07th Apr2011

So, Which TV Network Are You?

by Will

I’m not sure if this is obvious to some, but the “television experience” has changed a LOT in just a few short years. Once upon a time, people were concerned about airdates and antenna positioning, however, the prevalence of DVR and cable have pretty much done away with all of that. The aspect which has experienced the greatest change, however, is that of network branding. Currently, networks no longer really have a specific identity, instead choosing to let their shows speak for themselves. This can be confusing, though, as what does it say about a network when its most successful shows involve crime scene semen or anti-social nerd caricatures? This wasn’t always the case. There was a time, not that long ago, when networks not only promoted their programming, but also their identities. This was true from the biggest network affiliate to the smallest local syndicated outlet. For example, Channel 5 used to show the same reruns of Mr. Belvedere, Three’s Company, and Who’s The Boss?, but for the summer of ’92, they expected you to refer to it all as “Camp Teeheehaha”. Sure, you’d seen the shows before, but they were taking advantage of the American experience of going off to summer camp in an attempt to rebrand the shows. That’s some Don Draper shizz right there! Networks did little things like this to show that they supported their series; after all, they’d already paid for the syndication rights, so they might as well get their money’s worth. Nowadays, all we have are court shows. If you miss one, another will be on right after it. There’s no real need to promote, as there’s no real difference: sassy black woman judge, sassy white woman judge, sassy might-be-Latina judge, etc. The shows have changed, but so has the promotion of said shows. So, where am I going with this? Well, growing up, I used to think about which network I’d want to be on were I to have my own series. As I grew from boy to man, in what was (to me) a golden age of television, I noticed certain things about each network that made me want to park myself on their prime-time lineup. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

ABC

This one is pretty much a no-brainer, as anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s knows where I’m going with this. ABC had a bunch of shows which made them seem like The Touchy-Feely Network, whether it was the family drama of Life Goes On, or the generational experiences of Thirtysomething. Judith Light starred in the riveting TV movie of The Ryan White Story, and families loved gathering around to watch dads across America get hit in the crotch on America’s Funniest Home Videos. All of those shows, however, had NOTHING on the powerhouse known as TGIF.

I’m not going to go into the history and lineup of the TGIF block, ’cause most of y’all were there. Maybe it’s the comic fanboy in me, but what I loved most about TGIF was the shared universe. I guess I’m always looking for a sense of community, and I loved how the early series tended to be related to each other in some way: Mark Cooper (Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper) subbed for Michelle Tanner’s (Full House) class, while Harriet Winslow (Family Matters) was the elevator operator at Larry & Balki’s job (Perfect Strangers). Steve Urkel (Family Matters) did a science project with Mark Foster (Step By Step), while Dana Foster (Step By Step) gave love advice to Cory Matthews (Boy Meets World) at Sea World. With all of this crossover action, it was kinda fun trying to imagine where I might fit in. Maybe I’d be friends with Eddie Winslow, like Weasel and Waldo Geraldo Faldo. Or maybe Karen Foster would reject me before her character oddly disappeared to pursue a country music career. Or maybe I’d be the black friend that Cory and Shawn used to have when Minkus was still around. The possibilities were endless!

One of this biggest perks of a perch on the TGIF lineup was that you also got to host the Saturday Morning Preview special. These are relics of days gone by, but back when networks still had Saturday morning cartoons, they always kicked off the season with the Saturday Morning Preview one Friday night in September (Sure, NBC had one, too, but those were usually hosted by Cosby kids or those awkward kids from ALF or The Torkelsons). The TGIF ones were great, as everyone was (usually) still in character and they genuinely seemed excited about dreck like Hammerman and Little Rosie. Everything was awesome in TGIF Land! As an added bonus, once Disney bought ABC, every show was pretty much required to do a stint at Disney World, so free vacation!

CBS

Growing up, I can’t ever remember wanting to be on CBS. That’s not to say that I didn’t watch CBS shows. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Up until the dawn of the CSI Era, CBS got a bad rap as The Old Folks’ Network. Yes, they had programming like Murder, She Wrote and 60 Minutes, but I never saw it like that. If anything, I always felt that CBS shows had a sense of maturity that couldn’t be found on other networks. I grew up watching Murphy Brown and Designing Women – both shows that spoke more to my experience of being raised by strong, single women from the South. So, I never wanted to be on CBS, as I felt I was already there. Next!

NBC

While ABC was courting me with TGIF, NBC had another acronym waiting in the wings for my affection: TNBC. By far, the most successful NBC branding of that era was “Must-See TV”, but I couldn’t really relate to that. I enjoyed the shows, but they all took place in Manhattan, as the protagonists seemed to have these fantasy jobs that paid for their massive apartments. As much as I love New York, I wasn’t gonna be on “Must-See Thursday” unless I sold a joint to Theo Huxtable or got transferred to Hillman College. Then, along came TNBC as a world of possibility for young black guys. Sure, Lisa Turtle didn’t do much for The Cause, but California Dreams came along and showed me that I could be a drummer. And there was that black dude on The Guys Next Door – sure, no one remembers that show, but I remember he was there. Then, we got Saved By The Bell: The New Class, which always seemed to have a slot for a hip, dancing black guy that needed to be filled. And Hang Time – a show about basketball! C’mon! As a teenager growing up in the late 90s, nowhere felt like “home” as much as TNBC. Yes, I realize that those shows were basically created for girls, but I still kinda felt like those characters were my people.

The BIGGEST perk of being on NBC, however, is one of these:

I don’t know if it’s contractual or what, but if you’re on an NBC show, you are pretty much guaranteed to film one of these public service announcements. A lot of PSAs just come off kinda clunky, but The More You Know has gained a special place in the annals of pop culture. Most PSAs are lame, but I always saw these as some kind of badge of honor. I’ll take one of these over those Truth.com kids ANY day!

