West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2023

Did anyone notice I didn’t do one of these last year? It’s funny because 2022 wasn’t nearly the dumpster fire 2023 turned out to be. I wish I had some grand reasoning as to why I didn’t take a look back at 2022, but it really just comes down to the fact that I didn’t feel like it. “Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t…” I mean, was there really that much to look back on? So, I skipped the recap, and The WBW40 post didn’t come out til last summer. Ya live, ya learn. Not entirely sure why I didn’t feel like it, though. I mean, looking back, it appears I had 19 posts throughout 2022 (including 2 reposts from the now defunct The Robot’s Pajamas). Not great, but not terrible. 2023 was only slightly better, with 22 posts, so we’re gonna talk about that.

I honestly tried to “give a shit” last year, as 2023 was my 20th year of blogging, and an anniversary year needs to be celebrated. I didn’t really get started until February, but things were moving along steadily. Until they weren’t. Looking back on 2 decades of blogging has made it apparent that my best stuff is the personal stuff, and not the disposable West Week Ever stuff. So that’s what we’re gonna do here. Take a seat. Get comfortable. We’re about to go for a ride.

People who really know me know that I was raised by The Black Golden Girls. My mom is the youngest of three sisters, and my grandmother came to live with us after my grandfather died. So, three women, roughly the same age, capped off with the old lady. The thing about The Golden Girls, however, is that series was fortunate enough to end before it really had to deal with the shit that comes with old age. Sure, Sophia had a “bout of mania” when she burned down Shady Pines, but they all pretty much had their wits about them. Rose was probably gonna be diagnosed with dementia at some point, but we were spared that Very Special Episode. We didn’t have to watch Sophia’s health fail. The closest they got to a cancer scare was Dorothy was worried about having a benign growth removed from her foot. Other than that, the only “real life” thing they really tackled was how it’s almost impossible to live on a pension, which is why 4 senior citizens are roommates! Well, TV ain’t real life, so there are a lot of things for which it doesn’t prepare you.

Early in the year, the middle sister – my younger aunt – started acting weird. I mean, she’s always been a bit…difficult, but this was weird even for her. You see, she started seeing people coming and going in her apartment. Like, they’d show up late at night, and just sort of hang out until dawn. She said they never spoke to her, and wouldn’t answer the questions she’d ask them. We all just sort of brushed it off, but it started becoming more frequent. Oh, and I should have said “people”. Ya see, there was nobody there. Nobody was hanging out in her apartment. Still, we just brushed it off.

That all changed one Sunday night, when she called me around 1 AM. I always answer my phone when one of the 3 calls me because it’s probably some sort of emergency, especially at that time. I answer the phone, and she just sounds kind playful. Doesn’t seem worried, but also doesn’t seem to have a clue what time it is. “Hi, Will. How are you doing? Do you know where you children are?” Umm… “Hi. Yeah, they’re in bed. BECAUSE IT’S 1 AM.” She proceeds to say, “No, they’re not. They’re here with me. They’ve just been sitting on the couch. I asked if they wanted anything to eat, but they won’t say anything. I made them a little bed, but they don’t seem to want to sleep.” I’m not really freaked out entirely yet, but I simply say, “No, I’m sure they’re here, in bed, as they’ve been here all day”, thinking that would diffuse things. Instead, she pushes forward. “No, they’ve been here. I kept talking to them, but they wouldn’t talk.” Again, “No, I’m sure they’re in bed.” And she forces it with “Are you sure? Go check. I’ll wait.” Now this shit is approaching Wes Craven territory. I couldn’t get her to accept that my children were not in her apartment, at one in the morning, and she wasn’t gonna get me to go upstairs and check on them. Why? Well, I’m just gonna say it: What if they weren’t fucking there?! What was I gonna do with that shit?! So, it’s late, I’m tired, I just decide to play along. I just say, “Huh, I guess they are there. Well, it’s late, and I really don’t feel like driving right now, so I’ll just come get them in the morning.” I live 5 minutes from her apartment, but that somehow seemed to satisfy her. She hangs up, and I immediately call my mom and tell her what happened (My whole family keeps late hours), and she couldn’t really believe it. We didn’t know what to make of it, but I go to bed, and I go about my life the next day. Apparently, she called my mom throughout Monday, telling her I still hadn’t come to pick up the kids. “Houston, we have a problem!”

