10th Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/10/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Casey Affleck – Believed by many to be one of the original causes of the #MeToo movement, Affleck finally addressed the allegations of his misconduct on the set of the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary I’m Not Here. Some are applauding the fact that he’s finally accepting the blame, while others aren’t sure if it’s enough. The allegations resulted in a lawsuit filed by two female cast members, which was settled out of court. From his interview with the Associated Press,

“That I was ever involved in a conflict that resulted in a lawsuit is something that I really regret,” he said.

“I had never had any complaints like that made about me before in my life and it was really embarrassing, and I didn’t know how to handle it, and I didn’t agree with everything, the way I was being described and the things that were said about me,” Affleck said.

“But I wanted to try to make it right, and so we made it right in the way that was asked at the time.”

To me, that sounds like “I gave them money because that’s what they wanted, and I wanted it to go away. However, looking back on it, I’m not quite sure that was the best course, especially since it did not make everything go away.” But that’s just my take on it… Anyway, that’s pretty much all you have to do in Hollywood these days, so he’ll be making the talk show rounds after this and everyone will act like everything’s cool.

Lindsay Lohan – Don’t worry, she didn’t harass anyone…yet. What she did, however, was say that the women who came out with #MeToo allegations looked weak. She went on to say that when things of that nature occur, they should be dealt with in the moment, and that they become “real” when you file a police report. Anything other than that is just the work of attention-seekers who are placing folks on trial by social media. Shots fired!

Dave Bautista has been real quiet the past few days, and I’ll tell you why that’s important. You see, when the week started, he stated that he wouldn’t return to film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 unless Disney promised to use the script that ousted director James Gunn had written. Fans everywhere applauded his resolve, admiring the fact that he was standing behind his friend and colleague. I, however, think it’s stupid to mess with a guaranteed paycheck – especially when you ain’t got the juice! We’re not talking about The Rock or Will Smith here. Shit, we’re not even talking about Chris Pratt. In any of those cases, this would be a different conversation. However, there are THOUSANDS of wrestlers out there with a razor and can of green body paint in hand, just waiting to be tagged in to take his place. I like the guy, and I like the character he plays, but he just doesn’t have the Hollywood clout to be making demands just yet. And Marvel Studios has shown that actors are replaceable (just ask Terrence Howard or Ed Norton). Anyway, reports began trickling out around Wednesday that Disney was, in fact, scrapping Gunn’s script. So, where’s the announcement, Dave? I guess it would give you a good opportunity to step back into the ring for a while.

Meanwhile, there are also rumblings that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is on the inside, championing Gunn’s vision for the film. Some outlets are saying he’s trying to keep the script, while others are saying that he’s actually trying to get Gunn rehired in some capacity. It’s been pointed out that the film is supposed to establish the next phase of Marvel films, so it would be sort of shortsighted to scrap it. Also, the way that CBS handled the Les Moonves situation has also changed folks’s minds. You see, Disney acted swiftly to axe Gunn, without investigation, deliberation, yadda yadda yadda. CBS was like, “Eh, we’ll investigate Moonves, but he can still work.” So, it’s kinda like, “Well, if CBS could do that, why couldn’t we?” I’ve seen folks say they won’t see Vol 3 if Disney goes in a different direction, but I don’t believe that.  Folks said the same when Edgar Wright left Ant-Man, and folks still went out of morbid curiosity. And enjoyed it! So, either way, there’ll be a Guardians 3, and folks will go to see it. Whether that film will have Gunn’s fingerprints on it remains to be seen.

In other movie news, there are reports that producers are leaning towards choosing Idris Elba as the next James Bond. And here’s why that’s a bad idea. Look, I love Idris, and I really don’t have that much love for the Bond franchise (my favorite installment is Moonraker, for God’s sake), so this isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. Here’s the thing, though: isn’t Bond a SPY? Like, he’s more than just a suave guy who beds dames and shoots people. This is espionage. The places Bond would need to go would sometimes make it somewhat difficult for him to blend in. I know these films require some suspension of disbelief (Hugo Drax somehow had the money to build SIX Moonraker space shuttles AND a secret space station?!), but unless every Idris Bond movie is gonna be a remake of Live and Let Die, and he’s gonna just be chasing Yaphet Kotto the whole time, I don’t see how it’s gonna work. The world is a-changing, but that dog don’t hunt. I think Idris is more than capable of being a great, suave Bond. I just don’t know what backdrop you set him against. I also feel like this is a testament that the world is running out of British actors. I mean, every one’s either been Bond, The Doctor, or on EastEnders. I mean, next they’ll be lobbying for Simon Pegg to take over the role.

In TV news, it’s been announced that The First Purge‘s Joivan Wade will be portraying Cyborg on the Doom Patrol series for the DC Universe streaming service. You know Cyborg – the Teen Titans member who got an undeserved promotion to the Justice League during The New 52? The same guy who was portrayed by Ray Fisher in the Justice League film? So, WHY is he now going to be on Doom Patrol? Reports say that he’s not actually on the team, but rather the one who gathers the team. Still, for a company that was so worried about brand confusion that they removed Deathstroke from the Arrowverse prior to the Suicide Squad movie, I find this to be a perplexing move. Anyway, I have no faith in anything on that service, so they can pretty much do whatever the Hell they want. I’m just here to report the news in my own snarky little way.