Fox

Oh, Fox! It’s amazing how an entertainment network can be so edgy, while its news wing is so conservative. Fox was founded on Married…with Children, so that has colored its identity. While ABC was the Touchy-Feely Network, Fox was on the complete other end of that spectrum. Besides the early reality fare like World’s Greatest Police Chases, there was a “Fox Show” model: the aforementioned Married…, Top of the Heap, even Herman’s Head. Generally, if you wanted to make middle America uncomfortable for about 6 episodes, and your show wouldn’t work anywhere else, then Fox was the place to be. Even to this day, I’m surprised by how much Fox Standards & Practices allows on the air – the entire Seth MacFarlane franchise is a good example of this.

I’ve admired Fox because they are willing to take chances. They still carry shows that you just wouldn’t see anywhere else, and they miss more than they hit. The beauty of the network, however, is that it lives by American Idol alone. The show airs 5 months of the year, but the ratings are high enough to make Fox the #1 Network for the entire season. Growing up, all they had was The Simpsons, but the attitude seemed to be the same as it is now. Sure, reality programming has evolved, and Fox has taken advantage of that, but it’s still the same old Fox. I’d want to be on Fox ’cause they’ll promote the Hell out of your show during NFL and MLB games, but you’re still gonna get cancelled after they move your show to Sundays at 7:00 PM.

UPN

Has there ever been a network with more of an identity crisis than UPN? It’s remembered as The Black Network, but that’s not entirely accurate. Sure, the network had a lot of horrible black shows, like Homeboys in Outer Space and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, but there was so much more to it than that. The oddest part of UPN was the it’s prelaunch reputation didn’t match what ended up on the screen. Here’s the pre-launch promo for the network:

As you see, it’s relying on the reputation of the shows that had been developed by Paramount in the past, yet doesn’t really go into detail as to what we should expect from the network. Were they just going to rerun all those shows they just mentioned? Should we be expecting new stuff? Classical music! Rock music! Then, the network launched, and we were introduced to DiResta, Marker and Platypus Man. When your network is bolstered by shows starring a Mad About You costar and Richard Greico, you’re in trouble. Yeah, there was Star Trek: Voyager, but it could also be said that UPN was the nail in the Trek coffin, as both of its offerings were reviled by fans. Early UPN was the television equivalent of the Dot Com Boom, as they really just threw around a lot of ideas to see if they’d stick. Richard Dean Anderson as a cowboy. A Love Boat reboot. A bunch of shows NBC had knocked off their schedule because they apparently weren’t “New York” enough. Through all of this, there was one spot where I could see myself.

Around the time the NBC’s TNBC block was at its peak, UPN started toying around with a similar concept for weekday afternoons. Comprised of reruns of Sweet Valley High and a new teen show called Breaker High, the network adopted the slogan “UPN is U’pn”, which was pronounced “oo-pin”. Sure, it made no sense, and to say it aloud sounds like something you’d hear in a commercial for Dunkaroos. Maybe they were implying that UPN was moving up? Maybe UPN was jumping? I don’t know, but where there are teen shows, I’ll be there. Anyway, Breaker High was about a bunch of kids who were in a semester-at-sea program. It had everything you’d come to expect from teen shows, but starred a charismatic Ryan Gosling and Tyler Labine. I loved the Hell out of that show, even though it didn’t even last an entire season. The U’pn block ran for about 3 months on a daily schedule until it just disappeared one day in November, as the timeslot was given back to the stations. Breaker High finished up its run on Sunday mornings, but the only time I ever saw anything worthwhile in that network was the 3-month U’pn Era.

The WB

OK, I already covered the fact that I’m drawn to things that give off a sense of community, and no network exemplified that as much as The WB. When it first launched, the network’s promos revolved around the image that all of the stars hung out on the Warner Bros backlot. Going to work seemed like it would be a ton of fun, as you’d see Nikki Cox on the elevator, and run into Tia and Tamara Mowry on the way to the set.

Plus, I was entering a point in my life where I really kinda wanted to be in a boyband. While girls my age were pining for heartthrobs, I wanted to be one, and nobody developed teen stars quite like The WB. The stars of those shows kept the teen magazine industry in business for the better part of a decade. If you were under the age of 20, and wanted to make it big, you either needed to fly to Orlando and audition for Lou Pearlman, or you needed to get yourself on a WB show.

Even though it’s a bit of a joke in some circles, The WB did more for pop culture over a decade than people realize. I explored this once before, and my feelings haven’t changed. For that reason, The WB is where I’d want my show to air. You can thank them for Buffy, even if you blame them for Katherine Heigl. To top things off, I think they had a really classy send-off video. A network hadn’t folded since the DuMont Network, so I had no frame of reference for these things. However, if you’ve got to go out, this is the way to do it:

28th Mar2011

Why Starfleet?

by Will

Yes, this began as a late night Twitter rant last week, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized a full blog post would give me a reason to play with MS Paint.

As some of you may know, I’ve been a Star Trek fan for most of my life. Back in middle school, my friends and I had the Star Trek Encyclopedia, as well as any tech guide or manual that Simon & Shuster decided to put out. We were the ones watching all those Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns that used to clog up Channel 20’s schedule. As I got older, however, my pallet began to prefer more mature tastes, such as Power Rangers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I gave up the ghost during Voyager, and I’ve only seen a handful of Enterprise. That said, you can take the boy out of Trek, but you can’t take the Trek out of the boy. My brain’s still full of a lot of useless 24th century knowledge, and every now and then I find myself trying to make sense of it. During an usual bit of insomnia last week, I found myself wondering why, exactly, a human would even want to join Starfleet.

