03rd Apr2015

West Week Ever – 4/3/15

by Will

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So, last weekend I finally got around to watching St. Elmo’s Fire. If you’re not familiar, it’s one of the Brat Pack films from the 80s, though it’s nowhere near as critically acclaimed as The Breakfast Club; I never realized that until I started reading old reviews after watching the movie. Anyway, if this movie were released today, it’d be called White Privilege. It’s the story of 7 college friends who graduate from Georgetown University and embark upon adulthood. The problem is that most of them suck at life, and aren’t very good at being “adults”. Emilio Estevez stalks Andie MacDowell, Rob Lowe sleeps with everything with a vagina, Judd Nelson cheats on his girlfriend in order to pressure her into marrying him (yeah, that plan makes no sense), Andrew McCarthy is obsessed with Judd Nelson’s girlfriend, Demi Moore sleeps with everything with a penis, Mare Winningham has NO self esteem, and Ally Sheedy is just there. I know it came out during the “Me Generation”, so I’m sure it spoke to a lot of people at the time. Looking back at it now, however, it’s just hard to like any of the characters. Living in the DC area, it was cool to see what Georgetown looked like 30 years ago. I also enjoyed seeing the Q107 sticker on the pay phone (Q107 was the predecessor of WRQX/Mix 107.3, which is now the struggling “DC’s 107.3″). From where I stand, the best thing about the film is David Foster’s “Love Theme”. Just listen to it:

Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Next up, I watched the documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. From Super Size Me‘s Morgan Spurlock, the doc follows Spurlock as he tries to finance a movie completely from sponsored endorsements. Meanwhile, he delves into the practice of branding and how it affects our daily lives. For example, the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo has outlawed all outdoor advertising, so there are no billboards, no bus ads, and no corporate graffiti. As a result, local businesses have to rely upon referrals and word of mouth in order to stay afloat, yet everyone feels that the move allows them to fully take in the world around them without being assaulted by ads. I liked Super Size Me, although I completely sided with Big Mac (Spurlock’s girlfriend, now ex-wife, was a vegan chef. He got sick because he simply wasn’t used to eating meat. It wasn’t all McDonalds’ fault. Plus, nobody should eat that shit THREE times a day. Even I know that, and I DO IT). Anyway, it was funny watching the man who singlehandedly destroyed the Super Size option go out into the world and try to court sponsors. I mean, everyone’s already seen what he did to McDonalds, so how could brands be sure that he’d portray them in a positive light? As interesting as the movie is, it’s still built on a weak premise. It’s not like he’s actually courting brands to help finance some sort of Hollywood blockbuster. No, he’s courting brands to sponsor the documentary that you’re already watching. That is the movie. It’s very meta. It was definitely an interesting documentary, but I think I expected more from it.

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On the standup comedy front, I caught the Showtime special Jay Mohr: Happy. And A Lot. I’ve been fascinated by Jay Mohr ever since his stint as a featured player during the SNL dark years of the early 90s. I’ve even read his book, Gasping For Airtime: Two Years In The Trenches of Saturday Night Live. His body of work isn’t very memorable, but he did create Last Comic Standing, which has been pretty influential in the standup world for the past decade or so. Then, to cap it all off, he married Nikki Cox, who was quite the hot number in the late 90s. Anyway, I really enjoyed the special, which surprised me since my recent track record with standup specials hasn’t been so great. The material isn’t stellar, but some of it spoke to me. For example, he said that married couples don’t have to have shared interests, but rather need shared hates. Maybe my wife and I are terrible people, but that’s definitely true for us. Then, he capped off the special with a pretty killer Norm MacDonald impression. I’m not so sure I’d recommend it, but I enjoyed it.

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Ciara Renee has been cast as Hawkgirl in the CW Arrow/Flash spinoff, while Arthur Darvill has been cast as Rip Hunter. I don’t know either of those actors. I like what The CW’s doing with Arrow and The Flash, but I fear they’re about to dilute the brand by adding this 3rd show (possibly 4 if they keep Supergirl in-universe). As good as The Flash is, I feel like the quality of Arrow has slipped a bit, with the good stuff going over to the former. Maybe I’m just saying that because I’m used to binge-watching Arrow instead of consuming it on a weekly basis, and I’m not so sure that’s working for me.

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Meanwhile in live action comic adaptations, an April Fools video with Ryan Reynolds claims that the Deadpool film will have an R-rating. Now, I’ve heard folks longing for this in the past, and I don’t quite understand it. Why does it need to be an R? I consider myself a Deadpool fan, but I don’t go way back to his origins. I’ve been a completist since his series started during Secret Invasion, and I’d read some Cable & Deadpool before that. In all of my Deadpool reading, I haven’t experienced anything that indicated a film adaptation would need an R-rating. The comic is not for mature readers, so it seems like it would translate more to a PG-13, with one “fuck” thrown in for good measure (that’s allowed in PG-13 movies).

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The speculation surrounding a reboot earned Full House the West Week Ever back in August. Well, it looks like we’re closer to getting Fuller House (that’s the name they’re using now) after all. Reportedly, the show is headed to Netflix, and will focus on the friendship between Candace Cameron Bure’s DJ Tanner and Andrea Barber’s Kimmy Gibbler. Considering how much Candace has gone on the evangelical offensive over the years, I wonder if that hurts the potential audience for this show. Anyway, score another one for Netflix. Right now, I’m sure Yahoo Screen is looking into rebooting Empty Nest.

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-It was reported that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has been cast as Killer Croc in DC’s Suicide Squad movie. I have no clue how to say that dude’s name. If I ever met him, I’d have to play the “What’s up, my brotha?” card. Anyway, that guy from Latino Review who loves scooping stuff reports that Suicide Squad will take place between Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in the span of the DC Cinematic Universe. *Yawn*

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In the world of music, Jay-Z and his Illuminati friends announced the purchase of Tidal – a new streaming service that costs more than most other services because the artists want to make more money. There was a press conference and everything. It ended with them signing a document that you’d think was the Hip Hop Magna Carta or something. Anyway, the files are supposedly of a higher quality, but you won’t be able to tell the difference if you’re listening through headphones. Good luck with that, Hov!

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In the world of television, Weird Loners premiered on Fox Tuesday night. It feels like someone found some old Happy Endings scripts, but there were food stains all over the best jokes. Seriously, this show feels like it really wants to be HE, complete with the casting of Zachary Knighton, but the rest of the cast just isn’t that strong. Plus, I can’t get over how that one guy looks like Nick Swardson if he really let himself go. Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from “The creator of The King of Queens, and the executive producer of New Girl.” What’s it about? Four people who are unlucky at love kinda band together as friends. Oh, and 3/4 of them are kinda assholes ’cause that’s how they make sitcoms now.

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Meanwhile, in the world of television, South African comedian Trevor Noah was announced as the new host of The Daily Show. And the people rejoiced…for about a day. Then, someone checked out his Twitter history and discovered that he’d said a bunch of off-color stuff. Ya know, like a comedian. You ever follow a professional comedian on Twitter? With the exception of very few, they’re all just throwing shit out there to see if it sticks. If it gets retweeted or favorited, excellent. A lot of them come off as insecure when they do this, and it’s not necessarily coming from some place of bravado. If anything, they’re tearing others down in order to feel good about themselves. Whatever. I’m not a licensed shrink. All I know is that Comedy Central decided they wanted to go the comedian route for the job, and they knew what they were getting themselves into. Comedy Central has already said that they stand by him, so I expect nothing to come from this. Plus, Stewart’s fans are gonna hate any replacement in the beginning, just because he’s not Stewart.

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This week also saw the premiere of the Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber. SNL‘s Pete Davidson was great (I had no clue his father was a firefighter who died on 9/11), but Martha Stewart was surprisingly brutal. My pal Chris Piers pointed out that there’s no way she wrote those jokes, but I just give her credit for saying them. The roast ended with a well-written, yet clearly staged, apology from Justin himself for his outrageous behavior. Even though it was somewhat canned, I felt like it showed a lot of maturity, and I’m eager to see where his path leads him. After all, Justin Timberlake was once just “that guy in that boyband”, and look at him now. I’m not saying Bieber is that multi-talented, but I’d really like us to get to a place where “Justin Bieber” isn’t an instant punchline anymore.

 

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I loved this article about the making of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. My favorite part is that they acknowledge that Raph has mental problems. I’ve always felt this, but had never seen it actually written anywhere. Seriously, if Raphael is your favorite turtle, I wonder about you…

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This week, I had the pleasure of joining Corey and Eclectik over on the UnderScoopFire Podcast. We discussed all of the pop culture stuff we’re looking forward to during the months of April through June, and it was a lot of fun. I was really starting to think that folks were tired of having me on their shows, so it felt really good to get back in the swing of things. Anyway, give it a listen!

Things You May Have Missed This Week

-Speaking of Turtles, Stephen Amell has been cast as Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. Sure, movies trump TV, so this is good for his IMDB page, but it almost feels like a lateral promotion.

