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!

02nd Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/2/17

by Will

Whoo boy! This is gonna be a controversial one this week, but I’ve got some stuff to get off my chest.

First up, there was controversy surrounding the new Wonder Woman film (in theaters now!). Theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced women-only screenings for the film, where proceeds would go to women’s charities, including Planned Parenthood. Originally planned to be 5 screenings at the Austin and Brooklyn locations, tickets sold out instantly and more screenings were added. According to Alamo, the screenings were meant to be a celebration of “Girl Power”, and were only open to those who identified as women. Now, this isn’t the first time Alamo has done special screenings, as they have screenings for active military members, as well as for children with special sensory needs.  I’ve also heard other explanations, like the screenings give women a safe space to watch the film without having it mansplained to them the entire time. But, of course, the social media shitstorm started. A lot of folks who might be considered Men’s Rights Activists felt that this was discrimination, and that they should retaliate with all-male screenings of the next Star Wars movie.

As Twitter was dead over the holiday weekend, I tweeted that the backlash to the screening was stupid, but the screening itself is also kinda stupid. Now, hear me out: I see both sides of the issue here. Alamo wanted to make a fun exclusive event to celebrate the release of a movie starring a female superhero. That doesn’t happen every day, so it was a cause to celebrate. I’m not “butthurt” over the idea. That said, Alamo had to know they’d get this kind of reaction, as this kind of thing is somewhat of a slippery slope. “How is it a slippery slope, Will?” So glad you asked! Let’s, for a moment, propose a different kind of screening. Let’s say it was a Black Only screening of Get Out. I mean, it had a similar pedigree in that it was a Black horror/suspense film from a Black director – something that also doesn’t happen every day. You’d better believe people would have a problem with that! Sure, it could be spun as a celebration “for the culture”, meant to foster community and whatnot, but White people would shit ALL the bricks! So, as this has been great publicity for both Wonder Woman and Alamo Drafthouse, they knew exactly what they were doing when they set out to do this. In the long run, this isn’t gonna hurt Alamo or Wonder Woman one bit, but let’s not act like this was some kind of altruistic celebration of sisterhood. This was Shrewd Marketing 101.

See? I toldja this would be a controversial one, and I’m just getting started!

Let’s visit the world where Hollywood and politics intersect. You see, comedienne Kathy Griffin posted a photo of herself holding what was meant to be Donald Trump’s severed head. AND PEOPLE LOST THEIR MINDS! Trump, himself, even took time off from golfing and nudging his way to the front of photo ops to tweet about it, saying that it had affected his 11 year-old son, Barron, who apparently thought the photo was real. The backlash was strong against Griffin, who apologized hours later, but still ending up losing her Squatty Potty endorsement, as well as her CNN New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper. A lot of people seem to be in agreement of the backlash, but I’m gonna take a different approach: I don’t think the photo was that bad.

There are so many things to unpack here, so bear with me as I try to navigate through all of it. Societies have a history of burning politicians in effigy as a form of protest so, while extreme, how is this any different? Had she actually decapitated the man, and was brandishing his severed head on social media as some sort of trophy, that would’ve been too far. Like it or not, this was “art”, and you don’t really get to judge art. It can make you uncomfortable but at least it triggered some sort of opinion or emotion, which means it did its job.

I also feel like this is a situation where folks are more upset by the messenger than the message. Kathy Griffin isn’t taken seriously. We’ve put her in this box along with Andy Dick and several other unpredictable, slightly unstable comedians who at one time did a stint on an NBC sitcom. We don’t expect anything “deep” from her, because we’ve already written her off. She knows this, as she’s in on the joke. I mean, her reality series was called My Life On The D-List, so she knows she’s not a top-tier celebrity. Still, she has a team behind her, as everyone in Hollywood does, and they all decided that this was something she was going to do. Maybe she felt it’d just blow over because of her lessened celebrity status, or maybe it’s doing just what she thought it would. A friend and I were talking about it the other night, and he’s the one who made me realize it was the messenger we were blaming here. After all, if Samantha Bee had done this, liberals would be creaming their jeans about how daring and smart it was. Why? Because that’s what people expect of her. Griffin made the simple mistake of veering out of her lane, and that’s how we got to where we are now.

Now, let’s look at the photographer, Tyler Shields, whose work tends to push boundaries like this. For him, this was just another Tuesday photoshoot, and this isn’t the first time that Griffin has worked with him. I mean, just look at some of his work above. He likes weird shit, but again, it’s art and we don’t really get to police it.

Meanwhile, there’s the whole thing about Barron thinking the photo was real. That poor, poor boy. To quote Hank Hill, “That boy ain’t right”, and the family either refuses to acknowledge it or is dealing with it in secret. On the one hand, I guess I have to commend the fact that we’ve “grown” to the point of saying “Kids are off limits”, but I find it convenient that we’re adopting that stance now. Where was that when comedians were calling little Chelsea Clinton a “dog” every chance they got? Where was that when Sasha and Malia had to see the stuff folks said about them and their family? It’s a shame that Barron doesn’t know the difference between a photo and reality but, as one Tweeter put it, it wouldn’t be an issue if Donald actually lived with his son. But I digress. I think this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion to dominate the news cycle. After all, last weekend it was looking like Jared Kushner was in the hot seat, and then next thing you know, it’s Kathy Griffin this, and covfefe that.

Where to next? Oh yeah, remember Mary Kay Letourneau? She was one of the first stories of teachers sleeping with their students to hit the news. Back in the late 90s, Letourneau fell in love with her student, 12 year old Vili Fualaau, and ended up getting impregnate by him. She was convicted of child rape, served 3 months in jail, and THEN got caught having sex with Fualaau in her car just two weeks after her release. And she got pregnant again. She served 6 years that time, but married Fualaau when she got out. And they lived happily ever after…until May 9th of this year, when Fualaau filed for legal separation from Letourneau. Now 33, perhaps Letourneau simply got too old for him at 55. But the plot thickens! Yesterday, that bastion of journalistic integrity, The New York Post, reported that the separation was really just something of a scam. You see, Fualaau wants to get a license to sell pot, but he knows they’ll do a background check before granting it to him, and it wouldn’t look good to be married to a registered sex offender. He claims they’re still in love and this is just a business arrangement. So, while he awaits his pot license, he’s working as a DJ in Washington state. Too bad she couldn’t fuck some ambition into him all those years ago! Fun fact: one of Letourneau’s brothers is a foreign policy adviser to the president. He’s clearly been doing a heck of a job lately!

Still here? OK, then let’s talk about some pop culture stuff. Someone at NBC must’ve read my Upfronts post, as they just announced changes that perfectly mirror my suggestions. This Is Us will no longer be moving to Thursday, and will stay put on Tuesday nights. Meanwhile, the comedies planned for Tuesday, Superstore and The Good Place, are moving to Thursday to join Will & Grace and Great News for a 2-hour comedy block. This is how it alway should’ve been, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on at NBC. From the cancellation/uncancellation of Timeless to this new schedule scramble, it makes you wonder who’s at the wheel over there. Still, I think these are smart moves, so hopefully they’ll work out in the long run.

The hardest working man in Hollywood, Ryan Seacrest, is developing a new show. Best.Cover.Ever. will air on YouTube and will feature people singing cover songs, vying for the chance to sing a duet with the original artist of the song they sang. Hosted by Ludacris, the show will feature Demi Lovato, Jason Derulo, and Backstreet Boys to start out. Contestants are asked to upload videos of covers of “Trumpets”, “Confident”, and “As Long As You Love Me”. The artists will each choose two finalists, who will be the contestants actually featured on the show. The winner gets to duet with the original artist for an exclusive YouTube performance. It’s an interesting concept, and it requires a partnership with a streaming service to work, but I’m still not sure it’s going to be successful. I’m also surprised that it’s not on YouTube Red, where they can charge for it. After all, nobody really talks about the offerings on YouTube Red, but this is the kind of thing that could get folks talking and maybe boost subscriptions. I’m a sucker for “As Long As You Love Me”, so I’ll be keeping tabs on this just to see how it fares.

Major news in the world of pop music this morning, as will.i.am confirmed that Fergie has left the Black Eyed Peas to focus on her solo career. The news isn’t exactly a surprise, as last week it was announced that she was leaving the band’s label, Interscope, to start her own label, Duchess Music, over at BMG. It’s still a pretty big deal, though, as she’s been with the band for the past 15 years. Still, I feel like their time has come and gone. They showed up, gave the world a suitable soundtrack replacement for Jock Jams, and left their mark. However, will.i.am says they’re still together, recording new music to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. To be honest, I thought they were gonna be done in 2008, when they released The E.N.D., but it proved successful enough, with the hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling”, that they just kept trucking along. Now there are rumors swirling that Nicole Scherzinger might replace Fergie in the group, which would be her third time in a group, after Eden’s Crush and The Pussycat Dolls. I swear, Scherzinger must have a tail or something, because there’s some sort of defect that’s preventing a label from being able to package her as a solo act. Always a bridesmaid…Anyway, let’s pour one out for The Duchess and her tenure with Your Grandma’s Favorite Rap Group.

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings recently said that he felt Netflix should be canceling more shows. In his mind, they have too many hits, which results in creators taking fewer chances and not “swinging for the fences”. The successful shows are basically taking real estate from potential new hits. Now, it being the internet, there’s no “real estate”, per se, but it’s still marketing dollars, bandwidth, etc. It used to be that you could count on a Netflix series getting at least 2 seasons, but they just killed that with the cancellation of The Get Down after its first season. Yesterday, they followed the trend and canceled the sci fi series Sense8 after its second season just debuted last month. If the axe is swinging, I’m worried about the shows that aren’t generating a ton of buzz right now, like F is for Family and the adaptation of Dear White People. Kind of a weird problem to have, though: too much success might be making them complacent. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the Marvel shows, as well as the Netflix perennials like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

There was a scary moment last weekend at Phoenix Comicon, when police arrested a man who reportedly had three handguns, a shotgun, knives, pepper spray, and throwing stars, and had a reminder on his phone that said “Kill JDF.” That’s right, folks – his plan was to kill the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Jason David Frank, as well as some police officers. Sidebar: can you imagine being so absentminded that you need to set a phone reminder to make sure you remember to murder your target?! Anyway, the reason police were able to capture 31 year old Mathew Sterling was because he had told his plan to some chick on social media, who then tipped off the police. Anyway, JDF continued with the convention as if nothing had happened, claiming that he wasn’t going to let fear govern his life. Meanwhile, the convention cracked down on prop weapons and banned them from the show. In fact, if you were getting your Saba or Dragon Dagger swords signed by JDF that weekend, he was posting on social media that you would have to leave them in their boxes. This has caused other conventions to look at their own weapons policies, so look for some changes coming up on the con circuit.

Song of the Week

This week, I give you “You Look Good”, but Lady Antebellum. This is just such a funky song, and could’ve been a contender for Song of the Summer had they waited a bit longer to release it. Anyway, it’s like the 2017 offspring of Santana and Rob Thomas’s “Smooth”. I really dig it, and I think you will, too.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hailee Steinfeld is in talks to star in the Transformers spinoff, Bumblebee
  • After 14 years off the air, MTV is bringing back the MTV Beach House this summer
  • WGN America has canceled slavery drama Underground after 2 seasons
  • There are reports that Steven Spielberg is gearing up for an Animaniacs reboot
  • Fresh off the recently canceled Powerless, Vanessa Hudgens was announced as a judge on the upcoming season of So You Think You Can Dance
  • Scott Pelley is out as the anchor of CBS Evening News, and will return to 60 Minutes in a full-time capacity
  • A Sin City TV series is in the works
  • Universal is reportedly interested in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the role of The Wolfman in their Dark Universe franchise
  • Speaking of Dark Universe, I called it last week: Warner Bros may sue Universal over the Dark Universe title. According to official documents, however, it appears Universal may have had the name first.
  • Charlie Heaton, of Stranger Things fame, is reportedly up for the role of Cannonball in the X-Men spinoff, New Mutants – which is now supposedly going to be a straight horror movie. Um, OK…
  • Speaking of New Mutants, Fox continues to mine Netflix shows, as 13 Reasons Why‘s Henry Zaga has been cast as Sunspot
  • Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor have split after 18 years together
  • The Ludacris-hosted Fear Factor reboot premiered on MTV this week
  • Tiger Woods was arrested for a DUI, even though he had no alcohol in his system and was found passed out in his car. He says it was the result of mixing prescription drugs, but the whole thing sound fishy

  • Sharknado 5: Global Swarming will premiere August 6th on SyFy, guest starring Charo, Fabio, Tony Hawk, and Chris Kattan. This thing is one Ted Lange appearance away from becoming a Love Boat reboot
  • Thanks to an article on Slate, we now know to pronounce the “T” in Gal Gadot’s name.

