04th Aug2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/4/17

by Will

In movie news, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming premieres this Sunday, and The Hollywood Reporter had a great article about the history of the franchise. For one thing, Donald Trump was originally approached to play the President in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, but his people were stalling because he was mulling a run for the actual presidency. When the producers moved on to cast Mark Cuban, Trump got pissed and his people threatened to sue (on what grounds, nobody knows). Also, the production was renamed to Dark Skies because the name Sharknado was turning off potential actors. To the cast’s chagrin, however, it was changed back to Sharknado at release.

The main takeaway from the article is the pay situation. In the beginning, star Ian Ziering was offered $100,000 to do the first film. He reportedly only took it because his wife was pregnant and he needed to keep up his SAG membership for the health insurance. Over time, however, his pay ballooned and he currently makes about $500,000 a film – which, as folks point out, is more than the $300,000 Gal Gadot reportedly made to star in Wonder Woman. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. For one thing, superhero films kinda pay on the low-ish side because there are so many moving parts. The pay tends to start low and then grows over time. By the third or fourth movie, the stars are, then, basically too expensive to keep, so it becomes renegotiation or reboot time. Plus, as I said on Twitter, washed up TV star in a “water cooler” franchise outranks unproven movie star in unstable cinematic universe. Yes, Wonder Woman was a great film, but to say that Gadot deserved more money is simply Monday morning quarterbacking. Nobody was worried about her pay before the film came out because, frankly, nobody gave a shit about her. She’ll eventually make her money, while Ziering will be begging for a Sharknado revival, as the series is clearly on its last legs based on the ratings. Sharknado is a funny thing because the social media impressions actually outnumber its ratings. So, folks feel the need to talk about Sharknado even if they’re not watching Sharknado.

The real crime about pay, though, is that Tara Reid only makes about $125,000 to Ziering’s $500,000 (his salary is about 1/6th the budget of Sharknado 5). When she spoke up about it, they created a poll to the public following Sharknado 3, asking whether or not her character should die. Lucky for her, the fans wanted her back (Production company Asylum claims the poll and her request were unrelated, but we aren’t stupid here).

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll watch even though the last installment was a chore to get through. The franchise really peaked at Sharknado 2: The Second One, but they generate buzz, so they keep coming. I’m still pissed about the last movie, where Ziering’s character, Finn, has a Black daughter-in-law who gets killed by a shark. Not only does the family not react, but she’s never mentioned again. It’s clearly the result of some terrible editing, but I can’t tell if they edited out reactions to her death OR if they edited in the character after the movie was basically done. I figure we’ll get to 6 and then they’ll have to think of something else. It’s too bad the Lavalantula franchise hasn’t enjoyed the same buzz, as I enjoy those pseudo Police Academy reunions.

In TV news, a LOT of folks are upset about that Confederate show that I mentioned last week, even calling for a boycott of HBO. Some folks have reminded the boycotters that their actions would hurt other Black shows on the network, like Insecure and Ballers. Instead, they encouraged that folks make their voices heard directly to HBO, using the hashtag #NoConfederate during its most watched hour last week, Game of Thrones. Well, in seeming retaliation for the show, producer Will Packer and The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder are creating Black America for Amazon. Whereas Confederate would follow a United States on the brink of its 3rd Civil War, Black America would follow an alternate reality where freed Blacks were given Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi as reparations, and the sovereign nation of New Colonia is formed. Meanwhile, its neighbor to the north, The United States, is in a bad state of affairs.  New Colonia is about to become a world power, while the US is slipping. Due to their proximity, their fates are tied together, but clearly the Black folks are doing better than everyone else.

Is it wrong that I have no interest in either show? I mean, I have no desire to see slavery still going in Confederate, but the whole premise of Black America just sounds like it’s doing too much, and feels more reactionary than anything. I mean, why didn’t we hear about this project before Confederate was announced? And the problem is that both projects are so far in their infancy that they won’t be happening any time soon, if they happen at all. I know the announcement appeased a lot of the anti-Confederate crowd, but neither sounds like a “good” show from what we’ve heard, and I almost feel like they take us away from having the race dialogue that a lot of folks feel we so sorely need as a country. What are y’all’s thoughts on these shows?

In other TV news, it was announced that ABC’s The Middle would be ending after its upcoming 9th season. This elicited to a lot of responses of “That show’s still on?”, and I immediately understood why Trump won. As the title suggests, the show focused on a middle class family, in the middle of the country, as they struggle to make it through. Over the past 8 years, they have been emblematic of the types of voters who feel their voices aren’t being heard as their situations get tighter. That’s the show’s audience, even though they’re not the glamorous demographic that Madison Avenue covets. I actually really enjoy the exploits of the Heck family, but I understand that the show’s not “hip” or “cool”, so it flew under a lot of folks’ radar. The upcoming Roseanne revival has been described as focusing on the Conners as they try to make their way in Trump’s America, but I’d argue that The Middle did it first, and will probably be looked upon as the most accurate depiction when the dust settles.

Across the dial, it was finally confirmed that Erinn Hayes’s character on CBS’s Kevin Can Wait will, in fact, be killed off. The show will pick up after some time has passed, paving the way for Kevin James to reunite with his The King of Queens costar Leah Remini. I understand shows sometimes need a retool, but all evidence was pointing to the show as a moderate success. The only sticking point was Remini guested in the season finale, and suddenly everyone wanted that chemistry back. To me, I’m good. I still have 8 seasons of The King of Queens to look back on (I don’t count that last season because it felt like they hated each other by that point, surprising me that they’d reunite. To me, this is almost like Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell doing a new show together). Hayes will bounce back, as she’s already been cast in Amazon’s The Dangerous Book for Boys, but I still don’t feel like the show did her right.

In comics news, it was revealed that the Milestone comic line’s reboot has been stalled because the creators behind it were trying to cut out the estate of co-creator Dwayne McDuffie. If you’re not familiar, the Milestone line was comprised of a bunch of minority-focused superhero books from the early 90s. There was Hardware (Black Iron Man), Rocket (Black Captain Marvel?), Blood Syndicate (Black…I dunno. I didn’t read that one). Oh, and Static (Black Lightning Jr, basically). The original creators were Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek T. Dingle, and Michael Davis (if we ever meet, ask me my Michael Davis stories. Dude is crazy, but I ain’t putting that stuff in writing for him to find it).

A few years back, they announced a revival of the Milestone brand, but Davis had been cut out and replaced by former BET head Reginald Hudlin. They kept saying an announcement was forthcoming, while Davis took to the internet saying it’ll never happen. He was hurt he’d been left out of something he’d had a hand in creating, but he also knew there were roadblocks that the group wouldn’t be able to get over.

Well, this week, McDuffie’s widow sued the group because his estate had been left out of recent negotiations, as Cowan, Dingle, and Hudlin were going to create a new entity to cut out McDuffie’s stake. There’s a lot of potential in the franchise, with recent cries for representation in fantasy media, but I’d like to go on record and say that those books just weren’t very good. They were just Black characters the same quality of the Image output of the time. I used to read Hardware and that book, ugh…Maybe they’ve got some fresh new takes on the characters, but I don’t think they’re even interested in comics at this point. They just want to control the intellectual property. Anyway, for all McDuffie did in the comic industry, it seems like he was constantly screwed over, even in death. I hope his estate is at least getting some money for the use of Damage Control (which he created) in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but I know it was work-for-hire blah blah blah. Anyway, here’s hoping Mrs. McDuffie gets what she’s owed.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Divergent franchise sequel, Ascendant, is now being developed as an ongoing TV series for Starz
  • The Black-ish spinoff, college-ish will now known as grown-ish
  • Vin Diesel is reportedly working on a Miami Vice reboot on NBC for the 2018-2019 season. I really hope they set it in the 80s. Otherwise, it’s just gonna be nothing but Pitbull and Flo Rida cameos…
  • The Will & Grace revival has already been renewed, despite the fact it hasn’t aired yet. It was also revealed that it will ignore the series finale, just like Roseanne…
  • Late 90s MTV staple, Total Request Live (TRL) will return in October, with FIVE hosts. I guess they’re trying to bring back that VJ position again.
  • Speaking of MTV, hot on the heels of removing gendered categories, MTV has changed the coveted Video Music Award from the Moon Man to the Moon Person. It will be able to use any space bathroom that it chooses.
  • Soap actor Hartley Sawyer will recur as The Elongated Man this season on The Flash
  • Speaking of the Arrowverse, the next 4-show crossover will take place over two nights this season, November 27th and 28th
  • Apparently hot ass Scientologist Catherine Bell from JAG has been on a show on Hallmark Channel called Good Witch for the past three years. Who knew? Anyway, it’s been renewed for a fourth season
  • Aussie actress Teagan Croft cast as Raven in the Titans series
  • Amazon is adding Carsey-Werner shows such as Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, A Different World, Cybill, Grace Under Fire, and Grounded for Life to its streaming library
  • Pacific Rim: Uprising‘s release has been moved from Feb 23 to March 23
  • Hasbro has called off talks to buy Lionsgate. In other news, apparently Hasbro was trying to buy Lionsgate.
  • Agent Carter‘s Hayley Atwell will reportedly join Ewan McGregor in Disney’s Christopher Robin 
  • Formerly a staple of Baltimore Comic Con, the Harvey Awards will move to New York Comic Con in 2018
  • They’ll be calling it Hawaii Five-WHOA, as Joey Lawrence is slated to guest star on the CBS series this season
  • Because he’s never turned down a job, Nick Cannon will host Lip Sync Battle Shorties, a kid-centered spinoff of Lip Sync Battle to air on Nickelodeon
  • During the 2017 Teen Choice Awards, Fox will experiment with 6-second commercials. This is how that subliminal programming shit starts!
  • Remembering where he came from, Kenan Thompson (who’s also now the longest-standing SNL cast member) is reportedly developing a live action sketch show for kids.
  • Transformers spinoff, Bumblebee, will open against Aquaman on December 21st, 2018
  • Blumhouse Television is bringing horror reality show Scare Tactics back to TV
  • Due to how he perceives Starz doesn’t appreciate his show, 50 Cent has threatened to snatch Power off the network.
  • Pokemon: I Choose You will get a two-night theatrical run in November. I’m not telling you the dates because the movie is a retelling of Ash & Pikachu’s meeting, yet it removes Brock and Misty from the story. Fuck this movie!

So, there was some crazy stuff in the comic industry this week, as a picture of of some women Marvel editors brought out the crazies. It all started with this pic:

Marvel editor Heather Antos and some other female editors got together for milkshakes, and based on the hashtag, it was to honor recently deceased former Marvel secretary “Fabulous Flo” Steinberg. A seemingly innocent thing, right? Well, here was the reaction on social media:

Wow, right? From dudes making inappropriate sexual remarks to folks blaming this on Social Justice Warriors, a certain corner of the internet lost its mind over some damn milkshakes.

But then came the backlash to the backlash. Fans and creators started posting pics in solidarity with the ladies.

The support even came from the “Distinguished Competition”, as they tweeted the following pic:

What started out as a snake bed for trolls turned into a show of solidarity that not only shed light on what women editors face on a daily basis, but also seemed to strengthen some relationships “across the aisle”. I mean, this is the best Marvel/DC crossover since Amalgam! As I said on Twitter, when history classes look back on this period in time, they will see that it was not blockbuster events but milkshakes that saved the comic industry. That’s why female comic editors had the West Week Ever.

 

By the way, I’m apparently 16 years old because I just signed up for Sarahah. So, swing by and leave me some anonymous comments. Oh, and please don’t make me cry!

07th Jul2017

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

by Will

I took last week off, but I hope y’all had a great 4th of July weekend. Life’s still kinda kicking my ass, so this’ll be an abridged edition this week.

I finally got around to watching a movie! It’s been on my list since I first heard it was in pre-production, and I’m amazed it took me this long to watch it, considering my love for the source material. The Founder stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the “founder” of McDonald’s who really just stole the concept from the McDonald Brothers. A down-on-his-luck shake machine salesman, Kroc happens upon the fledgling McDonald’s restaurant in Southern California. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, he pretty much insisted on becoming a part of the operation, mainly focused on franchising the business. And that’s when things get interesting. I LOVE McDonald’s. You can hate me all you want, but like Jim Gaffigan says, “Everyone has their own McDonald’s”. Mine just happens to be the actual company. I don’t know enough about the history of the company to know how factual an account the movie was, but it was sure damn entertaining. Keaton is amazing in it, and I feel like anyone would enjoy the movie even if they think they don’t give a rat’s ass about McDonald’s as a company. I highly recommend this film.

