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William Shatner Tag

[caption id="attachment_141803" align="aligncenter" width="600"] 'Ant-Man' stars ants, and Paul Rudd.[/caption] I saw “Ant-Man” over the weekend, and given the fact that advance buzz (so to speak) was iffy, I was pleasantly surprised: It was the funniest Marvel movie yet, and it fully embraces its ludicrous premise


When the indefatigable Dw. Dunphy asked Popdose’s writers to come up with a list of ten classic Saturday Night Live sketches, we quickly got bogged down in trying to rank them — by theme, by season, by cast member, etc. And after everyone got their nostalgia fix for the day and nodded off, we were left with some random scraps of memories, but nothing we could publish.

Upon realizing there was no way we were going to get any kind of consensus — and remembering that Dw. never asked us to rank sketches in the first place — I suggested that those who wanted to participate write a paragraph or two about a favorite sketch (short films and commercial parodies were considered fair game under this umbrella term) and provide a clip from Hulu.com or another online source. That’s when Matt Wardlaw asked if Bruce Springsteen’s appearance as SNL‘s musical guest in 1992 counts as a sketch, at which point I pulled out my Matt Wardlaw voodoo doll and went to town.

Without further ado, here are 15 of our favorites, in chronological order, from the past 35 years of NBC’s long-running late-night hit. Robert Cass


“Word Association” (air date: December 13, 1975)

I love this sketch on so many levels that it’s hard to focus on just one. First off, it’s one of the few instances in which Richard Pryor was really allowed to be Richard Pryor on television (let us not speak of Pryor’s Place, his ill-conceived foray into Cosby-like Saturday-morning TV), and it allowed Chevy Chase to put the pratfalls aside and inhabit a thoroughly WASP-y persona.

The second thing is that the skit is smart, certainly smarter than one would initially give it credit for. Yes, it’s Chase and Pryor in an ever-escalating war of words, ticking down a list of epithets until they reach the bottom of the barrel, and for people who like that kind of verbal repartee delivered as only these two could, that might be enough. Under the surface, though, you could easily interpret this sketch as a warning about “just a little racism” and be correct; the interviewer and the applicant play the “black” and “white” word association at first in an innocuous manner, but as things heat up they and their speech get uglier and uglier until the “nuclear option” is launched. No neon-lit message sign has been switched on for you, but if you consider the sketch just a little deeper, you’ve been taught.

The third, and maybe most important, thing is that “Word Association” is funny, and likely could never be done on TV today, certainly not on a broadcast network like NBC. The 1970s was an era when Saturday Night Live saw the risks laid before it, took every one, and, fortunately for us, did something great with them. Dw. Dunphy


It’s almost over! Fall premieres week is winding down and there are only a few more shows to review. Today the Popdose staff looks at the new Thursday shows. What did you think?

My Generation (ABC) – My Generation begins by giving all of their characters stereotypical labels: The brain, the nerd, the jock, the punk. You get the picture. An annoying narrator introduces each character and explains that a documentary crew followed a group of Texas high school seniors in the year 2000. We don’t see much of that original footage except for a group scene in which the naïve 18-year-old high seniors tell the camera what they hope to achieve after high school.

Jump ahead 10 years and the documentary camera crew is revisiting those same seniors. Did life turn out they way they all planned? Hell no. It never does. Terrorist attacks, energy scandals, endless wars and life in general fucks up the works. But people adapt and move on. Some triumph while other regress or die. My Generation had a chance to be unique. It could have been a faux documentary version of, say, Friday Night Lights, showing how people change over the course of ten years.

Instead, there has to be DRAMA!

It’s that time of the year again. The major networks roll out a slew of new shows, hoping that one or two of them will be the next Friends or Grey’s Anatomy, and none of them will suffer the same fate as Viva Laughlin. Throughout the course of the week, the Popdose staff will be posting first reaction reviews to the new shows appearing on the four major networks. Here’s a preview of those shows.

Piranha 3D PosterThe other day, my son saw the commercial for Piranha 3D and had exactly the reaction you’d expect from a 9-year-old boy: “I WANT TO SEE THAT!” And I had the response required from said boy’s 42-year-old father, namely, “Absolutely not. It’s completely inappropriate.” By which I of course meant, “I WANT TO SEE THAT!”

“Inappropriate” is one of those catch-all words we parents use when we mean, “This is something I’d rather put off discussing as long as possible.” But in the case of Piranha 3D — which, judging from the trailer, consists primarily of people in tiny bathing suits being eaten in extreme close-up by prehistoric fish — the word seems entirely, well, appropriate. It looks like a movie that is completely inappropriate for viewing by almost everybody.

