West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/17/23

I’d heard about a new Alison Brie movie and, the minute it was released on Prime Video, I was there! Called Somebody I Used To Know – which always makes me think of that Gotye song – it’s a romantic comedy directed by Brie’s husband, Dave Franco. It starts out like a Hallmark Channel movie, as Brie stars as an overworked reality TV producer who returns to her hometown to regroup when her show is cancelled. Once there, she runs into her high school sweetheart, played by Insecure‘s Jay Ellis, and sees it as a sign that they’re meant to get back together. See? Standard Hallmark romcom. That is until she finds out that her old beau is engaged to another woman, and this happens to be their wedding weekend. Refusing to back off, she sees it as a challenge and spends the weekend trying to ruin the wedding and get him back.

One of the interesting things about the film is how it handles race. Ellis is basically the only Black guy in the small town, as he was adopted by a kindly family that includes Haley Joel Osment. Not once does race come up, even though it would be such easy low-hanging fruit. When Ellis’s fiancée is introduced, it’s Kiersey Clemons, and there’s no heavy-handed message about how he should be with this Black woman over Brie. It was just a welcome change in a sea of Kenya Barris projects where race would be front and center in a film like this.

Also, it was nice to see Brie and Danny Pudi reunite from their days on Community. Sure, he’s not playing Abed, or even an Abed-like character, but it’s still fun to see them share the screen.

I really enjoyed the film, and it doesn’t exactly end like you think it will. Let’s just say that it’s more of a dramedy than a romcom, and that should brace you for the path it takes. Oh, and Brie gets naked a lot in it.

So, in anticipation of this week’s 3rd season premiere of Star Trek: Picard, I binged season 2, which I’d never gotten around to watching. Now I know this season left a bad taste in a lot of Trekkers’ mouths, but I’ve got to say that I enjoyed it immensely.

If you’re not aware, Picard follows the titular character in “present-day” Trek continuity, at the turn of the 25th century. At the end of season 1, Picard died but his consciousness was uploaded into a revolutionary new type of Soong-tech android body. Here’s the cop-out, though: he doesn’t have the enhanced strength or durability that we’ve come to expect from an android, plus the body is programmed to age naturally so he’s just as old and crusty as he was, meaning he’ll “die” at a logical point.

While I enjoyed season 2, it really did take the easy road instead of covering some more interesting areas of Picard’s life. For one thing, they never really dealt with the android body aspect. There’s one scene where a defibrillator backfires when it comes in contact with Picard’s chest. No, I wanted him to grapple with this Second Chance, and what that means for him going forward. Instead, we got a lot of mommy drama that we’d never known about in the past. Apparently Picard keeps people at a distance because he never got over the suicide of his mentally ill mother. He blamed himself for what happened to her, and it had followed him his whole life, keeping him from loving those around him.

Then it also dealt with the Borg Queen, and we all know that Picard has a long history with that race. I’ve often said I hate how TNG handled the aftermath of Picard being turned into Locutus because he was immediately welcomed back to duty, without really dealing with the mental strain or trauma. Instead of therapy or counseling, he just went back to France and fought with his brother in some mud. This would have been a perfect time to really get into the psychological trauma he had carried with him all these years. The guilt over all the lives lost from his time as Locutus. But no, they just ignore all of that entirely.

Since the season is still fresh in my mind, here are some random thoughts I had while watching:

  • Is Q the first one from the Continuum to die? I mean, how was this a surprise to him? How did he not know there would one day be an End, even for him?
  • I was actually really touched that Q didn’t want to die alone, and the acknowledgement that he was always Jean-Luc’s friend and not his enemy. It was very Xavier/Magneto.
  • Speaking of Xavier, I don’t feel like Patrick Stewart is actually playing Jean-Luc Picard. I’m not sure if it’s his age or what, but I feel like he plays the character more like Professor X Goes To Space. They’re both distinguished, learned men, but there are differences in the way each carries himself, and I just don’t get “Picard” from his performance.
  • He’s just SO OLD. I mean, we’ll all be lucky to reach that age, but half the time the show feels like elder abuse. We’re supposed to sometimes take him as this dashing, handsome man, but he just feels like your grandpa. Laris must really be lonely!
  • Speaking of Laris, that actress is 61 years old, and she’s gorgeous. What’s happening to aging?!
  • I get that Q’s parting gift to his friend Picard was helping him to let go of the past, and freeing him from the guilt of his mother’s death, but if Q really wanted to help out, why couldn’t he have appeared at the end of season 1, so we could have avoided all the android body bullshit?
  • Kinda jarring that they still haven’t figured out how to treat, or better yet eliminate, depression by the 24th century.
  • Despite talk of “butterflies” and not wanting to affect the timeline, there is a LOT of messing with the timeline in this season. You knew by episode 3 that Rios was staying behind, but they don’t even really handle that all that well. More than likely, his presence in 2024 is a predestination paradox, in which he’s slated to be his own great great great grandfather. But it didn’t seem like he and Theresa had any kids – at least not according to Guinan’s debrief, so it’s more likely he just kept his head down, with a low profile.
  • And speaking of the timeline, let’s tackle this Borg Queen nonsense. So Agnes is the new Borg Queen as of 2024, and she remains with the Collective for the next 400 years. Does this mean there are multiple Borg Queens? She’s always had the ability to regenerate, but I just assumed it was a new iteration of the same character. But, and try to follow me here, due to the events of season 2, the Borg are introduced to this quadrant 400 years early. They, essentially, got a head start. So, if Agnes is the Queen, then why couldn’t she intervene at different points throughout those centuries? She could have avoided Wolf 359, which would have prevented the creation of Locutus, and Ben Sisko could be eating gumbo with his first wife right now.
  • It’s the 25th century, but Picard lives like it’s Downton Abbey. I’m not expecting TVs or anything, but it’s interesting how there’s a lack of tech in such a technological setting.
  • Did this season retcon Picard’s brother? I mean, where was he in the flashbacks?

