17th Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/17/18

by Will

So, last night I saw The Meg, which isn’t typically my kind of movie, but I really do love Jason Statham. When it was first announced, I couldn’t imagine why Statham was doing this underwater suspense film. After seeing it, though, I realize there’s no other working actor who could’ve done this role. It’s like filmmakers are sitting on a certain type of script, and they take it to Statham’s adult tree house (you know he totally has one of those), and they present it to him. He looks them square in the eye, and says, “Oi! You payin’ me money fo’ this? See you in the mornin’.”

Remember near the end of Britney Spears’s heyday, when you didn’t really call her a “singer”, but rather an “entertainer”? We all knew the singing wasn’t putting butts in seats, but she was known for putting on a good show. That’s kinda the same case with Jason Statham. He’s not an “actor”, but more of an “entertainer”. He has no real range or depth, and he’s constantly overacting in an attempt to gain either. But damn if it isn’t entertaining.

I’m gonna end up spoiling a lot of this movie because you’re probably never gonna see it until it comes on TV.
Anyway, it starts out with Statham and his two colleagues performing a daring deep sea rescue aboard a submarine. To save the bulk of the survivors, he’s forced to blow the hatch and leave his colleagues behind. We’re told these were his “best friends”, though he never really seems to give that much of a shit about them. Fast forward 5 years later, where he’s a drunk, riddled with guilt, living in Thailand trying to drown the memory of what happened to his friends. He’s sought out by Chinese Scientist and that Indian looking dude from Fear The Walking Dead. You see, Chinese Scientist’s experimental sub is stranded on the ocean floor, and Statham is the only man who’s performed a rescue that deep. All the familiar tropes are there: he tells them he’s not diving again, and offers them a beer before getting ready to kick them out – that is until he learns that the pilot of the stranded sub is dun dun DUNNNN…his ex-wife. Next thing you see is Statham getting off the helicopter, and suiting up for the rescue mission. Aw, shit! We’ve got Die Hard Underwater! He’s gonna go save the only woman he ever loved, right? Right? WRONG! Yeah, he saves her, but she spends a good chunk of the movie in a coma, while he and Chinese Scientist’s Daughter begin to fall for each other.

In the middle of all this, there are attacks by a big fucking shark. Seriously, that’s what the movie should’ve been called: Big Fucking Shark. Or The BFS, since you can’t put “Fucking” on a movie poster. I mean, they call it The Meg, and I figure that’s only because Megalodon sounds like something from The Asylum that would air on Syfy. You don’t really learn much about the Megalodon, though. Unlike Jurassic Park, where they’ve got dinosaur facts coming out the ass, this movie is content to just say that a Megalodon is a big fucking shark that we thought was extinct, but clearly isn’t. Anyway, Statham has pretty much gone on record to say that the film in theaters isn’t the film he made. He expected more gore, and I’ll admit the deaths and attacks are pretty tame.

I’m curious to know what was cut, because you can almost tell when and where things are missing. For example, future Batwoman Ruby Rose plays Jax, who designed Chinese Scientist’s ocean base. When the doctor decides to sacrifice himself so that Jax can escape the Meg, he says “You’re going to be OK, Jax. You’re a good person.” That’s a pretty heavy line with no support for it. You’d think maybe there was some backstory about Jax doubting herself, or dwelling on some bad decision she had made in her life, and here was the Voice of Reason, telling her it would be OK, before sacrificing himself to give her a second chance at life. You’d think. But none of that is in the film.

Also, before sacrificing himself, Masi Oka’s character stuffs a note for his wife into the pocket of his colleague before shoving him out the hatch. Said colleague never makes sure the note gets to Oka’s wife, but instead shoves it into the chest of Chinese Scientist once he’s back on the station. What did the note say? Did it ever make its way to Oka’s wife?!

It’s a good film for minorities, though. The Black guy lives, the lesbian hacker lives, and every other person not on the ocean base is Chinese. You never quite believe that Statham is really into Chinese Scientist’s Daughter, and I wanted him to quip something like, “Oi! I’m inna mood fo’ Chinese!”, and then wink at her. Or maybe show a scene with them relaxing in the afterglow in bed, and he looks at his watch and says, “Oi! It’s true what they say: it’s been thir’y minutes and I’m ready fo’ round two!” Ya know, really crudely play into the cultural differences. She’s a demure Asian woman of science, and he’s the rough around the edges Rescue Bloke. But instead of taking any real chances with their characters, they keep everything steady between the navigational beacons.

I liked this movie. I won’t say it’s “good”, but it’s certainly entertaining. It could’ve done more with what it had, though. Rainn Wilson does a good job as the obnoxious billionaire who funded the whole project, but I didn’t think he got a full character arc either. A lot of this movie was clearly left on the floor of the editing room. It’s downright predictable, but I guess that’s what folks like about these things? Again, it’s not my usual genre, but I certainly didn’t hate it.

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Chris Hardwick Update – Hardwick returned to his hosting duties on The Talking Dead this week, with a tearful thank you to his supporters. So, I guess that’s the end of that, huh?

James Gunn Update – Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy – you’ve gotta put all your cards on the table! This week, pictures surfaced of James Gunn dressed as a Naughty Priest at an alleged pedophile-themed party. I mean, how many chances are we gonna give this guy? Yeah, I know folks will argue that tasteless “fancy dress parties” (just call them “costume parties”, you damn Brits!) occur, and “He worked for Troma” blah blah blah. I still don’t know where the line will be drawn, and he’s an interesting case study in figuring that out. I honestly haven’t made up my mind where I stand on his whole thing. All I know is it’d be nice if Gunn just got everything out in the open. First the tweets. Then the Naughty Priest costume. Next it’ll be a shoebox of Polaroids and y’all are still gonna be like “REHIRE HIM NOW!” I feel like he’s somewhere now, like, “Well, at least they didn’t find the body.” Anyway, Disney is reportedly sticking their guns, and refusing to rehire him, despite the fan backlash.

It was a big week for the Star Trek franchise, in both good and bad ways. Things started off with reports that the fourth movie in the rebooted JJ Abrams Kelvin Universe was falling apart. Actors Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth had walked away from the negotiation table, as they claimed Paramount wasn’t trying to honor deals that were already in place. Essentially, Paramount wanted them to take pay cuts, arguing that Trek films weren’t comparable to the Marvel and DC films the actors went on to star in. Deals with the other cast members were expected to close once the Chrises were in place, but now the movie is in danger of not happening. Paramount is notorious for keeping a tight budget on Trek films, and the last installment, Star Trek Beyond, apparently lost them money. Plus, they’d have to address the whole Chekov thing, seeing as how actor Anton Yelchin died in a freak accident after production wrapped on the last film.

Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy, Gregory Peck’s grandson, Ethan Peck, has been cast as Young Spock in Star Trek: Discovery. Why they needed to do this, I have no clue. Why not just get Zachary Quinto? He’s around. So, now there’s gonna be three different Spock actors. Whatever. I still haven’t boarded the Disco train, but I’ll get around to it one of these days.

The Trailer Park

Runaways Season 2

Still haven’t seen season 1, but the looks of these kids don’t make me want to check it out. It looks so…Degrassi. Plus, they really added the dinosaur?! Kinda surprised by that. Must be Hell on the CGI budget. Anyway, I was a big fan of the comic for the first few years, but I can’t imagine watching this show, knowing the twist coming. Plus, I thought they would’ve revealed that in season 1, so the fact that it’s season 2 and they’re still, basically, in the first 12 issues means this thing is gonna run FOREVER. Pass. Anyway, it premieres December 21st, which is also the release date for, like, every movie in the world, so I’m not sure it’s gonna be a Day 1 streaming hit.

Kim Possible TV Movie

I was a huge fan of the cartoon, even though I was 21 and way too old to be watching it. Still, this idea feels about 15 years too late. I remember when they used to talk about this thing getting a theatrical release, with the possibility of voice actress Christy Carlson Romano in the lead role. Now, here we are in 2018, and it’s been demoted to the status of a Disney Channel Original Movie. Just seems so…lame. I’d like to think I’ll watch it, but I’ll probably miss it until I accidentally stumble upon it one day in 2021, when my kids’ll be into that shit.

Iron Fist Season 2 

I’ll confess that I haven’t seen a Marvel Netflix show since Jessica Jones, but when did the production values change? This looks like Arrow Season 1. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I mean, season 1 was one of Arrow‘s better seasons, but this totally looks like a drama on The CW – something that would air during the summer after The 100 or The Originals. It looks like they may have fixed some of the issues folks had with season 1 of this show, but I’m still not sold. Anyway, I’ve got a few years before I even get to see it, as I’ve got about 6 more Netflix seasons to get through before this.

So, last week there was a news story about South Carolina woman Elizabeth Cutshaw who was pulled over by the cops for a DUI. She tried to get out of her arrest by calling herself a “clean, thoroughbred, White girl”. Well, knowing a great opportunity when I see one, I quickly snatched up ThoroughbredWhiteGirls.com. Now I’ve just gotta figure out what to do with it. A picture gallery of White horses? A porn site of thick White women? Sell it to some White supremacists at a profit? The possibilities are endless!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was a bad week for low-performing basic cable shows, as Shooter was cancelled on USA, while The Royals was cancelled on E!
  • ABC has officially ordered a pilot for a spinoff of The Middle, where Sue Heck embarks on an exciting life in the big city of Chicago.
  • After one not-especially-notable season, Saturday Night Live featured player Luke Null won’t be returning to the show this fall.

  • We got a look at Barry’s new suit on The Flash. Maybe one day I’ll get past season 1 of that show…
  • CBS classic Designing Women is being prepped for a reboot at Sony. I’m sure they’re gonna make at least one of them a Trump supporter this time. Fun fact: In the original series, Dixie Carter played staunch Democrat Julia Sugarbaker. Carter, however, was a card-carrying Republican. So, she struck a deal with producers that whenever her character had to give a blistering, Liberal-minded speech, she’d get to sing a song in a future episode.
  • The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, passed away yesterday, and Fox News put up a tribute picture of Patti LaBelle instead.  I still don’t “get” Patti LaBelle. Same with Anita Baker. To me, Anita is the female Gerald Levert, in that she always sold just enough albums to justify recording another.

Earlier this week, I was explaining the role of the reality show villain to my 80 year old mother. Nah, she probably didn’t care, but it gave us something to fill the silence. In any case, I was explaining how it wasn’t really even a concept until Real World: San Francisco, back in 1994. That’s back when MTV would still cast ugly people for that show. Stupid Vegas season came along and ruined everything, but I digress. Anyway, David “Puck” Rainey was the obnoxious housemate, who took things to extremes. He ate out of the peanut butter jar with his fingers. He wiped boogers on the walls. He became so hard to handle that the other housemates took a vote, and evicted him from the house – a first for the show, as well as setting a precedent for all reality shows to come. After that point, the template was pretty much that A) there had to be a villian and B) somebody had to be voted out. Look at every reality show since then, and that’s pretty much the blueprint. Well, Puck may have started it, but Omarosa Manigault Newman perfected it.

After 3 seasons across the various iterations of The Apprentice, as well as her own reality show and Celebrity Big Brother, Omarosa made a name for her self as the Head Bitch of Reality TV. We thought that’s where she would remain and flounder until her former “boss”, and producing partner, Donald Trump won a certain election. Now she’d be able to use her reality TV skills in an even backstabbier, vicious circle: American politics. Hired as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, it was never really clear what she actually did. In fact, a reporter shadowed her for a day, and still couldn’t figure it out. It didn’t matter, though, as the stint didn’t last long. She was hired in January and ousted in December. Grand opening, grand closing! She laid low for a bit, but then came roaring back to the headlines this week with the release of her book Unhinged, where she alleges that Trump is a racist who frequently used “The N-Word” (you all know I have no problem typing that word out here, but I feel like you’d be more inclined to share the post if I soften it up. So, yeah – share my shit). Oh, and she also has tapes. She was taping conversations, son! I swear, how is the Trump Administration just so bad at everything? She used the book and the tapes to get herself onto every talk show and interview panel that would have her this week.

Here’s my thing with Omarosa, though: Omarosa did THREE seasons of The Apprentice AND produced a dating reality show with Trump. They both knew who the other one was, and none of that prevented either from working with the other until shit hit the fan. Ya know what? He probably did say it. Probably with her right beside him, laughing about it. Harriet Tubman, however, she is not. She is going on the talk circuit claiming that she wanted to make sure Black folks were represented at the table, but she also said that Black people aren’t a monolith, so you can’t expect to agree with everyone.

Building your career on the backs of reality shows is akin to being a social media star, like a YouTuber. You constantly have to do something, anything, to stay relevant. The Adult Swim show Mostly 4 Millennials is really good about parodying this fact. Omarosa is accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and a certain amount of attention, so she’s got to do whatever she has to in order to achieve that. I mean, this is a woman who was prepared to marry (and may have possibly murdered) Michael Clarke Duncan. I loved the dude, but ain’t nobody lining up to marry Green Mile! This is simply a pivot. She was a Trumper, but now Omarosa ’18 is a “crusader” – in her mind, at least. The problem with this particular play, however is that it’s a Hail Mary pass. I don’t think she fully understands the repercussions of what she’s trying to unleash. And at the end of the day, even if Trump said those things, his base would just be emboldened even more, and say “Well, they were acting niggery!” Like I said before, it’s amazing how bad they all are at this. But God Bless her, she’s trying.

I really don’t know where this takes Omarosa when the dust settles. I don’t know what’s left. Omarosa in space? Omarosa Goes To Africa? I mean, she’s virtually unhireable in any decent capacity, and she’s also not very loyal if you’ve got to worry about her taping your conversations. She doesn’t seem to realize how this makes her look, even if she thinks she was just covering her ass. It’s kinda like when Comey came out with his book, and looked like more of a fool with each subsequent interview. Eventually, we were all like, “Sit down, asshole!” So, I really hope she knows what she’s doing, but if history has taught me anything about this administration, she doesn’t. Yet, she’ll still be fine. And that’s why Omarosa Manigault Newman had the West Week Ever.

10th Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/10/18

by Will

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Casey Affleck – Believed by many to be one of the original causes of the #MeToo movement, Affleck finally addressed the allegations of his misconduct on the set of the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary I’m Not Here. Some are applauding the fact that he’s finally accepting the blame, while others aren’t sure if it’s enough. The allegations resulted in a lawsuit filed by two female cast members, which was settled out of court. From his interview with the Associated Press,

“That I was ever involved in a conflict that resulted in a lawsuit is something that I really regret,” he said.

“I had never had any complaints like that made about me before in my life and it was really embarrassing, and I didn’t know how to handle it, and I didn’t agree with everything, the way I was being described and the things that were said about me,” Affleck said.

“But I wanted to try to make it right, and so we made it right in the way that was asked at the time.”

To me, that sounds like “I gave them money because that’s what they wanted, and I wanted it to go away. However, looking back on it, I’m not quite sure that was the best course, especially since it did not make everything go away.” But that’s just my take on it… Anyway, that’s pretty much all you have to do in Hollywood these days, so he’ll be making the talk show rounds after this and everyone will act like everything’s cool.

Lindsay Lohan – Don’t worry, she didn’t harass anyone…yet. What she did, however, was say that the women who came out with #MeToo allegations looked weak. She went on to say that when things of that nature occur, they should be dealt with in the moment, and that they become “real” when you file a police report. Anything other than that is just the work of attention-seekers who are placing folks on trial by social media. Shots fired!

Dave Bautista has been real quiet the past few days, and I’ll tell you why that’s important. You see, when the week started, he stated that he wouldn’t return to film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 unless Disney promised to use the script that ousted director James Gunn had written. Fans everywhere applauded his resolve, admiring the fact that he was standing behind his friend and colleague. I, however, think it’s stupid to mess with a guaranteed paycheck – especially when you ain’t got the juice! We’re not talking about The Rock or Will Smith here. Shit, we’re not even talking about Chris Pratt. In any of those cases, this would be a different conversation. However, there are THOUSANDS of wrestlers out there with a razor and can of green body paint in hand, just waiting to be tagged in to take his place. I like the guy, and I like the character he plays, but he just doesn’t have the Hollywood clout to be making demands just yet. And Marvel Studios has shown that actors are replaceable (just ask Terrence Howard or Ed Norton). Anyway, reports began trickling out around Wednesday that Disney was, in fact, scrapping Gunn’s script. So, where’s the announcement, Dave? I guess it would give you a good opportunity to step back into the ring for a while.

Meanwhile, there are also rumblings that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is on the inside, championing Gunn’s vision for the film. Some outlets are saying he’s trying to keep the script, while others are saying that he’s actually trying to get Gunn rehired in some capacity. It’s been pointed out that the film is supposed to establish the next phase of Marvel films, so it would be sort of shortsighted to scrap it. Also, the way that CBS handled the Les Moonves situation has also changed folks’s minds. You see, Disney acted swiftly to axe Gunn, without investigation, deliberation, yadda yadda yadda. CBS was like, “Eh, we’ll investigate Moonves, but he can still work.” So, it’s kinda like, “Well, if CBS could do that, why couldn’t we?” I’ve seen folks say they won’t see Vol 3 if Disney goes in a different direction, but I don’t believe that.  Folks said the same when Edgar Wright left Ant-Man, and folks still went out of morbid curiosity. And enjoyed it! So, either way, there’ll be a Guardians 3, and folks will go to see it. Whether that film will have Gunn’s fingerprints on it remains to be seen.

In other movie news, there are reports that producers are leaning towards choosing Idris Elba as the next James Bond. And here’s why that’s a bad idea. Look, I love Idris, and I really don’t have that much love for the Bond franchise (my favorite installment is Moonraker, for God’s sake), so this isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. Here’s the thing, though: isn’t Bond a SPY? Like, he’s more than just a suave guy who beds dames and shoots people. This is espionage. The places Bond would need to go would sometimes make it somewhat difficult for him to blend in. I know these films require some suspension of disbelief (Hugo Drax somehow had the money to build SIX Moonraker space shuttles AND a secret space station?!), but unless every Idris Bond movie is gonna be a remake of Live and Let Die, and he’s gonna just be chasing Yaphet Kotto the whole time, I don’t see how it’s gonna work. The world is a-changing, but that dog don’t hunt. I think Idris is more than capable of being a great, suave Bond. I just don’t know what backdrop you set him against. I also feel like this is a testament that the world is running out of British actors. I mean, every one’s either been Bond, The Doctor, or on EastEnders. I mean, next they’ll be lobbying for Simon Pegg to take over the role.

In TV news, it’s been announced that The First Purge‘s Joivan Wade will be portraying Cyborg on the Doom Patrol series for the DC Universe streaming service. You know Cyborg – the Teen Titans member who got an undeserved promotion to the Justice League during The New 52? The same guy who was portrayed by Ray Fisher in the Justice League film? So, WHY is he now going to be on Doom Patrol? Reports say that he’s not actually on the team, but rather the one who gathers the team. Still, for a company that was so worried about brand confusion that they removed Deathstroke from the Arrowverse prior to the Suicide Squad movie, I find this to be a perplexing move. Anyway, I have no faith in anything on that service, so they can pretty much do whatever the Hell they want. I’m just here to report the news in my own snarky little way.

