06th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/6/17

by Will

So, I guess I’ve got to start off by talking about Vegas, huh? Ya know, it’s been really hard writing this column in 2017. Like, I’m sure some of y’all are thinking, “Man, Will is slipping” or you’ve put me in the category with The Simpsons where “This isn’t as funny as it used to be.” Sadly, it’s just the state of the world, and all I can do is my best to mine the entertainment news that still manages to trickle out. That said, it is really hard talking about pop culture in 2017.

But anyway, Vegas. Unless you’ve been offworld fighting the Jem’Hadar or whatever, then you already know some dude (not gonna name him ’cause why should I?) shot up the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival, killing 59 people, and injuring over 500, in the deadliest US gun attack in history. And while this was a horrific loss of life, I’m kind of numb to these things now. I mean, sure, you wonder “Is anywhere safe anymore?” but at the same time, this is America, and these sorts of things have become somewhat annual, if not more frequent. After all, this is only the deadliest gun attack since the Pulse shooting in Miami back in June of 2016. It’s saddening and exhausting, yet nothing seems to be changing.

I’m seeing a lot of sentiments, post-Vegas, about how we’re all Americans and should now unite and, basically, “cut the bullshit”. But what does that ultimately mean? I mean, around what ideal are we uniting? It sure as Hell ain’t gun control. Or mental health. There’s no “evil foreigner” trope for us to pursue. If anything, it seems to be a plea to stop protesting and kneeling and all that jazz, because it’s “divisive”. Nah, I’m good. I know these things teach us that life is precious and we shouldn’t waste time on squabbles, but the stuff folks are mad about isn’t menial. And I think it’s gonna take more than a “lone wolf” at a country festival to sweep all the issues under the rug, for the sake of “unity”.

Anyway, as you can imagine, Vegas cast a bit of a pall on pop culture this week, and this wasn’t more evident than with the return of MTV’s TRL.

Members of the N’SYNC pose with Carson Daly at MTV Studios in New York City’s Times Square on January, 26, 2000. (photo by Todd Plitt)

Originally Total Request Live, the video request countdown was a powerhouse on the pop music landscape at the turn of the century. It put Carson Daly on the map, and it was what everyone watched when they came home from school (unless they were watching 106 & Park). You weren’t shit if you didn’t stop by TRL to promote whatever new project you had coming up. It was THE place to be. Then the internet got bigger, and you could watch music videos whenever you want on YouTube (and later Vevo). So, the show packed its shit and left us in 2008.

Feeling a bit of nostalgia, I suppose, Viacom decided to revive the show this year with a team of hosts. With the internet being what it is now, surely it’d be more interactive than the original. What nobody told us, though, is that it wouldn’t have any videos!

Monday’s premiered chugged along, despite having to deal with a national tragedy and experiencing technical difficulties, and didn’t air a single video. Yeah, they still make videos. CMT plays ’em, so at least they’re still viable for country. Taylor Swift and Katy Perry still make them. There are videos out there, yet the show known for its video countdown ain’t got no videos! Exactly WHAT is the audience expected to request? Instead, the show featured live performances from Ed Sheeran and Migos, and displayed some awkward banter between the hosts as they tried to fill out the intermittent silences.

People have said “What’s the point of then showing videos if you can get them online?”, and while that’s true, I’d counter with “Then why bring back the show at all?” Imagine if VH1 revived Pop-Up Video, but didn’t actually do the pop-ups because “folks do that better on YouTube now”? That would be a useless show. And in an age where MTV seems to want to get back into the music business somewhat, and they still host an awards show for music videos you’d think they would see this TRL reboot as a golden opportunity. Anyway, maybe they’re just experiencing first week growing pains, but things certainly don’t look all that great for this incarnation at the moment.

Another way that Vegas affected pop culture is that Netflix pulled their Punisher panel that was planned for this weekend’s New York Comic Con. While some folks are asking “What’s that gonna change?”, I selfishly applaud the decision. I say selfishly because I don’t understand anyone who holds The Punisher as their favorite comic character. At least no one over the age of 13, that is. Why, in this day and age, is he still a thing? Sure, he has his roots in the whole Dirty Harry/Death Wish popularity of decades past, but let’s not forgot that comic are just power fantasies. So who does he appeal to?

If you’re not familiar with The Punisher, Frank Castle was originally a Vietnam vet whose family was murdered because they witnessed a killing in Central Park. He then begins his one-man war on crime. Sure, this was “cool” in the 89s, but now? Do you really wanna give a Vietnam vet with a screw loose a bunch of weapons? Shit, most of y’all wouldn’t even give him a dollar!

In recent years, they’ve tried to make him more “comic booky”, sending him after Hydra and having him somewhat idolize Captain America, but at the end of the day, he’s not a good dude. And it’s not like he does it in a funny way, like Deadpool (and I’ve got thoughts about that, too). He’s so “ripped from the headlines” that I’m surprised there aren’t Punisher copycats running around in the streets.

They say that every character is somebody’s favorite, but if yours is Punisher, not only do I want to know who hurt you, but I’m also afraid of you. We’ve got comic retailers pissed that Iron Man is currently a Black girl, or Captain America was a Black man, but don’t bat an eye that there’s this White dude who’s been on a killing spree since the mid 70s. I just don’t know if we need that character anymore.

Anyway, enough Vegas talk. Over at ABC, they finally locked their judges panel for the American Idol reboot and I’ve got problems with it.

The lineup on the judges panel will be Katy Perry, country star Luke Bryan, and 80s superstar Lionel Richie. And my problem is that these judges are current recording artists, so what’s to keep them from torpedoing the hopes of a contestant that they night see as competition? We already know Katy’s petty from her feud with Taylor Swift, so I wouldn’t put it past her.

When the original Idol aired, the judges were comprised of a producer, a hasbeen, and a pop music magic maker. None of them were active recording artists. The only show that has active recording artists as judges is The Voice, and notice how that show has yet to produce a household name after 13 seasons. Not even in the first season, where all eyes were on this newfangled show to see what it was all about, did the winner become a “star”. That show has always been, and will always be about the judges. You think Blake Shelton is gonna choose someone who might compete with him over a CMA? No the fuck not!

Katy’s experienced a lot of success, but I don’t know if she’s really anyone to be judging singing. Despite the fact that she’s the biggest star on the panel, and making the most money, Katy fills the Paula role, as she’s more of an entertainer than a vocalist. Luke, while he’s paid his dues in the country industry, is still a novice to stardom. Not really sure what advice he has to offer the next generation of stars. And Lionel is just there to fill that Randy Jackson, elder statesman role. If you’ll notice, the panel is missing a Simon. There’s no one there who truly understand the behind the scenes aspect of the industry. How to package an artist, how to match them with the right songs, etc. Katy has been packaged, and Lionel has written songs, but there’s no “godfather” on the panel, which I think will be to the show’s detriment.

In comic news, it was announced at NYCC yesterday that DC would be completely rebooting the “urban” Milestone properties, led by a new Static Shock series from Kyle Baker and Reginald Hudlin.

The minority pockets of comic fandom have been claiming for years that they’d support a Milestone reboot, so now it’s time for them to out their money where their mouth is. Frankly, I don’t believe them. It’s the “woke”, socially conscious thing to say, but when you’re faced with paying $3.99 a month for Static, your attitude is gonna change.

Several companies have tried to fill the void left by the Milestone books, and the only one that has come close to succeeding is Lion Forge’s current Catalyst Prime universe. While it’s still very early to tell where this imprint might go, they’ve delivered a quality product, with known creators, and even their footprint doesn’t seem to be that large. Retailers are ordering conservatively, as they, too, aren’t sure how things will shake our. Sure, Milestone will have DC Comics money behind it, but is DC giving then just enough rope with which to hang themselves? I guess time will tell, but I’m not overly optimistic about their chances. Plus, there have been so many bait & switch Milestone announcements over the years that I’ll believe it when I see the books on shelves.