The Catfish Bromance is over, as cohost Max Joseph announced that he’s leaving the show. Sure, the show put him on the map, but it’ll survive without him. After all, he missed a chunk of episodes around season 3 while he was filming his movie, and Nev just replaced him with guest hosts. Hell, I watched an episode the other day, and the cohost was Nev’s wife. So, the show will be fine without him. My question is where do they keep finding these people? I mean, the first 2 seasons, I could kinda believe it. By season 3, though, “catfishing” was a known concept, and folks were more vigilant. Somehow, though, they’ve eked out 7 seasons and 115 episodes of this concept. I know “There’s a sucker born every minute”, but damn! Anyway, Joseph got tired of trying to juggle the show with his passion for filmmaking, so he’s going with his passion. His directorial debut was 2015’s We Are Your Friends, starring Zac Efron. That film scored a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was the fourth worst opening film on +2,000 screens of all time. So, Max might not want to lose Nev’s number…

In another interesting TV tidbit, Will Forte joined Vulture Comedy’s Podcast, Good One, where he detailed what would have happened with The Last Man on Earth, had it been renewed. If you saw the fourth season finale, then you know that the gang was surrounded by a bunch of armed folks in masks. Well, these people would’ve been survivors who’s been in a bunker since the virus hit. Over time, the gang would win them over, and eventually be released out of the quarantine the survivors had put them in – which would end up being the death of the survivors, since everyone in the gang is a carrier of the virus. So, we’d be left with the core group again, and maybe one member of the survivors. In a surprising confession, though, Forte admitted that he had no idea how the show would end, which confirmed my feelings that they were just making it up as they went along. It was a cute show, but it really needed an endgame. Long live Phillip Tandy Miller!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

  • In an interesting twist, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is recasting the role of Greg for its final season, with Skylar Astin of Pitch Perfect fame. The show plans to lean into the recast, to show how people’s perceptions of others change over time.
  • Kelly Clarkson is filming a pilot for a syndicated daytime talk show, which may fill the hole left in schedules when Harry ends this Fall. I don’t hate this idea, as I could see her filling the role of a Ricki Lake for the ’20s.
  • Speaking of syndicated talk shows, former NBC anchor Tamron Hall is developing a talk show with ABC Studios to potentially debut in 2019.
  • Last week, there were reports that a reboot was in the works for The Facts of Life, and the news was so shocking that it killed Mrs. Garrett. Well, it may have been unrelated, but Charlotte Rae is dead.
  • The Showtime drama Homeland will end after the upcoming 8th season.
  • There will reportedly be an 18-month time jump when The Walking Dead returns next season.
  • While it was believed that the show was winding down, CBS reported this week that there are talks to renew The Big Bang Theory for a 13th season. “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
  • It was reported that the villain for the Birds of Prey film will most likely be Batman villain Black Mask.
  • Speaking of DC Films Nobody Wants, Warner Bros is reportedly developing a Supergirl film.
  • Jean-Ralphio is about to go upside Eggman’s head, as it was announced that Ben Schwartz would be voicing Sonic The Hedgehog in the upcoming film.
  • David Schwimmer will be recurring next season on Will & Grace as Grace’s love interest. David LOVES those NBC checks!
  • Denise Richards will be joining the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills next season. I hope one of those catty bitches asks her about her weird tits. I remember everyone loved that scene from Wild Things, but those things looked off!
  • Even though Kenya Barris has jumped ship from ABC Studios, his shows are staying put, and Grown-ish will return to Freeform in January.
  • Sex sells, but bitter divorce sells even better! This is why HGTV has renewed Flip or Flop for a 15-episode 8th season.
  • To prove that everyone is out of ideas and really just cashing their checks at this point, a TV show is in development based on the 2006 Plain White T’s hit “Hey There Delilah”. If you don’t remember it, it was a shitty song. If you ever get bored, Google it, because the story behind it is kinda crazy. I mean, Delilah is a real person, and had a boyfriend at the time this random ass dude wrote a song about her.

  • Shaun Weiss, who played Goldberg in The Mighty Ducks, has apparently fallen on hard times, as he was arrested over the weekend for public intoxication under the influence of drugs. Here’s hoping the “knuckle puck” doesn’t mean something entirely different behind bars…
  • Orange Is The New Black actress Ruby Rose has been cast as the Arrowverse’s Batwoman. She will first appear in this season’s crossover, with a potential solo series to follow.
  • Apparently Sony refers to their Spider-Man Universe films as the “Sony Universe of Marvel Characters”, or SUMC. Not that “DCEU” or “MCU” are that great, but SUMC doesn’t really roll off the tongue. Sounds like a shitty college. Southern Utah Mechanical College. “Yeah, my brother in law learned HVAC at SUMC.”
  • Speaking of the SUMC, the Silver Sable/Black Cat team-up movie, Silver & Black, has been scrapped and will now be TWO movies, each focused on one of the pair. ‘Cause why have ONE pile of shit when you can have TWO? Director Gina Prince-Bythewood is expected to depart, but will still get a producer credit on both films.

