16th Nov2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park


Toy Story 4

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

Fighting With My Family

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


Spies in Disguise

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


Detective Pikachu

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28th Sep2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/28/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch (TM)

Brett Kavanaugh – PASS. Next!

Drake – So, 14 year old Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown recently said that Drake texts her and gives her advice about boys. Now, this is already after he was coming off a week where he was reportedly seen out on a date with a teenager. Ol’ Aubrey better watch himself, because even the King of Pop himself couldn’t shake the pedophile allegations. It’s probably an innocent thing, but he might wanna tell her to stop bringing shit like that up in interviews.

Nelly – There are reports that Nelly settled with a woman who alleges he forced her to perform oral and vaginal sex on his tour bus, When he was done, he reportedly threw her off the bus and threw a $100 bill at her. Now, reports are saying they reached a settlement, which would normally imply guilt. The thing here, though, is that “settlement” doesn’t seem to be the correct word. Apparently, the victim refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and both sides dropped their suits against one another (Nelly had countersued). They agreed to cover their own legal costs, but Nelly’s lawyer reports no money changed hands, which the victim’s attorney is disputing. At the end of the day, I guess she didn’t wanna go and take a ride wit’ him.

Bill Cosby Update – Surprising EVERYONE, Bill Cosby received a sentence of 3-10 years in prison for puttin’ the pill in the bubbly when the girls wanna drink. There are reports that someone threw a hot dog at him in lockup on his first day, plus he almost fell down some stairs. On the one hand, it’s like “He was an evil man and this is what he has coming to him”. But on the other, it’s like “Who wins from an 83 year old man being put in jail?” I think he deserves to be there, but I’m not gonna laugh at his misfortune while in there. Hopefully, he’s not only a cautionary tale, but also the first of many more to follow.

Trailer Park

We’ve got a lot of trailery goodness this week, so let’s dive right in.

Creed II

Honestly, the first trailer did more for me. The whole rap in the background, the final tease of Drago Jr. That was great. I felt there was too much here, and not even the juicy bits. Just a bunch of Adonis being a deadbeat dad because he’s obsessed with his father’s legacy. Hands down, the best scene here is the staredown between Drago and Rocky. Man, the Russians clearly have the better Human Growth Hormone, ’cause Rocky looks like shit compared to Ivan. I’ll see it. Not sure if I’ll see it in the theater, but I’ll see it.

Bumblebee

So much 80s goodness in here. I was never a huge Transformers fan, so whatever Michael Bay did to them didn’t scar me as much as it did a lot of y’all. That said, I’ve always been a big fan of Bumblebee. Long story short, Bumblebee was the last birthday present I got from my dad before he passed away. So, even though a lot of y’all hate that he’s become the Urkel of the TF franchise, I will always stan for the ‘Bee. I will definitely be seeing this one.

Dark Phoenix

Ooh, we’re going all “Dark Knight“, and removing the name of the title characters’ franchise from the name of the movie. Whatever. A friend of mine texted me and asked “Did you see the Dark Phoenix trailer?” I replied, “No, but I saw a piece of shit with some X-Men characters in it.” This trailer is on Lexapro. There are no highs or lows. It just coasts right through the middle, offering nothing exciting. It’s a shame that everyone is all “Bring on the MCU X-Men!”, because it seems like that rubbed off on the filmmakers. Well, if nothing else, at least we know we’ll have a cool Quicksilver sequence to look forward to. If this is the 90s, I’m hoping it’s set to something by either C&C Music Factory of La Bouche.

ABC’s TGIF

Comedy has changed a lot and, while there’s a lot of nostalgia for the TGIF brand, I’m not sure Fresh Off the Boat and Speechless are gonna be the torchbearers for the 21st century incarnation of the comedy block. Anyway, here’s a cute video of some former TGIF stars imparting their wisdom to the newbies.


Star Trek: Short Treks – “Runaway”

Considering that there seems to be new Star Trek news every day, one of the projects that got lost in the news cycle was the Short Treks series, which are four anthology episodes that…well, I don’t know a whole lot more than that. Here’s the trailer for the first one, though, set in the Discovery era, starring Ensign Sylvia Tilly. Again, I’d check all this shit out if it didn’t require me to subscribe to CBS All Access. So, I’ll catch it once it ends up on YouTube or something.

Daredevil Season 3 (Netflix)

Well, that was certainly Kingpin and Matt Murdock. That’s all I’ve got. I’m seriously behind on those shows.

So, here’s an interesting, “shoe is on the other foot” moment. The curator for the hip hop collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, Timothy Anne Burnside, is a White woman (full disclosure: she’s a friend of a friend). I’ve known about this since before the museum even opened. Still, I guess the news was on CP Time, ’cause the Black community didn’t seem to notice until over the weekend, and it was a SHITSTORM. All over social media, they couldn’t understand how a White woman was the curator of something so dear to our culture. Why wasn’t the job offered to a Black person? There was a lot of back and forth, and the Smithsonian even issued a statement about the whole thing. This debate comes up a lot, like “Should minority characters only be written by a person who’s from the same minority group?” From what I’ve heard, Timothy knows her shit, and I don’t think the Smithsonian would choose just anybody to handle this project (fuller disclosure: my mother worked for the National Museum of Natural History for 28 years). Still, the museum is in an uncomfortable situation, where they have to decide whether they’re going to side with Timothy, or with the critics. For the culture. If they do try to replace her, this has got “discrimination suit” written ALL over it.

This week saw the debut of the ABC sitcom Single Parents, starring Taran Killam. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it wasn’t great. Basically, Killam is a divorced dad who dotes on his daughter, and this group of single parents in his daughter’s class try to show him that there’s a world out there that he’s missing. The odd thing to me is that their friendship wasn’t organic. The group was just like “Ooh, new single parent!” and decided to make him their project. I had someone tell me on Twitter that I don’t understand single parenting, and that you “find your tribe quickly”. I don’t know about all that, but I know that trust takes time, and this crammed it all into 22 minutes. I get that they’re basically an elementary school Dear John, but the whole support group angle doesn’t really work unless the audience believes the trust is there. Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll be back for this one.

Last night was the premiere of the Murphy Brown revival, and woo boy! First of all, it features a cameo that’s so obvious that I can’t believe they even tried to tease it like it was a surprise (HINT: There’s a joke about emails). One thing another reviewer said, that I have to agree with, is that it seems horribly dated. I mean, the premiere features the pussy hats from the Women’s March (they don’t call them “pussy hats”, even though you could totally get away with that on broadcast today, while you couldn’t when the original series aired). If this had premiered a year ago, it might have seemed on the cutting edge of comedy, but this just seems slow and lazy. It’s kinda like how other animated shows reference how South Park already beat them to making the joke they’re trying to make. Why? Because South Park is a well oiled machine, cranking out shit based on last night’s headlines. This show, however, was Liberal Smuggery at its worst.

“What’s Liberal Smuggery,” you ask? It’s what I call the state of liberal comedy, where they think they’re so much smarter than the conservatives – they’re so biting and witty, yet they’ve got NOTHING to show for it. Even when they’re in power, they’re somehow the weaklings. Late night talk show hosts are the leaders in Liberal Smuggery. Jon Stewart made his name on it. But at the end of the day, what does that get you?  The “moral high ground”? I feel like this premiere went for a lot of low-hanging fruit that even those talk show hosts would’ve avoided.

In the UK, they might do a one-off special to catch up with a beloved show’s characters. They recently did one for Are You Being Served? I would’ve liked this more had it been that format: a one-off special to see how Murphy Brown feels about the Trump Administration. After last night’s episode, I’m pretty sure I’ve got my answer, and I’m good. I’m not so sure this needed to be a full season.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Dr. Dre’s series Vital Signs was cancelled by Apple before it even aired, due to graphic sex and violence. I know what bootleg I’m looking for at the next pop culture convention!
  • Inside The Actor’s Studio is returning to Ovation TV, but it will be without James Lipton. After 25 years, he’s stepping down, and the show will be led by “a rotating array of guest hosts”.

  • Writing has begun on the Picard-centric Star Trek series, and we got this pic of the writers room from Patrick Stewart’s Instagram. I’m struck by the fact that there are 2 women – one of whom is Black. I see you, sista! Oh yeah, Michael Chabon is there, too.
  • Formerly of The View, Rosie O’Donnell is set to guest host on The Talk today, in a possible bid to replace the departed Julie Chen.
  • The CW Arrowverse crossover this season will be called Elseworlds, which comic fans will remember as the DC imprint that was home to out of continuity stories.

  • Speaking of DC shows, we got this poster for Titans, which will be streaming on the DC Universe service next month. Yeah, not only does this poster do nothing for me, but where are Hawk & Dove? Aren’t they supposed to be on the show, too? Was Minka Kelly too expensive for the whole season?
  • Terry Crews has been tapped to host the America’s Got Talent spinoff, America’s Got Talent: the Champions, which seems like it might be their all-star edition. Who hosts the regular show since Nick Cannon quit? *Googles* Tyra Banks? STILL?!
  • So, um, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has joined the writing team for the Veronica Mars revival. Yup, that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Huh.
  • For some reason, Disney is remaking High Fidelity, only Zoe Kravitz will be in the John Cusack role. I don’t get it. Will she be a womanizing lesbian? Will she work still work in a record store? Let’s pump the brakes on these reboots, huh?
  • Dunkin Donuts is reportedly planning to drop the “Donuts” from their name, as they refocus their brand as a “beverage-led company, not limited to just donuts”. Yeah, how ’bout y’all ask IHOB how well that shit went for them.
  • Apparently, there was backlash about how The Princess & The Frog‘s Princess Tiana appears in the upcoming Ralph Wrecks The Internet, as her skin has been lightened, and her hair processed. Disney is correcting the appearance to match what fans are used to. Of course, old White men are mad, and Black folks are like “We were just gonna buy that movie bootleg at the barbershop anyway, so it really don’t matter what color she is based on the shaky cam quality it’s gonna be.”
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Jurnee Smollett-Bell have been cast, respectively, as Huntress and Black Canary in DC’s unnecessary Birds of Prey film that will probably never see the light of day. I mean, my man Ray Fisher is still waiting for his call to report to the set of that Cyborg movie, so…

It was a bad week. Especially the past 2 days. But out of all the bullshit there rose a phoenix. That phoenix also goes by the name of Stefanie Germanotta, but you can call her “Lady Gaga”. She’s making her debut as a lead in Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star Is Born. Yesterday, the single “Shallow” was released, and I’ve probably listened to it 400 times by now. If there’s any problem with the song, it’s the fact that it’s too short. While everyone was screaming at the Kavanaugh hearing yesterday, I was keeping my cool by looping this. I’d suggest you try it. That’s why Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” had the West Week Ever.

14th Sep2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/14/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM) 

SO MUCH HARASSMENT THIS WEEK! Usually, these things are kinda like footnotes to the week, but the shit really hit the fan this week.

Jeff Fager: The longtime 60 Minutes executive producer was ousted, as he didn’t think before sending that angry text. You’ve always got to count to 10 – unless it says “You up?”, and it’s after midnight. Then you go handle your shit. No, here’s what happened: it was reported that Fager liked to touch and grope CBS employees at company parties. When this news broke, he was displeased with how his own network was reporting the investigation into his behavior. So, he fired off a text to CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan, which was capped off with “Be careful. There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem.” So, Fager wasn’t fired because of the claims against him. No, he was fired because of his reaction to the claims against him. I think it’s Stephen Covey who promotes the 10/90 Principle, in that life is really just 10% of things you can control, and 90% of how you react to the things you can’t. Guess Fager should’ve read that book.

Les Moonves Update: Man, it was an executive bloodbath over at CBS this week, as Moonves stepped down as Chairman of CBS when the original count of 6 women with claims against him doubled to 12. After resigning, he released a statement denying the allegations, as folks are wont to do in his predicament. If It’s A Wonderful Life taught us anything, it’s that rich people, even when evil, still tend to finish the game rich. That’s exactly what’s happening here, as Moonves is set to receive a severance package worth around $240 million, but it’s on hold pending the results of the investigation against him.

Meanwhile, Moonves’ wife, TV personality and Big Brother host, Julie Chen decided to be a real bitch about things. At the end of last night’s broadcast of Big Brother, she signed off as Julie Chen Moonves – a name she has NEVER used professionally, and it was symbolic in that she was showing her support for her husband. Well, good for you, Julie. You ain’t been nothing but a sell-out your whole career anyway. Seriously, that was her spitting in the faces of all of Les’s accusers, when she knows there could be some validity to all this. After all, she was allegedly his sidepiece while he was still married, and he petitioned the court for an early divorce just so he could be with her. Les Moonves ain’t shit, and neither is she. I really hope CBS boots “Chen Moonves” out on her ass, ’cause everybody knows the only reason she got that Big Brother gig – amongst others – is because of Moonves. Let’s see HER get kicked out of the Big Brother house.

But wait – there’s more! Last week, I told you about how Moonves made it his life’s mission to ruin Janet Jackson’s career after Nipplegate. That’s his thing. He loves to ruin people. Well, Designing Women/Evening Shade creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason wrote this detailed account of how Moonves kept her shows off CBS, as well as scuttled her $50 million development contract. While she was never sexually harassed by Moonves, she knows people who were, plus he fucked with her money. I usually don’t get this “involved” with a HarassmentWatch subject, but Moonves is really being revealed as quite the piece of shit.

Shane Black Update: So, there was some blowback about the sex offender originally being in the film, but that didn’t stop folks from seeing The Predator, and reporting that it’s not very good. The news that came out this week, however, is that actress Olivia Munn is the one who tipped off the studio to the sex offender’s involvement in the film. And now it seems like she may have been blackballed, because she reached out to the cast to inform them of what she planned to do, and received no support from her male costars. In fact, they all bailed on a group interview that was scheduled at the Toronto International Film Festival. Since that news broke, however, Sterling K. Brown has apologized to her, but it was probably at the urging of the This Is Us producers, as they don’t want that bad juju affecting their ratings.

Norm MacDonald: Sometimes I wish I gave out the WORST Week Ever, as that would most certainly have gone to Norm this week. I mean, how many ways can you fuck up an apology tour? Well, he was determined to find out. So, early in the week, Norm did an interview where he said that he was glad the #MeToo movement was slowing down. He made a statement that Louis CK and Roseanne should get together and talk, because only they understand the experience of losing everything in one day. He said that folks always talk about the victims in these things, but they don’t realize that folks like Louis and Roseanne are basically victims, too. Well, this did NOT go over well, as people felt that he was minimizing what had actually gone down in these two particular cases. He tweeted out an apology, explaining that the 2 comedians were his friends, yet he didn’t condone their actions, nor was his intent to minimize what had occurred. Despite this, his Tuesday appearance on The Tonight Show was cancelled after Jimmy Fallon made him aware that some producers were “in tears” about the thought of him being on the show. Then, he went on The Howard Stern Show, and he doubled down, saying that a person would have to have Down Syndrome to not feel sorry for the victims of sexual assault. So, then he had to apologize for that. He’s apologizing for prior apologies on his apology tour. As they say in the South, “That boy just can’t get to Hell fast enough.”


