11th Jan2018

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2017

by Will

 

God, did 2017 suck! It’s funny – if you go back and read the WYE 2016 post, it starts pretty much the same way. The problem with 2016, however, is that Death kept coming for all of our favorite celebrities, while 2017 was just a garbage fire through and through. To put in in Community terms, I like to write 2017 off as “The Gas Leak year” (for those who aren’t Community fans, let me explain: the 4th season of the show didn’t have the involvement of creator/showrunner Dan Harmon, so a lot of the stories and characterizations were off. When Harmon returned for season 5, he explained away a lot of the weirdness by saying that the school had experienced a gas leak during season 4, which was the cause of their odd behavior).

I had a rough time dealing with 2017 and it shows. I had to take a lot of weeks off from the site. I was basically on that schedule Regis had before they pretty much forced him to retire. When I did post, I don’t feel like much of it was that strong because I didn’t really have a lot to work with. The world of entertainment was kinda boring until Q4 (more on that later), and the major developments were happening in the world of politics, which is not what you come to this site to read. Still, I managed to crank out 41 West Week Ever posts, even though 4 of those weeks saw nothing crowned as having the West Week Ever. I also managed to post a handful of standalone things, like my tribute to the Toy Biz Hotline and my rundown of my top 40 songs of 2017. Still, with 2017 making it feel like we were constantly on the receiving end of a one-two punch, I feel a lot of stuff fell through the cracks. So, let’s take a look back at some of the stuff that I feel stood out about the year.

2017 was quite the year for “zombie shows” – shows that are long dead but just can’t seem to stay that way. NBC brought back Will & Grace, while ABC got the Roseanne gang back together. On top of those, there are talks in the works to bring back Frasier, King of the Hill, and Mad About You. I don’t have time for these shows. I watch the ones that continue the narrative for the next generation, a la Fuller House and Girl Meets World, but I’ve got no interest in these “The Quest for More Money” sequel series. After all, both Will & Grace and Roseanne had to retcon their series finales in order for these new seasons to work. While the Lottery Season of Roseanne is critically maligned, I was pretty OK with where Will & Grace left things. I don’t need to see these casts, 10+ years later, doing the same shit, and struggling with the same problems.

I recently called Roseanne “The White Good Times” on Twitter because I feel they both shared a lot of depressing traits. Will James get a new job? Is Dan gonna lose the bike shop? Is JJ gonna have to drop out of art school to provide for the family? Will the loose meat sandwich restaurant have to close? I watched these shows when I was younger, but as I’ve grown I just realize how damn poor these folks were and I don’t want to revisit that. The difference between the shows is that the Evans family DOES make it out of the ghetto in the series finale of Good Times. Roseanne, however, seems to be dealing with the same shit, in the same house, still struggling to make ends meet. And now they’ve tacked on that she and Dan are going to be Trump supporters? They clearly want me nowhere near this thing. I know a lot of y’all love Roseanne, especially for the Halloween episodes, so this revival is clearly a love letter to you and not for me.

It was QUITE the controversial year for the folks over at Marvel in 2017. First off, they announced an event where everyone’s favorite patriotic hero became a fascist dictator who was under the influence of Nazis. Sure, we can have the whole “Are Hydra soldiers Nazis?” debate, but it’s basically the same thing as far as the comics go. The fandom was spit, as they couldn’t believe Marvel would do this to Captain America. They’ve become so enamored with the Chris Evans portrayal of the character that they can’t let go of if enough for something different to be done with it. I actually thought it was an interesting idea because the buildup to it was so good. Nick Spencer was telling some great “Not MY Captain America” stories starring the Sam Wilson iteration of the hero. Of course the purists wanted Steve Rogers back, but they weren’t prepared to receive him in the state that he appeared: brainwashed by the Red Skull to believe he’d basically been a double agent. Not only did Marvel do a shitty job of damage control in marketing the story, but they also failed to stick the landing, as the buildup to Secret Empire was much more riveting than the Secret Empire miniseries itself.

Then, continuing to be tone deaf to their audience, Marvel entered into a partnership to print a comic focusing on an elite group from Northrup Grumman. If you’re not familiar with NG, they’re a defense contractor, which is a nice, friendly way of saying “arms dealer”. They had collaborated on a joint comic that was to be distributed that New York Comic Con, but when word got out that this was basically a recruitment tool, Marvel had to act fast, cancelling both the scheduled panel and the distribution of the comic. A few copies got out, making it a sought after item, but mainly the whole thing left fans scratching their heads, wondering why Marvel would enter into such a partnership.

Then there was the CB Cebulski situation. If you’re unaware, CB Cebulski was announced as Marvel’s latest editor-in-chief, but it was soon revealed that some years ago he (a White male) posed as a Japanese writer in order to get work from Marvel – during a period when Marvel employees weren’t allowed to pick up writing work on top of their salaries. Also during a time when Marvel was actively seeking diverse voices who would be able to tell different stories than what everyone had been used to. So, he basically stole somebody else’s shot, and there was never any comeuppance for it. It seems like it was a loosely guarded secret, with some other folks surely in the know. Still, Marvel refused to address it as a company, and Cebulski was left to eventually issue an apology in The Atlantic after a few mainstream publications caught wind of the controversy.

To cap things off, DC Comics pulled off a major coup by poaching writer Brian Michael Bendis from the House of Ideas. Bendis had been THE Marvel Company Man since 2000, and the idea of him at the Distinguished Competition seemed like something that would eventually happen (comics is an incestuous industry, and you really just end up jumping back and forth for work), but not something that would happen anytime soon. Well, things didn’t go as smoothly as they could have. Immediately after the Bendis move was announced, he got a MRSA infection which almost killed him and caused a delay on his remaining Marvel work. So, now not only was Marvel losing him, but they weren’t even sure when, as he had some outstanding deliverables he still needed to get to them. It’s since been announced that his first big DC property will be Superman, while Marvel doesn’t have anyone in their stable who even comes close to having the brand loyalty to them that Bendis had. So, it begs the question: what did Marvel do to make him leave? Whatever it was, it was just another blunder in a long year of mistakes from the House that Stan Built.

Not every relationship made it out of 2017 alive, as there were some fairly high profile splits. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt split up, while Billy Bush continued to shoulder the blame from the Access Hollywood/Trump debacle as he split with his wife of 20 years. Gina Torres and Laurence Fishburne separated after 16 years together, and Fergie took her lovely lady lumps and packed her bags to get away from Josh Duhamel.

Movies I Watched This Year:

I REALLY fell short in this department, as I only managed to watch 18 films in 2017, down from SIXTY-FIVE in 2016. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we moved in with my mom after her stroke. When we lived on our own, I had every premium channel, DVR, and I was up all hours of the night. Now, I don’t even have HBO, no DVR, and my night is split into 2 different shifts. Plainly put, I have neither the time nor resources to watch a lot of movies these days, though I’ll point out that the majority of the movies I did see this year were seen in the theater, which is something of a novelty for me. I’m not a “movie guy”, so the fact that I managed to get to the theater for 13 of 18 movies is somewhat impressive to me.

I know a lot of y’all use Letterboxd to keep track of your movies and reviews, but I’m wary of those kinds of sites. I mean, what happens when Amazon buys it and decides to just wipe it? Back in the early 00s, Wizard: The Guide to Comics used to have a comic portfolio option on their site. Since they were a price guide, you could just enter all the books you owned and it would give you a value. I spent a lot of time on that site. And then, one day, without warning, they yanked it. No option to export what you had or anything. So, at that point, I said “Never again!” I’ll just use my own rinky-dink site to track stuff like that. Anyway, here’s what I saw. If you wanna know my thoughts, just click the links.

  1. Split
  2. The Lego Batman Movie
  3. Central Intelligence
  4. Logan
  5. Power Rangers
  6. Get Out
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. The Founder
  10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  11. Keeping Up With the Joneses
  12. The Nice Guys
  13. The Mountain Between Us
  14. Thor: Ragnarok
  15. Justice League
  16. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  17. Coco
  18. Daddy’s Home – I’m going to talk about this here because I watched it between my last post of 2017 and now, and never got a chance to write about it. The basic premise of this movie is that Linda Cardellini’s character is a bitch who puts new husband Will Ferrell in an uncomfortable and unnecessary situation. When her first husband, played by Mark Walhberg, comes to town, we find out she’s never even told him that she’s remarried, and it’s clear that he still gets her wet (which she barely even tries to hide). Ferrell is a dutiful and doting stepfather to her kids, but he’s scared he’s going to lose them to their real dad who’s now back on the scene, and is also a total badass. And Cardellini really doesn’t pitch in to help matters. She basically tells Ferrell he needs to establish some ground rules and boundaries for Wahlberg – a situation that could’ve been mitigated had she only told Wahlberg about Ferrell in the first place. Of course the whole thing ends with them as friends and co-fathers, but I can’t get the taste out of my mouth as to how much I disliked Cardellini’s role. I do, however, want to see the sequel now because I loved how they set things up at the end of this one, and I’m curious to see if Cardellini gets her comeuppance.

Surprisingly, while I didn’t see many movies this year, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did see – including some of the more maligned pics, like Justice League. It wasn’t perfect, but I was entertained. I’m not a cinephile, so I’m not gonna rank them, but I will say that The Founder may have been my favorite film I saw this year. Keaton is just so good in it, I love the McDonald’s story, and I feel like a lot of folks missed out on this gem.

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

January

  • 80’s pop star Richard Marx and wife, former VJ Daisy Fuentes, subdued a crazed passenger on a Korean airline. In other news, how the Hell did Richard Marx land Daisy Fuentes?!

  • In Arizona, folks reported seeing a winged demon, heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. We should’ve known then that we were fucked…

  • Adorable 4-year old, Daliyah Marie Arana, had already read over 1,000 books and visited the Library of Congress as Librarian for the Day

February

  • Playboy gave up on its quest to get on supermarket shelves, and brought back the titties!

March

  • Scientology traitor Leah Remini was announced to star in a gender-swapped What About Bob? sitcom. This would later be scrapped when she joins the cast of a revamped Kevin Can Wait with former The King of Queens costar Kevin James.
  • Han Solo is not the character’s real name. His birth name was Handsome Solowitz, but his manager made him change it

April

  • Barry Manilow came out as gay, which makes me realize that he’s actually been singing about Man D all these years…
  • In news that will only matter to you if you’re a Cornell alum, all-male a cappella group The Cayuga’s Waiters were kicked off campus for hazing. And let me tell you, this couldn’t have happened to a shittier group of douchebags.

