13th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/13/17

by Will

I’ve really been slipping on the movie front this year, especially when it comes to seeing things in theaters. So, to celebrate our anniversary, the wife and I went to see The Mountain Between Us. It stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as two strangers who have to depend on each other to survive in the wilderness after their plane crashes.

While this sounds like a “chick flick”, it was totally my idea for us to see it (she wanted to see Battle of the Sexes). I’m so glad I chose it, because it’s really good. I mean who else but Idris could look even better as he’s dying in the cold? I want to have his babies! And I really liked Winslet’s character, too. This is the kind of movie where I keep a running tally of all the moments where I would’ve have died. I have no upper body strength and I know nothing about the outdoors. I’d be a goner! There are a few nitpicks here and there, and the epilogue is a tad too long, but it’s definitely worth seeing once. I’ll probably never watch it again, but I’m glad I saw it.

We got a new Justice League trailer. Yippee. While I commend them for not blowing important plot points, this thing just fell flat for me. Like, it clearly has quips and one-liners, but is there an actual story there? People always go to the “Well, Marvel movies have quips” defense, but those movies also have a plot.  I mean, folks are gonna love Aquaman and Flash, but what’s everyone doing here? I still can’t get over the fact that Steppenwolf is the villain. Like I’ve said before, this is like having a Ninja Turtles movie with Bebop as the Big Bad. I think the real detriment to the film’s marketing is the fact they have to sidestep that Superman’s going to return, while the merchandising has already spoiled this plot point. At this point, they should just lean into it, as I’m sure there’s a good percentage of movie we haven’t seen yet because the footage is Superman heavy.

I guess I’m just hard to impress this week, as this trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi did nothing for me, either. I think my biggest problem with Star Wars right now is fandom speculation. “Who are Rey’s parents?” is a popular refrain. I often wonder if it even matters. Like, I’d much rather find out Finn is somehow the illegitimate son of Lando Calrissian than find out Rey’s just another Skywalker/Kenobi. I’m sure I’ll see this movie, but it’s got a very Middle Film of a Trilogy vibe to it, as it will probably pose more questions than it answers, building up to Episode IX.

So, at New York Comic Con last weekend, Marvel had a string of public relations disasters, but the biggest probably concerned their partnership with Northrop Grumman.

If you live outside the Beltway, then you probably know Northrop Grumman as a defense contractor. Sure, they build weapons for war, but their entire scope requires more nuance than the “gunrunners!” label the woke Twitterati were giving them. They also built the Apollo Lunar Module, and provide communications equipment to various parties.

 

The partnership involved a comic book that was created for the event, called Avengers Featuring N.G.E.N. (Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus), as well as a panel where they were going to introduce STEM to new audiences. Now, the panel sounds kinda iffy to me, but I’ve seen tons of panels for dumber shit than this. On Twitter there was an outcry that Grumman was using this as a recruitment tool to get kids to want to buy into the military-industrial complex. I’m pretty sure, from the kids’ point of view, they just wanted some free shit. It really wasn’t that deep. I asked on Twitter how this was any different from the Avengers comics that are printed for the armed forces, and distributed at the PX. A friend replied that, while we may not agree with what soldiers do, they’re fulfilling a noble mission. To that, I ask “Where do you think they got the tech for said noble mission?” He said that they were war profiteers, but I point out that General Electric is a war profiteer. Hell, General Mills is more than likely a war profiteer.

My point is that there’s much more to companies like Grumman than the boogeyman stuff people choose to fixate on. As I said, to describe what they do requires more nuance than buzzwords and hashtags. I guess I’m more sensitive to this because of where I live, and the folks that I know. I’m not trying to play the “But some of my closest friends are Northrop Grumman employees!” card, but some of them are. There are a ton of Grumman analysts who wish they were as cool as gunrunners! Anyway, Marvel felt the heat, cancelled the panel, and decided not to distribute the comics (which are now collectors items – way to go, protesters!). Sometimes I think people just wanna find something to get upset about, and this felt like one of those times.

Speaking of Marvel, we got a new trailer for Hulu’s Runaways series that debuts next month. I like the Skins vibe that I get from the trailer, but I’m not loving the characters’ looks. They look like they’re starring in The Descendants 3. That said, I almost kind of wish the show was doing its own thing instead of an adaptation. What I mean by that is that if you’ve read the first year’s worth of comics, then you already know the big reveal. It’s pretty major, on a Keyser Söze level, so I don’t see how I can really go into this to be surprised. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle. It’s definitely not intriguing enough to make me sign up for Hulu, but I am curious.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • My heart is sad, as Bravo has cancelled Jill Kargman’s Odd Mom Out after 3 seasons.
  • The world found out Harvey Weinstein did a lot of bad shit, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Andy Cohen will replace Kathy Griffin as Anderson’s Cooper’s New Years Eve co-host. I can’t wait to hear all the clueless grandmas say stuff like “They should be with their wives!”
  • Gabrielle Union’s Being Mary Jane has been cancelled at BET, and will wrap up with a TV movie next year.
  • Reportedly Ta-Nehisi Coates will be writing a solo Storm comic, which should last just long enough to eke out 2 trade paperback collections. Seriously, this series doesn’t have a chance.
  • There’s a reboot of The WB series Roswell in development, which will have an immigration focus. So, they’re aliens who are aliens?
  • Raven’s Home has been renewed for a second season at Disney Channel
  • Psych: The Movie will premiere Thursday, December 7th on USA Network.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 will return on Friday, December 1st with a 2-hour premiere.
  • Matt Ryan can’t seem to walk away from Constantine, as he will voice the character in an animated series for that CW Seed that nobody watches…
  • Channing Tatum’s Gambit film will hit theaters on February 14th, 2019. Uh-huh. Sure it will.
  • Sylvester Stallone announced that he will direct and produce Creed 2. I’d rather have Coogler back, but Stallone did do a good job directing Rocky Balboa, so I’m hopeful.
  • AOL announced that Instant Messenger will be discontinued on December 15th. Time to change that away message to “See you in Hell!” Or better yet, “I regret nothing!”
  • NBC is developing a series based on Blue Crush, which was Kate Bosworth’s 2002 surfer movie. Remember Kate Bosworth? Somebody should probably check on her.
  • SEAL Team has received a full season order from CBS.
  • Tyrese is mad at The Rock because he feels that his 2019 Fast spinoff bumping Fast 9 to 2020 is a selfish move on The Rock’s part.
  • After 455 episodes over 20 seasons, the Russian version of Everybody Loves Raymond (called Vironiny) has been recognized by Guinness as the longest-running adaptation of a TV series.
  • Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently said that the 4th Avengers film will tie up the story that began in 2008’s Iron Man. Without going into detail, he said that it would provide a satisfying end to that continuous story, leading fans to believe a cinematic reboot might be on the way.
  • Reports indicate that Victor Garber will leave Legends of Tomorrow this season due to other work commitments.
  • Apparently Batman: The Animated Series will be released on Blu-ray next year, and all I can ask is “Why?” I mean, I highly doubt that show will benefit from an HD conversion.

Nothing had the West Week Ever, unless you’re a news outlet that printed a ton of stories on Harvey Weinstein. And even then, you’re probably one of the organizations that helped cover it up for so long. So, nobody gets a cookie. Try harder next week, America!

06th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/6/17

by Will

So, I guess I’ve got to start off by talking about Vegas, huh? Ya know, it’s been really hard writing this column in 2017. Like, I’m sure some of y’all are thinking, “Man, Will is slipping” or you’ve put me in the category with The Simpsons where “This isn’t as funny as it used to be.” Sadly, it’s just the state of the world, and all I can do is my best to mine the entertainment news that still manages to trickle out. That said, it is really hard talking about pop culture in 2017.

But anyway, Vegas. Unless you’ve been offworld fighting the Jem’Hadar or whatever, then you already know some dude (not gonna name him ’cause why should I?) shot up the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival, killing 59 people, and injuring over 500, in the deadliest US gun attack in history. And while this was a horrific loss of life, I’m kind of numb to these things now. I mean, sure, you wonder “Is anywhere safe anymore?” but at the same time, this is America, and these sorts of things have become somewhat annual, if not more frequent. After all, this is only the deadliest gun attack since the Pulse shooting in Miami back in June of 2016. It’s saddening and exhausting, yet nothing seems to be changing.

I’m seeing a lot of sentiments, post-Vegas, about how we’re all Americans and should now unite and, basically, “cut the bullshit”. But what does that ultimately mean? I mean, around what ideal are we uniting? It sure as Hell ain’t gun control. Or mental health. There’s no “evil foreigner” trope for us to pursue. If anything, it seems to be a plea to stop protesting and kneeling and all that jazz, because it’s “divisive”. Nah, I’m good. I know these things teach us that life is precious and we shouldn’t waste time on squabbles, but the stuff folks are mad about isn’t menial. And I think it’s gonna take more than a “lone wolf” at a country festival to sweep all the issues under the rug, for the sake of “unity”.

Anyway, as you can imagine, Vegas cast a bit of a pall on pop culture this week, and this wasn’t more evident than with the return of MTV’s TRL.

Members of the N’SYNC pose with Carson Daly at MTV Studios in New York City’s Times Square on January, 26, 2000. (photo by Todd Plitt)

Originally Total Request Live, the video request countdown was a powerhouse on the pop music landscape at the turn of the century. It put Carson Daly on the map, and it was what everyone watched when they came home from school (unless they were watching 106 & Park). You weren’t shit if you didn’t stop by TRL to promote whatever new project you had coming up. It was THE place to be. Then the internet got bigger, and you could watch music videos whenever you want on YouTube (and later Vevo). So, the show packed its shit and left us in 2008.

Feeling a bit of nostalgia, I suppose, Viacom decided to revive the show this year with a team of hosts. With the internet being what it is now, surely it’d be more interactive than the original. What nobody told us, though, is that it wouldn’t have any videos!

Monday’s premiered chugged along, despite having to deal with a national tragedy and experiencing technical difficulties, and didn’t air a single video. Yeah, they still make videos. CMT plays ’em, so at least they’re still viable for country. Taylor Swift and Katy Perry still make them. There are videos out there, yet the show known for its video countdown ain’t got no videos! Exactly WHAT is the audience expected to request? Instead, the show featured live performances from Ed Sheeran and Migos, and displayed some awkward banter between the hosts as they tried to fill out the intermittent silences.

People have said “What’s the point of then showing videos if you can get them online?”, and while that’s true, I’d counter with “Then why bring back the show at all?” Imagine if VH1 revived Pop-Up Video, but didn’t actually do the pop-ups because “folks do that better on YouTube now”? That would be a useless show. And in an age where MTV seems to want to get back into the music business somewhat, and they still host an awards show for music videos you’d think they would see this TRL reboot as a golden opportunity. Anyway, maybe they’re just experiencing first week growing pains, but things certainly don’t look all that great for this incarnation at the moment.