The Catfish Bromance is over, as cohost Max Joseph announced that he’s leaving the show. Sure, the show put him on the map, but it’ll survive without him. After all, he missed a chunk of episodes around season 3 while he was filming his movie, and Nev just replaced him with guest hosts. Hell, I watched an episode the other day, and the cohost was Nev’s wife. So, the show will be fine without him. My question is where do they keep finding these people? I mean, the first 2 seasons, I could kinda believe it. By season 3, though, “catfishing” was a known concept, and folks were more vigilant. Somehow, though, they’ve eked out 7 seasons and 115 episodes of this concept. I know “There’s a sucker born every minute”, but damn! Anyway, Joseph got tired of trying to juggle the show with his passion for filmmaking, so he’s going with his passion. His directorial debut was 2015’s We Are Your Friends, starring Zac Efron. That film scored a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was the fourth worst opening film on +2,000 screens of all time. So, Max might not want to lose Nev’s number…

In another interesting TV tidbit, Will Forte joined Vulture Comedy’s Podcast, Good One, where he detailed what would have happened with The Last Man on Earth, had it been renewed. If you saw the fourth season finale, then you know that the gang was surrounded by a bunch of armed folks in masks. Well, these people would’ve been survivors who’s been in a bunker since the virus hit. Over time, the gang would win them over, and eventually be released out of the quarantine the survivors had put them in – which would end up being the death of the survivors, since everyone in the gang is a carrier of the virus. So, we’d be left with the core group again, and maybe one member of the survivors. In a surprising confession, though, Forte admitted that he had no idea how the show would end, which confirmed my feelings that they were just making it up as they went along. It was a cute show, but it really needed an endgame. Long live Phillip Tandy Miller!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

  • In an interesting twist, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is recasting the role of Greg for its final season, with Skylar Astin of Pitch Perfect fame. The show plans to lean into the recast, to show how people’s perceptions of others change over time.
  • Kelly Clarkson is filming a pilot for a syndicated daytime talk show, which may fill the hole left in schedules when Harry ends this Fall. I don’t hate this idea, as I could see her filling the role of a Ricki Lake for the ’20s.
  • Speaking of syndicated talk shows, former NBC anchor Tamron Hall is developing a talk show with ABC Studios to potentially debut in 2019.
  • Last week, there were reports that a reboot was in the works for The Facts of Life, and the news was so shocking that it killed Mrs. Garrett. Well, it may have been unrelated, but Charlotte Rae is dead.
  • The Showtime drama Homeland will end after the upcoming 8th season.
  • There will reportedly be an 18-month time jump when The Walking Dead returns next season.
  • While it was believed that the show was winding down, CBS reported this week that there are talks to renew The Big Bang Theory for a 13th season. “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
  • It was reported that the villain for the Birds of Prey film will most likely be Batman villain Black Mask.
  • Speaking of DC Films Nobody Wants, Warner Bros is reportedly developing a Supergirl film.
  • Jean-Ralphio is about to go upside Eggman’s head, as it was announced that Ben Schwartz would be voicing Sonic The Hedgehog in the upcoming film.
  • David Schwimmer will be recurring next season on Will & Grace as Grace’s love interest. David LOVES those NBC checks!
  • Denise Richards will be joining the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills next season. I hope one of those catty bitches asks her about her weird tits. I remember everyone loved that scene from Wild Things, but those things looked off!
  • Even though Kenya Barris has jumped ship from ABC Studios, his shows are staying put, and Grown-ish will return to Freeform in January.
  • Sex sells, but bitter divorce sells even better! This is why HGTV has renewed Flip or Flop for a 15-episode 8th season.
  • To prove that everyone is out of ideas and really just cashing their checks at this point, a TV show is in development based on the 2006 Plain White T’s hit “Hey There Delilah”. If you don’t remember it, it was a shitty song. If you ever get bored, Google it, because the story behind it is kinda crazy. I mean, Delilah is a real person, and had a boyfriend at the time this random ass dude wrote a song about her.

  • Shaun Weiss, who played Goldberg in The Mighty Ducks, has apparently fallen on hard times, as he was arrested over the weekend for public intoxication under the influence of drugs. Here’s hoping the “knuckle puck” doesn’t mean something entirely different behind bars…
  • Orange Is The New Black actress Ruby Rose has been cast as the Arrowverse’s Batwoman. She will first appear in this season’s crossover, with a potential solo series to follow.
  • Apparently Sony refers to their Spider-Man Universe films as the “Sony Universe of Marvel Characters”, or SUMC. Not that “DCEU” or “MCU” are that great, but SUMC doesn’t really roll off the tongue. Sounds like a shitty college. Southern Utah Mechanical College. “Yeah, my brother in law learned HVAC at SUMC.”
  • Speaking of the SUMC, the Silver Sable/Black Cat team-up movie, Silver & Black, has been scrapped and will now be TWO movies, each focused on one of the pair. ‘Cause why have ONE pile of shit when you can have TWO? Director Gina Prince-Bythewood is expected to depart, but will still get a producer credit on both films.

  • We got this promo pic from the live action Dora the Explorer film. This just looks…wrong. She’s too old!
  • There’s an interesting story that Marvel Chairman Ike Perlmutter has been secretly advising the Department of Veteran Affairs for the Trump Administration. Keep in mind that Perlmutter has NO military service under his belt. Yeah, it’s crazy, but it could also mean we’re one step closer to getting a real life Super Soldier Serum!
  • THEY KILLED LUIGI!
  • Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders will be reprising their roles as Nick Fury and Maria Hill in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
  • The West Hollywood City Council unanimously voted to remove Donald Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but they played themselves because the decision to do such a thing is actually up to the City of Los Angeles, as well as the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber of Commerce has refused to remove the stars of disgraced celebrities, like Bill Cosby, because they consider the Walk a history landmark, and have never removed a star. Anyway, in a show of solidarity for Trump, a group calling themselves “The Faction” placed 50 vinyl stars bearing Trump’s name along the Walk Thursday morning.
  • Several changes to the Oscars were announced, including sticking to a 3-hour runtime by awarding “lesser” categories during commercial breaks, and the creation of the Outstanding Achievement In Popular Film award, which is pretty much basically “The award for the movies you’ve actually seen.”

I never thought I’d see this day, but here it is: over the weekend, Patrick Stewart announced that he would be returning to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in a Star Trek series for CBS All Access.

I was dumbfounded. I swore I’d never get CBS All Access because I hate the idea of paying for Star Trek outside of a theater, but this just might do it.

There was an interesting comment thread on a Facebook post I made about this, where I said that come Monday, we would all find out that Stewart is senile and we were all being punked. It got into a discussion about how Discovery just doesn’t feel right to some fans, and someone else chimed in that TRUE Trek fans like Discovery and know that it’s a great product. I wasn’t really expecting the gatekeeping there, but I was listening. He went on to say that he didn’t mind paying for All Access because to him, it’s akin to paying for HBO for Game of Thrones. He didn’t mind paying for premium shows like that. And I start thinking about that for a bit. Do I want a big budget, “premium” Star Trek?

Sure, there are folks who will tell you they do, but I always felt there was something about the UHF syndicated/UPN budgets that made those iterations of Trek special. I’ve never been a fan of The Original Series, but I was raised on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (both syndicated), and I cautiously avoided Voyager and Enterprise (which, based on UPN’s pockets, might as well have had syndicated budgets). I feel like they made do with what they had, and it’s not like the weaknesses showed. Sure, the production values for the first 3 seasons of TNG are basically as lame as those from TOS, but they found their groove, and started really understanding how to use their resources. So, does more money mean a better Star Trek? I’m not sure that’s true, and I still feel like CBS is fleecing fans by putting this on All Access. I know concepts like “fairness” seem a bit childish when talking about business matters, but it doesn’t seem fair.

Anyway, I guess they’re giving me what I wanted. I’ve been wanting them to stop with the reboots and prequels, and finally tell us what happened to the Federation after the Dominion War. Sadly, too much time has now passed since those events that we won’t get to witness the Reconstruction phase I was looking forward to seeing. I also thought we were done with Picard. I mean, I love the character, and he’s certainly MY captain over Kirk, but I was kinda fine with where Nemesis left him. Sure, it wasn’t a fitting ending, but there’s a whole galaxy out there, and I was looking forward to learning more about it. The fact that they’re bringing back Stewart is fan service to the umpteenth degree, but it also makes me scared that this show is just going to be a revolving door of cameos from TNG folks. I fear it’ll be Fuller House In Space, as this week wacky Will Riker shows up to lend a hand. Sure, it’d be nice to catch up with a lot of those characters (especially B4), but I don’t need it to be crammed into the story. It should be organic.

I’m glad they’re not referring to him as Captain right now, as that could mean a multitude of things. Did he finally get promoted to Admiral? I mean, Janeway got her crew lost, got most of them killed, banded together with the enemy, and still got a promotion the minute she got back. Picard’s more than earned one, though we know he didn’t want a commission that would take him off the bridge of a starship. Still, 20 years have passed. Maybe he’s in a different place. Or maybe he’s not even in Starfleet anymore. They’ve shown that you can pretty much come and go as you please when it comes to Starfleet, so maybe some old threat, like DaiMon Bok, brings him out of retirement. So, maybe he’s back on his family’s vineyard, and we get a recreation of that Farpoint scene, as he’s being taken to see the new Enterprise-G (the F would’ve probably been decommissioned by then). Or maybe he’s dealing with the Space Alzheimers from “All Good Things”. There are a lot of possibilities, and I’m always excited about new Star Trek. I just don’t wanna have to pay for it.

In any case, this was the kind of announcement that would normally break the Internet, had it not come out on a Saturday afternoon. So, for that, Patrick Stewart had the West Week Ever.

03rd Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/3/18

by Will

These things just get later and later, huh? Well, blame my job! In any case, let’s jump right on into today’s topics, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Les Moonves – The current chairman, president, and CEO of CBS Corporation is under investigation after 6 women have come forward with sexual harassment allegations that go back decades. The situation is even dicier since his wife is Julie Chen, who also works for the network as host of Big Brother, as well as a co-host of The Talk. Chen issued a statement defending her husband, but his alma mater, Bucknell University, has removed all mention of him from their website, and USC has suspended his name from their media center. He continues to work while the investigation proceeds.

Kimberly Guilfoyle – I find it interesting that this story isn’t getting more attention than it is. Guilfoyle, who is also the current girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr, quietly left her job at Fox News last week amidst a misconduct investigation. Reportedly, she would show coworkers pictures of male genitalia, and tell stories about who the men were in the pictures. Also, she was allegedly abusive to makeup and wardrobe people, and also used them for personal events. This was the result of a yearlong investigation, and since Fox tends to prefer having folks resign or retire rather than fire them, they allowed it to appear that she left on her own terms.

Guilfoyle was a protege of Roger Ailes, even going as far as attacking Gretchen Carlson when she accused Ailes of sexual harassment. Since Ailes’s death, however, things have started to change for Guilfoyle. Once the rumored frontrunner to replace White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Guilfoyle found herself being passed over for the same opportunities given to her fellow co-hosts of The Five. She allegedly lobbied directly to Rupert Murdoch himself to save her job, but it was of no use. Now she’s expected to join the Trumps on the campaign trail.

Nick Carter Update – Melissa Schuman, formerly of the pop group Dream, previously accused the Backstreet Boy of raping her when she was 18. The matter has now been referred to the Los Angeles District Attorney for possible charges filed.

Chris Hardwick Update – Following AMC’s lead, NBC has announced that Hardwick will return to host the 3rd season of game show The Wall. On top of that, he will also serve as a guest judge on next week’s episode of America’s Got Talent. I think #MeToo might be over, y’all…

James Gunn Update – After Gunn’s abrupt firing last week, due to old incendiary tweets being brought to light, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast and crew have stood behind him, and released the following statement:

 

I used to watch a bunch of standup specials, since that’s about 40% of what Netflix’s catalog is comprised of. I haven’t seen too many lately, but the wife and I did watch Iliza Shlesinger’s Elder Millennial this week. I’ve liked Iliza since she was the smartass, tank-top wearing host of the dating show Excused, but I’ve never really loved entire specials by her. She’s funny, she’s got good timing, but I always feel like she should’ve graduated to being a comedic actress by now instead of staying on the stage. I reviewed her special War Paint back in the day, and a lot of the criticisms I had then I still have today. The overall set isn’t that strong, and what’s with the weird animal noises? I think she’s a cool chick, but only, maybe, three jokes actually made me laugh out loud. I think this is one you can skip.

So Nickelodeon surprised us all by uploading the premiere episode of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to YouTube. I watched it, and, it’s a TV show. That’s about all I can say. I mean, a lot of folks my age went into this show prepared to hate it, ’cause old dudes just can’t let shit go. That said, I think I went into it with a pretty open mind. The things that I thought would bother me weren’t so bad. Raph as the leader is different, but it helps that he’s not that good at it, so maybe this could be considered a prequel to the TMNT stuff we’re used to. Don is still the tech guy, so that gives me a nice sense of comfort. I haven’t really gotten used to Leo as the jokester yet, and I don’t know what to make of “artsy” Mikey. Lazy, couch potato Splinter is also different. The animation isn’t that crisp, and something about it made me think of a webseries. I mean, it’d be a decent webseries, but still “not quite ready for TV”. I almost expected it to stick to the modern cartoon runtime of 11-15 minutes, as I really don’t like looking at these designs for a 22-minute span of time. It’s not that they’re “ugly”, but they’re so “choppy”.

To give you an idea of what the episode is about, we’re introduced to the Turtles as they get their weapons destroyed by some mysterious henchmen who are after some kinda mystical dog creature. Their pal, April, ends up being abducted by the henchmen and taken to another realm. The Turtles find a way to follow her, gain new mystical weapons, and fight John Cena. Something like that. Again, it was OK, but I highly doubt it’ll be “destination television” for me.

I know folks don’t want to say it, so I’ll be the one who does: I hate April. She’s Black now, which is whatever. Representation matters. I don’t hate her because of that. I hate her because she’s just all over the place. Sometimes she’s trying to have some weird NYC accent, and others she’s not. She’s not a grounding force for them, but rather as reckless as (and possibly moreso than) the Turtles. She’s impetuous, and just kind of annoying. I’ve heard a few reviews from folks who I know were dancing around that issue, since they probably don’t wanna be labeled “racist” for not liking her. Let’s just say it: she sucks.

At the end of the day, kids will love it, and that’s what matters. I hope it sells a shit ton of toys, and I’ll check back in when it’s rebooted again in 6 years.

Normally this would’ve gone in the Things You Might Have Missed area, but this just deserved its own blurb. The Fox drama 9-1-1 had cast Buffy vet Charisma Carpenter in a guest role for an episode this season, but the episode has been scrapped by censors. Ya see, she’d play a woman whose Viagra-popping lover dies while he’s…inside her. At the time of his heart attack, there’s some vaginal clamping going on, so he’s stuck inside her, dead, hence why she’d need 911. Apparently it’s a real occurrence called penis captivus. Anyway, Fox’s Standards & Practices decided that the storyline was too “R-rated” to make it to air, so they plan to bring Carpenter back in another role later.

It’s the 25th anniversary of Power Rangers, so that means anniversary team-up episode! And it ain’t an anniversary throwback if original Green/White Ranger Tommy Oliver isn’t involved. This week, actor Jason David Frank revealed that he, along with Catherine Sutherland (Zeo Pink) and Jason Faunt (Time Force Red), would be participating in the episode. Nickelodeon announced that the special episode of Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel will air during prime time, at 8 PM, on August 28th – exactly 25 years since the airing of the premiere episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, “Day of the Dumpster”.

The Trailer Park

Forever

We got the first trailer for this Fred Armisen & Maya Rudolph show, which is coming to Amazon Prime next month. Um, I don’t know what to make of this one. It looks like something that would be on Adult Swim, and not in a good way. I never watch anything on Prime, though, so I’ll never see it.

Maniac

After sitting on the shelf for two years, we get a trailer for Netflix’s Maniac, starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as two people caught in a bad pharmaceutical experiment. Why does Skinny Jonah Hill look so miserable? Let the man eat! Let the man be fat!

Iron Fist

Speaking of Netflix, we also got a teaser for Iron Fist season 2, which premieres next month. I am SO behind on those MCU Netflix shows, so one of y’all will have to tell me if it’s any good or not.

Venom

This just looks so uninspired. People are quick to say “You just want everything to be like the MCU”, but that’s not true. There’s room for diverse projects in the marketplace, but this looks like a 1996 movie with 2018 special effects.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Even though NBC cancelled time traveling show Timeless a second time, it was announced that there will be a wrap-up, TV movie finale next season.
  • Stranger Things season 3 has reportedly been pushed back to Summer 2019, as the season will contain more special effects that previous seasons.
  • It seems like all the SNL folks are getting streaming shows, as Aidy Bryant’s Shrill has just been picked up by Hulu. Based on Lindy West’s memoir Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman, the logline is “a fat young woman who wants to change her life – but not her body”. Apparently the shooting schedule won’t require her to leave SNL.
  • Having already tried the series without Jack Bauer, now Fox is in the preliminary stages of developing a 24 prequel, focused on a young Jack Bauer. I hope they call it 12, and that’s how young he truly is in the show. He’d be taking down terrorists with a Super Soaker and Nerf guns.
  • Supergirl to the bridge! It’s reported that Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Mr. Data himself, Brent Spiner, will join Supergirl next season as the Vice President.
  • In another case of the MCU beating the DCEU, Anthony Mackie (Falcon) will be taking over the lead in Netflix’s Altered Carbon from Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad‘s Rick Flagg) next season.
  • As previously rumored, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is leaving his production deal with ABC Studios. This has reportedly been brewing ever since the network scrapped his episode about the NFL kneeling protests, but it’s also been rumored that Netflix has offered him a NINE-FIGURE deal. He’ll step down as showrunner of Black-ish, but remain an executive producer on all his ABC/Freeform shows.
  • An ALF reboot is reportedly in development at Warner Bros. One potential idea is that the show would follow ALF as he emerges from Area 51, where he’s been held captive since the finale of the 80s series. He would, then, have to deal with how much the world has changed.
  • The cast list for Star Wars: Episode IX was released, and everybody you expect to be on it is on it.
  • Fresh off the cancellation of The Mick, Kaitlin Olson has just been cast as Leah Remini’s lesbian wife in an untitled pilot for Fox, brought to you buy the guys behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  • MoviePass shat the bed when it ran out of money to actually pay for tickets. The service quickly regrouped, and now costs more money, with access to fewer popular movies. Um…

My good buddy ShowNuffDaKing has launched the M.A.G. Nerd Podcast for any of y’all interested in music, anime, and/or video games. Of course you should listen to every episode, but he and his cohost, Ghost, really hit their stride on episode 3. Check in weekly because you’re bound to learn something new. I certainly always do! It’s available on Stitcher, SoundCloud, and everywhere else you get that podcast goodness for your ears.

Speaking of podcasts, as a member of the Nerd Lunch Fourth Chair Army, I was drafted into this week’s Fourth Army Invasion to discuss season 1 of The Dukes of Hazzard. As I mention in the episode, I was a big fan of the Cars Jumping Over Shit genre of TV (Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, etc), and I grew up watching this show in syndication. Let’s just say that I had an entirely different impression of it upon this rewatch. I had a wonderful time discussing it with Spidey004, BizarroJimmyOlsen, and Michael May. If you’ve ever seen the show or the movie, you’re going to want to check out this Dukescussion because it’s quite the deep dive.

 

I’m not a sports guy. I think you can pretty much get that from this site. So, I don’t really weigh into things like “Who’s the greatest player of all time?” debates. That said, I know the major players in most sports, so I’m certainly familiar with LeBron James. People are constantly asking “LeBron or Jordan?” and to me the answer was always easy: LeBron, ’cause he never seemed like a colossal asshole like Jordan. This week, however, something else pushed LeBron just ahead of MJ.

This week, LeBron opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, OH, in an attempt to the city’s at-risk K-12 population. Based on something of a charter school model (some of the aspects actually inspired by the charter network I work for), the school will feature longer school days, a non-traditional school year, and a STEM-influenced curriculum. The school, however, is neither charter nor private, as LeBron was insistent that it work within the Akron school system instead apart from it. The school opened this week with 240 students, spread over third and fourth grades, adding second and fifth grades next year, and expand to 8th grade by 2022. The school will also provide GED services for parents, a food bank, and other resources to help the community. Also, because LeBron used to ride his bike to leave the dangers of his neighborhood and go exploring, every student at the school will receive a bicycle on the first day of school.

I don’t know about stats on the court, but I do know education. Having worked on the data side in the charter sector for nearly the past decade, I can completely respect what he’s doing. I know some folks take issue with these “maverick” approaches to education, but in a lot of cases the “old ways” just don’t work anymore. School systems are low on money, teachers are overworked. Sometimes you just need to inject change. And yes, some of these schools end up sucking just like the neighborhood public school would’ve sucked, but at least the folks tried. In any case, for opening the ambitious I Promise School, as the 29th elementary school in the Akron school district, LeBron James had the West Week Ever.

20th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/20/18

by Will

I’m slowly catching up on the year’s big movies. I still haven’t gotten to Deadpool 2, but I finally caught Ant-Man and the Wasp last night. Unlike most MCU films, I don’t really have a lot to say about it. All in all, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t great. I’ve always said that Ant-Man felt like a really good Fox Marvel film, but just a par Marvel Studios film. It’s a masterpiece compared to the X-Men/Fantastic Four films, but it really almost doesn’t even earn its place alongside movies like The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy. You’re almost left wondering “How are these movies in the same universe?”, but I guess that’s a testament to how tonally different the corners of the Marvel Universe are. Anyway, I enjoyed the palette cleanser that was Ant-Man and the Wasp, as I’m almost “Marveled Out” after Infinity War.