May

  • Universal’s Dark Universe shared monsters universe was announced, to be kicked off by Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. By November the idea will be abandoned, as architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan leave the project.

courtesy of TVLine.com

June

July 

  • CBS basically said “Bye, Felicia” to the Asian cast members of Hawaii Five-0 when Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park asked for raises on the level of what their White costars were making.
  • The Master of Bar Science himself, Jon Taffer, favorited some of my tweets during a Bar Rescue marathon:

  • Completely tone deaf to the political climate, the showrunners for Game of Thrones announced that their next project would be called Confederate, based on an alternate reality where slavery still exists and the Civil War never ended. This was not well received by folks.
  • After 24 years, Archie Comics ceased publication of the Sonic The Hedgehog comic
  • The directors of the documentary Catfish (which inspired the MTV series) were announced to direct a Mega Man film
  • It was a Black sex scandal trifecta, as R. Kelly was accused of running a sex cult in his house, Usher was accused of paying a woman $1 million to cover up the fact that he’d given her Herpes, and Kevin Hart was caught cheating on his pregnant wife
  • I discovered the All Star Trek block on the Heroes & Icons channel

  • My elementary school friend and her husband did some kickass Saga cosplay at SDCC
  • Amy Schumer dropped out of the Barbie film – a film which I originally mocked, which resulted in her blocking me on Twitter
  • Apple discontinued the Shuffle and Nano models

August

  • On the heels of the Confederate announcement, Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder announced Black America – a show that takes place in an alternate reality where Blacks have established a thriving nation state via the reparations they received after the Civil War.
  • MTV’s Total Request Live rose from the dead to return to airwaves. Only it seems like they’ve eliminated the video portion now, so what’s the point?
  • There was a Nostalgia War going on between streaming services as Hulu added the TGIF library, while Amazon added the Carsey-Werner catalog, including Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and A Different World
  • Social media app Sarahah was popular for about a week. Used by teens to cyberbully each other, it gained a spike in popularity as grown folks used it to fish for compliments.
  • Netflix acquired Mark Millar’s Millarworld comic imprint. It’s the best of both worlds, as it gives them an IPO farm, without the overhead of running an actual comic publisher (Millarworld books are published through deals with Image and Marvel).
  • Drama hitmaker Shonda Rhimes moved her Shondaland production house from ABC to Netflix after signing a major deal with the streaming service
  • A My Cousin Vinny sequel was released in book form as Back to Brooklyn, which catches up with the characters 25 years later. ‘Cause some goomba out there wanted that.
  • Wizard Magazine was slated to return as an online website called WizPop to be hosted on the WizardWorld website. As of this post, there’s no sign of that ever having occurred on the site.
  • Controversy struck the Hellboy reboot as British actor Ed Skrein was cast as a character who was originally intended to be of Japanese descent. He eventually dropped out of the role, which was quickly snatched up by Daniel Dae Kim – who was jobless after CBS cut him loose from Hawaii Five-0 last month.
  • Joss Whedon went underground after his ex-wife wrote a scathing tell-all article for The Wrap, where she accused him of serial infidelity and of being a hypocritical feminist. His Whedonesque fansite was shuttered soon afterward.

September

  • There was a LOT of Star Wars shake ups, as Colin Treverrow was fired as director of Episode IX. This was following the earlier firing of Lord and Miller from directing the Han Solo movie. The Solo movie would be picked up by Ron Howard, while it was announced JJ Abrams would return to write and direct Episode IX. Oh, and Episode VIII director Rian Johnson was given his own Skywalker-free Star Wars trilogy.
  • I experienced what is probably my most popular tweet to date:

  • ABC announced a reboot of The Greatest American Hero which will now star an Indian-American woman named Meera. I see you, ABC!
  • There was a lot of controversy in the G.I. Joe fandom as the current writer on the series was driving away the dwindling fan base with his social media tirades.
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for Charlie Bucket to be a Black child until his agent intervened and advised him against it.
  • Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because they don’t understand the word “sale” and are constantly getting their asses handed to them by Target and Amazon.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was announced to be working on the script for the completely unnecessary Coming to America 2, as Eddie Murphy must be behind on child support or something.

October

  • Milestone Media announced their return to the world of comics at New York Comic Con. And nothing has been mentioned about it since. I expect another reboot announcement somewhere around 2022.
  • The Juice is loose! OJ Simpson was released from prison.
  • AOL announced that Instant Messenger would be shut down on December 15th.
  • Just as easily as I found Heroes & Icon’s All Star Trek block I walked away from it. Oh, and I ranked the pre-Discovery Trek series. 

November

  • Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter for 11 minutes thanks to the inside work of an intrepid engineer. Remember, kids – not all heroes wear capes!
  • Funko experienced the worst IPO in 17 years as the stock opened at $12 and dropped to $7 by the end of the day
  • Smallville star Allison Mack was reported to be allegedly running a sex slave cult in Los Angeles.
  • People Magazine named country star/The Voice coach Blake Shelton the Sexiest Man Alive, and the internet had a field day with that one!
  • Taraji P. Henson will star in What Men Want, inspired by the Mel Gibson film What Women Want. The movie will reportedly only be 10 minutes long, as she will learn the answer is “Pussy and sandwiches”.

December

  • Jay-Z told The New York Times that he cheated on wife Beyoncé because he was in “Survival Mode”, whatever that means. Look for Hallmark to come out with a new line of “I’m Sorry I Survival Moded You Last Weekend” cards
  • THERE’S A NEW BABY WEST ON THE HORIZON!
  • Disney bought Fox for a reported $52 million. And I had thoughts…
  • Quentin Tarantino announced that he wants to direct a Star Trek film. I maintain that it’ll never see the light of day.
  • Apple admitted that they slowed down the performance on older iPhones, supposedly to preserve their batteries, but were then forced to offer low cost replacement batteries to make amends.

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2017 (with commentary)

1/6/17 – The Mick

See, this is the kind of thing I like: spotlighting a new show that a lot of folks may have missed. Considering It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been around for 12 seasons, it clearly has a fanbase. Since Kaitlin Olsen is essentially playing the same character that she plays on that show, you can basically consider it The Further Adventures of Sweet Dee. Still, it felt very “Fox”, so I was expecting them to cancel it. Imagine my surprise when it got picked up for a second season!

1/13/17 – Donald Glover

He won the Best Musical or Comedy in Television Golden Globe for his nearly perfect series Atlanta, inked an exclusive development deal with FX Networks, AND got to film scenes as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo movie. Everything was coming up Milhouse for that guy!

1/27/17 – The Women’s March on Washington

I guess I should’ve known what kind of year 2017 was going to be when this event happened so early in the year. See, I kinda thought of it as some kind of royal “F You!” to the establishment. The inauguration had just occurred, drawing anemic crowds, yet here was this march by the opposition to show that there was strength in numbers, and that those numbers weren’t on Trump’s side. Like I said in the post, I’m not the guy to explain the nuances of what the women were fighting for, and there were some interesting takes about how feminism and race haven’t always gone hand in hand. In fact, many feel that the women out there wearing the “pussy hats” were the same White women who had voted Trump into office. Again, I don’t know about all that. What I do know is that I hadn’t seen an organized demonstration like that since the Million Man March, so it certainly seemed noteworthy, even if it wasn’t the most “pop cultury” moment to come along.

2/3/17 – Winona Ryder

So, she made some funny faces at the SAG Awards ceremony. Was she high? Was she ACTING? Who knows? That’s just how low pressure the world of pop culture was at the start of the year. Sure, the progression of faces was amusing, but surely there should’ve been something more attention-worthy happening that week, right? Right? Wrong.

2/10/17 – The New England Patriots

Those sons of bitches Patriots! I’m not a sports guy, and we basically live in a Broncos home. Still, you don’t have to know much about sports to know that everyone who isn’t a Patriots fan hates them for being cheaters, while their fans defend them adamantly. I mean, I’m still amazed you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same season. Still, the Patriots pulled off an amazing comeback during Super Bowl LI, as Atlanta blew a TWENTY-FIVE point lead. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. Yeah, I don’t care about football, but I gotta give credit where it’s due.

2/17/17 – CeeLo Green/Gnarly Davidson

So, musician/escaped mutant from Genosha CeeLo Green showed up to the Grammys looking like King Midas himself, calling himself “Gnarly Davidson”. Everyone had a good laugh for about 24 hours, but I bet 9 out of 10 people today couldn’t even tell you what or who Gnarly Davidson is supposed to be. I like to think that things that earn the WWE have made some sort of impact on popular culture, and this wasn’t even a mosquito bite in terms of magnitude.

3/3/17 – Logan

Great comic book movie. Great movie in general. As the year went on, Logan would enter the conversation, but it would quickly be overshadowed by anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was even brought up in Oscars speculation. It was a great note for Jackman to go out on, and it’s just a shame that the Wolverine film trilogy is so uneven. Totally deserved the WWE.

3/10/17 – Man Seeking Woman

This was such a great show, and while I’m sad to see it go, I felt it told a very tight story. It didn’t wear out its welcome, and it smartly used the time that it had available to it. Clocking in at 3 seasons, it started with Jay Baruchel’s Josh stumbling out of a failed relationship, trying to get back on his feet in the dating world. It ended with him getting married to the perfect girl for him. Sure, it could’ve dragged along with them being newlyweds, having a kid, etc, but it didn’t want to insult our intelligence or waste our time as it devolved into just a run of the mill sitcom. Part of what made it special was that it was such an absurd show at times. I mean, Josh’s sister had an affair with Santa Claus at one point. But that just added to its charm. This is a great example of one of those “The Best Show You’re Not Watching”, because none of y’all were watching it. Still, it managed to chug along, and tell the story that it originally set out to tell. Most shows can’t say that, so it totally deserved the WWE. I think it’s streaming on Hulu if you ever want to check it out, which you should!

3/17/17 – Tyra Banks

Tyra had a pretty big week, as she was announced as Nick Cannon’s replacement as the host of America’s Got Talent, plus it was announced that she’d be returning to her old stomping grounds as head judge/host of America’s Next Top Model. In the same week, Banks became the grand arbiter of America’s standards of talent and beauty. That’s quite the coup!

3/24/17 – Nothing

As I always say when this happens, “As Nina Simone said, ‘It Be’s That Way Sometimes’.” Not happy with the trajectory the West Week Ever “honor” was on, I just couldn’t throw it at something willy nilly. We were seven posts into the year, and nothing chosen had really blown anyone’s socks off, except maybe Logan. I needed a week to regroup.

3/31/17 – Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

It was a trailer for a new Marvel movie. When don’t those get the West Week Ever? Sure, we were all hype for the film, but we’re at a point in society where Marvel doesn’t really even have to try anymore with these things. Did it deserve it for the week? Sure. Can I even remember that first Homecoming trailer? Nope, I cannot.

4/7/17 – The Undertaker

By now, most of you know of my love for The Undertaker. In a world where wrestlers basically use some juxtaposition of their real names for their in-ring names, he was a relic of a bygone era of gimmicks and kayfabe. His retirement had been commonly rumored over recent years, but he was on a part-time schedule where he pretty much only came back for Wrestlemania. Well, at Wrestlemania 33, he jobbed to Roman Reigns, left his trademark hat and coat in the ring, kissed his wife, and walked out of the arena – all to chants of “Thank you, Taker”. For all intents and purposes, that seemed to be all she wrote. Now there are reports that he’ll be back for Raw‘s 25th anniversary. I really hope that’s not true, as it was a beautiful way for him to go out. The card for Wrestlemania 33 was weak sauce, but it being the swan song of Taker was what would make it stand out in the history books. I cried when Flair retired, and even though he eventually crawled back, it didn’t take away the experience of his retirement run. If Taker does return, I’m hoping I can feel the same way.

4/14/17 – Thor: Ragnarok teaser

Scroll up, and re-read what I said about the Homecoming trailer. Apply all of that here. Keep in mind, Thor was coming off a serviceable debut and a forgettable sequel. We didn’t have the highest expectations for this movie, even though it was apparent it had been dipping into the GOTG Cookie Jar of Humor. But, like I said, Marvel trailers pretty much always get the WWE, whether they deserve them or not. Actually, ya know what? Black Panther never got it. I think it’s because it debuted during one of my bye weeks, but I’m sure someone out there will say it’s due to my self-hatred or whatever.

