Disney’s Promotion: Hit or Miss?

For more than 40 years, San Diego Comic-Con International has been a launching ground for comics and science fiction. More recently, they’ve become the go-to residence for the movie industry’s multi-billion dollar science fiction and comic book blockbusters. Unfortunately for the fanbase that has built that industry, Disney has other things in mind.

Disney has now apparently decided that SDCC is just another on its list of potential speed bumps. LucasFilm and Marvel were, to the dismay of longtime fans, gobbled up by multi-billion dollar Disney acquisitions in the past few years. This worried devotees of both companies that Disney would decimate the franchises of each company, rendering them nothing more than Disney-fied versions of their favorites.

Disney now has their own convention, the D23 Expo, which will be held in mid-August, less than a month after Comic-Con ends. They’re expected to bring surprises for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and upcoming Marvel releases such as “Captain America: Civil War.” What they’re not doing is promoting these properties to the best of their ability at San Diego Comic-Con. From releases earlier this week, the biggest part of the convention this year is expected to be the 6,000 seat Hall H Star Wars panel. Lucasfilm now says the presentation that devoted fans waited days in line to see won’t include an unseen trailer or new film footage. The panel promises a behind-the-scenes look at the secretive production, but fans are camping out for more than just behind-the-scenes tidbits of information. This news comes after finding out that Marvel is skipping the convention altogether. Marvel claims they have no new footage to screen, but will that change when they hit the D23 stage?

Disney may have a game plan, but does it include the fans who got them to this point, or is it just Disney magic?

Classic TV? You got it, dude!

Growing up geek, I wasn’t one to frequent many of the dances or games that my peers were at on Friday or Saturday nights. I’d usually be at home, excited to stay up late watching my favorite television programs of the 1990s. On Saturday, it was “Saturday Night Live.” I had Sandler, Farley, Spade, Myers, Carvey and Dennis Miller at the anchor desk. I felt like I was part of a team of insiders who got the joke. Laughter was a great escape from the week and “Saturday Night Live” really made that happen.

Fridays, on the other hand, were controlled by ABC’s primetime lineup, appropriately titled TGIF. It seems like everywhere you look now, we’re hearing of another resurrected TV show. With new episodes of “Arrested Development,” “Coach,” “X-Files,” “The Muppet Show,” “Twin Peaks” and “Duck Tales” announced, it seems like networks are getting reboot fever. We’ve even seen a continuing narrative for high school sweethearts Cory and Topanga Matthews on “Girl Meets World,” already renewed for its second season on the Disney Channel.

This week, after months of rumors, John Stamos announced we will be seeing the Tanner family reunited on Netflix with an hour-long special and 13 new episodes of “Fuller House.” As overly sweet and sappy as “Full House” was, I always had a soft spot for the three men raising three little ladies in the Bay area. I even wrote to the address listed for the cast in Tiger Beat and received a postcard wishing me “Best Greetings from the cast of Full House.”

I watched as baby Michelle turned into a catch-phrase making, marketing darling and Danny Tanner went from local sports anchor to the star of “Wake Up, San Franciso.” Being the exact same age as middle daughter Stephanie, I identified with her struggle to fit in as she started middle school. I envied D.J.’s immaculately coiffed and teased hair. At the end of the day, when the “lesson-learning” music began to play, you knew everything was going to be OK. The Tanners were always there for each other and that kept me coming back for more.

Over the years, I’ve watched as most of the “Full House” cast gathered for one event or another and kept hoping that we’d get to see the Tanners’ house full once again.

The new series takes us down a familiar road — D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure) is a recently widowed, pregnant veterinarian with two boys living in San Francisco. (Her deceased husband is not Steve, btw!) Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and D.J.’s longtime best friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber), who has a teenage daughter of her own, step in to help her. Stamos promised cameos from more original cast members — including Bob Sagat, Dave Coulier and Lori Loughlin.

It’s easy to look back on the fond memories of our youth and connect them to television. That’s not a bad thing, though. With the turmoil of everyday life, a little escapism through nostalgia can keep us going. So, in the words of a famous uncle, “Have mercy!”

W.Va. ‘Voice’ contestant misses cut in ‘Knockout’ round

The Voice - Season 8

Beckley’s Cody Wickline performs “Til My Last Day” on Tuesday’s airing of “The Voice” on NBC.