Another way that Vegas affected pop culture is that Netflix pulled their Punisher panel that was planned for this weekend’s New York Comic Con. While some folks are asking “What’s that gonna change?”, I selfishly applaud the decision. I say selfishly because I don’t understand anyone who holds The Punisher as their favorite comic character. At least no one over the age of 13, that is. Why, in this day and age, is he still a thing? Sure, he has his roots in the whole Dirty Harry/Death Wish popularity of decades past, but let’s not forgot that comic are just power fantasies. So who does he appeal to?

If you’re not familiar with The Punisher, Frank Castle was originally a Vietnam vet whose family was murdered because they witnessed a killing in Central Park. He then begins his one-man war on crime. Sure, this was “cool” in the 89s, but now? Do you really wanna give a Vietnam vet with a screw loose a bunch of weapons? Shit, most of y’all wouldn’t even give him a dollar!

In recent years, they’ve tried to make him more “comic booky”, sending him after Hydra and having him somewhat idolize Captain America, but at the end of the day, he’s not a good dude. And it’s not like he does it in a funny way, like Deadpool (and I’ve got thoughts about that, too). He’s so “ripped from the headlines” that I’m surprised there aren’t Punisher copycats running around in the streets.

They say that every character is somebody’s favorite, but if yours is Punisher, not only do I want to know who hurt you, but I’m also afraid of you. We’ve got comic retailers pissed that Iron Man is currently a Black girl, or Captain America was a Black man, but don’t bat an eye that there’s this White dude who’s been on a killing spree since the mid 70s. I just don’t know if we need that character anymore.

Anyway, enough Vegas talk. Over at ABC, they finally locked their judges panel for the American Idol reboot and I’ve got problems with it.

The lineup on the judges panel will be Katy Perry, country star Luke Bryan, and 80s superstar Lionel Richie. And my problem is that these judges are current recording artists, so what’s to keep them from torpedoing the hopes of a contestant that they night see as competition? We already know Katy’s petty from her feud with Taylor Swift, so I wouldn’t put it past her.

When the original Idol aired, the judges were comprised of a producer, a hasbeen, and a pop music magic maker. None of them were active recording artists. The only show that has active recording artists as judges is The Voice, and notice how that show has yet to produce a household name after 13 seasons. Not even in the first season, where all eyes were on this newfangled show to see what it was all about, did the winner become a “star”. That show has always been, and will always be about the judges. You think Blake Shelton is gonna choose someone who might compete with him over a CMA? No the fuck not!

Katy’s experienced a lot of success, but I don’t know if she’s really anyone to be judging singing. Despite the fact that she’s the biggest star on the panel, and making the most money, Katy fills the Paula role, as she’s more of an entertainer than a vocalist. Luke, while he’s paid his dues in the country industry, is still a novice to stardom. Not really sure what advice he has to offer the next generation of stars. And Lionel is just there to fill that Randy Jackson, elder statesman role. If you’ll notice, the panel is missing a Simon. There’s no one there who truly understand the behind the scenes aspect of the industry. How to package an artist, how to match them with the right songs, etc. Katy has been packaged, and Lionel has written songs, but there’s no “godfather” on the panel, which I think will be to the show’s detriment.

In comic news, it was announced at NYCC yesterday that DC would be completely rebooting the “urban” Milestone properties, led by a new Static Shock series from Kyle Baker and Reginald Hudlin.

The minority pockets of comic fandom have been claiming for years that they’d support a Milestone reboot, so now it’s time for them to out their money where their mouth is. Frankly, I don’t believe them. It’s the “woke”, socially conscious thing to say, but when you’re faced with paying $3.99 a month for Static, your attitude is gonna change.

Several companies have tried to fill the void left by the Milestone books, and the only one that has come close to succeeding is Lion Forge’s current Catalyst Prime universe. While it’s still very early to tell where this imprint might go, they’ve delivered a quality product, with known creators, and even their footprint doesn’t seem to be that large. Retailers are ordering conservatively, as they, too, aren’t sure how things will shake our. Sure, Milestone will have DC Comics money behind it, but is DC giving then just enough rope with which to hang themselves? I guess time will tell, but I’m not overly optimistic about their chances. Plus, there have been so many bait & switch Milestone announcements over the years that I’ll believe it when I see the books on shelves.

Speaking of DC, there are reports that they’re backing away from their shared DC Extended Universe films, as they’ll downplay the interconnectedness going forward. While I, for one, applaud this decision, money talks, so the success or failure of Justice League will most likely dictate the future of their film universe. It’s increasingly seeming like the Flash movie will be Flashpoint, which is odd because we’re not even invested enough in the characters yet to go through a universe-changing event like that.

If you’re unfamiliar, Flashpoint was the DC Comics event that changed the DC timeline and resulted in the New 52 relaunch a few years back. Most of the DC heroes started with a clean slate, and the books picked up early in the heroes’ careers. While a Flashpoint movie wouldn’t have to be so drastic, as they haven’t really established much of that universe yet, it is interesting that they would do a soft reboot of the films so soon. My feelings is that they’ll keep what works and throw out what doesn’t. Gal Gadot ain’t going anywhere. And Aquaman is probably safe, too.

I think the biggest wild card is Affleck. It was sort of dumb for them to build a film universe around an older Batman, where the most interesting stuff about him occurred before we even meet him. I know they wanted to go all The Dark Knight Returns with his battle against Superman, and that required an older, more skilled Batman. However, Affleck and the DCEU are like a couple who’s clearly unhappy, but neither is willing to pull the trigger on a break-up. Plus, it doesn’t help that Affleck’s most recent non-DC films have been flops, so he’d be a fool to walk away from a sure thing. The films might not be universally loved, but they do make money.

Anyway, we got some character posters for Justice League this week, which is something I guess. It comes out 2 weeks after Thor: Ragnarok, yet I’ve seen almost no promotion for it, while Thor has had TV spots since late August. In fact, the only time I even remember there’s a Justice League movie coming is when I’m in the toy aisle and see those uninspired basic figures on the pegs. They’re really gonna need to pump up the hype machine in the next few weeks. With the way DC’s acting, I almost feel like they’re ready to take the L and move on to the next phase of their movie-making.

Last weekend I went to TFCon 2017, which was a Transformers convention held locally. While I had a great time finally meeting Twitter pals @briantruitt and @brock626, and catching up with my bud @FakeEyes22, the show itself was meh. Like, I can’t believe that people actually travel for that show. Imagine paying for tickets to a music festival with big name acts, only to get their and they say “Psych! Most of these are cover bands!” That’s TFCon, ’cause about 40% of the “convention floor” (AKA hotel ballroom) was nothing but 3rd party knockoff toys and Reprolabels. After all, why buy a legitimate Optimus Prime when you can buy a $70 “Supreme Leader”? I know that 3rd party stuff is popular amongst Transformers fans, but I didn’t think you could prop up a convention with it, especially since it seemed like Hasbro was starting to crack down on those knockoff peddlers. Anyway, I bought my first 3rd party Transformer, KBBMP 21+ Beetle Wasp , who is really just a large G1 Bumblebee.

Song of the Week

You know why. My a cappella group used to sing this and it was one of my favorite arrangements to sing. I tried to find our version on YouTube, but the one that’s up is the quality of hot garbage, so you get the original instead.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Film sites are teasing that “big star” Kate Winslet is reteaming with James Cameron and joining the Avatar franchise. Sorry, but she hasn’t been a star since 1997.
  • Fast 9 has been given the release date of 4/10/20, while the Fast spin-off starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham now has a release date of 7/26/19.
  • Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/actress Jill Scott has been cast as the villain Lady Eve in The CW’s Black Lightning. I still feel like they’re dooming this show to fail by not connecting it to the preexisting Arrowverse.
  • OJ Simpson was released from prison last Sunday morning at midnight, after serving a 9-year term. He immediately resumed his hunt for the real killers. Just kidding. He’s reportedly staying on a golf course somewhere.

  • We got a trailer for Syfy’s Happy!, based on the Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson graphic novel of the same name. While this left me with a feeling of “What did I just watch?”, this feels like it’d be more at home on FX than Syfy.
  • It seems like Universal’s Dark Universe is falling apart, after The Bride of Frankenstein just lost its release date. The actors, including Javier Bardem and Angelina Jolie, are on hold until the script can be worked on.
  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley has been upped to series regular for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so expect to see her yo-yoing through space this year.
  • Black superhero series Raising Dion is being developed by, and will co-star, Michael B. Jordan. The show has received a 10-episode order from Netflix.
  • Apparently there’s a Bob’s Burgers movie coming in 2020. Just like the show, I’ll have no direct interest in seeing it, but I’m sure I’ll eventually catch it on FXX one day and enjoy every minute of it.
  • Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring fame, will reportedly direct Channing Tatum’s Gambit film spin-off of the X-Men franchise. Man, what kind of blackmail material does Tatum have to keep this movie in production?! I’ll bet it’s some dirt from his days as a stripper!
  • Bruce Willis’s Death Wish reboot has been moved from later this year to March 2nd, 2018. They claim it’s because the Thanksgiving film corridor is crowded, but it’s more likely the fact that a movie about an old White guy shooting up people ain’t so kosher right now. But we’ll have forgotten all about this stuff by March, so it’s cool.
  • The future of Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn is in question, as they ain’t got no Dicky! Actor Mace Coronel (are we sure he’s not a video game character with that name?) abruptly left the show over the summer, and announced his departure on Instagram this week.
  • TNT announced that the upcoming 6th season of Major Crimes would be its last, despite the fact that it’s the highest rated show on the network. This is like when CBS initiated the Rural Purge, where they cancelled all their high-rated “bumpkin” shows because they wanted to change their image.
  • Alyssa Milano is developing her comic series Hacktivist into a TV series for The CW
  • Freshman ABC drama The Good Doctor has scored a full season order after only airing 2 episodes.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog film has jumped from Sony to Paramount, and announced director Tim Miller (Deadpool) will now produce, as Jeff Fowler will be making his theatrical directorial debut on the film.
  • After 15 seasons, Pauley Perrette is leaving NCIS at the end of this season. In other news, NCIS has somehow been on for 15 years…

  • CBS is adding Will Ferrell-produced comedy No Activity to the All Access streaming service, to debut by end of year. However, Tim Meadows just joined the cast as the co-lead, so the show is already cancelled.
  • Larry Wilmore and Viola Davis are developing the comedy Black Don’t Crack for ABC, which sounds like an older Girlfriends reboot
  • Co-head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider have left Saturday Night Live to work on a pilot for Comedy Central. Kelly also wrote for Broad City, while Schneider wrote for Master of None.

  • We also got a trailer for Hulu’s Future Man from Seth Rogen. It looks funny, but Hulu doesn’t seem like the right home for it, as it feels like a Fox show.
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling issued a plea in his child pornography case. One of the stipulations of sentencing means he’ll have to stay away from events frequented by minors, such as “video arcade facilities”. Here’s hoping he not a pedophile AND a time traveler!

