Archive for May, 2021

The Muppet Show Season 6 Pt. 5

May 31, 2021

S06E13 Buck Owens

Born in Texas, it was no surprise that Buck Owens grew up to be a country and western musician rather than any other genre. Owens was self-taught, learning both how to sing and how to play the guitar, horns, mandolin, and drums without instruction. He then added the steel guitar to his repertoire, a somewhat rare instrument to master but it was definitely about to make its mark on the country scene. He ended up quitting school before graduating from high school to help out at the family farm and work on his music career. He got his own radio show and became a regular musician at a couple of Arizona bars. A truck driver job brought him closer to California where he started playing as a session musician for Capitol Records, allowing him to play with legends like Tennessee Ernie Ford, Wanda Jackson, Tommy Collins, Tommy Duncan, and more. He teamed with musician Tom Rich and his career took off and he put out hit after hit.

Owens would be great for the Muppet Show because he had a peppy, uptempo sound even when he was playing something sad. He co-hosted the television variety show Hee Haw so it has been proven that he can carry his own weight on television. He and his band, the Buckaroos, often wore flashy costumes and had a lot of showmanship so he could probably take anything the Muppets could dish out. His easy demeanor would make him a great straight man for the wacky Muppets.

Cold Open: Buck shows up to check in with Pops. A herd of cattle stampedes through backstage and he proclaims that he is going to be right at home.

Guest Arc: Buck arrives to find that the denizens of the Muppet Theater are experiencing a crisis of confidence. Buck sets about to instill a little less anxiety and talk the Muppets into feeling better about themselves.

Guest Acts:
“Act Naturally” with Fozzy
“I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail” with a tiger and a bunch of cowboys
“Hello Trouble” with Gonzo

S06E14 Debbie Reynolds

When Debbie Reynolds was starting her career, she was almost immediately put in the center of a fight between two companies. Talent scouts had spotted her at the Ms. Burbank contest and were obviously impressed and so it was that Warner Brothers and MGM did battle for her contract with MGM winning out. They put her in a string of movie musicals which led her to her big break in Singin’ in the Rain, a pastiche of older Broadway shows and movies. She was only eighteen at the time. She kept working in movie musicals for MGM including The Unsinkable Molly Brown which earned her an Oscar nomination. She had her own television show in the seventies but quit after one year because she refused to have cigarettes advertised on her show. She went on to have a great career from there, guesting on a lot of television shows and doing voice work for cartoons. She also was introduced to a whole new generation through her appearances in the Halloweentown franchise for Disney.

Reynolds would have been perfect for the show. In 1983 she would have had a career for over thirty years and plenty of experience to draw on. She also had a lot of energy in her career and was a true triple threat. On a personal note, Singin’ in the Rain is my favorite musical. She would later have a lot of experience in voice acting which would serve her well in understanding the unique techniques at the Muppet Theater.

Cold Open: Scooter comes in to give Debbie her warning and she is watching Gonzo and the chickens dance.

Guest Arc: Kermit thinks some of the Muppet performers have started to fall short on their dancing skills. He enlists guest Debbie Reynolds to tap dance them through things a bit.

Guest Acts:
“Belly Up to the Bar, Boys” (Meredith Wilson) with a bunch of rowdy monsters
“Good Morning” (Brown/Freed) with Kermit and Fozzy
“Where Did You Learn to Dance?” (George Stoll) with Sweetums and Miss Piggy

S06E15 Donna Summer

Donna Summer got her start in her music career when she left home for New York City and joined a blues/rock band Crow. When that did not work out, she auditioned for the musical Hair and was hired for the Munich production. She stayed in Germany and did a few more musicals. She started to tour a bit and recorded some German versions of popular songs from the United States. She partnered with an Italian producer who helped kick her career into a higher gear. She did more recording in Europe and appeared on European television shows. With the song “Love to Love You Baby” (which she co-wrote) she really started to take off globally. Her career took flight from there and she was eventually one of the queens of Disco through the seventies with hits like “Hot Stuff”, “I Feel Love”, “Last Dance”, and more. Because she had such a varied background, her disco music was the cream of the crop and she was able to easily transition when Disco was murdered by childish people.

Donna Summer would be perfect for the Muppet Show because she truly was a musical genius. She wrote or co-wrote a lot of her songs and put new spins on things that she covered. She learned German while working in Germany and was willing to take a lot of chances. That shows that she can really go with the flow. On top of that, her energy had a white-hot intensity which also had an easiness to it which would really serve the show.

