West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/26/24

Rantin’ time, so some of you might want to just skip down to the trailers. OK, so, toymaker Hasbro announced that they had awarded the master toy license for the Power Rangers brand to rival toy company Playmates. While the brand had been somewhat dormant recently, the announcement still caught most folks by surprise, since Hasbro owns the brand outright, having purchased it from Saban in 2019 for over $500 million. In Hasbro’s Q1 2024 Earnings Call this week, CEO Chris Cocks (hehe) justified the move by saying they see the Power Rangers brand as something that would generate sub-$50 million in earnings, which doesn’t meet their thresholds. However, another company with lower thresholds could still do good business with a brand at that level. So, there’s money on the table, but not enough to make it worthwhile for Hasbro to just sit on the license. And a precedent’s already been set for this, as Hasbro recently outsourced its 3.75″ “O-ring” G.I. Joe line to Super7. Fans are on both sides of this, with some saying this is terrible, while others are thankful Hasbro isn’t killing the line, but rather allowing it to flourish elsewhere. Well, I’m here to say the latter crowd is dumb, and the brand is dead.


Power Rangers debuted in 1993, and almost immediately became a toy industry juggernaut. Bolstered by the popular TV series, Power Rangers would go on to be the #1 boys toy line for roughly a decade. I know this because I also worked at Toys “R” Us the duration of its reign. What The Man on the Street doesn’t realize is that the franchise has continued almost the entire time, with no breaks. All this time, it was changing ownership like a WWE Tag Team title belt.

Originally developed and created by Haim Saban, he would go on to sell it to Disney in 2002 when they bought Fox Family and Fox Kids. Disney would move the show to New Zealand (lower production costs), and begin their production era with Power Rangers Ninja Storm, and end it roughly 7 years later with Power Ranger RPM. Disney simply ran out of ideas, as it seemed live action wasn’t cost effective anymore, given the waning popularity of the franchise. There are rumors Disney developed an animated pilot for a new series, but it never went anywhere. While they brainstormed, they released 2010’s “Reversioned” Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which consisted of the first 26 episodes of the original 1993 season, but with added comic book effects edited in. It was not good, but this is considered the franchise’s only “break”, where its future was in question.

Saban, however, seeing a little meat left on the bone, bought the franchise back from Disney in 2010. He had all of these grandiose ideas, such as a new movie, that would return the franchise to its “glory”. The thing about Saban, however, is he’s notoriously cheap. So, it’s not like he was pumping a ton of money into the thing. So, he developed Power Rangers Samurai, which basically looked like he’d never stopped making Power Rangers. However, its new home was now Nickelodeon, who initially promoted the Hell out of it, yet bungled the debut by not airing the actual pilot until months after the show had begun. And Saban did produce the movie he promised, 2017’s Saban’s Power Rangers, which underperformed at the box office, while underwhelmed fans (despite there being a group of social media accounts that rely on it for engagement. “Who thinks this movie deserves a sequel?” is posted almost weekly!). Realizing he had probably picked the bone clean, Saban, then, sold the brand to Hasbro.

Initially, it seemed like Hasbro had big plans, but they had to wait for the Saban deals to run out. So, while Power Rangers Beast Morphers was the first season produced by Hasbro, the relationship with Nickelodeon had seemingly soured, and the franchise would pretty much be shunted over to Netflix. Then, there was this weird period where the show was scattered. You see, Saban had gotten the back catalog on Netflix, but those were eventually pulled, and only the latest seasons were available on the streamer. Meanwhile, the back catalog was slowly being uploaded to the official Power Rangers YouTube page. Hasbro would go on to develop 2 seasons of Power Rangers Dino Fury, and then they would cap off the whole thing, with the same cast, for a 10-episode season of Power Rangers Cosmic Fury, which streamed exclusive on Netflix. Before Dino Fury even aired, however, Hasbro was talking about a reboot they were working on for Netflix, helmed by Jonathan Entwistle. This reboot was reportedly going to be more mature, catering to older viewers. How old? They never did want to say. While development moved slowly, the strikes happened, and now they’re saying we won’t see anything before 2025. If it happens at all.

That’s all well and good, but Power Rangers is dead. I know folks don’t want to believe it because it has been near death several times. It was never more popular than it was in 1994, around the 2nd season and the first movie. That was Peak Power Rangers, as it was fully part of the zeitgeist. Saban was pretty much ready to pack it in. He’d made his money, but he segued into Power Rangers Zeo because he felt the show needed a shot in the arm. This started the trend of it basically rebooting every year, with a new cast (and footage from a different Japanese sentai show), but all part of a loose tapestry of continuity. The Zordon Saga, which started back in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, ends in Power Rangers In Space where, again, Saban was ready to pack it in. Instead, he developed Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. Disney  would eventually got to a point where they were done, where Power Rangers Jungle Fury was originally going to be their swan song, but toy agreements necessitated another season, which resulted in Power Rangers RPM. My point is that this franchise has been Narcan’d as much as it possibly could be. LET. IT. DIE. It’s too late for it to do it with dignity, but just let it rest. If nothing else, just let it go away long enough for us to miss it.