  • We got this promo pic from the live action Dora the Explorer film. This just looks…wrong. She’s too old!
  • There’s an interesting story that Marvel Chairman Ike Perlmutter has been secretly advising the Department of Veteran Affairs for the Trump Administration. Keep in mind that Perlmutter has NO military service under his belt. Yeah, it’s crazy, but it could also mean we’re one step closer to getting a real life Super Soldier Serum!
  • THEY KILLED LUIGI!
  • Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders will be reprising their roles as Nick Fury and Maria Hill in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
  • The West Hollywood City Council unanimously voted to remove Donald Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but they played themselves because the decision to do such a thing is actually up to the City of Los Angeles, as well as the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber of Commerce has refused to remove the stars of disgraced celebrities, like Bill Cosby, because they consider the Walk a history landmark, and have never removed a star. Anyway, in a show of solidarity for Trump, a group calling themselves “The Faction” placed 50 vinyl stars bearing Trump’s name along the Walk Thursday morning.
  • Several changes to the Oscars were announced, including sticking to a 3-hour runtime by awarding “lesser” categories during commercial breaks, and the creation of the Outstanding Achievement In Popular Film award, which is pretty much basically “The award for the movies you’ve actually seen.”

I never thought I’d see this day, but here it is: over the weekend, Patrick Stewart announced that he would be returning to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in a Star Trek series for CBS All Access.

I was dumbfounded. I swore I’d never get CBS All Access because I hate the idea of paying for Star Trek outside of a theater, but this just might do it.

There was an interesting comment thread on a Facebook post I made about this, where I said that come Monday, we would all find out that Stewart is senile and we were all being punked. It got into a discussion about how Discovery just doesn’t feel right to some fans, and someone else chimed in that TRUE Trek fans like Discovery and know that it’s a great product. I wasn’t really expecting the gatekeeping there, but I was listening. He went on to say that he didn’t mind paying for All Access because to him, it’s akin to paying for HBO for Game of Thrones. He didn’t mind paying for premium shows like that. And I start thinking about that for a bit. Do I want a big budget, “premium” Star Trek?

Sure, there are folks who will tell you they do, but I always felt there was something about the UHF syndicated/UPN budgets that made those iterations of Trek special. I’ve never been a fan of The Original Series, but I was raised on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine (both syndicated), and I cautiously avoided Voyager and Enterprise (which, based on UPN’s pockets, might as well have had syndicated budgets). I feel like they made do with what they had, and it’s not like the weaknesses showed. Sure, the production values for the first 3 seasons of TNG are basically as lame as those from TOS, but they found their groove, and started really understanding how to use their resources. So, does more money mean a better Star Trek? I’m not sure that’s true, and I still feel like CBS is fleecing fans by putting this on All Access. I know concepts like “fairness” seem a bit childish when talking about business matters, but it doesn’t seem fair.

Anyway, I guess they’re giving me what I wanted. I’ve been wanting them to stop with the reboots and prequels, and finally tell us what happened to the Federation after the Dominion War. Sadly, too much time has now passed since those events that we won’t get to witness the Reconstruction phase I was looking forward to seeing. I also thought we were done with Picard. I mean, I love the character, and he’s certainly MY captain over Kirk, but I was kinda fine with where Nemesis left him. Sure, it wasn’t a fitting ending, but there’s a whole galaxy out there, and I was looking forward to learning more about it. The fact that they’re bringing back Stewart is fan service to the umpteenth degree, but it also makes me scared that this show is just going to be a revolving door of cameos from TNG folks. I fear it’ll be Fuller House In Space, as this week wacky Will Riker shows up to lend a hand. Sure, it’d be nice to catch up with a lot of those characters (especially B4), but I don’t need it to be crammed into the story. It should be organic.

I’m glad they’re not referring to him as Captain right now, as that could mean a multitude of things. Did he finally get promoted to Admiral? I mean, Janeway got her crew lost, got most of them killed, banded together with the enemy, and still got a promotion the minute she got back. Picard’s more than earned one, though we know he didn’t want a commission that would take him off the bridge of a starship. Still, 20 years have passed. Maybe he’s in a different place. Or maybe he’s not even in Starfleet anymore. They’ve shown that you can pretty much come and go as you please when it comes to Starfleet, so maybe some old threat, like DaiMon Bok, brings him out of retirement. So, maybe he’s back on his family’s vineyard, and we get a recreation of that Farpoint scene, as he’s being taken to see the new Enterprise-G (the F would’ve probably been decommissioned by then). Or maybe he’s dealing with the Space Alzheimers from “All Good Things”. There are a lot of possibilities, and I’m always excited about new Star Trek. I just don’t wanna have to pay for it.