So Henry Cavill is out as Superman in the DCEU. Oh wait – he’s back in? I can’t even keep track anymore. Apparently they wanted him to film a cameo for SHAZAM!, and he was all “Show me the money!” And when they did show it to him, it was flaccid and disappointing. Then, Cavill proceeded to post some cryptic video of him on Instagram with a Superman figure. Was this him telling us he’s done? That’s the conclusion to which everyone jumped, though there was no real precedent for it. You see, there’s no Superman project in development. right now. While Affleck is probably done as Batman due to his rehab stint, it’s not like DC is working on anything Superman related at the moment. So, the statement released basically said that if/when there’s a project, Cavill would be considered. Man, this is one messy break-up!

Meanwhile, as the fires burned all around us, somehow a rumor got started that Michael B. Jordan was being considered to replace Cavill as Superman. Let that sink in a minute. I feel like the Elite are tired of waiting for the inevitable Race War, and they’ve just decided to nudge things in the right direction to get the shit started. Yes, I know about Earth-23 Superman, but I don’t need Black Superman. Yes, representation matters, but I don’t need Black Superman. The only way I want Michael B. Jordan is if Warner Bros uses the same wack CGI they used to hide Cavill’s mustache in Justice League, but instead uses it to make Jordan White throughout the entire film. It’d be the biggest waste of CGI in movie history. Folks would be like “Why couldn’t they just cast a White guy?” And then there’d be the whole argument of “The best man got the job!” and some folks would be like, “Well, did he?” This is how the world ends, folks. You heard it here first.

All I know is that Cyborg movie ain’t ever happening, so I hope Ray Fisher didn’t spend all that Justice League money. If it did happen, and they did cast Jordan as Superman, I’ve GOT to have a version of this scene somewhere in the film:

Tomorrow is International Batman Day, and I really couldn’t tell you what we’re celebrating. I mean, it started on an anniversary year, but now it’s just an annual day to get a free Batman comic. OK, I’ll take it. It’s also the official launch date for the DC Universe streaming service. We got some DCU news this week, as Derek Mears has reportedly been cast as the suit actor for the Swamp Thing character, while Maria Sten will be Liza Tremaine. As far as content, the series is expected to be a “Hard R”. Also, it was revealed that Titans will feature Robin II, Jason Todd. We got this new pic of the series, and it still does nothing to make me want to watch this show.

In other comics news, Top Cow is planning a relaunch of The Darkness, which was originally a spin-off of Witchblade. Let’s hope it’s better than their recent reboot of Witchblade! To give you some backstory, the Witchblade was one of the powerful artifacts of the Top Cow universe that bonded with strong women over time. Once it got to the 90s, however, all the women’s empowerment went out the window, as it was nothing but a T&A book. While it put artists like Michael Turner on the map, it would be years later that the book gained any real substance.

The Darkness was one of those concepts introduced way too soon. It was a demonic force that, like the Witchblade, was passed down to males, from generation to generation. The power manifests on the bearer’s 21st birthday, but the problem is that the power is passed on at the moment of conception, killing the current host. It’s like that heavy handed 2nd verse of TLC’s “Waterfalls”! So, imagine how much it sucked for Jackie Estacado, a 21 year old mobster, who finds himself as the latest host for the Darkness. I mean, he was a womanizer, but now he couldn’t have sex.

And this is my problem with 90s comics. They wanted to be so edgy, but still remain so chaste, due to the Comics Code Authority. It was bandied about that Jackie couldn’t have sex, or he’d die. Um, condoms? Was this some poorly written AIDS allegory? X-Men tried to do the same thing. Gambit and Rogue are star-crossed because they can’t touch. Gloves and condoms, fool. A horny 13 year old kid can come up with a LOT of ways to make that work, and he was the primary audience for that book.

Anyway, Witchblade was just reimagined with a new host, and ZERO T&A. It’s like they’re not smart enough to realize why people bought that book. Witchblade, as a character, goes in that category with Lady Death and Vampirella, where you know exactly what you’re throwing down your money to read. This new book is just about some boring blonde girl, and I dropped it after one issue. Some concepts can be reimagined. Some can’t. I feel like Witchblade is only gonna work as a T&A book, and Darkness only works as her brooding, on-again, off-again boyfriend.

In TV news, the new cast of Dancing with the Stars was announced this week, and there were some surprises. I don’t watch the show at all, but I still keep up with who’s been tapped for the show. While I don’t know 3/4 of these people (because they’re all either reality show or Disney Channel stars), I do recognize some interesting choices. First, there’s the Ryan Seacrest of Country Music, Mr. Bobby Bones. He’s been branching out into other media, but the guy has a daily morning radio show. I feel like he’s gonna take an early L just to get back to his 37 other jobs. Then there’s 1984 Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, on whom I’ve had a crush since I was 3 years old. What? She was EVERYWHERE back then. It was like when Bobby Hill had that crush on Kerri Strug. The big one that stood out to me, however, was former Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider, who was recently in the news because he was trying to get his jail time (for non payment of spousal support) reinstated, as he couldn’t afford to pay his ex-wife. Guess he said, “I can’t pay the bitch, so send me back to jail” – all while his car horn plays “Dixie” as he speeds through the center of town.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The will reportedly be a death on Modern Family next season, of a “significant character” according to Co-creator Christopher Lloyd. All signs are pointing to Fred Willard’s Frank Dunphy.
  • Game of Thrones star Kit Harington blasted Marvel for not casting gay actors as any of their onscreen heroes. Not really sure what he was going for there. Maybe his manager told him to do it?
  • “They’re robots, bitch.” Expect that line next season, as Jesse Pinkman himself, Aaron Paul, joins the cast of Westworld.
  • The Blue’s Clues reboot, Blue’s Clues & You, has found its new host in Joshua Dela Cruz. That’s for all you parents/perverts out there.
  • The sun continues to shine on former Cosby Show star/more recent Trader Joe’s employee, as he is set to appear on NCIS: New Orleans next season.
  • Shane West is joining Gotham next season as a mysterious new villain. Remember when folks had high hopes for Shane? Man, that was some week!
  • American Gods must be cursed, as the show is about to lose its third showrunner. There are reports that Jesse Alexander was let go by Starz because the show is 6 weeks behind schedule and has gone over budget.
  • I guess we’re really doing this: after the Academy got rid of the “Popular Oscar”, Disney released its For Your Consideration list for Black Panther to Academy voters. Yup, they’re trying to get King T’Challa an Oscar!
  • Since the Roseanne thing didn’t really go as planned, ABC is going back to the well and has picked up the Designing Women reboot. It turns out the series is actually planned as a sequel, which will focus on the next generation of Sugarbaker women – which will be interesting since they were all past menopause by the end of the last series…
  • Rappers Nicki Minaj and Cardi B came to fisticuffs after a party during New York Fashion Week
  • Adult film star Stormy Daniels announced her upcoming book, Full Disclosure, which is supposedly her tell all account of her affair with Donald Trump. If I didn’t read Omarosa’s book, or Woodward’s book, or even Comey’s book, then why the Hell would I read this? I don’t need to read “He produced his turgid Cheeto, which I proceeded to ride, filled with ennui.”
  • X-Men: Extermination #1 saw the death of Scott Summers’ son, Cable – killed by a younger Cable! Oh, and this is the second time Cable has “died” in the past 10 years. Space that shit out, Marvel!

  • Marvel’s trying to get some of the DC Super Hero Girls money, with Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, which has a toyline launching next month. I just hope these do better than those Star Wars: Forces of Destiny dolls, ’cause those did NOT find an audience.
  • Speaking of DC, there’s a new sheriff in town for the comics division, as it will now report directly to the President of New Warner Bros Global Brands & Experiences, Pam Lifford. Two interesting things here: 1) she’s a Black woman and 2) she used to work for the competition, as she was Disney exec until Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter used his influence to have her division closed. This should be interesting!

It was a great week for John Legend. First off, he won an Emmy Award for his work on Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. Now, this would be an amazing accomplishment for anyone, but it was even more so for Legend, as it got him EGOT status: someone who has won a Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. While I originally learned the term from 30 Rock, it was apparently coined by Miami Vice‘s Phillip Michael Thomas – like he ever had a chance. That’s like if I said I want to win 3 Olympic gold medals, as I sit on my couch, crunching on Doritos. Anyway, I believe that, at 39, Legend is the youngest person to get an EGOT. And the big news didn’t stop there, as it was also announced that he will be replacing Jennifer Hudson as a coach on The Voice next season. Not too shabby for a former a cappella kid who used to lament the fact that he was just one of the “Ordinary People”. That’s why John Legend had the West Week Ever.

07th Sep2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/7/18

by Will

 

I took last week off since it was a 3-day weekend, and y’all never read my shit when you’re watching the clock for your 72 hr orgy, or barbecue, or whatever the Hell it is y’all get into. Then, I took a “mental health day” today because my mental ain’t so healthy lately. So, this is coming out after 5 PM, which means you’ve already left work, and you’re probably pregaming for your 48 hr orgy. I hope ya read it, ’cause we’ve got 2 weeks of stuff to talk about, but I stopped tracking stats long ago. It’s better for the mental health….

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Shane Black: Apparently a scene was removed from The Predator, which contained a cameo by one of Black’s friends, who’s also a registered sex offender. Now, why he thought throwing his friend a job like this was a good idea, I’ll never know. I’m not sure if he’s “loyal” or just “stupid”, but hey, it’s 2018 and shit like that don’t go unnoticed.

Les Moonves Update: While Moonves was allowed to keep his job during the investigation into the sexual harassment claims against him, there are now rumors that he’s seeking a quiet exit from CBS. To add to that, there was an interesting article yesterday about how he made it his life’s mission to destroy Janet Jackson following her “wardrobe malfunction” after the 2004 Super Bowl.

As a “student of pop culture”, I never really had much of an opinion on the wardrobe malfunction. It was one of the few Super Bowls I missed, so I didn’t see it with the rest of you. And while I stanned for JT, I was still more mad at how he blew off his bandmates than for this. It didn’t go unnoticed that he pretty much got out of the whole thing unscathed but, according to the article, this was only because he tearfully approached Moonves about it, which Moonves loved. What a dickhole.

Louis CK Update: Louis returned to the stage in an unannounced set at the Comedy Cellar. From most accounts, his “comeback” wasn’t that great, and now he’s got a new enemy: the owner of the Cellar, Noam Dworman. Dworman claims he was never made aware of Louis’ plans, and he also didn’t appreciate that his club was chosen, as it’s put him in the middle of the controversy. On top of it, he is disappointed that Louis didn’t even address the allegations in his set. To Dworman, what should’ve been a mea culpa, hat-in-hand moment was more of a “Surprise! Here’s business as usual, like nothing happened.” So, it doesn’t seem like the world of comedy is ready to forgive Louis just yet.

Mahoney! Apparently, Steve Guttenberg is going around, saying there’s a new Police Academy movie coming, and I’m gonna need him to stop. The problem is this is a HORRIBLE time for that movie, I don’t care how lovable those guys are. Let’s Be Cops got in at the very last minute that folks were cool with cops. It’ll be quite some time before folks are ready to embrace a Police Academy movie again.

Plus, the franchise came out during a time when we didn’t care about everyone’s opinion. At this point, we’d have the fraternal orders of police weighing in about how they feel disrespected. Fox News would want a boycott for the film that “disparages our heroes!”, and Sheriff David A. Clarke would use it as an excuse to do more rounds on the talk show circuit. And it’s kind sad watching old ass Michael Winslow try to make sounds that I can just download an app to produce. Let that shit go. Give it a few years, and then introduce Mahoney’s kid, who’s joining the academy. I’ll only watch, though, if they “Weekend at Bernie’s” Commandant Lassard, by dragging George Gaynes’s corpse around the whole film.

In TV news, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia started its 13th (!) season this week, in an episode that was…serviceable. First of all, they dealt with the mystery of whether or not Glenn Howerton’s Dennis was coming back, seeing as how his new series, AP Bio, was renewed at NBC. So, to replace Dennis in their circle of friends, the gang recruited…Mindy Kaling? Yeah, it didn’t work for me. Her casting just didn’t feel right. Should’ve been a blonde White chick. A real Fox News type for what they were going for. Dennis looks old as shit. Waitress looks HORRIBLE with that hair. In all, I’m glad the show’s not cancelled, but they just seem out of ideas.

In other TV news, last week we celebrated Power Rangers Day, as the 25th anniversary episode of Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel aired in primetime on Nickelodeon. And it was…OK. It wasn’t as rushed as the Legendary Battle special from Power Rangers Super Megaforce, but it was SUCH a Tommy wankfest that I almost can’t believe it. Yes, I realize that Jason David Frank is basically the patron saint of Power Rangers, but little kids have GOT to be wondering “Who’s this old guy who keeps coming around?” In the episode, Rangers from different dimensions are pulled together to help the current team fight Lord Draven, who’s trying to tear down the barriers between realities. It’s a shame that the current team is so bland. They’re basically Power Rangers Sanka. The only interesting part of Ninja Steel/Super Ninja Steel is watching the creative ways that the production crew come up with to hide the Pink Ranger’s insane ass. No, seriously, it’s INSANE. The special posed SO many questions, but it also pretty much gave some sneak peaks at toys that I’m positive we’re getting from Hasbro next year.

In comic news, it was announced that fan favorite writer, Gail Simone, will become the chief architect of Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime superhero universe. I’m kinda torn on this one. No, I’m not really torn at all. You see, the Catalyst Prime books aren’t very good. Launched as a universe that featured diverse heroes, and science-based powers, there were some hits (Noble) and quite a few misses (everything else). I only supported them because the old chief architect of the line was a buddy of mine from my comic days, and I always support his stuff. Catalyst, however, just wasn’t hitting the right buttons for me, and I guess it wasn’t for others, as well, as they announced a creative shake-up. And at just the time of that shake-up, my buddy jumped ship to another publisher. So then I felt bamboozled that I had sunk several hundred dollars (Oh, I was ALL IN) into a line that wouldn’t see its original ideas to fruition, nor did it seem like it was guaranteed to stick around. I had no desire to see where Catalyst was going at that point.