So, this has been a Hell of a week. One great thing about it, though, is that today is my 5-year wedding anniversary. Yup, on October 6th, 2012, I married a girl I met on the Internet, and she hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve actually been together 9 years, but only 5 in the eyes of the District of Columbia. It has certainly been a ride. She got skinnier, I got fatter. We’ve had a kid together, which is pretty cool. Sometimes I feel like said kid gets the attention that I used to get, but I’m not supposed to be jealous of a toddler, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, when things like Vegas happen, you do realize that you’re lucky/blessed to be alive, and you look at the life you’ve built around yourself. I certainly could’ve done a lot worse, and probably not much better. Look, I was a lot better at writing this kind of stuff 9 years ago, when we were both still in the “OMG, you love breathing? I love breathing, too!” phase. Life comes along, and shit gets hard. I’m not even going to lie about that. But it’s a lot easier to handle when you’ve got a good person beside you to deal with it together. So, I think the West Family is having the West Week Ever. I love y’all!

08th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/8/17

by Will

So, we’re back after a holiday weekend and an extended break for the site. Long story short, I broke the site while updating some plugins, so it wasn’t really in a good place for a new post to go up last week. Everything seems to be better now, though, so let’s take her for a spin!

Well, since we last met, there has been some kerfuffle about race-based casting in Hollywood. Last time, I mentioned how British actor/rapper Ed Skrein had been cast as the Japanese Ben Daimio in Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen. After about a week of folks commenting on the whitewashing of the character, Skrein did something nobody really expected: he bowed out of the role. He released the following statement:

CLASS ACT. Seriously. He didn’t have to do this, but he realized it would be best for the character, the movie, and his image to decline the role. Now we’ll have to see if Lionsgate just goes and casts another White guy.

When I was tweeting about this development, I got the above question on Sarahah. I answered on Twitter, saying that they’re not the same thing. The only reason folks wanted a White Johnny Storm was because *he’d always been White*. However, there’s nothing inherently White about Johnny Storm. He’s a cocky, showboating ladies man, who’s not too responsible but is always there for his friends and family. Oh, and he sets himself on fire. That’s pretty much all you need to be true to who Johnny Storm is. Notice how I didn’t mention race anywhere. It doesn’t matter in that case. When you have a character where their race is inherent to who they are, then it’s imperative that you cast that race for the role.

As a counterpoint, folks ask “Well, then should Marvel have cast Idris Elba and Tessa Thompson in the Thor movies?” Honestly? No. There’s colorblind casting that makes sense and then there’s colorblind casting with ulterior motives. Representation is good onscreen, but when you’re dealing with Norse mythology, it’s kind of hard to really justify Elba and Thompson as Heimdall and Valkyrie, respectively. You can make the argument that there aren’t enough diverse characters in superhero films, so exceptions are made from time to time. There’s no shortage of roles for White actors, but there are fewer opportunities for minorities unless we make the films ourselves. Still, if I can acknowledge that Skrein’s casting was the wrong call, I also have to do the same for the Thor franchise.

In another interesting bit of casting, Disney’s live action Aladdin has created an original character, Prince Anders, just to cast Billy Magnussen in the role. Now, on paper, Aladdin is a diversity dream, but it’s almost like someone in Hollywood was like, “We can’t put this movie out without a White guy featured in it.” Right now, the cast stands with newcomer Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Power Rangers‘ Naomi Scott as Jasmine, Marwan Kenzari as Jafar, and Will Smith as the Genie. While details are scarce, it seems Anders might compete with Aladdin for Jasmine’s affection.

In other movie news, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow is out as the director of Star Wars: Episode IX. This highly publicized dismissal comes just months after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from the Han Solo film. Plus, don’t forget that Fant4astic Four director Josh Trank was fired from a planned Star Wars spinoff before production even began on it. There’s a joke on Twitter that there are now more Directors Fired from Star Wars than there are Directors of Star Wars. Now the race is on to find a replacement, who will probably come as a shock to fans. After all, did you ever think Ron Howard would direct a Star Wars film? I just hope they don’t give it to someone like Joss Whedon. I mean, the Rey character is the kind of archetype he gravitates towards, but he’s just really not as good as his reputation would lead you to believe. Plus, since the recent hit job published by his ex-wife, I think Whedon will be keeping a low profile for the foreseeable future.

In TV news, DC has filled out the cast for the Titans series coming to its upcoming streaming service. Australian actor Brenton Thwaites will portray team leader Nightwing, while Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly have been cast as Hawk & Dove. If you remember, Ritchson played Aquaman on Smallville, so this is his second time at bat as a DC superhero. Looking at that photo above, it seems like Kelly would’ve made a better Starfire, but what do I know? Right now, they’re saying that Hawk & Dove will only be recurring characters for the first season, with an option to become series regulars for the second season. If they take off, there are even preliminary plans to spin them off into their own series down the road. This all just seems so…unsubstantial. I mean, we barely know anything about this DC streaming service, and this series certainly isn’t enough to make me want to subscribe to another service. The fact that Young Justice (a show that I never watched) will be on the service does nothing for me. While some folks might think an original series is a major coup for Warner Bros as they launch the service, I still think of Titans as the show that TNT passed on. TNT. It’s not like they have an embarrassment of riches right now on their schedule to justify turning away a quality show. So, that makes me think it’s just not up to par.

Speaking of Titans, Arrow has cast Liam Hall as Slade Wilson’s son, Joe. In the comics, Joseph is also known as the Titan Jericho. It seems Arrow‘s going a different way with him, however, as Joe Wilson will be a mercenary much like his father. This season of Arrow, also, will reportedly begin with a time jump. I guess they don’t want to have to film all those folks getting off that island.

In other TV news, ABC has reached out to country star Luke Bryan to join Katy Perry as a judge on their reboot of American Idol. The problem, however, is that their money is running low. Reportedly they started out with a talent budget of $40 million. Perry is getting $25 million, while Ryan Seacrest is getting $10 million to host. So, with cash dwindling, ABC has decided to lean on its corporate owner, Disney, to offer perks to potential talent. These perks include production deals, as well as licensing and merchandising deals for Disney properties. So, you might be standing in line for the Luke Bryan Rollercoaster (which is also the name of one of his biggest hits) the next time you’re at a Disney park.

On Twitter this week, I had my most popular tweet of all time. I’m still pissed at the new ratio, where you only get a fraction of the retweets that you get Likes. Somehow, I got over 700 Likes on this tweet, but only 200 retweets (someone actually UN-retweeted it, or they were a bot that was deleted, so I’m back down to 199). Still, look at these stats:

Yeah, I know a lot of y’all have had more popular tweets, but this is new for me, so don’t take this away from me!

Song of the Week

Last time, I gave you the lyric video, but it seems that Taylor wasted no time in releasing the official video for “Look What You Made Me Do”, as it debuted 2 nights later during the MTV Video Music Awards. A lot of folks think she’s stealing from Beyoncé in parts of this video, but I don’t really know what to make of it. She seems to want us to think she’s changed. After all, the Old Taylor is “dead”. This sort of personality change gimmick rarely turns out well, though, so it’ll be interesting to see if her upcoming album Reputation is more of what we’re used to, or more of whatever this is. This could be her Chris Gaines album or it could be her “I’m A Slave 4 U”, which pretty much cemented the sexpot Britney image. My problem is that I think I’m incapable of seeing Taylor Swift as sexy. She’s more like your best friend’s little sister who matures over the summer, catching you by surprise, but you still remember when she used to wear those sneakers that light up with every step.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Two to beam up to the altar, as former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress Terry Farrell is engaged to son of Spock, Adam Nimoy
  • SyFy went on the offensive, cancelling Blood Drive, Dark Matter, and Killjoys (after it runs another 2 seasons). I’ve never seen any of these shows, and had only heard of 2 of them prior to this announcement. Way to promote things other than Sharknado, SyFy!
  • Speaking of cancellations, Amazon has cancelled Christina Ricci’s Z: The Beginning of Everything, reversing its prior decision to produce a second season.
  • And the cancellations kept coming, as TNT cancelled their sexy young Shakespeare drama, Will, after one season.
  • Though I could never get into Veep, I know it has its fans – who are probably upset that it was announced it will end after season 7.
  • CBS announced that the US edition of Big Brother would have a celebrity edition that will air during Winter 2018. Way to catch up to 2001 England, CBS!
  • The BBC announced that the Doctor Who spinoff Class has been cancelled after one season.
  • There are reports that Drew Goddard will write and direct an X-Force movie starring Cable and Deadpool that will never actually be made…
  • Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to qualify for the American Ninja Warrior finals, has signed with the WWE.
  • Alf Clausen, composer for The Simpsons for the past 27 years, was dismissed due to rumored financial concerns, but producers later promised he will “continue to have an ongoing role with the show”.
  • An all-female Lord of the Flies film was announced, and the folks on social media were NOT having it.
  • Toys “R” Us is reportedly looking into possibly filing for bankruptcy as it struggles to compete with big box and online retailers
  • ABC announced the next Bachelor, and fans are outraged because they don’t even remember him from his last appearance in the franchise in 2012. He’s so insignificant that I’m not even gonna Google his name to write it here.
  • Jamie Foxx and Katie Holmes have seemingly gone public with their relationship, as they were spotted holding hands while walking on the beach. They’ve been rumored to be a couple for years, but there are reports that Tom Cruise put a stipulation in their divorce that Katie couldn’t go public with a relationship for five years following the split.

Had I written a post last week, I probably would’ve given the West Week Ever to Ed Skrein. That said, I didn’t, so I couldn’t. This week, however, is a different story. While nothing truly amazing happened this week, we did celebrate the anniversary of a property near and dear to my heart, Batman: The Animated Series.

Premiering September 5th, 1992, Batman: The Animated Series came along and was like nothing else on television at the time. It had the action for kids, but it had writing that appealed to adults. It even aired in primetime for a stint – something that was only done for “adult” animated shows like The Simpsons up to that point.

The show is also responsible for producing the greatest Batman in history: Kevin Conroy. He may not look like a superhero, and you probably wouldn’t even recognize him on the street, but you’d never mistake that voice. That commanding presence is something that men from Keaton to Bale have struggled with for the past nearly 30 years. When you hear Conroy speak, you KNOW that’s Batman.

Plus, piggybacking on the Tim Burton movies, it helped to change public opinion of Batman, which had come to see him as “silly” due to the Adam West portrayal in the 60s. Finally, folks were seeing not only what Batman was capable of, but what the comics characters were capable of in other media if handled by the right people.

I wish I could tell you my all-time favorite episode of the series, but it’s hard because there are so many good ones. There’s “Almost Got ‘Im”, where Batman’s rogues play a late night poker game, sharing tales of how they almost defeated their common foe. There’s “Beware the Gray Ghost”, where Batman gets to meet his childhood idol, actor Simon Trent, who portrayed the hero The Gray Ghost (voiced by 60s Batman Adam West). Or there’s the “Robin’s Reckoning” 2-parter, where we get Robin’s origin story as he tracks down the man who killed his family.

While this is a controversial opinion, as many fans had left the show by then, but I’d even argue that the show got better when it was revived as The New Batman Adventures. Sure, some folks couldn’t get over the new character designs, but there are so many incredible episodes from that iteration, as well. “Over the Edge”, where we find out what would happen if Gordon found out, in the worst possible way, that Bruce Wayne was Batman. “Old Wounds”, where we find out why, exactly, Dick Grayson quit being Robin. Or “Love is a Croc”, which is a VERY twisted and mature half hour of television.