For those not in the know, in the Star Trek Universe, Starfleet is the “Space NATO” to the United Federation of Planets’ “Space UN”. Its members are predominantly human, and it is headquartered in Fort Baker, California. While Starfleet’s primary mission is to explore and seek out new life, things can get pretty tense out in space. Between wars with Cardassians, or lethal electrical feedback, there’s no shortage of danger for a Starfleet officer. Based on current economics and world affairs, I find myself wondering what would inspire a human to join an outfit like Starfleet, as the risks seem to outweigh the rewards. Let’s take a closer look at a few things.

Money: In today’s society, a big reason that people enlist in the Armed Forces is money. Whether they want to provide for their families with their signing bonus, or get in on some of that G.I. Bill money, the financial benefits entice many into joining the service. This, however, isn’t true for the Starfleet cadet. You see, the 24th century is based on what has been called “The New World Economy”. For all practical purposes, Earth has done away with poverty and hunger, but it has also done away with currency. As a sidebar, I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. Whenever I’m looking for work, people always ask me “Well, what would you want to do if money weren’t an issue?” I HATE this question because money is ALWAYS an issue. I just can’t wrap my head around that not being the case. I know that there are people who can, and God bless ’em, but that’s just not me. So, that’s why I have a hard time understanding why you’d want to go out in space, and risk getting tubes shoved in your ass and ear holes by a bunch of space zombies if there’s no financial gain. That’s too much danger to just write off as “the cost of exploration”!

Sex: Could the lure of Space Pussy be enough to get you to join up? But could you imagine the STDs out there? Or will a hypospray just clear that right up? Also, note that I said Space Pussy and not Space Dick, because the future doesn’t seem too bright for women – utopia be damned. If you’re a young, single woman in Starfleet, you’ll end up phasing through the floor or being killed by a large sentient oil spill. And don’t even try to be a gay male! Over the 40 year franchise, we’ve seen men in miniskirts (the “skant”) & go-go boots, but we were still led to believe that they liked the minge. Have they ever shown a homosexual on Star Trek? The closest they got was that androgynous race, and Riker still couldn’t help himself from giving one of them a bunch of confusing urges. Otherwise, the only gay icons of the 24th century were Major Kira, Tasha Yar, and Harry Kim. No, they never confirmed this, but c’mon…

Technology: If you’re a tech geek, then Starfleet is probably a dream come true. You could join Starfleet Engineering and test out all of the gadgets that you used to read about on your PADD before mandatory lights-out at the mining colony where you grew up. There’s a lot of leeway for experimentation, and there’s no battle for patents and ownership ’cause there’s no money to be had. The worst part, however, is when that technology backfires on you. I’m going to go with the simplest case here. You see, during space battles, the ships are protected by shields. When those shields are struck, it results in electromagnetic feedback that sometimes shoots out of the ships consoles and control panels. Many a Starfleet officer has been killed while simply sitting at his station during the wrong battle. When you graduate from the Academy, they might tell you to watch out for The Borg, but you’ll find that you risk your life just by simply walking down the hall. Observe (the fun starts at 01:18):

Meeting New Races: It might sound exciting to meet a new race of beings, but some of them have some crazy beliefs that you have to put up with. Sure, we’ve got the Scientologists and the vegans, there’s one 24th Century-era race that will KILL YOU IF YOU STEP ON THE FLOWERS! Did I also mention that they worship a giant space chandelier? Aside from little quirky things like that, sometimes you just deal with some straight up, fucked up shit:

Supporting Your Government: OK, I get it. There’s no money to be had, you’re not that into green chicks, and you don’t really mind phasering giant space slugs. Then, what is your incentive? Oh, maybe you’re just really patriotic. After all, your government (which now commands a network of planets rather than just Earth) has created a society in which you are taken care of, and given a chance to be a tool of discovery. Why wouldn’t you want to support a governing body like that? Well, maybe it’s because the United Federation of Planets is just as shady as today’s governmental bodies.

First off, there’s Section 31, which is The Federation’s version of the CIA. Nobody talks much about them, as very few people know that they exist. Not only do they exist, but they’ve had their hands in everything from the Temporal Cold War to the outlawed genetic enhancements that were performed on humans, like Dr Bashir. You may think everything’s well and good, but your government still doesn’t trust you, even in the 24th century. Also, their tactics are questionable, as they engage in full-scale, Jack Bauer level torture. They ended a war by eradicating an entire race. For Section 31, no one is off limits, so they might come for you one day.

On top of that, there’s all the shady stuff that the Federation does to coerce non-member planets into joining. The sheer existence of a bunch of space hippies like the Maquis proves that not everything that the Federation does is liked by all. Sure, you can’t please everyone all of the time, but the Star Trek Universe is based on the assumption that you not only can, but you have. So, why are The Maquis so mad?

So, I know it’s science fiction, and I really shouldn’t overthink it, but I’m just starting to think that the Star Trek Universe posed more questions than it answered. When I was 5, I used to weep at the fact that I’d never live to see the creation of Starfleet. I mean, even if I did, it would’ve been the crappy, Kirk-era Starfleet, and I don’t get down with The Original Series. After some careful thought, however, I’ll take capitalism, with its non-exploding walls and curable-by-penicillin-STDs, any day! The future’s just not for me, but I hope my great, great, great grandson, Hyperflex Westion IV, is a better man than I am, and will find a reason to beam up.

07th Mar2011

5 Corners of Pop Culture That I Don’t Understand

by Will

Yeah, so I go around boasting that I know so much about pop culture, but even I have my blind spots. For example, I’m not much of a movie guy. I’ve never been one for going to movies, and I used to just tell myself “I’ll catch it when it comes on TV”. As a result, there are tons of movies that have become modern day classics (Titanic, Shrek, Avatar) that I’ve never seen. So, don’t recruit me for your trivia team if you need a Movie Guy. Outside of movies, though, there are 5 particular areas of pop culture that I just don’t “get”.