The film explores the almost throwaway line from Infinity War about how Scott Lang took a house arrest deal after the events of Captain America: Civil War. So, two years have passed, and Scott’s “3 days from retirement”, basically, when it comes to his sentence. As anyone who’s seen any movie ever knows, no upcoming deadline that close ever goes smoothly. The Pyms drag him back into their world, as they need his knowledge of the subatomic quantum world to help them rescue Janet Van Dyne, who they believe is still alive after 30 years in there. Some stuff happens, Laurence Fishburne shows up wearing a swede jacket. Hannah John-Kamen shows off her Biracial Resting Bitch Face that served her so well as F’nale in Ready Player One, and everyone lives happily ever after. Or do they?

Watching this movie gave me the same sort of feelings I had watching Pitch Perfect 3 last week. In both cases, I kept waiting for the movie to “take off”, so to speak. Despite a scene with Giant-Man, I feel the movie doesn’t really aspire to new heights and, like its predecessor, came off like a mundane, slice of life MCU film. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave me longing for more interactions between Lang and, say, Tony Stark or Thor, just to remind me that these folks do occupy the same space. Paul Rudd is at his Paul Ruddest, so he’s not the problem here. Evangeline Lilly has become his badass asskicker, but where did that come from? She was busting out Black Widow moves, yet without the history of Red Room training.

No, I felt the biggest disappointment was Michael Peña’s Luis, who was undoubtedly the breakout star of the first movie. They found the right balance for using him in that first film, but they weren’t able to recapture that magic here. Maybe it’s because we expected the same shtick from him instead of accepting the character’s growth. I also hope the Blu Ray includes some deleted scenes of T.I. and the Russian dude, as I feel they were sorely wasted in their roles as partners in the X-Con Security business.

In all, it was an enjoyable way to spend 2 hrs, but I wasn’t blown away by it. Paul Rudd is just so likable, that I know I’ll watch it whenever I come across it on FX, but until some of its plot points are explored more in-depth in Avengers 4 (because you KNOW they will be), I don’t think this movie did much to move the MCU forward. After something like Infinity War, however, maybe it’s just what we need right now.

I’m gonna say this once, and then move on because there’s no need to dwell on it. That said, I’m pretty much done with professional wrestling for the foreseeable future. You see, over the weekend, WWE reinstated Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea to the WWE Hall of Fame, after his removal in 2015 when recordings of his racist remarks surfaced during the Gawker sex tape kerfuffle. I’ve heard folks defend him the past 3 years, using everything from “Everyone deserves a second chance” to “Well, it was a private conversation that we weren’t meant to hear.” Whatever.

I will say THIS: WWE never should’ve reinstated him BECAUSE they never should’ve removed him in the first place. I say that because it was always clearly an empty gesture – one we ALL knew would never stick permanently. So, it became more of an exercise in “waiting for the other shoe to drop” than actually serving as a cautionary tale to anyone else who might do the same thing. The heat was on the company, and they felt they had to jump and do something, but even they knew they bit off more than they could chew. You can’t just scrub the most famous professional wrestler of the past 40 years from existence, even if he did admit “I am racist”, which he did. You also can’t walk back that statement, which he’s been trying to do for the past 3 years.

If he had tried to go with “I was drunk, and I don’t really talk like that”, I wouldn’t have believed him, but it would’ve at least been an excuse that made sense. Hell, even Roseanne’s Ambien excuse was an attempt. No, here’s Hogan’s whole quote from the recordings:

“I don’t know if Brooke was fucking the black guy’s son. I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean, I am a racist, to a point, fucking niggers. But then when it comes to nice people and shit, and whatever.”

“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to fuck some nigger, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall nigger worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player!”

“I guess we’re all a little racist. Fucking nigger.”

Reportedly, when he spoke to the talent backstage after being reinstated, he reminded them to be careful of what they say because you never know when you’re being recorded. This is not a man who’s sorry for what he did. He’s already said he’s racist. No, this is a man who’s sorry he GOT CAUGHT. And I don’t have time for that.

WWE has a history of trying to polish turds, whether it’s this situation, or it’s their embrace of Ronda Rousey, who’s something of a transphobic Sandy Hook truther. Maybe you can separate the art from the artist, but I can’t – especially when the art is throwing someone through a particleboard table. In my mind, they’re not contributing enough to society, or to “art”, to turn a blind eye on their other shit. People love to go to stuff like “Well, Martin Luther King cheated on his wife.” OK. So did Ric Flair. Only one of them marched for my right to vote, however.

In a lot of ways, I feel sorry for Hogan. I feel sorry that, given the Gawker trial, he should be wealthy. Not just rich, but wealthy. However, he’ll never see a penny of that, as it was juts a symbolic victory. I felt bad for him when his dumbass son turned his friend into a vegetable. I felt bad for him when his wife left him as the money dried up. Like most children of the 80s, I saw him as more myth than man.  So, here we’ve got a 64 year old man with no other prospects than to tie on his bandana one last time, and hope his rickety knees can manage as he climbs between the ropes into that ring. But, maybe that’s what life comes down to when you’re a self-admitted racist. So, in closing, FUCK HULK HOGAN.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • That beacon of family values herself, Bristol Palin, will be replacing promiscuous-teen-turned-porn-star Farrah Abraham on the next season of MTV’s Teen Mom.
  • Alice Eve will be portraying Typhoid Mary in the second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist, debuting September 7th on Netflix. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s the blonde with the gratuitous underwear scene from Star Trek Into Darkness. Or the gratuitous underwear scene in She’s Out of My League.
  • We got a trailer for the upcoming Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and I think it just gave me a seizure. Seriously, this is like a next level ADHD that medical science hasn’t even named yet.
  • Everything old is new again, Nickelodeon announced the return of Rugrats, as both a 26-episode TV series and a CGI theatrical film. I can just imagine as future archaeologists dig up the artifacts of this era, trying to determine if that scorched animation cel is from the first Nickelodeon Era (which will be known as B.K., for Before Kel) or the second Nickelodeon Era (A.S., for After Schneider).

  • Speaking of new old shit, we got a better look at the She-Ra reboot series from Netflix, and the man-children took issue with her character redesign. Sure, she looks kinda mannish in some pics, but maybe that’s a plot point, I dunno. Maybe She-Ra was born Peter-Ra, and is now living her best life? Who am I to judge?

  • We also got this teaser poster for Aquaman, which does absolutely nothing for me. I’m still kinda hung up on Momoa in the role. We get mad about white-washed characters, but how come it’s not the other way? I want my blond-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan Aquaman, dammit! Plus, I just don’t feel Momoa is a *STAR*. Sorry, not sorry. Sure, the ladies love him, but he doesn’t have the juice to put butts in seats.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been “saved”, as the series will return on Disney’s streaming service, five years after it left the air on Cartoon Network.

San Diego Comic-Con kicked off this week, and so far it appears that DC Comics is leading the charge. First off, it was announced that the Berlanti Arrowverse would be adding a Batwoman series to The CW, after her introduction in this fall’s DC show crossover. They’re currently looking for a lesbian actress to play the role, which is interesting to me. Maybe it’s all the recent talk about representation and all, but does it have to be a lesbian actress? What if she’s just lesbian for the show? I dunno. I’m sure there’s a lesbian out there who can do it, but it just seems like they might be missing out on some good choices just because of someone’s sexual orientation. On the flipside, if the producers of How I Met Your Mother had specifically sought out a “heterosexual lothario”, then Neil Patrick Harris never would’ve become Barney Stinson – a role in which he was perfect.

Then we got…this. I’m just gonna come out and say I think Titans looks like shit. Some folks are excited about it, and that’s great, but it’s simply not for me. “Fuck Batman”? Does anyone over there even understand their audience? I may come off as a Marvel fanboy, especially if you’ve seen my Twitter avatar, but I grew up on DC, and it’s what I call “home” when it comes to my fandom. If I’m hard on them it’s because I care, and I just feel like they continue to screw the pooch when it comes to a lot of their live action stuff. I’ve got friends who love the grim and gritty “real worldness” of the DC stuff, as they think the MCU is juvenile. That’s all well and good, but let’s call a spade a spade here. We’re not debating the merits of Batman vs. Superman here. No, we’re talking about a show that apparently wasn’t even good enough for TNT. I mean, fucking Batwoman is getting a show on basic TV, but the Titans aren’t? Just how bad is this show? Based on this trailer, pretty damn bad.

On the movie side of things, it’s official that Joaquin Phoenix will star in Joker, and it’s rumored that Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz might costar. I find this whole project unnecessary, but I find it even more odd that it’ll be directed by Todd Phillips, of The Hangover/Old School fame. Is he REALLY the right pick for this? I don’t see him and Phoenix meshing very well. Anyway, the film is slated to be released October 4th, 2019.

Meanwhile, the Birds of Prey movie will reportedly have, basically, every female Gotham character involved – from Cassandra Cain to Harley Quinn. My problem with this movie is that it’ll have the same issue that the Birds of Prey TV show had if they dance around the Batman issue. If you don’t remember, there was a Birds of Prey series on The WB that launched around the same time as Smallville. I will die on that hill that BoP was no worse than Smallville, but one was given a chance to grow and the other wasn’t. My biggest problem with the show, however (and it would also be my biggest issue with The Dark Knight Rises), is that the series was predicated on the idea that Batman was so distraught over the murder of his true love that he quit being Batman and just left Gotham to fend for itself. In Birds of Prey, it was the death of Catwoman that did it, while in TDKR it was the death of Rachel Dawes. In both cases, I never felt like that’s how Batman would handle that situation, as he’d probably become more driven and insane, than just quitting the game entirely. So, in essence, the Birds of Prey series was a Batman show without Batman. He was integral to the whole thing. He was woven into the tapestry of the setting, but he was never seen (except in flashbacks). And he’s too big of a character to exploit but not fully use. So, the Birds of Prey movie will, at the least, need a Suicide Squad-level Batman cameo just to keep it credibly on the tracks.

Speaking of Batman and Catwoman, the outcome of Batman #50’s wedding has polarized so many fans that writer Tom King apparently had to hire a bodyguard for San Diego Comic-Con. Plus, DC Comics has made the issue returnable since retailers and fans didn’t feel they got what they were promised. Y’all really need to get your shit together if you’re threatening a man over something like this.

Finally, for a man who’s reportedly on the outs with the entertainment side of DC Comics, Geoff Johns will certainly be collecting checks from the comic side for the foreseeable future. So far, he’s announced a new SHAZAM! series – likely to capitalize on the upcoming movie starring Zachary Levi, as well as Three Jokers. The interesting thing to me is that Three Jokers is slated to be released as part of DC’s Black Label imprint, where I thought most of those stories weren’t in continuity. That was announced as DC’s Not Elseworlds, But Totally Elseworlds line, with stuff like Frank Miller’s take on Superman, or the collected edition of Batman: White Knight. It’s strange that they’d put Three Jokers over here, when the concept of there having been three Jokers came from the storylines of the core DC Universe. Johns isn’t done with live action just yet, however, as he also announced a Stargirl series for the DC Universe streaming service, starring a character he created based on his sister who died in the TWA Flight 800 explosion.

I may not agree with all of their decisions, but DC is making moves this week, while Marvel is noticeably silent, so that’s why DC Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

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.

22nd Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/22/18

by Will

I don’t know how much longer I can do this. Like, seriously. Writing this just gets harder and harder, and I know you’ll say “Nobody’s making you do this, Will”, and that’s true. It’s just the world keeps getting worse and worse, and what was supposed to be a digital respite from all of that is harder and harder to create. We had the celebrity death onslaught of 2016, but 2017 was gonna be better. Then we had a year of Trump blunders, but 2018 was going to be better. We’re only halfway through the year, and there are fucking children in CAGES. And I swear PETA works harder to get animals out of cages than folks are working to rectify this. Social media has become both battleground and echo chamber. Either it’s a cacophony of everyone asking “Can you believe this shit?” OR it’s the opposition coming out with, “Stop being so dramatic, ya snowflake Libtard!” I mean, are you even reading this? I know way too many people on a social media sabbatical because they just can’t deal with it anymore, and since a lot of y’all find out about these posts via social media, I’m just gonna assume I might be talking to myself this week.

I don’t watch the news. I honestly don’t. Still, it’s impossible to go through the world (especially online) and not know what’s going on. So, I may not be the most informed, but I feel I’m informed enough to know I don’t want any more information. Does that make sense? I don’t need to hear the audio of the separated children crying. That’s the kind of emotion porn that keeps people doing shit like watching This Is Us. Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby! So, with just dipping my toe in the news I get on timelines, here’s what I gleaned from the past week:

  • The US President threw Starburst at the German Chancellor at the G7 Summit, and said “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” And to think we once thought the worst thing a president could do to her was give her an unwanted neck rub. Remember that?
  • That same president wants to create a fucking Space Force. How is that even gonna work? Will it be like the pre-NASA days, when you had to join the Air Force first (Yeah, I watched I Dream of Jeannie)?
  • THERE ARE CHILDREN IN CAMPS!
  • The same president who greenlit the camps also signed an executive order to stop the separations. Um, that’s some Tony Stark shit. You don’t get points for solving a problem you created.
  • Oh, and while the separations are halted, THERE ARE NO PLANS IN PLACE FOR REUNIFICATION
  • The First Lady set out to visit the camps, wearing a coat that said “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” Her spokespeople say it meant nothing, while her husband claims it’s a calculated attack against the “fake news” media. At the end of the day, what it truly was was “tone deaf”.
  • And then the US decided to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council, ’cause why the Hell not?
  • Oh, and did I mention the organizer of the Charlottesville bullshit got approved for a White Civil Rights Rally in DC in August?

This is stuff going on in the country. Stuff that MATTERS. Meanwhile, if my timeline isn’t upset about this, they’re still bitching about The Last Jedi or the fact that some woman-beating rapper named Xtension Cord or some shit got murdered. Not only is it hard to care about pop culture at times like these, but it’s even harder to care what others think of said pop culture. I try to tailor this thing to what I think people want to read about each week, but I don’t even know if I know what that is anymore. Something’s got to change, and I only really see 3 options:

A) I get political and, frankly, there’s enough of that out there. I already said I’m not the most informed, so God forbid you get your political analysis from me. I don’t want to come across like a late night talk show monologue, which has become a genre I’ve dubbed “Late Night Liberal Smuggery”. Nobody ever changed their mind because Seth Meyers was yelling at them. The closest one to come close to inacting change was Jimmy Kimmel, but that’s something of an outlier. No, I don’t want to do this, but it almost feels like a necessary pivot.

B) I lean more into the fluff, which might be harder to swallow as bombs start dropping around us. From space. Ya know, from the goddamn star war this man is trying to start. I’m more partial to this one because it’s pretty much just an extreme version of the original intent of this column. Although I’d feel awkward blatantly ignoring the world around us in favor of “The Backstreet Boys have a new single!”

C) I quit. I don’t think this is going to happen because I don’t know how to quit. Eventually Twitter will die and the the Chinese will buy Facebook and I’ll have nowhere to promote these posts, so it’ll just be me reading them, along with the 4 of you who may have bookmarked this site. Even then, I won’t know how to quit. It’ll just be like the early days, when I wrote like no one was reading…because they weren’t.

Anyway, that’s the world we live in right now, folks. Drink it in ’cause the crazy ain’t stopping anytime soon. So, let’s talk about some entertainment stuff, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update: So, Hardwick responded to Chloe Dykstra’s allegations, saying that he never sexually assaulted her. Then, in true Hardwick dickish fashion, he wrapped up his statement with “As a husband, a son, and future father, I do not condone any kind of mistreatment of women.” This ranks up there with any time a woman is assaulted, and some famous dude comes out with “As a father of daughters…”, but this is actually worse. Why? Because Hardwick ain’t got no damn kids! HIS WIFE ISN’T EVEN PREGNANT. Many feel that was a knife twist added to dig at Dykstra’s ectopic pregnancy mentioned in her essay.

Meanwhile, someone leaked texts between Dykstra and Hardwick following the breakup, where she spent months begging him to take her back. “If it was so bad, then why did she want him back?”, they ask. Well, this isn’t uncommon in abusive situations, and that question is just as dumb as “If it was so bad, then why didn’t she leave?” We don’t know, but that doesn’t diminish her experience. Still, Hardwick wrote what must be the longest text message known to man, as captured by The Daily Mail.

Reading that, he doesn’t come off as the worst guy. Did he actually write this in 2014? Who knows? But the guy who capped off his official rebuttal with the “future father” comment is the Hardwick that I always suspected was the “real Hardwick”. Still, do I feel bad he got cheated on? Sure. Do I feel bad that what he saw as a promising relationship ended? Sure. From what I’ve heard, he didn’t really keep his promise about not disparaging her in public, so he was two-faced there, as well. What I’m trying to say is that it’s a pretty complex situation that we were not present for, nor can we necessarily hand down a judgement upon.

I swear this would’ve gotten more retweets if I’d been fully awake, and hadn’t misspelled “Acceptable”

Still after discussing this with some people, I will point out the dangers of these things being tried in the court of public opinion. I don’t like Chris Hardwick. I can admit that, and I think I made that known. That said, that doesn’t mean I want these allegations to be true. I wouldn’t wish that on either party. All I meant was I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. As some outlets have pointed out, she didn’t accuse him of doing anything illegal, per se, but it still involved alleged abuse and character assassination. AMC has cancelled the Talking with Chris Hardwick series, as they reassess their business relationship, while NBC has suspended production on his game show, The Wall. Also, the panels that he was set to host at San Diego Comic Con have also been cancelled. Meanwhile, the Nerdist empire, which he built, scrubbed all reference to him from their website. If he did the stuff Dykstra alleges, then these are all great steps. If he didn’t, though…

I’ve always feared what would happen when the #MeToo movement targeted the wrong person. There’s a guy out there who’s not going to be equipped to handle that backlash and he’s going to take his own life. Now, some folks will be quick to say “He hurt women, so fuck him!” We also live in a society, though, where everyone wants to get to the root cause of shit – especially if the perpetrator is White. John Boyd Klemmer shoots up a school and there’ll be the folks who say “Fuck that dude”, but there will also be the contingent of “Well, why did he do it? Did he have a manifesto?” So, applying that sequence of events to #MeToo accusations, nobody really stops to ask these questions. We talk about toxic masculinity, but don’t really acknowledge how it can play into these sorts of scenarios happening. Plus, there are degrees to this stuff. Not everyone is Harvey Weinstein. Aziz Ansari certainly wasn’t, but he had to deal with much of the same caliber of backlash. And I’ll tell ya, I thought Aziz was gonna be the guy to kill himself. He’s kept a low profile since everything went down, and it’s going to be a long road to rebuilding his career, but I think he’ll turn out OK. His situation is mired in interpretation, and it was more embarrassing for him than damning.

Now, contrast that with Louis CK. That dude lost EVERYTHING in, like, 48 hours, and I really hoped someone was looking in on him during that period because I honestly feared he’d commit suicide. I don’t think folks process that these are possible outcomes. You have people in power, who abuse that power, get caught, and then lose everything. The story doesn’t end there, though. This isn’t an episode of Law & Order. There is a large contingent of folks who will just say “Fuck that guy”, but they don’t think to the future. They don’t want these people working anymore, but fail to realize that they’ll need to eat and live somehow. Folks will say “Well, they’re rich”, but that money will eventually run out, especially when they’re cut off from every method of sustaining it. I wonder what people feel is adequate “justice” in these cases. Is it for the person to actually become destitute, and just shrivel up and die in a gutter? Is that what folks really want? I don’t even know what I feel is correct, but I do know that once you enter the #MeToo conversation, it’s fucked up either way. Either you did the stuff, and you lose everything, or you didn’t do the stuff, but you still lose everything.

I used to have this concept in my head, possibly for a story or an actual government policy, who knows? Anyway, it was called the Urban Defender, who was basically an appointed “official”, dressed as a cowboy, who would patrol cities, shooting people seemingly at random. Pretty much, every morning at UD HQ, there was something of a lottery. Someone’s number would come up, and the UD went out on patrol and shot them. The idea was something akin to The Purge, in that you would be on your Ps and Qs at most times because you never knew if the UD was coming for you that day. Also, you’d appreciate life more, as every day would be a gift. Sure, there’s also the counterargument that such an arrangement would just spark anarchy because life would be rendered meaningless, but I thought of this in more “optimistic” days. I feel like we’re getting close to that here. We’re just shooting at everyone, hoping that the ones who are outed will serve as a message to those who might think of committing such atrocities, but there needs to be some controls, some processes, in place, instead of just going at these dudes, guns a-blazing. I feel like the shock & awe was a good introduction to the cause, but it’s just not sustainable for any sort of manageable, reasoned response. Just my two cents.

