16th Jan2014

Track Star: Mr. Mister Vs. Boy Meets Girl

by Will

track

Welcome to Track Star! Don’t know the rules? Read this first

Today’s Challengers:

Mr. Mister – Welcome To The Real World vs. Boy Meets Girl – Reel Life

Today, we’re pitting two ’80s acts against each other. Mr. Mister had a hit song to which nobody seemed to know the words, while Boy Meets Girl were a songwriting act who weren’t used to being in the spotlight themselves. This time around, we’ve got a sampling of 6 songs from each group. Who’ll take the crown in this round of Track Star?

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Mr. Mister is a group known for two particular songs and, luckily, they both happen to be on Welcome To The Real World. This was actually the group’s second album, but served as a breakthrough since it included the #1 singles “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings”. This is a VERY ’80s album, as evidenced by the song “Don’t Slow Down”, which seems like it was written for a movie montage. “Run To Her” is a beautiful ballad, reminiscent of “Broken Wings” – known to every child of the ’80s. “Is It Love” is so ’80s that it’s wearing legwarmers and shoulder pads. Everyone knows “Kyrie”, even if they don’t know what’s being said (for the record, it’s “Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel.” It’s Latin for “Lord, have mercy.”). The album wraps up with the title track, “Welcome To The Real World”, which sounds like another montage anthem.

Boy+Meets+Girl+-+Reel+Life+-+CD+ALBUM-500730

Best known for their song “Waiting For A Star To Fall”, Boy Meets Girl spent most of the ’80s in the shadows of other people. The group was comprised of the songwriting duo of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam. They wrote Whitney Houston’s hits “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, while they provided background vocals on Deniece Williams’s “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”. In 1988, they released Reel Life, which included their hit “Waiting…”, along with 9 other songs. I love this album because they sound like the prototype for the California Dreams – strong female vocals, great harmonies, and a sweet, poppy sound. The Dreams comparison begins with the opening track, “Bring Down The Moon”, which, then, leads us right into “Waiting For A Star To Fall”. Next up, “Stormy Love” and “If You Run” just further the comparison between Boy Meets Girl and the Dreams. “Restless Dreamer” is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Because this came later in the decade, I have to say that this feels and sounds more like a ’90s album than an ’80s album. Just listening to this and Mr. Mister back to back, it’s apparent that they weren’t contemporaries. The album closes out with “Someone’s Got To Send Out Love”, which is giving off a California Dreams ballad feel. Considering my love for that show and those songs, I’m really pulling for this album to win this round. Can it do it, though? Let’s find out.

You really could’ve seen where this one was headed, as I simply loved Reel Life. Sure, it suffers from “they all sound the same”-itis, but that’s not a problem if you’re a fan of that sound. At the end of the day, Reel Life just has more repeat “listenability” to me than Welcome To The Real World. Sure, there’s “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings”, but there’s not a whole lot other than those two. There are strong, serviceable tracks on the album, but they just aren’t as consistent as the songs on Reel Life. I feel like Boy Meets Girl have aged better, even though Mr. Mister are included on every 80s collection infomercial. It’s the “hidden gem” nature of Reel Life that really went a long way in this match-up.

The Winner:

Boy Meets Girl – Reel Life

Boy+Meets+Girl+-+Reel+Life+-+CD+ALBUM-500730

For those playing along at home, agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!

07th Apr2011

So, Which TV Network Are You?

by Will

I’m not sure if this is obvious to some, but the “television experience” has changed a LOT in just a few short years. Once upon a time, people were concerned about airdates and antenna positioning, however, the prevalence of DVR and cable have pretty much done away with all of that. The aspect which has experienced the greatest change, however, is that of network branding. Currently, networks no longer really have a specific identity, instead choosing to let their shows speak for themselves. This can be confusing, though, as what does it say about a network when its most successful shows involve crime scene semen or anti-social nerd caricatures? This wasn’t always the case. There was a time, not that long ago, when networks not only promoted their programming, but also their identities. This was true from the biggest network affiliate to the smallest local syndicated outlet. For example, Channel 5 used to show the same reruns of Mr. Belvedere, Three’s Company, and Who’s The Boss?, but for the summer of ’92, they expected you to refer to it all as “Camp Teeheehaha”. Sure, you’d seen the shows before, but they were taking advantage of the American experience of going off to summer camp in an attempt to rebrand the shows. That’s some Don Draper shizz right there! Networks did little things like this to show that they supported their series; after all, they’d already paid for the syndication rights, so they might as well get their money’s worth. Nowadays, all we have are court shows. If you miss one, another will be on right after it. There’s no real need to promote, as there’s no real difference: sassy black woman judge, sassy white woman judge, sassy might-be-Latina judge, etc. The shows have changed, but so has the promotion of said shows. So, where am I going with this? Well, growing up, I used to think about which network I’d want to be on were I to have my own series. As I grew from boy to man, in what was (to me) a golden age of television, I noticed certain things about each network that made me want to park myself on their prime-time lineup. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

ABC

This one is pretty much a no-brainer, as anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s knows where I’m going with this. ABC had a bunch of shows which made them seem like The Touchy-Feely Network, whether it was the family drama of Life Goes On, or the generational experiences of Thirtysomething. Judith Light starred in the riveting TV movie of The Ryan White Story, and families loved gathering around to watch dads across America get hit in the crotch on America’s Funniest Home Videos. All of those shows, however, had NOTHING on the powerhouse known as TGIF.

I’m not going to go into the history and lineup of the TGIF block, ’cause most of y’all were there. Maybe it’s the comic fanboy in me, but what I loved most about TGIF was the shared universe. I guess I’m always looking for a sense of community, and I loved how the early series tended to be related to each other in some way: Mark Cooper (Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper) subbed for Michelle Tanner’s (Full House) class, while Harriet Winslow (Family Matters) was the elevator operator at Larry & Balki’s job (Perfect Strangers). Steve Urkel (Family Matters) did a science project with Mark Foster (Step By Step), while Dana Foster (Step By Step) gave love advice to Cory Matthews (Boy Meets World) at Sea World. With all of this crossover action, it was kinda fun trying to imagine where I might fit in. Maybe I’d be friends with Eddie Winslow, like Weasel and Waldo Geraldo Faldo. Or maybe Karen Foster would reject me before her character oddly disappeared to pursue a country music career. Or maybe I’d be the black friend that Cory and Shawn used to have when Minkus was still around. The possibilities were endless!

One of this biggest perks of a perch on the TGIF lineup was that you also got to host the Saturday Morning Preview special. These are relics of days gone by, but back when networks still had Saturday morning cartoons, they always kicked off the season with the Saturday Morning Preview one Friday night in September (Sure, NBC had one, too, but those were usually hosted by Cosby kids or those awkward kids from ALF or The Torkelsons). The TGIF ones were great, as everyone was (usually) still in character and they genuinely seemed excited about dreck like Hammerman and Little Rosie. Everything was awesome in TGIF Land! As an added bonus, once Disney bought ABC, every show was pretty much required to do a stint at Disney World, so free vacation!

