20th Jul2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/13/18

by Will

I’ve been in California the past few days, and haven’t really been that plugged into the world lately. It’s been so long since I wrote one of these that I’ve kinda forgotten how they work. I mean, it’s been 2 weeks since my last post, and that was the Toys “R” Us tribute. So, it’s been 3 whole weeks since we touched on pop culture news and events. I’ve gotta say, though, not much happened. I mean, stuff happened, but did any of it really matter? Let’s see, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update: Not only did Hardwick’s friend, Lady Sif herself, post this tone deaf tweet, but she also circulated a Change.org petition to reinstate him as host of his AMC shows. Read the room, Jaimie! Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite nerd auntie, Yvette Nicole Brown, will be moderating the SDCC panels that were originally to be hosted by Hardwick. She insists she’s not vying for his job, and is merely “helping out a friend”.

Nev Schulman Update: Production has resumed on MTV’s Catfish: The TV Series, as their investigation found that there was no credible evidence that he had committed the harassment reported by his accuser.

Terry Crews Update: While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on sexual assault, Crews admitted that he had turned down a role in The Expendables 4, after being threatened to drop the case by producer Avi Lerner. Lerner reportedly warned Crews that there could be “trouble” if he didn’t drop his case, and Crews decided that passing on the film was the best thing for his personal safety.

John “Papa John” Schnatter: OK, so everyone already kinda knew Papa John was a piece of shit, but this week he was forced to resign as chairman of the board when it came out that he had used the word “nigger” during a conference call. Reportedly, in response to a question about his opposition to NFL players kneeling, Schnatter said that Colonel Sanders used to call Blacks niggers and that there was never any blowback for KFC. Here’s where this gets dicey for me: while there’s no real evidence that the Colonel had a history of doing this, it’s not like Schnatter used the slur against someone on the call. At best, he was telling the truth and didn’t read the room to know “Maybe it wouldn’t be too Kosher for me to use that word.” At worst, he was lying about the Colonel, but still wasn’t slinging it an individual. In any case, there’s other evidence that he’s a shitty human being, so maybe this was just karma catching up to him, like how they got Al Capone on tax evasion. Shitty views, shitty pizza: Papa John’s.

Henry Cavill: Superman done fucked up, y’all. Admittedly, there’s hyperbole on both sides of this argument, but here it goes: In a GQ Australia interview, Cavill admitted his trepidation about dating in the post #MeToo world, saying

“There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman. There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice,” he remarked. “I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that.”

“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to called a rapist or something.’ So you’re like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and just go back to a relationship, which never really worked,”

Of course there was social media backlash to this, with the common response being “If you don’t want to be called a rapist, then don’t rape anyone.” I get it. I do. But it’s funny how the “We have to listen to both sides” folks are really selective in when they choose to speak out. I think he suffered from a poor choice of words, but his is still a viewpoint that should probably be acknowledged. Men DON’T know how to read cues anymore, and it’s leading to some bad situations (see: Aziz Ansari). Cavill admits his beliefs are old fashioned, but that’s how a lot of people were conditioned and raised. Sure, there’s concepts like “enthusiastic consent” now, but to many that’s just as foreign a concept as when men learned they’d have to wrap their penises in a tire to make sure they don’t die having sex. Change takes time, and getting these views out and discussing them is the only way folks are going to come to some kind of understanding to move forward. No, I’m not saying “Hug a Nazi”, but I AM saying that you can’t really change anything until folks are comfortable enough to speak, while others are willing to listen. Anyway, he apologized through one of his reps, so nothing was really accomplished here except a whole bunch of folks don’t like Henry Cavill anymore.

I’m not doing so well with the movie viewing this year. I think I watched something like 117 in 2016, and at this point I’ve seen about 7. On the flight home last night, I finally got a chance to watch Pitch Perfect 3. I’m not saying I regret seeing it, but I kinda regret that they made it.

As I’ve said before, I kinda relate more to the Pitch Perfect franchise than most folks do because I lived it. I was in the scrappy underdog college a cappella group that placed at competition. I dealt with the ennui that comes from riding that high, and then being thrust into the real world where nobody gives a shit. In fact, I thought the second movie captured that perfectly, even if it didn’t resonate with a lot of fans of the first movie. As much as I love the Barden Bellas, though, this didn’t need to be a trilogy. They go on a USO tour? Is it really that easy for the alums of a 7-year removed competitive collegiate singing group to get a spot on a USO tour? Are the troops that hard up for entertainment? I mean, even I would get tired of Carlos Mencia after one performance, but is this really all that’s left in the barrel for our boys overseas?

If you haven’t seen it, that’s what happens: the Bellas reunite because of a Three’s Company-esque misunderstanding, but decide to take one last shot at the stage by going on a USO tour – one that happens to be a proving ground for DJ Khaled to find his new opening act. Really? HIM? So, the aged Bellas (and Hailee Steinfeld, whose character must have taken a leave of absence from college) jet around the world, competing against three other acts: country-tinged Saddle Up, hip hop duo Young Sparrow & DJ Dragon Nutz, and the all-female Evermoist. Almost immediately the other 3 acts join forces in the traditional riff-off, to show the Bellas just how ineffective a cappella battles are in the real world. Chloe keeps trying to cite them for breaking non-existent rules, like “They used real instruments, so they’re disqualified.” Of course, the Bellas eventually prove themselves to the USO audiences, after a few embarrassing setbacks put into motion by Evermoist. I guess that would be a decent movie if it didn’t have so many other weird subplots floating around.

It’s a movie that tries to do too many things, and doesn’t do any of them well. There’s a weird B-plot about Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) crooked father (played by John Lithgow), who’s scheming to get the $180 million that her mother had put into a trust for her. This results in some crazy choreographed fight scenes between Amy and her dad’s goons, as well as a Die Hardian explosion on a boat.

Then, there’s a co-B-plot (’cause it’s not quite a C-plot) about Becca (Anna Kendrick) being courted as an artist by one of the members of DJ Khaled’s team. While this storyline eventually turns out well for Becca, it just dangles a romance that could have been pursued if they were audacious enough to make a fourth movie, but doesn’t really go anywhere.

Plus, I get that Kendrick is the star, but the whole Becca As a Solo Artist thing doesn’t work for her characterization. Sure, we’re reintroduced to her dealing with her dead-end producing job, but she was never a front and center showgirl. She was a reluctant performer whose musicality and choreo took the Bellas to new heights. If anything, though, her perfect place is behind the scenes, building new artists, and NOT as a headlining solo artist.

Then, you’ve got Aubrey (Anna Camp) dealing with abandonment issues from her dad (which are hastily wrapped up during the end credits), and Chloe (Brittany Snow) hastily falling in love with their USO liaison. Steinfeld is just there to be insulted by Fat Amy, and you don’t really see much of the fire from the last movie that propelled her to the leadership of the current group of Bellas.

The movie is missing a lot of its heart, which was provided in the previous two installments by love interests Bumper (Adam Devine) and Jesse (Skylar Astin) – both of whom are absent here and clearly missed. Jesse was great support for Becca, and it’s curious that they’d break up offscreen and he’s already moved on. Meanwhile, I didn’t expect Fat Amy and Bumper to get married or anything, but I did expect a cameo or something. I mean, Adam Devine is doing straight to Netflix movies these days, so he’s available.

The biggest thing missing here, though, is the musicality. While the first two movies really showcased what a cappella has become, this movie turns it into the butt of the joke. The riff-off is impressive, as they tend to be, but there are no real performances from any of the acts – Bellas to Evermoist – that are that impressive. It’s probably the only installment in the trilogy where I feel I could easily pass on the soundtrack.

Pitch Perfect 3 is a simple retread of Pitch Perfect 2‘s “There’s Life After A Cappella, But It Ain’t Singing” thesis. We got it, but we didn’t need it. It’s a shame because I really like these movies and the stars, but they didn’t leave the stage on a high note.

In Star Wars news, Keri Russell has reportedly signed on for a role in Star Wars: Episode IX, Seeing as how she’s JJ Abrams’ muse or whatever, this news isn’t that surprising. In another part of the galaxy, however, it was reported that Billy Dee Williams would reprise his role as Lando Calrissian and, for the life of me, I can’t imagine what the fuck for. I mean, all of his friends are dead, and he was absent for the one scene that would’ve made sense for him to be in (Canto Bight). So, I guess I’ll look forward to seeing him come back just to die.

In Marvel news, it was revealed that the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming will be called Spider-Man: Far From Home. Let the speculation begin! Does he get left in space after Avengers 4? Does he come back to Earth and end up in Wakanda, hanging out with Suri? The possibilities are endless.

When it comes to hope, though, Sony giveth and Sony taketh away. While Far From Home sounds intriguing, they also announced their continued plans to milk that Spider-Man license dry. Now they’re claiming there will be a Silk movie that’ll never happen. I mean, if they couldn’t get a film off the ground for Black Cat and Silver Sable, I really don’t know how “Asian Spider-Woman”‘s milkshake is gonna bring the fanboys to the yard. On top of that, there are reports that Jared Leto will star in a Morbius film. Yeah, Morbius is the vampire who debuted in the Spider-Man comic, but really has jack shit to do with Spider-Man. If you ask me, Sony making that deal with Marvel Studios was to their detriment, as it left them to play around with the dregs of the Spider-Man license. Imagine if you had a really hot, passionate girlfriend, but then y’all broke up and you ended up with an Amish girl. The Amish girl thinks she’s doing you a favor by flashing a little ankle, but you know what you used to have. That’s this situation right here.