We finally got our first trailer for Marvel’s Inhumans, and now I realize why they were so hesitant to release it. MY GOD THIS LOOKS TERRIBLE! It looks like Into The Badlands – a show that I hate because people fawn over it when it looks like something that would’ve aired after Xena on Saturday afternoons 20 year ago. Yeah, I even told one of the Badlands creators that when he confronted me over my “appraisal” on Twitter. Badlands is a bad show, but it gets “diversity points”, so folks give it a pass. This show doesn’t even get diversity right, so it’s really just a shitshow in the making. I hate hate HATE that this is considered an official part of the MCU, even if it’s just a part of the never-referenced TV wing. Anyway, this trainwreck debuts in IMAX on September 1st, but will officially air on ABC beginning September 22nd.

Speaking of diversity points, CBS lost all of theirs when they let the Asians go from Hawaii Five-O last weekend. Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park both left the show after salary negotiations broke down as they requested pay equal to their costars. I’ve never seen more than 15 minutes of that show, but I know the dude from Lost seemed pretty important to things. He was basically the White guys’ interpreter to all things native. CBS has claimed that they offered them sizable increases, which weren’t deemed acceptable to Park and Kim. Now the Five-O showrunner, Peter Lenkov, is now joining the side of the network, saying that CBS made “generous offers” to the stars, yet they decided not to renew their contracts.

This has turned into a discussion of race in Hollywood and how things still aren’t equal across the board. I’m a big fan of billing. Billing is important, and should go to the most well-known star. It’s the reason all the ’89 Batman posters say “Jack Nicholson” first. Dude was a bigger star. Now, I didn’t watch Lost and I didn’t watch Battlestar Galactica, but I still recognize Kim and Park from those shows. Maybe it’s just because I’m a geek and folks were always talking about those shows. The show’s star, Alex O’Loughlin? I can’t name a thing he’s been in. Don’t know that dude from Adam. And the other lead? James Caan’s kid? Whatever. Y’all mean you couldn’t pony up the cash to keep Lost Dude and Battlestar Girl? We’re not talking about big names here so, unless there was a favored nations clause where O’Loughlin would have to get a raise if they got raises, thereby thwarting the whole “equality” thing, I don’t see what the problem was. As has been pointed out, all O’Loughlin and Caan had to do was stand in solidarity with their costars and this would’ve been a non-issue. Word on the street it O’Loughlin is quitting at the end of the season anyway, so it’s not like we’re talking another 5 years here. He couldn’t keep his ego in check for a season? Nah, for too many folks, as long as they’ve got theirs, they don’t care if you’ve got yours.

We also got a trailer for Pitch Perfect 3, forcing me to reiterate that NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE A TRILOGY. I know everyone involved likes money, but sometimes there are natural, built-in ends to things. That thing was a 2-movie franchise and that’s it. Don’t forget – I lived that life. I was in the same competition the Bellas won in the first film (we came in 2nd), and I experienced the aca-graduation blues that the girls experienced in the second film. That’s pretty much it. There’s nowhere else to go. I mean, sure there are some random outlier outcomes. One of my groupmates is a hit producer in Asia now. Another is a pretty big pop star in Hong Kong. The rest of us? Dead-end jobs and bills. I used to occasionally do karaoke, but even that got to be too depressing. That shit is fun while it lasts, and then you’ve got to move on. So, in that vein, I can understand the plot of the 3rd movie, with the girls wanting to have one last hurrah, but I don’t really understand the concept of putting them on a USO tour. Is that something the troops wanna see? Has Pentatonix been dropped into the theater of war? It just seems kinda farfetched to me, and I was fine with how things were left in the last movie. Sure, I’ll see it, but it won’t be in a theater.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hide grandma’s wallet – QVC is buying out Home Shopping Network.
  • After 3 seasons, The Carmichael Show has been canceled by NBC. I really wish someone else would snatch it up, as it’s a smart show
  • Netflix has renewed Dear, White People for a 2nd season. Meanwhile, they canceled Girlboss after one season. Reed Hastings giveth and he taketh away.
  • Speaking of Netflix, hearing the cries of fans, Sense8 will officially conclude with a 2-hour finale special
  • Netflix also renewed one of my favorite original shows, F is For Family, for a 3rd season.
  • Apparently a series based on the popular Step Up film series, called Step Up: High Water, will premiere on YouTube Red, where absolutely NOBODY is gonna watch it.
  • Fuller House season 3 will coincidentally premiere on the 30th anniversary of Full House, September 22nd.
  • Make your vacations weird again, as Cirque du Soleil has purchased Blue Man Group.
  • Patton Oswalt is engaged to 80s actress Meredith Salenger. Ya know, the same Patton whose wife died last year. I guess we all grieve in our own ways…
  • Lack of interest brought down The House, which bombed at the box office last weekend. It was reportedly Will Ferrell’s lowest live-action opening for a major studio.
  • Nick Fury will reportedly be making his MCU return in 2019’s Captain Marvel
  • HBO is reportedly getting the True Detective band back together, with a 3rd season to star Mahershala Ali
  • Nixing speculation that she was still up for the White House Press Secretary job, Kimberly Guilfoyle has reupped her contract with Fox News
  • Rob Lowe and his sons will chase the supernatural in The Lowe Files, and I literally cannot wait.
  • New game show, Snap Decision, premieres August 7th. Hosted by David Allen Grier, the show breaks precedent because it will debut on GSN and in syndication on the same date.

  • The world’s leading (and only) bar scientist favorited my tweet this week

We’re gonna do something different here this week. Usually, if you’ve been paying attention to the week’s news, you can at least try to figure out who or what had the best week. Some weeks it’s harder to choose something than others. Then I remembered, “Will, this is YOUR site.” After all, this is all pop culture through my lens, so it’s my rules. So, sometimes I might choose something that meant a lot to me that week, while you were none the wiser. But I bring it up on the site so that we’re all on the same page. And that’s the kind of pick I have this week.

After watching The Founder, I was left thinking, “Michael Keaton is a goddamn national treasure”. After watching Spider-Man: Homecoming last night (yeah, we’ll talk about it next week, when more of y’all have had a chance to see it), I was thinking “Why have we been sleeping on Keaton the past 20 years?” I mean, with the exception of The Other Guys, I honestly hadn’t seen a Michael Keaton movie since probably Batman Returns, and yet Birdman is the one considered his “comeback vehicle”. In The Founder, he really made you feel for a traveling salesman who was at the end of his rope. After a string of laughable failures, he finally found something to which he could hitch his wagon: McDonald’s. And while he also had to prove this to everyone in his sphere of orbit, most importantly he had to prove this to himself. He really needed a win, and Keaton did such a great job conveying that.

In Homecoming, Keaton plays Adrian Toomes, better known as the Vulture (though he’s never called that by name in the film). Not unlike Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octopus, he’s something of a sympathetic villain. Were it not for the fact that comic book franchises deal in the good/bad binary, you could almost relate to him and understand where he’s coming from. He’s a modern-day working class guy who feels ignored by the fat cats up on high. He doesn’t have evil goals. He simply wants to provide for his family, and he has a code of honor that dictates he must do whatever it takes to make good on that promise. I felt that Keaton did a great job expressing the plight of the working man. Sure, he got to utter some cheesy villain dialogue, but that simply comes with the territory. If you stopped for a minute, and ignored the fact that Spider-Man HAS to win, you realize that Toomes is actually kind of on to something. Again, though, I’ll get into more Homecoming thoughts next week.

My pal Chad pretty much swears by Michael Keaton as his favorite actor – a lot of that having to do with his immense love of 1989’s Batman. I’ve gotta say, I was never a huge fan of Keaton’s Batman, and when Chad would laud Keaton’s praises, I wasn’t really seeing it. I see it now, though. I have seen the light and I am healed! Dear Hollywood, more Michael Keaton, please! He pretty much impressed me on two different cinematic fronts this week, and that’s why Michael Keaton had the West Week Ever.

13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

12th May2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/12/17

by Will

In movie news, it was reported by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola that there will be an R-rated Hellboy reboot film. Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen will star Stranger Things‘s David Harbour in the title role, and will be directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent). As most fans were holding out for a Hellboy 3, this news came as quite a surprise. Still, it won’t star Ron Perlman, nor will it be directed by Guillermo Del Toro, so folks are a bit hesitant. I think Harbour will be good in the role, and I remember enjoying The Descent, so I think the franchise is in good hands if the intent is to scare the audience.

We got a trailer for Blade Runner 2049, which did absolutely nothing for me. Back when I was in college, I did a summer in London where I was supposed to be learning about globalization. Instead, the professor had us watch Blade Runner. I still don’t know how the two topics tied together. Anyway, I hated that movie. It tried too hard. Like Peter Griffin describes The Godfather, it insists upon itself. It wants to be so deep and mysterious, with its whole “Is Decker a Replicant?” thing. I just wasn’t a fan. So this sequel isn’t exactly on my Must Watch list, which is a shame seeing as how I’ve loved Ryan Gosling since Breaker High. Yup, even in Young Hercules. Some folks seem excited for this film, though, so good for them I guess.

Over on cable, shows are playing musical chairs. The Untitled Black-ish Spinoff that we talked about last week may now be moving to Freeform It seems that the audience that tuned in were a bit lower than what ABC would like to see for a Wednesday night, but the demographics are perfect for the show to be on Freeform. Meanwhile, fantasy series The Shannara Chronicles is moving from MTV to Spike TV (which will soon be rebranded as The Paramount Network). I never watched Shannara, but it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that belonged on MTV, except for the fact that it starred pretty teens. I’m not even sure Spike is the right home for it, either, but maybe this is a hint as to how they’re planning to use The Paramount Network.

Speaking of cable, out of nowhere it was announced that Donald Glover would be the showrunner for a Deadpool animated series on FXX. Yeah, that Donald Glover. It’s odd that we’re not getting season 2 of Atlanta until 2018 at the earliest because of his other commitments, but he’s gonna have time to do this? He’ll be running the show with his brother Stephen, but it still sounds like a tall order. I’d rather have Atlanta. Plus, this just feels like it’s gonna be Marvel’s Archer. 10 episodes have been ordered for a 2018 debut.

On basic TV, Modern Family scored a 2-season renewal, with the grown-up cast members getting a raise from $350,000 to $500,000 an episode. The contract negotiations came down to the wire, but in the end ABC was able to keep its Wednesday night lynchpin. I honestly feel like this show should’ve ended 3 years ago. I stopped being able to really relate to them when I realized they whole upper middle class status made their lives unrealistic. They never seem to have money problems, they can take trips and do whatever they want. It’s funny – the same reasons I hate Roseanne (they were so damn poor) is what I feel are missing from Modern Family. Plus, there’s the elephant in the room in the form of Ariel Winter. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, she has grown up into what some might call “hot as shit”, yet they still frump her up on the show because her character, Alex, is supposed to be mousy next to Sarah Hyland’s Haley. If they really want to make these final (yes, I’m calling it: final) two seasons interesting, they will address this fact, and force Haley to realize she’s no longer the “hot daughter”. That might actually make me watch the show again.

Meanwhile, The CW officially ordered Black Lightning to series. This would typically be seen as good news, but I can’t help but feel like the Berlantiverse is too big and unwieldy at this point. Whenever a new show is introduced, the existing shows suffer. Everyone loved Arrow until The Flash came along. Then, they loved The Flash, yet felt Arrow had slipped. Then Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow debuted, and The Flash suffered while Supergirl was praised. This has been something of a rebuilding season across the board. Supergirl had to adjust to a network switch, while Legends saw an increase in quality. Arrow saw a return to form, while The Flash is doing whatever it’s doing over there. Flashpoint or some shit. The point is that the existing shows are finally heading in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to introduce a new hero. In fact, I feel like Legends should be a proving ground. If a member of that team becomes a breakout fan favorite, then they get a spinoff. I’d be fine with Black Lightning as a member of the Legends, but I don’t know if there’s enough meat on that bone for him to have his own series. And can you imagine the FIVE-WAY crossover we’re gonna end up with next season?! I was already disappointed by this season’s uneven four-way, but to add another show to that? Sure, it’ll be a weeklong event, but it isn’t necessary.