Speaking of DC, there are reports that they’re backing away from their shared DC Extended Universe films, as they’ll downplay the interconnectedness going forward. While I, for one, applaud this decision, money talks, so the success or failure of Justice League will most likely dictate the future of their film universe. It’s increasingly seeming like the Flash movie will be Flashpoint, which is odd because we’re not even invested enough in the characters yet to go through a universe-changing event like that.

If you’re unfamiliar, Flashpoint was the DC Comics event that changed the DC timeline and resulted in the New 52 relaunch a few years back. Most of the DC heroes started with a clean slate, and the books picked up early in the heroes’ careers. While a Flashpoint movie wouldn’t have to be so drastic, as they haven’t really established much of that universe yet, it is interesting that they would do a soft reboot of the films so soon. My feelings is that they’ll keep what works and throw out what doesn’t. Gal Gadot ain’t going anywhere. And Aquaman is probably safe, too.

I think the biggest wild card is Affleck. It was sort of dumb for them to build a film universe around an older Batman, where the most interesting stuff about him occurred before we even meet him. I know they wanted to go all The Dark Knight Returns with his battle against Superman, and that required an older, more skilled Batman. However, Affleck and the DCEU are like a couple who’s clearly unhappy, but neither is willing to pull the trigger on a break-up. Plus, it doesn’t help that Affleck’s most recent non-DC films have been flops, so he’d be a fool to walk away from a sure thing. The films might not be universally loved, but they do make money.

Anyway, we got some character posters for Justice League this week, which is something I guess. It comes out 2 weeks after Thor: Ragnarok, yet I’ve seen almost no promotion for it, while Thor has had TV spots since late August. In fact, the only time I even remember there’s a Justice League movie coming is when I’m in the toy aisle and see those uninspired basic figures on the pegs. They’re really gonna need to pump up the hype machine in the next few weeks. With the way DC’s acting, I almost feel like they’re ready to take the L and move on to the next phase of their movie-making.

Last weekend I went to TFCon 2017, which was a Transformers convention held locally. While I had a great time finally meeting Twitter pals @briantruitt and @brock626, and catching up with my bud @FakeEyes22, the show itself was meh. Like, I can’t believe that people actually travel for that show. Imagine paying for tickets to a music festival with big name acts, only to get their and they say “Psych! Most of these are cover bands!” That’s TFCon, ’cause about 40% of the “convention floor” (AKA hotel ballroom) was nothing but 3rd party knockoff toys and Reprolabels. After all, why buy a legitimate Optimus Prime when you can buy a $70 “Supreme Leader”? I know that 3rd party stuff is popular amongst Transformers fans, but I didn’t think you could prop up a convention with it, especially since it seemed like Hasbro was starting to crack down on those knockoff peddlers. Anyway, I bought my first 3rd party Transformer, KBBMP 21+ Beetle Wasp , who is really just a large G1 Bumblebee.

Song of the Week

You know why. My a cappella group used to sing this and it was one of my favorite arrangements to sing. I tried to find our version on YouTube, but the one that’s up is the quality of hot garbage, so you get the original instead.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Film sites are teasing that “big star” Kate Winslet is reteaming with James Cameron and joining the Avatar franchise. Sorry, but she hasn’t been a star since 1997.
  • Fast 9 has been given the release date of 4/10/20, while the Fast spin-off starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham now has a release date of 7/26/19.
  • Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/actress Jill Scott has been cast as the villain Lady Eve in The CW’s Black Lightning. I still feel like they’re dooming this show to fail by not connecting it to the preexisting Arrowverse.
  • OJ Simpson was released from prison last Sunday morning at midnight, after serving a 9-year term. He immediately resumed his hunt for the real killers. Just kidding. He’s reportedly staying on a golf course somewhere.

  • We got a trailer for Syfy’s Happy!, based on the Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson graphic novel of the same name. While this left me with a feeling of “What did I just watch?”, this feels like it’d be more at home on FX than Syfy.
  • It seems like Universal’s Dark Universe is falling apart, after The Bride of Frankenstein just lost its release date. The actors, including Javier Bardem and Angelina Jolie, are on hold until the script can be worked on.
  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley has been upped to series regular for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so expect to see her yo-yoing through space this year.
  • Black superhero series Raising Dion is being developed by, and will co-star, Michael B. Jordan. The show has received a 10-episode order from Netflix.
  • Apparently there’s a Bob’s Burgers movie coming in 2020. Just like the show, I’ll have no direct interest in seeing it, but I’m sure I’ll eventually catch it on FXX one day and enjoy every minute of it.
  • Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring fame, will reportedly direct Channing Tatum’s Gambit film spin-off of the X-Men franchise. Man, what kind of blackmail material does Tatum have to keep this movie in production?! I’ll bet it’s some dirt from his days as a stripper!
  • Bruce Willis’s Death Wish reboot has been moved from later this year to March 2nd, 2018. They claim it’s because the Thanksgiving film corridor is crowded, but it’s more likely the fact that a movie about an old White guy shooting up people ain’t so kosher right now. But we’ll have forgotten all about this stuff by March, so it’s cool.
  • The future of Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn is in question, as they ain’t got no Dicky! Actor Mace Coronel (are we sure he’s not a video game character with that name?) abruptly left the show over the summer, and announced his departure on Instagram this week.
  • TNT announced that the upcoming 6th season of Major Crimes would be its last, despite the fact that it’s the highest rated show on the network. This is like when CBS initiated the Rural Purge, where they cancelled all their high-rated “bumpkin” shows because they wanted to change their image.
  • Alyssa Milano is developing her comic series Hacktivist into a TV series for The CW
  • Freshman ABC drama The Good Doctor has scored a full season order after only airing 2 episodes.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog film has jumped from Sony to Paramount, and announced director Tim Miller (Deadpool) will now produce, as Jeff Fowler will be making his theatrical directorial debut on the film.
  • After 15 seasons, Pauley Perrette is leaving NCIS at the end of this season. In other news, NCIS has somehow been on for 15 years…

  • CBS is adding Will Ferrell-produced comedy No Activity to the All Access streaming service, to debut by end of year. However, Tim Meadows just joined the cast as the co-lead, so the show is already cancelled.
  • Larry Wilmore and Viola Davis are developing the comedy Black Don’t Crack for ABC, which sounds like an older Girlfriends reboot
  • Co-head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider have left Saturday Night Live to work on a pilot for Comedy Central. Kelly also wrote for Broad City, while Schneider wrote for Master of None.

  • We also got a trailer for Hulu’s Future Man from Seth Rogen. It looks funny, but Hulu doesn’t seem like the right home for it, as it feels like a Fox show.
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling issued a plea in his child pornography case. One of the stipulations of sentencing means he’ll have to stay away from events frequented by minors, such as “video arcade facilities”. Here’s hoping he not a pedophile AND a time traveler!

So, this has been a Hell of a week. One great thing about it, though, is that today is my 5-year wedding anniversary. Yup, on October 6th, 2012, I married a girl I met on the Internet, and she hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve actually been together 9 years, but only 5 in the eyes of the District of Columbia. It has certainly been a ride. She got skinnier, I got fatter. We’ve had a kid together, which is pretty cool. Sometimes I feel like said kid gets the attention that I used to get, but I’m not supposed to be jealous of a toddler, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, when things like Vegas happen, you do realize that you’re lucky/blessed to be alive, and you look at the life you’ve built around yourself. I certainly could’ve done a lot worse, and probably not much better. Look, I was a lot better at writing this kind of stuff 9 years ago, when we were both still in the “OMG, you love breathing? I love breathing, too!” phase. Life comes along, and shit gets hard. I’m not even going to lie about that. But it’s a lot easier to handle when you’ve got a good person beside you to deal with it together. So, I think the West Family is having the West Week Ever. I love y’all!

