West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/5/24

Happy New Year! It’s the first post of 2024! Maybe we’ll try something new. Or maybe we won’t. I guess we’ll see! Oh, and didja hear that Steamboat Willie is in the public domain now?! *eyeroll*

I’m not gonna get into the Steamboat Willie thing too much, because those who understand the situation already know it, and those who don’t are just looking for “water cooler conversation”. All I will say is be sure to do your research before starting your little Mickey Mouse fan films, because it’s a lot more nuanced than people seem to think. You don’t want that Disney smoke!

The only new thing I really watched this week was NBC’s new sitcom Extended Family, and it was…not good. Walk with me here, as it’s one of those “modern family” deals that only really works on TV: Jon Cryer and Abigail Spencer divorce after 17 years of marriage, but to keep a sense of stability in their kids’ lives, they take turns at the family home. So, instead of the kids going back and forth from Mom’s and Dad’s place, the parents are the ones who do the back and forth. To complicate their new arrangement, however, is that Spencer is now dating Donald Faison, who happens to be the owner of the Boston Celtics – Cryer’s favorite sports team.

First off, I guess I’m supposed to applaud the show’s “mature” handling of divorce, but I can’t do that. They’re trying to go the “conscious uncoupling” route, where no one is at fault, but sometimes people just fall out of love. OK, I get that. However, it being a sitcom, they take it to the next level: Cryer and Spencer invited their friends and family to an Unwedding, where the got dressed up, and reversed their wedding. They took back their vows, and Spencer even backs up the aisle, out of the church. It was the cringiest thing I’ve seen in a while, and I’d be pissed if anyone ever invited me to some foolishness like that. Keep that shit to yourself!

Also, the characters are neither likable nor believable. Spencer just comes off as an unfeeling bitch. I hope they sort of explore her down the road, but in a supposed “no fault” divorce, she definitely seems at fault. It’s clear this divorce was her call, and Cryer just didn’t care enough to fight it. Meanwhile, Scrubs aside, I have a hard time taking Faison seriously in anything. Maybe it’s those post-Scrubs years where he was slumming it on TV Land. I don’t buy him – a Black man – as the OWNER of the franchise for one of the most racist cities in America. I’m sure this is one of those colorblind casting deals where they just chose the best man for the job, but I ain’t buying it. I would hope they’d explore the dynamics behind his whole role down the line: wealthy sports franchise owner in an interracial relationship where kids are involved. However, I doubt they will. Comedian Lenny Clarke is around as Cryer’s dad, because who doesn’t love Lenny Clarke? Still, his presence feels like a producer was doing someone a favor. When this show gets retooled, he’ll be the first character to go. Oh, and the kids are horrible actors. There are actual talented kids in Hollywood, so how did these two get these roles?

The ONE shining spot of the whole enterprise is Jon Cryer. All those seasons of Two and a Half Men resulted in him getting “downtrodden divorcee” down to a science. Honestly, he’s pretty much just playing Alan Harper again, only now with more snark, and more of an IDGAF attitude. I love the guy, but he’s not enough to save this show. Nor am I sure I want him to do so.

What the Hell happened to Dwayne Johnson? In modern parlance, I can’t decide if he’s a “Pick Me” or a “Try-Hard”, but he is DESPERATE for the public to like him again. How did we get here? I guess it all goes back to how the whole Black Adam failure was handled. See, Johnson’s had box office bombs before (see: Baywatch), but he can usually brush them off. Not so much this time, however. It didn’t help things that his involvement with the DCEU predated the existence of the DCEU. He was signed on to play Black Adam before the rest of that universe began to take shape, and it took TEN YEARS for that movie to get made. In many ways, you could almost say that the original vision was taking shape around his portrayal of the character, and that the delay of the movie being made caused WB to sort of branch off in another direction – namely, the Snyder direction. And we all know how that went. So, once Black Adam was finally done, in comes Dwayne, with his whole “The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.” What followed was the biggest example of failed hubris since Apollo Creed was murdered in the ring, following his grandstanding, James Brown-assisted ring entrance.

