Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Make Subscription Boxes Great Again: An open letter to Funko

Dear Funko,

I hope you read the following in the spirit of constructive criticism with which it is intended.

I've been collecting Funko POPs! since 2011. At that time, my meager little collection included only Disney villains. Since then, things have gotten progressively more diversified.

Last year, I jumped on the subscription box bandwagon for the first time. My first box was the Women of DC | Legion of Collectors box. It was a blind buy but I was sure that, with so many amazing heroines to pick from, the selection would be phenomenal. I was not disappointed: The Wonder Woman Invisible Jet, the un-Funkoed heroines tee, the artisty Batgirl patch. I didn't even mind the Harley Quinn pin. And that Hawkgirl POP! remains one of the crowning jewels of my collection. 

The next Legion box was to be the Villains of Batman so I stuck around. That too was a terrific box.

Euphoric with excitement and never being party to legendary comic rivalries, I quickly subscribed to the Marvel Collector Corps. box. And that's when things began to take a turn. The Marvel theme then was X-Men. "How could you miss with such a rich tapestry of characters?", I thought This is how:
  • Another Wolverine POP! (FYI there are more mutants in that world than just him, despite Hugh Jackman's heroic tenure in the films)
  • An admittedly cool tee shirt (which turned out to be of such poor quality that it's now a belly shirt)
  • A Mystique bobble head 😴
You get the flow of my drift. There was absolutely nothing exciting there. I ended up re-gifting a lot of this to unsuspecting nerd friends. I decided to continue with Collector Corps. for the Showdowns box and canceled soon thereafter.

Next came your DC Legacy | Legion box. I remember the teaser trailer for this and was so excited! Who would they dig up from the vault? A classic Green Arrow surely. Nope. It was Elongated Man Plastic Man; a character so obscure and irrelevant that one would be hard pressed to even call him a Legacy figure. The rest of the box was just as pointless. I believe this was also when I got my first Funko salt and pepper shakers (Batman and Robin respectively). Green Arrow was in the box by way of the patch and the Batdog was my tee shirt. This time around, even the aforementioned nerd friends didn't want what I was giving them.

The Superman-themed box taught me how literal you are with your themes. A Superman box means All Superman, All the Time. No Lois. No Jimmy. Not even Lex Luther made it to that box. A little diversification would’ve helped this one a lot. While the POP! figure was awesome and the ReAction figure was very appreciated, no one is subscribed to these boxes for Funko key chains. 

Like many of your fans, I learn about the contents of these boxes on your YouTube channel (Hi Cameron!). As I was watching the reveal video of the Superman box, I vowed then and there to end my subscription to all boxes. But just before the end, it was revealed that Wonder Woman would be the theme of the next Legion box. Alas, there was no way I could pass up on Diana.

While I was very happy that this box contained two POP! figures, I was less happy with another version of the same Roman-styled Diana. By my count, there are now four. (Someone fact-check me here). The term overkill leaps to mind. This box also had the worst patch I've received. It was probably a good idea in theory, right? Perhaps the most insulting thing about this box were the socks. They were so small that I almost got a hernia trying to put them on. Getting them off required scissors. 

Fast forward (or is it rewind?) to last week, when I heard the deafening buzz over the bigger-than-usual Smuggler’s Bounty box commemorating the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope. The already-revealed POP! figure of Luke Skywalker on his Tatooine speeder was a promising lead into things to come. I promptly subscribed to the Star Wars box. In my mind and surely in the minds of countless others, this bigger box (with Princess Leia on it no less!) also meant more awesome stuff. How wrong I was.

Let's review the contents from today’s reveal:
  • No other POP! figure besides Luke
  • The patch repeats a character (Luke)
  • The pin is Chewy, which is fine but a Ben Kenobi would’ve made more sense
  • The wearable items are wrist bands (can’t tell if this was cost saving-related or not... but even I'm embarrassed by these)
  • Adding insult to injury, another set of salt and pepper shakers comes in this box. This time, the seasoning-filled characters are Han Solo and Greedo (two characters that already conjure up bad feelings in Star Wars fans the world over)
How many Funko-shaped salt and pepper shakers do you think we need? The answer is zero.