29th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/29/17

by Will

So the week kicked off with me heading to the Baltimore Comic-Con. A tradition of mine for the past 14 years or so, I’ve only missed one in that span of time and, while I was kinda under the weather, I’m a stickler for tradition! How was it? It was OK. It felt sort of smaller this year, but that could just be the result of the odd layout of the place. It wasn’t in the main hall, as there was some sort of waste management convention going on in that space. I honestly think it was called WasteCon. I wanted to sneak in just to see what kind of swag they had to offer. Anyway, you get into the exhibit hall, and the photo ops section split up the main floor from the food court. The publishers were set up closest to the photo ops, while the vendors took up most of the floor. Meanwhile, the smaller press, Artist Alley folks were shoved into the back. It might’ve been the same layout as last year, but something just felt off about it. The way things were jumbled together just kind of overwhelmed me – a feeling I’d have for the rest of the show.

The cosplay was pretty decent, though. I was somewhat disappointed by what I had seen at Awesome Con back in June, and I felt like these costumes were actually creative. I spent most of my time digging through longboxes, though, so I probably missed out on much of the “con experience”. Didn’t get to say “hi” to a lot of my publisher friends. Didn’t really meet any comic writers or artists. Just spent a few hours digging for gold.

I walked away from the show with an epiphany: I’m seriously considering giving up buying comics on a monthly basis. While I enjoy the weekly ritual of going to the comic shop, and grabbing the latest books off the shelf, the money really starts to rack up. Your average comic costs $3.99 today, and that can go up to $9.99 sometimes (looking at you, Deadpool). While my local shop gives you a 10% discount, that only goes so far. At the show, it was clear that the industry has changed, as the majority of the vendors were selling comics for $1 each. And I’m not talking about old, dead stock. Some of those books had just come out last Wednesday. Over the course of the show, I bought about 120 comics to fill in some holes in my collection. And you know how much I paid? $120. Had I bought those books at retail, at minimum they would’ve cost $478.

If you’ve talked to me recently about comics, you know the sort of To Read backlog that I’m dealing with. I buy the books when they hit, but don’t read them for 6 months. I have an unread longbox of Marvel and an unread longbox of DC. Why am I sinking all this money into something that’s just going to sit in a box? If I time the conventions correctly, I can buy everything I need every 6 months or so, and be caught up by the time the next show, and the next batch of $1 boxes hits.

I also don’t feel like being taken advantage of by publishers. I got into an argument with Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool because of a matter I felt he should be covering but wasn’t. You see, DC recently wrapped up Frank Miller’s third entry into the Dark Knight series, Dark Knight III: The Master Race. This was an 8-issue series, expanded to 9 issues over the course of the series, priced at $5.99 each. So, right there, a $47.92 commitment became a $53.91 commitment. Fine. These were higher end comics, with a thicker stock cover and a mini comic inserted into each issue. So, $5.99. I think it could’ve been done for $4.99, but whatever. So, fast forward to last Wednesday, when the hardcover collection of the series was released for $29.99. Yes, I said HARDCOVER (which is typically priced much higher than a trade paperback). All 9 issues are included, plus the mini comics are included at natural size. You’re basically being punished for being an early adopter if you purchased the series on its pseudo-monthly schedule. Johnston tried to say that it’s commonly understood that collections are cheaper than the individual issues, but I say not by that kind of margin! Single issue buyers, like myself, almost paid TWICE what trade-waiters will pay, and I don’t think that’s the right way of doing business. Again, Johnston tried to say that the thicker cover and inserted mini comic would’ve made production costs higher, but not by that much. People always forget I worked at Diamond in Purchasing. Needless to say, Johnston thought it was a non-story because he had to go dig through some Marvel exec’s dumpster, but I think it’s an important issue. People want to blame stories and SJWs and all that for the demise of the comic industry, but ultimately it’s gonna come down to price. Always follow the money. And I’m going to rethink how I invest mine in this hobby.

Speaking of money, Toys “R” Us doesn’t have any, and they filed for bankruptcy last week. Keep in mind, vultures, that they filed for Chapter 11 protection so don’t start waiting for the going out of business sales any time soon.

I worked for Toys “R” Us off and on for 10 years of my life, so I’ve got some thoughts on the whole matter. Right now, they’ve got to restructure, and I think one thing they need to do is eliminate their in-house brands. Nobody wants Fastlane when you’ve got Hot Wheels for a dollar. It’s kind of hard to compete with that price point. Also, I feel like their footprint is too large. I remember growing up, thinking that I loved Toys “R” Us. Then I started working there, and realized I only loved aisles 6D & 7D – action figures. When I had to work other departments, I was like “What is all this shit?” They need a more concentrated assortment of merchandise, taking up less space. Also, seeing as how they own the Kay Bee rights, they should spin off that brand and resurrect it as “The Toy Store in the Mall”. Of course, malls are dying, so these would mainly be located in town centers which are all the rage in commercial real estate these days. A decent sized Kay Bee had all that you needed, except for larger stuff like bikes and the baby stuff. They can keep Babies “R” Us as it is, as that’s the moneymaker these days, but they should really strive for smaller stores. I’m sure I could rattle off some more suggestions, but nobody’s paying me for my ideas, so I’ll just sit here quietly and see what the professionals come up with.

 

*Climbs up on soapbox* I’m tired of the echo chamber. I’m tired of hearing the same shit, with nothing behind it except opinion and vitriol. What am I talking about? I got into a…discussion in a Facebook group the other day about The Big Bang Theory. Someone posted an article about how the show turned 10 years old and “still sucks”. I said that was a tired hot take because where it “sucks” or not, there are people out there who still like it. I won’t lie – I enjoy the show. It’s no marvel of modern television, but when’s the last time anyone said that about a multi cam sitcom? It’s the single cams that win all the awards. In this day and age, you’re bound to get hate just for having a studio audience. Liking it isn’t a hill for me to die on, but I find it almost obnoxious how people will go out of their way to tell you it sucks. OK, that’s great, but that’s your opinion. “But everyone thinks it sucks!” Everyone you talk to, maybe. We live in a time when opinion is routinely taken as fact and I’m just tired of the implications of that.

Let me learn ya something: this week’s 11th season premiere of The Big Bang Theory had 17 million viewers. I consider myself a student of television, and I can’t help but marvel at a show whose ratings trajectory is so strong after all this time. Find me another show, in the modern era, that has that kind of audience in its ELEVENTH season. It’s unparalleled. “But popularity doesn’t mean it’s good.” What are you looking for? Shakespeare? Some folks enjoy it. Isn’t that enough?

There’s a lot of cultural elitism going around, and it’s from the smallest things like TV shows to the biggest things like politics. When people say, “Oh, The Big Bang Theory is a piece of shit”, OK, that’s their opinion. To take that opinion as fact discounts the opinions of 17 MILLION PEOPLE. That’s when one of you will retort with “Well, the Nielsen system is broken”. Fine, I get it. There’s an excuse from everything.

I liken this situation to American politics. To go online, everyone supposedly hates Trump. Still, for all you’re seeing of that, somebody still voted for him. A lot of somebodies. But when you’re in your echo chamber, you don’t really think about that. It turns into “I can’t believe this! How did this happen?!” I’m not saying to go out and hug a Nazi because that would just be stupid, but just take some time to understand that someone has a different viewpoint than you. I’m not even saying you have to respect it, but at least acknowledge that it’s there.