CBS

Growing up, I can’t ever remember wanting to be on CBS. That’s not to say that I didn’t watch CBS shows. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Up until the dawn of the CSI Era, CBS got a bad rap as The Old Folks’ Network. Yes, they had programming like Murder, She Wrote and 60 Minutes, but I never saw it like that. If anything, I always felt that CBS shows had a sense of maturity that couldn’t be found on other networks. I grew up watching Murphy Brown and Designing Women - both shows that spoke more to my experience of being raised by strong, single women from the South. So, I never wanted to be on CBS, as I felt I was already there. Next!

NBC

While ABC was courting me with TGIF, NBC had another acronym waiting in the wings for my affection: TNBC. By far, the most successful NBC branding of that era was “Must-See TV”, but I couldn’t really relate to that. I enjoyed the shows, but they all took place in Manhattan, as the protagonists seemed to have these fantasy jobs that paid for their massive apartments. As much as I love New York, I wasn’t gonna be on “Must-See Thursday” unless I sold a joint to Theo Huxtable or got transferred to Hillman College. Then, along came TNBC as a world of possibility for young black guys. Sure, Lisa Turtle didn’t do much for The Cause, but California Dreams came along and showed me that I could be a drummer. And there was that black dude on The Guys Next Door - sure, no one remembers that show, but I remember he was there. Then, we got Saved By The Bell: The New Class, which always seemed to have a slot for a hip, dancing black guy that needed to be filled. And Hang Time - a show about basketball! C’mon! As a teenager growing up in the late 90s, nowhere felt like “home” as much as TNBC. Yes, I realize that those shows were basically created for girls, but I still kinda felt like those characters were my people.

The BIGGEST perk of being on NBC, however, is one of these:

I don’t know if it’s contractual or what, but if you’re on an NBC show, you are pretty much guaranteed to film one of these public service announcements. A lot of PSAs just come off kinda clunky, but The More You Know has gained a special place in the annals of pop culture. Most PSAs are lame, but I always saw these as some kind of badge of honor. I’ll take one of these over those Truth.com kids ANY day!

Fox

Oh, Fox! It’s amazing how an entertainment network can be so edgy, while its news wing is so conservative. Fox was founded on Married…with Children, so that has colored its identity. While ABC was the Touchy-Feely Network, Fox was on the complete other end of that spectrum. Besides the early reality fare like World’s Greatest Police Chases, there was a “Fox Show” model: the aforementioned Married…, Top of the Heap, even Herman’s Head. Generally, if you wanted to make middle America uncomfortable for about 6 episodes, and your show wouldn’t work anywhere else, then Fox was the place to be. Even to this day, I’m surprised by how much Fox Standards & Practices allows on the air – the entire Seth MacFarlane franchise is a good example of this.

I’ve admired Fox because they are willing to take chances. They still carry shows that you just wouldn’t see anywhere else, and they miss more than they hit. The beauty of the network, however, is that it lives by American Idol alone. The show airs 5 months of the year, but the ratings are high enough to make Fox the #1 Network for the entire season. Growing up, all they had was The Simpsons, but the attitude seemed to be the same as it is now. Sure, reality programming has evolved, and Fox has taken advantage of that, but it’s still the same old Fox. I’d want to be on Fox ’cause they’ll promote the Hell out of your show during NFL and MLB games, but you’re still gonna get cancelled after they move your show to Sundays at 7:00 PM.

UPN

Has there ever been a network with more of an identity crisis than UPN? It’s remembered as The Black Network, but that’s not entirely accurate. Sure, the network had a lot of horrible black shows, like Homeboys in Outer Space and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, but there was so much more to it than that. The oddest part of UPN was the it’s prelaunch reputation didn’t match what ended up on the screen. Here’s the pre-launch promo for the network:

As you see, it’s relying on the reputation of the shows that had been developed by Paramount in the past, yet doesn’t really go into detail as to what we should expect from the network. Were they just going to rerun all those shows they just mentioned? Should we be expecting new stuff? Classical music! Rock music! Then, the network launched, and we were introduced to DiResta, Marker and Platypus Man. When your network is bolstered by shows starring a Mad About You costar and Richard Greico, you’re in trouble. Yeah, there was Star Trek: Voyager, but it could also be said that UPN was the nail in the Trek coffin, as both of its offerings were reviled by fans. Early UPN was the television equivalent of the Dot Com Boom, as they really just threw around a lot of ideas to see if they’d stick. Richard Dean Anderson as a cowboy. A Love Boat reboot. A bunch of shows NBC had knocked off their schedule because they apparently weren’t “New York” enough. Through all of this, there was one spot where I could see myself.

Around the time the NBC’s TNBC block was at its peak, UPN started toying around with a similar concept for weekday afternoons. Comprised of reruns of Sweet Valley High and a new teen show called Breaker High, the network adopted the slogan “UPN is U’pn”, which was pronounced “oo-pin”. Sure, it made no sense, and to say it aloud sounds like something you’d hear in a commercial for Dunkaroos. Maybe they were implying that UPN was moving up? Maybe UPN was jumping? I don’t know, but where there are teen shows, I’ll be there. Anyway, Breaker High was about a bunch of kids who were in a semester-at-sea program. It had everything you’d come to expect from teen shows, but starred a charismatic Ryan Gosling and Tyler Labine. I loved the Hell out of that show, even though it didn’t even last an entire season. The U’pn block ran for about 3 months on a daily schedule until it just disappeared one day in November, as the timeslot was given back to the stations. Breaker High finished up its run on Sunday mornings, but the only time I ever saw anything worthwhile in that network was the 3-month U’pn Era.

The WB

OK, I already covered the fact that I’m drawn to things that give off a sense of community, and no network exemplified that as much as The WB. When it first launched, the network’s promos revolved around the image that all of the stars hung out on the Warner Bros backlot. Going to work seemed like it would be a ton of fun, as you’d see Nikki Cox on the elevator, and run into Tia and Tamara Mowry on the way to the set.

Plus, I was entering a point in my life where I really kinda wanted to be in a boyband. While girls my age were pining for heartthrobs, I wanted to be one, and nobody developed teen stars quite like The WB. The stars of those shows kept the teen magazine industry in business for the better part of a decade. If you were under the age of 20, and wanted to make it big, you either needed to fly to Orlando and audition for Lou Pearlman, or you needed to get yourself on a WB show.

Even though it’s a bit of a joke in some circles, The WB did more for pop culture over a decade than people realize. I explored this once before, and my feelings haven’t changed. For that reason, The WB is where I’d want my show to air. You can thank them for Buffy, even if you blame them for Katherine Heigl. To top things off, I think they had a really classy send-off video. A network hadn’t folded since the DuMont Network, so I had no frame of reference for these things. However, if you’ve got to go out, this is the way to do it:

09th Mar2011

Peter Engel’s Forgotten Children: Obscure Teen Sitcoms Part I

by Will

I’ve never made a secret of my love of bad teen television. My love for the TNBC franchise is only second to my Power Rangers obsession. That said, I watched that lineup from its inception to its demise at the hands of Discovery Kids. What some people may not know is that the bulk of the TNBC offerings were the work of one Mr. Peter Engel. Primarily a television producer, Engel’s professional journey has been somewhat unorthodox.  He got his big break producing teen sitcoms, primarily for NBC. Later on, he became Dean of Pat Roberson’s Regent University. Once that ended, he somehow found himself producing NBC’s Last Comic Standing. What I love most about Engel is that he found a way to build an empire by recycling the same tropes. We’re all familiar with the hits, such as Saved By the Bell and California Dreams, but I want to focus on the shows that never reached the same level of success as those shows, despite being cut from the very same cloth.