We didn't even get a Princess Leia item in the box, and she’s ON the box! Even the most cursory review of the New Hope theme of the #FunkoPhotoADay challenge shows how special we all consider her to be. As your comments section on YouTube confirms, this was a resounding fail. I will not be continuing with the Droids 🙅

Still, all this said and done, I haven’t given up hope on you yet. What you’re doing for the Disney Treasures boxes is pretty terrific. And I’m currently anticipating the Batman Animated Series | Legion box with great anticipation.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that most of us still love collecting your figures. We love your marketing. We love hunting down exclusives (btw that SDCC Megazord is amazing!) We love sharing all this with our friends and family. But we’re tired of feeling disappointed in your subscription boxes. Especially when we know you can do so much better.


A Funko Fan

Monday, June 13, 2016

A note on Orlando

  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
  • Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
  • Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
  • Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
  • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
  • Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
  • Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
  • Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
  • Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
  • Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
  • Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
  • Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
  • Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
  • Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
  • Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
  • Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
  • Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
  • Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
  • Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
  • Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
  • Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
  • Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
  • Cory James Connell, 21 years old
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
  • Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
  • Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

These are the dead so far; our dead.

Although I have been walking around in a daze of disbelief since Sunday morning, I keep having one clear and persistent thought: I could’ve easily been one of them.

Without knowing anything else but their names and ages, it’s clear that the majority of the victims were young, Hispanic, and gay. They were out on a Saturday night, likely celebrating birthdays, or promotions, or Pride. They were doing what our community has always done— commune in the safe space of a dance floor.

As I think about the similarities between us, the countless times I have been in Orlando with my friends doing exactly what they were doing, I am gobsmacked by the proximity and the savagery of what happened. I’m haunted by the pain and suffering that has struck a community so close to my own.

I could’ve been one of them.

By nature, I’m not an overtly emotional person. I am not a crier (except of course when the final episode of the Golden Girls comes on). But the events of this weekend have rocked me to the core. I feel like I’ve lost something in all this… I feel like I’ve lost my confidence.

I could’ve been one of them.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Golden Girls & Me: 30 Years of Laughs

My favorite show of all time and I both turn 30 this year, a fact that neither of our vanities take pleasure in commemorating publicly.

But a milestone is a milestone.

The Golden Girls premiered 30 years ago tonight on NBC, forever changing the television landscape for the better. In fact, it’s a show often and rightfully credited with creating a premise all its own. It’s a premise that has been duplicated over and over again (see: Designing Women, Living Single, Sex and the City, even HBO’s Girls).

Much has been said and written about how “ground-breaking” and “revolutionary” of a show it was to display four women living and loving (perhaps over-loving) well into their golden years. And that is all true and inspiring in and of it self. But very little has been written about its massive influence on the gay community both then and now.

Back in the mid-80s, The Golden Girls were shedding light on a community beleaguered by stigma and hate. In the context of Reagan's America, their thematic influence from atop of the ratings charts is both puzzling and remarkable.

How did four senior citizen ladies get away with having sex, buying condoms, and saying things like “Gerkonanaken” on national TV? (Shout out to all the true fans that know what that last one means). All kidding aside, this show was breaking ground in tackling real issues with humor and wit.

Long before the Supreme Court OKed gay marriage nationwide (hear that Kim Davis, NATIONWIDE!), Blanche Devereaux’s brother Clayton was coming out and getting married his partner Doug. Long before Transparent and Caitlyn Jenner, we had Dorothy Zbornak’s beloved but misunderstood, cross-dressing brother Phil. Long before the real world met The Real World’s Pedro Zamora, Rose Nylund was dealing with an AIDS scare. Long before Jack McFarland made it OK to be gay, The Golden Girls had Coco the gay cook, and Lazlo the Artist, and Jean the lesbian (not Lebanese, Blanche. Lesbian.) My point here is not to show off how much Golden Girls trivia I can throw out, although I know you’re pretty impressed right now.

