21st Jul2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/21/17

by Will

I haven’t been doing such a great job with my movie tally for 2017. We’re more than halfway through the year, and I’ve barely watched anything. Well, I kinda made up for that last weekend, as I caught Keeping Up With The Joneses on HBO. This is one of those movies that came and went, and might find a fan base on TV, but will probably just be forgotten. If it should be remembered for anything, it’s that it features both Gal Gadot and Isla Fisher in lingerie. That’s about all it’s got going for it. What’s it about? Well, Isla Fisher and Zack Galifianakis star as a milquetoast suburbanite couple who become suspicious of their new neighbors, Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot. So, they’re pushed out of their comfort zone when they find out Hamm and Gadot are spies, and they get wrapped up in their latest mission. This is the kind of movie I would’ve killed a chunk of a Saturday afternoon on had it aired on Fox 5, but I can understand why nobody went to see it in theaters. Folks loved Don Draper, but for whatever reason, they have no desire to help along Jon Hamm’s movie career. And this was pre-Wonder Woman Gadot, so there was no heat on her yet. It doesn’t suck, but it’s got no Wow Factor either. Once it hits FX, it might be a good way to waste away a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I finally got around to watching The Nice Guys, too. I’d tried a few months ago, but I only got as far as the Ryan Gosling fully clothed in the bathtub scene, where I went, “What the eff am I watching?” I wasn’t ready for the absurd that night, but I was ready now. Like everyone had told me, it was really good. I still have trouble with heist/mystery films because my brain doesn’t work as fast as the film, so sometimes I have to reflect back on the thing when it’s over just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Ryan Gosling is a private investigator who teams up with local tough guy Russell Crowe to track down a missing girl. Sure, there’s some stuff about porn, and the Detroit auto lobby, but that’s the gist of the movie. It’s got a precocious kid, a cool 70s aesthetic, and titties. Can’t really hate on any of that. Anyway, I could see this as one of those movies I drop everything to watch whenever I see that it’s on. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out.

My new favorite reality show debuted this week on Bravo, called A Night With My Ex. It’s just what the title says: a former couple spends the night together to see if the spark is still there and/or to reopen old wounds. In the premiere, 28 year old virgin Rachel is reunited to smarmy douchebag ex-boyfriend Fabian. They dated for four years, but he cheated on her with a sexy Tinkerbell at a Halloween party because he had a major case of blue balls. When the show starts, you don’t think Fabian is really that bad of a guy. He knows he made a mistake, and he even plans to propose to Rachel because he wants her in his life forever. But things go south quickly. He chastises her for scraping her plate with her fork as she eats, and he tries to make her give him a handjob once they’re in bed. All the while, she’s trying to actually apologize for basically pushing him to cheat by withholding sex, but he never lets her get a word out before saying/doing something stupid. Finally she declares that she deserves better than him, and basically laughs in his face when he proposes. That was some damn good television! If anything, I’d say the show is too short at 30 minutes, but they only spend one night together, and not the whole weekend, so I guess that’s all they could edit together. It’s a lot like MTV’s old show, The X Effect, only the couple’s current partners aren’t spying on the date like they were in that show. Anyway, it’s only been one episode, but I count me in for the next nine!

In TV news, it was announced that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have lined up their post-GoT project, Confederate, which is an alternate history series set prior to the United States’ 3rd Civil War. Well, this rang some alarm bells for some folks, as you can’t really get into the Confederacy and Civil War without dealing with slavery. And folks weren’t really happy about these White showrunners making what some considered to be “slavery fanfic”. What hasn’t been covered extensively, though, is that the project is really just coasting on the fact that the GoT showrunners are attached, but they’re not the only ones involved. Husband-wife team of Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman , who are Black, will be partners on the show along with Benioff and Weiss. Plus, the show it’s so deep in its infancy that there aren’t even character names or an outline yet. It was originally developed as a two-hour movie, but they decided it could be fleshed out and taken to television. There’s basically nothing on paper for it yet, though, so there’s not much for folks to be upset about at this stage other than mere speculation. The Spellmans acknowledge the criticism, but say that they’d rather it had followed the premiere of the show instead of starting now, as it’s being announced. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that this criticism will go into shaping the show going forward, so we may never get what they originally intended to put out.