Now, I’m not exactly trying to be controversial, but I just know I’m opening the gates for a flame war. That said, I’m not necessarily saying there’s anything wrong with these five things, but they just don’t really hold much meaning for me. If you can think of a way to change my mind, or can point out great aspects that I’ve missed, then I certainly invite you to do so. This isn’t a bash session, but rather a cry for help: help me understand the big deal about these things.

1) The Big Lebowski – I’ve had people tell me “You don’t get The Big Lebowski ’cause you’re black.” Um, OK…That’s never really affected my interpretation of movies before (although Bamboozled did make me hate white people for a day or so). Since college, I’ve had people tell me that Lebowski is the most quotable movie ever, while extolling the virtues of The Dude. It was an entertaining movie, quirky in the vein of Fargo. It’s a fine movie, but I don’t get the *phenomenon*.  I don’t get why there are action figures of crew-cut John Goodman and Jeff Bridges looking like stoner Jesus in a bathrobe. I don’t get the uptick in White Russian consumption.

In terms of pop culture clout, The Big Lebowski has basically become the White Scarface. Scarface has become somewhat inspirational in urban circles, especially to a generation of rappers. Sure, Tony Montana ends up dead, but before that, he came from nothing and ended up having everything. With that, you can kind of understand why he has become the poster child for those who also come from very little. On the flip side, I don’t see anything aspirational about the story of The Dude. They occupy the same levels of pop culture, for different demographics, for different reasons. Maybe those folks were right: I understand Scarface, but I don’t understand The Dude. Maybe it is because I’m black…

2) The Muppets – Don’t get me wrong: I love Muppet Babies, and the Muppets version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. That said, I just never really got into the movies. In college, I spent time around a sketch comedy group, and that was the first time I learned how much comedy circles revered the Muppets. Maybe I haven’t seen the right movies, and I’m missing out. I just don’t get the appeal. In some ways, I think I may have the same issues with the Muppets that I have with Alvin & The Chipmunks – I can suspend my disbelief, but I have a problem with these “creatures” coexisting with humans. The same way that I’m slightly disgusted by the idea that humans girls have the same kind of crushes on 4 foot singing chipmunks as they would on Justin Bieber, I also can’t really deal with the Muppets gallivanting around the “real world”. Sure, it works for Sesame Street, but I don’t see why adults are entertained by this, unless they’re high. And yes, do understand the irony of this statement coming from the guy who still watches Power Rangers.

3) Jersey Shore – Sorry, folks. Watching the premiere of Jersey Shore felt like a chore. Everyone who knows my love of bad television thought that I’d simply fall in love with the show, but they were wrong. I think I may have a different threshold than others. It seems that Jersey Shore is a guilty pleasure for quite a number of young professionals who love the show, but would never admit to it. It also seems that quite a few educated people love tuning in. That’s great. It’s just not my cup of tea. I LOVED the True Life episodes that spawned the show, but I really found nothing likable or engrossing about the cast of Jersey Shore. I did, however, enjoy watching that guy punch the shit out of Snookie ’cause, really, how often do you see something like that?  Jersey Shore is like going to the zoo – people feel superior as they ogle the “dumb” animals, but that shit eventually gets old and you find yourself looking for the hot dog cart.

4) Harry Potter – They’re cute books. I get that. They’re not, however, a worthy basis of what has become a literary juggernaut. Let’s rewind a bit, though. I missed the genesis of the Harry Potter phenomenon because I was somewhat off the grid. I went to Summer College at Cornell the summer that the first book started picking up steam. Now, if you’re not familiar with Cornell or Ithaca, its almost like its own little world. Generally, you have to really seek out information from the “outside world”, or else you won’t know of anything outside the Ithaca city limits. These were the early days of the internet, and there was no social networking just pushing information at you. When I got back to civilization, I started hearing rumblings of this “Harry Potter” thing, but really didn’t know what folks were talking about.

A big reason that I was resistant to Harry Potter was that I didn’t like the caliber of the early adopters. Sure, everyone reads Harry Potter now, but in the beginning, it was a certain group of people: the kids who weren’t allowed to watch TV, who only played with no-name educational toys from mom & pop stores, whose parents drove hybrids. Mainly, Harry Potter was the entertainment of yuppie children, and I hated all that they stood for. I can’t ignore what the franchise has done for literacy, which has actually been a great by-product of the phenomenon. It truly got people into reading, and that’s the one thing I like about it. That said, I’ve never found it all that original.

I grew up in a Roald Dahl household, so it was quite obvious when I started seeing his ideas popping up in the Harry Potter books. The extent of most people’s knowledge of Dahl is typically Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and maybe Matilda or James & The Giant Peach. If you’ve more than just those, however, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It angered me that people felt that Rowling’s ideas were so groundbreaking, when I’d seen many of them before. For the people who saw where I was coming from, they still brushed me off with a “Well, nothing’s original anymore” or “Well, Rowling did a great job putting all of those Dahl concepts into one series”. Whatever. Like I said, they’re cute books, but I don’t see why they took the world by storm.

5) Star Wars – Basically, this comes down to the fact that I grew up with the philosophy that “Trekkies Can’t Be Warsies”. I latched onto the late 80s Star Trek revival, and that was where I put my focus. Unlike the other things I’ve mentioned, I “get” Star Wars, but I just don’t have the patience for it, nor do I have the desire to learn.

Star Wars just feels downright inaccessible to me. A few years ago, the only stuff that was “canon” consisted of 3 movies (and a holiday special that no one likes to acknowledge). Later on, there were 3 more movies, which was still manageable, especially since the “real fans” hated the new films and flipflopped on whether they acknowledged the events portrayed in them. Then, however, there was the Clone Wars cartoon, which bothers me because you can’t get attached to any characters, knowing they’re ALL gonna die. Then, there’s all the Expanded Universe stuff (which may not be considered canon, but is still held in high regard amongst the hardcore fans) and don’t get me started on all the comic series. So, at the end of the day, it’s still just 6 movies and some shows, but it feels so much more daunting. In terms of fandom, I like to go ALL IN. You can’t just tell me, “Oh, there are these books, but they don’t count.” If they exist, I’m going to feel like I need to read them and decide for myself if they count. And it’s just too much. The same argument could be made for Star Trek, but I got in early on that stuff, while Star Wars got rolling before I was a gleaming “surprise” in my father’s eye. I know it’s all psychological, but it just feels like being a Star Wars fan requires too much damn legwork. If you’ve got an “Star Wars in 3 Minutes” primer you want to send me, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I don’t think I’m ever gonna have that soft spot for The Force that so many of you seem to have.