I’ll spare you the medical stuff here, but there was a series of urgent care and other visits, as I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew it was something. At some point, some doctor decides it’s probably a UTI, which was also cause confusions and hallucinations among the elderly. Fine, sure. Let’s treat that. Cool. Only, while this is going on, the “people” have multiplied. My “daughters” hadn’t visited since that night, but now there was a “man” with a “dog” and a whole sordid cast of characters. And, seeing as how we didn’t really know what to do, or how serious it was, we weren’t just scrambling about it. I mean, she’s in her apartment, she can’t get out easily, so it’s not like she was gonna run away or anything. “It’ll just go away”, we thought. Then, April 29th, she proceeded to call 911 THREE DIFFERENT TIMES about these “people”. They sort of blew off the first call, but then sent an officer for the following 2 calls. Oh, and all of this was before 11 AM. Officer calls me, and I’m like “Wow, so she really did it, huh? Three times?” He thought I should call the county crisis center, and I think I said something along the lines of “I’ll get on that.” Well, I guess he felt there was a lack of urgency in my voice, so he proceeded to call the crisis center. And then the circus began. Ya see, once that call is made, you kind of lose control of the situation. It’s all a blur of convincing her to go get checked at the ER. Then there’s a tug of war of diagnoses, as one doctor says she’s dehydrated with a UTI and another is like “Oh, this sounds like the onset of dementia”. Well, I guess you can figure out which doctor won.

So, after the hospital, she got transferred to a rehab center. It was under the guise of “Oh, we want to monitor to see if the drugs are having a positive effect on the UTI and kidney damage” but it was really just sort of a stopgap measure. She was in that place as long as insurance would cover it, but the cognitive tests came back, and it was dementia. Now, this aunt – like the other Goldens – is divorced, but she had no kids. She doesn’t really have close friends, and her sisters aren’t in the best place to make any decisions, for various reasons. So, a nephew had to become a son, and I had to handle all of this. And, since nothing was legal, I had to pursue getting Power of Attorney to make these important decisions. So, it was a Very Long Summer. By the fall, she was in a really good nursing home, and I could finally get back to my other 2 families (mine and my mom’s affairs). Or, so I thought.

Kicking off in the fall, I had a health scare that required specialists, and more specialists. A procedure was scheduled for December, 2 weeks before Christmas. Nothing crazy, it’s supposed to be “routine”. It was anything but. Apparently my blood wouldn’t clot, and I lost a lot of blood – not enough to trigger a transfusion, but enough to be a problem. So, I go in there, expecting to wake up in an hour, and I instead wake up in the ICU the morning. Since I didn’t qualify for the transfusion, the only thing you can really do is WAIT. The blood cells have to regenerate, which takes time. But this also meant I couldn’t really do anything for quite some time. No energy. I didn’t get back to work until the first week of February. So, yeah, 2023 was a barrel of fun! And that’s just the stuff that pertained mainly to me. There were other events sprinkled in there, but those aren’t necessarily my stories to tell. Oh, and we had to put down our 19 year old cat. All of this is to say that my lack of posting last year wasn’t due to the usual apathy, but rather “Life” got in the way.

Things are looking better for 2024, at least on the blogging side. We’re 10 weeks into the year, and I’m already 14 posts deep, so that’s a good sign. I could stop now, and come back around Thanksgiving, and still end at roughly the same place as last year. But hopefully that won’t happen. Anyway, let’s get to the pop culture!

Movies Watched In 2023

  1. M3GAN
  2. UFO Club
  3. Somebody I Used To Know
  4. Knock At The Cabin
  5. Mafia Mamma
  6. Sisu
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3
  8. The Little Mermaid (2023)
  9. Joy Ride
  10. Barbie
  11. It’s A Wonderful Knife
  12. The Marvels

Roughly one a month – not great, but not terrible, all things considered. It’s just funny when you go back and look at earlier versions of these posts, and I was watching 53 movies in a year or something.

Top Posts of 2023

Are You There God? It’s Will’s 20-Year Search for Community

This was an interesting one, as I wrote this when I was knee deep in The Shit. At the time, it seemed like a nice look back on how I got here. I do this because I’m searching for community. The thing is I’m not sure a lot of folks walked away with the intended message. It’s framed sort of like “I looked for community, and I FOUND IT!” But, ya see, I didn’t. It’s as fluffy I could make it, but there’s a lot of stuff under the surface there. I’ve spent a LONG time trying to get approval from people who have made it pretty clear they don’t really care much for me. I’ve met some great people online, but I still have never felt like I belonged. So, while it might have brought to mind Survivor’s “The Search Is Over”, it’s more apt to say “The Adventure Continues”.