We got a new trailer for Marvel’s Inhumans. Still looks like garbage. I’ve loved Iwan Rheon since Misfits, but I can’t follow him here. This just looks so bad. Look, I’m gonna watch it, but I really don’t see how there’s any damn way I’m paying for an IMAX ticket to see it in theaters.


We also got a new teaser for The Defenders, which teases the Punisher series at the end. People are going nuts online about this thing because it’s narrated by Stan Lee, but I actually think he’s tonally wrong for this clip. When I think of Stan, I think of his marquee, larger than life characters – NOT the street-level vigilantes. I almost feel like it would’ve been better narrated by Bendis or Brubaker, but they don’t have the recognition factor that Stan has. I get that. Still, it just feels like a hollow waste of a cameo.

 Things You Might Have Missed This Week
  • The good Lord answered my prayers, as Chris Hardwick and Comedy Central have “mutually decided” to end @midnight. I won’t miss his smarmy face or those stupid hashtag games.
  • I guess the third time’s the charm, as Paige Davis will start her 3rd hosting stint on Trading Spaces when it returns to TLC later this year
  • Ed Sheeran was on Game of Thrones this week, and I guess some folks didn’t like that. I dunno. I kinda couldn’t care less about Sheeran or GoT, but folks were hatin’!
  • Meanwhile, it was reported that Lena Dunham will join American Horror Story for season 7, and folks lost their shit about that, too. Apparently she’ll only be in one episode, but that was enough for some folks to claim they weren’t gonna watch anymore.
  • Transformers: Titans Return will debut in November as an animated micro series on the Go90 app, featuring the voices of Green Ranger Jason David Frank and the original Rodimus Prime himself, Judd Nelson.
  • MTV is in talks to reboot Teen Wolf before this iteration’s final season has even concluded. Slow it down!
  • Sega broke up with Archie Comics over Twitter, thereby ending the Sonic The Hedgehog comic after 24 years of publication
  • Seacrest IN! Ryan Seacrest has officially signed on to host ABC’s revival of American Idol. I feel like I’ve written this sentence 3 times in the past already, but now it’s for real for real.
  • Coming as no real surprise since The Vampire Diaries ended, The CW announced that its spinoff, The Originals, will end after its upcoming season.
  • In an odd choice, the directors of the original Catfish documentary (the movie, not the show) are in talks talks to helm a Mega Man film that will be produced by Masi Oka of Heroes fame.
  • Words with Friends is being developed into a television game show. Ya know, so it’s basically the Scrabble game show being rebooted.
  • Meanwhile on Black Twitter, R. Kelly is allegedly running a sex cult, Usher paid a woman $1.1 million for her to keep quiet about the fact that he gave her herpes, and Kevin Hart allegedly got caught cheating on his pregnant wife. I’m just waiting for some crazy Steve Harvey news to round out the week.
  • At San Diego Comic Con, MGM announced Stargate Origins, which appears to be a prequel webseries that will run on the Stargate Command website this fall.
  • Shazam! will be the next DC film to go into production, following Justice League and Aquaman, but it’s unclear if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will co-star as Black Adam.
  • There might soon be a new Cutco salesman on the block, as OJ Simpson has been granted parole from the armed robbery that landed him in prison nine years ago. The Juice is almost loose!

I love those weeks when the West Week Ever recipient presents itself early in the week, ’cause it’s pretty much smooth sailing after that. This was one of those weeks, as history was made across the pond. The Doctor Who franchise is over 50 years old, but every time the Doctor regenerates (a clever in-story mechanism for recasting the actor), he just turns into another White dude. That’s pretty much been the unending pattern since 1966, when the first regeneration occurred. Folks have been saying it’s time for a change, and they were hoping we’d either end up with a Doctor of color (with The IT Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade coming up in a lot of the discussions) or a woman Doctor. Well, half of them got their wish, as Attack the Block‘s Jodie Whittaker was announced as the 13th Doctor. And, as you’re probably not surprised, folks lost their shit.

We’re always taught the the Brits are so proper and upstanding, but the comments sections of several sites proved that they can troll with the best of them. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of folks who are afraid of change. A friend of mine, however, did point out that the victors in these circumstances also tend to trigger the backlash against themselves. For example, it would be one thing if this was seen as a bold move forward for a progressive franchise. The problem, however, is that some people take it too far, and get on the “I’m savoring these fanboy tears” soapbox, making it about something that it really didn’t need to devolve into. Sometimes the winners can suck just as much as the losers in these scenarios. This can be seen as a “win” for some without it being a “loss” for someone else. How about framing it as a win for everyone? Nah, the internet doesn’t really work like that.