Now, to Gail. I like Gail. I do. But she kinda has this undeserved reputation as a “fixer”. As one of the few prominent women in comics, whenever a female comic character needs “fixing”, the fans immediately go “Give her to Gail!” This worked with Birds of Prey. She also did some fan favorite work with Agent X/Deadpool, at a period of time before he was emblazoned on everything in Hot Topic. But I also remember the failures. She couldn’t “save” Wonder Woman, and turned in a run that is pretty much forgotten. She couldn’t “reimagine” Gen13 for the 21st century. And I remember she kinda got in some shit with my friend, Jenn, a few years back for her portrayal of Asian hero Ryan Choi, who was The Atom at the time. So, I wish her well, but I think I’m taking my leave of the Catalyst Prime universe.

Speaking of female comic characters, Entertainment Weekly gave us our first glimpse of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. I know some of y’all are big Carol Danvers fans (looking at you, Zac), but I just can’t board that train. I do not like Captain Marvel. She’s a character that once held promise, but has been woefully mischaracterized in recent years. This guy articulates exactly how I feel about her. Basically, if you’re desperate for a White feminist icon in comics, she gets the job done, but she is horribly flawed.

I know the movie will be good ’cause they’ll take some liberties. There are lots of MCU characters whose comic versions I loathe (Black Panther, anyone?). I feel she was more interesting as Binary. Hell, she was more interesting as ANY incarnation until her “promotion” to Captain. The House of M story was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to her. It was the best because she was shown a world where she met her true potential, and it inspired her to stop being such a self-pitying fuck-up. It was the worst, though, because she became a social climber, willing to use and/or step on anyone in order to become the best that she could be. She got Rhodey killed, she was WRONG in Civil War II, and she’s pretty much been wrong about every decision she’s made since House of M, but she’s got the Carol Corps fan base behind her, who feel she can do no wrong. I have no problem with flawed characters. Marvel’s FULL of them. In many ways, she’s just a female Tony Stark. My problem is that, for some reason when it comes to her, they refuse to call a spade a spade. She’s promoted as this aspirational hero when she’s really just a fuck-up who’s trying to fake it until she makes it. Whew! Breathe, Will. Anyway, the movie looks good. I just hope it makes me like her as a character, ’cause I sure as Hell don’t like her right now.

Lots of DC Universe streaming news came out, and none of it makes me want to give them my money. First up, we got that logo you see for the Stargirl series. Plus, Timothy Dalton has been cast in Doom Patrol. The service will launch next Saturday, which also happens to be Batman Day. The Titans live action series will launch next month, on October 12th. The show everyone’s waiting for, however – Young Justice: Outsiders – won’t premiere until 2019. So, yeah, good luck with that.

 

Let’s get political for a bit, ’cause it’s 2018, and that’s what we do now. So, an “anonymous” person within the Trump White House wrote this New York Times op/ed about how there are members of the administration who are hard at work for making sure he doesn’t get us all killed. As the article made the rounds, folks were like “Ooh, what a coup!” But that dog don’t hunt for me. I’ve posted this on various social media, but I think it bears repeating here:

Yeah, I couldn’t even finish that article. There’s too many “Sure, he’s insane, but good things have come from this administration” interjections. Plus, y’all only have to keep him in check ’cause you were dumb enough to put him there in the first place. Eat ALL the dicks!

Plus, they are striving REAL hard to make sure you realize whose side they’re on. It’s like “We’re part of the Resistance, but not the Left’s Resistance. Don’t get it twisted.” That distinction shouldn’t matter if the situation is as dire as you claim.

Your whole “Don’t worry. We got this” means absofuckinglutely NOTHING to me seeing as how you created this problem and are now Tony Starking your way out of it. You’re just as culpable, so don’t think this 11th hour play absolves you of that. Remember all the dicks? EAT THEM

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • This Fall, ABC is trying to bring back the TGIF branding (for the third time, mind you) for its Friday night shows. This iteration of the comedy block will include Fresh Off The Boat, Speechless, and the one-hour game show, Child Support. Also, the network is peppering in former TGIF stars as guest stars, as Jaleel White is scheduled to pop up on FOTB (sadly NOT as Urkel), while Ben Savage will appear on Speechless.
  • Mr. Robot is ending after its upcoming 4th season, which is exactly 2.5 seasons after I stopped giving a shit.
  • It was announced that Saturday Night Live‘s season premiere will air September 29th.
  • Emmy Rossum announced that she’s leaving the Showtime series Shameless. While I’ve never seen the show, I know she’s topless a lot in it and, thanks to the Internet, I’ve seen her breasts about 184 times.
  • The new Bachelor will be former San Diego Chargers tight end, Colton Underwood. I refuse to believe that’s his real name, but if it is, he’d better be a Hollywood stuntman who’s a bounty hunter on the side.
  • Fox executives probably let out a collective “FUCK!” this week, as it was announced that Netflix was saving the recently-cancelled ABC series Designated Survivor, which stars former 24 hero Kiefer Sutherland. I guess they’ll have to get back to work on all those non-Jack Bauer ideas they had…
  • Alicia Silverstone’s American Woman has been cancelled at Paramount Network after one season. Meanwhile, the TVLand series Younger will be moving to Paramount Network next season.
  • America’s favorite 80s lesbian, Jo Polniaczek, will soon be putting down the edibles, and dancing over our heads, as Nancy McKeon joins the next cycle of Dancing With The Stars.
  • Insecure and Ballers have been renewed at HBO. I remember liking Insecure, but Ballers feels like Dwayne Johnson is only doing it because one of the creators is a friend who owes money to the mob.
  • Formerly on Fuse and TruTV, Billy Eichner’s Billy on the Street will be returning with new episodes…on Funny or Die’s website. This is like a notch higher than just throwing the shit on Crackle.
  • Henry Cavill will be starring in Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher. Now, I don’t know much about vidya games, as I owned a Nie-tenda, but didn’t have one of them Sagas. I hear the games are good, but it seems like a demotion to go from Superman to Netflix adaptation series. Maybe the Superman Curse is wearing off, though, as it could be worse: he could have Dean Cain’s career…
  • Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith has been cast in a secret role for Star Wars Episode XI, and folks act like they care, but they don’t really care. They’re just waiting to learn more so they can talk shit about it. I know you Star Wars fans!
  • Dick Wolf’s wallet will soon be getting fatter, as NBC has ordered Law & Order: Hate Crimes, which will spin out of Special Victims Unit. Call me when they get to Law & Order: Jaywalker Elimination Force.
  • In a surprising move for the franchise, Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum are leaving Project Runway to create their own project over at Amazon. Auf wiedersehen!
  • So, according to Michael Moore, our current state of affairs can be blamed on that Hollaback Girl, Gwen Stefani. According to Moore, when Trump heard that Gwen was making more money as a coach on The Voice than he was making on The Apprentice, he planned to announce a run for president in order to coax more money out of the network. Thanks a lot, Gwen. I guess Tony Kanal’s isn’t the only life you’ve fucked up now…
  • Remember that new Academy Award that was basically gonna be “Best Popular Film”? Yeah, that’s dead already. Womp womp.

This is a tough one this week. When the week started, Fox News was trying to shame former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens because he had been caught working as a bagger at a New York area Trader Joe’s. It turned into a big conversation about how working actors don’t make that much, and how there’s nothing wrong with making an honest living. Over the course of the week, there was backlash against Fox News and against the woman who snuck the pic in the first place. As of yesterday, however, it was reported that Tyler Perry had cast Owens in his OWN series The Haves and Have Nots, and that he was on his way to Atlanta to start a recurring role. So, West Week Ever? Maybe, but Nike was like, “Hold my jock strap.”

You see, Nike chose currently unemployed football star Colin Kaepernick to be the face of their new ad campaign, and the Conservatives lost their shit. One of the roadies for country act Big & Rich went viral for cutting the Nike “Swoosh” off his socks in protest. Folks started burning their Nike products and demanding a boycott. “How could Nike align themselves with someone who disrespects our HEROES?!” If that’s your interpretation of what this whole thing is about, then there’s pretty much no reaching you and you’re just determined to be offended.

Doubling down on their decision, Nike released the following commercial during last night’s NFL season opener:

Sorry, Elvin, but it looks like you’ve been emasculated yet again. It was gonna be a tie, but this commercial “got me in the feels” as you kids like to say. Are YOUR dreams crazy enough? That gave me a lot to chew on. So, Nike had the West Week Ever.

24th Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/24/18

by Will

I was really pleased with last week’s post. I mean, I gave you a great summary of The Meg. You got an Omarosa “tribute”, complete with the history of the Reality Show Villain. Yet, it still didn’t get the amount of shares to which I’ve become accustomed. I guess you objected to my use of the word a certain word. Well, for that, I’m punishing you with a shorter post this week! Go think about what you did – I mean, after you read all this, of course.

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Asia Argento – Don’t get too many broads in this segment, yet here we are. Yes, the daughter of filmmaker Dario Argento, and the last girlfriend of the late Anthony Bourdain, reportedly settled with a male accuser to the tune of $380,000. What an odd amount, by the way; I guess the guy was in the market for a mid-century rambler. In any case, Argento allegedly sexually assaulted a 17 year old actor who had previously portrayed her son in the film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things some 10 years prior. He reported that she gave him alcohol, performed oral sex on him, and then had intercourse with him. And I’m sure he promptly ran to his friends, bragging “I totally just banged the chick from xXx!” No, this is a serious matter, and there will be no joking. Still, though, remember how xXx was supposed to make her the Next Big Thing? Folks were acting like she was gonna be the next Angelina Jolie, when instead her career basically fell as flat for her as Jai Courtney’s.

Anyway, what makes this whole thing notable, is that she had been such an outspoken critic of Harvey Weinstein – the one who started this whole movement to begin with. Plus, she had alleged that Weinstein had also raped her at the age of 21. So, it’s not to say that both things couldn’t have happened. It’s just a question of whether they’re in some way related. Did her rape by Weinstein mess her up to the point where she thought it was OK to seduce a 17 year old? Was there other stuff going on? In any case, this is a messy situation that’s dealt a blow to a movement that has been seemingly running out of steam as of late.

Paris Dennard – Pro-Trump CNN conservative pundit Paris Dennard has been suspended following the opening of a misconduct investigation. I’ll say this: both parties are guilty of some shitty stuff, but when it comes to the sexual side, why are Republicans just so BAD at it? Seriously, one Democrat was PRESIDENT and got away with that cigar stuff, while a Republican in the same era was up for Supreme Court Justice, and his idea of “game” was like,”Hey, there appears to be a pubic hair on my Coke.” Anyway, Dennard was no less obvious, as he reportedly harassed a female subordinate by pretending to unzip his pants, trying to get her to sit on his lap, and by making masturbatory gestures. The interesting thing is that these accusations stem from how he lost his Arizona State University job back in 2014. So, we’re talking about 4 year old shit here. That’s not to say it’s not valid, but it seems like The Left has finally decided to go dig up some old shit just like the Alt-Right did for James Gunn and others. Too bad they couldn’t pick a better target than Great Value Benson Dubois.

In TV news, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is reportedly working on a reboot of the classic sitcom Bewitched for ABC Studios. In this version, Samantha is a Black woman who’s a witch (yeah, that’s gonna go over well), who’s married to a White man, and wacky shit happens! This thing is doomed to fail, as it’s similar to the race-switched The Honeymooners from a few years back. Black folks don’t get down with witches and all that. Still, I see this as his “fuck you” project, as he heads out the door. He had a contract with ABC Studios, and he’s on his way to a $100 million deal at Netflix. This was merely to fulfill the contract, and I expect ABC to put a bullet in it before it goes anywhere.

It was a big Power Rangers week, as the Power Morphicon convention took place last weekend in Anaheim. First up, we got the above trailer for what will be the next incarnation of the series, Power Rangers: Beast Morphers. And we finally get another Black guy leader – a first since 2009’s Power Rangers RPM. Unlike most Power Rangers series, which adapt the most recent Japanese Sentai series, Beast Morphers actually reaches all the way back to 2012’s Go-Busters for its footage. This is also the incarnation that will feature toys produced by new franchise owner Hasbro instead of the old license holder Bandai.

Speaking of Hasbro, we got a look at the Lightning Collection, which will essentially be Hasbro’s Black Series/Legends 6″ line for Power Rangers. While, yes, we knew this was going to happen, and we also knew they would need to cover some Mighty Morphin stuff, since that’s the most recognizable incarnation, I really don’t feel like paying $20 a figure for characters I *JUST* bought from Bandai, for $20 in their Legacy Collection. They’ll more than likely be superior to the Bandai figures, as they’re in a normal scale (unlike Bandai’s 6.5″), and they’re slated to include more weapons and accessories. I just don’t know if I need to sell off my Legacy figures now, or if I just need to ignore the Hasbro stuff. I understand the “Fuck what the old company did!” mentality, but I wish there had been more synergy between the Bandai and Hasbro stuff, just for the sake of the fans. I kinda wish Hasbro had prioritized figures from seasons that never got the Legacy treatment, but we’re going to have to slog through MMPR rehashes until we get there.

Finally, they also announced the creation of Power Morphicon Express, which will be a traveling version of the show, anchored by everyone’s favorite Power Ranger, Jason David Frank (Tommy). I always kinda wanted to check out Morphicon, but wasn’t about to fly to California for a Power Rangers convention. Now that it’s going on the road, though, I’m totally going when/if it hits the East Coast. And it’s no real surprise that Frank is involved, ’cause that dude will do ANYTHING when it comes to a convention. He was a fixture on the Wizard World circuit, and that show ain’t doing so good these days. So, this is the perfect extra strategy for him to get out of those Wizard World shows. I’ve heard of the organization challenges that they have faced for the main show, so I hope they have learned from those in order to put on a decent traveling show.