-Hugh Jackman announced that Wolverine 3 will most likely be his last appearance as Wolverine, after 17 years in the role.

-It was announced that season 6 will be Downton Abbey‘s final season. I still have seasons 4 and 5 on my DVR, so I’m not quite sure if I’m saddened or relieved by the information.

-In other news about shows I need to watch, House of Cards has been renewed for a fourth season on Netflix.

-Gnardians of the Galaxy, the porn parody of Guardians of the Galaxy, released its trailer. Nope, I’m trying to be Safe For Work, here!

-Cougar Town‘s series finale aired this week. One day, I’m gonna have to catch up on that show.

-Fresh off the cancellation of What Not to Wear, Clinton Kelly will be getting a new show on TLC where he and Real World: Brooklyn‘s Devin Symone will give social media makeovers to folks looking for love. Think of it like What Not To Catfish.

-This week on The Today Show, Darius Rucker said that Hootie and the Blowfish would reunite, but it was simply a matter of timing. Uh-huh. He’s gone Full Timberlake but doesn’t want to admit it. I’ll believe this reunion when I see it.

-Wrestlemania 31 was this week. So that happened. Technically, I’m a WWE guy whenever The Undertaker is involved, but even I couldn’t get excited about his match against Bray Wyatt. Anyway, The Dead Man won, so I guess I’m happy. I tend to care more about the Hall of Fame ceremony than the actual event; I’ve got it on my DVR, but haven’t had the chance to watch it. So, look for my thoughts next week.

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I love Scientology. Let me rephrase that: I love all secret society-ish things, and Scientology happens to fall under this banner. Over the years, I’ve read and watched a LOT of stuff about the religion, and I continue to be fascinated by everything that I discover.

I can be a Judgy McJudgerson at times, but I try not to criticize anyone’s religion. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make it in this life, one day at a time. Some folks need some sort of coping mechanism to do this, while others don’t. Plus, and some folks won’t like this thought, but all religions have their farfetched aspects. Yup, even mine. We criticize Scientology because our parents are older than the religion, and the idea of Xenu and whatnot seems hokey as Hell. The funny thing about Xenu is that that information isn’t even available to Scientologists until they fork over the money to learn it. It’s not like that’s their pitch to the man on the street. No, for that they use e-meters to give you “stress tests”.

Anyway, based on my fascination with all things Scientology, I knew that I’d have to watch the documentary Going Clear, based on Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.  It was SO GOOD! I was already familiar with the concept of Operating Thetans and the Sea Org, but the doc does a good job of explaining these things for the uninformed. Not only does it cover the celebrity aspect, like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, but it also documents the abuse and the living conditions suffered by the more common members of the religion. Tom Cruise may seem like an all-powerful supervillain, but that’s because he’s got money. If you or I joined Scientology, we’d be drafted into their space Navy on a billion year contract, doing menial labor and making about 40 cents a day. This is the side of Scientology that no one talks about.

I could understand the attraction to celebrities, but I’ve never quite understood why an average Joe would join up. For this, I’m not sure the documentary did the best job of explaining. I mean, it seems like a rich celebrity club, with tax-exempt status, but the celebrity aspect is so small compared to the men and women who raise their families in the religion. According to a 2008 study, about 25,000 Americans identified as Scientologists, and Tom and John are only two of them. Outside of the celebrity world, who are these people? What’s the draw? In the footage that they showed of the annual conference, there were Black people in attendance. How, pray tell, do you get a Black Scientologist?! The documentary focused on Hollywood members, like writer/director Paul Haggis, but I would’ve liked more info on “the little people”. I guess there’s only so much you can fit into two hours, so I’ll need to check out the book (Lindsay read it and highly recommends it).

If you have even a passing interest in Scientology, I really think you should give this documentary a shot. It’s worth it just for the story about how they “recruited” Tom Cruise’s new girlfriend. So, for being the most interesting thing I consumed this week, Going Clear had the West Week Ever.

13th Mar2015

West Week Ever – 3/13/15

by Will

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So, I had a bunch of snow days last week, and just didn’t have the motivation to write. We’re back now, however, and we’ve got a lot to talk about!

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Trying to clear off my DVR, I watched the standup special Sommore: Chandelier Status. If you don’t know Sommore, you’ve clearly never seen BET’s ComicView. You’re also probably White. Seriously, except for Celebrity Fit Club, Sommore really hasn’t broken out of the Black Comedy world. Still, I’ve found her to be hilarious in the past, so I thought I’d check out this special. It was really nothing to write home about. It was about an hour’s worth of “Black people do this, and White people do that.” That gets old fast. I think I laughed twice. Kinda disappointing, as I had high expectations for that special.

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While on the comedy topic, I also checked out Aziz Ansari: Live At Madison Square Garden. Now, I’ve gone on record to say that I didn’t like his last special, Buried Alive, because he spent too much time talking about grown-up stuff like having kids and his fear of marriage. Well, this special was really just more of that. I think I’m starting to realize that I like younger, less mature Aziz who talked about hanging out with Kanye and going to R. Kelly concerts. Older, wiser Aziz is WAY too introspective, and I don’t find a lot of *humor* in what he has to say. He’s more like a relationship guru than a comedian these days, and that’s just not what I’m looking for.

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On TV, I caught The Marine, which has quickly become one of those “I have to watch it whenever I see it’s on” movies for me. I can’t really explain it, but I think John Cena is a pretty good action star. And whatever happened to Kelly Carlson? After Nip/Tuck, she seemed poised for bigger things. Sure, The Marine is just a WWE Studios production, but it was still a job. Nowadays, I hear she’s acting in some online spinoff of Supernatural. Eww, a webseries!

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Speaking of disappointing webseries, this week saw the premiere of Powers on the Playstation Network. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s a police procedural based  in a world of people with superpowers, and it’s based on the comic of the same name from Brian Michael Bendis. Now, I have a complicated relationship with Bendis; I used to love everything he did, but then I met him. Don’t meet your heroes, kid. Anyway, as much as I’ve loved his work, I never really liked Powers. I felt it was overrated and moved WAY too slowly. So, I’m probably not the target audience for this show. That said, it was just as bad as I expected. The show had been in development for years, and eventually landed at FX with a pilot starring Jason Patric. FX passed on the series, but the creators were determined to get it on the air somewhere. So, they went back to the drawing board and gave us the show that we have here. The trailer for it made it look like a big budget fan film, and the actual product wasn’t much better than that. It felt like a really bad Canadian series that would air on Syfy. And no, not a American show filmed in Vancouver for budgetary reasons – I’m talking about a show made by and for Canadians, like Lost Girl or something. The effects are hokey, the casting is off (Sharlto Copley? Really?), and it just feels empty, though yearns to be so much more than it is. The series will air exclusively on Playstation Network, but the pilot is currently available on YouTube. If this show is indicative of PSN’s original programming capabilities, I am far from impressed.

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It’s not all bad news this week, though. I have a new favorite reality show: Kosher Soul. Airing on Lifetime, the show follows the relationship between standup comedian O’Neal McKnight and celebrity stylist Miriam Sternoff. He’s Black, she’s Jewish and hilarity ensues! When the series starts, they’re planning their wedding and O’Neal is starting the conversation to Judaism, as it’s important to Miriam that she marry a Jew. O’Neal’s a funny guy, though I’m not that familiar with his standup. He’s friends with other reality show stalwarts like Fonzworth Bentley and Russell Simmons. Meanwhile, Miriam reminds me a lot of Bethenny Frankel – who was my favorite of the Bravo Real Housewives franchise. Right after their wedding, Miriam wanted to start trying to have kids, so that’s where we are at this point in the show. O’Neal and Miriam seem to have great chemistry, and I can see how their relationship has endured for 9+ years. Hell, they may last and they may not, but they’re trying to make it work. I’ve seen no hype about this show, and only watched it because I ran across it On Demand. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet! So, with my luck, it’ll probably be canceled after one season.

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Had I done a West Week Ever last week, that honor would have gone to The Last Man on Earth. I never thought it had a chance to work, and the jury’s still out on it, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the three episodes that have aired so far. If you haven’t seen it, Will Forte stars as Phil Miller – the seemingly only survivor of a virus that has killed the rest of the world’s population. So, the pilot follows him as he gets used to the idea that he is, in fact, the last person on Earth. Then, at the end of the pilot, you’re thrown for a loop, as you learn that he’s not alone; he may be the last *man* on Earth, but there happens to be a woman – Carol Pilbasian, played by Kristen Schaal. So, then the show focuses on the relationship between the two, as Carol thinks she and Phil are meant to repopulate the world, while Phil really wants nothing to do with her. I thought this would work as a movie, but I had no idea how they’d get an entire series out of it. Three episodes in, and I’m still not sure where it’s going, but I’m enjoying the ride so far.

