Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Time on My Hands edition

Because I had such a slow weekend last weekend, I had a lot of free time to surf the web and collect news stories the few hours that I wasn’t watching House of Cards or sleeping. My boring weekend is your gain – this week’s edition of the pop culture roundup is jam packed with fun stuff. But don’t get too used to this – I think my next completely free weekend is sometime in October.

  • Jon Stewart is taking a three month hiatus from The Daily Show.  John Oliver will fill in as host.
  • Speaking of The Daily Show, this recent segment on maple syrup slayed me. I was literally laughing out loud. Well done.

 

  • Rest in Peace, Bonnie Franklin. The actress, best known from One Day at a Time, passed away at the age of 69.
  • I don’t watch the show Switched at Birth, but this is very cool – Monday night’s episode was done entirely in sign language.
  • Happy birthday to The Big Lebowski, which turns 15 years old today! The Dude continues to abide.
  • This doesn’t quite reach the beauty of the death star construction request, but there is an active petition request to the Obama Administration to change the national anthem to R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix).” I’m not saying it is a good idea, but that would be way more fun way to kick off sporting events (added bonus – no high notes):

What’s more American than “it’s the freaking weekend, I’m about to have me some fun?”

  • My red hot disdain of Kristen Stewart has been duly noted on the blog, but she doesn’t have a monopoly on my fury. In fact, I might even despise Taylor Swift more. Her latest crime? Implying that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are going to hell because of a joke they told about Swift at the Golden Globes.
  • While we’re on the subject of people who I dislike, Halle Berry is confirmed to appear in the new X-men movie.
  • The Hold Steady is recording a song for the third season of Game of Thrones, lyrics by George R.R. Martin.
  • A trailer for the new season of Mad Men has been released. Can’t wait!

 

  • A new trailer for Iron Man 3 was released yesterday:

 

  • Fox has renewed The Following, New Girl, Raising Hope and The Mindy Project.
  • Joan Rivers has launched a new webseries where she interviews celebrities in bed.
  • Ben McKenzie has been cast in a pilot at CBS, which means that the renewal of Southland is not a sure thing.
  • I still don’t understand what is going on with Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un.
  • Ha! This timely House of Cards parody, House of Cardinals, gets the tone just right.

 

  • Color me intrigued – Christian Bale is rumored to be reprising his role as Batman in the upcoming Justice League movie.
  • It pains me to say this, but the new episodes of Community this season haven’t been good. However, I am intrigued by the idea of doing an all-puppet episode.
  • Tyler Kitsch has resurfaced. He’ll appear in the HBO movie The Normal Heart.
  • Watch Mark Wahlberg and Diddy play a drinking game on Ellen:

 

  • Wahlberg hasn’t closed the door on a reunion with the Funky Bunch. This is a terrible idea, but I totally hope this happens.
  • I’m super excited to possibly be going to see Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake play Yankee Stadium this summer. One person I can guarantee won’t be there is Kanye West.
  • JT will be hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend and will be on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon every night next week. I can only assume “The History of Rap, Part 4” is in the works.
  • How bad have things gotten for NBC? A local affiliate has opted to air Matlock instead of the network’s Thursday night’s lineup.
  • This sounds interesting – Speilberg is developing a miniseries about Napoleon that was written by Stanley Kubrik.
  • Albany peeps – local musician Sean Rowe made his national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday night. Good for him!

 

  • In pilot news, Naveen Andrews (Sayid, Lost) has landed a role in an ABC drama.
  • Presented without comment – Gary Busey discussing hobbits:

 

  • Feeling lucky? A new website will randomly select a Nicholas Cage movie for you to watch (Netflix streaming account required)
  • The George Lucas museum is coming to San Francisco.
  • This is disappointing – Sam Mendes will not return to direct the next James Bond film.
  • Carrie Fisher will return as Princess Leia in the new Star Wars movie.
  • This may be the greatest interview of all time. I already like Mila Kunis beforehand, but this sealed the deal. Gotta support a fellow Blue Moon fan.

 

  • Neat-O. A portrait of Stephen Colbert, made up of all the words uttered on The Colbert report:

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  • Jason Bateman will team up with Tina Fey in This Is Where I Leave You. The funny duo will play siblings.
  • 90210 is ending its run at the end of this season. I honestly didn’t even know this show was still on.
  • Alexis Bledel (Rory, The Gilmore Girls) is returning to TV is a starring role in a comedy pilot for Fox.
  • Jon Hamm voiced a talking toilet on this week’s Bob’s Burgers and it was glorious:

 

  • Tom Hardy will appear on Discovery Channel’s new show, Driven to Extremes.
  • This mash up of “Call Me Maybe” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” is actually pretty catchy:

 

  • Just because it is awesome, the opening credits of the Dutch version of Golden Girls:

You can check out versions from other countries here.

