moved the needle much in terms of ratings. So, the idea of a 5th season isn’t a guarantee at this point, despite the fact that ABC/Disney own the show. If it were up to me, I’d opt for more Agent Carter as a companion show to Inhumans and say adios to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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In other TV news, three cast members were announced for Star Trek Discovery. Most people are gonna say Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh, but I’m gonna say Supercop 2’s Michelle Yeoh has been cast as Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. Meanwhile, Anthony Rapp of Rent fame will portray the Discovery’s science officer Lt. Stamets. Motion capture veteran Doug Jones will play science officer Lt. Saru, who will be a member of an alien species new to the Trek franchise. And none of these announcements do anything for me. Where’s the obligatory former Benson cast member? Plus, people mistakenly took the news of Yeoh’s casting to mean that she’s the lead, but she’s not, as it was already announced that the lead would not be a captain, and would be a member of the Discovery crew. So, Yeoh is really just more of a high profile guest star. Still, for a show that’s supposed to debut in May (formerly January), they sure seem to be dragging their feet with this casting process.

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In comic news, the rosters were revealed for the upcoming X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue series. Now, for fans of the 90s X-Men, those divisions were important because the adventures of the Gold team were featured in Uncanny X-Men, while the exploits of the Blue team were featured in the X-Men cartoon, as well as the “Adjectiveless” X-Men comic. Fans thought this would be a return to those days, but this week’s announcement dashed those hopes. X-Men Blue will focus on the time-displaced original teen X-Men, led by Magneto – a nod back to the 80s New Mutants era when Magneto served as their mentor. Meanwhile, the Gold team will be comprised of Storm, Old Man Logan, Rachel Grey, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde as leader. In a lot of ways, the current Gold team isn’t too different from the old one, as Storm and Colossus were on that team, while Nightcrawler, Rachel, and Kitty were in Excalibur at the time. I’ll probably grab the Gold book, as it seems the closest to the Extraordinary X-Men team – a book I’m already reading – plus I couldn’t give two shits about that time-displaced team. The Gold team also has the distinction of being written by Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim, whose work I like, while the Blue team is written by Cullen Bunn, whose indie leanings have left me somewhat disappointed. The biggest issue with the team division is that it leaves a LOT of mutants on the table without homes. Back in the day, while it could be argued that the Blue team was the more popular of the two, both had heavy hitters on their rosters. The “wealth” was spread evenly, so to speak. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. If anything, the Blue team is just a continuation of All-New X-Men, while the Gold team seems to be taking Extraordinary’s place. But where’s Magik? Beast? Am I missing their fates since I’m not reading Death of X or Inhumans vs X-Men? The whole thing just feels kind of lopsided, without a real “A” team in the mix. The Gold folks are classic characters, but lack a “wow factor”, while the Blue team just still feels like a gimmick all these years later.

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In movie news, we got the concept art of how Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5 may look in the upcoming Power Rangers movie. This is the stuff of nightmares, kids! Why does he have those floodlight eyeballs? Was his scanner not enough? And why do his arms go down to the floor? I hate everything I’ve seen about this film, but I’m hoping it succeeds just so they can hopefully build off of this for the sequel and make something good. Look, I understand the need to update things for a new audience, but this thing seems almost ashamed of its source material. So, that alienates the built-in fan base, while offering almost nothing to entice a new one. I really don’t know what this movie is doing.

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While we’re on the topic of Power Rangers, one aspect of the franchise that’s getting it right is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic series from BOOM! There have been several Power Rangers comics over the past 20 years, and they all sucked. I know because I read the vast majority of them (One day I should write about the terrible Hamilton series where the Rangers and Zords just randomly change in the middle of the story). Anyway, for anyone who’ll listen, I’ve been telling them that the current series is better than it has any right to be. Between it and the Kimberly-centric Power Rangers: Pink spinoff, the creators are really mining the property without telling meaningless stories that “dance between the raindrops of continuity”. For example, we found out that Rita actually approached Zack to wield the green power coin before Tommy even came to town. And we also found out that Zordon reenlisted the help of the original Rangers even after they had officially left the team. But this week was this biggest shocker: in #9 of the comic series, we were introduced to a mysterious Ranger who seems to be drawing both green and white power from the Morphing Grid. Oh, and he’s evil and working with Rita. I used to be the guy who said “If it wasn’t in the show, it didn’t count”, but BOOM! is finding ways to tell interesting compelling stories while still honoring the continuity that we already know. If you’re a comic and Power Rangers fan, you should definitely be reading this series.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The season finale of HBO’s Insecure had many Black males joining #TeamLawrence and #LawrenceHive, sparking quite the divide on Black Twitter
  • Speaking of premium cable channels, Showtime announced that Masters of Sex would not be coming back for a 5th season. I guess they, uh, mastered the sex.
  • Full House creator Jeff Franklin actually purchased the San Francisco house that served as the exterior of the Tanner home
  • Billy Dee Williams will be the voice of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Lego Batman Movie, reprising his role from 1989’s Batman.
  • Quantico showrunner Josh Safran has said that the show will never feature a Muslim terrorist. That snickering you hear is coming from the producers of 24.
  • While promoting his new book, Saved By The Bell executive producer Peter Engel said that Zack and Kelly “weren’t built to last” and are probably divorced by now.
  • Good girls finish last, as Amazon has decided against a second season for Mad Men clone Good Girls Revolt

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When I first saw the ads for Search Party, I thought “What a dumb idea for a show.” It looked too hipster, and it starred the Great Value Ilana Glazer, Alia Shawkat, who you probably remember as Maeby from Arrested Development. I remembered reading about it, and wondered how exactly they could make a show out of that premise. Well, I can admit when I’m wrong, and BOY was I wrong!

If you’re not familiar, Search Party kicks off with the disappearance of a young woman. Dory (Shawkat) and her group of Millennial hipster friends kinda knew the girl in college, but they wouldn’t necessarily call her a “friend”. Then, she disappears, and they milk it for all it’s worth. They post updates on social media about how a piece of them is now missing, and they even attend a vigil for her upstate. Meanwhile, Dory is sort of lost in life, and she gloms onto the case with an unexpected fervor. Things really kick into high gear when she randomly sees the missing girl in a Chinese restaurant, yet no one will believe that she really saw her. Like they’ve been doing, Dory’s friends just believe she’s milking the whole thing for attention. Then crazy people come out of the woodwork, a private investigator appears, and a cult is even involved. I never saw any of this coming, but enjoyed every minute of it. It’s like a hipster Nancy Drew.

Airing on TBS, Search Party was sort of burned off at a pace of two episodes a night in Conan’s timeslot all last week. In addition to that, immediately following the premiere on Monday, all the episodes were made available On Demand. So, I can’t figure out if TBS was extremely proud of the show OR if they couldn’t be done with it fast enough. I’m not sure how these tactics helped ratings, but critics seemed to love the show. As some critics pointed out, it’s basically what Girls could’ve been, but wasn’t. The problem with Girls is that is filled with such unsympathetic characters who all suck at life. With Search Party, however, you can kind of relate to those characters and, if not, you at least know someone like them. You understand their insecurities and the ways in which they cope with them. Sure, they kinda suck at life, but they know it, and they want to NOT suck. That can’t be said for Hannah Horvath and her friends.

In many ways, it was a major coup for TBS to get this show. It probably would’ve been more at home on something like Netflix, and probably would’ve gotten more promotion. It’s SO bingeable, and you’re going to want to blow through the 10-episode series in one sitting. It’s that good. I didn’t even see some of the twists coming that it throws at you. And the ending was nothing like you’d expect. Oh, man do I wanna talk about that ending. I don’t know how they’d get a second season out of it, but I’d love to see that cast back together. If it’s just a one and done series, it does the job there, as well. It’s the perfect miniseries. And that’s why Search Party had the West Week Ever.

23rd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/23/16

by Will

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So I started a new job last week, and it has drastically changed my life. I used to roll into work whenever I wanted, blog, tweet, the works! Now everything is blocked and they are kicking my ass. I feel like I’m gradually losing my grasp on pop culture, but I’m doing my best to hang on. So, let’s see if I’ve still got it, huh?

I had no time to watch movies this week because in the world of television it was PREMIERE WEEK! New shows! Returning shows! Bad shows! Good shows!

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On Monday, I caught Kevin Can Wait on CBS. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the cool kid thing to do, but I actually really liked The King of Queens, and I think I’m the only person, besides Adam Sandler, still championing James’s career. In the show, James is a retired cop who’s trying to get used to civilian life. It follows the fat schlub/hot wife sitcom formula, with Childrens Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes as his wife. In the pilot, James meets his daughter’s effeminate fiance and can’t deal. Oh, and there’s a role for his real life brother, Gary Valentine, who happens to be in most Kevin James productions. At the end of the day, it’s serviceable, but not great. It’s basically Kevin James starring in Last Man Standing. Swap out James for Tim Allen, and this easily could’ve been a spec script for that show. There’s not a lot on Monday nights, so I might stick with it, but I won’t enjoy it. It might end up like Rules of Engagement: not very good, but kinda manages to be decent background noise for 7 seasons.