In any case, this was the kind of announcement that would normally break the Internet, had it not come out on a Saturday afternoon. So, for that, Patrick Stewart had the West Week Ever.

03rd Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/3/18

by Will

These things just get later and later, huh? Well, blame my job! In any case, let’s jump right on into today’s topics, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Les Moonves – The current chairman, president, and CEO of CBS Corporation is under investigation after 6 women have come forward with sexual harassment allegations that go back decades. The situation is even dicier since his wife is Julie Chen, who also works for the network as host of Big Brother, as well as a co-host of The Talk. Chen issued a statement defending her husband, but his alma mater, Bucknell University, has removed all mention of him from their website, and USC has suspended his name from their media center. He continues to work while the investigation proceeds.

Kimberly Guilfoyle – I find it interesting that this story isn’t getting more attention than it is. Guilfoyle, who is also the current girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr, quietly left her job at Fox News last week amidst a misconduct investigation. Reportedly, she would show coworkers pictures of male genitalia, and tell stories about who the men were in the pictures. Also, she was allegedly abusive to makeup and wardrobe people, and also used them for personal events. This was the result of a yearlong investigation, and since Fox tends to prefer having folks resign or retire rather than fire them, they allowed it to appear that she left on her own terms.

Guilfoyle was a protege of Roger Ailes, even going as far as attacking Gretchen Carlson when she accused Ailes of sexual harassment. Since Ailes’s death, however, things have started to change for Guilfoyle. Once the rumored frontrunner to replace White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Guilfoyle found herself being passed over for the same opportunities given to her fellow co-hosts of The Five. She allegedly lobbied directly to Rupert Murdoch himself to save her job, but it was of no use. Now she’s expected to join the Trumps on the campaign trail.

Nick Carter Update – Melissa Schuman, formerly of the pop group Dream, previously accused the Backstreet Boy of raping her when she was 18. The matter has now been referred to the Los Angeles District Attorney for possible charges filed.

Chris Hardwick Update – Following AMC’s lead, NBC has announced that Hardwick will return to host the 3rd season of game show The Wall. On top of that, he will also serve as a guest judge on next week’s episode of America’s Got Talent. I think #MeToo might be over, y’all…

James Gunn Update – After Gunn’s abrupt firing last week, due to old incendiary tweets being brought to light, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast and crew have stood behind him, and released the following statement:

 

I used to watch a bunch of standup specials, since that’s about 40% of what Netflix’s catalog is comprised of. I haven’t seen too many lately, but the wife and I did watch Iliza Shlesinger’s Elder Millennial this week. I’ve liked Iliza since she was the smartass, tank-top wearing host of the dating show Excused, but I’ve never really loved entire specials by her. She’s funny, she’s got good timing, but I always feel like she should’ve graduated to being a comedic actress by now instead of staying on the stage. I reviewed her special War Paint back in the day, and a lot of the criticisms I had then I still have today. The overall set isn’t that strong, and what’s with the weird animal noises? I think she’s a cool chick, but only, maybe, three jokes actually made me laugh out loud. I think this is one you can skip.

So Nickelodeon surprised us all by uploading the premiere episode of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to YouTube. I watched it, and, it’s a TV show. That’s about all I can say. I mean, a lot of folks my age went into this show prepared to hate it, ’cause old dudes just can’t let shit go. That said, I think I went into it with a pretty open mind. The things that I thought would bother me weren’t so bad. Raph as the leader is different, but it helps that he’s not that good at it, so maybe this could be considered a prequel to the TMNT stuff we’re used to. Don is still the tech guy, so that gives me a nice sense of comfort. I haven’t really gotten used to Leo as the jokester yet, and I don’t know what to make of “artsy” Mikey. Lazy, couch potato Splinter is also different. The animation isn’t that crisp, and something about it made me think of a webseries. I mean, it’d be a decent webseries, but still “not quite ready for TV”. I almost expected it to stick to the modern cartoon runtime of 11-15 minutes, as I really don’t like looking at these designs for a 22-minute span of time. It’s not that they’re “ugly”, but they’re so “choppy”.

To give you an idea of what the episode is about, we’re introduced to the Turtles as they get their weapons destroyed by some mysterious henchmen who are after some kinda mystical dog creature. Their pal, April, ends up being abducted by the henchmen and taken to another realm. The Turtles find a way to follow her, gain new mystical weapons, and fight John Cena. Something like that. Again, it was OK, but I highly doubt it’ll be “destination television” for me.

I know folks don’t want to say it, so I’ll be the one who does: I hate April. She’s Black now, which is whatever. Representation matters. I don’t hate her because of that. I hate her because she’s just all over the place. Sometimes she’s trying to have some weird NYC accent, and others she’s not. She’s not a grounding force for them, but rather as reckless as (and possibly moreso than) the Turtles. She’s impetuous, and just kind of annoying. I’ve heard a few reviews from folks who I know were dancing around that issue, since they probably don’t wanna be labeled “racist” for not liking her. Let’s just say it: she sucks.

At the end of the day, kids will love it, and that’s what matters. I hope it sells a shit ton of toys, and I’ll check back in when it’s rebooted again in 6 years.