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So, I was busy on the Internet this week, and some might even say I was trolling. I didn’t think that was the case, but let’s take a closer look, shall we? So, on Monday morning, I was tweeting with a friend about American Idol, and he mentioned Kris Allen. I replied, “Man, where’d THAT dude end up?” And he replied, “In the scrap heap along with Taylor Hicks, Lee DeWyze, and Scotty McCreery.” And then the floodgates opened. We got tons of replies from obsessed fans who clearly set filters for anytime those guys’ names are mentioned. They insisted that Taylor and Scotty weren’t on a “scrap heap”. Turns out they were right. I mean, I already knew of Scotty’s country success, but who knew that Taylor Hicks made $2.5 million last year? Apparently, he’s the first Idol to get a residency in Las Vegas. Anyway, as I got sick of these grannies blowing up my timeline, I tweeted the following:

guarini 1If you’re not familiar, a “stan” is slang for an obsessive fan – based on the Eminem song of the same name. Oh, and Justin Guarini lost to Kelly Clarkson in the very first season of American Idol. I didn’t really have to call out Guarini, but he seemed like an easy target. Kick a man while he’s down, I guess. I was riled up by all the old ladies defending their favorite Idols, and I was really just trying to call out some more fans, as I was amused by their terrible misspellings and grammar. And since he has nothing to do with his time, Guarini responded. He has since deleted his tweets to me, so let’s see if I can do it from memory:

JG: “*stars *shitty”

This was his was of trying to correct me. He thought I meant to say “stars” instead of “stans”. He was also correcting the end of my tweet to read “Justin Guarini ain’t shitty”

And I replied:

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JG: “Hey fan. I know a fan when I see one, fan.”

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Then things took off. He tweeted his response with the period before the @, so all of his followers could see it. So then everybody started favoriting his tweets to me. And then one theatre groupie tried to say that I was kissing up to him. I actually wasn’t. While my tone might seem conciliatory, in my mind I wasn’t done. I didn’t appreciate him reaching out to his followers for support. What I said was true – I had voted for him, and an ex had given me From Justin to Kelly. I failed to add that I sold that DVD and that I thought his album was a piece of shit. Seriously, it’s terrible as there isn’t one commercially viable single on the entire disc. I didn’t add any of this, though, because I had been an asshole and it was probably best to let it drop. The next day, however, I listened to Kelly’s new album and I got the desire to tweet Justin and ask him what he thought of it. I was just about to hit send, but I thought better of it. I like a good feud, but I’m not particularly a fan of a situation where I’m the bad guy.

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Last time, I mentioned that I had a bottle of Pepsi True in my refrigerator. Well, I tried it. And it tastes like bilge water. In the Stevia flavored mid-calorie cola department, Coke Life wins the title.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

– Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a court case against the family of Marvin Gaye, who claimed that “Blurred Lines” ripped off Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”. This decision resulted in a $7.3 million payout to Gaye’s children. I get that they kinda sound similar, but I really don’t get this decision. Plus, it sets a really bad precedent for anything that remotely sounds like anything else. Thicke had kinda been a bit of a douchenozzle over the past year, so I wonder if that played into the jury’s decision.

–  a new trailer was released for the Netflix Daredevil series. For a great scene-by-scene breakdown, check out this post at The Robot’s Pajamas.

-Rolling Stone had a great minute-by-minute breakdown of the We Are The World recording session on its 30th anniversary.

– Have you ever wanted to see Earl Sinclair from Dinosaurs rap Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize”? Who cares. Here it is and it’s awesome:

– My pals over at the Nerd Lunch Podcast did a musicals episode that you should really check out.

– At a Disney shareholder’s meeting, it was reported that Star Wars Episode VIII will be released May 26, 2017. Also, Felicity Jones to star in the Rogue One spinoff. I have no idea who she is…

– My pals at UnderScoopFire tackle the Pop Culture Alphabet

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I had no idea I’d love this show as much as I do, and I don’t know what I did with my life before it came along. Yes, I’m talking about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Originally developed by Tina Fey for NBC, the show was picked up by Netflix with a 2-season guarantee. It stars The Office‘s Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt who, along with 3 other women, has been held captive in a doomsday bunker for 15 years. When the series starts, they’re liberated from the bunker, and Kimmy moves to NYC to start her life over. Since she was in middle school when she was first abducted, Kimmy’s missed out on a LOT, including current music and slang. Once she gets to New York, she moves in with flamboyantly gay Titus Andromedon who eventually becomes her best friend. Meanwhile, she works for a crazy rich lady played by 30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski, and tries to put her bunker life behind her.

If you loved 30 Rock, you’ll love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. They share a sensibility, and I’d even consider them in the same universe if it weren’t for the fact that Krakowski and Tituss Burgess are playing different characters. Whenever they watch TV on the show, I keep hoping for a mention of TGS, Bitch Hunter or MILF Island just to confirm that Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon are in the same city somewhere.

Part of what makes the show work so well is the casting. Kemper is simply adorable as Kimmy, as she manages to capture the wide-eyed wonder that the character would certainly experience by her new surroundings. She spent her adolescent years in the bunker, so her development’s a bit stunted. If you’ve ever seen 13 Going On 30, you know that Jennifer Garner was awkward as Hell as a 13 year old girl who magically becomes a 30 year old. This takes that formula and gets it right. Kimmy may be 29, but she’s still a 14 year old in many ways. And Kemper does an excellent job portraying that. Meanwhile, Tituss Burgess is AMAZING as Titus Andromedon. Everything he says is quotable, and he manages to straddle the line of self-serving and lovable. If you watched 30 Rock, you’ll remember him as D’Fwan – a hilarious member of Tracy’s wife’s entourage. Here, it’s like he’s playing the same character, but cranked up to 11. He and Kemper have great chemistry, and it’s fun to watch their friendship grow.

I don’t want to spoil the guest stars, or where the story goes, as that’s half the fun of the experience. The minute I was done, though, I instantly wanted season 2. I haven’t felt that way since Bojack Horseman – another Netflix series I fell in love with. All of my friends online have been talking about Kimmy Schmidt, so I see that I’m not alone in my love for the show. If you haven’t checked it out, remedy that soon. I’ve heard the first episode didn’t grab some folks, but stick with it. So, for being the belle of the comedic ball this week, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt had the West Week Ever. Troll the respawn, Jeremy!

20th Feb2015

West Week Ever – 2/20/15

by Will

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At the top of the week, I watched A.C.O.D., or Adult Children of Divorce. It stars Adam Scott as an adult whose parents divorced when he was young, though he’s still feeling the effects of it. His mother and father haven’t spoken in 20 years, but Scott tries to bring them together to celebrate his younger brother’s wedding. And, of course, nothing goes according to plan. The thing I loved about this movie is that Adam Scott is working with a ton of people he’s worked with before, so they already have proven chemistry. Richard Jenkins plays his dad, while he played his stepfather in Step Brothers. Amy Poehler plays his stepmother, while she plays his wife on Parks & Rec. Jane Lynch plays his therapist, while they worked together on Party Down. And Clark Duke plays his younger brother, and they worked together on the upcoming Hot Tub Time Machine 2. So, the movie is almost one big Adam Scott: This Is Your Life. In all, it’s a cute little movie, and a decent way to kill 90 minutes.

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I also caught the cult comedy classic Wet Hot American Summer. I’d seen parts of it before, but never the entire movie. There’s been renewed interest in the movie since Netflix just greenlit a prequel series. First off, who isn’t in this movie? While the movie’s from 2001, the cast is chock FULL of people who’d go on to bigger and better things. That said, I don’t really get the hype behind the movie beside its stellar cast. Sure, it had its moments, but it wasn’t as hilarious as I thought it was going to be. Right now, On Demand, it’s being marketed as “From the Producers of Role Models“, and I’ve got to say that Role Models had me rolling in the aisles. This movie? Not so much. I would watch it again, though, as I feel like it might be an acquired taste, and it seems like the kind of movie where you notice something different each time you watch it. For now, though, all it did was remind me of my crush on younger Janeane Garofalo.

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Last night saw the series finale of Two and a Half Men. Say what you will about it, the show had an impressive run over 12 seasons and 262 episodes. Everyone thought the show was doomed when Charlie Sheen went crazy on tiger blood (#winning), but it managed to reinvent itself into something with a lot of heart. Ashton Kutcher’s Walden Schmidt was a welcome reprieve from Sheen’s lothario Charlie Harper. Where Sheen’s character was lecherous and without a conscience, Kutcher’s Schmidt was naive and optimistic. He wasn’t out to take advantage of people, but this also meant that he didn’t always realize when folks were taking advantage of him. Later in the run, the show lost its “half man”, as Angus T. Jones found God and decided that he no longer wanted to be a part of the show. The show circumvented this by adding Amber Tamblyn as Charlie’s long lost daughter. Every time something came along that could end the show, they found a way to keep it going. It still averages about 11 million viewers a week, and could probably last another 3 seasons, but it’s just time for it to end. I won’t go into the finale, but let’s say it’s meta and pokes fun at the fact that it knows it’s a TV show. To many, the quality of the episode comes down to whether or not Charlie Sheen returns one last time. I won’t spoil that for you, but I was very satisfied with the finale.