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Tuesday night gave us the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had been heavily promoted because they were introducing the latest incarnation of Marvel antihero Ghost Rider. This version, with the alter ego of Robbie Reyes, drives a supercharged Charger powered by the Spirit of Vengeance. So, he’s really more like Ghost Driver than Ghost Rider. Ah, semantics. A lot of folks thought it was a great episode. I, however, did not. I actually loved the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider in the comics, but seeing him onscreen did nothing to energize a show as weak as Agents. I just don’t think that he fits tonally. They spent all this time facing Inhumans and now they’re fighting demons? I guess they’ve got to diversify their portfolio, but it just seems like a leap to me. I also hate the whole “We’ve gotta eventually get the band back together” vibe of the season, since they’ve been scattered across the organization. Some folks online remarked that it felt like an entirely new show, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Based on the ratings, which were about 1.5 million viewers lower than last season’s premiere, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the final season. Still, the show has way outlasted my initial projections.

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Wednesday brought 2 delightful new treats: Lethal Weapon and Designated Survivor. Now, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen Lethal Weapon. In fact, I think I’ve only seen the 4th one. That’s the one from that week Jet Li was famous, right? Yeah, DVDs were just hitting the scene, and my freshman year roommate bought it. So, I’ve seen that one. Never seen the original recipe, though. So, I can’t tell if they nailed the characters or not in the TV adaptation. What I will say is that I loved what they did with them. In my mind, this show was just Fastlane: 15 Years Later. If you’re not familiar, Fastlane was a one-hour action comedy on Fox back in 2002, created by McG of the Charlie’s Angels reboot fame. Starring Bill Bellamy and Peter Facinelli as undercover cops who took orders from Tiffani-Amber Theissen, it was hot women, fast cars, and a hot soundtrack. It was the Foxiest Fox show of the early ’00s. It only lasted one season, and I loved the HELL out of it. I have the whole show on both legal and illegal DVDs. I loved it that much. Anyway, if they had been allowed to age naturally, I feel like they would’ve evolved into Damon Wayans’s Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford’s Riggs. Anyway, Murtaugh’s coming back on the job following a heart attack and he’s paired with recently widowed Riggs, who clearly has a deathwish. Can they get along? Will hilarity ensue? Well, you’ll have to tune in to see, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I watched. I will be back next week.

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Next, ABC gave us Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. Basically, during the State of the Union, one cabinet member is designated to stay behind in case something drastic happens. Well, it does, as the Capitol blows up (Man, between BvS and this show, Hollywood REALLY hates the Capitol this year), killing EVERYONE. So Kiefer, who had just that morning been fired as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, finds himself thrust into the role of President of the United States. Nobody thinks he’s qualified for the job, Kiefer included. Meanwhile, there are a few subplots. Who is FBI agent Maggie Q looking for in the rubble? Why is Kiefer’s son selling drugs in da clurb? Was this whole thing orchestrated by some unseen force? It’s funny to watch because we spent 8 years getting to know Kiefer as Impossible White Man Jack Bauer. There was nothing he couldn’t do, so it’s kinda strange to watch him be such a pussy. Right now, I’m pretending that Jack has amnesia and that he’ll regain his memory and skills by season’s end. There are glimpses of Jack that sneak out, such as Kiefer’s confrontation with the Iranian (?) leader who seems to be trying to take advantage of the situation. He threatened the dude, and it was like Jack was back with us in the flesh. But it was not to be, as he returned to his meek self following the meeting. Still, it’s a suspenseful hour, and Kiefer has been the king of TV suspense for the past 15 years, so I’m all in for this.

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Finally, last night gave us the premiere of Pitch on Fox, focusing on Ginny Baker, who will be the first woman to play major league baseball. In the series, Baker gets called up from the minors to start for the Padres and she BOMBS. Meanwhile, we get flashbacks to how she came to be where she is. Her discovery of baseball, her refining her skills – all while her overbearing father was behind her. Apparently his major league dreams flamed out and, when he saw that his son wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps, he focused on his more talented daughter. It’s funny to me that after 30 years, there’s still something that could be considered a “Fox show”. Like, it’s an ingredient that can’t be shaken. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but there are some projects that would only work on Fox, and this is one of them. It was a good hour, and it ended with quite the twist (seriously, between this and NBC’s This Is Us, it appears that weird twists are en vogue this season), but I don’t know how long it could last. If they went into it as a Done In One, I could really embrace it. But if they’re trying to build a franchise out of this show, I just don’t think there’s much there. Still, I enjoyed Mark-Paul Gosselaar acting like the asshole we always knew Zack Morris would grow up to be. I’ve got nothing else going on Thursdays at 9, so I’ll stick with it for now.

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In movie news, we got our first glimpse of the Power Rangers movie Zords in these new character posters. I have no clue what I’m looking at. Seriously, are they even still dinosaurs? I can make out the Mastodon’s tusks and that’s about it. The rest is just so…”Bayformers”. It was also announced that Bill Hader would be voicing Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5. Wow, this movie is the surprise that keeps on surprising. The trailer will debut next month at New York Comic-Con.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, the Yellow Ranger was mysteriously recast for Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Though the entire cast was introduced last month at Power Morphicon, it appears that Chantz Simpson (that CAN’T be his real name!) has left the production. His role has been recast with Nico Greetham. I find this casting interesting because a lot of folks had pointed out that this would be the first season without a single White member of the team. It was basically the Diversity Rangers, which was unprecedented. But with the casting of Greetham, we’ve got a White guy again. I wonder if there was some pressure for them to do that. Anyway, this follows a long tradition of recast Yellow Rangers, as it happened in Mighty Morphin (Trini was originally Latina), it happened in Lost Galaxy, and it supposedly happened in RPM.

Recently I’ve been talking a lot about country music on here, but that’s really because it’s the only music I keep up with these days. I can’t tell you anything about the pop charts, but I can name Maren Morris’s latest song (“80s Mercedes”) and I listen to Bobby Bones every morning. I’ve always loved pop, but I’ve also always loved country. When I was a baby, I used to have WMZQ playing next to my crib and it stuck with me. In fact, my migration to pop was a slow one. It started with soft rock, “at work radio”, and then made its way to boybands and Britney. But it wasn’t always like that. When I started dating Lindsay, the country came roaring back, as that’s pretty much all she listened to. For a while, I could juggle the pop and the country, but lately it’s pretty much all country these days. Anyway, this is a long intro for me to say that I’ve got a LOT of thoughts on “Forever Country”, the mash-up song released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association.

The video for “Forever Country” was released this week, and it’s a medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”, and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. The song is sung by 30 of country’s hottest stars, like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and more. I also appreciated that they included Darius Rucker and Charley Pride to add some diversity. There are, however, some glaring omissions: Where’s Kenny Rogers? Where’s GARTH?! That last one is even more odd, as Garth’s wife Trisha is present on the track. I thought maybe it was a scheduling conflict, but I’ve read that he’s against the platforms where the song will be released, such as YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify (his songs aren’t on any of those services). I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve never really liked Garth, so it’s not a huge loss to me. I missed the Garth Brooks era the same way I missed the WWE Attitude Era. By that point, I was knee deep in Ace of Base. The only reason I even know “Friends in Low Places” is because drunk White people love to sing it once “Don’t Stop Believin'” goes off. But if you’re tackling the biggest stars of the past 50 years, you’ve GOTTA have Garth. It’s just incomplete without him.

Now, the video itself is a frenetic mess. It moves too quickly. There’s not enough focus on each contributor. It honestly makes me dizzy. Plus, it’s obvious it was just some green screen thrown together for whenever the artists were free to come in and film their parts. I mean, there’s no way Blake and Miranda were in the same room together. So, I like the idea of the song, especially since it allows Dolly to reclaim her song; it always kinda bothered me that everyone thought of it as a Whitney Houston song, but Dolly cashed all those royalty checks, so I’m sure she’s cool with it. They do a good job mixing the three songs, and it’s not something treacly like “We Are The World” or “Let The Music Heal Your Soul”. The video could’ve been a lot better, though.

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

  • Season THIRTY-THREE of Survivor premiered. You did this, America. You only have yourselves to blame.
  • Brangelina powered down into its divided forms of “Brad” and “Angelina”, as Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt.
  • 80s heart throb Corey Feldman had an emotional breakdown after the internet had a field day with his performance on The Today Show.
  • On Empire, they killed off the White girl. Poor Rhonda never really had a chance.
  • The Big Bang Theory kicked off what is likely its final season. And the “real nerds” rejoiced.
  • Buckle up, Puddin’ – Margot Robbie will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on October 1st
  • Two of my recent favorites – Better Late Than Never and Odd Mom Out – scored renewals this week. (Thanks for the tip, @jrwells82!)
  • CBS’s The Case of JonBenet Ramsey proposed that her older brother was her killer, and it was covered up by the parents

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So, I don’t talk about her on here, mainly because I basically have to beg her to read this thing, but today we’re gonna talk about my wife.

When we first met, I was much skinnier and used to run. The running started in college, when my friend Eric and I used to take midnight jogs to Wegmans (What? It was Ithaca and nothing else was open). I kept running even when I came home, but it decreased somewhat. I had an ex who did marathons (though you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Bada-bing!), and I would run with her to help her train. After awhile, though, the running tapered off. I met Lindsay and she was the type of person who would only run if being chased, and even then it was a crapshoot.