All told, we got over 100 episodes of the show, which merely served as the cornerstone of an even larger DC Animated Universe. Over the next few years, we would get Superman: The Animated Series, which would, then lead to Justice League, and then Justice League Unlimited. Plus, there are the ancillary shows, like Batman Beyond and Static Shock. A 14-year entertainment franchise was birthed from this one little show.

I guess by this point you can tell that I really love this show, and it makes me feel old as Hell to know that it was 25 years ago that I was watching it on Fox Kids. All of this is to say that, in commemoration of its 25th anniversary, Batman: The Animated Series had the West Week Ever.

25th Aug2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/25/17

by Will

 

In movie news, there was quite the controversial casting this week, as the color lines blurred for some comic book adaptations. First up, it was announced that English actor Ed Skrein would be portraying Japanese character Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy reboot. Now, according to what I’ve read, Daimio’s Japanese heritage heavily influences the character, so this whitewashing of the character doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the character. I mean, after the problems with whitewashing in Doctor Strange, Ghost in the Shell, Aloha, The Great Wall, and Ni’ihau, you’d think Hollywood would avoid shit like this. Yes, movies are made to make money, but it’s not like Skrein is a bankable star worth slotting into the role, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Usually this is done for the film’s STARS. Damon, Johansson, Stone. This is a secondary character, so it really wouldn’t have hurt them to seek out an Asian actor. Normally I’m just like “Well, Hollywood’s gonna Hollywood”, but this decision just doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Next up, 24: Legacy’s Anna Diop has been cast as Starfire in Warner Bros’ Titans series, slated to air on DC’s upcoming digital service. Some folks are saying they should’ve cast a Latina, but she’s gonna either be painted or CGied in orange, so it’s not like it’s gonna matter at the end of the day. Personally, if they wanted authenticity, I think they should’ve cast an actual orange alien princess. Right now there are just too many unknowns for me to get excited about this. I mean, DC announced the digital service without a lot of information. What’s gonna be on it? What will it cost? How much of the DC library will be available to be housed on it? As for Titans, this is the show TNT passed on. Ya know, the home of such illustrious shows as The Librarians and The Last Ship. I mean, they’re basically just about a notch up from what we got in the 90s from Universal’s Action Pack lineup. If Titans couldn’t fit anywhere on that schedule, then it probably just isn’t “ready for primetime” yet.

Speaking of aimless Warner Bros decisions, they announced 2 different Joker movies this week. First up is an origin tale, directed by Todd Phillips of Old School fame, and produced by Martin Scorsese. Hmm, one of those things is not like the other. I mean, why would Scorsese touch something helmed by the dude who gave us Road Trip? And who even WANTS a Joker origin story? First of all, it’s reportedly not even going to be part of the DCEU, so why confuse the audience with a story that won’t even really “count” in the grand scheme of things? Nobody needs a standalone origin of a take on a character they’ll likely never see again. This is just as foolish as Sony’s Don’t-Look-For-Spider-Man-To-Appear Venom movie. Next, the guys behind This Is Us (SO hot right now!) and Crazy, Stupid, Love are working on a Bonnie & Clyde-style Joker and Harley film, with Jared Leto and Margot Robbie reprising their roles from Suicide Squad. Since this would sort of negate the empowerment that Harley gained by the end of Squad, it’s believed that this actually means that the planned Gotham City Sirens film, also slated to star Robbie, is now dead. Honestly, I could do without either of these movies. I found Leto’s take on Joker to be…interesting, but Less is More with that character. Plus, I don’t really think the DCEU would be strengthened by this sort of movie. It’s not the world-building they need to be doing right now, as they haven’t even figured out the core of their star characters like Batman and Superman yet.

In TV news, Christopher Sebela’s comic Heartthrob has been optioned as a TV series by Felix Culpa – a production company launched by actress/Elvis’s granddaughter Riley Keough. Now, comics are optioned every day, and the final product never comes to fruition, but I hope this series sees the light of day. I’m actually a big fan of the comic, which is published by Oni Press. Set in the late 70s, it focuses on Callie, who’s received a heart transplant while the process is still in its infancy. Given a new lease on life, but still told she’s basically living on borrowed time, she decides to change her life when she meets Mercer, a charming guy with a shady side. She immediately falls for him, and he teaches her how to be bad, like rob banks and commit other crimes. She gets off on the rush. Pretty soon, however, she realizes that Mercer isn’t real. No, he’s actually the ghost of the guy whose heart is now in Callie. So, it’s a Bonnie & Clyde story where Clyde’s calling the shots from the afterlife. The book is published in “seasons”, so the first 5-issue miniseries wrapped up back in early 2016, while season 2 is hitting stores now. If you’re looking for a new comic not from the Big Two, I highly recommend it.

In music news, Taylor Swift did a whole social blitz to announce that her next album would be called Reputation, and would be released Nov 10th. On top of that, the first single was released last night, with rumors that the video will premiere at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards. Ya know, the same awards hosted my Taylor’s enemy Katy Perry. Yeah, that should be pretty interesting to watch. Anyway, the new song is called “Look What You Made Me Do”, and I’m not too impressed. It lacks a real hook, while the chorus itself is basically spoken. I feel like it has all the ingredients for a great song, but it’s not living up to its full potential. If this is an indicator of what to expect on Reputation, though, I’ll admit I’m curious. It can’t be worse than Perry’s Witness.

Speaking of Katy Perry, we got the premiere of her video for “Swish Swish”, which was reportedly her diss track against Taylor Swift. After a lot of backtracking and sucking up, though, it seems Katy wants to put that feud behind her. That’s why this horrible video does everything it can to take the bite out of a song that was never really that biting to begin with. I mean, just look at it – Molly Shannon? Terry Crews? Even Nicki Minaj was clearly CGied in, as I’m sure she didn’t wanna be anywhere near this shitshow. The sad thing about the Perry/Swift feud is that Katy bailed on it the minute she realized the Swifties were a more powerful lobby than she had thought. Nobody was feeling her SNL performances, and Witness didn’t exactly fly off the shelves. She realized that she can’t really survive by making enemies, so suddenly she became conciliatory to save her ass. Plus, it’s kinda lame that this blood feud started just because Taylor stole a few of Katy’s dancers for her tour. Anyway, you’ll never get those 6 minutes back. You’re welcome.

I had the pleasure of joining my buddy Zac for his new podcast, The Zac Shipley Show. He’s treating these first few episodes as pilots for ideas he’s wanted to try, so our ep was called Streaming Pile, where we talked about the worst things we could find on streaming services. I talked about a Star Trek: Voyager episode where formerly perky pixie Kes returns all middle-aged and bitter. You should check it out, and give a listen to his other episodes while you’re there!

Song of the Week

I’ve been a big Maren Morris fan since she released “My Church”, and I was really into her next single, “80s Mercedes”. With this song she continues not to disappoint, as I love the groove on this thing. Listen to the bassline. It’s not a dance song, yet you can do a MEAN two-step to it. Hell, I think you could even do a casual version of The Hustle to it. This will definitely go to #1 given time.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC’s planned reboot of Xena: Warrior Princess – which would’ve featured a full-on lesbian relationship between her and Gabrielle – is officially dead, as they said “it didn’t warrant a reboot”. Man, if only other studios would realize this about some of their projects…
  • Director James Gunn mentioned in a Q & A session that the 3rd Guardians of the Galaxy film would set up the next 10-20 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yup, you’re just now realizing your own mortality. I’ll give you a minute to deal with that.
  • Speaking of Gunn, he’s attached to write the pilot for (and possibly direct) a reboot of 70s series Starsky & Hutch. This adaptation is supposed to be similar in tone to CBS’s upcoming S.W.A.T. and not comedic in tone like the 2004 Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson movie.
  • Surprising every critic in Hollywood, Netflix has renewed the maligned comedy Friends From College for a second season.
  • Known for controversial publicity stunts, Alamo Drafthouse is reportedly organizing a Clowns Only screening of the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It.

  • We got a new poster for Thor: Ragnarok. So many colors!
  • Michael K. Williams has reportedly been cut from the Star Wars Han Solo film, as Ron Howard’s reshoot schedule conflicted with another role that Williams had accepted.
  • There are, like, 8 different Knight Rider reboot treatments floating around Hollywood, but the latest rumor is that one of those productions is looking at John Cena as Michael Knight, with Kevin Hart as the voice of K.I.T.T. Of course, it would be a comedic adaptation, a la the popular Jump Street franchise.
  • Super Troopers 2, the sequel to one of the most overrated films I’ve ever seen, will hit theaters April 20th, 2018.
  • Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson will star in Nasty Women, which is a female-led reboot of the Michael Caine/Steve Martin classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
  • Independence Day: Resurgence‘s Jessie T Usher will star in Son of Shaft, with Samuel L. Jackson potentially reprising his role as John Shaft (from the 2000 reboot film), the nephew of the original John Shaft, played by Richard Roundtree, who is also in talks to join the movie. Man, that gave me a headache.

  • Always on the cutting edge, here’s Sesame Street’s parody of 2017’s song of the summer, “Despacito”
  • According to the creators, the Netflix series Stranger Things will most likely end after its fourth season
  • The actress formerly known as “Andrea Zuckerman”, Gabrielle Carteris, has been re-elected to a 2-year term as the President of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
  • Ryan Gosling will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, with musical guest Jay-Z, on Sept 30th.
  • Jamie Bell is developing a Jumper TV series, based on the 2008 film about teleporters
  • Suicide Squad 2 is reportedly being fast tracked, but I hope they fast track it right into the garbage. I mean, I enjoyed the first one, but I don’t need a sequel.

  • I like Nick Kroll, even though I never saw even a second of Kroll Show. Anyway, he’s got a new animated series about puberty called Big Mouth coming to Netflix and after watching this teaser I am ON BOARD!
  • We’re a month away from the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, and it was revealed that it will be rated TV-MA, for Mature Audiences. Now, it doesn’t mean there’ll be tits and phasers, but it does mean they can tell more complex stories. That said, I still feel like they don’t truly understand the source material.
  • After a scathing essay from his ex-wife went public, accusing him of adultery and other generally shitty behavior to women, Joss Whedon went underground and the fan site, Whedonesque, shut down after 15 years.

  • We got a new teaser for Netflix’s The Punisher. With the rate I’m getting through these Marvel shows, I’ll probably get to it just before Evie goes off to Hogwarts.

There was a national solar eclipse this week, which was the first occurrence since 1918. I’m sure you might’ve heard something about it. It was kind of a big deal. Folks were pimping out special cardboard glasses on Craigslist for insane amounts of money, and the American President made news by looking directly into it. It seems that it had a strange effect on different folks. For example, Netflix viewership went down 10% as people went outside to view the phenomenon. Not everyone understood what was going on, bless their hearts. At work, a frantic parent called in and said “Y’all watching the news? You hear about this eclipse? Is it serious?!” Apparently she thought it posed some sort of danger to her kids and the school. No, ma’am. It’s just a beautiful sky ballet. Anyway, the eclipse was EVERYWHERE. I didn’t get to see totality, but it was still nice to stand outside for a bit on a nice day. What am I saying? I hate the outdoors! Well, it was nice to not have to work for a few minutes. You couldn’t escape the Eclipse Fever at the start of the week, so that’s why the Solar Eclipse of 2017 had the West Week Ever.