4/21/17 – Girls Series Finale

While Girls pretty much became the poster child for Millennials, I’m not quite sure history will be kind to it. After all, the characters embodied everything we tend to hate about that demographic. They’re spoiled, they have delusions of grandeur, they don’t want to pay their dues, and they’re tremendously self-centered. Marnie sucked because she only used people to pursue her own happiness. Jessa sucked because she was a junkie succubus. Hannah sucked because she thought she was the Voice of a Generation, while commonly looking unwashed and unhygienic. She spent 6 seasons making us accept her body positivity while engaging in the unsexiest sex scenes imaginable.

Still, through all of that, the characters actually seemed to experience some growth in that final season. Hanna found herself pregnant, eventually giving birth to Grover (Fuck you, Lena Dunham. Just fuck you right in the ear for that shit). And she found out she had to grow up FAST. Marnie thrust herself into the role of doting aunt, as if to make amends for being such a shitty person to those around her. She soon found, though, that she couldn’t assume that role and still continue to grow. She had her path, and Hannah/Grover had their own. And the only character with some sense was strangely neurotic/possibly on the spectrum Shoshana, who managed to remove herself from the equation before the series finale because she realized she was better than those with whom she had surrounded herself.

As a whole, Girls is a forgettable mess that I hope I never see on any of those Greatest Series of All Time lists. That finale, though, made up for a lot of problems I’d had with those characters over the course of the show. I went from Hate Watching it to just Watching it. And, to her credit, as much as Hannah sucked, Dunham was the voice of a generation, like it or not. They say that the mark of a good series finale is that you can watch it and get a whole, fulfilling story even if you weren’t an avid viewer of the series. Since I’d been watching the show, I can’t attest to whether that’s true here, but I do feel like it was a damn fine finale that did more for its characters and narrative than the whole rest of the series put together.

4/28/17 – Nothing

I guess I felt like Girls had set a pretty high bar, and nothing came close to that in the week following its finale. Go figure!

5/5/17 – Ryan Seacrest

Next to maybe Steve Harvey,  Seacrest is the hardest working man in show business. It was announced that he would be taking over Michael Strahan’s cohost role on Live with Kelly, and a grueling schedule was floated that would allow him to maintain that job while also flying to the West Coast multiple times a week in order to host ABC’s reboot of American Idol. While he hadn’t officially signed on to the Idol revival at that point, he would later take the job, and that theoretical travel schedule would become reality. I know folks love to make fun of him, and make all the gay jokes, but I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for his work ethic. The man rarely sleeps and is constantly developing new projects. And he’s a shrewd businessman, as evidenced in how he pretty much just swooped in and assimilated Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

5/12/17 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I really enjoyed this movie, but I’m scared I’m falling into that cynical thing where I’m like “Well, it’s a Marvel movie”. We pretty much know what to expect at this point. I’m not getting bored by the formula or anything, but I don’t think it’s a surprise when these things come out and dominate the pop culture conversation for the week following.

5/19/17 – CBS

This was my annual upfronts post, and I felt like CBS had the most promising schedule for their Fall lineup. They had a few misses (Wisdom of the Crowd, Me, Myself, and I), but I still stand by that assessment, as Young Sheldon was a breakout hit and SEAL Team was the only successful military drama of the three that launched in the fall.

5/26/17 – Red Nose Day Actually

I still feel like bringing the Red Nose Day thing to America is the equivalent of trying to make “fetch” happen. I don’t think it’s going to catch on, but I won’t say anything bad about something that gives me a sequel to one of my favorite movies. Yes, I’m that guy who adores Love Actually. And this year we got a “sequel” short during the telethon that caught up with the characters in the present day. The Sam and Joanna portion alone made me want to cry, but it was like catching up with old friends. Totally the best thing that week had to offer.

6/2/17 – Wonder Woman

This was a great comic book film that seemed to right the ship for the DCEU. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a far cry stronger than BvS and Suicide Squad. We thought this was shades of things to come from Justice League. Perhaps we expected too much. Still, it’s a strong entry into the comic book movie universe, and totally deserved the WWE.

6/9/17 – Wonder Woman

This made me realize a problem with how this weekly post is scheduled. You see, I’m an avid Thursday night viewer of these movies. Since the post comes out Friday, I could theoretically post about it the next day. And many times I have. That’s what happened with Wonder Woman. I saw it Thursday night, and it got the WWE the next day – at a time when most of my readers had not had the chance to see the movie yet. This is problematic because they tend to not read that post for fear of spoilers. So, I’ve tried to change things up where I sit on my review for a week, giving folks a chance to see the movie first. This is the week when Wonder Woman should have gotten the WWE, but instead it just made me look lazy.

6/16/17 – West Life Ever: Adam West

Ah, the very first West Life Ever recipient. As you probably know by now, there’s a pretty strict No Death policy for this column. Sure, once in a blue moon, someone will come along whose death needs to be acknowledged, but I knew that there were a few people whose death would require me to make a bigger deal. Adam West was always at the top of this list. When I posted that entry, I called it the West Week Ever Hall of Fame, which never quite felt right. My pal Zac Shipley came up with West Life Ever, which was perfect. So, the post was changed and that’s what the honor will be called going forward. It’s still not something that I plan to abuse, but I’m glad it exists when I need to use it. Sadly, I would have to use it again not much later.

6/23/17 – Nothing

I guess I was still affected by West’s death, and I thought I was gonna be able to promote my appearance on a podcast where we looked back on his life. That episode has never seen the light of day (Looking at you, Chad!). So, nothing was worthy of the WWE mantle that week.

7/7/17- Michael Keaton

I had seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Founder that week, both films showcasing amazing performances by Keaton. The surprising thing to point out here is that Homecoming had been seen by me, but did NOT get the WWE. Keep in mind, though, I was moving to my schedule of waiting a week so that more folks have time to see the film. Will it get the WWE next week?

7/14/17 – Milana Vayntrub

Nope! Yes, in a world where there’s a new Marvel film in theaters, I give my highest honor to the AT&T Girl. I didn’t love Homecoming. In fact, it’s probably the first Marvel movie since I’ve been doing this column where I wasn’t just immediately smitten. I probably need to watch it again but the timeline of the film challenged my inner fanboy the entire runtime, and it ruined the experience for me. Why did Vayntrub get it? Well, she’d been cast as Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s New Warriors series for Freeform. I really thought it was going to be her big break. Well, later Freeform would decide that it didn’t have room for the show on its schedule, and its future is currently in limbo. Womp womp. Marvel thinks the show has a lot of promise, but they’re no longer allowed to farm out their shows to non-Disney owned networks, so that limits their possibilities. It was probably the biggest week she’s ever had, but it didn’t really pay off into anything. Yet.

7/21/17 – Jodie Whittaker

A female Doctor Who? That shit is history in the making! I don’t care anything about that franchise, but I know when history is being made. Totally deserved.

7/28/17 – West Life Ever: Jim Vance

When I first conceived of the WWE: Hall of Fame/West Life Ever, there were 2 particular people in mind for it. I never really thought it would expand outside of those two unless it was a rare, special case. And that’s exactly what it was when local newsman, and DC institution, Jim Vance succumbed to cancer. He was a great example of “Ya don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”, as it never felt like he’d made that much of an impact on my life until he was no longer in it. My whole response to his passing surprised me, and I’m sort of curious to see what other surprises are in store for the West Life Ever honor.

8/4/17 – Female Comic Editors

Some dumb shit about female comic editors going out for a milkshake to honor the passing of Marvel staple “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg, and ended up being heckled by a bunch of stupid dudes online. It somehow turned into this symbolic gesture throughout the industry. Fellow creators were posting selfies of themselves drinking milkshakes, and it all just kinda fizzled out. It’s really one of those “You had to be there” kinds of things because the whole “controversy” just sounds stupid to me in hindsight.

8/18/17 – DuckTales reboot

I watched the pilot and loved it. Then I promptly forgot about it. I kinda expected more from it, to be honest. I guess that’s my own fault. I thought it was just going to compel me to watch it every week, but instead if became just another forgotten animated show of 2017, like that Big Hero 6 premiere I would totally miss in November.

8/25/17 – Solar Eclipse of 2017

These things don’t happen that often! At least, that’s what the science folks always tell us, even though it feels like there’s some kind of eclipse every time we turn around. Well, I never claimed to be Thomas Einstein-Tesla, so I’m not the best person to get your science info from. Anyway, it was a big deal that week, as those free glasses needed to look at the thing were being sold for, like, $250 a pair, as if they came from Sunglass Hut or something. And the President even looked directly into the thing, ya know, ’cause he’s a stable genius and all. This thing was all anyone could talk about that week.

9/8/17 – Batman: The Animated Series

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the debut of the classic animated series which, I believe, changed animation for the better. It was a show that was gritty and intelligent enough for primetime, yet worked on a level to keep kids engaged – all the while dodging some incredible mandates from Fox Kids Standards & Practices, like “No blood” or “Can’t say ‘kill'”. In some ways it might be seen as a cop-out to look to the past for a WWE winner. After all, for all the fans of the show, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare surrounding the anniversary. Instead of Warner Bros making a big deal, it was more like the hardcore fans were holding thousands of little private wakes for the show. Still, 25 years ain’t nothing to shake a stick at, so I felt the show’s milestone needed to be acknowledged and honored.

9/15/17 – Cory Chase/Reality Kings

When this post originally went up, I put it to a vote: should the WWE go to horror remake IT OR should it go to porn star Cory Chase and the Reality Kings porn franchise? Ya see, IT had a successful week, but all anyone could talk about around the time of publication was the fact that Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account had Liked a video clip of some of Chase’s work. It was quickly blamed on a staffer, but the damage had been done by that point. Cruz was just like the rest of us, trawling the web for porn. Hell, if he’d been smarter, he could’ve spun that into some sort of political clout, but he took the coward’s way out. Anyway, the readers spoke and decided that Chase should be the victor. While I don’t disagree, I think it was very “2017” that such a salacious choice was even an option for Biggest Pop Culture Thing of the Week. We’d sunk so low, and we weren’t even close to the bottom yet.

9/29/17 – Star Trek franchise

This week not only saw the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS and CBS All Access, but it was also the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just as with Batman: The Animated Series, these were milestones deserving of recognition. I haven’t revisited Discovery since the free premiere on CBS, but I’ve heard enough good things that I’ll circle back around to it eventually.

10/6/17 – The West Family

Self-indulgent post because it’s my site, and I do what I wanna! It was my 5-year wedding anniversary, and nothing else was going on. If you go back in the archives, pre-2010 or so, this thing reads like a really bad LiveJournal. “I’m tired of my boss at H&M”, yadda yadda yadda. I later pivoted to a solely pop culture focus, but I left most of those posts up because I hate to delete anything. So, every now and then, I feel like I’ve written enough about celebrities that I’ve earned a personal post or two, so this was me pulling that trigger. Had it not gone to us, it would’ve been another week when it went to Nothing.

10/13/17 – Nothing

Kinda like this week.

10/27/17 – Super Mario Odyssey

I’m not a gamer, but it was easy to tell who the gamers were, as they were all anticipating this release. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this game, it I feel this was totally deserved.

11/3/17 – Stranger Things Season 2

I’ve never seen the show, have almost no real desire to see the show, and I’m kinda sick of seeing those kids everywhere. Still, I have to put my own issues aside for the good of “real reporting” sometimes. This was one of those times. Everyone was anticipating the second season of this show and, while the general consensus seems to be that it wasn’t as good as the first season, I’ve yet to hear anything actually negative about the season.

