If Leftists Knew How Much ‘Ted Lasso’ Undermines Them, They’d Cancel It

“Ted Lasso,” a comedy series released on Apple TV this past fall and already slated for seasons 2 and 3, is one of the biggest hits of the COVID-19 season. It has been widely praised, and described as “extremely likable” and “undeniably winning.”

Writing in Variety, Caroline Framke writes, “At a time when just about everything feels catastrophic, there’s something undeniably satisfying about spending some time with good people who are just trying to be the best they can, on and off the field.”

At this year’s Critics Choice Television Awards, the show was named Best Comedy Series, and Jason Sudeikis, the co-creator and actor who plays the title character, just won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series.

Here’s the real funny thing: the left loves the show, but it is deeply conservative.

By shedding light on this fact, I risk arousing the bloodlust of the Wokerati and condemning the show to a lifetime of groveling before the overlords of political correctness, but I’m going to do it anyway. Why?

Because “Ted Lasso” proves that deep down most of us respond strongly to the themes of conservatism: kindness, heroism, personal responsibility, continuity with the past, hard work, and family. It is only the twisted thinking of the Marxists among us who have managed to persuade half the population otherwise. So here goes.

Not Your Father’s Conservatism

First of all, a trigger warning: “Ted Lasso” is, unfortunately, full of lewdness and sexual references, which do nothing to improve the show. Indeed, its efforts to shock always feel gratuitous and out of place. One day I will write a different article about why our casual tolerance of bad language and the cheapening of sexuality are corrupting on any number of levels, but for now, I just warn you that “Ted Lasso” will not receive a stamp of approval from the Dove Foundation.

Yet, if you can ignore the aspects of it that are deeply offensive, you will find a powerful story about human flourishing lurking beneath, and you will likely be well entertained in the process.

Ted Lasso is a football coach from Kansas. He has been hired away from the Division 2 Wichita State Shockers to coach the AFC Richmond, a Premier League soccer team in the United Kingdom. The rationale for this cockeyed hire is that the team’s owner, played winningly by Hannah Waddington, is out to destroy Richmond in order to punish her cheating ex-husband, the team’s original owner. True to plan, the players flounder, but Lasso’s hope and optimism cannot be dampened.

A New Happy Warrior

Let us pause here for a moment to reflect on the disposition of conservatives versus leftists. When I think of leading leftists, I see a uniformly miserable lot: Joseph Stalin, Lenin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Saul Alinsky, Tom Hayden, members of the Weather Underground, Hilary Clinton, destroyers of statues, Black Lives Matter, the protestors in Portland, and all political purveyors of Critical Race Theory. They tend to share a misery with the world as it is and wish to tear it down, thinking — mistakenly — that rule over their utopian universe will bring them happiness.

Conversely, when I think of conservatives, I see a parade of happy warriors: Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, Justice Antonin Scalia, Phyllis Schlafly. Lasso would not be out of place at the front of that parade. They all see problems in the world, but ones that can be fixed, and those problems that never seem to dent their optimism. So Lasso’s optimism alone, in my mind, puts him on the right. But there’s more.

Lasso is devoted to his family — one father, one mother, and a child — does not condone casual sex, and not only does not see people as members of oppressed or oppressive classes but indeed seems to be color-blind.

Appreciating For American Meritocracy

Sam, a member of the team from Nigeria, asks Rebecca, the team’s owner, “Did you know J.K. Rowling has more money than the queen?” He continues, “I like the idea of someone becoming rich because of what they gave to the world, not just because of who their family is.” That seems a clear nod to American meritocracy if ever there was one as America’s Founding Fathers affirmed in the Declaration of Independence.

Note, as well, that it is Rowling who is upheld as a paragon of meritocracy. Among all the millionaires the show’s writers might have named, Rowling was, at the time of writing, very near the front of the line for the left’s guillotine because she had dared to question transgender ideology.

Men of Service

Lasso also shows a deep respect — even, dare I say, affection — for the military. His son, who remains home in Kansas, sent him a care package with a battalion of plastic soldiers. These are gifted or deployed from time to time when extra protection is needed.

If that is too subtle, there is a more substantive nod to the military in a storyline tied to the fact that the team’s stadium was used as a makeshift hospital during World War I. I won’t spoil the scene, but suffice it to say it is far from your usual Hollywood disparaging caricature of the military.

The theme that most sets “Ted Lasso” at odds with today’s purveyors of identity politics and their grievance machinery, however, is that of personal responsibility. The show rejects the idea that you are defined by your class, ethnicity, or upbringing.

Coach Lasso’s own life is the ultimate testimony to that, but it is also powerfully conveyed through the tension between the team’s two ace players, Jamie Tartt (played by actor Phil Dunster), and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein). Both come from troubled, working-class backgrounds and succeeded beyond all imagining. But where Roy accepts his aging with humility and puts the good of the team first, Jamie is a surly, spoiled narcissist who believes he is the star of a one-man show, and for that, Lasso works hard to hold him to account.

‘Who You Chose To Be’

But perhaps no scene better telegraphs the show’s deeply conservative message than the evening when the team has come together to watch a movie. They have traveled for a game and have been given the choice for the evening of a pillow fight or a movie. They choose a movie.

The movie is “The Iron Giant,” the 1999 children’s cult classic set in the Cold War. The Iron Giant is a mysterious 50-foot metal monster who falls to earth from outer space and befriends a young boy named Hogarth Hughes. It turns out the Iron Giant is part of an army of giants sent to destroy the earth, but Hogarth helps him to see he does not have to be defined by his “class.”