18th Aug2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/18/17

by Will

 

I swear, as much as I love pop culture, some weeks it’s just really hard to pay attention to that stuff with everything going on in the world. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about everything that went down in Charlottesville last weekend. I don’t need to recap it, but I’ve got to tell you that I’m scared. Yeah, we’re supposed to stand up to the Nazis and #Resist and all that, but I can still be scared, can’t I? I’ve got to raise a kid in the world. I don’t know how to explain shit that I don’t even understand. We really judge people because of their color? It’s like the Chris Rock joke about VCRs and girls who don’t perform oral sex: “They still make you?” It’s crazy to me, and I tended to just go through life without really thinking too much about it. I had that luxury, and I knew it was a luxury. Part of what made it great was that these folks that are loud and proud used to just be keyboard warriors in their moms’ basements. But they’ve come out of the basements, y’all, and this shit is REAL.

About two years ago, I was driving us all home from the airport. I get to an intersection for a left turn, and the guy behind me keeps honking for me to go, even though he couldn’t really see that I saw cars coming. Eventually, he just speeds around me, and we end up next to each other at the next light. I see him mouthing something at me, so I roll down my window. Then he proceeds to ramble off a bunch of stuff, but what stood out most in my mind was him calling me a nigger. Oh, and my wife a bitch. But mainly him calling me a nigger several times. And it all went black for me.

I seem to remember calling him an asshole, because racial scientists have yet to discover the perfect counter to being called a nigger. White folks are like Teflon when it comes to slurs, as most of the ones about them have lost their effectiveness over the years. And then he challenged me to a fight. Wanted me to pull over into a parking lot. Like I said, I was GONE at this point. Plus, this was the longest red light in history. My daughter started crying in her carseat, and he told me to “go on home and don’t be a deadbeat nigger”, and Lindsay was urging me to just ignore the guy. Engines started revving. The lanes narrowed, and I think I wanted to run him into the median. That was my plan. As Evie’s cries got louder, I realized I had responsibilities and shit, so I let him speed off when the light turned green.

He wasn’t some good ol’ boy redneck. He pretty much looked like a regular White dude with a shaved head. At that point, I didn’t know what the Alt Right was because I hadn’t really heard of Gamergate and all that. But I can say, today, that he was the same type of dude that was down in Charlottesville, and that scares me. It scares me because I don’t like what they’re capable of. But it also scares me because I don’t like what they’re capable of making me do. Bad shit all the way around. Who’s to blame? Well, you be the judge of that. Some of you are still fooling yourselves, but you know exactly how we got here, and didn’t even stop think of what the ramifications would be. Fuck it all, ’cause “emails”, right? Anyway, here we are. Question I have for you is how are we gonna get out of here? And are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

Whew! OK. So, who’s ready for some pop culture ramblings, huh? Huh? Yeah, let’s get to that.

 

In a pretty big deal, Netflix acquired comic creator Mark Millar’s Millarworld comic imprint. You know, he’s the guy behind Wanted, and Kick-Ass, and Kingsman. Oh, what’s that? No, those properties aren’t part of this deal. Still, he’s quite the prolific writer (so prolific, in fact, that I’m not convinced he’s the one actually writing all this stuff, but I digress…), so there’s a lot of material to pull from. There’s Nemesis, which is basically evil Batman who dresses like a Klansman. There’s Superior, which is basically just Millar’s riff on the Shazam story. There’s Super Crooks, which is about, well, super crooks. I know I sound sarcastic and all, but I actually did enjoy all of these series. They may not have been the most original things I’ve read, but he’s found what works for him, so more power to him.

To me, the real winner here is Netflix, as they basically acquired a comic “company” without any of the hassle. You see, Millarworld isn’t a publisher like Marvel or DC. No, it’s an imprint, which is just a fancy branding tactic to let you know that all the stories spring forth from the same voice. Millarworld comics are currently published by both Marvel and Image. As an imprint, all of the heavy lifting is done by the actual publisher. So, Netflix gets the intellectual property without having to worry about comic shipping schedules, retailer outreach, or anything else that publishers should be doing. With this deal, they essentially get to have their cake and eat it, too. Part of me is scared that Netflix is being a bit too aggressive in the marketplace, and can’t sustain this level of success, but what do I know? It’ll be interesting to see what they end up doing with all of this.

Speaking of big deals, Shonda Rhimes – creator of the hits Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal – has signed a multiyear production deal with Netflix, moving her Shondaland production house from ABC. Her ABC contract was set to expire in May 2018, but word on the street is that she negotiated an early exit. A lot of folks are wondering what this means, especially for ABC, which had built the Thursday night TGIT lineup around Rhimes’s shows. It could be good, and it could be bad. For all of her success (the aforementioned shows), she’s also had some misses, including Off The Map, The Catch, and Still Star-Crossed. And for all the buzz surrounding its star, How to Get Away With Murder struggles to find the audience that Grey’s and Scandal have attracted.

There’s no doubt Rhimes is a powerhouse producer, but I think this move came at the right time, as TGIT was starting to get stale. Grey’s is on season 13, but could continue as long as Ellen Pompeo wants work. Meanwhile, Scandal ends this season, and I really don’t know how much more rope they’re gonna give Murder. I’m sure ABC would love to retool the night, without having to cater to one producer, so this will give them a lot more options. There were some potentially difficult decisions on the horizon that can now be avoided since Rhimes took an early out. As for what she’ll do for Netflix, we’re really just gonna have to wait and see.

So get this: apparently some lawyer bought the rights to My Cousin Vinny just so he could release Back to Brooklyn, a novel that follows the characters 25 years later. Now, I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety, but it’s certainly not one that ended with me wondering what happened to them next. According to the synopsis, not much. According to Deadline:

In the update, Vinny is working on a new murder case. This time, it’s set in his native Brooklyn. But domestic issues still plague him – he hasn’t married Lisa, and his career as an attorney really hasn’t taken wing, despite the Alabama triumph, leading to financial problems. Finally, he is hired to help a woman accused of killing her boyfriend, whose brother is the deputy mayor of New York City.

“Taken wing”? I’ve never heard that before. Is that like “Taking flight“? Anyway, that sounds boring as shit. This reboot/revival industry has really gotten out of hand, and this just takes the cake. I can tell you one thing about it without even reading it, though: 25 years later and Marisa Tomei is still a total smokeshow.

Not only has Chrisley Knows Best been renewed for a 6th sesaon, but it also scored an aftershow, According to Chrisley. Hey, at least it’s not another Hardwick talker! From the description, it’s really just a late night version of a daytime talk show, as Todd Chrisley will interact with the audience and give advice on marriage, parenting, and sex. Yup, good ol’ vaginal intercourse. I’m sure Todd knows TONS about that…

They say the third time’s the charm, and that’s exactly how many times they’ve now tried to make How I Met Your Father happen. This time, the show is being developed by Alison Bennett from a show that I love, FXX’s You’re The Worst. So, tonally, don’t look for the kind of humor you’re used to from HIMYM.

In the world of comics, Wizard: The Guide to Comics is returning in the form of WizPop, which will be yet another pop culture website in a crowded pool of pop culture websites. They say that a quarterly print version will follow at some point in the future, but I really don’t see that getting off the ground in today’s print marketplace. Apparently, WizPop will be a “digital daily video news service”, and I hate videos, so this already isn’t for me. I feel a lot of folks film shit that would’ve been more compelling written. Plus, I’m sure they’ll find some hot girl, get her to talk about Pokémon once a week, and expect the clicks to roll in.

The editor in chief of this project is Brian Walton, formerly of Nerdist, so I’m sure he knows his shit. The associate editor, however, is Luke Y. Thompson, who’ll I’ll always refer to as “the guy who killed Topless Robot”. Back in the early ’00s you wanted to have the popularity of 2 major sites: Topless Robot and X-Entertainment. Rob and Matt ruled the geek set, and when Rob left Topless Robot – a brand he had built – it really should’ve ended. Instead, Thompson came along and simply didn’t have feet big enough to fill the shoes he’d been left. I remember when the call went out for a new editor for that site, and I considered it briefly, but thought to myself “Nobody knows me, and it’s not like I have that big of a following”. Then they chose Thompson, whom I’d only heard of here and there, and who had basically the same amount of social media followers that I did. Son of a bitch! Anyway, I’m probably being too hard on the guy. I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have fared any better than he did, as there just wasn’t, nor should there have been, a Topless Robot without Rob Bricken. Can’t begrudge a dude for needing to work, but I really don’t know what Thompson or Walton can bring to the Wizard brand to set it apart from everyone else who’ve already staked a claim to the digital world.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Everything’s coming up Jetsons, as DC Comics announced a new miniseries, while ABC announced they’ve picked up a pilot from Robert Zemeckis for a live action sitcom. I say this show dies on the vine like the Seth MacFarlane Flintstones reboot, but we’ll see…
  • The season 7 Suits finale will serve as a backdoor pilot for a spinoff starring Gina Torres, and set in the world of Chicago politics. I really hope it’s called Da Skirts.
  • Marvel’s Runaways are about to be DOOMED, as the former movie doctor (and Nip/Tuck butt model) Julian McMahon joins the Hulu series as some worthless adult character. Seriously, if you’ve read the book, you know you can’t trust any adults in their orbit.
  • Fringe‘s Kirk Acevedo has been cast as “Ricardo Diaz” next season on Arrow, who will be the Arrowverse adaptation of DC Comics martial artist Richard Dragon.
  • Unwillingly to let a little broken neck stop him (um, spoiler alert?), David Tennant will reprise his role as The Purple Man in season 2 of Jessica Jones.
  • If you’re looking for conversation fodder for when you talk to your grandma, you should probably know that Daphne Oz, daughter of the Dr, is leaving The Chew. Like I said, your grandma will have something to say about it.
  • If you’re a 15 year old girl and you stumbled across this site because you found me in one of your chat rooms, then you’ll want to know that the Teen Wolf 100th episode/series finale will air September 24th. No word if Michael J. Fox or Jason Bateman will make a cameo. Oh, you don’t know who they are? Fuckin’ Generation Z, man…
  • Paul Scheer will now spearhead the Amazon adaptation of Galaxy Quest, which can only mean one thing: Rob Huebel is gonna be the commander. Mark my words!
  • Lost executive producer/co-showrunner Carlton Cuse just inked an overall production deal with ABC. Spoiler alert: all the characters in all of the upcoming shows have been dead the whole time.
  • Michael Douglas is in talks to star in a Netflix sitcom created by Chuck Lorre, which means everyone will “hate” it but it’ll still be the highest rated comedy on the streaming service. I mean, Lorre is KING of the Guilty Pleasure.
  • NBC announced that there have been “talks” of a Frasier revival, though they aren’t sure if the creators want to do it without co-creator David Angell, who died in the September 11th attacks.
  • Not to be outdone, Fox announced that they’ve been in talks with Mike Judge to bring back King of the Hill. While I’d love to know how Hank Hill would regard Trump’s America, I feel the original run of that show is nearly perfect and wouldn’t want a lackluster follow-up like Futurama 2.0.
  • Bad Boys 3 is clearly never happening, so it just lost its release date to Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly’s Holmes & Watson, hitting theaters November 9th, 2018.
  • Nia Vardalos, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame, is developing Suburbs Famous, a TV series loosely inspired by the Chewbacca Mom thing. I’m not sure what to call it. It wasn’t a phenomenon. It was just a thing.
  • Hold onto your butts, children of the 80s, as there’s a reboot of The Two Coreys masterpiece License to Drive. This time it’ll be a female-led ensemble, being called a “female version of Superbad“. Um, OK.
  • You know that coworker who clearly hates his job, and really doesn’t go out of his way to make you think otherwise? That’s Daniel Craig with the James Bond franchise and, as much as he claims to hate it, it’s a job, so he’ll be back in the next installment.
  • Get your towels, fangirls (and fanboys, if that’s your thing), ’cause Star-Lord is back on the market! After 8 years of marriage, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris announced their separation. He’ll get custody of the family’s successful movie career, while she gets the car and her job on Mom.