11/10/17 – Thor: Ragnarok

Here we are, back to having a Marvel film get the WWE. Earlier I said that I was beginning to wonder if all this hype was deserved, as we pretty much know what we’re going to get from the MCU franchise at this point, but I feel this was totally deserved here. Easily the best Thor film of the trilogy (not a difficult feat, really), but it presented a new side of the title character. And it totally took some creative notes from Guardians, which was to its advantage.

11/17/17 – Justice League

I kinda broke my own rule here. I know I was trying to wait a week before reviewing new, highly anticipated films, but I felt like this one needed a shot in the arm. So many folks were determined not to see it, that I felt I needed to post about it on opening weekend to get some more butts in seats. I’m hardly an influencer, but if I convinced just one person to see the movie who had been on the fence, then I guess I did my job. I hate to do a comparison, but it’s “No Marvel movie”. That said, I was happy it did something different, and I was thoroughly entertained. It’s not a “great” film by any stretch of the imagination, but nobody should expect Citizen Kane when one of the main characters runs around, dressed like a bat.

12/1/17 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer

Obligatory WWE for new MCU film trailer. All it did was fortify millions of speculation boners without really giving us anything other than eye candy. We’ve reached a point where I don’t even know if we’re capable of determining if these things are good anymore. Part of the problem is that they’ve yet to really have a “miss”, so would we even know it if/when it happened? Like, Black Panther could be the worst thing they ever put onscreen. It won’t be, but even if it is, there are certain communities who are going to refuse to admit it. It’s just fascinating to me how that works. Anyway, this came out while Marvel was avoiding the Cebulski controversy, while its parent, Disney, was making a play for Fox. It was a nice little distraction that caught everyone’s attention at just the right time. Their success rate is just so unprecedented that I guess I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, which is somewhat unfair to them.

12/8/17 – MCU Fanboys

Remember how I just said there are some folks who would refuse to acknowledge Marvel’s “failure” even if it were right in front of them? Enter the MCU fanboy. And nobody had a better week than them because Disney’s play for Fox became official, meaning that the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights were finally “coming home”. And you couldn’t swing a dead cat without running into one of them surmising how the X-Men would be integrated into the established MCU. Would Marvel honor everything Fox had done with the franchise, or would it be a complete reboot? These discussions were going on everywhere online, so this week truly belonged to those folks. Who cares if the acquisition would result in redundancies and the loss of anywhere from 5,000-10,000 jobs? You’re finally getting the chance at a House of M movie, right? Right?

12/15/17 – Black Women

While there was a tongue in cheek aspect to this, I totally meant it. It was a big week for Black women. Omarosa got kicked out of the Trump White House, to the delight of many, while the Black female vote helped keep suspected child molester Roy Moore out of office in a very close congressional race in Alabama. A lot of folks were taking a break from social media that week, for fear of being spoiled by those who had already seen The Last Jedi, so they missed this one. It’s a shame, because I felt there was a lot of good stuff in this post.

12/22/17 – Fandom Gatekeepers

You know how I was just talking about MCU fanboys? Well, this is what happens when that shit is cranked up to 11. It’s like the Chappelle’s Show sketch, When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong. These are the folks who take shit too far, and there was a lot of that going on due to the polarizing reactions to The Last Jedi. I felt kinda bad about this one, because I typically want the WWE to be a *celebration* of something, but I couldn’t not acknowledge it, and I had a lot of thoughts on the matter, born from a late night Twitter rant.

I had to do something different this year. Usually, to determine who had the West Year Ever, we look at the list of folks who earned the West Week Ever throughout the year. There are always entities that receive it multiple times throughout the year, like Marvel and DC, and then there’s a runoff between them to see who truly deserved it. That doesn’t work this year, though. You see, most of the WWE recipients this year had no real lasting impact outside of the week that they won. The only thing that got the honor more than once this year was Wonder Woman, but it surely didn’t have the West Year Ever. Close, but no cigar. No, I had to take a closer look at trends of the year, and get a feel for what truly dominated the news cycle.

Remember how I said that the entertainment world was boring until Q4? Well, once October hit, the whole thing blew wide open thanks to one man: Harvey Weinstein. The reports and allegations of his sexual improprieties opened the floodgates for more reports on other celebrities. All across the country, men in power were being exposed for the lotharios that they were. There seemed to be certain patterns that surfaced. For example, a lot of them liked to abuse their power by masturbating in front of women over whom they held some sort of influence. Every week, there was a new LIST of men to add to the list. I hate to create HarassmentWatch(TM) just to keep track of it all, and mine isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. Still, I managed to track allegations on the following men:

  • Producer Harvey Weinstein
  • The Loud House creator Chris Savino
  • Actor Kevin Spacey
  • Actor Jeremy Piven
  • Director Brett Ratner
  • Actor Dustin Hoffman
  • Actor Danny Masterson
  • Actor Charlie Sheen
  • Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner
  • Actor Jeffrey Tambor
  • Comedian Louis CK
  • Actor George Takei
  • Actor Richard Dreyfuss
  • Actor Tom Sizemore
  • Actor Ed Westwick
  • The Royals/One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn
  • Flash/Supergirl showrunner Andrew Kreisberg
  • Actor Steven Seagal
  • Producer Gary Goddard
  • Actor Sylvester Stallone
  • DC Comics Editor Eddie Berganza
  • Senator Al Franken
  • Producer John Lasseter
  • On Air Personality Ryan Seacrest
  • Singer Nick Carter
  • Producer Russell Simmons
  • Humorist Garrison Keillor
  • Newsman Charlie Rose
  • New York Times Reporter Glenn Thrush
  • Newsman Matt Lauer
  • US Representative John Conyers
  • Chef Mario Batali
  • Talk Show Host Tavis Smiley
  • US Representative Blake Farenthold
  • Documentarian and Fast Food Truther Morgan Spurlock
  • Comedian TJ Miller
  • NFL Media VP David Eaton
  • Newsman Chris Matthews
  • Director Paul Haggis
  • Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini
  • Half the damn NFL Network

That’s over FORTY instances reported just since October! And they’re still coming (tune into tomorrow’s West Week Ever for some new 2018 additions to the list!). This shit is crazy! Keep it in your pants, powerful men! Even though it was a phenomenon that came along later in the year, I feel like it colored the whole year, and fit tonally with what a trash heap fire the year became. So, in my mind, 2017 was the Year of the Wang Dangler. In October, the weather started getting cold and, for whatever reason, the wangs started coming out. There were reports of forced oral sex, public masturbation, walking amongst staff while naked, and secret buttons under desks to lock vulnerable women in uncomfortable places. What pieces of shit these men are! But they’re the official mascots of 2017. So, without further ado, the celebrity wang danglers had the West Year Ever. Here’s hoping we can aim a bit higher in our aspirations in 2018.

08th Sep2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02nd Oct2015

West Week Ever – 10/2/15

by Will

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This has been a bit of a slow week, so bear with me here. Let’s see what pop culture goodness I was able to dredge from the pond of mediocrity that was this week.

grandfathered

The Fall television season got into full swing this week, as the shows that didn’t debut last week finally made their appearance. First up was Grandfathered from Fox. Starring John Stamos, it’s about a restaurateur who finds out that he’s a father and a grandfather on the same day. It appears he had a fling with Paget Brewster (I LOVE her) 25 years ago, which yielded a son that he didn’t know about. Now, said son (formerly fat Josh Peck) has his own child (a daughter), who was the result of a one-night fling with his friend (Christina Milian). So, son seeks out dad to get pointers on how to woo girl and get out of the Friend Zone. There’s a LOT going on here, but it’s still a cute show with a lot of heart. I don’t know if it’ll last, but I’ll watch it for as long as it’s around – especially since it’s on opposite The Muppets, which I don’t plan to watch again.

shield

Also on Tuesday night, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned for its third season, and it didn’t skimp on the action. I still, however, don’t really find the team members that likable, but it at least feels like they’re trying now. It was also nice to get Sokovia references and an appearance by the President from Iron Man 3 to reinforce that this is a shared universe. If they can’t get the big guns, I appreciate them getting the little guys. Still don’t care about The Inhumans, so it’ll be interesting to see if it holds my attention for the full season. I do like that they’re competing with Constance Zimmer (LOVE her, too), who seems to be running some sort of shadow agency for the government, rounding up Inhumans.

watchmen

Meanwhile in TV land, it’s rumored that Zack Snyder might be developing a Watchmen TV series for HBO. Why, I do not know. That ship has sailed. I was OK with the movie. Didn’t hate it, but didn’t love it. It had too many parts that were like an film student’s final project (all the music video stuff), and lots of blue dong. Still, it told its story rather well, and was pretty accurate except for the lack of the blue squid. This is the type of project that I hope falls apart in pre-production.

CoalHillBar640

Also, for you Whovians, there’s a new Doctor Who spinoff called Class, which will focus on some kids dealing with the paranormal at a school. If you ask me, it sounds a lot like Strange Days at Blake Holsey High – a Canadian show that aired on NBC Saturday mornings during their Discovery Kids block. That show dealt with a very similar premise, as the school was located next to a wormhole. I really enjoyed that show, but never saw the finale, as it got canceled in the US before it ended. Still, I’m not a Doctor Who fan, so this ain’t for me. In fact, it doesn’t seem like it’s for most adult Who fans. If anything, it seems like this might be designed to take the place of The Sarah Jane Adventures, which used to serve as the gateway show for kids to get into the Doctor Who franchise. I really kind of admire how the Doctor Who franchise caters to different demographics. You’ve got Class for the kids, while the mothership is for the sci fi heads. Meanwhile, Torchwood was the sexier, mature show. The latter is over for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something came along to fill that void soon.

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New The Daily Show host Trevor Noah debuted his incarnation of the show this week. I missed it, but I’m hearing good things online. Of course folks will always compare him to Jon Stewart, but that’s to be expected. To me, I hope he’s the exact opposite of Stewart, whom I never really liked. If that’s the case, I might actually start watching that show – as long as it’s not on against one of my favorite episodes of Family Guy

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In the world of movies, there’s a rumor that Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd might be working on a Ghostbusters animated film. Man, Sony is really milking that son of a bitch dry, aren’t they? I get that they need a new franchise, as the Men In Black thing sort of petered out for them, but this might be too much Ghostbusters at once. For the moment, we’ve already got the Paul Feig film coming, and then a rumored all-male version. Now, this? I guess if it gets them to finally re-release Ecto-Cooler, then it was worth it, but I just feel like they’re doing too much with this property at once.

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Pitch Perfect 3 has received the release date that was originally slated for Pacific Rim 2. I don’t have any strong feelings about this. I loved Pitch Perfect, but still haven’t seen the second one. Meanwhile, Pacific Rim has been sitting on my DVR for over a year. Can we talk about how Anna Kendrick looks like a sexy rat? Like, she’s the personification of Gadget from Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers. Am I the only one who sees this?

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Speaking of movies, when did the new DVD release day move to Friday? I knew that music was moving, but I didn’t know all physical disc media was moving. That kinda sucks, as it means that any sale on a new release will now probably last 2 days (Friday and Saturday) before the next week’s sale kicks in. Anyway, this is a drawn-out way of saying that Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray today.

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In comic news, it was announced that the Daredevil team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee will be relaunching Black Widow for Marvel following Secret Wars. I’ve got to be honest: I only read the last Black Widow series because I love the art of Phil Noto. I’m not quite sure if I ever really enjoyed the story or the character – it was just beautiful to look at. So, with that in mind, I’m probably not gonna be on board for this new series.