FX announced the cast for their Y: The Last Man pilot, and the biggest surprise is probably that Diane Lane has signed on to play Senator Jennifer Brown, who also happens to be the mother of the main character, Yorick. If you’re not familiar with the story, Y: The Last Man was a comic series published under the DC Comics Vertigo imprint. Running for 60 issues, it featured a world where a virus has killed every male in the world – except for escape artist Yorick and his Capuchin monkey. Women rise up and take on roles that they hadn’t traditionally held in the old world, while Yorick is traveling the globe to be reunited with his girlfriend. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed series of the past 20 years, and I think it was an absolute disappointment.

I have a problem with series creator Brian K. Vaughan because I feel he doesn’t stick the landing when it comes to his long-form series. 60 issues was just enough rope for him to hang himself with. I couldn’t even imagine reading that series on a monthly basis at certain points, because there are YEARS that just drag. So, to me, this just means we might get a compelling show with a really weak season 4 & 5. And don’t get me started on the ending because I felt it was one of those “It’s not about the destination, but the journey” cop out. Anyway, I guess time will tell.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • A bunch of shows got cancelled, but don’t feel bad – they’re dead because nobody cared about them. Likewise, no one will miss them. They include: Famous In Love (Freeform), Nobodies (TV Land), Ghosted (Fox), Champions (NBC), and SIX (History). See? Bet you never watched any of them.
  • In other TV news, Charter Communications has picked up the Bad Boys spinoff, L.A.’s Finest, starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. It’s set to air on their Spectrum cable service, which is about a step up from ending up on the Playstation Network (Yes, that was a jab at Powers).
  • In a recent interview, Paul Reiser admitted that the Mad About You revival “likely won’t happen” for the sheer fact that no network seems to want it. It’s fine with me. Paul and Jamie Buchman had a terrible marriage, and I haven’t ONCE wondered “I wonder where those two crazy kids would be right now.” If anything, I spend time wondering why Leila Kenzle and John Pankow didn’t become household names from that show. They were the only reasons to tune in.
  • WWE SmackDown Live will officially air on Fridays next year on Fox, meaning that Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing revival is basically getting evicted before it even returns to the airwaves.
  • Speaking of WWE, there are reports that they will add a second Wrestlemania branded show in 2020. This sounds like a terrible idea because it’ll just take away the prestige of the now-annual event, especially if it’s a watered down ‘Mania, similar to the recent Saudi Rumble.
  • Classic Nickelodeon show Double Dare is back on the air, and I had stronger feelings about it when it debuted 3 weeks ago. All I can say now is that new host Liza Koshay is kind of annoying, while I wanted to kill this little prick who kept dabbing after every victory. It was a nice nostalgia trip to watch that first night, but it’s nothing I’ve returned to since. Apparently there’s a Kenan & Kel episode coming up, so I’ll probably tune into that, as they play for their favorite charity: Keeping Kel’s Lights On.
  • Jeremy Renner has been cast as Detective “Twitch” Williams in the upcoming Spawn movie. I know that announcement is supposed to be big news, but all I can muster is a Kanye shrug. Remember those? Ya know, before he married that Armenian donkey and lost his mind?
  • The TV series based on The Purge will debut September 4th, on both Syfy and USA Network.
  • Marvel Studios reportedly met with 70 different directors, and settled on Cate Shortland to direct the planned Black Widow solo film.
  • District 9/Chappie director Neill Blomkamp will direct a new Robocop movie for MGM. Have you ever seen any of his movies? Come for the hamfisted allegory on Apartheid, but stay for the wise-cracking alien go-kart that Robocop rides around in!
  • Djimon Hounsou has been cast as the Wizard in that SHAZAM! movie I can’t seem to get excited about.
  • Steven Universe featured the first lesbian wedding on a kid’s cartoon show, but does it count if they’re really space gems? I dunno. I’ve tried to watch that show, and it makes no sense to me, but yay for progress!

I’m amazed that it’s been 3 weeks since I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and it has still stuck with me. If you’re not familiar, the documentary is the story behind Fred Rogers and the creation of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And let me tell you – it is a life-changing experience. Seriously, they broke the mold when they made Fred Rogers, and no one has stepped up to fill the void that he left behind.

The movie focuses on what a remarkable man Mr. Rogers was, and how he impacted the lives or children. An ordained minister, he discovered television in its infancy, and realized the power that it could have in speaking directly to children. He didn’t like how a lot of children’s television seemed to talk down to the audience, so he wanted to meet them at their level, and help them through the roadblocks of life. It contained interviews with everyone from his wife to former crewmates and friends. I’m not a movie crier, but this thing pushes all the buttons of a Pixar movie.

The movie definitely left an impact on me as I left the theater. There’s one clunky part, where an old friend mentions that Rogers was a lifelong, card-carrying Republican. I guess it was meant to imply that his work was imbued with his sense of family values and whatnot, but all I could think was “What the fuck happened to the Republican Party?” Along those lines, how would he feel about the current state of things? He had retired prior to 9/11, but was consulted to create material to help folks cope with the events of that day – and it nearly broke him. As great as he was, even he wouldn’t be able to heal the divide facing the country. At least, not alone. The world needs more people like Mr. Rogers. “Look for the helpers.”

I’m not sure if it’s delusions of grandeur, or lack of sleep, but for a brief period of time after leaving the theater, I thought “I could do it!” I could pivot everything to be more family friendly, I have an early childhood background, and I love (and worry about) kids. But my wife quickly reminded me that I’m a hateful man online, but that it’s what I’m good at, so I wouldn’t be the heir apparent to King Friday’s empire anytime soon. Womp womp.

I can’t believe I still feel this way three weeks later, but nothing has come close to that experience. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time, and I think everyone should see it. That’s why Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had the West Week Ever.

29th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/29/18 (TRU Edition)

by Will

I’m gonna take some liberties with the format this week, as it’s sort of a special occasion. I’ll cover this week’s news next week, and I hope you’ll forgive the departure.

As you probably already know, today is the final day of business for Toys “R” in the United States. Some stores closed earlier this week, but all will be closed by tonight. I’m still processing what this means to me. Sure, as a child of the ’80s, and a pop culture junkie, TRU has meant a lot to me over the years. I’ve touched on it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you my Toys “R” Us origin story. So, there’s no time like the present!

I’ve been talking with a lot of “cohorts” lately, and they’ve said things like “It didn’t mean that much to me.” Or “The toys were too expensive.” They also say they don’t have any real nostalgic connection to the brand. I can’t diminish someone else’s experience, but that simply wasn’t the case for me. I will admit that Toys “R” Us has suffered from something of an identity crisis over the past decade or so, but I think we all remember the golden age of cartoon Geoffrey the Giraffe, and his extended family (Gigi, etc).

For me, TRU was a magical place that I always hoped to sneak off to while my mom and grandmother were visiting the garden center down the plaza from it. I also didn’t get many toys from TRU back in the day, because toys used to be everywhere: People’s Drug, Kmart, Sears, Woolworth’s. But getting a toy from those places was merely pedestrian. To get a toy from TRU was like visiting Mecca. It’s like the song said, “From bikes and trains to video games” – it was the biggest toy store there was!

You know how when you’re a kid, folks are always asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My blanket answer was “I want to own a McDonald’s and a Toys ‘R’ Us.” Yes, young Will didn’t know about franchising and commercial real estate leases. He thought you could own one of those just like some rando can own the corner store. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or cops, and I just wanted to work with Geoffrey. Can’t say I didn’t aim high!

As I got older, I learned that folks actually look down on McDonald’s as a place of employment if you’re not a teenager (which is pretty messed up, if you ask me!). Still, that kinda marred the brand in my mind, so I gave up on that dream. That became a dream deferred. I didn’t give up on Toys “R” Us, though. I decided I was going to work for Toys “R” Us corporate. After all, everyone respects a businessman, and I’d still be working with toys!

Unlike most teenagers, I didn’t have an afterschool job. No, I didn’t get my first job until the week after my high school graduation. Where? Toys “R” Us. I had actually applied during the previous Christmas season, when I handed my application to the store director, Erin. Of course they never called (‘cause they never do. The onus of the job hunt is on the hunter), but I tried again the following summer.

Now, if you’re new here, you don’t know much about me. My dad died when I was 3, and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. To say I was a “Mama’s Boy” would be something of an understatement, but it gets the image across. So, while most teenagers would confidently saunter into a place and ask if they’re hiring, I had my mom with me, and I think she did most of the talking. So, they didn’t call me. However, when I went back the next summer, Erin recognized me because I was the one who had brought his mother with him to apply. She either thought it was cute or sad. I never did find out. Anyway, she hired me and put me to work the next day.

Yay, I was finally working with toys! My dream job! Oh, the smiles I would put on kids’ faces! The funny thing about TRU is that, once you work there, you realize just how big (and kinda unnecessary) that store truly is. I began to realize that I’d spent my childhood worshiping aisles 6D and 7D (action figures), not even acknowledging that there was a whole lot more store than that. More, for which I did not give a shit. They kept putting me in bikes or in diapers, but I’d find a way to sneak back to action figures.

Plus, because I was seasonal (I was leaving for college at the end of the summer), they never saw any need to train me on the register. I worked at that place for 3 seasons before they trained me on register. By the time I was in Year 8, they were like “Here’s Paco. It’s his first day, and we want you to train him on the register.” That was so weird to me. We don’t know that dude, so why are we so quick to let him near the money? Anyway, since I held no “floor value” for them, they had me unload trucks, organize the stockroom, and bring up any big ticket pickup requests, like bikes, swings, etc.