I had absolutely no desire to see Wonder Woman. While she was my favorite part of of Dawn of Justice, I just wasn’t jazzed about the idea of her starring in a World War I period piece. I mean, we already got that movie, and it was called Captain America: The First Avenger (before you history buffs come out of the woodworks, I know that movie was set in WWII: War Harder). I wasn’t looking forward to DC’s lackluster attempt at a retread of that. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself in the theater on opening night. And then imagine my surprise when the movie ended, and I realized that I LOVED it!

It might be premature to say that Warner Bros has finally righted the DCEU ship, but Wonder Woman is definitely a step in the right direction. My buddy Chad predicted that it would be the new gold standard in comic book movies, and while I don’t think it quite achieves that, it’s definitely the gold standard for the DC Universe. It’s one of the rare comic book movies where I left and didn’t really have any issues with plot holes. It was such a joy to watch, thanks to the acting of Gal Gadot. First of all, she’s so goddamn beautiful that it should be illegal for the camera to be trained on her for prolonged periods of time. Seriously, I thought I was gonna have a seizure like those kids did from that Pokémon episode back in ’99. She does such a great job playing  up Wonder Woman’s sweet naiveté about “Man’s World”, but is also a commanding presence during the battles. It’s funny how when she was cast, we were all saying “She’s too small to be Wonder Woman”, but watching her onscreen, all those doubts slip away.

Now, as much as I loved it, it’s not a perfect film. It deftly straddles the line between “suspension of disbelief” and just plain hokey, but it sort of feels like a 90s comic book movie in that way. And while Patty Jenkins may have directed it, Zack Snyder’s fingerprints are ALL OVER IT (as he co-wrote it with Allan Heinberg). I swear, I think about 60% of it was pure green screen, as I sat there thinking to myself, “This is on a soundstage. That is on a soundstage. Oh, that’s definitely a sound stage.” At points (especially during the final act), it shifts into that “Snydervision” that most of the DCEU movies are in, where it just becomes a copper-tinted music video.

Plus, I’m still not sure about the shared universe nature of the DCEU. While Marvel has almost flawlessly built their world over the course of many films, it just feels so forced with the DC movies. Whereas the MCU feels organic, the DCEU feels copycat. The framing device of the movie is meant to sort of further that idea of a shared universe, but I’m not sure it works. To be honest, I’d probably enjoy it more if I knew nothing about Dawn of Justice or the fact that she’ll pop up in Justice League later this year. She’s strong enough to stand on her own, and the rest of the disappointing DCEU almost taints her.

All that said, it’s really a great cinematic debut for the character, and young girls finally have their own big screen hero. Not to give too much away, but as the film starts, Diana is a wide-eyed little girl, and I could see so much of the audience connecting with that. I thought of my own daughter, and the fact the she now has her own hero. I think that will mean a lot to folks. As far as I’m concerned, scrap Justice League and the rest of the solo films on DC’s slate, and rush Wonder Woman 2 into production stat! For these reasons, Wonder Woman had the West Week Ever.

19th May2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/19/17 (Upfronts Edition)

by Will

 

Since this is my 4th annual network TV upfronts recap, we’re doing things a bit differently this week. So, sit back and hunker down, as this is gonna be a long one!

First up, I joined my buddy @ClassickMateria for the Classick Team-Up! Podcast last week, and the episode is now available to download. We chatted about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, recent TV news, and everything else under the sun. Definitely check it out here!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Avi Kaplan quit the Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix, because he missed his friends and family. I dunno about you, but I think that money could replace them!
  • Katy Perry has signed on as the first judge on ABC’s American Idol reboot, while there are reports that Idol finalist Chris Daughtry is in talks to join the show
  • The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons married his longtime partner, Todd Spiewak
  • The Flash cast member Keiynan Lonsdale came out as bisexual in an Instagram post
  • Hamilton‘s Daveed Diggs will star in TNT’s Snowpiercer pilot, based on the film, based on the French graphic novel
  • Conan O’Brien’s contract with TBS has been renewed through 2022, though no word on whether his show will switch to a weekly format as previously rumored.
  • DC stays losing, as actor Billy Crudup has left the Flash film, while it’s reported that Sam Raimi has turned down the director job
  • Power Rangers movie Black Ranger Ludi Lin has joined DC’s Aquaman film in the role of “Murk”, whoever that is…

  • Fox News personality, and former wife of California Lt Governor Gavin Newsom, Kimberly Guilfoyle has stated that she is currently being considered by the Trump Administration to replace Sean Spicer as White House Press Secretary. Gee, wonder what they see in her…
  • After 9 seasons, this weekend’s season finale will by Bobby Moynihan’s final episode of Saturday Night Live, as his series Me, Myself, and I was picked up at CBS.

  • LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 was announced, but it won’t be on the Xbox 360, so it means nothing to me
  • In the Live Stage Show on TV department, Fox announced that they will air A Christmas Story Live in December, followed by Rent Live later in the season. Meanwhile, ABC will air The Wonderful World of Disney: The Little Mermaid Live in October

I covered a ton of renewals and cancellations that went down last week, but this week was no different, as the networks had to lock in their schedules for the fall. Here’s what’s been canceled/renewed since the last time we talked:

Cancellations

  • Shots Fired (Fox)
  • 2 Broke Girls (CBS)
  • Baby Daddy (Freeform)
  • The Great Indoors (CBS)
  • Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (CBS)
  • Scream Queens (Fox)
  • The Odd Couple (CBS)
  • Training Day (CBS)
  • Ransom (CBS)

Renewals

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
  • Speechless (ABC)
  • Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)
  • The Son (AMC)
  • The Exorcist (?! – Fox)
  • Timeless (uncanceled by NBC)
  • Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
  • Elementary (CBS)
  • The Amazing Race (CBS)
  • Quantico (ABC)
  • New Girl (abbreviated 8-episode final season, with 3 year time jump – Fox)
  • Code Black (CBS)
  • Arrested Development (Netflix)

courtesy of TVLine.com

So, as I pointed out up top, this was Upfronts Week for the major networks, where they unveil their fall schedules to reporters and critics. I’ve got to say that this upcoming season does very little for me. While last year’s presentations had me excited, this year’s stuff just looks like retreads of ideas we’ve already had or obvious film scripts that have been adapted for television. That’s something that you’re going to notice a lot this year: shows that would probably make decent movies, but aren’t something you’d want to check in on a weekly basis. The week started with NBC’s presentation, so let’s start with their new shows:

NBC

NBC renewed a big chunk of their schedule, and they’re holding a lot of their new shows for midseason (for which they didn’t give us trailers!), so there’s not a lot of new for the Fall.

The Brave – Formerly known as For God and Country, The Brave follows a multicultural team doing what I call “soldier shit”. That’s not to minimize what soldiers do; it’s just that there are certain things, like rescuing hostages, killing terrorists, etc, that are pretty much taken care of mainly by soldiers. Ya know, soldier shit. There are a lot of soldier shit shows coming this season, and this is merely one of them. We’re not necessarily in the most patriotic place right now, so I don’t know how these shows will fair. The trailer gives away the whole pilot, so do with that what you will. There’s an audience for this show, but I’m not it. Airing Mondays at 10, it’ll have a great lead-in in the form of The Voice, and its main competition in the timeslot will be Scorpion on CBS. By all accounts, it should have a fighting chance, so it’s The Brave‘s game to lose.

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders – I guess enough time has passed that this case is considered “sexy” now. Back in the early 90s, the Menendez Brothers killed their parents and it was a big deal. The brothers went to jail, where they started amassing groupies like they were in a boyband or something. I’m not even lying! Anyway, this is an anthology series, so it really doesn’t matter how it does. If it does well, we get another installment based on another real life crime. If it flops, then they can just act like it was a One & Done idea, and throw it out like all the other Law & Order spinoffs we’ve had over the years. It’s only 8 episodes long, and the timeslot goes to Chicago Med once it’s done. Anyway, it’s perched atop NBC’s newly rechristened Must See Thursday Night, with This Is Us as a lead-in, so they clearly expect big things from it. Its competition will be How To Get Away With Murder, which is by far the lowest rated of the ABC Shondaland dramas, and Shemar Moore’s S.W.A.T. over on CBS. I think it’ll do just fine.

Will & Grace – So, this show’s back. Yay? I really loved the show in its original run, but I didn’t need it back. And while I barely remember its series finale, I remember something about Will & Grace not having spoken to each other for 15 years. So, is that out the window now? Who cares, I guess. I mean, if they can bring Roseanne back with all its continuity issues (yeah, I’ll get to that), then they can pull this off. I just don’t really know what the endgame is here. I mean, besides the fact that we’re in the Trump Administration, has the world really changed that much to be reflected in this show? I mean, any rights Will or Jack were granted are basically about to be taken away any day now, but is the show even going to go there? I just don’t see the point of this one. But it’s only, like, 12 episodes and, like all of these revivals, they’ll play it coy on longevity until they see how the numbers look. It’s going up against Grey’s Anatomy, Gotham on its new night, Supernatural, and The Big Bang Theory. Now, from a socioeconomic demographic standpoint, W&G and TBBT are going after different audiences, but I feel like the W&G audience moved on to Grey’s. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Let’s talk about some of NBC’s moves. Both Thursday night veterans Superstore and The Good Place are shifting to Tuesdays at 9 and 9:30. Now, they will have The Voice as a lead-in, but I feel like they should’ve stayed on Thursday if NBC really wanted to rebuild that night. I get that This Is Us is the breakout hit of the season, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to move it. It means it’s gonna be an uphill battle for NBC’s Tuesday comedies, as they’ll now be going up against Black-ish on its new night, as well as the Fox combo of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mick. As far as Tuesday comedies go, somebody’s gonna have to flinch. The Fox shows don’t do all that well, but the NBC shows are kinda precious right now. They need to be nurtured, which is what leaving them on Thursday would’ve done. The Blacklist, meanwhile, moves to Wednesdays at 8, where it’ll go up against the moved Riverdale and Empire. I think they all have different audiences, though, so it shouldn’t take too much of a hit. Thursday got blown up, with Great News getting the post-Will & Grace slot mainly because Tina Fey. And This Is Us on its new night will now go up against Scandal *in its final season*. The balls on NBC! I get that it’s their chance to install a show that could take over Thursday once Scandal is done, but this is a risky move. Meanwhile, Blindspot and Taken are moving to Fridays where they’ll die because they’re both bubble shows that were narrowly renewed in the first place.

Fox

Next up, we’ve got Fox, where a WHOLE lot of shows are moving around. As for their new shows, they all look like interesting movies, but they just don’t grab me enough to want to be a regular viewer. Fox is really good about that. I remember loving Lethal Weapon this season, and then I didn’t watch a single episode after the pilot. I see a lot of that happening this season.

Ghosted – Wow, where to begin? Two regular guys are kidnapped and recruited by a top secret organization that investigates the supernatural. As for casting, you can’t really go wrong with Craig Robinson and Adam Scott. This show is basically Hot Tub Time Machine 3, with more of a supernatural twist. The problem, however, is that’s exactly what this should have been: a mid-budget theatrical release that later finds its audience when it airs monthly on FX. This isn’t a weekly series, regardless of the fact that Robinson and Scott have fanbases. It’s slotted between The Simpsons and Family Guy, which sounds like a good thing, but that’s where middling comedies go to die. This season alone, that slot killed Son of Zorn and Making History. Now, it doesn’t really fit anywhere else on Fox’s schedule, as its “out there” nature makes it more at home with the animation stuff than, say, with New Girl and The Mick. So, that rules out Tuesday nights, which is the only other place Fox does comedies. Another problem is that Fox Sunday night just hasn’t been strong since they abolished the Animation Domination block. The Simpsons is a decent performer, and they keep it around to break records, while Family Guy is a shell of its former self, yet they don’t want to be the network that canceled it TWICE. Last Man on Earth is constantly a show on the bubble. Sunday nights need a shot in the arm, but this isn’t the show to do it. I don’t see this one having legs.

