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A Disturbance in the Force premieres at SXSW this March

In 1977, “Star Wars” became a cultural phenomenon that single-handedly revitalized a stagnant film industry, and forever changed how films were sold, made, and marketed. Movies would never be the same again.

A year later, neither would television.

In 1978, CBS aired the two-hour “Star Wars Holiday Special” during the week of Thanksgiving and was watched by 13 million people. It never re-aired.

While some fans of the franchise are aware of this dark secret, this bizarre two hours of television still remains relatively unknown among the general public. Simply put, we will answer how and why did the “Holiday Special” get made.

A Disturbance in the Force is written and directed by Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak and features Seth Green, Weird Al Yankovic, Paul Scheer, Taran Killam, Donny Osmond, Gilbert Gottfried, Bonnie Burton, Bruce Vilanch, and Steve Binder.

TV Review: Broad City S3E10 “Jews On A Plane”


Broad City airs at 10 PM EST on Comedy Central.

Whereas previous Broad City finales have gone expansive and used all of New York as a canvas (See “St. Marks” and even non-stop running/tracking shot Season 2 finale over the Broad City featuring an Amy Poehler cameo.), “Jews On A Plane” stays very tight and contained. The entire plot happens while Abbi and Ilana are on the flight to Israel to be a part of Birthmark (A parody of Birthright.), a free trip to Israel for young Jewish people to learn about their heritage and maybe even make babies. (And it’s not without its controversies, including its treatment of Palestinians and the two state solution as I discussed in my last review.)  And unfortunately Abbi gets her period after she and Ilana finally play the world’s biggest game of Tetris and end him sitting one seat away each other with a guy between them, who is asleep, so they treat themselves to his headphones and a free movie. He turns out to be dead. This turn of events is a cliche, but it’s fun to see Abbi and Ilana show off their hustle in high altitude.

“Jews On A Plane” is excellent satire of American society’s stigma about women and their periods, and how privilege plays into this between Abbi’s yelps of pain. For example,  while Abbi and Ilana are bemoaning the long line for the bathroom as Ilana McGyvers a makeshift tampon from pita, string, and other sundries, she says that this is how homeless women must feel. Then, there’s a pause and a moment of silence from director John Lee, and you can almost hear Ilana and Abbi catching their privilege especially after Abbi says something about choosing between food and tampons. This is a serious discussion and leads into the declaration that tampons can be free. (They’re not free yet, but some states are starting to remove the absurd “tampon tax” when freakin Viagara is tax exempt.) There is also a momentarily humorous and just plain real moment when Abbi and Ilana are looking for tampons amongst their fellow passengers, and Abbi talking to an older woman not realizing that she’s going through menopause. The actress playing the menopausal woman delivers an amazing line about women with menopause not getting representation in pop culture, and it’s very cutting. Throughout “Jews On A Plane, Glazer and Jacobson aren’t afraid to use Abbi’s period for comedy and to spur on the plot’s main action which is Abbi and Ilana’s epic quest to get a packet of tampons in first class while the flight attendants are on their own mission.

An interesting thing about “Jews on a Plane” is that writers Glazer and Jacobson spend quite a bit of time developing and looking into the characters of two flight attendants played by Tymberlee Hill and Annie Lee. Mona (Hill) is freaking out about not having anything to tell her old high school classmates at their upcoming reunion and is cycling through fictitious ones like being Beyonce’s nanny to stealing some of Annie Lee’s one like getting a bone marrow transplant. Their dialogue isn’t super funny, and they aren’t compassionate towards Abbi’s tampon-less plight, but they definitely share a bond. (Except midway in the episode, Lee says that she is tired of Mona only talking about herself, and that she doesn’t “like” her.) And this bond and desire to be the stars of their own quirky little story (Much like every episode of Broad City.) leads to them thinking Abbi and Ilana are terrorists and tackling them in a fun slow motion sequence featuring Lee checking her Fit-Bit as she goes over 10,000 steps while Abbi sings the Christian hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing!”, a shining example of her less than orthodox Judaism. The focus on these two, not particularly noteworthy characters posits the idea that they are the stars in their own version of Broad City, but with hijinks and pitfalls centered around being flight attendants and being a little bit older than Abbi and Ilana. Honestly, we’re all starring in our own version of Broad City right now.

In a season full of great guest stars, Seth Green of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Austin Powers, and Robot Chicken fame is the ginger cherry on top as Jared, the tour guide, who starts as overly earnest, but ends up telling Ilana that he’s only emphasizing the coupling of young Jewish people to get more commission money on the trip. This definitely turns her on with a quick flash of her erect nipples before cutting to a makeout session in the airplane restroom. He enjoys Ilana’s circumcision humor and joins the “Mohel Chai” club with her in an extremely clever joke that has to be explained for Abbi and some members of the audience, including yours truly.