Here’s why TRU means a lot to me: as someone who grew up pretty sheltered, that job gave me a crash course on LIFE. The cute girls, the old ladies – those were the ones they put on the floor. The guys in the back, however, were a rougher bunch. Some of them were ex-cons, while some of them were clearly headed for incarceration. It’s funny looking back on it because I had two very distinct Toys “R” Us employment experiences: the Wheaton era, which was basically Training Day, and the Columbia era, which was Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

These guys were telling me stuff about the women they were seeing, as well as what they were doing to those women. They’d also tell me about their wives. Yup, same dudes. Seventeen year old Will would naively point out “But you’re married!” One thing I will never forget is when Ramone laughed at me, saying “Man, you don’t marry for love. You marry for security.” That was deep, especially at 17.

That place was filled with a cast of characters, and that television show, despite being set in a toy store, would have to air on Netflix or premium cable. There was chainsmoking mumbler, Garrett, who built the bikes. I was working there when JFK Jr. and his wife died, and Garrett was the one who offered up his theory that sky head was to blame. You’ve heard of road head? Well, same thing, but in a privately chartered helicopter. In the sky. Garrett loved his conspiracies.

There was David, the other bike assembly guy, who’d just gotten back from overseas, and was clearly going through some kind of PTSD. He either looked like a fatter Tony Hale or a skinnier Bubba Ray Dudley. The jury’s still out on that. His arms were covered in sleeves, so management made him wear a light blue Oxford to cover his arms so he wouldn’t offend the guests. I remember he was really blinky, and I was always expecting a Falling Down episode from him. He totally took advantage of me because I was young and dumb and had more money than I needed. He had brought some Pocket Monsters stuff back with him from Japan (remember, Pokémon had just hit the US, so this was the original, pure shit), and I remember him selling it to me for some price that really didn’t make a lot of sense. But I hate conflict, and don’t know how to back out of a deal, so “Here’s your money, David.” The sad post-script is that most of that stuff ended up going to my then-girlfriend’s little brother. Yup, I did it all for the nookie. Or was trying to, at least.

Barbara was the first Black lesbian I’d ever encountered, and she scared the shit out of me (not the first lesbian, though – I’d seen the Ellen Degeneres-starring Mr. Wrong almost a decade prior, and well, I just knew…). She was mean, and if she threatened to cut you, I truly believe a cutting was in your future. She had a nice side racket going, where the old White G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels collectors would pay her to put the new cases aside for them, so they could get the good stuff before it hit the floor. I’m sure they were terrified of her, too, but those Treasure Hunts weren’t gonna scalp themselves. Anyway, I clapped back at her one day about something trivial (I was young and stupid) , and stayed on her bad side after that.

Ron was one of the managers, and he made me question every naïve thing I’d ever thought about leadership. Later, in college, I’d learn the difference between management and leadership, but at the time I thought they were the same. He had come from Foot Locker, and I spent a lot of time wondering “What’s he doing here? Shoes have nothing to do with toys.” See, I hadn’t yet hit that realization that retail is just a job. As the youngest person working in the store, I never stopped to think that I was the only one who WANTED to be there due to a love of toys. It was hilarious, though, watching him pursue a phat ass through the store. It’s like he had a sixth sense for it, and then he’d get on the walkie, telling the other guys to meet him in whatever aisle she happened to be in. That shit was pure harassment, but I’d never seen anything like it before. And, to be honest, none of the women ever seemed that offended. If anything, they were just happy to receive some kind of customer service which, as you know, has been lacking in a lot of places in recent years.

Finally, as the ringmaster of this motley crew, Erin was a short woman who wore a tight French braid. In some other life, she was a detective or a parole officer, but here she made sure that Mr. Potato Head was “edged off” (the practice of pulling the boxes to the very edge of the shelf, to give the illusion that the shelves are more full that they actually are. Plus, it brings the item closer to the customer’s reach). You knew it was a rough day when she would pitch in with the clean-up, and release her hair from that braid. She was tough, but fair. She had a maternal, Captain Janeway quality to her, and we were all her Sevens of Nine. They’d eventually transfer her to the Frederick store. I saw her a few years later, and she barely had any recollection of me, my mom, any of it. Through squints, she seemed to sort of register who I was, but I’m sure so many folks had passed through her “finishing school” by that point that they all start to blend together. Still, thanks for not letting Barbara cut me, “Mom”.

In all, I worked for the Wheaton store over the course of 7 years, during summers and Christmas when I’d come home from college, as well as some stints afterward. In early 2006, the company announced plans to close 75 stores across the country, which we thought was unheard of at the time. Still, I didn’t think much about it until I came in one day soon after Christmas to see Store Closing signs hung everywhere. These days you’d probably at least get an email or something, but not then. Were we so primitive in 2006? So, I found out the same way our customers did – seeing the signage in the store.

I’ve already shared some stories about those final days in Wheaton, but that store just kept on teaching me things. In this case, I learned how fun retail could be if you simply didn’t give a shit anymore. Sure, it’s probably not best for the customer, but I had a lot of fun during that liquidation period. Still, it was a part-time job for me, so it didn’t hit me like it probably affected others there. By that point, all the folks I mentioned had already moved on. As I saw it, my education was complete, and I was fine with the store closing. Plus, there was still a TRU across town, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have a local store.

The Wheaton store closed, and I thought that was it for my Toys “R” Us time. In college, I majored in Human Development, with a concentration on early childhood. The whole “I want to work with toys” wasn’t just a pipe dream to me. I took courses on play interaction, and interned at a daycare to study how kids play with each other. The problem, though, is that there was no real career path for that at the time. Sure, now there are schools with toy curriculums, like F.I.T., but that wasn’t a thing in 2001. Once I graduated, nobody knew what to do with me. I sent a bunch of blind letters to Hasbro, TRU, Mattel, and more. See, it turns out toy companies care more about design than intent. It’s more likely they’ll make a cool-looking toy educational instead of making an educational toy cool-looking. If it teaches something, great, but the aesthetic came first. So, the folks who did gave me the time of day wanted to see my portfolio – a portfolio that I did not have. I remember I got a really nice letter from some VP at TRU corporate that was basically “We don’t know what to do with you, but don’t give up on your dreams.” Sorry, lady, but I gave up.

After a stint in commercial real estate, I got a chance to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. It wasn’t quite toys, but it was as close to the toy industry as I felt I was going to get. The sad thing, though, is that you have to sacrifice for your dreams. So, I took a huge pay cut and then found myself with a life I couldn’t afford anymore. My commute was 100 miles a day round trip (that’s not an exaggeration), and I could barely pay my rent. So, I was going to need a second job, and I realized the Columbia Toys “R” Us was halfway between work and home. It also helped that a few of the managers from the tail end of the Wheaton days had transferred to that store. I had an “in”.

Remember when Saved By The Bell: The College Years got cancelled, and Screech kinda crawled back to Bayside in Saved By The Bell: The New Class? That was pretty much my experience here. I had started my TRU career as the youngest person in the store, and now I was something of an elder statesman. Everyone I worked with now was somewhere between 19 and 22, and I thought it was going to be my turn to teach them life lessons. It would by my Training Day. Yeah…that didn’t happen. The Columbia staff had different interests and were in different places in their lives than the Wheaton staff. The Wheaton folks were just working there until a better retail job came along, while the Columbia kids were working their way through community college and didn’t see retail as the end for themselves. With my prior experience, I expected to walk into some kind of Degrassi environment, but it was a lot more madcap than that.

I’ll admit that I probably wasn’t the best person to manage at this point. I mean, I was a good worker – a hard worker – but I did what I wanted. I just kinda took action figures for myself, and made it clear “Don’t you even think about putting me somewhere else.” And I provided good customer service to folks in those aisles, but I did not give a shit about anything outside of Boy’s World. The location of the store made sense on weekdays, as it was on the way home, but it made no sense for me to drive 30 miles on a Saturday morning, to work 5 hours – I was just wasting gas at that point. So, I kinda did what I wanted to “justify” the inconvenience. Yeah, I know it’s a job, and it was my choice to make that commute, but they let me get away with “creating my own experience”, so I guess I “won”?

While my early time with the company was about life’s hard lessons, the latter time was really just about decompression. I looked forward to my Saturday shifts as “Wow, I really tricked this company into paying me to hang out with my friends.” We had a lot of fun, and I still think about a lot of those folks.

Patrick was an interesting kid. He was Chinese, but somehow had a redneck, Tea Party uncle whom he idolized, so he was basically a Chinese redneck. He never understood the contradictions in that, but he never let that stop him. Still he was a lot of fun, as we’d talk about cartoons and Power Rangers. We would team up in the boy’s department, and called ourselves Team Bumblebee.

Crystal was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, which is why it was perfect that they put her at customer service. Customers loved her, while she had an apple bottom that some folks would’ve paid to take a bite out of. She was our Kelly Kapowski, hands down.

If Crystal was our Kelly, then Amber was definitely our Jessie Spano. She and Crystal looked like they could’ve been sisters, but Amber was the spitfire of the two. She had little Lisa Loeb glasses, and took her supervisor role seriously – almost too seriously at times. That’s why it was even more interesting when she lightened up, and found herself in a love triangle with managers Paul and Jesse.

Bryan was the most responsible 19 year old I’ve ever met in my entire life. He had actually come from the Wheaton store, and was one of the reasons I was looking forward to working at Columbia. He had a mad-on for law enforcement, though. His dream was to go to the police academy, and he’d go on ride alongs during his free time. In the grand scheme of the Columbia store, Bryan was “The Adult”.

Marvin was basically Lord of the R-Zone, which was the electronics department of the store. I never really got a read on him, despite working in his orbit for years. Was he shy? Did he just not like me? I dunno, but I still run into him at comic conventions, as he has segued into the life of a cosplayer in recent years.