The Gifted – This is the one everyone’s got their eyes on. A spinoff of the X-Men films, this show follows a family on the run when they discover that their kids are mutants. It doesn’t help that their dad is a former mutant hunter, so it’s his employers who are after them. I mean, it looks OK, but I didn’t wet my pants or anything. It’ll be really hard to do anything mind-blowing with a weekly TV budget, but the pilot was directed by Bryan Singer, so that’s gonna put butts in seats. Hell, if Gotham is going into season 4 (now on Thursdays at 8), I think this thing can survive. It’s probably pretty expensive, but Fox has been wanting to expand their comic offerings (after all, Black Lightning was originally meant for them), so this will be a good fit for the post Lucifer slot. Speaking of Lucifer, I never thought I’d see the day when a show about The Devil would air during the 8 PM hour (its new timeslot). I wonder how they feel about that in the Bible Belt. After all, I originally said they weren’t gonna let the show survive, and here it is entering season 3. I sure called that one wrong!

The Orville – I love the idea here, as it’s basically Galaxy Quest: The Series. I mean, it’s clear Seth MacFarlane has an affinity for Star Trek, even if he’s spent more time reenacting the Star Wars saga on Family Guy. I’d love for this show to work, but I’m sure it’s on the expensive side. Now, Seth’s got a relationship with Fox, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they canceled it. It looks like the kind of show Fox loves to cancel. Now, it’s going up against Scandal and This Is Us, but I don’t think they share an audience. However, Arrow has been moved to Thursdays at 9, which I feel is its closest competition, as far as the male 18-49 demographic is concerned. There’s no way it wins its timeslot, so the question is what will Fox consider a “success” as far as its ratings go?

So, Fox’s moves are interesting. Lethal Weapon moves to Tuesday at 8, where it’ll go against The Voice, NCIS, and The Flash. It won’t win the timeslot, but maybe it can take some of The Flash‘s audience away from it. The Mick nows leads into Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as it’s now the stronger comedy, while Nine-Nine narrowly got renewed. On Wednesday, they moved Empire to 8, hoping it’ll be a good lead-in for Star. I honestly don’t think Star is a winner, and I think the only reason it got renewed was because A) it was created by Lee Daniels and B) its initial run was too short for them to gauge whether or not it was a success. For people looking for a nighttime soap as sudsy as Empire, they’re probably gonna choose the Dynasty reboot over on The CW, airing at the same time as Star. Meanwhile, Gotham moves to Thursday at 8, where it’ll go against The Big Bang Theory and Grey’s Anatomy. I think its biggest threat, however, comes in the form of Supernatural, now at 8 over on The CW.

Fox’s midseason bench doesn’t look too strong. I’ll take a quick look at those shows:

LA To Vegas – It’s a show about the antics of a flight crew that handles the weekend LA to Vegas route. I don’t care who’s producing the thing, this is gonna be just another forgotten Fox sitcom.

The Resident – Another “young doctor doesn’t play by the rules” show. It’s got Emily VanCamp, so that’s a plus. It could work. It looks very “Fox”.

ABC

ABC didn’t really do anything too drastic, with only a couple of new shows and a few moves.

Ten Days In The Valley – Kyra Sedgwick plays a workaholic TV writer whose daughter goes missing. So, the show revolves around the hunt, and the fact that she can’t trust anyone around her, yadda yadda yadda. ABC probably feels like Sedgwick was quite the “get” after her critically acclaimed run on The Closer, but I just don’t know about this show. There’s nothing special about it. Sure, there will be twists and turns, but the fact that you can already predict those twists is what’s working against the show. Airing Sunday at 10, its only scripted competition, however, will be Madam Secretary over on CBS. I don’t think Madam is gonna destroy it, but I simply think this show is going to struggle to both find an audience and also keep that audience engaged. And what would a season 2 look like? I don’t think this is a winner.

The Good Doctor – Fresh off A&E’s Bates Motel, Freddie Highmore stars as a young surgeon with autism. It’s from the creator of House, so you kinda know what you’re gonna get there. Ya know, he’s a miracle doctor who doesn’t do shit by the book. I really like the cast, with Richard Schiff (The West Wing), Hill Harper (CSI: NY), and Antonia Thomas (Misfits). I probably won’t watch it, but it could find an audience. The trick will be whether it genuinely portrays what it would be like to be an autistic surgeon. A lot of special interest groups will probably be keeping a close eye on this one, and I think a lot of people will be talking about it. Scheduled Monday at 10, its main competition is Scorpion and The Brave. I think it’ll do fine.

The Mayor – A young rapper decides to run for mayor in order to get attention on his mixtape. Then he wins, and has to figure out how to actually be mayor. This sounds terrible. This is the kind of thing that would’ve gone straight to DVD starring fat Anthony Anderson back in 2001. I think the network was just desperate to get into bed with Daveed Diggs because of his Hamilton pedigree. While it will have Black-ish as its lead-in, it’s slotted where Imaginary Mary and The Real O’Neals went to die. Just like Tuesday 10 PM is the Death Slot, 9:30 isn’t much better. This thing simply doesn’t have legs. I just hope it lasts long enough for the rapper and Lea Michele to become a couple.

The Gospel of Kevin – This looks like a reboot of Highway to Heaven. Jason Ritter plays Kevin Finn, who supposedly “isn’t a good guy”, even though the trailer doesn’t elaborate on why someone would think that. Anyway, one night he discovers a meteor, which actually contains an angel, played by comedian Cristela Alonzo. She’s gonna be his spirit guide, as he travels to country to gain his powers and change the lives of others. Yeah, it’s in the Tuesday Night Death slot, so that’s certainly a strike against it. Typically, new shows in the Tuesday 10 PM slot fail for ABC. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. only survived because it was a veteran, and even it got banished to Friday. Nothing can survive at in that slot, for whatever reason, and I don’t see Kevin bucking that trend. This thing is simply too high concept, and I’m not sure America’s ready for another angel show right now. This one doesn’t have a prayer.

Let’s talk about ABC’s moves. Shark Tank moves to Sundays at 9. I don’t know about that one. I know they’re rebranding Friday nights, but now it’ll be going up against football and NCIS: LA. I think this is only temporary, as it’ll eventually find a new home on the schedule – perhaps Tuesdays at 10? One that’s kinda controversial in my mind is the Minority Block they’ve created on Tuesday night. Things kick off with the struggling Hecks of The Middle, who’re then followed up by the Asians of Fresh Off The Boat, and the Blacks of Black-ish and The Mayor. I haven’t seen something this calculated since the days of UPN. Still, I guess we should just shut up and be glad for the representation. It’s weird because ABC’s Wednesday night is their comedy crown jewel, though they’re clearly trying to take back Tuesday. It’s just a question now of how they’re branding those nights. I get that they don’t want to move Modern Family, but Black-ish benefited from the 9:30 Wednesday timeslot because, even though they were different races, the Dunphys and the Johnsons occupied the same socioeconomic class. That’s got to translate into some sort of data for ad buyers. I guess you could say Black-ish “graduated” if they feel it can survive without Modern Family protecting it, but I hate that its old timeslot was given to American Housewife, which I’m kinda surprised was renewed. On Friday, Once Upon A Time moves from Sunday, while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will take over the 9 PM slot once Inhumans ends its run. A lot of folks feel like this is the death knell for both shows, since a move to Friday is always seen as a death sentence. I’ve never understood that, though, because if nerds truly have no lives, then shouldn’t they be home to watch these shows? Anyway, these shows are still on the air because they perform well on DVR/internationally, so their ratings clearly aren’t the only deciding factor.

Oddly enough, ABC’s most interesting new shows are being held for midseason. Since they won’t show up until January, I’m only gonna do some quick drive-by thoughts on them:

Alex, Inc – Zach Braff quits his successful job to start a podcast company. This is gonna look so dated when we look back on it, kinda like Selfie (remember that show?). It’s apparently going into the Sunday at 10 slot, so I guess Ten Days In The Valley will have wrapped by then. CBS will still probably have Madam Secretary, but Sunday Night Football will be over, so it’ll be interesting to see what NBC puts against it.

The Crossing – Steve Zahn is a small town cop who gets pulled into a mystery when a bunch of refugees from the future (!) wash up on his beach. I know I said I don’t like saga shows, but I really liked this trailer, and I can’t wait to see what this show is all about.

Deception – a cool as shit illusionist helps the FBI solve crimes. It’s SUCH a procedural, and there’s the whole will they/won’t they trope between him and the lady agent, but I don’t care. It looks so slick! I can’t wait.

For the People – A new Shondaland show about young sexy lawyers doing young sexy lawyer shit. It’ll be right at home in TGIT, especially once Scandal ends and frees up a slot.

Splitting Up Together – This is a movie, not a show! It’s good to see Jenna Fischer again, and I’ve loved Oliver Hudson since Rules of Engagement. It’s basically about a married couple trying to manage a “conscious uncoupling” while keeping their sanity. And there’s the slight hint that they may realize new things about each other and want to stay together. I have no idea how this is gonna go, but I’ll check it out.

Let’s revisit that Tuesday night situation, though, shall we? I feel like Black-ish is only keeping that slot warm for Roseanne‘s 8-episode run that debuts in 2018. They wouldn’t use it to kick off the night, as Roseanne‘s blue collar humor doesn’t necessarily translate at that hour, and I hardly see them bumping Modern Family on Wednesday night. So, I could see Roseanne returning to her Tuesday 9 PM roost of yesteryear. By this point, of course, The Mayor will already have been canceled, but Roseanne pairs better with The Middle than with Black-ish. I see a lot of comedy moves coming midseason for ABC.

CBS

CBS is “America’s Most Watched Network”, so they’re not making too many moves. Let’s take a look at their new shows.

Wisdom of the Crowd – Jeremy Piven, with a fresh set of hair plugs, stars as a software developer who creates a crowdsourcing app to help solve the murder of his daughter. Sounds a lot like Person of Interest, right? I mean, didn’t they have a machine that predicted crimes or some shit? I dunno. I never watched it. I just know it starred Jesus after he couldn’t get any work anywhere. Anyway, you should really watch this trailer because it contains stuff that is totally possible, and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. It’s probably where society is heading, but the idea of crowdsourcing evidence to solve crimes just sounds like there are SO many things that could go wrong. As you see in the trailer, they’re gonna play the long game with the case surrounding Piven’s daughter, as that takes a backseat to the app being used to help the cops solve other crimes. CBS audiences are older and not very tech savvy. They don’t like when their shows get too “techy”. Sure, Person of Interest lasted 5 seasons, but take a look at Pure Genius from just this season. It was about a young tech billionaire who was gonna use cutting edge technology to cure all the world’s diseases. It was canceled after its initial 13 episode order. I know Piven can be polarizing, so I just don’t know about this one. Luckily, it’s scheduled Sunday at 8, with no scripted competition other than The Simpsons, so it should have room to breathe.

9JKL – HATE the title. It sounds like text speak or some shit. Instead, it’s about 3 apartments. Recently divorced actor Mark Feuerstein moves into apartment 9K, which happens to be between his parents, Elliot Gould and Linda Lavin, in 9J and his brother and his family in 9L. So, it’s a multigenerational, multi camera sitcom, starring a bunch of folks who tend to star in shows that are canceled. Again, I think the title hurts it, but it’s the kind of show that CBS could take or leave. The Big Bang lead-in should definitely help it, but the true test will be when Bang moves back to Thursday. I don’t think it’ll be a breakout hit, as it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it might end up on the bubble and eke out a second season if CBS doesn’t have a deep bench next pilot season.

Me, Myself, and I – Oh, boy. Where to start with this? OK, we follow the main character at 3 different points in his life: age 14, when he meets the love of his life, age 40, when he’s newly divorced and trying to put his life back together, and age 65 when he’s reunited with the love from age 14. This show is doing A LOT! The casting is what makes it, though. The kid is a newcomer, but I think audiences will take to him like they did Sean Giambrone as Adam Goldberg. The 40 year old is a hapless loser, played capably by SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan. Meanwhile, the 65 year old is played by Night Court great John Larroquette. Oh, and Jaleel White must’ve spent all his Urkel money, ’cause he plays the 40 year old’s best friend. For me, the casting is what sells this show. I really want it to succeed ’cause I like everyone involved. It’s just going to be tricky to navigate 3 different time periods, and is there some sort of master 7-season plan where everything converges? I’m really pulling for this one, but its quirkiness asks a lot of its audience – especially since it’s going to dance around CBS’s Monday schedule for the first few months.

