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.

11th Jan2018

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2017

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movies I Watched This Year:

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

January

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

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

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

February

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

March

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

April

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

May

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

courtesy of TVLine.com

June

July 

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

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

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

August

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

September

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

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

October

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

November

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

December

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

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2017 (with commentary)

1/6/17 – The Mick

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

1/13/17 – Donald Glover

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

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

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

2/3/17 – Winona Ryder

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

2/10/17 – The New England Patriots

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

2/17/17 – CeeLo Green/Gnarly Davidson

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

3/3/17 – Logan

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

3/10/17 – Man Seeking Woman

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

3/17/17 – Tyra Banks

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

3/24/17 – Nothing

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

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

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

4/7/17 – The Undertaker

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

4/14/17 – Thor: Ragnarok teaser

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

4/21/17 – Girls Series Finale

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

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

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

4/28/17 – Nothing

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

5/5/17 – Ryan Seacrest

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

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

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

5/19/17 – CBS

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

5/26/17 – Red Nose Day Actually

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

6/2/17 – Wonder Woman

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

6/9/17 – Wonder Woman

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

6/16/17 – West Life Ever: Adam West

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

6/23/17 – Nothing

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

7/7/17- Michael Keaton

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

7/14/17 – Milana Vayntrub

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

7/21/17 – Jodie Whittaker

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

7/28/17 – West Life Ever: Jim Vance

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

8/4/17 – Female Comic Editors

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

8/18/17 – DuckTales reboot

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

8/25/17 – Solar Eclipse of 2017

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

9/8/17 – Batman: The Animated Series

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

9/15/17 – Cory Chase/Reality Kings

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

9/29/17 – Star Trek franchise

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

10/6/17 – The West Family

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

10/13/17 – Nothing

Kinda like this week.

10/27/17 – Super Mario Odyssey

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

11/3/17 – Stranger Things Season 2

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

11/10/17 – Thor: Ragnarok

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

11/17/17 – Justice League

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

12/1/17 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer

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

12/8/17 – MCU Fanboys

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

12/15/17 – Black Women

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

12/22/17 – Fandom Gatekeepers

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

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

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

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

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

28th Jul2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/28/17

by Will

One of the best discoveries I’ve made has been the digital subchannel Heroes & Icons. If you’re a cord cutter, then get yourself an antenna and check this thing out. My favorite aspect of it, however, is the fact that it runs a 5-hour Star Trek block six nights a week. Star Trek at 8, Star Trek: The Next Generation at 9, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at 10, Star Trek: Voyager at 11, and Enterprise at 12. Sunday through Friday. And on Sundays they actually kick things off with Star Trek: The Animated Series at 7. I’ve pretty much watched nothing but Star Trek for the past 2 weeks. I’ve been reacquainted with favorite episodes, like TNG‘s “Chain of Command” and DS9‘s “Far Beyond the Stars”. I’ve discovered some hidden gems, like TOS‘s ” The Cloud Minders”. I’ve even discovered that I don’t hate Voyager or Enterprise as much as I thought I did.

I don’t talk about this too much, but the first 12 years or so of my life were comprised of pretty much NOTHING but Star Trek. From 1987-94, my favorite show on television was The Next Generation. When DS9 debuted, I expected it to continue my love affair, but it felt too preachy with its Space Holocaust allegory. It was in the later seasons, once the Dominion War began, that it actually ensconced itself as my favorite iteration of the franchise. By the time Voyager debuted, I had discovered comics, and they became my new mistress. While I watched about 4 hours of TNG a day in high school (Channel 20 REALLY loved playing TNG), my heart didn’t have room in it for a new Trek, so I “No time for love, Dr. Jones”‘ed Captain Janeway and her crew. Enterprise debuted when I was in college, and  I was simply too busy worried about other shit to watch Captain Quantum Leap and his crew. Plus, due to some kind of contractual fallout, Ithaca didn’t get UPN. So, since the finale of DS9, my Trekkerdom lay dormant.

But when I say “I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know”, that’s primarily about Star Trek. I had several editions of the Star Trek Encyclopedia, I had the Technical Manual, the Technical Journal, the Star Trek Chronology. All of it. I’ve got the figures, and the role play toys. I even created my own uniform for Halloween back in the 90s. I was all Trek, 24/7, and you couldn’t tell me shit. Over time, though, that trivia got overwritten by X-Men 1st appearance notations and the names of TNBC actresses. What I’m saying, though, is that Heroes & Icons brought it all rushing back. It’s like I’m 15 again, blowing the evening watching Star Trek episodes I’ve already seen hundreds of times already. It’s also given me new perspectives on things that completely went over my head when I was younger. For example, Sisko is the Bajorans’ Space Jesus, and that’s pretty heavy. Even he doesn’t believe it, but in the end, yup it turns out he’s Space Jesus. I’ve also got thoughts on the current state of the franchise, too.