I have never gotten into the Doctor Who franchise because it just seems so daunting. Sure, folks claim you really only have to start with the Eccleston season, but when I get into something, I go ALL IN. To me, that’s like telling someone they can start Star Trek with The Next Generation (which I’d probably do, since I hate The Original Series, even though I’d still feel like I was cheating them out of an experience). I feel like I’d have to watch all 54 years of the show, which is impossible because those seasons ain’t streaming anywhere, and a good chunk of them have been lost to time. It’s a franchise that cannot be wholly consumed! I hate mysteries that can’t be solved. Still, I can respect a longstanding institution, and I understand when change is a big deal. It’ll be interesting to see how fans take to the new Doctor, but the one thing to remember is that she’ll probably do it for 2 years, and then regenerate into another old White guy (the Doctor role has the retention rate of a community college). So, everyone gets their wish! I am kinda curious about the next season, though, as rumor has it Kris Marshall (Colin: God of Sex from Love Actually) is going to be the Doctor’s next companion. I loved that dude!

Anyway, I know which side of history I want to be on, and it’ll be interesting to see this all play out. The way the franchise works, we won’t see her until the Christmas special, and then won’t see her again until late 2018 at the earliest. So, folks have got some time to get used to the idea. Still, I think it goes without saying that Jodie Whittaker had the West Week Ever.

14th Jul2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

07th Jul2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

23rd Jun2017

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

16th Jun2017

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

09th Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/9/17

by Will

 

In an interesting shake-up over at CBS, Erinn Hayes has been let go from her role as wife to Kevin James in Kevin Can Wait. They say that the show is going in a new direction, which necessitated the firing. But here’s where it gets interesting. Leah Remini, who played James’s wife on King of Queens, popped up in the season finale as James’ former cop partner. Well, just before announcing Hayes’s departure, CBS announced that Remini would be joining the show next season as a series regular. Now, if you’ve never seen Kevin Can Wait, Kevin James plays a former NYC cop who tries to figure out how to adjust to his recent retirement. Based on the season finale, though, it seems like James’s character might be coming out of retirement. It’s just a strange move, seeing as how the show ended the season as the #1 new comedy on network TV – hardly a situation that necessitated a retooling of the show. Part of what critics praised was Hayes’s portrayal of James’s wife of 20 years. How do you just gloss over that relationship? I mean, they’ve gotta kill her off, but unless you do a time jump, you’ve gotta slog through all the grief stuff, which doesn’t lend itself well to a multicam comedy. And if they’re gonna fast track a relationship between James and Remini, will the audience accept it? It really feels like they blew a sure thing and, if they wanted to recreate The King of Queens, thy should’ve just revived The King of Queens! I’ve said that online since Kevin was announced!

Speaking of Remini, I’m starting to think she’s a Scientology double agent. Bear with me here: Scientology is a well-connected organization in Hollywood that allegedly has the power to ruin your career with the information that they have on their members. If you ever leave the church, you’re pretty much done. Just look at the list of former Scientologists. On that list, Remini and Jeffrey Tambor are the one ones who even have a semblance of a steady career right now, and Tambor kinda skirted the issue by saying he never really joined the church. Remini, however, joined up as a child, and was a HUGE booster of the church. Then, in 2013, she turned on the church – not for its negative views on homosexuality (which is why Crash director Paul Haggis left) or its alleged illegal activities. No, she left because she got her feelings hurt after leadership clapped back at her. At Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes, Remini asked why church leader David Miscavige’s wife wasn’t in attendance, and they basically told her she didn’t have clearance for that info (formal speak for “Nunyo Biznazz”). She didn’t trust that answer, and went further to file a missing persons report on Mrs. Miscavige. Then, she made it her mission to publicly discredit Miscavige, criticizing his leadership, citing reports of abuse in the Sea Org, and more. She went straight to the TOP with her blame game, yet NOTHING has happened to her. In fact, it’s probably rejuvenated her career. She got a successful show on A&E called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, where she’s basically telling all their secrets. When the show debuted, the church issued a statement attacking her. Yet, she’s working more now than she was before. So, there’s two things happening here: either Scientology isn’t as powerful and litigious as we’ve been led to believe OR they’re in on it. It’s yin and yang. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. While Scientology has its critics, it never really had an enemy before. Why not create one where they could control the narrative? It’s like learning that Captain America has secretly been Hydra the whole time. Long story short, I’m not entirely convinced she’s left the church, especially over something as trivial as what’s reported to have started the whole thing. And she’s laughing all the way to the bank.