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So why is my gut reaction to run down to my local IMAX and plunk down 15 bucks? After all, I consider myself a student of the cinema. I’ve paid to watch foreign films — with subtitles, not the dubbed kind where someone steps on Tokyo. Once I even went to a library to watch De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, a movie in which not a single person was skeletonized in 3-D.

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On May 12 the American Civil Liberties Union filed two free-speech lawsuits in Scranton, Pennsylvania, defending citizens who were charged with using profanity by local police. Seven days later CBS announced its fall schedule, which includes the William Shatner sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, the first TV show to be based on a Twitter account, namely Justin Halpern’s Shit My Dad Says page. The watchdog group Parents Television Council, upset that the word “shit” is alluded to in the show’s title, has threatened to challenge the broadcast license of any CBS affiliate that airs the series — and promos for it — before 10 PM, even though the network has scheduled it for Thursdays at 8:30 this fall.

In the past year, feature films like Inglourious Basterds and programs like Oxygen’s Dance Your Ass Off have pushed the boundaries of acceptable language on theater marquees and in TV Guide. The cable channel FX has practically built its reputation on airing original shows such as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that employ “shit,” “asshole,” and “goddamn” so often in their dialogue that it’s hard not to think FX bought the rights to the words and wants to make sure it gets its money’s worth.

Jason: Hey, look what Santa brought us!

Jeff: Ooh, what is it?

Jason: Another B-list Christmas compilation!

Jeff: Shit! Oh, but this one is different.

Jason: It is? How so?

Jeff: We’ve never covered a B-list Christmas compilation featuring artists brought together to support a William Shatner horse charity!

Jason: That’s totally true! This is a great compilation, then. I feel like it’s really bringing my attention to a charity I know nothing about.

Jeff: I feel like I hate both of us for knowing about it, owning it, and listening to it.

Jason: Yeah, that’s the truth. And you didn’t buy this digitally, did you?

Jeff: I don’t want to talk about it.

Jason: YOU SUPPORTED WILLIAM SHATNER’S HORSE CHARITY!

Jeff: And how much does Shatner love his horses? Enough to send the very best.

Jason: Regale them, Jeff!

Jeff: At least if by “very best,” you mean “Stephen Bishop, Richard Marx, and DJ Ice Z and the Fresh Elf.”

Jason: Wait wait wait — Richard Marx is on this thing?

Jeff: Like a fresh sore!

Jason: Best. Christmas. Compilation. Ever. I hope he’s singing I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

Jeff: He is not.

Jason: That’s too bad. I was planning on listening to it, and pretending he was singing it to me. Man, I love Richard Marx. Where’s HIS Christmas album?

Jeff: Oh, I’m sure we’re only a couple of years away.

Jason: But…but…

Jeff: This record blows almost top to bottom, but there’s a Hayseed Dixie track that’s actually pretty cool. “Misty Wonderland Hop.”

Jason: I have to disagree with you. I thought it was cool at first — I gave it four stars — but every time it came on, I turned it off. If you want Zeppelin and Christmas, you have to go for Mojochronic’s “Yuletide Zeppelin.”

Jeff: I can’t believe we’re debating the merits of holiday Zeppelin tributes. What fucking planet am I on?

Jason: You’re on Planet Mellowmas, stupid!

Jeff: Have I ended up on James Cameron’s Avatar planet somehow?

Jason: Worse. I’m pretty sure James Cameron’s planet has no place for Stephen Bishop. Unless it’s Planet Washed-Up.

Jeff: Speaking of washed up, look who else is on this album. Dennis DeYoung.

Jason: Oh, Dennis DeYoung.

Jeff: How much strength does it take to go on living after you’ve been fired from Styx? Isn’t that the rock & roll equivalent of losing your job at Denny’s?

Jason: Ha ha ha ha! What’s the name he’s forced to tour under? Something like “Dennis DeYoung and the Songs of Styx” or something.

Jeff: Because I just went to his Wikipedia page, I can tell you he’s contractually prevented from advertising himself as “the voice of Styx.”

Jason: Ha ha ha ha ha ha! He should form a band with Al Jardine.

Jeff: Ha ha ha ha ha! Whatever happened with Sad Al Jardine’s little touring band?

Jason: I don’t know, but I do know that Al has a Christmas single out this year, and I went out of my way NOT to send it to you, because I love you.

Jeff: He does? I must find it.

