Mayberry, the setting for The Andy Griffith Show, isn’t real, and no one ever wanted it to be. Andy Griffith wanted Mayberry to be better than the real world. A place where honesty is always rewarded, and where bad people are always punished. A place where a father can always trust that his son learns his lesson, even when it has dire consequences. Andy Griffith’s character, Sheriff Taylor, was always tough on his son, Opie (Ron Howard), but he was also perpetually loving and supportive. Andy Griffith didn’t just want to be the change he wanted to see in the world, he wanted to make sure everyone could see what that change should be.
To make sure that all of that didn’t make the show boring, however, they cast Don Knotts as Barney Fife, the ultimate example of “he’s not smart, but he means well.” Knotts could wring…
Bob Newhart is one of the funniest men who ever lived. If Stalin had watched Bob Newhart do stand-up… well, he’d still have been an irredeemable despot who deserved death, but he might have been distracted for a few hours and not killed some people. The show was pretty much an excuse to watch Bob do stand-up, with great supporting characters like his wife, Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), and his receptionist, Carol (Marcia “I was Edna Krabappel, and you will remember me” Wallace). Newhart’s job as a psychologist gave him no end of material to work with, and he could turn it into half-hour laugh fests that would leave you concerned that you can’t breathe.
One of the biggest themes of the show is that Bob Hartley (Newhart’s character) is constantly questioning if the reality presented to him is genuine, or if the craziness surrounding him is just a vivid hallucination…
It’s time to get a heavy dose of the 1980s in the year 3000. It’s awesome… awesome to the max.
Planet Express is having a stockholder meeting and Fry and Zoidberg (Both Billy West) sneak off to find food at another meeting. First, they go to a Bot-Mitzvah, which doesn’t let Zoidberg in due to not permitting Shellfish or Swine (get it?). They then go to a recovery group for people who were cryogenically frozen, like Fry, where he meets “That Guy,” (David Herman), a 1980s stockbroker who had himself frozen to get a cure for his terminal boneitis. Fry invites him to join the Planet Express company at the stockholder meeting, then nominates him to be CEO of the company. He ends up being elected by 1 vote, due to Scruffy the Janitor (Herman) having four times the shares of anyone else and Hattie McDoogal, the crazy cat lady (Tress MacNeille), hating the Professor (West).
Now that That Guy (real name Steve Castle, but it’s never mentioned) is in charge of the company, he makes Fry Vice-Chairman and decides to attack Mom’s Friendly Delivery Company, the leading package company. Mom (MacNeille) vows revenge, but with That Guy’s 80s know-how, he gives the company a complete makeover to raise its stock price, then sells it to Mom, firing everyone.
Fry tries to block the takeover to save everyone’s jobs, but it turns out that Zoidberg sold all his shares to That Guy for a sandwich, giving That Guy majority control over the company. Just as the takeover is approved, That Guy dies of boneitis, which he never bothered to cure. Fry takes over the company, then ends up deciding to turn it back over to Professor Farnsworth. Leela (Katey Segal), Bender (John DiMaggio), Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and Amy (Lauren Tom), show up and try to convince Fry to sell the company, because as major stockholders they’d all be wealthy, only to find out that giving it to Farnsworth made the company worthless again. The crew ends up going back to work.
This is one of the funniest episodes of the show and certainly one of the episodes that I most frequently quote. It’s basically putting Gordon Gekko in Futurama and watching how it plays out. Naturally, this results in the episode completely and totally satirizing the common image of 80s stockbrokers as greedy, soulless, monsters by making That Guy the greediest monster imaginable, having no real substance as a person.