Power Rangers Imaginext

Last weekend was the New York Toy Fair, where all of the toy buyers gathered to see what would be the hot new items throughout the year. As you may remember, I attended the show last year, but couldn’t make the trip this time, due to my baby shower. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t look like I missed much, as something about this year’s offerings just seemed sort of lackluster to me. To me, the most surprising announcement is that Fisher Price will be adding Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to its Imaginext line. I didn’t really think that Bandai would allow something like that to happen, but it’s happening! For full coverage of the show, however, be sure to check out Awesome Toy Blog.

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Announced some time ago, there’s a Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon coming to Disney XD. Well, this week, news started trickling out regarding the voice cast for the show. If you follow animated series, a lot of these names will sound familiar. For example, Kevin Michael Richardson will be voicing Groot. Outside of Phil Lamarr, Richardson is the workingest Black man in animation. Meanwhile, Boy Meets World‘s/Batman Beyond‘s Will Friedle will be voicing Star-Lord. I haven’t checked out any of the Disney XD Marvel series, but I might give this one a shot.

Links I Loved

Norm Macdonald tells the story of #SNL40 – Storify

Isn’t the internet big enough for more than one “Angry Asian”? – Reappropriate

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This week also saw the celebration of Saturday Night Live‘s 40th season. Airing over the course of 3 and a half hours Sunday night, the special was a welcome look back on past sketches like Celebrity Jeopardy and Wayne’s World. A lot of the original sketches fell flat, as the Super Bass-o-Matic felt like a Leno-era Tonight Show skit, while I’ve never been a fan of The Californians. To me, the best parts of the night were the true retrospective parts, such as the montage of audition tapes from the likes of Kevin Hart and Zach Galifianakis. There were a few awkward parts of the night, such as the tribute for he’s-not-dead-yet Tracy Morgan (accompanied by a dreadful impression by Alec Baldwin). Also, there’s the debate of whether or not Eddie Murphy “freaked out” onstage. I don’t think Eddie has stage fright, but I do feel like he’s uncomfortable in public. And I kinda can’t blame him, as he’s had a lot of bad luck over the years, from the string of box office bombs to the male prostitute incident back in the 90s. Like Marshawn Lynch, he’s clearly a man who just doesn’t really have a great relationship with the media these days.

Spartans

Anyway, half the fun of the special was watching the crowd, as you never quite knew who you might see. There was even a rumor that *NSYNC would reunite, and I have no idea who started that one. Most of them, with the exception of JC Chasez, were in attendance, but it just wasn’t the venue for such a thing. I was more surprised by some of the SNL people from whom we got nothing, like Cheri Oteri. Say what you will, she was just as instrumental to the rebuilding era as Molly Shannon and Maya Rudolph. Sure, the other two have had stronger post-SNL careers, but I figured they could’ve given Oteri a line to say. Hell, even Ellen Cleghorne got a line!

SNL40 End

Anyway, I felt like there was too much emphasis on extremes – either the first season stuff or the recent stuff. A lot of the “in between” years got lost, especially the late 80s/early 90s bunch. In any case, SNL is an institution, and 40 years is an impressive feat. I’ve been wondering if we’ll get an SNL50, seeing as how Lorne is 70 but doesn’t really have a successor. That’s another 10 years, and it just might be too much to hope for. So, we have to appreciate what we do have, which is 40 years of something that has touched a lot of lives. That’s why Saturday Night Live had the West Week Ever.

As a “bonus track”, here’s a pic of the awesome cake from the baby shower:

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11th Feb2015

The Best Backstreet Boys Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

by Will

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So, I was inspired to compile this playlist after watching the Backstreet Boys documentary Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of. The goal of the documentary was to catch fans up on what the group has been up to in recent years. What a lot of casual fans don’t realize is that BSB never broke up, even though they kind of dropped out of the spotlight. The casual fan only knows about the first three albums, but the group has released four additional albums over the years that weren’t the chart-toppers that the first three had been. That said, there are still some good songs on those albums, and I felt it was time that they got some attention. A lot of critics said that the group had abandoned its pop roots for a soft rock sound, and that actually is pretty true for some of these songs. You’ve got to factor in that the guys have aged, so maybe that’s the genre that they relate to at this stage in their career. In any case, these may not be “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” or “I Want It That Way”, but they’re still pretty catchy in their own right. No, I didn’t scour the European releases and come up with a bunch of B-sides. Instead, I listened to the albums Never Gone, Unbreakable, This Is Us, and In A World Like This, and I chose the best 4 tracks from each. These are the songs that probably would’ve been released as singles – if BSB were still getting radio play at the time. These are all things that can readily be found in the US, via your favorite music peddler. I guarantee you’ll like something here! Give it a listen and let me know what you think in the comments.

06th Feb2015

West Week Ever – 2/6/15

by Will

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Well, the week started out with me watching Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of. I’d known of this documentary for a while, but I had planned to wait until it aired on HBO later this year. Well, the movie was released On Demand and theatrically at the same time, and I had nothing to do Friday night, so I fired up that On Demand. I’m a boyband fanatic, so this was really a no-brainer, but I was surprised to learn a bunch of stuff that I never knew before. Here’s the gist of the documentary: to celebrate their 20th anniversary tour, as well as the return of group member Kevin Richardson (he took a few years off), the Backstreet Boys decide to visit each member’s hometown in order to learn more about each other. It’s designed to tug on the heartstrings, as you relive familial deaths, fights, and other drama. You also get to see what it’s like being a grown man in a “boyband”. Hint: it ain’t pretty. Brian’s voice now unreliably comes and goes, while AJ has had two knee replacement surgeries. Some stuff I knew, like how the guys felt betrayed that their manager Lou Pearlman essentially created their competition when he created *NSYNC. Some stuff I didn’t know, however, like the fact that Howie D sang all of the leads before the guys started recording. Once they got the “Max Martin sound”, he was pushed to the background, and has quietly resented it the past 20 years. The documentary is not for young viewers, however, as they say “fuck” a LOT. There’s even a pretty intense screaming match between Brian and Nick that’ll leave you uncomfortable. In fact, Nick seems uncomfortable throughout the entire affair.  This is especially apparent when they visit Lou Pearlman’s old mansion, seeing as how there were allegations that Lou may have molested the Carter boys. If you’re a Nick fan, you’re just gonna worry for him. Anyway, if you’re a longtime fan of the group, it’s a great documentary and I recommend checking it out.

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On the Netflix front, I caught Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats. I was familiar with Peretti from her acting gigs, such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but I’d never really heard her standup. She’s funny, though it wasn’t hilarious. It was striving to be surreal in ways that I’m not quite sure worked. For example, she’d tell a joke, and then they’d randomly pan to a dog in the audience, to elicit a “There’s a dog in the audience!!!” response. There was also a bunch of awkward audience participation bits. It probably played better on paper, but the execution was left wanting. Anyway, it’s a decent way to kill an hour, as her material was pretty good.

 

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I also checked out the FXX series Man Seeking Woman, which is a really quirky show. For lack of a better description, it’s kinda like a live action Family Guy, with metaphorical cutaways. It stars Jay Baruchel, who breaks up with his college sweetheart and has to get back into the dating world. In the pilot, his sister sets him up with a literal troll named Gorbachaka, while his ex-girlfriend is now dating Hitler. Yes, that Hitler. Apparently, he faked his death and is now 127 years old. See, that’s the kind of thing Family Guy would try to pull. I watched the first 3 episodes, and I love anything that Baruchel does, so I’ll be keeping up with it for the rest of the season. It’s just a shame that it airs opposite Broad City, so it’ll be an a DVR show for now.

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ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat debuted a week earlier than its announced premiere date, and it seems like folks loved it. Based on the memoirs of Eddie Huang, it follows a young hip-hop loving Chinese kid whose family moves from DC to Florida so that his father can achieve the American Dream. ABC showed 2 episodes Wednesday night (before and after the hit Modern Family), and I was able to catch the pilot. In all, it was a funny show. It’ll be interesting to see how the racial politics play out. I was kinda disappointed that it had to be the black kid to call Eddie a “chink”, but if that’s how the story actually happened, then so be it. I wish we could’ve heard what Eddie called him back, but I’m sure you can’t say those words on network television. Anyway, the real test will be when FOTB moves to its regular timeslot, Tuesdays at 8. That’s a hard night, as it’ll be going against The Flash, Masterchef/Masterchef Juniors, and Parks & Recreation. ABC is having a hard enough time with Tuesdays, as Selfie and Manhattan Love Story failed there earlier this season, meanwhile Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. haven’t been ratings blockbusters. Fresh Off The Boat won’t have the benefit of a lead-in, so the night will land squarely on its shoulders.