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In the podcasting world, this week saw us celebrating Podcast Day. I’m not sure how long this has been a thing, but it’s a great opportunity for you to check out the latest 2-part season premiere of Classick Team-up, where Classick and I discuss everything from the new TV season to the upcoming Black Panther comic series. You should check it out here and here.

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In a week where nothing really happened, Power Rangers stands when the dust settles. After 22 seasons, tomorrow will see the 800th episode of the franchise. EIGHT HUNDRED EPISODES. Can you believe that?! When I saw the premiere, that Saturday morning back in 1993, I thought it was some cheesy shit. I had no clue that it would span 2 decades, countless incarnations, and even more action figures and playsets. It was the #1 boy’s toy for the first ten years of its existence. And in a “snake eating its tale” fashion, now our adapted Power Rangers episodes are being re-dubbed and aired in Japan and Korea. I’ve written way too much about the franchise to go through all of that again (seriously, there’s a Power Rangers tag over to the right. Just click that). It’s safe to say that the franchise has meant a lot to me over the years, so I’m proud of this unbelievable accomplishment. 800 episodes! Man. Anyway, with that in mind, Power Rangers had the West Week Ever.

06th Dec2013

West Week Ever – 12/6/13

by Will

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We’re back! Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving? I thought about writing last Friday, but how many of you would’ve actually read it? Not many, I presume. So, we took a week off. That just means there’s twice as much stuff to talk about this week!

One thing I miss about Thanksgivings of years past is the Fox Kids TV Takeover. Back before Fox Kids was sold to ABC/Disney, there was an annual tradition that took place on the Friday after ever Thanksgiving. As this was before the prevalence of internet, kids were invited to send postcards to vote for their favorite shows. Then, on Black Friday, the Fox Kids lineup would consist of only the shows that received the most votes. It was rarely a surprise, as you could pretty much guess what you were going to see: Batman: The Animated Series, Power Rangers, X-Men, etc. The main perk was it was one of the rare times you’d get to see some shows outside of Saturday morning. They weren’t even new episodes, but it was still something I used to look forward to watching. I wish ABC Family would find some way to replicate it with an Eek! The Cat marathon or something.

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While we’re talking about watching stuff, I guess it’s a good time for a Netflix update. I’ve backed off of the movie-a-night schedule I had going there for a while. Lately, I’ve been rewatching The League because I’ve forgotten a lot of the early episodes. On the movie front, I did watch The Wedding Weekend – a movie so nice they named it thrice. No, seriously, when it was filmed, it was called Shut Up and Sing. Then, they got sued because that was the name of that Dixie Chicks documentary. Then, they renamed it to Sing Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace. Then, at some point, it simply became The Wedding Weekend. It’s about a 7-man a cappella group that reunites 15 years after college to sing for the wedding of one of the members. Drama ensues, old wounds are reopened, and there’s sexual tension. If you’re looking for an accurate depiction of collegiate a cappella, and what happens afterward, this movie does a pretty good job of capturing it. There’s the whole notion that you’ll never get those days back, and your “stardom” is fleeting. The movie seems to suggest that those days may end, but you have to continue to make those moments happen in the “real world” as best you can. It’s kind of depressing at times, but I enjoyed it. If anyone has Netflix, though, I need you to do me a favor: try to watch this movie and let me know if the audio syncs up. For the first time since I got Netflix, this is the first movie where the audio just wouldn’t sync, so I felt like I was watching a foreign film that was dubbed. This doesn’t happen on anything else that I watch, but it happened every time I tried to watch The Wedding Weekend. Does Netflix have a bad encode? Was it just my computer? Help a brother out!

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Well, it’s certainly been a week of Twitter zaniness. I’ve been known to stir up trouble on Twitter, and this week was no exception. Before we get to that, though, something else weird happened: I got a reply from a tweet I sent 2 and a half years ago! In June 0f 2011, I tweeted:

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Some backstory: Ghostwriter was a PBS show about a ghost who promoted literacy, while Jeremy Miller was Ben Seaver on Growing Pains. In the second Ghostwriter adventure, he actually joins the team and then he’s never mentioned, or seen, again.

Anyway, the other day, I got a response to that tweet that merely said:

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Apparently, this chick is his fiancee? I checked out her feed and it seems like she’s basically doing PR for him, so I guess she Googled his name and my tweet came up. It’s still weird to receive a response so long after sending the tweet. I guess you never really know who’s going to see what you write…as we’re about to find out.

So, the other night, my pal @timdogg98 retweeted this from comic artist J. Scott Campbell:

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Here’s the full pic:

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If you don’t know a lot about Campbell’s work, a lot of his women tend to look the same. I’m actually a fan, but I feel like Campbell’s been phoning it in lately. So, that led to this exchange:

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I thought that would be the end of it until the man himself decided to make an appearance:

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Not really sure what to make of that emoji. Was he taking it all as good fun? Was that the shorthand way to say “Cool story, bro”? The long and the short of it is that he clearly has a filter for his name, as I deliberately didn’t tag him in that thread, nor did I respond to Tim’s tweets that mentioned him. Lesson: I need to stop talking shit on Twitter. OR I need to talk MORE shit on Twitter. I haven’t really settled on the takeaway lesson yet.

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Speaking of comics, I recently discovered a book from Oni Press called Letter 44 that I actually really enjoyed. Every outgoing president leaves a letter for the incoming president, and this is the letter meant for #44. Everyone assumed that the 43rd president was a real moron who started unnecessary wars and ran the country into the ground. What the letter reveals, however, is that NASA discovered an advanced race in space that may be preparing an invasion. So, the wars on foreign soil were really just tactics to make sure we had a battle-ready military should the need arise. Now, the 44th President has to carry on what was started by his predecessor, and also decide whether to tell the American people. It was a really strong first issue, and I’m curious to see where the story goes. Few of my local shops dabble in indie books, however, so I may have to wait for the trade. You can read the entire first issue here.

This Week’s Post

Virginia Comicon (& Rob Liefeld) In Pictures

Links I Love

The TwinkieMcRib Nerd Lunch/Storify

Please Take A Moment And Read This Hilarious Amazon Review Of A $40,000, 85-Inch Television – UPROXX

Amazon Reviews Written by James Thach – Amazon

12 of Zack Morris’ Ex-Girlfriends That Would Make a Better Wonder Woman than Gal Gadot – UnderScoopFire!

The Conversation We Should Not Have About Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman – The Nerds of Color

Three are no longer with us (as well as Nelson Mandela, RIP), while the other’s life will never be the same. Only one, however, had the West Week Ever.

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Well, this one should’ve been obvious, as she was the only choice who wasn’t either canceled or deceased. This former Israeli soldier/model had her life turned upside down as the world discovered she’d been cast as Wonder Woman in the sequel to Man of Steel. Many are wondering if she’s got the physique to pull it off, but that’s what horse tranquilizers are for. She’ll be fine. It’s not like she’s gonna make the movie suck. Warner Bros has that taken care of by shoehorning every DC character into this movie that they can. Still, Gadot went from a virtual unknown to Hollywood’s new It Girl overnight. For that reason, Gal Gadot had the West Week Ever.

25th Apr2013

Thrift Justice – The One With All the DVDs

by Will

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Well, I pretty much showed my hand in the title, but this one’s all about DVDs. Back in the days of yore, I was what you might call a “DVD whore”. Hey, that rhymed! Anyway, if it was cheap enough, I’d buy it. I used to tape any and everything off TV, even though I’d never watch it again. I’d probably have done it with discs, had it been easy enough. If I found a movie that I’d seen and kinda liked, or had never seen, I’d buy it if it was under $10. And I’d buy the first season of ANY show. Now, I’ve got more DVDs than I’ll ever watch before I die, yet I can bring myself to get rid of them. Don’t have time to watch them, either, ’cause I have 39 hours of Burn Notice on the DVR I need to get through. So, needless to say, I’ve cut back a lot in recent years. Still, with thrift stores, I still find myself succumbing to amazing prizes where DVDs are concerned. So, I’ve added a few more to the collection in recent months, much to my disappointment in myself.

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I’m totally the kind to kiss & tell, but I’d like to think I might have something in common with Colt Seavers. I mean, I’d love to jump my truck over shit, and I’d hire Heather Thomas if given the chance. Anyway, I had to buy this. I love this show, and this was only $4. This was one of the first shows where they did they “Season 1 Part 1” shit, so it’s a nice deal to get the entire first season without having to buy 2 different sets.

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By this point, the “cool kids” had moved over to Fox Kids on Saturday mornings, but NBC ran all the steam out of the Chipmunks franchise. Once the whole pop star angle got tired, they decided to have the Chipmunks doing movie parodies, and the show was retitled Chipmunks Go To The Movies. It didn’t last long, nor was it very memorable, yet I had one episode on VHS – “Batmunk”. I had to get this DVD, as it has “Batmunk”, as well as “Star Wreck: The Absolutely Final Frontier”, and “Funny, We Shrunk The Adults”. I can finally get rid of that VHS tape! Yeah, I still have it, along with 21 tapes of Power Rangers episodes…

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I’ve never  understood why everyone raves over this show. Sure, I watched it, but it was never “destination television” for me. It was simply “the show Fox hasn’t gotten around to canceling yet”. I enjoyed it when it was on, but I’m amazed it has this rabid following now, signing up for Netflix JUST to watch the upcoming season. So, clearly I missed something. I found these for $3 each, so I had to do it. I found Season 1 a few months ago, so now I just need to carve out some time to get through them.

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This is basically “Knight Rider In The Air”, right? Children of the 80s love to reference this show, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it – this or that show that was “Knight Rider on a Motorcycle”. Sorry, but actual Knight Rider was good enough for me. After I did What’s the Scoop on UnderScoopFire’s podcast, I was mocked by the Twitter community for not knowing who “Stringfellow Hawk” was. Anyway, I swear I found these the very next week and figured, “Why not?” I mean, it’s worth is just to see that dude with the blacked-out glasses lens. He’s really on the show, right? Why he thought that was a better look than a regular old eye patch, I do not know.

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Surprising to many, I’ve only seen about 1/3 of Pixar’s output. I like 2D animation, I don’t go to many movies, and when I do go, I don’t want to deal with the squeals of children. At this point, I’ve only seen Toy Story, Monsters, Inc.,The Incredibles, and Up! That’s it. No Finding Nemo, No Wall-E, no Toy Story 3. Nothing. So, when I find cheap Pixar movies, I pick ’em up, even if they’re just investments in my future “Shut The Fuck Up On This Roadtrip, Kids” stockpile. I’m really weirded out by the concept of this movie, though. Who drives the cars? If they’re sentient, were they built, or were they put on this Earth by some kind of Car God? Are Click & Clack: The Tappet Brothers their Car Gods? Are there people in the stands, or are other cars the spectators? So many questions!

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If you’re new here, I like “bad” pop. No, I LOVE it! One of my favorite groups from the past 15 years was S Club 7/S Club from the UK. Over there, they had a weekly TV series, sold out tours, and movies. Here, their show aired on the Fox Family Channel (before ABC bought it), but they were nobodies here, so it didn’t really have any resonance. Well, right before they broke up, they released Seeing Double, a movie about clones or some shit. Their TV series was just as cheesy as The Monkees, so a movie about S Club clones doesn’t seem that farfetched. It’s unbelievably hard to find UK stuff in the US, as half the torrents don’t work, and the streaming sites are being taken down every week. I still haven’t seen The Inbetweeners Movie. Anyway, I think this was $2, so it was worth it to me. Even if it’s horrible, it can’t be as sad as half the group’s recent “comeback” attempts:

They didn’t even lure back any of the hot members! It’s just token black guy, chick who got kicked off Big Brother for calling someone a “Paki”, and the one who pulled a “Geri” a quit before the group broke up. Let’s just say folks weren’t exactly lining up to support them.