My real point is that these were not mere sitcom plots to entertain; they informed, they taught, they inspired. They may have even opened a few hearts and minds at a time when we most needed them.

Their socially progressive themes, masked by the forgiveness’s of old age, often struck a chord with people who felt marginalized and disenfranchised by the rest of the world. For a lot of people dealing with those very issues, these stories were anchors in the storm. 

Of course that’s not to say that The Golden Girls didn’t also go beyond gay issues. Their show also tackled a broken education system, homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, and the injustices of the immigration system. All still hot button issues in America today. It’s perhaps this that keeps their show relevant.

Personally speaking, I came to 6151 Richmond Street for the first time sometime in Middle School and I never really  left. (In high school, my friends and I were so cool that we started a fan appreciation club called the Golden Cheesecake Society, which involved singing the theme song and "Mr. Sandman" repeatedly)… Still an out and proud card-carrying member.

Over the years, we’ve lost many of the show’s central characters. Estelle Getty (my personal favorite) died in 2008. Bea Arthur died in 2009 and Rue McClanahan died in 2010. Several of the supporting cast has also passed, including Herb Edelman who played Stan. Betty White is still around and with the help of the Siempre Viva serum we send her, I’m sure she’ll outlive us all.

On our 30th birthday, I had to pause and reflect on its immense influence on my life. My sense of humor, what little wit I have left, and my take-no-prisoners attitude can all be traced back to this show. A case can also be made for this being the birthplace of my burgeoning feminism.

They have taught me so much about life and death and approaching both with unyielding humor that I simply can’t think of a more important show in my upbringing than The Golden GirlsAbove all else, they taught me how to be a friend.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Gleeful Goodbye

I think one of the most important things to master in life is how to say goodbye. Saying it at the right time, in the right place, and sometimes to the right person is a true mark of maturity. 

Tonight we said goodbye of another sort. After six seasons and 121 episodes, Glee brought the curtain down for the final time. The following is a reflection on the show, its legacy, and what it taught us about music and ultimately about ourselves.

Glee debuted in 2009 after some big football game. It was then that my unrelenting fandom for all things Glee-related began. I watched every episode religiously. I bought the CDs (yes kids, actual CDs) every time they were released. And for a while there, no Christmas was complete without Glee’s holiday album.

In so doing, I kinda felt as though I was an honorary member of their club. I was a Gleek.

However, in recent years the show strayed from its original premise of following our high school students. Or rather, it split between its original cast now graduated and a new class of New Directioners. Ultimately, the show started to feel like two shows: one at McKinley with only half-interesting characters and one in New York City with characters that never got enough airtime. I tuned out right around this time…

But tonight, the original cast and I walked through those hallowed halls again for the last time. In a near-perfect 2-hour finale, we got to remember the glory days, celebrate the present, and glimpse at a bright and prosperous future.

I won’t ruin the episode for those who haven’t seen it yet by divulging details. Suffice it to say that everyone ends up doing, being, and having everything they ever wanted. That’s not to say that there weren’t a few flaws. I would’ve liked a resolution of sorts with Rachel’s mom (ahem, Idina Menzel). I would’ve liked more Quinn, and Puck, and Santana, and Asian #2. And frankly, where the hell was John Stamos?

All kidding aside, I think Glee has done for pop culture what very few shows have been able to do: it taught us something. Whether it was a new song, or an old song revisited, or the rare and wonderful gifts of acceptance and understanding— Glee helped our hearts soar.

Never being terribly cool myself, I often watched to see what music was hip. The rap, pop, and R&B of today was wonderfully captured by these kids. Merging plots with playlists helped me understand both better. I mean, who would I be today without knowing all the words to “Bust Your Windows”?