Normally this would’ve gone in the Things You Might Have Missed area, but this just deserved its own blurb. The Fox drama 9-1-1 had cast Buffy vet Charisma Carpenter in a guest role for an episode this season, but the episode has been scrapped by censors. Ya see, she’d play a woman whose Viagra-popping lover dies while he’s…inside her. At the time of his heart attack, there’s some vaginal clamping going on, so he’s stuck inside her, dead, hence why she’d need 911. Apparently it’s a real occurrence called penis captivus. Anyway, Fox’s Standards & Practices decided that the storyline was too “R-rated” to make it to air, so they plan to bring Carpenter back in another role later.

It’s the 25th anniversary of Power Rangers, so that means anniversary team-up episode! And it ain’t an anniversary throwback if original Green/White Ranger Tommy Oliver isn’t involved. This week, actor Jason David Frank revealed that he, along with Catherine Sutherland (Zeo Pink) and Jason Faunt (Time Force Red), would be participating in the episode. Nickelodeon announced that the special episode of Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel will air during prime time, at 8 PM, on August 28th – exactly 25 years since the airing of the premiere episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, “Day of the Dumpster”.

The Trailer Park

Forever

We got the first trailer for this Fred Armisen & Maya Rudolph show, which is coming to Amazon Prime next month. Um, I don’t know what to make of this one. It looks like something that would be on Adult Swim, and not in a good way. I never watch anything on Prime, though, so I’ll never see it.

Maniac

After sitting on the shelf for two years, we get a trailer for Netflix’s Maniac, starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as two people caught in a bad pharmaceutical experiment. Why does Skinny Jonah Hill look so miserable? Let the man eat! Let the man be fat!

Iron Fist

Speaking of Netflix, we also got a teaser for Iron Fist season 2, which premieres next month. I am SO behind on those MCU Netflix shows, so one of y’all will have to tell me if it’s any good or not.

Venom

This just looks so uninspired. People are quick to say “You just want everything to be like the MCU”, but that’s not true. There’s room for diverse projects in the marketplace, but this looks like a 1996 movie with 2018 special effects.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Even though NBC cancelled time traveling show Timeless a second time, it was announced that there will be a wrap-up, TV movie finale next season.
  • Stranger Things season 3 has reportedly been pushed back to Summer 2019, as the season will contain more special effects that previous seasons.
  • It seems like all the SNL folks are getting streaming shows, as Aidy Bryant’s Shrill has just been picked up by Hulu. Based on Lindy West’s memoir Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman, the logline is “a fat young woman who wants to change her life – but not her body”. Apparently the shooting schedule won’t require her to leave SNL.
  • Having already tried the series without Jack Bauer, now Fox is in the preliminary stages of developing a 24 prequel, focused on a young Jack Bauer. I hope they call it 12, and that’s how young he truly is in the show. He’d be taking down terrorists with a Super Soaker and Nerf guns.
  • Supergirl to the bridge! It’s reported that Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Mr. Data himself, Brent Spiner, will join Supergirl next season as the Vice President.
  • In another case of the MCU beating the DCEU, Anthony Mackie (Falcon) will be taking over the lead in Netflix’s Altered Carbon from Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad‘s Rick Flagg) next season.
  • As previously rumored, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is leaving his production deal with ABC Studios. This has reportedly been brewing ever since the network scrapped his episode about the NFL kneeling protests, but it’s also been rumored that Netflix has offered him a NINE-FIGURE deal. He’ll step down as showrunner of Black-ish, but remain an executive producer on all his ABC/Freeform shows.
  • An ALF reboot is reportedly in development at Warner Bros. One potential idea is that the show would follow ALF as he emerges from Area 51, where he’s been held captive since the finale of the 80s series. He would, then, have to deal with how much the world has changed.
  • The cast list for Star Wars: Episode IX was released, and everybody you expect to be on it is on it.
  • Fresh off the cancellation of The Mick, Kaitlin Olson has just been cast as Leah Remini’s lesbian wife in an untitled pilot for Fox, brought to you buy the guys behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  • MoviePass shat the bed when it ran out of money to actually pay for tickets. The service quickly regrouped, and now costs more money, with access to fewer popular movies. Um…

My good buddy ShowNuffDaKing has launched the M.A.G. Nerd Podcast for any of y’all interested in music, anime, and/or video games. Of course you should listen to every episode, but he and his cohost, Ghost, really hit their stride on episode 3. Check in weekly because you’re bound to learn something new. I certainly always do! It’s available on Stitcher, SoundCloud, and everywhere else you get that podcast goodness for your ears.

Speaking of podcasts, as a member of the Nerd Lunch Fourth Chair Army, I was drafted into this week’s Fourth Army Invasion to discuss season 1 of The Dukes of Hazzard. As I mention in the episode, I was a big fan of the Cars Jumping Over Shit genre of TV (Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, etc), and I grew up watching this show in syndication. Let’s just say that I had an entirely different impression of it upon this rewatch. I had a wonderful time discussing it with Spidey004, BizarroJimmyOlsen, and Michael May. If you’ve ever seen the show or the movie, you’re going to want to check out this Dukescussion because it’s quite the deep dive.