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The Netflix Daredevil trailer was released this week, giving us a taste of what to expect when the series hits this April. A lot of people are applauding the gritty tone of the trailer, but I think it looks kinda fan filmy. Maybe it’s because he’s not in his iconic suit yet, but it just looks kinda…low budget to me. This was just a teaser, though – maybe we’ll get a better look at the show closer to its debut.

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I got some of the best news ever this week when it was announced that Trina McGee and Blake Clark will be appearing on Girl Meets World. McGee played Shawn Hunter’s girlfriend, Angela, on Boy Meets World while Clark played his dad, Chet Hunter. McGee left the show when Angela’s dad, The Last Dragon‘s Sho’ Nuff, decided that he wanted her to come live with him. Meanwhile, Chet Hunter died in the later seasons of the show, but reappeared a few times to give Shawn advice. When Shawn appeared on the Christmas episode of Girl Meets World, it was revealed that he’s disappointed that he hasn’t found anyone to settle down with yet. I hope hope hope this means they’re going to reunite Shawn and Angela, as teenage Will lived for that relationship (and had a huge crush on Angela). For now, all we know is that the episode is titled “Girl Meets Hurricane”.

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Earlier this week, I wrote about former Power Ranger Ricardo Medina Jr and his alleged murder case. Well, it appears that he’s been released. The DA wants to make sure that he has all the facts, so no charges are being pressed at this time. So remember, if the sword don’t fit, Zordon must acquit. Yeah, that was lame…

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Speaking of Power Rangers, the latest season, Power Rangers Dino Charge, debuts tomorrow morning on Nick. The pilot was actually released on Nick.com last week, so I, and most fans, have already seen it. As a fan, this won’t come as much of a surprise, but I really liked it. It felt fresh, which is hard to do with a franchise that’s been around this long. I’ll also say that it’s the first Power Rangers incarnation that actually feels like a Nick show. I’m not sure if it’s the dialogue or the acting, but it actually feels like it’s on the right network for a change. I’m kinda tired of dinosaurs, and I hate the design of the suits, but I’ll be checking in on it every now and then.

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

-Damon Wayans Jr. is leaving New Girl at the end of the season.

-The Titans lineup for the in-development TNT series will include Nightwing, Hawk, Dove, Starfire, Raven, and Oracle.

- Sports Illustrated is “making history” by featuring plus-size model Ashley Graham in an ad in the annual swimsuit issue.

Links I Loved

The Ever-Expanding Spider-Man Family of Comics – The Kliqnation

Breakdown of the Daredevil Trailer for Netflix – The Robot’s Pajamas

Lorne Michaels on 40 Years of ‘SNL': Being “‘Feared’ Was Never My Goal” – The Hollywood Reporter

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You’ve all seen this already because it was on EVERY website, Jimmy Fallon had a Saved By The Bell reunion on The Tonight Show. I love that he finally got to do this, as it’s something he’d been working on since he was hosting Late Night. In fact, when he wasn’t able to get the whole cast, he went with a California Dreams reunion instead. I not-so-secretly love California Dreams more than Saved By The Bell (I think it was the musical aspect), so that was just fine with me. Still, I love when a plan comes together, so it was cool that he finally got his SBTB reunion. It’s funny how Screech and Lisa aren’t present, though they aren’t even missed. I always hated Lisa, while I could take or leave Screech most of the time, so I felt this reunion was perfect. My love of TNBC shows knows no bounds, so that’s why Jimmy Fallon’s Saved By The Bell reunion had the West Week Ever.

30th Jan2015

West Week Ever – 1/30/15

by Will

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I’m back on a standup kick, so the week started out with me watching Kyle Kinane: I Liked His Old Stuff Better. I’m still trying to get over the fact that Kinane is the Comedy Central voiceover guy. How did I not realize that sooner?! Anyway, I love this guy, and he’s in my top 5 of modern day comedians, but this special’s title was pretty much on the money. He had some good bits there, but I’ve just come to love his other stuff because I’ve heard  it a million times on Comedy Central Radio. Maybe I’ll warm to this special once I’ve heard the jokes just as many times.

Soul Train Awards 2012 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, NV

Next up was Gary Owen: I Agree With Myself, If you’re white, you probably don’t know who he is. If you’re black, you know him as that white dude who’s always in black stuff. No, not Turtle from Entourage. The other one. Yeah, him. This special was HILARIOUS as he dealt with race issues, his marriage, and his mentally challenged cousin who contracted an STD. I won’t say it’s politically correct, but it’s funny nonetheless.

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Finally, I watched Donald Glover: Weirdo. Most folks know Glover from Community, but you might also know him by his rap name, Childish Gambino. It’s a good special, as Glover’s a good storyteller. My problem with Glover is that he’s got such career ADD that he doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do. Is he an actor? A rapper? A comedian? He hasn’t slowed down enough to perfect any of these areas. Instead, he’s just “pretty good” at all of them. I wish he’d slow down and focus on what it is he wants to be. Wow, I sound like my mother…

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On the Netflix front, I finished season 2 of Maron and decided to check out the Bojack Horseman Christmas Special. I’ve written about my love of Bojack already, but I was surprised like everyone else when the Christmas Special had a stealth release back during the holiday season. In Bojack Horseman, Bojack used to be the star of a family sitcom called Horsin’ Around, so the Christmas special was actually a Christmas episode of Horsin’ Around. During the series, we got clips of Horsin’ Around, but this is the first time we see an entire episode. I loved it, and I hope we get to see more of the Horsin’ Around world in season 2. After all, there are 2 other cast members whose whereabouts are still unknown at this point. My favorite line of the whole thing was “Goober didn’t molest all those Laker Girls. The actor who played Goober molested all those Laker Girls.” It’ll make more sense when you watch the episode, so check it out!

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I caught up on this season of Girls so far. I’ve got to ask: is there anyone out there who doesn’t hate-watch this show? Surely there can’t actually be people out there who like Hannah, can there? I watch the show just to see bad stuff happen to them all. I like seeing Marnie cry, because she sucks at life. I laughed when Hannah’s bike was stolen (TWICE!) because she sucks at life. I thought it was awesome when Jessa was arrested for peeing in the street because she thinks she’s above everything and everyone. And Adam…in the words of Hank Hill, “That boy ain’t right.” I’ll refrain from using “the R-word” (is that really where we are as a society now?), but he’s seriously close to that classification. The only one I love is Shoshanna because she’s so dumb that she loops back around to smart. And she knows that she has no business hanging with these other girls. Why? Because they clearly suck at life, and she wants better for herself. I know that Lea Dunham is supposedly the “voice of a generation”, but I fear for that generation, as they all need to be drowned in a river. If you wanna watch the same generation, but actually laugh with them, check out Broad City.

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Now for the controversial stuff. This week, depending on what you read (it has spanned from “rumored” to “confirmed”), Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are your new Ghostbusters. No, this isn’t Dan Ackroyd’s planned Ghostbusters 3, but another all-female take on the franchise by the studio. According to Variety, Gillian Bell from Workaholics/22 Jump Street is rumored to have a role, while SNL‘s Cecily Strong is rumored to play a government employee like Walter Peck. And the internet lost its shit! “Why are they all women? How dare they do this to Ghostbusters? Why couldn’t they get someone funny?” All of this and more was uttered across Twitter and Facebook (and probably by that one guy who’s still over on MySpace). How do I feel about it? I LOVE IT. I love the cast (seriously, why do y’all love to hate Melissa McCarthy so much?) and I’m curious to see what they do with this. I find it interesting that no men have been announced in any roles yet. Is this some sort of Y: The Last Man scenario, where all the men are gone or something? Someone I follow on Twitter said that Ghostbusters is a flawless movie and doesn’t need to be remade. I don’t know about all that. I don’t hold Ghostbusters in that high esteem. Don’t get me wrong – I have loved every incarnation of the franchise, from the movies to Extreme Ghostbusters. I even love Ghostbusters 2, which is blasphemous to some people. My thing is that I’m not “Mr. Movie”, so I don’t feel qualified to say if something is “flawless” or not. I only know what I like, and I like this idea. Plus, the thing to remember is that this doesn’t really affect the movies that already exist. Sure, it might kinda sully the brand a bit, but the stuff you loved will still exist, so let’s not jump to conclusions. It’d be more interesting if they destroyed the originals every time they remade something. THEN, I could see people getting upset. I do kinda wish they’d called it something other than Ghostbusters, just so more people would be willing to give it a chance. Anyway, if you don’t like this idea, don’t go see it. Nobody’s forcing you. But you’ll still go. I know it. You know it. So let’s just cut the bullshit.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

The Best Pop Album of 2014…That You Didn’t Know Existed

-David Tennant has been cast as The Purple Man in Netflix’s AKA Jessica Jones series, while Rachael Taylor has been cast as Patsy Walker (Hellcat).

-Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore filed for divorce

-Disney wants Chris Pratt for Indiana Jones

-Sly Stone was awarded $5 million in back royalties

-Black actor Mehcad Brooks has been cast as Jimmy Olsen in the Supergirl pilot. Awaiting the internet’s racist reactions in 5…4…3…2…

-If you love anime and/or TGIF, you’ve GOT to watch this!