Cold Open: Donna arrives to check in with Pops and is notified that they are installing something to make her feel more at home. Gonzo suddenly plummets from above and then a disco ball lights up the room. Donna thanks Gonzo.

Guest Arc: Robin asks Donna why people hate Disco and Donna tells him that that music just keeps evolving and keeps making people feel things. She sets out to show Robin and the rest of the Muppets that the Beat still lives.

Guest Acts:
“Hot Stuff” with a bunch of firemen
“On the Radio” with Miss Piggy
“Last Dance” with the whole cast

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 8

May 29, 2021

Belle pointed excitedly at a page in the book she had been reading. “Come and look at this, Ariel,” she said. “It’s like Milo said from one of his interviews. There are all sorts of things in here about Hades.” It had been days but the two women had continued to study with the support of Milo and the Professor. Tiana had brought meals directly to the library eventually. It had been a long road but finally, there was a glimmer of hope in the book sitting on the table in front of Belle.

“Hades?” Ariel asked, walking over to look at the page Belle was pointing at. “The God of the Underworld that a few of our guests mentioned terrorizing that place called Greece?”

“Exactly,” Belle said. “I actually remember reading about him back in my world as well. He presides over all of those who have passed away. It’s his job to keep them forever.” She had read every book in her village and every book in the library that Adam had gifted her. So many fantastic tales that felt much less fantastic now.

“It seems he let Ursula slip by on his watch,” Ariel said. “and whoever Ursula is working with as well.” They knew at least one of her cohorts. Maleficent, the fairy that had tormented Aurora. There were probably others. Not to mention the new tricks that Ursula had picked up, like that hideous shadow she had tortured Sebastian with.

Belle pointed at the page. “I think they could have done it with this,” she said. “The Ring of Hades. It can open up the gates of the Underworld. After that, they would just need to walk back to the land of the living. I think.”

“It seems like a good enough theory to me,” Ariel said. “If we can zero in on that ring, maybe we can find whoever is responsible for all of this.”

“That makes sense,” Belle said. “We’re not going to get much farther in this siege that Ursula has the castle under. Right?”

“Right,” Ariel said. “Our forces are tired and outmatched. We need a new path.”

“So we invoke the ring and we go wherever it leads us,” Belle said. “The problem is that I have no idea how to do that. I’ve been reading about magic but I have no talent for it myself.”

“I’ve practiced some,” Ariel said. “I studied under my father and I researched Ursula’s things when she was dead. I wanted to make sure I was ready if it ever happened again. The magic I learned is the only thing keeping this castle fortified against Ursula’s magic and the Unfortunate clamoring at the gates.”

“I’m thankful that you learned then,” Belle said. “Magic was nothing but trouble in my world but I suppose if the Enchantress had used her power more positively and less spitefully, we would have been better off.”

“Who is the Enchantress?” Ariel asked, curiosity shining in those big blue eyes.

“Oh!” Belle said with some surprise. “I got a little lost for a moment. The Enchantress was a woman who cursed my husband before I met him. I never met her but she had to be very powerful.” She had transformed an entire household with a single curse, she must have been impressive.

“I wish she was on our side,” Ariel said. “We could use her right about now.”

“I’m more than confident relying on you,” Belle said. “No more wild cards. Please.”

“I guess I can’t disagree with you there,” Ariel said. “So, maybe I can conjure up some sort of path or gateway out of here.”

“Using the ring as a focus maybe,” Belle said. “and we can get to the heart of the matter before things go any further.”

“We’ll assemble a group in case we actually manage to succeed in leaving this world,” Ariel said. “Aurora and Esmerelda will suffice, I think.”

“Agreed,” Belle said. “I’m not much for fighting and those two seem to be much better in a physical fight.”

“Then we’ll make an attempt tomorrow after lunch,” Ariel said. “In the meantime, we need to design the ritual and get the research completed.”

“You had me at research,” Belle said. “I’m at your service.”

Media Update 5/27/21

May 27, 2021

The Mitchells vs. The Machines

When I heard that the Producers who worked on Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse were making a new movie, I got excited. Those are Producer/Writer/Directors Lord and Miller who previously created the Lego Movie among other things. Add on to that Mike Mianda was getting to direct his first feature film after previously writing and directing episodes of Gravity Falls. The movie is about a dysfunctional family who decides to take a road trip across the country to deliver the daughter to college and to heal the rifts in their family. Unfortunately, they are in the middle of a global machine uprising. The movie is glorious quirky, heartwarming, and really funny. Abbi Jacobson is the star of the movie as the daughter going off to college and the artsy, confident young woman. Danny McBride plays the dad, out of touch but with a good heart. Maya Rudolph plays the mom, an awkward but fun woman who is just trying to keep the peace in her family. Mike Rianda himself plays the little brother, a shy lover of dinosaurs who has a really kind heart. Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, and Beck Bennett steal a lot of scenes as robot voices. I recommend this movie a lot.