Welp, that’s it for this installment. Until next time, continue looking for treasure, but keep your hands off my shit. It’s mine!

07th Mar2012

Thrift Justice: The Hardest Thing I’ll Ever Have To Do…

by Will

Cue the 98 Degrees! So, in all my thrift trips, I come across things which I just can’t justify buying. Sure, they’d make great conversation pieces, but that’s also the road to life as a hoarder. It’s hard, though, leaving this stuff behind. How will I ever be the King of Kitsch if I don’t buy all this stuff?! Thanks to the miracle of camera phones, I can’t take a little bit of the item with me, without having to store it somewhere. This time around, I thought I’d share a few of those thought-provoking items with you!

This…this I actually bought. I didn’t mean to buy it. It just happened to be in an action figure grab bag that I bought. Yup, it’s The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, in scuba gear. In fact, if you take the mouthpiece out of his mouth, and remove his goggles, he has a horrified look on his face. No, this wasn’t made after his death as some sort of joke piece; this was made before his death. THIS FIGURE PREDICTED HIS DEATH! I just couldn’t have that in my chi, so back to the thrift store he went.

In case you can’t read it, the tagline is “Now the excitement of the Double Dare game show is in a book!” BULL and SHIT! If you’ve EVER seen Double Dare, you know that there’s no possible way to capture that in print form! Unless the pages are made from sheets of Gak, this book is full of lies. This sounds like the product of Marc Summers’s OCD: “Guys, isn’t there a…cleaner way we could do the show? How about a book? Yeah, where they’d only have to touch pages and there’d be no goo! I’ve gotta go count the fringe on my rug now.”

I’m not sure if it’s the result of new meds, but I had a dream yesterday where a panda bear fell in love with me. It knew English (no accent – very impressive) and had an unhealthy infatuation with me. It lived in a shopping mall, and my family thought it was the funniest situation. Because my family would find something fucked up like that to be funny. Anyway, I think this thing might have been messing with my brainwaves. Don’t look into its eyes!

Try not to pay attention to the dead baby legs in the bottom corner. No, you need to focus on the cover. Here’s a little backstory. This is actually on the cover to a “rainy day detective mystery book”. The selling point, however, is that the book provides “Hours and Hours of ‘By-Yourself Enjoyment'”. And get this – the “By-Yourself Enjoyment” has the little “rights reserved” R after it. So, not only does this sound like some kind of sketchy, masturbatory manual, but someone actually OWNS the phrase “By-Yourself Enjoyment”! Mind. Blown.

This would be the official timepiece of my Man Cave. I love everything about it! The 80s flair. The shoddy, “I made this in woodshop” nature of the clock; the brunette who looks like Kelly Kapowski after eating a well-needed sandwich. The wine glass stickers that had been affixed to give it a bit of a feminine touch.

I feel like I could’ve made this…ya know, if I hadn’t quit woodshop. Funny story, that. The one year I went to public school, I was all set to take woodshop, but my mom didn’t trust the kids in the class to not saw off my hand. So, I made the social faux pas of telling the teacher in the middle of class, “My mom’s not sure she wants me in this class”. From that day on, the supposedly sweet girl around the corner decided to call me “faggot” every day on the walk from the bus. Good times. Anyway, this clock reminds me of what might’ve been.

This couple has never seen a black person. Their eyes are just incapable of focusing on that spectrum. The same with poor people. The dude, however, looks like a character Will Arnett would play.

I love children’s programming, but I hated the FUCK out of Big Bad Beetleborgs (later Beetleborgs Metallix). It was your standard “pretty kids turn into Japanese heroes” show, but this seemed to cater to a younger age than Power Rangers. To drive this point home, the show’s “mascot” was Flabber, who’s pictured on the box. Flabber is what you’d get if Jay Leno were a Liberace impersonator and then you murdered him. He was this gaudy, ghostly fuck who was supposed to lend comic relief, but he was just annoying as all Hell. Plus, the show featured one of the TV tropes that I hate most: Grandma who doesn’t act her age. Get the fuck off those rollerblades, grandma! You want your fate to be at the hands of a death panel?!

Finally, we have this little gem. I’ve heard of “tough love”, but DAMN! Yes, I understand the purpose of the “For Dummies” brand, but didn’t anyone think about this one before they sent it to press? I can see the Amazon listing now “People who bought this also bought “Suicidal Thoughts for Asshats” and “A Very Fat-astic Paula Deen Christmas”

So, as you can see, I buy a lot of shit, but I don’t buy everything. Tune in next time, when I’ll show you some of the recent stuff I hid in my trunk until my fiancee fell asleep!

01st Feb2011

My History with the Power Rangers

by Will

Every now and then, over the past 18 years, there have been certain points where I felt I had reached an age/level of “cool” where I probably shouldn’t bother with Power Rangers anymore. That said, you really can’t forget where you came from, so here I am talking about them again. While I don’t write about it often, I am a 29 year old Power Rangers fan. If you knew me growing up, you probably came to my house and saw my “shrine” of PR toys and collectibles. I know my love for Power Rangers isn’t natural, but it’s still there, and I’d like to try to explain why it exists.

Bouncing around the internet, I’ve found that I’m not alone in my love for the Power Rangers franchise. Allow me to say this, however: I’ve been involved in a LOT of fandoms over the course of my 29 years – from Trekkies to comic fanboys to a cappella nerds. Out of all of that, no one group scares me more than adult Power Rangers fans. This is probably why I don’t wear it on my sleeve like some. I’ve never posted on Rangerboard nor have I written fanfic to fill-in those missing years where Tommy apparently earned his PhD. I’ll admit that a part of me is probably jealous of their dedication. I mean, some of them track down the original Japanese shows and watch them with subtitles. Even yet, some learn Japanese just so they can watch *without* subtitles. A lot of what I’m mentioning could also be said about anime, but that’s still seen as this “fringe” thing, while we tend to think of PR as simply a “kids show”.

So, I can admit their dedication scares me. At the same time, they also tend to be some of the most socially awkward people I’ve encountered (and I worked in comics). A good example of this is the episode of MTV’s True Life which was called “I’m A Fanboy” (full disclosure: I actually applied for this episode, not even for Power Rangers, but for comics. After watching, I’m SO glad they didn’t deem me worthy). There, we met Jason, who was a 26 year old Power Rangers fan. I was so happy that I wasn’t alone! That is, until he met this sweet 16 year old at a convention, and then things got creepy. All of a sudden, he was trying to convince her to be his girlfriend, while she was telling him that she was too young and didn’t want to be tied down. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen a grown man get turned down by a geeky minor!

True Life: I’m a Fanboy from Punched in the Head Productions on Vimeo.

Sure, that’s just one scenario, but the point is that I haven’t seen many positive public depictions of adult PR fandom, so I’ve kinda kept it to myself, outside of a few tweets and the occasional blog post that I figure no one will read. They’re not all like him, though. as I’ve still got good friends from my Toys “R” Us days who enjoy a good Ranger conversation AND I don’t mind being seen in public with them!

Anyway, I find my interest in PR spikes whenever a new series is about to premiere. It’s like when your girlfriend gets new clothes, and you suddenly think, “Where have YOU been hiding?!” I tend to lose my connection with the franchise, but I always find my way back. It wasn’t always like this, though. Back in the early days of the internet, I believe I was one of the foremost PR experts in my age category. Yes, I’m audacious enough to say that. I mean, I was already on the cusp of being too old for it when it began, so I had this adolescent obsession driving me to learn more. I dunno. I remember I used a LOT of my school’s paper supply to print out anything and everything I could find about Power Rangers. I still have binders filled with printouts of old Geocities and Xanga sites. What can I say? When I get into something, I tend to go ALL IN.

Through all of this breaking of the ice, however, we still haven’t covered the “why” of my PR obsession. Mainly, and I’m not ashamed to say this, I like bad television. Sure, you’ve got your TV snobs who lament the loss of Arrested Development and Sports Night but that’s not me. I enjoy guilty pleasure TV. Hell, if Baywatch Nights was still on, I’d still be watching. I’m still waiting for Team Knight Rider to come out on DVD. I’m not looking for Shakespeare – I just like good escapist television. That’s what Power Rangers was in the beginning. Over time, however, the story actually got…good. Most people gave up after early Mighty Morphin’, so they wouldn’t know about this.

(As an aside, I’m a bit of snob when it comes to my hobbies. With comics, if you tell me that you love Batman, I’ll ask you “Who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents?” If you answer “the Joker”, we have nothing else to discuss. The same could be said about PR. If I mention Power Rangers, and all you can say is “Man, it was messed up how the black guy was the BLACK RANGER!”, I already know the extent of your Ranger knowledge.)

Anyway, for those of us who held on, the storylines got really good. Power Rangers in Space was more suspenseful and dark than many primetime dramas. Power Rangers RPM was set in a post-apocalyptic world, where most of humanity had been destroyed by a computer virus – and that shit was from Disney! Anyway, I guess you could say that I came for the schlock, but I stayed for the story.

I made a promise to myself that I would keep watching Power Rangers as long as they kept making it. I mean, who knew it would last this long?! As time went on, internet connections got faster, I went off to college, Power Rangers moved to cable, and my obsession somewhat waned as other fans began to outpace me. I was raised, however, to never make a promise that you can’t keep – for this reason, I don’t make many promises. I had made that Power Rangers promise, so I had to make good on it.

In college, do you know how hard it was to watch Power Rangers?! Kicking drunks out of the Common Room on a Saturday morning so that I could watch Lightspeed Rescue? Being laughed at by the Walk of Shame strumpets?! I held on, though, til Saban sold the franchise, along with the rest of Fox Kids, to Disney. Not only was it harder to find on the air (ABC affiliates tended to air it at odd hours), but Buena Vista TV had a mad on for going after piracy, so links were taken down almost immediately. As far as I was concerned, I had upheld my end of the promise: I was trying to watch, but Disney was thwarting me. So, I took a few years away from Power Rangers. Sure, I checked in when I could (how the Hell did Tommy ever become a doctor?!), but there are some incarnations that I’ve never even seen (I’m sorry, but Mystic Force just sounded dumb).

As for the toys and memorabilia, it really comes down to the fact that I’m a speculator. Sure, there’s no baseball card market anymore, and comics are just glorified toilet paper, but I didn’t know any better growing up. As far as I was concerned, I was gonna be a fucking Rockefeller in the world of collectibles. I jumped on every bandwagon that came along, and Power Rangers was no different. To be perfectly honest, I was like most of you in the beginning. I thought the first episode was kinda lame (“Day of the Dumpster” was dated even by 1993 standards), but I had seen some of the toy ads in the Fox Kids Magazine, and thought they looked kinda cool. Little did I know that they would reach Cabbage Patch/Tickle Me Elmo heights of popularity. They were THE toy of Christmas 1993, and my mom, for all of her fretting and evangelical ways, has always supported my pursuit of hard-to-find stuff. So, I got my first batch of Power Rangers toys as “an investment”. She made me keep all the boxes, since they might become “collectors’ items”. Over time, though, speculating gave way to sheer enjoyment. If you’ve ever enjoyed playing with Transformers, then you’d enjoy playing with Zords. It’s pretty much the same thing. Eventually, however, my collecting got out of control. I finally weened myself off of the toys once I went to college, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still have a shit-ton of Saban-era Power Rangers toys. And all their original boxes.

