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.

27th Apr2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or this poorly written blurb from the official FanCon blog:

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

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

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

HarassmentWatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th Apr2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23rd Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/23/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Fred Savage – Just weeks after former The Wonder Years costar Alley Mills revealed that the show ended because ABC was trying to squash a harassment claim against star Fred Savage, now he’s being accused of assault on the set of his cancelled Fox series The Grinder. A former costume designer said that he was abusive to women on set, and that the studio allowed his behavior to continue unchecked. She went on to recount a time he hit her in the arm after she brushed dandruff off his jacket. Yeah…America loves Fred Savage, and she doesn’t seem to have enough to really back this up. I don’t see much happening with this one.

There were a lot of big moves in the wrestling world this week. First up, Daniel Bryan was cleared by WWE doctors for his in-ring return. You see, he retired in 2016 due to health concerns arising from multiple concussions, and he remained with WWE as the “general manager” of SmackDown. Like most athletes, though, he wasn’t really finding life outside the ring to be that fulfilling, so he was going to end up wrestling again somewhere. Most folks believed that when he contract was up he’d bolt for Japan, where they’d probably have him wrestling in a burning ring with barbed wire ropes. They simply don’t give a shit over there. So, it comes as little surprise that WWE doctors would “miraculously” clear him just as that contract was set to expire.

I’ve never liked Daniel Bryan. I’ll admit that a lot of his “heyday” was during a time I wasn’t really watching wrestling. Still, his whole bearded Vegan thing just didn’t work for me. I like my wrestlers on The Gas, and he was built too much like me. I shouldn’t be able to look at a wrestler and say “Oh, I could look like that.” No, we live in a world of the chiseled in-ring physique, so little guys like Bryan and CM Punk just don’t impress me. Get some steroids! Everyone’s on the steroids! Anyway, Bryan’s return seems to have ignited a fire in some long dormant parts of the fandom, so it’s clearly a good business move. I joked on Twitter, though, that he should be subjected to nothing but chair shots to the head until he’s forced to retire again. What? In wrestling, we wish bad things on the stars we don’t like! We all have a part to play in this!

Then, on RAW we were presented with The Ultimate Deletion match between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Where to even begin with this? I actually gave the Final Deletion the West Week Ever last year because it was so groundbreaking. It was the last gasp of a wrestling promotion struggling to remain relevant. While the owners were having their own issues, that pretty much paved the way for the writers to basically say “Fuck it, Hardy. Do whatever you want.” And what he did was SO strange, and SO weird, but it kinda worked. He became this Phantom of the Opera-esque villain with a Shakespearean bent to him. He was now “Broken” Matt Hardy, as it appeared the years of Team Xtreme, the drugs, and everything else had finally caught up to him. He started feuding with his brother, Jeff, who he now referred to as “Brother Nero”. In the Final Deletion, the culmination of the entire TNA gimmick, he defeated Jeff in a crazy pre-taped match at the Hardy Compound. Again, it was like nothing we had ever seen, and for a minute folks were saying “That TNA might just be OK.” And then he left and went to Ring of Honor.

Matt eventually made his way back to WWE last year, but he didn’t legally acquire the rights to the Broken gimmick until January of this year. So, time to do something fresh with it, right? Nope, more of the same. Instead of targeting Brother Nero, Woken/Broken Matt Hardy has spent most of his recent WWE run going after Bray Wyatt in a series of matches. This week, he invited Wyatt to a match at the Hardy Compound for the Ultimate Deletion, which played out pretty much like the Final Deletion. Which is sad. When TNA did it, it was outside-the-box thinking. It was something you weren’t getting from the competition. Now, however, said competition is just repeating the same gimmick, without increased production values or anything. Wyatt ended up losing the match, which means he’s been “deleted”. So, this has really been a months-long process to repackage Wyatt – once considered the heir to The Undertaker’s supernatural corner of wrestling, but lately more of a wrestler that WWE didn’t know how to handle. Wyatt will return after Wrestlemania as Danny Sunshine or something, but what of Hardy? The Broken thing helped the WWE out with the Wyatt problem, but what’s the future for it? It already feels stale, and he’s just gotten the rights to use it. I realize Wyatt wasn’t making waves, but it’s starting to feel like Hardy’s the one who needed repackaging.