Tuesday night marked the end of the road for Beckley native Cody Wickline on NBC’s singing competition, “The Voice.”

Having advanced through the audition and “Battle” rounds, Wickline was pitted against Corey Kent White in the “Knockout” segment between “team members” under the mentorship of country music star Blake Shelton.

Wickline performed Justin Moore’s 2013 hit “Til My Last Day” while White did a cover of Tim McGraw’s 2004 crossover smash “Live Like You Were Dying.”

Forced to choose between his two proteges, Shelton selected White to move on. Under the show’s format, other members of the celebrity panel — Christina Aguilera, Pharrell Williams and Adam Levine — were free to pick up Wickline for their teams, but declined.

Following the Knockout round are the Live Playoffs and the final live performance segment, where the television audience votes for the winner who receives a recording contract. The show airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” makes a delightful debut

It’s been nearly three years since we cut the cable cord. After growing tired of never finding anything on TV, we cut our services back and now rely on Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime instant video. Thankfully, streaming services are stepping up their programming game with original shows that rival anything currently on network TV. Until this point however, with the exception of the fourth season of “Arrested Development,” we’ve seen mostly dramas promoted by streaming services such as “Orange is the New Black,” “Transparent” and “House of Cards.”

As dedicated binge watchers, streaming services satisfy our thirst to watch every episode of a show in one sitting. This past weekend, we worked our way through “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — an original comedy created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock”) now streaming the entire first season on Netflix. The show stars Ellie Kemper (Erin on “The Office”) as Kimmy, Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”), Tituss Burgess and Carol Kane (“Taxi’). The show was originally scheduled to air on NBC, but the network passed, thereby widening the hole left by recent comedies such as “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office.” The network that once boasted “Must See TV” and “Let’s All Be There” with classics such as “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” “Seinfeld” and “Friends” no longer has a must-see lineup any day of the week.

From here, there are possible spoilers!

Screenshot/Courtesy Netflix Ellie Kemper's positivity is infectious as Kimmy Schmidt.

Screenshot/Courtesy Netflix
Ellie Kemper’s positivity is infectious as Kimmy Schmidt.

The show begins with the rescue of Kimmy and her fellow “Mole Women” from an underground bunker in Indiana. They had been held captive by Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) for 15 years after he claimed the Earth was scorched and desolate in the apocalypse. Instead of staying in Durnsville, Kimmy decides to try to make it on her own in New York City, where she quickly befriends a wanna-be Broadstar star (Burgess) who is making ends meeting by playing a generic Iron Man character in Times Square. She almost immediately finds a job babysitting/assisting Krakowski who repeatedly fires her in the beginning.

According to the Netflix press release, having survived 15 years in an underground bunker, Kimmy is “wide-eyed but resilient.” “Nothing is going to stand in her way.” Kemper’s positivity and naivety are endearing and she does a great job spearheading the series. Burgess, Krakowski and Kane are outstanding supporting players and Hamm makes a memorable turn as the cult leader.

Much of the humor is derived from Kimmy’s time in the bunker and her reactions acclimating herself to the world. The comedy deals with an uncomfortable and dark subject matter — we never really learn specifics of what happened to Kimmy in the bunker — she clearly still suffers PTSD and nightmares. But, she is determined to overcome her past and refuses to let Wayne control her anymore. Kimmy reminds me of a mix between Leslie Knope, Liz Lemon and of course, Erin Hannon. Despite her tragic past, she is optimistic and proves herself to be a true friend. Without the limits of network TV, I’m looking forward to seeing where the second season takes us.

Beckley boy advances on NBC’s ‘The Voice’

The Voice - Season 8

Cody Wickline, 20, of Beckley sings “How Country Feels” on NBC’s “The Voice.”

Beckley’s own Cody Wickline continued to impress entertainment pros on Tuesday’s installment of NBC’s primetime talent competition to advance on “The Voice.”

The judges named Wickline the winner of the head-to-head “Battle” segment where he pitted his performance chops against those of competitor Matt Snook as they alternated vocals on Randy Houser’s 2013 country hit “How Country Feels.”

