On June 21, 2004, BOP debuted one of its most popular columns in the early years. We named it Shiny Things as a play on how easily our staff gets distracted. At the time, we highlighted evolving forms of entertainment like – I kid you not – a DVD-by-mail service and a failing NBC sitcom called Scrubs.
The latter program was in its third season at the time and narrowly avoided cancellation that year. It eventually ran for nine years, so we’re taking full credit for those last six. You’re welcome, network executives!
We also praised Air America Radio, which gave away our collective politics back in 2004, when we thought America had voted for the dumbest Presidential candidate imaginable. Oops. And we championed Nicktoons classics, a sentiment we stand behind to this day.
Okay, the world has changed a great deal over the past 15+ years. Still, we need entertainment recommendations now more than ever. So, as some entertainment during the Great Shut-In, here’s our first Shiny Things update in more than a decade.
All Elite Wrestling
Between the two of us, we’ve enjoyed a lot of wrestling over the years. Our nephew is a big fan of the WWE, and it has always been important to us to keep up with the, er, sports entertainment series. The promotion has seen ups and downs over the years, with the past several years showing an unfortunate decline in quality.
Suddenly, along came Being the Elite.
David started watching it before I did, but all of a sudden, I realized that I got a huge kick out of the people on this weekly Vlog. The original Elite was made up of independent/New Japan wrestlers Kenny Omega and brothers Matt and Nick Jackson, and along the way, other wrestlers joined the fun. Cody Rhodes, Adam “Hangman” Page, Adam Cole, and Marty Scurll were all featured at some point, not to mention So Cal Uncensored (Scorpio Sky, Christopher Daniels, and Frankie Kazarian), Joey Ryan, and almost certainly dozens more that I’m forgetting.
From this little Vlog came the beginnings of a new wrestling promotion. After the Jacksons (aka the Young Bucks), Omega, and Rhodes pulled off the impossible with a sold-out pay-per-view called All In. A few months later, the Bucks and Rhodes announced the formation of All Elite Wrestling. The rest is history, as the new promotion regularly competes with and beats the WWE with regard to ratings on Wednesday nights.
The wrestling is fantastic (a few weeks ago, a tag team match between the Young Bucks and Omega/Page was acclaimed as the best ever in North America), but the storylines are better. What’s especially impressive is that AEW is able to adapt on the fly. If something isn’t working, they change it. But most of the time… it’s working. Chris Jericho is the top heel, and last week’s COVID-19 quarantine episode featured him yelling and shaking his fist at a drone named Vanguard.
It may sound crazy, and perhaps it is, but I can say that the first wrestling event I ever attended was AEW in Atlanta. The experience was amazing. The show is missing a little something without crowds at the moment, but the wrestlers are handling everything with a sense of humor. Give it a try. And ask Young Buck Matt Jackson about the time I walked up to him at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and told him I love him. (Kim Hollis)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The perfect game for a quarantine, Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows you to build your own world alongside a bunch of friendly and adorable animal friends.
I’ve played this series of games going back to the original on the GameCube, and I’ve been various levels of obsessed ever since. With the release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf back in 2013, I found the One True Game, though. Over time, I created towns inspired by Disney princesses, Scott Pilgrim, Lilo & Stitch, and Studio Ghibli.
The newest release, exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, expands on all the delights I discovered in New Leaf and adds what feels like almost infinite opportunities. I’ve seen people using the game to cosplay, to virtually hang out with friends, to build their perfect island getaway, and just to relax in general. I’ve long believed that people with anxiety or depression benefit from the good feelings this game provides, and the fact that people are using it to fill a void during the COVID-19 crisis justifies that thought to a large degree.
I’d love to explain the game, but it’s something that just has to be experienced. Watch the trailer below and see what you think. Alternately, watch a few players as they stream the game on Twitch or YouTube. (Kim Hollis)
Did you ever watch Megas XLR? If not, consider that a secret Shiny Thing this week. Anyway, the point is that the theme song spoke a truth. The lyrics go: You dig giant robots. I dig giant robots. We dig giant robots. Chicks dig giant robots.
Sometimes, the best theme songs are the simplest ones. And the chorus resonates because people love watching robots battle. How else could we possibly explain the $4.38 billion in tickets that TERRIBLE Transformers movies have earned?
Well, a small scale version of this concept plays out all the time on Discovery Channel. On Battlebots, some of the most brilliant roboticists on the planet use their powers for evil. God bless them for it because the results are outstanding. Here’s a link to one of the most shocking matchups ever, where the multi-season bully got treated like a crash test dummy. (David Mumpower)
Final Fantasy VII Remake
The gray in my beard hints that I was around back when Final Fantasy VII came out. I bought it on the first day of release, just as I had for every Final Fantasy game before. Yes, I’ve been a franchise fanatic since day one back when it was an NES game nobody understood.