The best of the bunch, however, had to be Mike, whom we affectionately called “Special Forces”. Ya see, when he started, he was seasonal and those guys didn’t wear TRU uniforms because A) I don’t think TRU wanted to “waste” them on seasonals, and B) they didn’t want them to be instantly recognizable as employees to customers, as customer interaction would affect their ability to move in the background of everything. So, he wore a black shirt and black jeans, which made him look like some sort of special forces agent, so… Mike’s still around to this day, as many of you know of him from my Thrift Justice posts. He’s one of my best friends, and definitely one of the better things to come from that last TRU stint.

As much as I wanted to think I was the oldest, non-manager there, that wasn’t true. No, that “honor” belonged to “Stanley” (Yeah, that’s not his real name. You don’t need to know that). I’m gonna level with you here: there’s a good chance Stanley was some kind of molester. He was in his 70s, creepy, and wore a Dora the Explorer cap that he found in a shopping cart one day. I know for a fact that he offered $50 to a young employee to have sex with him. I also know she strongly considered it. He knew where all the hooker pickup spots were, and he had some stories. Just as earlier in my career, TRU was still teaching me things. I learned how you can like people who are possibly horrible. Like, I didn’t have *proof* that he had done anything illegal, but I also didn’t have proof that he had not done those things. Still, something about him still came off as “kindly”. I still think about him, and wonder if he’s still with us.

I made it 10 years with TRU, and not much longer. They even gave me a catalog of shit to choose from for my anniversary gift. I never did get that cordless screwdriver… Anyway, I had my performance review, and found out I wasn’t good enough to receive my $0.25 raise. I took a long hard look around, and wondered why I was fighting for a quarter. I’d been raised with the “Every little bit helps” mentality, but here was a company that didn’t think I was worth an additional quarter. Yes, I know that adds up when it’s a quarter for everyone, but TEN YEARS! Call it “Millennial Entitlement” if you want, but that was it for me. I was tired of the commute. I no longer had the job that made this one convenient in the evenings, and I had pretty much just met Lindsay, so I had other stuff I’d rather be doing. So, I basically quit that day of the review. I’d worked out my schedule, and I didn’t owe them any time. I’d show them!

In the years since, I’ve sort of regretted how it ended. I definitely missed the excitement of the holiday season, and even wondered if I was rehireable. I once applied to the closer Rockville store, but never heard back. Ya know, ‘cause the onus of the job hunt… So, my TRU career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s not how I would like to have gone out, but that’s how life is sometimes. My time at Toys “R” Us was filled with those life-affirming moments, so this just seemed like a natural, if not completely satisfying, end.

As a customer, I’ll definitely miss Toys “R” Us. Sure, Target and Walmart have a foothold in the industry, but their 7 toy aisles don’t hold a candle to the selection at TRU. I used to stop and think about how almost unnecessary a store like TRU was. I mean, think about it: it’s a big box store devoted solely to toys. Only in a capitalistic society could that idea fly and, as we have learned, that same capitalistic society would be what killed it.

Still, folks don’t realize that the concept of “childhood” is fairly young. Before, say, the end of the Industrial Revolution, kids were just seen as tiny adults. Sure, take them to that public execution, nobody cares! So, it’s always amazing to me that, not only did the concept of childhood develop, but that successful businesses arose to capitalize on that. Folks say that toy sales are down, with the internet and other time wasters available, so I often wonder what that means for the evolution of childhood. I guess time will tell.

Anyway, we’re not here to forecast the future of the toy industry. No, we’re here to say goodbye to an old teacher, an old friend. I got to take my oldest to say “goodbye” a few months back, but it saddens me that my youngest will know nothing of Toys “R” Us. She’ll know nothing of the place that helped to shape her father’s worldview. She’ll know nothing of Geoffrey the Giraffe. I only hope that she one day experiences something that affects her the same way that my Toys “R” Us experience affected me. That’s why Toys “R” Us had the West Life Ever.

22nd Jun2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

15th Jun2018

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

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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.

18th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/18/18 (Upfronts Edition)

by Will

HarassmentWatch (TM)

Nev Schulman – The creator/producer/host of Catfish: The TV Show has been accused of sexual misconduct, resulting in MTV halting production on the show. A former Catfish…contestant? guest? I dunno. A woman who had appeared on the show in 2015 said that Schulman didn’t believe she was actually a lesbian, and propositioned her for sex. This was all in a video that she posted to YouTube last week. Schulman denies the accusations, but production has been halted until the investigation is completed.

Brad Kern – The showrunner for NCIS: New Orleans has stepped down amid reports that surfaced from December 2016 when he was the subject of two different human resources investigations. He was reported to have undergone sensitivity training, but I guess it didn’t take. He’ll still get paid, though, as he’ll remain on the payroll as a consultant. Interestingly enough, this happened on the heels of recently departed NCIS star Pauley Perrette tweeting that she had experienced physical abuse on set, which motivated her to leave the show.

Before we get to all the Upfronts stuff, let’s take a look at a few of the cancellations/renewals that have occurred since last week’s post.

Cancellations

CBS: 9JKL; Me, Myself & I; Scorpion; Kevin Can Wait; Superior Donuts

ABC: Inhumans; The Mayor; Ten Days In The Valley; Kevin (Probably) Saves The World; The Crossing; Deception; Alex, Inc.

NBC: Rise; Great News

Renewals

CBS: Elementary; Man With A Plan; Instinct; Life In Pieces; Criminal Minds

ABC: Fresh Off The Boat; Black-ish; Station 19; For The People; American Housewife; How To Get Away With Murder; Splitting Up Together; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (for a 13-episode season to debut in Summer ’19)

NBC: The Blacklist; Brooklyn Nine-Nine (yup, they swooped in and saved it from its cancellation at Fox)

Fox: Bob’s Burgers; Family Guy; Gotham (final season)

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Another Batman prequel series, called Pennyworth, will follow Bruce Wayne’s butler before he comes to work for the Waynes. This idea is stupid, but it’s also being developed for Epix, which means about 55 households will be able to watch it.
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt is replacing Connie Britton on Fox’s 9-1-1, who originally only signed a one-year contract.
  • The CW announced that next season will be the last for iZombie, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Jane the Virgin.
  • There are talks that Designated Survivor is being shopped to Netflix. It was cancelled last week by ABC after execs were concerned that there was no clear direction planned for the story.
  • Speaking of The CW, Arrow star Stephen Amell revealed that the next crossover between the shows will introduce Gotham City and Batwoman to the Arrowverse. Yay?
  • TNT’s The Last Ship will end after its upcoming 5th season.
  • CBS is reportedly eyeing (get it? ‘Cause their logo is an eye?) the Mad About You revival as a midseason show.
  • Lost In Space has been renewed for a second season on Netflix
  • Fox said there are no plans for a 12th season of The X-Files after Gillian Anderson left the series. Anderson clapped back on Twitter and said that the real reason was because viewership had dropped 77%.
  • Lethal Weapon was narrowly renewed as it was announced that Sean William Scott will be replacing the outgoing Clayne Crawford. Stiffler as a cop? I feel this idea is about 10 years too late, but I might check it out.
  • DC announced a Doom Patrol series for that DC Universe streaming service that I have no faith in…
  • While we’re about to discuss a lot of shows that were picked up for the fall season, some other high profile pilots didn’t get series orders, including Gabrielle Union’s Bad Boys spin-off at NBC, the Cagney & Lacey reboot at CBS, and the Supernatural spin-off The Wayward Sisters on The CW.

Well, in what has become a tradition on this site, this is the 5th year that I’ve taken a bullet for you. That’s right: I watched ALL of the trailers for the Fall’s new shows, to give you a better idea of what’s probably worth your time, and what will most likely end up in a ditch, like Firefly or Andy Richter Controls The Universe. If you remember, last Friday was basically “Bloody Friday”, where 19 shows were cancelled within 24 hours in order to make room for the incoming shows. This week, the 4 major broadcast networks held their upfront presentations, where they presented their fall schedules, as well as introduced their incoming shows. This is QUITE the undertaking on my end, so I don’t expect ya to read all of it, but it’s here if you’re interested. So, let’s get this show on the road!

Courtesy TVLine.com

ABC

A Million Little Things (Wednesday, 10 PM)

After the success of NBC’s This Is Us, everybody wants their own non-linear tearjerker. This is ABC’s attempt at that. For starters, it’s got a great cast. I mean, it’s LOADED with folks who bring a fan base with them: James Roday (Psych), Ron Livingston (Office Space), Romany Malco (Black people). I’ve also loved Stephanie Szostak since USA’s Satisfaction, though you may recognize her from Iron Man 3 or R.I.P.D. I hope this one works out ’cause I like a lot of these people. Will I be watching? Probably not. I’ve got enough anxiety and depression without deliberately putting my emotions through a meat grinder on a weekly basis. It’s up against Criminal Minds on CBS and Chicago P.D. on NBC, so it’s the definition of “counter programming”. It’s a wide open timeslot that this show should have no problem finding a foothold.

The Fix (Midseason)

You’ve got to feel kinda bad for attorney Marcia Clark. In her own Hillary Clinton way, she’s clearly still dealing with the fact that she never got OJ Simpson. Sure, justice eventually won in the end, but not on her watch, and she’s been stewing about that for the past 25 or so years. Well, this show, executive produced by Clark, is basically “What if OJ not only did it, but then did it AGAIN?!” Here’s where this show is gonna backfire, though: this is NOT the right time for a show like this, what with the way the world is right now. From the trailer, there’s nothing sympathetic about the female lead. Some might say she’s “driven”, while others might just say she’s a “bitch”. So, she’s lost the audience. Then, you’ve got Not OJ who, while not exactly charismatic, seems way more interesting as the villain than the chick does as the “hero”. Then, throw in how the OJ thing played out in real life: the show should want you to root for her, but the Black audience (if there is one) might end up rooting for him to continue evading her. I don’t have high hopes for this one. I see it getting that Tuesday night “death slot” of 10 PM, and then being burned off on Saturdays after a few low-rated outings.