So, fast forward 8 years later. I have gained…some pounds, and now Lindsay runs. She started about a year ago, just starting out with a Couch to 5K program. She had done one in the past, as we ran the Color in Motion 5K Run some years ago. Still, she hadn’t really stuck with it after that, so she was giving it another shot. Well, Couch to 5K turned into actual 5Ks, and then 10Ks, and then 10 milers. She gets up every morning at a time when I’m usually going to bed (we’re on two completely different schedules), and goes for her runs. She’s only missed running due to illness. Other than that, she forces herself to get up and puts in the work. Well, last Sunday, after months of training, she ran (and completed) her first half marathon! This from a woman who would’ve probably let her attacker overtake her just a mere year ago. This my long drawn out way to say that I’m proud of her, and watching her complete that half was the most impressive thing I witnessed this week. So, with that in mind, Lindsay West had the West Week Ever.

15th Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/15/16

by Will

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So, I did something kinda special this week, in that I attended a live taping of the Jeopardy Teen Tournament. Until I pass that online test, it’s as close as I’m gonna get to being a contestant, so it was a pretty cool experience. Taped at DAR Constitution Hall on Tuesday, I was present for the filming of 3 episodes of the tournament. Pictures and social media weren’t allowed, ’cause they didn’t want anyone spoiling the winners. As you can see, I didn’t heed their warning, but I at least waited until taping was done. They film the show with the commercial breaks, so that’s when host Alex Trebek comes out and answers questions from the audience. Here’s some tidbits that I learned:

  • Alex has 55 suits in his show wardrobe
  • They film 46 days a year, on Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Alex’s true first name is George. George Alexander Trebek
  • Alex’s favorite movie is 1941’s How Green Was My Valley.
  • I was present for the filming of episodes 7,356 through 7,358
  • Alex said that he really enjoyed Hamilton, even though he doesn’t like “that music”
  • In what seemed like hometown pandering, Alex said that his favorite NFL team of the last 30 years was the Washington Redskins. Then, things took a turn as he added that he’s never had a problem with the team name. He said that it was never meant as a negative, but as something positive. Uh-oh…
  • Then he tried to turn things around by saying that his favorite book is called The Divide, by Matt Taibbi. It documents the Wealth Gap, and how there have been no prosecutions in recent major Wall Street crimes, while we continue to incarcerate minorities for minor offenses. This garnered applause from the audience. Not from me. I’m on to you, Trebek!

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On the movie front this week, I watched the documentary All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records. I used to LOVE Tower when I was in high school, because it was the local retail establishment that was open the latest. Bored at home at 11:30? Let’s go to Tower! As a devoted fan of the import maxi single, Tower was my saving grace for obscure pop tracks that no one knew about in America. When Tower closed, it’s like I lost a friend. So, I heard about this documentary when it was in the Kickstarter phase, but I remember thinking “This thing probably won’t get funded.” Well, color me wrong, as the finished product is now available for viewing! Directed by Colin Hanks, the doc follows the creation of the successful music chain in California, and its gradual spread to Japan and across the rest of North America. The biggest issue with the film, however, is that it’s not balanced very well. The majority of it focuses on the rise of the brand, while the “fall” really just occupies the last half our or so. I think part of that, however, may be due to the fact that the demise happened so quickly. Basically, Tower couldn’t brace itself against digital music, along with discount stores like Target and Best Buy selling CDs, and they didn’t survive. To my surprise, however, there are still 85 Tower locations in Japan. I must go to Japan! If you want to see a bunch of old people talk about how they smoked “doobies” at work, this is the documentary for you. It’s really more about the culture of the store than it is about the state of music during the store’s rise, so you’ve really got to care about Tower in order to enjoy it. I do, though, so I did. Your mileage may vary.

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Then, I caught the film CHAPPiE, by District 9‘s Neill Blomkamp. Reuniting with District 9‘s star, Sharlto Copley, Blomkamp seems to be telling a tale about what it means to be “alive”. At the beginning of the film, the Johannesburg government has resorted to using robots on their police force, greatly curbing the amount of crime in the city. One particular robot, Unit 22, seems to be somewhat accident prone and, after being damaged irreparably, is slated for destruction. Meanwhile, the robots’ creator, Deon, wants to test out a new AI program that will give robots sentience. After he’s turned down by his boss, he steals Unit 22 and uploads the program. At the same time, a trio of criminals (played by rap-rave group Die Antwoord) kidnap Deon and Unit 22 because they need help with a heist. They rename Unit 22 “Chappie”, and try to train him to be a real gangsta. During all this, Chappie seems to be able to isolate his own consciousness through a special helmet, and begins to believe he can transfer his consciousness into another body before his battery dies. This shit really gets weird. I won’t spoil any of it, but it basically asks the questions “What is life” and “Can you live forever?” When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was just another crappy Hugh Jackman robot movie, but it turned out to be so much more than that. I highly recommend checking it out.

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I also caught another documentary called Unhung Hero, which I’d heard about on a radio show that I love (The Bonfire on Comedy Central Radio). Comedian Patrick Moote proposed to his girlfriend during a UCLA basketball game, but she turns him down on the kisscam. Not only did the video go viral, but she later tells him that she couldn’t marry him because his penis was too small. So, he embarks upon an international journey to find out what is “small” when it comes to penises, and is there a “cure”? It’s really kinda heartbreaking to see him explain to his parents why his girlfriend left him. He even consults old girlfriends to see if they also felt the same way. He tries pills, pumps, and exercises to make his penis bigger. He, then, travels the world to see if there’s any hope for reversing his penile fortune. He eventually ends up in Papua New Guinea where he’s about to have some oil injected into his penis to make it bigger. Does he go through with it? Moote seems like a really good dude, but I almost wonder if he was ready for marriage at the time of the proposal. He’s got a lot going on in his head, and one almost wonders if she did him a favor by turning down the proposal. By the end of the film, and the journey, he seems to have come to a better understanding and appreciation of himself. If you’re at all curious about all this, it’s currently available to stream on Netflix.

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On TV, I caught the premiere of The Detour on TBS. Airing Monday nights in the old Angie Tribeca timeslot of 9 PM, the comedy was created by The Daily Show contributors Jason Jones and Samantha Bee. It’s loosely based on their own experiences on family vacations, and it follows a family that abruptly decides to drive to Florida for their vacation instead of flying, and the problems that arise from doing so. In the course of things, they wreck their car, we find out why they had to drive, and more. It was really enjoyable, and was renewed for a second season before Monday’s official premiere.

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In TV news, The CW has ordered 8 episodes of MADtv, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as how the network aired the 20th anniversary special and airs old episodes on The CW SEED streaming site. From what we know, the show will feature new and returning cast members (mainly in guest host capacity). This is good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m glad the brand is alive again. There was a window of time where MADtv was edgier and funnier than Saturday Night Live, though a lot of people would hate to admit this. I feel like TV needs good sketch comedy these days, and the arrival of dreck like Party Over Here made me appreciate what we’d lost. Now the bad news. This show belongs in late night in order for it to hit on all cylinders. Unfortunately, The CW doesn’t program nights or weekends. In case you weren’t aware, The CW is only Monday through Friday, 8 PM to 10 PM. The rest of the time belongs to the local affiliates. So, late night Saturday is off limits, though it’d be the perfect place for the show. At the moment, I’m scared we’ll get some neutered version that ends up airing after The Flash or something. There are worse fates, but I don’t think this is a recipe for success.

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In other television news, it’s rumored that the new Star Trek series will actually take place in the classic continuity, and not the JJ Abrams “NuTrek” universe. According to sources close to the production, it will be set between the events of The Undiscovered Country and The Next Generation. Eh. On the one hand, I’m glad we’re not in the Abramsverse. On the other, I really wanted something set post-TNG, to see how The Federation has recovered from the events of the Dominion War. I still don’t plan to pay for CBS All Access, though, so I’m either not watching it or pirating it.

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In movie news, Sony had some big announcements at Cinema Con 2016. First up, they confirmed the existence of the Men In Black/21 Jump Street crossover originally revealed from the Sony email hack. Officially called MIB 23, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are reported to be returning, though original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are being replaced by James Bobin. Also, they revealed that the upcoming standalone Spider-Man film will officially be called Spider-Man: Homecoming. Some folks hate the title, but I don’t. It’s not the strongest choice, but it does refer to the fact that Spidey’s basically back in the MCU fold, so I’m fine with it.

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The first image of Scarlett Johansson from Ghost in the Shell hit the web yesterday, and people are LOSING THEIR SHIT. Mainly, it’s the minority set, wondering why the lead character has been “whitewashed” and isn’t Asian like in the original anime. First off, they need a big star to sell a movie that’s not necessarily a guaranteed American blockbuster. I get that Scarlett has star power. Still, I’m not even sure why we’re making this movie in America. As far as anime goes, it’s one of the more well-known franchises, but it’s still not a “household name”. Sure, folks will come out and see it because it’s a ScarJo movie, but why not give us that Black Widow movie? Or, God forbid, Lucy 2? Why go for a franchise that has to be “westernized” in order to make it successful when that’s going to detract from the source material? Could it have been made with an Asian lead? Of course. Should it have been made with an Asian lead? Probably. Would it make as much money? Unless they’re flying from trees and shit, I highly doubt it.