As I said before, we already know the bigger shows: Good Morning, Miss Bliss (which we now refer to as Saved By The Bell: The Junior High Years), Saved By The Bell, and its spinoffs The New Class and The College Years. Mixed in there was California Dreams (basically “Zack Attack: The Series”), which also had a lengthy run. Now, if we’re going chronologically, Hang Time would be next, however it’s not technically an “Engel Show”. Go watch the first season – it’s not even really a sitcom. Engel came onboard during the second season, and basically changed it into Saved By The Bell: The Basketball Team. No, even Hang Time isn’t obscure enough for what we’re here to do. I want to talk about USA High.

USA High was a Peter Engel show that aired, appropriately enough, on USA Network, from 1997-2001. It has been said that it was originally developed for TNBC, but it somehow became a companion show to Saved By The Bell: The New Class reruns when USA Network acquired the rights to them. At its core, USA High was Saved By The Bell: The Paris Years. Basically, it was all the SBTB adventures you’d already seen, only now they were set at the American Academy boarding school in Paris, France.

Oddly enough, it felt like the whole Paris thing was added as an afterthought, as there are no European qualities to the show whatsoever. The dorm where the kids live is just the Saved By The Bell: The College Years set reused. They hang out at Cafe USA, which is really just the American Chain Restaurant for Tourists version of The Maxx. There’s an outdoor nighttime set that they used for date episodes, but it was just some cafe tables next to a window. Honestly, the show could’ve been set anywhere, as the locale never really factored into anything that took place.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the characters, many of whom you’ll recognize. First up, there’s Jackson Greene (portrayed by Josh Holland), who’s our resident pretty boy schemer. Of course, most of his schemes are just attempts to date All American, albeit flatchested, Lauren Fontaine (portrayed by Elena Lyons). Oh, did I mention that Lauren is a waitress at Cafe USA? Next, we had our musclebound German heartthrob, Christian (portrayed by Thomas Magiar). Here’s where you might say, “Well, he’s German, so that’s European, right?” It might’ve been special if Saved By The Bell: The New Class hadn’t added a German kid to their cast the previous year. Then, there’s goody two-shoes honor student Ashley Elliot (portrayed by Kristen Miller), who traded in Jesse’s feminism for a cute British accent. In the “annoying little guy” role, we’ve got Bobby Lazzarini (portrayed by James Madio). Rounding out the cast is probably the biggest change from the SBTB formula, which was the role of Winnie Barnes (portrayed by Marquita Terry). While Lisa Turtle was originally a Jewish character (what? you didn’t know that?), it’s clear that Winnie was black from the get-go. She’s stereotypical enough that it wouldn’t be surprising to hear “I’ma cut you!” come out of her mouth. Switching things up, it’s Christian who’s madly in love with her instead of Lazzarini. All of their adventures happen under the watch of bumbling Headmaster (and Ashley’s father), Mr. Elliot (portrayed by Nicholas Guest). In the second season of the show, Lazzarini’s written out, and replaced by California Dreams alum William James Jones in the role of “Dwayne ‘Excess’ Wilson”.

Anyway, I’m always surprised that more people haven’t seen USA High, as there were a total of 95 episodes compared to Saved By The Bell‘s 86 episodes. I understand it never had the network/syndication exposure of Saved By The Bell, but I’m sure people just stumbled across it and said “What’s this show?”, without really knowing what they were watching.

Where Are They Now?

Most of the cast of USA High have faded into obscurity, as teen sitcom stars are prone to do. Engel’s really good at “keeping it in the family”, as shown by his decision to hire Jones from California Dreams. Josh Holloway went on to play a date rapist in City Guys (another Engel show), while Marquita Terry went on to join the cast of Malibu, CA (yet another Engel show). Elena Lyons appears to have gotten a boob job, and can be see in Broken Lizard’s Club Dread. Kristen Miller went on to costar in That’s My Bush, as well as She Spies. James Madio went on to appear in HBO’s Band of Brothers, and has a steady career in voice acting.

Engel Extra!

While USA High was cranking along on USA Network, Engel got One World added to the TNBC schedule. Basically, the show followed a couple who had taken foster kids into their home. It was heavier stuff than typical Engel fare, but it was still teen-focused. Honestly, the fact that it was on the TNBC schedule was a testament to how much the television landscape had changed by that point. Ten years prior, the show would’ve aired in the same primetime slots as ALF or The Torkelsons. As primetime got edgier, “family shows” were now being seen as kid’s fare. Anyway, the most recognizable cast member was Alisa Reyes, who had grown up as a cast member on All That. Apparently, she’s a DJ for Playboy Radio now. Oh, and it had that kid who starred in all those Johnny Tsunami Disney Channel movies. Anyway, One World tackled those hard hitting questions, like “Do foster kids hook up with each other?” No, seriously.

Join us next time, as we tackle City Guys, and a little known gem called Malibu, CA.

25th Aug2010

RePlay: Natural – Keep It Natural

by Will

When last we met, I covered Solid Harmonie and their place in the long line of forgotten groups from Trans Continental Records. For every ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Jordan Knight, there was C-Note, The Lyte Funky Ones (LFO), and Natural. Well, this week, I want to talk about that last group, Natural.

When it came to bubblegum pop, one of the biggest gripes from the “music snob community” was that the artists didn’t play their own instruments. As far as boybands went, Lou Pearlman had already delivered the harmony group (BSB), the dance group (‘NSYNC), and he decided to finally give the critics what they felt had been lacking: a boyband where the members played their own instruments. Since their acoustic foundation would give them a more “natural” sound, that became their group name.

Natural came about after Lou’s boyband empire had peaked, post-BSB/’NSYNC lawsuits, and right around the time of O-Town. There are conflicting reports as to how the group actually got together, but the main point is that Lou did what he did with most of his boybands: he sent them off to Germany for grooming. When you get down to their look, they were just like every other boyband: there was the blond, sensitive one; the edgy one, with the spiky hair; the one who’s your mom’s favorite, etc. The gimmick, of course, was that they were a band made of boys, but not a boyband. To break it down, they acted as if the music came first, while avoiding some of the common tropes of that era’s boyband, such as smooth dance moves. In execution, the music came off as “BBMak, by way of California Dreams“.  It’s very reminiscent of Guys Next Door (am I the only one who remembers that old NBC show?).There’s definitely a camp factor, as the songs are cheesier than Velveeta, but they’re damn catchy! It was a different sound, as this period was still dominated by the sound of Max Martin, and the rest of the guys are Cheiron Studios. While there were cutsey pop acts of the time who depended on a more acoustic sound (The Moffats, the afore-mentioned BBMak), most of those groups failed to really make a dent in the landscape. Trying something different may have been the wrong call for Natural.

Keep It Natural, like so many other lost Trans Con albums, was released in Germany. Here’s the video for their first single, “Put Your Arms Around Me”. Hey, remember the days when every TV show/movie ripped off The Matrix, even in cases where it didn’t fit? Wait for it

Bet they’re wishing they hadn’t taken the red pill…

In the US, the single was released as a promo in Claires stores, yet wasn’t universally released until the exclusivity window closed, resulting in Natural not getting much airplay outside of Orlando.