Grand Hotel (Midseason)

This just looks like a Univision adaptation of Dynasty, BUT it does go after that audience that ABC held in the palm of its hand during the early Desperate Housewives years. It’s got diversity going for it, and it’s rich Latinos instead of gangbangers and whatnot, so it’s aspirational, even if they do owe a ton of money to the mob. I think there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s being held til midseason, in that it wasn’t strong enough to launch the season on. It could also be that it didn’t, tonally, fit what they were coming out of the gate with. This could go either way, to be honest.

The Kids Are Alright (Tuesday, 8:30 PM)

Ugh. It’s one part Just The Ten of Us and one part The Goldbergs, with a dash of The Wonder Years. I’m SO tired of the Retro White Family Memories, Narrated By Some Dude Pretending To Be the Creator shows. It’s That 80s Show Syndrome. Fox said “Well, That 70s Show is doing well. How about we make That 80s Show?” Well, here ABC said “The Goldbergs has got the 80s covered, but what about the early, yet non-specific, 70s?” It’s a working class show, so it’s paired well with Roseanne as its lead-in. That said, it’s a HORRIBLE lead-in for Black-ish. If this show is smart, they’ll try to sprinkle in a witty Black kid as one of the sons’ best friends, but this family doesn’t seem like they’d fraternize with Negroes. I think Retro Fatigue is a thing, and this show could fall victim to it. It’s got a Real O’Neals vibe to it, without the gay son angle – HOWEVER, the jury’s still out on the little one, even though I doubt the show has the balls to go there in its first season, given its time period and everything. With the Roseanne lead-in, it’s really the show’s game to lose. It’s prime real estate, but does it DESERVE it, other than the fact that they’re both blue collar families? I guess time will tell.

The Rookie (Tuesday, 10 PM)

This is stupid. Look, I’ve never understood folks’ love affair with Nathan Fillion, but I also didn’t really love Firefly, so there’s that. I feel like there’s a lot of William Shatner Syndrome there. It’s like “I loved this one thing this actor did, so I’m just gonna pretend to love every other thing he does.” I’d watch this as a movie, starring Kevin James, on Netflix. This, however, is not a series to me. First off, Fillion is 47 years old, and it looks like they’re going to great pains to make him only look 40. Next, I HATE when the woman (ex wife?) tells him he was brave during the robbery. NO! From what we see, he was stupid, and people could’ve gotten killed. And let’s say this show does last 5 seasons – what’s the draw when he’s no longer a rookie? He’s just an old ass cop at that point. It’s like when Doogie Houser grew up and his whole Kid Doctor shtick wasn’t that impressive anymore after his balls dropped. The show has the Tuesday Night Death Slot – 10 PM, where ABC shows go to die. But y’all really love your Nathan Fillion, so maybe this will end that curse.

Single Parents (Tuesday, 9:30 PM)

This looks horrible, and I say that as a fan of Taran Killam and a closet fan of Brad Garrett. There’s this growing trend of shows that were clearly developed from what was originally a movie concept. You could eke 90 minutes out of this idea. A perfect 3 acts where Killam ends up with Leighton Meester, and learns how to be an adult again. Instead, to make it a show, they’re going the Community route: “Look how much these folks from disparate backgrounds have in common.” And, frankly, the ensemble isn’t dynamic enough to pull that off. I wish they’d gone with a murderer’s row of supporting characters from recently cancelled sitcoms, as these shows are prone to do. For example, I’d really love some Sara Rue on here, but I love Sara Rue in anything. Plus, this is a waste of a Modern Family lead-in, which is pretty good real estate. The one that’s really gonna suffer, though, is A Million Little Things, as this show is going to kill any potential carryover audience from Modern. I’m calling it: DOA.

Whiskey Cavalier (Midseason)

I was a little more into this show after watching the trailer because all the promo stills made me think “This shit is just Castle all over again.” Seriously, I was wondering why they didn’t just call it Rook. Anyway, this show is SO ABC that it just might work. I, however, ain’t got time for that Will They/Won’t They? dynamic, ’cause they always WILL and it’s simply a matter of WHEN (if they’re smart they’ll wait 3 seasons). Anyway, it’s being held til midseason so Cohan can hurry up and get killed on The Walking Dead. The idea of the show seems kinda fun, but I’m still hung up on the casting a bit. I don’t find Cohan that dynamic, but that’s probably because I’ve never seen anything she’s been in. At the same time, I just find Scott Foley boring. I mean, he seems to work here, but I’ve always felt the most interesting thing he ever did was marry Jennifer Garner. While there appears to be chemistry, the casting on this show just feels like ABC pulled the trigger on a bunch of talent holding deals that were about to expire. Anyway, the midseason bow gives it a better shot at renewal, and I think this one will succeed.

Scheduling Thoughts

Sunday is a bit perplexing to me. I’ve always hated that they moved Shark Tank to that night, and I feel Child Support (scheduled for Fridays at 9) would be a better companion to the upcoming Dancing With The Stars: Juniors. The Alec Baldwin Show is a vanity project that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s probably relatively cheap to produce, and its only real competition is Madame Secretary on CBS. It’ll last either until Baldwin gets bored with it, or he hurls a slur at a staffer and the network is forced to distance themselves from him (which would, then, put Match Game in jeopardy). Meanwhile, Fresh Off The Boat and Speechless are left to fend for themselves on Friday. It would be one thing is ABC was committed to bringing comedy back to Fridays. Maybe even rebuild TGIF. This is not that. This is just a “Well, put ’em wherever you can fit ’em in.” Again, I’d move Child Support to Sunday, hold Shark Tank for a better night later in the season, and then I’d pull Modern Family to Friday as that night needs a strong anchor, and it’s in its last season, so it really doesn’t have to be much of a performer. They could even throw in Schooled, which is the horribly titled retool of that spinoff of The Goldbergs – still starring Tim Meadows and Brian Callen, but now with more AJ Michalka – which has been picked up to debut sometime during the season.

CBS

FBI (Tuesday, 9 PM)

Ah, Dick Wolf is at it again. I kinda wish they’d put this on Wednesday, so he’d be competing with his Chicago shows on NBC. I’ll bet there’s a dude at CBS whose job is just to find all the federal agencies with cool abbreviations. One day, after having his pitch for NCIS: SUV: EX rejected, he was like “Fuck it! How about just FBI?” And the network execs were like, “Wait, how’d we miss that one? It was in front of our faces the whole time!” I love how Missy Peregrym got the Mariska Hargitay SUV makeunder. One look at her, and they were like “She’s too hot. Frump her up and make her scowl a lot.” This show will do just fine. It’s Dick Wolf, who apparently knows where bodies are buried, so folks don’t like to piss him off. Plus, it’s meant for your grandpa, who’s really the only one who can tell all these shows apart.

God Friended Me (Sunday, 8 PM)

Fresh off the cancellation of ABC’s The Mayor, Brandon Micheal Hall is in a new starring role in what’s basically a mashup of Early Edition meets Touched By An Angel meets Joan of Arcadia. First off, I hate the title. I get what they’re going for, but was that really the best one they could come up with? I didn’t want to like this when I hit Play, because I initially thought this was going to be another quirky, single cam half hour sitcom. Instead, it’s a one-hour dramedy, which changes things a bit. It’s got the PERFECT timeslot, as that’s about when Black folks get home from all-day church services. I think it’ll pose some important questions, and as long as it doesn’t get too preachy, can at least get folks to think about whether there’s something out there bigger than themselves. I will point out the most interesting aspect to me, though: Facebook. Like, Facebook is basically a character in the show. Not some made up social network, like FaceSpace, or MyFace, or SpaceBook. No, this is full-on Facebook, which makes me wonder if they paid for product placement or if they were even involved in the development of the show. If they were, then I’m a little skeeved out by all the spiritual stuff, being passed down from Zuckerberg on high. Anyway, it could work. Touched By An Angel lasted 9 seasons, Early Edition lasted 4, and Joan of Arcadia lasted 2. I think that also charts the progression of America becoming more cynical. Anyway, who knows? Living Biblically didn’t work, but I think it’s because it was a terrible idea for a 30-minute, multi-cam sitcom with a studio audience. I’m on the fence with this one, but it couldn’t have possibly been scheduled better.

Happy Together (Monday, 8:30)

Let me preface this by saying I LOVE Damon Wayans, Jr. I also LOVE Amber Stevens West. I do not love this pilot. It’s apparently executive produced by James Corden, and based on a time when he lived with Harry Styles. This is another one of those “I’d see it as a movie, but…” ideas. I mean, how long does this charade last? How long can the British rocker put up with the quiet suburbs? How do you get 7 seasons out of this? Too many shows don’t seem to have the long game in mind these days, and it they end up painting themselves into a corner, creatively. I hate to turn on my folks, but this one doesn’t last.