  • If you ever dreamed of owning a closet like Cher’s in Clueless, you are in luck. We have the technology.
  • Happy news – both Jimmy Smits and Donal Logue will return next season on Sons of Anarchy.
  • And finally……A Star Wars/School House Rock mash-up:

 

See a story that you think should be included in these bi-weekly roundups? Want to see your name in the blog? Want to do my job for me? Feel free to send any suggestions my way via the blog’s Facebook page, the blog’s twitter account (@AsHeathersworld) or in the comments section of this post. I post random pop culture stories on Facebook, so don’t forget to like the page so you don’t miss anything. Thanks to avid blog reader and faux-cousin Chris for the suggestion!

Goin’ Down to South Park

It’s hard to believe, but tonight South Park starts its sixteenth season on Comedy Central. Not bad for an animated show about a group of foul mouthed kids living in Colorado. Though it has waned in popularity from its apex in the early 2000s, it is still for my money one of the funniest shows out there and provides important social and cultural commentary, in between all the fart jokes.

I first stumbled upon South Park purely by accident. I was home sick on New Year’s Eve and was flipping through the channels while all my friends were off celebrating. I had heard rumblings about South Park, but didn’t think it was for me; I was still in college when it debuted and didn’t watch nearly as much television as I do now as I was for too busy drinking  studying. But with limited options for entertainment – I’ve never been on for Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve – I settled on the South Park Marathon on Comedy Central.  And from the first episode I watched,“Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo,” I was absolutely hooked (though slightly confused, as this was the only episode where Kenny didn’t die, so I didn’t get that joke until later). I became a loyal viewer that night and regularly tune in to watch the antics of Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny.

Because the show is created the week before it goes to air (check out the Comedy Central documentary Six Days to Air to watch the process unfold), it is insanely topical and is often the first to react to major events. If the show is in production when a major cultural or political incident happens, I look forward to seeing what Trey Parker and Matt Stone have to say about it. They have a responsiveness that a lot of other shows don’t.  If you can get past some of the crude humor, Parker and Stone have a rapier wit and often make very astute observations. They do some of the best parody in town. Back in my teaching days, I would even show some clips of their political shows during my classes to illustrate a point.  I was especially fond of “I’m A Little Bit Country,” which deals with the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

While South Park tends to focus primarily on the four boys, Parker and Stone have created an entire universe of interesting recurring characters that also reside in South Park. So in honor of the show’s return, here are my top 5 minor characters from South Park:

5. Tweek Tweak

Tweek first made his appearance in the episode “Gnomes” when the boys were forced to work with him on a group assignment. Tweek’s parents run the local coffee shop and the poor kid is overcaffinated and jittery all the time. He has a tough time handling stressful situations and is prone to freaking out a lot. He just makes me laugh and I definitely have my Tweek moments, even if they are internal. Tweek was given a moment to shine in season six when he briefly assumed Kenny’s spot in the group, but it was all too much for him and he had to bail.

4.  Satan

Stone and Parker made some interesting choices when they created the character Satan; sure he’s the Prince of Darkness and evil incarnate, but he’s also openly gay, surprisingly vulnerable and often has more in common with a teenage girl than you would expect. That latter point was personified in one of my all-time favorite episodes, “Hell on Earth 2006,” that is a parody of the MTV abomination My Super Sweet 16. Satan is a good gateway character as well; if he shows up, that means he will also bring his much put upon assistant Demonius (who I can relate to) and we might get a glimpse of Satan’s former lover, Saddam Hussein.

3. Randy Marsh

The adults in South Park are not portrayed as being particularly smart or responsible and Stan’s dad Randy may be the worst of the bunch. Randy is featured in a lot of episodes because in a lot of ways he is just a big kid, trapped in an adult’s body. He often makes terrible decisions and wants to be considered cool.  He has a hilarious backstory as a member of a boy bad. Of all the parents on the show, he is usually the best guarantee for a laugh.

2. Ike Broflovski

I have no idea why I find Ike so hilarious, but some reason he just always makes me smile. He doesn’t even really talk – though neither does Kenny – so perhaps it is the way he is animated. For whatever reason, I’m always excited when Kyle’s baby brother makes an appearance. It is no surprise then that one of my favorite recent episodes was the Ike-centric “Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy.” An Ike sighting is a rare treat for me, as the character doesn’t get a lot of air time.

1. Butters

I don’t think is a controversial choice, as Butters is a pretty popular character and is featured very frequently in the later episodes of South Park. He also filled in for Kenny in the group during Kenny’s prolonged death. Butters is such a sweet and trusting soul and really has not business hanging around a group of kids as worldly as Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny. Cartman, in particular, exploits Butters naiveté, often with hilarious results. Butters just wants to be liked, so he’s willing to put up with a lot. But when he snaps and embraces his dark side, we get the awesomeness that is Professor Chaos, perhaps the worst super villain ever.  If Butters makes an appearance in an episode, most of the time that means it will be hilarious.

Honorable mention: Starvin Marvin

Your turn – who are your favorite characters on South Park?

The season premiere of South Park is tonight at 10 pm on Comedy Central. Old episodes can be watched on line at South Park Studios.