I’ve done a lot of introspection over the past few weeks, and I’m reminded that I don’t want to review something with “That sucks” or “That’s horrible”, because other folks’ mileage may vary. It’s enough to just say “That wasn’t for me.” It’s times like these when I miss my pal Ryan’s podcast, Positively Nerdy. He would always strive to be positive about the stuff he talked about, and it even broke cynical old me. What do you all have to gain by being so negative about shit? Just let people enjoy what they enjoy, and stop acting like it’s some unexplained anomaly. It actually makes quite a bit of sense if you take the time to really think about it.

They announced a Teen Titans Go movie for next summer, and I’ve seen folks just shit all over it. Why? Because to a lot of folks “It’s the show that replaced Young Justice!” even though those decisions were made independently of each other. I love that show. Like, it honestly brings me joy. I work from home on Wednesdays, and the other day they had both a Neverending Story AND a Goonies homage. If you hate it, that’s fine, but it’s not a piece of shit to me. Also, Cartoon Network is a business. Sure, a lot of you hate that the show is ALWAYS on (I’d even probably hate that if I didn’t like the show), but it’s scheduled like that because it’s highly rated. “Well, those people have no taste!” There you go projecting your opinion on shit.

Anyway, I’m tired of hearing the same arguments and the same sentiments, and I’m going to do my best to broaden my horizons in that regard. *steps off soapbox*

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Billy Bush and his wife of 20 years are calling it quits. Man, if you told me former Z104 DJ Billy Bush would end up the fall guy for a presidential administration, I never would’ve believed you…
  • Looks like Gina Torres finally chose the Red Pill, as she and husband Laurence Fishburne have split up after 14 years of marriage.
  • James Cameron said it took him a week to muster up the courage to ask ex-wife Linda Hamilton to star in the 6th Terminator movie.
  • It’s looking like Marvel has no faith in the Inhumans TV series (which premieres tonight), as it is now being billed as “the complete series” instead of “season one”
  • Rumer Willis is now a series regular on Empire. Huh? I can only assume her mom got her the job when she joined the show. So glad I dropped it a while ago.
  • Apparently the Riverdale folks are developing a reboot of Sabrina The Teenage Witch for The CW. Based on the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, I doubt it’ll feature hot aunts this time around. PASS!

 

  • This year’s Arrowverse crossover will be a 2-night event called “Crisis on Earth-X”, and we got the promo image for it this week.

  • We also got this promo image for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where the team apparently heads to space.
  • After 5 seasons, Chip & Joanna Gaines are walking away from Fixer Upper. Knowing HGTV, they’re fast-tracking Fixer Upper Vegas to fill the void as we speak.
  • A female-led reboot of the 70s series Kung Fu has received a put pilot order at Fox. This means it pretty much HAS to make it to air or the network will be out of a ton of money. Considering there are some seriously messed up racial politics with that show, I’m counting down to the shitstorm.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris will write the script for Coming to America 2. I can only assume Eddie Murphy’s behind on child support or something.
  • The Mist has been cancelled by Spike after one season.
  • Reportedly the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty, Kylie, is 5 months pregnant, with rapper Travis Scott as the father. As fucked up as it is, I can only marvel at how savvy Kris Jenner is. The original cast members got old and boring, so she orchestrated the dawn of the next generation. If you don’t think Kris had a hand in all this, you don’t know the Kardashians. Kris could’ve been an amazing force as the head of a network or something.
  • The Russo Brothers are adapting Rick Remender’s Deadly Class comic for a pilot at Syfy
  • Amazon is developing Greg Rucka’s comics Lazarus into a television series
  • Former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a teenage girl. How on the nose is that? His name is “Weiner” and that’s what he was showing to people. Man, people better keep an eye on Senator Robert Scrotum!
  • BoJack Horseman has been renewed for season 5 at Netflix. One day I’ll finally catch up with that show. Never even started season 2…
  • Apparently Danny Elfman will be working the John Williams Superman theme into Justice League. Don’t really know what to make of that right now.

  • The Cartoon Network series OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes kinda confounds me, but it did find it cool that there will be a Captain Planet crossover on the October 9th episode
  • Saturday Night Live has hired new cast members Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, and Luke Null to fill the void left by departed cast members Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata.

  • I don’t consider myself much of a “movie guy”, but I remember trailers like this, so I thought this was pretty cool.

It was a big week for Star Trek, as Sunday saw the premiere of the long-delayed Star Trek: Discovery. In all, I didn’t hate it. That said, I’m starting to love Enterprise, so I’m not sure what the fanbase would say about that. For now, it feels like Star Trek in name only (like Enterprise), but I’ve only seen one episode. That said, it was a riveting hour, and I’m interesting in learning more about the main character, Michael Burnham.

According to online reports, about 9.6 million people watched the premiere, and CBS All Access had its highest signup day in history. Still, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the first month is free. I don’t think this show has staying power on All Access, especially with little other original programming to support it. It’s a lot like the situation Yahoo found themselves in with Screen. Sure, they got Community, but it was already a low-rated network sitcom, which wasn’t adequately supported by the other original programming on the platform. It folded after a season. I feel that if Discovery gets a second season, I doubt it will be on All Access. Right now, they can say “Well, at least we tried” if it ends up blowing up in their faces. It’d be hilarious if they pull a Supergirl and farm it off to The CW. I guess time will tell.

Also, this week saw the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What better way to celebrate a show that hardline fans said “Wasn’t really Star Trek” than with a new show that hardline fans are saying the same thing? I remember the day TNG premiered. Oh yeah, I’ve been there since the beginning. I remember because my mom’s boyfriend at the time was putting carpet down in our back room. He took me to Kmart and bought me WWF trading cards while he got supplies. He was a hardline TOS fan, and had no desire to watch TNG that evening. I think he finished the job before the show came on, and I watched it wondering “What the heck is this?” After all, I have no real affinity for TOS, but I like getting in on the ground floor of things. Even at a young age, I liked the idea of Star Trek, but didn’t really like the show, if that makes any sense. Anyway, that carpet’s still in that back room, I think that dude may be dead, and now we’ve got a new Star Trek on the air. The circle of LIIIIIFFEEE!

I didn’t love TNG in the beginning, as I argue that it didn’t get good until Roddenberry died. Cruel, I know, but that’s when they took off the kid gloves. I tend to dislike a lot of episodes people love, like “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…” Still, the turning point for me was “The Best of Both Worlds Pt I”, which is still the greatest season finale in the history of modern television. After that, there was no looking back for me. Man, 30 years! I feel so old…

Anyway, I think it goes without saying that the Star Trek franchise had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: I used to write about stuff I found at thrift stores. It was called Thrift Justice. It’s back. Check this space on Monday!

15th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/15/17

by Will

In movie news, it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be returning to write and direct Star Wars: Episode IX. This comes on the heels of Colin Trevorrow’s dismissal from the project. If you remember, Abrams was the creative voice behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and many fans seem happy about this decision. I’ve seen some folks say that it’s now the cool thing to say you didn’t like The Force Awakens, but I remember hearing those complaints when the movie first came out. I mean, a lot of people felt he just remade A New Hope, so will this be a remake of The Empire Strikes Back? I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, so I don’t know what I’m talking about. If the fans are happy (and geeks are rarely happy), then that’s enough for me. To accommodate this change in direction, however, the film’s release has been moved from May 2019 to December 2019.

In other movie news, there’s been an interesting development with the new Hellboy movie. Ya see, Hawaii Five-0‘s Daniel Dae Kim has been cast as Ben Daimio, which is the role that was vacated by Ed Skrein. This is good, as it’s an Asian-American character who will now be portrayed by an Asian actor. Done deal, right? Well, now we have to get into the weeds a bit and point out that Daimio is of Japanese descent, while Kim is Korean American. Does it matter? Some might say no. I mean, in Selma, African American Martin Luther King Jr was portrayed by British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo. That said, if Daimio’s Japanese heritage is important to his character, and you just cast another non-Japanese actor, then it somewhat contributes to the idea that Asians are interchangeable, which doesn’t help matters in their pursuit of fair representation in media. My friend Jenn articles this much better than I can. At the end of the day, does it matter? To someone out there, I’m sure it does.