Jason: It’s actually just a live recording of a Beach Boys Christmas song he sang in concert a while back.

Jeff: Please tell me it’s called “Goin’ Back to Kokomo.”

Jason: I believe he’s is contractually prevented from uttering the word “Kokomo.” That word belongs to Mike Love. John Stamos may own 15%.

Jeff: The Beach Boys have a new barrel-scraping Christmas compilation out this year, too.

Jason: Do they really? deep sigh

Jeff: But we digress. To get us back on topic, here’s a seemingly random collection of words from DeYoung’s Wikipedia page: “On October 13, 2009, DeYoung’s sound creation the “ARF 2600” was given it’s world premiere at the opening of The 101 Dalmatians Musical in Minneapolis, MN.”

Jason: The WHAT?

Jeff: I don’t know!
“DeYoung made his major motion picture debut in 2005’s The Perfect Man, in which he played the lead vocalist in a Styx tribute band.”

Jason: Actually, that sounds somewhat funny.

Jeff: As much as I hate Dennis DeYoung’s music, I’m starting to feel bad for him. He might have an even worse life than Billy Joel.

Jason: I saw him on A&E’s Private Sessions a few months ago. He acts like he’s Jerry Lewis in interviews, hamming it up and pausing for laughs that never come. I wonder how DeYoung ended up on this compilation. The track listing is so random. Did you know that, at one point, they were supposed to have Meryl Streep on here?

Jeff: Maybe they figured Dennis DeYoung was the next best thing? I imagine Meryl and Dennis have both gone through menopause at this point.

Jason: Ha ha ha ha! That was funny, but still, bite your tongue for trying to draw a link between Dennis DeYoung and Meryl Streep. One is one of the finest female performers of our generation. And the other is Meryl Streep. Wackity schmackity doo!

Jeff: tips straw hat, dances a jig

Jason: Okay, let’s listen to this Christmas turd.

Jeff: Fine, fine.

Jason: If you start to feel down while you’re listening, just think about all the horses you’ve helped.

Jeff: God, it’s almost four minutes long.

Jason: Hey, it’s either this or the song from DJ Ice and the Fresh Elf.

Jeff: Dennis DeYoung it is!

Jason: Ready?

Jeff: Sort of!

Dennis DeYoung — When I Hear a Christmas Song (download)

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From The Sounds of Christmas 2009 null

KhaaaanWith the most recent Star Trek movie coming to video November 17, I felt it would be fitting to revisit what most people (myself included) think is the best of all the Trek films, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. If you’re curious about what I think of J.J. Abrams’s reboot of the franchise, check out the episode of my podcast in which me and my cohost, Lisa Soloway, review the new Trek and compare it to The Wrath of Khan. In short, I thought the new film was a lot of fun and incredibly well cast, but I was seriously weirded out by the whole “alternate timeline” plot, and ultimately felt it was a weak concept upon which to reboot the series. While I do understand why the filmmakers made that choice, I still feel like it was a cheat from a writing standpoint. But what the hell, the movie is undeniably a fun ride, and I admit I’m just nitpicking because I love Star Trek so much.

In a sense, Star Trek II was itself a reboot of the franchise, as many people didn’t like its predecessor, 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture (personally, I’ve always loved it, as stated in a previous column). It’s interesting to note that director Nicholas Meyer, like J.J. Abrams, didn’t come on board as a fan of Star Trek — he’d reportedly never even seen a single episode of the 1960s TV series. Up to that point Meyer was best known for writing and directing the excellent Time After Time (1979) and writing both the novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and the screenplay for the 1976 film adaptation.

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My usual modus operandi with this column — and the reason why its title is phrased as a question — is to look for signs of quality in cultural products for which I have no reasonable expectation of finding it. I’m not even necessarily expecting that Hannah Montana DVD to be bad — I’m just not expecting it to be very good. My hope is always to be pleasantly surprised. Oh, I hear the same word-of-mouth that you all do, and I know the received wisdom as well as anyone else; but usually I can shrug them off and try to approach the work with an open mind, hoping against hope for something good.

There are times, though, when my own prior experiences lead me to approach my subject with a pre-existing anticipation of its crapulence, and that shit is hard to shake. Such is the case with Star Trek: The Animated Series, released in 2006 in a handsome boxed edition, which I have just re-encountered for the first time since seeing it in its original run.

To celebrate/exploit the release of Varshons, the new covers album by Evan Dando‘s Lemonheads, Bootleg City is covering its own covers-filled edition from July 27, 2007. Of course, back in those days there was no Popdose.