With the network Upfront presentations looming over the horizon, this is the time of year when your favorite show either gets another lease on life or it gets the chop. Here’s the movement from the past 24 hrs:

Cancellations

  • Timeless (NBC)
  • Rosewood (Fox)
  • Last Man Standing (ABC)
  • Son of Zorn (Fox)
  • Making History (Fox)
  • APB (Fox)
  • Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
  • The Catch (ABC)
  • Imaginary Mary (ABC)
  • Powerless (NBC)
  • The Real O’Neals (ABC)
  • Secrets & Lies (ABC)
  • Dr. Ken (ABC)
  • American Crime (ABC)
  • Frequency (The CW)
  • No Tomorrow (The CW)

Renewals

  • iZombie (The CW)
  • The Originals (The CW)
  • Blindspot (NBC)
  • 13 Reasons Why (Netflix)
  • Taken (NBC)
  • Last Man On Earth (Fox)
  • Gotham (Fox)
  • The Blacklist (NBC)
  • American Gods (Starz)
  • The Goldbergs (ABC)
  • Black-ish (ABC)
  • American Housewife (ABC)
  • Designated Survivor (ABC)
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
  • Once Upon A Time (ABC)
  • Great News (NBC)
  • The Bachelor (ABC)
  • Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
  • Shark Tank (ABC)
  • Chicago Med (NBC)
  • Chicago PD (NBC)
  • Chicago Fire (NBC)

Song of the Week

I’m trying something new. Every week, I’m gonna share a song/video that I discovered that week. Today, I give you Midland’s “Drinkin’ Problem”. Yes, it’s country, but I love the sound, as it’s more of a bluesy 70s song than straight up country, and I LOVE the video.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Kelly Clarkson is reportedly in talks to be a judge on the revived American Idol on ABC. Seems like those talks were too late, though, as she has officially signed on as a coach on the next season of The Voice
  • Fox officially ordered X-Men tie-in The Gifted to series
  • Speaking of X-Men, Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones will play Wolfsbane in the New Mutants film. She will be joined by Magik, played by Split‘s Anya Taylor-Joy.
  • IM Global and Rebellion are teaming up to produce a live action Judge Dredd TV series, called Judge Dredd: Mega City One
  • Scandal will reportedly end after its upcoming 7th season
  • Direct from The LEGO Movie, Unikitty will be getting her own cartoon on Cartoon Network
  • Time to spot the pineapple, as Psych: The Movie will premiere on USA in December

So last Thursday night I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. I didn’t mention it in last week’s post because I’m trying to switch things up. It’s unrealistic of me to expect that all of you are able to see a film on opening night, and I also feel like you’re less likely to read my post if you think I might spoil something. So, I figured it best to sit on it a week so we’d all be on the same page. Anyway, what did I think of the film? I LOVED IT! I might even love it more than the original.

I’d say that this is probably the most emotional MCU film, as it’s more about family and belonging than it is about Infinity Stones and Winter Soldier. Star Lord’s story really hit home as a fellow child of the 80s, raised by his mom, who also didn’t have his father in his life. Now, instead of being a god, my dad simply died. But I’m sure I probably also wished Michael Knight was my dad at some point in my childhood.

What’s the movie about? Well, the Guardians are split up after a caper gone wrong. Half of the crew stays behind to fix their ship, while the other half go off with Star-Lord’s long lost father, Ego. But all is not as it seems with Ego. And that’s about all I’ll say about that. I can’t think of a single that I didn’t like about the film. Actually, scratch that. There was one thing: The Watchers. They just looked hokey, and I would’ve been fine if they’d never been introduced in the MCU. That kind of stuff belongs in the Fantastic Four Fox movies, but I like to think the MCU is more grounded than that. Their appearance looked and felt cheap to me, but luckily it’s only for a split second, unless you count their after credits appearance, too. Maybe it’s just because I typically hate most things about Cosmic Marvel, but the Guardians movies have slowly brought me around.

Internationally, the film has already crossed the $500 million mark, so I think it’s safe to say it’s success. They’re already talking about Vol 3 which, supposedly, will set up the next decade of the MCU. While I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that (again, I’m not a huge fan of Space Marvel), I’m eager to see how they pull it off. For all these reasons, Guardians of  the Galaxy Vol 2 had the West Week Ever.

05th May2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/5/17

by Will

In TV news, we got the first trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders series on Netflix. I dunno, y’all. I’ll be the first person to tell you that I’m behind on these shows. At this point, I’ve only seen Daredevil season 1 and Jessica Jones. No DD S2, no Luke Cage, and no Iron Fist. Sorry, kids, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Daredevil was a worthy bingeing experience, as each episode ended on a cliffhanger that MADE you have to check out the next episode immediately. Jessica Jones, not so much. It took me about 3 months to get through that show. Now, I enjoyed it, but it didn’t demand that I consume it immediately. I’m eager to catch Luke Cage, but I wanna go in order, so that means I’ve got to meet the Punisher and Elektra first in Daredevil season 2. So, even though The Defenders comes out in August, I’ll be lucky if I get to it in 2017. Anyway, I told you all that to make you see that my level of enthusiasm for this probably isn’t as high as yours because I’m so far behind. That said, I thought this trailer looked hokey as Hell. The scene where Murdock comes into Jessica’s interrogation felt like a bad fan film. Shit, the whole thing felt like a bad fan film. Remember when Playstation Network aired that Bendis Powers show? Yeah, it looks like that. Something about the cinematography of it all. And then they had to do another goddamn hallway fight. WE GET IT ALREADY! I just don’t know about this one right now..

In other TV news, there are talks of a Roseanne revival, with ABC and Netflix interested bidding on the project. Laurie Metcalf, Aunt Jackie herself, reported that contracts have been worked out, so now they’re just trying to sell the series. Right now, Roseanne (does she currently have a last name?), John Goodman, and Sara Gilbert would star, while Metcalfe says she’s on board in some capacity. It’ll be interesting to see how they pull this off, ya know with Dan being dead and all. Still, it ended with one of the most maligned series finales in television history, and they’ve got a chance to basically erase it. How many shows can say that? Anyway, I was never a huge Roseanne fan. They were just so poor and depressing. Are they gonna lose the bike shop? Are they gonna lose the loose meat restaurant? Is Fisher gonna stop beating up Jackie? I know their struggles resonated with certain folks, but not me. I actually liked the Lottery Season because I could say “Thank God their lives aren’t such shit anymore!” Anyway, I’d bet money on this happening, so it’s now just a matter of where it’s gonna air. The big question is in which “universe” it will be set. After all, the finale basically laid out that everything since about season 4 of the show had been a lie, since Darlene actually ended up with Mark, Becky was the one with David, Jackie was a lesbian, etc. So, would we get the “true” Roseanne, or just more of what we’re used to? And with Mark dead, and David on The Big Bang Theory, I don’t really expect much from those characters anyway. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I was on my own last weekend, so I took the time to watch TV and catch up comics. Well, I didn’t really watch TV, but it was on in the background. It provided the soundtrack to my comic time. What did I watch? CMT – Country Music Television. Yeah, yeah, you hate country. I don’t care. I grew up on it, so it has a special place in my heart. Anyway, when I saw Brad Paisley’s new video for “Last Time For Everything”, I KNEW I had to share it with y’all. This thing is a love letter to children of the 80s, complete with tracking/tape distortion lines. I don’t wanna spoil anything, so just check it out. Don’t worry – the song’s not about drankin’, or a dead dog, or his wife left him; it’s just a song about appreciating things when you have them because they won’t always be there.

The backdoor pilot for the Black-ish spinoff aired this week. Oh, you don’t know what a “backdoor pilot” is? It’s when an established show gives up one of its episodes to try to launch a new show. Since it already has a built-in audience, it kinda tricks viewers into watching a new show that they otherwise wouldn’t have checked out. Married…with Children had, like, 4 of them. Anyway, in Black-ish, Zoey went off to check out college, made a new best friend, and pissed off the Black Student Union. The whole episode was kinda hokey, but it worked. Chris Parnell was the spineless dean, which is basically every Chris Parnell character these days. And I love how they worked Deon Cole’s Charlie into the plot. If the spinoff gets picked up (I mean, why wouldn’t it?), I hope he gets a bigger role there than he has on Black-ish. If Black-ish is a modern-day Cosby Show, then this is its A Different World. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that, really.

If you like useless gimmick items as much as I do, then make sure you pick up your Frork from McDonalds today. To celebrate the release of their three new Signature Crafted Recipes (Pico Guacamole, Sweet BBQ Bacon, and Maple Bacon Dijon), they’re releasing a utensil that they know nobody needs, but hey, why not? The Frork is basically a fry holder, where the fries act as the tines of the fork. In the infomercial, complete with Anthony Sullivan appearance, they claim the Frork will help you scoop up the toppings that fall off your overflowing sandwich. I swear Anthony Sullivan killed Billy Mays ‘so he’d get ALL that sweet infomercial work. But I digress…If you would like a Frork, check this link to see if one of your local McDonalds locations is giving them out today.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • HBO has hired writers for FOUR potential Game of Thrones spinoffs. So, get ready for Match of Chairs, Bout of Seats, Mother of Dragons and, my personal favorite, Tits & Swords.
  • Warner Bros has pushed back its theatrical animated Scooby-Doo film two years to 2020.
  • Girl Meets World is officially dead, as creator Michael Jacobs was unable to find a new home for the series.
  • While this news is about a month old, FXX has decided against a fourth season of Man Seeking Woman, which wrapped up its 3rd season in March. The season finale was a fitting series finale, so I ain’t mad.
  • Hot on the heels of its premiere, Hulu has renewed The Handmaid’s Tale for a second season.
  • Surprising no one, Fox canceled the freshman drama Pitch, about the first female major league baseball player. Following on their heels, NBC canceled the Wizard of Oz update Emerald City.
  • It was reported that Gabriel Luna’s Ghost Rider will be returning to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the season finale

  • Speaking of Marvel TV, we got our first cast picture from Inhumans. KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

  • We also got our first look at the cast of Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu. They look like the comic, but I still hate that they aged Molly. I like her more as a precocious child to balance them out.
  • A strike by the Writers Guild of America, which would’ve affected all corners of entertainment, was narrowly averted at the 11th hour
  • Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski revealed that they’re engaged. Man, they shit in the company ink! That’s the saying, right?

The biggest TV news of the week was that Ryan Seacrest was announced as Kelly Ripa’s permanent cohost on what will now be called Live with Kelly & Ryan. This bothered me so much! First of all, I was really kinda hoping an underdog, like Fred Savage, would get it. And if they had to go with a media person, they had Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen on the list. But Seacrest?! The dude’s empire is based in LA and, yes, he has an empire. He’s a modern-day Merv Griffin, producing Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Shades of Blue, and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. He also has a daily syndicated radio show, On Air With Ryan Seacrest, as well as hosts the weekly American Top 40 countdown. With all that going on, you’d think he’d stay in LA instead of taking a job from a New Yorker. Instead, iHeartMedia has built a radio station in the ABC Studios building so that he can do his radio show immediately after taping Live. The plan is for him to stay in New York Monday-Thursday to film Live, he’ll pretape Friday’s show on Thursday, and then he’ll spend Friday-Sunday in LA.

But that’s not ALL the Seacrest news this week. You see, talks of an American Idol revival have heated up again. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, when NBC and Fox were both interested in the show – NBC especially because they could, then, reduce The Voice to one cycle a year. Those talks fell through, but now it appears that ABC has gotten into the game, with one stipulation: there’s no Idol without Seacrest, so the show would have to move to New York so he could continue to host. The show’s production company, Fremantle, insists that it stays in LA. ABC wants to announce it during the May upfronts, which occur in two weeks, for a Fall 2018 premiere (yeah, it ain’t gonna be ready by this Fall). So here’s the plan on how that would work: Fremantle wants to air Idol on Sunday nights from LA, where Seacrest would then fly to NYC after the show in order to make it in time to film Live Monday morning. After filming Monday’s Live, he would then fly back to LA for the Idol results show. Once that’s over, he would fly back to NYC in time for Tuesday’s Live. My God! The live portion of Idol is only 10 weeks, but that is a grueling schedule that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So far, however, it seems that ABC’s plan would be to air Idol on Mondays, to go head to head with The Voice, so this plan wouldn’t work.

