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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WWE Edit

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.

 

23rd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/23/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

So I started a new job last week, and it has drastically changed my life. I used to roll into work whenever I wanted, blog, tweet, the works! Now everything is blocked and they are kicking my ass. I feel like I’m gradually losing my grasp on pop culture, but I’m doing my best to hang on. So, let’s see if I’ve still got it, huh?

I had no time to watch movies this week because in the world of television it was PREMIERE WEEK! New shows! Returning shows! Bad shows! Good shows!

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On Monday, I caught Kevin Can Wait on CBS. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the cool kid thing to do, but I actually really liked The King of Queens, and I think I’m the only person, besides Adam Sandler, still championing James’s career. In the show, James is a retired cop who’s trying to get used to civilian life. It follows the fat schlub/hot wife sitcom formula, with Childrens Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes as his wife. In the pilot, James meets his daughter’s effeminate fiance and can’t deal. Oh, and there’s a role for his real life brother, Gary Valentine, who happens to be in most Kevin James productions. At the end of the day, it’s serviceable, but not great. It’s basically Kevin James starring in Last Man Standing. Swap out James for Tim Allen, and this easily could’ve been a spec script for that show. There’s not a lot on Monday nights, so I might stick with it, but I won’t enjoy it. It might end up like Rules of Engagement: not very good, but kinda manages to be decent background noise for 7 seasons.

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Tuesday night gave us the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had been heavily promoted because they were introducing the latest incarnation of Marvel antihero Ghost Rider. This version, with the alter ego of Robbie Reyes, drives a supercharged Charger powered by the Spirit of Vengeance. So, he’s really more like Ghost Driver than Ghost Rider. Ah, semantics. A lot of folks thought it was a great episode. I, however, did not. I actually loved the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider in the comics, but seeing him onscreen did nothing to energize a show as weak as Agents. I just don’t think that he fits tonally. They spent all this time facing Inhumans and now they’re fighting demons? I guess they’ve got to diversify their portfolio, but it just seems like a leap to me. I also hate the whole “We’ve gotta eventually get the band back together” vibe of the season, since they’ve been scattered across the organization. Some folks online remarked that it felt like an entirely new show, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Based on the ratings, which were about 1.5 million viewers lower than last season’s premiere, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the final season. Still, the show has way outlasted my initial projections.

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Wednesday brought 2 delightful new treats: Lethal Weapon and Designated Survivor. Now, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen Lethal Weapon. In fact, I think I’ve only seen the 4th one. That’s the one from that week Jet Li was famous, right? Yeah, DVDs were just hitting the scene, and my freshman year roommate bought it. So, I’ve seen that one. Never seen the original recipe, though. So, I can’t tell if they nailed the characters or not in the TV adaptation. What I will say is that I loved what they did with them. In my mind, this show was just Fastlane: 15 Years Later. If you’re not familiar, Fastlane was a one-hour action comedy on Fox back in 2002, created by McG of the Charlie’s Angels reboot fame. Starring Bill Bellamy and Peter Facinelli as undercover cops who took orders from Tiffani-Amber Theissen, it was hot women, fast cars, and a hot soundtrack. It was the Foxiest Fox show of the early ’00s. It only lasted one season, and I loved the HELL out of it. I have the whole show on both legal and illegal DVDs. I loved it that much. Anyway, if they had been allowed to age naturally, I feel like they would’ve evolved into Damon Wayans’s Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford’s Riggs. Anyway, Murtaugh’s coming back on the job following a heart attack and he’s paired with recently widowed Riggs, who clearly has a deathwish. Can they get along? Will hilarity ensue? Well, you’ll have to tune in to see, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I watched. I will be back next week.