The situation for Toys “R” Us got more dire, as liquidations were announced to start yesterday. Then, when folks showed up at stores, they were met with signs telling them that the liquidations wouldn’t be starting yet, due to “unforeseen circumstances”. This prompted folks to joke that TRU couldn’t even successfully go out of business.

Meanwhile, a new challenger entered the arena. Ya see, Kay-Bee Toys announced an upcoming return, with scant details on what that meant. If you remember, Kay-Bee (later just KB) was “The Toy Store In The Mall”, which was basically their claim to fame. They typically had about a 25% markup on their items because the mall rents were too damn high. Near the end of their life, they were pretty much a clearance depot for Toy Biz Marvel figures, repackaged Power Rangers, and obscure wrestling toys.

Anyway, it appears that Strategic Marks, LLC acquired the KB rights when Toys “R” Us (which had bought them years ago) allowed them to lapse. Claiming “We’re Going To Save the Toy Industry”. Strategic Marks founder Ellia Kassoff said they had accelerated their plans to revive the KB brand in light of the TRU liquidation, and they plan to have pop-up stores ready by Christmas. He said, “We’re in discussions with many of the toy manufactures, as we try to find out the best way to support them and the 20% loss of the US toy market due to the Toys R Us liquidation. We believe we will have the infrastructure in-place and [hopefully] save the toy industry.” Uh-huh. Cool story, bro.

Then, @realkbtoys popped up on Twitter, and seemed like it wasn’t connected to the Strategic Marks initiative. In fact, it seems like the work of some fanboy. They’re touting dumb initiatives, like subscription boxes of 90s toys, and talking about focusing mainly on online sales, to which I said:

the subscription box idea prompted this response from me:

I know I’m something of a TRU apologist, with my history with them and all, but this just feels like opportunist claptrap. They’re taking advantage of the TRU situation in the worst way. And that whole “innovative” plan to have pop-ups ready by Christmas? WE ALREADY HAVE THOSE. Go! Toys & Games pretty much came along to fill the vacuum left by KB’s demise. They open around late October, close around late January. No fuss, no muss. So what’s KB going to have that Go! doesn’t, other than playing up nostalgia? Right now, I’m putting this in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” file.

Speaking of the TRU situation, I had a great chat about it with my pal Zac Shipley on The Zac Shipley Show this week. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already!

Over in Power Rangers land, we got something you don’t see every day: a trailer for an upcoming comic book event. This summer, the various Boom! Power Rangers comic series will join together for Shattered Grid.

If you’re not familiar with the comic, it originally was set during the period of time immediately following the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers “Green With Evil” TV storyline, which introduced Tommy, the Green Ranger. The comic dealt with the Rangers learning to trust their mysterious new teammate. Well, somewhere along the way, they kinda got away from that timeline and introduced Lord Drakkon, who’s an amalgam Green & White Ranger Tommy from an alternate dimension if he’d stayed evil. And that’s pretty much all we’ve had to go on. We never really knew his motivations, or why he stayed evil or any of that.

Suddenly stuff started to not make sense with the continuity that had already been set up. For example, Saba, the White Ranger’s saber, appears in the comic, even though he’s not supposed to debut until Tommy becomes the White Ranger, which is a season 2 development. And now, this Shattered Grid event is supposed to affect Ranger team picked from throughout the franchise. So, it’s a nice grand spectacle – something that makes this year’s 25th anniversary of the franchise feel more special – but something still feels off about it to me.