That Guy is just a perfect pastiche. He only ever references the 80s and its culture, from the music (Safety Dance) to the language (Awesome… Awesome to the max) to the commercials (the Apple 1984 Commercial) to the business ethics (“Friendship to me means that for two bucks I’d beat you with a pool cue till you got detached retinas”). He is focused solely on profit through appearance, rather than through actual work (noted by the fact that after he takes over, Planet Express stops delivering packages). His focus is solely on tearing down the work of other people for his own gain. Even more than Gordon Gekko, That Guy is self-aware that he’s being a complete monster, and he relishes every second of it. He considers being an 80s guy who wants to make as much money as possible as the whole of his identity, to the point that he forgets to cure his boneitis just because he gets too caught up on trying to capitalize on Planet Express. I have to give a special recognition to David Herman’s performance, because no matter how insane the things That Guy says can get, I always genuinely feel like he’s really trying to sell them to the listeners. He makes me think of Alec Baldwin’s speech from Glengarry, Glen Ross, but done by a muppet (sadly, that video is not yet real):
This episode also brings back Mom as an antagonist, something that I never realized only happened once per season for the first three seasons, but this time she’s really not directly trying to destroy Planet Express. Instead, she’s just serving as an equally plutocratic ally to That Guy, while simultaneously being a target for his own plot. Despite the fact that Mom hates That Guy’s attacks on her, she still gives in and agrees to his terms for the buyout, something that would have made him richer than ever. I suppose maybe vengeance just works differently for billionaires?
Overall, this is just a fun episode from start to finish. If you aren’t quoting it now, watch it and I guarantee that you will.
So many of the jokes in this episode are amazing that it’s basically just a string of hits. From the beginning where they do the Bot Mitzvah and the Cryo Support Group to the final sequence of watching the price of Planet Express fluctuate with every line Fry says, I think it’s all gold. That’s why it’s pretty hard for me to pick, so I’ll do the top 3:
1) When Hermes tells That Guy that they can’t compete with Mom
Hermes: We can’t compete with Mom! Her company is big and evil! Ours is small and neutral!
That Guy: Switzerland is small and neutral! We are more like Germany, ambitious and misunderstood!
2) That Guy’s first speech to the team:
That Guy: Let’s cut to the chase. There are two kinds of people: Sheep and sharks. Anyone who’s a sheep is fired. Who’s a sheep?
Zoidberg: Uh, excuse me? Which is the one people like to hug?
That Guy: Gutsy question. You’re a shark. Sharks are winners and they don’t look back ’cause they don’t have necks. Necks are for sheep. I am proud to be the shepherd of this herd of sharks.
3) The stocks on the exchange, including Kirk – 1.25 and Gorn +2 (because Gorn would really win the fight), are all hilarious, but it’s the one that I spotted this time that takes the cake: eπi -1. That’s a reference to Euler’s identity (e^(i*π) = -1), one of the most profoundly beautiful equations in math. It’s quick, but I love that Futurama is filled with math jokes.
Saturday Night Live is a sketch show that has run for forty years on television. It’s been great, it’s been terrible, it’s been everything in between. One thing is pretty universally agreed upon, though: When it first started it was freaking amazing. This is season one.
Saturday Night Live did not run, and usually does not run, with a delay. Some bits are pre-recorded, but everything else is broadcast live, for better or for worse. Now, the first host of SNL was George Carlin, so that’s taking a risk right off the bat, but the producers didn’t truly worry until the seventh episode, when they asked Richard Pryor to host. If you don’t know who Richard Pryor is, he’s usually considered one of the best comedians of all time, but was also one of the most foul-mouthed people on television in the 70s. Also, he was a constant…
One of the most unique shows ever put on television gets revived for a special and it just makes me realize how sad it was that we had to wait so long for it.
It’s been years since alien invader Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) and his Robot assistant, GIR (Rosearik Rikki Simons), have been seen and the constant obsession with finding him has led his nemesis Dib (Andy Berman) to become a fat, smelly blob attached to a chair, much to the disgust of his sister Gaz (Melissa Fahn) and his father Professor Membrane (Rodger Bumpass). Then Zim comes back, with a new plan to impress the leaders of the Irkin Empire, the Almighty Tallest (Wally Wingert and Kevin McDonald), if only he can remember what Step 2 is…
Look, I don’t want to spoil this special, so go ahead and take an hour to watch it. Go on, I believe in you. Do it.
Awesome, wasn’t it? I mean it’s not quite as good as “Walk of Doom” or some of the better episodes of the series, but it’s a really good special and it proves one thing: This show had a lot more room to explore before getting cancelled.
For those who are getting their first taste of Zim, here’s my previous description of the show:
“Invader Zim is what happens when Nickelodeon doesn’t fully investigate who they’re giving money to. It’s similar to how WNBC got Howard Stern. They heard something was popular, decided to get the person responsible, then immediately realized that it conflicted with their image.