 

I’m not a sports guy. I think you can pretty much get that from this site. So, I don’t really weigh into things like “Who’s the greatest player of all time?” debates. That said, I know the major players in most sports, so I’m certainly familiar with LeBron James. People are constantly asking “LeBron or Jordan?” and to me the answer was always easy: LeBron, ’cause he never seemed like a colossal asshole like Jordan. This week, however, something else pushed LeBron just ahead of MJ.

This week, LeBron opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, OH, in an attempt to the city’s at-risk K-12 population. Based on something of a charter school model (some of the aspects actually inspired by the charter network I work for), the school will feature longer school days, a non-traditional school year, and a STEM-influenced curriculum. The school, however, is neither charter nor private, as LeBron was insistent that it work within the Akron school system instead apart from it. The school opened this week with 240 students, spread over third and fourth grades, adding second and fifth grades next year, and expand to 8th grade by 2022. The school will also provide GED services for parents, a food bank, and other resources to help the community. Also, because LeBron used to ride his bike to leave the dangers of his neighborhood and go exploring, every student at the school will receive a bicycle on the first day of school.

I don’t know about stats on the court, but I do know education. Having worked on the data side in the charter sector for nearly the past decade, I can completely respect what he’s doing. I know some folks take issue with these “maverick” approaches to education, but in a lot of cases the “old ways” just don’t work anymore. School systems are low on money, teachers are overworked. Sometimes you just need to inject change. And yes, some of these schools end up sucking just like the neighborhood public school would’ve sucked, but at least the folks tried. In any case, for opening the ambitious I Promise School, as the 29th elementary school in the Akron school district, LeBron James had the West Week Ever.

27th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/27/18

by Will

Well, this is a special week here at WilliamBruceWest.com, as it commemorates my FIFTEENTH year of blogging. Yeah, a lot of y’all just came aboard during the West Week Ever era, but the archives are there (personally, I wouldn’t check anything before 2007 or so, but that’s just me). I started blogging a month after I graduated from college, while I was temping in the Cornell registrar’s office. It’s funny because, about six months prior to that, I had no clue what a “blog” was. You’ve got to remember that these were the days before social media, and we got by with AIM. I’d heard folks met strangers through ICQ and chat rooms, but that made no sense to me. Then, while my a cappella group was updating their website, one member suggested we add a blog to the site. I remember I immediately said, “What’s a blog? Stop making up words, Ted!” He explained it was short for “weblog”, and said some more stuff, but we stopped listening at that point. Probably too busy shoving Gold Bond powder down our pants. What? Y’all never did that? Whatever. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, I was really bored at that temp job, and needed something to make the day more interesting. Prior to this point, I had never really spent much time on the internet. I had an AOL trial with dial-up for, like, a month in high school, and I think I had tried NetZero. We had Computers as a class in high school, and I remember I made a really shitty Power Rangers site on AngelFire or something. Still, in college, I had used the Internet to either do homework or illegally download music. I did a LOT of the latter. So, with a college degree in my hand, and boredom in my heart, I struck out and explored the Internet for what it was. I started finding sites that really engaged me – webcomics, like PvP, and nostalgia sites like X-Entertainment.com (the precursor to what’s now Dinosaur Dracula). The latter site really sort of lit a fire under me, as I could relate to so many of the posts. It was like the Robot Chicken of blogs: “Shark Bites, Fruit By The Foot, and Pogs – these are all things that existed!” Plus, and I think Matt (the site creator) would agree, it had a horrible archive/search function, so you kind had to fall down a rabbit hole, jumping from article to article, instead of being able to search the topics. I spent a LOT of time on X-Entertainment, and it started to show me the potential of blogging.

So, in a way to pass the time, I signed up for a Blogger account, and created The World According To A Russian Exchange Student. I’m not quite sure why I settled on that. While I was an exchange student to Russia when I was 13, that would’ve made me an American exchange student. I feel like I briefly wanted to do some kind of performance art thing where I’d imagine how my Russian host, Sergei, might look at the world. That lasted for maybe a day. At the end of the day, I think I just wanted something that sounded “haughty”. I’ve got a bit of a snob streak in me, and here I was, an Ivy League graduate who’d been spoon fed that the world would be mine, yet  didn’t have a clue what I’d be doing when this temp assignment ended. I was scared. So, I rambled. A LOT. I’d say that if you read the first 6-8 years (yes, years), I wrote like no one was reading. Because no one was. The site was basically a Livejournal without the stigma that Livejournal brought with it. Every now and then I’d post something that I thought would be timeless, but most of those posts are either relationship drama or self pity. Yay. Anyway, I rebranded to WilliamBruceWest.com rather quickly, but I don’t feel like the site really found its footing until the West Week Ever days. So, here we are. Anyway, from the bottom of my heart, thank you – all of you – who have taken the time to read my ramblings at some point over those 15 years.