So, there you have it. I hope we can all still be friends. I didn’t set out to bash the stuff that people hold dear, but I simply wanted to give my impression of these things. I welcome you to try to convince me otherwise, as I will admit that I do feel a bit left out at times. However, I fear that I’ll just get a bunch of comments like “Ur a fuckin’ moron!” Oh well, at least you’re leaving comments!

13th Sep2010

At Long Last – My Comic Origin!

by Will

I’ve been wanting to write lately, but really haven’t had much to write about. I’ve been to a LOT of comic cons and stores lately, and it made me realize that I’ve never really explained *how* I got into comics. This isn’t just a blog thing, as many of my “in real life” friends don’t really know this tale either. So, it got me to thinking, and those memories have brought us here. Let’s go for a little ride, shall we?

People never believe this, but I started rudimentary reading at 18 months old. This, combined with the fact that my parents were older, meant that I skipped a lot of “typical” children’s literature. I never had any fairy tales, and I missed out on Dr. Seuss. I probably sound like I snob, but I realize that I truly missed out on some classics. Later, I went back and tried to read The Cat in the Hat, but it was too late – the damage had already been done. So, what did I read? Mainly, I read the Style section of the Washington Post. Yeah, there were pictures, but I also learned a LOT about the television industry.

My mom and aunts loved to encourage my reading, so they were always willing to buy books for me. They, however, had to approve of the books, so the covers couldn’t show anything demonic, and they couldn’t be something that was a “waste of time”, like “funnybooks”. Anyway, they used to make me go to Alabama for the summer with my grandmother. The thing about those trips was that I HATED going, but ending up loving it once I was there. In any case, I would throw a FIT prior to leaving, so they’d always bribe me with books and toys so that I would “be a good boy for Muddear”. Also, Muddear was given money to keep me pacified while down there.

The first time I was sent to Old Dixie was 1989, and my cousin Cephus (we are from the South!) drove us down in his Winnebago. There wasn’t much to do, but I had a scooter, and our front yard had a ditch. If you do the math, you’ll realize that I had my own Fat Kid X-Games event going on. I’m still amazed that I never fell in and died – this was a DEEP ditch. I remember, though, during one of my ditch-jump lulls, buying my first comic at the local bait shop. Rather, I didn’t pay money for it, but it was bought for me by a cousin during an ice run for a cookout. I can’t remember the issue number, but it was a Star Trek comic published by DC. This was during the Original Cast Movie Era, so those were the uniforms they were wearing.

Now, I’m gonna be real honest here: I don’t think I ever even read that thing. I mainly asked for it just to see if I could get it. Yeah, I was that kid. Since I hadn’t really been allowed to go near “funnybooks”, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Plus, I was as much of a Trekkie as you could be at the age of 8 (I’d been watching TNG since its premiere, and had seen all TOS episodes). Seeing it on the stands, it was familiar to me and that’s what I went for. I think it had Klingons in it, but didn’t they all back then? I know that comic made the trip back to Maryland from Alabama, but I really don’t remember what became of it. I guess it got thrown away during one of Muddear’s cleaning jags. The main point is that, while I remember owning it, comics had yet to make any real impact on me. I think I had it more for its connection to Star Trek than for the fact that it was a “forbidden comic book!”

Over the course of the next year, I had another one of those “I wonder if I can get x to buy this comic for me” moments. One Sunday afternoon, my aunt’s boyfriend took me to 7/11. It’s a long story, but here’s the gist of it: Muddear lived on a street in DC that wasn’t exactly the nicest. The ice cream truck came through, and I really wanted ice cream, but Muddear was always of the opinion that the ice cream truck was really just selling crack. So, she wouldn’t let me near it. I think I cried, and Mr. Jackson (my aunt’s bf), who had been doing some work on the house, volunteered to take me to 7/11 for some non-crack ice cream. So, in addition to my Push-Up, I ended up with a Heathcliff comic. Now, I’m not sure if y’all remember, but Heathcliff was the Flavor Aid to Garfield‘s Kool-Aid. He was not the A-list cartoon cat, but I remembered that his cartoon had a really cool theme song (one that I still find myself singing at times). Plus, the kicker was that he was dressed as Batman on the cover. Now, my whole love of Batman extends back to the Super Powers toy line, as well as syndicated reruns of the ’66 show. Surprisingly enough, I had never thought about seeking out Batman comics. This changed all that, as it was the first time I really thought “Wait, Batman started as a comic character, right?” Anyway, I remember that this comic was just a loose parody of the first Michael Keaton movie. Still, it was the first time a comic actually kinda stuck with me, and I still have that book in my collection today. This was not, however, when the collecting bug bit. No, my friends – that happened on the next installment of Will & Muddear’s Alabama Adventures, which I’ll talk about next time.

Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

30th Jan2008

My Chat With William Katt and Star Trek Musings

by Will

“Live every week like it’s Shark Week!”

OK, I’m working on a LONG post right now, so this is gonna be a shorter one.

-So, a childhood dream of mine kind of came true today: I got a phone call from The Greatest American Hero! You know, “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air…”. Yeah. William Katt, star of the 80’s hit. He’s working on a top secret project, but he’d been in touch with one of my teammates at work.