Showrunner Jhonen Vasquez is a messed-up human being, and the creator of such works as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Squee. He is also a darkly comic genius of the highest order. Invader Zim was a show that ran on the logic that whatever would confuse, amuse, or disturb the audience the most should be the next image on screen or line of dialogue. Sometimes this was frightening or irksome, but, usually, the juxtaposition was hilarious.”
Sadly, the show’s sense of humor was a little to dark for kids and, despite the fact that it set up a bunch of potential recurring characters (including Tak (Olivia D’Abo) whose ship appears in this special as an acknowledgement), the show ended up getting cancelled before even the second season was finished. This special, much like Rocko’s Modern Life‘s reboot, is a chance to reintroduce this brilliant show to an audience that will hopefully now be more receptive, in part because it blazed a trail a decade and a half ago.
Perhaps the most notable thing about this special is that it’s one of the rare occasions on which Zim actually can be considered a credible threat. In general, Zim is too stupid to ever really be a villain (that’s sort of the point of the series), but in this special he actually does, albeit through a lot of luck, serve as a serious antagonist to Dib. Watching Zim be semi-competent is really enjoyable, because even when he seems to be doing well, he’s constantly grasping at straws to keep everything from falling apart. He even relies on GIR to compose a hit song in order for his plan to work, though GIR promptly knocks it out of the park. Even when the plan does work, however, the side-effects are still insane and devastating due to his own idiocy.
In terms of tone, I think most people will note that this special is lighter and lacks a certain amount of the nihilism found in most of the works of Jhonen Vasquez, but I still think that it has the same off-kilter and challenging humor that made the original series great. The character designs are mostly unchanged, but Gaz, for example, is more talkative and less emotionally combative than she typically was during the series. The special also has an actual emotional arc concerning Dib and his father. While the fact that Dib’s father is pretty much absent from his life was brought up in the show several times, here it’s much more focused and Dib’s feelings are much more prominent. It’s basically summed up by Dib telling his father “I wish you were on my side!” only to be told “Wishing isn’t very scientific.” We feel a similar emotional desire for approval from Zim with regards to the Tallest, but unlike Professor Membrane’s neglectfulness towards Dib, the Tallest genuinely hate Zim. It gives us a wonderful compare and contrast between our lead characters, something that the show didn’t do much.
The art style is just as distinct as it was before, although, again, I think it’s a little lighter.
Overall, if you liked the series, you’ll like this. Mostly, if you like this, you’ll wonder why in the heck they cancelled the original show when they clearly have so many more directions to take the stories. If you’ve never seen Invader Zim, try it anyway. This kind of show deserves the effort.
The year was 1997 and Ellen DeGeneres was sick of living in the closet. Good for her. Actually, Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet publicly on Oprah in February of 1997, which was a big deal. Despite the fact that it was only 20 years ago, publicly coming out was still uncommon among celebrities. This meant that outing her character on her show was also a huge deal.
The episode begins with Ellen Morgan, her character, going out to dinner with an old friend/crush, Richard (Steven Eckholdt), who brings along his producer, Susan (Laura “No, really, Laura Dern” Dern). Ellen is slightly turned off by Richard, but finds herself drawn to Susan. After Susan tells Ellen she thought she was gay, Ellen denies it and accuses Susan of trying to convert her. Susan laughs this off, telling her that she was trying, and that she’s only…
Before we start: I am only going by the Marvel Cinematic Universe Captain America and Iron Man so that you don’t have to read 70 years of comics to understand this article and I don’t have to deal with all the people pulling counter-examples from stupid crap writers have done to the characters, like building an extrajudicial prison which basically trapped people in a perpetual nightmare (Iron Man) or accidentally taking a ton of meth and pretending to be a chicken (Captain America). I’m mostly going to be focused on the film Captain America: Civil War, but, I’m also going to have to address the Endgame in the room, meaning spoilers for the MCU through that. If you haven’t seen any of them, you’re okay, I’m gonna summarize the important parts.
Sometimes the movie poster says it all. (Insert poster image underneath. Remember to delete this reminder before posting. Remember this commentary is not funny no matter how meta.)