The wife and I got the chance to see Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry To Bother You, and we left that theater like “What the fuuuuu…?” How to describe this movie? Is it a comedy? Is it satire? Science fiction? I guess you’ll have to be the judge if you see it. Stanfield stars as a down on his luck guy who lands a job as a telemarketer, and he doesn’t really have much success until he starts using his “White voice” at the suggestion of a coworker. Almost immediately his success increases, and he becomes a Power Caller, where instead of selling Time-Life books and encyclopedias, he’s now selling weapons and slaves to other countries. And that’s where shit gets CRAZY! I can’t say any more at this point without spoiling some twists. The movie reminded me a lot of Bamboozled, which was a 2000 Spike Lee Joint about a Black TV writer who sort of sells out in order to make his network successful, with a dash of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. If either of those movies is your cup of tea, then check this out. “Equesapiens, let’s be out!”

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update:  Late last week, it was announced that not only would Yvette Nicole Brown be taking over hosting Hardwick’s panels at SDCC, but she would also be hosting Talking Dead for a brief period. On Wednesday, however, AMC announced that Hardwick would be returning to the show, after an internal month-long investigation. Two things are odd about the investigation, however. First of all, his accuser, ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra, did not participate in the investigation, as she said she “didn’t believe in ‘an eye for an eye’.” In a statement she said that she never set out to ruin his career, though she still doesn’t name him.  The other odd thing is that the investigation seemingly wasn’t conducted by an impartial third party. Instead, Loeb & Loeb was hired, who reportedly have a history of working on business for the Hearst family (who happen to be Hardwick’s in-laws). He may have his job back, but is the stink off of him? Remember how folks shunned Seacrest at the Oscars? Will the geek crowd follow suit here?

James Gunn: This isn’t harassment, per se, but it’s still an inappropriate thing that got a celeb in hot water. You see, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn came up through the ranks of Troma – ya know, the folks behind The Toxic Crusader? He says he was a different guy at that time of his life, but to fit in with that world, you’ve got to be kinda shocking. Everything you do is done for shock value, and that’s exactly what he did when he was tweeting back in 2009. Stuff like rape and pedophilia jokes. He has since apologized for that time in his life, but that didn’t matter when Right Wing muckraker Mike Cernovich dub up the old tweets as something of a retaliation for Gunn’s staunch anti-Trump stance. Well, Disney reacted swiftly by firing Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. The public seems to be on Gunn’s side, saying Disney knew what they were getting, and that he had apologized long before the tweets resurfaced. There’s a petition circulating to get him rehired.

What Disney did was a business decision, as they can’t have something like this in the news just as the Fox deal is about to go through. Shareholders don’t tend to like rape jokes. That said, I’m sort of on the fence for this.

On the one hand, the stuff I’ve seen was kind of messed up, and I’m not sure I’d call them “funny”. Why not just delete the tweets? I mean, sure, everything is archived somewhere, but at least you tried to scrub things clean. I get it, though. I have an “I don’t delete tweets” policy, but I’ve never tweeted anything that bad. Cover your tracks, man!

On the other hand, he did apologize before they even became a thing. Had Disney done their due diligence, none of this would’ve come as a surprise. And I hate the fact that he won’t get to see his vision through to the finished GOTG trilogy. I really doubt he’ll be rehired, as he was fired and not suspended pending an investigation. Disney will likely stick by their decision, but this will have long-reaching effects. For example, Star Wars director Rian Johnson reportedly deleted 20,000 tweets over the weekend.

The Trailer Park

Last weekend was San Diego Comic-Con, which means we got a LOT of trailers for upcoming geek films. Since we’ve got a slew of them, I figured I’d give them their own section this week.

SHAZAM!

I really didn’t expect to like this. I thought the casting of Zachary Levi was wrong, and I just didn’t know how it would fit into the pre-established DCEU. That said, after seeing this trailer, this has the potential to be my favorite DCEU film. It seems to be more based on the New 52 origin of the character, which is just fine for me because that was one of the first times that I actually cared about the character (which reminds me I need to finish that story Geoff Johns started when they were backups in the Justice League comic). At the end of the day, it’s just “Big with powers”, which is a concept that has a lot of potential. Fans of the dark DCEU are gonna hate this, but I’m a fan of comic stuff that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m really looking forward to this one now.

Aquaman

Well, it looks pretty. I still don’t know if Momoa can carry a movie yet, and I’m not sure I’m on board with this Aquaman. I know there are Aquaman fans out there (looking at you, Classick), so how do y’all feel about his characterization? I mean, it doesn’t seem faithful to the comics, but Aquaman always seemed boring enough that any adjustment would be a welcome change. I’ll see it. Am I anticipating it? No, but I’ll see it.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I’m not a dumb guy. Not the smartest in the room, but not dumb. That said, I don’t know what’s going on here. So we want the Titans to rise? Wouldn’t they just come and fuck shit up? And whose side is Godzilla on? And I know folks got tired of the “slowed down pop song” trope in trailers, but I feel like the music here really doesn’t do much to convey the gist of things, and could’ve benefited from recognizable rock song or something.

