West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/1/24


So the biggest pop culture event of the week was that the prodigal son of Saturday Night Live was returning, but this time he’d be hosting. If you’re not familiar, comedian Shane Gillis had been hired to join the cast of the show for Season 45, in 2019, along with Chloe Fineman and staff writer Bowen Yang. His joy was to be short-lived, however, when recordings from his podcast, Matt & Shane’s Secret Podcast, surfaced where he was making derogatory jokes about women, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community. There was a bit of a media storm surrounding it, and Gillis was fired four days later. Shane, we hardly knew ye! Unsurprisingly in today’s climate, however, this whole thing made him a hero to some. He went on the road, selling out stand-up shows, he got a Netflix special, he amassed a fan base. So, now, he was coming home to show what he had become. Did he pull it off?

Before we get into all that, let’s take a look back at a few things. See, I didn’t know who Shane was prior to the controversy, so this was all news to me. Still, comics stick together like cops, so when it went down, the hosts of some podcasts I listened to came to the defense of their friend. He’d pop on as a guest, and he didn’t seem so bad. I mean, a little rough around the edges, but we weren’t talking about Andrew Dice Clay here. He was just a big dumb lug from central PA. I mean, he’s much smarter than he looks, but he looks dumb. I had heard the recordings, but they didn’t shock me so much, as this was the kind of thing these guys did. Not everyone was gonna find it “funny” or consider them “jokes”, but that’s just his style. Over time, though, I began to realize something: Getting fired from SNL was probably the best thing that could have happened to him. I’m not condoning what he did. Let me say that now before someone jumps on me. I’m just saying his opportunities would have been limited. Let’s look at Bowen Yang, probably the most recent breakout star from that cast. He’s managed to make appearances in things like Bros and The Lost City, but he’s also been spread too thin, and had to take a leave of absence from his own podcast, Las Culturistas, because he was suffering from “depersonalization”. Meanwhile, Shane has been on the road, rubbing elbows with Joe Rogan and the like. No, these are not what some folks would call “good guys”, but he’s been making that money. He’s a millionaire now, living in Austin – a guy who was broke when he was hired for SNL. If he had stayed in the cast, the best he could have hoped for was Lorne casting him in a bad A Night At The Roxbury remake. Not every SNL alum becomes Will Ferrell. Some become Tim Meadows. Or Chris Kattan. So, he landed on his feet. Sucks how he got there, but he got there.

When everything happened, a lot of folks were wondering “What did Lorne see in this guy? Why would Lorne do this?” First off, folks have short memories, and forget that Lorne is also the guy who invited Trump to host leading up to the 2016 election. People love to put the blame on Jimmy Fallon for “normalizing” Trump’s antics, but Lorne had a hand in it, too. When you consider that Austin Powers‘s Dr. Evil is a caricature of Lorne, you start to realize he’s probably a bit of a shit stirrer. And I can see exactly what Lorne saw in Gillis. See, a lot of folks don’t want to hear this, but Saturday Night Live has been something of a late night leftist comedy machine for the past decade or so – much like most of the late night shows. Don’t get me wrong, in that they’ve always poked fun at politics, but that was usually reserved for the sketch during the cold open and during Weekend Update. There’s a bit more during an election year. Other than that, though, you didn’t get random sketches in the middle of the show about acting/recently departed senators and whatnot. Politics have been great for late night shows, but they’ve also sort of taken over. If you go back to the SNL of, say, 30 years ago – even before the Ferrell/Oteri era began – you might get a Dan Quayle is Dumb joke, and then they kept it moving. You had Farley, as Big (Lovable) Dumb Guy, while Spade, Sandler, and Schneider were the bad boys in detention. There was more breadth in the themes of sketches. Not so much since around Obama. Hiring Gillis, I believe, was Lorne’s attempt to get back to that era. Just have a Big Dumb (Possibly Lovable) Guy as a utility player. Basically how they use Molly Kearney now. When everything went down, Lorne fell on his sword, and said it was his fault that he didn’t vet Gillis better, but I don’t believe that. Lorne knew. He just greatly misjudged how much the public was going to care.