I know I’ve written about this before, but that was probably the only show we watched as a family before my dad died. So, I’ve got memories. Anyway, my teammate told William about me and my fanboyness, so he actually gave me a call. I feel so bad because I was having a bad day and totally answered the phone like an a-hole. When he identified himself, I couldn’t believe it. The dude was awesome. I went all fanboy-stupid and couldn’t really tell you all the stuff that fell out of my mouth. I remember telling him that I was Pippin in high school and that I based my interpretation on video of his Broadway run as the character. Anyway, he was such a nice and gracious guy, and he even gave me his cell. Told me to let him know if I ever needed anything and that he’d be swinging through town on the promo circuit and he’d loved to meet with me. I was floored! One down, only Hasselhoff, Adam West, Stan Lee, John Schneider, and Tom Wopat to go!

-Everyone likes to think of Star Trek‘s Uhura as some kind of pioneer in breaking television’s color barrier. In a way, that’s true. On the other hand, she really wasn’t that important of a character. Sure, they call her the ship’s “communications officer”, but she was really just an operator. She worked the switchboards. So, if anything, Uhura started a longstanding tradition of Black women working at the phone company. Next time your bill payment isn’t registered, or you have to log a service complaint, thank Uhura for your fifteen-minute wait time. In the meantime, enjoy that Muzak!

-Speaking of Star Trek, the trailer for the new movie has got me having a Trekkie relapse. I’ve kept it buried inside since the end of DS9, but I’m feelin’ a resurgence. Sadly, I even find myself liking Enterprise. ENTERPRISE! The Scott Bakula thing that wouldn’t even acknowledge it was a Star Trek show until its third season! Anyway, like the critics used to say, it really is a much sexier show than any of the other spin-offs. Plus, I like when my Starfleet officers curse. You’d never hear Jean-Luc or Will Riker yell, “Well, son of a bitch!” You’ll hear that on Jonathan Archer’s ship. Plus, every woman in the Mirror Universe wears a halter top. It’s the little things in life…

-I have a crazy crush on Jane Krakowski right now. As if Tina Fey and her sexy/geeky/cool didn’t make 30 Rock hard enough to watch, seeing Jane as the aloof, self-absorbed starlet takes the cake. Plus, I have to give her credit for only getting more beautiful with age. Anyone who remembers her from Ally McBeal knows she was “the thick one”. There was Calista Flockhart: the skinny one; Courtney Thorne-Smith: the one that every viewer related to, and Jane: the thick, not as pretty as the other two, one. But at 39, she looks amazing these days. For further proof, watch the 30 Rock eps that either feature her Maxim shoot or her “Muffin Top” music video.

-Speaking of music, Jordin Sparks’s “Tattoo” is a horrible debut single. I mean, it’s catchy. I’ll give it that. Just like Chris Brown’s “With You”, it’s a pretty weak song, with weak lyrics, and a basic sound structure. That said, they’re both catchy as Hell. Regardless, it’s not the debut single of an American Idol.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Idol debuts tend to be pretty…meta. In other words, the songs are basically the winner singing about how awesome it is to win AI. “A Moment Like This”? Kelly lived a lifetime to win AI. Ruben’s “Flying Without Wings” doesn’t count because it was a song written for Westlife and just reused (Simon was one of Westlife’s managers). Nobody remembers Fantasia’s “I Believe”, which is sad considering AI alum Tamyra Gray wrote it. Carrie Underwood stole the country crowd with “Inside Your Heaven”, which doubles as a love song, but also affirms that she wants to be in the hearts and minds of her fans. “Do I Make You Proud?” Well, Taylor was hoping he did. And then his label dropped him. Technically, “This is My Now” is Jordin’s debut, which follows the Idol formula, but it never stuck. Now, we’ve got this song that sounds like it was written for JoJo or something. Plus, if it truly is following the this-song-is-about Idol formula, she’s basically saying that the experience is something she’s never gonna be able to shake. It’s grafted onto her for-fucking-ever. Unless she has painful surgery. That’s pretty ominous if ya ask me…The longer this show lasts, the more I’m convinced that the well is running dry.

In fact, I’m starting to feel like those old people who think today’s music is crap. I mean, who thought Keyshia Cole had talent?! Sure, I get the whole she’s-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks angle, but damn! She’s a studio artist , at best, as all the live stuff I’ve seen makes her sound like an epileptic rooster.

-If I see another Arthur Suydam zombie cover on a comic, I’m going to track him down and shoot him in the face. This is a gimmick that has gone on about 2 years too long.

-In closing, apparently, I’m an idiot. I hardly ever comment on the stuff in my comments section as it seems that people find my site 3 months after a post, and comment on something ancient. That said, somebody decided to anonymously point out my idiocy, mainly, because I have class. If you remember my last Whose Wedding post, I pretty much crapped all over a planner named Linyette. Well, my view stands. She’s tacky as hell. I don’t want my party favors to be spray-painted shit from the Dollar Store. Like the commentor said, everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and that’s mine. Thanks for stopping by, though.

24th Jul2007

OutBlacked!

by Will

“You’re, like, my Black Spock…like in Voyager.”

OK, I should be asleep, but I had another weird TVLand observation I needed to write about. After the whole Good Times thing, I caught an episode of Star Trek. A lot of people don’t realize that, despite my love for the franchise, I am not that much of a fan of the Original Series; I like The Next Generation onward. Lately, however, TVLand has been showing the classics, like when the crew goes up against Space Lincoln. Well, this morning was the Khan episode, “Space Seed”.

A lot of you may know Khan as “the villain with the bitchin’ pecs from Star Trek II”. Yes, that is Khan, but he first appeared in the series. When they find Khan, he’s on a derelict freighter, with about 70 other people. They’ve been frozen since the 1990s, and the Enterprise crew tries to figure out what their story might be. To me, though, the crux of the episode is that Khan is such a charismatic motherfucker, and he macks one of Kirk’s women off the bat. This is a process that I like to call “Outblacking”. Kirk was essentially outblacked by Khan. How does this work? Well, let me tell you.