I’m also something of a minority opinion holder with the franchise. My favorite game is Final Fantasy VIII, with Final Fantasy III/6, Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy 13-2 close behind. Out of the main stories, Final Fantasy XV was the first one I didn’t play all the way through.
So, I’m something of an expert on the subject. Something you likely noticed is that I didn’t list Final Fantasy VII among my favorites. If anything, it’s part of the lesser tier. My favorite part was the Gold Saucer followed by the tattooed lion…genetic abomination…thing. And Sephiroth was an engaging villain. Beyond that, what I primarily recall was Cloud’s overcompensation with his choice of weapons.
Having said all that, the remake for Final Fantasy VII has tantalized gamers for 15 years now. I’m certainly not going to sit on the sidelines when it finally arrives, nor should you. It’s the shiniest Final Fantasy game ever made, and you’re sitting at home all the time anyway! This is a gift you should happily accept! (David Mumpower)
Birds of Prey disappointed at the box office in a way that Warner Bros. never expected. After all, the studio’s other crappy comic book movies like Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League, and Suicide Squad did well enough despite their utter lack of entertainment value. Then, reality struck all at once when the ill-conceived Harley Quinn vehicle debuted in theaters as movie-goers stifled their yawns.
Here’s the thing, though. Birds of Prey as a comic book series has been brilliant ever since Gail Simone arrived, and Harley Quinn has provided maximum entertainment value since her comic book face turn. And the DC streaming service has somehow married some of the ideas in Harley Quinn, a late-night animated comedy that makes me laugh as much as any has since the early seasons of Archer.
Harley Quinn tells the story of the former supervillain dumping Mr. J and going out on her own. The character that you know, the caricature played up in Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey, is absent here. In her place is a vibrant female heroine (or possibly antihero) dealing with her lack of friends, horrific personal history, and nuanced relationship with The Joker.
Over the course of the season, Quinn gets a gang, develops a strong female friendship (that hints at future romance), and gets a wildly unsafe highway constructed in her name. She also: taunts a kid at his own bar mitzvah, robs then beats up a sexist supervillain, admits her teen girl crush in a very odd way, tries to join the Legion of Doom, defeats Aquaman in the least likely way, and joins forces with Batman.
I’m barely even scratching the surface here. If you like jokes about teens trying for third base, sharks who have issues with blood, characters with names like Sy Borgman, repeated humiliations of Bane, or jokes about kites, this is the show for you.
Watch Harley Quinn and thank us later. (David Mumpower)
About a week ago, I said goodbye to The Magicians, which had its series finale on April 1, 2020. I find myself still feeling blue over the loss.
Based on a series of novels by Lev Grossman, the series has occasionally been compared to Harry Potter but for grown-ups. The original promotion for the show, featuring floating magicians having sex (in a tasteful way), would certainly have you believe it’s targeted more to adults. But that commercial might have done The Magicians a disservice, because while it absolutely has one of the hottest casts in the history of television, the storytelling is complex and deep. The characters undergo journeys that ring absolutely true.
Initially, the show shifts between Brakebills, a prestigious university for magicians, and Fillory, a kind of twisted Narnia that exists both in children’s books and in reality. It becomes much more than that, though, as the implications of both too much and not enough magic make themselves known.
For me, the best comparison for The Magicians is Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which sadly may be a dated reference for many of our readers. So, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the show through one of its greatest moments.
P.S. Eliot is my favorite. (Kim Hollis)
A reporter named LaRon Ron St. Claire faces an impossible task. He must report all the news during a time of ceaseless tragedy. Unbeknownst to LaRon Ron, angels are conspiring to get two humans to kiss. If this doesn’t happen, humanity will cease to exist. Nobody wants that, right? Well, maybe some incels…
Anyway, the running joke with Miracle Workers is that the angel in charge of miracles is…terrible. The dude who looks remarkably like a slightly older Harry Potter has no magic in him. He’s lucky if he can answer a prayer about finding a missing glove…and even that comes with shocking unintended consequences.
Each time the angel screws up, LaRon Ron is there to report the news. It’s a running gag that only pops up once or twice per episode during season one of Miracle Workers. However, this character’s banter causes uproarious laughter, and the writing crew fittingly sends him off the right way at the end of season.
Sadly, LaRon Ron doesn’t appear in season two, which is why it’s nowhere near as good thus far. Still, Miracle Workers season one is an unheralded masterpiece that will only take about three and a half hours to watch. If it’s this or a Lord of the Rings movie, make the right choice. Pick Miracle Workers every time.