I’m not being flippant here, nor am I trying to be some edgelord out to shit on something folks love. Fandom is a crazy thing, as fans of things never realize how small some of their groups are, because the community aspect make them seem so much bigger than they are. Fandom is as powerful, and potentially poisonous, as Nostalgia. And both of those are at play here. There are way too many people with “200” in their date of birth trying to tell me about Power Rangers. Son, I was watching this show before you were even chilling in your dad’s scrotum. I don’t engage with the online PR discourse because, frankly, many of them are weird. Weird in an antagonistic, yet toxically positive, way. You try to tell them history, or even how business works, and they quote tweet you in the tone a Born Again Christian uses when they meet a militant Atheist: “Oh, look at this poor, lost child. He’ll eventually discover the error of his ways, but hopefully it won’t be too late!” Listen to me, Power Rangers fans – I’ll even throw myself in here – We are NOT Zordon’s Chosen Tribe. There’s nothing inherently special about us to keep this thing alive right now. There just aren’t enough of us anymore.

The show? In limbo. The Boom! comic series? Ending this summer. The toys? Going to Playmates. Now, I hate this so much because Playmates SUCKS for “collectibles”. They make perfectly fine kid toys, but kids ain’t buying this stuff! That’s the problem! In kid media, toy sales matter more than ratings, but you have to have a show to promote the toys. A lot of folks are blaming Hasbro’s lack of toys for Cosmic Fury as the problem, but who’s gonna develop a toyline for a 10-episode Netflix drop? And it’s partially due to the fact that the toys from the prior 2 series didn’t sell great. The Dino Fury Zords are shelfwarming at both Walmart and Ollie’s. Why make new shit when the old shit didn’t sell? BUSINESS! I was a big fan of Hasbro’s collector line, The Lightning Collection, but it suffered from QC issues near the end, when production was moved to factories in Vietnam. Now, it could be argued Hasbro wanted cheaper production because “corporations are greedy” but it could also be argued that they had to do it to stay within their margins. Those figures were $20, and as big of a Power Rangers fan as I have been, those weren’t $20 figures. But that’s the competitive rate for “Adult Collectibles”, so it wasn’t absurd. Those figures hung there. And hung there. Hasbro did make foolish decisions, by jumping around the franchise, so there are several teams that will now never be completed. I hate that. But, at the end of the day, there simply weren’t enough of us.

Take a page from Playmates “colleague” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: it’s an “evergreen” property that knows when to get off the stage. It reinvents itself every few years, to appeal to a new generation, while still being familiar to old fans. When they stray too far from that formula, they’re not as successful (Looking at you, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!). You have to go away for us to miss you. Absence makes the wallet grow thicker, and all that. That said, Playmates can’t save this franchise. They’re not cut out for this.

Power Rangers is one of the most important aspects of my figurative years. I was too old for it when it debuted, but I watched it anyway because it was comfort TV for me. It got me through rough times. When I couldn’t make friends at my new school, I came home to my programmed VCR to watch that day’s episode. In college, folks were hooking up Friday night into Saturday morning, while I was waking up, trying to reserve the lounge TV to watch Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (a Sophie’s Choice, where a fireman gives his son to The Devil!). I made a promise that I would watch it as long as it was on, but little did I know this would be a 30-year promise. I need to be released. Your job is done, Rangers. You deserve your rest. May the Power protect you always.

Trailer Park

Deadpool & Wolverine (Theaters, July 26)

Ya know, I wasn’t too hot on this movie. I mean, I enjoyed the first one, but I still haven’t even watched the second one yet. And I have nothing against it – there’s just too many options when it comes to watching things. I also didn’t really know how they were gonna pull off an R-rated MCU film. Honestly, up to this point, I figured it was just gonna be a third movie burnoff, where it was basically developed by 20th Century Fox, but distributed by Disney. After seeing this, however, it’s clear they’re being allowed to play with ALL the toys! Let’s Fucking Go!

Atlas (Netflix, May 24)

Thank Sweet Baby Jesus this is going straight to Netflix! I’m sorry, but I am not buying J.Lo as Intense Lady Scientist. There’s a heavy handed moral here, and it’s pseudo A.I. propaganda. But it doesn’t look smart enough to really start the conversation that it wishes to start. Also, have you ever noticed that J.Lo gives the same performance in every drama? It doesn’t matter if she’s a victimized single woman, a dirty cop, or trying to save the local community center, she’s always got this undeserved, misplaced intensity that sort of overwhelms every role. Usually, I walk away thinking, “It’s not that deep, Jennifer!” Here, however, the fate of humanity is in her hands and, well, I don’t think she’s the human for the job. Oh, and how is it Simu Liu has only had a handful of cinematic roles, yet already somehow feels typecast?