In other TV news, Tia and Tamera Mowry (yeah, they got married and have new hyphenated last names, but I ain’t got time for all that) are trying to get a Sister, Sister revival off the ground. And I don’t know anyone who wants this. If you were cool back in the 90s you probably never watched Sister, Sister, where a set of adopted twins didn’t realize they were twins until a chance meeting in a department store, a la The Parent Trap. Then they all move in together. It was the definition of “mediocre”, yet once ABC canceled it, it gained a new life over on The WB. The most memorable thing about it was that Marques “Batman” Houston, of the R&B group Immature/IMx, played their annoying neighbor Roger (kinda like a watered down Steve Urkel), and they’d constantly yell “Go home, Roger!” at him. Other than that, it was just a bunch of zany, mistaken identity twin shit – stuff that I’d hope adult Tia and Tamera had outgrown by now. What’s the story to tell? They both get divorced, and move in together with their kids? Sorry, Kate & Allie, Getting By, and the upcoming Raven’s Home have already covered that old chestnut. Are they single in the city, doing the same twin shit? Not interested. I don’t have a lot of faith in this one getting picked up, though, because they’re far behind where they need to be. Right now, they say they’re looking for a show runner to guide the project, but then they’d have to find a network. Sister, Sister was NO Full House, so I doubt Netflix would be interested. If anything, the only place I’d put it right now would probably be Freeform, even though the twins are slightly older than the target demo of that channel. Let this just be a lesson that not everything needs to be revived.

In other television news, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has cast Tala Ashe as Muslim “hacktivist” Zari Adrianna Tomaz for season 3. She’s a computer whiz from 2030, so basically the team’s got their own Oracle/Felicity now – not that they really need it, with Gideon and all. Anyway, in comics Tomaz is actually an Egyptian who uses the Amulet of Isis to transform into the hero Isis. Before the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe, Isis was an important character in the weekly series 52, as she was in a relationship with Black Adam, and her brother, Osiris, was eaten by Sobek. Oh, and she had a cheesy TV show in the 70s. None of that’s gonna be in the Legends, I’m sure. Given the current political climate, and how loaded the name “Isis” is right now, I doubt they’ll actually ever call her that onscreen, either.