SEAL Team – More soldier shit, and this time the team is led by the sidekick from Bones, while taking assignments from Don Draper’s “third” wife. It’s the familiar trope of “They do such terrible shit out there that it’s hard for them to adjust to civilian life when they’re home.” Out of the three soldier shit series debuting this season, however, I think this one has the best chance of renewal based on the fact that it appeals to the NCIS/CSI sensibilities of CBS’s built-in audience. Fun fact: the lead role was originally going to Jesus himself, Jim Caviezel, but was recast when Caviezel left the project over creative differences. He might’ve brought the Person of Interest audience with him, but seeing as how Bones ran for 12 years (and don’t forget Angel), Boreanaz probably has a deeper fanbase.

Young Sheldon – This is such an interesting experiment: a single camera prequel to an aging multi camera sitcom. I know CBS wants to keep The Big Bang Theory machine chugging along, especially considering it’ll most likely be done in two years. I just always felt like a Sheldon was a Less Is More kind of character. I don’t need to know about his childhood because I get enough of a glimpse from his anecdotes. I feel like the audience that enjoys him actually enjoys Jim Parsons’s portrayal of him, rather than the character himself. On his own, Sheldon is kinda unlikeable, due to his lack of social skills and decorum. Since he’s on the spectrum, however, that’s all forgiven. Now, I think Iain Armitage does a pretty capable job of being a young Sheldon, but he’s also very off-putting to the viewer. I’m not sure anyone is going to root for him. Instead, you kinda feel sorry for the people in his orbit: his family, his teachers, etc. They simply live in a different world than he does. I will say that Zoe Perry does an amazing job portraying a younger version of Sheldon’s mom, played by her real-life mom, Laurie Metcalf. One of the biggest complaints about The Big Bang Theory is that its humor kinda appeals to the lowest common denominator. It might be a show about smart people, but it’s not necessarily a smart show. That said, the single camera format tends to be used for smart shows, i.e. Modern Family, Arrested Development, etc. Will the traditional TBBT audience migrate over to this new show and format? I’ll be very interested to see how this does.

S.W.A.T. – Ah, the show based on the movie based on the show. I wasn’t sure about this at first. I honestly didn’t see Shemar Moore as a leading man. I mean, he couldn’t even carry Soul Train back in the day, so how could he headline his own series? Anyway, the captain from Stargate Universe shoots a kid, and gets fired (can you believe that justice?!), so his S.W.A.T. unit is handed over to Shemar Moore. Now Moore’s forced to police the inner city neighborhood in which he grew up. There’s gonna be a lot of Black Lives Matter vs Blue Lives Matter stuff going on here. What happens where you’re both? The show is executive produced by Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond, Fast & Furious 6), but something about this feels like a late 90s NBC show instead of a 2017 CBS series. The same way we may not be patriotic enough for soldier shit shows right now, I’m not sure this is the show that’s gonna redeem cops in a lot of folks’ eyes. It kinda fits CBS’s demographic, but they don’t do so well with the TV shows based on movies (Training Day, Rush Hour). It’s going against How To Get Away With Murder, which is the lowest rated of the Shondaland dramas, but it’s also going against NBC’s Law & Order Menendez spinoff. Even with limited competition, I don’t think this one gets a second season.

And while this isn’t going on the main network, it’s still a CBS show. Star Trek: Discovery. All I can say is “NO!” “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” I don’t know what I wanted, but this wasn’t it. I know some folks are so desperate for new Trek, but I want it to make sense, and I want it to be good. I knew a prequel was the wrong move because technology has come so far, so you can’t help but make it look better than The Original Series, though it should look less advanced due to when it’s set. A lot of people are gonna “cape” for it because it has a strong, Black woman as the protagonist, but those people can’t see the forest for the trees. Everything about this looks wrong to me. It’s funny that so many of us were wondering how we were gonna pirate this show, but after seeing this, I have no interest. It looks like a well-made fan film. Pass.

Looking at CBS’s moves, they really played it safe. On Sunday, NCIS: Los Angeles and Madam Secretary both move back an hour, filling the slot left by Elementary (coming back midseason), and making room for Wisdom of the Crowd. At this point, CBS is the only network with scripted drama on Sunday night, so I think they’ll do fine. Monday is in constant flux, depending on whether or not its football season. When the season starts, The Big Bang Theory will kick off the night, before it eventually moves back to Thursday, ceding its timeslot to Kevin Can Wait (which will start the season at 9 PM prior to the move). Once football ends, Superior Donuts will return to take the 9:30 slot occupied by new comedy Me, Myself, and I (which will shift to 9 PM). Whew! See, that’s CBS’s big problem: they move their “iffy” shows around so much that they can’t find an audience. 2 Broke Girls was all over the schedule this season before it got the chop. Even if folks don’t watch TV live anymore, these moves make them forget a show even comes on anymore. On Wednesday, Criminal Minds shifts to 10 to make room for David Boreanaz’s Seal Team. Thursday and Friday remain pretty much the same. Like I said, other than the Monday kerfuffle, CBS played it pretty safe while introducing more new shows that the other networks.

The CW

Finally, we come to The CW where moves abound. First, however, let’s look at the new shows.

Valor – More soldier shit, only this time it’s with overacting pretty people and a dash of PTSD. It falls into the category of something I’d watch as a movie, but I just don’t like getting on board “saga” shows these days because they have so many layers, and run the risk of being canceled before answering all, or any, of their questions. If they’re smart, this is a one season storyline, and then they’ll have to reinvent the show for season 2. That said, from what I see, I don’t think they need to be rushing to figure out a second season quite yet. Airing Monday at 9, it’ll probably get trounced by The Gifted over on Fox, as they both seem to be male-skewing shows, and I see Fox winning this round. I also don’t feel like Supergirl is the proper lead-in series, but they seem committed to keeping her kicking off Monday nights.

Dynasty – I’m too young to have watched the original, but this reboot is The CW’s bread and butter. I don’t know if the characters or plot points are the same, but it’s rich, pretty White people doing trifling shit to each other. And it’s by the producers of The O.C. and Gossip Girl? Yeah, they’ll get a good 4-5 seasons out of this. This isn’t the first franchise The CW has resurrected, as they also did it with 90210 and Melrose Place. The latter didn’t go so well for them, but the former was a reliable staple of their schedule for 5 seasons. I can definitely see the same here.

Black Lightning – It looks like your standard Berlantiverse show, even if it takes place in its own universe. The question is whether or not “The Community” is going to support it. People always plead for diversity, but then they don’t show up when it’s time. If you put out a Black Lightning comic right now, it would not sell. It just wouldn’t. So, will White audiences want to watch a show about a Black inner city vigilante trying to clean up the streets – especially when there’s no lure of a crossover with the shows they already love? It’s being held for midseason, so maybe it’ll take over Legends of Tomorrow‘s timeslot once it airs its unusual number of episodes (seriously, they have, like 16-episode seasons over there for whatever reason). Here’s the kicker, though: according to the network, the show won’t take place in the established Arrowverse, mainly due to logistics. It will be filmed in Atlanta, while the other shows film in Vancouver. As such, they’re also not planning a 5-way crossover between the shows. That last part makes me kinda glad, as I didn’t really think they tuck the landing with this season’s 4-way “Invasion” crossover. People might come out for this, but they might not. I really don’t know which way the wind blows with this one.

Life Sentence – This is a movie, not a TV series. A young girl who thought she was dying finds out she’s cured and now has to learn how to live her life. I’d like it to survive, as it’s co-executive-produced by Bill Lawrence of Scrubs fame, but this has as much staying power as this season’s No Tomorrow. Oh, you never even heard of No Tomorrow? It was about a young woman who thinks the world is going to end, so she has to learn to live life to its fullest in the time that she has left. Yeah, kind of the reverse of this. It got canceled after its initial 13 episodes. Anyway, it’s cute and quirky, but I figure there’s enough there for about 90 minutes – not a full season. Anyway, it’s pretty clear why they’re holding this lil midseason.

Now, let’s talk about the moves because they are drastic. Riverdale moves from Thursday to Wednesday at 8, pitting it against Empire, The Blacklist, Survivor, and The Goldbergs. The show has a following, though, so I really don’t think this move will hurt it too much. If anything, it’ll give White folks a sudsy alternative to Empire at the same time. On Thursday, Supernatural moves to 8, while Arrow, ceding its timeslot to Riverdale, now occupies Thursday at 9 – pitting it against This Is Us, The Orville, and the final season of Scandal. Poor fucking Arrow. That is not an enviable place to be, but DVR might help it. If it gets absolutely killed, six seasons was a good run. I think it’ll make it to seven, but this move does it absolutely no favors. On Friday, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend moves to 8, while Jane the Virgin moves from Monday at 9 to Friday at 9. Online buzz is what keeps Crazy on the air, so maybe they’re hoping that’ll be the case for Jane? I know Jane has a fanbase, and Supergirl wasn’t the most logical lead-in for it, but Friday is always such an uncomfortable situation.

Anyway, after all of this, I think ABC has the best new offerings, though they’re holding most of them til midseason. I feel like NBC has the most stable schedule, and they’re taking the fewest risks, but CBS has more new Fall shows that I’m genuinely curious about. So that’s why CBS won the upfronts and had the West Week Ever.

14th Apr2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/14/17

by Will

I was going to skip this week, with it being a holiday weekend and all, but then I realized that this would be the last post written from the WilliamBruceWest.com HQ of the past 6 years. So, simply to commemorate that, you get a quick post.

I didn’t watch any movies this week (dumb, since I need to clear off a 90% full DVR by Tuesday), but I did catch the HBO stand-up special Pete Holmes: Faces and Sounds. Holmes has recently become one of my favorites, as I’ve really been digging his HBO comedy Crashing, which seems to be loosely based on the early days of his stand-up career. He’s at a point now in his career where he seems to be a lot more comfortable onstage. And he cusses a lot more. Something about him reminds me of a modern-day John Ritter – it’s not the physical comedy, but it’s written all over his face. He genuinely just comes off like a good guy that you could have around your mom. I think that’s part of his appeal. Anyway, it’s a pretty good hour, so check it out if you’re looking for a new stand-up special to watch.

In movie news, Jonah Hex/Thanos will now be adding Cable to his resume. In a surprise casting move, Josh Brolin has been cast as the time-traveling hero in the Deadpool sequel. This, supposedly, won’t affect filming of Avengers: Infinity War because most of his work on that movie will be motion capture. Still, it’s odd to see another comic book movie actor jump across the studio aisle. We’ve seen two actors jump from Fox to the MCU (Chris Evans and Michael B. Jordan), but you never see them go the opposite direction. I guess he’ll do OK, but I was hoping for someone like Ron Perlman or Stephen Lang. Personally, I’d be more impressed if they’d cast his father, James Brolin.

I didn’t catch the Rick & Morty 3rd season premiere when it was posted online on April Fools Day, but luckily Adult Swim aired it every night last week. It was so good to have the show back, even though I’m not entirely sure I know what was going on. As some folks have said, I really wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that was justa “bonus”episode, and not the actual premiere. If it was real, it definitely set up an interesting new family dynamic. Of course all anyone can talk about, however, is the McDonald’s Mulan Sauce. Apparently, back when Mulan came out, McDonald’s had a special Szechuan sauce for their McNuggets. It was only for a limited time, as those things are wont to be, but now it’s been thrust back into the spotlight thanks to the episode. Fans of the show are trying to get McDonald’s to bring the sauce back, to coincide with the release of the upcoming live action Mulan film (despite the fact that Disney ended their relationship with McDonald’s a few years ago in an attempt to disassociate themselves with unhealthy eating). Already, though, I’ve seen some thinkpieces about how the sauce is cultural appropriation and all that so, basically, welcome to 2017.

In comics news, the X-Men were the source of controversy this week after the artist on X-Men Gold, Ardian Syaf, snuck some incendiary references into the background of his art in the first issue of the book. I don’t have a religious studies degree, so I can’t really get into the minutiae. Basically, though, he slipped in some references to the Qua’ran that are anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. Sure, he can have his beliefs and all, but you don’t sneak that stuff into a corporate comic book. Marvel said that he was going to be disciplined, and later in the week he was fired from the book. Syaf immediately went online and basically said “My career is over”. I kinda wanted to feel bad for him ‘cause he almost seemed suicidal, and I wasn’t sure he initially understood the magnitude of what he had done. In follow up interviews, however, he didn’t really seem to back down. As controversial as he might be right now, it’ll be a major PR opportunity when some publisher, like Dynamite Entertainment, eventually gives him work again.