Oh, and we got a pic of what David Harbour will look like as Hellboy. Not bad!

In TV news, it was announced that ABC will be rebooting 80s cult classic The Greatest American Hero, but with a twist: this time, the show will star an Indian American woman named Meera. She’s described as a 30 year old woman from Cleveland, who enjoys tequila and karaoke. Um, OK. Now, I see what they’re doing here. They want to challenge the notion of what it means to be “American” in this day and age. I see you, ABC. I guess that’s somewhat timely, but people tend to forget that the original show wasn’t exactly a ratings smash. In fact, it barely eked out 3 seasons. It’s probably most notable for its theme song, “Believe It Or Not”. And this also isn’t the first time they’ve tried this idea with a woman, as there’s a pilot for The Greatest American Heroine, where a woman is chosen to take over for William Katt’s character. The pilot never aired, but was reedited into an episode that was added to the syndication package of the show. I don’t see this working in 2018, but ABC apparently has a lot of faith in it, as it’s a “put pilot”, which basically means it’s guaranteed to make it to air or it’s gonna cost ABC a lot of money to pass on it. It’s ABC, though. Just looking at The Mayor coming up this Fall, they clearly don’t have the strongest comedy development department right now.

In comics news, it took 13 years, but Marvel’s finally bringing back Jean Grey. The ORIGINAL Jean Grey. Killed at the end of Grant Morrison’s run of New X-Men, she hasn’t been seen since around 2004, though we all knew this would happen one day. We’ve had a bunch of fake outs, with the character of Hope and the debut of teen Jean Grey from an alternate reality timeline, but this is the real deal. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it’s comics and nobody stays dead. On the other, they left her dead a lot longer than they had to. I’d actually started to think she was gone for good. Silly me! I really do wish death meant more in comics. I’m smart enough to know the character will be back, so I’d prefer they not write like I’m a moron. I’d be willing to accept a concession, like we got recently with Tony Stark. He’s not “dead”, but in some sort of a stasis coma. When they need him again, he’ll pop out of it, right as rain. I’m fine with that. Put more characters into comas! Have them get lost in the timestream, and make them find their way home. But stop “killing” them when you, and everyone else, know it will just be temporary. Anyway, to check out Jean’s grand return, pick up Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey – part of the upcoming Marvel Legacy initiative.

In other comics news, there was a whole kerfuffle regarding the G.I. Joe franchise. You see, IDW Publishing currently has the G.I. Joe license, and they’re publishing a Joe comic written by freelancer Aubrey Sitterson. Well, on the anniversary of that day we’re supposed to never forget, 9/11, Sitterson tweeted this:

 

After getting some blowback, he doubled down with this:

Nice try, Aubrey, but 9/11 affected more than just NYC. Y’all just happen to be the ones who get most of the attention. I’m not one of the guys who gets all choked up in patriotism, though, so if that’s how he feels, whatever.

Well, the Joe fandom didn’t take too kindly to that. And apparently this was just the latest in a long string of what they considered antagonistic behavior from the writer. So, fansites, such as YoJoe.com and GeneralsJoes.com, decided that they were no longer going to cover G.I. Joe comics until something was done with Sitterson. At first it seemed like IDW was standing behind the writer, but they eventually released the following statement:

I’m on the fence on this one. I mean, you vote with your dollars and if you’re unhappy with something, then don’t buy it. That said, I have never been more glad that I no longer identify as a G.I. Joe “fan”. A lot of these guys come just come across as bullies. Sitterson was on his arrogant high horse, but a lot of the response is coming from veterans who are throwing around terms like “Commie” and “Libtard” just because their feelings were hurt by a funnybook writer. Sitterson comes from the wrestling world, so he’s reveling in the role of the “heel”, or the bad guy. This is all a gimmick to him, and the more riled they get, the happier it makes him. It means it’s working. That said, I don’t think he realizes that some of these dudes have a few screws loose. They don’t understand the game, and they don’t care. I really wouldn’t be surprised if he’s getting death threats right now over his opinion.

At the end of the day, G.I. Joe is a dying franchise. You could even say it’s dead, but there’s a small group of +40 year old men who are keeping hope alive. I’ve often said that the franchise needs to take a TMNT-like break, and give folks a chance to actually miss it. Plus, it’s time to give today’s kids their own Joe. Sure, folks are going to argue that kids don’t play with toys anymore but, just like comics, the core audience is going to die, and you’re going to need to replace them somehow. The A Real America Hero era has had a good run, but it’s time for the sun to set on it. No more Duke, no more Snake Eyes. Reboot the fuck out of it! Call of Duty is popular. Make G.I. Joe like that. There are ways to make it viable but the current approaches aren’t working. It’s like porn – there’s ENOUGH porn in the world. There’s really no need to make more. The same with Larry Hama-based Joe stories. There’ve been enough over the past +30 years. It’s time to move on. Sure, this will just piss off the same demographic that’s currently upset with Sitterson, but they’re gonna be dead soon anyway. But who am I to say that? Just another libtard with a website, I suppose…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I guess he’s over her humps AND her lady lumps, as Josh Duhamel and Fergie have separated after 8 years of marriage.
  • Watch out, conservatives, as Trevor Noah’s contract with The Daily Show has been renewed through 2022. Meanwhile, HBO has renewed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver through 2020.
  • Matt Bomer’s The Last Tycoon has been cancelled by Amazon after one season.
  • TBS has renewed Wrecked, The Guest Book, and People of Earth
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 will be released May 17th, 2019
  • Nick Blood will be reprising his role of Lance Hunter on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season. I figure they’ll make some excuse for where Bobbi is, so she can pop up once The Orville gets cancelled.
  • Shaun Sipos will portray DC space hero Adam Strange on Syfy’s Krypton
  • Keke Palmer moves from Scream Queens to MTV’s Scream, as she’ll headline season 3 along with Power Rangers‘ RJ Cyler.
  • ESPN anchor Jemele Hill called the President a White Supremacist on her Twitter account, and the White House insinuated that she should be fired. Ya know, that thing the First Amendment specifically forbids them from doing…
  • Melissa McCarthy is now an Emmy winner, for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Role, for her work on Saturday Night Live last season.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement will be covered by Arrow this season, as well as an upcoming AMC drama, based on the book They Can’t Kill Us All, and adapted by a writer from Into the Badlands. Considering how bad Badlands‘ writing is, I’ve got more faith in the Arrow storyline…
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for the character of Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be Black, until his agent basically asked “Why?” and said that it wouldn’t be the right move.

  • After nearly 40 years, it was revealed that Mario has nipples, and the internet lost its mind!

  • We got our first taste of the main theme for Star Trek: Discovery, and I don’t hate it. It’s no Enterprise theme, but I like the callbacks to the Original Series theme.


I’m not sure who had the best week this week. I mean, there’s the movie IT, which broke a whole bunch of records, and has made about $180 million. I don’t really care about horror, though, and will probably never see the movie. Still, this was a big deal for the horror community.

There’s adult film star Cory Chase who became something of a household name when Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account Liked a tweet containing her scene from Moms Bang Teens 20. Cruz has, since, said that it was done by an aide, while his spokesperson tried to insinuate it was a hack. Anyway, Chase was without power due to Hurricane Irma, so she didn’t even realize why she was getting all of this newfound attention. This was a major boon for both Chase and the Reality Kings website.

Horror or Porn? I really can’t decide. So, I’m gonna leave it up to you guys. Tell me: who had the West Week Ever?