Magnum P.I. (Monday, 10 PM)

I loved this trailer WAY more than I wanted to. Originally, I only wanted this show to succeed so that Anthony Anderson wouldn’t be the only Hang Time alum still working today. And I really wanted to hate this concept. The 80s reboots just keep coming, but this one I like. I fear it’s gonna be like MacGyver was for me, though: never watched the original, enjoyed the reboot pilot, and then never made any attempt to watch it again. Plus, are we going into this knowing the whole Robin Masters twist? I mean, are they going to play that up? Are we just supposed to play dumb? Anyway, I love this cast. Since Happy Endings, I will watch Zachary Knighton in anything, and he’s a GREAT choice for Rick. As for Magnum himself, are we gonna have an AC Slater situation, where we later find out his name is really Thomas Rodriguez? ‘Cause, I mean, c’mon… Anyway, CBS seems to be planning Monday as “Diversity Night”, kicking things off with The Neighborhood, followed by Happy Together, and capped off with this. They COULD have scheduled a Reboot Night, with MacGyver, Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum, but I’m glad they showed some restraint. The interesting thing is that there are some Tom Selleck die hards out there who may not accept this reboot, and they’re the primary CBS audience. That said, those folks have Blue Bloods now, and this is meant to skew younger. I think it’ll work.

Murphy Brown (Thursday, 9:30)

Ugh, another “zombie” show. You know, those shows that are dead, but don’t realize they’re dead, so they just keep coming? I get how the political climate kinda paved the way for this one, but did we really need it? I mean, about a year ago, The BBC did a one-off Are You Being Served? special. It was nostalgia and something new, all at once. And it was only one episode. That’s what I’d like here. What Does Murphy Brown Think of the Trump Administration? There’s an interesting special there. It’s not, however, a 13-episode series. The same way I didn’t need Roseanne throwing her views in my face through her reboot, I don’t really see what Diane English and the Murphy Brown crew have to say about the state of the world that’s not already being said by every Liberal late night talk show host. Plus, the narrative device doesn’t really work here: in TV news, how often does a network “get the gang back together”? It DOESN’T. These people would all scatter to different networks, and maybe, just maybe, end up together at CNN or something. But there’s NO WAY FYI would reach out to a bunch of former employee “olds”, as the social media guy calls them, to provide a “fresh voice” on the state of the world. Unless FYI has been retooled to be the 60 Minutes of this universe, I’m just not buying it. And let’s talk about that social media guy: I hate him. I hate that archetype because it just doesn’t work. The whole “look at the Millennial who’s all tech savvy and here to show the other characters that they’re dinosaurs.” These characters are typically brash, somewhat unfeeling, and unsympathetic. Two seasons ago, Joel McHale’s failed sitcom The Great Outdoors was built on a group of these characters, on the same network. That character is always a douche and never paints Millennials in a positive light. The trailer gives us an early dose of what to expect from him, and I feel like they could’ve left him on the cutting room floor if it wasn’t for that fact that he brings some semblance of “diversity” to the series. Anyway, I say they do their 13 episodes and they’re out, but I don’t expect this to be the Liberal counterpoint to Roseanne. It won’t nearly be as much of a ratings smash, which is sad, but is where we are today.

The Neighborhood (Monday, 8 PM)

Sigh. This just feels lazy. Cedric is here because of a talent holding deal he has with CBS, and the show has already been retooled since this pilot was filmed, as The White Guy (’cause let’s be honest, his name doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the show) was played by Josh Lawson (House of Lies), but has been recast with Max Greenfield, fresh off New Girl. That change kinda sucks because, while I haven’t seen Greenfield in the role, I think Lawson really nailed what they were going for here: The Aw Shucks, I Love Everybody Guy. I say it’s lazy because it’s just built on the foundation of race. Without the whole They’re Black and They’re White thing, there’s really no show there. I can see how this was an entertaining pilot but, again, there’s no long game here. Does Cedric’s character mellow over time? Does he indulge in a bit of White culture? Are both families better for the living arrangement? And I’ve loved Dreama Walker since Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23, but this isn’t going to do much for her resumé. Calling this one DOA, even though the cast is really strong.

Scheduling Thoughts

Nothing major here. It was interesting to see them basically pull out of Monday and focus on Thursday as their night of comedy. They had a pretty good stranglehold on Monday comedy, so it’s odd that they’d somewhat abandon it to try some diverse shows in those slots. It’s also odd that they’d waste 2 hours a week on Crimetime Saturday “drama encores” on Saturday night. Sure, it’s not the most popular night for viewership, but that’s just wasted real estate. That’s 2-4 pilots that got rejected just so they could rerun NCIS: Pittsburgh or whatever.

Fox

The Cool Kids (Friday, 8:30 PM)

This is the Foxiest show I’ve seen in a LONG time, and I love the cast. That said, I don’t care if it is from the guys behind It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This is the kind of show Fox greenlights simply to cancel. Usually it’s to shove into that Sunday 8:30 ditch between The Simpsons and Family Guy, so I’m surprised this is being farmed out to Friday nights. Anyway, this is a One and Done show. They’ll just cancel it to give one of the Seths (Green or MacFarlane) a new show.

Cosmos: Possible Worlds (Midseason)

I get it. The last Cosmos did really well and, even though they swore it was a one-time deal, you just knew they’d find a way to bring it back. These kinds of things take time, which is why that last Cosmos was back in 2014. It’ll do fine because it’s basically a National Geographic special (National Geographic is also owned by Fox) that’s being given a wider, primetime broadcast spotlight. It’ll do what it’s gonna do, and that’ll be it. If it does well, then expect another one in 2022. If it doesn’t, well, it wraps up the unintended Cosmos trilogy. Whew! I can’t believe I got through that without even touching on my hatred of Neil deGrasse Tyson. Whoops…

Last Man Standing (Friday, 8 PM)

This Fall, Fox trades one Last Man for another, as they pick up the cancelled ABC sitcom starring Tim Allen. Now, there was a lot of kerfuffle that the show was cancelled because the star is a Conservative, and I really don’t know if that’s true or not. It was never a ratings star, but it was also on Friday nights, so the bar was much lower. Still, just like everyone wants their own This Is Us, everyone also seems to want their own Roseanne revival. So, Fox jumped at the chance to add this to its schedule – a schedule in which it doesn’t truly fit. It doesn’t feel Fox to me, but maybe that’s a good thing. It had a dedicated audience, so maybe it’ll bring those viewers to its other shows. I actually don’t hate this show. I rarely saw it when it was on, but I’ve seen it in syndication. It’s bandied about like it’s this brash, Conservative voice, but Allen’s character is pretty much painted like a dinosaur in a changing world. I mean, he’s not quite Archie Bunker, but his wife and daughters are always reminding him that the world is changing and he’d better get used to it. Unlike NBC’s save of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this isn’t to give it a proper send-off (something it never got from ABC), but rather an investment that they’re hoping they can get a few seasons from. This will be season 7, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some deal to take them through 10 – as long as the ratings are there. I do, however, find it interesting that it’ll be going up against Fresh Off The Boat on ABC. That’s quite the bit of counter programming there…

The Passage (Midseason)

Doesn’t Fox’s schedule already have a Special Child On The Run from the Government Show in The Gifted? I don’t know anything about the books from which this was adapted, but I do know that it had been retooled a few times before it got picked up. I love Mark-Paul Gosselaar. I think it’s really impossible for anyone my age to hate him. I want him to do well. After stints on Pitch and those 4 seasons of Franklin & Bash, I really want him to get something that sticks. I’m just sick of vampires, and that’s ultimately what this show is about. Its survival will depend on its timeslot and competition, both of which are unknown at this point. Hell, Fox had Lucifer for 3 seasons, so they can probably keep this around if it finds an audience. I’m on the fence with this one.

Proven Innocent (Midseason)

Interesting concept, but I’m not sure Fox is the right home for it to succeed. You see, Fox these days seems to want to have it both ways: they want to be the 90s network that puts out worthless dreck like The Cool Kids, but then they also want to be taken seriously by airing stuff like Cosmos and this. You can’t do both. When CBS knew it wanted to change its image, and be taken seriously, we had the Rural Purge, where the joke is that they cancelled every show with a tree in it. This show belongs on ABC. It would even get bonus points if it were a ShondaLand show, but then every character would be screwing each other and that doesn’t seem like it would fit the tone of this series. Still, this is the kind of show that ABC would throw out there and probably fail with, but they would try. I feel like the only reason this is on Fox is because its executive producer is Danny Strong (remember him as Jonathan in that terrible season of Buffy?), whose Danny Strong Productions is behind Empire, and also seems to have a production deal with Fox. Still, Fox had a hit with 9-1-1, which also didn’t feel like a natural fit, so maybe if this gets paired with that, it could have a chance. For now, though, I’m thinking this one won’t go far.

REL (Sunday, 9:30 PM)

Since his role in Get Out, everybody has been rooting for Lil Rel Howery, but is it too soon for this? I’d rather see him in more movies than see him get a middling Fox sitcom. His former costar, Jerrod Carmichael, is the executive producer here, but I don’t expect this show to push any of the buttons that The Carmichael Show did. This is just a run of the mill sitcom. Good to see Sinbad, though. I’m reminded of how Fox really screwed the pooch with Mulaney, but the thing this has going for it that Mulaney did not is the fact that there’s a Black audience looking for representation. I don’t think the post-Family Guy timeslot is the best place for this, though. Hell, it ought to have gotten the post-Last Man Standing slot on Friday. They’re as different as night and day, but that’s going to be prime real estate, which is just wasted on The Cool Kids. It could be argued that folks aren’t watching TV on Friday nights, but in the DVR age, nobody’s watching live anyway. Still, for the few that are, I think scheduling should be done to keep them in mind. I’m sorry, Lil Rel, but this is a One and Done.