My pal Matt sent this along. Apparently, scientists combined Lady Gaga with Iggy Azalea. Oh, and there’s a dancing biscuit.

ff trailer

Staying with controversial stuff, let’s talk about the Fantastic Four trailer. Everyone kinda hated this but, again, I don’t know why. I thought it looked interesting. Sure, it looks like a generic sci fi movie, but a darn engaging one. I have to be honest, though: I’ve always hated the Fantastic Four. I find them boring, and I’ve never liked any of their adventures. People always try to sell it as “they’re a family!”, but I don’t see it that way. Sue’s more interested in a fish king than her own husband, Johnny’s a womanizer jerk, and Reed is cold and distant. The only character I liked was The Thing, and I’m not really sure why. Maybe I felt sorry for him. Whatever the case, I didn’t really care about the Fantastic Four until the Ultimate incarnation came along in Ultimate Fantastic Four. They were younger, not yet a family, and they had problems. I could get behind that FF. After about 40 issues or so, even it got boring to me. The younger, hipper FF just couldn’t hold my attention. I like the characters when they interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe, but I just don’t like those 4 as a self-contained team – regardless of interpretation. I’ve heard that this reboot is taking more cues from the Ultimate version, which I like, but this is an uphill battle for me, as I’m predisposed to disliking whatever they do since it’s the Fantastic Four. This trailer, however, kinda got me excited. And that’s not an easy feat. So, for that, the Fantastic Four trailer had the West Week Ever.

29th Jan2015

The Best Pop Album of 2014…That You Didn’t Know Existed

by Will

Oooh, let’s see if that linkbaity headline does the trick.

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To say I’m a fan of boybands would be an understatement. I’m more like a curator of boyband culture. I once took a class trip to Paris just so that I could get the European releases of the Backstreet Boys albums. Yeah, it’s like that. Sure, I know all the words to the *NSYNC hits, but then my knowledge gets pretty obscure. Ever heard of Natural (they played their own instruments) or Take 5 (their 2000 album Against All Odds is one of the best pop offerings of the 21st century)? I have, and I’ve got all of their albums. Besides the catchy tunes, I’ve always been fascinated  by the behind the scenes nature of boybands. Most of the popular ones are the work of impresario/Ponzi scheme architect Lou Pearlman. When he went to jail, it was truly the end of an era. One group, however, let us take a look inside their formation, and gave us a taste of what it was like to be in a popular Lou Pearlman group. That group was O-Town.

Portrait O-Town portrait

Created on the ABC reality show Making the Band (yes, it existed before Puffy used it to create Da Band and Danity Kane on MTV), O-Town was a boyband comprised of Ashley Parker Angel, Erik-Michael Estrada, Jacob Underwood, Trevor Penick, and Dan Miller. The show followed their American Idol-style auditions to the group member selection. Over the course of 3 seasons, we witnessed the rise and fall of an American boyband. We were there when they released their first, self-titled album (the highs!) and we were also there when the guys watched as *NSYNC sued Lou Pearlman, causing them to worry about their own contracts (the lows!). We were also there when they released their first single, “Liquid Dreams” – yes, it’s about nocturnal emissions, yet got heavy airplay on radio. God bless America! During the third season of Making the Band, the group’s second CD, O2, came out, and nobody seemed to care. The boyband thing still had a little life left in it, but fans just weren’t feeling O-Town’s wet dreams anymore. So, they went their separate ways. Until last year. With the exception of Ashley, the rest of the guys reunited and recorded Lines & Circles - the best pop album of 2014 that you didn’t even know existed.

O-Town 2014

As much as I follow boybands, I didn’t even know this album existed. I knew it was in the works, but I had no idea it was “in the wild”. Quietly released on August 24th, 2014, Lines & Circles is a short, intimate affair. At 10 tracks, it clocks in around 37 minutes – giving you just enough, but leaving you wanting more. While the album kicks off with the funky “Chasin’ After You”, it really hits its stride on the powerful ballad “Skydive”. Though O-Town’s legacy will probably always be “All Or Nothing”, I feel like “Skydive” is the most earnest song the group has ever performed. Easily the best track on the album. Next up, you’ve got the synth-heavy “Rewind” which sounds like it could’ve been from Taylor Swift’s 1989 sessions. Then, we have “Playing With Fire”, which sounds like a fun summer song, and sounds like something you’d hear from One Direction. “I Won’t Lose” is a nice acoustic ballad, and it should really be released as a single. “Right Kinda Wrong” feels kinda dated, like it wouldn’t have been out of place on *NSYNC’s Celebrity album. “Buried Alive” is an acoustic bluesy track which showcases each of the guys’ voices without all of the production layered over them. “Got To Go” is the Journey-ist song on the album. “Sometimes Love Ain’t Enough” sounds like the spiritual successor to “All Or Nothing”, both in theme and arrangement. The album wraps up with the breathy title track, “Lines & Circles”, which doesn’t really sound like an album capper. Instead, you’re wondering “What’s next?” I guess that’s a better note on which to go out than having the listener going “Please end already!” In all, it’s a great listen, from beginning to end. I can’t remember last time I felt that way about an album. Sure, Swift’s 1989 came close, but I felt that album had more filler tracks than this one. Prior to listening to Lines & Circles, 1989 was my pick for pop album of 2014. Now, however, I’ve got to change my vote. But don’t take my word for it – listen to the whole thing below!

And if the Spotify links didn’t work for you, here’s the video to “Skydive”:

16th Jan2015

West Week Ever – 1/16/15

by Will

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John Travolta’s bald and he doesn’t care if we know it now! Apparently, this Justin Jones dude ran into Travolta at a Planet Fitness. There’s so much sadness in that last sentence. Anyway, they had a nice chat, and old Barbarino even agreed to take this pic with the dude.

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The week started out as Amy Poehler’s golden globes made an appearance at an awards show.

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Tuesday’s Agent Carter gave me a new-found appreciation for the character. While I thought she kinda came off as a bitch in Captain America and the pilot, she showed a vulnerable side this week, which served to humanize the character. I wasn’t sure I was gonna make the show “appointment television”, but I think I’m gonna stick with it for the next 6 weeks. Hell, I was even upset that the State of the Union is bumping it off the air next week.

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On Wednesday, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia came back, but it just didn’t grab me. Apparently, the gang was trying to beat Wade Boggs’s beer chugging record, but it just wasn’t funny. I look at Sunny the way a lot of people look at things like The Simpsons or Family Guy: I don’t feel it’s been funny in years, but I’m amazed that it’s still on. I mean, 10 seasons?! Nobody thought it would go this long, especially not the FX execs. Even moving it to FXX didn’t kill it. Still, I’m waiting for the cast to move on to bigger and better things. Charlie Day seems to be on the rise, but the other guys just aren’t doing much. Plus, where are the other shows they were working on, like their Star Trek parody Boldly Going Nowhere? I haven’t heard anything about that in years. Is it dead? I just think it’s time for the guys at Paddy’s Pub to shut the doors for the last time.

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Wednesday also saw the season premiere of Broad City. Kinda like Sunny, it just didn’t do it for me. All the major beats were there: Abbi was neurotic, Ilana wore a bunch of pairs of tiny shorts, and they smoked weed. What more do you need, right? It just wasn’t as witty as I’d come to expect from the show. The plot centered around them trying to get an air conditioner since the summer was hot as balls. They eventually tricked some college kids out of their A/C and hilarity ensued. There was also a running joke about rape culture, but I’m not sure it hit its mark as well as it was supposed to. It’s just the season premiere, though, so maybe they’ll come back stronger next week.

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USA canceled the comedy Benched, which kinda makes me sad. I wrote about it when it premiered, but then I kinda forgot to watch it. USA gave it a terrible timeslot (Tuesdays at 10:30), so the network basically buried it like TBS did with Wedding Band (RIP). Tuesdays at 10 is when I watch Forever, ’cause I enjoy that show and it needs viewers (though I’m not a Nielsen family, so it’s not like I even matter). Are you watching Forever? If not, what are you waiting for?! Anyway, I always meant to go back and catch up with Benched on demand, but I don’t even see the point now. Maybe all the Happy Endings alums’ shows will tank, and then the show will come back. Well, a boy can dream.

82nd Annual Academy Awards - "Meet The Oscars" New York

 

Oscar nominations were announced yesterday, and people are pissed. Mainly it’s because there were no actors of color nominated for the major categories. I’m not much of a movie guy, so I don’t really have a horse in that race. It seems like everyone expected Selma to be nominated but, to me, it just seemed like the kind of movie that’s made to be nominated for an Oscar. I’m not saying it’s not good, but its release and marketing were strategic in trying to secure it a nomination, and maybe it was just a bit too obvious. People also seemed upset that The LEGO Movie was snubbed in the animation category, but that’s another one that I don’t understand. It was an enjoyable movie, but I kinda felt like it was overrated. And folks kept telling me that “Everything Is Awesome” would get in my head and never get out, but I didn’t find it to be that much of an earworm.