The “outblack” concept was something I came up with in college. When you have a frat party, and one Black guy, the odds are in Black guy’s favor because he has a card that he can play at any point. He can remain quiet and enjoy the dip, or he can bust out and become the life of the party, making the other (mainly White) guys insecure. He has, in effect, outblacked them. But here’s where things get hairier. Say, you have a guy like me as “the Black guy”, but in walks a thug. His street cred is stronger than my kung fu. By virtue of his “keepin’ it real”, I’ve been outblacked. He is then entitled to my women and my kick ass party reputation. From that point, I either have to leave the party, or try to act like we’re friends, so that everyone else thinks we know each other (don’t all Black people know each other anyway?), therefore leeching off his blackness chi. You can see this played out every weekend in clubs across America. It’s the most base form of Black on Black crime.

James T. Kirk is the pimp of the Alpha Quadrant. Because pop culture seems to imply that sex appeal and sheer and utter pimpness are “Black concepts” (see Bill Clinton), this makes Kirk Black. Well, here comes Khan and he seems to snatch the one chick on the Enterprise who wouldn’t give Kirk any play. Surprise, Kirk! You’ve been outblacked! And all it took was a Mexican with Jesus hair. She didn’t even get a chance to see that magnificent chest of his.

I’m thinking about contacting some BET people, and seeing if Outblacked! would make a good show. After all, they put Hell Date on the air, so I really don’t think they can find much fault with my idea…

10th Oct2006

Women In Space: The Beer Goggle Effect Of Science Fiction

by Will

“Why am I successful? Because I’m a fucking daredevil!”

So, today we’re going to talk about a topic that’s been on my mind for the past few days: the women of science fiction.

Yes, it has come to my attention that the mouth-breathing, D&D-playing sci-fi fanboy stereotypes will accept ANYTHING as “hot”. What I mean is, any woman in science fiction is considered hot, whether she deserves the title or not. Now, I’m not sure if this is some form of “geek goggles” or simply the fact that these people are happy to be able to mix their 2 favorite interests: sci-fi and boobies they’ll never touch. Case in point: Marina Sirtis A.K.A. Counselor Troi on ST:TNG. For all accounts, she’s just a gypsy with a rack. And not some beautiful exotic woman. No, she’s a dime-a-dozen gypsy with a rack.

Or, while we’re on the topic of Star Trek, let’s look at DS9. I know a lot of guys who loved Dax (Jadzia, not Ezri). While Ezri was adorable, Jadzia was NOT. In all honesty, the pickin’s were slim in the Gamma Quandrant, seeing as how Rom bagged the only hot chick available. I mean, you either go for the militant war brat who looks like a boy, or you take the rather plain chick with the mole problem and the slug in her womb. But, sci-fi fans still found that hot.

Staying on the Star Trek theme, it just gets progressively worst. I mean, who’d have thought they’d have “butterfaces” in the 24th century, but Seven of Nine was certainly one of them. Jeri Ryan is NOT a pretty girl. For futher proof, look to “Boston Public”, “Shark”, or any cameo she’s done in the past few years. Sure, the body’s there, but the face was being put in on Tuesday (Man, I hope someone gets that reference…). Yet, the horny, nacho-munching fanboys still proclaimed her hotness.

Well, I’ve been perplexed by a few new entries into the genre. First off, there’s Claudia Black. Since the beginning of “Farscape”, I have heard and read how “hot” and “gorgeous” she was. She was a “butt-kicking beauty”. Well, I don’t see it. First off, I don’t even understand the appeal of “Farscape”. It’s “Muppets in Space”. And people wonder why it got cancelled. Now, she plays Vala on SG-1. I can say, loving her character, “she’s got a great personality”. I mean, she really brings life to that show after 10 seasons, but is she “hot”? I can give her “cute”, but that’s due to her mannerisms. I mean, let’s go to the viewers at home. This is what we’re talking about:

Kinda mannish, right? I mean, isn’t that the chick who works at the library? Not the hot one, the OTHER one. Yeah, her.

But then we’re given a picture like this one:

Body’s great, beautiful color. But I just can’t get over that face. So, you tell me: Is Claudia Black hot? ‘Cause I really can’t tell.

Which leads us to our next subject: Billie Piper. Now, many of you may not remember this, but back in ’98, our good friends across the pond saw the success that Britney Spears was having and they decided to make their own. The result? Billie. Yes, the one-monikered pop princess had it all, including the obligatory heavily tabloided relationship with Richie, from the boyband 5ive. The UK had their very own Britney & Justin. But all efforts to make her successful outside of England failed. You may have seen her one-hour special on UPN following one of the airings of that Spice Girls special they kept showing. Outside of that, no red, white and blue for Billie. Just like all pop relationships, Rich & Billie broke up amid controversy. She married a 40 yr-old (she was 18 at the time) and Richie was seen studying for the flight attendant’s exam following the breakup of 5ive. Fame is a cruel bitch. Billie’s marriage failed, but she bounced back as an actress, and her current gig is the revival of “Doctor Who”. Now, to most Americans who don’t watch PBS, they’re thinking “Dr. WHO?” No, that’s his name. Some bullshit about a phonebooth that does something and the main character changes his look every few years so they can hire new actors. Don’t ask me; I’m still trying to understand a lot of Monty Python, and can’t be bothered with more highbrow British stuff. I’ll take Eastenders anyday. But I digress…

Billie is The Doctor’s sidekick of sorts. Once again, the sci fi rags have named her some sort of science fiction babe. But I don’t think it’s because she’s hot. I think it’s because she’s the only chick in the show. It’s the same kind of “default factor” I was talking about with DS9. I mean, Exhibit A:

“Blimey! Lay off me fish & chips, luv!” That is not a hot girl. Even holding a gun (a lame ass piece, at that!), this is not an attractive woman. In fact, I think this is the bitch at CVS who keeps messing up my prescription. West Virginia Welfare Queen? Maybe. Sci Fi Babe of 2006? I think not.