So, when Gillis got on that stage last Saturday, I saw what I felt Lorne must have seen. He’s NOT a star. He was nervous during his monologue. But he brought something different to the show, and he could have brought in a new audience. Sure, the Left will tell you they don’t want the Right watching “their” shows, but smart business in television – especially broadcast television – is to appeal to everyone. You remember how SNL struggled when there’s a Black male character to portray, yet Kenan looked nothing like them, and Chris Redd was too “street”? It’s the same here, when they need someone who “doesn’t look like they went to college”. Seriously, every male SNL cast member right now was clearly on their liberal arts college’s sketch comedy team, and you can’t tell me they weren’t. Since a lot of the cast are also writers (gotta write for yourself, ’cause few folks are gonna write for you), that’s going to affect not only the output, but also the audience. Shane and his team didn’t even write any of the sketches that week, but look how he was able to be used: “White Men Can’t Trump”, the Jamaican church sketch, Fugliana. No, it wasn’t the best show, but when it ended, I thought to myself, “Do you mean we could have been getting this every week?” Some folks have said it was too “MadTV“, but I LOVED MadTV. Not everything needs to be serious all the time. The guy said some bad shit, but it was our loss. Oh, and your favorite artist has that period you don’t like to talk about, either, so remember that before you mount your high horse.

Anyway, I felt Gillis did a capable job hosting SNL last week, and it gave me shades of what might have been. Of course, based on politics and worldview, your mileage may vary.

Will Around The Web

  • Adam and I are ramping up Remember That Show? to come out twice a month now, with the second episode focusing on unsold pilots and other specials. For this first outing, we reviewed She’s With Me, which was an unsold 1986 pilot from the creators of Married…with Children. Listen in, as we discuss how a network picking up this show would have changed television as we know it. Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts! Speaking of podcasts, I’ve got exactly one month to figure out where I’m going, since Google Podcasts shuts down April 1st. If anyone has any suggestions on great podcast apps for Android, I’d love to hear them!
  • My good buddy Chad (@horrormoviebbq) came through town last weekend, and stopped by to pick up a Ghostbusters firehouse I’d acquired for him off Facebook Marketplace a few months back. It’s always great to see him, and I wish we could have hung out longer. Still, I appreciate the shout out he gave me on social media, and welcome to any new followers I picked up from that! And go follow him on all major platforms, if you’re not already doing that!

Trailer Park

Boy Kills World (Theaters, April 26th)

Usually, around here, I’m complaining about some streaming movie that I felt should have been released theatrically. This time, however, I think the reverse. I’d LOVE to watch this on Netflix, but I just don’t see paying cash money to go to a theater filled with noisy teenagers. I can’t really nail down its tone. I mean, the fact that H. Jon Benjamin is his Inner Monologue implies the audience shouldn’t take this too seriously, but something is missing here. I mean, I like Famke Janssen. It looks like Kill Bill meets Kung Fu Hustle – both good movies. I think my problem is its star, Bill Skarsgård, as he’s the Skarsgård with whom I’m the least familiar. I think he’s got a punchable face, not unlike that of actor Eric Christian Olsen (you’ve seen him in Not Another Teen Movie and NCIS: LA). He’s just not doing it for me. He’s too pretty for this role. I need someone with some scars and stubble to convince me of the whole vibe they’re going for. This guy just looks…soft. Ripped, but soft. Anyway, I’ll grab it when it hits the $5 bin at Walmart – if they’re still making physical media by then…

Miller’s Girl (Theaters & Digital, Out Now)

Apparently this came out in theaters at the end of January, but it totally missed me. It’s now available on VOD services. Anyway, this is the kind of movie Michael Douglas used to make. Someone recently made a joke on Twitter that young folks don’t realize there used to be an entire film genre of “Michael Douglas gets horny and ruins his life”, and that’s so true. This would have been one of those movies. I love Martin Freeman, and while I feel like Jenna Ortega is being typecast as some sort of goth-adjacent film fatale, I think it works here. Juliette Lewis used to get those roles when she was younger, but then she grew up and folks stopped looking at her that way. Man, how sick were Hollywood producers back then?! Anyway, if you’ve ever watched Freeman on Breeders, then you know he can do Middle Aged Man Who Just Wants Happiness. The whole “unfulfilled married man on the verge of risking it all” trope addresses something that seems all too prevalent these days. The reviews haven’t been great, but I’ll definitely seek this out.