Musically, Natural weren’t “bad”, per se – especially in the pop climate of the time. It just seemed that they were being molded, visually, into something that they were not. The next single, “Will It Ever”, wouldn’t have been out of place on Backstreet Boys’ Millennium album. You’ll notice, however, the addition of another forced dance break. The cut scenes and wacky angles are meant to mask the fact they they are not ‘NSYNC 2: Electric Boogaloo.

This video is a crane shotstravaganza! With a hint of Liquid Dreams…

One of the final singles from their debut was “Let Me Count The Ways”, which ended up as their highest charting German single (#11). Again, this is a pretty catchy song, but it’s not the kind of thing being delivered by their labelmates in the States. I will admit, though, that this video may have hurt them. I know Europe is a bit more liberal with things, but what is she, like, 14? These boys are so lucky they were out in a pre-Chris Hansen world…

We were just gonna watch some movies and hang out. Well, yeah, I brought beer…

Natural went on to release another album, It’s Only Natural, before parting ways with Lou. That’s when things really got ugly. Lou tried to keep the “Natural” name, as he was going to replace the guys who had broken his boyband rules (no facial hair, no girlfriends, etc). Meanwhile, the guys tried to rebrand themselves as more of a rock group, but nothing came from it. Neither album was released in the US, and Natural’s only real impact on North America was that their 2 lead singers provided the singing voices for Bart & Millhouse in the boyband episode of The Simpsons.

At the end of the day, Keep It Natural is a really enjoyable pop album. It’s not representative of the “2000 Boyband Sound”, and that may have been a blessing and a curse. It set Natural apart from the countless other boybands, but it simply wasn’t what the audience wanted at the time. I always feel I have to reiterate that the reason I do this column isn’t as a “This Is A Thing That Exists” piece, but rather it’s an attempt to show value in something that may have originally been overlooked. This music isn’t going to change the world, and it’s not groundbreaking. At the same time, it also doesn’t require you to follow a tweets for hidden meaning, nor does it force you to wonder if the guys eat truffle fries. It’s good old fashioned “Hey, ‘phone’ rhymes with ‘alone’” pop. It’s catchy and it’s fun – definitely earworm material. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and pop is just pop. I, for one, don’t see anything wrong with that.

11th Mar2010

Don’t Wake Me Up If I’m Dreamin’

by Will

californiadreamsheader-764917

OK, so my love for California Dreams has been documented on this site before. That said, I pretty much thought I was alone in the CD fan camp. That’s when Jimmy Fallon came along and rocked my shit.

About a year ago, Jimmy Fallon took over Conan’s job, as the host of Late Night. Nobody really knew what to expect, as his SNL work was decent, but his movies had been terrible. As he took over the position, it was clear that his tenure would be quirky and off the wall.

As an example of this quirkiness, Jimmy decided that one of his first goals would be to organize a Saved By The Bell cast reunion. After all, it was the 20th anniversary of the show, and he wanted to pay tribute to a show we had all watched back in the day. Well, he got everyone to agree (including an AMAZING skit with Mark Paul Gosselaar AS Zack Morris), except Tiffani Thiessen and Dustin Diamond. Tiffani didn’t want to really be associated with the show, as that’s not what she “wanted to be remembered for today”. Dustin, on the other hand, is just an asshole now. So, no reunion.

Fast forward to last Thursday night: Jimmy’s been spending all week celebrating his 1 year anniversary, and he mentions his inability to reunite the cast. It was unfortunate, HOWEVER, he has gotten the next best thing. Without any promos or prior announcement (besides a twitter spoiler from a TV insider), Jimmy has managed to reunite the cast of California Dreams!

They all come out onstage, most of them looking great. Not only does Jimmy let each one give an update on what they’ve been up to, but then he had them perform the theme song! I just about died. In any case, I’ve always got an opinion, so here were my thoughts on the reunion:

-As great as it was to see everyone, not everyone was present. They were missing Lorena Costa (Diana Uribe) and Sly’s cousin, Mark Winkle (Aaron Jackson). It may seem insignificant, but these were 2 regular characters. Not only did the band practice in Lorena’s loft for the majority of the series, but she was also co-band manager with Sly. Plus, she was the rotating love interest whenever the guys got sick of Kelly Packard. Mark was the band’s keyboard player and handled vocals. His character was a bit of a whiny bitch, but he was still a Dream.

-Brent Gore, it was good to see you! As leader of the Dreams, Matt Garrison, Brent left the show after the 2nd season. He looked good, but he kinda looked like Aging Rock Star (think Rick Springfield).

-William James Jones, as drummer, Tony Wicks. Acting hadn’t been so kind to WJJ after California Dreams, as he was only getting cameo roles on shows like Living Single. He looked good, though, and it was great to hear that he’s got a wife and kids at home.

-Jay Anthony Franke, as mysterious heartthrob, Jake Summers. Basically, The Fonz of the Dreams. Oh, Jake, Jake, Jake…it was a brave move coming on TV. There were a lot of expectations, and I’m not sure they were met. He’s gained a bit of weight, and he’s bald. He was still kinda mysterious. Looked a bit like Duff from Ace of Cakes, though…He’s living in Australia with his wife, and they just shot a pilot. Lord knows what it’s about, as he didn’t elaborate. That said, he clearly wants the world to know about it. So there.

-Heidi Noelle Lenhardt, as Jenny Garrison. Full disclosure: Growing up, I was IN LOVE with her! She had an amazing voice, and she was just a striking brunette. She left the show after the first season, so she definitely left me wanting more. Seeing her at the reunion, however, was bittersweet.

First of all, she’s blonde now. Not really a fan. Also, it seemed like she was coming in slightly flat on her part of the song, so maybe she hasn’t been singing much these days. Anyway, I did love the tongue ring she was rocking!

-Kelly Packard, as Tiffany Smith. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much from her. She’s certainly been the most active, as she went on to Baywatch, and co-hosted Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Like Heidi, she said she’s taking care of her family, but mentioned that she had a movie coming out soon. It seemed almost like she was shy, and I felt she should’ve said more since she’s been doing more.

-Jennie Kwan, as exchange student Samantha Woo. She was so cute and nervous, but she was also gracious. Though she didn’t mention it, she was also a member of girl pop group Nobody’s Angel (you’ve seen ‘em. They were on that Boy Meets World episode at that diner. Remember?). She was also the voice of Suki on Avatar: The Last Airbender.

-Michael Cade, as sleazy band manager with the heart of gold, Sylvester “Sly” Winkle. Cade looked good. I’ll give him that. He’s charismatic, and he’s still trying to make the acting thing happen. And he’s pretty ripped, especially for a 37 year old.

-When they performed, I wonder how they decided who would sing what parts. After all, “Matt” and “Jake” sang the same parts during different times in the series, as did “Jenny” and “Sam”. I felt kinda like Heidi should’ve sung more (since I felt she was better, vocally, than Jennie), but I guess it was only fair how they did it, seeing as how Jennie Kwan had been on the show longer.