Song of the Week

Today I give you “Vampires”, by The Midnight. My pal and thrifting partner, “Special Forces”, and I decided that this is the official theme song for Thrift Justice should it ever become a real show. Synthwave AND saxophone?! I wanna direct Skinemax movies just so I can score them with this entire album. So sexy. Right now, Thrift Justice is a USA drama circa 1990, and I ain’t got no problems with that!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland will guest star on Freeform’s Shadowhunters, which kinda sounds like a step back
  • Speaking of Freeform, they’ve ordered a pilot for an American adaptation of UK hit Misfits. The network is a good home for something like this, but I’m still pissed over the American adaptation of Skins, so…
  • Rudy Huxtable herself, Keshia Knight Pulliam, escorted TV dad Bill Cosby to the first day of his rape trial. Whatever. Call me when Lisa Bonet shows up.
  • In next level pettiness, Taylor Swift put her entire catalog back on Spotify at midnight – at the very moment Katy Perry released her album “Witness”
  • According to Dan Aykroyd, Paul Feig blew his chance at a Ghostbusters sequel because he overran his budget on unnecessary reshoots. Sony refuted the figures Aykroyd presented, saying the estimates were off by about NINETY percent. Woo!
  • Jennifer Connelly will join Daveed Diggs in TNT’s Snowpiercer pilot, playing the person who makes the daily announcements on the train. Exciting!
  • Tom Cruise revealed that the title of the Top Gun sequel will be Top Gun: Maverick. I wonder if John McCain has any feelings about that. Coherent feelings, not ramblings about the Diamondbacks…
  • Speaking of Cruise, his The Mummy reboot opens today, and reviewers have called it “the worst Tom Cruise movie ever”. Wow.
  • Singer/actress/sister of Ray J Brandy was found unconscious on a Delta flight, and the doctor who came to her rescue was reportedly Kim Kardashian’s uncle! Considering Ray J put that family on the map, I figure it’s time the Kardashians did something to return the favor.
  • Gotham stars Morena Baccarin and Ben McKenzie got married. Knowing that show, it’ll probably revealed that they’re Bruce’s real parents or some shit. It’s not like it pays attention to any of the rest of the lore, so why not?
  • Fox canceled 24 Legacy after a low-rated single season, but they’re still committed to the 24 brand. They’re reportedly developing an anthology series to take the show back to its real-time roots
  • Like Peter denied Jesus, Jerry Seinfeld denied THREE requests for a hug from Kesha. I don’t blame him!
  • In one of the strangest deals I’ve ever heard of, Epix has inked a deal to stream its content directly to 2018 Honda Odyssey  minivans
  • Sony will begin selling clean versions of some of their hit movies. If you’ve ever accidentally bought a clean version of an album from Walmart, you can see why this decision might anger some folks
  • Hank Williams Jr is back singing the opening to Monday Night Football for the first time since 2011. I guess all his rowdy friends will be over after they finish burning a few more crosses…
  • George and Amal Clooney welcomed twins Ella and Alexander
  • Former Power Rangers director/producer/fight coordinator Koichi Sakamoto will direct the upcoming Ultraman Geed series, focusing on the son of the evil Ultraman Belial. Yeah, those words mean something to someone out there.
  • Newcomer Blu Hunt has been cast as Danielle Moonstar in the upcoming New Mutants spinoff of the X-Men films.
  • A live action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is being developed, and my heart weeps. As one of the few anime series I’ve watched, and loved, I kinda hope this dies in development hell
  • Hackers released 8 stolen episodes of ABC’s upcoming game show, Funderdome, and nobody cared.
  • Donald Glover will be retiring her Childish Gambino hip hop persona after his next album.

  • We got our first poster for the Black Panther film.

Last week I gave my opinions and feelings on the movie. This week, I’m just gonna stick to the facts:

  • 92% on Rotten Tomatoes
  • $103 million opening weekend domestic box office
  • $220 million opening weekend global box office
  • Third highest opening for a DC film
  • Most successful female-directed film
  • Mot expensive female-directed film, with a budget of $150 million
  • Most tweeted about movie of 2017, with 2.19 million tweets
  • Won Best In Show and Best Fantasy/Adventure at the Golden Trailer Awards
  • Last Saturday, Wonder Woman Day was celebrated at comic shops around the world

You’ve seen it by now, right? RIGHT?! Then, what are you waiting for? For these reasons, and more, Wonder Woman once again had the West Week Ever.

02nd Jun2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26th May2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/26/17

by Will

Here we are, on the verge of a 3-day weekend, which means nobody’s gonna read this thing. Still, “the show must go on”…

Well, the week was filled with spider news, as last Friday Sony announced that Tom Hardy will star in a Venom film. If you’re not “in the know”, Venom is a Spider-Man villain comprised of an alien symbiote suit and Peter Parker’s professional rival, Eddie Brock. Sadly, the film’s not meant to cross over with Spider-Man: Homecoming or any bit of Tom Holland’s portrayal. I’m starting to think Sony’s deal with Marvel Studios is actually a bad thing, as it seems like Spidey’s addition to the MCU is to the detriment of his expanded universe to which Sony still owns the rights. I don’t really care about a Venom without a Spider-Man. To add to that, yesterday, Sony announced a film starring Spider-Man supporting cast members Silver Sable and Black Cat, to be directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball). I really don’t think there’s much to say about these characters without the possibility of a Spider-Man cameo. I get where Sony’s coming from; they have all these characters, so they might as well do something with them. That said, earlier talks made it sound like they were building their own Spider-Man-centric film universe, but since the MCU deal went through, Spider-Man no longer seems to be part of the equation.

Meanwhile, the Licensing Expo was this week, and we got our first look at the poster for the animated Spider-Man movie, starring Miles Morales. Apparently it was created by a child. Maybe a Make-A-Wish kid? Seriously, that thing is terrible.