Drugstore June (Theaters, Out Today)

I don’t talk about it a lot, as I don’t live in NYC, nor do I have friends who really care, but I’m really into the stand-up comedy scene. Esther Povitsky has been a bright star in recent years, and I’ve really enjoyed her specials. She stars here as June, a social media obsessed Millennial who finds herself in the middle of a robbery investigation. The cast here is STACKED. Beverly D’Angelo, Haley Joel Osment, Miranda Cosgrove, Bobby Lee, Bill Burr, and more. They’re not “marquee” stars, but it’s still an eclectic call sheet. Again, not seeing this in theaters, but I’m watching it the minute it hits Prime Video or wherever it ends up.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (Theaters, April 19)

Some of y’all aren’t gonna want to hear this, but here it goes: How many chances is Hollywood going to give Henry Cavill? Like, I know he’s handsome and manly, but he’s had a lot of “at bats”, and nothing seems to stick. He left The Witcher for Superman, resulting in him losing 2 jobs at once. I’ve heard The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was good, but nobody saw Argylle, and the ones who did hated it. Sometimes a Hollywood Golden Boy just doesn’t work out. Ask Taylor Kitsch. Ask Jai Courtney. It’s OK to bow out. We understand. Still, folks love movies where Nazis die, so maybe this will be the hit Cavill so sorely needs.

Parallel (VOD, Out Now)

I tend to like to cap this section at 4 trailers, but I just had to share this one. You see, Black folks don’t get these kinds of roles. If there’s a horror movie for us, it’s in the city, maybe in an apartment building. This is in the woods, and it’s about the multiverse. We just don’t get these roles! Like, this isn’t a “Black Horror Movie”, but rather a “Horror Movie with Black Actors”. There’s a difference. You could have plugged anyone in here. You could swap out Danielle Deadwyler for Elisabeth Moss, and probably get the same result. I’m curious to see how this one plays out!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Did you know that Target had changed their corporate policy regarding self checkout? Apparently, due to feed back that “customers prefer a human cashier” (aka “Y’all have been stealing too much!”), they’re now limiting the hours that self checkout is available, while not exactly increasing the number of open registers. It’s madness!
  • Speaking of crazy corporate decisions, Wendy’s announced they were going to replace their menu boards to experiment with “dynamic pricing”, where prices would change depending on time of day. Some folks ran with this, saying the company would be introducing “surge” pricing to charge more, but the company responded that it was actually to lower prices during the slower periods of the day. Anyway, both sides look foolish right about now…
  • Instead of simply packing up the Fabmobile, or whatever it’s called, it was announced that Jeremiah Brent would be joining the Fab Five on Season 9 of Queer Eye, replacing the departed Bobby Berk. NINE seasons? The original Fab Five packed called it a day after three…
  • Paramount reported they would be more careful with their spending on movies and shows, and then promptly announced they were developing another NCIS spinoff, this time focusing on cast members Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo, slated for Paramount+. I guess they just meant there wouldn’t be a Good Burger 3
  • Tubi unveiled a new logo, which looks like it’s promoting the kind of carnival where you can’t leave your kid unattended

  • The TikTok sleuths are on the case when it comes to the disappearance of Kate Middleton, who hasn’t been seen publicly since December. Some are saying that she’s dead, and that Prince William has been having an affair with neighbor Rose Hanbury. All I know is nobody stays in the hospital for 3 months for a “stomach procedure”. This is the best season of EastEnders EVER!
  • Oprah Winfrey has stepped down from the Weight Watchers (I know they rebranded as WW, but that really didn’t take) board, after admitting she relies on weight loss drugs to maintain her size. Here’s my issue: She’s one of the richest people in the world, yet STILL didn’t manage to find the magic “cure” for weight loss. How about just accepting herself? She helped perpetuate weight standards for a generation of women, but folks gave her a pass because she had a book club…

So, I’m sure you’ve heard of Willy’s Chocolate Experience in Glasgow by now. If not, here’s the deal: some organizer named House of Illuminati promoted an immersive experience, like that shown in the various Wonka films (despite having a small print disclaimer that it was not associated with the films or the brand). Folks paid roughly $45 per ticket, to stand in long lines and once they finally got inside, it was NO wonderland. The magical attractions that had been promised turned out to be nothing more than shoddily hung banners in an abandoned warehouse. As I said on Bluesky, it looked like a villain’s hideout on the outskirts of Gotham City. Anyway, chaos ensued and the thing was shut down after about 4 hours. Folks were angry, demanding refunds, while the cast members who’d been hired have said they felt just as duped as the customers. I don’t want to post too many pics, as most of them are from folks’ personal social media accounts, but if you Google the event, you’ll find all sorts of stories and disappointing photos. So, for being the “main character” on social media this week, Willy’s Chocolate Experience had the West Week Ever.