Scheduling Thoughts

Interesting that Fox is keeping most of its debuts for midseason. It’s not like they’re coming off the bench that strong, but I think it’s internal company politics at play, with the looming sale and everything. At the upfronts, they kept referring to themselves as New Fox, because they would no longer have to worry about how their shows play in the international marketplace. They’re taking a decidedly America First approach with their schedule, which could mean they’re gonna double down on what made them Fox in the first place. I mean, The Cool Kids and REL both feel like they’ve been sitting in a vault for the past 20 years. It’s a network that doesn’t know what it wants to be, especially in light of the fact that it won’t own its own production studio in a year. In discussing its future, some folks have even posited that they might make a play for the WWE contract, which expires with NBCUniversal next September, which means they’d lose Monday and Tuesday real estate to RAW and Smackdown. They’re a network without a master, or a roadmap, right now. One thing I will give them credit for: moving Bob’s Burgers to Sunday at 8:30. That 7:30 swing slot never worked because football is a fickle mistress, and I think it was to that show’s detriment. Anyway, another odd thing is that Fox has yet to cancel Ghosted or LA to Vegas. They both look terrible, and there have been shows in the past that were never officially cancelled, but it’d be interesting to see if they try to revive those midseason.

NBC

I Feel Bad (Thursday, 9:30)

So, I was formally introduced to star Sarayu Blue in the recent film Blockers, where she played John Cena’s wife. I like her, but it shows how much TV has changed in recent years, because just a few years ago she would’ve been the best friend instead of the lead. That’s not really a knock on her, but more so one on her resumé. Amy Poehler is the executive producer here, which is why this is on NBC. Honestly, if you put this on ABC, following Modern Family (where that horrible Single Parents is currently slotted), I think it’d have a chance. ABC is great at giving new comedic interpretations of the different types of families out there. There’s Modern, there’s Speechless, there’s American Housewife, Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, etc. I could go on, but you get the point. Now, it could be said they’ve reached their saturation point over there, but I still think this show would feel right at home. On NBC? Not so much. NBC is the yuppie network, loved by DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids). All of its shows have to be set in fast-paced NYC, and nobody has a great relationship with their family. This is slotted right after Will & Grace, and before Law & Order: SVU. If I were scheduling, I’d have swapped it with Will & Grace, so that The Good Place would be its lead-in, while Will & Grace can pretty much stand on its own at 9:30. I feel The Good Place and this show would share more of an audience than it would with Will & Grace. It’s not 1998 anymore, so they really need to stop holding that Thursday 9 PM slot as a “sacred badge of honor”. Seinfeld is gone and he ain’t coming back. Anyway, One and Done.

Manifest (Monday, 10 PM)

Let me start off by saying Fuck YOU J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse. You’re why we are where we are today. Yes, this is Lost. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but at the end of the day, it’s just Lost again. Now, why am I mad at those 3 gentlemen? Well, it’s because they started us on this road of the mythological saga that poses more questions than it answers. Before Lost, no shows had really come along with such a woven mythology, insinuating a concrete payoff. Everything matters! That’s what viewers were told to consider. The lottery numbers, the seat numbers, the smoke monster, the bear. Nothing is as it seems! And then the show ended, disappointing many, and also revealed that a lot of that shit had no inherent meaning, and they were making it up as they went along. So, just as they introduced us to that type of storytelling, their inability to satisfyingly stick the landing effectively pulled the ladder up behind them so that no one else could succeed at it. Since then, we’ve had shows like The Event, FlashForward, The Crossing – all cancelled before they really got a chance to answer what was going on. Why? Because viewers were like “Nah, I’m not falling for that again!” I skipped Lost. Just didn’t interest me for various reasons. That said, I’d actually be interested in this show, BUT I know how the game is played, and I also know that they’ll never get a chance to reveal all of their answers – if they’ve even thought of them in the first place. One and Done.

New Amsterdam (Tuesday, 10 PM)

Ugh ANOTHER damn medical show?! Pretty soon, TV procedurals are just gonna be medical shows and shows about firefighters. I saw that little twist coming. You think I didn’t, but I did. Still, it’s the kind of show that’s not playing the long game. What does season 5 look like? We gonna do the UK thing where they just bring in a new lead? I was saying on Twitter last week that I love how in the UK, no star is bigger than the show. A show could’ve been on for 22 years, with 5 different leads. It just keeps on rolling along. America’s not like that, though. Meanwhile, when did Tyler Labine get so old?! I don’t know about this one. I mean, America hates the idea of free health care, but loves its medical dramas. It’s going against ABC’s The Rookie, but it’s also getting that prime This Is Us lead-in, so I’m not quite sure who the winner is in that race. I will say, out of all the NBC shows I’ve seen lined up for the Fall, this is the one with the best shot at survival.

Scheduling Thoughts

Not a lot to say here, as they’re ultimately playing it pretty safe. Just as I said with CBS, though, I feel like NBC is wasting a lot of good real estate on Dateline Saturday Night Mystery. That’s 2-4 pilots dead, just for that. I know it’s relatively cheap to produce, but it just seems like such a shortsighted decision.

The CW

All American (Wednesday, 9 PM)

I actually like what I see here. You couldn’t do this on any other broadcast network, as shows like this are heading to places like Freeform now. I’m digging the 90210 meets One Tree Hill meets Friday Night Lights, with a dash of Black Lightning. Plus, it’s got that Riverdale lead-in, suggesting the network has faith in it. I don’t even care about its competition on the other networks, because The CW plays by its own rules and standards. I think this one works.

Charmed (Sunday, 9 PM)

OK, who thought it was time to revive this? I never watched the original, but I know it lasted 8 seasons. I mean, 12 years have passed since its finale, but between this and the Roswell reboot, it’s like someone at The CW finally got that closet opened that’s been locked since UPN merged with The WB. So many wonderful properties to reboot! We’re about 4 years away from the One Tree Hill reboot at this point. Anyway, remember how I said shows like All American were ending up on Freeform? This show TOTALLY deserves to be over there, with their shows like Siren and Shadowhunters. I mean, it might do OK on The CW, but I’m not sure. I feel like any hardcore fan base that exists for the previous iteration probably isn’t going to be too happy about this. Meanwhile, I applaud their attempt to diversify it and all, but minorities don’t get down with witches like that. If you remember, there was only one Black chick in The Craft, and her career never recovered from that! It probably needs a stronger lead-in to guarantee success. This fall, The CW expands to Sunday nights, and this will be there, preceded by Supergirl, which is far from a ratings smash. Still, if they’re going for a Sunday Girl Power block, then I guess this is what they have to work with.

Scheduling Thoughts

I’ve got quite a few here, as there are a lot of moves going on. As I said above, their foray into Sunday nights is weak. They’ll need to work to strengthen that over time. Moving Arrow to Monday is interesting, but it’s an older show so at this point it’s going to do what it’s going to do, regardless of where it’s placed. it also frontloads the week with the DC shows, with Supergirl on Sunday, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow on Monday, and The Flash and Black Lightning on Tuesday. I’m sure this will help when planning next year’s crossover. On Thursday, after Supernatural, they’ve got the new series, Legacies, which is a spin-off of The Originals which, itself, was a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries. It’s the Good Times to The OriginalsMaude and The Vampire DiariesAll In The Family. Its trailer isn’t available right now, but I’ve got to wonder why it got that slot and not Charmed. I thought they had pretty much done everything they possibly could to the Vampire Diaries universe. Meanwhile, Dynasty is a HORRIBLE lead-in for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Friday. It’s Crazy‘s final season, though, so I guess they were just like “Fuck it! Put it wherever.”

So, who had the West Week Ever? Was it Yanny? Was it Laurel? I’m gonna look back one day, and that joke isn’t going to age well. Anyway, looking at the Upfront presentations as a whole, I think ABC and CBS had the strongest showings. Fox and NBC aren’t really taking any chances, while The CW is just shuffling deck chairs right now. For the ABC slate, there some shows that have potential, like The Rookie and A Million Little Things, but I’m just not sure yet. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure CBS has hits on their hands with FBI and Magnum P.I. Plus, they’ll get some great press for that Murphy Brown revival. So, I’m going to say that CBS had the West Week Ever.

11th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/11/18

by Will

So, the broadcast network upfronts are next week, where they unveiled their Fall schedules. And, in order to do that, they’ve got to make room for the new stuff. That’s why we’re knee deep in a bloodbath right now, as shows are getting cancelled left and right. Let’s take a closer look at the shows we won’t get a chance to see again, shall we?