First off, there’s a growing part of the fandom that’s really tired of the Tommy character being the end all, be all of the franchise, partly because they find the actor, Jason David Frank, insufferable. From merchandise on down, the Power Rangers machine simply won’t let us forget about Tommy – sometimes at the expense of other characters. The franchise can have a decent thing going on, and suddenly JDF shows up and sucks all the air out of the room. He just has that effect.

Secondly, I applaud Boom! and Saban Brands for working together on this, but I can’t help but feel that this sort of thing should’ve been happening to promote last year’s film. If that film had gotten this level of promotion, perhaps we’d be getting a sequel. I’m not sure if I should fault Lionsgate for not doing enough to hype up the film OR Boom! for doing too much to hype up a mere comic book.

I’ll say that it definitely feels like an *event* with all corners of the franchise playing a part (well, except the current show, Super Ninja Steel), and I’m curious to see that state of things when it’s over. After all, this was a comic that was supposed to “dance between the raindrops of continuity”, but it’s now clear that it has its own continuity. Still, this trailer falls somewhere between “really good toy commercial/merely decent fan film” territory for me.

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • After weeks of teasers, we finally got the full-length trailer for YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai series. OK, you got me. This started out sounding like one of the dumbest concepts I’d ever heard. The more I saw, though, the more I liked it. Plus, I never really liked Daniel Larusso, so if this paints him as the antagonist, then I’m ALL for it. Bring it, YouTube Red! NO MERCY!

  • We also got a new trailer for Deadpool 2, and I think I’m starting to care about this movie. I didn’t just love the first one like every else did, but now that we’re seeing some semblance of a plot, I’m curious. It feels like the tired “save the chosen kid” trope, but they’ll probably throw us a curveball, seeing as how it’s Deadpool and all.
  • Apparently former Making The Band castmember/Danity Kane member Aubrey O’Day had an affair with Donald Trump Jr back in 2012, after she was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. If ya ask me, 2007 Aubrey was the GOAT. The milk had gone sour by the time DJT got to her. Oh, and she recorded a song about the whole thing, called “DJT”.
  • Sexual Chocolate/The World’s Strongest Man Mark Henry will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
  • Tomb Raider had an opening weekend gross of $23 million, based on a reported budget of $100 million. For some reason, however, nobody is calling it the box office bomb that it clearly is. Did Warner Bros pay off the press?
  • Matt Ryan’s John Constantine will join Legends of Tomorrow as a series regular if the show is renewed for a 4th season.
  • Sex and the City‘s Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. I’m fairly certain that more people hated Miranda Hobbs than hated Hillary Clinton, but good luck with that campaign…
  • Spike Lee may direct a Nightwatch movie, based on a Spider-Man character. I have no clue who that is, but Sony seems determined to mine every corner of those Spider-Man film rights.
  • The X-Files may FINALLY be done, as the revival aired its season finale this week, and Gillian Anderson has stated that she’s ready to move on from the character with which she has been associated for the past 25 years.
  • For my fans across the pond, TV host Ant McPartlin (of the duo, Ant & Dec – they were in Love Actually) was caught “drink driving” as the Brits call it. That’s so cute. It sounds so classy and dainty. “Yes, I’ll have spot of tea, and then go out for some drink driving.” When we call it “drunk driving”, the “drunk” implies you’re already a shitshow, but “drink driving” makes it sound like you could still have your shit together. Anyway, the duo’s losing sponsorships, as Ant heads to rehab.

Nothing really blew me away this week. Did I miss something? If you felt like something had the West Week Ever, chime in below of find me on social media. Otherwise, I’m calling it: nothing had the West Week Ever this week.

16th Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/16/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Jeff Franklin – I kinda missed this one from a few weeks back, but the Full House/Fuller House creator, showrunner, and executive producer was fired for misconduct allegations. While it doesn’t seem like he was dangling his wang around the office,  he would tell coworkers about his sexual exploits, and he’d bring his girlfriends to the set and give them bit parts in episodes. Not only was he fired from Fuller House, but his entire deal with Warner Bros Television was terminated.