Psycho Goreman

This movie kind of defies explanation and even the trailer kind of does not do it justice. The movie is about a brother and sister who are digging a hole in their backyard when they find a glowing gem which they take. However, the object under their feet starts acting up causing them to flee. The next day they discover an actual alien in the warehouse near their house who has just finished murdering criminals. The alien is a hyper-violent warlord but the kids are saved when they discover that the gem allows them to control him. From there we get a story that I found hard to predict. The movie is hilarious but also extremely gory. A lot of the humor comes from the hyper-violence and the awkward humor of having somebody who calls for your blood under your magical control. The special effects, costuming, and some of the music reminded me of Power Rangers production design which made it all the funnier. This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart but if you can stomach gore, this offbeat comedy is for you. I really love the Director and want to see more of his stuff. I recommend it.

Suburban Gothic

I decided to watch this movie on a whim on the strenghth of the cast and I was not disappointed. The movie is about a young man who moves back into his childhood home with his parents only to find that the ghosts he remembered from his childhood might be real. The main character is played by Matthew Gray Gubler who does a great job as a sarcastic, eccentric guy with a good heart and a sharp wit. He joins forces with the always delightful Kat Dennings who is her usual deadpan, sarcastic self and has great chemistry with Gubler. Gubler’s parents are played Ray Wise and Barbara Niven and are absolute psychotic fun. They are joined by a really fun cast including appearances by genre actors Jeffrey Combs, John Waters, and Ray Santiago. The movie is offbeat and fun. The movie is just as much about having to deal with your parents and your life when things don’t work out as it is about ghosts. The hauntings are not very scary and are instead experimental film strange. The movie definitely works and I recommend it.

Music of the Week:

Alex Lahey – On My Way

Mimi’s Band – I’m the Heckin’ Best

Morcheeba – Big Calm

Yungeen Ace – Demons

Mashup of the Week:

Meadow Stargazer – Something About 21 Guns

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “Inhuman Danger and Comedy”
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched a lot of Twitch and YouTube
i watched more Elementary Season 4
I watched more Prodigal Son Season 2
I watched more Conspiracies
I finished watching The Sons of Sam

Journey to the Savage Planet

May 24, 2021

I had been wanting to play this game since I had previously seen gameplay. The goofy tone of it really resonated with me and I like a game with a lot of movement tech. The plot of this one is that you have been hired by Kindred Aerospace who tout that they are the “4th Best Interstellar Exploration Company”. The company seems shady from the get-go and their CEO is a bit too excited about the planet you have been sent to. In fact, he seems very unstable in general. You have signed on to a deal to launch you into space at planet ARY – 26. You are to see if the planet is suitable for human life. If possible, you are to either refuel and return with data on the planet or die on the planet (after a long life or not). If you return, you will receive your pay. If you do not return, well, their investment did not work out and your family will mourn.

Of course, the story really begins with your ship crashing on the planet. It does not look too bad but materials will be needed to fix it and replacement fuel must be found. The alien world is not immediately hostile but it does not take long to realize that you are outmatched and outnumbered. Luckily, your ship comes with a sarcastic robot sidekick and two 3D printers. The sidekick is your only real interaction with Kindred technology and your “guide” on the planet. It really does not know much more than you but it can scan local flora, fauna, and technology. This allows you to utilize the first 3D printer to upgrade your technology. The second 3D printer is for when you die. It “reprints” your body and gear back at the ship in the event of your death. There is also a fast-travel teleport system that makes it clear that it’s killing you every time it works. Yay!

The main mechanic of the game is to use the unique plant life on the planet to combat lifeforms and access new areas to collect resources. There are many plants that give you useful projectiles like bombs, acid, and electric shock. You also have a somewhat trusty sidearm and various high jump and double jumps. Some of the lifeforms on the planet are dumb and easy targets but the rest want you dead as soon as they see you. The game is really fun to move around in and the environments are pretty stunning even on a low graphics setting. There are quite a few fun puzzles but a lot of it is moving and dodging various hazards. You can go heavy combat or you can run away a lot until you’re forced to fight. Either way, you’ll find the resources you need and the mysterious secrets of the planet’s history and culture.