Wickline’s professional “coach” on the show, country star Blake Shelton, complimented both singers, and said of Wickline, “You did a  great job coming out of your shell and having some fun out there. Your singing was perfect.” He then declared Wickline the winner of the evening’s competition.

The 20-year-old now advances to the “Knockout” round. The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays.

Paper-Thin Is Only An Improvement On Paper

I’ve been an Apple-holic for quite some time. Not just an Apple owner, but an addict. My 15 inch Macbook lasted me the lifetime of 3 Dells and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend in times of work and leisurely scrolls. My iPhone 4S was with as faithful as a family pet. Then, Steve Jobs passed away and Apple decided that improvements to their products were no longer necessary.
As a matter of fact, they decided to wreck their products. My Macbook passed away after more than five years of service. I ordered a 13” with retina display and a higher memory. When it arrived, I noticed it was extremely thin, which caused me to notice it no longer had a disc drive. Had they sent me an Air by mistake? No.
Not only was it thinner, the 13” screen was smaller than my wife’s 13” screen! I believe they rounded up. And the retina display? A completely worthless feature that I see no positive reason for. The Apple customer service was not only no help, they were less than stellar in answering questions, considering that we had just given them more than $1500 for a product that did not fail to disappoint.
Now, there’s a 12” that is being released with no fan (due to a low power core) and a single plug. The design comes in multiple color shades, which has lead me to believe that Apple is not only out of ideas, they just do not care anymore. Their goal is no longer to provide excellence or improvement for those of us who have relied on Mac for work, but to provide a throw-away model that offers no reason to remain loyal.
My fear, when I “upgraded” from the iPhone 4S to our current iPhone, was that the rumors of popping screens, power failures, app issues, notification problems that caused users to restart their phones constantly and other issues would cause the phone to be a worthless item by the end of its second year. Now, midway through the second year, I am ready to toss it and look at LG and Samsung.
I swore by Apple for the duration of my tech life. The simplicity and charm of the products they offered was a staple of why I loved them. I didn’t have to “learn” how to use anything because everything was natural and easy. If I pay enough for a product, I thought it would fit my needs naturally. For years, I was right.
My hope for the next upgrade period is that someone, anyone, will come out with a product that takes up where Apple left off in the last generation of products. Here’s what I want:
1. I don’t want to have to worry about malware, spyware, trojans, or other nonsense. Apple had this part right!

Quality isn't defined by how thin your product can be.

Quality isn’t defined by how thin your product can be.

2. I want speed and ease. I want to be able to watch a movie while doing my budget while running Facebook without worrying about my computer restarting.
3. I want to be able to purchase software discs, insert them into my laptop, burn music or movies, do my taxes, or add Photoshop without having to buy an external disc drive.
4. I want a full size laptop screen without paying $2000 for it. I’m not concerned about going to a coffeeshop and having a little laptop that fits snuggly on the table, or having something paper thin. I want a laptop that is sturdy, big enough to see, capable of me using for 18 hours a day while 5. I work, without hurting my eyes. The retina display does nothing. NOTHING!
6. Finally, I want something that will last. I want a product that is made like a ’57 Chevy Bel Air. Cubans still drive them today! If I replace it, I want it to be because I wanted to.
Apple has thousands of my dollars. Probably close to ten of those thousands. They exceeded my expectations for many years. A year of disbelief has made me realize that addiction is dangerous and I’m looking for help

Join us in #SilentNight2014

Soldiers play soccer during the Christmas Truce of 1914

Soldiers play soccer during the Christmas Truce of 1914

Tonight marks the 100th anniversary of the “Christmas Truce of 1914,” when English and German soldiers temporarily laid down their weapons on the battlefields of France to celebrate the holiday with their enemies.

The soldiers shared food and played games. They also sang together: the English and German voices joining in a song known to some as “Silent Night,” known to others as “Stille Nacht.”

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of this display of peace and goodwill, let’s join in the soldiers’ songs.

Musicians and singers, use a video camera or smartphone to record yourself playing or singing “Silent Night.” Upload that video to YouTube, then post it on Twitter or Facebook with the hash-tag #SilentNight2014,

We will collect your contributions in this blog tomorrow.

Musicians and singers of all skill levels are welcome to participate, and don’t worry about making some fancy video production. As with most things this time of year, it’s the thought that counts.