  • I thought this was pretty clever
  • In a rebranding move, Chuck E. Cheese’s is getting rid of the animatronic band that we all grew up being terrified of. But fear not, as the chain will still base their image around a rat serving you pizza, so if that ain’t classy, I don’t know what is!

This week I joined my good pal Classick for another round of the Classick Team-Up Podcast. This was my first show with his new cohost, Amber, and I think we all gelled really well together. You should definitely give it a listen, but listener discretion is advised!

To say that the new DuckTales is good would be an understatement. In fact, it might be too good. Like everyone else, I’m beginning to tire of all of Hollywood dusting off old properties for new money, so I was a bit apprehensive about a DuckTales reboot. I mean, Disney had come a long way since then, so did they really need to return to that well? I grew up with the Disney Afternoon, so I know some DuckTales. It was never my favorite show or anything, but I enjoyed watching it. Even saw the movie in theaters. I would’ve been more intrigued by a Darkwing Duck or, believe it or not, a Goof Troop reboot, but I was willing to return to Duckburg to check things out.

As the news started trickling out about the reboot, I began to get a bit more interested. The character designs were updated, yet faithful to the original. And the cast! They could’ve just gone with some unknown voice actors, but instead they went for Purple Man David Tennant, and SNL guys Bobby Moynihan and Beck Bennett. Hell, they even got Community‘s Danny Pudi in the mix. Even if the show sucked, it wouldn’t be due to the folks behind the mic. Then they announced that the show would premiere on 8/12, and air for 24 hours. And for 24 hours did it run!

I actually didn’t get to watch it until the marathon was over, but when it was over, I couldn’t believe what I had seen. It was great. I was surprised that Huey, Dewey, and Louie actually had personalities now. That’s something I don’t remember being true about the original show. I liked the personality upgrade that Webby received, and I now find her more endearing than annoying. There’s clearly a story behind the new Mrs. Beakley, as she’s not just some doddering housekeeper anymore. And Donald’s even featured this time! There were a ton of Easter eggs referencing the old show, including shout outs to Cape Suzette (Tale Spin) and St. Canard (Darkwing Duck). Hell, they even had Roxanne from A Goofy Movie in it. What’s not to love?

If I had any squabble at all, it’s that I kinda wish Donald had subtitles. I know that’s part of his gimmick, but during the first half hour, for whatever reason, I found him downright incomprehensible. It didn’t seem as bad during the second half hour, so I don’t know what the difference was.

Anyway, the series properly debuts with new episodes on September 23rd, and I think I found my new favorite Saturday cartoon. If you didn’t see it, you should definitely check it out. It might not be your speed, but you can’t help but marvel at what they accomplished. That’s why DuckTales had the West Week Ever.

Oh yeah, I’m still trying to make Sarahah happen, so leave me some comments!

14th Jul2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/14/17

by Will

So, I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming. Unlike most of you, I didn’t love it. I really liked it, but didn’t love it. Part of the issue stems from the legacy of Spider-Man films. I kinda hate how every star has delivered a great performance as Spider-Man, yet the minute the roll is recast, fans with short memories start saying the last guy was “shit”. People love ragging on Tobey Maguire, especially after Spider-Man 3, but he was really good in those first two movies. There’s a Spider-Man for every generation, and he was the Spider-Man we needed in 2002. Sure, he wouldn’t work so well now, but to compare his movies to Homecoming is basically apples to oranges. I also kinda hate when people say “They finally got Spider-Man right!” Um, Tobey already got him right. Andrew Garfield, in his own way, got him right. And Holland is getting him right. For now. They’ve all brought something special and unique to the table, and I think it’s unfair to discount that because there’s some new, shiny thing to take your attention.

All that’s to say that I liked Homecoming, but it didn’t really offer anything new to me. I felt the same wide-eyed wonder seeing Holland do the ferry rescue as I did when Maguire did the same thing with the train in Spider-Man 2. Some might call that an homage, but it just felt…familiar.

What did I love? I loved Tony being there. I felt like there was just enough Tony Stark without the film becoming Iron Man 3.5. It’s always good to see Happy, and this movie did more with him than most of the Iron Man films ever did. I especially love movie Happy since comic Happy is no longer with us (sad trombone). I loved sexy, younger Aunt May, but I’ve loved Marisa Tomei ever since she filled out her college application wrong and ended up at that Black college. I loved the running joke of all the guys commenting on how hot she was. It’s a new concept for May, but it works. I loved the Miles Morales Easter egg (I won’t spoil it here if you didn’t catch it). I loved Not-Ganke (For those not in the know, Ganke is the name of Miles Morales Spider-Man’s best friend, who looks EXACTLY like actor Jacob Batalon), even if I don’t know why they insisted on calling him “Ned Leeds”. I loved that Damage Control was officially revealed. Keaton was great, even if he’s not an Adrian Toomes that I recognize. The Liz Allen swerve was cool, ’cause I really didn’t see that coming.

OK, now for the things I didn’t like. They introduced a good swath of Spidey’s rogue (Mac Gargan, Shocker), all at once as Vulture’s gang, only to be relegated to ancillary characters and henchmen. I know the MCU has a “Villain Problem” of wasting their villains, but this just takes the cake.

Now, this is gonna sound stupid, but I spent a good amount of time trying to reconcile the MCU timeline in my head. The movie starts immediately after Avengers, jumps 8 years to Captain America: Civil War, and then to the present day, which is shortly after the airport battle where Spidey debuted. Now, a big part of Act 3 is the fact that Vulture wants to steal a bunch of Avengers/Stark Tech on Moving Day – when everything was being moved from Avengers Tower to the upstate facility. Now, Tony’s rich, so it’s not like he can’t own multiple properties, but why is Moving Day happening NOW? I mean, the upstate facility debuted at the end of Age of Ultron, we saw it again in Ant-Man, and everyone seemed to be pretty moved in by Civil War. So, why the delay in moving everything up there? Does Homecoming maybe not take place when we think it does? Well, we know it’s post-Civil War because Cap’s hilariously referred to as a war criminal by gym teacher Hannibal Buress. If it were just a thrown away reference, I wouldn’t care, but the whole final action piece is based on this Moving Day concept. Anyway, I think it’s fair to say I probably wasn’t in the right headspace for this movie if that’s where my brain was going.

Oh, and the thing I hated most: that effing MJ reveal! First of all, it accomplished nothing. It was corny, and it was executed just as poorly as when The Dark Knight Rises did it. Secondly, at the end of the day, her name is MICHELLE, not MARY. You can call her “MJ”, but that does not make her Mary Jane. And to be honest, the movie would’ve been fine without her character. While she was funny, it seems like she was woven into the movie solely to make that hamfisted name reveal at the end.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll watch this movie a bunch more once it hits the premium channels, but I just didn’t fall in love with it as much as a lot of you did. I’m really sorry about that, too, ’cause I really wanted to love it. Something just didn’t work for me entirely, and I can’t put my finger on it exactly.

Things were heating up in the news world this week. Back when NBC announced they had hired Megyn Kelly from Fox News, Today co-anchor Tamron Hall abruptly quit, reportedly because her contract was about to expire. Industry insiders, however, believe it was because it was rumored that Kelly would be given the third hour of Today – where Hall was currently the co-anchor of Today’s Take. Well, that’s somewhat true, as this week it was revealed that Kelly’s show will premiere September 25th, and will feature a live studio audience, like a traditional talk show. It will, in fact, occupy the third hour of Today, sandwiched between the regular Today and the Kathie Lee & Hoda hour of Today. Not to be outdone, it was also announced that Tamron Hall is developing a daytime talk show with Weinstein Television. It’s also believed that, in several major markets, this talk show will go head to head with Kelly’s daytime show. Now the race is on to see which one of them earns the coveted “Fake News” label first!

In other television news, CBS announced an upcoming animated special called Michael Jackson’s Halloween, which sounds kinda sketchy. Apparently, it’s about two Millennials (there’s THAT buzzword), which is basically to say “two shits too young to appreciate the King of Pop’s music”. Anyway, they meet at a party, end up at a weird hotel, and crazy stuff happens – all capped off by a dance number by an animated Michael. If you ask me, he already contributed his greatest gift to the Halloween industry: “Thriller”! Unless this is just a one-hour animated version of “Thriller”, I don’t think the world needs this. Somebody tell his mama to stop letting his estate make crap like this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Cho joins Fox’s The Exorcist next season. While some are all, “Yay, representation!”, I’m like “Why the F is Sulu doing television?!” Well, I guess since Kumar’s already doing television…
  • In a move that’s somewhat baffling to me, Lucy Liu will direct the season 2 premiere of Netflix’s Luke Cage
  • Speaking of Netflix, Bojack Horseman season 4 will premiere on September 8th.
  • Fresh of the Boat dad Randall Park has been cast as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo in Ant-Man & The Wasp
  • Netflix has also renewed the Castlevania animated series for a second season
  • Jeremy Renner essentially broke both arms while filming the movie Tag, though it’s not expected to affect production on Avengers: Infinity War.
  • Smallville‘s Lois Lane, Erica Durance, is taking over the role of Alura from Laura Benanti on Supergirl.
  • Despite flopping in North America, the Baywatch film is on track to make $100 million overseas
  • Showtime is planning a sequel to the hit lesbian series The L Word. If it were up to me, it’d be called The K Word, and it would be about non-binary gender Millennials as they make their way through NYC, but nobody pays me for these ideas, so…
  • After 27 years of voicing Kermit the Frog, it was revealed that Steve Whitmire was fired back in October, and it currently lobbying to get his job back. Apparently, it’s not east being Steve.

In probably the biggest TV news this week (at least for the geek set), it was announced that AT&T Lily herself, Milana Vayntrub, has been cast as Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s New Warriors on Freeform. I cared NOTHING about this show until that announcement. It still doesn’t really inspire any confidence for me, as I don’t know if the superhero comedy genre works on television (see Powerless), but I’m definitely more inclined to check it out than I had been prior to the announcement. I mean, who doesn’t love that chick?! I love her in the commercials, I loved her in Other Space, and I even loved her as a bitchy ex-girlfriend in Love. Here’s hoping this leads to the big break she deserves. It was a slow entertainment news week so, ya know what, Milana Vayntrub had the Breas…I mean West Week Ever.