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In Power Rangers news, they unveiled the logo for the upcoming film yesterday. Meh. I think it’s too generic. It has no WOW or pizzazz. There are a couple of things I don’t like about it. First of all, I don’t like Saban’s insistence on putting his name in the title. He doesn’t carry the clout of a Marvel or DC, so branding it “Saban’s Power Rangers” means nothing to the man on the street. There’s the argument that “You’ve got to start somewhere”, but I just think it’s more of a ego move than a branding opportunity. Also, there’s already a Power Rangers font, which has been used for the past 23 years. Sure, this is a chance to breathe new life into the franchise, but you don’t mess with the classics. Compare the new logo to the logo for the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie:

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The new one looks so flat in comparison, even though it’s “cleaner”. At least you’ll be able to differentiate the TV toys from the movie toys on shelves, but that’s about the only benefit I can see from this new logo.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Elizabeth Banks is attached to direct a reboot of Charlie’s Angels.
  • Warner Bros finally confirmed that they are in talks with Ben Affleck for a solo Batman film
  • A new trailer was released for Suicide Squad, cementing my resolve to not see this movie in the theater
  • Reportedly, Warren Beatty is working on a script for Dick Tracy 2. I’ve been hearing this same rumor for the past 25 years.
  • James Cameron announced that there will be four Avatar sequels. OK, sport.
  • Dustin “Screech” Diamond was released early from jail on Monday.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch will voice The Grinch in an unnecessary 2017 reboot

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I guess you could say it’s been a Marvelous week. At the beginning of the week, it was reported that Natalie Portman wouldn’t be coming back for Thor: Ragnarok, but Creed costar Tessa Thompson has been cast in a mysterious role. According to rumors, she may be portraying the character Valkyrie. The movie also features Bruce Banner/The Hulk, so I figure we’ll see what they’re up to while the rest of the Avengers are Civil Warring each other.

Then, on Tuesday, we got the first teaser trailer for Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, I have a confession to make: I don’t like mystical Marvel. I probably hate it even more than I hate space Marvel. There’s just something about it that I never really took to. That said, I saw glimpses of the first Iron Man movie in that teaser, and that’s the movie that kicked off this whole Marvel Cinematic party. So, if this movie can recapture even a small bit of what made Iron Man special, then we might have a winner. Now, there is some controversy over the whitewashing of The Ancient One by casting Tilda Swinton, but I don’t even know what to make of that. Yeah, the character probably should’ve been portrayed by an Asian actor, and is Tilda Swinton, perfect androgyny aside, the right choice for that character? Who knows, but I guess I’ll wait to see the movie before I pass judgement. A lot of folks thought the trailer was kinda “meh”, but it definitely got me interested, which is something I was not prior to seeing it. I’d been telling folks that I was cashing out on the MCU after Civil War because I just don’t care about Doctor Strange or Black Panther, but now I’m intrigued.

Meanwhile, the embargo was lifted on Captain America: Civil War, and the early word is very positive. Some are saying it might be Marvel’s best movie yet. I’m kicking myself because Marvel chose 25 cities in which to have an advance screening last night (and DC was on the list), but I completely missed the boat on trying to get passes. If any of you reading this happened to see the film last night, I hate you.

So, between those 3 tidbits, as well as the announcement of the Spider-Man film title, everything was coming up Marvel this week. That’s why Marvel had the West Week Ever.

29th Mar2016

The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: California Dreams

by Will

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Back in 1992, two shows premiered about beautiful people forming bands. One show aired on NBC Saturday mornings (California Dreams), while the other aired during primetime on Fox (The Heights). The Heights went on to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, but then got canceled a week later. Meanwhile, California Dreams went on to enjoy 4 more seasons on the air, but never achieved the mainstream musical success that I felt it could’ve had. But first, let’s backtrack.

If you were too cool for school, then you probably didn’t watch NBC’s live action Saturday morning fare. After all, some folks think that Saved by the Bell killed Saturday morning cartoons (it didn’t; cable did that), while others simply didn’t like the hokey nature of the show. Well, after Saved by the Bell‘s success, executive producer Peter Engel was at it again with California Dreams. As it could pretty much be described as “Saved by the Bell with music”, I like to call it “Saved by the Bell if the Zack Attack didn’t suck” (C’mon, “Friends Forever” was some garbage and you know it!). Set in Southern California, the show initially focused on siblings Matt and Jenny Garrison, and their garage band, the California Dreams. During the first season, it was more of a family ensemble show, but NBC was all about the pretty teens, so they had the producers get rid of that family aspect when the second season rolled around. From that point on, the focus was on the band, its members, and their struggles to hit it big. Oh and, since they were high school students, there was plenty of homework and dating drama.

This might be sacrilege to some, but I’ve always loved California Dreams more than Saved by the Bell. Most of the “Engelverse” reused storylines, so they were basically telling the same stories, but I liked that you got an original song with most episodes of Dreams. Plus, I had a huge crush on Heidi Noelle Lenhart (the brunette). Based on when the show hit, it was a sound that was so indicative of the era. When it comes to California Dreams songs, they’re pretty much just Wilson Phillips songs. Now, personally, this was a point in my life when I was listening to country, so I didn’t really know this sort of stuff got airplay. Had I known, I would’ve been all over pop radio at the time. Still, there’s something sugary sweet about their sound. It’s soothing to me, and it doesn’t really carry much of a message. Sometimes you just wanna kick back and not think, and the Dreams excelled at that kind of song. Whether it was “Castles on Quicksand” or “Rain”, it was hard to be disappointed by a California Dreams song. That said, I think their best song is the theme song to the show. Even listening to it now, it takes me back to a better time.  For me, the early 90s were perfect. No bills, no puberty, no worries. Just close your eyes and listen:

Those harmonies! Smooth like butter. Most folks can rattle off “When I wake up in the morning, and the alarm gives out a warning…”, but they don’t know about this. I hear something like Wilson Phillips’ “The Dream Is Still Alive”, and wonder how that got airplay and the Dreams didn’t (that’s a “real world” California Dreams song if I’ve ever heard one). Was that just something the producers didn’t pursue with the show? They must not have, as you’ve never heard a California Dreams song on the radio and I think that’s a shame. With all of the throwaway pop groups of the 90s, like The Party, there was certainly a place on the radio for the California Dreams. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Oh, and that other group I mentioned – their song didn’t suck, either. I actually really dig “How Do You Talk To An Angel”, so I’ll leave you with that, as something of a “bonus track”.

06th Jan2016

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2015

by Will

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2015 was quite the year in pop culture. Adele broke all the records, Charlie Sheen got the HIV, Steve Harvey pissed off Colombia, and Star Wars came along and broke all the records that Adele didn’t touch. And some stuff happened in between all that, too. The Netflix series Daredevil, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Master of None wowed audiences,  Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary, and Marvel released a bunch of movies. Things were also pretty exciting here on the blog, too. power-rangers-legendary-battle-e1421106185742

I guest-posted over at The Robot’s Pajamas ranking the current star power of several Power Rangers alums

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I wrote about the best, and most underrated, pop album of 2014

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And because I can’t get enough Power Rangers, I wrote about Red Ranger turned Murderer, Ricardo Medina Jr

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To celebrate the release of their documentary, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, I made a list of the best Backstreet Boys songs that you’ve never heard

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I got in a Twitter fight with American Idol season 1 alum, Justin Guarini

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In one of my most popular posts of the year, I had some controversial thoughts about Batgirl

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Thrift Justice: Yard Sale Edition made a lone appearance this year

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I got on the radar of Andre, The Black Nerd

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Bob Ross and his happy little trees

I attended DC’s Awesome Con for the first time, and got some cool cosplay pictures

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I had some random thoughts about some random comics

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I got my first Cease & Desist order AND I got killed in a comic book!

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My biggest post of the year explored the racial implications of Jurassic World

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I recorded a “backdoor pilot” for a podcast that’ll probably never get off the ground

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I got retweeted by adult film star Ryan Driller

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I defended Fant4stic Four

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I got my first verified celebrity follower on Twitter

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I applied to be on a game show

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I made my 3rd trip to Retro Con and took lots of cool toy pics

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I participated in a summer swap of nerd swag

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I went to New York Comic Con on a quest to see how much free swag I could get

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I got caught talking about a Jeopardy contestants boob’s on Twitter, and then we became besties

I’ve never considered myself a “movie guy”, but this year saw me watching 78 films. That’s GOT to be some kind of record for me. No, I’m not going to rank them, because I’m not enough of a cinephile, but I will list them so that you can see that I was all over the place when it came to what I watched:

  1. Obvious Child
  2. Live. Die. Repeat
  3. Wish I Was Here
  4. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  5. Non-Stop
  6. The Skeleton Twins
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
  8. Man of Steel
  9. A Million Ways To Die In The West
  10. The Chernobyl Diaries
  11. Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of
  12. The Purge
  13. Bad Words
  14. Dredd
  15. Gravity
  16. A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce)
  17. Wet Hot American Summer
  18. After Earth
  19. Cloverfield
  20. The Marine
  21. Tammy
  22. Behind The Candelabra
  23. Choke
  24. St. Elmo’s Fire
  25. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  26. Tron
  27. The Purge: Anarchy
  28. The Babadook
  29. The Signal
  30. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  31. St. Vincent
  32. Top Five
  33. Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  34. The Wedding Ringer
  35. Seeking Asian Female
  36. Southern Rites
  37. Two Night Stand
  38. The Great Bikini Bowling Bash
  39. Kung Fury
  40. This Is Where I Leave You
  41. The Watch
  42. Hot Girls Wanted
  43. Jersey Boys
  44. John Wick
  45. Whiplash
  46. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
  47. The Duff
  48. Shopgirl
  49. Horrible Bosses 2
  50. Inside Llewyn Davis
  51. 2 Guns
  52. Toy Story 3
  53. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
  54. Ant-Man
  55. Lavalantula
  56. Fant4stic Four
  57. Snowpiercer
  58. Spice World
  59. Fury
  60. Frozen (2010)
  61. The Inbetweeners 2
  62. Pitch Perfect 2
  63. Mad Max: Fury Road
  64. Dreamgirls
  65. Spy
  66. Vacation
  67. Get Hard
  68. Miss Congeniality
  69. Bernie
  70. The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
  71. Chaos on the Bridge
  72. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
  73. Here Comes the Boom
  74. Unfinished Business
  75. Dope
  76. Attack the Block
  77. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  78. I Smile Back

All of these were reviewed on the site, so just plug them into the search field up on the right to see what I thought about any particular one of them.