James Levine – the Metropolitan Opera fired conductor was following a sexual misconduct investigation. Hey, he’s a baton waver, so he might as well be a wang dangler, right? Anyway, Levine is now suing the Met, accusing them of “cynically hijacking the good will of the #MeToo movement,” He’s seeking roughly $6 million in damages for breach of contract.

Fresh off the success of A Wrinkle In Time, Ava Duverney has been tapped to direct New Gods for DC/Warner Bros. And I could not care less. The New Gods/Fourth World stuff is a pretty big thing that Jack Kirby’s known for, but ya see, I’m not a Jack Kirby fan. You know how there are those folks who root for Johnny instead of Daniel in The Karate Kid? That’s how I am with the whole Stan vs Jack debate. People will tell you that Kirby did so much for the medium, and how comics were never the same after him, but I feel like it’s one of those “You had to be there” situations. I’ve seen some Kirby stuff that looked like cave drawings. So, not a Kirby fan.

Also not a New Gods fan. I think I’ve always seen Darkseid as Not Thanos (yes, I understand Darkseid came first, but I was introduced to Thanos first). But their whole mythology has never interested me. I like Mr. Miracle and Barda, as a married couple and as Justice Leaguers, but I don’t care about anyone else from that corner of the DC Universe. Not Granny Goodness, not the Furies, not Apokolips, none of it. So, as great as Ava is, not even she can excite me about this. I honestly can’t name anything that would make me care about it. While Taika Waititi incorporated some Kirbyisms into Thor: Ragnarok, sometimes I feel like the vast majority of that Kirby stuff can’t really be translated to film. While he did a lot with the comics medium, that’s just it – it was the *comics* medium. He did it there because it couldn’t really be done any other way. Sure, we have the technology now, but can it be done? And even if it’s accurate, it could end up like Watchmen. A lot of folks will tell you that Watchmen was a faithful adaptation of the original miniseries, but was that a good thing? I like parts of that movie, but not all of it. Maybe I’ll like parts of New Gods, but I’m not even a guaranteed movie ticket sale at this point.

There was quite a bit of controversy in the world of wrestling this week as WWE announced the Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 34. It was meant to honor late female wrestler Fabulous Moolah (AKA Mary Lillian Ellison) but, ya see, Moolah wasn’t such a good person, according to various reports. After her death in 2007, reports started to trickle out that Moolah used to abuse the women who trained at her compound, and she kept them in indentured servitude. She routinely took about 30% of everything they made, while charging them rent and expenses, but there are also reports that that she pimped out some of the girls to a nearby brothel. So, you can see why there was fan backlash against WWE’s idea.

The company always seems to end up on the wrong side of history with controversial topics. After all, the late Chyna can’t be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame because she did porn, and Triple H doesn’t want his kids to know he banged her before he met their mom (Hey CBS – there’s a reboot idea for ya!). Meanwhile, Moolah was the first woman inducted into the WWE HOF in 1995, and she was a frickin’ pimp! The backlash against the announcement was strong, causing WWE to disable the comments on the announcement video, as a petition was also circulating, which gathered 10,000 signatures. WWE bowed to the pressure, and did the right thing by changing the name. It will now just be called the Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal, which is kinda generic, but at least it doesn’t offend anyone. They could have called it The Godfather’s Ho-Tacular Battle Royal, but they don’t pay me for ideas…