On the music front, it’s no secret that I’m a huge boyband guy. That said, I never really got into One Direction. It’s not that I was old when they came out, but more of a case where they didn’t have any Max Martin songs. Coming from the late 90s/early 00s era, I feel like you HAVE to have Max Martin songs in order to have hits. I mean, they still had their share of earworms, like “That’s What Makes You Beautiful”, but I never glommed onto them that much. So, when they broke up to pursue solo careers, I wasn’t expecting much – which is why I was surprised to find that I really like “The Sign of the Times”, which is the debut single from Harry Styles. I had the thing looped all day last Friday and, while I’m not sure if it’s a “hit”, I’m really digging what’s going on here. I wonder how the 1D fans are gonna take it. I mean, they’ll eat it up because they love Harry, but it’s not like the 1D songs that they’re used to. You’d expect him to bust out of the gate with something bombastic, but instead he went with something chill and melodic. Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the album when it hits on May 12th.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Grace and Frankie has been renewed by Netflix for a 4th season. And I think my wife is the only person I know who’s happy about that. Anyway, Lisa Kudrow is joining the cast.
  • Jude Law has been cast as young Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts sequel
  • There’s a Fear Factor reboot coming to MTV, which will be hosted by Ludacris

    • We got a new Justice League poster. Um, OK. I don’t want to hate the DCEU but they make it so easy
    • The Get Down’s Shameik Moore has been tapped to voice Miles Morales in the upcoming animated Spider-Man film
    • John Ridley produced Guerrilla, a miniseries about the Black Power movement, and included basically no Black women in it. Good luck with that, my dude.
    • TLC are back. Well, T and C; you’d need a necromancer to get L back. Anyway, the single “Way Back” debuted on radio this week. It’s nothing special, really.
    • Sam Elliott has signed on to star in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, which is a Must See based on the title alone

    • This looks fun. Not “see it in a theater” fun, but fun nonetheless.
    • This Fall, NBC’s Dateline will become a weekday syndicated true crime series, which will probably end up replacing former correspondent Chris Hansen’s Crime Watch Daily. Coldblooded!


Thor: Ragnarok’s teaser trailer hit this week and it was amazing. Now, keep in mind that the Thor movies are lower on the MCU scale, so it’s not like it had to do much heavy lifting to blow our minds. We’re at a point where we just don’t expect that much from the Thor films. Still, it looks like Guardians of the Galaxy 1.5, and that’s exactly what people love about it. After the departure that was Thor: The Dark World, we’re back to a Thor tale that feels epic and world-spanning. And the Hulk cameo! Anyway, I could ramble about it, or you could just watch it for yourself. All I know is that the Thor: Ragnarok teaser trailer had the West Week Ever.

And if you’re jonesing to read some more, be sure to check out my comic post from this week: Comical Thoughts: The One Where Our Hero Read 30 Marvel Comics In One Night!

31st Mar2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/31/17

by Will

So, as a week has passed, I find I’ve got some more thoughts on Power Rangers. I watched it again (don’t ask me how), and I actually liked it a lot better. The first viewing is pretty jarring, but once you know what you’re getting yourself into, it’s easier to let go and let Zordon.

Something about it struck me, though: the teens have an odd bloodlust thing going on. They’re really jonesing to kill something/somebody. When they first encounter Alpha, and don’t realize he’s “one of the good guys”, Zack’s immediate response is “We could kill it”. Not “Hey, we should run” or “We need to get away from it”. It was basically “We could end its life”. And while I know kids shows have to use language like “destroy” or “eradicate” or anything that’s not “kill”, I’m not used to applying “killing” to the world of Power Rangers. Even Zordon says that Rita must be “stopped”, and the kids immediately take that as “We have to kill Rita.” Hold your horses, hoss! I know they live in some little podunk fishing town, but have these kids killed before? Will they kill again?!

Also, Brian Tyler’s score needs to be applauded. It’s one basic theme that’s repeated throughout the film, but I didn’t realize how epic it was until the second viewing. Sure, it’s not “Go Go Power Rangers” or any of the show’s songs from Ron Wasserman, but it really conveys that superhero aesthetic the movie is going for.

It’s not all sunshine and roses in the world of Power Rangers, however. First up, original Green Ranger Jason David Frank was apparently kicked out of the premiere of the film because he took out his camera to film the audience’s reaction to his onscreen cameo. If you’re not familiar with his antics, his lives his life online. He thinks he’s giving a ton of access to his fans, so he basically vlogs EVERYTHING. Signings, convention panels, etc. He was a web series called My Morphing Life, so I assume  he was trying to get footage for that. Well, security did what the original 5 Power Rangers couldn’t do, and that was defeat the Green Ranger. They escorted him out and he didn’t even get to see the mid credit scene. They tried to take his phone, which he wasn’t about to let them do, so he yelled “It’s morphin time” and proceeded to beat up a bunch of middle aged men. Well, I don’t know about that last part, but it’s still fun to imagine.

Next up, murderous Wild Force Red Ricardo Medina Jr has been sentenced to 6 years in jail for the 2015 stabbing death of his roommate. Earlier this month he pleaded guilty voluntary manslaughter, and he got the maximum sentence for that charge. While I poke fun at it, the whole matter kinda sucks. I mean, he claims it was in self defense. In this crazy country, if he’d shot the guy, we probably wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Instead, he had to go and use a sword, and the American legal system just isn’t built for that. Here’s hoping he gets off early for good behavior or something.

There was a Justice League trailer released last Saturday, and that’s all I have to say about that. No, I guess I have more to say. Look, if the DCEU movies still get you hard, then more power to you. I’ve been fooled enough by those films to know that they’re more than likely not going to be my cup of tea. I felt like I was in Bizarro World, though, as everyone seemed to love the trailer but hate Cyborg. I was the opposite. I just can’t get excited about these things anymore, but I thought Cyborg looked cool. I’ve been told the CGI is outdated, but I’d rather he look like that than just a Black guy in a silver suit. Anyway, Snyder makes long-form stylized music videos. That’s what Watchmen was, and Dawn of Justice was a darker version of that. Here, it’s business as usual for him.

Speaking of DC movies, apparently Joss Whedon is in talks to write, produce and direct a Batgirl movie. Ya know, until he drops out. I’ve never worshipped at the altar of Joss, as I can see the holes in his whole gimmick. He’s always the go-to guy for “strong, female characters”, but I feel like it’d make more sense to just hire a woman instead of hiring a man who seems to understand women. I think DC is just trying to hedge their Bat bets because they know Affleck has one foot out the door. DC is the KING of announcing shit with nothing to back it up. The only time the MCU did that was with Inhumans, but DC has promised Green Lantern Corps, Black Adam, and  Cyborg films – all of which seem to be in Development Hell. To me, this is just another empty promise. DC is the dad who makes a ton of empty promises because he’s scared you love mom’s new boyfriend (Marvel) more than him. And they’re right. Have people forgotten all the Wonder Woman drama? People act like this is a major heel turn, with Whedon “defecting” from Marvel to DC, but I think the Russo Bros effectively swept away any influence folks thought Joss had on the MCU. Age of Ultron was a bore of a chore, so I’m not exactly jazzed about him crossing the aisle. I also don’t like the idea of a standalone Batgirl film that didn’t organically evolve from an existing Batman franchise. The Batman is falling apart, and instead of fixing that, they move on to Batgirl? Get your shit together, DC!

In the world of TV, Katie Cassidy is reportedly returning to Arrow next season as a series regular. Instead of playing Laurel Lance, however, she’ll be reprising her Earth 2 identity as villain Black Siren. If you remember, she crossed over into our world this season, and Oliver’s determined to rehabilitate her. I’m bored just thinking about it. However, if you know anything about the Arrowverse, you know that “series regular” doesn’t mean much. After all, Willa Holland is a series regular, and we’ve seen Thea how much this season? And Cassidy already had that exclusive Berlantiverse contract this season that yielded few results. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how much exposure she actually gets.

Speaking of the Arrowverse, we finally got our first look at Cress Williams as Black Lightning in the pilot being filmed by The CW. Fox passed on this a few months ago, so naturally The CW came to the rescue. Personally, I don’t think that universe needs a fifth show. They always add a show to the detriment of another. Arrow suffered when Flash came along, Flash suffered when Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow came along. Supergirl‘s still getting used to its new home, while Legends is only just starting to get good. I think they should focus on what they have instead of trying to expand right now. Someone online said that Black Lightning was corny, but so was Static and folks are always claiming they wanna see that character make a comeback. Sure, Black Lightning hails from a different era, and I really hope they just call him Lightning, kinda like how Ollie was just The Arrow in the beginning. The only important storyline I remember featuring Black Lightning was when he was chosen to be the Secretary of Education under the Luthor Administration. Other than that, his daughters have had more page time than he has in recent years. I’d be all for the character joining the Legends team, but I don’t know if there’s enough meat on that bone for a series. And knowing The CW, they’re gonna green light it anyway – not even stopping to think how a failure would devalue the brand.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The Big Bang Theory scored a 2-season renewal, which will take it through season 12. Suck it, haters!
  • Han Solo is not the character’s real name. His birth name was Handsome Solowitz, but his manager made him change it
  • Adam Sandler inked a deal for another 4 Netflix movies. When, exactly, did he officially become the White Tyler Perry?
  • In the upcoming film, Jumanji will now be a video game console and not a board game. As someone who never saw the first film, and has never played many board games, this doesn’t bother me in the least
  • The upcoming Astonishing X-Men comic series will feature a different artist every issue. All I know is that each issue better be a self-contained, done-in-one affair, or this is gonna get messy!
  • TLC is planning to bring back Trading Spaces. Paige Davis better return to host, or GTFO.
  • Jack the Ripper time travel drama Time After Time has been canceled by ABC
  • Bones ended its 12-year run, making it the longest-running Fox drama
  • AMC has renewed sci fi android drama HUMANS after a blink-and-you-missed-it second season.
  • Jordan Peele is being sought after to direct the live action Akira movie. Seems like an odd choice, but I guess he can write his own ticket after Get Out‘s success.
  • Mindy Kaling announced that her series, The Mindy Project, would end after its next season on Hulu.
  • In music news, I’ve just discovered a new Chinese boyband called Acrush. There’s a catch, however – it’s actually made up of androgynous girls! CRAZY!


Did you see that? I’m just glad Spider-Man is in the MCU now. Nobody does a shared universe like Marvel, so it’s nice to see him come home. It still feels like it’s an Ultimate Spider-Man movie, what with Gank…”Ned Leeds”. Seriously, why would Marvel go to the trouble of clearly putting Miles Morales’ best friend Ganke in the movie but then call him one of the Hobgoblins? Am I really supposed to expect this kid to become Hobgoblin down the road, a few sequels from now? It almost feels like fanservice to give him that name, to make fans wonder what might happen in the future, while never actually delivering it.

Anyway, every announcement about this film just gets better and better. For example, it was announced that it would officially introduce Damage Control to the MCU. In the comics, Damage Control was a construction firm co-owned by Tony Stark and Wilson Fisk (The Kingpin) that was tasked with rebuilding NYC after superhero battles. It’s such a logical concept, but something that gets lost in the suspension of disbelief that comics require. I’ve loved every appearance of Damage Control, so it’s nice that we’ll finally get to see them onscreen. They were actually mentioned in an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as a division of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, so it’ll be interesting to see how the movie handles this.

Also, it was reported that Pepper Potts might be making her return to the MCU in the film. I tend to hate Gwyneth Paltrow, but I really like her take on Pepper, as she serves as a good match for Downey’s Stark. If this rumor pans out, I’ll be very happy.

At this point, the only thing I’m not looking forward to is The Vulture. I always thought he was a lame character, but here’s hoping Keaton can do something to make him interesting. I’m as eager for this film as I’m not eager for Justice League. I swear I’m not just some Marvel fanboy, as I’m currently reading more DC than Marvel. That said, Marvel simply makes better movies, and it appears this will be one of them. So, for those reasons, the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer had the West Week Ever.