Man, you Star Wars folks just can’t relax, can you? It’s been how many months since The Last Jedi, and folks are still irate? It’s one thing to have not liked it, but it’s another to be mounting a crowdfunding campaign to raise $200 million to remake it. ‘Cause that’s exactly what happened this week. Some Twitter account called @RMTheLastJedi popped up, with a manifesto about how they wanted to “save Star Wars”. And the sad thing is that they have supporters. This isn’t how IP works. This isn’t how art works. But I’m so exhausted by this shit.

After the lackluster performance of Solo, Disney is taking their Millennium Falcon and going home for a bit. Reportedly, production has halted on all Star Wars spinoffs, including the rumored Boba Fett movie from James Mangold, as well as the rumored Obi-Wan movie. They will focus their attention on Episode IX at this point, which is probably for the best. Still, with the backlash they received, I’m sure Episode IX will be some pandering thing that rubs everyone’s balls so they’ll leave the theater, saying “The Force was with that one! All is forgiven.”

While all movement seems to have stalled on developing the Star Wars universe, the Star Trek universe is starting to rev up again. Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman just signed a five-year deal to expand the Trek television slate. While Discovery streams on CBS All Access, these new potential shows could end up anywhere, from broadcast to cable networks. The five shows potentially in development are:

  • A Starfleet Academy series, from Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz – the folks behind the Dynasty reboot, as well as the Runaways series. I like this idea, and have always liked this idea since it was floated almost 20 years ago. You see, this isn’t the first time an Academy series was in development (at the time it was described as “Dawson’s Creek in space”), but they opted to go with Enterprise instead. I’d watch this one
  • A miniseries based on the character of Khan
  • A top secret series
  • an animated series
  • A Star Trek: The Next Generation sequel, featuring Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picard. I have been clamoring for YEARS for a Trek series that isn’t a prequel. The way DS9/Voyager left things with the Dominion War, I really wanted to know the state of the Federation after all of that. Almost 20 years have passed since the finale of Deep Space Nine, so would the series also experience a similar time jump? As much as I want a “future” Trek series, I’m not sure a Picard series is what I want. I mean, I’d love cameos, but do I really want a show centered on him? It would make up for the fact that the TNG movies just kinda petered out, but I’m on the fence with this one.

Anyway, more Trek TV is a good thing because I refuse to pay for Discovery, so it’s been far too long for me.

In comics news, Batgirl is finally getting a new costume in the upcoming Batgirl #26. If you’re not familiar, they did a soft reboot of the character a few years back, moving her to the hipster Gotham neighborhood of Burnside. At the same time, her van, which held her costume and gear, blew up, forcing her to cobble together a new suit. The “Batgirl of Burnside” costume has pretty much been around now for the past 4 years or so, but it never really made sense for it to stick around. Sure, in the details of the story arc, it made sense. However, once the dust settled, and her life returned to normal, she should’ve gotten a “real” costume again. Still, it served as the influence for her costume in DC Super Hero Girls, as well as other licensed products. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, though – especially with the lack of a cowl. What happens when Barbara Gordon gets a haircut? Will she just wear a wig, like Yvonne Craig did in the 60s TV show? Plus, it feels really irresponsible to have all the hair exposed during combat. I do like the classic aspect of the suit, as it looks like the one Batgirl wore back in the 80s. That said, the little bat ears seem a little stupid. I mean, they’re even kind stupid on Batman, so they’re especially stupid in this presentation.

I better get a cut of this, because I SO called it! Late yesterday evening, ABC announced they had ordered a 10-episode Roseanne spinoff called The Conners for next Fall. Everyone will be back except Roseanne Barr, as she agreed to a settlement that would get everyone back to work, but she wouldn’t have any creative or financial involvement with the show. I don’t know the ins and outs of the deal, but I kinda have to hand it to her. She didn’t have to do this, especially when the show was based on, and influenced by, her life. I don’t know if folks would consider this redemption, but she did look out for the cast and crew who were affected by her actions, plus I know this will be even more of a ratings coup for ABC.

How will they write her out, though? Well, it seems like they’ll kill her off. Here’s the synopsis:

“After a sudden turn of events, the Conners are forced to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before. This iconic family — Dan, Jackie, Darlene, Becky and D.J. — grapples with parenthood, dating, an unexpected pregnancy, financial pressures, aging and in-laws in working-class America. Through it all, the fights, the coupon cutting, the hand-me-downs, the breakdowns – with love, humor and perseverance, the family prevails.”

Here’s the thing about killing a main character like this: you’ve GOT to start with a time jump. You can’t just pick up after the funeral because the spectre of that character will still cast its shadow over every episode. “Oh, there’s mom’s favorite chair.” Shit like that. You need to pick things up about 6 months later, once the grieving process has settled, and folks are getting back to their everyday lives. Kevin Can Wait tried to do a Kill The Wife Time Jump, but it didn’t work because the show was so new, fans liked the character who was killed, and it was obvious they were trying to reinvent The King of Queens by bringing in Leah Remini. This has a better shot of working, but I don’t know if I’d want it to go past the initial 10-episode order. I’m sure that decision will be dictated by ratings, and ratings alone.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Talk about moving fast – it was only, like, two weeks ago that I told you Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande were dating. Well, now they’re engaged! That marriage is never happening, as he’ll probably go back to rehab for his weed addiction, and she’ll realize “What the fuck did I get myself into?”
  • Jodi Foster is apparently in talks to star in the FX adaptation of the comic Y: The Last Man. Let’s hope they manage to end the show a lot better than they ended the comic!
  • Good news, Luciferites! Netflix has picked up the recently-cancelled Lucifer, for a 10-episode fourth season.
  • Amazon has ordered an 8-hour “adult animation” series based on the Robert Kirkman comic Invincible.
  • We got the trailer for Creed II. I mean, I was already a guaranteed audience member, but I’m not seeing a lot here. I’m hoping we get more Drago in the next trailer.

  • We also got a trailer for the incredible looking Welcome to Marwen. I don’t know much about the true story upon which it’s based, but I hear there’s a great documentary out there called Marwencol that I need to check out. Anyway, this thing is visually stunning.
  • MTV announced the launch of MTV Studios, which will be tasked with rebooting some older MTV hit shows, like The Real World, a live action Aeon Flux, and a rebooted Daria, called Daria & Jodie. I’m kind of surprised by that last one, as the addition of Jodie to the title feels like a diversity play. I mean, didn’t Daria have more of a rapport with Jane? Anyway, if they want to fix The Real World, just cast more ugly people. Prior to the Vegas season, every cast was at least 50% ugly. Then Vegas happened, and everyone was hot, drank all the time, and fucked each other. Changed the entire franchise. Bring back the uglies!
  • So they’re rebooting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films again, with Michael Bay still attached. Why?
  • NBC cancelled Timeless for the second time. Wonder if the team can go back in time and stop their second demise.

  • Gotta say, I didn’t expect this sort of speech from Chris Pratt. Didn’t expect that at all.
  • There was more Comcast/Disney shit. I don’t want to get into it, but let’s just say Disney countered, and now they’re winning again in the bid for Fox.
  • Pete Docter (director of Up and Inside Out) and Jennifer Lee (writer of Frozen) have been named Chief Creative Officers of Pixar, succeeding the departing John Lasseter.
  • Speaking of Pixar, The Incredibles 2 had the eight biggest opening weekend of all time in North America, as well as the biggest launch ever for an animated film, with $180 million.

Outside of the 11th hour decision that let the Roseanne cast and crew keep their jobs, nothing GOOD happened this week. Go back up and read that intro. I don’t want you to look back and think “Oh, that’s the week The Incredibles 2 made history.” No, I want you to remember the shit. We are knee deep in it, and I don’t know how much worse things have to get before they start to get better. For that reason, nothing had the West Week Ever.

15th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/15/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM):

Chris Hardwick: Thank sweet Baby Jesus it’s finally acceptable to say Chris Hardwick is a piece of shit! I could’ve told you that from back during the Singled Out days. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, his former girlfriend, Chloe Dykstra, posted an essay on Medium detailing the abuse that she suffered during their relationship. Not only was he emotionally abusive to Dykstra, but he also regularly made her have sex with him when she didn’t want to do it. Then, when she finally left him, he used his sway in geek circles to have her blacklisted.

Now, I don’t want to make light of what he did for some personal vendetta. All I’m saying is that none of these allegations surprise me. He always came off as an insecure little man who never got over the fact he was bullied in school. He’s the kind of person who’d keep a Shit List to “get back at his enemies” once he was in a position to do so. I never liked the cut of his jib, and there was just something I couldn’t put my finger on. To say these things online, however, were a nonstarter, ’cause he has something of a deplorable fan base. You know how folks hate the Rick & Morty fans? Well, these are basically the same guys. Say something about him, and they come mock you. Why? Because they’re the guys who’d do the same shit in his position. Anyway, he recently renamed his podcast to ID10T and moved from the Nerdist Network that he created, to the ID10T company that he also created. The Nerdist brand now belongs to Legendary, but he remains the CEO even if it’s just a vanity title at the moment, as he has very little day to day involvement. Still, it will be interesting to see how many folks in the ID10T/Nerdist family leave over these allegations.

So, it ain’t looking good for folks who assumed the Disney/Fox acquisition was a done deal. On the heels of the court approving the AT&T/Time-Warner merger, Comcast has submitted an offer for Fox for $65 billion, in an all-cash deal. While the cash aspect might be unattractive, due to the taxes involved, the deal is still worth more than Disney’s offer of $52.4 billion in stock. Plus, to sweeten the deal, Comcast has offered to pay the $1.5 billion “breakup fee” that Fox would have to pay Disney for backing out of their negotiations. So, it’s currently Disney’s game to lose, as they’ll need to come back with a more attractive offer. There’s a chance, though, that the X-Men and Fantastic Four aren’t “coming home” as soon as many previously assumed.

While things for Disney/Marvel are sort of in a holding pattern, things over at Warner Bros/DC Comics are crazy sauce right now! First off, President of DC Entertainment and President of Warner Bros Consumer Products, Diane Nelson, has officially left the company. She reportedly went on a leave of absence back in March to attend to family matters, but now it appears she will not be returning to her post. Insiders stress that she made the decision to leave, and wasn’t ousted.

But wait, there’s more! Earlier this week, it was reported that the Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, who worked closely with Nelson, would also be leaving the company. His CCO role will now be added to DC Publisher Jim Lee’s plate, while he’s being given something of a consolation production deal at Warner Bros, called Mad Ghost Productions. Unlike Nelson, it seems the writing was on the wall for Johns. The studio wasn’t happy with the response to Justice League, which he produced, not to mention the majority of the DCEU slate. In January, Johns sort of lost his seat at the table when Warner Bros promoted Walter Hamada to oversee the comic book movie division.

Still, I can’t help but think these two departures are related. Were they banging each other? Are they splitting off to form their own company, like Sterling Cooper did that time on Mad Men? I’m honestly not surprised about the Nelson thing, really. I have no clue what she’s going through, but I remember how…unprepared she seemed to be at the “DC in D.C.” event back in January. Sure, it was the inaugural edition of an untested concept, but her speech was more disjointedly off-the-cuff than prepared, and she struck me as someone who probably couldn’t have run a PTA meeting, let alone a company like DC Entertainment. Maybe it was just a bad morning for her, but it was clear that whatever she eventually left to deal with in March was already going on back then.

On the comics side of things, though, there’s some interesting things on the horizon. This week, we got more information about the upcoming event, Heroes In Crisis. Written by Tom King, who I hear has been doing some amazing stuff with the Batman book (and who I can confirm did an amazing job on Sheriff of Babylon), the story focuses on PTSD in the superhero community. In order to deal with it, and get heroes mentally prepared to get back on the streets, the DC Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman established Sanctuary. The facility is something of a secret amongst the hero community, and anonymity is kept because it keeps no patient records. Suddenly, however, some recent patients turn up dead, and a murder mystery is ignited.

I like the sound of this storyline because it’s something we don’t think about too often. Sure, there’s always a danger in incorporating real world events into comics (I’m looking at you, post-9/11 crying Dr. Doom!), but I could see how this would work. I also like how it seems like a more grounded story, where change might occur, but it isn’t necessarily on the “The Universe Will Never Be The Same!” level of most crossover events. It sort of reminds me of Identity Crisis, which is a story I didn’t hate as much as some others. Sure, I thought the ending/reveal was something of a cop out, but it also didn’t seem like a huge betrayal because I wasn’t all that familiar with the character. I kinda hate that they managed to slip “Crisis” into the title, as DC execs are bound to know how triggering that is for fans. Still, I like the more character-based stories, and I don’t feel you have to go to space just to make a storyline seem like it “matters”. So, I’ll definitely be picking this up. And then reading it 2 years from now, because that’s how far behind I am on my DC reading.

They said the Revolution would not be televised, but they were wrong. What they didn’t tell us was that it would end, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Yes, it is with heavy heart that I report that, after 28 seasons, production has ceased on The Jerry Springer Show. In a deal reported this week, The CW has acquired the show’s library to air in the afternoon spot being vacated by cancelled The Robert Irvine Show on their stations. While the door is open for possible tapings down the road, new episodes of the show are no longer in production. I will never fulfill a lifelong dream of sitting in an audience of drunken Spring Break college kids, yelling “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!”

I mean, I get it. Jerry’s 74 years old, and he’s made his money. When the show hit its peak, the guests seemed like a weird microcosm of American society. We’d watch the show and ask each other “Where do they find these people?” Now, we look around us, and that IS America. We won! No, no we didn’t. We’re a heartbeat away from Idiocracy. You could blame Springer for ushering in this era, or you could credit the show for giving us a preview of what we would become. We had the chance to stop it, but we decided we’d rather laugh at the cousin-fucking chair throwers. This just led to not only the reality show craze, but also inspired the World Wrestling Entertainment “Attitude Era”.

What was always interesting to me was Springer’s pivot. I’ve been with the show from the very beginning, and you wouldn’t recognize those first few seasons, where he was doing his best Phil Donahue impression. He had serious, sometimes heartwarming topics, like little kids with HIV and how they were coping. Then, in the mid 90s, the fights began. The chairs took to the skies. The security budget increased. At some point, they redesigned the set to look like a back alley and installed a stripper pole. The lower they sank, the more popular they became. It was the smart, conservative diligent student who realized she’d be more popular if she said “Screw homework!” and showed a bit more cleavage. It got so bad that the show came under fire for its most outrageous bits, prompting them to do more cutaways, yet it provided more footage to fuel their Girls Gone Wild-esque Jerry Springer: Too Hot For TV video series.

I’ve often wondered which was the REAL Jerry Springer: the early nuDonahue OR the modern-day White Trash ringmaster? The man’s earlier political career was tarnished when a raid on a massage parlor revealed a check that he had used to pay for a prostitute (People used checks to pay for hookers? Can you imagine how many of those had to have bounced?! Man, I miss the old days!). So, was the gentle, caring early Springer something of an image restoration, and in his older age he decided he just didn’t care anymore? Or is he still that Springer, but he’s essentially doing all this because it’s what the people want?

I’ve also been impressed that the production aspect of the show is one of show business’s greatest kept secrets. I mean, it’s been almost 30 years, and we still don’t really know how they pull it off. We know how wrestling is done. We know how some of the greatest magic tricks are done. But we still don’t really know what goes into producing an average episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Where DO they find these people? Are they paid? Are they actors? If they are actors, none of them have ever made it big. There’s no footage of a young Benicio Del Toro on stage for his love of midget strippers. Sure, there have been stories. For example, Lunchbox, who’s a morning radio personality as part of country radio’s The Bobby Bones Show, went on Springer when he was in high school. He admits he lied, though, about his age and his reason for being there. So, that’s one case. From that, we learn they didn’t vet their guests that well, but then why would they? Some of those stories are so fantastical that you wouldn’t want to prove them false, and there’s no real legal ramification for putting it out there without researching it. I mean, it’s entertainment, not a scientific breakthrough needing FDA approval.

Anyway, it’s truly the end of an era, which may not be a bad thing. Nobody could really keep up with Springer’s outlandish show, even though they tried. Some eventually found their niche, like Maury ruling the paternity test roost. The latest trend in syndicated daytime talk shows are known as “conflict talkers”. This is your Steve Wilkos, your Robert Irvine, your Jeremy Kyle. It’s a genre of show where middle-aged White men (usually muscle-bound and/or former cops) yell at poor people. “You need to respect your mom!” “Close your legs and open your eyes!” “Why won’t you let him see his kids?!” In all honesty, it’s a natural progression from the Springer era. Everyone had their fun back then, and this is the wind-down, where you’re forced to look back at what you did. Meanwhile, the more outrageous Springerites have moved over to the world of court shows, just as they used to migrate to the dating shows back at the turn of the century.

My grandmother used to love Springer. She’d pretend she was appalled by it, but her 85 year old self loved to watch people fight. Not boxing fights, but visceral “real people” altercations. She also used to love any episode of Married…with Children when the Bundys grew closer by throwing down with another family. She was an odd bird at times, and I loved her for it. She’s been gone for almost 20 years now, but this is kind of the end of an era of something we shared. Thanks for the memories, Jerry. Until we meet again, you take care of yourself, and we’ll try to take care of each other.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of guesting on quite a few friends’ podcasts. One that was especially good to me was the Cold Slither Podcast Network. I was invited on pretty early, and they always supported me during the Will’s World of Wonder years. So, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that CSPN chairman/president/CEO, Classick Materia, announced his retirement from the network last week. Now known to the world simply as “Jamal”, his life is in a different place than when he started the Cold Slither Podcast, and then expanded it into a full network with a slate of shows. I’ve been on the flagship show, I’ve been on Comic Book Chronicles, and I’ve had some of the most fun on The Classick Team-Up. So, I do feel like I’m losing a small part of myself here. Still, I understand his decision and wish him well. And it’s not like the CSPN is going away. No, he’s leaving it in capable hands. Still, I don’t know those dudes, so they ain’t asking me on anytime soon!