I had a wonderful time hanging out with the Nerd Lunch guys as we designed Nerd Lunch University for the latest episode of their podcast. If you’re sitting at home, watching Judge Mathis, you’re probably bombarded with commercials for Lincoln Tech or some correspondence course for medical bookkeeping. Wouldn’t you like to aim higher – perhaps TO THE STARS? Then check out Nerd Lunch U! You can hear the episode here, and I know you’ll want to fill out your FAFSA immediately!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a New York Times op/ed, Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran fought back against her online attackers, and revealed that her real name is Tran Loan.
  • Due to creative differences, Danny Boyle has dropped out of directing the next James Bond movie. Idris Elba apparently heard that news, and said “Fuck THAT noise!” and announced that he, too, would not be associated with the next Bond film.
  • There are rumors that Zendaya may be cast as Ariel in the live action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, and I think we finally know what will trigger the Race War of 2019.
  • There are also talks that Hulu is resurrecting Veronica Mars for an 8-episode season. I dunno. I mean, a long time ago, we used to be friends, but so much time has passed. Seriously, though, wasn’t there a movie that nobody saw? I know Kristen Bell is cute and all, but what is it about this property that folks can’t let it go?
  • After an intervention staged by estranged wife Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck is headed back to rehab for alcoholism at a Malibu facility.
  • After 12 seasons, The Big Bang Theory will end after its upcoming season. Reportedly, Jim Parsons turned down an estimated $50 million payday to sign on for another 2 seasons. I mean, the man is 45 and probably tired of playing a socially stunted manchild. Anyway, I’ve already stated my love of the show, while you all have made your vitriol known, so I won’t waste any more space on this one today.
  • Though I would bet money that a wedding will never take place, Jonas Brother Nick Jonas and Quantico‘s Priyanka Chopra are engaged. Who breaks up first? Them or Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson?
  • Nicki Minaj had a social media meltdown after blaming Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner for tanking her album sales for Queen. The reason? Kylie posted to her 113 million Instagram followers that if folks came out for Travis’s merch packages, there’s a chance they might get to see Baby Stormi on tour. I hardly see that as a reason to buy an album, but kids today are stupid.
  • The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, the 6th and “final” film in the franchise, aired this week. I missed it, but I also missed the 5th one, so…
  • Niecy Nash is reportedly in talks to get her own talk show on TNT. I swear, this woman has done every type of show there is: sitcom (Reno 911/Soul Man), reality show (Clean House), drama (Getting On/Scream Queens/Claws). Still, basic cable talk shows NEVER work unless hosted by Andy Cohen (just ask Stacy London how that worked out for her).
  • Sony admitted they put a bunch of fake Michael Jackson songs performed by an impersonator on the posthumous album Michael.

I’m taking the lazy way out this week. You know what had the West Week Ever? Crazy Rich Asians. You got lucky, ’cause I was gonna give it to that Doja Cat “Bitch I’m A Cow” song, but I figured Crazy Rich Asians had more cultural significance. Here’s the rub, though: I haven’t seen the movie yet. I mean, I’ve seen all the scuttlebutt: first major Hollywood studio release with an all Asian cast The Joy Luck Club (not really true), how important it is for Asians to finally see themselves as the stars on screen, etc. No, I’m not equipped to really tell you the cultural significance here, but in the words of Pawn Stars‘ Rick Harrison, I’ve got a friend who’s knowledgeable of this stuff, so let me touch base with her.

Jenn Fang has been a dear friend of mine for nearly 20 years, as we met at a little school in Ithaca, called Cornell. She runs Reappropriate.co, which is a blog that follows both Asian American and feminist issues. She was also featured in yesterday’s Washington Post, giving her thoughts on the importance of the film. Here’s a teaser:

If that doesn’t make you want to read more, then I don’t know what will. She’s a gifted writer, so I implore you to go check out her piece. Plus, the film made more than $50 million at this point, with no real end in sight.

It is interesting, however, that it is not clear if the film will actually screen in China, where it’s known as “Gold Picking Unexpected Romance”. Apparently China only releases approximately 37 Hollywood films a year, and they’ve already released 30 to date so far in 2018. Though the film isn’t officially out there, a lot of Chinese have seen it, and they aren’t necessarily loving it. So, I think it’s important to see why this film is sparking conversations, and having such an impact of both sides of the “aisle”, so to speak. In any case, those Crazy Rich Asians 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.

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.

01st Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/1/18

by Will

There are some weeks where I actually dread writing this post, and this is one of them. I mean, a LOT happened, but nothing I’m really excited about. Still, I guess it all needs to be discussed. Let’s get to it, shall we?

So, I guess we’ve gotta talk about Roseanne. I pretty much went on record that I wasn’t just dying to watch the revival after it was announced it would have more of a political slant, with the Conners as Trump supporters. Now, before any of the 2 Trump supporters who might be reading this get all butthurt, my problem with this is that I didn’t feel like it was inline with what Roseanne Conner would be, regardless of Roseanne Barr’s personal beliefs. The problem with “separating the art from the artist” is that it becomes increasingly harder to do when the artist controls the product and imbues the product with their own personal quirks. While some of you may feel he’s “making America great again”, Trump has a history of being a bullshitter, con artist, womanizer, etc. If there’s one good thing I could say about the character of Roseanne Conner, it’s that she had a really good bullshit detector. I feel like the characters of Dan and Roseanne Conner, in this case, were appropriated to expound on a view that someone, somewhere was trying to get across. On the one hand, you could say, “Well, they’re lower middle class, and he promised to bring jobs.” On the other, though, I don’t think Roseanne Conner would’ve trusted a guy whose sole claim to fame during Roseanne’s original career rise was simply that he was “The Rich Guy In New York”. She would’ve seen right through his bullshit.

So, the revival seemed like they wanted to play both sides. I mean, they establish the Trump thing in the premiere, and then don’t touch on it again. All of the other episodes seem to sort of dip their toe into class anxiety, like “What does it mean when Muslims move next door?” In a heavyhanded Archie Bunker kind of way, Roseanne has her beliefs challenged, and is supposedly better off by the end of the episode. Except for the Trump thing. It was thrown out to establish a foundation, and then abandoned. In many ways, it did more harm than good, even if there are Conservatives who applauded the show for “having the guts to go there.” Anyway, the whole having her beliefs challenged aspect is all well and good – if it were based on any truth.

I didn’t want to support the show because I felt Roseanne had become a vile human being in the time since the original run ended. There’s Conservative, and then there’s Nut Job, and she’s the latter. Were I a Conservative, I’d hate to be lumped in with the likes of her. “Well, what has she done, Will?” First, there’s the Heeb photo shoot, where she dressed as Hitler while putting Jew cookies into an oven. Then, there’s the Twitter feed, which is almost as incendiary as that of…someone else you’re familiar with. No, after all of that, I had no real interest in giving her ratings. I did, however, wonder if she was still trying to exhibit an air of inclusiveness that I felt was in the original show. So, I found myself reading episode recaps, and it seems like she was trying to recapture a lot of that old “magic”. I actually did watch the Muslim episode because it was on in the background at my mom’s one night. After seeing it, I might’ve forgiven the show. I might’ve even binged on the episodes I missed over the summer. Then, any goodwill the show engendered was immediately thrown out the window the minute the Real Roseanne took to her Twitter account.

So, some backstory: Roseanne was talking politics on her feed, as she’s wont to do, and Valerie Jarrett was mentioned. Jarrett, a top aide to President Obama, is also a Black woman. So, Roseanne basically called one of Obama’s top people an ape and tied her to the Muslim Brotherhood. And, rightfully so, people were upset. Little did we realize what would transpire in just a few hours, as ABC announced that it was cancelling the show. Over the next day or so, there was a debate back and forth over whether she should’ve been fired, and how it sucked for all of the cast and crew who were now out of jobs. A couple of Roseanne’s TV kids, including Sara Gilbert and Michael Fishman, “threw her under the bus” (in her words) by tweeting in opposition of her statement. Roseanne later tried to say that the Twitter tirade was the result of the fact that she had taken Ambien, at which point the makers of Ambien popped up and denied her quicker than Peter denied Jesus all three times in the Bible.

Meanwhile, folks really started grasping at straws, claiming this was a “double standard” or a “violation of freedom of speech”. One thing I read a lot were people saying “They fire Roseanne, but let them say whatever they want on The View, and nothing happens.” That’s not true at all. You just don’t hear about that stuff as much because nobody gives a shit about The View. Panelist Joy Behar insinuated that Vice President Mike Pence might have mental problems because he claims that God speaks directly to him, and she was *forced* to apologize for that on air. Don’t say that “nothing happens”! As for “freedom of speech”, sit on back, because a lot of y’all in the cheap seats need to hear this message: Freedom of speech only protects you from the government. It means all of jack shit in private industry. ABC cancelled the show because they knew the repercussions could negatively affect their bottom line. They didn’t censor Roseanne. They just made a business decision.

I’ve got to say that I’m a bit surprised the show got cancelled. I mean, it was the biggest show of the season, and ABC had clearly stumbled onto a cash cow. Yes, I get the gesture they were trying to make, but keep in mind that these were the same folks who greenlit the show in the first place. ABC President Channing Dungey made the call to end the show, but she also made the call to pick it up. There was no regime change in the middle of those decisions. Frankly, I don’t even feel like this is the worst thing Roseanne did THIS YEAR, but I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back? It’s just odd to me that a network that was so squeamish about airing a Black-ish episode about the NFL kneeling protests is now trying to earn back some brownie points for slapping down Roseanne.

I also think it was crazy for all of the Viacom networks to pull the reruns of the old show. This is the same thing that happened to Bill Cosby when that shit went down. Everyone yanked the reruns of The Cosby Show. It’s an empty gesture because we all know they’ll eventually come back. Stations pay for a certain amount of airings when they buy a syndication package, and you damn well better believe they’re going to get their money’s worth. It’s like the Hulk Hogan thing to me. WWE scrubbed him from EVERYTHING after his slurs went public, but there’s a constant campaign to reinstate him. We all know it’s not a matter of IF, but rather WHEN. And it’s the same here. Roseanne doesn’t need this money. She doesn’t need the show. It was something for her to do. At this point, this whole thing probably just emboldened her to be a voice for the extreme right, akin to SNL‘s Victoria Jackson, without the failed acting career. Anyway, she fucked over her cast and crew, but at the end of the day, Roseanne will be fine.

Then, The Left just had to go and fall in the swimming pool. I know I’ve touched on this before, but I despise what I call “Late Night Liberal Smuggery”. I hate all of the talk show monologues that get on a soapbox about politics, yet nothing changes. It’s why I was never a fan of Jon Stewart. Even when we’re winning, we’re still somehow losing and want to be snarky about it. That snark gets old. The biting edge eventually dulls. I like Trevor Noah. I have his book and have seen his standup specials, but I’m not the guy to watch The Daily Show every night, yelling “Preach!” to the screen. So, I was especially not much of a fan of Samantha Bee when she came along. It’s like she’s Jon Stewart, but feels she has to work harder because she’s a woman. That’s probably true in comedy, entertainment, and politics, so I’m not trying to take away her work ethic and whatnot. No, what I will take issue with, however, is her inability to read the room.

On Wednesday, Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt”. I take it that’s a vagina without fecks? I dunno. Why did she do this? Well, there’s primarily two reasons. First off, Ivanka’s apparently profiting from her position by being granted special patents from China for her product line. It’s a total conflict of interest. Meanwhile, she posts pics of herself with her kids at the same time her father has emboldened ICE to split up families and deport parents. So, her conflict of interest, combined with her perceived insensitivity, seems to have triggered this. But The Right were NOT having it! “Double standard!” “TBS should fire her like ABC fired Roseanne!” And ya know, I wouldn’t have marched if TBS had cancelled her. Again, it would’ve been a business decision. I think Bee made a gross miscalculation thinking she could get away with that smoothly.

This isn’t a question of “Well, was she right?” I think timing is everything, especially in comedy. Had it been pre-taped a few weeks ago, I’d probably let it pass. If she filmed it after the Roseanne shit went down, however, then that was just not smart. I’m just saying she never should’ve thought she’d fire that joke off successfully. And that’s the thing: it’s not a joke. It came from a place of passion and emotion, so you can’t write it off as humor, even if it was said on a “comedy show”. What Ivanka is doing IS wrong, but I’ve always said HOW you say things is just as important as WHAT you say. This wasn’t the way to do that.

What I’m not here for, however, is the pearl-clutching from The Right. We had an entire election season of Hillary being gleefully called the same thing. There were t-shirts emblazoned with it. These are the same “Fuck your feelings, snowflakes!” folks who now get offended when someone acknowledges that Sarah Huckabee Sanders looks like Shrek. Ya can’t have it both ways. Ted Nugent called Hillary a cunt and he got invited to the Trump White House. It’s like the old anti-drug PSA: The Right can’t get mad at The Left, ’cause “I learned it by watching YOU.”

And no, the statements of Roseanne and Bee are NOT the same. Roseanne’s was racial in tone, and compared a Black woman to an ape – something that White people have done for centuries to degrade Black people. Bee called Ivanka feckless (meaning “irresponsible”) and a cunt, which is self explanatory. Think of “Cunt” like “Super Bitch³”. While seen by some as degrading to women, it’s not degrading to a racial group with a history of being oppressed. It’s like the statements by both women went to the same school, but they certainly weren’t in the same grade. Meanwhile, the White House is calling for TBS to fire Bee. This, folks, is where your cries of “Freedom of speech!” should come in. This is a violation of the First Amendment, spearheaded by an administration determined to defeat all of its perceived enemies. Thousand of people are dead in Puerto Rico, yet the President takes time out of his busy schedule of ignoring that by tweeting about how he was still waiting for his own apology from ABC for the “horrible statements” they’ve said about him. What a fucking petulant child. And I realize I can only say that because I’m a nobody with a vanity blog and not someone with a national cable TV show.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Star Jason Momoa and director Corin Hardy have left the remake of The Crow. I really don’t know why they keep trying to make this happen. That movie is the Heath Ledger of movies, as we’d have completely forgotten it had Brandon Lee not died filming the original.
  • Amazon has officially picked up The Expanse for its fourth season after it was cancelled by Syfy a few weeks ago.
  • Red Sonja herself, Brigitte Nielsen, announced that she is pregnant with her 5th child at the age of 54. Her husband is 39, and I’m just glad she never popped out any kids during that whole Flavor Flav phase…
  • For you car folks, Matt LeBlanc will be leaving Top Gear after its upcoming 4th season.
  • Maybe the third time is the charm for Locke & Key, as a 3rd pilot for the comic adaptation has been ordered by Netflix.
  • L.A.’s Finest, the Bad Boys TV show spinoff starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba, may not be dead after all. After NBC passed on the pilot, apparently Charter Communications entered into discussions to acquire the series to air on their Spectrum service.
  • Sesame Workshop filed a suit against The Happytime Murders because they felt that the trailer was damaging their brand’s image. The film is actually directed by Muppets creator Jim Henson’s son, Brian Henson. The judge threw out the case, siding with the film.
  • Jamie Foxx will star in the film reboot of 90s Image comics hero Spawn. I can’t tell if this is a major coup for the Spawn brand OR if Jamie really needs money to keep hiding his secret relationship with Katie Holmes. I mean, he hosts a Name That Tune rip-off on Fox, so something tells me he may not be the best with money. Anyway, the film will be directed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, which is laughable to me seeing as how he hasn’t even inspired *action* in his own toy line for the past 20 years. I really don’t see how he’s gonna pull this off.
  • Andrew Lincoln is reportedly leaving The Walking Dead after next season, with Norman Reedus taking over as the lead. This is quite the departure from the comic, where the character of Rick Grimes is pretty pivotal with all of the goings on. The show, however, solidified its willingness to diverge from the source material with the way that it handled Rick’s son, Carl.
  • Apparently there’s some kind of rap beef going on between Drake and Pusha-T. It seems like Drake was just soft-shoeing it, and then Pusha clapped back by revealing that Drake has a secret child. Man, Pusha went for the jugular! That’s like if you got in a fight with your girlfriend in public over something stupid, and she retorts with “Well, yo’ dick ain’t shit!” Anyway, it appears that funeral services for Drake will be announced shortly.
  • Last week I told you that Fox had entered into a deal to air WWE SmackDown starting in 2019. Well, now there are reports that they’ve also entered into a deal to carry the WWE NXT brand on Fox and FS1 channels.
  • In light of ABC now having another half hour to fill on Tuesdays next fall, there are reports that they are fastracking a spinoff of The Middle, starring Eden Sher’s character, Sue Heck. I am SO here for this, even though I felt The Middle had the perfect finale. Here’s hoping this is more Frasier than Joey.