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West Week Ever Recipients of 2015 (with commentary)

1/9/15 – Agent Carter

In hindsight, this deserved to have the WWE even more by the end of its run than it did this week. It was a strong premiere, but I was still at a place where I didn’t feel the character could carry her own show. By the end of the 8-week run, I was a True Believer. I guess I just saw a lot of potential in that pilot.

1/16/15 – Empire

This show brought back the sudsy primetime soap, and was SO good for that first season. I definitely feel like it deserved the WWE at the time, but I don’t know if it’ll ever return to the dramatic highs of that first season.

1/23/15 – Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars

This was based purely on speculation, as the West Week Ever was essentially given to an *announcement*. The miniseries hadn’t even begun, and this was based on what was promised in the aftermath: A new Marvel Universe, the destruction of the Ultimate Universe, and the Miles Morales Spider-Man making the move to the mainstream “616” universe. All of this had the makings of something huge. As of this writing, the much-delayed miniseries STILL hasn’t finished, even though the regular Marvel books have relaunched and carried on with their business. From what we can tell, not much has changed in the regular universe, while Secret Wars as a miniseries has been something of a disappointment (with several tie-in miniseries that showed a lot of promise). The surest shot Secret Wars ever had of having the West Week Ever was by receiving it before the first issue even launched. Nothing about the actual mini has been worthy of the WWE.

1/30/15 – Fant4stic Four trailer

The trailer had me interested in the film – something that a lot of people couldn’t say because they were already pissed about reports of “Hacker DOOM” and other stuff. It was clearly a slow week for entertainment, but I really did like what I saw. More about Fant4stic Four later…

2/6/15 – Jimmy Fallon’s Saved By The Bell reunion

This is the kind of thing that West Week Ever is all about: those potential “flash in the pan” moments that embody a particular moment in time. Looking back, I’d like to think I chose things that made some sort of cultural impact, but at times it’s the small moments that also matter. Jimmy Fallon had been trying to do a Saved By The Bell reunion since his days hosting Late Night. He didn’t pull it off, but managed to do it for the cast of California Dreams instead. I loved that reunion and I loved this one, too. Fallon’s at just the right age where his nostalgia is my nostalgia, and as an unabashed fan of all things TNBC, this was certainly my favorite moment of that week.

2/13/15 – N/A

Sometimes nothing has the West Week Ever. This was one of those weeks.

2/20/15 – Saturday Night Live

This was the week after the 40th anniversary aired, and I definitely feel like it was deserving of the WWE. It was a great special, in a vain that you rarely see anymore. It was great to see all of those old faces return to the studio, including Eddie Murphy who hadn’t returned to SNL since his days as a cast member.

2/27/15 – Parks & Recreation

I didn’t love Parks & Rec in the beginning. I’ve often said that it was the show least deserving of a second season that I’d ever seen. That first season is HORRIBLE. After some cast shakeups and some creative tinkering, the show finally found its footing. While it never really hit the acclaim of its “brother” The Office, it certainly ended a lot stronger than that show did. I didn’t appreciate how NBC burned the show off during its final season, and I feel like that broadcasting decision caused a lot of folks to miss out on those episodes. Luckily, the season is coming to Netflix later this month, so hopefully they’ll get to see what I saw in the show. Those final eps had a lot of heart, and the characters all end up in a great place. This one totally deserved the WWE.

3/13/15 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

This one was tricky due to the “Here’s everything at once” nature of Netflix. Timing was on its side, though, as this was the best thing that happened that week I finally consumed the series. This was not only one of the bright spots of 2015 television, but as a Tina Fey project, it’s cemented its influence on popular culture. I’ll bet NBC is still kicking themselves for cancelling this thing before it even went to air, but more folks saw it online than would’ve seen it on NBC in the midst of its death throes.

3/20/15 – Community

Did it deserve the WWE at this time? I’m not sure. It was more a testament to its triumphant return from cancellation, as well as it was helping to launch the Yahoo Screen platform (which has just been shut down, as of this past Monday). We didn’t know much about what the season would bring as, unlike Netflix’s full-season dump, Yahoo Screen debuted new episodes every Tuesday.

3/27/15 – Evelyn West

I had a daughter that week. It was pretty cool.

4/3/15 – Going Clear

I love anything about Scientology, so this was right up my alley. The documentary premiered that week, so it was definitely the standout of what was essentially a slow week for news.

4/10/15 – Daredevil

The Netflix series got the WWE based on my watching the pilot alone. Sure, it was a great pilot to a great series, but here’s something to consider: that thing came out 3 AM EST Friday morning. This means that, had I not watched the episode, nothing would’ve gotten the WWE that week. Sometimes, it really is about being in the right place at the right time.

4/17/10 – Daredevil

I had finally finished the series, and was truly impressed by everything I’d seen. To me, this is the WWE that the series definitely *deserved*, while the previous week’s honor was really just me trying to make sure that something had the West Week Ever. That’s not to say that it was a bad pilot, but I feel a lot better about this week because the whole thing was a quality series, and it just means more to me that it maintained its quality across all 13 episodes. So, last week’s WWE for Daredevil was a bit of a fluke, while this is the one that “matters”.

4/24/15 – Iceman

This one is tricky. When it happened, it was definitely a hot topic that week. To me, however, it was a cop-out. Instead of them revealing that the “regular” Iceman was gay, Marvel instead said that it was teenaged, time-displaced, possibly from an alternate timeline Iceman. It was too much of Marvel trying to have its cake and eat it, too. So, imagine my surprise when Uncanny X-Men #600 came out months later, revealing that regular 616 Iceman is also gay, and that he hadn’t acknowledged it because he had enough of his plate, being persecuted for being a mutant and all. To me, that would’ve been a MUCH more important story to tell, but it got lost in the Secret Wars delay shuffle.

5/1/15 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

It was a big movie. In hindsight, was it a good movie? People seem to have differing opinions. At that point in time, though, it had a big opening and a lot of eyes on it, so I think it totally deserved the WWE.

5/8/15 – The New Hamburglar

This was quite the failed marketing push. It seemed like McDonalds was on to something, but this thing disappeared quicker than the Halloween Whopper that was turning everyone’s shit green. This hasn’t been a strong year for McDonalds, as they’re just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. This year saw the return of The Hamburglar, mozzarella sticks added to the menu, and even mac & cheese added in the Ohio test market. I think this was the victim of public backlash, as folks joked that the new Hamburglar looked kinda like a pedophile. Seems like McDonalds got antsy and canned the whole campaign. Out of everything on 2015’s WWE list, this was probably the biggest fail.

5/15/15 – Major Broadcast Networks

This one may feel like a cop-out, but it was warranted. This was the week of the Spring network upfronts, where we learned what was cancelled, what was renewed, and what new shows were coming in the Fall. This is always an exciting time for television, and I lost a few “friends” that week (ABC’s Forever, for instance).

5/22/15 – David Letterman

Never really been a Letterman fan, but the man was an institution. This was all about giving credit where it was due, and he deserved that WWE honor.

5/29/15 – Kung Fury

This was another example of a slow news week. If you read my thoughts on Kung Fury, I wasn’t actually a fan. I mean, I enjoyed it, but 90% of the “movie” (the thing is THIRTY minutes long!) was given away in the trailer. Seriously, the only thing in the movie that wasn’t in the trailer was the sentient arcade machine. I really expected more. I think I gave the WWE to the *idea* of the project rather than the actual finished product.

6/5/15 – Community

This was the WWE that Community truly earned. The season had concluded, and it was pretty obvious that the show wasn’t coming back. Sort of like Two and a Half Men, Community persevered whenever something happened that shouldn’t ended it.  It lost Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover, got cancelled by NBC, and got picked up by Yahoo for an untested platform. All of these should’ve spelled the end. To me, however, the Yahoo episodes turned out to be some of my favorites of the entire series.

6/12/15 – N/A

Not even a cop-out choice could save this week.