  • Taken (NBC) – After 2 seasons, this completely unnecessary prequel to the Liam Neeson film trilogy is getting a bullet to the head.
  • Life Sentence (The CW) – Starring Lucy Hale, of Pretty Little Liars fame, this show got cut after one season ’cause nobody cared. It was about a woman who thinks she’s dying so she throws caution to the wind – only to find out her diagnosis was wrong, and then she has to live with the consequences of her actions. This concept is just like Jane The Virgin to me, in that my immediate thought is “I hope this chick has a good lawyer!”
  • Valor (The CW) – The few, the brave, the cancelled. Yeah, The CW’s entry into military drama got canned after one season. It was a crowded field this season, though, as NBC also debuted The Brave, while CBS brought out the David Boreanaz-led SEAL Team. Out of those 3, only the Boreanaz show was a success – Because he’s a vampire. Bitches love vampires. I kid, I kid.
  • The Brave (NBC) – Yup, NBC’s entry into the military game also flamed out after its first season. I never watched it, but I know Don Draper’s piano key toothed ex-wife was their handler or whatever. Oh well.
  • The Mick (Fox) – This one stung, ’cause I really enjoyed this show. Ultimately, it’s just Kaitlin Olson playing her Sweet Dee character from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but in a new setting. It wasn’t a stretch, but she’s good at what she does, so it worked. I guess the viewers just weren’t there after two seasons.
  • The Last Man On Earth (Fox) – After four seasons, Fox pulled the plug on the adventures of Will Forte and the small family of survivors that has formed after a virus pretty much wipes out everyone in the world. I liked this show, but it never really seemed like it had an endgame. It always felt like more of an indie comedy film than a TV series. That said, when I did my upfronts post the year it debuted, I swore it wouldn’t last, so the fact that it got 4 seasons is amazing. Still, it has never been a ratings hit, so every season finale should’ve been written as a potential series finale. Now they’re gonna have to deal with the fact that they’re stuck with that ALF ending…
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox) – After five seasons, the precinct is closed. This show is like Bob’s Burgers to me, where I don’t want to like it, but have pretty much enjoyed it whenever I’ve seen it. Still, it’s not “destination television” for me. Still, it has never been a ratings hit and, at five seasons, it’s no longer a cheap show to produce. Still, a small part of me wonders if its cancellation is part of the Hollywood conspiracy gunning for Terry Crews since he spoke out about his sexual assault. I mean, it’s not like he was trying to buy NBC, but still… Anyway, there are rumors that Netflix and Hulu are in talks to save the show, but those guys have been shying away from show rescues lately because they don’t want to be seen as the home of the networks’ scraps.
  • The Expanse (SyFy) – I have no clue what this show is about. Is it about a big gap? A wide open space? *Googles* Oh, that sound stupid! Like some kind of Starship Troopers/Earth: Final Conflict mash-up. Anyway,  don’t think I watch anything on SyFy now. They just don’t have anything that appeals to me. Wynonna Earp? To me, SyFy is currently a channel that airs nothing but shows that would’ve aired in syndication on your local WB affiliate 20 years ago. That shit worked because it was cheap, but it ain’t something you prop up a network with.
  • Lucifer (Fox) – The Devil is in the details…and the unemployment line, as Fox has cancelled Lucifer after 3 seasons. But he was so dashing! Again, when I first wrote about this when it debuted at its upfront presentation, I said the show would never fly in the Bible Belt. So, I think 3 seasons is pretty impressive. Still, if they killed this, then The Exorcist and Gotham better watch their asses!
  • The Exorcist (Fox) – While I was writing this, it got the chop.
  • Quantico (ABC) – After 3 seasons, Priyanka Chopra just wasn’t hot enough to keep this show on the air. I’m sure she’ll bounce back quickly, though.
  • Designated Survivor (ABC) – You can’t give us 9 years of badass Jack Bauer and then replace him with wimpy “I dunno if I want to be President” Tom Kirkman. Sorry, Kiefer. You ARE Jack Bauer from now on, so you might as well either go back to 24 or hop on the convention circuit.

Most of the shows I listed were “on the bubble” for multiple seasons, meaning their renewal could’ve gone either way multiple times. Yes, I realize that it takes time for a show to find an audience. Seinfeld wasn’t a hit out of the gate. I remember How I Met Your Mother was on the bubble til around season 4. That said, TV has changed. There are too many options, and these things are too expensive, to just wait around and hope folks show up. These days, I don’t believe any show should be on the bubble for two consecutive seasons. The show debuts weak, yet manages to get a second season, great. But they better do everything in their power to get the word out during that second season. This would pretty much guarantee shows have 2 seasons to make their mark, but a show shouldn’t still be on the bubble in season 4 (looking at you, The Last Man On Earth). I know some folks are close to these shows, but nothing on that list surprises me.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as some fan favorites also scored renewals this week:

  • The Resident (Fox) – Never watched it, but I’m sure folks are only watching for Emily Van Camp
  • The Detour (TBS) – I loved this show during the first season. Fell off during the second, and completely missed the third. But I’m glad it got renewed ’cause that’ll inspire me to go back and catch up.
  • Speechless (ABC) – It’s cute enough. Minnie Driver on a weekly basis. My wife likes it. Not really surprised, but it’ll be more interesting to see what ABC does with Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat.
  • The 100 (The CW) – I only know one person who watches this show, but clearly he’s just one of a larger number. Just remember that The CW has lower ratings for renewals, though…
  • A.P. Bio (NBC) – Here we have another Sunny actor, displaying no range at all, by playing the exact same character as on Sunny. The problem I had with this show was that the lack of amoral friends around him just makes it more pronounced that he’s a sociopath. I’d watch this as an small budget comedy film, from A24 or something, but this just didn’t feel like a series to me.
  • Chicago Fire/Chicago Med/Chicago PD (NBC) – NBC continues to employ the city of Chicago, as they renewed all three of Dick Wolf’s Chicago-set shows. Meanwhile, the maggots are still feasting on the corpse of last season’s ill-fated Chicago Law.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC) – Dick Wolf keeps collecting checks, as NBC also renewed SVU for a record-tying 20th season. Rapists beware, ’cause Ice-T and Mariska Hagitay are comin’ for ya!
  • Good Girls (NBC) – There’s a show on free TV that provides free Christina Hendricks on a weekly basis, and I still can’t manage to care about it. I’m actually surprised this got renewed, as the ratings were soft, but I know they felt the cast, including Hendricks and Retta, was strong. It’s about 3 women who rob a grocery store in order to pay their bills or something. The whole “regular folks get pulled into a life of crime” thing sounds very Breaking Bad to me, which isn’t a bad thing, but not something I feel like revisiting right now.
  • Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix) – The Drew Barrymore/Timothy Olyphant show is about a couple who become zombies or cannibals or something. I dunno. They’re not like “Braaaainsss!” but they do eat people. I hear it’s funny. I’ll never know.
  • Rick & Morty (Adult Swim) – The show was renewed for a whopping 70 additional episodes, which will take them over 100 episodes (I guess they’re after that syndication money). That’s enough episodes to not only jump the shark, but then swing around and fuck it. Nah, this ain’t happening. Show creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have a relationship that doesn’t seem stable enough to see this through. We might get another season, but there’s NO WAY we get all 70. Bookmark this page now, and let me repeat it for the folks in the cheap seats: THERE’S NO WAY WE’RE GETTING ALL 70 EPISODES.
  • Last Man Standing (Fox) – Since the Roseanne revival has shown there’s room for conservative voices in sitcoms, Fox wants their piece of the pie, so they’ve ordered a revival of Tim Allen’s former ABC sitcom Last Man Standing. Ugh. Ya know, I didn’t hate that show. I do hate that it’s framed as a showcase for a “conservative voice”. At the end of the day, I felt like it was more than that. Allen was the star, but always seemed kinda like an asshole, while his freer-thinking wife and kids continuously took him to task. He wasn’t quite a modern-day Archie Bunker, as he never seemed to learn anything from his confrontations. He just kinda felt like the country used to be better and is only getting worse. Yay? At the end of the day, this doesn’t fit on Fox’s schedule ’cause they don’t currently have any other multi-camera sitcoms, but maybe they’ll pair it with The Cool Kids, coming from the folks behind Sunny.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Officer Martin Riggs has left the building, as Lethal Weapon star Clayne Crawford has been fired for his onset behavior. Reports say that he and costar Damon Wayans weren’t even speaking to each other at the end of the season. Now, the show’s third season renewal is in jeopardy, as they’re are reportedly looking to replace the role with a female character.
  • Following the firing of star Jeffrey Tambor for his onset behavior, it was announced that Amazon series Transparent will end after its upcoming 5th season.
  • Disney’s acquisition of Fox just got a little more complicated, as Comcast is reportedly preparing a cash offer for Fox. I knew y’all were getting too excited about “The Fantastic Four are coming home!” There’s a good chance you’ll end up with Fantastic Four Meet The Minions.
  • Speaking of Marvel, it has been explicitly stated that Venom will not be part of the MCU. Um, AND? I could’ve told y’all that!

  • The Deadpool marketing team gave us this…odd music video, featuring chanteuse Celine Dion. Yeah, they’re just trying too damn hard.

  • Before we completely walk away from Marvel, I had this little fanboy theory the other day.
  • Apparently we’re finally getting the third Bill & Ted movie, called Bill & Ted Face The Music. Do y’all realize that Bill & Ted are currently the same age that Carlin was when he played Rufus? Just throwing it out there to remind you that you’re old!
  • Arrested Development‘s 5th season debuts on Netflix on May 29th, but don’t get too excited for a 6th. Aside from the fact that Jeffrey Tambor is something of a pariah right now, some cast members are upset about the recent season 4 “remix”. You see, they were paid for 15 episodes, but the newly recut version of the season stretches it out to 22. So, they feel they should be compensated for those 7 additional episodes.

  • Luke Cage is back for season 2 on June 22nd. Hopefully I will have seen season 1 by then, but I doubt it.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn made a bunch of grown men cry this week when he revealed that Groot’s final words to Rocket Raccoon in Avengers: Infinity War meant “Dad”.
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson apparently now includes a “social media fee” in his movie contracts. This means that he gets paid $1 million simply to tweet about his OWN movie, so the studio can leverage his follower base.

Nobody had a week quite like Donald Glover. By Sunday morning, everyone was talking about his latest music video for “This Is America”. By Monday morning, everyone had a thinkpiece about what it meant. This is after coming off a pretty good hosting stint on Saturday Night Live the night before. Here’s one of my favorite sketches from that episode:

The beauty of the “This Is America” roll-out is that he hasn’t really addressed or explained its meaning, so folks are running wild with theories and Easter eggs. All this did was keep him at the forefront of people’s minds.

Over the course of the week, he attended both the Met Gala and the premiere for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Then, last night saw the season finale of his hit series Atlanta.

I could gush over him, or I could discuss the cultural quagmire he seems to have found himself in. Ya know, “How can he be Woke Bae when he got a White baby mama?” Yeah, I don’t have time for all that, and that’s not why you come here. Plus, I’ve been running really long the past few weeks, and I really need to wrap this up. So, Donald Glover 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.

Pages:1234567...27»