It wasn’t all bad Spider News, however, as we got the third trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming. They’re basically giving away the movie at this point, but I’m still a guaranteed butt in a seat. A lot of people are having issues with it, but I kinda like that this is basically Iron Man 4. I really didn’t need a new Spider-Man, so throwing Tony Stark in there is a good way to get me interested. I mean, I liked Tobey Maguire. I liked Andrew Garfield. I’m sure I’ll like Holland, but I’m kinda tired of the Spider-Man revolving door. Now that he’s tied into the MCU, I hope the Holland casting sticks. Then again, we’ve had three Hulks already, so…

This poster, however, is horrendous, but endearingly so. I mean, it’s really bad Photoshop, but I still kinda like it. It’s busier than Times Square at rush hour, but I love it in all its ugliness. It looks like it should be airbrushed on a denim jacket at the mall.

Across the aisle, things aren’t going so well for the DC movie slate, either. First up, Doug Liman has dropped out of directing the Justice League Dark film due to his commitment to Lionsgate’s adaptation of the young adult series Chaos Walking. In case you didn’t know, Justice League Dark would focus on the more mystical DC Comics characters, like John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman and others, battling supernatural threats – ya know, like the kind the Suicide Squad had no business fighting. I’ve got no interest in this, but that’s ’cause I don’t really like magic. If they manage to get Swamp Thing into the movie, though, I think it’ll increase its appeal. Right now, though, they’re just a bunch of magical nobodies coasting on the Justice League name which might not even hold any power if that movie fails this Fall.

In sadder news, Zack Snyder bowed out of Justice League post-production work to spend time with his family as they grieve the loss of his daughter, Autumn, to suicide. It was revealed that Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film, which now has fans cautiously optimistic. Just last week, there were reports that there had been so many reshoots that the film was basically a different movie from what was originally shot. It’s possible, however, that these reshoots were part of Whedon’s plan. It’s really unfortunate what the Snyder family is going through, and it’s deplorable that some folks are making jokes about the situation.

In other movie news, it was revealed that Tom Cruise’s upcoming film, The Mummy, will kick off a Universal Monsters cinematic universe called Dark Universe. I bet they stayed up real late to think of that one! Anyway, Russell Crowe will portray Dr. Jekyll (who also appears in The Mummy), Javier Bardem will play Frankenstein’s monster, and Johnny Depp will play The Invisible Man. The next film in the franchise will be The Bride of Frankenstein, to be released on Valentine’s Day of 2019. Ya know what’s funny? DC’s Justice League Dark film was also going to be called Dark Universe. Somebody’s gonna have to lawyer up!

In TV news, it was reported that Hamilton scribe and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, will voice Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera AKA Gizmoduck in the upcoming DuckTales reboot. Cabrera? Really? He’s even brown now to go along with the name change. I know some folks are gonna have an issue with this. Hell, I even kinda have an issue with it. But if they’re gonna inject some diversity into Duckburg, I guess I’d rather them do this than, say, Launchpad McQuack-Jenkins.

While we knew that Bobby Moynihan was leaving Saturday Night Live, just hours before the season finale it was revealed that Vanessa Bayer would also be leaving. Then, Monday morning, it was reported that Sasheer Zamata would also be leaving the show. I’m really gonna miss Vanessa, as she definitely grew on me. Her characters have this adorable aloofness to them that I’ve come to enjoy. She’s got a big future playing the best friend in romantic comedies ahead of her. Sasheer was simply underutilized. She was always in the background of sketches, or only had a line or two. I hear that she really shined in the writers room, coming up with sketches like Black Jeopardy. I feel like SNL will merely be a footnote on her resume, as she goes on to bigger things, like Noël Wells and Jenny Slate.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining some of my favorite people on the Nerd Lunch podcast, where discussed some of the greatest pop culture deaths. Nobody was safe, from Santa Claus to Michael Knight! And I finally got to join my pal Vincent (@RobotsPJs) on a podcast, which has been years in the making. We had a great time, and I think you’ll have a great time listening to it, so check it out!