You also get absolutely crazy cutscenes like this:

A Second Chance Pt. 3

May 22, 2021

Kane Thalek walked into the bar flanked by his friends Etiva Xankath and Calvin Bastian. The place was dimly lit and full of miners. The three cadets looked fairly out of place since their training had made them easy to pick out as military from their bearing. They were also the youngest in the place. On top of all of that Bastian and Xankath were the only non-Coridanites in the place and a human and a klingon definitely stood out. Kane took the lead because this was his homeworld. These were his people even though he had been guided away from the mines at a very young age by his father.

Kane headed over to the bartender and ordered shots of the local whiskey for him and his friends. He then looked around before he leaned in conspiratorily.

“Tell me, friend,” Kane said. “Where can a few young people get involved in the fight against the Dominion?” It was blunt but he figured why beat around the bush when he could just dive in and get to what they wanted.

“The Dominion?” the bartender asked. “Why would you go picking a fight with them?” The man behind the bar looked absolutely baffled. You would have thought that Kane had been talking backwards while tap dancing from his expression.

“The Dominion are coming here,” Etiva said in an almost hiss. “The people here should really be ready to fight.” There was urgency and anger in her voice. She always had a temper.

Calvin tried to cover for Etiva’s aggression. “We’re here to help with that,” he said. “Any way that we can.” Calvin had a cool head and a serious demeanor when it suited his purpose. He was often the voice of reason and logic between the three of them.

“I don’t know anything about that,” the bartender said gruffly. “I just serve drinks to these simple workers, men and women of the land.”

A hand clapped onto Kane’s shoulder from behind and a strong voice sounded. “No need to play dumb, Salta,” the voice said. “These aren’t real Starfleet, they’re just little puppies.”

Kane and his friends turned to see a tall Coridanite man flanked by tense-looking fiends of is own.

“We may not be full officers,” Kane said. “but I think we can do some good here.”

“Uh huh,” the man said. “They keep telling us that Starfleet is coming. Starfleet will protect us. Trust in Starfleet. I prefer to hedge our bets. Starfleet can’t do everything.”

“We’re not here as Starfleet,” Kane said. “We’re here as fighters. We want to help. If you can tell us how to do that, we’re yours.”

The man laughed and the sound was not kind. “I might be able to use a handful of Starfleet pups,” he said. “but you’re going to get your hands dirty. No stun setting, you understand?”

“We understand,” Kane said. “No mercy for anybody who would attack Coridan.”

“No mercy,” the man said with a nod of agreement. He looked at Etiva and Calvin who also nodded their agreement. “And you’ll be alright dealing with, shall we say, less than savory citizens? Some of the people I work with have had a few run-ins with Starfleet and the local laws.”

“A fighter can’t exactly be picky in a war,” Kane said. “The Dominion are doing far worse than a few criminals in the ranks of freedom fighters. We’re not interested in what your people have done in the past. We’re interested in fighting for Coridan’s future.”

“Fair enough,” the man said. “Welcome to the Red Pickaxe, we’ll get you situated and armed and in with a squad.”

“What’s your name?” Calvin asked, Kane shooting him a look.

“That’s not important right now.” the man said. “Maybe you’ll learn it when I trust you more. For now, you can call me The General.”

Media Update 5/20/21

May 20, 2021

Annabelle Comes Home

This is kind of the culmination of the Conjuring movies that I admittedly have not watched yet. This is the equivalent of the Conjuring Avengers. The plot follows the eponymous doll being brought back to be stored at the Warren’s house and interacting with their collection of haunted items. I thought it was actually a pretty interesting movie especially if you like things like Warehouse 13 or SCP. The movie stars Madison Iseman as a babysitter who works for the Warrens, she is earnest and immediately easy to like. McKenna Grace plays the Warren’s daughter and is good at playing a put upon, depressed, yet very clever young girl. Katie Sarife plays the impetuous best friend who crashes the party and provides comic relief and moves the plot along. I really liked the acting and the story of magic items being far too concentrated together. I recommend this movie even though, as I will continue to point out, the Warrens were parasites.

Annabelle: Creation

No Warrens in this one. This flashes back and gives a bit of Annabelle’s origin story (sort of). The movie follows a group of orphans and their nun caretaker who are taken in by a couple. It turns out the couple has a terrible secret and that causes the orphans to be terrorized by the titular demon. I actually liked this one a lot better as it felt tighter and it was easier to get to know and care about the characters. The special effects are brilliant and there were a lot of surprising moments for me. Talitha Batema stars as the one girl who is more of a misfit than the others because of her handicap. Her best friend is played by Lulu Wilson, a somewhat flippant but likable kid. Stephanie Sigman plays the nun who is their caretaker, a no- nonsense, tough woman who is also very loving. Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto play the couple who let the children into their house and do very well at playing vaguely sinister but also very sad. The rest of the cast is spot on as well. I recommend this movie as well.