18th Jan2017

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2016

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movies I Watched This Year

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

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2016 (with commentary)

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

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

1/15/16 – Power Rangers

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

1/22/16 – DC Entertainment

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

1/29/16 – The X-Files

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

2/5/16 – UnderScoopFire Podcast

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

2/12/16 – Denver Broncos

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

2/19/16 – Deadpool

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

3/4/16 – Fuller House

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

3/11/16 – Jay Pharaoh

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

3/18/16 – Nothing

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

3/25/16 – Wonder Woman

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

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

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

4/8/16 – American Idol

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

4/15/16 – Marvel

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

4/22/16 – Harriet Tubman

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

4/29/16 – Beyoncé

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

5/6/16 – Captain America: Civil War

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

5/13/16 – Captain America: Civil War

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

5/20/16 – Nothing

It was just one of those weeks

5/27/16 – DC Universe: Rebirth #1

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

6/3/16 – Ecto-Cooler

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

6/10/16 – Awesome Con 2016

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

6/17/16 – Hamilton

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

6/24/16 – Black actors in Hollywood

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

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

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

7/8/16 – TNA’s The Final Deletion

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

7/15/16 – Pokemon GO!

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

7/22/16 – Ghostbusters

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

7/29/16 – DC Entertainment

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

8/12/16 – Suicide Squad

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

8/19/16 – Ryan Lochte

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

8/26/16 – Guardians trailer

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

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

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

9/9/16 – Atlanta

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

9/16/16 – Better Late Than Never

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

9/23/16 – Lindsay West

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

10/7/16 – Luke Cage

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

10/14/16 – Will & Grace

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

10/21/16 – Logan trailer

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

10/28/16 – The Walking Dead

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

11/4/16 – The Chicago Cubs

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

12/2/16 – Search Party

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

12/9/16 – Hamilton

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

12/16/16 – WWE’s New Day

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

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

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

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

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

23rd Sep2016

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

by Will

befunky-collage92316

WWE Edit

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

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

kevin-can-wait

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

agents-of-shield-season-4-logo

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

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

designated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

26th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/26/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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On the movie front, I watched one good movie and one very bad movie. Let’s start with the bad news first. Called The Day, it’s a 2011 film about 5 friends in a post-apocalyptic landscape who find refuge in a farmhouse, but have to defend it from cannibals. Basically, it’s like someone read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and said “Hey, I could do that.” I actually missed the first 20 minutes of the movie, but that’s when my pal Wikipedia came in handy. I didn’t miss anything of substance, and it was pretty easy to pick up at the point when I joined. It starred Shannyn Sossamon, who I fell in love with in 40 Days and 40 Nights before she fell into whatever hole she was in until Wayward Pines last season. It also starred former Iceman, Shawn Ashmore, who clearly spent the earlier part of this decade doing low-budget suspense films (like Frozen). Part of what I hated about it was its lack of color. Like, it wasn’t quite black and white, but it was devoid of a color palette. It’s like they filmed it and then ran it through the Willow Instagram filter. I know they were trying to set a tone, but it just didn’t work for me. And all the characters sucked at life. We’re supposed to think they’ve become a “family” since whatever catastrophic event happened, but it never really made much sense. I know they’d probably seen some real shit together, but I wasn’t buying their forced bond. Anyway, this kind of movie progressed the only way that a movie like this could: most of them die. What? You weren’t gonna watch it. Hell, when it was released in theaters, it only screened in 12 theaters and made about $20,000. NOBODY saw this movie. To be fair, it seems like it was made for the international market, as it opened in Russia first. Then, it was distributed in associated with WWE Studios over here. That’s a true mark of quality right there! Anyway, the special effects aren’t too spectacular, there’s no gratuitous nudity, and it’s just not very good. You can skip this one.

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Now for the one that I loved. I’ve been putting off watching Kingsman: The Secret Service for the better part of a year. I even bought it when it went on sale, but never watched it. I knew it’d be my kind of movie, but I just never got around to watching it. Even recorded it on the DVR, despite already owning it, because I’m lazy and thought I’d be more likely to watch it if I didn’t have to fumble with a disc. Then, last night, I ended up watching it as it randomly came on Cinemax. Now, I know writer Mark Millar has his critics, but I’ve typically liked his output. I was a fan of The Ultimates, I was a fan of Kick-Ass before they ran that franchise into the ground, and I’ve basically enjoyed all the other stuff he put out under the Marvel ICON imprint, like Superior and Nemesis. The Secret Service, however, didn’t really grab me when it originally came out in comic form. I bought the first issue, and it just felt too British, for lack of a better description. I think I ended up selling that comic in a longbox with a bunch of other junk and never looked back. So, imagine my surprise when they announced it would be adapted into a film. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an independent British spy organization tasked with testing new recruits to fill a recent vacancy in their ranks. Colin Firth spends almost 2 hours wearing the Hell out of everything he puts on, while trying to train a young chav named “Eggsy” to be a Kingsman agent. And it does follow the trend of being very British, as the villain, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the quintessential Ugly American. I mean, he even feeds Firth McDonalds at what’s supposed to be a fancy dinner party. Imagine if Spike Lee had Bill Gates money, and you’ve basically got Jackson’s character. Oh, and add in a lisp that seems to come and go. I really don’t remember that obnoxious lisp from the trailers, so I wonder if they added it in post-production. Anyway, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a bit formulaic and predictable at points, but there are certain parts that make it worth the price of admission. Two words: church scene. It has to be seen to be believed. Only Millar could end a comic book movie on an anal sex joke, but I was actually grinning when the movie ended. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I am totally looking forward to Kingsman: The Golden Circle next year.

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In comic news, it was revealed that when Riri Williams takes over for Tony Stark following Civil War II, her hero name will be Ironheart. I don’t hate it. It works. It’s a lot better than how Pepper Potts was called Rescue when she had armor. What’s odd to me is how the comic will still be called The Invincible Iron Man, even though Iron Man ain’t in it. I know it’s a name that recognizable, but even a subtitle could’ve worked. They couldn’t call it The Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart? Just kind of odd that it’s a solo book where the title doesn’t refer to the title character. Anyway, there was some #rabblerabble, as my friend Tim likes to say, this week about her codename because it’s also the name of an Japanese Iron Man porn parody. I’m sure, however, this was merely coincidence.

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In comic movie news, it was announced that director Doug Liman would be jumping from one comic book movie in order to helm another. Previously attached to Channing Tatum’s doomed Gambit film, Liman is now slated to direct DC’s Dark Universe, focusing on the characters of Justice League Dark. This was surprising to me because I didn’t even think this was still on DC’s schedule, seeing as how they went ahead and made the upcoming Justice League Dark animated film. I mean, Assault On Arkham didn’t keep them from making Suicide Squad, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Still, the team is comprised of a bunch of characters who are hardly household names, including John Constantine (star of a mid ’00s cult film and a shortlived TV series), Zatanna, Deadman, and Etrigan The Demon. I always kinda hated that they even adopted the Justice League name, as it wasn’t really appropriate for them. It was DC’s attempt to “Avengerize” their lineup. You see, in the early ’00s, basically every group of Marvel characters were Avengers. There were the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, the Secret Avengers, Avengers Initiative, etc.  It helped boost sales because the Avengers name held some clout, but being used so much also kinda devalued the brand. DC did the same after the New 52 with Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League of America, etc. But I guess a book with Justice League in the title will sell better than something called Shadowpact.

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In other movie news, it appears that the international take of Ghostbusters will be about $220 million. Now, this might sound like a decent amount of money, but as someone on Twitter pointed out, that’s less money than Adam Sandler’s Pixels made. It’s really a shame because I wanted that movie to succeed. No, I still haven’t seen it, but I trust Paul Feig and I love whenever he and McCarthy work together. I still say it would’ve succeeded if they simply hadn’t called it Ghostbusters. They could’ve called it Ghosted or something like that, and sure folks would’ve made comparisons to the original Ghostbusters, but it wouldn’t have been co-opting an established brand that clearly a lot of people had strong feelings about. The release of this movie should be a case study in marketing courses across the country.

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a pretty strict “no death” policy for this column. The way I see it, if I talk about one, I’ve got to talk about them all. And they all don’t mean something to me. This week, however, we lost someone who meant a lot to my formative years. Boyband impresario/Ponzi scheme architect Lou Pearlman died in prison from a heart infection.

A cousin of Art Garfunkel, Pearlman had been in prison since 2008, serving a 25 year sentence for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in US history. Before all that, however, he had a knack for discovering talent. After New Kids On The Block chartered his planes, he looked at that business model and thought, “I could do that”. So, he opened up a pop boot camp in Florida called Trans Continental Studios, and he started churning out boybands like a well-oiled machine. He gave us household names the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. He gave us LFO, who spent a whole summer telling the world about how Chinese food made them sick. He gave us O-Town, whose first single was a vivid description of which stars showed up in their wet dreams. He also helped put Britney on the map, as he signed Innosense, the girl group she was in before she went solo. On the flip side, he also gave us Aaron Carter’s career. Welp, you can’t win all the time.

Anyway, Lou made his money by screwing over his most successful acts. He was contractually the 6th Backstreet Boy, and he took 1/6th of everything they made. So they sued him. He was skimming money off *NSYNC. So they sued him. Hell, he was even cheating Aaron Carter. And he sued him. My favorite scene in the original Making The Band (yes, it existed on ABC before Diddy took it over on MTV) was when O-Town were about to sign their contracts, and the news broke about *NSYNC suing Lou for cheating them out of money. I know reality TV’s fake, but that was some damn good editing.

Plus, there were the sexual allegations. He was a man who was surrounded by hot boys 24/7, meanwhile he had a ten-year relationship with a nurse that was never consummated. It’s been alluded to that the Carter boys experienced some things, while LFO’s Rich Cronin reported that he was in therapy for a lot of what he experienced. I used to know a producer for Making The Band, and she told me that the reason Ikaika quit O-Town was because of his resemblance to BSB’s Kevin Richardson, and that Lou was making advances toward him because of it. Can I get sued for saying that? “Slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel” (Thank you, Spider-Man).

Anyway, all of that is to say that Lou was probably a pretty bad dude. I didn’t even get into the Ponzi shit, which is way over my head. I only know boyband rosters and hit singles. If you want financial news, go to Bloomberg. Lou definitely did some shitty, shitty things in his life, but he almost singlehandedly propped up the pop music industry from about 1996 to 2000. That’s got to count for something, right? I mean, we still laud Woody Allen and Roman Polanski films. Lou Pearlman was probably a sexual predator, but damn it did he know talent when he saw it. This week saw a lot of strained tributes from his former charges. Most of the reactions were basically “He was a scumbag, but I owe my career to him.” My favorite tweet came from O-Town’s Jacob Underwood, who said “Hard to describe what I’m feeling.. He was always nice to me, even when he was stealing from me. RIP.”

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Lou made tens of millions of dollars off the artists he cheated, and that should’ve been enough. But he had to go down the Ponzi route so he could get more. He was brought down by greed, and he died in prison because of it. None of the sexual stuff had been substantiated, so had he just stuck to the music business, we’d be morning a creepy dude who did a lot for music. Instead, we’re left with the death of a man who defrauded investors of almost $300 million, and that was only a fraction of his adult life. Lou Pearlman. A conflicting figure. A legacy of pop.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Gawker was sold at auction to Univision for a reported $135 million. It will now be known as SuperGawkerGigante.com
  • Former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne revealed that she was bisexual in a tweet, after being photographed kissing a girl
  • Apparently there’s a Max Steel movie coming, despite the recent failed revival of the toy line. I’ve got to hand it to the producers, though. I didn’t give a shit about this movie until the trailer wasn’t available in the US, and now it’s all I can think about.
  • Earlier this week, it was reported that Netflix was interested in producing a third season of the Young Justice cartoon. A fan site reported that writer Peter David had been approached about reviving the show, but it was later revealed that he was misquoted.
  • It was reported that Connie Britton may have a reduced role in the CMT revival of Nashville. Welp, there goes any chance of me ever watching that.
  • Soccer player Hope Solo was suspended for 6 months after calling Sweden a bunch of “cowards” after the US lost to them in the Olympics. So, she can’t play soccer for 6 months. Ya know, during the period of the calendar year when very little soccer was gonna be played anyway. Whatever…
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dethroned Robert Downey Jr as the highest paid actor this year, making $64.5 million. He’s still not the former wrestler to make the most money this year, though. Not even close, brother.
  • KFC gave away over 3,000 bottles of fried chicken scented sunscreen. Yes, you read that correctly.
  • Last week’s West Week Ever recipient, Ryan Lochte, is in talks to join the next season of Dancing with the Stars


Ya know, nothing major happened this week, but the one thing that did stand out was the English trailer for Guardians. Now, the original trailer came out months ago, and everyone online was like “Hur, hur. Crazy Russians.” I’ll tell ya what – this thing looks awesome as shit to me. And I’ll bet it’s even better than Dawn of Justice, mainly because these characters probably aren’t betraying some 75-year legacy. A werebear with a gatling gun? An invisible hot chick? A dude with crazy electro whips – THAT CAN BRING DOWN BUILDINGS?!!! Sign me the fuck up! Now, don’t get me wrong. The English overdub is terrible. It’s like something someone made in their bedroom, but at least we have an idea of what the movie’s about now. And I fear all the best stuff might be in the trailer. Still, if I get a chance to see this thing, I’m doing it, and I think you should, too. For delighting all my senses in a mere 2 and a half minutes, the Guardians trailer had the West Week Ever.