I think where the show succeeded best was in making old music relevant to this generation. Although I often joked that Ryan Murphy basically stole all the music in my iTunes library for his profit, I certainly must credit him with bringing the sounds of Fleetwood Mac, Journey, Queen, Barbra Streisand, and Broadway to the masses. I knew this show was transforming people when I heard my then 11-year old goddaughter singing “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. That was a good day.

What I’m saying here is that the magic of Glee was that it bridged the musical gap between generations. It repackaged good music and sold it to kids who, in my opinion, were starved for it.

Perhaps more important than the music was their message. From the pilot episode to its finale tonight, Glee exalted the values of acceptance and understanding. How could you not when your entire cast was a bunch of misfits? More than just the “gay thing” or the “black thing”, Glee showed us that almost everyone feels like an outsider… even the captain of the football team. Glee was never better than when it tackled those differences head on. (To that point, I would be remiss not to highlight Mike O’Malley’s performance as Kurt’s father. That is the father we all wish we had). Glee showed us that our differences make us stronger, make us originals, and for some, it makes them a star.

I cried a couple of times tonight watching this finale. Saying goodbye to shows is always difficult for me— no matter how timely the goodbye. And to be clear, I completely agree that this was the right time to end Glee. However that didn’t make the goodbye any easier. 

Tonight I saw genuine sadness in the eyes of everyone in that cast, especially when talking about Cory Monteith’s character. It’s a sadness that a nation of Gleeks shared. Personally speaking, I know that I will carry these characters and their music with me for decades to come. But when you think about it like that, this wasn’t a goodbye at all.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year in Review

In many ways, it’s been a fun and transformative year for me. I think 2014 will go down in the Jerry Book of Life as the year that I grew up. Here’s how...

Firstly, I took a big bite out of the bucket list of shows this year. After many years of waiting, I finally saw Billy Joel and Tony Bennett (not together). They were both exactly as excellent as I hoped they’d be. As is the case with so many of the acts I watch, the years have only made them better performers. Tony also released an album with Lady Gaga that, in many ways, I feel I contributed to. (See my Tweets about Gaga’s jazzy voice last Christmas). “Cheek to Cheek” is the album Gaga was born to make. Hands down, without question, this was the best album of the year. They’re coming to Chicago in the summer and I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting the day that tickets go on sale. 

As second comings go, I saw Cher and Liza Minnelli again! Also not together. Cher’s D2K Tour was absolutely, jaw-droppingly amazing. The material on the new album lent itself nicely to the kind of grand theatrical numbers that the tour provided. It’s unfortunate that the second leg was cancelled because I had every intention of seeing it again. Liza, on the other hand, has slowed a little bit but the effort to keep going is worth admiring. I will see her every time she’s in a town near me and so should you.

Perhaps the best/most important/mind-blowing show I saw this year was Fleetwood Mac’s “On With theShow”. FINALLY reunited with Christine McVie, the quintet set Chicago ablaze with their still hard-rockin’ sound. It was incredible to see Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham do what we love them to do. And who can hold a candle to Mick Fleetwood, I ask you?

It wasn’t all old acts though. In August I managed to see one of my favorite “up and coming” artists,Steve Grand (pictured left). If you don’t know about him, you should. In brush-with-fame news, super exciting thing happening with him in 2015 that I will surely pass along when it happens.

In more direct-contact news: I got to see Pink Martini for a third time this year and meet the band after! Glad to report that I didn’t disgrace myself with my fanboydom like I did the first time. Thomas Lauderdale also follows me on Instagram now so I think we’re on our way to becoming best friends (if only in my head). Also and it must be said: No one fronts that band like China Forbes. She’s exquisite. They unfortunately suffered a major loss this year that we all grieved with them on.

Speaking of losses now seems an appropriate moment to pause and reflect on some of the deaths that impacted me the most this year.