08th Sep2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04th Aug2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/4/17

by Will

In movie news, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming premieres this Sunday, and The Hollywood Reporter had a great article about the history of the franchise. For one thing, Donald Trump was originally approached to play the President in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, but his people were stalling because he was mulling a run for the actual presidency. When the producers moved on to cast Mark Cuban, Trump got pissed and his people threatened to sue (on what grounds, nobody knows). Also, the production was renamed to Dark Skies because the name Sharknado was turning off potential actors. To the cast’s chagrin, however, it was changed back to Sharknado at release.

The main takeaway from the article is the pay situation. In the beginning, star Ian Ziering was offered $100,000 to do the first film. He reportedly only took it because his wife was pregnant and he needed to keep up his SAG membership for the health insurance. Over time, however, his pay ballooned and he currently makes about $500,000 a film – which, as folks point out, is more than the $300,000 Gal Gadot reportedly made to star in Wonder Woman. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. For one thing, superhero films kinda pay on the low-ish side because there are so many moving parts. The pay tends to start low and then grows over time. By the third or fourth movie, the stars are, then, basically too expensive to keep, so it becomes renegotiation or reboot time. Plus, as I said on Twitter, washed up TV star in a “water cooler” franchise outranks unproven movie star in unstable cinematic universe. Yes, Wonder Woman was a great film, but to say that Gadot deserved more money is simply Monday morning quarterbacking. Nobody was worried about her pay before the film came out because, frankly, nobody gave a shit about her. She’ll eventually make her money, while Ziering will be begging for a Sharknado revival, as the series is clearly on its last legs based on the ratings. Sharknado is a funny thing because the social media impressions actually outnumber its ratings. So, folks feel the need to talk about Sharknado even if they’re not watching Sharknado.

The real crime about pay, though, is that Tara Reid only makes about $125,000 to Ziering’s $500,000 (his salary is about 1/6th the budget of Sharknado 5). When she spoke up about it, they created a poll to the public following Sharknado 3, asking whether or not her character should die. Lucky for her, the fans wanted her back (Production company Asylum claims the poll and her request were unrelated, but we aren’t stupid here).

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll watch even though the last installment was a chore to get through. The franchise really peaked at Sharknado 2: The Second One, but they generate buzz, so they keep coming. I’m still pissed about the last movie, where Ziering’s character, Finn, has a Black daughter-in-law who gets killed by a shark. Not only does the family not react, but she’s never mentioned again. It’s clearly the result of some terrible editing, but I can’t tell if they edited out reactions to her death OR if they edited in the character after the movie was basically done. I figure we’ll get to 6 and then they’ll have to think of something else. It’s too bad the Lavalantula franchise hasn’t enjoyed the same buzz, as I enjoy those pseudo Police Academy reunions.

In TV news, a LOT of folks are upset about that Confederate show that I mentioned last week, even calling for a boycott of HBO. Some folks have reminded the boycotters that their actions would hurt other Black shows on the network, like Insecure and Ballers. Instead, they encouraged that folks make their voices heard directly to HBO, using the hashtag #NoConfederate during its most watched hour last week, Game of Thrones. Well, in seeming retaliation for the show, producer Will Packer and The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder are creating Black America for Amazon. Whereas Confederate would follow a United States on the brink of its 3rd Civil War, Black America would follow an alternate reality where freed Blacks were given Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi as reparations, and the sovereign nation of New Colonia is formed. Meanwhile, its neighbor to the north, The United States, is in a bad state of affairs.  New Colonia is about to become a world power, while the US is slipping. Due to their proximity, their fates are tied together, but clearly the Black folks are doing better than everyone else.

Is it wrong that I have no interest in either show? I mean, I have no desire to see slavery still going in Confederate, but the whole premise of Black America just sounds like it’s doing too much, and feels more reactionary than anything. I mean, why didn’t we hear about this project before Confederate was announced? And the problem is that both projects are so far in their infancy that they won’t be happening any time soon, if they happen at all. I know the announcement appeased a lot of the anti-Confederate crowd, but neither sounds like a “good” show from what we’ve heard, and I almost feel like they take us away from having the race dialogue that a lot of folks feel we so sorely need as a country. What are y’all’s thoughts on these shows?

In other TV news, it was announced that ABC’s The Middle would be ending after its upcoming 9th season. This elicited to a lot of responses of “That show’s still on?”, and I immediately understood why Trump won. As the title suggests, the show focused on a middle class family, in the middle of the country, as they struggle to make it through. Over the past 8 years, they have been emblematic of the types of voters who feel their voices aren’t being heard as their situations get tighter. That’s the show’s audience, even though they’re not the glamorous demographic that Madison Avenue covets. I actually really enjoy the exploits of the Heck family, but I understand that the show’s not “hip” or “cool”, so it flew under a lot of folks’ radar. The upcoming Roseanne revival has been described as focusing on the Conners as they try to make their way in Trump’s America, but I’d argue that The Middle did it first, and will probably be looked upon as the most accurate depiction when the dust settles.

Across the dial, it was finally confirmed that Erinn Hayes’s character on CBS’s Kevin Can Wait will, in fact, be killed off. The show will pick up after some time has passed, paving the way for Kevin James to reunite with his The King of Queens costar Leah Remini. I understand shows sometimes need a retool, but all evidence was pointing to the show as a moderate success. The only sticking point was Remini guested in the season finale, and suddenly everyone wanted that chemistry back. To me, I’m good. I still have 8 seasons of The King of Queens to look back on (I don’t count that last season because it felt like they hated each other by that point, surprising me that they’d reunite. To me, this is almost like Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell doing a new show together). Hayes will bounce back, as she’s already been cast in Amazon’s The Dangerous Book for Boys, but I still don’t feel like the show did her right.

In comics news, it was revealed that the Milestone comic line’s reboot has been stalled because the creators behind it were trying to cut out the estate of co-creator Dwayne McDuffie. If you’re not familiar, the Milestone line was comprised of a bunch of minority-focused superhero books from the early 90s. There was Hardware (Black Iron Man), Rocket (Black Captain Marvel?), Blood Syndicate (Black…I dunno. I didn’t read that one). Oh, and Static (Black Lightning Jr, basically). The original creators were Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek T. Dingle, and Michael Davis (if we ever meet, ask me my Michael Davis stories. Dude is crazy, but I ain’t putting that stuff in writing for him to find it).

A few years back, they announced a revival of the Milestone brand, but Davis had been cut out and replaced by former BET head Reginald Hudlin. They kept saying an announcement was forthcoming, while Davis took to the internet saying it’ll never happen. He was hurt he’d been left out of something he’d had a hand in creating, but he also knew there were roadblocks that the group wouldn’t be able to get over.