Anyway, here’s the video so that you can follow along at home:

12th Oct2008

How’s Usher Gonna Get Off That Damn Mountain? And Other Reality TV Stuff…

by Will

“You want White Castle, need White Castle, long as you got me it won’t be no hassle.”

- I’m usually not the biggest Weird Al fan, but his cover of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” had me laughing for about 30 minutes. Absolutely priceless!

- I really wanna work for the company in Britney’s new “Womanizer” video. I mean, I never knew the fauxhawk to be “corporate”, but it seems to fly at that organization. Let’s hope this really is her comeback this time. Not the biggest fan of the song, but the video helps to sell it. MUCH better than that anime shit for “Break the Ice”…hey, didn’t that video end with “to be continued”? Let’s hope they don’t make good on that promise. Anyway, Brit’s looking pretty damn hot, so I guess we could all use a dose of crazy, if it does a body that good.

- Speaking of “to be continued” videos, Usher just released the video for “Trading Places”, but it’s just a random-ass R&B video. Last I remember, Mr. Raymond was stuck up on that mountain. How the Hell did he get off that damn mountain?!

- I’ve gone from a state of loving everything on MTV to hating everything on MTV. I guess I finally caught up with the rest of the real world (no pun intended). I was looking forward to Exiled, but realized I’d never watched enough My Super Sweet 16 to really care enough about those girls. I’m SO over The Hills, as well as the fact that Audrina and Whit have spin-offs coming. Don’t care about The Island, ’cause I really wanted a C.T./Dunbar ‘roid rage face-off, but that wasn’t in the cards.

Who the Hell thought Man & Wife deserved to be ripped off the web? It’s like the old Loveline, but nowhere near as informative. If anything, it actually makes me a bit uncomfortable. It’s like an interactive version of those shitty, traveling Black stage shows. You know, they always have names like, Seeing Jesus on the Downlow, and star hasbeens from Good Times & What’s Happening!!.

Sex…with Mom & Dad? Really? Dr. Drew, is this the best you could come up with? Do you miss your boy, Adam? Was he the brains of the operation? Now, this show does NOTHING for me. In the past, MTV sex shows were edgy, like the afore-mentioned Loveline. That was pretty groundbreaking for TV, but this is like Drew needed something to hold him over between Celebrity Rehab sessions. I don’t really think the show accomplishes much other than making the teens, the parents, and the viewers EXTREMELY uncomfortable. If anything, you end up learning the mom used to be a whore, and doesn’t want the daughter to be a whore. But the daughter’s only gonna react with the whole “Let me live my life and be a whore if I want to” response. In some ways, I kinda agree with that, but they could’ve had that “breakthrough” off camera.

The only shows I can still stomach are Making the Band 4 (I TOTALLY called the Danity Kane break-up before the season started!) and Parental Control. Plus, True Life and Made are always good entertainment.

-If you love “meta” humor, you’ll love this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HE9OQ4FnkQ . It’s A-Ha’s “Take On Me”, only it’s been remixed to tell you exactly what’s going on in the video. Watch it and you’ll understand. It’s one of those things where I wish I’d thought of it first.

-I’ve been wondering this for a while, but HD Radio – why? So, you mean to tell me there are secret stations, hidden between the stations I know, playing a bunch of different songs? If these songs are so great, then why hasn’t Clear Channel already shoved them down my throat? They know exactly what I like! No, these songs are being hidden, like ugly children and incontinent pets. They try to sell the fact that it’s near-CD quality sound, but if I wanted that, I’d buy the CD. When it’s free, I can deal with a degredation of sound quality. After all, you get what you pay for, and free radio is workin’ out just fine. Nice try, HD Radio, but you’re gonna have to try harder than that!

So, last night J. Christ. (no, not Jesus – He’s got more important things to do than read this blog; He’s too busy hanging out with all those rappers) told me that I don’t nearly keep up this site enough. I’ve gotta say that she’s right. I mean, in my neglect, I forgot to acknowledge my 5-year blogiversary back in July. I’m a big fan of streaks, and I know I’m always citing the anniversary of when I started blogging, or the anniversary of when I bought the williambrucewest.com domain name, or the anniversary of when I started actually using that domain name – plainly put, I like milestones. Anyway, I started rambling a little over five years ago, and man have I done nothing since then. I find that whenever I do these milestone posts, it forces me to look back in a pseudo-pessimistic tone. Well, I’m gonna try not to do that this time around. But, man, what I’ wouldn’t give to go back to being 13, when all I really looked forward to was a new episode of California Dreams every Saturday, and the promise of a positive, yet unknown future. Well, we can only go up from here, right? In the words of (probably unknown to most of you) Swedish pop star, Bosson, “we live, we die, and we learn to find the things we live and die for.” Guess I’m still learning to find those things. Here’s to 5 more years of the journey.

21st Dec2007

San Diego Dreaming Part 5: You Can’t Go Back Again

by Will

“Where did you come from & are there others like you?”

So, on the last night of the con, Sunday, I had dinner with my friend Gina, and Keith tagged along for dessert. On the way back, we dropped Gina off at this top secret party thrown by Kevin Smith’s View Askew folks; I swear there was a treasure map/scavenger hunt just for admission. Anyway, Keith and I were left to fend for ourselves for the evening’s entertainment. Keith called his friend, Mark, and we ended up meeting back at a hotel bar downtown. We were all settling in, when we were introduced to Rachelle *cue glitter effect and cartoony harp music; throw the action into slow motion, just for good measure*, who’d be taking care of us for the night. Immediately, it was obvious that there was something about Rachelle. First of all, she carried herself so well. It’s hard to convey in words, but she had this confidence, this air about her. Also, she played the role of gracious hostess, without any hit of boredom or condescension. She’d come through, with a simple, “What can I get for you, gentlemen?” and it was like time stopped. She really seemed pleased that we were there. And the feeling was mutual.

Now, Rachelle had this Kelly-Packard-post-California-Dreams look to her. She was an attractive girl, who just screamed “girl next door”. We were all stupid and drunk, so we took a shine to her. Keith, most of all, seemed interested. We sort of had this plan to find him a wife in San Diego, as part of our ongoing quest to figure out our lives by grasping at grandiose straws. It sounds like hyperbole, and you’ll think I’m full of crap, but she really was perfect. She was the that perfect girl you’re always told is out there; the one where God broke the mold when He made her. She’d reinstill your faith in women. I can’t reproduce the conversations of that night as they just flowed. She was witty, she could match you word for word, and she always seemed to find a way to surprise you. An hour into things, we all had a crush on this girl. I think I uttered something like, “Where did you come from, and are there others like you?” Yeah…

So, at that point, she actually pulled up a seat, and we learned about what she was studying in school, how she loved the beach, stuff about her hometown, etc. As the night wore on, she and Keith really did seem to connect. This was awesome, as I’m “Captain Vicarious”, so it was like I had won, as well. Man, I really need to get a life, but we’ll chalk this up as “Will being happy for his friend”. When we were about to leave, Keith said something like, “You’d better be careful, ’cause I’ll totally come back tomorrow night.” She didn’t seem fazed, and said that he should definitely come back. She told him the hours she’d be there, and that she hoped to see him again. We’re all being stupid, obnoxious jerks as we’re high-fiving him, and debating whether or not he should actually go back the next night.