In happier news, a lot of fun and exciting things happened this year, too. Firstly, my best friend had her first baby! His name is Mikey and he was born at a very respectable 6.6lbs. Since February, I have been completely obsessed with him. I mean, look at him. Who wouldn’t be obsessed?! So much so that I have pictures of his first poop. Let me love the way I wanna love, dammit!

Baby aside, the most significant thing that happened to me this year happened in July when Javierand I moved to Chicago. Loving him the way that I do (which is a lot and then some), I knew that moving here with him was the only option when he was accepted to medical school. In truth, it’s probably the single best decision I’ve ever made. We’re having a ball in the city and making our house a home. He even let me make a movie room! It’s wonderful to be in love, to share a home, and to make that home really, really cool-looking.

In November, Javi and I had our first official guests visit. My girlfriend Cindy and her beau came to stay with us for a fun weekend. We had a hoot showing them around and doing touristy stuff. Of note, we also got to see the Second City folks do their thing. My mom came to stay with us the week of Thanksgiving and that was also wonderful. It was important for me to have my mom see and understand my life now. For so long I think we denied the obvious flaws in our relationship because it was just easier. Now, with the benefit of time and distance, I think we understand each other better. We’ve both chosen our paths and we are learning to respect them. Also worth noting: Javier made one of the best Thanksgiving dinner’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. It was his first try, too.

It wasn’t all great, though. I spent a couple of months in the throes of unemployment. Suffice it to say that it involved a lot of cleaning and watching The View. Spending endless days looking for jobs, alone with a dog really does a number on your sanity. There were days when all I could do is hope to run into a neighbor so I could talk to another human. Thankfully, that agony ended earlier this month when I accepted a sweet gig in Downtown Chicago with an office full of colorful coworkers.

Speaking of coworkers, leaving FIU for Chicago proved to be harder than I imagined. In fact, saying goodbye to everyone in Miami was harder than I imagined. Although I worked for the FIU office remotely from here, saying goodbye to all the folks there that became my friends was difficult. 

Saying goodbye to my friend and piano guru Roberta was also very difficult. In the years I’ve known her, she’s been a constant source of light and fun. The last night I went to Magnum, I got up the nerve to sing “Midnight Train to Georgia” and it was as pitiful as you can imagine. Still, it was essential for me to say goodbye the only way I knew how to. 

The hardest goodbye was undoubtedly the one I had to say to my dog. More than friends or family (who understand because, you know, they’re human), saying goodbye to the Mooms (who I’ve known and loved since she was a puppy) was the most excruciating part of my move. Although I was excited to move and start a new life, I was very sad to do so without the best part of my old life. If saying goodbye was hard, the months of missing her proved to be even harder. Reports of her not eating, then getting fat and developing a limp only made everything worse for me. However, I’m thrilled to report that I pried her from my mom’s grasp this holiday to bring her up with me! The Mooms is the now the newest and heftiest resident of Chicago. Let my mom miss her for a while!

I closed off the year as I have done so for the past 10 years: surrounded by friends at my house for a holiday pachanga. Although many of us live in faraway places these days, I try to reunite everyone for one night of boozy fun. And boozy fun it was! The truth of the matter is that no one knows you better than the friends you’ve known since you were kids. There is an innate kinship there that I think is important to nurture.

When all is said and done (and I’ve said and did a lot this year!), I am happier today than I have ever been. I am grateful to love and be loved. I am thankful to live somewhere than inspires me to be my best self. And I am eager to continue to live a life that I am instrumental in shaping.

Many well wishes to you all. Lets kick ass.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vintage Bette Midler interview with Oprah

Stumbled upon this gem on YouTube today. Bette talks about Beaches, being a new mom, marriage, talent, her stage work, and working with Shelley Long.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Regarding the Fleetwood Mac show in Chicago

There are certain dreams that we have as kids that we know will never come true. Par exemple, I will never be a pirate or a Power Ranger or Captain of the Starship Voyager. Trust me, I’ve tried. But then there are other dreams that we think are impossible to realize until they are.