 

19th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/19/16

by Will

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We got our first look at the poster for Spider-Man: Homecoming and it’s whatever. This was seen at a Las Vegas trade show, so it was probably just thrown together for the show. I doubt this is the one-sheet you’ll see in theaters. It gives ya a good view of the suit, but it just doesn’t get me excited, ya know? Meanwhile, it’s being reported that Zendaya is actually playing Spider-Man’s sometimes girlfriend/sometimes later wife, Mary Jane Watson. Now, originally they said Zendaya’s character’s name was “Michelle”, but it seems that was all a ruse. So, with Zendaya being biracial, we got the typical online reaction: “That ain’t mah MJ!” I get it. I hate change, too. That said, I really like Zendaya, but I don’t necessarily see her as Mary Jane. Whatever, though. I didn’t see Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, and I was wrong about that. So, I’ll give it a shot. I’m just kinda Spider-Manned out. I feel about Spider-Man the way some folks feel about Batman. We’ve had 5 movies in 14 years, and two different actors playing him. While a lot of folks are saying “They’re finally getting him right!”, I felt like they’d gotten him right before. I loved the Tobey Maguire movies. And I enjoyed the Andrew Garfield movies. So, I’ll probably like this one, too. But am I “hype” for it, as the young kids would say? Not at all.

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In Marvel TV news, it was reported that a Runaways series is in development at Hulu, from the folks behind Gossip Girl and The O.C. Now, Runaways isn’t exactly a household name, as it featured all original characters – teenagers whose parents were some of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. We’d never heard of these villains, though, ’cause they didn’t live in New York City like every other character in the Marvel Universe. Well, once the teens realize just how evil their parents are, they run away. Oh, and one of them is a traitor. I LOVED the series, and it put writer Brian K. Vaughan on the map, who went on to do Y: The Last Man and Saga. The first few years of the book are pretty engaging. Then Joss Whedon came along and wrote, probably, the most forgettable comics of his career. Next, Terry Moore of Strangers In Paradise fame came along and took over the book. And that’s when I kinda lost track of it. So, here’s hoping the TV show news will result in a return of the comic series, as I’ve come to miss those kids. As for the show itself? Well, I’ll just have to wait and see. If you asked me “Who’d be the best team to adapt Runaways“, my first answer would not have been “The Gossip Girl creators”. Still, that show handled big mysteries, and this series is full of them, so maybe they’re the right ones for the job.


In DC news, we got a surprise trailer this week for Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. It’s a straight-to-DVD animated film set in the 1966 Batman world. It features the voice talent of the show’s original stars Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar – ya know, all the ones who aren’t dead. I guess that’s cool. Again, ever since the DVD rights got cleared up, we have had Batman ’66 overload. I’m glad to keep these folks working, but it’s not something I’m especially jazzed about. Not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the animation style? This movie looks closer to the animation that we get in your standard DC Universe Animated Original Movies, when I think I’d rather have something that mimicked the look of the animation in the opening credits of the show. Anyway, the movie hits digital on October 11th, and on Blu-Ray November 1st.

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The biannual Power Rangers convention, Power Morphicon, was held in Pasadena last weekend, and a few interesting things came out of the show. For one thing, we were introduced to the cast of the next incarnation of the show, Power Rangers Ninja Steel. There are a few notable things about this cast. First of all, the Ninja Steel Blue Ranger will be played by Peter Sudarso, who happens to be the real life brother of Yoshi Sudarso, who plays the current Dino Super Charge Blue Ranger. This is a first for the franchise. Another first for the franchise, this is the first time the team doesn’t have a single Caucasian on it. If you want diversity, this team’s got it in spades! #RepresentationMatters

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Now for the gossip portion of our evening! So, Robert Griffin III is quite the controversial figure in these parts. He was drafted in 2012 as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins, with folks believing he was the Second Coming. Well, when you put a guy on a pedestal, he’s bound to disappoint you. He was released in March and snatched up by the Cleveland Browns. Now, I don’t care anything about sports. If anything we’re a Broncos household because Lindsay cares, and she’s from Denver. No, the only reason RGIII was ever on my radar was because of his college sweetheart, Rebecca. Plainly put, she had big bazooms. Anyway, the two got married in 2013, and even had a kid last year. Well, as the story goes, RGIII met a young hot thing from Estonia over Instagram 7 months after the baby was born. Grete Sadeiko is a track and field star at Florida State University, and she’s RGIII’s new boo – so much so that he, foolishly, got her name tattooed on his arm. Oh, and he blindsided Rebecca with a request for a divorce.  If he had been half this interesting when he was still playing here, it might’ve gotten me to care about the Redskins!

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In the world of comedy, there was a bunch of drama involving comedians Amy Schumer and Kurt Metzger. First of all, I’m actually a big fan of Metzger, and I listen to his Race Wars Podcast weekly. That said, I feel like sometimes he’s just trying to see how far he can go and still keep his job. You see, Metzger was a writer and producer on Inside Amy Schumer, but this week he went on a Facebook rant about rape that got him in hot water. Long story short, someone in the NY comedy community had been accused of rape, but Metzger felt that the person was being tried in the court of public opinion instead of any actual proof or evidence being presented. He’s even said himself that his retorts went too far because he let his ego get in the way, but at the end of the day attention was diverted from the fact that there could be a sexual predator in the comic scene and was now focused on what a terrible person Metzger was. People started tweeting at Amy Schumer, asking if she knew what her employee had been saying. Schumer responded by blocking these people, for whatever reason. Finally, she came out and denounced Metzger’s statements, saying that she was disappointed and didn’t share his sentiments. She later tweeted that Metzger doesn’t work for her show anymore, leading folks to think he had been fired. It revealed a bigger truth, however – Inside Amy Schumer is actually going on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time so that Schumer can work on other projects. Yeah, the last time something went on an indefinite hiatus, Justin Timberlake became a solo star. Anyway, not only has this hurt Schumer’s brand, but now a group of Redditors have organized to give fake 1-star reviews to her new book, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. I think this is gonna get worse before it gets better, but will it do more damage to Metzger or Schumer?

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This is the tweet that keeps on giving. Though it’s starting to taper off, it got RTed last weekend, giving it a bit of a resurgence. So far, it’s had over 20,000 impressions. Again, just let me have this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Though I could’ve sworn it was confirmed months ago, this week it was reported that Cyborg will costar with Ezra Miller in the movie verison of The Flash
  • It was rumored that Punisher’s ally Microchip will be a supporting character when his Netflix series debuts
  • Caitlin Jenner’s reality show, I Am Cait, might as well be called I Am Cancelled, as the show’s being put out to pasture after two seasons.
  • Speaking of cancellations, last night saw the final episode of Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show on Comedy Central.
  • After 13 years, Robert Kirkman’s comic Invincible will be ending next year with issue #144. This reminds me that I really need to catch up on Invincible
  • WWE stars Alberto Del Rio, Paige, and Eva Marie were all suspended for 30 days after violating the WWE Wellness Policy

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIis9E1BJvm/ Screengrab of Ryan Lochte's Instagram post of his new hairdo 7/31/16 Source: Ryan Lochte/Instagram

US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and his elite group of swim bros created a shitty lie to cover up a pretty lame infraction. You see, Sunday morning they claimed they had been robbed at gunpoint after leaving a club in Rio. Their stories, however, weren’t lining up and the Brazilian police wanted answers. They weren’t going to stand for the swimmers besmirching the protection they had provided during the games. Around Wednesday, things started moving really quickly, as the passports of the swimmers were seized, and two of them were taken off their plane. But there was a twist – Lochte was already back in the US! At the end of the day, it seems like they actually vandalized a gas station in a confrontation with a guard, yet they PAID FOR THE DAMAGE. So, why lie about a situation you’ve already smoothed over? The other guys are saying it was all Lochte’s idea, while he’s probably chilling in a Titled Kilt somewhere, laughing his ass off.  For whatever reason he did it, he seemingly got away with it. We’ve underestimated him all these years, but what if Lochte is a criminal mastermind? Or what if he’s just a dumb guy who did a stupid thing? The world may never truly know. And that’s why Ryan Lochte had the West Week Ever.

12th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/12/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

*Varnell Hill voice* “DID YOU MISS ME?!”

Yeah, very few people are gonna get that reference, but I did take a week off to recharge the batteries, so I hope somebody noticed.

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So I watched Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, and I think it’s time to declare this franchise dead. It was cute in the beginning, in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way, but it has simply overstayed its welcome. When I reviewed the last installment, I mentioned how it lost most of its spark halfway through, and I just wanted it to end. Well, I felt that way from minute one of this one.

First off, it’s set five years after the last one and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember a single thing that happened in the last one. All I remembered was that they pulled a “Jason Todd” and let the audience decide if Tara Reid lived or died. Other than that, I couldn’t remember how many kids Finn was supposed to have, I couldn’t remember if this sexy sidekick was the same sexy sidekick from the past movies – it was a mess. And the movie doesn’t do a good job of catching you up because it’s stringing along the drama of the “Did Tara Reid survive?” mystery. Turns out Finn’s son is now coming home from deployment, and he’s got a new, Black wife in tow. I emphasize her race because it kinda becomes important down the road. They’re meeting in Las Vegas for a family reunion when the first Sharknado in 5 years hits. You see, In Living Color‘s Tommy Davidson plays an Elon Musk analogue who has created these towers that prevent tornadoes from forming. Because of them, there haven’t been any Sharknadoes since the events of the last movie. For some reason, though, the Vegas tower failed, and we ended up with the first Sharknado in years. And luckily, Finn Shepard and family were there to fight them off.

Meanwhile the Sharknado then goes on to become an Oilnado and then a Firenado and a Nukenado. Yeah, they blew their wad on potential spinoffs all in this one movie. And then my brain just stopped processing what it was seeing. I only made sense of bits and pieces after that point. Tara Reid did live, but only because her dad, played by Gary Busey, had turned her into a cyborg. Oh, and it’s clear that Busey and Reid were never in the same room during their scenes, so I wonder what that was all about. Then Davidson blows up the Grand Canyon in an attempt to curb the Sharknado. Yeah, I really don’t think the US Government would just be cool with Elon Musk blowing up the Grand Canyon, but what do I know? Then, as they all retreat back to Finn’s farm, Black wife (I don’t think she even had a name) gets killed by a shark and NOBODY notices! Her own fucking husband doesn’t even mention her ever again in the film. It’s almost like they added her in post-production, and then just said “Fuck it!” Like, it’s amazing how he NEVER stops to wonder what happened to her, nor does any other member of the cast. Then, Tommy Davidson jumps out of a plane in a squirrel suit, so he can do something on a cliff to stop the Sharknado, but then the cliff falls into the ocean. Oh, and then Finn fights the Sharknado in a really shitty mech suit, but ends up being eaten by a shark. And the oldest son gets eaten by a shark. And the sexy cousin gets eaten by a shark. But wait! The youngest kid – all of five years old – pulls a tiny chainsaw out of a stone, King Arthur style, and uses it to cut into all the sharks and save his family. So, at the end of the day, the only people who actually died were Black wife and Black Tommy Davidson. Fuck this movie. Oh, and there’s a weird cameo by Steve Guttenburg to remind you that Lavalantula is still a thing and that, yes, they take place in the same universe. It must’ve been messed up with editing, as he gives them a car, named Christine, that is built up to be this amazing thing, which they then abandon while being chased by a ball of twine covered in sharks. Again, fuck this movie.