Say what you will about Seacrest, but I’ve always admired the dude’s work ethic. He doesn’t seem to know the word “no”, and he’s constantly building his brand. With the exception of the short-lived On Air With Ryan Seacrest TV show (which is conveniently missing from his Wikipedia entry), he doesn’t really fail at anything. I guess hard work and determination really can take you places. I’ll tell ya, back when he was hosting Click and Gladiators 2000, I had NO CLUE he would become as big as he is. He makes me wanna go out and get 3 more jobs. Then again, I wouldn’t have his net worth of $330 million, but it’d be a start. Anyway, for taking all the jobs, while growing in power, Ryan Seacrest had the West Week Ever.

10th Feb2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/10/17

by Will

Last night, my friend Mike and I went to check out The Lego Batman Movie. Seeing as how we were the only two people in the theater, I’m not quite sure what its weekend box office is gonna look like. I bet John Wick: Chapter 2 takes #1, since that’s where everyone seemed to be heading. Anyway, I LOVED the film. First up, it considers EVERYTHING canon. If you saw it onscreen, then it happened in that universe. The whole thing is kind of surreal, as the movie focuses on Batman’s loner status, while also confronting his complicated relationship with The Joker. On the Batman Beyond cartoon, there’s an episode where old Bruce Wayne and his protege, Terry McGinnis, go to a Batman-themed musical. Bruce can’t get over how goofy the whole thing seems, but I feel like this film is the movie version of that musical. It doesn’t have the camp of the ’66 show, but it’s a movie that never really takes itself seriously. I loved the liberties they took, like making Jim and Barbara Gordon people of color (voiced by Hector Elizondo and Rosario Dawson). It doesn’t hurt the story any, while bringing some diversity to the Lego world. I also liked how it tied in concepts from The Lego Movie, such as the fact that Batman is a Master Builder. I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but I feel like it’s strong until the middle of the second act, at which point it switches from a Lego Batman movie to a Lego Dimensions movie. Trust me, you’ll understand when you see it, and I think you’ll agree that the story gets a bit weaker at that point. In any case, I can’t wait for it to hit Blu Ray, so I can rewatch it a thousand times to catch all the Easter eggs.

This week, we got a trailer for a new season of Arrow. Wait, what? That was actually for Iron Fist? Huh. Yeah, I was really underwhelmed by that trailer. Finn Jones doesn’t seem like a great actor, there’s not a lot of Kung Fu on display, and it seems like it’s more focused on corporate takeover, as Danny Rand tries to reclaim his family’s business. Since it’s a Netflix Marvel show, there’s also Rosario Dawson and another damn hallway fight. I welcome the former, but I’m SO over the latter. I’ll get around to watching it, but the days of me binge-watching a Marvel season the weekend of its release are long gone. Considering I still need to watch Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage, I’ll be lucky to get around to it in 2017. That said, I know a lot of y’all will binge it that day, and will tell me if it sucks or not.

In other TV news, it’s rumored that NBC wants to spin Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update segment into a weekly 30-minute show. I guess they looked at John Oliver and Samantha Bee, and realized they might be leaving money on the table. Still, Jost and Che as “polarizing”, at best, and I’m not sure if that segment has the legs to air 30 minutes every week, in the same format. Plus, would it also remain a part of SNL, or would it be excised completely? I think this would’ve been a good idea in an election year, as there’s just so much news to cover, but now that all that is behind us, I’m just not sure this is going to work. And then what happens? If it does leave SNL, would it come crawling back next season, with its tail between its legs? The difference between Last Week Tonight/Full Frontal and Weekend Update is that those cable shows are actually smart, with smart hosts. Plus, they can get away with a bit more because cable. Weekend Update has gotten a lot more biting since Trump was elected, but is it too little, too late? Are the SNL writers up to the task of this project? I just feel like it’s a bad idea that will dilute the Weekend Update and SNL brands.

It was also announced that Viacom will be rebranding Spike TV as the Paramount Network. In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve witnessed a network go through as many format changes as that one. As far back as I can remember, it was The Nashville Network. Then, to appeal to a wider audience, it became The National Network. Then, to appeal to dudebros, it became Spike TV. Now, I don’t even know who they’re targeting. I also don’t know why they chose this particular name. It’s like they have short memories or something. After all, there’s already been a Paramount Network. Sure, most of us referred to it as UPN and not the United Paramount Network, but that’s what those letters stood for. And it was the definition of “failed experiment”. Sure, it hobbled along for about 10 years, but its legacy is basically Star Trek: Voyager, America’s Next Top Model and Girlfriends. Outside of that, it gave us such critical darlings as Shasta McNasty, Homeboys In Outer Space, and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer. Hey, let’s see how many shitty (that means all of them) UPN shows I can list without looking them up: DiResta, Legend, Platypus Man, Hitz, Good News, SparksDilbert, Marker, The Watcher, The Sentinel…yeah,that’s enough to make my point, which is you probably don’t remember any of these. UPN did NOTHING for the Paramount brand, and its effects are still being felt 11 years after its demise. So why, WHY would Viacom want to go down this road again? Anyway, the early plans for the rebranding call for the network to be a warehouse for hit Viacom programming from their other networks. It’s basically just gonna be the Now That’s What I Call Viacom Channel, posting the highlights from MTV, Nick, Nick Jr, etc. In fact, there are no concrete plans for the future of other Viacom networks, such as VH1, CMT, and TVLand, but reports say that there’s no immediate push to shut them down.

It was also rumored that there are already talks of an American Idol revival, but this time on NBC. Now, keep in mind the show just ended its run on Fox last year. The idea is that The Voice would be reduced to one cycle a year, and then they would slot Idol in one of its old slots. I feel like NBC sees the value in that show in that it actually creates household names – something The Voice has failed to do after 11 seasons. The focus is too much on the judges, and the winners have gone nowhere. Quick, name a winner of The Voice without looking it up. Hell, I watched the first season, and I can’t even remember that guy (I looked it up: Javier Colon. Who? Right). So, there’s definitely something to be gained from acquiring the franchise. That said, though, I also feel like a network only gets one of those shows. Fox had Idol, NBC had The Voice, ABC had Rising Star, and CBS had some show that got canceled that I forgot. Fox hurt Idol by double-dipping and picking up The X-Factor. That show never caught on in the US, and it hurt the Fox singing competition brand. If NBC picks up Idol, it’s going to do the same to The Voice. I mean, how much longer does America want to see Blake Shelton and Adam Levine bicker at each other? Sure, there’s a new dynamic now that Blake and Gwen Stefani are dating and both judges, but unless the show breaks them up, I don’t know how engaging that’s gonna be. And Miley Cyrus as a coach? Now, let me say that Bangerz was a great album. I’ve written about how awesome it was. But I don’t think Miley is established enough as a singer to be coaching anyone. She’s more known for her antics than her music. Then again, Paula Abdul was a has been, judging the talent of tomorrow, but that was intrinsic to the formula. Ultimately, America chose the Idol, and the show brought in established stars as coaches. The Voice has an unnecessary layer. They have talented judges, but then they also have the coaches, and then America. As Idol showed us, ANYBODY cane a judge, which is going to be an important thing for NBC to remember once it comes to for contracts to be renegotiated. Anyway, I think Idol needs to rest a few more years before they dust it off. It was once a powerhouse, but television AND music changed over time. Let the industry figure out its next steps before trying to reenter it.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with women, which meant I did a tour of duty with soap operas. I started with Days of Our Lives back in the late 80s, then shifted to The Young and the Restless, and then shifted back to Days in the 00s. And besides Victor Newman, there is no soap villain quite as diabolical as Stefano DiMera. Well, the actor who portrayed him, Joseph Mascolo, died back in December, but his final filmed episode aired yesterday.  Although Mascolo had been battling Alzheimers for the past few years, he had portrayed the character for around 30 years. For some reason (I haven’t watched in a while), he was in prison (he’s killed/led to the death of a lot of folks. But they typically come back after contract negotiations), and at the end of the episode, he escapes! What a beautiful ending, knowing that he will be forever “in the wind”, as they can’t really catch him again unless they recast him. Seeing as how the rumor is Days is coming to an end this year, they won’t even have time to do that, with scripts written about 6 months in advance. So, here’s a toast to one of the greatest villains to ever grace the television set. You will be missed, you evil son of a bitch.

Let’s get a little controversial, shall we? This week, comedian George Lopez got in hot water for kicking a woman out of one of his shows when she objected to a racially-charged joke he told. Basically he said, “There are only two rules in the Latino family: Don’t marry somebody black and don’t park in front of our house.” Apparently, a woman gave him the finger after that joke, to which he began to tell her to “sit [her] fucking ass down or get the fuck out.” Now, comedians are on his side because they say he was just shutting down a heckler. Meanwhile, the general public is on her side because they’re offended by the joke, and don’t see why he had to kick her out for objecting. Here’s my take: First of all, he’s told variations of this joke for years. He used to joke about how his grandmother wouldn’t even want President Obama in her house. If you’re familiar with his material, then his joke the other night shouldn’t surprise you. Now, for the folks offended by the joke: was he wrong? All I know is my own life experience. I dated a Cuban, and as polite and Ivy League-educated as I could be, I was still the Black guy who could only illicit grunts from her father. And I don’t know anyone named Esmeralda Jenkins or Manuela Johnson. Growing up where I did, Black guys didn’t get Latinas or Asian girls. Those girls’ families weren’t gonna stand for that! So, this is one of those jokes that’s grounded in truth. It might rub some folks the wrong way, but it’s not necessarily untrue. Where I stand, I don’t think he really did anything wrong. After all, that’s how comedians handle folks who they feel are interrupting their show, and the joke itself was par for the Lopez course. I wouldn’t say it was “haha funny”, but it wasn’t wrong.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • An animated series based on the Castlevania video game is coming to Netflix later this year. Hopefully it will star gay Simon Belmont from Captain N: The Game Master.
  • Kate McKinnon will voice Ms. Frizzle in Netflix’s reboot of The Magic School Bus
  • Speaking of Netflix, Love, The OA, and Trollhunters have all been renewed by the streaming service.
  • Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, announced that she’s retiring after her next album is released.
  • After 25 years over covering the Olympics, Bob Costas announced he’s handing the reins over to Mike Tirico
  • Entertainment newsmagazine show The Insider has been canceled after 13 seasons.
  • Formerly of USA’s Satisfaction, Blair Redford has been cast as the first mutant in Fox’s X-Men TV series
  • Not to be outdone by Beyoncé, it was announced that George and Amal Clooney are expecting twins. Those Hollywood In Vitro clinics are working overtime these days!
  • Speaking of babies, Jason Statham proved he’s the Transporter of Sperm, as he announced he’s expecting a baby with girlfriend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

I don’t like Tom Brady. Don’t like a thing about him. I find it odd that you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same damn season. That said, that was a Hell of a comeback during Sunday’s Super Bowl LI. Somehow, the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead, allowing the New England Patriots to mount an amazing comeback and win their 5th Super Bowl title. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. There was Edelman’s amazing catch. Some are calling it the most exciting game of football ever. But in the end there can only be one winner, and that was the Patriots. So, with that in mind, the New England Patriots had the West Week Ever.

18th Jan2017

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2016

by Will

Thank 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn Baby Jesus that 2016 is over! I mean, I guess there was some good stuff peppered in there, but it was an overall rough year for a lot of people. I tried to keep my sanity here on the blog, but even I checked out for the month of November. Like Kenny Rogers told us, sometimes you’ve gotta know when to walk away. But I did make a return in December just to kick the year in the ass on its way out. So, besides celebrity deaths, what did 2016 bring us? Well, there was that week we were all mesmerized by Pokemon Go! Those were fun times. We got new X-Files episodes. Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. Atlanta and Luke Cage came along and entertained us on television. And things weren’t too shabby here on the blog either.

During Spring Break Week, I discussed several of the most underrated TV theme songs, including Webster, California Dreams, and Enterprise.

I also covered the worst Batman comic ever written, in the form of Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Batman

I did my annual Fall TV Upfronts post, where I discussed the upcoming fall lineups of the major broadcast networks.

A post that was several years in the making, I ranked the Hot Moms of Teen Shows over on The Robot’s Pajamas

I also did a guest post ranking the hottest Power Rangers Villains

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. The country was going through some dark stuff, and I’m particularly proud of this West Week Ever where I discussed the racial problems in the country.

I also experience my first live wrestling event as I attended a taping of WWE Monday Night Raw.

I brought back my graphic novel review column, Adventures West Coast, where I covered Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I also brushed off my Comical Thoughts column, where I discussed IDW’s disappointing Hasbro-centric Revolution event.

Finally, I closed out the year with a post that I’m particularly proud of, discussing the greatest problems facing comic retailers.

I saw about 13 fewer movies in 2016 than in 2015. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but there are only so many hours in the day. As you know, I’m not necessarily Mr. Movie, so I’m not even going to try to rank them. Here they are, simply in the order that I saw them. Wanna know my thoughts? Plug the title into the search box up on the top righthand corner!

Movies I Watched This Year

  1. Lucy
  2. Beauty Shop
  3. Bikini Spring Break
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey
  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past (The Rogue Cut)
  6. We Don’t Live Here Anymore
  7. Gone Girl
  8. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2
  9. The Martian
  10. Inside Out
  11. Sisters
  12. Batman: Bad Blood
  13. Son of Batman
  14. Batman vs. Robin
  15. The Hundred-Foot Journey
  16. Tomorrowland
  17. Deadpool
  18. San Andreas
  19. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
  20. Autism In Love
  21. Cop Car
  22. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
  23. Dead 7
  24. Justice League vs. Teen Titans
  25. Pacific Rim
  26. All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
  27. CHAPPiE
  28. Unhung Hero
  29. Trainwreck
  30. Confirmation
  31. The Boss
  32. Captain America: Civil War
  33. They Live
  34. Ted 2
  35. Creed
  36. Zoolander 2
  37. The Ladykillers
  38. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  39. X-Men: Apocalypse
  40. The Intern
  41. You’re F@#k’n Dead!
  42. LEGO DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered
  43. LEGO DC Comics Superheroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom
  44. Focus
  45. The Good Dinosaur
  46. Sleeping with Other People
  47. Big Hero 6
  48. Keanu
  49. Southpaw
  50. The Night Before
  51. The Equalizer
  52. The Bronze
  53. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  54. Batman: The Killing Joke
  55. Sharknado: The 4th Awakens
  56. Suicide Squad
  57. The Day
  58. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  59. Independence Day: Resurgence
  60. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  61. Meet The Hitlers
  62. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
  63. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
  64. Doctor Strange
  65. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2016 (with commentary)

1/8/16 – Fall Out Boy’s “Irresistible” video

I’m a huge boyband fan, so the news that one of my favorite bands (Fall Out Boy) had reimagined the It’s Gonna Be Me video by one of my favorite boybands (*NSYNC) definitely made my week. The sheer fact that it didn’t really move the world of pop culture, however, shows you how slow of a news week it was. There would be many weeks like this in 2016.

1/15/16 – Power Rangers

This was quite the week for the Power Rangers franchise. First off, it was revealed that Saban would be skipping the train-centric sentai series Ressha Sentai ToQger, and instead adapt Shuriken Sentai Ninninger as Power Rangers Ninja Steel. This announcement was almost a year to the date of the premiere of the show (scheduled to debut next Saturday), and we spent the next few months getting casting and toy news about the show. Meanwhile, the #0 issue of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic was released by Boom! that week, setting up a series that is so much better than it has any right to be. I’ve written about it several times over the year, as I’m a big fan. And finally, former Wild Force Red Ranger actor Ricardo Medina was formally charged that week for killing his roommate with a sword. All in all, I think Power Rangers truly earned the West Week Ever that week.

1/22/16 – DC Entertainment

The Suicide Squad trailer was released this week, as well as the series premiere of Legends of Tomorrow. The Suicide Squad promotion machine would see its ups and downs over the year, the Legends premiere was fairly strong, even with a bunch of useless characters (I’m looking at you, Hawks). The show would get stronger in its second season, but this is where it all started. We also got a DC movie special hosted by Kevin Smith, giving us some Wonder Woman and Justice League footage. Marvel usually dominates the news cycle, but DC showed that they can also step up to the plate.

1/29/16 – The X-Files

When news of an X-Files revival hit, it was pretty big news. Then it launched, and it wasn’t exactly what folks were expecting. Clocking in at 6 episodes, only half of them focused on the conspiracy aspect of the show, plus they were aired out of order.  I went from really liking the premiere to completely forgetting it existed, in a very short amount of time. If it was going to get the WWE, it would had to have been this week of the premiere, as it ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

2/5/16 – UnderScoopFire Podcast

I appeared on the UnderScoopFire Podcast 8 times over the years, and had a great time on every one of them. Those guys are some of my good friends that I’ve met online, so of course I was sad to see it go. After 150 shows (give or take a few. Yeah, I’m not letting that go!), I think their swan song deserved the West Week Ever.

2/12/16 – Denver Broncos

I couldn’t give two shits about sports, but Lindsay’s from Denver, so we’re a Broncos household. So, everything was coming up Milhouse this week, as the Broncos won Super Bowl 50. Not only was it a nice, round, milestone number, but it also served as future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s final game. It was the perfect storybook ending that sports fans seem to love so much. So, yeah, they totally deserved the West Week Ever.

2/19/16 – Deadpool

Deadpool came out and blew away everyone’s expectations. I mean, this thing is getting nominated for awards. And not Razzies, too! Personally, I thought it was too gratuitous. I’ve gone over my reasoning before, so I won’t rehash that here. Still, it went on to become the second highest grossing superhero film of the year, just behind Captain America: Civil War. Totally deserved.

3/4/16 – Fuller House

After Girl Meets World came along, the runway was cleared for any and every nostalgic reboot to come along. And along came Fuller House. Every fan of TGIF awaited it with bated breath, hoping for the same mindless entertainment they got from the original show. And it did not disappoint! The second season just debuted a few weeks ago, and it’s already been picked up for a 3rd on Netflix. This show not only showed the power of Netflix as a home for original comedies, but also showed that old dogs still have some fight left in them. I think this was definitely the high point of that week.

3/11/16 – Jay Pharaoh

This was a slow week. Sure, Pharaoh did an amazing impersonation spree during that week’s Saturday Night Live Weekend Update. Like, it was AMAZING. And to pay him back, the show fired him at the end of the season. He’s OK, as he immediately booked a Showtime pilot, but the fact that this was the most noteworthy thing of the week shows how slow things were.

3/18/16 – Nothing

Some weeks you’ve just gotta call a spade a spade. Instead of insulting anyone’s intelligence, nothing had the West Week Ever.

3/25/16 – Wonder Woman

Like a lot of people, I did not like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Like a lot of people, I also felt that Wonder Woman was the brightest spot in that dark film. Totally deserved

4/1/16 – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice 

I may not have liked it. A lot of folks may not have liked it. But it made some money. A lot of money. And it was the true springboard to DC’s cinematic universe. So, for its money-making and its importance, I think it earned the West Week Ever. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It just wasn’t for me.

4/8/16 – American Idol

Idol‘s series finale aired that week, marking the end of a pop culture juggernaut. Unlike The Voice, Idol actually created household names. It gave us Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, and Fantasia. On the flip side, it also gave us William Hung, Taylor Hicks, and Daughtry. It spawned so many copycats, but it was the original recipe. Its influence may have waned in later years, but no one can deny what it was in its heyday. I think it’ll eventually come back, but this was when we said “Ta ta, for now.”

4/15/16 – Marvel

That week, we found out Natalie Portman wasn’t coming back for Thor: Ragnarok, we got a teaser trailer for Doctor Strange, an we learned that the new Spider-Man movie would be called Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel definitely dominated the news cycle that week.

4/22/16 – Harriet Tubman

While it was pretty monumental that a woman (a Black woman, mind you) would be adorning American currency, it doesn’t really move the pop culture needle that much. So, I ended up giving the West Week Ever to a dead woman – in a column that has a pretty strict No Death policy. This was kind of a slow week…

4/29/16 – Beyoncé

The singer dropped the surprise album Lemonade following their airing of her HBO special. One of the songs alluded to the possibility that her husband, Jay-Z, might have cheated on her. For the next week, everyone was pondering the identity of “Becky, with the good hair”. This is the kind of thing the drives pop culture. Totally deserved.

5/6/16 – Captain America: Civil War

I had seen the movie, and thought it was excellent.

5/13/16 – Captain America: Civil War

Then the movie made a lot of money. I mean, a fuckton of money.

5/20/16 – Nothing

It was just one of those weeks

5/27/16 – DC Universe: Rebirth #1

DC Comics lost a lot of fans after the New 52 event, in which they rebooted their universe. So, the Rebirth event was something of a mea culpa to those fans. More like a “Please come back! We promise to make stuff you’ll like again!” And for the most part it has worked. This special not only brought fan favorite Wally West back into the fold, but it also sort of introduced the Watchmen comic into the mainstream DC universe. We don’t yet know how that’s all going to play out, but this move helped DC to dominate more market share than Marvel for most of the year.

6/3/16 – Ecto-Cooler

I never really liked Ecto-Cooler. I mean, it tasted kinda like tropical piss, but I loved the fact that Slimer was on the box. That’s about where my nostalgia ended. But a lot of y’all out there LOVED that shit! So, when it was announced that Coca Cola was bringing it back in conjunction with the Ghostbusters movie, y’all started assembling street teams to track it down. I swear, if the 2016 election had been run in a manner similar to the vim and vigor displayed trying to track down green sugar water, I might actually have some hope for tomorrow!

6/10/16 – Awesome Con 2016

Slow week. Cool show, great company, but slow week.

6/17/16 – Hamilton

I discovered the Hamilton soundtrack the same week that it won 11 of the 16 Tony Awards for which it was nominated. We’ll talk more about the show later, but the West Week Ever was deserved, even if the wins did fall short of the Tony Award record.

6/24/16 – Black actors in Hollywood

This was more of a joke, as every Black actor in Hollywood was being cast in the upcoming Black Panther film. That trend has continued since this post. Still, slow news week.

7/1/16 – The 683 New Members of the Oscar Academy

Another joke. Due to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, signifying that the Academy was lacking in diversity, 683 people were invited to be members, bolstering the number of women and minorities. Still, slow news week.

7/8/16 – TNA’s The Final Deletion

Oh, man! This thing was incredible. They went on to milk it for the rest of the year, andI missed all subsequent installments. Still, this got me to pay attention to a wrestling promotion not owned by Vince McMahon, and for a brief moment, all wrestling eyes were on TNA to see what Matt Hardy would do next. Completely deserved.

7/15/16 – Pokemon GO!

This game came along and took the world by STORM. To say it was a success would be an understatement. It was envisioned to promote fitness, as kids would have to walk around to find perks and to get their eggs to hatch, but there were workarounds. Hell, I drove around looking for Pokestops. For about 4 weeks, this was all anyone could talk about. It was the Tamagotchi of a new generation, and I think, outside of all the political stuff, it’s one of the things we’ll remember most about 2016.

7/22/16 – Ghostbusters

It was a slow week, but Ghostbusters and the Republican National Convention were the only newsworthy events of the week. As much as we want to pile on that movie, it did take in a respectable $46 million, and it set a record for Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy movies. I know a lot of folks don’t feel the movie’s deserving of any kind of accolades. As you saw above, I didn’t watch it, but I still think it’s not as bad as people would like me to believe. I swear, though, had they named it anything other than Ghostbusters, we’d still be talking about it.

7/29/16 – DC Entertainment

DC, back with their SECOND West Week Ever of the year? The word on the street was that they “won” San Diego Comic Con, with their new footage of Justice League, as well as the debut of the Wonder Woman trailer. Considering Marvel usually dominates SDCC, this was a feat worth acknowledging.

8/12/16 – Suicide Squad

The movie made $160 million in 5 days, which is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, I actually enjoyed it. I didn’t like it as a component of DC’s cinematic world building, but I liked it as a standalone thing on its own.

8/19/16 – Ryan Lochte

He was an Olympian at the center of a fake robbery attempt in a foreign country, who then fled to let his teammates take the fall. It’s the stuff of a great Aaron Spelling show. He had the West Week Ever simply because he got away with it.

8/26/16 – Guardians trailer

Slow news week, even if the trailer is pretty awesome. Billed as “Russia’s Avengers”, the English version of Guardians trailer started making the rounds because of its crazy action and gun-wielding bear man. Yeah, you’ve gotta see it to believe it. The movie might not even be released over here, and if it is, it’ll never get higher than cult status. Still, if you want to know what everyone was talking about that week, it was Guardians.

9/2/16 – Are You Being Served? one-off special

Some might say this was a slow news week, but I think this applied the West Week Ever to an international stage when I typically just focus on the US. After all, this special didn’t even air in America (nor has it since, nor do there seem to be plans to do so in the future), and I had to resort watching it on YouTube. Still, I grew up with Are You Being Served? and I was more than curious to see how an update of it might hold up. With a few small exceptions, it was pitch perfect, and definitely in the spirit of the original series. This one might’ve been a bit personal for me, but I think it was the best part of this particular week.

9/9/16 – Atlanta

The show just won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series. I think I called this one correctly.

9/16/16 – Better Late Than Never

Another personal one for me, but it’s my site, so whatever. I’m more than certain none of my friends were watching this show, but I watched it weekly with my mom and we enjoyed it. I wrote about it to get folks to seek it out, but I doubt that happened. Still, in a week when nothing happens, things like this are allowed to shine.

9/23/16 – Lindsay West

Mah wife. Running your first half marathon is pretty impressive. And nothing happened in the overall pop culture world. If you’ve followed West Week Ever since the beginning, you know that every so often some random person gets the honor. Hell, last year, my kid had the West Year Ever, so you never know where I might play that card.

10/7/16 – Luke Cage

It broke Netflix! So many people tuned in that Netflix couldn’t handle it. I still haven’t seen it, but I haven’t heard a bad thing about it other than the fact that it kinda drags in the middle – like most Marvel Netflix shows.

10/14/16 – Will & Grace

Considering I think I was the only one impressed by this Will & Grace special that was designed to get folks to get out and vote, I’m sure a lot of folks disagreed with this choice. Still, if you were a Will & Grace fan, then you can’t deny how great it was to see those characters in a way that felt like they’d never left us.

10/21/16 – Logan trailer

Can’t say much more because the movie’s not out yet, but we were ALL talking about this after it dropped, and it’s on most folks’ most anticipated movies of 2017 lists. I don’t think it’s going to disappoint.

10/28/16 – The Walking Dead

I don’t watch it, but I did tune into this episode just to watch a man die. Or two men. Whatever. All folks could talk about this week was whether or not the show had gone too far. The Walking Dead dominated the discussion, so this West Week Ever was well-deserved.

11/4/16 – The Chicago Cubs

Um, the “cursed” team won their first championship after 108 years. Yeah, this was deserved.

12/2/16 – Search Party

I don’t feel like a lot of my readers had seen the show when I wrote this, but I know a few who checked it out because I’d written about it. That’s why I do this, kids! It was one of my favorite shows of 2017, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I’m not quite sure what you’re waiting for.

12/9/16 – Hamilton

Hamilton for the second time this year. The last time was for its Tony wins, but this one was two-fold: The Hamilton Mixtape was released and a beautifully pirated copy of the play was uploaded to YouTube. I watched it during the 5 days that it was allowed to stay on the site, and I can now die saying that I saw Hamilton. This was on the heels of a controversy where the cast members took a moment to address Vice President-Elect Mike Pence while he was taking in the show. For the next week, the conversation was whether or not they should’ve done that. So, it’s safe to say that Hamilton was on everyone’s lips around that time.

12/16/16 – WWE’s New Day

Yeah, then they lost two days after I posted this. I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles. Still, they deserved the West Week Ever for all they had put in leading up to this point.

12/23/16 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

It was the last thing to make a dent in pop culture before the clock ran out on 2016. A lot of folks are saying it’s one of their favorite Star Wars movies. I don’t really get that, but I’m happy for them if that’s the case. I thought it was entertaining, but I didn’t really like it. It’s hard to explain, and I’ve tried. Still, there’s no way anything else is going to take center stage when there’s new Star Wars to be consumed.

So, who had the West Year Ever? In the past, I’ve added up who had the most West Week Ever wins and then it’s a runoff. If we’re being honest, Death had the West Year Ever. There were SO many celebrity deaths this year, that it would take another post just to do a proper In Memoriam for everyone we lost. And of course, you have those guys who wanna “Neil deGrasse Tyson” everything by pointing out that people die all the time, or that the year is an arbitrary number. Whatever, asshole. That doesn’t help anybody, and it’s why you don’t get invited to many parties. Anyway, I don’t like to focus on death in West Week Ever -not because it’s morbid, but more because I feel like I’d have to acknowledge every celebrity death, even when I didn’t personally give a shit about that person. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Doing the math, it’s a three-way tie between DC Entertainment, Captain America: Civil War, and Hamilton. DC Entertainment really stepped up this year, taking a good chunk of the comics market share away from Marvel, as well as by launching their cinematic universe. After years of being the joke of the industry, DC finally started pushing back. And the Rebirth initiative didn’t hurt things, either. Meanwhile, not everyone loved Civil War. I did, but even I’ll admit that it’s basically “Dawn of Justice Done Right”. They’re both superhero slugfests that surround the concept of dead moms. Some called it “Civil Bore”, but I don’t agree with that. Still, I have to kind of acknowledge that there is a divide out there. Finally, there’s Hamilton. It had a big year, but I don’t know if we’ll look back and say “Hamilton really came into its own in 2016.” If anything, that’s more likely to happen at a time when the show can more easily be consumed by the masses. So, Hamilton’s year may actually be ahead of it, but it’s not 2016. So, I think it’s pretty clear. 2016 was the year where retailers stopped buying everything Marvel was selling, and so did the fans. The quality of Marvel’s output was in question more this year than it was in recent years, yet people still seemed to be able to find positive things about the DC Universe. Meanwhile, their movies might not be your cup of tea, but they made money, and the critics haven’t deterred them from forging ahead. So, with that, I believe I simply have to admit that DC Entertainment had the West Year Ever.

06th Jan2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/6/17

by Will

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017, where we’re gonna lose even more celebrities than we did last year! That’s right, kiss Betty White goodbye!

 

On the movie front, since we last got together, I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Yeah, it didn’t do much for me. Now, let me back up a bit. I did miss the first 20 minutes because I had double-booked the night. So, I did miss the setup, but my friend caught me up so I’d know who everyone was. There was Hector “Space” Gonzalez, and Trixie Bang Bang, and Gay Karate Man, and He Who Shoots From Canister Vacuum. And they were fighting the evil Sir Capes A Lot, who was building the Death Star. I got all that. Still, something about it just left me empty. I feel like it’s a giant Easter egg of a movie for those hardcore Star Wars fans, but I’m not sure what it offers the casual fan. ***SPOILER ALERT***I mean, it’s just one big suicide mission. It’s impressive how they’ve worked it into the existing tapestry of A New Hope, but it’s not a story that had to be told, especially since no one made it off that beach. Just kinda bummed me out***END SPOILER***. Anyway, every Star Wars fan I know loved it, so I’m happy for them.

I finally watched the Justice League Action special I mentioned in the last post. It was OK. I mean, I loved that a lot of familiar voices were back, like Kevin Conroy and Khary Randolph, but I’m not sure I’m sold on the animation. First thing to remember is that it’s not the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited that we got over 10 years ago. It’s aimed at a younger audience, and the episodes are best described as “bite sized”. In the special, the Trinity team up with Captain Marvel, Swamp Thing, Green Arrow, Plastic Man and John Constantine to fight evil D’Jinn brothers. It was OK. Like, it wasn’t riveting, but it felt like the kind of thing that would be released directly to DVD. Not sure I’m gonna be DVRing it every Saturday morning. What did y’all think?

Since I’ve been a booster of it since the development stage, it’s with heavy heart that I can confirm that Girl Meets World has been canceled by Disney Channel. I was a huge fan of Boy Meets World, as I feel like I basically grew up with Corey, Shawn, and Topanga. Their stories weren’t as zany as the TNBC fare, but they weren’t always heavy, either. Sure, every now and then you’d get an episode about how Shawn’s poor white trash, but those episodes were few and far between. So, that’s kinda what I expected from Girl Meets World. And I’ve gotta say I was disappointed because that show got heavy as FUCK sometimes! Is there a God? Why did Maya’s dad leave? Is Farkle autistic? It’s like every episode just HAD to teach a lesson. Oh, and they reminded us Maya was poor white trash every possible chance they could get.

I loved the legacy aspect of it, but it just didn’t hit on all cylinders like I felt Fuller House did (which, by the way, was just renewed for a 3rd season on Netflix). Sure, Full House was treacly dreck, but then again, so was a lot of Boy Meets World. They were both ensconced in the world of TGIF at one time or another, and had similar ingredients. I just feel like Fuller House came back with nothing to prove, while Girl Meets World seemed like it was fulfilling some mandate from Disney that it had to be educational. It is surprising, however, that it’s not getting a fourth season, as Disney tends to love their 100-episode runs – the point at which the shows become no longer profitable to produce. Sure, Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire only ran two seasons, but later hits like That’s So Raven and Hannah Montana got four seasons.

To be honest, part of me feels like the cancellation stems from star Rowan Blanchard’s tweets last year, where she came out as identifying as queer. Now, Disney is a pretty progressive company, but I’m not sure they knew how to spin that, and the renewal question has been up in the air since then. Still, a lot of folks are discussing the fact that Raven-Symone is a lesbian, yet she has her That’s So Raven reboot coming to Disney Channel, so maybe I’m wrong. Some fans are hoping the show will be picked up by Freeform (formerly ABC Family), where it could tackle more mature themes, but I think it’s done for now. The final 3 episodes air this month.

In TV news, there were a few bait and switch situations this week. First up, it was reported that Will & Grace was definitely coming back for a limited 10-episode run following the success of that voting video they did a few months back. Recurring guest star Leslie Jordan started blabbing that it was a done deal until Debra Messing finally came out and said that nothing had moved past the talking stage at this point. On the one hand, I loved Will & Grace during a tumultuous time in my life, but I’m kinda done with it. I want a Will & Grace reunion about as much as I wanna see a Mad About You reunion (God, that was a horrible finale!). Still, Hollywood’s out of ideas, so I’d say it’s still happening.

Next up, reports came out of The International Consumer Electronics Show that Conan would be moving to a weekly schedule, a la Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It’s been rumored that the show had been having trouble booking high profile guests, and the best ratings came from when Conan would travel and tape on location. By the end of yesterday, however, TBS reported that there were no plans for a format change “at this time”. So, just like with Will & Grace, it’s happening. They’re just upset they couldn’t get in front of it fast enough.

Speaking of cable shows, Archer is finally moving to FXX this season. The original plan was for FXX to be Fox’s cable comedy network, while FX would handle the dramas. However, when FXX launched, it just became the home of The Simpsons until It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia got shuffled over there. The fact that they didn’t move Louie and Archer, however, made it seem like a vote of no confidence for the spinoff network. Archer’s is little long in the tooth these days, and it’s no longer the crown jewel it once was, but I wonder if it’s got the juice to get more eyeballs on FXX. I hope it works because I love Man Seeking Woman and You’re The Worst over there, and they could both use more viewers.

In comic news, DC Entertainment President Geoff Johns confirmed that there would soon be an announcement regarding a new DCTV television show. Now, it’s not clear if this is another Berlantiverse series, a la Arrow/The Flash, or an unconnected show like Gotham. I’m curious if it’s just a confirmation of the Black Lightning show that had already been ordered to pilot by Fox, or if it’s something completely different. Also, it’s being reported that Johns will write some Watchmen comics this summer. This is a terrible idea since so many fanboys treat Watchmen like it’s their Bible, so there’s no way this will be well-received. They tried the Before Watchmen series, which didn’t really catch fire. They just had to go and reintroduce the concept in DC Universe Rebirth #1, so now I guess they’ve gotta do something with it. I’ve never felt Watchmen was “untouchable”, but I have no desire to revisit that world, so this project simply isn’t for me.

In wrestling news, it’s being reported that Diamond Dallas Page and “Ravishing” Rick Rude will be inducted into the 2017 class of the WWE Hall of Fame during Wrestemania weekend. The latter one really means a lot to me. I think Rick Rude was my first favorite wrestler because he was my introduction to the concept of a “ladies man”. The way he would pick a random woman out of the audience, and bring her into the ring. He’d kiss her, she’d pass out, and then he’d gyrate over her. That was a true pimp move right there! Like most wrestlers, he died before his time, so I guess he’s gyrating over angels now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Supergirl star Melissa Benoist divorced her husband of 21 months, Blake Jenner
  • Woody Harrelson is in talks to portray Han Solo’s mentor in an upcoming Star Wars film
  • Former UFC champion Ronda Rousey lost to Amanda Nunes in 48 seconds, after training for over a year for her comeback.
  • A Charmed reboot is in the works at The CW. It’s reported to be set in the 70s, but will have some kind of connection to the original series.
  • Mariah Carey “lost the plot”, as out British friends might say, when her pre-recorded track messed up on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. She claims they intentionally sabotaged her for ratings, while Dick Clark Productions reports that she didn’t even come to soundcheck.
  • 80’s pop star Richard Marx and wife, former VJ Daisy Fuentes, subdued a crazed passenger on a Korean airline. In other news, how the Hell did Richard Marx land Daisy Fuentes?!
  • It was revealed that Drew Barrymore’s upcoming Netflix sitcom Santa Clarita Diet is actually a zombie show. Meh. I’ve been over zombies since 2006.

  • In Arizona, folks reported seeing a winged demon, heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. Yup, 2017 is gonna be swell!

When I first heard about The Mick, starring It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia‘s Kaitlin Olsen, a lot of thoughts went through my head: Is Sunny over? Is Fox gonna bury it? Will it even be funny? Luckily, I got my answers pretty quickly. No, Sunny is still going, as they scheduled The Mick around its shooting schedule. Fox didn’t bury it, but instead gave it some prime real estate after one of the last regular season football games of the season. And was it funny? Yeah, it’s funny.

If you haven’t heard of it, Olson stars as MacKenzie “Mickey” Murphy who’s going nowhere in life. She’s got no money, no prospects, and a deadbeat boyfriend. She decides to pay a visit to her wealthy sister to hit her up for a loan when the FBI raids the party, carting her sister off to jail for fraud. Once released, Mickey’s sister and brother in law flee the country, leaving their 3 kids in Mickey’s care. There’s the college bound bitch daughter, there’s the privileged snob teen son, and then there’s the precocious little boy who doesn’t really know what’s going on. Of course Mickey butts heads with the older two, while befriending the maid, Alba. The pilot plays out somewhat predictably, as most of it had been shown in TV spots leading up to the show. It’s the second episode where things really kick into gear. A loan shark comes after Micky, while she and Alba are getting high at a rave. Meanwhile, the kids’ bitchy grandmother has come to take over the house, and grandma doesn’t play!

I thoroughly enjoyed both episodes that aired this week. As I said before, it debuted on Sunday, which I feel is a better night for it. Instead, however, its regular timeslot is Tuesdays at 8:30, following New Girl. It being a Fox show, however, it probably doesn’t have a prayer. After all, I thought Grandfathered would be a sure thing, and now Stamos is back on Fuller House duty. No, I doubt we get a second season of this thing, but I’ll enjoy it while it’s here. That’s why The Mick had the West Week Ever.

 

02nd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/2/16

by Will

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Since I basically took off the month of November I guess this has got to be good, huh? Recently, some online friends were discussing taking breaks from blogging, and one of them said that you don’t need to offer an explanation as to where you’ve been. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around your blog, so it’s kind of egotistical to think anyone cares where you’ve been. I get that, but I don’t really agree with it. When people come to expect something regularly, you do kind of owe them an explanation as to why you broke your “promise”, so to speak. Plainly put, something inside me is broken. Yeah, I’m basically stealing Selena Gomez’s speech from the American Music Awards, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

When I started West Week Ever, it was to celebrate the week that was in pop culture. But can you honestly cite anything that had a great week over the past month? And I’m not even really going to delve into the political landscape of things. I’ll save that for a podcast, where it’ll be harder for someone to cut and paste my words without context. No, nothing had the West Week Ever for the past few weeks. I try to go by the whole “The show must go on” mentality, but I just couldn’t do it. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t go into these posts to be negative, but sometimes that’s what comes out. I couldn’t be positive lately, though, and I saw no reason to put that off on you. I wanted Fantastic Beasts to fail. I want Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s cancellation to be announced. I guess I’m one of those men who wants to watch the world burn. But I’m back in the saddle, trying to fight the good fight. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back and look at things, so that’s where I’ve been. So, ready to talk about pop culture? Let’s go!

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Seeing as how I usually enjoy the CW DC show crossovers, I’m sure some folks probably figured this year’s “Heroes vs Aliens” featuring the Dominators would get the West Week Ever this week. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I really didn’t care much for this year’s crossover. To start, I always thought it was a bit of heavy lifting by spreading it across 4 shows. The Berlanti Dilution Effect is full force on this one. Oh, you’ve never heard of the Berlanti Dilution Effect? It’s probably because I just named it. Basically, whenever the Berlantiverse adds a new show, it dilutes the quality of the preexisting shows, as everyone just seems spread too thin. Folks loved Arrow until The Flash came along. All of a sudden, it was the new hit show, while Arrow’s quality dropped. Then, last season, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow were introduced, while fans felt Flash’s quality dropped, and Arrow was damn near unwatchable. Fans seem to love Supergirl, while Legends is just kinda off to the side, not bad, but not great. Well, since Supergirl is the new kid on the block, I felt like she could’ve sat on the bench for this year’s crossover. This year should’ve just been Flash/Arrow/Legends, as they at least occupy the same universe. Adding Supergirl was just overstuffing the thing, and her addition didn’t really add much to things.

I also had another issue with the crossover: I don’t think Team Arrow should be fighting aliens. They’re too street-level for that. Now, they’ve dipped their toe into the supernatural with Damien Darhk and Ragman, but I’ve also felt those were creative missteps for the series. They should only be concentrating on street level threats, as something extraterrestrial is out of their wheelhouse. Plus, it’s no secret that Arrow is basically TV Batman, as a lot of Batman’s rogues and tropes have been added to the show. I don’t think Green Arrow should be fighting aliens as much as I actually don’t like Batman as a member of the Justice League. Bear with me a minute here. Prior to the New 52, about 10 years ago, the Bat books were united in the fact that they approached Batman as urban legend. He has more power as a mysterious being, whispered about amongst thugs and criminals than he does as a guy fighting next to Superman in broad daylight. I’m fine if Batman lends his support from the Watchtower, but he shouldn’t be a public face of the Justice League, as he really shouldn’t “exist” as far as the Man on the Street is concerned. I feel the same about the Green Arrow. That hero loses his clout if he’s seen running around with Flash and Supergirl, fighting aliens. He needs to stick to what he does best.

Now, for the crossover itself. I skipped the Supergirl episode because I really have no desire to get into that show, and the pertinent parts of the crossover were repeated in the next night’s Flash episode. Flash was just a little too cutesy for me, as everyone got acquainted, learning each other’s names and power sets, but they didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Sure, there was some Flash stuff going on that didn’t make a ton of sense to folks, like me, who are still basically on season one of the show. They did a pretty good job, though, explaining Flashpoint and how it had affected things. They even threw in some development for the Legends crew, following up on Professor Stein’s visions. Outside of that, though, most of that episode was fluff. I mean, aliens KILL the president, and even it’s kinda treated as an afterthought. Then we got to the Arrow episode which was one big dream sequence. Sadly, this was also the show’s 100th episode, so I felt bad that it was “squandered” on a crossover. And of course I didn’t like the episode, as it featured all the non-metas on a friggin’ spaceship, IN SPACE! The Legends finale was just more of the same. Kara acting too cutesy, Team Arrow being USELESS against aliens, and there were too many characters without a use for most of them. There was just WAY too much going on, with a threat that wasn’t entirely credible, vanquished in a manner that also wasn’t too credible. I realize I’ve gotta suspend disbelief a bit, but COME ON! And the episode ends with a private press conference with Green Arrow, front and center, meeting the new goddamn President! THE PRESIDENT SHOULD NOT BE PUBLICLY ASSOCIATING WITH A VIGILANTE! It’s like Flashpoint has got them living in Trump’s America or some shit! Anyway, there was a pretty clever Brandon Routh/Superman Returns joke near the end, so I’ll give them credit for that one.

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In television news, it was announced that the long-gestating Inhumans film had been demoted to a television series to debut on ABC in 2017. In fact, the first 2 episodes will debut in IMAX in theaters. This whole thing is laughable to me, but not surprising if you understand the nuances of Marvel. The Inhumans were a pet project of Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, as Marvel didn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, so he saw the Inhumans as plug and play “freaks with powers” that Marvel Studios could exploit. And he basically forced this idea on Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who really wanted nothing to do with the project. That’s why it was put on Marvel’s film schedule, but kept getting shuffled further and further into the future. Well, after the somewhat ugly divorce between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television last year, Marvel Studios now reports directly to Disney, while Marvel Television is still under the Marvel umbrella. This also dissolved the “brain trust” of comic pros who had given input on the movies up to that point. So, this means there’s even less hope of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever truly aligning with the movies, but it also allowed Feige to get The Inhumans off his plate and pass the buck on to the TV division.

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Anyway, the show is supposed to focus on the Inhuman royal family, such as Black Bolt and Medusa, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather see less of. That franchise has never interested me, and the idea of it on a TV budget isn’t too impressive, either. In its defense, the season will only be 8 episodes long, so they can hopefully apply 22 episodes worth of budget to those 8 episodes. The unofficial cancellation of Conviction, however, has me hoping Marvel might start conversations with Hayley Atwell to bring Agent Carter back for one more season. Adding Ghost Rider to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might’ve been a creative shot in the arm for the show, but it hasn’t moved the needle much in terms of ratings. So, the idea of a 5th season isn’t a guarantee at this point, despite the fact that ABC/Disney own the show. If it were up to me, I’d opt for more Agent Carter as a companion show to Inhumans and say adios to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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In other TV news, three cast members were announced for Star Trek Discovery. Most people are gonna say Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh, but I’m gonna say Supercop 2’s Michelle Yeoh has been cast as Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. Meanwhile, Anthony Rapp of Rent fame will portray the Discovery’s science officer Lt. Stamets. Motion capture veteran Doug Jones will play science officer Lt. Saru, who will be a member of an alien species new to the Trek franchise. And none of these announcements do anything for me. Where’s the obligatory former Benson cast member? Plus, people mistakenly took the news of Yeoh’s casting to mean that she’s the lead, but she’s not, as it was already announced that the lead would not be a captain, and would be a member of the Discovery crew. So, Yeoh is really just more of a high profile guest star. Still, for a show that’s supposed to debut in May (formerly January), they sure seem to be dragging their feet with this casting process.

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In comic news, the rosters were revealed for the upcoming X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue series. Now, for fans of the 90s X-Men, those divisions were important because the adventures of the Gold team were featured in Uncanny X-Men, while the exploits of the Blue team were featured in the X-Men cartoon, as well as the “Adjectiveless” X-Men comic. Fans thought this would be a return to those days, but this week’s announcement dashed those hopes. X-Men Blue will focus on the time-displaced original teen X-Men, led by Magneto – a nod back to the 80s New Mutants era when Magneto served as their mentor. Meanwhile, the Gold team will be comprised of Storm, Old Man Logan, Rachel Grey, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde as leader. In a lot of ways, the current Gold team isn’t too different from the old one, as Storm and Colossus were on that team, while Nightcrawler, Rachel, and Kitty were in Excalibur at the time. I’ll probably grab the Gold book, as it seems the closest to the Extraordinary X-Men team – a book I’m already reading – plus I couldn’t give two shits about that time-displaced team. The Gold team also has the distinction of being written by Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim, whose work I like, while the Blue team is written by Cullen Bunn, whose indie leanings have left me somewhat disappointed. The biggest issue with the team division is that it leaves a LOT of mutants on the table without homes. Back in the day, while it could be argued that the Blue team was the more popular of the two, both had heavy hitters on their rosters. The “wealth” was spread evenly, so to speak. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. If anything, the Blue team is just a continuation of All-New X-Men, while the Gold team seems to be taking Extraordinary’s place. But where’s Magik? Beast? Am I missing their fates since I’m not reading Death of X or Inhumans vs X-Men? The whole thing just feels kind of lopsided, without a real “A” team in the mix. The Gold folks are classic characters, but lack a “wow factor”, while the Blue team just still feels like a gimmick all these years later.

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In movie news, we got the concept art of how Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5 may look in the upcoming Power Rangers movie. This is the stuff of nightmares, kids! Why does he have those floodlight eyeballs? Was his scanner not enough? And why do his arms go down to the floor? I hate everything I’ve seen about this film, but I’m hoping it succeeds just so they can hopefully build off of this for the sequel and make something good. Look, I understand the need to update things for a new audience, but this thing seems almost ashamed of its source material. So, that alienates the built-in fan base, while offering almost nothing to entice a new one. I really don’t know what this movie is doing.

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While we’re on the topic of Power Rangers, one aspect of the franchise that’s getting it right is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic series from BOOM! There have been several Power Rangers comics over the past 20 years, and they all sucked. I know because I read the vast majority of them (One day I should write about the terrible Hamilton series where the Rangers and Zords just randomly change in the middle of the story). Anyway, for anyone who’ll listen, I’ve been telling them that the current series is better than it has any right to be. Between it and the Kimberly-centric Power Rangers: Pink spinoff, the creators are really mining the property without telling meaningless stories that “dance between the raindrops of continuity”. For example, we found out that Rita actually approached Zack to wield the green power coin before Tommy even came to town. And we also found out that Zordon reenlisted the help of the original Rangers even after they had officially left the team. But this week was this biggest shocker: in #9 of the comic series, we were introduced to a mysterious Ranger who seems to be drawing both green and white power from the Morphing Grid. Oh, and he’s evil and working with Rita. I used to be the guy who said “If it wasn’t in the show, it didn’t count”, but BOOM! is finding ways to tell interesting compelling stories while still honoring the continuity that we already know. If you’re a comic and Power Rangers fan, you should definitely be reading this series.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The season finale of HBO’s Insecure had many Black males joining #TeamLawrence and #LawrenceHive, sparking quite the divide on Black Twitter
  • Speaking of premium cable channels, Showtime announced that Masters of Sex would not be coming back for a 5th season. I guess they, uh, mastered the sex.
  • Full House creator Jeff Franklin actually purchased the San Francisco house that served as the exterior of the Tanner home
  • Billy Dee Williams will be the voice of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Lego Batman Movie, reprising his role from 1989’s Batman.
  • Quantico showrunner Josh Safran has said that the show will never feature a Muslim terrorist. That snickering you hear is coming from the producers of 24.
  • While promoting his new book, Saved By The Bell executive producer Peter Engel said that Zack and Kelly “weren’t built to last” and are probably divorced by now.
  • Good girls finish last, as Amazon has decided against a second season for Mad Men clone Good Girls Revolt

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When I first saw the ads for Search Party, I thought “What a dumb idea for a show.” It looked too hipster, and it starred the Great Value Ilana Glazer, Alia Shawkat, who you probably remember as Maeby from Arrested Development. I remembered reading about it, and wondered how exactly they could make a show out of that premise. Well, I can admit when I’m wrong, and BOY was I wrong!

If you’re not familiar, Search Party kicks off with the disappearance of a young woman. Dory (Shawkat) and her group of Millennial hipster friends kinda knew the girl in college, but they wouldn’t necessarily call her a “friend”. Then, she disappears, and they milk it for all it’s worth. They post updates on social media about how a piece of them is now missing, and they even attend a vigil for her upstate. Meanwhile, Dory is sort of lost in life, and she gloms onto the case with an unexpected fervor. Things really kick into high gear when she randomly sees the missing girl in a Chinese restaurant, yet no one will believe that she really saw her. Like they’ve been doing, Dory’s friends just believe she’s milking the whole thing for attention. Then crazy people come out of the woodwork, a private investigator appears, and a cult is even involved. I never saw any of this coming, but enjoyed every minute of it. It’s like a hipster Nancy Drew.

Airing on TBS, Search Party was sort of burned off at a pace of two episodes a night in Conan’s timeslot all last week. In addition to that, immediately following the premiere on Monday, all the episodes were made available On Demand. So, I can’t figure out if TBS was extremely proud of the show OR if they couldn’t be done with it fast enough. I’m not sure how these tactics helped ratings, but critics seemed to love the show. As some critics pointed out, it’s basically what Girls could’ve been, but wasn’t. The problem with Girls is that is filled with such unsympathetic characters who all suck at life. With Search Party, however, you can kind of relate to those characters and, if not, you at least know someone like them. You understand their insecurities and the ways in which they cope with them. Sure, they kinda suck at life, but they know it, and they want to NOT suck. That can’t be said for Hannah Horvath and her friends.

In many ways, it was a major coup for TBS to get this show. It probably would’ve been more at home on something like Netflix, and probably would’ve gotten more promotion. It’s SO bingeable, and you’re going to want to blow through the 10-episode series in one sitting. It’s that good. I didn’t even see some of the twists coming that it throws at you. And the ending was nothing like you’d expect. Oh, man do I wanna talk about that ending. I don’t know how they’d get a second season out of it, but I’d love to see that cast back together. If it’s just a one and done series, it does the job there, as well. It’s the perfect miniseries. And that’s why Search Party had the West Week Ever.

26th Oct2016

Comical Thoughts – IDW Presents A Revolution You Can Skip

by Will

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For some time now, IDW has been the comic home of Hasbro’s biggest properties, including G.I. Joe and Transformers. They recently added MicronautsRom: SpaceKnight and UK import Action Man to the mix. So, it seems like as good a time as any to gather them all under the same umbrella in a shared universe. The mechanism for doing this is the miniseries Revolution, which will also result in a long awaited M.A.S.K. spinoff series. While this all might sound good on paper, the execution of it has been horrible. The story runs in a 5-issue miniseries, combined with various one-shots for each property involved. So far, the first 3 issues have been released, as well as the one-shots for Rom, M.A.S.K., and Micronauts. By this point, I feel justified in saying that the story is confusing, ugly, and not well planned. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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In the first issue, we learn that the Transformers depend on a mineral called Ore-13, which has recently become unstable and is exploding. The new Action Man is investigating a stockpile of it in Mt Olympus, where he discovers former G.I. Joe member Big Ben who’s not long for the world. Big Ben tells him that he was running a mission when he was ambushed by some Joes. He doesn’t know why his former teammates would attack him, but he managed to grab one of their dog tags before the rest of his crew was slaughtered. He says it seems like they were after the Ore-13, but Action Man is snatched away before the mountain explodes with Big Ben and the rest of the Ore-13. Well, apparently, the Transformers recently proclaimed that Earth would be joining the Cybertronian community, and the humans aren’t too pleased about that, as they see the Transfomers establishing themselves as our overlords. Enter G.I. Joe, who decide to attack the Transformers during a humanitarian mission. Things are pretty much at a stalemate until Rom the SpaceKnight comes out of nowhere and kills 4 Joes, including team founder Joe Colton. Since Rom looks more Cybertronian than human, the Joes assume he’s on the Transformers’ side. So, they take this as a declaration of war. We also get a back-story from Revolution #0, which introduces M.A.S.K.’s Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. They actually do something clever here by saying that he was a member of the original Action Team with Joe Colton. It appears he’s actually got Transformer Blitzwing in captivity, who he’s harvesting for parts and technology.

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In the second issue, it’s the Transformers vs Rom, as they’re pissed at him for “blowing up their spot”. They had formed something of an uneasy alliance with the humans, and Rom’s actions had just undone that by murdering those Joes. Rom, however, insists that he murdered no humans. Rom tells them that he is hunting the Dire Wraiths, who have managed to infiltrate world governments. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the M.A.S.K. team, and the new Black Matt Trakker. Aileron and Kup face off against the M.A.S.K. team, whose vehicles were built using Cybertronian technology, resulting in Kup being captured. Trakker, however, has second thoughts about what they’ve done when he realizes the Transformers are sentient, and more than mere machines. At the end, we find out that Micronauts’ Baron Karza is behind the unstable Ore-13, as he’s been stealing it via a transdimensional space bridge in order to save the Microspace. Um, OK.

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The third issue brings a whole bunch of confusing Micronauts stuff, ’cause I know nothing about that franchise. It seems like the “heroes” of that world have formed an uneasy alliance with the villain Karza in order to save their universe. It’s Optimus Prime vs Rom because Rom’s mission is to defeat the Dire Wraiths, while Prime insists that Earth must be their primary concern. At the end of the day, Prime determines that, while Earth is important, the Microspace must also be preserved. Meanwhile, the autopsy results are in and the Joes realize their fallen friends weren’t human after all. Since they don’t know who they can trust, Scarlett puts in a call to “somebody we haven’t talked to in a while.” I think we all know who she means. Karza does some shit. Rom does some shit. And the issue ends with an entrance by Snake-Eyes.

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Revolution M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand #1 is the only one-shot I’ve bought from the series. It introduces us to the rest of the M.A.S.K. team, as we watch as they’re recruited and how they handle basic training. We also get hints that some of them aren’t as virtuous as they should be, yet those personalities align with team leader Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. Nothing here is original. Some recruits die in training, as “collateral damage”. The team is tasked with an impossible rescue mission. You’ve seen all of this before. Yet, it’s a serviceable introduction to the team and franchise. That said, I think all of this could’ve been possible without it taking place within the clunky Revolution storyline, as nothing in the special ties into present events – it’s a prequel story.

So, what are my problems with the series? Well, first of all, it’s a terrible jumping-on point for new readers. There’s WAY too much backstory with the Transformers and G.I. Joe books for this to go smoothly. Now, IDW did release a The Road to Revolution discount trade paperback with 5 stories that they felt were crucial to making the story a richer experience, but there shouldn’t have been required reading. A successful crossover like this should be accessible to all. To give you an idea of the problems here, IDW has had the Transformers license for ELEVEN YEARS. They’ve had the G.I. Joe license for EIGHT YEARS. In that span of time, the G.I. Joe comic has been rebooted four times, while most of the early Transformers comics were just a series of miniseries. I was IDW’s Diamond brand manager at the time of the early Transformers books, and even I didn’t really know what was going on. For folks with a cursory knowledge of the brands, this series opens with a ton of questions: Why’s Soundwave with the good guys? Where’s Bumblebee? Why is Scarlett the team leader? Where’s Flint and Duke and the Joes people care about? What about Cobra?

Something like this seems like it would be better served by a reboot of the existing brands instead of trying to get them to mesh with the newcomers. It doesn’t feel like they’re bringing their truest, core representations to the party. G.I. Joe isn’t just the military, as it’s used here. Their primary mission was to fight Cobra. Without Cobra, what are they? Here, they’re a shoot first, ask questions later sort of organization, which doesn’t really line up with what we’ve known them to be. If they’d been the least bit diplomatic, then this whole battle wouldn’t have even taken place. Like, why is Scarlett so pissed? And Snake-Eyes is a lot less cool/mysterious when he’s TEXTING! What happened before this miniseries to make her like this? As a new-ish reader, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing a lot. This miniseries might be a rich experience for those who’ve been following the series recently, but it’s just not a fulfilling experience for casual readers.

Another problem is that it seems actual story is taking place in the one-shots, which isn’t how these things are done. One-shots in an “event series” are supplemental material, stories going at the periphery of the action. Here, though, you open up Revolution #3, and Rom is suddenly just chilling with the Transformers like the events of the past issue never happened, and there’s an editor’s note of “See Rom : Revolution #1.” NO! That’s not how you do this. Major team shifts, side switches, etc don’t happen in the one-shots. You leave the meat and potatoes for the main series.

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Finally, the art’s just ugly. I’m not sure if IDW has a stable of “exclusive” artists, but you’d want the best on something this high profile. They do a capable job of handling the tech, such as the Transformers and the M.A.S.K. vehicles, but the humans are rough and inconsistent from panel to panel. They also look a bit cartoony for the subject matter. I realize all of these properties are toylines, but they’re being introduced in a story with some pretty high stakes. Imagine if Marvel’s Civil War had been drawn by an Archie artist. That’s what you’ve got here.

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After saying all that, I’ll probably stick with it since there are only 2 core issues left. That said, it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. If this had just been a one-off thing, I’d probably give it a pass. It’s not, though. This miniseries is meant to set up the future of the Hasbro properties at IDW, and that just doesn’t seem like a good thing at this point. This series is a mess, so it doesn’t make me too optimistic about the future. If you’re a die-hard Transformers or Joe fan, I guess you’ve got to read it, but if you’ve just got casual interest, this is a revolution you can skip.

 

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