I guess I’ve gotta give the West Week Ever to Solo: A Star Wars Story? Is that how this works? Wait, why am I asking y’all? This is MY site. I mean, the movie has made $200 million worldwide in its first week, and I believe it was director Ron Howard’s biggest opening. That said, it’s still seen as “underperforming”. While I wasn’t rooting for Solo to bomb, I do hope it causes them to rethink this whole Annual Star Wars Movie strategy. Star Wars just isn’t special anymore.

As I said on social media, Star Wars went from being your rich uncle who bequeaths his fortune to you to being your grandparents who visit every year, and somehow think the $5 bill they slip you can still buy anything in this day and age. I am far from a discipline of the franchise, but I always felt like a lot of what made Star Wars special was The Wait. I’m talking about the anxiety that built between the ending of The Empire Strikes Back and the release of Return of the Jedi. The anticipation of the Prequel Trilogy (contrary to how folks feel now, y’all were looking forward to those things at the time!). Force Friday toy releases, timed to coincide with the first film after one of those extended waits. From outside the fandom, Star Wars always seemed to have a “Good Things Come To Those Who Wait” thing about it, and I think there’s just an embarrassment of riches right now that kinda tarnishes the brand for me. I haven’t seen Solo yet, so this isn’t a knock on quality, but rather business strategy.

I had a friend compare this to Marvel, saying if Superhero Fatigue hasn’t set in, why is it OK to assume Star Wars Fatigue is a thing? He posited that the Marvel machine could be applied the same way to Star Wars, but I just don’t think that’s true. I realize Star Wars is doing the whole One Saga Film, One Spinoff model, but I often wonder what will happen when the Skywalker Saga truly ends. I mean, folks claim they want new things, but their actions show otherwise. A lot of fans hated The Force Awakens because it was too much of a rehash of A New Hope. Then, The Last Jedi offered something new, and it proceeded to destroy friendships and families because it “wasn’t Star Wars“. I wish Disney would take a parental stance on this franchise, and just say “If you can’t appreciate what we give you, then we’ll just take it away from you for a while.” That, then, would trigger a Wait. And hopefully the fans will either discover a newfound appreciation for what they have or they’ll find something else to tickle their fancy. Either way, a lot of Star Wars fans right now don’t deserve Star Wars, but there’s too much money to be made, so look for Star Wars: Lobot’s Reckoning coming soon to a theater near you. Anyway, this is me, begrudgingly saying that Solo: A Star Wars Story had the West Week Ever.

25th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/25/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Mario Batali Update – The celebrity chef is now officially under criminal investigation by the NYPD for allegations against him for sexual misconduct. He will be bought out of his restaurant group by July 1st. Meanwhile, he must’ve been the backbone of The Chew, as ABC has cancelled the series (following his ouster) in order to expand Good Morning America to 3 hours. Anyway, when the allegations first came out, Batali said that they pretty much lined up with behavior he’d exhibited in the past, so there’s no real denial here.

Luc Besson – The French director, probably best known for Léon: The Professional, has been accused of rape by an actress, who said that Besson put something in her tea during a meeting. She lost consciousness, only to wake up to find Besson fondling and penetrating her. He allegedly fled the hotel, leaving her a wad of cash. French police are investigating the allegations, while Besson is in denial mode.

Jeffrey Tambor Update – In a New York Times interview with the cast of Arrested Development, costar Jessica Walter recounted a time when Tambor was verbally abusive to her – which resulted in a bunch of the male costars basically mansplaining and coming to Tambor’s defense. Costar Jason Bateman later had to walk back his remarks on Twitter after folks pointed out that he was basically minimizing Walter’s experience. Not a good look for a show promoting its return (May 29th on Netflix), but I sadly doubt it’ll really matter to many.

Morgan Freeman – What? NO! You don’t say! Anyway, the famed narrator/actor has been accused of sexual harassment by 8 different women. He would frequently comment on production assistants’ figures, and even tried to lift one woman’s skirt to see if she was wearing underwear. He issued a statement that he apologized “to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected” by his actions. Whatever. Dude is an 80 year old man who wears an earring. If you don’t realize he’s a guy who’s still “trying to get it in”, then of course you’re surprised. Still, he was dating his stepgranddaughter at one point, so nothing he does sexually surprises me anymore. I wrote him off, like, ten years ago.

Harvey Weinstein Update – Could this be the end of HarassmentWatch? The man who started it all, who inspired the #MeToo Movement, will officially be charged with a sex crime, and surrendered to the NYPD this morning. “Surrendered to the NYPD”. Yeah, I get he’s an asshole, but they make it sound like he’s a serial killer who’s been on the lam. Anyway, as we’re learning, taking him off the streets isn’t gonna stop this stuff from happening. This is basically Hydra at this point: cut off the head, and 2 more will appear.

Sigh. I really didn’t want to have to talk about this. Like, I’m really kind of exhausted by it, and I found myself ashamed of a lot of people because of it. Yet, here we are:

Last Friday, Cartoon Network released a video announcing ThunderCats Roar, which is a new take on the ThunderCats franchise. And 30-40 year old male Internet LOST. ITS. SHIT.

“It looks like shit! Why does it look like Steven Universe?!”

“I hate this CALARTS style! Why even call it ThunderCats?”

“They’re trying to do another Teen Titans Go!

Those are some of the tamer examples of what’s out there. At the end of the day, a bunch of grown men were making it their mission in life to make sure the world knew of their displeasure at the cat people cartoon. I sat there, reading these remarks, thinking, “Don’t y’all have prostate exams to schedule or something?” Seriously, the greatest trick the Devil ever played was creating the Internet and convincing everyone that their opinions matter (he said ironically on his vanity project blog). This was not created for the old school fan. This is an attempt to make new fans. And I’ve heard folks say “Well, how dare they make a show that’s NOT for the fans?” Probably because they figure you have lives to attend to, instead of obsessing over shit like this. Let me back up a bit, though, so you can understand where I’m coming from with this.

Unlike most people my age, the 80s mean very little to me. Yeah, I know I claim to be “pop culture guy”, and I was born in ’81, but I really didn’t glom onto much that the 80s had to offer. When it comes to the 80s, I care about Knight Rider, Small Wonder, and Night Court. That’s about it. I actually had more of a sophisticated palette as a child than I do now. During that decade, I was pretty much obsessed with public television, the local news, and Murder, She Wrote. I’m not kidding. When I was 3, my favorite show was Murder, She Wrote. What? I had old parents. Anyway, most of y’all have all these fond memories of G.I.Joe, ThunderCats, He-Man, etc, but I do not. Just didn’t watch them. Sidebar – most of these were weekday afternoon cartoons, and I used to carpool with a teacher who had to stay late, so I never got home early enough after school to watch most of those shows. My cartoon pop culturedom didn’t come to fruition until the 90s, as nothing really resonated with me until the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles era. That’s why I actually like the Slimer & The Real Ghostbusters seasons. That’s why I prefer the DiC G.I. Joe (“Got to get tough! Yo Joe!”) to the Sunbow era. And I was just cynical enough, even at that young age, to realize that, at the end of the day, they were just dumb cartoons.

A lot of folks, however, were introduced to these franchises as younger children, so they shaped their development. They have Christmas memories about getting the toys, and sometimes have some faded Polaroids as proof. Since the properties are so intertwined with their own development, folks take these things to heart and get fiercely protective of them. They also, however, never learned to let them go. I find this a lot with Star Wars fans, especially when discussing how The Last Jedi disappointed them. I liked the movie well enough, even if I thought Finn was wasted and Rose was an unnecessary character who only served to accompany Finn on his B plot. These people were introduced to Star Wars at a young age, it shaped their love of film/fantasy/slave girls and never thought they’d get more. Then, Lucas surprised them with a prequel trilogy. The less said about that the better, but they survived it all, and figured that’s all they’d get. THEN, Disney bought the franchise and started giving them NEW Star Wars. The thing that shaped them, but kept disappointing them like a deadbeat dad, continued to pop into their lives, with the promise of a return to the days of old. But, you can’t go home again.

These fans look to these things as comfort food – familiar guideposts that never change, and they can always return to them as “home base” in Life’s game of tag. As such, when they do change, they turn on them because they feel betrayed. Still, these concepts have to change and evolve or they become stagnant. People claim they want new ideas, but when they get them, they decide they just want more of the same. G.I. Joe fans are constantly saying “The line’s dead. Hasbro’s doing nothing with the property.” Well, good. ‘Cause Lord knows we don’t need an 85th version of Snake-Eyes. My generation seems to forget that there was a G.I. Joe before Cobra and Duke and Snake-Eyes even entered the picture. That generation doesn’t get to rant as much because the Internet came along and frightened them, but they’re out there. I also feel like there should be a Joe after the Cobra era. The G.I. Joe vs Cobra era has lasted, intermittently, for 36 years. That’s 36 years of fucking Snake-Eyes. I’m sorry, but a mute ninja just isn’t that cool anymore in 2018. The same folks lamenting the death of the line are also the ones who are basically saying “Fuck the kids! This is MINE!” Just as with comics, if you don’t attract a new audience, the thing you love will die right along with you. Many, I feel, wouldn’t have a problem with that.

Can you imagine the things folks would shit on had the Internet come along just a few years earlier? Take Batman ’89, for instance. Sure, it’s thematically in line with his pulp roots, but it’s NOTHING like Batman ’66, which was what most folks at the time were more familiar with. His suit’s black, there are no POW! effects, and he doesn’t have a Robin. “Why even call it ‘Batman’?” they’d ask. I listened to a podcast yesterday where they spent a good chunk of time railing against the new ThunderCats because it seems to “dumb down” the franchise by going the Teen Titans Go! route – a show the hosts despised because the characters in that show aren’t heroic and don’t act in ways that children should be emulating. They described it as an animated It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, because all of the characters act like assholes. I think that’s quite the stretch, but whatever. These guys hated TTG for its horrible “message”, yet in the same episode went on to laud the controversial comic book Jawbreakers (I’m not even getting into that, but trust me it’s not important for my point) because, and I quote, “Some things should just be fun. Not everything needs a moral.” Yeah, that’s moving the goalposts like a motherfucker.

Let me tell you something about your 80s cartoons. Bear with me here, it’s going to sound like the result of rogue Googling, but I actually went to school for this. I have an Ivy League degree in human development, with a focus on early childhood. Contrary to popular belief, these shows weren’t designed in some animation lab to bring pleasure to all the little girls and boys. No, the properties tended to be owned by toy companies (for example, Hasbro owns G.I. Joe), and the shows were merely vehicles for selling product. In the early 80s, thanks to President Ronald Reagan, the Federal Communications Commission deregulated commercial time limits in children’s programming. This led to the development of what is now known as the “program-length commercial”. He-Man? Program-length commercial. GoBots? Program-length commercial. Since toy companies were no longer bound to traditional commercials to advertise to children, the sky was the limit for toy companies. Whatever they wanted to sell, they could just line up a Japanese animation studio to put together a series for them. You grew up engrossed in the never-ending battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra, not realizing they were just subconsciously grooming you to ask your parents for the Trouble Bubble and the Terrordrome at Christmas. The laws kinda changed in the 90s, but the biggest change was that you couldn’t air commercials for a product while its show was on, because kids supposedly aren’t sharp enough to tell when a show ends and a commercial begins. This is why you won’t see a commercial for Power Rangers toys during an episode of Power Rangers.

All of this is to say that these properties don’t come from some wholesome place to remind you of your childhood. When they don’t have anything else to sell, they pack up and move on to the next thing. When you get butthurt about something from your childhood changing for a new audience, it basically means the company isn’t making enough money off your nostalgia anymore and they’re going where those dollars are. This isn’t to minimize your memories or feelings, but it is to remind you of a simple truth that corporations aren’t people and they ultimately have no obligation to you.

Now, back to ThunderCats. The original show? Not that great. It’s middling 80s fare, meant to sell toys. I hear the 2011 reboot was actually pretty good. I could get into the whole “Well, if you watched it, it wouldn’t have been cancelled” argument, but there are other factors at play, like toy sales and Cartoon Network’s erratic scheduling. Still, they tried doing it “the fans’ way”, and for it didn’t work out for whatever reason. So now they’re trying something new. And there’s also something to be said for not judging a book by its cover. As much as folks claim to hate the art style that’s being mimicked, folks love those shows. I never hear a bad thing about Steven Universe. And even though The Adventures of Gumball looks lazy at times, it might be one of the smartest shows on television. I’m not even joking when I say that (check out the episode on privilege to see what I’m talking about). One thing people need to internalize is that EVERYTHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE FOR YOU. It’s not to say that things should be exclusionary, but it’s OK to see something, say “It’s not for me, but good luck to them”, and walk away. This demand that everything be the way everyone wants it is insane. Life isn’t fucking Burger King. Instead, I’m seeing folks, who clearly have a history of being bullied and mocked, mocking the ThunderCats Roar creator for his man bun and shit like that. You’re just undermining your whole stance when you sink to physical attacks to express your displeasure. Anyway, I’ll be checking out the show, even when Cartoon Network decides to do something stupid with the scheduling, like air all the episodes in one day or some shit.