Well, the next night, Keith and I decided to try out the SD bar scene. We went to this place whose name I can’t remember, but we have a picture online somewhere. Anyway, they seemed to be having some kind of private party that we managed to get into, but we realized all of the women were engaged. All of them. WTF?! I’ve found that every woman in SD is hot, tattooed (I swear, every woman had a tattoo!), and married. Well, we got bored with that pretty soon, so we started thinking about what to do next. That’s when we remembered that Rachelle would be working. Now, I was really starting to adhere to that whole “You can’t go home again” philosophy. I don’t know if it’s my disdain for plans, or me just being bitter, but I never feel like those situations end up like you want them to. If we’d just run into her, that would be one thing. But the whole thing was just too…premeditated for my liking. But I was drunk, and we had nothing better to do. So, we start heading in the direction of that hotel. Here’s where you might want to start paying attention, ’cause it’s a doozy:

While we’re walking, we realize we don’t have a camera. For some reason (maybe this blog), I start to think that we need a picture with her, or no one will ever believe the story. Yeah, THAT makes sense. Well, we now had to get a camera to remember this forever. We get to the hotel, and there’s this guy leaning against the outside wall, smoking. Now, if we’re judging a book by its cover, he seemed kind of like the jerky frat guy. Probably has a string of girls whom he treats like shit, while he prefers to hang out with his bros. Anyway, we’re drunk and we need help, so I ask him “Do you know if there’sa drug store or 7/11 nearby”. Oddly enough, he was cool and directed us to a 7/11 nearby. We walk the couple of blocks to the store, we get caught in the maelstrom of the locals stocking up on cigs and soda before the next bus comes along. We finally get the camera, check out, and walk out the door.

Now, I need to explain something else: Keith had had Lasik about a month prior to our trip to SD. They’d screwed up, and the surgery didn’t take, so he was in a sort of “holding pattern” as they waited to see if the eyes would straighten themselves out. He could get by, in that he wasn’t going to walk into traffic or anything, but he couldn’t make out features or details. So, I was constantly describing things and women to him. He’d see the outline, realize it was a girl, and ask, “Ooh, is she hot?!” Got all that?

OK, well, as we’re leaving the 7/11, Keith’s looking across the street to the next block, and he asks, “Ooh, is she hot?!” I was busy opening the camera, so I look up and mutter: “It’s her. Fuck.” Crossing the street, directly at us, is Rachelle in street clothes. She’s no longer the classy, hostess with the mostest. She’s still attractive, but she’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt. And walking, with his arm around her, is fratboy smoker guy who’d directed us to the 7/11 in the first damn place! He’d been waiting for her. It was too poetic to be fake. We’d been crossed by our own savior. So many emotions at once. How was someone so perfect with this guy? Stock dropping rapidly….She didn’t even see us, nor did he seem to acknowledge us. They passed us by, and she, out of our lives. I felt really bad for Keith, ’cause I really did want that unrealistic Hollywood ending. It really wasn’t about me anymore, but I just wanted to witness the whole thing. I wanted the ability to say, “I was there.” But that wasn’t to happen. Because life doesn’t work like that. To quote The 40 Year Old Virgin, “You can’t put pussy on a pedestal”. And that’s why you have to live in the moment, take every experience for what it is, and you can’t build castles on quicksand (yeah, I was going for two California Dreams references in one post; sue me!). Keith was great about it and just kind of laughed it off. That’s the kind of guy he is, and I hope I can learn to do that one day. In any case, I cursed for a couple of blocks until we came up with the grand plan to explore San Diego’s strip clubs. I’m gonna leave that story for another day, as it’s really Keith’s story, and being the master storyteller that he is, I could never do it justice. I will say, however, if you’re in the San Diego area, and you know a redhead with “Danger” tattooed across her lower back, e-mail me!

Keith and I continued to have a few crazy adventures those last few days. We ended up at the beach one day, where Keith and his “mystical connection to the water” forgot to put on enough suntan lotion. You’ve heard of sunburn, but he got sun poisoning. It wasn’t even apparent until about 12 hrs later. The worst part was that we were flying home the next day, which became an unbearable experience for him. The skin behind his knees was raw, so while sitting on the plane, these areas would start to heal, but when he stood up, the wounds would rip open again. His dealt with this for weeks after our return. He was like a blind leper. I probably should’ve just shot him to put him out of his misery. But it had taken so long to get home that I think we were just glad we made it back.

What happened, you ask? Well, when we got to the airport in SD, we were told that our flight was at least 2 hrs late, due to storms in the midwest. We’re waiting for our flight, while Keith just wants to die from the sun poisoning pain. We finally get on the plane, and it has a layover in Phoenix. We don’t deplane, but it sits on the runway for over an hr. Now, Diamond had arranged a shuttle for us, based on our being back to BWI at midnight. Well, with the unexpected delays, and empty promises that “we’d make up the time in the air”, we didn’t get a chance to call the shuttle. Not to mention the fact that I realized they had scheduled my shuttle for a day earlier. So, not only was Keith going to be late for his shuttle, there was no guarantee that there was even going to be room for me. Well, we land at 3 AM and the shuttle’s not there. We call the place, but there’s no answer…because it’s 3 AM. So, we find a Super Shuttle, and I start to haggle. I get him to agree to take us to Timonium for $40 because “that’s all the money we have”. Man, were we about to get hosed. The guy agrees to take us, but he has to drop someone off first. We’re fine with that.

Now, stay with me for this geography: BWI is in Baltimore, but this drop off was near Columbia, about 35 miles in the opposite direction of where we need to go. But we didn’t know that before we got on. We drop the guy off, no problem. Then, about 5 minutes away from the drop-off, the shuttle gets a flat tire. So, we pull off to the side of the road, but the driver doesn’t have a flashlight, so he’s doing this by the light of the moon! Plus, his jack won’t lift the shuttle high enough, so his master plan is to release enough air from the spare so that he can slip on the spare. This whole process takes about an hr. Once he gets the spare on, he realizes he had let out too much air, and the spare was going flat. So, he uses the GPS to find the nearest gas station. When we find it, it’s closed…because it’s 4:00 AM. We manage to get to another station, and he fills the tire. We finally get back to Diamond at 5:30. And we had to go to work that same day. I’d laugh if my entire life wasn’t exactly like the scenario I just decribed. People keep telling me I’ll win one day. We’ll just have to see about that…

So, what did we learn, kids? San Diego’s awesome, but Comic Con is pretty overwhelming. It’s something that you really only need to do once in your life, but also take time to explore the city. Why? Because’s everybody’s hot, and the weather’s beautiful. The most important thing I learned was that whole “live in the moment” philosophy. I can’t say I’ve adopted it, plus it takes a whole lot of alcohol and “what have I got to lose?” attitude, but I’ve certainly acknowledged its validity. I think that’s something we could all take into ’08. And that, my friends, is the story of how the West went West.

06th Jul2007

Harry Potter Asshole, Comics Lifestyle, iPods, and IDE Tags

by Will

“You’re way too beautiful girl, that’s why it’ll never work…”

I’m kind of phoning it in today, so you know what that means: random post.