At SDCC, we got the above trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, which will air in North America on CBS All Access (yes, Dean, I know you’ll say All Anal Access because it sucks that we have to subscribe to another service just to watch this thing). I had no interest in this show because everything I heard about it didn’t sound like Star Trek. Now, though, the more they try to sell it as a bunch of new ideas, the more it just sounds like DS9. It’s gonna be Trek with interpersonal conflict. Great. I can get down with that. Its aesthetic seems more like late-era Stargate than Trek, though – especially those Klingon designs. There are certain things, though, that still feel like they miss the mark.

Take for example the fact that the show will feature the first same-sex couple on a Star Trek series, played by Rent‘s Anthony Rapp and My So Called Life‘s Wilson Cruz. Yeah, I get that representation is important, but it bothers me that this is being done in a prequel series, set before the events of the original Star Trek. With the exception of Enterprise, this is the series that takes place the closest to our timeline, so it’s really not much of a leap to think that same-sex couples exist. Ya know what would’ve meant more to me (as a straight, cis male who really doesn’t have a dog in the race but is still opinionated)? If the show had actually been a post-Dominion War, sequel series to TNG/DS9/Voyager, and it featured a same-sex couple. Science fiction tends to go 2 ways: it’s either dystopian or it’s about HOPE. As it stands, from what we’ve seen, same-sex couples are pretty much nonexistent in the 24th century. Yeah, I’m sure they exist, but we never saw them. It seems like it would be a testament to how enduring they are to see them that far in the future as opposed to just a couple of hundred years from now, when Discovery is set.

I could also be politicizing this for my own agenda, as I really want to know what happened after the war ended. Sure, there are books and stuff, but those things aren’t canon. I feel there are so many stories to tell from that era, and I’d love to see the franchise move forward instead of dance between the raindrops of continuity in the past. It feels like they’re stalling, which is how it felt with Enterprise and even the Kelvin movies. Someone, somewhere out there has got to have a great idea as to how to move the franchise forward and I hope CBS/Paramount finds them sooner rather than later.

SDCC Bullet Points

The bulk of San Diego Comic Con took place over the weekend, and here’s some stuff that debuted:

  • Michelle Pfeiffer is Hank Pym’s lost wife, Janet Van Dyne, in Ant-Man and The Wasp
  • The Captain Marvel film will be set in the 90s, and introduce the Skrulls to the MCU. Oh, and Nick Fury will have 2 eyes

  • We got this trailer for Ready Player One, which was hella polarizing. It seems a lot of folks hated the book on which it’s based. If you ask me, it just looks like a cinematic version of this commercial:

  • Comic creator Frank Miller, of 300 and Sin City fame, is writing a Superman: Year One story with art from John Romita Jr. Nothing about that sentence makes me want to open my wallet.

  • We got a new trailer for X-Men spinoff, The Gifted. I’m actually surprised they used established mutants like Polaris and Thunderbird. And is that actually Fenris?! I want to like this, but it just looks so…Fox.

  • We got a new trailer for The Defenders on Netflix. I get that this is the culmination of all the Marvel Netflix shows, but it didn’t do much for me since I’ve only seen 2 out of 5 seasons so far. There’s no way I’ll get caught up by this premiere date, but I’m sure it’ll mean more to me once I’m up to date. Kinda tired of the hallway fight trope, though.

  • Legends of Tomorrow is such a fun show. It started kinda dry, but got so much better last year. It reminds me of a syndicated Saturday afternoon show, but in a good way.

  • This Justice League trailer did very little for me. It’s like, sure, Wonder Woman’s cool, but we JUST saw her. Aquaman seems cool, but he’s not really “Aquaman”. I’ll see it, but I ain’t looking forward to it. No, for me, November belongs to:

  • An elementary school friend and her husband did a Saga cosplay and KILLED IT!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We’ll have to wait a bit longer for our annual dose of Abbi and Ilana, as Comedy Central has moved the Broad City season 4 premiere from August 23rd to September 13th
  • A few months ago, it was reported that Amy Schumer would be starring in a Barbie movie. Well, I made fun of that, she blocked me on Twitter, and then eventually dropped out of the role. Now they’re reporting that Anne Hathaway is up for the role, which is somehow more bewildering than the Schumer choice…
  • Justin Bieber cancelled the rest of his Purpose world tour because he was “committing his life to Christ”. This pissed off his crew, as they were left without jobs. He, then, proceeded to run over a paparazzo with his truck while leaving church. I swear, you can’t make this shit up!
  • Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has replaced Bill Gates as the richest man in the world.
  • Beginning September 29th, Hulu will begin streaming the Warner Bros shows that comprised ABC’s TGIF lineup, including Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, Full House, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, and Step By Step. Meanwhile, Netflix is feverishly developing Perfecter Strangers, Family Still Matters, Chillin’ With Mr. Cooper, and Step By Step By Step.
  • I haven’t seen a non-country music video in years, but apparently they still make them, as Katy Perry will host the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards
  • Speaking of the VMAs, following the lead of the MTV Movie Awards, they’re doing away with the gendered categories Best Male/Best Female Artist, to be replaced by Artist of the Year. Also, in a bit of pandering,  they’ve created the Best Fight Against the System, for those artists who have called for folks to #RESIST and all that.
  • Though I felt its farcical nature wore a bit thin during its first season, TBS’s Angie Tribeca has been renewed for season 4.
  • Smallville‘s Tom Welling is joining Fox’s Lucifer and *yawn* that’s really all there is to say about that.
  • Netflix has ordered 20 episodes of the animated series Disenchantment from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. It will features the voices of Nat Faxon, Eric Andre, and Abbi Jacobson. Apparently it’s about elves and trolls and shit. Not really my bag, baby.
  • Person of Interest‘s Michael Emerson has been cast in a mysterious role for Arrow‘s 6th season. So, he’s probably Deathstroke’s accountant or something.
  • Because SyFy just doesn’t care anymore, and because they need something to air between Sharknados, Wynonna Earp has been renewed for a 3rd season.
  • The Wonder Woman sequel has a release date of December 13th, 2019
  • Apple discontinued the iPod Nano and Shuffle models, as they are the last remaining models that cannot run iOS apps.
  • Current Superman Henry Cavill grew a mustache for his role in Mission Impossible 37: Mission Harder, which will have to be digitally removed for Justice League reshoots. Ya know, the movie where he’s supposed to be dead, but is actually the worst kept secret in Hollywood.
  • Lionel Richie and Charlie Puth are in talks to join ABC’s American Idol reboot as judges. Yeah, that’s funny. Unless they’re coaching the contestants on how to get caught cheating while dancing on the ceiling, I’m not sure what Richie’s old ass brings to the table. And Puth is simply too new to be judging anybody.
  • New James Bond film in 2019. Nobody knows who’s playing him or directing the thing, but it’s coming. Yesiree, Bob!
  • Since they’re handing out cinematic universes like chicken samples at a food court, the John Wick universe will be expanded by the female-focused film, Ballerina.
  • Michael Phelps raced a CGI shark and people felt betrayed. He’s the friggin’ son of Poseidon! He can’t race ACTUAL sharks! There would be civil unrest beneath the surface!

With DC being the political capital of the country, it’s hard for a news person to stand out because the place is crawling with them. That wasn’t true, however, for Jim Vance. Everyone knew him and the man was an institution. Coming to NBC4 in 1969, he was one of the first Black anchors in a major news market. He anchored for over 4 decades, ingraining himself into the families of those who watched him.

When I was a toddler, I was really into the local news (I’ve always said I’m regressing as I get older), and I could name every anchor on every local newscast. And this was a golden age of DC news. You had the great Glenn Brenner, you had Maury Povich before he became a talk show host, and you had Vance. There was something about him that made him seem like your aunt’s cool boyfriend. He was an old man with a hoop earring. We used to laugh about it, but secretly I was hating because I knew I’d never be able to pull that off at his age. He rode motorcycles and laughed inappropriately at news stories he found funny. He was a guy who made you glad to watch the news, especially as the cries of Fake News! grew louder.

Back in May, Vance announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and it advanced rather quickly. He passed away last Saturday morning, and the announcement touched all corners of the DC area (no, I’m not calling it the DMV!). It was touching to see all of the tributes to him on the local stations, from those who were colleagues and competitors. Last Saturday night, News4 spent the entire 11 PM news talking about Vance and what he meant to DC. This might sound crazy, but it was so refreshing to watch the news without a single drop of actual news being reported. No Trump b.s., no local murders, not even a weather report. Just 30 minutes about a man who we basically grew up with in our homes. I always kinda took him for granted because you just expected he would be there every evening, but I’ve certainly missed him since he’s gone. I know he won’t mean much to those of you outside the DC viewing area, but believe me when I say that everybody here knew who Jim Vance was, and we’re all going to miss him in one way or another. For that reason, Jim Vance had the West Life Ever.