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Be sure to check out my Where Are They Now? Power Rangers post that the guys at The Robot’s Pajamas were nice enough to let me write for their site!

Empire-Fox

Ya know what had the West Week Ever? The Fox drama Empire. I’m approaching things a little differently this week because of the nature of this choice. Empire is basically King Lear for the hip hop generation. I know that 80% of you reading this have never watched it and never will. Hell, on paper, it’s not even my type of show, but I can’t stop watching it. Hip hop mogul Lucius Lyon discovers that he had ALS and probably 3 years to live. Instead of pouring a bucket of ice over his head, he decides to line up his successor. His record label, Empire, is about to go public, and all eyes are on his three sons to see who’ll one day have control of the company. Will it go to bipolar-but-won’t-take-his-meds Andre? Will it go to hotheaded rapper on the rise Hakeem? Or will it go to gay-but-the-hip-hop-community-might-not-accept-him Jamal? And as if this wasn’t enough, Lucius’s ex-wife, Cookie Lyon, has just gotten out of jail, after serving 17 years for taking the rap for Lucius. It was her money that started Empire, and she’s out to collect what she feels she’s owed. Lucius is trying to launch Hakeem’s career, while Cookie decides to back Jamal, convincing him to release a new album. Andre is just hoping that his younger brothers will destroy each other, and he’ll be the last man standing. And to cap it off, the music ain’t bad, either. I’m not a hip hop head, but I’m enjoying the songs that are coming out of the show. In the universe of the show, I can’t wait for Jamal’s album to drop ’cause I love his style (songs are available on iTunes, but I don’t love them that much). We’re only two episodes into the season, but those episodes have already been filled with shade, bibs, and murder. This is my favorite of the midseason shows, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. For that, Empire had the West Week Ever.

07th Jan2015

West YEAR Ever – 2014

by Will

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The time has come to say goodbye to another year, and boy was 2014 a doozy! They say that every day is a blessing, but that was hard to agree with some days last year. It seems like it was rough for a lot of people, and it didn’t help that we had to deal with things like hacks and the word “bae”. In any case, this is where we take a look back and see what kind of year I had as I was bringing you the best in pop culture entertainment. Well, that was the goal, at least. Anyway, let’s get started, shall we?

Milestones of 2014

Saga

I finally gave in to Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga

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Mister Mister squared off against Boy Meets Girl in audio combat

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I was linked by NPR’s Code Switch blog

I met @smurfwreck & @shezcrafti at a toy show

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I discovered that the Quokka exists

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I reviewed Superman: Earth One Volume 2

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I had some thoughts on some comics

I had a Twitter dialogue with the Toy Hunter

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I went to Toy Fair and finally met @MattGuzy, @T16skyhopp, @Preternia_, and @Tekcorps in the flesh!

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I went to Walt Disney World for the first time!

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I dissected the problems with the How I Met Your Mother series finale

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I reviewed the classic Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.

There was a Free Comic Book Edition of Thrift Justice

I previewed the upcoming fall shows from Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS

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I examined what made The Cleveland Show special

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I discussed FX’s new comedies Married and You’re The Worst, and got a tweet favorited by co-star Aya Cash.

The cast of Power Rangers Super Megaforce said my name! It’s recorded!

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Special Forces got his own spinoff installment of Thrift Justice!

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I rebooted Three’s Company!


We said goodbye to Jimi Jamison, former lead singer of Survivor

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I made my annual trip to the Baltimore Comic-Con

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I discovered Nymphomaniac and Bojack Horseman

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Special Forces and I made the trip to Wizard World Richmond and I met Tommy, The Green Ranger!

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I did the Warrior Dash in Connecticut

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I finally met @Classickmateria and we (including Special Forces) met up with @LamarRevenger at Retrocon

Lindsay and I celebrated our second anniversary!

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I found out I’m gonna be a daddy!

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I made my return to the New York Comic-Con, where I met up with @Tekcorps and finally met @BionicBigfoot

I was invited to participate in my pal Dex’s Halloween Countdown, over at AEIOU…And Sometimes Why.

I hit post #900 on version 2.0 of the site!

2014 Hidden Tracks

While I tend to talk about everything on the site, there are a few things that happened during 2014 that I never got around to blogging about. First of all, I had my first paid writing gig, which was printed in Bleeding Cool Magazine. I interviewed the creative team behind Boom! Studios’ Hexed ongoing series. Seeing as how almost no comic shops carry Bleeding Cool (and the interview wasn’t published on the website), I have yet to actually see it, but I still got paid, so there’s that.

Near the end of the year, I found myself on TMZ Live, talking about Nicki Minaj’s ass. It all started when I replied to one of TMZ host Harvey Levin’s tweets. The next thing I knew, the TMZ account was asking me if I wanted to be a part of that day’s TMZ Live broadcast. I was getting off work early, so I figured “Why not?” They called me up, and had me talk about Nicki’s ex-boyfriend. Apparently, he’s been having suicidal thoughts since she broke up with him. My response basically boiled down to “Can you blame him? Have you seen dat ass?” I made Harvey laugh. And then they didn’t use the recording. Womp womp.

West Week Ever Recipients of 2014

1/10/14 – Sasheer Zamata

1/17/14 – Michael Douglas

1/24/14 – Richard Sherman

1/31/14 – Ryan Lewis

2/7/14 – Facebook

2/14/14 – Michael Sam

2/21/14 – Chris Pratt

2/28/14 – Jimmy Fallon

3/7/14 – Lupita Nyong’o

3/14/14 – Walt Disney World

3/21/14 – N/A

3/28/14 – Psych

4/4/14 – How I Met Your Mother

4/11/14 – Stephen Colbert

4/25/14 – Lupita Nyong’o

5/2/14 – John Boyega

5/9/14 – Now That’s What I Call Music

5/16/14 – Superman vs. Batman Batsuit

5/23/14 – Michael Jackson

5/30/14 – Charlie Cox

6/6/14 – Ghostbusters

6/20/14 – The Cold Slither Podcast

6/27/14 – Batman (1989)

7/3/14 – Community

7/11/14 – Garth Brooks

7/18/14 – Marvel

7/25/14 – SDCC 2014

8/1/14 – @MattGuzy

8/8/14 – Guardians of the Galaxy

8/22/14 – Taylor Swift

8/29/14 – Full House

9/5/14 – 14 Year Old Boys

9/12/14 – TMZ

9/19/14 – Alex Trebek’s mustache

9/26/14 – Forever

10/3/14 – “The Simpsons Guy”

10/10/14 – The Flash

10/17/14 – Arrow

10/24/14 – Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer

10/31/14 – Marvel Studios

11/7/14 – Taylor Swift

11/21/14 – Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

12/5/14 – The Flash/Arrow Teamup

12/12/14 – Girl Meets World

12/19/14 – Ascension

12/29/14 – James Lamb and Jenn Fang

Totaling things up, we have a five-way tie, as Lupita Nyong’o, Taylor Swift, Marvel, Flash, and Arrow each won 2 weeks out of the year. Lupita doesn’t clench West Year Ever, as most of her impact came in the beginning of the year. The Flash doesn’t get it because, while it’s a great series, its second West Week Ever win was the result of a teamup between it and Arrow. The same goes for Arrow itself. So, that brings us to Taylor Swift vs. Marvel. Technically, Marvel Comics won one week, while Marvel Studios won another, and they’re not really the same thing. So, that leaves us with Taylor Swift.

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Taylor Swift’s 1989 was arguably the best pop album of 2014. Really a Robyn album in disguise, the synth-heavy 80s-inspired offering picked up the ball from Miley’s 2013 Bangerz and ran with it. It was a milestone for Taylor, as it officially marked her transition from country to the mainstream. She also rocked the industry model, when she took all of her albums off of Spotify. Everyone thinks that streaming is the future, but Taylor is one of the biggest artists to simply state that the model didn’t work for her. In October, she became New York City’s newest ambassador – due in part to her track “Welcome to New York” from the album. 2014 was the year that the ladies took back pop music from the guys, and Taylor led the charge. When everything’s said and done, nobody had a 2014 quite like Taylor Swift, and that’s why she had the West Year Ever.

2014 was also the second full year of West Week Ever, and I couldn’t do it without you, the readers. Thanks for all your support and I hope you’ll stay with me into 2015!

29th Dec2014

West Week Ever – 12/29/14

by Will

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ride along

My birthday was pretty low-key last Tuesday, as most of my family members were under the weather. So, I spent the night clearing off the DVR. What did I watch? Well, I’m glad you asked! First up was Ride Along, starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. I’d love to travel back to the 90s and tell Ice Cube that his future is filled with cop roles. He’d probably shoot himself, unraveling time and space as we know it! Anyway, Kevin Hart gets accepted into the police academy, and to prove himself to his girlfriend’s cop brother (Ice Cube), he goes on a ride along. And hilarity ensues. Or does it? I enjoyed the movie because I love Kevin Hart, but it’s formulaic as Hell. Unless you’re a Hart fan, just skip it because you already know exactly how it’s gonna play out. There are no “Shyamalanian” twists or anything. It’s got some high speed chases, but felt like something directed by McG. Decent way to pass some time, but it’s not worth owning or anything.