I wish I had a better picture, like I did of Claudia, but all I could come up with was this:

Even glammed up, that was the best they could do. Why do I get the feeling that she’s wearing Jordache at this photo shoot?

So, what’s my message here? Fanboys, I need you to step away from the Everquest and stop working on your Battlestar Galactica costume. Listen up: I am one of you, but I am in sheep’s clothing. By attempting to be “normal”, I have learned things about the outside world. And one thing I’ve learned is that not all women in space are hot. Sure, there’s not much to compare them to, what with the aliens with the weird foreheads and the cyborgs walking around. But just because she’s got a rack, and she’s in space, it doesn’t make her hot. I need you to take a deep breath (through your nose; get your inhaler if you must), and just take a look out your window. Yes, you’re going to have to endure sunlight for this one. There are beautiful women out there, on Earth (!), and I need you to get to know them, even if from afar, so that you may develop more discerning tastes. Right now, you are blinded by the spandex and the cerebral implants. Look a woman in the eyes, and NOT her communicator, and you just might find your life changed. Thank you, and live long and prosper.

20th Aug2005

Truck Turner Is HILARIOUS!

by Will

“She’s gratuitously hot. Like ‘even if she was a parapalegic I wouldn’t care’ hot.”

You’ve never seen an All-Star Pimp Funeral until you’ve seen Isaac Hayes’ “Truck Turner”. One of the lesser-known Blaxploitation flicks, it’s probably the only place you’ll see cocaine sprinkled on a finely dressed corpse and, and here’s the clincher, Lt. Uhura as a hardass Hollywood Madame.

Let’s see…you’ve got the one-eyed White cowboy pimp. You’ve got the standard issue street corner pimp. But my personal fave is the Yafhet Kotto-from-Homicide pimp. “What could be wrong? I’m rich. I have money. I’m cute. I’m handsome.” He steals the show!

And who knew prostitutes would grieve so over their fallen daddy? It truly is an enlightening thing to watch. And I leave you with this nugget of wittiness from Lt. Uhooker:

“She’s called ‘Turnpike’ ’cause you’ve gotta pay to get on and pay to get off.”

18th Aug2005

So, Trekkies Are Pedophiles, Eh?

by Will

“My parents aren’t gonna do anything to you! It’s not like they’re gonna spear you…What? We’re African. That’s all people think of Africa: elephants, spears, and monkeys!”

Lawdy, lawdy, they’s comin’ fo’ us! There’s this report floating around, in which the LAPD make an interesting confession: apparently, there’s a correlation between love of Star Trek and pedophilia. Actually, it’s reported that out of 100 arrests over the past four years for child molestation, all but one of them were “hardcore Trekkies”. Let the profiling begin! “Excuse me sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to put down that phaser, and open up your attic.” Or

“Excuse me sir, do you know how fast you were going back there?”

“No, officer, I don’t. I was just trying to get home. I forgot to TiVo Star….Search. Yeah, love that Ed McMahon!”

“Star Search, eh? Well, while we’re here…does the term “Kobayashi Maru” mean anything to you?”

“Sure It’s the test given to all cadets at Starfleet Academy. The trick of the test is that it cannot be passed. But James Tiberius Kirk was the first person to beat the test because he cheated…SHIT!”

“Well, looky here! We’re gonna have to take you downtown, pervert! You’re gonna live long and prosper behind bars!”

“NOoooo! There…are…four…lights!”

End Scene

Wow, I really got carried away there.

The sad thing is that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I mean, this hits close to home, but it’s SUCH BULLSHIT. Then again, have you BEEN to a Trek convention? You know that cousin that the rest of the family’s ashamed of? Now, multiply him by about 5,000, and you’ve got a Trek convention. Sure, everyone comes with their own level of commitment, but I was more afraid at a Trek convention than I was in Russia when all of the kids were trying to touch my hair, like the zombies in “Shaun of the Dead” or something…

Some people have tried to explain how it’s all Kirk’s fault because he taught us all to seek risky, instant gratification in his quest to screw any green chick in a miniskirt. Somehow, that translates into making every Kirk-admiring Trekkie a pedophile ’cause, since there are no green chicks (yet), the next worse thing is kids. It’s the whole “exotic becomes erotic” theory (Any Bem fans out there? Man, were they one colossally screwed up family!) But, if you wanna read up on the report, try these links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-ladowsky/pedophilia-and-star-trek_b_5857.html

http://www.corante.com/importance/archives/2005/05/04/star_trek_and_pedophilia_claim_followup.php

03rd Aug2005

In Space, Only The Exploding Consoles Can Hear You Scream

by Will

Trekkie Gripe
The following is from a convo I had with Brian:

WESTMAN2K: they didn’t like to focus on it much, but by the time they made it home, the only crew left were basically the senior officers. the pesky maquis were cannon fodder. the few, loyal, starfleet officers onboard were victims of enemies or the freak overloading panel

WESTMAN2K: what is it about those panels? we can build a ship that travels faster than light, but we can’t revolutionize surge protection technology?

Shit, if I were on a starship, I’d be nervous just walking down the hallway! You never know when one of those panels is gonna overload and BOOM! There goes Ensign Jenkins!

I always loved how the conn and ops consoles would overload as a result of an attack. You see the sparks and whatnot, and Nameless Crewman would be dead. But seconds later, Nameless Crewman II has to take his place. And you just know that Nameless Crewman II is hoping the surges hold off until his shift is over, ’cause he’s got shore leave on Risa coming up, and he’s always wanted to make it with a green chick. At this point, he’s kicking himself for not taking that assignment on the trash barge, and he truly hopes to find out if it IS easy being green…