West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/12/24

Two weeks in a row? Is Mercury in Retroblade? That sounds like a 90s Image Comics character: RetroBlade! The “A” in the name would be that Anarchy “Circle-A”. And, of course, he’d be covered in knives and pouches, which was the style at the time. There would have been a full-page ad in Wizard Magazine, but the project would never be published, as Rob Liefeld won the rights to the character in a poker game, and decided to, instead, incorporate him into Youngblood. And since Youngblood always starts, but never finishes

Man, we just went on quite the ride there, didn’t we?! Anyway, let’s jump into this week’s pop culture rundown, shall we?

What the Hell happened to Jon Hamm? If there’s anyone who needs to fire their team, it’s him. They have never figured out how to position him after Mad Men, and they have squandered SO much potential! I mentioned this on Twitter, and someone said that they felt Hamm was having fun doing small stuff. Here’s the thing, though: He was being primed as a Leading Man. He was supposed to be the next Clooney! Ya know, all women want him, and all men want to be him. Plus, actors do the big tentpole things so that they can afford to do the smaller labors of love. He seems to be only doing the passion projects, which can’t be too lucrative for him. I know money isn’t everything, but we had a plan, Jon!

So, why am I ranting about Hamm’s career choices? Well, this week Fox aired a preview of his upcoming animated series, Grimsburg, and it is a MESS. Where to even begin? OK, so Hamm voices Detective Marvin Flute, an alcoholic cop who returns to his hometown of Grimsburg, which was apparently cursed by the Virgin Sacrifices of 1646. He’s called in to solve a special case and hopes that, along the way, he can also reconcile with his ex-wife and son.

For starters, this is one of those shows that’s “weird, for the sake of being weird”, and I loathe that. It’s one thing to be quirky, as that’s sometimes endearing. But this is just a mile-a-minute shtick machine that is so absurd at times that even Adult Swim would have passed on it. In the past 35 years, everyone – Fox, especially – has tried to make The Simpsons happen again. Some put their own spin on it, like Family Guy, while others are just like “Screw it, we’ll try something different.” So, understandably, prime time animation has evolved over that time. Presently, we live along a spectrum, where the extremes are The Simpsons on one end and something like Squidbillies on the other. Throughout that time, everything along that spectrum has found a home somewhere. If it didn’t work on Fox, maybe it’d work on a fledgling network (look at the animated shows from The WB era). If not there, Adult Swim was an option, especially if your show played well to stoners. Then, the Adult Swim competitors came along, like Fox’s ADHD and Syfy’s TZGZ blocks – neither of which exists today. At some point, the streamers got in on the action, with things like Netflix’s Bojack Horseman and F is for Family. Anyway, I bring all this up to say that, even with this spectrum and all of these options, I don’t know where a show like Grimsburg belongs. But it ain’t Fox.

Nothing here really works for me, as they just threw a bunch of ideas into a blender, and they dilute the product as a whole rather than strengthen it. Hamm is doing his best Will Arnett impression (Honestly, they should have just cast Arnett, but Hamm’s a producer, so…), but it’s jarring when compared to the visual representation of Marvin Flute. He’s an overweight, balding, slovenly man, voiced by one of the most handsome men in Hollywood. Usually I have no problem divorcing the voice from the actor, but something just won’t allow me to do that here. If they were honestly matching vocal talent to the character, it should be Arnett or even H. Jon Benjamin.

Then, there’s just the sheer absurdity of the supporting cast that results in the show simply having too many moving parts. Flute’s new partner is a cyborg, whose body was mostly destroyed in a freak merry-go-round explosion. Flute drinks cough syrup like he’s an Atlanta rapper, which sometimes triggers his “Detective Mode”. His ex-wife was literally raised by bears, and has the facial scars to prove it. The chief of police utters the line, “I’m a climate change denying Flat Earther, whose 23 & Me determined that I’m 12% Sasquatch.” Meanwhile, Flute’s wuss of a son has an imaginary skeleton friend who’s basically a chaos demon, a la Roger from American Dad. It’s like this show was created by A.I. after processing the past 3 decades of primetime animation. If this is the A.I. that we’re supposed to be scared is going to enslave humanity, then I don’t think we have anything to worry about.

If you’ve read all of this, and still want to check it out, the official series premiere is February 18th. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure this series is destined to join the ranks of Allen Gregory and Son of Zorn in the Remember That Show? archives. Hey, at least I’ll have podcast fodder 10 years down the road!

Trailer Park

Back to Black (theaters, May 10th)

Ooh, so many thoughts here. First off, this feels like it has a TV movie quality to it, and I don’t mean that in a good way (Is there a good way to take that? I just wanted to be clear). I LOVED Amy Winehouse. Like, completely enthralled. I saw her perform live, and I hate live music. One thing I feel gets lost in the Legend of Amy, however, is how influential and important Mark Ronson was to her success. Ronson was on something on a 60s jag during that time, and you can hear it in a lot of the albums he produced then. Sure, Amy wrote the words, but the “sonic representation”? That was all Ronson. It’s also why nobody ever talks about Frank, Amy’s debut album that didn’t have participation by Ronson. He put her on the map, so I almost wonder if a 3rd album would have had as much acclaim had he decided to not be involved. In any case, the world will never know. I’m looking forward to seeing how this comes together.

Air Force One Down (select theaters & digital, February 9th)

Y’all know Anthony Michael Hall is gonna die in this, right? Just so we’re all in agreement on that.  It’s OK, though; seeing Old Anthony Michael Hall makes me sad, because he reminds me that I’m old. Anyway, I’m glad to see Hollywood is still willing to invest in this type of movie. Sure, Statham & Neeson are still running around, but they seemed to have cornered the genre. Like, once they pack it in, we’re done. No more Expendables in Training. And everything happens for a reason, as McNamara wouldn’t have been available if either her Arrow spinoff or Walker: Independence had succeeded. This looks fun, even if I do feel like this basically showed me the whole movie. I mean, it starts on the ground, moves to Air Force One, and then ends back on the ground. It is an odd release strategy by Paramount, however. I mean, why are you selling it on digital, when you have your own streaming platform? Is this a new studio tier of “Well, it’s not good enough for wide theatrical release, but we can’t just give it away.”?

Lisa Frankenstein (theaters, February 9th)

I know the strikes messed up everything, but is it the smartest idea putting this out in February? They couldn’t sit on it for another 8 months or so? Just feels like it might play better during “Spooky Season” or whatever. Anyway, this looks cute. The first time I watched it, I spent the whole time wondering “Where have I seen her before?” It was only later when I realized “Blockers!” And Cole Sprouse is doing his best to channel early 90s Johnny Depp here. Kinda cool that it’s Zelda Williams’s directorial debut, and it’s a script from Diablo Cody. That’s some luck right there. Honestly, based merely on those 2 factors, I imagine critics are gonna love it. Not sure how I feel that we’re fully entrenched in the 80s Pandering Era, so crudely ushered in by Stranger Things. Like, nostalgia is cool and all, but you’ve gotta handle it deftly. Plus, as I get older, I realize I’m more a “child of the 90s”, as my blood is 1 part green slime and 1 part blue raspberry. So I’m a little too young to just eat this up, but I’m still looking forward to it.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CBS is developing an NCIS prequel series, where Mark Harmon will narrate the story of his early days in the organization. I bet that old uncle of yours – the who still calls us “The Coloreds” – is really happy right now!
  • Paramore (Taylor’s Version)? Taking a cue from pal Taylor Swift, it was reported that Paramore may be re-recording their back catalog, following a falling out with their management.
  • It was a Sci Fi Protuberance Measuring Contest this week, as Lucasfilm announced that Jon Favreau would be directing the Star Wars film The Mandalorian & Grogu, causing Paramount to announce a new Star Trek film was in development – helmed by Star Wars: Andor director Toby Haynes – the very next day. This new Trek is reportedly set decades before the Kirk era. ‘Cause what we need are more Trek prequels… Anyway, not to be outdone, MGM announced a new Stargate slot machine down at the bus station. Just kidding. Nobody at MGM gives a damn about Stargate
  • Max canceled Julia and Our Flag Means Death, while ABC announced that this would be the final season of The Good Doctor. $20 says Freddie Highmore is probably gonna narrate some spinoff called The Young Good Doctor or something.
  • Thanks to the Golden Globes, a large audience was introduced to comedian Jo Koy, and then swiftly wished to forget him.

If you’re a football coach who made it to the end of the week with your job, then you had the West Week Ever!