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Next, ABC gave us Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. Basically, during the State of the Union, one cabinet member is designated to stay behind in case something drastic happens. Well, it does, as the Capitol blows up (Man, between BvS and this show, Hollywood REALLY hates the Capitol this year), killing EVERYONE. So Kiefer, who had just that morning been fired as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, finds himself thrust into the role of President of the United States. Nobody thinks he’s qualified for the job, Kiefer included. Meanwhile, there are a few subplots. Who is FBI agent Maggie Q looking for in the rubble? Why is Kiefer’s son selling drugs in da clurb? Was this whole thing orchestrated by some unseen force? It’s funny to watch because we spent 8 years getting to know Kiefer as Impossible White Man Jack Bauer. There was nothing he couldn’t do, so it’s kinda strange to watch him be such a pussy. Right now, I’m pretending that Jack has amnesia and that he’ll regain his memory and skills by season’s end. There are glimpses of Jack that sneak out, such as Kiefer’s confrontation with the Iranian (?) leader who seems to be trying to take advantage of the situation. He threatened the dude, and it was like Jack was back with us in the flesh. But it was not to be, as he returned to his meek self following the meeting. Still, it’s a suspenseful hour, and Kiefer has been the king of TV suspense for the past 15 years, so I’m all in for this.

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Finally, last night gave us the premiere of Pitch on Fox, focusing on Ginny Baker, who will be the first woman to play major league baseball. In the series, Baker gets called up from the minors to start for the Padres and she BOMBS. Meanwhile, we get flashbacks to how she came to be where she is. Her discovery of baseball, her refining her skills – all while her overbearing father was behind her. Apparently his major league dreams flamed out and, when he saw that his son wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps, he focused on his more talented daughter. It’s funny to me that after 30 years, there’s still something that could be considered a “Fox show”. Like, it’s an ingredient that can’t be shaken. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but there are some projects that would only work on Fox, and this is one of them. It was a good hour, and it ended with quite the twist (seriously, between this and NBC’s This Is Us, it appears that weird twists are en vogue this season), but I don’t know how long it could last. If they went into it as a Done In One, I could really embrace it. But if they’re trying to build a franchise out of this show, I just don’t think there’s much there. Still, I enjoyed Mark-Paul Gosselaar acting like the asshole we always knew Zack Morris would grow up to be. I’ve got nothing else going on Thursdays at 9, so I’ll stick with it for now.

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In movie news, we got our first glimpse of the Power Rangers movie Zords in these new character posters. I have no clue what I’m looking at. Seriously, are they even still dinosaurs? I can make out the Mastodon’s tusks and that’s about it. The rest is just so…”Bayformers”. It was also announced that Bill Hader would be voicing Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5. Wow, this movie is the surprise that keeps on surprising. The trailer will debut next month at New York Comic-Con.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, the Yellow Ranger was mysteriously recast for Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Though the entire cast was introduced last month at Power Morphicon, it appears that Chantz Simpson (that CAN’T be his real name!) has left the production. His role has been recast with Nico Greetham. I find this casting interesting because a lot of folks had pointed out that this would be the first season without a single White member of the team. It was basically the Diversity Rangers, which was unprecedented. But with the casting of Greetham, we’ve got a White guy again. I wonder if there was some pressure for them to do that. Anyway, this follows a long tradition of recast Yellow Rangers, as it happened in Mighty Morphin (Trini was originally Latina), it happened in Lost Galaxy, and it supposedly happened in RPM.

Recently I’ve been talking a lot about country music on here, but that’s really because it’s the only music I keep up with these days. I can’t tell you anything about the pop charts, but I can name Maren Morris’s latest song (“80s Mercedes”) and I listen to Bobby Bones every morning. I’ve always loved pop, but I’ve also always loved country. When I was a baby, I used to have WMZQ playing next to my crib and it stuck with me. In fact, my migration to pop was a slow one. It started with soft rock, “at work radio”, and then made its way to boybands and Britney. But it wasn’t always like that. When I started dating Lindsay, the country came roaring back, as that’s pretty much all she listened to. For a while, I could juggle the pop and the country, but lately it’s pretty much all country these days. Anyway, this is a long intro for me to say that I’ve got a LOT of thoughts on “Forever Country”, the mash-up song released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association.

The video for “Forever Country” was released this week, and it’s a medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”, and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. The song is sung by 30 of country’s hottest stars, like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and more. I also appreciated that they included Darius Rucker and Charley Pride to add some diversity. There are, however, some glaring omissions: Where’s Kenny Rogers? Where’s GARTH?! That last one is even more odd, as Garth’s wife Trisha is present on the track. I thought maybe it was a scheduling conflict, but I’ve read that he’s against the platforms where the song will be released, such as YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify (his songs aren’t on any of those services). I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve never really liked Garth, so it’s not a huge loss to me. I missed the Garth Brooks era the same way I missed the WWE Attitude Era. By that point, I was knee deep in Ace of Base. The only reason I even know “Friends in Low Places” is because drunk White people love to sing it once “Don’t Stop Believin'” goes off. But if you’re tackling the biggest stars of the past 50 years, you’ve GOTTA have Garth. It’s just incomplete without him.