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2023

Introducing: Willfully Ignorant

Willfully Ignorant: How To Save Toys “R” Us

Willfully Ignorant: The End of Black Friday…

I introduced the Willfully Ignorant feature when I had a lot of pent up frustration, yet also a spike in creativity. Ever since the West Week Ever rebrand of the site, I almost feel like I painted myself into a corner. You see, back when this was still WilliamBruceWest.com, I could talk about anything, and West Week Ever was just a small part of that. Now, however, West Week Ever IS the site. It’s like if Lorne Michaels spun off Weekend Update into its own show. So, now I feel the need to brand things that are a departure from the West Week Ever umbrella of “disposable weekly news”. I never really wanted to specialize in topical, transient writing, as I’d really love more evergreen stuff to look back on. West Week Ever is a nice glimpse into that moment in pop culture, but it doesn’t always stand the test of time. The Willfully ignorant stuff is important because they’re passion projects for me. A LOT of work tends to go into them (Just look at the Toys “R” Us one), so they may not bring as many boys to the yard as a random West Week Ever, but I’m certainly more proud of them.

Introducing The Remember That Show? Podcast!

Remember That Show? Episode 2: Swan’s Crossing

Remember That Show? Episode 3: The Mini-Monsters AND 3.5: Little Dracula

Remember That Show? Episode 4: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose

Remember That Show? Episode 5: Second Chance/Boys Will Be Boys

I can honestly say that I didn’t go into 2023 thinking I’d get involved with a regular podcast. Sure, I’ve been doing the guesting thing for over a decade, but I never really wanted my own show because A) I didn’t think anyone wanted to listen to me in any sort of regularity B) I didn’t know the first thing about recording and editing and C) I didn’t wanna learn. I had pretty much figured that wasn’t gonna happen for me until my friend Adam messaged me one day, and said that an idea for a show had come to him, where he and I would discuss forgotten TV shows. Sure, I can talk about old TV in my sleep, but the real takeaway here was that he came up with the idea for us. It wasn’t something he shopped around to other folks. I wasn’t next in line after several people said “No”. This was something that he felt could work because it played to both of our strengths, and that those strengths would most likely compliment each other. And he was right! 2023 was probably the absolute worst time for me to get involved in something like that, but would there ever be a good time? All I know is that I’m so thankful he did this, as it gave me something to look forward to. We always have fun doing the show, and folks actually seem to enjoy listening to it. So, I can honestly say that Remember That Show? was one of the few bright spots of a rough year.

West Week Ever Recipients of 2023

2/3/23: DC

Seeing as how this is when James Gunn revealed his DC film slate, it’s probably more apt to say that this was for “DC Studios”. There was a lot of excitement at the time, but now? Not so much. Most focus is on Superman, as that’s the project that’s closest to completion. Still, with Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom just hitting stores this week, it’s safe to say we still don’t have the DECU taste out of our mouths quite yet. Plus, I’m not gonna believe we’re actually getting Booster Gold or The Authority projects until I see them for myself..

2/17/23: Star Trek: Picard

This was the week the third season premiered, and things would only get better from there. It did leave some things dangling (What happened to Laris?!), due to budget and whatnot, but it was a satisfactory, if not fan service-y, season of television. They’re talking about a Picard movie, or the long-gestating Star Trek: Legacy series, but I feel the window has passed for either project. Still, a great note to go out on!

3/24/23: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always Trailer

It should probably be noted that the trailer for this was a West Week Ever recipient, while the actual special was not. You see, this was our first glimpse at what was to be the 30th anniversary special for the Power Rangers franchise. Yeah, Hasbro put a tad more effort into it than Saban would have, but that’s not saying much. At this point, we still didn’t know who all they were going to manage to get to return, as well as how the passing of original Green Ranger Jason David Frank would be handled. Well, when the special aired, there weren’t really any surprise cameos, and JDF’s death pretty much goes unmentioned while the entire special hinges on the death of Thuy Trang, which almost felt in poor taste. Anyway, the teaser was cool, but the special was lackluster.

4/7/23: WWE

Wow, what a year WWE had! Owner Vince McMahon had to leave, as he was under investigation, but then he returned. Then he sold the company. Then there were worse allegations, and he had to leave again! Is he gone for good? Well, like a scorching case of Herpes, you just never really know, do ya? At this point in the year, we were celebrating Wrestlemania 39, and the return of the AEW prodigal son, Cody Rhodes. Well, wrestling is like a soap opera, and I’m here to confirm that this storyline is STILL going, a whole year later…

4/21/23: Star Trek: Picard

Again?! This was the week the season AND series finale aired. Considering this was the same week that Power Rangers: Once & Aways was released, Picard had to be amazing to nab the West Week Ever. And it WAS. Hell of a finale! It’s a shame that Q thing will probably never be resolved.

5/26/23 West Life Ever: Daisy Buchanan West

This was the week we had to put down our 19 year old cat. She would have been 20 years old just 2 days ago. I still miss her very much.