07th Jul2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

23rd Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/23/17

by Will

 

It’s gonna be a quick one this week, as I’ve got too much real life stuff going on. Plus, there was a lot of little news, but no big whammy.

Last Saturday I took in Awesome Con which, in its fifth year, was being held at the Washington Convention Center. Normally I’m all about con reports. You’ll see my cosplay pics, and hear about all the stuff I bought. Not so much this time around. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t feel very Awesome this year. I hate cons that are filled to capacity (like NYCC), but I felt like this one could’ve been better attended. Sure, there were a lot of folks there, but I still bet they fell short of the numbers that had been expected. No cosplay really caught my eye. There were only, like, 7 comic vendors. The show really doesn’t seem to know if it’s a pop culture con, like a Wizard World show, or if it’s a comic-con for the DC area, rivaling Baltimore’s.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I got to hang out with my buds @KeithDavidsen and @ClassickMateria, plus I had a great conversation with 2/3 of the 3 Black Geeks Podcast. Oh, and I totally gushed over Christopher Hastings, who currently writes I Am Groot and The Unbelievable Gwenpool for Marvel. I’ve been a fan of his since his indie series, The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, and I’m a huge Gwenpool fan. I pretty much went just to meet him, and he was totally gracious and nice. Meanwhile, I was gonna confront Scott Snyder and get him to sign my Dark Days: The Forge book. And then ask him why he blocked me on Twitter. But the stars were not aligned, as his line was capped before I got there. I suppose it was for the best. So, while lacking in awesome, there’s still room for improvement, and I’m sure I’ll be right back there next year.

While a lot of folks are getting excited about it, I have some problems with the way Netflix’s The Defenders series is being marketed. Something seems off with the tone of everything. See that poster above? As I remarked on Twitter, it looks like a TV Guide ad for a show Fox canceled in 1994. I can hear the promo now: “The Defenders, followed by an all-new New York Undercover. Thursday, at 8/7 Central.” There’s nothing about it that *pops*, and it just looks so pedestrian. Are they a rag tag group of NYC street-level heroes, or is it a coming of age drama about 3 guys and a girl trying to make it in New York City? I still have 3 more seasons of Marvel Netflix shows to catch up on before I can even watch this, so maybe I’m not the target audience. It’s just all so formulaic now, though. “Hey, look – a hallway fight!”

We finally got a premiere date for the long-delayed Star Trek: Discovery, bowing September 24th at 8:30 on both CBS and CBS All Access. What’s with the 8:30 start time, though? I guess we’ll get some kind of half-assed, 30-minute Trek retrospective before the show. And, taking a page from cable shows, the season will be split in two, with the first 8 episodes airing in the fall, while the remaining 7 will air starting in January. I couldn’t be less excited for this show. So many damn hoops to jump through, so many broken promises regarding its premiere date. At this point, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they requested a blood sample before allowing you to watch it. That’s how crazy this has become. What was once thought to become the most pirated series of all time, I’m now starting to think most of us aren’t even gonna bother.

I had no clue that Phil Lord and Chris Miller were the directors on the Han Solo film (how’d I miss that?), and I would’ve told anyone who’d listen that they were a terrible choice – which is why I’m not surprised that they were fired this week, citing “creative differences”. Sure, The Lego Movie was great. The Jump Street franchise was great. But I don’t see them fitting into the “Star Wars vision” that Kathleen Kennedy clearly has. They would’ve given us something great and entertaining, but I don’t know if it would’ve been a “Star Wars movie”. Then again, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, so what do I know. I’d like to think there’s room to do a lot of stuff in that franchise, but I just don’t see their style fitting into what’s already been established. And then Ron Howard was announced as their replacement. I really don’t know how I feel about this. I mean, gifted director, but this seems sort of out of his wheelhouse. Any of y’all have strong thoughts either way?

Meanwhile, somebody needs to make up their mind about whether these Spider-Man spinoffs are gonna be set in the MCU or not. We were basically told that only Spider-Man was crossing over, and even that’s been threatened as a possible one-time deal. But then Amy Pascal did a press junket earlier this week, where she danced around the matter, saying that the Spider-Man spinoffs would build upon the world that is being carefully crafted, leading some to believe they might actually be set in the MCU. That’s how some folks saw it. I just saw it as Pascal trying to keep her job. I guess time will tell. Meanwhile, Spider-Man Homecoming 2 is already being discussed (which I hope is called Spider-Man: Sadie Hawkins Dance), and there will reportedly be a cameo by another MCU character who’s not Iron Man. Keep it in your pants, boys. Let’s see how this one does first, OK?

Song of the Week

Yup, it’s a Taylor Swift song, but it’s NOT sung by Taylor. She gave this song to Little Big Town, who have ridden it to #1. It’s got her trademark juvenile lyrics, but I still think it’s beautiful. I kinda wish I didn’t know she wrote it, but I think that was part of the push that got it to #1. Anyway, here’s “Better Man”.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Shonda Rhimes had to fail eventually, which is why her summer Shakespeare series, Still Star-Crossed, has been moved to Saturday after 3 low-rated episodes. Stick a fork in that turkey!
  • Speaking of dead shows, CMT couldn’t make the numbers work to revive Last Man Standing, so the sitcom is officially dead
  • Dule Hill’s real-life fiancee, Ballers actress Jazmyn Simon, will play Gus’ love interest in the Psych reunion movie
  • Apparently Nickelodeon is prepping a one-hour reunion, called Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling. I didn’t have cable growing up, but I know this means something to some of you.
  • Virginia Madsen won’t be back for season 2 of Designated Survivor. I was kinda hoping she and Kiefer would bang, so now I have the sads…
  • Six cast members are out at Taken, amid a major shake-up prior to season 2. I guess you could say they didn’t have the right set of skills.
  • They’re teasing a Downton Abbey movie for 2018. I hope it’s called Downton Abbey: Matthew’s Revenge!
  • There are rumors that Damon Lindelof is in talks to do a Watchmen TV series for HBO. That network is really into dongs lately, so I guess this is a perfect fit.
  • Daniel Henney is shifting his Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders character over the main Criminal Minds series, following the former’s cancellation. Remember that when your CBS-watching grandpa asks you where he’s seen that “Oriental fella” before…
  • The CW is interested in a Supernatural spinoff called Wayward Sisters, which would star recurring guest star Kim Rhodes. I don’t watch Supernatural, but she was Zack & Cody’s hot mom, so I’m a supporter of giving her more work!
  • After a thorough investigation, Warner Bros found no evidence of misconduct on the set of Bachelor In Paradise, and production has resumed on the season. Now it’ll probably be the most-watched season of the show, but there’s no way they saw that coming, right? Right?
  • As a reward for being the #1 daytime drama for the past 28 (!) consecutive years, CBS has renewed The Young and the Restless for another three seasons
  • NBC is scrambling to do some damage control, as Megyn Kelly’s highly publicized interview with Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones was beaten by a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos. That’s right, it was beaten by a show that’s been rendered virtually obsolete since the proliferation of the Internet
  • Heroes is coming to Crackle on July 13th. You know, that free streaming network that nobody watches? So, if you’re still itching to save the cheerleader, there ya go.
  • The sequel to Jurassic World will be called Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Meh. That shit ought to be called Jurassic Galaxy. Take those dinos into space already!
  • Daniel Day-Lewis has quit acting, meaning we’ll never get to see him in the Fast and the Furious franchise like we’d always dreamed!
  • Fresh off his mistrial, Bill Cosby plans to give speaking engagements where he will instruct folks how to dodge sexual assault charges. I couldn’t make this shit up! “If you put the pudding pop in the Jello, make sure you’re not caught on any Kodak film!”
  • Transformers 5: Bad Touch had the lowest opening day box office for the franchise, with $15.7 million.
  • In the ultimate Fuck yo’ Father’s Day move, Beyonce’s dad announced to the world, via tweet, that her twins had arrived. I hear he was dragged away by wraiths soon afterward.
  • Adam West’s unaired episode of Powerless can now be seen on DC All Access, as well as Hulu.

No one had the West Week Ever this week. As Nina Simone sang, “It be’s that way sometimes”. I do have a correction from last week, though. Like I said up top, I’ve got some real world stuff going on and I wasn’t really thinking clearly. I inducted Adam West into the West Week Ever Hall of Fame, when my pal @zacshipley pointed out that a better honor was staring me right in the face: that honor should be called the West Life Ever. So, the post has since been corrected and, going forward, that is what will be bestowed upon those greats that we’ve lost along the way. Adam West had the West Life Ever.

16th Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/16/17

by Will

 

Hot on the heels of the poster reveal last Friday, we got a teaser trailer for Black Panther during the NBA Finals. And it did very little for me. Yeah, I know. Every other Black person I know is, as they say, “hype” for this movie, but I just have never cared about Black Panther as a character. And I know comic book movies require suspension of disbelief, but Michael B. Jordan plays a villain named KILLMONGER! That’s probably the comic bookiest name I’ve ever been forced to take seriously. It certainly looks colorful, and it’s gonna make all the monies, but I’m gonna need to see more before I get too excited.

Let’s talk about Black Panther for a minute, though, as I think people are conflating his comic book success with his appearances in all other media. At the moment, there are currently 3 Black Panther comics on the stands: 1) Black Panther, 2) World of Wakanda, and 3) Black Panther & The Crew. Also at this moment, the latter two have already been canceled. I’ve seen people online saying that Marvel should rethink their stance, considering all the views the trailer has racked up in its week online (22.6 million as I write this). I get what they’re trying to say, but it’s a faulty argument. Their assumption is that people are clamoring for all the Black Panther they can get, when it’s really just this one movie to which they’re looking forward.

When the Black Panther comic was relaunched last year, written by author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the first issue sold over 250,000 copies, which was a rare feat for 2016. Now, however, the book sells about 1/9 of that amount, and is still decreasing. Ya see, Coates was hot shit because of an article on reparations that he wrote for The Atlantic. Why someone thought that would translate into a successful stint writing comics is beyond me. Marvel struck while the iron was hot, though, and they were able to ride the Coates wave, but anyone who’s actually read the comic knows that he’s more about political drama than superhero action. People came to the table to see what he’d offer, but over time they’ve realized they’re not picking up what he’s putting down. Still, Marvel gave him yet another series, Black Panther & The Crew, which probably should’ve been called Black Panther and His Negrotastic Pals. I bought the first issue, but the book was canceled before I even had  the chance to read it, so womp womp. It could be argued that Coates wasn’t the right choice for the book, but I think a better explanation is that Marvel blew their wad too soon. They should’ve been launching these spinoffs in the wake of the trailer, not cancelling them. Still, the damage is already done, so it’s not like they can let them tread water until the movie is released. If anything, they’re gonna have to cancel and relaunch if they want to capitalize on movie buzz. The ship, however, has sailed for the books currently on the market because this trailer is not going to serve as the shot in the arm that some folks seem to believe it to be.