6/19/15 – Jurassic World

Universal had a great year, and Jurassic World was its crowning achievement. I also gave it the WWE because of what JW had done for me. After all, my post, The Price of Admission: The Socioeconomic and Racial Implications of Jurassic World, was my most popular post in years.

6/26/15 – N/A

I swear, I TRY to give something the WWE every week, but sometimes the world just doesn’t cooperate.

7/17/15 – Go Set A Watchman

This choice was kind of a betrayal of what I stand for. Typically, the WWE had to have had some sort of impact on me. I haven’t read this book, nor am I even that big of a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird. I mean, I understand its place in popular culture, and another book in the franchise seemed like a “sure thing”, right? Well, I’ve heard nothing but negative stuff about this book, and it has had the cultural impact of Joey.

7/24/15 – Ant-Man

Loved it, and it was probably a stronger movie than Age of Ultron. I’m a Marvel fanboy, though, so this shouldn’t come as a shock. For that point in time, it totally deserved the WWE.

7/31/15 – Rick and Morty

As much as I enjoy the show, this originally got the WWE because it was a slow week, and the second season premiere had aired that week. In hindsight, though, this was the beginning of what would turn out to be an incredible season. To cap it off, when I went to New York Comic Con later in the year, Rick and Morty cosplay was EVERYWHERE, proving to me that the show had made a bigger cultural impact that I had realized. Totally deserving of the WWE – I just didn’t know it yet.

8/7/15 – Deadpool trailer

The little superhero movie that could. This movie, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist. It’s based on a one-note appearance from the universally panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so it’s amazing it got made. Sure, Ryan Reynolds is the perfect choice for the role, but he’s also been box office poison for the past few years. This trailer, however, captured everything a Deadpool movie should be. I still don’t know if it needs to be rated R, as they’re cutting out a portion of potential audience members, but it seems to be everything Deadpool fans would want. The movie’s not out yet, and I still have my doubts, but I think they crafted a good trailer.

8/14/15 – Fant4stic Four

This movie isn’t as bad as your neckbeard friend keeps telling you it is. Most of the people running their mouths about it didn’t even see it. They checked out after the reveal of Black Johnny Storm and the rumor that Doom was just a message board troll instead of a sorcerer. I defended this movie because I think it’s worth checking out, if only to make up your own mind about it. I maintain that it’s 2/3rds a strong movie, while the final 1/3 is clearly a movie “made by committee”. It wasn’t even necessarily a slow news week. I just really thought that Fant4stic Four was deserving of more positive attention.

8/21/15 – Rte 29 Batman, Leonard B. Robinson

This one was a big departure. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve got a “No Death” policy for WWE. I don’t talk about deaths because if you talk about one, you’ve gotta talk about them ALL. And a ton of them just don’t mean that much to me. So, it’s easier to just keep things a death-free zone. That said, Rte 29 Batman was something of a local hero, who donated his time and money to visiting sick kids in the hospital dressed as Batman. He was killed returning from one of these trips, when he was hit by a car on the side of the road. I’ve often wondered why some rich guy hasn’t tried to be Batman, and here was one who had. Sure, he didn’t fight crime, but he wanted to make things better for kids. That’s the kind of thing that’s worth talking about.

8/28/15 – Aqua Teen Hunger Force

I loved Aqua Teen, and it was something of an Adult Swim institution. It was on for 15 years, so I don’t see it leaving the air anytime soon, but its ending was definitely something worth noting. Nobody ever seems to talk about it, so I wonder if it’s a show that wore out its welcome, or if it’s just not the kind of thing folks discuss at the watercooler. After all, most Adult Swim shows seem like stoner fare, so maybe there’s some 420 subreddit out there mourning its cancellation.

9/4/15 – Force Friday

Now that the movie’s out, it’s hard to remember that this was A BIG DEAL! The Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys were being released, giving us the first glimpse of the characters from the hotly anticipated film. I know I was at a midnight Toys “R” Us opening just to get the figures. So many questions: Who was the Black kid? Why did Kylo Ren’s lightsaber have a laser hilt? And who was this badass known as “Captain Phasma”? Sure, all of these questions have now been answered, but this was the beginning of the merchandising onslaught brought on by The Force Awakens. Totally deserving of the WWE.

9/18/15 – Ahmed Mohamed, the Clock Boy

Muslim kid made a clock, but folks thought it was a bomb. Big news story. I actually tend not to get “real world” topical, but it was just one of those weeks. In hindsight, this wasn’t “pop culture” enough for the WWE. Sure, he got a lot of notoriety and offers, but where’s he now? He’s seeking $15 million in damages. That’s not a happy ending. Nah, I wanted him to get a show on Nickelodeon or some shit. THAT’s what gets ya the WWE. I flew a little too close to the CNN sun on this one.

9/25/15 – Pope Francis

The Pope came to the US, and it was Beatlemania all over again. It probably would’ve helped if he had done the talk show circuit or something, but everyone had Pope on the brain. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s skilled at saying exactly what you want to hear. You want to know if the dinosaurs went to Heaven? Pope Francis will not only tell you they did, but he’ll also name some dinosaur species you’ve never even heard of. ‘Cause he’s got connections like that. So yeah, I think he deserved the WWE.

10/2/15 – Power Rangers

If this site had a subtitle, it’d probably be “Amateur Power Rangers fansite”. I maintain just enough of a connection to the franchise to know what’s going on, but I’m not so engrossed that I haven’t experienced the touch of a woman. Was that mean? Check out Rangerboard sometime, and then get back to me. Anyway, the franchise was celebrating its 800th episode, so it sure as Hell deserved the WWE. How many shows reach that kind of episode count? And it’s a 22 year old franchise that’s still going strong.

10/9/15 – New York Comic Con

It was convention weekend. The show hadn’t really gotten started yet, but I had high hopes. In fact, it’s pretty funny that NYCC got the WWE when SDCC did not. I think I gave it to NYCC because I was actually going to that show, and I had hoped to meet up with a bunch of Twitter friends that weekend. That, sadly, did not happen. So, this WWE was given out in the hopes of “what might’ve been, but was not to be”.

10/16/15 – The Nerd Lunch Podcast

As a five-time guest, and member of the Nerd Lunch Army, this totally deserved the WWE. So many podcasts come and go, but they don’t all have staying power. 200 episodes is nothing to sneeze at, and I always have a great time on that show.

10/23/15 – Back to the Future Day

This is one of those picks “for the fans”. I don’t really have a special place in my heart for Back to the Future. I haven’t seen the movies in a long time, so that could have something to do with it. Everyone and their bookie was losing their mind over Back to the Future Day, however, so I couldn’t let the week go by without acknowledging it. The wrong date had been faked on memes for years, so it was a pretty important event that the real day was finally upon us. As something that could only really happen once, and the fact that it resulted in mostly positive things, I think BTTF Day deserved the WWE.

10/30/15 – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This was based on a particular episode that aired that week, which I found to be incredible television. It’s amazing how far the show has come from that terrible first season, and I wanted to find some sort of way to give it its due. There was no better time than this week, which finally revealed what happened to Simmons on the alien world Maveth. Watch the episode and you’ll agree with me.

11/6/15 – Star Trek

This choice was due to the announcement that there would be a new Trek television series in 2017. That’s the end of the good news. There are too many caveats. It’s only going to air on CBS All Access, which is the CBS subscription service. Plus, the folks behind it are the same folks behind the NuTrek movies. After seeing the trailer for Star Trek Beyond a few weeks later, my enthusiasm for this project waned. Still, it was big news in the geek world, though the jury is still out on its execution.

11/13/15 – Master of None

The Aziz Ansari Netflix show kinda became a critical darling, and I was just bandwagoning. I enjoyed it immensely, but I don’t think I really changed the world here. If you were gonna watch it, you were going to before I chimed in. If you were not gonna watch it, I sure as Hell didn’t convince you to do so. Since the dust has settled, there’s been some controversy surrounding some of the race stuff in the show, but I still think it was a great season. This was truly the best thing in pop culture that week.

11/20/15 – Adele

She broke every sales record out there, and she delivered the kind of stuff you expect from her. This was a bit of a reach, as I don’t think my readership shares my musical taste. I like pop. I make no bones about that. Still, whenever I do music posts, they tend to fall on deaf ears, as I don’t have a high 14 year old readership. So, this is one of those WWEs where most of my readers couldn’t give a shit, but I definitely think she earned it.

11/27/15 – Captain America: Civil War trailer

Just when we were catching our breath from Ultron and Ant-Man, the Marvel hype machine cranked back up with this one. It was like a poorly kept secret show or something. Everyone knew Evans and Downey were going to be on Kimmel, and everyone knew why, yet everyone pretended to play dumb. And when it went live, it did what Marvel trailers do: it got you excited for the next chapter in their grand plan.

12/4/15 – The Flash/Arrow “Heroes Join Forces” crossover

Last year’s Flash/Arrow crossover also got the WWE, so I guess it’s a tradition now. The Flash was stronger than Arrow, but it was still entertaining television. DC should just hand their movies over to Greg Berlanti, but that’s another discussion for another time.