So, what’s the reason for this trip down memory lane? Well, as I mentioned, my interest spikes when the debut of a new Ranger series is upon us. Next Monday, Power Rangers Samurai makes its debut on Nickelodeon. When I first heard that Haim Saban had bought the franchise back from Disney, I felt that he was really just going to sit on it for the licensing money. Instead, it seems like he’s really putting a lot of effort into Samurai. It’s being heralded as a back-to-basics approach, as he has gotten the old band back together on the production side. Plus, not only is the theme a remixed version of the original “Go Go Power Rangers”, but they’ve even got Bulk back for comic relief! While young kids may just see it as a fun action-packed show, it’s really almost a homecoming for those of us who remember the early days of the franchise. Something that really should’ve been a flash-in-the pan fad has become something of a multigenerational franchise. It has reached that age where parents are watching with their kids, saying “I used to watch this when I was little”. Whether you like the show or not, that’s still an accomplishment worthy of applause. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, as Japan is still cranking out the source material.  Anyway, I’ve spent a LOT of time and money on what most people consider to be “a dumb kids show”, but I’ve gotta say…I’m kinda starting to look forward to the day when I share it with my kids.

15th Sep2010

Origin Forever

by Will

OK, so up to this point, we’ve covered my first comic experience, as well as the summer where I fell in love with the medium. At the time, I had no idea that I was on the cusp of a full-on comic explosion! I’m not sure if you’ve been paying close attention to the timeline, but we just ended the summer of 1992. Fall of that same year would mark three very important events that would shape my comic reading hobby. Let’s take a minute to explore those milestones.

On September 5, 1992, Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids. We all know how revered the show is, and we all know about the Emmy wins. I wish, however, to point out what the show meant to me.

Unlike most of my generation, I don’t have fond memories of He-Man, Thundercats, or even Transformers. It’s not that I didn’t like those shows, but I just never saw them. I used to carpool with one of the teachers at my school, so I was usually in after school care, waiting for her to finish up for the day. By the time I got home, it would be after 5, and those shows would be over. I might get to catch them on the occasional sick day, but those were rare as I loved school. Just like with Dr Seuss, I’ve tried to go back and understand what I missed, but I guess you”just had to be there”.

The reason that B:TAS was so important to me was the fact that it was the first animated show that was “destination television” for me. I already loved Batman, but most fans will tell you that B:TAS rejuvenated the franchise. Sure, the movies had been great, but the show was the last step needed to cleanse the collective consciousness of the campiness of the 60s show. Don’t get me wrong – I had loved that show, but my comic reading was making me realize that it hadn’t depicted the “real Batman”. Anyway, I found myself taking over my mom’s VCR, programming it to tape B:TAS every day. The more I watched, the more I wanted to know more about the lore. This, in turn, led me to seek out more Batman comics.

A month after Batman premiered, the X-Men cartoon debuted on Fox Kids. I have to admit, I had almost no knowledge of X-Men prior to watching the show. As you learned in the last installment, my Marvel knowledge didn’t extend much outside Spider-Man. The artsy kids (or, as artsy as you could be in 6th grade) at school were really into X-Men, but I just nodded along with their conversations. I kinda knew there was a guy with knives in his gloves, but that was about it.

So, while X-Men also became a VCR staple, it was for different reasons. Whereas Batman had deepened my appreciation for the character, the X-Men cartoon served not only as an introduction, but as a full immersion course. We all know the general Batman stuff off the bat (no pun intended): rich guy, dead parents, bat flies through window, strikes fear in criminals, sometimes has sidekick. X-Men isn’t nearly as accessible. I think 1992 was probably the most accessible period in X-Men history (it was on the eve of that franchise’s 30th anniversary), and that’s still not saying much. It’s kind of jarring to grow attached to the character of Morph, only to get into the comics and find that he never existed prior to the show. It would take a Ph. D to fully understand the X-Men franchise, and I thank this show for getting me in on as close to the ground floor as possible. As with Batman, I had an urge to seek out more X-Men comics to see what I’d been missing.

I remember that my very first issue of the X-Franchise was Uncanny X-Men #297, which made absolutely NO sense to someone only acquainted with the cartoon. It was the tail-end of a huge X-book crossover called “X-Cutioner’s Song”. It came bagged, with a trading card, so I thought I was onto something really special! Now, the X-Men books have had some confusing storylines over the years, but that one still might take the cake for “most convoluted” – and that’s saying a LOT. I stuck with it, though, I only have a slightly better understanding all these years later. Yup, I still have that issue, too.

It was the 3rd event that made all the difference in the world. In the comic world, Fall of 1992 also marked the Death of Superman storyline. I’ve already discussed this in an Adventures West Coast post, but to say this was a BIG DEAL would be an understatement. It also served as a good link to getting through to my mother.

For those who only know me through the internet, my mom had me later than most moms. In fact, she was 43; I was a “surprise”. So, when I first started learning about Superman, I realized that his debut was the month before my mother was born. So, any chance I got, I would use that as a means to open up a dialogue. “Oh, your birthday’s coming up. I know because Superman’s anniversary just occurred.” Yes, it was lame, but what could I do? I thought I was clever! She never had any real love for Superman, so it’s not like this appealed to some part of her. It did, however, allow me a chance to demonstrate how much I knew about, as well as how much I loved, comics.

The whole “death of comic character” gimmick wasn’t common at this point, and the event was getting a LOT of media coverage. I think people at her job had even been talking about it, so she understood the magnitude of it all. I didn’t yet understand the whole concept of miniseries and future solicitations. So, I got her to take me to the comic shop (yes, I had discovered them by this point), so that I could get what I thought was the death of Superman issue. Instead, it was just Part 1 of the storyline. Well, she was already used to my whole “I just need one more” pleas from my days of collecting Happy Meal toys, so this was nothing new. She hated it just as much as she had with the aforementioned toys, but she was used to it. Not only did she take me to get all the books where Superman “returned” as four other characters, but she also took me to get the comic where he really did come back.

I think that mainstream exposure did a lot to let my mom know that comics weren’t just “funnybooks” anymore. She still hated X-Men, though. They were “demonic”, and she threatened to throw away any issues that were left in common areas. Still, we were making progress. Next time, I’ll get into exactly why I love comics.

Part One
Part Two
Part Four
Part Five

08th Mar2010

Power Rangers: Super Legends – AKA “I Saved Angel Grove, and All I Got Was This Lousy Game.”

by Will

I honestly only decided to write this at the behest of my TRU pal Mike “Special Forces” Johnson, but you’re all welcome to read along if you have even the slightest interest in the pop culture phenomenon known as Power Rangers.

Last weekend, I dropped by a Hollywood Video that happened to be going out of business. Their used games were 40% off, so $6 didn’t seem like to much to pay for Power Rangers: Super Legends. Released in 2007 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, Super Legends was released for Nintendo DS, PC & PlayStation 2. I’d never really heard anything good about the game, but I had a desire to use my PS2 as something other than a DVD player, and I’m a sucker for cheap Power Rangers merch. I ended up beating the game in 2 days, an amazing feat considering I haven’t beaten a video game in 10 years (and THAT was Super Mario Bros 2. Long story short: I like to take my sweet time). In the end, I’ve got a couple of issues with the game, but let’s have a Ranger primer before we get to all that.

Power Rangers debuted in 1993 as part of Fox Kids. It was basically the story of five teens, who were given powers in order to defend the Earth against evil space aliens – sure, there were some seasons when the number of rangers went up to 8, and there were times where the median age was about 25, but that was the main gist.

The first six seasons comprise the Angel Grove Era, as that was the name of the town where the Rangers lived. The show changed names a few times (Mighty Morphin‘, Zeo, Turbo and In Space), and the teens changed, but they all followed the same overarching storyline. Everything is pretty much wrapped up in the Power Rangers In Space finale, and the show changed its formula where each subsequent series only lasted 1 season, and they were only loosely related. Also, the rangers weren’t exactly teens anymore. This was basically the School’s Out Era, which included Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, and Wild Force.

In 2002, Disney purchased the Fox Kids holdings, including the Power Rangers franchise. Wild Force was the final series to air on Fox Kids, and it was believed that Disney would just shut down production, and sit on the library. Instead, Disney moved production to New Zealand, where it experienced higher production values including more wire work and special effects. Each incarnation still lasted 1 season, but seeing as how New Zealand only seems to have 25 actors, the same people kept popping up as different characters. From 2002 to 2009, The Disney Era gave us Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury and RPM. Power Rangers: RPM aired its last episode on the last Saturday of 2009, effectively ending the production of new live action Power Rangers series. Currently, they air “remastered” episodes of the original 1993 series.

So, Power Rangers: Super Legends follows a temporal plot, where second season villain Lord Zedd steals some time crystals and starts fucking up the timeline. This is noticed by Omega Ranger, who’s the curator of the Ranger Hall of Legends. Realizing that Zedd must be stopped, Omega visits various timelines, recruiting rangers to help with his mission. Since it’s a 2-player game, the plot has a built-in caveat that only 2 rangers can be active at one time. You’re given 2 preselected choices in each timeline, with the ability to unlock additional rangers throughout the game.

So, what were my problems with the game?

-Why is Zedd the villain? The game already acknowledges that he was “cured” of his evil in the PRIS finale. Plus, it’s not like he was the biggest bad the rangers ever faced to begin with.

The Angel Grove Era worked in a formula where each season presented a villain more powerful than the last. We start with Rita, who’s replaced by Zedd, who marries Rita in almost WWE fashion, who are then “replaced” by Rita’s father, Master Vile. Next, they’re all evicted by The Machine Empire, who are replaced by Divatox, and then we find out they ALL were working for Dark Spectre.

So, with that logic, shouldn’t Dark Spectre be the villain in the game? I mean, he was considered the greatest evil in existence! Also, they try to explain that the game’s Zedd is from an alternate timeline, but that just seems a little too convenient, especially once you get to the end of the game.

-Considering it’s the 15th anniversary of the franchise, not all incarnations are represented. I’ve noticed this happen in a lot of the post-Fox Kids merchandise. In fact, outside of Lost Galaxy, there’s not much emphasis on the Fox years. This can be understood, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s like the Zeo-Turbo-In Space seasons never occurred, and they’re just represented by MMPR. I realize it’s the root source of those jilted incarnations, but they’re still missed.

To compound the problem, Time Force, Wild Force and Ninja Storm are ONLY represented on the DS version.

The most glaring omission of all, however, is that of Tommy Oliver.

Arguably the Greatest Ranger of ALL Time, Tommy was originally the Green Ranger, who lost his powers only to return as the new team leader, The White Ranger. He went on to become the Red Zeo Ranger before his “retirement”. Years later, after the Disney purchase, he returned in Dino Thunder, acting as team mentor and black ranger. The man was FOUR different rangers, always with the best weapons and zords, and you mean to tell me they just FORGOT him?! It makes me wonder if Jason David Frank was on the outs with Disney at the time.

-The Zord battles are shit. They are puzzle/combo based, where you’re shown what’s basically a still image, and given a button combo to enter. Do it correctly, and you successfully attack/block. Considering that past ranger games included Zord battles that utilized the same fight game engine of most games in 1997, this is a step WAY back! At the bare minimum, I was looking forward to something akin to Killer Instinct. Instead, I got Power Rangers: Simon.