Insidious

This movie follows a family who moves into a house and are suddenly haunted by all sorts of weird spooks and demons. It causes a rift in the family and everybody is at their wit’s end before they call a medium. I felt like this movie could have been done better. It is definitely creative but messy and paced weirdly. I have read that director James Wan was already thinking of the Conjuring movies while he made this movie and it shows. They could be a shared universe if the stars aligned. It is a shame because the movie is written by Leigh Whannell who has written some good movies in Upgrade and The Invisible Man. The movie stars Rose Byrne who plays a mother who is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown even before the spooky stuff starts. Patrick Wilson plays her inconsistent and standoffish husband. Lin Shaye eventually comes in as a kindly and wisecracking medium who immediately made the movie better. I abandoned this movie about 3/4s through and I do not know if I will watch the sequels/prequels. I do not recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:

Bowling For Soup – Getting Old Sucks (But Everybody’s Doing It)

Evanescence – Feeding The Dark

Witch – Good Girl

Mungo’s Hi Fi, Eva Lazarus Ft. Max Romeo – Babylon Raid

Mashup of the Week:

Bronze is Bored – The Kid’s Don’t Lie

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is James Wan does Possessions
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched a lot of Twitch and YouTube
i watched more Elementary Season 4
I watched more Prodigal Son Season 2
I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 11
I watched more Conspiracies
I started watching The Sons of Sam

The Muppet Show Season 6 Pt. 4

May 17, 2021

S06E10 Tito Puente and his band

Tito relied on the GI Bill to pay to study at the Julliard School of Music. He was classically trained in conducting, orchestration, and music theory. He drew on his heritage growing up in Spanish Harlem to bring Afrolatino to the people. He was an expert in playing a lot of styles initially popularized in Hispanic countries like Boogaloo, Salsa, Latin Jazz, and more. He asserted during his lifetime that Latin Jazz was African in origin. He was inspired by Cuban and Puerto Rican sounds in his neighborhood and the Big Band sounds on the radio. While he was a bandleader, he played the timbales and the vibraphone which helped to keep the band’s rhythm. His first album was released in 1951 and he kept going from there and ended up making or appearing on what looks like nearly a hundred albums. He was a prolific musician, composer, and conductor and gained a lot of fame in the music world. He even guested on The Simpsons not long before his death. He was known as the “King of Latin Music”.

Puente would be perfect for The Muppet Show because he seemed to have boundless energy. His music was suffused with passion. His most famous song was “Oye Como Va” which was later further popularized by Carlos Santana. The Muppet Show definitely had a go-to style but they also tried to celebrate other cultures and I bet they would have loved to incorporate Puente’s unique sound and style.

Cold Open: As Tito approaches Pops to check in, Floyd and Dr. Teeth protest him trying to replace them.

Guest Arc: Tito and Kermit try to broker peace between the bands since Tito is a big fan of the Electric Mayhem. In the end, they form a supergroup for one night. Tito also enlists Miss Piggy to illustrate that the emotion in music extends beyond whatever language the song is in.

Guest Acts:
“Oye Como Va” (Tito Puente) with mambo dancers
“Guantanamera” (Traditional) with Miss Piggy
“Ran Kan Kan” (Tito Puente) with the Electric Mayhem

S06E11 Billie Hayes

Billie Hayes was born to be an entertainer. She started performing professionally at the age of nine. She took up tap dancing and apparently never stopped feeling the rush of performance. She was from Illinois so her options for growth were not so many but she started touring with Vince Genovese’s orchestra and then struck out on her own tour. She could sing, dance, and act which made her one of those sought-after ‘triple threats’. She got a big break in Lil’ Abner on Broadway and did several national tours of various Broadway shows. It was no small wonder that Sid and Marty Kroft picked her to be one of the main players on their television show HR Pufnstuff. It was here that she would play her most memorable role of Witchypoo, the main villain of the series and a role she would reprise on Lidsville and the Banana Splits Adventure Hour. She also played a similar witch character as a guest spot on Bewitched. She also played the heroic but pathetic Weenie the Genie on Lidsville. She went on to have a great career in voice acting for various very popular cartoon series.