12/11/15 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows trailer

They finally seem to be making a movie based on that 30 year old cartoon that grown men love! I don’t know why grownups can’t just let go of stuff so that a new generation can enjoy it. I didn’t hate the last TMNT movie, and I know kids seemed to like it. Still, this sequel seems to be incorporating a lot of things that adult fans will love, especially Shredder’s goons Rocksteady and Bebop. It made me giddy to see them, but it really got me thinking about the legacy of franchises. Maybe there’s a post in there somewhere.

12/17/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Um, the premiere of the next installment of a franchise that some fans have been waiting 30 years to see (if they ignore the prequels)? Yeah, this was a no-brainer.

12/23/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

See above, and then add in the fact that it made a shit ton of money in a week’s time.

12/31/15 – Hoverboards

While these things popped up on Vines and YouTube back in the summer, they were atop the want lists of all the “normal” folks come Christmas time. And they became infamous. Charging them caused fires to break out, they were banned from most public places, and most retailers refused to sell them. Which only made people want them MORE. It’s somewhat unorthodox to give the WWE to a *thing* rather than a franchise or person, but this seemed fitting.

So, here we are. The moment you’ve all been waiting for: what had the West YEAR Ever? Well, looking back over the nominees, it’s looking like our finalists are the multiple WWE recipients Daredevil, Community, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The interesting thing here is how their “reign” kinda divided up the calendar year. Daredevil was great, but folks were basically done talking about it by Summer. Sure, some sites foolishly tried to do weekly recaps of the episodes, but seeing as how everyone binged that thing, nobody gave a shit about those. Community was around from Spring to Summer, but the season kinda flew under the radar for anyone but the most die hard fans. And once Summer ended, the ramp up to The Force Awakens began. So, what I’m saying is that nobody really carried the year on their shoulders – not like Taylor Swift did last year, or Breaking Bad the year before that. So, this is where I get to use my veto power (’cause it’s my site and all) and award a winner.

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To me, Evelyn West had the West Year Ever. Let me explain. I know some of y’all are “child free” and/or don’t give a shit about my kid, but she really changed my life. It’s not every day that you have your first kid, and stuff really does change. No, I’m not going to get into the mushy stuff. I’m talking practical stuff, like all your stuff goes off to a storage unit, and you’re on bottle-making duty every night. But oddly, you don’t really care. This is probably the worst way to describe a human being, but I sometimes refer to her as “my favorite toy”. She’s just so fascinating, and sometimes I have trouble fathoming that she’s a living, breathing thing. I just like to watch her crawl around and get into stuff she shouldn’t be touching. Plus, we’ve already instilled in her a love of superheroes, so she’s already on the right pop culture track. The clincher, though, is that she was born at the end of March, and has been here ever since. So, that’s more dominance of the calendar year than any of the other options I listed. Sure, you may have been looking forward to The Force Awakens, but I was looking forward to things like her crawling or learning to blow raspberries (which she does with precision). So, in a few days, West Week Ever will be back to normal, and something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the honor. And I don’t plan to have any kids this year, so I can pretty much guarantee that something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the 2016 West Year Ever honor, too. But for now, you’re just gonna have to bear with me, as my daughter pretty much had the West Year Ever in 2015. But if that’s not good enough for you, then you can tell your friends that it was Star Wars. It’s not like they won’t believe you.

22nd Sep2015

Retro Con 2015 In Pictures

by Will

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Last weekend, I made my 3rd trip to Retro Con in Oaks, PA. If you’re not familiar with Retro Con, it’s a fairly new pop culture convention devoted to the toys and cartoons of the 80s and 90s. The show has become something of an annual tradition amongst some of my Twitter friends, as it serves as a chance to meet up in real life. I made the trip up with my Thrift Justice partner Mike (@trooperlite), as well as my pal @classickmateria from The Cold Slither Podcast Network. We also brought along my good friend from college, James (@snoopyjenkins). James had never experienced anything like this, so I really didn’t know what to expect from him. He was in town for his job, and since he didn’t have anything to do before his flight home, I decided he should come along for the ride. I think he was a little apprehensive at first, but he quickly warmed up to the whole thing.

Yeah, I think it's safe to say James had fun!

Yeah, I think it’s safe to say James had fun!

Once we got to the show, we jumped right into exploring the convention floor. In the past, I felt that the prices that dealers were asking were a little too “gougey”. A lot of us have come to know this phenomenon as The Toy Hunter Effect, as that show made everyone think their piece of crap was some sort of a rare gem. Well, that show’s over, and it seems like the Effect went along with it. The vintage items were all reasonably priced, and the new items weren’t that much more than retail. For example, I’ve been trying to track down the recently released Marvel Legends Hulkbuster wave. These figures have just started showing up at retail in the past few weeks, retailing for $20 each. I needed 2 particular figures in order to complete my Hulkbuster, and I ended up paying $25 each for them. I figure saving the time and gas was worth paying the extra $5.

While on the con floor, I ran into @shezcrafti, @smurfwreck, @meistershake, @bmorin54, and the incomparable @lamarrevenger. Then, out of nowhere, I met @Jordamus_Prime, who was at the show celebrating his birthday. While I had met the others before, this was my first time meeting him, so it was nice to finally put a face to a screenname. On the way out, I also got to say hi to @JohnDoctorKent. Sadly, I missed out on finally meeting @TheSewerDen and @SockOfFleagulls, but I hope to meet up with them at a future show.

The Cosplay

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Now, usually I would post a ton of cosplay pics, but I just wasn’t feeling it for this show. It’s not that there weren’t costumes, because there were quite a few. In fact, there was a cosplay contest hosted by the Real Life Peter Griffin who went viral a few months back. My issue, though, was that the level of creativity wasn’t that high, in my opinion. Sure, the folks looked like they were having fun, but having been to SDCC, NYCC, and countless other shows, I just didn’t feel like the craftsmanship was as sharp as I’ve seen at other shows. So, yes, I’ve become a convention snob. There were a handful of costumes, however, that impressed me.

You never see Putties! I'm glad these Rangers were there to save me.

You never see Putties! I’m glad these Rangers were there to save me.

 

This Serpentor was AMAZING. He even had the fan in the bottom of his chariot.

This Serpentor was AMAZING. He even had the fan in the bottom of his chariot.

 

Crossplay Lion-O. Her kids were also Thundercats, but they didn't feel like being in my picture :-(

Crossplay Lion-O. Her kids were also Thundercats, but they didn’t feel like being in my picture 🙁

 

Penelope Pitstop

Penelope Pitstop

 

Miles Mayhem from M.A.S.K. The host didn't know who he was supposed to be, so she just kinda skipped announcing his name to the crowd. The hosts kinda sucked at identifying costumes...

Miles Mayhem from M.A.S.K. The host didn’t know who he was supposed to be, so she just kinda skipped announcing his name to the crowd. The hosts kinda sucked at identifying costumes…

 

The Toys

As always, you can count on finding some amazing vintage toys at this show. As I said before, the prices used to be somewhat outrageous, but it seems like things are calming down on that front. I didn’t really buy anything vintage, but for those who were there for that, I’m sure they weren’t disappointed. Let’s take a look at some of the stuff up for sale, shall we?

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My meager Retro Con haul

At the end of the day, it was an enjoyable time. I still don’t feel like there’s enough demand for the show to be a 2-day event, as that seems like the kind of thing you grow into. I’ve only done one day every year, so I’m not sure if they have a ton of folks who partake in the whole weekend. I did hear that dealers weren’t having the best day, as stuff wasn’t moving. This was somewhat disappointing, as the prices weren’t that high. Maybe it’s the kind of event where people like to look but not buy. I know I like to see a bunch of this stuff, but I have no real desire to own it (or I already own it, but it’s in storage). I hope the show did well, though, as I look forward to having it serve as the site of my yearly Twitter meetup. With that in mind, I’ll definitely be going back next year. For another take on the show, be sure to check out Shawn’s post over at Branded in the 80s!

26th Jun2015

West Week Ever – 6/26/15

by Will

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I watched absolutely nothing this week, so I’ve got nothing for this part of the post. Oh wait – I did watch The Briefcase on CBS. Have any of you seen it? It was pretty controversial when it first aired, and the season finale is already airing tonight. Basically, they present a briefcase filled with $100,000 to two different poor families. The families, then, have to decide whether to keep the money for themselves, or to share some of it with the other family. So, they’re demanding poor people make a Sophie’s Choice over this windfall that could be seen as a gift from Heaven. I mean, they all could use the money, but they don’t wanna look like assholes by keeping it all to themselves. Later in the show, once the families meet, they realize that there were TWO briefcases, and not just the one that was presented to them, so there’s $200,000 up for grabs. On the episode that I watched, one family gave $20,000 to the other family, while the second family gave $11,000 to the first family. So, they both ended up with the bulk of the money. For each of them, the amount given was such a drop in the bucket that I would’ve been offended, but they at least pretended to be thankful. They both owed so much money that the full $100K still wouldn’t have solved all their problems. I really hope there’s a “Where Are They Now” episode next season if the show gets renewed.