In a major coup for the Fox network, they’ve struck a deal with WWE to air SmackDown Live through 2024, worth a reported $1 billion. They would begin airing the show in 2019 when the NBCUniversal contract expires, while RAW will continue to air on USA Network. This might be the shot in the arm the SmackDown brand needs, as having it and RAW on the same network, two nights apart, just didn’t make it seem that special. In fact, I always felt that RAW‘s claim to fame was the fact that it was live, so SmackDown being pretaped was somewhat interesting to me. When it switched to a live format, it just became more of a Not RAW to me. I totally applaud this move, however, as I’ve been saying that there needed to be a free, broadcast WWE show ever since SmackDown moved to cable. A lot of folks don’t realize that, during the UPN years, SmackDown was the highest rated show in Spanish-speaking households. There is clearly a wrestling audience that are either cord cutters or simply rely on over the air TV, and they deserve a show of their own. This is a good chance to differentiate the brand from RAW as much as possible.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The sequel to The LEGO Movie has a title and release date. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part will be released February 8th, 2019.
  • It’s being reported that Amazon may save The Expanse, which was just cancelled at Syfy.
  • Speaking of Syfy, the Nope, No Superman Here series Krypton was renewed for a second season, the day before its first season finale aired.
  • Word on the street is singer Ariana Grande and Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson are now dating. Well, good for him!

  • We got a poster for DC’s SHAZAM!, starring Zachary Levi. I mean, this character means so little to me that I’m not going to really critique its “accuracy”, but the poster does nothing for me. It’d be find if it were promoting a lighthearted SHAZAM! on The CW next fall, but it’s not dynamic enough for a movie that they expect me to leave my house and pay money for.
  • One of the last question marks for the 17-18 TV season, Fox has officially cancelled airplane sitcom LA to Vegas.

  • YouTuber/TRL correspondent Liza Koshy has been announced as the host of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare revival this summer. Original host, Marc Summers, will offer “color commentary” – probably while hidden behind several layers of Plexiglass, while wearing 4 layers of clothes to make sure no slime touches him. Anyway, the show debuts June 25th at 8 PM.
  • Speaking of TRL, the show was renamed last month to Total Request List, since the show is now taped and is no longer live.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to play the villain Mysterio in the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. I’m still hoping it’s called Spider-Man: Sadie Hawkins Day, with the trilogy being rounded out by either Spider-Man: Prom or Spider-Man: Graduation Day.
  • Paramount removed the next Transformers sequel from its release schedule entirely, supporting reports of an upcoming franchise cinematic reboot.
  • The Obamas just signed a production deal with Netflix, which will see them produce docu-series, films, and both scripted and unscripted series for the streaming service. I need to send them my pitch for a revival of Breaker High!
  • Lifetime series UnREAL‘s fourth, and final, season will actually debut on Hulu, and it’s unclear if it will ever get a release date on Lifetime. I guess this is the 21st century version of “moving a show to Saturday”…

  • Unlike most people my age, I have no real affinity for the Muppets, so imagine my surprise when I found myself really excited for The Happytime Murders. I’m that guy who’ll watch anything with Melissa McCarthy (Sorry, not sorry), and it goes a LOT of places I never thought I’d see them go.
  • Deadpool 2 dethroned Avengers: Infinity War at the weekend box office, taking in $125 million.
  • To celebrate the franchise’s move from webisodes/DVD movies to full-fledged TV series, DC Super Hero Girls has undergone a makeover. I’m not really a fan, but it ain’t for me, so…
  • Logan director James Mangold has been tapped to direct a Star Wars spinoff about Boba Fett. That is until Kathleen Kennedy fires him in six months and replaces him with Todd Phillips or something.

I’ll bet a lot of y’all got to this point and expected to see Deadpool 2. Well, I haven’t seen it yet, plus it’s my site and I’ll do what I want! No, we’re going to talk about The Middle.

Debuting Fall 2009, The Middle came along and spent 10 seasons simply flying under the radar. For those who did check it out, though, they were introduced to the quirks of the Heck family. Neurotic Frankie, who’s still trying to find some meaning in her life outside of being a wife and mother. Stoic Mike, who hides his emotions as he spends his days as a manager at the quarry. Peppy, optimistic, yet awkward, Sue, who greets every day with a smile, even as the world continues to try to tear her down. Slacker son Axl, and Brick…well, what can I say about Brick? As the youngest son, he’s clearly on the spectrum, but he also has weird quirks, like repeating words in a whisper and licking cars.

Anyway, the show captured everything about living in “the middle”: they lived in the middle of the country, they were middle class, we saw Sue struggle to gain attention as the middle child, etc. It was never a “watercooler show”, with folks going to work the next day, asking each other “Did you see last night’s The Middle?” Still, it was a fine example of what ABC does best: offer sitcoms showing the different definitions of “family”. As the world seemed to be working against them, we were always rooting for the Hecks to get through it all. It never got too political (much to several of the stars’ chagrin), nor too preachy. It was really about making it one day at a time, and living to fight another day in this game called Life.

I’d been saying that the show was living on borrowed time for the past few seasons. While nothing about the show’s quality had changed, it didn’t really seem to be going anywhere. It lived right there in the middle. There were no real highs and no real lows. I think that’s probably indicative of how television has changed. We now expect some sort of huge cliffhanger or something to get us to come back for the next episode. Gone are the days of old, where every episode of a show was pretty much the same. The Duke boys were pretty much always evading Roscoe and thwarting Boss Hogg. With ALF, he always wanted to eat the cat, and had to be hidden from the neighbors. Every episode was pretty much the same for those shows, but they still managed to entertain and bring in an audience. Nowadays, though, everything has to have a death or a paternity mystery to keep folks on the hook. The Middle never played those games, which is probably why its ratings were solidly in…the middle.

When this season was announced as its last, I thought it was great that they announced it early so that the show would be able to take its well-earned victory lap. I mean, ten seasons is NOTHING to sneeze at in this day and age! And then ABC came along and screwed the pooch by giving the show’s timeslot to the Roseanne revival. I get it. I know it’s a business, and I get why they did it. Some might even say that, as a lead-in, Roseanne actually helped The Middle‘s ratings in this final season. OK, but ratings don’t matter for a show in its final season. The ad rates have been set, and it’s not vying for renewal. It could’ve gotten no viewers, and they would’ve just moved it to Saturdays. Plus, it ended up with something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: an hour-long series finale that started on the half hour. There are certain unspoken rules in scheduling, and one thing is that you don’t set an hour-long show at 8:30. Hour-long shows, traditionally, start at the top of the hour, unless delayed by a sporting event or something. Anyway, it didn’t seem to hurt it, as the ratings for the finale were up, while the ratings for Roseanne’s finale were down. Womp womp.

How was the series finale? Well, it was perfectly in the middle. I mean, the show ended doing what it did best. We got typical Heck shenanigans, we got a flash forward, we got some payoff for some secondary characters (I see you, Brad!), and we even got a wedding. Still, the episode wasn’t about the wedding. It wasn’t even about the build-up to the wedding. The wedding was just something that happened, much like everything else in the show. You knew going into it not to expect a big death or anything like that, because that’s not the show’s bread and butter. It would’ve been disingenuous to have a Good Times finale, with the Hecks finally getting out of financial servitude and moving to a better neighborhood. No, everything they had was just right for them. It was perfectly in the middle, and they always had each other to lean on. I don’t think they’d have wanted it any other way. So, for that reason, The Middle‘s series finale had the West Week Ever.

04th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/4/18

by Will

 

It has been a week. Over the past seven days, I’ve had Internet fights with racist veterans, old friends, and complete strangers. Last Friday I bought a house, only to immediately discover that everything in my mother’s house was breaking down. I’ve been through a flood, a new hot water heater, 2 unresponsive plumbing companies, and 2 failed inspections. So, it would be safe to say that I’m in a bit of a mood…

So, I had been really looking forward to writing about Avengers: Infinity War. I had a lot of thoughts. Sure, a lot of folks left the Thursday night showings with their minds blown, but I wasn’t really happy. I had to process a lot of what I’d seen. There were simply SO many moving parts. I needed to really grasp what I’d seen. I saw it again with my wife on Saturday morning, and I think I came back with a better understanding of the film. Then the weekend happened. On top of the rampant speculation that follows the release of these movies, I also found myself in the middle of drama over on Facebook. It turned into this MCU vs DCEU stuff that I really didn’t want to get into. This shit is about men in capes and tights. It’s not Schindler’s List. Anyway, it kinda put a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing, so I’m not that excited to talk about it anymore. But “The show must go on!”, so here we are (NOTE: I also owe @zacshipley an apology ’cause we were supposed to podcast about all this before my world started crumbling apart, as detailed above!).

Oh, yeah – SPOILERS

Let me preface this all to say that I am amazed by the tapestry woven by this whole feat. You can like or hate the MCU, but you have to give credit where it’s due that 18 movies culminated in this payoff. The Russos did an amazing job handling characters who weren’t originally theirs (Directors Taika Waititi and James Gunn pitched in to make sure their characters’ voices – Thor and the Guardians, respectively – stayed true). For fans of the world that Kevin Feige has guided, this was pretty much everything you could’ve wanted. Again, SO many moving parts, but they handled it deftly. If you haven’t seen all the films, well, in the words of the great poet laureate Jay-Z, “I feel bad for you, son.” I feel bad because this thing probably made very little sense to you. I joked on social media that my new favorite thing is following Black folks who were introduced to the MCU via Black Panther, only to check out Infinity War and leave, going “What the f-?!”

There’s a review from The New Yorker making the rounds, where the writer basically says that the film is just a culmination of ads for other Marvel films. It lends itself to the argument that there was nothing to grasp onto for the newcomer. First, you’ve got to ask if a newcomer should even be watching this film, and I answer that with a resounding “No!” This isn’t gatekeeper mentality, either. It’s just that you won’t get the full experience of what’s happening. It’s like watching the season finale of a show you’ve never seen before. You might be able to follow it, but you’re still gonna miss some important stuff. The problem with the review is that most folks who are bashing it are too close to the source material to understand where he’s coming from. He’s not wrong. Take, for instance, how the movie treats Steve Rogers.

Steve Rogers is treated as a real life “splash page” in the film (if you’re not a comic fan, a splash is 1-2 pages that showcase some impressive artwork, typically of a battle or character introduction, with minimal dialog or panels to detract from its impact). He shows up in the shadows, catches Proxima Midnight’s staff, and emerges to look badass. Later, he flexes on General Ross (“Who is THAT guy?” asks an unfamiliar audience member), still looking badass but there’s no real context. Yes, you’re reading this, yelling “He’s mad because of the Sokovia Accords!” Yeah, I know that, but I’m immersed in this shit. Still, this film does a poor job of explaining WHY this group is on the outs. The mention of the Accords is brief, and you’d really only get it if you’d seen Civil War – which you probably did, but not everyone did.

There is no substance to Steve Rogers in this entire movie. He shows up, looks badass, the end. Outside of the blurbs on the toy packaging, we don’t know what he and his team have been doing the past 2 years. We don’t know how those years, combined with the events of Civil War, have affected him. They choose a weak rendition of “Show, Don’t Tell”, by giving him a beard, long hair, and a darker costume, but that’s it. Steve Rogers is basically a man who has lost his religion. His religion was Uncle Sam, and he began to sour on it in The Winter Soldier. It was completely Uncle Bad Touch after Civil War. So who is he now? WHAT is he now? How has it all changed him? Is he better for it, or is he now a man with nothing more to lose? Yes, this movie had a lot of moving parts, so we couldn’t get what we wanted in terms of deep character moments for everyone. Still, seeing as how he’s the leader of this whole Earth-bound defense force, I’d kinda like to know more about the man leading everyone into battle. The Captain America movies had done a really good job of showing us the growth of Steve Rogers, and I just didn’t get that here. Oh, and folks love to fawn over everything about and from Wakanda, but those shield gauntlets were stupid. It made Agent Coulson’s TV budget holo shield look better in comparison, which is QUITE the feat!

Another problem I had: The Black Order. I’ve seen the debates on various Facebook pages, but the Black Order didn’t live up to their hype. Now, I realize they’re recent additions to the Thanos mythos, having been created by Jonathan Hickman in his recent Avengers run, but I just never felt they displayed WHY they should be feared. These are the “Children of Thanos”, by his side as he annihilated 50% of PLANETS. They come to Earth, and fail to rack up ONE KILL. Now, sure we can talk about the “formidable human spirit” or how “anything is possible when your back is against the wall”, but Black Widow and Akoye should not have survived that fight. I don’t care if Black Widow is the best graduate of the Red Room or that Okoye is the fiercest warrior in Wakanda. They’re facing an unfamiliar, extraterrestrial threat that kills people like it’s their job. Because it IS. People are saying “It was an even match when it was 1:1, and the Black Order took the L when folks teamed up against them.” Doesn’t matter. They couldn’t even successfully kill a ROBOT. Daddy had to come finish that job. So, I felt they went out like some bitches, even if I do want Ebony Maw to record my voicemail message.

Next problem: Because we, as fans, are so close to the source material – and the business behind it – it’s hard to really take the “deaths” seriously when you know the business side of things. First of all, I wasn’t affected by the deaths because they weren’t graphic. They weren’t impactful. Folks just turn to dust. Remember how I was disappointed by the Black Order? That could’ve been rectified here. Instead, it was more like the characters were *erased* than that they died. The only one that held any weight was Peter Parker’s, which was reportedly ad-libbed. Still, when the vast majority of the stars of the movies that Marvel has in the pipeline are the ones who “die”, it’s like “Whatever”.

And people love to be so smug with their “It’s comics. Characters always comes back from death.” Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s a common trope today, but that wasn’t always true. It wasn’t really until Superman where publishers realized the life/death yo-yo was a cash cow they could return to time and again. No, because the MCU hasn’t established this to be true within the confines of what has been set up.

 

One thing a lot of folks don’t seem to reflect upon is that the MCU has more ties to the Ultimate Marvel Universe than the regular, “616” Marvel Universe. Sam Jackson Nick Fury, Hawkeye with a Black Ops background, – just a few examples of how The Avengers film franchise owes more to the widescreen cinematic depiction of the team in The Ultimates comic than it does to the team seen in The Avengers comic. The Ultimate Universe, as a publishing imprint, ran between 2000-2016, and in that time death meant DEATH. When a character died there, they stayed dead (Don’t talk to me about Peter Parker because I’m proving a point here, and I’m convinced Bendis wrote that arc because someone was holding his family for ransom). Though Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum event is generally considered a poorly-written gorefest, a shit ton of important characters died, and STAYED dead, forcing that universe and its characters to move forward and grow from it. With that said, the MCU has never really established that resurrections occur. There’s the Coulson thing, but it’s not exactly a routine occurrence, so they still could’ve played it that way here. Instead, though, they took all their cash cows with active contracts and sequels in the works, and “killed” them. Even if we KNOW they’re gonna “comic book” it and bring them back, they kinda shot the pooch in the selection of who stays and who goes.