Well, this week, McDuffie’s widow sued the group because his estate had been left out of recent negotiations, as Cowan, Dingle, and Hudlin were going to create a new entity to cut out McDuffie’s stake. There’s a lot of potential in the franchise, with recent cries for representation in fantasy media, but I’d like to go on record and say that those books just weren’t very good. They were just Black characters the same quality of the Image output of the time. I used to read Hardware and that book, ugh…Maybe they’ve got some fresh new takes on the characters, but I don’t think they’re even interested in comics at this point. They just want to control the intellectual property. Anyway, for all McDuffie did in the comic industry, it seems like he was constantly screwed over, even in death. I hope his estate is at least getting some money for the use of Damage Control (which he created) in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but I know it was work-for-hire blah blah blah. Anyway, here’s hoping Mrs. McDuffie gets what she’s owed.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Divergent franchise sequel, Ascendant, is now being developed as an ongoing TV series for Starz
  • The Black-ish spinoff, college-ish will now known as grown-ish
  • Vin Diesel is reportedly working on a Miami Vice reboot on NBC for the 2018-2019 season. I really hope they set it in the 80s. Otherwise, it’s just gonna be nothing but Pitbull and Flo Rida cameos…
  • The Will & Grace revival has already been renewed, despite the fact it hasn’t aired yet. It was also revealed that it will ignore the series finale, just like Roseanne…
  • Late 90s MTV staple, Total Request Live (TRL) will return in October, with FIVE hosts. I guess they’re trying to bring back that VJ position again.
  • Speaking of MTV, hot on the heels of removing gendered categories, MTV has changed the coveted Video Music Award from the Moon Man to the Moon Person. It will be able to use any space bathroom that it chooses.
  • Soap actor Hartley Sawyer will recur as The Elongated Man this season on The Flash
  • Speaking of the Arrowverse, the next 4-show crossover will take place over two nights this season, November 27th and 28th
  • Apparently hot ass Scientologist Catherine Bell from JAG has been on a show on Hallmark Channel called Good Witch for the past three years. Who knew? Anyway, it’s been renewed for a fourth season
  • Aussie actress Teagan Croft cast as Raven in the Titans series
  • Amazon is adding Carsey-Werner shows such as Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, A Different World, Cybill, Grace Under Fire, and Grounded for Life to its streaming library
  • Pacific Rim: Uprising‘s release has been moved from Feb 23 to March 23
  • Hasbro has called off talks to buy Lionsgate. In other news, apparently Hasbro was trying to buy Lionsgate.
  • Agent Carter‘s Hayley Atwell will reportedly join Ewan McGregor in Disney’s Christopher Robin 
  • Formerly a staple of Baltimore Comic Con, the Harvey Awards will move to New York Comic Con in 2018
  • They’ll be calling it Hawaii Five-WHOA, as Joey Lawrence is slated to guest star on the CBS series this season
  • Because he’s never turned down a job, Nick Cannon will host Lip Sync Battle Shorties, a kid-centered spinoff of Lip Sync Battle to air on Nickelodeon
  • During the 2017 Teen Choice Awards, Fox will experiment with 6-second commercials. This is how that subliminal programming shit starts!
  • Remembering where he came from, Kenan Thompson (who’s also now the longest-standing SNL cast member) is reportedly developing a live action sketch show for kids.
  • Transformers spinoff, Bumblebee, will open against Aquaman on December 21st, 2018
  • Blumhouse Television is bringing horror reality show Scare Tactics back to TV
  • Due to how he perceives Starz doesn’t appreciate his show, 50 Cent has threatened to snatch Power off the network.
  • Pokemon: I Choose You will get a two-night theatrical run in November. I’m not telling you the dates because the movie is a retelling of Ash & Pikachu’s meeting, yet it removes Brock and Misty from the story. Fuck this movie!

So, there was some crazy stuff in the comic industry this week, as a picture of of some women Marvel editors brought out the crazies. It all started with this pic:

Marvel editor Heather Antos and some other female editors got together for milkshakes, and based on the hashtag, it was to honor recently deceased former Marvel secretary “Fabulous Flo” Steinberg. A seemingly innocent thing, right? Well, here was the reaction on social media:

Wow, right? From dudes making inappropriate sexual remarks to folks blaming this on Social Justice Warriors, a certain corner of the internet lost its mind over some damn milkshakes.

But then came the backlash to the backlash. Fans and creators started posting pics in solidarity with the ladies.

The support even came from the “Distinguished Competition”, as they tweeted the following pic:

What started out as a snake bed for trolls turned into a show of solidarity that not only shed light on what women editors face on a daily basis, but also seemed to strengthen some relationships “across the aisle”. I mean, this is the best Marvel/DC crossover since Amalgam! As I said on Twitter, when history classes look back on this period in time, they will see that it was not blockbuster events but milkshakes that saved the comic industry. That’s why female comic editors had the West Week Ever.

 

By the way, I’m apparently 16 years old because I just signed up for Sarahah. So, swing by and leave me some anonymous comments. Oh, and please don’t make me cry!

28th Jul2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/28/17

by Will

One of the best discoveries I’ve made has been the digital subchannel Heroes & Icons. If you’re a cord cutter, then get yourself an antenna and check this thing out. My favorite aspect of it, however, is the fact that it runs a 5-hour Star Trek block six nights a week. Star Trek at 8, Star Trek: The Next Generation at 9, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at 10, Star Trek: Voyager at 11, and Enterprise at 12. Sunday through Friday. And on Sundays they actually kick things off with Star Trek: The Animated Series at 7. I’ve pretty much watched nothing but Star Trek for the past 2 weeks. I’ve been reacquainted with favorite episodes, like TNG‘s “Chain of Command” and DS9‘s “Far Beyond the Stars”. I’ve discovered some hidden gems, like TOS‘s ” The Cloud Minders”. I’ve even discovered that I don’t hate Voyager or Enterprise as much as I thought I did.

I don’t talk about this too much, but the first 12 years or so of my life were comprised of pretty much NOTHING but Star Trek. From 1987-94, my favorite show on television was The Next Generation. When DS9 debuted, I expected it to continue my love affair, but it felt too preachy with its Space Holocaust allegory. It was in the later seasons, once the Dominion War began, that it actually ensconced itself as my favorite iteration of the franchise. By the time Voyager debuted, I had discovered comics, and they became my new mistress. While I watched about 4 hours of TNG a day in high school (Channel 20 REALLY loved playing TNG), my heart didn’t have room in it for a new Trek, so I “No time for love, Dr. Jones”‘ed Captain Janeway and her crew. Enterprise debuted when I was in college, and  I was simply too busy worried about other shit to watch Captain Quantum Leap and his crew. Plus, due to some kind of contractual fallout, Ithaca didn’t get UPN. So, since the finale of DS9, my Trekkerdom lay dormant.

But when I say “I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know”, that’s primarily about Star Trek. I had several editions of the Star Trek Encyclopedia, I had the Technical Manual, the Technical Journal, the Star Trek Chronology. All of it. I’ve got the figures, and the role play toys. I even created my own uniform for Halloween back in the 90s. I was all Trek, 24/7, and you couldn’t tell me shit. Over time, though, that trivia got overwritten by X-Men 1st appearance notations and the names of TNBC actresses. What I’m saying, though, is that Heroes & Icons brought it all rushing back. It’s like I’m 15 again, blowing the evening watching Star Trek episodes I’ve already seen hundreds of times already. It’s also given me new perspectives on things that completely went over my head when I was younger. For example, Sisko is the Bajorans’ Space Jesus, and that’s pretty heavy. Even he doesn’t believe it, but in the end, yup it turns out he’s Space Jesus. I’ve also got thoughts on the current state of the franchise, too.

At SDCC, we got the above trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, which will air in North America on CBS All Access (yes, Dean, I know you’ll say All Anal Access because it sucks that we have to subscribe to another service just to watch this thing). I had no interest in this show because everything I heard about it didn’t sound like Star Trek. Now, though, the more they try to sell it as a bunch of new ideas, the more it just sounds like DS9. It’s gonna be Trek with interpersonal conflict. Great. I can get down with that. Its aesthetic seems more like late-era Stargate than Trek, though – especially those Klingon designs. There are certain things, though, that still feel like they miss the mark.

Take for example the fact that the show will feature the first same-sex couple on a Star Trek series, played by Rent‘s Anthony Rapp and My So Called Life‘s Wilson Cruz. Yeah, I get that representation is important, but it bothers me that this is being done in a prequel series, set before the events of the original Star Trek. With the exception of Enterprise, this is the series that takes place the closest to our timeline, so it’s really not much of a leap to think that same-sex couples exist. Ya know what would’ve meant more to me (as a straight, cis male who really doesn’t have a dog in the race but is still opinionated)? If the show had actually been a post-Dominion War, sequel series to TNG/DS9/Voyager, and it featured a same-sex couple. Science fiction tends to go 2 ways: it’s either dystopian or it’s about HOPE. As it stands, from what we’ve seen, same-sex couples are pretty much nonexistent in the 24th century. Yeah, I’m sure they exist, but we never saw them. It seems like it would be a testament to how enduring they are to see them that far in the future as opposed to just a couple of hundred years from now, when Discovery is set.