Fox has got the ball rolling on X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the follow-up to the disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse. It will be directed by Simon Kinberg, who has no directing experience by the way, and is slated to be released November 2nd, 2018. And the gang’s all here, with Fassbender, Lawrence, and McAvoy are all coming back. If you remember, they tried to act like they were on the fence about returning after Apocalypse, but I guess they love money too much. Meanwhile, they’re saying that Jessica Chastain is being pursued to play alien Shi’ar Empress Lilandra, who lets Xavier bone her every couple of years. Did I mention that Kinberg wrote X-Men: The Last Stand? Ya know, the LAST time they did the Dark Phoenix storyline?! THE ONE EVERYBODY HATED?! So they’re basically giving him do-over! Everything about this sounds terrible, but we’ll probably get another cool Quicksilver sequence out of it, this time set to La Bouche’s “Be My Lover” or some other disposable 90s pop song.

Normally, I’m all about those stories where they “get the band back together”, so I was definitely surprised when this video hit the Internet this week. I miss the age of the $20 million comedy, where Hollywood was cranking these things out monthly in the mid ’00s. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was one of my favorites, so I had high hopes for this thing, whatever it was supposed to be. Still, 13 years have passed since the movie, and this “return to the well” felt just as stale as Zoolander 2. Its saving grace is the fact that it’s only 4 minutes long (which still, somehow, feel like an eternity). I don’t even know where to start with this thing. The unfunniness of Stiller? The weak delivery from Christine Taylor? Or the fact that I don’t have a clue as to what the Hell Omaze is? Apparently it raises money for non-profits, but it’s far from a household name. I don’t know if this is the bold step Omaze needed to take to make a name for themselves. “Hey, look – we’re making a mini sequel to a 13 year old movie that didn’t need a sequel!” This thing seems dead on arrival, and I’d love to somehow be able to track the success/failure of this marketing initiative. Ugh, so much potential, squandered.

Bachelor in Paradise had its production suspended this week after accounts of “misconduct” began to surface. According to varying reports, Corinne Olympios from the most recent season of The Bachelor was involved in some pretty “heavy petting”, as your grandma would call it, with DeMario Jackson from season 13 of The Bachelorette. From what I heard, they were both drunk and tried to have sex. DeMario, unfortunately, couldn’t…”ready his soldier for battle”, so he “went downtown” instead. Corinne’s friend, who’s a producer on the show, told her that it’d look bad for her to be getting serviced on camera like that. A lot of other contestants reportedly witnessed the event, and said that the two were even seen canoodling together later that night. Then, Corinne started saying that she couldn’t remember the events of the night, and that she had never given consent for what happened. So now both sides are lawyered up, blaming the other for character assassination and worse. Oh, by the way, if you’re not familiar with Bachelor In Paradise, it’s a spinoff where the contestants are encouraged to get drunk and try to fuck. So…mission accomplished?

The format of the show was just asking for a controversy like this, and I’m amazed that it took this long for something like this to hit the Bachelor franchise. I don’t know anything about DeMario, but the one season of The Bachelor that I watched featured Corinne as the villain of the season. She was constantly boasting of her sexual prowess, saying things like “My ‘vagine’ is platinum.” Her tactic to win the show was to throw herself at The Bachelor early and often. Now, some folks are gonna interpret this as me saying she “deserved” this. If this was sexual assault, nobody deserves something like that. All I’m saying is that she was strategic in using sex to get what she wanted, and quick to cower when it didn’t work out as planned. Bachelor Nick Viall rebuffed all of her advances last season, and she’d end up pouting in her room, or taking a nap during the rose ceremony. She was notoriously immature yet manipulative. Word on the street was that she was up for her own show, but this little episode might’ve jeopardized the chances of that.

The most interesting part of this whole thing is that THEY HAVE THE TAPE! LET’S GO TO THE DAMN TAPE! How damning is that tape that it hasn’t been released yet? The production is most likely over for good, as the contestants have been sent home. The future of the show is in jeopardy because of this ordeal as there doesn’t really seem to be any coming back from this. The reality show fuck house actually turned into a fuck house. I guess their plan worked a little too well. If the show does come back, this is a watershed moment for dating shows, as nothing will be the same after this. Remember how talk shows changed when the Jenny Jones Murder took place? After that, they all became more staged, and Jerry Springer thrived in its wake. Now you can’t trust anything you see during daytime, while a show like Donahue couldn’t exist in the current climate. They’re gonna have to treat future iterations of The Bachelor with kid gloves, which isn’t what people come to see. When folks watch these shows, they wanna see if the contestants are gonna hook up. Now, they realize that standards and practices won’t allow that to be shown, but they still wanna see as much as the network will allow them to see. All these years after Joe Millionaire aired on Fox, folks don’t remember it for its janky premise (poor guy pretends to be a millionaire in order to find love from a pool of gold diggers), but rather for the scene of “Joe” (Evan Marriott) and contestant Sarah Kozer in the woods with some intense slurping on the audio. Lewd, yes, but boundary-pushing for 2003 and everyone was talking about it. The goal of these shows is to produce something to dominate the conversation for a while and, in that case, this whole thing has been a success. Still, there are serious matters at hand that need to be addressed, as folks are losing jobs (DeMario got fired for the allegations), and could also end up in jail.

After something like a year in teases, we finally have our release date for the DuckTales reboot: Aug 12th. The show will premiere on DisneyXD as an hour-long “mini movie”, and then be rebroadcast for the next 24 hours on the channel. Then,  the series will officially premiere on September 23rd, with 2 new episodes. As you saw above, we also got the new credit sequence and theme song. Some of the old fuddy duddies have taken issue with the remixed theme, but I love it. The most surprising thing to me is the new jacked Mrs. Beakley, but I figure there’ll be an in-series explanation for all that.

In the world of toys, Hasbro unveiled the full Netflix wave of Marvel Legends figures, and they look so great. In the beginning, I was scared these were gonna turn out to be exclusive to a particular retailer, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We already knew about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Punisher, but the wave is rounded out by Elektra, as well as comic versions of Blade and Bullseye. As an added surprise, there’s a Build A Figure in the form of Man-Thing. That character means nothing to me, but I’ll be buying the whole wave, so someone give me a shout if you wanna buy Man-Thing off me. That’s right, I’m offering my Man-Thing in exchange for money. I think that might be illegal…

Song of the Week

This week’s song is Morgan Wallen’s “The Way I Talk”, mainly because I completely identify with it. If you’ve ever spoken with me, the first question people tend to ask is “Where are you from? You sound SOUTHERN!” Also, I spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to figure out if that actually was a sample from Spacehog’s “In The Meantime” at the beginning (verdict: inconclusive).

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CMT is seriously considering reviving Tim Allen’s canceled ABC sitcom, Last Man Standing. They already air the reruns, so it seems like a natural fit.
  • An Injustice 2 eSports tournament will air on TBS in October. We’re really trying to make “eSports” a thing, huh?
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been renewed for a 4th season at Netflix. One of these days I’ll finally finish seasons 2 and 3…
  • Aisha Tyler announced yesterday that she will be leaving The Talk at the end of the season, due to her current commitments on Criminal Minds, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and Archer. Plus, she’ll be directing an upcoming film. Yeah, that’s probably enough jobs for one person.
  • Someone named Anthony Padilla is leaving something called Smosh. Apparently it’s a thing on the YouTubes. If you’ve got a tween, they can probably explain whatever this means.
  • In an update to something I mentioned last week, Sony has revised their plans to sell clean versions of their movies. Since it was found that the plan violated union contracts, now Sony will only offer clean versions of movies that have been approved by the director.
  • ABC has renewed “Toy Shark Tank”, AKA The Toy Box, for a second season.
  • I took a trip down memory lane to talk about the old Toy Biz Customer Service hotline.
  • In a baffling move, Amazon is buying Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. I haven’t been as confused about a business deal since K-Mart bought Sears.

When I first started West Week Ever, I came up with a No Death Policy. Even though I get kinda negative on here, I still want it to be a positive place. I have a bit of an odd history with death, as I became acquainted with it at an early age, so I like to stay away from all that. Plus, there’s that problem where if you mention one death, you’ve gotta mention ALL the deaths, and ain’t nobody got time for that – especially if that death didn’t really mean anything to me. Still, when I created this feature, I always knew there would be at least 2 important exceptions. I wasn’t looking forward to them, but given their age and health, I knew it would be something I’d have to tackle eventually. Sadly, one of those deaths occurred last Saturday.

When I was growing up, there were few things I looked forward to as much as the 1966 Batman series, weekday afternoons on Fox 5. While I’d gotten the Super Powers Batman and Batmobile toys when I was around 4, I really didn’t know anything about Batman until I was introduced to that show. Hell, I remember how I used to think Batman could fly. I mean, he had a cape! All people with capes fly, right? Anyway, like any kid, I was mesmerized by the POW! ZAP! BIFF! of the fight sequences. I was on the edge of my seat for the end of episode cliffhanger. I’d tie a sheet around my neck, and shadow box along with the Dynamic Duo as they fought King Tut’s goons. I also had a next door neighbor, Brian, who was a few years younger than me (he was 7 when I was 11, as I remember him thinking that was cool), and he worshipped the ground I walked on. He’d come over, and we’d be Batman and Robin, fighting invisible goons with gadgets I’d made from Construx and jump ropes. My concept of Batman was formed by Adam West and Burt Ward, walking up the side of buildings with their Bat Ropes.

As I grew up, I was introduced to other depictions of the Caped Crusader. I started reading comics in ’92, around the time that the classic Batman: The Animated Series debuted. Those versions of Batman were totally different than what I’d grown up knowing. The environment wasn’t as campy, the world was a darker place, and Batman wasn’t doing the Batusi. Over the years, I’ve had even more versions of Batman that I’ve compared to West’s rendition, but I’ve come to appreciate him even more. While the world around him was wacky, West’s Bruce Wayne/Batman was solid. He was smart, calculating, and always knew more than the folks around him. Can you imagine a “Tower of Babel” storyline (the classic JLA story where Batman takes down the rest of the Justice League using contingency plans he’d set up for all of them), starring West’s Batman? I can, and it would be AMAZING.

It seems life wasn’t too shabby for West offscreen, either. According to several stories, he was quite the hit with the ladies, and even had an 8-woman orgy with Riddler Frank Gorshin. ZOWIE! While he never really achieved mega success with anything else, he still established himself as a cult superstar, with his turn in Conan O’Brien’s failed pilot Lookwell, as well as his role as Mayor West on Family Guy, which introduced him to a new generation of fans. Other actors who portrayed Batman went on to other things. For Clooney, Kilmer, and Bale, the role is just another notch on the IMDB profile, but West WAS Batman. With the exception of probably Kevin Conroy, no one else has been so closely identified with the role as Adam West. At the end of the day, he’s the Batman that I always come back to, and the one to which I compare all newcomers. Adam West, born William West Anderson (hey, look at that!), was MY Batman and I think we were all lucky to have him. No, he didn’t have the West Week Ever. I don’t think that’s enough of an honor to indicate what he meant to me. So, with that in mind, Adam West had the West Life Ever. Farewell, old chum.

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!

Pages:1234567...20»