In true comic fashion, it’s a story where ultimately nothing happens. Sure, there are some amazing set pieces and character moments, but it plays like one of those summer comic events where “The Marvel Universe will never be the same!!!!” Until next summer, when something else happens over 6-10 horribly delayed issues, and we get the same threat/promise. I feel almost like Feige and the lot lied to us when they promised that Infinity War was no longer a Part 1 & Part 2 deal, since it told its own story, just as Avengers 4 would. Nah, that dog don’t hunt. This is clearly a Part 1, even if not in name, and there is no complete story here. There’s a hell of a first (and possibly half of a second) act, but this is the MCU’s The Empire Strikes Back. At least we don’t have to wait 3 years for the resolution.

Last thing I hated: the after credit sequence. I think it might be the first one to make me groan. Why? Because I’m NO fan of Captain Marvel. I’ve followed her for some time, and I’m not against her, but I’ve never really understood the “Carol Corps” and the fan base that has developed around her.

If you’re not familiar, Carol Danvers was a pretty forgettable character for the first the 40 years of her existence. She went back and forth between codenames, calling herself Ms. Marvel, Binary, and Warbird at different times. Until about 10 years ago, her biggest claim to fame was that X-Men member Rogue stole her powers of flight and super strength (also why these powers are missing in the X-Men films, since Fox didn’t have the rights to Ms Marvel to do this). Then, about 10 years ago in the House of M event, Carol gets a glimpse of what she could be. Instead of a recovering alcoholic, C-list jobber, she could actually be the most powerful hero in the universe. So, she really starts to apply herself, and gets promoted from Ms. to Captain. And in a rare feat for comics, it stuck.

Usually when a former sidekick or lesser hero gets a “promotion”, it’s to goose sales and it’s temporary. With Captain Marvel, though, we’re ten years in and it seems like she’s going to stay this way. Good for her. My problem is I just don’t feel like having her Deus Ex Machina her way into Avengers 4 to save the day. As far as the comics go, she’s just not a likable character. Now, there’s some argument to be made that “Maybe you just don’t like strong women!” I don’t think that’s it, YET I feel like she’s written in a way to force folks to have that conversation. She was on the wrong side of history with the Superhero Registration Act. She was on the wrong side of history in Civil War II. In big crossover events, she tends to be written like a headstrong character who’s not really a great team player. “But, the same could be said about Tony Stark, Will!” Yeah, but he’s rich and charismatic. Can’t the same about Carol. Outside of her own book, she’s just kinda written like a fuck-up, yet I’m supposed to take her as the most powerful hero on Earth. Maybe I’ll gain a new appreciation for her after her movie drops in March, but right now, I’m just like “Ugh.”

Oh, and what is Nick Fury’s job now? I mean, he fakes his own death in The Winter Soldier, returns to the land of the living with helicarrier, like “What up, motherfuckers!” in Age of Ultron, and now he’s here. He has his own Personal White Woman (TM) in Maria Hill, but he ain’t the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Right now, he’s a private citizen with his own flying death machine, which really needs to be explained. Or maybe it doesn’t. Hell, in the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. has 2 different “Executive Directors” at the same time, depending on what book you’re reading.

So, since we slogged through all of that, and you might be mad, let’s get to what I liked: All of it. Despite the fanboy nitpick stuff I just pointed out, I really had an amazingly enjoyable time at this movie. I just take things further than the casual moviegoer, since I’ve sort of lived a lot of this stuff for the past 25 years. The things I pointed out didn’t make me hate the movie. They were just observations I had while others swore the film was perfect.

  • I loved Thanos, even if basic knowledge about population growth and sustainability point out the flaws in his plan. “Why didn’t he just create more resources?” Shut up! The movie would’ve been 10 minutes long, and you’d be pissed you paid $15 to see that. And how many times do you get to see the villain win?
  • Thank sweet baby Jesus that M’Baku survived. I was ready to throw my popcorn if he turned to dust.
  • Even though I have no clue how it’s possible, I’m glad that Thor’s little soliloquy established that Thanos only killed HALF of his people, so there’s still hope for Valkyrie and Korg to pop up in the future. I’m just imagining the potential showdown between Valkyrie and Sif (who ain’t dead ‘cause she didn’t take time off from her struggling NBC show just to come back and get killed. Respect!).
  • Even though some folks hated it, I enjoyed the erectile dysfunction joke with Hulk. When he finally does appear next movie, it’ll mean something, and hopefully he’ll get redemption. Still, it had to happen to prove that Thanos was a formidable foe. If he scared Hulk, then he should scare everyone.
  • Xandar got destroyed offscreen, so I’m glad I didn’t have to watch Nova Prime Glenn Close get killed along with John C. Reilly and his little pink daughter. And, with the Corps’ destruction, it certainly does pave the way for a Nova film – just as Feige’s been teasing lately.
  • Thor was SO good here. It’s a damn shame it took them 3 movies to get him right, but with the original team’s contracts expiring, I hope he’ll come back for more. He seems to be having as much fun as we are watching him, and they’ll need a thru-line from the original team to whatever is left standing at the end of the next film. The Avengers cannot live by Black Widow kicks alone.
  • I was glad that this film “fixed” the MCU timeline ‘cause I was really messed up by that “8 Years Ago” from Homecoming, yet Tony establishes here that the Battle of New York was SIX years ago. I know, fanboy problems.

Thoughts about Avengers 4:

  • I don’t think Gamora comes back in this film. I think she’s in the Soul Stone, and I could totally see GOTG 3 as The Search for Gamora.
  • I’m still not convinced Cap ever dies in this franchise. Look at it this way: yes, people are clamoring for a heroic sacrifice, so Bucky (or less likely Falcon) will take up the shield to honor him. I don’t think he needs to die. Bear with me here: Steve Rogers never got a life. Just as he was becoming a man, he volunteered for a way to fight for his country. He was frozen for 70 years, only to thaw out and be thrown right into the next fight. I think he deserves to walk off into the sunset. He’s done more than enough for his country. Now, he could buy himself a fishing boat and find himself a nice girl. It’s what Peggy would’ve wanted for him.
  • Also don’t think Downy dies. If he was gonna go, this was going to be his window. A lot of folks think Pepper was trying to tell him she was pregnant when the comm link cut out, so I could see him taking a step back, and just providing tech and money to the team while he focuses on his family. Can’t you see him giving Clint a new bow, saying something like “Be careful with that. It cost more than that farmhouse of yours!”?
  • To be honest, I see this era of the MCU ending without any meaningful deaths that stick. I know some folks would be fine with that, but when looking back on 19 movies, it leads one to wonder “What were the stakes?” At this point, the only real deaths we’ve had were Coulson, Quicksilver and Agent Carter – and one of those was simply from old age. I’m not some morbid deathmonger, but I feel a calling like this comes with a price. And nobody *important* has paid that price. If that’s how they wanna play it, then so be it, but it’s definitely something that sticks out to me.
  • Completely never realized there was no deal in place for Doctor Strange 2. Feige’s explanation is that he felt like Strange got so much time in Infinity War that he didn’t need a second movie so soon. I could see that, but it’s just odd how a franchise that can’t keep its 5 year plan a secret doesn’t have anything lined up for him (officially) in the next five years. Oh, and I kinda hated him in this movie during my first viewing. I feel like MCU Doctor Strange is Great Value Tony Stark, but I came to appreciate him more during viewing #2.
  • If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does end this season (which is looking less likely, even though this season’s finale was written as a series finale), I really hope it’s acknowledged in this film. No, I don’t think we need a cameo from the whole damn team, but I think the Avengers finally need to learn about Coulson, and they’re clearly setting Chloe Bennett up for something, so she could cameo, too. Sorry, fans of Melinda May. I also don’t need cameos from the Netflix folks. I’m fine with just acting like that’s its own thing, but AoS is supposed to be part of the “Everything is Connected”ness of the MCU. That’s what we were promised, so that’s what I expect. The tangential shows, like Runaways and Cloak & Dagger, can do whatever they want ‘cause I’m never gonna accept them into this family.

I’ve got more to say about Infinity War, but we’ll get to that a bit later down the page.

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Harvey Weinstein Update – Ashley Judd has sued Weinstein for “torpedoing” her career when she rebuffed his advances. Peter Jackson already reported that he was convinced not to cast Judd in The Lord of the Rings due to influence from Weinstein. So, she’s suing him for defamation, sexual harassment, and for violation of California’s unfair competition laws. I swear, if he cost us Where The Heart Is 2: Forney’s Revenge, then I say let the bastard fry!

Bill Cosby Update – The Cos, along with Roman Polanski, found himself expelled from The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, who are responsible for the Academy Awards. While this probably seems like a huge gesture to some, it’s not like they’re taking away his Oscar. Can’t win an Oscar when you’re cranking out shit like Ghost Dad and Leonard Part 6. Nope, he just can’t vote anymore. That’s cool, ’cause convicted felons can’t vote anyway, so… Meanwhile, his wife Camille issued a statement that this is the result of mob mentality, and that he’s being railroaded. If you ever want to feel sad for humanity, hop over to his Facebook page for the litany of “I stand by you, Mr. Cosby!” The motherfucker gave us a TV show. He didn’t cure cancer. Let that shit go. It’s a numbers game. Even if you think some of those women lied, ALL of them aren’t lying. We’re talking over 50 women! People want to act like it’s a giant conspiracy, but you can barely get 50 women to respond to an Evite, let alone corroborate a rape story. How many do you need? What’s your threshold on sexual assault? Get back to me if you need to think on that.

So, I guess we should get this out of the way since everyone in my life has asked my thoughts on it: in a somewhat surprising move, toymaker Hasbro announced they have purchased the Power Rangers franchise from Haim Saban for a reported $522 million. They also bought some other stuff, like 80s property My Pet Monster, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I say “somewhat surprising” because we knew it was a possibility. After all, it was in the fine print when Hasbro acquired the master license to produce Power Rangers toys in the United States. The company would have the first right of refusal should Saban ever decide to sell. It looked like this was a sure thing down the road – ya know, after they’d had a season or two under their belt, making product. Instead, they pulled the trigger before the next incarnation of the show, and before the Bandai license has fully lapsed. It kinda makes one wonder: “What’s the rush?” I mean, does Saban need to send an envelope of cash over to Israel or something?

OK, sidebar – if you’ve never been to this site before, or don’t know much about Haim Saban, then you saw that last sentence and said, “Whoa, Will! That was kinda anti-Semitic!” Not exactly. You see, Saban has always called himself a one-issue voter, and that issue is Israel. He’s quite the political donor, and has no real political allegiance except to anyone who promises to make the affairs of Israel a priority. He was quite the donor to the Clintons (which was always intriguing to me, as early on the Clintons railed against violence in children’s programming, like Power Rangers. Nothing that a few million dollars couldn’t fix!). He would go on to publicly lambaste both Bernie Sanders and DNC chair candidate Keith Ellison as being “anti-Israel”. Oh, and he firmly believes that the key to political power is to control media outlets. Yup, that old conspiracy theory about the media is actually one of his dreams. Betcha didn’t know all that about the guy behind your favorite spandex heroes! Anyway, the dude is worth over $5 billion, so it wouldn’t be shocking if a quarter of this sale is earmarked for Israel.

Anyway, the writing was on the wall with this sale. Hasbro needs something to bolster the aging Transformers franchise, and the essentially lifeless G.I. Joe franchise. This is a something of a renaissance for them, as owning something like the Power Rangers franchise changes the game. It’s not one of those “It’ll keep the lines on” situations like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is for Playmates Toys, but it’s definitely the shot in the arm that Hasbro could use these days. Meanwhile I don’t think Saban ever really recovered from the anemic box office for last year’s Power Rangers movie. He knows, as any smart man would, that the franchise’s best days – as far as he was concerned – were behind him. He would never again experience the Beatlemania that accompanied the 93-94 era of the franchise, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be a valuable franchise for someone else.

Plus, let’s just look at the numbers here: Saban originally sold Fox Family Worldwide (which included Power Rangers and the Fox Kids library) to Disney for $5.3 BILLION in 2001. Yes, Disney paid more for that than they paid for Star Wars OR Marvel. Disney, then, proceeded to junk everything from that sale (Where’s my Eek! The Cat, bitches?) except Power Rangers, while never really figuring out what to do with it. They went on to produce seven original Power Rangers seasons of varying quality, from Ninja Storm to RPM. After a rumored failed animation pilot, and a half season where they just added Batman ’66 effects to old Mighty Morphin episodes, Disney sold the Power Rangers franchise back to Saban for a reported $43 million. He spends a few years doing basically the bare minimum as far as maintaining the brand, and then sells if off for half a BILLION dollars. You can say a lot of things about Haim Saban, but you can’t say he’s not a smart businessman!

So, what do I think? I’m not really sure. We’ve had multimedia franchises owned by toy companies before, but I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen a transition like this. I mean, it’s basically going from Saban’s Power Rangers to Hasbro’s Power Rangers, and I don’t entirely know what that will mean. That’s like if it went from Jimmy’s G.I. Joe to Hasbro’s G.I. Joe. Will all of the wit and charm that Jimmy brought to the franchise be honored and respected by the new owner? Who knows? And we don’t know in my scenario, as there was no Jimmy and Hasbro always owned Joe. So, the question is How does Hasbro put its mark on Power Rangers, while retaining what it has come to mean over the past 25 years?

From a toy perspective, I don’t think we have a lot to worry about. Hasbro is a friend to the “adult collector”, so I’m confident we’ll get some sort of 6″ Black Series/Legends action figure line to rival what we got with Bandai’s Legacy Collection. They’re also good at articulation, when they want to be. So, we could end up with 4″ Rangers with 5 points of articulation, in some sort of weird, retro throwback model, or they could give us the $13 Walmart exclusive Star Wars figure articulation. Plus, with their “Big Toys for Poor Kids” Titan Heroes line, they can continue to give us the same unnecessary 12″ shampoo bottle figures that Bandai cranks out. Where they will fall short, however, is when it comes to role play toys.