Despite these nitpicks, I still enjoyed what we got, and I don’t really understand why folks hated it as much as they did. What else were folks expected that they didn’t get?

In the world of podcasts, my new favorite show is Frosted Tips with Lance Bass, in which the former boybander chats with other boybanders about their origin stories and experiences. NKOTB’s Jonathan Knight talked about how he was pressured to come out, while Backstreet Boys’ AJ McLean talked about his struggles with sobriety. It’s a lot deeper than you’d think on the surface, but they also have some fun. If you’re a fan of late 90s/early 00s pop, then this is the show for you. It’s an iHeartMedia podcast, and new episodes drop every Monday.

Speaking of podcasts, I had the pleasure of joining two of my favorite web geeks, @hojukoolander and @maskedlibrary for episode #69 (Nice!) of Wizards: The Podcast Guide To Comics. We discussed everything from Marvel’s Heroes Return event to the second wave of Amalgam Comics. It was a great time, jumping back into the pages of Wizard Magazine, and if you were also a fan of 90s comics, then you should definitely check it out.

Trailer Park

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 – theaters, May 5th

I’m an MCU mark at this point. Just tell me when and where. I don’t even need trailers anymore, which is a good thing because this did very little for me. I’ll see it, I’ll enjoy it, but I can’t really do the MCU Hype Machine anymore. It’s hard to really get excited for a lot of these projects, even with a proven track record like Gunn has with this franchise. Anyway, with MCU films, I now pretty much only watch the first trailer, and then bail on the rest, as they tend to show too much. The only reason I even saw this one was because it was all over my timeline.

The Flash – theaters, June 16th

I hate to admit this, but credit where it’s due: This looks pretty good. Sure, Ezra Miller is crazier than a shithouse rat, but I can see why Warner Bros was so determined to release this thing. I do NOT, however, appreciate how a lot of the marketing is Michael Keaton’s Batman featuring The Flash. Yeah, I’m a kid of the 80s and 90s, but I just don’t lose my mind over Keaton’s Batman like some people. It’s not like it’s a Dark Knight Returns adaptation, so I have no real desire to see 71 year old Keaton as Batman. Still, it looks good.

Tetris – Apple TV+, March 31st

This looks really good, but it’s on Apple TV+, which is the one streamer in which I have almost no interest, so I don’t quite know how I’m gonna see it.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • After six years cohosting with Kelly Ripa, Ryan Seacrest announced that he will be leaving Live with Kelly and Ryan this spring, with Ripa’s husband Mark Consuelos taking over the cohost role.
  • Chinese spy balloons are everywhere! THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!!!
  • Edited versions of True Blood and Silicon Valley are coming to TNT and TBS respectively.
  • Fox is developing a female-led reboot of Starsky & Hutch. Ya know, because folks have been dying to have that property back up and running.
  • Due to scheduling conflicts it’s believed that Kevin Costner will be written out of the hit series Yellowstone.
  • One of the first big series revivals by a streamer, Arrested Development is slated to leave Netflix on March 15th
  • Mattel announced they are rebooting the Barney franchise, where the friendly purple dinosaur will now be animated.

So, as you read up top, I’ve got Picard on the brain, as yesterday saw the premiere of the third and “final” season of the Paramount+ series. I was up until 4 AM Thursday morning, catching up so I’d be ready when the episode dropped. But then I got sleepy, so I ended up watching it on my phone at work. Not the best viewing situation, but I rectified it when I got home, by watching it again to see if I missed anything the first time around. I was actually going to watch along with my Trekkie friends from college, but we couldn’t sync up schedules, as our kids wouldn’t go to sleep.