Now, the video itself is a frenetic mess. It moves too quickly. There’s not enough focus on each contributor. It honestly makes me dizzy. Plus, it’s obvious it was just some green screen thrown together for whenever the artists were free to come in and film their parts. I mean, there’s no way Blake and Miranda were in the same room together. So, I like the idea of the song, especially since it allows Dolly to reclaim her song; it always kinda bothered me that everyone thought of it as a Whitney Houston song, but Dolly cashed all those royalty checks, so I’m sure she’s cool with it. They do a good job mixing the three songs, and it’s not something treacly like “We Are The World” or “Let The Music Heal Your Soul”. The video could’ve been a lot better, though.

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

  • Season THIRTY-THREE of Survivor premiered. You did this, America. You only have yourselves to blame.
  • Brangelina powered down into its divided forms of “Brad” and “Angelina”, as Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt.
  • 80s heart throb Corey Feldman had an emotional breakdown after the internet had a field day with his performance on The Today Show.
  • On Empire, they killed off the White girl. Poor Rhonda never really had a chance.
  • The Big Bang Theory kicked off what is likely its final season. And the “real nerds” rejoiced.
  • Buckle up, Puddin’ – Margot Robbie will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on October 1st
  • Two of my recent favorites – Better Late Than Never and Odd Mom Out – scored renewals this week. (Thanks for the tip, @jrwells82!)
  • CBS’s The Case of JonBenet Ramsey proposed that her older brother was her killer, and it was covered up by the parents

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So, I don’t talk about her on here, mainly because I basically have to beg her to read this thing, but today we’re gonna talk about my wife.

When we first met, I was much skinnier and used to run. The running started in college, when my friend Eric and I used to take midnight jogs to Wegmans (What? It was Ithaca and nothing else was open). I kept running even when I came home, but it decreased somewhat. I had an ex who did marathons (though you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Bada-bing!), and I would run with her to help her train. After awhile, though, the running tapered off. I met Lindsay and she was the type of person who would only run if being chased, and even then it was a crapshoot.

So, fast forward 8 years later. I have gained…some pounds, and now Lindsay runs. She started about a year ago, just starting out with a Couch to 5K program. She had done one in the past, as we ran the Color in Motion 5K Run some years ago. Still, she hadn’t really stuck with it after that, so she was giving it another shot. Well, Couch to 5K turned into actual 5Ks, and then 10Ks, and then 10 milers. She gets up every morning at a time when I’m usually going to bed (we’re on two completely different schedules), and goes for her runs. She’s only missed running due to illness. Other than that, she forces herself to get up and puts in the work. Well, last Sunday, after months of training, she ran (and completed) her first half marathon! This from a woman who would’ve probably let her attacker overtake her just a mere year ago. This my long drawn out way to say that I’m proud of her, and watching her complete that half was the most impressive thing I witnessed this week. So, with that in mind, Lindsay West had the West Week Ever.

02nd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

It’s a holiday weekend and y’all never read this thing when that happens, so let’s keep it short and sweet today, shall we?

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In comic news, the Diamond Retailer Summit is currently happening, so some news is trickling out of there. In the Marvel camp, they revealed a Monsters Unleashed series. Whatever. They’d been teasing something called MU for weeks, first revealing Cullen Bunn was involved and then slowly revealed artists, such as Leinil Yu, Adam Kubert, and Greg Land. Well, today it was announced it was this monster shit. I know some people are into all that, but I’m not one of them, nor do I feel like such an announcement deserved all that fanfare. It’s making me think that Marvel’s cried “Wolf!” one too many times. It’s also odd to me that a monster series is coming out in January instead of October. Also, they announced that the follow-up to Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men would be called ResurreXion. Yeah, you read that right. I’ll bet someone in Marvel’s marketing department got an erecXion when they came up with that one.