Kid sized Ranger weapons and morphers are a big part of the Power Rangers toyline legacy, and that just ain’t Hasbro’s strong suit. The closest they’ve come to a morpher in recent years is the Star Wars Force Link, which has now died on the vine in two different iterations (three, if you count its “father”, the CommTech Reader from the Star Wars prequel toylines). They have never simply gotten the consumer to care about those things, though it might help if it’s an item that’s actually featured in the show, instead of some weird, out-of-left-field piece of tech that isn’t featured in the source material. On top of that, Hasbro goes the extra mile for role play stuff that the marketplace isn’t really demanding. Take the recent Hero Vision Iron Man helmet for Avengers: Infinity War, which is an augmented reality experience where you put your cell phone into an Iron Man helmet to pretend you’re fighting Thanos. Cute idea, but not for the $50 price point. This is not something that works at mass market retail. You know how I know? Because Walmart can’t even sell $15 VR sets, so the addition of a plastic Iron Man helmet ain’t gonna make these fly off the shelves. No, this is a hobby piece. This is the kind of thing you MAKE yourself, with the help of a YouTube tutorial. It’s not the kind of thing that you BUY. For other recent role play offerings, it’s clear the Action Figure folks just farmed the development out to the Nerf team. So, I really hope they’ve got some PR experts on the team (possibly from Bandai) instead of trying to acclimate their current folks to the Power Rangers brand.

I guess my biggest worry surrounds the show itself. Does Hasbro know how to produce a weekly live action kids show? Will it stay in New Zealand? Is this the end of the franchise’s love affair with actor Jason David Frank? He’s spent years ingratiating himself to the folks at Saban and Bandai. I mean, the current comic book storyline is based around his character. What happens now that he has a new master to please? Will Hasbro allow Nickelodeon to keep forcing so many breaks between new episodes? Can Hasbro void the Nick contract Saban just signed, and take the show elsewhere? Those are the questions I have. The toys will be fine, but Power Rangers, while toyetic in nature, wasn’t necessarily a brand created to sell toys. Sure, like anything else, it was created to make money, but not primarily to sell toys. How does that change when its new owner is primarily in the business of selling toys? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

On the other end of the pop culture spectrum, Kanye West went on a bit of a press tour this week, and proceeded to make a fool of himself. Most notably, he went on TMZ and said that slavery was a “choice”. He went on to give this extended rant:

He also gave an interview to Charlamagne tha God on The Breakfast Club, where we learned the following things about him:

  • He developed an Opiod addiction after getting liposuction. Now, let me just say that if my mom died on a plastic surgeon’s table, I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t catch me getting plastic surgery. Most folks won’t even return to a restaurant that gave them food poisoning!
  • He was hurt that Jay-Z and Beyonce didn’t come to his wedding
  • He likes that Trump won because it gives him hopes for his own political aspirations. He feels that Trump’s win means that anyone can win, and that inspires him.
  • He turned on Obama because Obama once said that Kanye was his favorite artist, but then proceeded to call him a “jackass” when asked about more recent antics. That hurt Kanye’s widdle feelings.
  • He recently bought 300 acres on which to build a community

Here’s the thing: some of what he says isn’t the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. His issue is he’s conflating physical slavery with mental slavery, which are 2 different things. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of Hoteps out here, saying “He’s right!” It saddens me that there are modern day Black people who hear about slavery, and then think “They wouldn’t have made ME no slave!” Yes, they would have. Slavery was more than just the fact that White people owned us. There are psychological underpinnings to that system that held us, and continue, to hold us down. I am all for ignorance being brought into the light, but in the year of our Lord 2018 there are way too many White Supremacists who’ve been waiting for someone like this to come along to bandy about. This would be a “mistake” if he’d said the dumb stuff ONCE, but he just keeps digging his hole. This is a full on meltdown, but to what end? At what cost? The “bad” people hear his words, and it just empowers them. Kanye lives in an ivory tower, so he doesn’t have to deal with a lot of the day to day stuff folks face. He’s out of touch, and making things worse for those who are not.

The problem with Kanye is he’s all over the place and, as they say in the South, he “can’t get to Hell fast enough”. It’d be one thing if he wanted to talk Black empowerment. It’s an entirely other matter when his “argument” is merely used as a distraction from his MAGA hat wearing photo op. He’s not the guy saying “Let me show you another way of thinking”, at least not eloquently. Instead, he’s a petulant child who’s saying “I do what I want, and your reasons for your views don’t apply to me.” OK, cool. But he shouldn’t expect folks to take his views seriously when he’s been so dismissive of theirs. People don’t forget so easily, yet they see what they want to see. It’s like Cosby, who we’re supposed to hold up as this paragon of Black greatness, who also spent the past 20 years berating the Black community. Like Kanye, a lot of what he said wasn’t “wrong”, but it was HOW he said it. Context AND delivery are just as important as the words themselves.

I don’t feel “betrayed” by Kanye West. If nothing more, I hate how he’s giving my “family” a bad name (even though there’s no relation…I hope). No, I have NEVER given Kanye money (thank you, Shawn Fanning, for teaching me about the wonderful world of free music!), and he’s never been a “musical genius” to me. No, I reserve that praise for folks like Max Martin, because I have the musical taste of a 14 year old girl who was punted forward in time from the year 1998. I just think this thinking is dangerous. It’s one thing to have this kind of discussion in the parlor, over brandy, but it’s another to go on the steaming pile of muckraking shit that is TMZ and hold court. I give TMZ some credit because they’re the first ones to let us know when a celebrity dies, but Harvey Levin would make PT Barnum clutch his pearls. When he looks at you like you’re a piece of shit, well, it’s pretty clear that you’re a piece of shit. And the same folks who are saying that “We need to stop being divisive and love each other” are just suffering from “Winner’s Bullshit”. They weren’t worried about divisiveness when they were trying to prove the last president was a secret Kenyan Muslim who killed Santa Claus. Nor did they apologize when they couldn’t prove it. So, in conclusion, fuck Kanye West, fuck Kenny Chesney, and fuck anyone else who wants to tell me that all my great grandmother had to do was clock out at the end of the day on the plantation, and everything would’ve been hunky-dory.

Wow. That felt good to get out. Sorry to the White people (which is pretty much all of you) who are feeling some kind of way right now. I’ll lighten things up at this point. Promise!

In TV news, it was reported that Conan on TBS will switch to a 30-minute format. I don’t really know what to think about Conan anymore. I mean, yes, he got royally screwed by NBC. That said, he’s basically now the Hillary Clinton of the late night world. He needs to read the room and realize he’s never going to be Johnny Carson. There are other things he could do, though. Leave the late night space to the other guys, and focus on producing. The Conaco brand isn’t that strong right now, and it could use his stewardship. Out of the three shows he’s currently producing (Conan, People of Earth, and Final Space), only one of them is actually good. His late night show isn’t breaking new ground, nor does anything from it go viral, which is the new measure of “worth” in that sector. Final Space is just a miss all around, and People of Earth isn’t the kind of show that’s gonna last 10 years. I just don’t know what he’s trying to prove at this point. TBS has been a great home for him and his projects. It’s to his benefit that he didn’t go to Fox when his non-compete was over ’cause they would’ve cancelled Conan YEARS ago. Over on TBS, he’s a big fish in a small pond, but he’s not contributing much to the late night space anymore, and it seems like TBS doesn’t want to hurt him by showing him the door, but clearly realizes that they could be doing more with the timeslot. Sadly, they could probably bring in more eyes just by bringing back those reruns of Cougar Town.

In other TV programming news, DC Comics began teasing the DC Universe streaming service. Details are scarce at the moment, so we don’t know price point, or what will make up the bulk of the programming. We do know that the previously announced live action Titans will be joined by a live action Swamp Thing series, as well as the third season of Young Justice and an animated Harley Quinn series. Meanwhile, the ill-conceived Metropolis, that featured Lois Lane and Lex Luthor solving mysteries, is being “redeveloped”. This all sounds TERRIBLE to me. I feel like this is going to be the home of the shows they couldn’t sell to other networks. I mean, if you remember, TNT passed on Titans. TN-fucking-T. Their schedule is nothing but Bones reruns and NBA games. Sure, you could make the argument that “Maybe it just didn’t fit their network image”, but I can assure you more people get TNT than will initially sign up for this service. Plus, are folks really creaming their jeans over a Swamp Thing show?

Wanna make this thing a Must Have expense? First, pull all existing shows from networks and put them on the service. Sure, The CW would collapse, but Fox wouldn’t have to worry about renewing a bubble show like Gotham, and the service would officially become THE exclusive home for DC programming.  ‘Cause even if the service has every DC production in history, it should be acknowledged that a lot of that stuff was shit. Yes, there’d be Justice League Unlimited and the rest of the DCAU, but there’d also be Lois & Clark, that really bad 80s syndicated Superboy, and The Zeta Project. People talk about how Disney is buying Fox to bolster their streaming service, but there’s REALLY nothing about DC’s catalog that’s gonna bring all the boys to the yard. You really going to pay a monthly fee just so you can watch Superman III whenever you want? The shit is in the $5 bin at Walmart. Knock yourself out. Your credit card will thank you. Anyway, I’m putting this in the Need More Information file for now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We got this new trailer for Teen Titans GO! To The Movies, and I cannot wait! I posted how I’m more excited for this movie than I am for Deadpool 2, and some dude on Twitter felt the need to tell me that it’s going to make no money. Cool story, bro! Why is the Internet full of people who simply don’t want you to be happy about something? Anyway, Will Arnett as Deathstroke…I mean, “Slade”? Sign me up!
  • I have never loved Arrested Development as much as a lot of folks, but I’ve been meaning to give it a second chance. I became even more inspired to do so when, this week, series creator Mitch Hurwitz announced that a “remix” of season 4 would actually be dropping on Netflix today. Due to the conflicting schedules of the cast, season 4 was originally filmed with each episode focusing on one character. This new edit, however, treats it like a traditional sitcom, much in the way the first 3 seasons were filmed. New jokes, and actual character interaction. This should be interesting, even if just as a case study to see if such a thing can be done well.

  • *NSYNC received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week. Three things stood out to me about this: 1) I’m amazed Justin Timberlake actually showed up for the ceremony, as I was certain it was just gonna be the 4 less successful ones there. 2) Apparently Loki is real, and he now goes by the name “JC Chasez” on Midgard. 3) Chris Kirkpatrick still looks like the kid that you only let hang out with you because he either has a hot, slutty sister OR his brother is your weed dealer.
  • On a related *NSYNC note, they popped up on Ellen, where it was revealed that Timberlake once hooked up with a Spice Girl. If it was Sporty, he will have my undying love. It was probably Scary or Ginger, though.
  • Comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner, and the butthurt, snowflake libtards couldn’t take a few jokes! Wait…we’re receiving an update on this story. Oh, so it wasn’t the Liberals? How interesting…

  • We got the new trailer for Ant-Man and The Wasp, which looks like a MUCH needed, light fare palette cleanser after the heavy events of Infinity War.
  • Taking a page from DC’s marketing of The Dark Knight, Fox is dropping X-Men from the title of the series’ next installment, which will now just be called Dark Phoenix. Yeah, I think the great Dwayne Johnson put it best when he said, “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!”
  • Speaking of The Rock, he just cast John Cena as the lead in The Janson Directive, which Johnson is producing, based on a Robert Ludlum book. A Robert Ludlum book that sounds a lot like The Bourne Identity
  • Detective/Captain/Mayor Quentin Lance is leaving the Arrowverse, as actor Paul Blackthorne is exiting Arrow at the end of the season. I’ve felt he’s been living on borrowed time since season 2, but I grew to love him. Here’s hoping he gets to walk off into the sunset instead of getting killed off.
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt will be ending after its upcoming 4th season, with a planned movie that will wrap up any loose ends. Sad to see it go, but I never made it through season 2, and I guess this gives Tina Fey time to work on that 30 Rock revival she’s been teasing.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), The Good Fight (CBS All Access), and Westworld (HBO) were all renewed for a 3rd season this week.
  • Thought I’ve never encountered anyone who liked the show, Netflix somehow renewed Friends from College for a second season, and Sarah Chalke will be joining the cast.
  • The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running, scripted primetime series on television, with 636 episodes.
  • Because we’re in the midst of a conservative TV family renaissance, with the success of Roseanne, it’s being reported that Fox is close to reviving Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing for a 7th season. I get the Why, but Fox ain’t the right home for that show. They don’t have any other multicam sitcoms to pair with it. It’ll be an anomaly on their schedule, but it ain’t my money, so…
  • Speaking of Fox, they renewed Empire for season 5. I can only imagine that Lucious spends half the season in space, only to return to an Earth where everyone has seemingly forgotten about Dre.
  • The current story arc on Black-ish makes it seem like Dre and Rainbow are headed for splitsville. There are so many things at play here. It’s rare to have a positive, Black nuclear family on television, so they’d spit in the faces of a lot of fans to destroy that. It’s also reportedly based on the real-life relationship of show creator Kenya Barris, and he and his wife (also named Rainbow) worked through their problems. Still, this is a matter dictated by business. Star Tracee Ellis Ross is upset that she doesn’t make as much as costar Anthony Anderson. She’s said she’s willing to reduce her role to part-time in order to take work on another series to make up the difference. Negotiations are ongoing, and there’s no renewal deal yet for next season. Oh, and Barris is trying to get out of his ABC deal. So, yeah, this is gonna come down to the 11th hour, and it doesn’t look good.

  • We got this cast pic from the upcoming Murphy Brown revival. I love how Faith Ford’s face basically says “God, I wish my husband hadn’t racked up all that gambling debt…” Anyway, before conservatives get all upset, they didn’t recast Murphy’s kid with that Indian dude. No, he’s the social media manager for FYI, which is only slightly less offensive…

  • 16 year old Isabela Moner has been cast as the lead in the live action Dora the Explorer film. Look, I know I grew up in a time when high schoolers were played by 30 year old actors, but I draw the line at a 16 year old Dora. The Sketchy Dad contingent, however, is gonna eat this up!

So, I bet you thought we were done with Infinity War. Well, you were wrong, sucka! Up top we discussed opinions, but now we’re gonna talk about facts.

  • It’s the culmination of 18 films, released over the past 10 years
  • The film is expected to pass $1 BILLION worldwide this weekend – just ONE WEEK after its release, and it doesn’t even in China until May 11th

  • The film beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens to have the biggest opening of weekend of all time, with $250 million. Game recognizes game. And they have the same corporate parent, but whatever.
  • It was the payoff of a decade’s worth of film-making, and it provided an experience that a lot of comic fans never dreamed they ever see on film.
  • It’s the endgame of Book 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the dust settles, we’ll have the entire story of Steve Rogers as Captain America, Tony Stark as Iron Man, and possibly more. And what a ride it has been!

All of this is just a long winded way of saying that Avengers: Infinity War, hands down, without a doubt, had the West Week Ever.

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