Song of the Week

This week, I’ve got “It Ain’t My Fault”, by Brothers Osborne. Not only are they local boys, but I love the fact that this song/video has layers. Read the title and then watch the video. They’re trying to tell us something – the same kind of thing that sank the Dixie Chicks all those years ago. My how times have changed!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fresh off playing nurse Claire Temple in the Marvel Netflix shows, Rosario Dawson is in talks to play Dr. Cecilia Reyes in the X-Men spinoff film New Mutants. Just go to medical school already, Rosario!
  • Twin Peaks made its triumphant return for those of you who are fans. Based on the ratings, that’s not many of you…
  • The Get Down was canceled by Netflix after one season.
  • Chicago Justice was canceled by NBC after one season.
  • The Ben 10 reboot was renewed for a second season at Cartoon Network.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants was renewed for season 12 at Nickelodeon, taking it through its 20th anniversary.
  • Trial & Error was renewed for a second season at NBC.
  • The Black-ish spinoff, College-ish, received a 13-episode order on Freeform.
  • TruTV’s Impractical Jokers will enter national weekday strip syndication this Fall.
  • The bodies haven’t even gone cold and they’re already announcing a reboot of the Resident Evil franchise, this time produced by James Wan (Saw).
  • Tom Holland has been cast as young Nathan Drake in the film adaptation of the Uncharted video game.
  • In the realm of musical sequels that no one asked for, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! will be released July 20th, 2018.
  • Elizabeth Banks is producing a Charlie’s Angels reboot, scheduled to be released June 7th, 2019.
  • Tom Cruise announced that a Top Gun sequel is planned to begin filming next year. Fat Val Kilmer is waiting by the phone.
  • TJ Miller is leaving HBO’s Silicon Valley at the end of the season.

  • Surprising no one who’s been paying attention, Power Rangers continues the trend of just adding “Super” to the title of its latest incarnation’s second season with Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel
  • The Boss Baby 2 is a-coming, March 26th, 2021.
  • Sophia Bush is leaving Chicago P.D. after last night’s season finale


In the UK, there’s an annual event called Red Nose Day, where they’ve been raising money to end child poverty for nearly 30 years. Launched by the nonprofit Comic Relief, the event has since raised over $1 billion globally. The event came to the US in 2015, where you can buy a red nose at Walgreens for a dollar, with the proceeds going to the charity. One of the co-founders of Comic Relief happens to be Richard Curtis – writer and director of one of my favorite movies, Love Actually. Now, a lot of people hate the film because it gave way to Garry Marshall imitations like Valentine’s Day and New Years Eve. You know, those schlocky romantic comedies with an ensemble cast where all the storylines converge at some point. I don’t care, ’cause I happened to like those movies, too, but I especially like Love Actually.

Well, to celebrate this year’s Red Nose Day, Curtis reunited most of the cast of Love Actually to give us a 15-minute sequel to the film, called Red Nose Day Actually. We get to catch up on the characters 13 years later, and I have to say that I was smiling the entire time. It was great seeing those characters again, from Bill Nighy’s Billy Mack to Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister. I could’ve done without Rowan Atkinson’s meticulous shopkeeper, but it was even sorta nice seeing him again, too. You feel old as shit, though, when you see little Sam, who’s now 26 years old. I think his segment made me the happiest of all. Or maybe it was seeing Jamie and Aurelia and their kids. Or maybe it was seeing Martine McCutcheon again (why doesn’t she get more work stateside?!). I don’t know. I loved the whole damn thing.

The special originally aired in the UK in March for their Red Nose Day, but they’ve gone to great pains to keep it off the internet. Yesterday was the US’s Red Nose Day, and a new version of the short aired last night on NBC. Ya know, they should really have everyone celebrate on the same day worldwide, but what do I know? Anyway, I actually missed the NBC version because of things, but I was intrepid enough to find the UK version online. This morning, however, NBC posted it on their website so I was able to compare and contrast. The only real difference is that the UK version cut out the Laura Linney update, with Patrick Dempsey as her husband. It was a nice aside, but I guess British audiences don’t know who Dempsey is, so they didn’t miss out on much. Anyway, I wish more movies would give us short reunion updates, maybe on anniversary edition Blu Rays or something. It was nice to get just a taste of what everyone’s been up to, without them being burdened by a full film that would be more than likely fall short of the original. If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go watch this thing a few more times, but it’s safe to say that Red Nose Day Actually had the West Week Ever.

19th May2017

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

by Will

 

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

Cancellations

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

Renewals

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

courtesy of TVLine.com

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

NBC

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

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

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

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

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

Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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