-I’m trying not to talk shit about people behind their backs. Now, I try to say it to their face. It might be dick, but at least I keep it real. Here’s a fun example: after the librarian free-for-all a few weeks ago, I had dinner with a few “book people”, including a former honcho at Scholastic. The conversation turned to the Modern-day Messiah himself, Harry Potter. Whenever this comes up, I always try to stay out of the conversation. That’s the best way to stay out of trouble. But I’d had too much Pinot, so silence wasn’t an option. If I remember correctly, I came out with a, “Hey, it’s a cute little book and all, but I don’t get how it’s taken the world by storm.” It was beautiful. James & Marcus probably understand the feeling, but it’s basking in your own confrontation. You pushed the right button, and you’re enjoying the swell before the fallout. Being an asshole for asshole’s sake.

But in either the smartest or dumbest move of my career, I managed to spin it ever so successfully. After the shock and silence subsided, I swooped in with the follow-up. “Not to take anything away from the franchise, as I appreciate everything Potter has done for literacy. It’s just that, reading the thing, there was too much of a sense of ‘been there, done that.’” And they totally agreed with me. That’s when I went for the cherry. “I’m a huge Roald Dahl fan, and it offends me that Rowling is a billionaire, using pretty much his ideas, while he died a penniless, suspected child molester.” Let’s just say that the conversation totally swung back in my favor, and I was the belle of the ball. I shit you not. I’d go into more detail, but I really don’t want this anecdote showing up on Bookslut or something. I think I saw a glimmer of my future that night, so I certainly did something right.

It’s bad enough that I’m seen as the Antichrist for not liking a children’s book about a boy witch. Oh, I’m sorry. Wizard. Semantics. It mainly shocks people because I supposedly love all things childish. “Oh, it’s a kids thing? Will would love that!” I do, but even I have my limits. I guess I’m just a snob that way. I’d probably love the series had it not blown up like the Death Star. It’s the same way I abandoned Snow Patrol, 24, and Queer Eye when all they became all popular. I don’t like hype.

-Sometime I love my job, and sometimes I hate my job (yes, I realize everyone feels this way):
Love my job: got paid today
Hate my job: actually looked at the check
Love my job: debated the timeline of G.I.Joe, as it’s actually “work related”
Hate my job: while that conversation was going on, I got about 10 e-mails that could be considered “emergencies”
Love my job: It’s comics. Woot!
Hate my job: Yeah, this is gonna do wonders for that business school application
Love my job: It’s comics, yay!
Hate my job: which forced me to move back home with my mom, setting me back about 4 years psychologically

Fucking comics…

iPod Randomness:
-For some reason, I have about 8 different versions of This I Promise You. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like it was a hot party song, nor were there any remixes other than the Spanish version, Yo te Voy. Wait, I have that, so make it 9 versions. And many of them are live. And it’s not a song that changes much when sung live. That’s a sign of taking boyband fandom too far.

- I have a shitload of Peter Cetera. I remember going through a phase during senior year of Cornell, but I didn’t think I kept all of that stuff. I didn’t even know he had that many songs.

-My iPod really loves Carly Simon. And it’s funny because I only have 3 CS tracks. That’s it. And they’re all variations on the same song. I get it. Something is coming around again: this fucking song! I think it’s the song that comes up the most during shuffle.

-I’ve got a ton of California Dreams songs that are of a quality so low that I should be ashamed to even have them. Not that possessing CD songs isn’t shameful enough. I converted these to mp3 from some Real Audio files I found on someone’s website years ago. The sad thing is that they recorded them by placing a tape recorder up to the TV. So, you can guess that what I’ve got is per-it-ty shitty. But, what can I do? A nigga loves his California Dreams…

-My ‘pod glitched up on me the other day, so even though it was on random, it was playing songs in the exact order it had played them the day before. So, for awhile, I actually thought I had ESP. I was going, “The next song will be Always.” And it was! It wasn’t until about 15 songs in that I figured out what had happened. Or maybe I willed those songs to play. The world may never know.

-You certainly reap what you sow. I have always boasted about how I never pay for music, I get all my tracks from German porn sites, etc, but there’s a downside to this. No, I’m not talking about viruses. I’m talking about IDE tags. You see, when a song is encoded, it is usually assigned an IDE code, which is essentially its name. It’s the thing that, if you bought the song from iTunes, will make your file show up as “Last Call – Drops of Jupiter – Vestosterone”. In a perfect world, the IDE tag will tell you artist, song, and album. This is pretty standard on all legal, copyright protected downloads. BUT, if you get your files illegally, from some weird download site, you’re subject to all kinds of bad IDE tags. Sometimes, a song name might be in Cantonese, so you’ve just got a bunch of symbols and squiggles because they didn’t translate properly. Sometimes, you’ve got an Aretha Franklin song with the IDE tag “Big Old Fat Bitch”. And the problem with the illegal files is that you can’t change the tags (at least not without a ton of unnecessary work), so these don’t organize well in iTunes. So, the upside is I got a hot album for free, but the downside is that I can never find the damn thing because the IDE tags are all fucked up. Sometimes, they’ll even split an album. The first few tracks are by “Fall Out Boy”, while the second half of the album is by “Fallout Boy”, and iTunes doesn’t see fit to link the two. I need to look into a solution for this, as the bulk of my mp3s are from the days before the term “legal download” was even coined.

OK, that’s enough rambling for now…

02nd Jul2007

Surf Dudes, With Attitudes…

by Will

“I’m walking on eggshells here, when I’m used to fucking throwing eggs.”

I f’ing love youtube, for this alone:

Not just the credits, but the music video! This takes me back to such a better time. No student loans. No underpaid job. No heartbreak. No Quartlife Crisis. All I cared about was whether or not I’d get McDonald’s that afternoon (I was a fat kid, and I got McDonald’s almost every Saturday) and I wondered if I’d ever end up with a girl like Heidi Noelle Lenhart (“Jenny”, aka “the brunette”). God, did I love that girl. And she pretty much never worked again. Little known fact: her stepfather is Haim Saban, creator of the Power Rangers and former owner of the Fox Kids Network. That bitch’ll never have to work again!

Why is this show not on DVD?!! The fucking Waltons series is on DVD and that demographic doesn’t even know how to operate a DVD player. It’s a travesty…

16th May2007

Dress My Nest, Scrubs, Reality TV Background Characters, and The Future of Syndication

by Will

“And when the sky is falling, don’t look outside your window.”

So, I actually posted the other night, but due to a faulty wifi connection, it has been lost to space. Yup, no backup and nothing in the drafts folder. It sucks, too, because it was pretty stream of consciousness. I don’t even remember what it was about at this point.

Anyway, I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately, and this is sort of my State of the Television Address:

1) On Dress My Nest, former Queer Eye decorator Thom Filicia redesigns womens’ living areas to reflect their clothing style. This premise sounds sort ot hokey, but I’ll go with it. My problem, though, is with his assistant, Erika. I’ve read a lot of reviews on the show, and the general conclusions is that she’s probably there for Thom to bounce ideas off of, yet comes off sort of useless.