7/7/23: “Twitter Killers”

Elon Musk bought Twitter, turned it into X, and everyone started heading for the lifeboats. At this point, we were introduced to Meta’s Threads, as well as Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky. I was really singing Bluesky’s praises, as it held so much promise – all of it squandered, as it became such a weird echo chamber. I actually loathe it over there, and only use it because there are some former Twitter folks on there with whom I wish to remain in contact. However, like visiting a Mexican resort, there’s nothing but danger whenever I leave my known circle of people. And Threads is just noise. So, I’ll be on X, still calling it “Twitter”, til Musk sells it to China for pennies on the dollar.

7/14/23: “Special Forces” Mike

If you’re new here, one of my best friends is a guy I met during my second tour of duty at Toys “R” Us. We called him “Special Forces” because he did seasonal stocking, so he wasn’t required to wear the then-red TRU uniform, but rather simply wore a black shirt and black jeans. And he was always on a ladder. Anyway, our friendship continued after we left that place, and he was the Howie Munson to my Colt Seavers back in my yard sale days, as we’d wake up early every Saturday to basically rummage through the suburbs’ trash. Then, after yard sales, he became my MCU Buddy, which has now evolved into me being his Blumhouse Buddy. So, you could say we’ve been through a lot of phases together, but now he was getting married. And they recently had a baby!

10/20/23: Frasier

The Paramount+ Frasier revival premiered this week, and I liked it. That said, I tend to watch the pilot of these revivals, and then never go back. I basically make sure the property is “in good hands”, and then I walk away. I did it with Fuller House, Punky Brewster, Saved By The Bell, and I did it here. I enjoyed it well enough, but there are so many options lately, and so few hours in the day. Plus, while Kelsey Grammer has basically become Frasier Crane, the show itself didn’t necessarily feel like Frasier. It’s supposed to be his”3rd Act”, but I feel we missed so much during the 2nd. I mean, between the end of the original run and the premiere of this run, the character was apparently a wildly popular Dr. Phil analogue. I feel like I’d rather have seen that than “Frasier Crane becomes a Harvard professor to reconnect with his son” or whatever. Maybe I’ll circle back to it one day.

11/10/23: Marcus K. Dowling

I met my buddy Marcus back during my commercial real estate research days. He has since gone on to a successful career in music journalism, and this week he was presented with the Country Music Awards Media Achievement Award. He still hasn’t had Darius Rucker call me, though…

12/22/23: Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Aqua Teen Hunger Force had risen from the ashes of cancellation (and a direct to DVD movie) to gain a twelfth season, which had just ended this week. It didn’t receive the West Week Ever for being awesome, however, but rather for being consistent. It was like the show had never left. Nothing blew me away, but there also wasn’t an apparent dip in quality either. Sometimes, “slow and steady” does win the race.

So, in the past, we’d look back at this list, and see if anything came up more than once. That tended to be what had the West YEAR Ever. Sometimes, however, I’ve been known to just pull a wild card (like when I gave the honor to Jake from State Farm back in 2020). Looking at the list, it’s fairly obvious it would go to Star Trek: Picard. That said, I feel it was a strong performer, but it didn’t really “embody” 2023 for me. So, I’m gonna have to go “Wild Card”, as I think 2023 began and ended with Barbie.

I recently wrote some thoughts I had during a Barbie rewatch, and it never occurred to me that I never wrote a review when I saw the film the first time, as it was during one of my blogging lulls. I saw it in the theater, and loved it. Leading up to the movie, it began to be clear that the movie would either be a huge success OR a spectacular bomb. There was no in-between. And, to be honest, the closer we got, the more I was leaning to “bomb”. It felt too quirky, it was a movie based on a toy yet wasn’t made for kids, the trailers seemed almost off-putting in their absurdity. However, things went the other way, and it was probably the biggest pop culture success of the year. Even people who didn’t want to like it had to admit that they did.

Plus, it was a Hell of a year for trickle down merch, as everyone knew somebody who could make a lifesize Barbie box for party photo booths. Some of these looked better than others, but you weren’t at a rousing backyard party in 2023 unless there was a crudely made cardboard doll box for you to have your picture taken in. They’re listed all over Etsy and Facebook Marketplace now, cast off like discarded titty beads the week after Mardi Gras.

Anyway, Robbie and Gosling brought it, and it’s such a “lightning in a bottle” occurrence, as it’s not going to happen again. It was never created with “franchise” in mind, nor do the stars have deals for sequels. Now, you can bet your ass that Mattel and Warner Bros are going to back up the Brinks truck to get Robbie to return, but I don’t think they’ll be able to recapture the magic. That was a “one and done”, which is a concept that current Hollywood loathes. So, until they figure out some way to milk it again and again, let’s just reflect on what we got the first time, the time “they got it right”. Barbie had the West YEAR Ever in 2023.