Last week I had the distinct and long-awaited pleasure of seeing my favorite rock band of all time live, reunited, and in person. Fleetwood Mac came to Chicago 1 week ago today and I was there. I WAS THERE.

First some background: When I was 13 years old, my cousin Lily gave me a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits. I think she had an extra copy or something and thought I’d like to have it. Was a simple mindless that profoundly influenced my musical life. Without the slightest bit of exaggeration, I listened to that CD for the next 6 years.

I’d never heard music like theirs before. I found Stevie Nicks’ vocals to be haunting and magical. Lindsay Buckingham sang hard and played even harder. Christine McVie’s songs were like lyrical poetry. She knew so much about me, I thought. So often I wished I could write things as good as this: “And I wish you all the love in the world, but most of all, I wish it from myself.” Their music, their words, the way they explored and explained feelings spoke to me in deep and meaningful ways.

They were the definitive sound track of my youth.

Flash-forward to the night of October 2nd 2014— I was sitting at the United Center, ironically watching a band that had not reunited in 16 years. This tour is called On With the Show and it is especially significant because Christine McVie rejoined the band again after a painfully long time.

Aged only in years, it was quickly apparent that this band has not lost any of its hard-rockin’ potency. They started the show with “The Chain” and the sold out crowd erupted. The sight of these 5 gifted people sharing the same stage at the same time was worthy of nothing less than a thundering ovation. The feeling was electric.

Christine jumped right into the spot light with “You Make Loving Fun” and proved that her voice and keyboard prowess remain as effortless as ever. Her other stupendous numbers included “Everywhere”, “Say You Love Me”, and one of my personal favorites “Little Lies”. At one point, Mick Fleetwood proudly proclaimed that, “our songbird has returned!” and the crowd let it be known how much we missed her. Without question and rightfully so, this tour belongs to Christine.

Truth be told though, I was most excited to see Stevie Nicks. Not only was this blond, beautiful witch songstress the stuff of my confused teenage dreams, but I also worshipped her “Trouble in Shangri-La” solo album. (I know every word, of every song). To see her live and with the band that started it all was a feeling I cannot forget. She did not disappoint: Stevie remains a quintessential rock queen. Songs like “Dreams”, “Gypsy”, “Landslide” and my favorite “Rhiannon” prove that she’s still as silky as ever. Her stand out number however was “Gold Dust Woman”. Clad in her iconic gold shawl and bathed in a gold spotlight, she sang and stomped her way through that song like she was possessed. Maybe she was—and it made for an amazing spectacle.

It’s quite wonderful to have your divas live up to the legend you’ve created in your head.

While I adore Christine and Stevie for the righteous rock icons there are, for me, that night belonged to one man: Lindsay Buckingham. Although I am not a great fan of his FM songs (as they’re a little too aggressive for me), that aggression manifests so exquisitely when played live. Songs like “Never Going Back Again” and “I’m So Afraid” take on a life of their own when he plays that guitar. The guitar solo in “Big Love” was nothing short of a master class in rock guitardom. He makes it talk, and moan, and wail in all sorts of ways. By night’s end, his playing left me a sweaty, pile of spent euphoria. Not to over-sell this but Buckingham is the greatest steward of the rock guitar on the planet.

The show over all is neither big nor flashy. It is basically 5 people doing what they were put on this good Earth to do: rock the house. And rock they did with 3 encores! They came back with their rock anthem “Don’t Stop” which you can imagine sounds and feels incredible in an arena. They followed that up with “Silver Springs” and closed with Christine solo at the piano singing “Songbird”. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was waiting to hear “Songbird” all night long! The wait was worth it—Christine delivered a tender and poignant rendition of her song that truthfully brought me to tears. How we missed that songbird.