After watching the past 6 episodes, I’ve come to realize what she *really* is: She’s Thom’s hag. You see, we’ve got this whole stereotyped culture where no gay man is complete without his best galpal. And there’s the counter stereotype that no Big City single woman is complete without her “gay husband”. Yet, what strikes me is that Erika is very attractive. Not your standard hag material, which then made me realize that she’s the worst kind of hag: she’s single hottie hag who’s high maintenance as Hell. She’s the chick who just can’t find that “perfect guy”, and falls in love with Thom between her failed relationships. He ain’t having it, and would rather help her pick out a new pair of shoes. Or maybe this is all in my head and I’m going too far…

2) I don’t think there’s a better comedy than Scrubs on TV. That said, I find that Scrubs is usually so wrapped up in gimmicks that the special gimmick episodes don’t work. Case in point, the “sitcom” parody episode was on last night, and it’s really not that funny. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be unfunny, as a sort of slight at the genre, or if the formula just didn’t work for them. Scrubs never would have made it as a multi-camera, live-studio-audience sitcom. Then again, Three’s Company never would have made it as a single camera, non-laughtracked comedy. The musical episode of Scrubs also left a lot to be desired.

3) Man, what happened to The Riches? It started out so promising, and now I don’t even care anymore. I feel that’s the problem with most shows on FX. They are all about these amoral, anti-hero characters, that you don’t know whether you want to root for them or see them get caught in their lies. Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, the Shield, Dirt, The Riches… all of these shows are mired in this, and while it has proven successful, I wish FX would stop going back to the well.

4) I feel bad for the employees of work-based reality shows who *don’t* get to be cast members. From Inked, to King of Cars, to Work Out, there are people who work at these establishments who just aren’t considered “TV” enough to be featured. How does this happen? I mean, do they film really early before the rest of the employees get to work? Do they give them paid days off to repay them for stealing their shot at fame?

If you hop over to www.skysportspa.com, you’ll see that there are about 22 trainers working for Jackie Warner, yet only 7 are in the Work Out cast. Now, I understand the need to keep things contained, but I’d love to swap out a few people. Erika contributed almost nothing to this season, so I’d love to replace her with Aimet, who appears to be the most ripped Black woman I’ve ever seen. In fact, Aimet and a few other of the female trainers snuck into episode 2 this season, when Jackie decided to have her girls night slumber party. They still didn’t let Aimet speak, though. I think they should rotate the cast in and out, because I like the show, but I’m tired of most of the trainers.

5) I am all about the Andy Griffith Show right now. I’m not sure why, but something about its downhome sensibility hits all the right notes lately. Also, Sheriff Taylor has some beautiful girlfriends, from Ellie the Pharmacist to Teach Extraordinaire, Helen Crump. It’s amazing that such a slackjawed everyman pulled women like that. Don’t get me wrong; I know that Andy Griffith was considered a handsome man back then, but there was something very “Clark Kent” about that role. Almost like they didn’t want him to come off too suave, so instead, he becomes this slow, drawling nice guy.

6) Speaking of frumping up for a role, I’ve had a real hard time watching I Love Lucy in recent years. The more I learn about that cast, the more I wish the show had been a reality show moreso than a sitcom. First, Vivian Vance was the hot one, but was uglied up so that she wouldn’t overshadow Lucille Ball. Vance had the more established career, until that show came along and pretty much had her typecast for life. Also, though, anytime I see a Fred & Ethel scene, it’s weird knowing that they’re not acting. William Frawley *hated* Vivian Vance, and on numberous occasions, referred to her as “That cunt”. Sure, it’s a classic sitcom, but I’m wondering “what if?” What if Vance had broken out as a sitcom star? What if she had been cast as Lucy? Would she have, then, married Desi Arnaz instead? It boggles the mind…

7) How I Met Your Mother is renewed for another season! Rock on! This actually wasn’t a surprise to me. I had a conversation with a guy from CBS last week, and I asked him about the fates of The Class and HIMYM. So, when CBS made the announcement yesterday, I was in the know. Man, it’s nice to actually “know a guy”.

8) Nick @ Nite’s qualifications are really starting to piss me off. So, everything I grew up with is now on N@N, yet there are glaring omissions. Family Matters? Hogan Family? Alf? My Two Dads? I know that these things are wrapped up in contracts, but it seems like Nick’s hurting when they resort to showing AFV. I mean, America’s Funniest Videos already comes on 2 other cable networks, which *aren’t* owned by Viacom, so what’s the need to take away a valuable N@N slot with something you can already see 3 times a day. it would be like giving Seinfeld a N@N slot (which, mark my words, should be about 3 years away.)

9)I think The CW or MyNetworkTV should buy up all of the TNBC library and run it weekday afternoons. People my age don’t realize it, but there aren’t any kids programs on basic TV in the afternoon anymore. Fox Kids was sold to Disney back in 2002, Kids WB went weekend only back in 2005. The only programming is on PBS, and it’s mostly for toddlers. The Saved by the Bell rights are always snatched up since it’s considered this “classic”, but I would kill a man to see California Dreams again. Or Hang Time. Or City Guys. Or even the horrible Malibu, CA or USA High (not TNBC, but still Peter Engel shows). When Aaron Spelling died, people always spoke of how many shows he’d created. That’s great and all, but when Peter Engel passes away, I hope he gets the same accolades. The man single-handedly programmed NBC’s Saturday morning for more than 10 years. Sure, a lot of it was crap, but so were most of Aaron Spelling’s creations.

10)Everyone’s worried about global warming. OK, I’ll take on a lesser cause. I’m worried about syndication. There used to be a rule that, to be syndicated, a show needed to be on the air for 3 seasons OR 100 episodes (whichever comes first). 3 seasons would yield about 66-70 episodes, but once you hit the 100 mark, you were set for life. That’s why Tina Yothers doesn’t work. That Family Ties money is still rolling in. You won’t be rich, but you won’t starve either.

Nowadays, though, shows aren’t lasting that long. It used to be that I could predict which shows would be entering sydication the next season. Then, the internet came about, and it would announce these things. But the cold, hard truth is that we’re running out of shows for syndication. These slots are being filled by court shows. Around here, *nothing* entered syndication this year. All they did was shuffle what was already there. Will & Grace, Girlfriends, Friends, Raymond…Nothing new.

Next fall, there’s Chappelle and Family Guy. One is good and one is bad. Family Guy has enough episodes to keep it nightly, but Chappelle only has about 30 episodes available. This can’t be “stripped” (meaning shown 5 days a week) because you’d burn through it in a month. Hence, this is the type of show that you put on Saturday nights, after the news and Mad TV. When no one’s watching. Plus, it’ll be cut for syndication (all syndicated episodes are trimmed about 2 mins to make room for commercials) and edited for content.

I’m not saying that I want crap shows to last just for us to have syndicated shows (this actually happens a lot, especially when a studio is trying to recoup their money). I am saying, however, that we need to find alternative show sources. Maybe go back to the 80′s concept of 1st-run syndication. This is when you take a show that has never been on a network before, and you just put it on a crap station like a former UPN affiliate during a saturday afternoon. Small Wonder, Hercules, Too Close For Comfort, Mama’s Family, Xena and Baywatch were all successful in first-run syndi. Also, game shows, like Jeopardy & “The Wheel” are considered 1st-run syndi. I know that “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” is adopting the concept this summer, but it’s also simulcast on TBS, so it really doesn’t count.

If we don’t act now, what will our fat children watch on the weekends, as they resist our pleas for them to go out and play? What about the kids?!

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