The Image of You (Theaters and Digital, May 10)

I have never heard of Sasha Pieterse, but apparently she was on Pretty Little Liars? Anyway, she looks like Denise Richards run through Disney’s wonky de-aging software. A lot of folks don’t understand why Paramount is in financial trouble. I mean, they’re “The Home of Star Trek“! Then you look at this, and you realize someone over there needs to be fired. This looks horrible. Like, I wouldn’t watch this for free on Lifetime. And it has NO bankable stars (No, Mira Sorvino doesn’t count in 2024). Pieterse might have her PLL fan base, but she looks kinda old to just be 28. Meanwhile, I love Parker Young, all the way back to Fox’s Enlisted, but I just don’t get “Box Office Leading Man” from him, attractive as he may be. This whole thing just feels like a low-rent affair, and I’m somewhat surprised they’re even bothering with a theatrical release instead of just pushing it to Paramount+.

Will Around The Web

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There are reports that, should NBC renew Law & Order: Organized Crime, the show would move to Peacock for a 10-episode fifth season. Smart money says Stabler is back on SVU a year from now…
  • Delta Burke, of Designing Women fame, gave a rare interview to the Glamorous Trash podcast, where she discussed that she previously used crystal meth as a weight loss drug.
  • HarassmentWatch Returns? In a stunning legal development, Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction in New York was overturned by the NY Court of Appeals. They found that the trial judge “erroneously admitted testimony of uncharged, alleged prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes.” He’s still gonna serve 16 years for similar charges in California, however.
  • A so-called “cyber sleuth” discovered that several US animated projects, including Prime Video’s Invincible and Max’s Iyanu: Child of Wonder, may contain work that was “unknowingly” outsourced to North Korea…
  • Check on your ornery grandpa, as CBS canceled So Help Me Todd and CSI: Vegas. In lieu of flowers, CBS asks that you hug an old person today.
  • Domhnall Gleeson and Sabrina Impacciatore have been announced as the first cast members for the reboot (?) of The Office that Greg Daniels has been developing. Are we looking at the new Jim & Pam?
  • Celebrating its 25th anniversary, two different Family Guy holiday specials are coming to Hulu later this year.

I kicked off last week’s post with an undeserved swipe at the just-released Taylor Swift album, The Tortured Poets Department. You see, I hadn’t listened to the entire album by that point, so I couldn’t fairly critique it as a whole. This week, however, I sat down and listened to all 31 (!) tracks, and I now have a better perspective on the work. That said, I stand by my initial thought: It’s a good, yet sometimes underwhelming, album that isn’t as dynamic as it could be.

Story Time! One of my favorite albums of all time is Enya’s Paint The Sky With Stars. Yeah, I know y’all mock New Age artists like Enya, but she’s amazing. The funny thing about that particular album, however, is that it’s actually her greatest hits collection. I discovered it via the Borders Listening Station (RIP), and immediately fell in love. The trick to that album is that there’s an “Enya Sound” that she knows and has mastered. Oddly enough, it’s the songs that diverge from this model that tend to be her biggest hits. “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)”, “Only Time”, “Only If…” – none of these are “Textbook Enya”. No, the typical Enya song is some moody dirge where she’s singing in Gaelic, probably about some sailor who never came home. And the thing about these is that they all sort of blend together. They lack dynamics, in that there are no highs or lows. They live right in the middle. You can’t name them. You don’t really put on the CD just for them. Instead, you start the album at the beginning and just…let it play. That’s exactly how I feel about Tortured Poets.

Taken as a whole, it’s an enjoyable listen, but as a music A&R guy exec would say, “It’s got no singles”. Sure, she’ll release some, as she’s already got “Fortnight” out there, featuring Post Malone. The overall problem, though, is our expectations were simply too high, and I don’t know who to blame for that. Speaking with a music industry friend, we believe she lost control of the narrative, and the media sort of took over. You see, this thing was presented as this huge blockbuster new album when it’s actually a subdued, personal affair. She was really successful when she did those “sneaky drops” for Folklore and Evermore during Covid. No one knew they were coming, and we woke up one morning, tested ourselves for the virus, and were surprised to find a new album was out. This album would have been the PERFECT sneaky drop, but it’s not the album that deserves billboards and media frenzy. It was bound to happen, with the way she and Travis Kelce became America’s Couple, but this just wasn’t the album to really showcase the Next Stage of her evolution.

Still, I’m just some guy, so what do I know? Critics – especially The New York Times – haven’t been kind in their reviews, but I also feel like it’s hard for anyone to have an unbiased opinion at this point. Taylor’s woven into so many aspects of pop culture that many feel, as we say in the South, “She’s gotten too big for her britches”. A lot of folks are waiting for her to fail, because that’s what America does: We build you up to tear you down. Goodbye, Norma Jean indeed! We were all curious, though, which is how the album broke Spotify records with 1 BILLION streams in its first week. So, for that, and for just being THE discussion the past week, The Tortured Poets Department had the West Week Ever.