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Lots of news in the world of Spider-Man this week. First off, it was reported that Miles Morales, formerly the Ultimate Spider-Man, will be the MAIN Spider-Man in the regular Marvel Universe following the Secret Wars event. The new series, Spider-Man, will be handled by the Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man team of Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli, and it also appears that a retired Peter Parker will serve as his mentor. I’ve written about my love for Miles in the past, and I’ve also written about how an association with Peter could only be a good thing for Miles. This is a pretty big deal, as Miles will also be one of the New Avengers as that team rebuilds following the event. I’m really excited for this, but part of me is wondering “How long is this really gonna last?” Comics have tricked us with “cowl rental” in the past, and the original wearer always comes back. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, and I really want this to be a permanent thing, but I just know better than to get too excited about it yet.

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Meanwhile, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel and Sony decided on Tom Holland, and not Asa Butterfield, as the next actor to portray Peter Parker/Spider-Man. A moment of silence for Andrew Garfield. Not only will Holland star in the 2017 Spider-Man film, but he has been confirmed to debut in next Spring’s Captain America: Civil War. In fact, they say that he has already been sent to the set to start filming his scenes. Meanwhile, Jon Watts has been tapped to direct the next Spidey film, which will only be his third feature film.

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Also this week in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was rumored that Selma‘s Ava Duvernay had been hired to direct Marvel’s Black Panther. While Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has confirmed that they’ve had talks with DuVernay, her hiring is still just speculation at this point. While I know she’d bring a certain amount of, I guess, “legitimacy” to the movie, I don’t really know if that’s what her career needs. Sure, Kenneth Branagh directed Thor, but I kinda hate that we live in a period where it’s assumed that EVERY director needs to have a superhero film under his/her belt. I mean, other than the fact that they both feature Black casts, why would you think the director of Selma would automatically be the best person to showcase the king and world of Wakanda? To me, that’s just as dumb as the marriage between Storm and Black Panther which seemed based solely on the fact that they’re both African. It’s just sort of stupid that once you’re on everyone’s radar these days, it’s assumed your next move will be a superhero film.

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Also in movies this week, Rotten Tomatoes held a Q&A livestream with the cast of the Independence Day sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence. I guess the importance of the event was to showcase the new title, but it just seemed kinda like a sad affair. Instead of being excited about the movie (which is a year away), I was more sad for these actors that they didn’t have anything else lined up. I mean, even secondary characters like Vivica Fox, Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch are back. Hell, if Harvey Fierstein hadn’t died in the first one, they probably would’ve gotten him back, too. But there is one glaring omission: Will Smith, who reportedly wanted $50 million to do the two planned sequels. So, instead of having him, they cast actor Jessie Usher (who?) as Smith’s character’s son. Anyway, since filming just started a month ago, they really didn’t have much info to share. I’m not sure whose idea it was to schedule this thing so early, but it was just an awkward, uncomfortable mess.

Photographer Dennis Stylist Lin

Photographer Dennis
Stylist Lin

Some San Diego Comic-Con exclusives are starting to trickle out (you can get up-to-the-minute coverage over at Awesome Toy Blog), but my favorite is probably this Toys “R” Us exclusive Batgirl figure. I was a pretty devoted collector of the Batman ’66 line, and I’ve been waiting for this figure since it was announced over a year ago. I really kinda hate that it’s an exclusive (especially since it’s a TRU exclusive, exclusively for SDCC – it’s an exclusive inception!), as that means it’ll be harder to get than just walking into your local TRU store. It seems that TRU actually posts these for sale on their website during the convention, so I’ll try my luck at getting one that way. I’ll need two – one to open and one to put in storage. Yes, I’m that guy. Sometimes.

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It was quite a week for fallen child stars. First off, young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd, who apparently suffers from schizophrenia, attacked his mom before setting off a high speed police chase. Then, Saved By The Bell‘s Dustin Diamond was ordered to serve 4 months in jail for stabbing a guy back in December.

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In the world of music, Taylor Swift surprisingly became the voice for artists’ rights when she declined to allow her album 1989 to be offered via Apple Music’s streaming service. This is nothing new for Taylor, as she also yanked all of her albums off Spotify a few months ago. Still, she wrote an open letter to her fans, saying that she couldn’t go along with Apple, seeing as how they weren’t going to be paying artists royalties for the first three months of the service. Well, she cried and Apple listened. Responding to her on Twitter, Apple senior vice president of internet software and services, Eddie Cue, said, “Apple will always make sure that artist are paid,” tweeted Cue. “#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period. We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.” Now if she could only squash that beef with Katy Perry that easily…

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I don’t usually get too political on here, but this has been some kind of week. As I’m sure you know, there’s been a lot of movement to get the Confederate flag taken down at southern government buildings. Then things really shifted into turbo, as Wal-Mart, Amazon and more announced that they would no longer be selling items bearing the flag. Then Warner Bros announced that they wouldn’t sell any more Dukes of Hazzard merchandise with the flag on it. When all of this stuff was happening, I jokingly tweeted that I was fine with the flag being on the General Lee. And then they pulled it. Finally, Apple kinda screwed the pooch by removing Civil War games from the App Store because they depicted the flag. I say “screwed the pooch”, as this is almost like pulling a textbook because the flag was in it. It’s a part of history, but that’s where it should remain. If it’s a game or book about history, then it seems kinda fitting for it to be in there. It just probably shouldn’t be flying high like we’re still all in 1861.

As a Black man in America, it should be pretty clear where I stand on this matter. As someone whose relatives hail from the South, it has even more meaning to me. I’m conflicted, though, ’cause I grew up loving The Dukes of Hazzard. I guess you could say that I didn’t know any better, but I was an avid fan of the “Cars Jumping Over Shit” genre of television that ruled the early 80s. I was asked to write a guest post about my stance on this, and I really didn’t know how to approach it without coming off like some kind of race traitor. I hate the flag, but I love the General Lee. I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not the flag represents racism or any of that. You already have your opinion, and some rando’s pop culture blog isn’t about to change that. I will say this, though: Nice work, America.

I say that sarcastically because this whole thing was NEVER about the flag to begin with. I have a pretty strict No Death policy for West Week Ever, but everyone knows that 9 people were killed in a church last week. And, as these things are prone to do, the debate about gun control was just about to start up and then all this flag shit happened. This is what they want. Instead of doing something about guns, they’ve diverted our attention to this other matter, hoping we’ll forget the first thing. And I don’t say this as some kind of “Nobody needs guns!” kind of person. I honestly haven’t fully fleshed out my views on the matter, but I do know that a church is supposed to be a safe place. Just like a school. Or a movie theater. And none of that is true anymore.

Keep the flag or get rid of it. That’s not what any of this is about. It’s about changing the conversation, and it’s been very successful. I guess we’ll revisit the original conversation after the next mass shooting. Or maybe we’ll finally change the Redskins’ name instead. End of soapbox rant.

Links I Loved

‘Star Trek’: The Story of the Most Daring Cliffhanger in ‘Next Generation’ History – The Hollywood Reporter

Paul Rudd and Marvel’s Kevin Feige Reveal ‘Ant-Man’s’ Saga, from Director Shuffle to Screenplay Surgery to Studio’s “Phase Three” Plans – The Hollywood Reporter

Why I Left Scientology – Gawker

Harmony Korine on ‘Kids’: ‘It Would Be Impossible To Make That Film Now’ – The Guardian

The Least-Plausible G.I. Joe and Cobra Vehicles – The Robot’s Pajamas

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Now this is typically the part where I tell you who had the West Week Ever, but I’m gonna try something different this week. You see, I’ve been working on a project that I kinda want to share with you.

After guesting on some 40+ podcasts, I always get the same question: When are you going to start your own podcast? Well, I never really wanted to because A) I’m lazy and B) I didn’t really think there was a demand. I mean, I already have to beg folks to read this thing every week, so why would I think they’d want to listen to me, too? It just didn’t seem worthwhile. Then, I had a conversation with my Twitter Sister, Brandi Brown. I call her that because we’re basically the same person, only she’s a stand-up comic in Minnesota, and I’m not. We started talking about Carmen Sandiego, and then we just fell down the rabbit hole trying to make sense of that whole franchise. We decided that it would probably be a good idea for a one-off podcast. As we kept talking, we realized that we had a few topics that deserved to be discussed – the only catch would be that this wouldn’t be a weekly show. Hell, it might not even be monthly. Think of it like a series of specials. If they do well, then we’ll figure out where to go next, but for now, we’re just thinking of this being an occasional sort of thing. Well, our good buddy Classick, over at the Cold Slither Podcast Network, invited us to be on the latest episode of his Classick Team-Up show. That episode was to serve as something of a “backdoor pilot” for the show that Brandi and I had devised. Oh, you don’t know what a backdoor pilot is? It’s when an episode of an existing show is used to spin off a new show. Got it? Good.

It was a lot of fun recording this, as we tackled topics such as Rachel Dolezal, paying it forward, and the conspiracy theories that we hold dear. The project is clearly a work in progress, so bear that in mind. We’ve got to figure out things like audio levels, podcast setup, mics, etc. Still, I think there’s a lot of potential here. So, I ask that you give it a listen and let me know what you think. Do you want more Brandi & Will? It’s all up to you. If not, I’ll be cool with that, too. Sure, I might cry a little, but I’ll get over it. So, in lieu of a West Week Ever, I give you Classick Team-Up #27 with Brandi & Will.

Oh, and there won’t be a post next week ’cause y’all never read it on a holiday weekend. So, unless something crazy happens and I write it on Thursday, we’re taking a week off.

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