Glass

I really liked Unbreakable all those years ago. Split was interesting, but I was more interested in it after its final scene. I think I was more excited about more Unbreakable than the idea of the movies being in a shared universe. It seems like a good ol’ villain team-up, but can old ass Bruce Willis really win here? I mean, comic movies are about folks doing the impossible, but I never really felt like Split committed to James McAvoy’s character being truly evil. Hell, even Mr. Glass was pseudo-sympathetic, as he couldn’t have a normal life due to his brittle bones. So who’s the real villain here? Is there a bigger bad? Is Willis somehow the villain? After all, this is Shyamalan, so there’s bound to be a swerve somewhere. I’m on board, but I kinda want more information right now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Reportedly Kelsey Grammer is in talks to reprise his role as Frasier Crane in a revival that would take him away from the Seattle setting of the last show. Sure, why not? I think he’s got crazy alimony payments, and has pretty much proven he’ll take any job (he did an FX sitcom with Martin Lawrence). Everyone else is doing it, so why not go back to that well again?
  • Speaking of revivals, there have been talks of a Buffy The Vampire Slayer reboot/revival(?). At first it seemed like a reboot, but the passionate fan base lost their shit, so showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen sort of backpedaled and insinuated it might be a continuation of the old show, this time following a new Slayer 20 years after the events of the old show. Reports are that they’re looking to cast a Black actress.
  • Demi Lovato was hospitalized for an apparent overdose after she was found unconscious in bed by an assistant.
  • Simpsons Comics is scheduled to end in October with issue #245 after 25 years of publication, leaving the future of its publisher, Bongo Comics, in question.
  • It turns out the third time was the charm, as the live action adaptation of the comic Locke & Key has received a 10-episode order from Netflix. Both Fox and Hulu had previously ordered, and then passed on, pilots for the series.
  • Robert DeNiro is supposedly in talks to join Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, with the rest of the world left asking “Dafuq?” Seriously, why would he hitch his star to that wagon?
  • R. Kelly released the song “I Admit”, where he denied he was a pedophile, but admitted his affinity for young girls. The song will probably appear on an upcoming album named Daddy’s Day Care or The Pamper Prince or some shit like that.

My most anticipated movie of the year wasn’t Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, or even Avengers: Infinity War (OK, maybe I was kinda looking forward to that last one). No, since the day I found out it was happening, I have been waiting for the release of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. I’ve made no secret of the fact that, aside from The Amazing World of Gumball (which may just be the smartest show on TV right now, I kid you not), Teen Titans Go! is my favorite show. It took me a while to get used to the modern day 11-minute cartoon format, but I feel it works perfectly for a show like this. So, I had a bit of trepidation that the show wouldn’t translate well to a full-length film. After all, Aqua Teen Hunger Force had tried it and failed. Well, after seeing it last night, I can say that not only did they pull it off, but they did an amazing job.

If you were wondering what it’s about, let me clue ya in: When Batman and Superman receive their umpteenth movie deal, Robin agonizes over the fact that he doesn’t have his own movie because nobody takes the Teen Titans seriously. It’s sort of meta in that way, as it addresses the fact that the shows haters feel the characters are just immature and not very heroic. So, determined to prove they deserve a DC film, too, the team heads to Hollywood, where they learn they’d be more appealing if they had their own archnemesis. Enter: Slade Wilson, otherwise known as Deathstroke: The Terminator. So, the team not only has to defeat Slade, but also convince the studio to make their movie.

It’s not a complicated plot, but they do so much with it. First of all, I didn’t expect it to be a musical. While songs have been pretty integral to the Teen Titans Go! experience, I didn’t stop to think they might pop up in the film. The music is GREAT, including a surprise appearance by Michael Bolton. Speaking of surprise appearances, there are cameos from a lot of DC characters who will NEVER appear on film ever again. I mean, The Challengers of the Unknown?! And did I mention the time travel? Like, I loved the time travel portion so much that I hope they dedicate a sequel solely to it.

Now, let me say that this movie isn’t going to convert you if you already hate the franchise. I know there are a lot of butthurt folks out there who go “They cancelled Young Justice for THAT?”, even though those decisions were made independently of each other. If you don’t go into it with too many preconceived notions, and you like comic-based properties that don’t take themselves too seriously, then Teen Titans Go! is perfect. And it’s not really even made for kids. I mean, sure, they’ll get enjoyment out of it, but there are jokes they’d never get. For example, a recent episode, “TV Knight 3”, featured a Knight Rider parody. That joke right there was for my generation. So it saddens me that so many folks refuse to give it a chance. Anyway, this film may not change many minds, but it’s a true love letter to fans of the show. It’s the show, but cranked up to 11, with crisper animation and longer runtime. It actually has a good story arc to it, it has some great Easter eggs, and the music!

Anyway, I enjoyed this film way more than I did Ant-Man and the Wasp last week, and it far surpassed my expectations. For that reason, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies had the West Week Ever.

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.

Pages:«1234567...29»