She would be a superb guest for the Muppet Show for many obvious reasons. First, she is a triple threat and just about able to do anything required of a guest on the show. Second, she obviously did not take herself too seriously and was able to do comedy. Third, she could portray a larger-than-life character that still lives in the minds of those who grew up watching her. Fourth, and probably most important, she worked with puppets and people in suits already so she would be suited to the rigors and particular challenges of working with Henson’s crew.

Cold Open: Kermit complains to Scooter and Fozzy that they have no special guest when there is a familiar cackle and a witch buzzes them on her broom.

Guest Arc: There is no guest star but when the Muppets try to continue on with the show anyway, they are terrorized by a witch who succeeds in taking over the show. At the end, Billie reveals herself as the witch and thanks Fozzy for booking her which Fozzy forgot about.

Guest Acts:
“I Put a Spell On You” (Jay Hawkins) as the cast runs in terror
“I’m So Bad” (Oingo Boingo) with hypnotized followers
“Season of the Witch” (Donovan) with the Electric Mayhem

S06E12 Weird Al Yankovic

Alfred Yankovic took his father’s advice to heart when he told him that the key to being a success is to do what makes you happy for a living. He started playing accordion at age 7, at first having the instrument pushed on him by his parents. There was already a famous accordion player named Frankie Yankovic (no relation) and his parents felt another accordion-playing Yankovic made sense. Al was often stuck inside because his mother was overprotective and did not want him playing outside. This gave him plenty of time to practice his instrument. It also allowed him to listen to a lot of comedy and rock and roll albums and set out to figure out how to combine the two on the accordion. It was at this point that his love for comedy and the fringes of pop culture lead him to the Dr. Demento Show, an absolutely insane comedy radio show who agreed to play Al’s music on air. He went on to have a particularly unique music career that had a foundation built from parody songs. However, he does write his own songs (often pastiches of another band’s style). He even got to write and star in his own movie, UHF.

Weird Al would have been great for the Muppet Show because his sense of humor is just as strange as the Muppets. His enthusiasm for entertaining is contagious and it is hard not to laugh along with him. Unlike many parody artists, his work (and the work of his band) was high quality and his musical skill was (and is clear to see. At this point, his career was really just taking off since in 1983 he would have been only four years into his career as a recording artist. His movie UHF proves that he was willing to roll with just about any idea as long as it makes somebody smile.

Cold Open: Scooter gives Weird Al his warning but he is being petitioned by various foods to write songs about them.

Guest Arc: Weird Al makes it his mission to make Waldorf and Stadtler enjoy the show and goes all out with the help of the Muppets. In the end, Waldorf and Stadtler challenge him to sing something original but they don’t like that either.

Guest Acts:
“Another One Boards the Bus” (Yankovic) with the Electric Mayhem
“My Balogna” (Yankovic) with his accordion
“School Cafeteria” (Yankovic) with the food

A Second Chance Pt. 2

May 15, 2021

Kane Thalek held the pool cue in his hand more like a club than an actual tool. “It just pisses me off,” he said. “I never asked my dad to pull any strings for me. In fact, I asked him not to after I got kicked out of here. It’s not my fault that he’s an Admiral.” Kane liked to think he got in and back into Starfleet Academy on his own merits. He might have gotten in the first time on his own but it was increasingly doubtful that he was readmitted legitimately. The thought made him feel kind of sick and not only because his instructors and fellow classmates were not being subtle about shoving it in his face.

“Could you not brandish that like a club?” Soske Treji said. “This is a classy game. I wanted to teach it to you to make you breathe and focus. Calm down.” Treji was pretty much the only instructor who seemed to empathize with Kane’s position. This was a typical after-hours one on one lesson. Treji liked to play games and knew that Kane liked competing.

“Sorry,” Kane said and took a deep breath. He rolled his neck to get the tension out and then leaned over the table to aim his shot. “They say it enough times and it drills into my skull.”

“Who cares how you got here,” Treji said. “We both know that you’re qualified. It’s what you do with it that matters. What do you want to do with it?”

Kane took his shot and barely managed to sink one of his balls into a corner pocket. “I want to get back out there,” he said. “When I was fighting on Coridan, I knew there were ships up there trying to protect us. I wanted to be on one of those ships. Badly. There will be other planets out there in the same spot. They need defending.” He missed his next shot.

“What would your ideal posting be?” Treji asked, starting to size up his next shot.

“Something in a Saber-class,” Kane said. “I don’t need or want anything cushy or comfortable.”

“You’re definitely not the normal Admiral’s kid,” Treji said. “Take a lesson from this.” He took his shot and sank three balls. “Take your time and wait for your shot. You’ll do great. You might not get what you want but you just have to make the most of what comes your way.”