I’ve been to a lot of shows and I’ve seen a lot of giants of the industry. But none have meant as much to me as seeing Fleetwood Mac. Growing up listening to their songs and wishing they’d get back together was hard. Knowing their tumultuous history made the wishing even harder. But as Lindsay so eloquently put it at one point, this is a “profound and poetic chapter for this band.” It’s a chapter that I was thrilled to witness and all too eager to read.

As a bonus: You can watch their performance on the Today Show this morning here.

(Photos courtesy of Chicago Tribune)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Regarding The “New” View

Today marks a week since the new and retooled version of The View started and I have a few things to say about it.

This is an especially important moment for the long-standing program because it’s the first season without its creator at the helm, Barbara Walters. While her send off last season was tearful and rightfully grandiose, she left big heels to fill. After all, who can replace BabaWaba? The short answer is: no one. And thankfully no one at The “New” View is trying to.

The cast of characters this year is diminished to four, but that’s about as diminished as these ladies get. The incomparable Whoopi Goldberg returns to the show as its moderator and resident pragmatic voice. Seated to her left is perhaps the least known of the bunch, Nicolle Wallace. More on Ms. Wallace in a minute. Actress Rosie Perez is the first Latina panelist on the show and quite the firecracker. (I’m Hispanic too; I can call her a firecracker if I want to!) And finally, Rosie O’Donnell returns to the program after a contentious exit a few years ago.

Going into this season, I really believed that Rosie O. was going to be the only panelist I would gravitate toward. I’ve loved and followed her career as closely as any non-stalker can. I mean, I was a card-carrying member of the Chub Club. While I remain loyal to and loving of Rosie O., the truth is that the dynamic between all four women is very entertaining. Having two icons of comedy, a Puerto Rican, and a smarty-pants Republican is turning out to be a recipe for really good TV.

In many ways, Nicolle Wallace has turned out to be their trump card. (I hope I used that expression correctly). What I mean to say is that Ms. Wallace is the surprise success story of the season. As the table’s lone Republican and former advisor to Sarah Palin, you’d think that the jokes would write themselves. And they do, only she’s usually the first one pulling the punch line. She’s not only an articulate and respected figure in the Republican establishment, but she’s genuinely thrilled to be around celebrities. In this way, and despite being a conservative, she’s really relatable; a characteristic that her former boss can’t begin to understand. Partisan jabs aside, Ms. Wallace is a welcomed breath of fresh air on the show. Although her interviewing skills could use a little work, I’m eager to follow her journey from cable news talking head to well-rounded talk show host. Keep it up!

All that said, I have to confess that I am a little disappointed with the topics they call “hot” lately. Although issues of domestic violence and child abuse are very important and topical, they are not all that there is to talk about. Coming back from an especially contentious summer, I would’ve liked to hear their thoughts on Ferguson, the continued unrest in the Middle East, or the troubling situation in Ukraine. I think I was especially disappointed today that no one brought up the Climate Marches that happened across the world this past weekend—the biggest being in their very own city. 

Still they’ve done several wonderful things, too. 

Ms. Goldberg’s segment with friend and colleague Billy Crystal about the recently departed Robin Williams literally made me cry into my pile of folded laundry. I have always found it incredibly gut-wrenching when funny people are sad. Perhaps more than even Mr. Crystal’s tribute at the Emmy’s, this moment with Ms. Goldberg on The View gave me the closure I needed. You too can watch it here.

Rosie O.’s interview with her idol Barbra Streisand was also a winning moment for the show. Any time you get those two women together, you know you’re gonna see something magical. As both a friend and a fan, Rosie interviews Barbra the way I think many of us would if we got the chance to interview our idols. It’s raw and genuine. Also and unrelated, Barbra’s new album Partners is really fantastic.

Long story short: The new View is actually a lot like the old View. It’s still a bunch of interesting and successful women, sitting around a table, talking about things we all should.