It’s not all endings, however. We’ve also got some beginnings! My pal Kevin Hellions runs TeamHellions.com, and he’s got a new thrifting column called T.H.R.I.F.T. that you need to check out. When I was doing Thrift Justice, I always meant to do “Tips from the road”, giving folks advice on how to find stuff. Instead, it turned into “Look at my cool shit!” Kevin here has excelled where I fell short. Great stuff!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Remember when you bought a new outfit that really didn’t fit your personality, but were excited to wear it to school because you thought it would make you cool? But, instead, everyone just laughed at you? That’s pretty much what happened to IHOP this week, when they announced that they were temporarily changing their name to IHOb, for International House of Burgers. Apparently they’ve got some new steak burger line they’re trying to promote, and this is what their genius marketing people came up with. It’s sad because it shows a lack of commitment. Last week, when the change was teased, nowhere did they mention it was temporary. We got the impression they’d be updating signs, menus, etc. Now that we know it’s just a temporary marketing ploy, they just look sad.
  • Not everything in Washington sucks these days, as the Capitals won the Stanley Cup finals. There was a parade and everything. I’m not a sports guy, so I missed all that, but I know folks are happy. They’d be happier if it were football or baseball instead of hockey, but they’ll take what they can get.
  • CBS continues its retooling of the upcoming Cedric The Entertainer-starring sitcom, The Neighborhood. When I did my upfronts post, I mentioned that star Josh Lawson had been replaced by New Girl‘s Max Greenfield. At the time, my only comfort was knowing that Dreama Walker would be on the show. Well, that’s over, as she’s been replaced by 2 Broke Girls‘ Beth Behrs. I already had issues with the one-note nature of the show, and these recasts don’t fill me with any additional confidence.
  • Somehow, author James Patterson and former President Bill Clinton were paired together to write a novel. And someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea to send them on a book tour on the tail end of the #MeToo movement. I take it that person is currently looking for work. In a pseudo-contentious interview with NBC’s Craig Melvin, Clinton said that he never apologized to former intern/cigar holder Monica Lewinsky, nor does he feel he owes her an apology – all of this while Patterson sat idly by, with “I just wanted to talk about my book” clearly plastered across his face.
  • The Miss America Pageant will be eliminating the swimsuit competition, at which point I feel we should just call a spade a spade and get rid of the whole thing. It’s not that I feel women need to be objectified in swimwear, but it’s that I feel the pageant as a whole doesn’t really offer much more than that. It’s all just surface appraisals, so why start acting like you care about a woman’s character and all that? It was founded in 1921, so do it til 2021 and wrap that shit up with the rest of the historical artifacts.
  • FX has renewed Atlanta for season 3. I actually finally finished season 2 over the weekend, and I would have had no problem if it had ended as something of a 2-season “experiment”. I felt season 2 was weird solely for the sake of being weird. Glover deftly handles that sort of material, but I just wanted some episodes I didn’t have to analyze or Google to get the whole picture. Considering season 2 was “Robbin’ Season”, which saw everyone have something taken away from them, I really hope season 3 is a little more positive for all involved.
  • TBS reversed its renewal of the Conan O’Brien-produced sitcom People of Earth. It had been renewed for a 3rd season last fall, with the season already written, but the show’s creator took to Twitter to report that it wouldn’t be shot. This makes me worry for The Detour, which is a recently-renewed favorite of mine, also on TBS, which was never a ratings darling.
  • The Tony Awards were cattier than ever this year, as Robert DeNiro said “Fuck Trump” on the live telecast, while Neil Patrick Harris started a Twitter feud with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom. And a bunch of shows won some awards, but none of them were Hamilton, so nobody outside the theatre world cared.
  • Keiynan Lonsdale is leaving his role of Kid Flash on both The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, reportedly for “personal reasons”. Yeah, I’ve got nothing snarky to say there. He seems like a good kid.
  • Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille, is reportedly ready to file for divorce. Bitch, you had 30-plus years to leave him. Bye!
  • The showrunners for Star Trek: Discovery, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg, have been ousted, with Alex Kurtzman taking over as showrunner for season 2. Half of the season has already been completed, but the pair were accused of budget overruns, as well as mistreatment of writing staff. Akiva Goldsman, who came on as executive producer last season will also not be returning.
  • Silver & Black, the Silver Sable/Black Cat Spider-Man spinoff film that nobody wanted, has lost its release date, and has been delayed indefinitely. I guess they’re taking notes from the Universal Fancon folks…
  • It’s a confusing story, so I’m not even going to try to make sense of it. Let’s just say that Stan Lee has been granted a restraining order against his supposed business partner Key Morgan. Morgan has served as Lee’s “caretaker” since the death of Lee’s wife, but many suspect he is responsible for elder abuse of Lee. This story has been going for the last 6 months, and only seems to get crazier.
  • We got three trailers last week worth talking about. I’m running short on time, so I’ll use the In Living Color review scale. Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Hated it!); The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Hated it!); Bumblebee (Two Snaps Up!)
  • Speaking of trailers, though, here’s one for a movie, Hearts Beat Loud, that I’d really like to see. It’s out now, but nobody’s gonna see it, so hopefully it finds life on DVD/streaming.

Here comes the swerve! You know how one of the four in the intro pic gets the West Week Ever? Not today, suckas! I really should’ve written a post last week, ’cause I was scared I wouldn’t get to do this. I mean, nothing really happened in the world of pop culture last week, but this week was something of a shitshow. Still, nothing GOOD happened like this:

Charlotte “Charley” Bruce West was born last Tuesday at 10:33 PM, at 7 lbs and 1 oz. She was originally due May 30th, so you can see she’s pretty stubborn (she didn’t get that from me!). While her older sister took a good 24 hours to come put, this delivery was shorter than Avengers: Infinity War. Her mom didn’t even have time to get an epidural, ’cause she’s a warrior like that!

Anyway, I now have two kids – two daughters at that. I walk around my house, mumbling “Two kids…two kids.” It’s much more difficult than I thought it would be. I mean, changing a diaper while the older one is climbing on your back? It’s like a demented reality show! Anyway, I now have two kids. My mom only had one, so she can’t tell me shit. Every time she opens her mouth, I’m like “Two kids. I won.” So, to me, that’s the best thing that happened in popular culture the past 2 weeks. You can have your Stanley Cup and your CMT awards. I’ve got Charley, and she had the West Week Ever.

27th Apr2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/27/18

by Will

So I skipped last week because I didn’t think anything major had happened in pop culture. On the Facebook page for the site, I wrote “Try harder next week, America!” Well, America did not disappoint, as this week was a doozy. What am I talking about? Well, the Universal FanCon implosion, of course! If you’re a White reader, this might be the first you’re hearing of FanCon, so sit back and get comfortable, because you’re about to go on a wild ride.

Universal FanCon was envisioned as a pop culture convention that would embrace the ideals of inclusion and diversity. It catered to marginalized fans who didn’t feel like the major cons took them into consideration. This primarily included fans of color, the LGBTQ community, as well as the disabled audience. It popped onto the scene as a Kickstarter back in 2016, which had a goal of $25,000, but went on to make over $56,000. Remember that number. There are essentially three “founders” of the show, but the most prominent of them is Jamie Broadnax, the blogger behind the Black Girl Nerds brand, which is essentially a community of like-minded, Black female geeks. In Black geek circles, Jamie’s kind of a big deal, so her association with the show is what convinced a lot of people to buy into its mission.

The show was originally supposed to start today at the Baltimore Convention Center, but last Friday things started to get weird when area hotels started sending out reservation cancellations to planned attendees. Apparently the convention hadn’t put down the money to secure the rooms. Immediately, Twitter lit up with “What’s happening with FanCon?” tweets. As folks started trading stories of their cancelled reservations, the actual convention planners weren’t addressing the situation at all. Now, this was one week out from the planned start of the con, so it was too late for many to recoup travel costs they’d incurred when making arrangements to attend the show. Some exhibitors had already shipped their wares to the hotels, and would now need to get those shipments returned.

Later Friday afternoon, FanCon issued a brief statement where they said 1) that the show was “postponed” and not “cancelled” and 2) that it was basically all the hotels’ fault. Oh, and since the show wasn’t cancelled, there wouldn’t be any refunds because all sales were final, and ticket holders would be given passes to the rescheduled show. Well, Twitter wasn’t having it, as they were demanding answers – primarily to the question of “Where did the money go?” Of the three co-founders, one went radio silent, while the other had a bit of a breakdown before locking his tweets. That left Broadnax to take the brunt of the blame, as she was the most public face associated with the show. The show promised to issue an FAQ later that day, but that’s when things went from bad to worse, as the poorly written FAQ was a live document that saw revisions over the course of the day, with folks comparing screenshots just to have a record of FanCon going back and forth on promises made. While blame kept shifting, they remained pretty unwavering on the No Refunds thing. Oh, and I forgot to mention that when FanCon DID start emailing Kickstarter backers about the status of the show, they didn’t BCC the addresses, so they ended up revealing the email addresses of 500-1,000 people. Yeah, folks were NOT happy.

Meanwhile, Twitter was on fire with folks revealing what they’d lost from the situation: travel fees, booth fees, Kickstarter pledges, the works. Apparently, out of the $56,000 raised, only a fraction of those backers had qualified for admission to the show. This was a problem. You see, FanCon was a first year show with lofty goals. Instead of taking the sensible route of starting small, maybe at a Best Western ballroom, they set their sights on the Baltimore Convention Center and expected the kind of attendance numbers that an established show like Awesome Con pulls in. If only a small percentage of Kickstarter backers were guaranteed attendees, where were they going to make up the numbers? And THAT was the problem. Apparently they were DEEP in the hole, and didn’t have the funds to pull off the show as it had been promoted. There had been talks of scaling it down and, according to reports, that was the plan going forward. The show was still going to happen until those pesky Baltimore hotels started actually wanting money for the reservations they’d been holding. How dare they?!

As the truth became something that folks couldn’t get, folks started making their own assumptions. The weekend was rife with accusations that Jamie and the crew had stolen all the money and screwed over a heartbroken fandom that had invested their hopes and dreams and money into the vision of the convention. Jamie, meanwhile, wasn’t helping her case as she did a poor job of trying to distance herself from any sort of power role in the planning of the show. While most materials had billed her as “co-founder”, in her statement she merely referred to herself as a “member” who had volunteered her time and services to the con. This downgrade to “member” was equally suspicious when it came out that, while she had “volunteered” her time, she still stood to make a cut of any profits the show made – not something one tends to get in a volunteer capacity. Also, her original statement said she found out about the lack of funds “48 hours ago”, but later reports said she knew as early as April 3rd, so why did they wait so long to pull the plug? Her other two partners were still silent as she continued to dig her hole deeper and deeper.

Next, it was discovered that a man by the name of Thai Pham was associated with the planning of the show, and he’d had experience planning conventions in the past. The problem here, however, is that he had a track record of raising money for conventions that were, then, cancelled at the last minute, offering no refunds – much like FanCon. The most notable example of this was Pride Con, and his involvement was basically confirmed when jilted FanCon guests received a questionnaire that had been recycled from the Pride Con debacle. With Pham’s involvement, what had originally looked like gross negligence with funds was now beginning to look like a con job to many.

Monday hit, people were still angry, and there were no real answers to anything that had happened. A few Tweeters with hotel experience chimed in that the hotels wouldn’t have breached contract if they didn’t have a reason, so it was most likely a case of the convention not paying them what they owed. Meanwhile, a bunch of Twitter detectives were on the case, piecing things together. For a GREAT takedown of the timeline and folks involved, you should check out this investigative post at Women Write About Comics. Still, Jamie was the main one taking the hits and, realizing her brand was pretty much irrevocably tarnished, she announced that she was stepping down as EIC of Black Girl Nerds. This did little to calm folks, as they simply wanted the truth and they wanted their money back.

In any case, around Tuesday, people surprisingly started reporting that they were getting refunds for the passes they’d purchased. While the show doesn’t seem to have made things right for exhibitors, the planned attendees appear to be getting some sort of compensation. Many of those who couldn’t get their travel arrangements refunded decided to just come to Baltimore anyway, and wondered if there might be a way to scrape something together from the ashes of FanCon. That’s when folks with Black Heroes Matter and The Nerds of Color joined forces to throw together Wicomicon, which is a pop-up con that will take place tomorrow at the Wicomico Building in Baltimore. Instead of FanCon’s weekend-long affair, Wicomicon will try to provide a worthwhile experience in one day.

Whew! That’s a lot, right? Well, that’s just the reporting aspect. Then there’s MY take on the whole situation.

I never had any faith in Universal FanCon. I know, I know. A lot of folks brand me as a “hater”, and that’s not without reason. That said, I first heard about it about a year ago. It was after the Kickstarter had passed, but at the start of the real marketing push. After the success of Awesome Con, a whole lot of shows have popped up in this area in recent years. There’s BlerdCon, there’s the upcoming (and also unproven, first-year) All-Star Comic-Con, as well as some smaller cons. At the end of the day, though, Awesome Con and Baltimore Comic Con pretty much rule the roost in the DMV.

It’s hard to put on a show, and it’s even harder for a first year show. The folks behind FanCon never really filled me with any kind of confidence that they had experience in this realm. Sure, Jamie is a known quantity, but I never really “got” Jamie Broadnax. Like, anybody could livetweet shit and come up with cute hashtags for shows. I never quite understood how that was her claim to fame. I’d see her on panels, and just think “And?” I mean, she was on a few panels for the DC in D.C. event I went to a few weeks back, and I just never understood how a mere blogger shared the stage with actors and producers. But whatever. That’s just me being a “hater” again, I suppose.

I didn’t know the other 2 guys from Adam. They weren’t coming from event planning backgrounds, and they seemed to be motivated by the fact that they were hardcore fans. That’s cute, but this is a BUSINESS at this point. No time for you to start fanboying when you’re handling folks’ money. Anyway, I don’t do first year cons. You’ve got to work out the kinks and figure out your shit. Going to a first year con is like buying a gaming console on release day, knowing it’s gonna have some sort of defect like the Red Ring of Death or something that they won’t rectify till the next batch are shipped. I didn’t go to Awesome Con til, like, Year 3. I don’t have time or money for your dress rehearsals.

Here’s the real kicker for me: the show had a weak mission statement. Yes, inclusion and diversity are good things, and they should be the aims of more conventions that are being planned. That said, it was never really pronounced as to how they were going to achieve this. The show was marketed to marginalized communities as basically, “You know how other conventions don’t treat us fairly? Well, here’s a convention for us!” And that, I feel, was its biggest problem. I’ve heard that a lot of shows don’t take into account the challenges of the disabled. Some shows aren’t safe spaces for Black cosplayers. Some shows don’t consider diversity when programming their panels. I get all of that. So, here’s a show that basically came along and said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and those communities jumped at it and supported it. Some folks are desperate for community and they should have that. What you end up with, however, is a show comprised of racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, and the disabled community banding together. This is not inclusion. This is actually exclusion.

Inclusion is defined as “the act or state of including or of being included within a group or structure”. If inclusion were the true goal of this show, it would’ve actually been a convention for EVERYONE. Instead, it was a case of “line up with your favorite brand of oppression”. It was a separatist movement. It was a convention For Us, By Us. I guess Daymond John wouldn’t let them use the name FUBUCon, but that’s what this was.

Now, some folks will say “Well, why can’t we have spaces of our own?” You can, but that ain’t inclusion. That’s pretty much the opposite. There’s this underlying bass note to the whole thing that somewhat implies that straight, White congoers are the problem with conventions. They’re harassing the Black cosplayers, they’re not making accommodations for the disabled. They’ve done things their way, for them, so now it’s time for us to do them our way, for us. On the flip side, the show makes another assumption: that if the marginalized are grouped together, without the “oppressor” present, then everything will be copacetic. I got news for you, though: the members of marginalized groups can be just as bad as those outside of them. Being in a wheelchair does not mean a person is incapable of being an asshole. When I was in college, there was this mean little girl (little person? I never knew if she was a young prodigy or just a little person), who wouldn’t give a shit about mowing you down in her motorized wheelchair. The show seemed like it didn’t want a certain element there, while refusing to acknowledge that those problems come in all shapes and size. This is the part where some folks would love to call me a “coon” or say I’m “caping” for the White man or in the “sunken place”, but these are just facts. The show was built on the shaky assumption that White fans are the worst part of the con-going experience and, while history books (and the nightly news) deliver a plethora of examples where White folks have been the devil, their influence over pop culture conventions is not a hill upon which I plan to die.

Let me point out: they never said that any particular group *couldn’t* come to the show, but they treated some groups basically like “I guess they can come if they want” – with the same sincerity that you have when you ask someone “How are you?” and you pray they honor the social contract by not giving you an honest, detailed answer.

So, for the Black cosplayers seeking a safe space, what was it about this show that was going to protect them that didn’t exist at more established cons? Was FanCon going to have a stringent anti-harassment policy? If so, how were they going to enforce it? I’ve been to uncomfortable conventions before, so I know they exist. Still, I feel like the established pop culture cons are already some of the most inclusive experiences you can have. Nobody cares about who you date, or who you voted for. For that day, you’re all united by your love of the same shit.

For the folks who think they got “scammed” by Jamie and her cohorts, I don’t think that’s exactly the case, either. I think it was gross mismanagement of funds, but I don’t think this was initially an attempt to cheat folks out of their money. Keep in mind I said “initially”. Yes, a lot of people are out of money, BUT that’s primarily because their travel and accommodations got fucked over by the timeline. It’s hard to believe the organizers “scammed” anyone when they didn’t have the $$$ to put on the show. If we’re just talking about the Kickstarter, that’s about $56,000. If they fucked folks over for the price of a midsized SUV, that’s got to be one of the saddest cons in the history of con jobs. Now, let’s look at the other money. Table fees and whatnot. That could add up to, what, another $50,000? Max? So, you want me to believe that the three founders and these shadow members, like Thai Pham, went through all this to split roughly $100,000 between them? Are times THAT hard out in these streets?

At the end of the day, this was just mismanagement. You’ve got folks who can’t even balance their checkbooks handling other folks’ money. While Pham’s involvement is shady, the three founders that folks keep mentioning don’t seem slick OR smart enough to pull this off. Jamie didn’t scam anyone. The other two didn’t scam anyone. That Pham fucker? Yeah, he totally scammed folks, but he’s the smartest of them all because he’s been quiet, he let others take the fall, and still nobody really even seems to know who he is. I think, had the show happened, he still would’ve found some way to make off with a considerably large sum of money, and he’d be in the wind to do it again at a later date with some other show.

Meanwhile, Jamie ruined her brand, which will forever go down in history. She took a chance, just like the affiliates did. If it had been a success, we wouldn’t be here, and errbody would be taking credit for it. She took a gamble, and she lost. A cautionary tale, but not unusual.

Let’s talk about Jamie for a minute. A lot of “tea has been spilled”, as the young folks say, about how she ran BGN and supposedly blacklisted certain folks in the online nerd space. Since the shit hit the fan, BGN writers have been leaving in droves, while former members are starting to speak up about their negative experiences. It’s almost like a Blerd Weinstein situation, as she no longer has the clout to keep them afraid, so it’s a mini #MeToo movement. And while a lot of them have legitimate claims (she wasn’t really paying writers, BGN was a vanity project meant to promote her over everyone else), the timing of it all seems almost as petty as the Comey book. There are tons of tweets like “I been told y’all Jamie ain’t shit, but nobody wanted to listen.” And it’s true. In Black Twitter, there are cliques and cool kids, and you don’t want to get on their bad sides until you find out they’re serial sexual harassers or they seemingly make off with thousands of dollars of other people’s money, and suddenly everyone wants to talk. I’m seeing a lot of people trying to build themselves off Jamie’s misfortune right now, and they’re coming off like opportunistic vampires. I watched a video of one who was basically like “Yeah, I wasn’t really involved in this particular matter, but I knew something was up with Jamie. Anyway, I’ve got a pilot coming out soon.” It’s the social media equivalent of “Check out my mixtape” at the cost of someone else’s misfortune. Sure, I was never her biggest fan, but I feel like Jamie’s got enough to worry about (hopefully lawyering up) than to have to worry about all these folks trying to make a name for themselves off something that didn’t even directly affect them.

As for the entire situation, I’ve made jokes. A lot of them. I think I’m just astounded by what a colossal implosion occurred in such a short amount of time. It’s impressive, in its own morbid way. I wasn’t one of the people who lost anything. Sure, I had a ticket to the show, but it was given to me by a friend. I didn’t invest money in any way because, frankly, I didn’t really see the point (I also hate Kickstarter, which is a rant for another day). I do, however, feel one can laugh at the situation while feeling bad for those who lost something. After all, I’m not laughing AT them. I feel sorry for them. They truly believed in this – some of them to an extreme that I can’t entirely fathom. They feel hurt and betrayed, and for good reason. There were signs, though. People see what they want to see, so a lot of folks missed those signs. Take this bio from the website, for instance:

Or this poorly written blurb from the official FanCon blog:

Or this explanation of their mission, which somehow manages to say both everything AND nothing about who and what they are:

There are so many things wrong here, and this was on a supposedly professional site. People love to be offended by “Grammar Nazis”, but presentation matters. How you put yourself out into the world matters. One look at this, and I immediately go, “That’s a ‘no’ for me, dawg.”

I don’t think we’ll ever get the whole story of what went down, as the situation just seems to get crazier and crazier as time passes (One of the members of the planning board is a Twitter bot and not a real person!). And this failure has tremendously set back the progress of this geekspace. BGN is in shambles, and I really don’t see how a new managing editor is going to right that ship. Anyone else planning a convention for the marginalized is going to be at a disadvantage until folks get the taste of this betrayal out of their mouths. I don’t know how Jamie comes back from this. This is the Empire Strikes Back ending for Black fandom. It’s like the Blerd space has been trapped in carbonite, and we’re gonna have to wait a bit to see how it manages to get free.

HarassmentWatch

Bill Cosby – “Paging Dr. Huxtable! Your jail cell is ready!” Yeah, the Cos was found guilty of 3 counts of aggravated indecent assault yesterday, which I’ve got to say was somewhat surprising. When “world’s first supermodel”, and alleged Cosby victim, Janice Dickinson revealed she lied about the details of her assault in her book, I thought that had pretty much torpedoed this retrial. She said that her accounts differed because Cosby pressured her to remove details from the book, and she really needed the money. Still, in the end, I guess those conflicting accounts didn’t really matter.