“I guess,” Kane said. “I just want to serve. I don’t want a boring post on some big ship.”

“No Enterprise for you then?” Treji asked. “You don’t want to work your way up to senior staff on the ship of ships? Maybe some Galaxy-class ship?”

“I’d just keep hearing all of the stuff about my dad pulling strings,” Kane said. “I’ll pass. Send me to the front lines somewhere. Put me in the action.”

“For glory seeking?” Treji asked, goading the young man a little.

“No,” Kane said. “You know that’s not it.” He took a breath and smiled, realizing what his teacher was doing. Leaving to fight against the Dominion had been impulsive and he did not regret it. He had accepted the consequences even though it had led to years of punishment even with him returning to the Academy. He had started to learn to be less impulsive and he was going to have to follow the rules if he was going to get anywhere. This was his second and last chance.

“I think you’ve learned my lessons fairly well,” Treji said. “Do you want to play a round of Springball before calling it a night?”

“I’m tempted,” Kane said. “I still owe you from last time but I have to get some studying in tonight now that I’ve calmed down.”

“Tomorrow night maybe,” Treji said.

“Maybe,” Kane said with a smile.

The Muppet Show Season 6 Pt. 3

May 13, 2021

S06E07 Angela Lansbury

Dame Angela Lansbury was born in Central London in 1925 and luckily for all of us, she decided to move to the United States to escape the Blitz during World War II. She studied theater in New York City before she trekked across country to Hollywood in the early 1940s. As a young woman, she got a deal with MGM and acted in 13 films. She received Oscar nominations for Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray and received a Golden Globe while still in her twenties. She kept working in film but it was theater that finally made her a star when she landed the leading role in Mame. From there she dove into musicals both on stage and on screen and started to become more of a household name. She received even more widespread fame for playing famed crime solver Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. After that ended, she went back to live theater where she is currently still working.

Lansbury would be perfect for the Muppet Show. She had tons of experience working in pretty much any medium and genre. She did stuff for kids like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, darker fare like Gaslight and Sweney Todd, and anything in between. She had already worked with animation and special effects so puppetry would not have been a problem. Her versatility has helped to keep her career fresh. She would have been working on Broadway at that point but having her on would have been great promotion for Sweeney Todd which was big at the time.

Cold Open: As Lansbury is checking in with Pops, Hilda shows up and says that nice ladies have to stick together.

Guest Arc: Lansbury tries to prove she’s not just a nice lady. She shows that she can be mean if she wants to and bullies the Muppets.

“By the Sea” (Sondheim) with Fozzy
“Bosom Buddies” (Jerry Herman) with Miss Piggy
“Little Yellow Bird” (Murphy/Hargreaves) with a little yellow bird puppet

S06E08 Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks is definitely one of the all-time kings of American comedy. He got his start in the 1950s as a comedy writer for Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows, a trial by fire similar to more modern shows like Saturday Night Live. It obviously allowed him to train his comedy and writing chops. He continued to work with Caesar until the 1960s where he got his first celebrity when he and Carl Reiner created the 2000-year-old man routine where Reiner would interview Brooks as he played a man who had been alive for thousands of years. The routine was a hit on The Steve Allen Show. He had a brush with writing for Broadway and then he co-created the hit television show Get Smart. The success of that show helped vault him into a career writing and directing (and sometimes starring in) his own movies. His name became known for parody and satire and goofy yet smart humor. Films like The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and more became huge cult classics and innovated comedy movies.

Brooks would have been a solid choice for The Muppet Show because he never once took himself seriously. As a writer and a guy who came from a live television background, he has always been comfortable with rolling with the punches. Brooks was happy to adlib and goof around with his friends and just about anybody. At this point, he had already worked with several people who were guests on the show in the first five seasons.

Cold Open: Scooter comes to give the warning but stays to try and pitch an idea.

Guest Arc: The Muppets think that Brooks is there as a big shot producer but he is really there as a performer. They keep pitching things to a flabbergasted and confused Brooks.

Guest Acts:
“If You Love Me Baby, Tell Me Loud” (Brooks) with Sweetums and Electric Mayhem
Pitch Meeting: Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, and Gonzo
“Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst” (Brooks) with Rowlf at the piano

S06E09 Scatman Crothers

The man who would become Scatman Crothers started his musical career when he was still a teenager. He was a self-educated musician and eventually took the moniker of Scatman for the obvious reason that he used a lot of scat singing in his act. He moved from Ohio to Los Angeles and his career picked up. He did USO tours with Bob Hope. Starting n the 1970s, his career as an actor picked up because he had roles in Hello Dolly, The Great White Hope, The Aristocats, The Shining, Silver Streak, and more. He eventually moved into voice acting and became the voice of Hong Kong Phooey and Meadowlark Lemon of the Globetrotters. He guested on tons of popular television shows and gained legend by being everywhere for a while.