-Omega Ranger. I feel that if anyone should be the M.C. of this thing, it should be Zordon. Sure, he’s “dead” but when did that ever mean anything? Especially, since the time crystals you’re hunting are exactly like the kind at the bottom of Zordon’s tube. His whole schtick was that he was trapped in the space-time continuum, so it was a no-brainer. Instead, they give us Omega Ranger.

Now, I didn’t watch a lot of SPD, but I know that Omega Ranger was essentially the Other Ranger of the SPD team. He was composed of pure energy, so he never unmorphed. The thing is, the Omega Ranger in the game is NOT the SPD Omega. However, he ends up recruiting 2 rangers from the SPD timeline – one of whom is…the Omega Ranger? Huh? WTF? The SPD version shows some confusion, and they riff on that in the video interludes, but they never explain that whole thing. That confusions could have all been avoided if they’d just gone with Zordon.

– It lacks in geographical accuracy. In the Angel Grove levels, you fight in a bustling metropolis. In fact, a major fight takes place on the freeway, in the middle of rush hour. Angel Grove ain’t Gotham City. The only time Power Rangers ever depicted it as a bustling city was in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, and that’s, technically, not even canonical. Either fight in a park, a juice bar, down by the docks, or a quarry. Similarly, the Lost Galaxy levels take place in the innards of Terra Venture, when we never saw most of that on the show. Maybe the designers felt they were showing us a “different side” of the cities – one which we hadn’t seen in the episodes. Unfortunately, it just seems like they were reusing boards from other games.

So, there you pretty much have it. In what could have been a decent celebration of a (then) 15 year old franchise, fans were instead given a shoddily thrown together money grab of a game. Power Rangers is no stranger to the notion of nostalgia. Even in the Disney era, they continued the tradition of the crossover between different teams. They’ve also had several incredible anniversary episodes, like “Forever Red” (10th anniversary) and “Once A Ranger” (15th anniversary). Unfortunately, none of that was successfully replicated by this game. I understand that it was, essentially, made for younger children (otherwise, how could I have beaten it so easily?). After all, this is Power Rangers for a new generation. That said, if you’re not going to appropriately celebrate what came before, then why make an anniversary game?

02nd Mar2009

Wolverine and the X-Men – A Review

by Will

“All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy”

So, I had another post lined up, but I had to push it aside to let the world know about a show that they should be watching:

In case it’s not apparent, this is gonna be a “comic post”, so only about 2 of you reading are gonna understand it, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldnt try. Now, back to the show.

So, Wolverine and the X-Men. I didn’t want to believe it either. I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and say that it’s probably the best cartoon of the past 12 years (NOTE: For those keeping score at home,I’m dating back to Batman Beyond. Ben10 isn’t as consistent as it should be, while I never liked Justice League as much as people said I should have). It’s even better than the original Fox Kids X-Men. Yeah, I said it.

To fully understand why it’s so good, you have to understand the failings of past X-Men shows. The original cartoon pilot, Pryde of the X-Men, is almost perfect. It’s a snapshot of the team of the time, but it also featured the “core” team, AKA everyone who starred in that kickass arcade game. The thing even had Dazzler! The only real error of that pilot was that they made Wolverine Australian. Other than that, it holds its own against any other cartoon of the time, and seems like it would have been pretty true to the source material. It’s biggest “fail” was that the series was never produced. Oh, and they called him “Mag-NET-o” (without the long “e”).

Next, we have the Fox Kids show. Yes, everyone knows it’s awesome. Unfortunately, the same thing that was a boon for the Pryde show was a shortcoming for the FK show: the team is a snapshot of the team at the time. Most people would say that wasn’t a bad thing. After all, the show debuted in 1992, around the time of the launch of “Adjectiveless” X-Men #1, which sold 1,000,000 copies. It’s true: I have a retailer-only hologram to prove it. So, the franchise was clearly at the height of it’s popularity. Not bad for a series that spent half of the Seventies reprinting older stories just to stay afloat.

Despite the “required” members, like Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm, you also got the fan favorites, such as Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee. It’s funny to watch that thing now because the first question I ask myself is “Where the Hell is Jubilee these days?” Sure, I know the answer, but it just goes to show how dated that lineup is. The problem with the makeup of the team is that the show was really striving to adapt classic X-Men stories, such as the Bishop/Cable dynamic, The Dark Phoenix Saga, and even Days of Future Past, yet most of the team wasn’t even present for most of those classic events. The Dream Team of 1992 hadn’t been assembled at the time of the franchise’s most iconic storylines. So, you were left with Gambit and Beast being shoehorned into roles that didn’t fit. Or, you had Xavier and Jean around with nothing to do.

Xavier has 2 purposes in the X-Men franchise: he’s the father figure, and he has a rich history with Magneto. When that gets stale, they make him disappear (as the team works best without a father figure), and he comes back with the ability to walk. That is, until the use of his legs is taken away. It’s as cyclical as the seasons. Recently, in the comics, they’ve tried to come up with a 3rd purpose: Xavier’s secretly an asshole, and his motives weren’t purely on-the-level or altruistic back when he first created the team. It’s not that far-fetched, but it’s a bit “too little, too late”. Nothing quite like “dancing between the raindrops of continuity” when storylines get a bit weak. So, he really shouldn’t have been present for that show, as he also wasn’t present for most of those important storylines. Jean shouldn’t have been in that show either, if for no other reason than the fact that no one has known what to do with that character *since* the Dark Phoenix Saga. Whenever you have a reboot/reimagining of the X-Men, Jean is merely present as you wait for the inevitable appearance of the Phoenix. Once that’s done, her usefulness is over. The show lasted 5 seasons (the last of which featured animation so poor it looked like someone’s high school project), and is considered a classic. I’m not trying to take anything away from it, but Batman: The Animated Series is a classic. X-Men is like really good karaoke: it might be really good, but it still ain’t the real thing.

The less said about X-Men: Evolution the better. Sure, I know there are people out there who like it, but I don’t feel that it ever really grasped the notion of the X-Men. Sure, it had characters who looked like, and shared the names of, popular X-Men, but I didn’t feel it ever really “got” it. Not that it didn’t have it’s high points. After all, it introduced Wolverine’s “sister”, X-23, and it put the creative team of Kyle/Yost on the map who now not only write for the comics, but also are behind the new show, Wolverine and the X-Men. Again, the main problem with Evolution is the cast. The whole “some X-Men are gonna be students while some are gonna be adults” doesn’t work. Don’t keep some X-Men as adults, while de-aging others. If you want that concept, make it The New Mutants, and have the few adult X-Men leading some younger kids at the academy. Plus, it was always weird to me that the show aired on a network owned by the competition (The WB, aka Warner Bros, the corporate parent of DC Comics). I almost felt like the show sucked out of spite, like notes and suggestions were coming down from the network just to screw it over.

Now, we have Wolverine and the X-Men on Nicktoons. When I first heard of this show, I thought it was a terrible idea, mainly because Wolverine is more overexposed than young starlets’ panties over the past 5 years. Plus, I didn’t like the concept: Wolverine leading the X-Men. You know, I’d be all about a cartoon just featuring Wolverine, where we learn about his past and he goes on solo adventures, kinda like his comic series. But the notion that Wolverine was going to lead the team just seemed like exploitation of a brand. It was the comic/cartoon equivalent of “David Ruffin and the Temptations” – we know you’re the star, but you don’t have to be so egomanical about it. It’s clear that this was meant to position him for the theatrical release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so I kinda gave Marvel a pass. Then, I really thought about it, and it’s not that far-fetched of an idea, especially if you’ve seen X2: X-Men United. In that movie, Wolverine proved himself an effective leader when he had to help those kids get away from Striker in the mansion. Sure, he’s a reluctant leader, but he really steps up to the challenge when forced. Fortunately, this is the Wolverine that we see here. He’s been given a mission that he doesn’t want, but he realizes someone’s gotta do it. For those who don’t know the set-up for the series, here we go. If you look closely, you’ll immediately realize why I love this concept now:

When the show begins, the team is already exhibiting classic behavior, doing their thing in the Danger Room. You’ve got your Colossus/Kitty dynamic, you’ve got the playfulness of Nightcrawler, and my personal fave, you’ve got the Scott/Jean/Logan love triangle. Plus, for an added bonus, it looks like Logan’s finally winning that battle (I always felt Cyclops was too insecure for a relationship with Jean, especially when it’s clear that she wants the bad boy. She may tell herself she needs the stable, predicatible guy, but she wants the rebel). Everything’s going fine until the mansion is attacked by unseen forces that appear to be targeting telepaths. So, in a flash,Xavier and Jean disappear to parts unknown. Cut to one year later, Wolverine is roaming the country, trying to leave his past behind, when forces from Senator Kelly and the Mutant Registration Department drag him back into the game. He feels that the war between mutants and humans is brewing but the team has disbanded over the past year, and he’s got no allies. He realizes he’s got to get the band back together. After the pilot, each episode is pretty much consumed with the idea of him finding another former member of the team and convincing them to come back. It’s odd to see him in the the recruitment role, but he handles it effectively. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that most of them don’t need much convincing : they had just figured the team was no more, so as they see signs that it’s being reformed, they’re usually more than willing to come back.

The strength of the show is the cast. If you look at the image above, the core team consists of Wolverine, Beast, Nightcrawler, Shadowcast, Storm, Cyclops, and Emma Frost. That’s the beauty of it: it’s hint of the old and a hint of the new. The Emma Frost addition to the team has been a pretty controversial aspect of the comics over the past few years, so it’s such a bold move that they’d add that dynamic to this new show. Also, the characterization of some of the team members is so spot on for what they’re trying to accomplish: it’s a cross section of all of the working concepts from the various incarnations of the team. The character design of Toad, “double agent” Rogue, Logan winning Jean, and black Nick Fury are from the Ultimate Universe, brooding, unshaven Cyclops is from X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine’s basic mood is from X2: X-Men United, and Xavier’s primarily out of the picture, as he was for most of the good “616” storylines. Instead of trying to retell stories that have been told, retold, and retconned in the past, the show focuses on new stories that still capture the essence of the franchise. You still have Senator Kelly, Bolivar Trask, Magneto, and Sentinels, but you’ve also got the concept of the Registration Act thrown in for good measure.

Even if your favorite member isn’t on the team, you still might see them: Gambit popped up in Episode 5 in what may have been his best onscreen characterization EVER (and a better accent than the 90s Gambit; thanks, Phil Lamarr!). Pixie and Sammy the Squidboy showed up in Episode 6, as Nightcrawler fought against Mojo’s pirates. Angel is the team’s money man, while Forge keeps the Blackbird running. We even saw Boom Boom, Dust, and Rockslide in the pilot, as Wolverine and Beast liberate the MRD cells. This show is great because it makes use of all of the toys in the frachise without being bogged down with the idea of “So, when should we bring in the Phoenix Saga?” Sure, they still have time to fall into that trap. After all, they’ve only aired 7 episodes in America, so I might be lamenting the show’s downfall 2 seasons from now. At the moment, however, the show captures the strengths of the X-Men franchise, while also showcasing Wolverine as an effective leader, which is something that many fans haven’t had the chance to fully embrace. Anyway, why are you even still reading this? Head over the Nicktoons.com, watch the episodes, and see for yourself.

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