I could also be politicizing this for my own agenda, as I really want to know what happened after the war ended. Sure, there are books and stuff, but those things aren’t canon. I feel there are so many stories to tell from that era, and I’d love to see the franchise move forward instead of dance between the raindrops of continuity in the past. It feels like they’re stalling, which is how it felt with Enterprise and even the Kelvin movies. Someone, somewhere out there has got to have a great idea as to how to move the franchise forward and I hope CBS/Paramount finds them sooner rather than later.

SDCC Bullet Points

The bulk of San Diego Comic Con took place over the weekend, and here’s some stuff that debuted:

  • Michelle Pfeiffer is Hank Pym’s lost wife, Janet Van Dyne, in Ant-Man and The Wasp
  • The Captain Marvel film will be set in the 90s, and introduce the Skrulls to the MCU. Oh, and Nick Fury will have 2 eyes

  • We got this trailer for Ready Player One, which was hella polarizing. It seems a lot of folks hated the book on which it’s based. If you ask me, it just looks like a cinematic version of this commercial:

  • Comic creator Frank Miller, of 300 and Sin City fame, is writing a Superman: Year One story with art from John Romita Jr. Nothing about that sentence makes me want to open my wallet.

  • We got a new trailer for X-Men spinoff, The Gifted. I’m actually surprised they used established mutants like Polaris and Thunderbird. And is that actually Fenris?! I want to like this, but it just looks so…Fox.

  • We got a new trailer for The Defenders on Netflix. I get that this is the culmination of all the Marvel Netflix shows, but it didn’t do much for me since I’ve only seen 2 out of 5 seasons so far. There’s no way I’ll get caught up by this premiere date, but I’m sure it’ll mean more to me once I’m up to date. Kinda tired of the hallway fight trope, though.

  • Legends of Tomorrow is such a fun show. It started kinda dry, but got so much better last year. It reminds me of a syndicated Saturday afternoon show, but in a good way.

  • This Justice League trailer did very little for me. It’s like, sure, Wonder Woman’s cool, but we JUST saw her. Aquaman seems cool, but he’s not really “Aquaman”. I’ll see it, but I ain’t looking forward to it. No, for me, November belongs to:

  • An elementary school friend and her husband did a Saga cosplay and KILLED IT!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We’ll have to wait a bit longer for our annual dose of Abbi and Ilana, as Comedy Central has moved the Broad City season 4 premiere from August 23rd to September 13th
  • A few months ago, it was reported that Amy Schumer would be starring in a Barbie movie. Well, I made fun of that, she blocked me on Twitter, and then eventually dropped out of the role. Now they’re reporting that Anne Hathaway is up for the role, which is somehow more bewildering than the Schumer choice…
  • Justin Bieber cancelled the rest of his Purpose world tour because he was “committing his life to Christ”. This pissed off his crew, as they were left without jobs. He, then, proceeded to run over a paparazzo with his truck while leaving church. I swear, you can’t make this shit up!
  • Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has replaced Bill Gates as the richest man in the world.
  • Beginning September 29th, Hulu will begin streaming the Warner Bros shows that comprised ABC’s TGIF lineup, including Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, Full House, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, and Step By Step. Meanwhile, Netflix is feverishly developing Perfecter Strangers, Family Still Matters, Chillin’ With Mr. Cooper, and Step By Step By Step.
  • I haven’t seen a non-country music video in years, but apparently they still make them, as Katy Perry will host the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards
  • Speaking of the VMAs, following the lead of the MTV Movie Awards, they’re doing away with the gendered categories Best Male/Best Female Artist, to be replaced by Artist of the Year. Also, in a bit of pandering,  they’ve created the Best Fight Against the System, for those artists who have called for folks to #RESIST and all that.
  • Though I felt its farcical nature wore a bit thin during its first season, TBS’s Angie Tribeca has been renewed for season 4.
  • Smallville‘s Tom Welling is joining Fox’s Lucifer and *yawn* that’s really all there is to say about that.
  • Netflix has ordered 20 episodes of the animated series Disenchantment from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. It will features the voices of Nat Faxon, Eric Andre, and Abbi Jacobson. Apparently it’s about elves and trolls and shit. Not really my bag, baby.
  • Person of Interest‘s Michael Emerson has been cast in a mysterious role for Arrow‘s 6th season. So, he’s probably Deathstroke’s accountant or something.
  • Because SyFy just doesn’t care anymore, and because they need something to air between Sharknados, Wynonna Earp has been renewed for a 3rd season.
  • The Wonder Woman sequel has a release date of December 13th, 2019
  • Apple discontinued the iPod Nano and Shuffle models, as they are the last remaining models that cannot run iOS apps.
  • Current Superman Henry Cavill grew a mustache for his role in Mission Impossible 37: Mission Harder, which will have to be digitally removed for Justice League reshoots. Ya know, the movie where he’s supposed to be dead, but is actually the worst kept secret in Hollywood.
  • Lionel Richie and Charlie Puth are in talks to join ABC’s American Idol reboot as judges. Yeah, that’s funny. Unless they’re coaching the contestants on how to get caught cheating while dancing on the ceiling, I’m not sure what Richie’s old ass brings to the table. And Puth is simply too new to be judging anybody.
  • New James Bond film in 2019. Nobody knows who’s playing him or directing the thing, but it’s coming. Yesiree, Bob!
  • Since they’re handing out cinematic universes like chicken samples at a food court, the John Wick universe will be expanded by the female-focused film, Ballerina.
  • Michael Phelps raced a CGI shark and people felt betrayed. He’s the friggin’ son of Poseidon! He can’t race ACTUAL sharks! There would be civil unrest beneath the surface!

With DC being the political capital of the country, it’s hard for a news person to stand out because the place is crawling with them. That wasn’t true, however, for Jim Vance. Everyone knew him and the man was an institution. Coming to NBC4 in 1969, he was one of the first Black anchors in a major news market. He anchored for over 4 decades, ingraining himself into the families of those who watched him.

When I was a toddler, I was really into the local news (I’ve always said I’m regressing as I get older), and I could name every anchor on every local newscast. And this was a golden age of DC news. You had the great Glenn Brenner, you had Maury Povich before he became a talk show host, and you had Vance. There was something about him that made him seem like your aunt’s cool boyfriend. He was an old man with a hoop earring. We used to laugh about it, but secretly I was hating because I knew I’d never be able to pull that off at his age. He rode motorcycles and laughed inappropriately at news stories he found funny. He was a guy who made you glad to watch the news, especially as the cries of Fake News! grew louder.

Back in May, Vance announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and it advanced rather quickly. He passed away last Saturday morning, and the announcement touched all corners of the DC area (no, I’m not calling it the DMV!). It was touching to see all of the tributes to him on the local stations, from those who were colleagues and competitors. Last Saturday night, News4 spent the entire 11 PM news talking about Vance and what he meant to DC. This might sound crazy, but it was so refreshing to watch the news without a single drop of actual news being reported. No Trump b.s., no local murders, not even a weather report. Just 30 minutes about a man who we basically grew up with in our homes. I always kinda took him for granted because you just expected he would be there every evening, but I’ve certainly missed him since he’s gone. I know he won’t mean much to those of you outside the DC viewing area, but believe me when I say that everybody here knew who Jim Vance was, and we’re all going to miss him in one way or another. For that reason, Jim Vance had the West Life Ever.

 

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.

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.

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.

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