He would have been perfect for the Muppet Show because he had nearly bottomless levels of charisma. Energy just seemed to pour out of the Scatman and he had great acting and musical talent. When somebody is a consummate performer, it is easy to imagine them in almost any scenario.

Cold Open: Pops and Scatman are greeting each other enthusiastically when they have a run in with JP Grosse.

Guest Arc: JP Grosse, the owner of the Muppet Theater, shows up wanting to raise ticket prices. Kermit enlists Scatman to show him the errors of his ways.

“Ain’t She Sweet” (Ager/Yellen) With Miss Piggy
“Blue-eyed Sally” With the Electric Mayhem
“The Best Things in Life Are Free” (Gordon McRae) with Kermit

Sequels

May 10, 2021

I have been thinking lately about how people judge sequels. A lot of people seem to moan and groan about sequels, saying they want original stories. While I do want original stories, I do not immediately dismiss a sequel, especially from a franchise I liked. A lot of people try to pit sequels against the original movie or sequels against each other. I have a much simpler method of judging sequels. It is the metric that I pretty much use to judge all movies. That metric is whether I enjoyed the movie or not and whether I thought it was worth making.

SPOILERS FOR: Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, Blues Brothers 2000, and Thor 2.

Example 1: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I am a big Marvel Cinematic Universe fan and one of the movies that really hit me fairly early on was Guardians of the Galaxy. I loved the first movie as it was a funny and surprisingly deep movie about misfits coming together to put aside their selfish pride to save the universe. It was instantly a huge hit and created ripples in the blockbuster system. When I found out that the sequel was coming out, I was thrilled. I was not sure what the sequel would bring but I trusted writer/director James Gunn.

I was not disappointed but other people I knew at the time seemed to be. I found the second movie to be even deeper emotionally than the first film and had a lot more depth and complexity. It may have lacked the sheer energy of the first movie but it needed to slow down a bit to tell a more important and more personal story. The first movie had really only one plot thread: the Guardians band together to fight religious zealot Ronan.

The second movie also had one major plot but it provides for more character depth. The A plot was about Ego using his relationship with his son to threaten the universe. The movie also included Rocket’s realization that he is an asshole and needs friends, Gamora and Nebula realizing that they needed each other, Yondu’s reckoning with his shameful past and embracing family, Drax actually starting to deal with the death of his family, and a bunch of little moments.

That is the great thing about some sequels: they allow the writers and directors to delve deeper into the characters and allow for different pairings of characters that did not get much screentime together in the first movie. This can allow for more depth for the franchise and growth for the characters which breathes new life into things.

Example Number 2 – Thor: The Dark World

People tend to call Thor 2: The Dark World “the bad Thor sequel” which offends me every time I hear it. This seems to presuppose that The Dark World is a bad movie which is something I disagree with. Thor Ragnarok was a more high-energy movie but Thor 2 laid a lot of the groundwork that people love about the franchise. It had a ton of moments of Thor and Loki’s relationship, it focused a lot on Thor’s responsibility and how he related to Asgard and Earth, and it included more of the greater cosmology and lore that would come home to roost in Ragnarok. It was slower but it allowed for a lot more dialogue so we could learn more about the characters. There is a reason why they revisited the movie in Endgame, because it was a pivotal moment in Thor’s development. It also ends up figuring into WandaVision. It also passed my metric in that I enjoyed it.

Example Number 3 – Blues Brothers 2000

You would be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of The Blues Brothers. A celebration of music and a showcase of some of the best black musicians alive at the time. It is an iconic movie with great characters, fun dialogue, and is basically a string of SNL sketches. People love to crap all over the sequel Blues Brothers 2000 but I guess I am here to defend it. For me, it all comes down to enjoyment. I enjoyed the movie. Was it as iconic as the original no? However, it continued a lot of the themes from the original. It focused even more on the orphanage and allowed the characters to grow and change. It focused on a strong theme of family and what the music really meant more than just the money. It also did a lot of what the first movie did. It showcased excellent music, even more fantastic musicians, and a lot of the offbeat humor of the original. While there are fairly legitimate criticisms of the movie, most of them felt weak to me. I enjoyed it and the soundtrack was excellent so that is all I needed really.


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