But like many recurring gags this season, Broad City can start overusing a joke, but then there will be a nifty editing trick or line delivery from a supporting character that makes it fresh again. (Like the flight attendant glancing obsessively at her Fit Bit for the fourth or fifth time that episode during the slow mo sequence.) And sometimes the joke is just dead sadly, like the pilot and co-pilot going down on each other causing turbulence. But, for the most part, Broad City has grown more confident in its third season and become slick stylistically, adding serialized elements, and going deeper into the characters of Abbi and Ilana by looking at Abbi’s family life and Ilana’s inability to be employed. I don’t think anything can top Ilana and Abbi “switching places” in the second episode though.

Overall Rating: 8.0
Broad City Season 3

TV Review: Broad City S3E09 Getting There


Broad City airs at 10 PM EST on Comedy Central.

In the penultimate episode of Broad City Season 3, the show has gone full fledged serialized, and there’s even a little “to be continued” tag instead of the usual jokes and outtakes as the credits roll. But before Abbi and Ilana go into the great unknown aka Israel with Jared (played by Seth Green) as their tour guide, they get one last intense, fun, wacky, and a little morbid New York misadventure beginning with free (meaning stinky) yoga and ending with them taking their New York street skills to the JFK Airport as no one will get in their path of a free trip to Israel.

After last episode, which zeroed in on Abbi and Ilana’s relationships with Trey and Lincoln respectively, writers Jacobson and Glazer wisely decide to focus on their friendship even though Jaime (Arturo Castro) gets a few scene stealing moments like helping Ilana pack super quickly while wearing no pants and getting ready for a nice masturbation session on the couch a la Abbi dancing naked to “The Edge of Glory” when she realizes Bevers (John Gemberling) has left the apartment. And director Todd Biermann relies on a lot of Broad City standard visuals, like quick cuts between Ilana and Abbi contrasting their behavior, a fast tracking shot as they sprint through the JFK Airport, and a percussion heavy soundtrack. The episode’s story and look might come off as “typical Broad City“, but he also switches things up a little with a longer take of Abbi and Ilana playing a game of “fuck, marry, eat” when there’s a subway stoppage for 30 minutes and burns rubber as a 15 year old son of a taxi driver finally takes Abbi and Ilana to the airport immediately running a stop sign.

As mentioned earlier, the “going somewhere” plot has been use a multitude of times in Broad City, but Jacobson and Glazer keep things clever and occasionally dark, like a great conversation about eating a super cute baby and what parts would be the best on it followed by a lingering shot of the baby’s mother staring into the distance. This probably isn’t the weirdest thing she’s heard today. The recurring reference to Abbi’s butt (Ilana greets her as “Ass” when they try to take the subway to the airport.) also pays off in the form of a plot beat as Ilana’s prayer to it leads to the train restarting. And her hustling ability pays off in a slightly disgusting, yet mega hilarious joke that is also a callback to the “Pussy Weed” episode as Ilana smuggles weed in her vagina (Or “nature’s pocket”.) by wearing period blood stained jeans and gets past security pretty easily. Glazer and Jacobson poke fun at the societal taboos that unfortunately exist around menstruation, and the joke goes beyond simple satire by adding the nervous tension of smuggling drugs past the ever watchful TSA. All the events in the airport are super fun to watch, especially once Abbi and Ilana use their bags to creatively navigate the terminals.

And the final payoff of the episode after Glazer and Jacobson wisely build suspense by not revealing too much about their final destination, and their destination is a ten day trip to Israel as part of a real life program called Birthright meant for Jewish youth 18 to 26 to learn more about Judaism by visiting what Jared calls the “holiest of lands”. (Birthright has come under a lot of heat for being anti-Palestinian, against the two state solution, focusing on Zionism at the expense of other forms of Judaism, or just being plain unhelpful.) The last few minutes show how Abbi and Ilana feel like outsiders among the other Birthright participants, especially their creepy leader Jared, who mentions their “reproductive potential” as soon as they enter the cabin. Glazer and Jacobson go for broad parody of Birthright in this sequence while also creating a sad, emotional moment of Ilana and Abbi separating.

“Getting There” is zippy progression from the familiar Broad City plot beats of Abbi and Ilana running around New York with the added obstacles of teenage taxi drivers and airport issues to the unfamiliar as they go on the Birthright trip. We’ll find out if it’s the fun trip they thought it would be in next week’s season finale.

Also, special thanks to Graphic Policy’s Elana for giving me some additional information about Birthright.

Rating: 7.7

NYCC 2015: Nickelodeon Brings TMNT to the Show

TMNTNickelodeon is bringing the heroes in a half shell to New York Comic Con and giving attendees an exclusive look at the hit animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Thursday, Oct. 8, during an hour-long panel where the voice cast and executive producers will reveal exclusive sneak peeks from the upcoming fourth season.

Upon entering the convention center, fans will be greeted by Nickelodeon’s booth, which is inspired by the creativity and imagination streaming from the Nickelodeon Animation Studio. The booth showcases series like Pig Goat Banana Cricket, Harvey Beaks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hey Arnold, Rugrats, SpongeBob SquarePants and more.

Fans can also “Get Animated” with a special activation at the booth.  Nickelodeon teamed up with Nito to allow kids (and big kids) to “become” their favorite Nick characters. Step into the booth and voila – your movements and expressions are mimicked perfectly by SpongeBob, Arnold, Rocko, Korra, Harvey Beaks, and more!  You can take part in a real animated scene and will then be emailed a video to share.

Throughout the convention, TMNT’s Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo; SpongeBob SquarePants; and the Rugrats’ Tommy Pickles will be available for photos at the Nick booth.

On Thursday, October 8, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles celebrity voice cast – Seth Green (Robot Chicken) as Leonardo, Rob Paulsen (Planet Sheen) as Donatello, Greg Cipes (Teen Titans) as Michelangelo, Hoon Lee (Banshee) as Splinter, and Eric Bauza (Breadwinners), along with executive producers Ciro Nieli and Brandon Auman will partake in a panel from 2pm to 3pm on Main Stage 1-D.

Brendan Hay, Seth Green, Zeb Wells, Dan Milano, & Heidi Gardner Present: Rascal Raccoon in Reading, Writing, & Revenge!

Brendan Hay, Seth Green, Zeb Wells, Dan Milano, & Heidi Gardner Present: Rascal Raccoon in Reading, Writing, & Revenge!

Join notorious cartoon meanie Rascal Raccoon and author Brendan Hay for a hilarious reading from their new Oni Press graphic novel, Rascal Raccoon’s Raging Revenge, this Sunday, February 19th  at Meltdown Comics in Los Angelese, CA. Featuring, live and onstage, the voice talents of Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Family Guy), Zeb Wells (Robot Chicken, Avenging Spider-man), Dan Milano (Greg the Bunny, Warren the Ape), and Heidi Gardner (Funny or Die); you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll eat cupcakes… no really, there’ll be cupcakes!

“I couldn’t be more excited about this event,” said writer Brendan Hay. “I’ve always been a fan of dramatic readings and the idea of doing one for Rascal Raccoon’s Raging Revenge has been in my mind since the book was published. Being fortunate enough to have so many voice actors lend their talents to the event is the icing on the cupcake, so to speak.”

Hay has written for Robot Chicken, The Simpsons, The Mighty B!, and is currently head writer on a new project for Lucasfilm Animation. But his heart belongs to comics. Rascal Raccoon’s Raging Revenge tells the tale of Toonie Terrace, home of the fun-loving Toonies and their jealous, bitter rivals, the Meanies. For all their shenanigans, no Meanie has ever murdered a Toonie… until now. After thousands of painful failed attempts, Rascal Raccoon has finally killed his arch-nemesis, the charming and adorable Jumpin’ Jackalope. Rascal is overjoyed, but there’s one problem: what does he do now?

“It’s deep philosophy disguised as slap-stick comedy,” said editor Jill Beaton in describing the graphic novel. “If you spent your entire existence striving for one thing and you finally got it, what then? Brendan’s writing is hilarious and Justin Wagner’s art brings everything to life. I can’t wait to see the panels on the screen and hear the actors portray these characters. It’s going to be amazing!”

Come for the reading, stay for the signing and the cupcakes. Best of all the whole event is FREE!

Rascal Raccoon’s Raging Revenge is available now at all finer comic shops and booksellers. Rascal Raccoon in Reading, Writing, and Revenge premiers Sunday 2/19 at 2pm in the Meltdown Comics Annex and features a selected live reading of the new graphic novel by Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Family Guy), Zeb Wells (Robot Chicken, Avenging Spider-man), Dan Milano (Greg the Bunny, Warren the Ape), and Heidi Gardner (Funny or Die)

Rascal Raccoon in Reading, Writing, and Revenge
February 19th, 2pm PST
Meltdown Comics, at the Meltdown Annex
7522 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 851-7223