People are always surprised when I say that Elton John is my favorite solo artist of all time. Why, ’cause I’m Black?! To take it even further, my favorite Elton era is the late  80s, early 90s, pre Lion King Elton, when nobody gave much of a shit about him. He was cranking out “Sacrifice”, “I’m Still Standing”, and “Simple Life” and I LOVED IT! I own the entire Elton discorgraphy, and he’s actually been doing so really great experimental stuff in recent years, like when he dipped his toe in the country waters on The Union – his duet album with the late Leon Russell.  Well, the experiments just keep coming with this upcoming Elton tribute two album tribute. First up, there’s Revamp, which has some of today’s hottest artists and bands tackling Elton and songwriter Bernie Taupin’s hits. Here’s the track listing for that one:
1. “Bennie and The Jets” – Elton John, P!nk, Logic
2. “We All Fall In Love Sometimes” – Coldplay
3. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” – Alessia Cara
4. “Candle In The Wind” – Ed Sheeran
5. “Tiny Dancer” – Florence + The Machine
6. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” – Mumford & Sons
7. “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” – Mary J. Blige
8. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Q Tip feat. Demi Lovato
9. “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” – The Killers
10. “Daniel” – Sam Smith
11. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” – Miley Cyrus
12. “Your Song” – Lady Gaga
13. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Queens of the Stone Age

From this collection, the tracks I’m most worried about are 1, 11, and 12. P!nk better not screw up “Bennie”, while I don’t think Miley has the chops for “Don’t Let”. And Gaga could be really good on “Your Song”, but will she be?

Next up is Restoration, which Elton said was Bernie’s project. Basically, it features a bunch of country artists taking a swing at Elton’s hits:
1. “Rocket Man” – Little Big Town
2. “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” – Maren Morris
3. “Sacrifice” – Don Henley and Vince Gill
4. “Take Me To The Pilot” – Brothers Osborne
5. “My Father’s Gun” – Miranda Lambert
6. “I Want Love” – Chris Stapleton
7. “Honky Cat” – Lee Ann Womack
8. “Roy Rogers” – Kacey Musgraves
9. “Please” – Rhonda Vincent and Dolly Parton
10. “The Bitch Is Back” – Miley Cyrus
11. “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” – Dierks Bentley
12. “This Train Don’t Stop” – Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris
13. “Border Song” – Willie Nelson

I actually prefer the Revamp tracklisting to Restoration‘s, but I’m excited to hear what Little Big Town does with “Rocket Man”. All I know is Don Henley better not screw up “Sacrifice”! Anyway, both collections come out April 6th, so I guess I’ll be buying my first CDs in about 3 years.

I’m still getting my thoughts together around Toys “R” Us, so I’m sorry to disappoint ya if you were looking for that this week. Maybe it’ll be its own post. I’m not even sure. What I do know is that it’s still too early to tell what’s going to happen. Sure, the company did announce that they would sell OR close their remaining roughly 700 stores. That’s what I’m hung up on. Someone could come in and buy the name and TRU will live again in some way. I don’t know. All I know is that we went to say our possible goodbyes as a family last weekend. I’d be lying, though, if I said I felt it was truly the last time I’d be in a Toys “R” Us.

I had a funny interaction online last weekend with a popular radio DJ. I’ve been listening to country now for about 10 years (the things we do for women!), and I guess Evie’s being raised on it. The biggest morning show in the format is The Bobby Bones Show, and we all listen to it every morning. Well Evie, being all of 2.95 yrs old, has come to think ALL radio is Bobby Bones. So, when we get in the car, she’ll demand “Bobby Bones!” I decided to tweet Mr. Bones and let him know about this. Not only did he Like the tweet, but he even retweeted it with a modified Jeff Foxworthy joke. I’ll take it!