“But Mayor Cass,” the children always ask, “where did people go when they wanted to download music for free and write comments underneath the accompanying text that was only tangentially related to said text?”

“My my!” I answer. “What big words you have in your … um … don’t tell me … starts with a V …”

That’s when their smiles usually vanish. “Fine, we’ll dumb it down for you, old man. What was it called before it was called Popdose?

For those who don’t know, before there was Popdose there was Jefitoblog, and whenever its creator, Popdose’s Jeff Giles, was foolish enough to allow guest writers to contribute, he’d often have to upload all their MP3s for them along with all their text. Uploading MP3s is a time-consuming, hand-cramping, soul-fisting process. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun being mayor of Bootleg City, but if there was a way to charge you people a nonreading tax so I could buy some child labor that would upload the MP3s for me, I’d do it in a heartbeat. (Of course I wouldn’t underpay them. I love those little octothorp ampersand percent sign exclamation points.)

However, I’m glad Jeff no longer has to upload songs for me, because (1) he does more for Popdose than you’ll ever know and deserves our eternal gratitude, and (2) I don’t trust him one bit with my stuff. Never have, never will. The real Jeff Giles writes for Newsweek — who does this “Jeff DeWester” impostor think he is?

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I didn’t accomplish much in April. Now it’s May.

Oh yeah, I did ask my girlfriend, Aimiee, to marry me, as threatened in my last Sugar Water column. And the answer was no, but don’t start crying for us just yet.

See, she wants to marry me, but as she put it, “If gay couples can’t legally marry in Illinois, why should straight people like us have that right? Plus you abandoned Xing, our seven-year-old adopted Chinese son who’s actually our daughter, in Nebraska right before that safe-haven law was changed last November, which brings up a wide range of trust issues.”

See, all I have to do is convince the Illinois Supreme Court that gay marriage isn’t a threat to the moral fiber of our state — or Chicago’s chances of hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics — and Aimiee will be my wife. Of course, at the beginning of April I was pretty crushed since there seemed to be no way Illinois would legalize gay marriage, but suddenly its corn-fed neighbor Iowa was down with hot man-on-man lifelong commitment and kinky girl-on-girl sacred vows.

Yes, Iowa and Vermont accomplished something much more important in April than writing a new Sugar Water column. But they’re welcome to sub for me at any time while I watch syndicated reruns of Boston Legal to prepare for my Supreme Court appearance. Unfortunately, the recently canceled “dramedy” hasn’t taught me a thing about how the law actually works.

William Shatner doesn’t play a starship captain on this spin-off of The Practice, but he might as well since it’s so far removed from reality. The attorneys at Boston Legal‘s fictional firm are constantly being arrested or sued, and that’s when they’re not suing each other just to kill some time. In real life you’d take your business elsewhere if it weren’t for the fact that they win 99 percent of their cases, thanks to sanctimonious courtroom speeches delivered by James Spader that employ zany one-liners and statistics from the latest issue of Newsweek in equal measure. In the final episode, which aired last December, Shatner and Spader’s characters went before the U.S. Supreme Court to defend their right to marry each other even though they’re not gay.

To know the unknowable is one of the great pursuits of sentient beings everywhere.  Has been for as long as there’s been sentient beings.  But to truly know the unknowable (or at least be rendered confused and queasy from it), spend an hour or two listening to and pondering the music of the outsider artist Jandek.  Or, like Uncle Donnie, stumble upon him completely by accident and start writing him harassing memos, offering career advice.  Your call.  – RS

TO: Jandek
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Career Advice

I know who you are, Jandek. Oh, you think you’ve pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, but I know where you are and where you live and where you’ve made all 55 of your records—every last uncomfortably atonal, virtually indecipherable one of ’em. How, you might ask? I have friends in the Houston suburbs who had me over for dinner last month while I was in town for the John Basedow Abdominal Exercise Seminar and Chili Cookoff. You might know my friends—Carrie and Tom Milkowitz. As in your next door neighbors Carrie and Tom Milkowitz?

As I sipped my Manhattan on their back deck and watched you pick snap peas from your garden, it occurred to me that you could be so much bigger than you are. I mean, I only knew you from Spin magazine and that documentary done about you a few years back. I’ve only recently started making my way through your voluminous discography (I can only do it while my wife Mitzi is out with her canasta group, or when she’s asleep), and there’s some interesting stuff in there. And by interesting stuff, I mean uncomfortably atonal, virtually indecipherable stuff. But it’s all marketable, if you take my advice and try a couple things: