TV Blasphemy: Sorry, But ‘The Walking Dead’ Sucks…

carl pudding AMC’s The Walking Dead  returned Sunday after a two-month hiatus. As a fan of the series I have sat on the edge of my seat for three and a half seasons now, week-to-week, looking forward to the weekly big twist that was inevitably on the horizon that would make me want to tune in the following week. After the most recent episode, After, which featured hardly any dialogue whatsoever and just a series of awful things happening and horrible, depressing imagery, I’ve come to the only conclusion that I think any rational human being can come to:  The Walking Dead sucks and it has for quite some time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably continue to watch if for no other reason than it’s one of the few shows that Mrs. Tastic and I can agree on so it’s at least mildly compelling and tolerable for me, but I came to the conclusion during the midseason finale that the series is not going anywhere as far as the plot is concerned and I begrudgingly accepted that fact after watching After. It’s simply not progressing the way a serial like this should.

Part of the reason why The Walking Dead became as successful as it did as quickly as it did is because it entered the television landscape at the perfect time when post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror-themed television was on the rise and it has copied the basic premise (that is, what the show really is about at its core) of all of its predecessors and contemporary counterparts.  Despite what many fans of this show think, the show is not about surviving and it’s not even about zombies.  What the show is really about is exactly what every post-apocalyptic series is about:  How do we maintain our humanity (or if it is even possible to) when the apocalypse hits and the end of the world is at hand?  This is a very common theme on television today even on shows that aren’t technically post-apocalyptic shows.  If you want to examine this further, this theme shows up in popular literature as well, going back decades (think: Lord of the Flies).

So, that’s what the appeal of this genre is at its core.  The problem with The Walking Dead is that though it meets the core requirements of the genre on a weekly basis, there is simply no endgame in sight, in other words, there is no point to this series.  It’s just a weekly festival of stress and gore and the knowledge that any main character could be killed off at any point. This is inherently the problem of basing your serial television series off of a popular comic book serial that has been running consistently for over a decade. Comic books aren’t meant to have an endgame (unless of course they are limited-run), television serials are.  At the end of the day, what is the ultimate goal, the big payoff, the cheese at the end of the maze, the light at the end of the tunnel, etc., for The Walking Dead? Can anyone tell me?

people_arguing_zombiesThe first season actually gave us a goal: our survivors made it to the CDC and it was hinted at that they were trying to find a cure and if I recall correctly, something about working on a cure in France. Then the CDC blew up, we were all left with this cliffhanger that just made us want more, the series got picked up for a second season and since then it’s just been nothing but a long series arguments, killing the occasional zombie and main characters dying.

As noted, there is plenty of post-apocalyptic television fare currently on television with the same theme as The Walking Dead but they all do it better than The Walking Dead if for no other reason than that we know that eventually there will be a payoff, one way or the other.


Falling Skies: Post-Apocalypse Done Right…


TNT’s Falling Skies which is basically The Walking Dead with aliens instead of zombies but the difference is that the protagonists are taking the fight to the aliens instead of constantly running away from them and just trying to survive.  The endgame is pretty obvious: either the humans will be victorious and defeat the aliens or they won’t.

NBC’s Revolution is a typical contemporary commentary on humanity with the post-apocalyptic theme and for all of its flaws, it is obvious that there is an endgame to this even if they haven’t ultimately spelled it out completely and they throw in mysteries along the way.  Will the power go back on or not?  Will humanity be able to start over?

CBS’s Under the Dome and ABC’s former series Lost aren’t post-apocalyptic, but they share the same commentary on humanity theme that the post-apocalyptic fare does through characters in situations where a small group of people are isolated from the rest of the world and their respective series examine how their humanity remains intact.  Both series have obvious endgames.

The progenitor of the contemporary post-apocalyptic genre television series, Battlestar Galactica (2003) was nothing more than 75 episodes of morality plays and commentary on the human condition… but the endgame was made clear in the first episode.


Yes, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…

So, without an endgame or anything else remotely resembling a goal for our protagonists, what exactly is keeping audiences so enthralled with this series? The answer is simple: smoke and mirrors.

The truth is that this series is surviving based on a purely visceral emotional reaction.  We love to be scared or more specifically we love suspense and when there are characters that we have become emotionally attached to involved in the suspense it makes the experience that much more satisfying.

One thing that the series has done very well is character development.  Character development is a key factor for the success of any series because the better that development is, the more the audience can relate to the characters, the more the audience becomes attached to the characters and thus, the more the audience becomes attached to a series. Character development seems to be the sole focus of The Walking Dead and the writers and producers appear to be hanging the continued success of the series on the audience’s emotional attachment to the characters (and average to slightly better than average subplots) hoping that they won’t notice that there really is no main plot to this series.

I’m sorry, but no series can survive on character development alone.  There has to be some substance and not only isn’t there any substance to this series, it’s just becoming more depressing every week.


THIS: Good.

One of the traps of developing characters as thoroughly as this series has done to the exclusion of everything else (because it doesn’t have much else to go on) is that when you kill them off (see: Herschel, Dale, Andrea, T-Dog, Shane, Laurie, etc.) you invariably piss off your core audience.  This is exactly why the meme “IF DARYL DIES, WE WILL RIOT” exists to begin with. The only thing that people care about on this show is the characters. You’ll never see a meme that says “IF THEY DON’T FIND A CURE, WE WILL RIOT” or any reference to anything else regarding the plot because there is no plot that the audience can discern or relate to.

THIS: Not happening... ever.

THIS: Not happening… ever.

That said, the death of a main character can be overcome if the death of the character turns out to be for some greater good and the audience can justify and rationalize the loss of the character.  The problem with The Walking Dead in this regard is that all of these character deaths are simply pointless and they’ve made astute viewers like myself examine the series for what it is and what it’s missing.

Q: Why did Herschel have to die?

A: Because the writers are running out of ideas and needed to emotionally jar the audience by having the ruthless villain murder him in the most gory way imaginable in order to ensure that audience would return on February 9th for the midseason premiere.

Well, that was just fun for everyone... and right before Christmas, no less.

Well, that was just fun for everyone… and right before Christmas, no less.

That was a mistake, folks, because Sunday’s episode accomplished two things: being depressing and boring the shit out of me.  It also made me be honest about the series in general, addressing what I rationally knew but didn’t want to accept during the midseason finale. After succeed in polarizing me very badly and I’m not the only one.

The truth is that even on the most dark and morbid series the audience needs some comic relief and ultimately some hope.  The Walking Dead provides neither.  As dark as Breaking Bad was, Vince Gilligan smartly inserted humor into it regularly and there was always an implied endgame to the series and there was always the hope that even if Walt were to go down that there would be some good fortune for his family.

There is simply no hope on The Walking Dead and there doesn’t appear to be any intention of providing any whatsoever.

IN MEMORIAM: Vince Flynn (1966 – 2013)

Vince with a Fan During the ‘American Assassin’ Book Tour (2010)

There are few celebrities that I ever get upset about when I hear that they have passed. Jimmy Stewart was one, but, of course, that was to be expected due to his advanced age. Michael Jackson was probably the biggest shock to me and my generation, however, when I heard about the loss of Vince Flynn this morning, I was devastated.

This is the first time I have ever experienced the loss of a favorite author and there is something profoundly different about the emotional connection that we have as human beings with the written word and no one could spin a better yarn of suspense than Vince. Today’s news came as a huge shock and the sense of loss has been a bit more overwhelming than I would have expected for a man I never met, almost as if I had lost a friend. When you think about it, you really truly do get to know someone intimately by their writing and unlike Tom Clancy (who Vince was often compared to), Vince wrote characters, first, and it’s in the characters that we find a greater insight into ourselves.

Vince announced to his fans (us) before anyone via his email newsletter in 2010 that he had stage three metastatic prostate cancer but vowed to fight it and as far as we or anyone else knew, he was winning the battle. That being said, Vince was also a very private man and no one but his closest friends and family knew the extent of the progression of his illness.

Vince Flynn was 47 years-old and leaves behind a loving wife and three children who were with him at the time of his death.

Vince’s biography from his website:

The fifth of seven children, Vince Flynn was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1966. He graduated from the St. Thomas Academy in 1984, and the University of St. Thomas with a degree in economics in 1988. 

After college he went to work for Kraft General Foods where he was an account and sales marketing specialist. 

In 1990 he left Kraft to accept an aviation candidate slot with the United States Marine Corps. One week before leaving for Officers Candidate School, he was medically disqualified from the Marine Aviation Program, due to several concussions and convulsive seizures he suffered growing up. While trying to obtain a medical waiver for his condition, he started thinking about writing a book. This was a very unusual choice for Flynn since he had been diagnosed with dyslexia in grade school and had struggled with reading and writing all his life. 

Having been stymied by the Marine Corps, Flynn returned to the nine-to-five grind and took a job with United Properties, a commercial real estate company in the Twin Cities. During his spare time he worked on an idea he had for a book. After two years with United Properties he decided to take a big gamble. He quit his job, moved to Colorado, and began working full time on what would eventually become Term Limits

Like many struggling artists before him, he bartended at night and wrote during the day. Five years and more than sixty rejection letters later he took the unusual step of self-publishing his first novel. The book went to number one in the Twin Cities, and within a week had a new agent and two-book deal with Pocket Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint. 

Term Limits hit the New York Times bestseller list in paperback and started a trend for all of Flynn’s novels. Since then, his books have become perennial bestsellers in both paperback and hardcover, and he has become known for his research and prescient warnings about the rise of Islamic Radical Fundamentalism and terrorism. Read by current and former presidents, foreign heads of state, and intelligence professionals around the world, Flynn’s novels are taken so seriously one high-ranking CIA official told his people, “I want you to read Flynn’s books and start thinking about how we can more effectively wage this war on terror.” 

October 2007 marked another milestone in Flynn’s career when his ninth political thriller, Protect and Defend, became a #1 New York Times bestseller. A few months later, CBS Films optioned the rights for Flynn’s Mitch Rapp character with the intention of creating a character-based, action-thriller movie franchise. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who previously launched the Harry Potter and Matrix films as head of production at Warner Bros., and Nick Wechsler (We Own the Night, Reservation Road) will produce the films. Filming on the first film is set to begin in the fall of 2013. Bruce Willis has already signed on to act in the project. 

American Assassin and Kill Shot, published in October 2010 and February 2012 respectively, are prequels in the Mitch Rapp saga and both reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. 

His most recent publication, The Last Man, published in October 2012, was also a #1 New York Times bestseller. 

Works by Flynn include American Assassin, Kill Shot, Transfer of Power, The Third Option, Separation of Power, Executive Power, Memorial Day, Consent to Kill, Act of Treason, Extreme Measures, Pursuit of Honor, The Last Man and Term Limits (not part of the Mitch Rapp series). 

Influences: Ernest Hemingway, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gore Vidal, and John Irving.

‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ – Do Star Trek Fans Want Star Trek To Be Unsuccessful and Unpopular?

stidIn the wake of my review recently, I had a lot of great responses both here and on Facebook from fans and non-fans alike.  It appears that the piece opened up a good dialogue about the subject of Trek-fandom and their disdain for the Abramsverse.  What I found out, and I really kind of knew this, is that there is a segment of the fandom that really didn’t like the first film for all of the goofiness and, well, f*cking with the established history of the franchise, but don’t necessarily hate the film or the Abramsverse.  They’re skeptical of the new film, but they aren’t the butt-hurt, hater crowd. I just want to make clear that my criticism of the negative attitude by a certain segment of the fanbase is by no means a criticism overall of fans who are skeptical and have issues with a lot of the goofy shit present in both of the Abrams films. After all, there’s seriously a lot of goofy shit in both of these films (more blatantly in the first) and I wouldn’t expect fans to not take issue with them or to dismiss them out-of-hand.

This... is a BIG "no-no"

This… is a BIG “no-no”

I recently noted that that it had just dawned on me that the aft-end of the nacelles (engines) on the Enterprise in Star Trek (2009) glowed (and glowed brighter when the engines were “revving up”) and how as a Trek fan that annoyed the piss out of me because Roddenberry was insistent on the fact that the propulsion methods should not bare any resemblance to contemporary methods of propulsion, i.e., nothing coming out of the tailpipe. This is why the end-caps went from having all of those little round vents on them in the first pilot to just being those round globes during production.

That’s an important detail that the producers just ignored. To make matters worse, what did they do with the engines this time? F*cking CONTRAILS

ron moore bsgThen something very unexpected occurred: I realized those contrails looked bad-ass. Yes, they are in complete contradiction with everything I know about the franchise, but eff me if they don’t look wicked awesome and if I think that (considering I hate the concept in general) you damned-well know that the non-Trek fan in the audience thinks so, too. And that’s kind of where I think a lot of us fans stand. There’s a bit of self-loathing going on and guilt, here. “I shouldn’t like this but I do,” and that’s what kind of made me realize that you have to take these films in from the objective perspective of someone who’s just being introduced to the franchise… or just likes kickass action films. The foundation for the principles of the franchise are certainly there even of they eff up some of (or a lot of) the details of the minutiae but, on that note, Ron D. Moore does make a very good point that it is that minutiae that has contributed to making the franchise inaccessible to new audiences.

What I think has made it difficult for the fanbase in general to not be skeptical was the shock over the destruction of Vulcan in the first film. That hit me like a ton of bricks because of how integral Vulcan is to the mythology and because there wasn’t even any setup to get us prepared for it. It was like, “Pew, pew, pew… BOOM… Vulcan’s gone.”

"And of course, our intention is to completely ass-rape the entire franchise..."

“And of course, our intention is to completely ass-rape the entire franchise…”

That being said, having issues with the goofy shit is normal. Being cautious is normal, but I have to tell you that there really is a certain segment of the fandom that has hated this new vision of Trek since the Vegas Trek Convention of 2008 when Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy were on stage on the last day discussing it and warning the fans that it’s going to be different but they’re going to like it.  This carried on through December of 2008 when more and more details were starting to come out and the chorus of hate was reaching a fever-pitch… even though they had not seen a single frame of the film. That just seemed absurd to me and it especially seems absurd when I see the irrational hate spewed at this new film by the fans who hate it for the sake of hating it at this point. I get skepticism as a reaction to the first film, but the “haters” have the exact same complaints about this film that they did the first one (or they’re just contriving false criticism about the plot) and I don’t even know how one could rationally come to that considering how much better EVERYTHING is about the new film and how it actually felt like Star Trek.

Lens flares… seriously? Spock and Uhura having a relationship? It’s not Star Trek, it’s Star Wars? C’mon… seriously?

They have spoken... and they do not approve.

They have spoken… and they do not approve.

I’ve come to a conclusion about this irrational hatred toward the Abramsverse and I’m not saying that my conclusion is right or wrong, but it is something to consider. I have a feeling that this segment of the fanbase doesn’t want Star Trek to be popular. Whether they realize it or not, their issues have nothing to do with the quantifiable changes to the franchise, just the idea of change itself.  Allow me to explain.

Star Trek, for better or worse, has a justly earned reputation for having a strong appeal for kids who were, shall we say, less than popular. A lot of these kids felt excluded by the more popular and athletic kids because they were different. These “nerdy kids” were smarter, they were more intuitive, they were more curious, they were more creative and they were also socially awkward and they were non-conformists. There’s nothing worse than being a non-conformist during elementary and high school.

Future Scientists? Perhaps. Future All-American Athletes and Prom Kings? Not so much…

Then they found Star Trek which provided an outlet for their personalities and interests as well as an escape but more importantly they found a community of other like-minded folks to belong to, and that’s very important for all human beings. Star Trek is theirs and theirs alone and I can tell you from my own personal experience, the Trek fandom that was excluded socially easily transitioned to becoming the excluders when they found their niche.

I wasn’t always a Star Trek fan, I became one in 1997 because of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When I was growing up, I was a casual viewer. I would watch Star Trek and then Star Trek: The Next Generation when it happened to be on but I wasn’t ever scheduling time to watch the franchise. I enjoyed it but my life certainly didn’t revolve around it. I was 18 when Star Trek: Generations came out and I was at a friend’s house on opening night and some of his friends had come over who had just seen the new film. Even if you weren’t a Trek fan, you knew that the big deal in that film was the “rumor” of the death of Kirk. When I casually asked one of these guys whether or not Kirk was killed, I was given a response something along the lines of, “Yeah, but it’s complicated… the Nexus, blah, blah, blah…” with eye-rolling and dismissive short responses pretty much implying, “You’re not a Trek fan, you wouldn’t understand and I’m not explaining it you.” To sum it up, instead of embracing my interest in Trek, they basically rejected me from their clique the same way they had been rejected socially… which was a mistake because I was good at getting girls and booze… which they weren’t good at.

"That bastard Abrams even brought his f*cking Stormtroopers with him to MY Convention! Where is he?!"

“That bastard Abrams even brought his f*cking Stormtroopers with him to MY Convention! Where is he?!”

And this is kind of the attitude that I’m reminded of and I’m seeing, now. These same people who bitched (and still do) relentlessly about what producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga did to the franchise in the mid-to-late 90’s and into the 00’s want to see Trek in 2013 go back to those days. Not because it was better, but because it was their exclusive domain. They may hate Rick Berman (which is something that Berman alludes to on the Star Trek: Enterprise Season One Blu-ray Special Features and seems very taken back and upset by even to this day about)  for being “the sonofabitch who ruined the franchise” (a sentiment that I believe is unfair, in general… there were many factors involved) but he’s their sonofabitch.

Oh, that's EASY!  What's wring with the picture is that a pretty girl who's not castmember is wearing a Starfleet uniform.

Oh, that’s EASY! What’s wrong with the picture is that a pretty girl who’s not a castmember is wearing a Starfleet uniform.

Trek is their club and it shall not be interfered with by that Star Wars lover and non-fan J.J. Abrams and the legions of other non-fans that now like it.  As I noted, my wife liked the first film and her interest in Star Trek is so beyond limited that when it’s on, she stares at the screen like one of those magic eye pictures waiting for the sailboat to appear and the last thing a Trek fan wants is for pretty women to like it (despite the fact that if they cleaned off the coke-bottle glasses off and opened their flippin’ eyes they’d notice that there are plenty of hot Star Trek fans right at their damned conventions).  They want Trek to be just popular enough that it only gets other Star Trek fans involved.

trek warsWell, unfortunately for them, this is an absurd goal because as I pointed out in the review, there simply aren’t anywhere close to being enough of us to support the franchise and keep it successful. Trek has to make its tent bigger in order to survive and if that means tearing down a lot of the established aspects of the franchise and introducing more ‘splosions and action, well that’s just a reality that has to be accepted or we’ll lose Trek forever.  Sorry, but the best thing for Trek to be successful is that it has to get fans of Star Wars (which is pretty much everyone) to watch it.  Historically, it has been rare to find Star Trek fans that weren’t also fans of Star Wars.  On the other hand, however, it was rarer yet to find Star Wars fans who were also fans of Star Trek.  There’s a reason why that has held true until recently and it comes down to accessibility.

star-trek-warsAt its core, the principles and concepts of Trek have been able to find mass-appeal for more than 46 years regardless of race, creed, age, income level, educational level, sexual orientation… whatever. The issues the franchise has had to overcome have been in regards to execution in production, not theory or principles.  And that’s really, at this point, what the major changes have been about; how Trek goes about telling its stories and from my perspective, if telling Trek’s stories in a manner that appeals to all audiences requires an execution more like that of Star Wars and less like that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, that’s what needs to be done and it should be embraced by all of us… provided that the finished product isn’t total shit.

Kirk Demotivator

OBITUARY: Preeminent Film Critic Roger Ebert Dies At Age 70

After a long bout with cancer that returned in December, iconic Chicago Sun-Times film critic, Roger Ebert, has passed away.  I’m not going to say a lot about this, I’m simply going to re-post the piece that the Sun-Times did on him, but what I will say is that I personally, from a professional standpoint, wasn’t a fan Ebert’s review process.  I found his standards for criticism to be incredibly inconsistent from film to film and when he gave Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith three and half stars, I officially started taking his reviews with a grain of salt.  It was one of those deals where I respected him but he wasn’t my go-to for judging the merits of a film.

That being said, there’s no one more iconic in the world of film criticism than Roger Ebert was with his ability (together with his cross-town rival and friend, the late Gene Siskel) to criticize films in a non-pretentious way (something that The Hollywood Reporter or the New York Times might want to try) in a manner that made understanding the intricacies of modern cinema accessible to the average film-goer, much like I and many other web-based critics do today.  Ebert was literally the world’s first citizen-critic; a blogger before the Internet was even a glint in anyone’s eye.

From a nostalgic perspective, as a kid growing up in the 1980s, I looked forward to he and Gene on At The Movies and then later on Siskel & Ebert & The Movies and the weekly discussions the two would have about the latest films hitting the theaters.  And, yes, they were discussions, not arguments, not mean-spirited verbal sparring, just discussions between two friends who both shared the same level of passion for cinema… even if they didn’t always agree.

And the best part was that all of us got to join in on the fun.

Goodbye, Roger and God bless.  You will be greatly missed.

From The Chicago Sun-Times:

Roger Ebert dead at 70 after battle with cancer

BY NEIL STEINBERG April 4, 2013 2:32PM

ebertUpdated: April 4, 2013 9:17PM

Roger Ebert loved movies.

Except for those he hated.

For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative, or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.

“No good film is too long,” he once wrote, a sentiment he felt strongly enough about to have engraved on pens. “No bad movie is short enough.”

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago.

“We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away,” said his wife, Chaz Ebert. “No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition.”

He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.

He lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. “No point in denying it,” he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity.

On Tuesday, Ebert blogged that he had suffered a recurrence of cancer following a hip fracture suffered in December, and would be taking “a leave of presence.” In the blog essay, marking his 46th anniversary of becoming the Sun-Times film critic, Ebert wrote “I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers hand-picked and greatly admired by me.”

Always technically savvy — he was an early investor in Google — Ebert let the Internet be his voice. His had millions of fans, and he received a special achievement award as the 2010 “Person of the Year” from the Webby Awards, which noted that “his online journal has raised the bar for the level of poignancy, thoughtfulness and critique one can achieve on the Web.” His Twitter feed had more than 840,000 followers.

Ebert was both widely popular and professionally respected. He not only won a Pulitzer Prize — the first film critic to do so — but his name was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, among the movie stars he wrote about so well for so long. His reviews were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide.

The same year Ebert won the Pulitzer — 1975 — he also launched a new kind of television program: “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You” with Chicago Tribune movie critic Gene Siskel on WTTW-Ch. 11. At first it ran monthly.

The combination worked. The trim, balding Siskel perfectly balanced the bespectacled, portly Ebert. In 1977, the show, retitled “Sneak Previews,” moved to PBS for national distribution, and the duo was on its way to becoming a fixture in American culture.

“Tall and thin, short and fat. Laurel and Hardy,” Ebert once wrote. “We were parodied on ‘SNL’ and by Bob Hope and Danny Thomas and, the ultimate honor, in the pages of Mad magazine.”

His colleagues admired him as a workhorse. Ebert reviewed as many as 306 movies a year, after he grew ill scheduling his cancer surgeries around the release of important pictures. He eagerly contributed to other sections of the paper — interviews with and obituaries of movie stars, even political columns on issues he cared strongly about on the editorial pages.

In 1997, dissatisfied with spending his critical powers “locked in the present,” he began a running a feature revisiting classic movies and eventually published three books on “The Great Movies” (and two books on movies he hated). A second column, his “Movie Answer Man” allowed readers to learn about intriguing details of cinema that only a Roger Ebert knew or could ferret out.

That, too, became a book. Ebert wrote more books than any TV personality since Steve Allen — 17 in all. Not only collections of reviews, both good and bad, and critiques of great movies, but humorous glossaries and even a novel, “Behind the Phantom’s Mask,” that was serialized in the Sun-Times. He even wrote a book about rice cookers, “The Pot and How to Use It,” despite the fact that he could no longer eat. In 2011 his autobiography, “Life Itself,” won rave reviews. “This is the best thing Mr. Ebert has ever written,” Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times. It is, fittingly enough, being made into a documentary, produced by his longtime friend, Martin Scorsese.

Roger Joseph Ebert was born in Urbana on June 18, 1942, the son of Walter and Annabel Ebert. His father was an electrician at the University of Illinois, his mother, a bookkeeper. It was a liberal household — Ebert remembers his parents praying for the success of Harry Truman in the election of 1948. As a child, he published a mimeographed neighborhood newspaper and a stamp collectors’ newspaper in elementary school.

In high school, he was, as he later wrote, “demented in [his] zeal for school activities,” joining the swim team, acting in plays, founding the Science Fiction Club, co-hosting Urbana High School’s Saturday morning radio program, co-editing the newspaper, being elected senior class president.

He began his professional writing career at 15, as a sportswriter covering the high school beat for the News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana.

Ebert went on to the University of Illinois, where he published a weekly journal of politics and opinion as a freshman and served as editor of the Daily Illini his senior year. He graduated in 1964, and studied in South Africa on a Rotary Scholarship.

While still in Urbana, he began free-lancing for the Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News.

He was accepted at the University of Chicago, where he planned to earn his doctorate in English (an avid reader, Ebert later used literary authors to help explain films — for example, quoting e.e. cummings several times in his review of Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking “2001: A Space Odyssey.”)

But Ebert had also written to Herman Kogan, for whom he free-lanced at the Daily News, asking for a job, and ended up at the Sun-Times in September 1966, working part-time. The following April, he was asked to become the newspaper’s film critic when the previous critic, Eleanor Keen, retired.

“I didn’t know the job was open until the day I was given it,” Ebert later said. “I had no idea. Bob Zonka, the features editor, called me into the conference room and said, ‘We’re gonna make you the movie critic.’ It fell out of the sky.”

Ebert’s goal up to that point had been to be “a columnist like Royko,” but he accepted this new stroke of luck, which came at exactly the right time. Movie criticism had been a backwater of journalism, barely more than recounting the plots and stars of movies — the Tribune ran its reviews under a jokey generic byline, “Mae Tinee.” But American cinema was about to enter a period of unprecedented creativity, and criticism would follow along. Restrictive film standards were finally easing up, in part thanks to his efforts. When Ebert began reviewing movies, Chicago still had an official film board that often banned daring movies here — Lynn Redgrave’s “Georgy Girl” was kept off Chicago screens in 1966 — and Ebert immediately began lobbying for elimination of the censorship board.

He had a good eye. His Sept. 25, 1967, review of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in “Bonnie and Clyde” called the movie “a milestone” and “a landmark.”

“Years from now it is quite possible that ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ will be seen as the definitive film of the 1960s,” he wrote, “showing with sadness, humor and unforgiving detail what one society had come to.”

It was. Though of course Ebert was not infallible — while giving Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate” four stars in the same year, he added that the movie’s “only flaw, I believe, is the introduction of limp, wordy Simon and Garfunkel songs.’’

Ebert plunged into what turned out to be a mini-golden age of Chicago journalism. He found himself befriended by Mike Royko — with whom he wrote an unproduced screenplay. He drank with Royko, and with Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel. He wrote a trashy Hollywood movie, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,’’ for Russ Meyer, having met the king of the buxom B-movie after writing an appreciation of his work.

In later years, Ebert was alternately sheepish and proud of the movie. It was the first “sexploitation” film by a major studio, 20th Century Fox, though Time magazine’s Richard Corliss did call it one of the 10 best films of the 1970s.

It was not Ebert’s only foray into film writing — he was also hired to write a movie for the Sex Pistols, the seminal British punk band in the late 1970s.

Eventually, Sun-Times editor James Hoge demanded that Ebert — who took a leave of absence when he went to Hollywood to write “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” — decide between making films and reviewing them. He chose newspapering, which increasingly became known because of his TV fame, which grew around his complex partnership with Gene Siskel on “Sneak Previews.”

“At first the relationship on TV was edgy and uncomfortable,” Ebert wrote in 1999, after Siskel’s untimely death, at 53. “Our newspaper rivalry was always in the air between us. Gene liked to tell about the time he was taking a nap under a conference table at the television station, overheard a telephone conversation I was having with an editor, and scooped me on the story.”

In 1981, the program was renamed “At the Movies” and moved to Tribune Broadcasting. In 1986, it became “Siskel & Ebert & The Movies” and moved to Buena Vista Television, and the duo began the signature “thumbs up, thumbs down” rating system that Ebert invented.

“When we left to go with Disney . . . we had to change some things because we were afraid of [violating] intellectual property rights,’’ he said. “And I came up with the idea of giving thumbs up and thumbs down. And the reason that Siskel and I were able to trademark that is that the phrase ‘two thumbs up’ in connection with movies had never been used. And in fact, the phrase ‘two thumbs up’ was not in the vernacular. And now, of course, it’s part of the language.”

“Two thumbs up” became their registered trademark and a highly coveted endorsement that inevitably ran at the top of movie advertisements.

After Siskel died in 1999, Ebert auditioned a number of temporary co-hosts and settled on Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper in 2000. At its height, “Ebert & Roeper,” was seen on 200 stations. Ebert’s cancer forced him off the air in 2006.

“Everyone keeps asking me for my favorite Roger Ebert story, or the one thing about him most people might not have known. Here’s the thing: Roger Ebert has already told all the best Roger Ebert stories in far better fashion than I ever could,” said Roeper, who continued the show after health troubles forced Ebert from the airwaves, until both men quit in 2008 after a contract dispute.

“And whether you ‘knew’ him only through his reviews or his Twitter feed or his blog, or you were lucky enough to have been his friend for many years, with Roger, what you saw and heard was the 100 percent, unvarnished, real deal,” Roeper said. “There was no ‘off camera’ Roger. He was just as passionate, smart, stubborn, genuine and funny behind the scenes as he was in the public eye. He was a great writer and an even better friend.

“They can remake movies, but no one will ever be able to re-create or match the one and only Roger Ebert.”

All that need be mentioned of Ebert’s social life was that in the early 1980s he briefly went out with the hostess of a modest local TV show called “AM Chicago.” Taking her to the Hamburger Hamlet for dinner, Ebert suggested that she syndicate her show, using his success with Siskel as an example of the kind of riches that awaited. While she didn’t return his romantic interest, Oprah Winfrey did follow his business advice.

In his memoir, Ebert writes of a controlling, alcoholic, faith-obsessed mother whom he was frightened of displeasing. “I would never marry before my mother died,” he wrote. She died in 1987, and in 1992 he got married, for the first time, at age 50, to attorney Chaz Hammel-Smith (later Chaz Hammelsmith), who was the great romance of his life and his rock in sickness, instrumental in helping Ebert continue his workload as his health declined.

“She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she is the love of my life, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone,” he wrote.

In addition to his TV and newspaper work, Ebert was a fixture at film festivals around the world — Toronto, Cannes, Telluride — and even created a festival of his own, The Overlooked Film Festival, or just “Ebertfest,” which he began in Champaign in 1999 and dedicated to highlighting neglected classics.

Between 1970 and 2010, Ebert made yearly visits to the University of Colorado’s springtime Conference on World Affairs, where he has presented frame-by-frame critiques of classic movies to enraptured audiences.

He had also used the conference to speak on a variety of subjects, from his romantic life to his recovery from alcoholism — he stopped drinking in 1979 — to the problem of spam email. In 1996 Ebert coined the “Boulder Pledge,” considered a cornerstone in the battle against spam.

“Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message,” Ebert wrote. “Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.”

Not only was Ebert eager to correspond with and encourage skilled movie bloggers, but he also put his money where his mouth was, investing early in the Google search engine and making several million dollars doing so.

Ebert received honorary degrees from the American Film Institute, the University of Colorado and the School of the Art Institute. He is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and was honored with a sidewalk medallion under the Chicago Theatre marquee.

He first had surgery to remove a malignant tumor on his thyroid in 2002, and three subsequent surgeries on his salivary gland, all the while refusing to cut back on his TV show or his lifelong pride and joy, his job at the Sun-Times.

“My newspaper job,” he said in 2005, “is my identity.”

But as always with Roger Ebert, that was being too modest. He was a renaissance man whose genius was based on film but by no means limited to it, a great soul who had extraordinary impact on his profession and the world around him.

“Kindness covers all of my political beliefs,” he wrote, at the end of his memoir, “Life Itself.” “No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

Survivors, in addition to his wife, include stepchildren Sonia and Jay, and grandchildren Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph.

EDITORIAL: Nintendo’s Epic Fail: The WiiU And The 3DS “I Am Not A Gamer” Campaign

I am seriously getting sick of Nintendo and this is very unfortunate because I love the brand.  Recently, I was made aware of the obnoxious and pretentious campaign for the Nintendo 3DS called the “I am not a gamer” campaign and when I finally saw the ads, I wanted to put my fist through my monitor.

I didn’t even know about this campaign because I live in the 21st century and have a DVR and therefore I don’t watch commercials, but it seems to be beyond stupid because Nintendo has been doing nothing for the last two years but promoting their alleged vast WiiU third-party support (mostly by propping up the WiiU with game footage from the PS3 and the 360) in an effort to woo “core gamers” back that they’ve lost.

This campaign tells me that despite the pre-sales selling out within the first week (which really means nothing if Nintendo is artificially suppresses the initial stock of retailers which they are more then likely doing to drum up demand and positive press), these pre-sales and backorder pre-sales have not gone the way they expected and they are getting a sour response from those core gamers that they were trying to get back, which of course would seem inevitable to anyone that understands that core gamers already own a PS3 or a 360 (or if you’re like me, both… and a Wii and 3DS) and the WiiU doesn’t bring anything new to the table yet has an obnoxiously inflated pricetag compared to its competition.

And their attitude toward their competition is yet another example of Nintendo’s arrogance as they think and act as if they are above their competition and they’ve been been projecting that air of over-confidence since the Wii when they basically told the core gamer, “F*CK YOU if you don’t like us anymore, we don’t care. We’re going to target the untapped market of the geriatric and little girls, now.” What they did was basically say to Sony and Microsoft, “we are not in competition with you because, frankly, we’re better than you,” an attitude that persists to this day which is complete an utter nonsense because we all know that the reason for the Wii was because Nintendo couldn’t keep up with the technological improvements its competition was making with the 360 and the PS3 and keep the product at the pricepoint they wanted so they punted and put out a vastly inferior product to its competition with a good marketing campaign (because if nothing else, Nintendo has a history of excelling in that department, certainly).

The truth is that the Wii was far more successful than Nintendo ever expected but since the sales of the Wii consoles fell of the rails by year five due primarily to lack of third-party support and frankly, their own new market of customers getting bored with it (or… just dying) they’ve been scrambling to develop a more all-inclusive product while still keeping at a pricepoint that they want it at.

The problem, again, for Nintendo is that their latest product offers no real advantages over the current generation consoles, is $50 to $150 more and is hampered by the fact that the gamer that they are trying to woo back with third-party titles already has a comparable console and doesn’t need to buy another in order to play Assassin’s Creed III or titles that have been out already for several years such as Batman: Arkham City, gimmicky controller notwithstanding.

After letting my frustration subside over the arrogance of this miserable campaign, it dawned on me that this campaign wasn’t just a blatant alienation of what should be the main consumer base for the company, and it really had nothing to do with 3DS.  This is all about the WiiU.  This is a concession from Nintendo that that have officially completely abandoned the core gamer as a company… and they want you to know it, regardless of platform.

This is probably the dilemma that Nintendo is now facing with the WiiU which is why they have switched gears entirely and gone back to trying to woo original Wii customers with the “I am not a gamer” campaign. The problem they have doing this, as I see it, is that when these bored Wii customers (the ones that haven’t passed away) walk into a Wal Mart or a Gamestop looking for a WiiU this Christmas, they are going to be exposed to a PS3 or 360 with Kinect that can do just as much, plays all the same and more third party titles, is a LOT less expensive and perhaps, most importantly, is actually in-stock.

I did a piece here in September when Nintendo announced the launch date of the WiiU and though I don’t think the WiiU will cause the collapse of Nintendo nor would I wish for that, I would like to see Nintendo get a good kick square in the nuts to bring them down to earth and make them reassess their arrogance which is ultimately directed towards consumers.

Here’s that piece:

Nintendo Announces Launch Date, Pricing & Titles For Wii U… Unimpressed Cat Is Not Impressed

EDITORIAL: An Open Letter To ALL Of The Science Fiction Blogs And Fans: Seriously… Get Over Yourselves

About a year ago, I was planning on writing a piece where I had to take issue with Den of Geek for their constant droning on about how’s there’s no Science Fiction on the SyFy channel.  Things happen, life gets in the way and I kind of lost interest so it never got written.  That being said, I’m really glad I didn’t, because I have so much more information and insight into the current situation at SyFy than I did last year, that it really makes more sense for me to address the lunacy of the self-important SciFi fan, now, than it did then. Before, there were just general complaints, but now, it’s the foaming-at-the-mouth over the lack of solid details regarding an air date for the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome. Note, there is nothing really new about any of these complaints, it’s just that B&C has become the poster-child for the cause d’jour and it really it is about time that they were all called out for it.

Since Giant Freakin Robot is the most recent outlet to be on our radar regarding this issue, I decided to comment personally on their site with their piece, Editorial: Battlestar Galactica: Blood And Chrome Could Save Syfy’s Soul and I want our readers to see their short-sighted take and their readers equally short-sighted comments, as well as our take which we’ll post below.  Please, understand, I actually like GFR – a lot – but they are so off the mark on this (as are most SciFi fans) that they needed to be called out.

Editorial: Battlestar Galactica: Blood And Chrome Could Save Syfy’s Soul

Hey, Syfy, how’s it going? Yeah, I know, I don’t visit as much as I used to. Sure, I still swing by for Alphas each week, but I know you’re really busy these days, what with all the wrestling and the ghost hunting and the game shows about people bumping into things in the dark. I don’t want to take up too much of your time here, but we need to have a little talk, you and I. It’s about Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. I think it could save your soul.

Look, Sci-Fi… can I call you Sci-Fi, just like in the good old days? No? Fine, “Syfy,” whatever. So here’s the thing. Yesterday your official Twitter feed told us that the incredibly awesome-looking Battlestar Galactica prequel spinoff, Blood and Chrome, was not dead, but would indeed air at some point, in some form. Probably. And while it’s great to hear that Blood and Chrome hasn’t been relegated to the trash bin, I have to ask…what the hell are you thinking, man?

Earlier this year, when the Blood and Chrome trailer hit the internet, the fans started frothing at the mouth because it looked badass. I’m actually one of the people who liked a lot about the admittedly flawed Caprica, but there’s no question that Blood and Chrome looks a lot more like the BSG spinoff fans were hoping for. Space dogfights. Human-on- Cylon carnage. That sucker has hit written all over it. With the right writers, it could still maintain the depth and humanity of its parent series, but up the action quotient to a degree that would keep fans hooked and coming back.

So where the hell is it? We’ve watched over the past couple of years as an exciting project has dwindled further and further every time there’s an announcement about it. First it was going to be a full series. Then it was going to be a web series. Then maybe a one-off TV movie. And now? Now all it is is “air date to be decided.” A solid concept for what could be an amazing show molders on the shelf while you keep churning out one shitty new show after another. For the love of god, Syfy, you’re about to premiere a show that airs “viral videos.” You do realize we all have the internet, right?

Look, you wanted to branch out and not be defined solely by science fiction content… fine, I get that. With the ever-increasing media landscape, you want to be able to attract as many sets of eyeballs as you can. But does that mean you have to abandon the one thing you’ve done really well several times over the years? You’re the network that gave us Farscape, for crying out loud! Does anybody seriously think Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica could have found a home anywhere but on your airwaves? And without you there’s no way Stargate would have flourished into multiple spinoffs as it did (even though you did cancel Stargate Universe awful quickly, as the show’s fans often remind me).

I realize you make all the reality shows and contest shows like Face Off because they’re cheap. That’s fine. But why not use some of that budget you’re saving on flotsam like Viral Video Showdown to greenlight one or two really strong science fiction shows? The sort of show that can be your flagship, earning critical praise like you did with BSG. The sort of show that defines Syfy as a brand. A show like Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. Because honestly? I haven’t got a clue what that name is supposed to stand for. It just looks like somebody shook the cable landscape and all the shitty shows that weren’t properly secured slid down into your schedule.

And here’s the danger. Time was, the Sci-Fi Channel was one of the only homes for projects like Farscape or Battlestar Galactica or Stargate. But look around you. AMC, the channel that became a success on the shoulders of Mad Men, is earning dynamite ratings and acclaim with a zombie show based on a comic book. HBO, one of the most respected sources of cable programming around, is riding high with a series based on a dense, convoluted series of fantasy novels. Starz is developing a military science fiction series with the guy who created Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Those were all projects that, back in the day, we would have thought would be perfect matches for the Sci-Fi Channel. But the stigma around genre content is fading. The Avengers has made $1.5 billion worldwide, and now more and more exciting genre projects are going to other, more respectable networks, while you introduce yet another show about haunted tchotchkes.

Oh, there are still some promising lights on the horizon. I’m hoping that Rockne S. O’Bannon’s Defiance will recapture some of the old Farscape magic and become something truly amazing. I’ve got every finger crossed that you find a way to make your Blake’s 7 remake something other than a regrettable and ill-conceived footnote. You do still have a handful of genuinely good shows, like Alphas and Being Human. But with Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, you could make a statement. You could declare that you are about more than just cramming as many horrible paranormal “reality” shows as possible down our throats. That you still have what it takes to stand behind ambitious, well-written genre content.

It’s time to stop settling for mediocrity and aim higher. It’s time to take your own advice, Syfy: Imagine Greater.

My Response:

Seriously, you guys (both the writer and the commenters) need to get over yourselves. SyFy has a grand total of TWO hours of wrestling per week, so can we stop bringing that up? What next: Bill Clinton is a draft dodger? These arguments are getting seriously dated. Here’s the the thing: SyFy is doing better now than they ever have been so feel free to leave because you won’t be missed. But, waitaminute…. surprise, surprise, it’s their core SciFi series of Alphas, Haven, Being Human, Lost Girl and Warehouse 13 that are their biggest hits. And sorry, but Game of Thrones, due to its content and its production costs, could never see the light of day on SyFy or any other basic cable channel.

Where exactly are you getting this notion that “B&C was destined to be a hit,” David? If it was destined to be a hit, it would already be on the network. Here’s the reality: space-themed SciFi has been dead for a long time on television… period. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. For crap’s sake, BSG (which is the greatest show ever on television) was a ratings disaster in its final season, save for the series finale. [StargateSG-1 was on its last legs as was [Stargate: Atlantis]. Is it really a surprise that both [Stargate: Universe] and Caprica failed so miserably, so quickly, despite having the crap promoted out of them by the network? It shouldn’t be. You’re living in an era where a Star Trek series couldn’t last more than four seasons. One of your biggest mistakes in the piece was suggesting that SyFy didn’t want to be solely associated with Science Fiction. Nonsense. They were specific that when they changed the name that they didn’t want to be associated EXCLUSIVELY with space-themed science fiction and time travel and wanted to be all-inclusive in all areas of the genre. Look it up… after all, you’ve made a point to bring up the fact that you do have the Internet.

This isn’t SyFy’s fault, this is simply the fact of the ever-changing landscape of the 18 – 49 demographic. They simply have no interest in space-themed SciFi on television (for the most part… I’d say TNT’s Falling Skies might be the exception but that’s more [The Walking Dead] with aliens than it is space-themed SciFi) and attempting to force yet another quality BSG spinoff down the throats of an audience that has no interest in it only to placate a small amount of fans is not only foolish for the network from an immediate standpoint, but it’s ultimately damaging to the series and the franchise, as a whole. And make no mistake about it, BSG is their biggest property and they aren’t going to wreck it so the fanboys can get their fix on a basic cable network. At this moment in time, though there are signs that interest is growing again, space-themed SciFi on the network is far too risky (especially with their biggest property).

Taking this a step further, B&C isn’t dead, it’s just not going to be on TV (or if it is, you’ll only see the pilot. Bear McCreary told us that he has heard rumors that the two-hour pilot is going to air on the network within the next four to six months, which was something we had already surmised based on the grumblings of our inside sources and now, IMDb has it listed as March 2013, too). You folks need to understand that the television revenue model is changing and that SyFy is one of the innovators in the new marketplace. You’re going to get BSG:B&C but you’re probably either going to have to subscribe to Hulu for it or have an XBOX Live account to view it on the SyFy app or just pay for it from iTunes or Amazon and that’s how it’s going to go. The new world of television is not dependent on the traditional standard of Nielsen ratings, exclusively, anymore. It’s becoming dependent on direct targeting of niche markets and then repackaging the content for non-exclusive digital and international distribution deals. What do you think the “transmedia” Defiance is all about? Try to think outside of the box, folks. Even the aforementioned Game of Thrones has only been getting renewed due to its international distribution deals. What… do you folks think that there’s that many more people subscribing to HBO because of Game of Thrones? Holy crap, you probably do.

Also, you might want to actually keep track of the network press releases, as well. SyFy currently has 13 straight-up SciFi scripted series (including quite a few space-themed series) in development, plus two more imports within the next year (Sinbad and Continuum). So what it really comes down to is that SyFy has plenty of Science Fiction, it just doesn’t have the series that you want, right now, therefore, they aren’t truly a Science Fiction network and you’ll just bash all of their other programming… that has actually made them successful. Genius and completely rational.

Here’s the complete rundown of all of SyFy’s scripted series in development. Scroll down for the complete press release.

OBITUARY: Alex Karras (1935 – 2012)

This is a little late but I wanted to make note of it because the late Mr. Karras was a bit of a pop-culture icon in the 1980s for his role as George Papadopolis on the hit comedy Webster as the dad of the titular character played by Emmanuel Lewis.  I thought I’d write something profound, but the obituary written by Duane Byrge and Mike Barnes at THR is far more thorough and fitting of a tribute than I could have given him so I’m making an exception to my rule of never copying anything verbatim and presenting it here:

Alex Karras, Football Star Turned Actor, Dies at 77

The Detroit Lions standout defensive lineman of the 1960s punched a horse in “Blazing Saddles” and played a dad opposite real-life wife Susan Clark in the ABC sitcom “Webster.”

Alex Karras, a menacing defensive lineman in college and the NFL who showed a deft comedic touch in films including Blazing Saddles, the 1980s family sitcom Webster and as a commentator on Monday Night Football games, has died. He was 77.

The University of Iowa and Detroit Lions legend recently suffered kidney failure and died Wednesday in his Los Angeles-area home surrounded by family. He had numerous health problems in recent years, including dementia and cancer, and was part of the wave of concussion-related lawsuits filed by more than 3,000 ex-players against the NFL.

In Hollywood, the burly but cat-like quick Karras — who carried 250 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame during his playing days — countered the tough-guy-in-the-trenches image with a quiet, sometimes high-pitched voice and droll sense of humor. He often worked alongside his wife of 32 years, actress Susan Clark, on TV and film projects. She survives him.

Karras’ most memorable movie moment came in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974), when, as Mongo, an idiot strongman working for the villainous Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), he sent a horse to the ground with a single punch to the face. Later, he responded to a question from Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) by saying, “Don’t know … Mongo only pawn in game of life.”

Karras also had a hilarious turn as Squash, James Garner’s homosexual bodyguard, in Blake Edwards‘ Victor/Victoria (1982).

On Webster, which ran on ABC from 1983-87 and then for two more seasons in syndication, Karras starred as George Papadapolis, a newly married ex-football player in Chicago who is appointed legal guardian of a former teammate’s son (Emmanuel Lewis). Clark played his socialite wife on the series.

Earlier, Karras earned critical acclaim for his sensitive performance as husband and pro wrestler George Zaharias in the 1975 CBS biopic Babe, which starred the Emmy-winning Clark as the transcendent female athlete Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias. He also guest-starred on such series as The Odd CoupleDaniel BooneMcMillan & WifeLove, American StyleM*A*S*HArli$$ andThe Tom Show and hosted Saturday Night Live in 1985.

Karras made his transition from gridiron to show business via the football field: He appeared as himself in Paper Lion (1968), starring Alan Alda as writer George Plimpton who, for a Sports Illustrated article, poses as a rookie quarterback in training camp trying to make the Lions team. Karras also figured prominently in Plimpton’s original magazine piece and best-selling 1966 book.

“Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex,” Lions president Tom Lewand said.

Karras starred in such movies as 1978’s Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang (he played the hooded fang), Irwin Allen disaster film When Time Ran Out (1980), the comedy Nobody’s Perfekt (1981), as the sheriff in Porky’s (1982), as a football trainer in Against All Odds (1984) and as a sportscaster in Buffalo 66 (1998).

He and Clark founded Georgian Bay Productions in the early 1980s, when they were approached by Paramount Television and ABC to do the Webster sitcom, which was reworked to include Lewis. The couple also starred in telefilms for their company.

Alexander George Karras was born July 15, 1935, in Gary, Ind., one of six children. His Greek immigrant father died when he was 11. At age 15, he worked in the steel mills to help support the family, then won a football scholarship to the University of Iowa, where he powered the Hawkeyes to victory in the Rose Bowl after the 1956 season and was runner-up for the 1957 Heisman Trophy. A two-time All-America tackle, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

Karras was drafted 10th overall by Detroit in 1958 and would make the Pro Bowl four times. But in his prime, he was suspended for the 1963 season by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle for betting on football games. (Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung also was shelved for gambling that season.)

Karras admitted that he had placed at least a half-dozen $50 to $100 bets. Upon returning to action in 1964, he refused when an official asked him to call the pregame coin toss. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “I’m not permitted to gamble.”

Karras was named to the all-time Lions team in 1970, then retired during the 1971 preseason. He is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Good-natured with a keen sense of comedy, Karras was a popular guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, appearing more than two dozen times. His favorite performer had been Jack Benny, and Karras’ comic style could be appreciated in his interplay with Carson, the ultimate Benny aficionado.

Karras also hosted a Chicago TV talk show where he enjoyed needling jocks, and he replaced another ex-jock, Don Meredith, to serve three seasons as a color commentator for ABC’s NFL Monday Night Football starting in 1974. (Former AFL star Fred Williamson had done the preseason MNF games that year after Meredith’s departure, but the network was unhappy with his work.) Karras once said that Oakland Raiders lineman Otis Sistrunk was from “the University of Mars.”

His sense of humor had a bite, and he often ridiculed Lions’ management. His zings extended to other sporting endeavors, but he laced his comedy with good causes. Although he called golf a “phony, pompous game,” he organized charity events where he would make a mockery of the genteel sport: Cannons would fire behind foursomes; sheep, llamas and an elephant would roam the fairways; and paratroopers would land on greens. Above it all, a crop-duster would disseminate pink smoke over the participants.

Karras even did a stint as a professional wrestler, taking on the villainous Dick the Bruiser in April 1963 before 16,000 fans at Detroit’s Olympia auditorium during his exile from the NFL. The pair got into a brawl and wrecked a bar before the match, which Karras lost. “For that one night’s work, I made $17,000 – $4,000 more than I made with the Lions,” he once said.

Belying his size and machismo, Karras was an enthusiastic orchid grower and author. His 1978 autobiography, Even Big Guys Cry, was a best-seller, and 1979’s Alex Karras by Alex Karras dealt with his misadventures in the entertainment business.

In addition to his wife, Karras’ survivors include their daughter Katie; his children Alex Jr., Peter, Carolyn, George and Renald from a previous marriage; five grandchildren; and siblings Louis, Nan, Paul and Ted.

Watch Karras terrorize Rock Ridge, deck that horse and receive the world’s first Candygram in Blazing Saddles below.

Nintendo Announces Launch Date, Pricing & Titles For Wii U… Unimpressed Cat Is Not Impressed

And for $299.99 you get one with the storage capacity of a first generation iPhone.

Last Thursday, Nintendo announced the release date and pricing for its new console, and as curious as I was last year right before E3 when the details were released for what was being dubbed as “Nintendo HD” and officially announced as the Wii U during Nintendo’s “teaser” presentation during their press conference, after the event, I must say that I was honestly left non-plussed to say the least.

Below is what Reggie Fils-Aime, COO  of Nintendo U.S.A., told us last year in the Game Trailers E3 interview, but just remember to filter out all of the crap in your brain that he’s trying to feed you.  The Wii U will support HDMI HD games and video. The Wii U will have support for proprietary Nintendo discs, only, i.e., it will not have Blu-ray or even DVD support, and it certainly won’t support 3D.  The Wii U will provide comparable Internet-based experiences such as video services and gaming networks currently offered on the Playstation 3 and the XBOX 360.

In order to understand the absolute arrogance of Nintendo, you must watch all 19 minutes-plus of the obnoxiousness that flows like projectile vomit out of Reggie’s open maw.  Watch him squirm in this video when pressed for specifics and furthermore pressed for information on how this is going to be better than what the competition is currently offering.

“…And again, what I want to focus on is, “is it going to offer the consumer a competitive value when it comes out?” And the answer is, “Absolutely.””

Reggie Fils-Aime: Snake Oil Salesman

How can you tell when Reggie is being disingenuous?  He says “Look…” or “absolutely.”  Honest to God, you can make a drinking game based exclusively on “Look…” and “absolutely” in this interview.  That, and you know it’s a bad sign when he keeps using the word, “competitive” but not to fear, as its competitive value will be long gone when Sony and Microsoft actually launch the only true next generation consoles.

Yes, I own this series… both volumes.

I own all three current systems on the market, the Wii and the current generation systems, the Playstation 3 and the XBOX 360 (w/Kinect). I make the distinction because the Wii is not a current gen system, regardless of the fact that it was launched at the same time as the PS3 and the 360 (well, actually the 360 was launched a year before, but I digress). That being said, the Wii U is a current gen system and unfortunately it’s six years too late to the big dance. I’m not a Nintendo hater by any stretch of the imagination. I’m an original NES, SNES, Gamecube and Wii owner. I love the Nintendo properties and I’ve always appreciated their innovation in the industry. I would even go so far as to consider myself a Nintendo fanboy. Honestly, with my kids, Nintendo characters are as much of a staple to them as Disney characters.  I’m making a point to  explain my history with the brand because when the discussion of video game consoles rears its ugly head it’s usually done with a biased perspective from consumers who one day, for whatever reason (price, brand loyalty, features, etc.) decided to choose one system over another and because of that decision have determined that their system is the best and everything else is awful.  These discussions are usually driven by 14 year-old boys… and men in their 30’s and 40’s who regress to adolescence any time the subject is discussed.

But, before any discussion of the Wii U can begin, you have to discuss its predecessor, the Wii, its history, development and evolution. Although I appreciate the novel concept of the Wii and what Nintendo was trying to do with it, it stands as a testament of failure of innovation and foresight as far as I’m concerned by Nintendo and I’m not the only one who thinks this.

From The Globe and Mail on Nintendo’s record losses in 2011:

“Meanwhile, the short-sighted Wii, though seductively cheap and in possession of a couple of compelling casual gaming gimmicks, proved unable cope as both user desires and surrounding technologies evolved. Its more robust competitors, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3, got off to a slower start, but have thrived in the long term, and will likely continue to prosper for at least a few more years.”

There is no question that the Wii has made a lot of money and it is certainly a fact that it has sold about 50% more units than the PS3 and the 360, but I firmly believe that when the Wii U fails, history will look at Nintendo’s short-sightedness regarding the Wii as the ultimate reason why this failure occurred, and unless consumers are completely ignorant of the specifications of the Wii U, this would seem to be inevitable.  And let’s be clear, when I discuss specifications, what I really mean is capabilities, because most consumers wouldn’t know what the significance of CPU and GPU numbers were if they took a course on them. So when discussing system capabilities, the Wii U is set to disappoint like no system ever has.

The truth is that while the Wii was in development during the early 2000’s, Nintendo was aware that they could not compete with the hardware capabilities of the PS3 or the 360 while developing their seventh generation console and be at a pricepoint they wanted to be at and worse, they couldn’t foresee the demand for HD gaming, network gaming or the concept of a video game console being a network connected home entertainment hub the way that both Sony and Microsoft envisioned them, despite losing money initially. Nintendo thought HD TV was a fad.

Perhaps the most poignant metaphor for the Wii’s Technology.

So what did Nintendo do? They punted. They went in a completely different direction with their console because they knew they didn’t have the chops to compete at the same level tech or capability-wise and they developed a system that was hardly more than supercharged Gamecube with a unique controller system. Instead of targeting the same market that console manufacturers have been traditionally targeting for the last two decades – y’know, actual gamers – they decided to target just about every one else they hadn’t in the past, and of course, their own loyal base. Nintendo never saw itself as in competition with the current gen consoles from day one with the Wii, not because they weren’t, but because they decided to pretend that they were above all of that just as they’re doing with the Wii U (straight from the mouth of Fils-Aime at E3 2011 in that interview above) and while, from a standpoint of expanding your market, I commend Nintendo for targeting casual gamers, retirees and consumers that would not normally consider themselves gamers, I’m not so naive as to think that this was some genius stroke of marketing innovation and foresight. No, this was a defensive measure entirely in order to be able to survive because they weren’t ready to play with the big boys and no one was as surprised as they were at the Wii’s success.

“… But you ARE me.”

I hate to be the one to break this to everyone, but the Wii’s success was based on the novelty of its controller system, its safe and easily accessible titles and most importantly, the fact that it was and continues to be the cheapest of all seventh gen systems and it gained its prominence during a period of worldwide recession. High sales numbers for a cheap product does not mean that the product is an outstanding product. You truly get what you pay for. The Wii is hardly any different now than it was when it was first launched and that’s because its hardware is so incredibly out-of-date, using virtually the same technology as a Gamecube (as confirmed by Miyamoto, himself), albeit faster and more efficient. One of the biggest jokes of all is the fact that the Wii cannot even support digital audio-out (and I’m not even talking about the horrific 480 resolution) and the best you can hope for is a Dolby Pro-Logic II audio track. Are you flipping kidding me?  I had a DVD player from 1997 that supported digital audio out. Is it any wonder that the Wii hasn’t had a system update in nearly two years while the 360 and PS3 continue to receive regular updates? Is it also any wonder that that the Wii’s sales have plummeted since 2008 while the PS3’s and 360’s (especially the 360’s) have done nothing but increase?

The truth is that the Wii as a console was and is an insult not just to the true gamer (who was alienated by it and rejected it) but to anyone who expected that the system they spent $250 or $200 on would have any kind of extended technological life-cycle. Nintendo lied to their fanbase (who wanted to believe the lie) and they lied to the ignorant consumer (their new market of casual gamers, preteen girls and the elderly) who didn’t care or know any better, selling them a technologically archaic unit that was out-of-date on launch date. The only reason they got away with it is because their biggest market didn’t know any better and their fanbase was so enamored by the Wii-mote (just as they are about the new  Wii U GamePad) that they chose to ignore the realities of the Wii technological deficiencies.

Oh, and the alternate controller for the Wii U is… an XBOX 360 Controller, c. 2005. Are we seeing a trend, yet?

And all of this is what has led us to Nintendo’s new big lie, the Wii U which should really be called the Wii-on-U because that’s exactly what they are doing… pissing on their customers, new and old. They are playing the “pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain” game by introducing a current gen console and trying to pitch it as a next gen console – once again – because of its gimmicky new controller that no one cares about. This is a turd… a big cigar-shaped stinking turd floating in the toilet of failure and the pricepoint is ridiculous.

So what exactly is the Wii U offering and how much is it? Well it has the capability to do everything that a PS3 can do (minus the Blu-ray ability and 3D ability) and a 360 can do (minus the controller-free ability) and a bunch of stupid crap that no one cares about.  It comes with a controller (the GamePad) that costs $170 to replace if broken or if, y’know, you just want a second one,  and then you have the privilege of getting a console with 8 GB of storage for $299.99 ($50 more than the PS3 with no Blu-ray player and 112 GB less storage) or a “Deluxe” version with 32 GB of storage ($100 more than a 250 GB XBOX 360 or the same price including Kinect).


TVii-U… seriously? I’m supposed to be impressed with the ability to watch Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime which I’ve doing for years with PS3 and 360? I’m supposed to be impressed that it’s compatible with TiVo which has a grand total of 2.3 million subscribers?  Well, I guess, I’ll just go out and spend another $300 on a TiVo so I can take advantage of TVii-U.  Do I really need another universal remote with a guide in it when I get a guide through an OSD already and have been for nearly two decades? Am I really supposed to be impressed with its capability to “stream live TV similar to a set top box,” considering that like 91% of the U.S., I already have a GD settop box and a cable signal or satellite signal won’t be compatible with the Wii-U because they don’t have any license agreements with the providers? Can I possibly be the only one who sees TVii-U as being as big of a failure as the Logitech Revue was… for the exact same reasons?

So, basically what you have here is a whole lot of nothing because that’s what Nintendo has been excelling at over the last decade: bringing a whole lot of nothing new to the table. The Wii-U is even more of an insult to the “core gamer”  this time around that they lost with the Wii because its sole reason for existence is to woo them back by saying, “We know this is what you’ve been complaining about for the last six years so we’ll finally give it to you except for the fact that once again, you can only use our proprietary discs in it and the hardware we’ll be at the end of its lifecycle in two years… but hey, you can hook it up to the TiVo that you most likely don’t own, so STFU!  You’ll take what we so graciously give you and like it.”

Oh, and one more thing for the gushers who will hail Nintendo’s brilliant new console because of Nintendo’s new found dedication to third-party developers, every single piece of footage shown by Nintendo at E3 2011 from third-party developers to showcase Wii U was either footage from a PS3 demo or an XBOX 360 or from a PC Demo because Nintendo thinks you’re that stupid.

From our favorite propagandist Reggie Fils-Aime,

“We’re talking a year away from when the system’s going to launch. The system’s going to be 1080p. You’re going to see games that take full advantage of a system that has the latest technology and can push out some incredible graphics.”

And the problem with this entire endeavor can be summed up in that quote. First, excusing the lifting of footage from other consoles and pretending it’s yours by saying that the graphics are going to be 1080p suggests that resolution is the only thing that matters with gameplay and that’s all critics have complained about so what’s wrong with using the competition’s footage because it will all be the same anyway, right?  Second, no dummy, it cannot push out incredible graphics, it can push out 1080p graphics, i.e., the contemporary standard in the only types of displays that are available on the market… 1080p displays. Third, and the most important, Reggie do you really want to run with this notion that your brand new, state-of-the-art, next generation console, the Wii U will be just as good as the competition’s current consoles (hence why you used their footage) when those systems and that technology is six and seven years old, respectively?  Is that where you really want to go?  What next… the Nintendo cell phone with the novel idea of the built-in camera?

Here’s the reality of what you can really hope to expect from Nintendo’s Wii U, which would be fine if they weren’t trying to sell it as something it wasn’t.  Also, notice that this, and every other trailer that Nintendo has put out is only in 720p.

A Note to Nintendo: Assuming that core gamers and even the average contemporary home electronics consumers are as ignorant and un-tech savvy as who your target market of little girls and the elderly has been is the stupidest mistake you have ever made in the history of your company… even stupider than the PowerGlove.

Although I never speculate about game consoles, the Wii-U deserves to be an absolute disaster and no amount of limiting retailers’ initial inventories to artificially drive up demand will change that.

But wait… hold up!  They’re throwing in a $3 HDMI cable.  Well, that changes everything. Forget what I said and sign me the f*ck up.

More reading:

CNET: Nintendo Wii U arrives November 18 starting at $299

CNET: Nintendo turns on TVii for Wii U

Nintendo Wii U Official Page

FOX Buys Marvel Comics’ The Punisher Series, Commits To Pilot

Deadline is reporting that FOX has handed a put-pilot commitment to The Punisher, a series based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name.  The series is from ABC Studios and (former Criminal Minds showrunner) Ed Bernero and marks the first time that Disney has ever sold a Marvel Comics series to anyone but Disney-owned ABC.  We think we know why.  As much as we hate to say it, this is going to suck and we’ll explain why.

From Deadline:

The Punisher is described as an hour-long procedural with a Marvel signature and a new take on one of the comic book giant’s iconic characters, Frank Castle, a rising star detective with the New York Police Department who moonlights as the vigilante Punisher, seeking justice for those the system has failed.

And there it is… the reason this show will not work.

We Need Less of This...

First, let’s be clear, this is not a new take on The Punisher.  This is the nearly the same premise as the 1989 film, The Punisher (and to a lesser extent the 2004 film of the same title where The Punisher is former Delta Force and currently an undercover FBI agent), starring Dolph Lundgren that is possibly one of the worst films ever made.  The major difference is that there is nothing to indicate that his family has been murdered by the mafia (wha???) and that in this bizarre universe, The Punisher actually keeps his day job of being a detective and goes out at night to fight crime, i.e., he’s every other comic book hero. Now, is the fact that the general premise is the same in and of itself what makes this “new” concept for television so bad?  Nope, the problem is that Frank Castle (a.k.a., The Punisher) does not work as a cop for numerous reasons, especially an active-duty cop.

...and More of This.

Frank Castle is a metaphor for the everyman.  He was originally an enlisted, highly decorated and patriotic soldier who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when his family was gunned down after witnessing a mob hit.  He was never in a position of authority or power, and that’s why the character has had the appeal it has had for the last 37 years.  He’s one of us.  He’s the husband and father that was able to strike back against the criminals of the world and get the kind of retribution and justice that we would all seek if we had the ability and gestational fortitude. To put it simply, he’s NOT ‘The Man’ and a cop is ‘The Man.’

The truth is that people want their police officers to be police officers and their vigilantes to be their vigilantes. That’s true with comic book readers, television audiences and just people in general.  Is it any coincidence that Bernhard Goetz still has supporters to this day? Is it any coincidence that a show like Person of Interest continues to find success on CBS or how even twenty years ago The Equalizer found similar success.

The First Appearance of 'The Punisher.' The Amazing Spider-Man #129, February 1974

That being said, we may appreciate our citizen-vigilantes, but there has always been something very unsettling with the idea of a police officer taking the law into his own hands, even fictionally. American audiences don’t like corrupt cops, even if they are doing it for a greater good because we are brutally aware that any one of us on any given day could be at the other end of the actions of a corrupt police officers.  We’ve recently gotten hooked on AMC’s Breaking Bad  and in the third season, Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), a DEA agent, viciously assaults Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and there isn’t a person who’s seen that scene that doesn’t cringe with the notion of a police officer abusing their power in such a manner and even Hank himself takes full responsibility for what he has done and says, “We have to be better than that.”