Unless you’re new here, you know I love to talk. This means I love being on podcasts, and I was honored to join the Nerd Lunch Extra Helping episode on Black Panther that went up this week. I actually had more to say about the film than what you probably heard on Classick Team-Up, so think of that episode as Part 1 of my thoughts, and this one as Part 2. Will there be a Part 3? Have your people call my people!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • For all the parents out there, you’ll be glad to know that Disney Channel has renewed Mickey and The Roadster Racers for a 3rd season. Actually, I kinda hate that show. I prefer the pre-K nuance of The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse myself.
  • AMC has announced a 31-hour Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon, culminating in the release of Avengers: Infinity War. Some of y’all have enough of a problem showering for a 2-hour movie, so this is a hard pass for me.
  • Speaking on theater events, Fathom Events has announced Survival Sunday, which will see the 8th season finale of The Walking Dead and the 4 season premiere of Fear The Walking Dead shown up on the big screen for one night only – April 15th.
  • Noted physicist Stephen Hawking passed away with week after a LOOOONG battle with ALS. I’ve got to say that I’ve always been surprised that his appearances on The Big Bang Theory didn’t lend the show any “legitimacy”. Like, here’s this brilliant guy who thought it was funny (or at least liked the paychecks), but that wasn’t good enough for folks.
  • Fresh off her firing from Grey’s Anatomy last week, Sarah Drew has been cast alongside Michelle Hurd as the stars of CBS’s Cagney & Lacey reboot. Not sure if she’s Cagney or Lacey. Also not sure it even matters.
  • Calling all fast teenage girls – you’ll have to get your kicks at the Piercing Pagoda from now on, as your beloved Claire’s plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Oh, and they’ve found asbestos in the makeup. Remember when your biggest high school problem was whether Johnny was gonna ask you to the big dance? Now you’ve got to worry about asbestos?!
  • Despite the fact that we live in a world of YouTube and Tosh.0, America’s Funniest Videos was somehow renewed for its 29th (!) season this week
  • Bravo developing limited series based on the New York Times bestselling graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story
  • Kindly peek your head into your distant stepfather’s study, and inform him that The Librarians has been cancelled on TNT after 4 seasons.
  • The Church of Scientology launched The Scientology Network this week, as a 24 hr TV network on DirecTV. For now, it’s probably just episodes of Rebecca Chambers era Cheers reruns and Dharma & Greg.
  • HBO has ordered a pilot for Euphoria, based on an Israeli show described as Kids meets Trainspotting. Um, wouldn’t that just be Skins?
  • Norm Macdonald Has A Show, a new talk show hosted by, well, Norm Macdonald, has gotten a 10-episode order at Netflix
  • CNBC is bringing back Deal or No Deal, which will again be hosted by Howie Mandel. What’s the show about again? Something about a briefcase? Never seen it.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and ABC “mutually decided” (uh-huh) to pull an episode about the NFL kneeling debacle, due to “creative differences”. Whatever. It’ll just sweeten the syndication deal when that rolls around.
  • ABC’s Katy Perry-fronted American Idol reboot debuted on Sunday night, while Fox aired an OJ confession. Man, I’d forgotten what it was like to live in 2003!
  • Fresh on the heels of the completely irrelevant iHeartRadio Music Awards, the parent company, iHeartMedia Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Ya know why? BECAUSE THEY WASTE MONEY ON THINGS LIKE IRRELEVANT AWARDS SHOWS!
  • There were recent tests screenings of Deadpool 2 at and apparently it was a mess of a film. I kinda don’t find this surprising. There are reshoots going on now, but that’s not unusual for a movie to do. Nothing to see here, kids.

  • We got a trailer for Sorry To Bother You, starring Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield as a reluctant telemarketer, and it looks really quirky. It’s definitely got a Bamboozled vibe to it.
  • Some chick online was upset about Bruno Mars’s fame, saying that his success was the result of cultural appropriation. I’ve gotta say I never even knew he wasn’t Black. I knew he wasn’t Djimon Hounsou Black, but I thought he was, like, Dwayne Johnson Black. Either way, he’s dark enough to not be able to drive through certain areas late at night, so that’s good enough for me!


Behold! I’ve been waiting all week for this, and it did not disappoint. There will be many tears shed by the end of this film. Yeah, the final Avengers: Infinity War trailer had the West Week Ever.

09th Mar2018

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

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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


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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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