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Next up, I watched Walk of Shame, starring Elizabeth Banks. This movie was released directly to Video On Demand at the same time as its theatrical release. That should tell you all you need to know. Actually, the dual release probably helped it, as it was only released in 51 theaters and made a paltry $38,000 on a $15 million budget. Banks stars as TV reporter Meghan Miles who’s dying to get a network anchor job. Her opportunity arises, but she may lose it due to one very bad day following a one night stand. If you’ve ever seen the Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, think of this as a comedic version of that same template. A whole bunch of shit happens to Banks, while she runs around in a tight yellow dress. If that sounds like something you’d like, then this movie’s for you. Like Ride Along, however, this movie was SO formulaic. You haven’t even seen it, but you probably know how it’s going to end. So, come for the humor, stay for the tiny yellow dress. It’ll be worth a watch once it comes to FX, but you definitely shouldn’t go to any trouble to watch it or anything.

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Finally, I watched R.I.P.D. This movie wants to be Men In Black so bad, but I don’t have a problem with that. I actually really enjoyed it and it’s a shame it bombed, as I’d be down for a R.I.P.D. franchise. Poor Ryan Reynolds can’t catch a break, as I’m sure he thought this would be a success when he heard that Jeff Bridges was in the cast. He certainly needed a win after the failure of Green Lantern. Sadly, the box office didn’t feel the same way. Reynolds plays a pseudo-dirty cop who’s killed by his partner. Once dead, he’s recruited into the Rest In Peace Department, and learns that there’s a whole supernatural world outside of the world that he knew. The R.I.P.D. is tasked with apprehending “deadoes” – evil souls that fell through the cracks of judgement. Teamed up with Western lawman Bridges, Reynolds vows to stop his former partner before he initiates a ritual that will return the dead to the Earth. One thing I found interesting about the movie was that it was the most secular take on the afterlife that I can remember. They deal with death, life after death, and the concept of evil souls, yet they never mention God. They do mention judgement, and that everyone has to take their chances with it, but the R.I.P.D. doesn’t work for the Man In The Clouds. They do seem to answer to a collective of elders from on high, but there doesn’t seem to be an ultimate, supreme being amongst them. The special effects are really good, as many of them are worth the price of admission alone. If you ever get the chance on a rainy Saturday, definitely give this one a chance.

Fast and Furious 6

It was announced this week that Justin Lin, director of much of the Fast & Furious franchise, will be directing the 3rd movie in the Star Trek reboot series. I don’t even know what to make of this news. First of all, it makes me think the Enterprise is gonna have a NOS button and have 13 warp nacelles, but maybe I’m being unfair. He’s proven he can do action, but can he do science fiction? Notes trickling out from the studio report that they want the movie to be more like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – whatever that means. Are they looking for more humor? More derring-do? What exactly would make Trek like GOTG, and would that even be a good thing? And is Lin the one to provide that? After a lot of shake-ups, it seems like Lin was simply the last man standing. After all, Roberto Orci dropped out of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers reboot in order to helm Trek 3, only to be sent packing months later. These developments don’t make me feel great about this next installment, especially when I wasn’t such a big fan of Star Trek Into Darkness.

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In a reversal of fortunes, it appears that The Interview will see the light of day. There were screenings of the movie on Christmas Day, but you can currently watch it online via Google Play, YouTube, and XBox Video. I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet, but rest assured I’ll share my thoughts once I do.

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According to the infamous Sony hack, Idris Elba was being considered for the role of James Bond. Of course, this would make him the first Black Bond, and certain folks, like Rush Limbaugh, aren’t too happy about it. I think the Bond franchise has done a pretty good job of changing with the times, so maybe it’s time for a Black Bond. Elba is certainly dashing, and he’s got the acting chops. It’s just a question of whether the audience is ready. After all, the racebending Annie remake isn’t doing so well in theaters, but it remains to be seen if that’s because of Black Annie or if it’s simply not a good movie.

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This week, I discovered the Cartoon Network series Clarence, and my world was changed. I haven’t loved a cartoon this much since I discovered Regular Show. If you’ve never seen it, the show’s about a little fat boy, with an annoying voice, named Clarence. While that description might not sound positive, he’s actually an endearing character. Clarence is joined by his friends “Sumo” and Jeff. Here’s where things get interesting. Sumo is basically white trash, while Jeff’s parents are a lesbian couple. These two would never be friends naturally, but Clarence serves as the link between the two. I’ve never seen a kid’s cartoon have a depiction of lesbians before, and I’m also intrigued by its exploration of Sumo’s socioeconomic status. I making it sound heavier than it is as, on its surface, it’s just a goofy cartoon. Under the hood, however, there’s a smart, interesting show that you should check out.

Ben-Haenow

If you’ve seen Love Actually, then you know that the song that’s #1 at Christmas is a big deal in the UK. This year, that prestigious honor went to The X Factor winner Ben Haenow, with his cover of OneRepublic’s “Something I Need”.

I have a passing familiarity with the Kids React series, but I simply had to watch this. Folks forget that Power Rangers is over 20 years old, so of course the early days of the franchise might seem odd to today’s kids.

Jimmy Kimmel adds dialogue from Maury to Rudolph footage, and hilarity ensues:

Every wrestling fan has seen the video of Booker T calling Hulk Hogan the “N-word” but here he is, actually addressing the situation:

Here’s how Craig Ferguson signed off on his final episode of The Late Late Show. As a fan of finales, as well as The Drew Carey Show, I especially loved this:

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

-Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton have split up after 13 years. Yes, that sound you hear is everyone making the same “Who gets custody of Johnny Depp?” joke.

-The trailer for the Entourage movie was released this week. No, I’m not linking to it ’cause that show was full of douchebags. The only one I liked was Turtle ’cause he was fat and goofy. Then he lost all that weight, and now I’m a hater.

-Halle Berry-starring Extant will be back for a second season. I guess Halle’s gotta keep up with that child support. In any case, it seems that most of the supporting cast will be gone for the new season.

-Forbes named Adam Sandler the Most Overpaid Actor of 2014

Links I Loved

The Long, Powerful History Of Stephanie McMahon Slapping The Hell Out Of People – UPROXX

Miss Cleo on Her Allegedly Fake Patois and Getting Ripped Off By the Psychic Readers Network – Vice

20 Songs Turning 20 in 2015 – Mashable

Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape – Rolling Stone

The Invention of the Slurpee – Gizmodo

5 Disturbing Things I Learned in Scientology’s ‘Space Navy’ – Cracked

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I don’t have many decades-spanning friendships, so I cherish the ones that I do have. I wanna tell you about my friends James and Jenn. I first met James over 16 years ago, at the airport waiting to fly to Cornell. We were both attending Accepted Minority Student Weekend (yeah, that’s a thing), and we hit it off immediately. This was before the age of Facebook or really even cell phones, so I didn’t really think I’d see him again after that weekend. So, imagine my surprise when I ran into him during orientation, and he introduced me to his girlfriend, Jenn. This was funny to me because we had basically just gotten to campus, and he already had a girlfriend?! Surely, he wouldn’t be talking to her by Thanksgiving, right? Right?

Wrong. James and Jenn became some of my closest friends over the next four years, as we took trips to the comic shop, and they came to support me at my a cappella concerts. Still, this was just gonna be a college relationship, right? They’d move away to jobs and that would be it. Again, wrong. They moved to Tucson, Arizona and later moved to New Haven, Connecticut. They’ve been together FIFTEEN years now and I joke with them about how they could have a kid in high school by now.

Well, a few weeks ago, James contacted me because he needed my help. After fifteen long years, he’d decided that it was time to propose. He saw no reason to wait any longer. And he wanted me to sing. Now, I haven’t sung in about 10 years, but they still listen to my CD, so I had remained a part of their relationship in that capacity. So, last weekend, I hopped on the bus, and joined them during a New York City weekend where the surprise was going to go down. We went to a museum exhibit on the Chinese Exclusion Act (way more interesting than you might think), and then had dinner at a vegetarian restaurant (I love my meat, but it was actually pretty good. Except for the cornbread. That was a hate crime.). After dinner, James started talking about Cornell and how they used to come see me sing. This was my cue. I did a verse of Drops of Jupiter, which was their favorite song of mine. When I was done, he presented the ring and she was blown away. And she said yes!

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As I said, James and Jenn have been some of my closest friends for a long time, and I wouldn’t even be blogging without Jenn (she’s created every incarnation of this website). So, I’m ecstatic for them, I love them, and to me, they clearly had the West Week Ever.

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