So, the point is that there isn’t anyone that wants to see a cop as a vigilante on television, nevertheless the brutally vicious Frank Castle.  Below, is what the The Punisher is all about and that ain’t gonna work with the title “rising-star detective.”


Happy 45th Birthday, Star Trek! (Big Announcement!)

First, the big news! Star Trek turns 45 today and to honor its legacy, The ‘Tastic will be dedicating an entire section of the blog to individual Star Trek episode reviews, ‘Tastic-style, beginning in November!  Stay tuned! 

On September 8, 1966, television history was made when Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic vision of a future without war, poverty, or racism, where mankind worked together to solve its problems and better itself, appeared on our television sets and changed the course of television and science fiction history forever.  Spawning five live-action series, one critically acclaimed animated series, 11 feature films, thousands of novels, comic books, video games and billions of doallrs in merchandising and a dedicated fandom like no other over the course of almost half of a century, as Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) put it in the Roger Nygard documentary Trekkies, Star Trek truly is our 20th century mythology and now is still going strong into the 21st century.

Part 1 of the Documentary Film, Trekkies.

The franchise has had its ups and downs with audiences and even from before the first episode, The Man Trap, was aired, it faced opposition from television executives whom although enjoyed the original pilot, The Cage, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, thought it was “too cerebral” for a general audience.  At this point Star Trek made its first bit of television history being the only show to ever have a second pilot ordered for it. Hunter refused to film a second pilot and the role was subsequently re-written and re-cast with William Shatner playing the role of the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Captain James Kirk.  Lucille Ball’s production company, Desilu Studios, produced the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, and the rest is television history.

Part 1 of the first aired episode The Man Trap

As an aside, Jeffrey Hunter sadly passed away in 1969 from a cerebral hemorrhage after suffering two strokes a the age of 42. Imagine how the most recognized television franchise of all time would look today had Hunter not turned down the role in the second pilot.

Star Trek lasted on the air for three seasons and only so because of a massive fan campaign spearheaded by the legendary Bjo Trimble.  NBC wanted to cancel it after two but they were inundated with letters and studio protests and they greenlit the show for one more season.  Unfortunately, the slot they chose for it was 10:00 p.m. on Friday night which all but assured there would not be a fourth season.

Star Trek found new life again in syndication and if you ask most fans that grew up or went to college during the early to mid-1970’s they’ll most likely tell you that this is how they were exposed to it.  What’s unique about the franchise is just how many of the actors and production staff that have been on the subsequent series and in the films over the years that were actually fans going back this far.  Star Trek’s success in syndication planted the original seeds for bringing the franchise back in one form or another and eventually led to the critically acclaimed and award-winning Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1973 which featured all of the original cast members with the exclusion of Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov).

Star Trek The Animated Series Opening Theme Music:

With the success of the brand in syndication, the continued popularity among the fans who would regularly attend conventions by the thousands year after year, a very popular and well-received animated series, Paramount, in 1975, decided to bring back the Star Trek franchise in the form of a major motion picture.  They then switched gears and decided that they not only wanted bring the franchise back on the small screen and update it, but they wanted it to be the flagship for their new fourth network to air in 1978.  When the plans for the network folded, all filming and production on Star Trek: Phase II ended but a funny thing happened that kept the franchise alive; a little film you may have heard of called Star Wars.

Am I crazy or is that Steven Spielberg in the backgorund?

Following the incredible success of George Lucas’ epic masterpiece, Paramount, like every other studio in Hollywood at the time, wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the science fiction space epic, and realized they could accomplish this with the Star Trek franchise, so the proposed pilot episode of Star Trek: Phase II, In Thy Image was recommissioned for feature film treatment and in December of 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in theaters.  My dad actually took me to see TMP when I was four years-old and I still remember it. Ironically, he’s not a Trek fan and I only became one 18 years later.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, despite receiving lukewarm critical reception (I still refer to it as Star Trek: The Motionless Picture due to it’s incredibly long and drawn out special effects scenes. It’s great for going to sleep at night to, I’ll tell you that much.) and going extremely over-budget from $15 million to $46 million, was an unqualified success bringing in $139 million at the box office (roughly $412 million in 2011 dollars… put that in your pipe and smoke it, J.J. Abrams!) with fans going back to see the film multiple times.

The original cast of Star Trek would go on to do five more feature films and of course a new Star Trek series set 100 years after the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, would debut in 1987, last for seven seasons, become the highest rated syndicated television program in history, have four more major motion pictures made with that cast and spin-off three more television series and in 2009, Roddenberry’s original vision was re-imagined with J.J. Abrams’ blockbuster film Star Trek, the eleventh Star Trek film featuring a whole new cast of young actors reprising the legendary roles of the original cast from the original, iconic series.

So, what is so special about Star Trek that it has not only endured but still continues to find success, generation after generation, despite being written off for dead on more than one occasion?  Why is Star Trek so universally loved by such a diverse audience of people, many of whom wouldn’t consider themselves science fiction fans, per se? The easy answer that everyone throws out is always that it gives us “hope” which I believe is clichéd tripe.  The concept of “hope” is certainly an element in Trek, as it is in most Science Fiction stories but Star Trek has been so much more than that for so long.  Star Trek is about adventure, it’s about looking forward into the unknown and it’s about examining ourselves today and trying to figure where we’re going in the future. But most importantly, Star Trek is about the stories of the characters and how we, as the audience, relate to them.  These are timeless concepts in epic storytelling that know no generational bounds.

Ready to Boldly Go… With The Good Guys.

As I noted, my dad took me to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture when I was four years old and as for myself, I’ve been watching Star Trek with my own kids since the day they were born.  My five year-old daughter is very interested in Seven of Nine and the whole concept of the Borg on Star Trek: Voyager. She also loves any episodes involving Naomi Wildman because, even at five, it’s about relating to the characters and she also has always loved Star Trek: The Animated Series to the point where she wouldn’t fall asleep without it between the ages of two and three. My two year-old son who overheard me explaining the characters on Voyager in the most simplest terms of “good guys” and “bad guys” to my daughter, now points to everything related to Star Trek and says, “Good guy!”

Now, I know at the end of the day, that my kids’ interest in Star Trek at this very young age has very little to do with understanding what’s going on in the show and far more to do with just wanting to take in interest in what Daddy likes, but this is something that we’re always going to have.  It’s like baseball.  It doesn’t matter what happens, at the end of the day we’ll always have our little escape and something to talk about.  That is something that you cannot put a price on and as my friend Santos Ellin, Jr. said regarding my son’s interest in Trek, “Never let him lose that magic Shawn, it keeps you young and it’ll do the same for him. Never let his imagination falter,” and that folks is what it’s all about;  the magic of Star Trek, and it’s that magic that has inspired so many people over the years. Roddenberry passed away in 1991, but there’s no doubt that his legacy will live on for generations to come.

Think it’s just the nerds that like and have been inspired by Star Trek?  Well, yeah… I guess we are a big part of the fandom but here’s an abbreviated list of famous people (mostly non-nerds) who are known to be confirmed Trekkies.

  • Angelina Jolie
  • Tom Hanks
  • Seth MacFarlane (had a cameo on Star Trek: Enterprise)
  • Whoopi Goldberg (played Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, lobbied for the role.)
  • Eddie Murphy
  • Rosario Dawson
  • The late former President Ronald Reagan
  • President Barack Obama
  • Buzz Aldrin (and just about any astronaut)
  • Mel Brooks
  • General Colin Powell
  • Robin Williams
  • Ben Stiller
  • Dr. Stephen Hawking (had a cameo on TNG)
  • Former Vice President Al Gore
  • Christian Slater (his mother, Mary Jo Slater was the casting director for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and cast him in a cameo role and he has his personal replica of Kirk’s Captian’s chair in the ofcie set of his show, Breaking In.)
  • Mira Sorvino
  • Megan Fox
  • Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper
  • Dr. Marvin Minsky
  • George Lucas
  • Kelsey Grammer (had a cameo on TNG)
  • King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of Jordan (had a cameo on VOY)
  • Jason Alexander (had a featured guest starring role on the episode of VOY, Thinktank)
  • Bryan Singer (had a cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis)
  • Mila Kunis
  • Mick Fleetwood (had a cameo on TNG)
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • South Park’s Matt Parker and Trey Stone
  • Karl Urban (played McCoy in Abrams’ Star Trek, pursued the role when he heard about the film being made.)
  • Freema Agyeman of Dr. Who and Torchwood fame
  • John Barrowman of Dr. Who and Torchwood fame
  • Candace Bergen
  • Daniel Craig
  • Kevin Sorbo
  • Robert Carlyle
  • David A. Goodman (Family Guy executive producer. Wrote the Star Trek themed episode of Futurama, four episodes of ENT)
  • Tom Morello of (had a cameo on VOY)
  • Brad Paisley
  • The late Frank Sinatra (claimed he never missed an episode of TNG)
  • Jimmy Buffet
  • Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • The late Isaac Asimov
  • Dr. Daniel J. Levitin
  • Chris Jericho
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (had a cameo on VOY)
  • The late Dr. Randy Pausch
  • The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tom Bergeron (had two cameos on ENT)
  • Sir Richard Branson (named his spaceships the VSS Enterprise and the VSS Voyager)
  • Natalie Portman
  • Tommy Lee Jones
This post is dedicated to the memories of Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, James Doohan, DeForest Kelly and the biggest Trek Fan I ever had the pleasure to meet, Captain Eddie Chiullan.

Captain Eddie Where He Belongs... In the Captain's Chair. God Speed, Eddie.