Two heroes standing in conflict over their deeply-held ideals. A shield for protecting the innocent against a weapon for punishing the guilty. Two hours of fighting and the audience is left with both sides still believing that they’re doing the right thing. Both sides have points that support their opinions and both sides have disadvantages that they know they have to address. Ultimately, they never really determine what the right answer is, as the coming of Thanos renders the whole thing moot and bigger fish had to be fried. So, why did everyone pick the side they did? Well, let’s take a look through the lens and see what the movies tell us up to this point.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), the invincible Iron Man, spent three solo movies and one Avengers film proving that he is the absolute last person who should have the ability to act as an international agent of justice. In all three of his movies and Age of Ultron, he either A) creates the villain, B) gives the villain the technology they need to be effective, or C) there is no third option because he’s literally that bad at his job. And that’s completely in line with his character. Tony doesn’t have strong moral principles to shape his actions. Instead, he views everything in terms of solvable problems because, above all things, he’s an engineer. That works fine almost every time, particularly when you’re a super-genius but, like Oppenheimer and Nobel before him, sometimes he doesn’t really consider the possible consequences of his actions. So, after he almost lost the love of his life to a villain he’d empowered and his creation Ultron almost destroyed Earth, Tony was finally ready to accept that, maybe, he needed someone else to watch over his decisions.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans and his muscles) learned the opposite lesson. In the first Captain America movie, he learned that the US was planning on abandoning probable POWs behind enemy lines (which is a thing that happens in war) so he risks his life to rescue them, believing that his way is right above the Army’s. In The Avengers, a shadowy group almost nukes Manhattan as a solution to an alien invasion that the group was, at that point, dealing with pretty successfully. In Winter Soldier, Cap learns that HYDRA, the secret Nazi cabal that he thought he beat in WWII, has actually infiltrated the American secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and all but taken them over. So, the one organization that he trusted to safeguard America and tell him where to go and who to fight was run by the last people who should have been doing that. So, Steve learned a valuable lesson about not giving too much of your own power up to groups.
They’d managed to deal with these differences up until the point where Captain America and his… mini-Avengers? I’m going with mini-Avengers… mini-Avengers went into a sovereign nation and accidentally blew up a building containing a number of humanitarian workers from another country. Was it all their fault? Oh, hell no. Did it save lives? Almost certainly. Was it the right thing to do? Well, that’s what the rest of the movie is about.
If you think what Cap did was absolutely correct, let’s flip the scenario around. Let’s suppose a paramilitary group from Lagos (country picked at random) comes into the United States, armed, and uses military force to stop a robbery but incurs collateral casualties. Was that okay? Well, if not, why not? Oh, right, because every country on Earth has a sovereign right over anything that happens within their borders. That’s literally what they’re there for. However, the Avengers (and S.H.I.E.L.D.) pretty much ignore that all the time because it’s inconvenient for the films… and it would be inconvenient for them to deal with customs.
The movie Civil War has General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) outline that, even between films, going into other countries without permission is exactly what the Avengers do and basically no one on Earth has any control over them. So, the United Nations proposes the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement which would create a branch of the UN to oversee the Avengers. Tony agrees with the Accords, because he believes that the Avengers need to be accountable and have oversight. Steve doesn’t agree with them because he believes that A) they would limit the effectiveness of the team, B) the people above them would also have agendas which would shape how the team is used, and C) that would put his personal actions at the disposal of others. So, we have a huge fight over this which blows up an airport and drags a teenager in as a soldier, with all of this supposedly orchestrated by a pissed-off soldier who lost his family to the Avengers’ actions in Age of Ultron.
Now, consider this for a second: what if all of this was completely f*cking stupid because they both know the other is also right and that there are practical solutions that would address both of their problems? Oh, right, that would have been a boring movie. It would also have been accurate, because the idea of a vigilante group with no accountability acting internationally and leaving huge amounts of collateral damage is not a thing we should debate. It’s fundamentally against the entire concept of national sovereignty, almost every international agreement in history, and, oh yeah, almost every anti-terrorist resolution. How do you think America would feel if a group of Chinese superheroes showed up and blew up a city block in the name of “stopping crime?” Or just one flew in wearing a suit of armor and just killed a bunch of citizens he deemed to be “terrorists.” Hell, how about just trying to bring the firepower equivalent of a small army into another country? Smaller things have started wars, not conversations. (Full credit to the Russo brothers, however, for having both main characters be in emotionally vulnerable states so that the ensuing plot is more justifiable.)