I’ll say this, though: Bill Cosby will never see the inside of a jail cell. The man is 80 years old, and I think this is just gonna be another Roger Ailes situation. If you remember, the Fox News exec was so taken aback by his own sexual abuse investigation that it took its toll on him. He resigned from Fox, and less than a year later, fell at his home and died from subdural hematoma. I see the same thing happening in this situation, and folks will be conflicted about how they’re supposed to mourn him. Meanwhile, the Bounce TV network has, once again, removed The Cosby Show from its lineup in the wake of the verdict.

Tom Brokaw – No, not Uncle Tom! A former NBC News correspondent is accusing Brokaw of sexual harassment stemming from some stuff that happened back in the 90s. I’m not surprised, really. He comes from the old school, Mad Men days, when women were merely “broads” and “dames”. Anyway, I don’t see NBC making a big stink about this, as he’s pretty much only used in an elder statesman capacity these days. They really only call on him now when someone important dies, or maybe impeachment hearings (wink, wink!). Anyway, Brokaw denies the allegations, of course.

Charlie Rose Update – When life gives you dick pics, make dick pic-ade. That makes no sense, but you see where I was going. Trying to make something out of a bad situation, Charlie Rose is currently pitching a show where he will interview other men who were caught up in the #MeToo movement. I guess there are two sides to every story, so he wants to get the men’s take on what happened in each of their situations.

Allison Mack – Not exactly harassment, but I think being the #2 in a sex cult earns you a spot in this segment. Previously arrested for alleged involvement in sex trafficking, the former Smallville actress was released this week on a $5 million bond. Who in her life had $500,000 just lying around, yet didn’t care enough to keep her out of the sex cult in the first place?! Anyway, she’s been released to live with her parents, yet was ordered to stay off the internet and to not contact anyone involved with the cult. Stay off the internet? They do realize it’s 2018, right? The Internet’s connected to everything but our toilet paper, and I’m sure there’s a Brookstone catalog out there just waiting to prove I’m even wrong about that.

Two of my favorite flavors are now one, as The Chap Report Podcast has joined the Nerd Lunch Network. Go check out the first episode of the reboot now!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Nikki Bella has joined the rest of the human race, as she can no longer see John Cena.
  • Straight Outta Compton‘s F. Gary Gray has been tapped to direct the live action M.A.S.K. film, based on the 80s Hasbro toy series. I’ll put this in the I’ll Believe It When I See it file…
  • Despite having a pilot in consideration at ABC, and not having an official signed deal, Lauren Cohan ended speculation by announcing that she will return to The Walking Dead for season 9.
  • Apparently, there will be a sequel to A Quiet Place. I hope it has an all Black cast, and is called Bitch, I SAID “Be Quiet!”
  • There were quite a few TV cancellations this week: Ash vs. Evil Dead (after 3 seasons on Starz); Seven Seconds (after 1 season on Netflix); Ghost Wars (after 1 season on Syfy); Here & Now (after 1 season on HBO); and The Path (after 3 seasons on Hulu). Meanwhile, Living Biblically (CBS) and Taken (NBC) have been taken off the schedule, and planned for a summer burn-off, which is pretty much a cancellation.
  • Meanwhile, Fox’s Lethal Weapon is reportedly on the brink of cancellation due to reports of erratic behavior from costar Clayne Crawford. He and costar Damon Wayans are reportedly no longer speaking to each other, and there are talks of recasting Crawford’s Riggs with a female character next season.
  • It wasn’t all bad TV news, as there were also some renewals: The Last OG (after 1 season on TBS); Search Party (after 2 seasons on TBS); Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (season 1 hasn’t even debuted on Amazon yet); Grey’s Anatomy (after 14 (!) seasons on ABC).
  • *NSYNC’s Lance Bass has signed on to be an executive producer on The Lou Pearlman Project documentary for YouTube Red.
  • Netflix has ordered a Fast and the Furious animated series, which will focus on Dom Toretto’s teenage cousin, Tony.
  • Kanye West returned to Twitter, only to lose his damn mind.
  • In the “Huh?!” file, Travel Channel has ordered 4 episodes of Mysteries and Myths with Megan Fox. Yes, that Megan Fox. She’ll be “debunking the myths around some of our greatest historical mysteries”. Um, OK.
  • That spinoff of The Goldbergs just won’t die. While scrapped, the Nia Long-starring backdoor pilot aired as a regular episode of The Goldbergs earlier this season. For some reason, ABC won’t let this go, so the show is being retooled to focus on Barry’s ex-girlfriend, Lainey, as she becomes a teacher at William Penn Academy. Just like the other pilot, this show will be set in the 90s, and will still feature Tim Meadows and Brian Callen as costars.

  • Speaking of The Goldbergs, it was announced that Adam Goldberg himself, Sean Giambrone will costar with Game Shakers‘ Sadie Stanley in the Disney Channel Kim Possible movie. Several things about this make me sad: 1) Why does Sean’s agent hate him? I mean, a TV movie? 2) How demeaning must it have been for original Kim Possible voice actors Will Friedle and Christy Carlson Romano to get that call that said “Hey, we want you guys to come film a skit to introduce the kids taking your jobs”? 3) I’m old enough to remember when Kim Possible was planned as a theatrical live action film.
  • Double Dare is coming back to Nickelodeon with 40 new episodes this summer. Knowing what we know now about original host Marc Summers and his OCD, I kinda want them to bring him back just to see if he could cope.

  • We got this Venom trailer. What the Hell is with Tom Hardy’s accent? This thing looks like something from Cannon Films in the 80s. Hard pass.
  • Hot off the Hari Kondabolu/Apu controversy, Hank Azaria now says he’d be willing to step away from the role, which would be a nice gesture if The Simpsons had more than about 2 seasons left in the tank.
  • S.J. Clarkson has been tapped to direct the untitled fourth Star Trek film set in the rebooted, J.J. Abrams “Kelvin Universe”, making her the first female director in the Star Trek film franchise. The film is rumored to feature Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk interacting with his father, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, who would be reprising his role from the 2009 film.
  • Cathy Yan has been hired to direct the Margot Robbie Harley Quinn film that nobody (including Robbie herself) really seems to want.

Last weekend, partially naked Travis Reinking walked up to a Nashville area Waffle House, brandishing an AR-15, and proceeded to kill 4 people before he was stopped by customer James Shaw Jr. Shaw hid near the bathroom and rushed Reinking, grabbing the gun and throwing it over the counter before Reinking escaped. I’m not here to talk about Reinking because, well, fuck that guy. They found him 34 hours later, and took him alive, ’cause of course they did. I’m surprised they didn’t give him the Dylan Roof treatment, and swing by and get him some Burger King. No, let’s talk about Shaw.

Hours after the shooting, Shaw set up a GoFundMe to raise money for the families of the shooting victims. He ended up raising more than $165,000 in just a few days – all this while nursing the injuries he sustained during the scuffle, including burns on his hands from handling the hot gun muzzle, and a wound on his elbow while he was grazed by a bullet. He said, “I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it.” A fucking hero.

Shaw has since been recognized for his heroism, as a New York man set up an online fundraiser that has raised more than $175,000 to benefit him. Meanwhile, his bravery was also recognized by the Tennessee state General Assembly. One political figure who has been noticeably quiet, however, is the president himself (Gee, I wonder why…)- though he did have time to call into Fox & Friends and let us all know that he forgot to get his wife a birthday present. Ooh, he’s such a stinker!

Anyway, West Week Ever is usually given to someone/thing that had a pretty good week. I wouldn’t say that about James Shaw Jr. I’d say his week started off in one of the worst ways possible. He’s still dealing with injuries, not to mention the psychological impact, from what happened last weekend. He did, however do a lot of good for a lot of people – both the customers whose lives he was able to save, as well as the families for those who weren’t as fortunate. I have no more appropriate honor to bestow upon him, but his bravery was the best thing that happened this week, so James Shaw Jr had the West Week Ever.

13th Apr2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/13/18

by Will

Thanks for bearing with me as I migrated my hosting over the past couple of weeks. Hopefully this new home will keep me from getting notifications that I’ve maxed out my resources every 24 hours! I mean, it’s nice to know I’m popular, but the threshold that hosting company had set was embarrassingly low, so it’s not like I was doing gangbusters. Anyway, here’s to the future!

It’s April, but I’m finally starting to get the ball rolling on this movie watching thing for 2018. Last week I found myself in the theater to watch Blockers. Now, I love a teen sex comedy as much as the next guy, but I’m also 36 now, so it’s a bit of a weird feeling. I mean, I felt strange sitting in Superbad, and that was 11 years ago, and I’m much older now and still feeling just as weird about it. The thing about Blockers, though, is that it’s really more from the parents’ perspective, so your focus is more on them and not on their teenage kids preparing to lose their virginity.

If you’re not familiar with it, Blockers is the story of three parents, played by Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena (yup, THAT John Cena), who discover that their daughters have made a sex pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Once they find out about the pact, the parents set out to make sure that the plan fails. In the middle of the crass humor there’s a discussion about gender politics, as well as a coming out story. As a lot of reviews have said, it’s a teen sex comedy with heart.

The thing that stood out most to me is that the casting is so odd. While Barinholtz is perfectly cast as the philandering dad who had previously been cast out of the parent group, and Mann does a good job as doting mother afraid to cut the cord, I don’t know where Cena came from. At the beginning of the film, he seems to be treating it like an SNL skit where he’s desperately trying not to break. His character is this macho sports guy with a sensitive side, but it’s played more for laughs than ever really seeming genuine. Over the course of the film, he begins to settle into the role a bit more, but the whole time you’re never at a point where you don’t realize “That’s John Cena!” The kids themselves are OK, I guess. There’s the main, “pretty blonde girl” who’s the leader of the group, there’s the jock, who normally would’ve been the Black one, but in a twist is half Indian, and then there’s the frumpster who’s clearly the hottest but frumped up to make the other two look better. If you ask me, frumpster, played by Gideon Adlon (daughter of Pamela Adlon) is the breakout star of the film. Still, there are wasted opportunities, like with Hannibal Buress and June Diane Raphael, who just aren’t given much to do.

In the end, I really enjoyed the film. It’s not quite as iconic as, say, American Pie, but I don’t think it’s meant to be. Instead of being the teen sex comedy for the Snapchat generation, this is the parent cockblock comedy for the American Pie generation. When you approach it like that, I think it works pretty well.

So, there’s this controversy going around about the Apu character on The Simpsons. You see, last year “comedian” (I put that in quotes because I don’t remotely find anything he does funny) Hari Kondabolu produced a documentary called The Problem With Apu, where he detailed his problems with the racial stereotypes associated with the character. Kondabolu also took issue with the fact that the character was voiced by a White man doing an accent. The documentary made the rounds for a bit, and even aired on TruTV. And that seemed like the end of it – until this week, when The Simpsons actually addressed it. In a scene between Lisa and Marge, they basically insinuate that the backlash towards the character is merely founded in political correctness, with the argument that “Well, it wasn’t a problem when we started.” It was clear what they were referencing, as they look at a picture of Apu, and then directly at the audience.

I’m on the fence on this one. On the one hand, The Simpsons didn’t have to address this whole thing, especially if this was going to be their stance. I mean, it’s an aging show with little bark or bite left in it, so why squander time and resources on this? It just seems petty. On the other hand, Kondabolu isn’t wrong, as there are a lot of things in popular culture that were created during a time when folks weren’t as “woke” as they are now. It’s not a case of infringing “political correctness” but rather a case of righting wrongs of the past. But on the theoretical, alien third hand, this is a perfect case of how important it is to carefully choose who you’re hitching your wagon to. While it’s a valid argument, I find Kondabolu so fucking insufferable where I’d almost side with The Simpsons just because it rubs him the wrong way. He’s like the Neil deGrasse Tyson of identity politics comedy, and that’s a terrible thing. In many cases the person pushing an issue is just as important as the issue itself, and I feel like if this had come from someone like Russell Peters, Kumail Nanjiani, or even Kunal Nayyar, it would’ve been readily accepted by more people. Instead, folks see Kondabolu and don’t want some New York hipster talking down to them about the same “beloved” Simpsons that they’ve spent the past 15 years saying it should’ve been canceled 10 years ago.

Anyway, it’s a tough position to be in. They can’t kill off Apu because that doesn’t do anyone any good, but they’re not gonna recast Hank Azaria ’cause, well, they aren’t. So, this is where we are. I kinda wish this Civil Race War would start already just so we can get it over with.

Meanwhile, there are suspicions that the godfather of Marvel Comics himself, Stan Lee, is the victim of elder abuse. There have been rumblings the past few months concerning an abrupt change in his handlers, as well as him being cut off from friends and family. He came down with pneumonia, but wasn’t in a hospital. Vials of his blood had been stolen and used to sign books sold at conventions. A lot of industry folks are worried that the people surrounding him are just vultures trying to bleed him dry. This recent profile in The Hollywood Reporter gives some good background on the battle over Lee’s finances. Anyway, Lee fired back at the claims with this video:

Yeah, that’s totally not filmed under duress. Blink twice if you need a quick evac, Stan! Anyway, this seems like a situation that’s only going to get worse unless someone steps in and does something.

A few weeks back, I was invited by the good folks at OAFE to share some of my Toys “R” Us memories. I shared one I think you’ll enjoy.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining the Down the Rabbit Hole Podcast from the Nerd Lunch crew. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the show, you basically choose a Wiki on a topic, and see where the links take you. For this episode we chose the RangerWiki, in order to explore the world of Power Rangers. Since the hosts didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the franchise, I got to drive the car and had a lot of fun doing so. I never realized just how crazy some of those plotlines were until I had to boil them down to 5 minute explanations. Anyway, do yourself a favor and go check out the episode!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hot on the heels of Willa Holland’s departure, it was announced that Colton Haynes will return as a series regular on Arrow next season. Methinks maybe they hated each other on set?
  • The streaming services were vicious in their cancellations this week, as Netflix cancelled Everything Sucks! after one season, while Amazon cancelled Golden Globe Award winning Mozart In The Jungle after four seasons. Will Mozart ever get out of that jungle?! The world may never know…
  • It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as Netflix renewed Jessica Jones for a third season. I’m never gonna catch up on those Netflix Marvel shows at this point.
  • Fed up with being bumped every week on What Up With That?, Lindsey Buckingham is finally demanding respect. Following a disagreement, Buckingham announced he would not be participating in Fleetwood Mac’s upcoming tour. The band responded by officially firing him, and announcing that Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers would be taking his place.
  • The 5th season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is titled “The End”, written as a possible series finale should the show not be picked up for season 6.
  • Speaking of struggling ABC Marvel shows, Anson Mount, most recently of Inhumans, has been cast as Captain Christopher Pike for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. I’m sure he’s happy he’ll actually get to speak this time.
  • It was announced yesterday that the upcoming 5th season of Broad City would be its last. If you ask me, it’s the right time. I got so bored by season 4 that I didn’t even finish it, and it’s clear that Abbi and Ilana want to spread their wings.
  • Word on the street is that Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt have negotiated their return to Mad About You. This is yet another show that will probably have to retcon its 20 year old series finale in order to make this work. I’m really getting tired of this, especially since there’s nothing that Paul and Jamie Buchman have to say about life in 2018 that I really want to hear.
  • Already in hot water for his alleged sexual misconduct, Hollywood moron TJ Miller apparently called in a fake bomb threat on a train. Apparently he got into a drunken altercation with a woman on an Amtrak train, and reported her as a suspected terrorist to get back at her. Wow.
  • In News We’ve Known Since 2001, Mariah Carey revealed she suffers from Bipolar Disorder. We all remember that TRL appearance, Mimi. We knew all along.
  • Deadpool 2‘s David Leitch is attached to direct the untitled Fast & The Furious spinoff starring The Rock and Jason Statham.

  • We got our first set pics of the Titans cast, and it looks like something that would’ve been released in the 80s by Cannon Films.
  • AMC has ordered a vampire series called NOS4A2, based on Joe Hill’s 2013 novel of the same name. That same, stupid name.

It was a big week in wrestling, as we’re coming off the end of WrestleMania Week. WrestleMania 34 was held in New Orleans, featuring some electrifying matches, like the HHH/Stephanie McMahon vs Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey match, as well as the Royal Rumble champ Shinsuke Nakamura going up against WWE Champion AJ Styles. Plus, it featured the in-ring return of Daniel Bryan. For a card that really didn’t seem that exciting on paper, most who watched seemed to have enjoyed what they saw.

For me, the biggest part of the night was the return of The Undertaker. Gone since his seeming retirement at WrestleMania 33, Taker was at the top of John Cena’s list as a competitor for the event. Cena spent weeks pleading for Taker to accept his challenge, but was met with silence. At the actual show, Cena was content to watch from the audience as a fan, until someone whispered to him and he went running up the ramp. Yeah, so the Undertaker came back, and I’m not happy. You see, his departure at the end of last year’s match was perfect. While he wasn’t at his best, it was clear that we were seeing the waning days of an aging warrior. He’s 52 and really shouldn’t be putting himself through all of that anymore. He had been a good company man, and now it was time for him to go to his reward. Time for the Undertaker to be undertaken. Or so I thought.

Next, there were rumblings that he might not be done. I was really hoping those rumors weren’t true, because I really didn’t know what else he had to prove. “Well, it could be John Cena vs. Taker at Mania.” Yeah, so? That match-up means absolutely nothing to me. “Well, maybe he’ll come back as The American Badass.” OK, I’m listening. You see, back in the early ’00s, WWE had really built up the working class hero aspect of Stone Cole Steve Austin, but he had the knees of 1994 Nancy Kerrigan. So, he wasn’t always in working shape. During one of his hiatuses, The Undertaker took on a new persona, closer to how he is in real life, of a biker. He’d ride his hog down to the ring, wore a sleeveless vest and bandana, and did a lot more talking than he did as The Dead Man. While this gimmick is highly unpopular with a lot of fans, I loved it. I’ve loved every aspect of The Undertaker (except the whole Lord of Darkness thing, where he was crucifying people, that I missed during the Attitude Era), and I love any glimpse into what he’s like in real life (SIDE NOTE: One of my favorite books is the coffee table book WWE: Unscripted. They ask Undertaker about the “Sara” tattoo on his neck, and what he’d do if they ever broke up. His response: “I guess I’ll just have to find another girl named ‘Sara’.” His next wife would be named Michelle, and he’d remove the tattoo, but I always loved that answer).

Anyway, it seemed like a smart idea. He had retired the Dead Man gimmick at WrestleMania 33, leaving his coat and gloves in the ring. So, if he wanted to come back, like the mighty caterpillar he would have to become a majestic butterfly! Plus, Kid Rock was being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame that weekend, for whatever reason, and his song “American Bad Ass” just happened to have been the entrance song for Undertaker’s American Badass stint. All the pieces were coming together. So, fast forward to Sunday night, as I was following along on Twitter (What? I ain’t got $9.99 to give to Vince McMahon every month!), imagine my disappointment when Mark William Calaway came to the ring, as The Dead Man. From my rants about Will & Grace and Roseanne, y’all already know how much I hate when finales are retconned. Sure, Mania 33 wasn’t the greatest match, but it was a fitting end. And WHAT, exactly, does he get out of this return?

Apparently the win earned Undertaker a casket match at The Greatest Royal Rumble taking place in the Middle East later this month. I don’t even know why folks care about that show, as it’s basically a really elaborate house show, with no bearing on the actual titles or storylines. Still, Taker was set to face Rusev until Rusev’s wife, Lana, feared for her husband’s safety and begged him not to do it. So, now Taker will face fellow over the hill wrestler Chris “Y2J” Jericho. Yay. You wanna talk about elder abuse? THIS is elder abuse. WWE dragged Taker back out for no good reason, and the only fitting end I could see would be for him to lose his own casket match, which would suck in a match that’s basically “out of continuity”.

Anyway, back to Mania. Folks loved Rousey using HHH like a punching back, but lost their shit when Braun Strowman won the Tag Team title with surprise partner, Nicholas – a 10 year old kid, seemingly plucked from the audience. When Power Rangers Turbo tried this, it was met with fan revolt, but WWE seemed to know what they were doing, as it turned out to be many fans’ favorite part of the night. Again, for an event that looked pretty lackluster on paper, and didn’t seem like it could follow in the greatness that was The Royal Rumble, WrestleMania 34 still manage to pull out a few surprises and give fans an enjoyable night of wrestling. So, with that in mind, WrestleMania 34 had the West Week Ever.

11th Jan2018

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2017

by Will

 

God, did 2017 suck! It’s funny – if you go back and read the WYE 2016 post, it starts pretty much the same way. The problem with 2016, however, is that Death kept coming for all of our favorite celebrities, while 2017 was just a garbage fire through and through. To put in in Community terms, I like to write 2017 off as “The Gas Leak year” (for those who aren’t Community fans, let me explain: the 4th season of the show didn’t have the involvement of creator/showrunner Dan Harmon, so a lot of the stories and characterizations were off. When Harmon returned for season 5, he explained away a lot of the weirdness by saying that the school had experienced a gas leak during season 4, which was the cause of their odd behavior).

I had a rough time dealing with 2017 and it shows. I had to take a lot of weeks off from the site. I was basically on that schedule Regis had before they pretty much forced him to retire. When I did post, I don’t feel like much of it was that strong because I didn’t really have a lot to work with. The world of entertainment was kinda boring until Q4 (more on that later), and the major developments were happening in the world of politics, which is not what you come to this site to read. Still, I managed to crank out 41 West Week Ever posts, even though 4 of those weeks saw nothing crowned as having the West Week Ever. I also managed to post a handful of standalone things, like my tribute to the Toy Biz Hotline and my rundown of my top 40 songs of 2017. Still, with 2017 making it feel like we were constantly on the receiving end of a one-two punch, I feel a lot of stuff fell through the cracks. So, let’s take a look back at some of the stuff that I feel stood out about the year.

2017 was quite the year for “zombie shows” – shows that are long dead but just can’t seem to stay that way. NBC brought back Will & Grace, while ABC got the Roseanne gang back together. On top of those, there are talks in the works to bring back Frasier, King of the Hill, and Mad About You. I don’t have time for these shows. I watch the ones that continue the narrative for the next generation, a la Fuller House and Girl Meets World, but I’ve got no interest in these “The Quest for More Money” sequel series. After all, both Will & Grace and Roseanne had to retcon their series finales in order for these new seasons to work. While the Lottery Season of Roseanne is critically maligned, I was pretty OK with where Will & Grace left things. I don’t need to see these casts, 10+ years later, doing the same shit, and struggling with the same problems.

I recently called Roseanne “The White Good Times” on Twitter because I feel they both shared a lot of depressing traits. Will James get a new job? Is Dan gonna lose the bike shop? Is JJ gonna have to drop out of art school to provide for the family? Will the loose meat sandwich restaurant have to close? I watched these shows when I was younger, but as I’ve grown I just realize how damn poor these folks were and I don’t want to revisit that. The difference between the shows is that the Evans family DOES make it out of the ghetto in the series finale of Good Times. Roseanne, however, seems to be dealing with the same shit, in the same house, still struggling to make ends meet. And now they’ve tacked on that she and Dan are going to be Trump supporters? They clearly want me nowhere near this thing. I know a lot of y’all love Roseanne, especially for the Halloween episodes, so this revival is clearly a love letter to you and not for me.

It was QUITE the controversial year for the folks over at Marvel in 2017. First off, they announced an event where everyone’s favorite patriotic hero became a fascist dictator who was under the influence of Nazis. Sure, we can have the whole “Are Hydra soldiers Nazis?” debate, but it’s basically the same thing as far as the comics go. The fandom was spit, as they couldn’t believe Marvel would do this to Captain America. They’ve become so enamored with the Chris Evans portrayal of the character that they can’t let go of if enough for something different to be done with it. I actually thought it was an interesting idea because the buildup to it was so good. Nick Spencer was telling some great “Not MY Captain America” stories starring the Sam Wilson iteration of the hero. Of course the purists wanted Steve Rogers back, but they weren’t prepared to receive him in the state that he appeared: brainwashed by the Red Skull to believe he’d basically been a double agent. Not only did Marvel do a shitty job of damage control in marketing the story, but they also failed to stick the landing, as the buildup to Secret Empire was much more riveting than the Secret Empire miniseries itself.

Then, continuing to be tone deaf to their audience, Marvel entered into a partnership to print a comic focusing on an elite group from Northrup Grumman. If you’re not familiar with NG, they’re a defense contractor, which is a nice, friendly way of saying “arms dealer”. They had collaborated on a joint comic that was to be distributed that New York Comic Con, but when word got out that this was basically a recruitment tool, Marvel had to act fast, cancelling both the scheduled panel and the distribution of the comic. A few copies got out, making it a sought after item, but mainly the whole thing left fans scratching their heads, wondering why Marvel would enter into such a partnership.

Then there was the CB Cebulski situation. If you’re unaware, CB Cebulski was announced as Marvel’s latest editor-in-chief, but it was soon revealed that some years ago he (a White male) posed as a Japanese writer in order to get work from Marvel – during a period when Marvel employees weren’t allowed to pick up writing work on top of their salaries. Also during a time when Marvel was actively seeking diverse voices who would be able to tell different stories than what everyone had been used to. So, he basically stole somebody else’s shot, and there was never any comeuppance for it. It seems like it was a loosely guarded secret, with some other folks surely in the know. Still, Marvel refused to address it as a company, and Cebulski was left to eventually issue an apology in The Atlantic after a few mainstream publications caught wind of the controversy.

To cap things off, DC Comics pulled off a major coup by poaching writer Brian Michael Bendis from the House of Ideas. Bendis had been THE Marvel Company Man since 2000, and the idea of him at the Distinguished Competition seemed like something that would eventually happen (comics is an incestuous industry, and you really just end up jumping back and forth for work), but not something that would happen anytime soon. Well, things didn’t go as smoothly as they could have. Immediately after the Bendis move was announced, he got a MRSA infection which almost killed him and caused a delay on his remaining Marvel work. So, now not only was Marvel losing him, but they weren’t even sure when, as he had some outstanding deliverables he still needed to get to them. It’s since been announced that his first big DC property will be Superman, while Marvel doesn’t have anyone in their stable who even comes close to having the brand loyalty to them that Bendis had. So, it begs the question: what did Marvel do to make him leave? Whatever it was, it was just another blunder in a long year of mistakes from the House that Stan Built.

Not every relationship made it out of 2017 alive, as there were some fairly high profile splits. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt split up, while Billy Bush continued to shoulder the blame from the Access Hollywood/Trump debacle as he split with his wife of 20 years. Gina Torres and Laurence Fishburne separated after 16 years together, and Fergie took her lovely lady lumps and packed her bags to get away from Josh Duhamel.

Movies I Watched This Year:

I REALLY fell short in this department, as I only managed to watch 18 films in 2017, down from SIXTY-FIVE in 2016. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we moved in with my mom after her stroke. When we lived on our own, I had every premium channel, DVR, and I was up all hours of the night. Now, I don’t even have HBO, no DVR, and my night is split into 2 different shifts. Plainly put, I have neither the time nor resources to watch a lot of movies these days, though I’ll point out that the majority of the movies I did see this year were seen in the theater, which is something of a novelty for me. I’m not a “movie guy”, so the fact that I managed to get to the theater for 13 of 18 movies is somewhat impressive to me.

I know a lot of y’all use Letterboxd to keep track of your movies and reviews, but I’m wary of those kinds of sites. I mean, what happens when Amazon buys it and decides to just wipe it? Back in the early 00s, Wizard: The Guide to Comics used to have a comic portfolio option on their site. Since they were a price guide, you could just enter all the books you owned and it would give you a value. I spent a lot of time on that site. And then, one day, without warning, they yanked it. No option to export what you had or anything. So, at that point, I said “Never again!” I’ll just use my own rinky-dink site to track stuff like that. Anyway, here’s what I saw. If you wanna know my thoughts, just click the links.

  1. Split
  2. The Lego Batman Movie
  3. Central Intelligence
  4. Logan
  5. Power Rangers
  6. Get Out
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. The Founder
  10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  11. Keeping Up With the Joneses
  12. The Nice Guys
  13. The Mountain Between Us
  14. Thor: Ragnarok
  15. Justice League
  16. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  17. Coco
  18. Daddy’s Home – I’m going to talk about this here because I watched it between my last post of 2017 and now, and never got a chance to write about it. The basic premise of this movie is that Linda Cardellini’s character is a bitch who puts new husband Will Ferrell in an uncomfortable and unnecessary situation. When her first husband, played by Mark Walhberg, comes to town, we find out she’s never even told him that she’s remarried, and it’s clear that he still gets her wet (which she barely even tries to hide). Ferrell is a dutiful and doting stepfather to her kids, but he’s scared he’s going to lose them to their real dad who’s now back on the scene, and is also a total badass. And Cardellini really doesn’t pitch in to help matters. She basically tells Ferrell he needs to establish some ground rules and boundaries for Wahlberg – a situation that could’ve been mitigated had she only told Wahlberg about Ferrell in the first place. Of course the whole thing ends with them as friends and co-fathers, but I can’t get the taste out of my mouth as to how much I disliked Cardellini’s role. I do, however, want to see the sequel now because I loved how they set things up at the end of this one, and I’m curious to see if Cardellini gets her comeuppance.

Surprisingly, while I didn’t see many movies this year, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did see – including some of the more maligned pics, like Justice League. It wasn’t perfect, but I was entertained. I’m not a cinephile, so I’m not gonna rank them, but I will say that The Founder may have been my favorite film I saw this year. Keaton is just so good in it, I love the McDonald’s story, and I feel like a lot of folks missed out on this gem.

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

January

  • 80’s pop star Richard Marx and wife, former VJ Daisy Fuentes, subdued a crazed passenger on a Korean airline. In other news, how the Hell did Richard Marx land Daisy Fuentes?!

  • In Arizona, folks reported seeing a winged demon, heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. We should’ve known then that we were fucked…

  • Adorable 4-year old, Daliyah Marie Arana, had already read over 1,000 books and visited the Library of Congress as Librarian for the Day

February

  • Playboy gave up on its quest to get on supermarket shelves, and brought back the titties!

March

  • Scientology traitor Leah Remini was announced to star in a gender-swapped What About Bob? sitcom. This would later be scrapped when she joins the cast of a revamped Kevin Can Wait with former The King of Queens costar Kevin James.
  • Han Solo is not the character’s real name. His birth name was Handsome Solowitz, but his manager made him change it

April

  • Barry Manilow came out as gay, which makes me realize that he’s actually been singing about Man D all these years…
  • In news that will only matter to you if you’re a Cornell alum, all-male a cappella group The Cayuga’s Waiters were kicked off campus for hazing. And let me tell you, this couldn’t have happened to a shittier group of douchebags.

May

  • Universal’s Dark Universe shared monsters universe was announced, to be kicked off by Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. By November the idea will be abandoned, as architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan leave the project.

courtesy of TVLine.com

June

July 

  • CBS basically said “Bye, Felicia” to the Asian cast members of Hawaii Five-0 when Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park asked for raises on the level of what their White costars were making.
  • The Master of Bar Science himself, Jon Taffer, favorited some of my tweets during a Bar Rescue marathon:

  • Completely tone deaf to the political climate, the showrunners for Game of Thrones announced that their next project would be called Confederate, based on an alternate reality where slavery still exists and the Civil War never ended. This was not well received by folks.
  • After 24 years, Archie Comics ceased publication of the Sonic The Hedgehog comic
  • The directors of the documentary Catfish (which inspired the MTV series) were announced to direct a Mega Man film
  • It was a Black sex scandal trifecta, as R. Kelly was accused of running a sex cult in his house, Usher was accused of paying a woman $1 million to cover up the fact that he’d given her Herpes, and Kevin Hart was caught cheating on his pregnant wife
  • I discovered the All Star Trek block on the Heroes & Icons channel

  • My elementary school friend and her husband did some kickass Saga cosplay at SDCC
  • Amy Schumer dropped out of the Barbie film – a film which I originally mocked, which resulted in her blocking me on Twitter
  • Apple discontinued the Shuffle and Nano models

August

  • On the heels of the Confederate announcement, Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder announced Black America – a show that takes place in an alternate reality where Blacks have established a thriving nation state via the reparations they received after the Civil War.
  • MTV’s Total Request Live rose from the dead to return to airwaves. Only it seems like they’ve eliminated the video portion now, so what’s the point?
  • There was a Nostalgia War going on between streaming services as Hulu added the TGIF library, while Amazon added the Carsey-Werner catalog, including Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and A Different World
  • Social media app Sarahah was popular for about a week. Used by teens to cyberbully each other, it gained a spike in popularity as grown folks used it to fish for compliments.
  • Netflix acquired Mark Millar’s Millarworld comic imprint. It’s the best of both worlds, as it gives them an IPO farm, without the overhead of running an actual comic publisher (Millarworld books are published through deals with Image and Marvel).
  • Drama hitmaker Shonda Rhimes moved her Shondaland production house from ABC to Netflix after signing a major deal with the streaming service
  • A My Cousin Vinny sequel was released in book form as Back to Brooklyn, which catches up with the characters 25 years later. ‘Cause some goomba out there wanted that.
  • Wizard Magazine was slated to return as an online website called WizPop to be hosted on the WizardWorld website. As of this post, there’s no sign of that ever having occurred on the site.
  • Controversy struck the Hellboy reboot as British actor Ed Skrein was cast as a character who was originally intended to be of Japanese descent. He eventually dropped out of the role, which was quickly snatched up by Daniel Dae Kim – who was jobless after CBS cut him loose from Hawaii Five-0 last month.
  • Joss Whedon went underground after his ex-wife wrote a scathing tell-all article for The Wrap, where she accused him of serial infidelity and of being a hypocritical feminist. His Whedonesque fansite was shuttered soon afterward.

September

  • There was a LOT of Star Wars shake ups, as Colin Treverrow was fired as director of Episode IX. This was following the earlier firing of Lord and Miller from directing the Han Solo movie. The Solo movie would be picked up by Ron Howard, while it was announced JJ Abrams would return to write and direct Episode IX. Oh, and Episode VIII director Rian Johnson was given his own Skywalker-free Star Wars trilogy.
  • I experienced what is probably my most popular tweet to date:

  • ABC announced a reboot of The Greatest American Hero which will now star an Indian-American woman named Meera. I see you, ABC!
  • There was a lot of controversy in the G.I. Joe fandom as the current writer on the series was driving away the dwindling fan base with his social media tirades.
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for Charlie Bucket to be a Black child until his agent intervened and advised him against it.
  • Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because they don’t understand the word “sale” and are constantly getting their asses handed to them by Target and Amazon.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was announced to be working on the script for the completely unnecessary Coming to America 2, as Eddie Murphy must be behind on child support or something.

October

  • Milestone Media announced their return to the world of comics at New York Comic Con. And nothing has been mentioned about it since. I expect another reboot announcement somewhere around 2022.
  • The Juice is loose! OJ Simpson was released from prison.
  • AOL announced that Instant Messenger would be shut down on December 15th.
  • Just as easily as I found Heroes & Icon’s All Star Trek block I walked away from it. Oh, and I ranked the pre-Discovery Trek series. 

November

  • Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter for 11 minutes thanks to the inside work of an intrepid engineer. Remember, kids – not all heroes wear capes!
  • Funko experienced the worst IPO in 17 years as the stock opened at $12 and dropped to $7 by the end of the day
  • Smallville star Allison Mack was reported to be allegedly running a sex slave cult in Los Angeles.
  • People Magazine named country star/The Voice coach Blake Shelton the Sexiest Man Alive, and the internet had a field day with that one!
  • Taraji P. Henson will star in What Men Want, inspired by the Mel Gibson film What Women Want. The movie will reportedly only be 10 minutes long, as she will learn the answer is “Pussy and sandwiches”.

December

  • Jay-Z told The New York Times that he cheated on wife Beyoncé because he was in “Survival Mode”, whatever that means. Look for Hallmark to come out with a new line of “I’m Sorry I Survival Moded You Last Weekend” cards
  • THERE’S A NEW BABY WEST ON THE HORIZON!
  • Disney bought Fox for a reported $52 million. And I had thoughts…
  • Quentin Tarantino announced that he wants to direct a Star Trek film. I maintain that it’ll never see the light of day.
  • Apple admitted that they slowed down the performance on older iPhones, supposedly to preserve their batteries, but were then forced to offer low cost replacement batteries to make amends.

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2017 (with commentary)

1/6/17 – The Mick

See, this is the kind of thing I like: spotlighting a new show that a lot of folks may have missed. Considering It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been around for 12 seasons, it clearly has a fanbase. Since Kaitlin Olsen is essentially playing the same character that she plays on that show, you can basically consider it The Further Adventures of Sweet Dee. Still, it felt very “Fox”, so I was expecting them to cancel it. Imagine my surprise when it got picked up for a second season!

1/13/17 – Donald Glover

He won the Best Musical or Comedy in Television Golden Globe for his nearly perfect series Atlanta, inked an exclusive development deal with FX Networks, AND got to film scenes as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo movie. Everything was coming up Milhouse for that guy!

1/27/17 – The Women’s March on Washington

I guess I should’ve known what kind of year 2017 was going to be when this event happened so early in the year. See, I kinda thought of it as some kind of royal “F You!” to the establishment. The inauguration had just occurred, drawing anemic crowds, yet here was this march by the opposition to show that there was strength in numbers, and that those numbers weren’t on Trump’s side. Like I said in the post, I’m not the guy to explain the nuances of what the women were fighting for, and there were some interesting takes about how feminism and race haven’t always gone hand in hand. In fact, many feel that the women out there wearing the “pussy hats” were the same White women who had voted Trump into office. Again, I don’t know about all that. What I do know is that I hadn’t seen an organized demonstration like that since the Million Man March, so it certainly seemed noteworthy, even if it wasn’t the most “pop cultury” moment to come along.

2/3/17 – Winona Ryder

So, she made some funny faces at the SAG Awards ceremony. Was she high? Was she ACTING? Who knows? That’s just how low pressure the world of pop culture was at the start of the year. Sure, the progression of faces was amusing, but surely there should’ve been something more attention-worthy happening that week, right? Right? Wrong.

2/10/17 – The New England Patriots

Those sons of bitches Patriots! I’m not a sports guy, and we basically live in a Broncos home. Still, you don’t have to know much about sports to know that everyone who isn’t a Patriots fan hates them for being cheaters, while their fans defend them adamantly. I mean, I’m still amazed you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same season. Still, the Patriots pulled off an amazing comeback during Super Bowl LI, as Atlanta blew a TWENTY-FIVE point lead. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. Yeah, I don’t care about football, but I gotta give credit where it’s due.

2/17/17 – CeeLo Green/Gnarly Davidson

So, musician/escaped mutant from Genosha CeeLo Green showed up to the Grammys looking like King Midas himself, calling himself “Gnarly Davidson”. Everyone had a good laugh for about 24 hours, but I bet 9 out of 10 people today couldn’t even tell you what or who Gnarly Davidson is supposed to be. I like to think that things that earn the WWE have made some sort of impact on popular culture, and this wasn’t even a mosquito bite in terms of magnitude.

3/3/17 – Logan

Great comic book movie. Great movie in general. As the year went on, Logan would enter the conversation, but it would quickly be overshadowed by anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was even brought up in Oscars speculation. It was a great note for Jackman to go out on, and it’s just a shame that the Wolverine film trilogy is so uneven. Totally deserved the WWE.

3/10/17 – Man Seeking Woman

This was such a great show, and while I’m sad to see it go, I felt it told a very tight story. It didn’t wear out its welcome, and it smartly used the time that it had available to it. Clocking in at 3 seasons, it started with Jay Baruchel’s Josh stumbling out of a failed relationship, trying to get back on his feet in the dating world. It ended with him getting married to the perfect girl for him. Sure, it could’ve dragged along with them being newlyweds, having a kid, etc, but it didn’t want to insult our intelligence or waste our time as it devolved into just a run of the mill sitcom. Part of what made it special was that it was such an absurd show at times. I mean, Josh’s sister had an affair with Santa Claus at one point. But that just added to its charm. This is a great example of one of those “The Best Show You’re Not Watching”, because none of y’all were watching it. Still, it managed to chug along, and tell the story that it originally set out to tell. Most shows can’t say that, so it totally deserved the WWE. I think it’s streaming on Hulu if you ever want to check it out, which you should!

3/17/17 – Tyra Banks

Tyra had a pretty big week, as she was announced as Nick Cannon’s replacement as the host of America’s Got Talent, plus it was announced that she’d be returning to her old stomping grounds as head judge/host of America’s Next Top Model. In the same week, Banks became the grand arbiter of America’s standards of talent and beauty. That’s quite the coup!

3/24/17 – Nothing

As I always say when this happens, “As Nina Simone said, ‘It Be’s That Way Sometimes’.” Not happy with the trajectory the West Week Ever “honor” was on, I just couldn’t throw it at something willy nilly. We were seven posts into the year, and nothing chosen had really blown anyone’s socks off, except maybe Logan. I needed a week to regroup.

3/31/17 – Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

It was a trailer for a new Marvel movie. When don’t those get the West Week Ever? Sure, we were all hype for the film, but we’re at a point in society where Marvel doesn’t really even have to try anymore with these things. Did it deserve it for the week? Sure. Can I even remember that first Homecoming trailer? Nope, I cannot.

4/7/17 – The Undertaker

By now, most of you know of my love for The Undertaker. In a world where wrestlers basically use some juxtaposition of their real names for their in-ring names, he was a relic of a bygone era of gimmicks and kayfabe. His retirement had been commonly rumored over recent years, but he was on a part-time schedule where he pretty much only came back for Wrestlemania. Well, at Wrestlemania 33, he jobbed to Roman Reigns, left his trademark hat and coat in the ring, kissed his wife, and walked out of the arena – all to chants of “Thank you, Taker”. For all intents and purposes, that seemed to be all she wrote. Now there are reports that he’ll be back for Raw‘s 25th anniversary. I really hope that’s not true, as it was a beautiful way for him to go out. The card for Wrestlemania 33 was weak sauce, but it being the swan song of Taker was what would make it stand out in the history books. I cried when Flair retired, and even though he eventually crawled back, it didn’t take away the experience of his retirement run. If Taker does return, I’m hoping I can feel the same way.

4/14/17 – Thor: Ragnarok teaser

Scroll up, and re-read what I said about the Homecoming trailer. Apply all of that here. Keep in mind, Thor was coming off a serviceable debut and a forgettable sequel. We didn’t have the highest expectations for this movie, even though it was apparent it had been dipping into the GOTG Cookie Jar of Humor. But, like I said, Marvel trailers pretty much always get the WWE, whether they deserve them or not. Actually, ya know what? Black Panther never got it. I think it’s because it debuted during one of my bye weeks, but I’m sure someone out there will say it’s due to my self-hatred or whatever.

4/21/17 – Girls Series Finale

While Girls pretty much became the poster child for Millennials, I’m not quite sure history will be kind to it. After all, the characters embodied everything we tend to hate about that demographic. They’re spoiled, they have delusions of grandeur, they don’t want to pay their dues, and they’re tremendously self-centered. Marnie sucked because she only used people to pursue her own happiness. Jessa sucked because she was a junkie succubus. Hannah sucked because she thought she was the Voice of a Generation, while commonly looking unwashed and unhygienic. She spent 6 seasons making us accept her body positivity while engaging in the unsexiest sex scenes imaginable.

Still, through all of that, the characters actually seemed to experience some growth in that final season. Hanna found herself pregnant, eventually giving birth to Grover (Fuck you, Lena Dunham. Just fuck you right in the ear for that shit). And she found out she had to grow up FAST. Marnie thrust herself into the role of doting aunt, as if to make amends for being such a shitty person to those around her. She soon found, though, that she couldn’t assume that role and still continue to grow. She had her path, and Hannah/Grover had their own. And the only character with some sense was strangely neurotic/possibly on the spectrum Shoshana, who managed to remove herself from the equation before the series finale because she realized she was better than those with whom she had surrounded herself.

As a whole, Girls is a forgettable mess that I hope I never see on any of those Greatest Series of All Time lists. That finale, though, made up for a lot of problems I’d had with those characters over the course of the show. I went from Hate Watching it to just Watching it. And, to her credit, as much as Hannah sucked, Dunham was the voice of a generation, like it or not. They say that the mark of a good series finale is that you can watch it and get a whole, fulfilling story even if you weren’t an avid viewer of the series. Since I’d been watching the show, I can’t attest to whether that’s true here, but I do feel like it was a damn fine finale that did more for its characters and narrative than the whole rest of the series put together.

4/28/17 – Nothing

I guess I felt like Girls had set a pretty high bar, and nothing came close to that in the week following its finale. Go figure!

5/5/17 – Ryan Seacrest

Next to maybe Steve Harvey,  Seacrest is the hardest working man in show business. It was announced that he would be taking over Michael Strahan’s cohost role on Live with Kelly, and a grueling schedule was floated that would allow him to maintain that job while also flying to the West Coast multiple times a week in order to host ABC’s reboot of American Idol. While he hadn’t officially signed on to the Idol revival at that point, he would later take the job, and that theoretical travel schedule would become reality. I know folks love to make fun of him, and make all the gay jokes, but I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for his work ethic. The man rarely sleeps and is constantly developing new projects. And he’s a shrewd businessman, as evidenced in how he pretty much just swooped in and assimilated Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

5/12/17 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I really enjoyed this movie, but I’m scared I’m falling into that cynical thing where I’m like “Well, it’s a Marvel movie”. We pretty much know what to expect at this point. I’m not getting bored by the formula or anything, but I don’t think it’s a surprise when these things come out and dominate the pop culture conversation for the week following.

5/19/17 – CBS

This was my annual upfronts post, and I felt like CBS had the most promising schedule for their Fall lineup. They had a few misses (Wisdom of the Crowd, Me, Myself, and I), but I still stand by that assessment, as Young Sheldon was a breakout hit and SEAL Team was the only successful military drama of the three that launched in the fall.

5/26/17 – Red Nose Day Actually

I still feel like bringing the Red Nose Day thing to America is the equivalent of trying to make “fetch” happen. I don’t think it’s going to catch on, but I won’t say anything bad about something that gives me a sequel to one of my favorite movies. Yes, I’m that guy who adores Love Actually. And this year we got a “sequel” short during the telethon that caught up with the characters in the present day. The Sam and Joanna portion alone made me want to cry, but it was like catching up with old friends. Totally the best thing that week had to offer.

6/2/17 – Wonder Woman

This was a great comic book film that seemed to right the ship for the DCEU. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a far cry stronger than BvS and Suicide Squad. We thought this was shades of things to come from Justice League. Perhaps we expected too much. Still, it’s a strong entry into the comic book movie universe, and totally deserved the WWE.

6/9/17 – Wonder Woman

This made me realize a problem with how this weekly post is scheduled. You see, I’m an avid Thursday night viewer of these movies. Since the post comes out Friday, I could theoretically post about it the next day. And many times I have. That’s what happened with Wonder Woman. I saw it Thursday night, and it got the WWE the next day – at a time when most of my readers had not had the chance to see the movie yet. This is problematic because they tend to not read that post for fear of spoilers. So, I’ve tried to change things up where I sit on my review for a week, giving folks a chance to see the movie first. This is the week when Wonder Woman should have gotten the WWE, but instead it just made me look lazy.

6/16/17 – West Life Ever: Adam West

Ah, the very first West Life Ever recipient. As you probably know by now, there’s a pretty strict No Death policy for this column. Sure, once in a blue moon, someone will come along whose death needs to be acknowledged, but I knew that there were a few people whose death would require me to make a bigger deal. Adam West was always at the top of this list. When I posted that entry, I called it the West Week Ever Hall of Fame, which never quite felt right. My pal Zac Shipley came up with West Life Ever, which was perfect. So, the post was changed and that’s what the honor will be called going forward. It’s still not something that I plan to abuse, but I’m glad it exists when I need to use it. Sadly, I would have to use it again not much later.

6/23/17 – Nothing

I guess I was still affected by West’s death, and I thought I was gonna be able to promote my appearance on a podcast where we looked back on his life. That episode has never seen the light of day (Looking at you, Chad!). So, nothing was worthy of the WWE mantle that week.

7/7/17- Michael Keaton

I had seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Founder that week, both films showcasing amazing performances by Keaton. The surprising thing to point out here is that Homecoming had been seen by me, but did NOT get the WWE. Keep in mind, though, I was moving to my schedule of waiting a week so that more folks have time to see the film. Will it get the WWE next week?

7/14/17 – Milana Vayntrub

Nope! Yes, in a world where there’s a new Marvel film in theaters, I give my highest honor to the AT&T Girl. I didn’t love Homecoming. In fact, it’s probably the first Marvel movie since I’ve been doing this column where I wasn’t just immediately smitten. I probably need to watch it again but the timeline of the film challenged my inner fanboy the entire runtime, and it ruined the experience for me. Why did Vayntrub get it? Well, she’d been cast as Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s New Warriors series for Freeform. I really thought it was going to be her big break. Well, later Freeform would decide that it didn’t have room for the show on its schedule, and its future is currently in limbo. Womp womp. Marvel thinks the show has a lot of promise, but they’re no longer allowed to farm out their shows to non-Disney owned networks, so that limits their possibilities. It was probably the biggest week she’s ever had, but it didn’t really pay off into anything. Yet.

7/21/17 – Jodie Whittaker

A female Doctor Who? That shit is history in the making! I don’t care anything about that franchise, but I know when history is being made. Totally deserved.

7/28/17 – West Life Ever: Jim Vance

When I first conceived of the WWE: Hall of Fame/West Life Ever, there were 2 particular people in mind for it. I never really thought it would expand outside of those two unless it was a rare, special case. And that’s exactly what it was when local newsman, and DC institution, Jim Vance succumbed to cancer. He was a great example of “Ya don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”, as it never felt like he’d made that much of an impact on my life until he was no longer in it. My whole response to his passing surprised me, and I’m sort of curious to see what other surprises are in store for the West Life Ever honor.

8/4/17 – Female Comic Editors

Some dumb shit about female comic editors going out for a milkshake to honor the passing of Marvel staple “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg, and ended up being heckled by a bunch of stupid dudes online. It somehow turned into this symbolic gesture throughout the industry. Fellow creators were posting selfies of themselves drinking milkshakes, and it all just kinda fizzled out. It’s really one of those “You had to be there” kinds of things because the whole “controversy” just sounds stupid to me in hindsight.

8/18/17 – DuckTales reboot

I watched the pilot and loved it. Then I promptly forgot about it. I kinda expected more from it, to be honest. I guess that’s my own fault. I thought it was just going to compel me to watch it every week, but instead if became just another forgotten animated show of 2017, like that Big Hero 6 premiere I would totally miss in November.

8/25/17 – Solar Eclipse of 2017

These things don’t happen that often! At least, that’s what the science folks always tell us, even though it feels like there’s some kind of eclipse every time we turn around. Well, I never claimed to be Thomas Einstein-Tesla, so I’m not the best person to get your science info from. Anyway, it was a big deal that week, as those free glasses needed to look at the thing were being sold for, like, $250 a pair, as if they came from Sunglass Hut or something. And the President even looked directly into the thing, ya know, ’cause he’s a stable genius and all. This thing was all anyone could talk about that week.

9/8/17 – Batman: The Animated Series

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the debut of the classic animated series which, I believe, changed animation for the better. It was a show that was gritty and intelligent enough for primetime, yet worked on a level to keep kids engaged – all the while dodging some incredible mandates from Fox Kids Standards & Practices, like “No blood” or “Can’t say ‘kill'”. In some ways it might be seen as a cop-out to look to the past for a WWE winner. After all, for all the fans of the show, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare surrounding the anniversary. Instead of Warner Bros making a big deal, it was more like the hardcore fans were holding thousands of little private wakes for the show. Still, 25 years ain’t nothing to shake a stick at, so I felt the show’s milestone needed to be acknowledged and honored.

9/15/17 – Cory Chase/Reality Kings

When this post originally went up, I put it to a vote: should the WWE go to horror remake IT OR should it go to porn star Cory Chase and the Reality Kings porn franchise? Ya see, IT had a successful week, but all anyone could talk about around the time of publication was the fact that Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account had Liked a video clip of some of Chase’s work. It was quickly blamed on a staffer, but the damage had been done by that point. Cruz was just like the rest of us, trawling the web for porn. Hell, if he’d been smarter, he could’ve spun that into some sort of political clout, but he took the coward’s way out. Anyway, the readers spoke and decided that Chase should be the victor. While I don’t disagree, I think it was very “2017” that such a salacious choice was even an option for Biggest Pop Culture Thing of the Week. We’d sunk so low, and we weren’t even close to the bottom yet.

9/29/17 – Star Trek franchise

This week not only saw the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS and CBS All Access, but it was also the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just as with Batman: The Animated Series, these were milestones deserving of recognition. I haven’t revisited Discovery since the free premiere on CBS, but I’ve heard enough good things that I’ll circle back around to it eventually.

10/6/17 – The West Family

Self-indulgent post because it’s my site, and I do what I wanna! It was my 5-year wedding anniversary, and nothing else was going on. If you go back in the archives, pre-2010 or so, this thing reads like a really bad LiveJournal. “I’m tired of my boss at H&M”, yadda yadda yadda. I later pivoted to a solely pop culture focus, but I left most of those posts up because I hate to delete anything. So, every now and then, I feel like I’ve written enough about celebrities that I’ve earned a personal post or two, so this was me pulling that trigger. Had it not gone to us, it would’ve been another week when it went to Nothing.

10/13/17 – Nothing

Kinda like this week.

10/27/17 – Super Mario Odyssey

I’m not a gamer, but it was easy to tell who the gamers were, as they were all anticipating this release. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this game, it I feel this was totally deserved.

11/3/17 – Stranger Things Season 2

I’ve never seen the show, have almost no real desire to see the show, and I’m kinda sick of seeing those kids everywhere. Still, I have to put my own issues aside for the good of “real reporting” sometimes. This was one of those times. Everyone was anticipating the second season of this show and, while the general consensus seems to be that it wasn’t as good as the first season, I’ve yet to hear anything actually negative about the season.

11/10/17 – Thor: Ragnarok

Here we are, back to having a Marvel film get the WWE. Earlier I said that I was beginning to wonder if all this hype was deserved, as we pretty much know what we’re going to get from the MCU franchise at this point, but I feel this was totally deserved here. Easily the best Thor film of the trilogy (not a difficult feat, really), but it presented a new side of the title character. And it totally took some creative notes from Guardians, which was to its advantage.

11/17/17 – Justice League

I kinda broke my own rule here. I know I was trying to wait a week before reviewing new, highly anticipated films, but I felt like this one needed a shot in the arm. So many folks were determined not to see it, that I felt I needed to post about it on opening weekend to get some more butts in seats. I’m hardly an influencer, but if I convinced just one person to see the movie who had been on the fence, then I guess I did my job. I hate to do a comparison, but it’s “No Marvel movie”. That said, I was happy it did something different, and I was thoroughly entertained. It’s not a “great” film by any stretch of the imagination, but nobody should expect Citizen Kane when one of the main characters runs around, dressed like a bat.

12/1/17 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer

Obligatory WWE for new MCU film trailer. All it did was fortify millions of speculation boners without really giving us anything other than eye candy. We’ve reached a point where I don’t even know if we’re capable of determining if these things are good anymore. Part of the problem is that they’ve yet to really have a “miss”, so would we even know it if/when it happened? Like, Black Panther could be the worst thing they ever put onscreen. It won’t be, but even if it is, there are certain communities who are going to refuse to admit it. It’s just fascinating to me how that works. Anyway, this came out while Marvel was avoiding the Cebulski controversy, while its parent, Disney, was making a play for Fox. It was a nice little distraction that caught everyone’s attention at just the right time. Their success rate is just so unprecedented that I guess I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, which is somewhat unfair to them.

12/8/17 – MCU Fanboys

Remember how I just said there are some folks who would refuse to acknowledge Marvel’s “failure” even if it were right in front of them? Enter the MCU fanboy. And nobody had a better week than them because Disney’s play for Fox became official, meaning that the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights were finally “coming home”. And you couldn’t swing a dead cat without running into one of them surmising how the X-Men would be integrated into the established MCU. Would Marvel honor everything Fox had done with the franchise, or would it be a complete reboot? These discussions were going on everywhere online, so this week truly belonged to those folks. Who cares if the acquisition would result in redundancies and the loss of anywhere from 5,000-10,000 jobs? You’re finally getting the chance at a House of M movie, right? Right?

12/15/17 – Black Women

While there was a tongue in cheek aspect to this, I totally meant it. It was a big week for Black women. Omarosa got kicked out of the Trump White House, to the delight of many, while the Black female vote helped keep suspected child molester Roy Moore out of office in a very close congressional race in Alabama. A lot of folks were taking a break from social media that week, for fear of being spoiled by those who had already seen The Last Jedi, so they missed this one. It’s a shame, because I felt there was a lot of good stuff in this post.

12/22/17 – Fandom Gatekeepers

You know how I was just talking about MCU fanboys? Well, this is what happens when that shit is cranked up to 11. It’s like the Chappelle’s Show sketch, When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong. These are the folks who take shit too far, and there was a lot of that going on due to the polarizing reactions to The Last Jedi. I felt kinda bad about this one, because I typically want the WWE to be a *celebration* of something, but I couldn’t not acknowledge it, and I had a lot of thoughts on the matter, born from a late night Twitter rant.

I had to do something different this year. Usually, to determine who had the West Year Ever, we look at the list of folks who earned the West Week Ever throughout the year. There are always entities that receive it multiple times throughout the year, like Marvel and DC, and then there’s a runoff between them to see who truly deserved it. That doesn’t work this year, though. You see, most of the WWE recipients this year had no real lasting impact outside of the week that they won. The only thing that got the honor more than once this year was Wonder Woman, but it surely didn’t have the West Year Ever. Close, but no cigar. No, I had to take a closer look at trends of the year, and get a feel for what truly dominated the news cycle.

Remember how I said that the entertainment world was boring until Q4? Well, once October hit, the whole thing blew wide open thanks to one man: Harvey Weinstein. The reports and allegations of his sexual improprieties opened the floodgates for more reports on other celebrities. All across the country, men in power were being exposed for the lotharios that they were. There seemed to be certain patterns that surfaced. For example, a lot of them liked to abuse their power by masturbating in front of women over whom they held some sort of influence. Every week, there was a new LIST of men to add to the list. I hate to create HarassmentWatch(TM) just to keep track of it all, and mine isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. Still, I managed to track allegations on the following men:

  • Producer Harvey Weinstein
  • The Loud House creator Chris Savino
  • Actor Kevin Spacey
  • Actor Jeremy Piven
  • Director Brett Ratner
  • Actor Dustin Hoffman
  • Actor Danny Masterson
  • Actor Charlie Sheen
  • Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner
  • Actor Jeffrey Tambor
  • Comedian Louis CK
  • Actor George Takei
  • Actor Richard Dreyfuss
  • Actor Tom Sizemore
  • Actor Ed Westwick
  • The Royals/One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn
  • Flash/Supergirl showrunner Andrew Kreisberg
  • Actor Steven Seagal
  • Producer Gary Goddard
  • Actor Sylvester Stallone
  • DC Comics Editor Eddie Berganza
  • Senator Al Franken
  • Producer John Lasseter
  • On Air Personality Ryan Seacrest
  • Singer Nick Carter
  • Producer Russell Simmons
  • Humorist Garrison Keillor
  • Newsman Charlie Rose
  • New York Times Reporter Glenn Thrush
  • Newsman Matt Lauer
  • US Representative John Conyers
  • Chef Mario Batali
  • Talk Show Host Tavis Smiley
  • US Representative Blake Farenthold
  • Documentarian and Fast Food Truther Morgan Spurlock
  • Comedian TJ Miller
  • NFL Media VP David Eaton
  • Newsman Chris Matthews
  • Director Paul Haggis
  • Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini
  • Half the damn NFL Network

That’s over FORTY instances reported just since October! And they’re still coming (tune into tomorrow’s West Week Ever for some new 2018 additions to the list!). This shit is crazy! Keep it in your pants, powerful men! Even though it was a phenomenon that came along later in the year, I feel like it colored the whole year, and fit tonally with what a trash heap fire the year became. So, in my mind, 2017 was the Year of the Wang Dangler. In October, the weather started getting cold and, for whatever reason, the wangs started coming out. There were reports of forced oral sex, public masturbation, walking amongst staff while naked, and secret buttons under desks to lock vulnerable women in uncomfortable places. What pieces of shit these men are! But they’re the official mascots of 2017. So, without further ado, the celebrity wang danglers had the West Year Ever. Here’s hoping we can aim a bit higher in our aspirations in 2018.