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In movie news, it was announced that the main villain in Aquaman will be Black Manta. Congratulations, DC – you chose the only villain he has to headline his movie. As I joked on Twitter, in the sequel, Aquaman will face an oil spill. There will be no third movie, as he will have vanquished all of his foes. Meanwhile, Aquaman star Jason Momoa is being eyed to star in the reboot of The Crow. My problem with this is that Momoa keeps taking on these franchise reboot roles (like Conan The Barbarian) when his star power isn’t strong enough for a franchise to rest on his shoulders. Now, it’s not like The Crow is gonna break the bank anyway, but it just doesn’t seem like a good fit.

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Ghostbusters is expected to take an estimated $70 million loss, putting any sequel plans in jeopardy. The fact that it didn’t open in China REALLY hurt it. I mean, China saved Warcraft. Imagine what it could’ve done here. Sure, it would’ve been renamed to something like Lady Ghost Killers, but the money would’ve been great.

Killam and Pharoah

There was quite the shakeup at Saturday Night Live this week, as it was announced that 6-year veterans Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah wouldn’t be returning for season 42. At first, I figured this was just a case of the actors wanting to move on to other things, but then it was revealed that Killam’s contract simply wasn’t renewed. Huh? Really, Lorne?! I mean, I get the thing with Pharoah – he’s a great impressionist, though the show struggled to find any way to use them. Sure, he did Ben Carson, but that impression made no sense, plus it’ll be obsolete very soon. Killam, though, is quite the utility player. I’d say he’s basically the male Kristen Wiig, but I don’t think anyone hates him the way that some hated Wiig. His departure will be a huge blow to the show. However, when God closes a door, He opens a window – one for Jon Rudnistsky to jump out of! The featured player will also not be returning next season, and I can’t say that I’m too disappointed. He brought very little to the show during his freshman season, and he just had too much of a guido bro vibe to him for me to be able to take a shine to him.

luke cage

We got a full trailer for the Luke Cage Netflix series. *Yawn* It’s funny – it’s the new “cool kid” thing to say you’re tired of the Marvel movie formula, but the minute you say that about the Netflix shows, suddenly you’ve gone too far. Well, I’m tired of the Netflix shows. Ooh, it’s gritty. Ooh, there’s another fight in a hallway. I LOVED Daredevil season 1 and, though it took me a few months to get through, I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Jones. That said, I still haven’t seen Daredevil season 2, and I’m not really in any rush (after all, I’ve still got 2 seasons of Bojack Horseman and one of Kimmy Schmidt to finish). So, just add Luke Cage to the pile of “I’ll get to it”, but I don’t plan to binge on it when it hits Netflix on September 20th.

vixen2

Not to be outdone by Marvel, DC had a bunch of TV news during The CW’s presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour. First off, we got our first look at the new Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow. Also, it was reported that Sarah Grey has been cast as Stargirl on the show, while Friday Night Lights alum Grey Damon has been cast as Mirror Master on The Flash. They also announced Freedom Fighters: The Ray, which is an animated series that will debut on The CW Seed streaming platform. He will be the first ever gay superhero to lead a series and, like with Vixen, the plan is for him to eventually cross over into the live action shows, with the voice actor portraying him. Finally, it was announced that Dolph Lundgren will play the Big Bad in Oliver’s flashbacks this season, as it documents his time with the Bratva. Also, this will be the final season of Ollie’s flashbacks, as the show will catch up to real time.

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We also got some news about Star Trek: Discovery. It turns out the show will be set ten years prior to Kirk’s mission, and is set in the prime (Shatner) timeline. The lead will be a female, who may not be entirely human, but also won’t be a captain. The show might also feature Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson (played by Winona Rider in 2009’s Star Trek), as producer Bryan Fuller is fascinated by the character. There will be robots and a gay character, and the main cast will consist of about seven characters. As we already knew, it won’t be episodic in nature, but rather a tight 13-episode story unfolding throughout the season. Finally, the ship’s design is based on Ralph McQuarrie’s illustrations from an abandoned 70s Star Trek film called Planet of the Titans.

Phelps

Over on Twitter, I had my most popular tweet in years, which resulted from casually flipping through Olympics coverage. Sure, I know a lot of y’all have gone viral, so this is nothing to you, but let me have this!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Despite getting a logo and James Bobin as director, Jonah Hill is now saying that the Men in Black/21 Jump Street crossover, MIB 23, will probably never happen.
  • Criminal Minds star Thomas Gibson has been suspended for a couple of episodes for kicking a writer onset. I bet he didn’t pull that kind of shit on Dharma & Greg!
  • As the writing was on the wall when costar Nicole Byer got her MTV show, Loosely Exactly Nicole, Fox has officially cancelled The Lonely Island’s Party Over Here sketch show.

aybs

  • We got our first look at the cast for The BBC’s Are You Being Served? one-off anniversary special. It looks like a group of friends dressed up for a costume party and the one Black guy had to be Mr. Lucas. For some reason, though, the special actually calls him a “Mr. Lucas-like character” named Mr. Conway. The special will air in September, and we’ll have to pirate it over here.

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  • We got another fake-out *NSYNC reunion, as the guys reunited for JC Chasez’s 40th birthday. I still hate that JC’s solo album tanked. He’s a better singer than JT, but he never seemed comfortable in the spotlight, and lacked JT’s charisma. Oh, what might have been…
  • Though I’m sure you’ve never seen it, Powers has been cancelled by Playstation Network after 2 seasons.
  • To beef up the CBS All Access portal, a “special edition” of Big Brother will stream on the site later this Fall. The network insists, however, that this shouldn’t be considered season 19 of the show.
  • If you’re just dying for news on Spider-Man: Homecoming, some dude named Michael Chernus has been cast as The Tinkerer. Yeah, whatever.
  • VH1 is developing Martha and Snoop’s Dinner Party, which is exactly what it sounds like: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg hosting dinner parties for their celebrity friends
  • Arianna Huffington will step down as editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. I wonder if it’ll change its name. Ya know, ’cause that worked so well for Topless Robot…
  • Apparently Vin Diesel and The Rock got into it on the set of Fast 8. It was probably an argument over which one of them was more racially ambiguous.
  • According to reports, Donald Glover is the frontrunner to play young Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo film. I dunno, but I don’t think Glover has the swagger of a young Billy Dee Williams.

suicide-squad

So, I vowed not to see Suicide Squad in theaters. I said I was done with the DC Cinematic Universe until Justice League. Well, last night I saw Suicide Squad. I even paid for it. And ya know what? I really liked it. It’s not amazing, but it’s an enjoyable popcorn flick. I don’t know what movie everyone else saw, ’cause a lot of folks were just dying to issue their hot takes about how DC has failed again. If you compare them to Marvel, sure they’ve got a ways to go. But I thought it was a lot better than Dawn of Justice, and I was pleasantly surprised by it considering I did not go into it with an open mind.

First of all, let’s get the Marvel comparison out of the way. It’s unfortunate that DC has to be compared to Marvel, but we do it with the comics, so we’re gonna do it with the movies. There’s something to remember, though: not all Marvel is created equal. There’s Marvel Studios Marvel, which can give you a gem like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but can also give you a dud like Thor: The Dark World. Then, there’s Fox Marvel, which can give you something as great as X2: X-Men United, but can also turn around and give you Elektra (No, I’m not going to use Fantastic Four as an example because, as weak as they may be, I actually liked those movies). With the world building that Marvel Studios has done, however, it means the best Fox movie still only lines up to a mediocre Marvel Studios film. There’s a certain tone and use of budget that tends to go into a Marvel Studios film. Take Ant-Man for example. While a Marvel Studios film, it really didn’t feel on that level. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it and watch it every time it comes on Starz, but tonally it feels like a really strong Fox Marvel movie. So that’s kinda where Suicide Squad is. No, it’s not a Marvel Studios film, but it could hold its own as a decent Fox Marvel film and I think that says a lot. For one thing, I think we got too used to the Nolanverse, so we expect that from DC all the time. The aesthetic of this film is somewhere between Burton and Schumacher. Once you embrace that, you’re in for an entertaining ride.

What’s it about? Well, in light of Superman’s death in Dawn of Justice, the government realizes that they need something to be able to handle metahuman threats. Enter Amanda Waller, the director of ARGUS, who decides to form Task Force X – a team comprised of the worst of the worst bad guys. They’ll be sent on missions from which not all of them will return, but in exchange for their service, they get time knocked off their prison sentences. For their first mission, the team consists of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Katana, Diablo, Killer Croc, and Slipknot, led by uber soldier Rick Flagg. They think they’re being tasked to extract a hostage from a terrorist attack, but they find out they’re in for more than they bargained for.

No, the movie’s not perfect by any means. I could’ve completely done without Killer Croc and even Katana. Rick Flagg has a “midcard wrestler who’ll never get a shot at the title” vibe to him. And, as someone on Twitter pointed out, this was Enchantress most of the time:

leo dancing

There’s no real way the Squad could’ve handled a threat like they did in the film, but whatever. It’s a movie, so I’ll go with it. I just felt like it was too “otherworldly” to be something they could handle. And the third act has a decidedly Ghostbusters (1984) feel to it, effects-wise, which seemed kinda cheesy in 2016.

Still, there was a lot to like. LOVED Margot Robbie’s Harley, which was surprising since I feel a little of that character goes a long way. With the cosplay onslaught, we’re living in the middle of Harlegeddon, yet I still didn’t get tired of seeing Robbie’s portrayal onscreen. I felt she nailed that character. I even liked My Chemical Romance Joker. It’s the first time that I was actually scared of him, and believed that he was a crazy fuck who could do something like kill a Robin. I’m gonna level with ya: Jack Nicholson never did anything for me. I know, I know. He’s supposed to be the cinematic gold standard, but I was too young, and I’d been raised on Cesar Romero. Say what you will about how corny Batman ’66 was, there was still something kinda menacing about Romero that I never quite saw in Nicholson. He had crazy eyes! Ledger came close to approximating what I felt I had read in the comics, but Leto kinda did right by me. Plus, if you’ve been reading comics lately, then *spoiler alert* you know that there are apparently three Jokers. Yeah, whatever. Anyway, I feel like Leto earned his spot as one of the three. I was picking up what he was putting down. Will Smith was spectacular, and I say that as a guy who’s not necessarily a Will Smith fan. I kinda cheered in my heart when he died in I Am Legend. That’s where I stand on The Fresh Prince, so I was equally surprised by his performance. But the true standout, though, HAS to be Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Ho Lee Shit! I grew up with “stout” Amanda Waller, so I wasn’t too happy when they hotted her up in The New 52. When she appeared on Arrow, again, she was the svelte Amanda Waller. No, I needed someone who could convincingly be referred to as “The Wall”. In my mind, Marsha Warfield was always the perfect person to play Waller (has anyone seen her lately? Someone should probably check in on her!). Then Davis came along and showed me there were other options. No, she doesn’t have the weight, but she’s hella imposing, and such an amazing character. I’d watch 2 hours of just her, but there’s no way they could sell that, so they had to give us Suicide Squad instead. Whatever. I’ll take it. She is cold blooded, and I loved every minute she was onscreen.

cw heroes

Can we talk about something, though? It’s going back to the Marvel/DC comparisons. I’ve come to realize that I don’t want world building from the DC movies. I’d kinda like them to all be standalone. My biggest issue with Dawn of Justice was that I felt that, tonally, it was the wrong cornerstone on which to build a cinematic universe. As a movie on its own, though, it was more serviceable. In this movie, I would’ve been completely fine if some rando had been playing Batman instead of Affleck. Having Affleck there did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t want their movies connected because I don’t need another Marvel. I’ve got a Marvel. What I need is a DC. Sure, they think they’re doing something different by basically starting with the Justice League and branching out, but it’s still a shared universe, and I don’t think that’s playing to their strengths. If I want a shared DC Universe, I’ll just stick with watching their TV shows.

Despite all the “haters” and poor word of mouth, the movie still managed to pull in $160 million over its first five days in the US. Still, I think it’s made DC a bit more gun shy about developing projects with other characters, as they instead announced that Man of Steel 2 is now in active development. Folks claim they’re tired of always getting Batman and Superman stuff, but when given something different, they say they don’t want it. Or, in this case, they say they don’t want it, but they go see it anyway. Like I did. Anyway, I can admit when I’m wrong, and I feel like I was wrong about this movie. Sure, it’s not gonna win any awards other than, maybe, an MTV Movie Award, but it’s still pretty entertaining. If you’re on the fence, give it a shot and decide for yourself. In any case, the movie’s box office broke a bunch of records, so I’m saying Suicide Squad had the West Week Ever.

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