For one thing, he should have fired his team. The problem, however, is that team is led by his ex-wife, and producing partner, Dany Garcia. Don’t wanna make holidays awkward! Seriously, though, Black Adam was a big failure for Warner Bros, and they wasted no time pushing the blame off on Dwayne. In the months that followed, there were a series of hit pieces, citing “unnamed sources” about his unreasonable demands, and how he was ultimately responsible for the failure of the film. This coincided with the announcement that WB had hired James Gunn and Peter Safran to be co-chairmen and co-CEOs of DC Studios. And it was becoming clear that Dwayne’s time in that universe would be short-term. Grand opening, grand closing… An actor with a strong team, however, could have weathered that better. Do some damage control. Instead, he sort of went quiet. Didn’t really address any of it. And the problematic result of that is now he’s damaged goods. The man once considered a “Franchise Savior” wasn’t really sought after anymore. Then the questionable reaction from Dwayne began.

At the end of November, it was announced that he would be partnering with A24 to produce the film The Smashing Machine, with director Benny Safdie attached. He said “I’m at a point in my career where I want to push myself in ways that I’ve not pushed myself in the past. I’m at a point in my career where I want to make films that matter, that explore a humanity and explore struggle, pain.” That’s cute, Dwayne, but that ain’t what people want from YOU. We already have George Clooney. You’re supposed to jump off shit as it blows up behind you. With what we’ve been told of his demands and ego, I don’t see him working in an indie setting. This would be a reinvention for both A24 and Dwayne, but A24 has the most to gain here. Then, at Christmas, he gave us this:


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A post shared by Dwayne Johnson (@therock)

If you’re not familiar, this is him embracing the meme that was created when an old photo from the 90s was making the rounds back before Covid. Seriously, he’s trying to hop onto a years old meme for relevance. *insert “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme* Not to mention he caught some flack when he and Oprah partnered for a relief fund to help Maui, back when it was on fire. The general sentiment was “You’re rich, and you’re asking us for donations?” It went over like a lead balloon.

This week was a big one for Dwayne, but you wouldn’t really know it. Ya see, on Sunday, it was announced that his XFL (which he purchased from Vince McMahon once Vince finally realized God didn’t want him to have a football league) would be merging with the United States Football League, to form the United Football League. This was announced on Sunday. National Football Day. And nobody cared. Then, the next night, he made his umpteenth return to WWE, for yet another Roman Reigns program. You just know Dave Bautista was watching this from his trailer on the set of some Scorsese movie, just shaking his head. What is you doin’, Dwayne?! He’s spiraling, and I really think he’s going to have to make some major changes to restore his image. He doesn’t know who he wants to be right now, as it seems like he’s trying to dial in to whatever “Dwayne Johnson” he thinks the public liked most. Hence, the return of The Rock. But that ain’t it, baby. I just hope he figures this out soon.

The hits keep coming for Marvel Studios, as it was announced that The Walking Dead/Invincible star Steven Yeun would no longer be playing The Sentry in the upcoming Thunderbolts film.  Though Marvel had never actually confirmed what role Yeun would be playing, his friend – and The Walking Dead/Invincible creator –  Robert Kirkman sort of “let it slip” a few months back. Yeun has cited the SAG-AFTRA strike presented scheduling issues, but it seems like that may not be the whole story.

Yeun’s departure from the film, however, may also have trickle-down effects on the publishing side of things. You see, in the comics, Sentry is a blond haired, blue eyed hero with the secret identity of Bob Reynolds. I’m gonna go on record and say that I never really liked the character because his was just WAY overpowered. He came across like Golden Age Superman, where he could basically do whatever the story called for him to do. Plus, it didn’t help that he was introduced as this “lost character” that had been created in the early days of Marvel, yet had seemingly been forgotten by everyone (Seriously, Google it. It was a weird promotional campaign that wouldn’t really work in the Internet Age).

Anyway, the Reynolds Sentry died back around the time of Marvel’s Siege event, but his corpse has reappeared and been reanimated a few times since. Recently, Marvel launched a new miniseries, where the Sentry’s powers seem to be manifesting in random people. With strong “Reign of the Supermen” vibes, it seems like the question is “WHICH of these people will turn out to be the REAL Sentry?” Seeing how Marvel loves forcing synergy between the comics and the movies (see Ms. Marvel’s recent reintroduction as a mutant), I wouldn’t be surprised if that series ends with an Asian guy as the new host of the powers. I mean, the first issue hit stands last month, so the series is probably close to being, if not already, finished. Gonna look like a wasted effort now that movie Sentry won’t be portrayed by an Asian actor. Why “wasted”? Well, that’s because they’re gonna have to find some way to get him off the board (i.e. kill him) once the role is recast, and the character is redesigned, yet again, to match the new actor. So, the company is going to be raked over the coals for killing a minority character, as well as for reinventing a character so soon after their last reinvention. Buckle up, kids!

Trekkin’ Around The Web

There was a lot of great Star Trek content online this week, so I figured this would be a worthy substitute for Trailer Park in this edition.

This is the work of Bluesky user @oudkee

First up, some friends over on Bluesky reposted the art of a user named oudkee, who is doing an amazing experiment where she’s creating portraits of the women of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in the style of 80s pop artist Patrick Nagel. I’m only posting one example here, but look her up if you’re on that app, and you can see more of her work at her website.

Speaking of DS9, to commemorate the 31st anniversary of its premiere, a fan created the credits for a reimagined version of the show, called Star Trek: Emissary. As you can see, these credits follow the format of the Paramount+ NuTrek shows, but I ain’t mad at it. I’d watch the Hell out of this show. I will say, though, that the P+ series have had dynamic opening credits sequences, but have also suffered from unmemorable theme songs.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Gypsy Rose Blanchard was released from prison, and I have no clue who this chick is. Apparently, she killed her mom or something, but I don’t listen to True Crime podcasts. Maybe a single woman in her 30s can explain it to me…
  • Jimmy Kimmel threatened legal action in a Tweet? Xeet? What do we call them now? Anyway, it was against New York Jets QB Aaron Rodgers, who went on a podcast and implied that Kimmel was on the fabled Epstein List. Kimmel said the allegation put his family in danger. I’m telling you, Rodgers ain’t been right since he was messing with Shailene Woodley. People just don’t come back from Ayuhuasca unchanged.
  • I’m glad that this week’s series finale of the Magnum P.I. reboot ended the same way as the original series: with Thomas and Higgins passionately fucking.
  • To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Mountain Dew Baja Blast, PepsiCo announced the Taco Bell mainstay will be sold in stores for the entirety of 2024. Not everyone was happy about it, though, so I had a little fun with that:

  • So, CBS – the network that aired Elementary, which was a modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes – has ordered a series called Watson – about Holmes’ renowned partner – from the executive producer of the aforementioned Elementary, however it is not a spinoff, nor are the shows connected in any way. This time, Dr. Watson will be played by Morris Chestnut, who has to return to his medical career following the death of his partner, Holmes. And…no. None of this works for me.
  • Conservatives seemingly forgot how Green Day wrote an entire album (and subsequent Broadway musical) pretty much declaring where they stood politically, so these same conservatives were clutching their pearls during Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve when the band slammed the “MAGA Agenda” in their performance earlier this week.
  • Black Friday in January?! That was the vibe, when customers were getting trampled while attempting to get the new 40 oz Stanley Quencher cup from Starbucks’ Target locations. The $49.95 cups are currently being resold for hundreds of dollars online.
  • Disney has already canceled American Born Chinese – a show that I hadn’t realized had even started yet.

If you made it to today, without finding your name on the Epstein List, then you had the West Week Ever. Sorry, David Copperfield!