Right off the bat, this season feels more “cinematic”. The lighting is striking, the sets are incredible, and the characters! We knew that this season was going to be a Next Generation reunion, and it starts right out of the gate. We start in media res, as Dr Beverly Crusher is trying to fend off some intruders who’ve boarded her ship. She and another person seem to be the only crew aboard, which is reminiscent of the TNG episode “Remember Me”, where the crew gradually disappears until the Enterprise is a ship with only a 2-person crew: Crusher and Picard. She sends out a subspace distress call to Picard, directly to his old communicator. Now, maybe it’s just me, but there’s a line of dialogue that felt kind of “fanwankery”: Picard asks himself “Why would someone send a communication to a nearly 20 year old Enterprise-D communicator?” That’s such an odd way to put it, as it is the communicator used during that era, but it was also used throughout the fleet. Sure, the Starfleet symbol was adopted from the original Enterprise, but I just wondered why it was worded like that. It’s almost like the writers were like “Look at us! We’re not poseurs! We remember the D, too!”

Anyway, Picard, having finally started a relationship with his valet Laris, decrypts the message, where Crusher tells him “No Starfleet. Trust no one.” So, of course, he proceeds to reach out to everyone he knows, as one does when they are told not to. And we’re off to the races!

First stop is Guinan’s bar, “10”, where Picard reunites with Captain William T. Riker. Seems like there’s problems at home, so Riker is jumping at the chance for some adventure. They hatch a plan to divert Riker’s old command, the USS Titan, from its present course to the edge of Federation space, where Beverly’s signal originated. Oh, and the Titan’s First Officer is Commander Annika Hansen, but you may know her best as Seven of Nine. So, the Titan’s Captain Shaw is an asshat, who makes Jellico look like Mr. Rogers, and he denies their request. He makes a few snide remarks about their records, and Picard’s status as “ex Borg”, and leaves them to figure out a new plan. Seven disobeys orders, takes the ship to the Ryton system, and helps Riker and Picard steal a shuttle to rendezvous with Crusher’s ship, The Eleos. Once there, they find Crusher in a stasis tube, and are introduced to her son (!) just as an enemy ship closes in.

Now that we’ve gotten the summary out of the way, here are some random thoughts I had as I watched the episode:

  • They’re really about invoking a certain mood and sense of nostalgia by constantly bringing up the Enterprise-D. Picard’s painting of it is one of the first things we see as the episode opens. Later, at the bar, Riker is shocked when the bartender tells him nobody wants to buy the souvenirs of the ship because it’s “the fat one”. I totally get that, as I used to hate the design of the Galaxy class starships. The original Constitution class was somewhat sleek, and the Excelsior class took that and sort of stretched it out. But the Galaxy class just felt bulbous and not very aerodynamic (not that that was something to worry about in the confines of space, but still…).
  • As Picard nears 100 years old, in our day and age we’d consider him to be at the end of his life. And he plays the character like that’s the case. However, life expectancy is much higher at this point in the future. After all, Bones McCoy was approximately 137 years old in “Encounter At Farpoint” and, according to the novels, he’s STILL alive due to an exoskeletal frame he wears. He just refuses to die! So, how many years does Picard really have left in him, especially accounting for the natural degradation of the android body?
  • Due to the greater life expectancy, does that also account for later onset of menopause, or are folks just freezing their eggs? I ask because both Crusher and Troi are pretty old for the age of kids that they have. I think Crusher’s son is some kind of result of tinkering with Jean-Luc’s genetic code. When the episode starts, she’s replaying Picard’s logs from the Locutus period, and that was a time when they would have done some pretty serious DNA analysis to figure out how to separate him from the Collective.
  • I kinda like Captain Shaw because I’m always impressed by the folks who aren’t swayed by the Legend of Jean-Luc Picard. He’s in that camp with Ben Sisko.
  • How much time has passed between S2 and S3? Raffi says she’s been undercover for about 18 months, but how is Seven already a First Officer having basically just been accepted to Starfleet? Did they count her Voyager/Fenris Rangers work as prior experience and just start her off at a higher rank? Did she even go to the Academy? The Enterprise spoiled us because pretty much every rank was represented, and the First Officer was a full fledged commander. You could be a First Officer as, like, a Lieutenant, but Seven seems to carry the rank of full three-pip commander.
  • I just know “Crash” LaForge is gonna come through in a pinch later this season, and I can’t wait.
  • So glad that Raffi is just undercover and not actually strung out from a relapse. But it feels like that line might blur soon enough.
  • What was with the Rick & Morty portal when during the Red Lady attack? The building imploded into a portal and then its debris rained down from the other side of the portal. Just feels like overkill.
  • Who else had to look on Memory Alpha to figure out who the Red Lady statue was honoring? Show of hands!
  • How did Raffi get La Sirena back? Even if deBorgified, it’s essentially 400 years and change old!
  • Frontier Day just feels like the flipside of the coin from Eradication Day from S2.
  • Nice to see ink and paper are still being used in 2400!

That’s enough rambling for now. As you can see, the episode really got my gears turning, and I simply cannot wait until next week’s episode. This is the first season I’ll be watching in real time, as I don’t want to have anything spoiled on social media. I haven’t been this excited for a show in a long time, and it’s got me dusting off my tricorder. As such, Star Trek: Picard had the West Week Ever.


Be sure to follow @westweekever on Twitter for all the latest site news and updates!