Imagine if everyone thought that it was okay for them to beat the hell out of cops for trying to arrest a suspected terrorist just because they believe their friend is innocent or that it was okay to steal a multi-billion-dollar fighter jet. Because that’s what Cap does in the film. Captain America is absolutely in the wrong not just for doing these things, but even for his assertion that it’s okay for him to do them… except for the part where he’s Captain America. Steve Rogers is a moral juggernaut. He will ALWAYS make the right decision, morally, when he is presented with it. He is accountable to himself, something that is a much higher standard than any law or nation. So, when he decides he has to intervene in a situation, it’s basically a certainty that it is a situation in which he is right to intervene. If everyone held themselves to his standards of personal responsibility and morality, laws would be unnecessary, because people would be answerable to a higher authority. The Doctor from Doctor Who said it in the catchiest way possible “Good men don’t need rules.”
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world filled with Captain America-level saints. In fact, I’d say that people of his level of personal accountability are like a virgin prostitute. Hypothetically, one exists, but I’d be very surprised if you can find one and if you think you are one, you’ve more likely misunderstood at least one fundamental concept. So, because of that, we have to put rules and systems of enforcement in place to hold people accountable for actions which cannot be allowed in a social setting. These range from things like “you can’t take stuff that isn’t yours” to things like “necessity cannot be a defense for murder.” If you don’t agree with these rules, there are ways to change them within the system, but that doesn’t give you the right to ignore them.
However, sometimes situations aren’t going to fit into the mold that the creators of these rules conceived of, and they’re going to become a hindrance. For example, “don’t kill anyone” becomes a problem when someone else is going to kill your family and you don’t reasonably have the ability to non-lethally prevent them. Sometimes, we craft exceptions directly into the laws (more on that later this week), but sometimes we haven’t thought of those exceptions yet or even putting an exception in fundamentally conflicts with a bigger principle. On those occasions, people are faced with a choice: Break the rule to serve a higher good or follow the rule and allow the bad to happen.
If the Sokovia Accords had been implemented, this would have been the choice Captain America is saying he’d have to make constantly: To hope the UN would allow him to intervene in situations or to ignore the UN and do it anyway and deal with the legal consequences. If only there were some kind of thing that the UN could put into the system which would allow them to deem certain actions worthy of foregoing punishment based on the context in when they were taken. If only some handsome bastard had put that thing in the title to a series whereby he relates it through pop-culture.
While the real UN doesn’t have any actual ability to pardon people (due to the nature of the organization), they also don’t do anything that’s like the Sokovia Accords (though, they could). Additionally, there is nothing preventing a commission or group being able to encourage or force clemency (which, while a little different, is the typical term for a pardon around the globe) within a nation as part of their signature on the Sokovia Accords. Countries routinely give up some of their sovereign authority in exchange for a benefit from the UN. We literally have clemency laws in place in almost every country on Earth already, because we know this is what can happen. So, countries might be giving up a little bit of their ability to enforce their own laws, but, in exchange, they get the benefits of having the Avengers be able to respond to threats. Seems like a reasonable trade in a world of alien gods and killer robots. So, Captain America could, if he disagreed with the UN, still act, with the understanding that, if they agree that it was justified afterwards, he would be able to avoid being punished and NOT have to be a fugitive.
Even simpler, you could just make conditions in which the Avengers could respond and the permission could be decided retroactively after the intervention, without any form of punishment if the action is in good faith. Hell, under certain circumstances, you can ask for a warrant up to 24 hours after you should need it, and that’s NOT dealing with supervillains. And yet, nobody in the movie points out this would be an easy way to both hold the Avengers accountable and also allow Captain America to act when he feels it’s appropriate. This wouldn’t even require extra clemency decisions, though that could also be incorporated into the system.
But all of this is in the world of fantasy, where the point becomes moot when Angry Grimace steals the rocks of plot convenience. When would you ever need to address concepts like this in the real world? Has anything ever actually been brought up like this? Does anyone have a guess about what the next entry is about?