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Meanwhile, DC announced their first major Rebirth crossover in the form of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. I can’t help but feel like this would’ve been better timed to coincide with the release of the film, but maybe its release will bolster the Blu Ray sales, while getting folks primed for Justice League. In the story, Batman decides to take down Amanda Waller’s Task Force X – much like *SPOILER ALERT* Batfleck threatened to do in the post-credits sequence of Suicide Squad. And like all comic book fights, I’m sure they’ll be forced to team up against a greater threat. Anyway, it’s expected that a new Justice League of America series will spin out of this event.

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Speaking of Batfleck, this week Ben Affleck “leaked” some footage of Deathstroke the Terminator. Originally a Teen Titans villain, it seems that Mr. Stroke has been promoted to the big leagues. At first, it was believed this might be Justice League footage, but now the word on the street is that Deathstroke will be the main villain of Affleck’s standalone Batman movie. Oh, and it’s rumored that Joe Manganiello will be playing Deathstroke. Not really excited about it at the moment, but I probably will be as we learn more.

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In TV news, it’s reported that Marvel is shopping around a comedy based on the New Warriors – but featuring Squirrel Girl. Now, this bothers me because Squirrel Girl was never in the New Warriors. Sure, I can understand creative liberties, but it seems like Marvel’s just desperate to create a Squirrel Girl vehicle and this is what they’ve come up with. First off, I don’t know if I like the Superhero Comedy genre for television. I think they should wait and see how DC’s Powerless (which looks horrid) does on NBC. Second, I’ve never really understood the whole Squirrel Girl thing. I get that she’s cutesy and all, but I’ve yet to read a comic where I’m like, “Wow! That Squirrel Girl!” Lately there’s been this movement to get Anna Kendrick cast as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, that’s nice and all, but I think that casting’s wrong. And there’s no way Kendrick is gonna do TV at this stage of her career. No, I think The Middle‘s Eden Sher is a much better choice. It was reported that she was having meetings with Marvel years ago, trying to figure out ways to get her into the MCU. Sadly, I think that ship might’ve sailed, as nobody expected The Middle to still be on at this point. At the moment, though, I’m hoping this project ends up with the same fate as Marvel’s Most Wanted.

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Meanwhile, in DC television world, Greg Berlanti is developing a Black Lightning show with the creators of Girlfriends/The Game, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. I’m all for the Berlantiverse becoming more robust, but I always feel like the older shows suffer when he introduces a new one. I’d much rather they try to make Legends of Tomorrow a better show, and maybe add the character over there first. Black Lightning is an inner city teacher who has lightning powers, hailing from an age when all Black heroes had to have “Black” in their name. If this show gets off the ground, I’m sure it’ll end up being called something like Lightning. The funny thing is that he’s supposedly shopping it around to networks, like we all don’t already know it’s gonna end up on The CW.

 

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You know what really grinds my gears? Country radio (yes, some of us still listen to the radio) does this thing where they play a new single from an album, and then they ask listeners to call in and tell them what they thought of the song. Supposedly, if the response is predominantly negative, the song won’t be played anymore. Um, THAT’S NOT HOW THE INDUSTRY WORKS! If a song has been released as an official single, they pretty much HAVE to play it. Radio doesn’t have the power to make or break an artist anymore. There are people selling albums and touring who’ve never even been on the radio. The days of “If I spin your record, it’ll make you a star” are over. So I guess I wish country stations would cut the shit and stop making the audience think they have some power they don’t really have.

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Another thing I don’t like? An Adult Swim show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace. I’ve tweeted before about how I don’t really like the show, but last week I found I’d attracted the wrong attention: fans of the show. Now, first let me explain who’s behind it: Million Dollar Extreme is a sketch comedy group comprised of Sam Hyde, Charls Carroll, and Nick Rochefort who specialize in making you uncomfortable. Just Google Sam Hyde. I’ll wait. Especially look up his TED Talk. Basically they’ve made a name for themselves as part of the alt-right movement that despises political correctness. So, they go completely in the opposite direction. They do shit in blackface, they mock the handicapped. It’s pretty bad. So, last week, I tweeted this to a friend:

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And then I went to sleep. When I woke up, a bunch of their fans had sarcastically favorited the tweet, and were replying to us, saying stuff like “Yeah, but you’ll watch it and LIKE it”. I looked at these folks’ profiles, and they are NOT nice people. I thought I was gonna end up doxxed or something. Anyway, bottom line: don’t watch World Peace.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Image Comics will reportedly relocate from Berkeley, CA to Portland, OR
  • Netflix announced a second season of the show you’re all raving about, That’s Still So Raven. No, I kid. You’re getting more Stranger Things.
  • Jon Favreau will reprise his Happy Hogan role from the Iron Man movies in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, someone’s bound to be upset that Grimm will end after its next, abbreviated season
  • Pretty Little Liars will also end after its next season. Unless, you know, they’re lying about that…
  • The next season of Dancing with the Stars will feature Vanilla Ice, Babyface, Gov Rick Perry, Amber Rose and more. Still no word on which *stars* will be on the show
  • Chris Brown almost got killed by a SWAT team after pulling a gun on some chick who tried to steal his jewelry.
  • Disney Interactive shut down the Marvel: Avengers Alliance mobile game, which won’t be playable by the end of the month
  • Britney Spears released her 3rd “comeback” album, Glory. I’ve heard it, and I don’t think she’s back yet
  • Alison Brie and Marc Maron have been cast as the leads in Netflix’s series GLOW, based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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So, the only thing I really watched this week was the BBC Are You Being Served? special. Sure, it was a UK thing, but luckily I was able to find it on YouTube. I grew up watching the original show, so this was something that I HAD to see.

If you’re not familiar with it, Are You Being Served? was a Britcom set in a high end department store called Grace Brothers. The show particularly focused on the employees of the Men’s and Ladies’ departments, including Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe, and Captain Peacock. It had a very rigid class structure, where everyone was supposed to know their place and follow a certain chain of command. Captain Peacock was the snobbish “floor walker”, who kept everyone in line. Mr. Humphries was the butt of gay jokes because he was effeminate and lived with his mother. And Mrs. Slocombe was always talking about her pussy (Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s her cat!). The show ran for 13 years, but only has 70 episodes because, well, England. Once it ended, they even tried to “Golden Palace” it by moving the cast to a manor in which their pensions had been invested.

Anyway, in a celebration of British comedy, The BBC “revived” several shows by casting current actors in one-episode specials. This was especially necessary for AYBS?, seeing as how the entire cast is dead now (well, except for Mr. Spooner, but nobody gives a shit about him). Surprisingly, I didn’t know a single actor they cast in this thing. I always joke that there are only about 11 British actors, but I guess there are only 11 who’ve crossed over the pond. None of them, however, made it to this special. I felt the casting for everyone was pretty spot-on, though, especially Mr. Grainger and Mrs. Slocombe. I did, however, feel like they overdid it with Mr. Humphries. While he was effeminate in the original show, there was always a question of “Is he or isn’t he?” but here they just pretty much played him as humorously gay, which sort of took something away from the character.

When the episode starts, a young Black man named Richard Conway shows up for his first day as a member of the Men’s department staff. One thing I’m always curious about is race relations in other countries. While the episode was set in 1988, I was surprised that they never once referred to or joked about his race. Is this just not done in the UK? Or was it felt like that wasn’t the kind of humor you would expect from AYBS? I’d really love to know more about how they came to that decision, because an American show would’ve been ALL ABOUT the fact that he was this Black guy in a prim and proper establishment. It’d be called Homeboy In Knickers, and would air on UPN after Shasta McNasty.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it felt like a genuine “lost” episode of the show. It completely retconned the spinoff Grace & Favour, and it did some clever tinkering to get Mr. Grainger back in the mix. Basically 3 years have passed since the final episode, but things are pretty much like you remember them. There’s a Downton Abbey aspect to the show where it’s mired in class humor in a world that’s quickly changing. The crux of the episode is that the new Mr. Grace is determined to drag the store into the 20th century. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d actually love to see more of it. From what I’ve read, the special wasn’t well-received by the Brits, but I couldn’t have really asked for more. It didn’t swing for the fences by killing a major character, nor did it go for shock value. It tried to give you more of what you loved about the original show, and in that respect, I think it succeeded. That’s why the Are You Being Served? one-off special had the West Week Ever.

 

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