This is the very message today’s leftists would most like to cancel. They would like to convince us that we are no more than our class, race, skin color, sex, or sexual preference. To the modern left, we are either a victim or a victimizer — just members of a class with no personal responsibility for how we live, how we are treated, or how we treat others, determined by characteristics we cannot change.

But Hogarth offers a different choice. The Iron Giant can choose to be Atomo, the metal menace, a villain. Or he can choose to be like Superman. Hogarth explains to the Iron Giant, “He’s a lot like you: crash-landed on Earth, didn’t know what he was doing. But he only uses his powers for good, never evil. Remember that.”

Lest you think it is just happenstance that the clip of the film that is shown in this episode is the precise moment the Iron Giant makes his choice to be superman, think again. Coach Lasso alerts us early on to pay close attention to this moment. He says to his assistant coach, “Hey, do me a favor, keep an eye on these guys, because around the 74-minute mark, there’s going to be a room full of grown men crying.”

The moment he’s referencing is Hogarth tells the Iron Giant, “You are who you choose to be,” and the Iron Giant responds, “I Superman!” He chooses not to destroy the earth, as he was designed to do, but to sacrifice himself to save Hogarth and in the process saves all of humanity.

A Sense of Hope

Critic Keri Lumm writes, “Ted Lasso is the wholesome American hero we need. … The landscape of television has felt kind of gloomy, so imagine my surprise when I turned on the TV to Ted Lasso and felt a swelling of a now unfamiliar emotion — hope.”

Indeed, it’s not just the landscape of television that has felt gloomy. America itself — with its masks, its shuttered schools and restaurants, its cancel culture, its tyrannical wokeness — has become a gloom factory. The sense of hope that “Ted Lasso” instills is something we all hanker for, but you will not find it on the left.

If Lasso were not a product of Hollywood, he might have the flexibility to say that out loud and own up to his conservatism. Instead, he has kept it furtive, and now, unfortunately, because I have outed him, he’ll probably have to be canceled.

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Wokeness Wrecked ‘The Bachelor’ Only For Matt James To Get Back Together With A ‘Racist’

The latest rumor circulating the Bachelorsphere is that the last “Bachelor” Matt James is back together with his recently-wrapped season’s front-runner Rachael Kirkconnell, whom he dumped in disgrace after internet trolls dug up purportedly racist photos of the sorority girl at an antebellum-themed college party.

“It’s been a while but here’s some news: Matt and Rachael? Yeah, they’re not over. They’re currently in New York together. FYI,” tweeted Reality Steve on Tuesday night after somebody snapped a photo of what is allegedly the pair walking together in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The buzz about Matt and Rachael is truly fascinating as it comes only three weeks after the cringiest episode of “After the Final Rose” in “Bachelor” history, in which romance took a backseat while race issues were front and center. Matt and interim host Emmanuel Acho — who was tapped to host the finale after Chris Harrison got canceled for initially asking for grace for Rachael before folding to the woke bullies — put Rachael through an on-air struggle session. The conversation was egregious, and it ended in Matt telling Rachael that their relationship wouldn’t work because of her “not fully understanding” his “blackness” and Matt refusing to initiate a “final embrace.”

The Matt-Rachael rumor also comes on the heels of news that current casting for another franchise spin-off, “Bachelor in Paradise,” is not going so well, as Bachelor Nation stars are hesitant to jump on board the turbulent train of Hollywood wokeness.

“Casting has begun and some members of Bachelor Nation are apprehensive to sign up,” one “Bachelor” insider told E! News. “Some are wondering what direction the season will take and are curious if it will strictly focus on contestants falling in love.” If the next run of “Bachelor in Paradise” looks anything like the last “Bachelor” season, fans can expect the focus to stray from contestants falling in love to land instead on progressive politics.

“Many people are declining due to the current state of Bachelor Nation. A lot of people are removing themselves from the franchise,” reportedly added another source.

At this point in the franchise’s progressive purge, it seems the options are for the stars to remove themselves or be removed — just ask Chris Harrison, who hosted the show for nearly two decades and then got the boot for saying essentially the same thing as his replacement host before resorting to groveling pathetically to keep his post. It’s hard to blame potential would-be contestants for walking away. Who wants to be the next victim of a rose-strewn struggle session?

Wokeness ruined “The Bachelor.” It watered the franchise down to the worst version of itself and became repulsive even to woke millennials desperate for Instagram fame. Anything the show had going for it in the way of mindless entertainment has now been replaced by insufferable leftist dogma and cancel culture landmines that nobody wants to navigate for fear of blowing up their life and reputation on national television and being remembered as nothing more than the next fill-in-the-blank controversy.

And for what? If the rumors about Matt and Rachael turn out to be true, which many fans of the show have said would not be surprising, the main takeaway will be that the girl at the center of this year’s biggest pop culture racism scandal will ride off into the sunset with her black boyfriend.

You didn’t solve racism, Hollywood. You effectively matchmade the first black bachelor and his prejudiced lover. Was destroying the franchise worth it?

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Jimmy Kimmel Fails Trying To Rip Americans Skeptical Of Mandatory Vaccine Passports

Late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel backed vaccine passports on his show Tuesday night and contradicted his own argument against Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on voter identification laws. Kimmel said DeSantis and the GOP should support vaccine passports because of election security measures, producing a false equivalency.

“Unfortunately, many Republicans aren’t on board with [vaccine passports], including Ron DeSantis, the terrible governor of Florida,” Kimmel said, proceeding to play a clip of the governor in his Monday press conference vowing to ban vaccine passports in Florida.

“You want to go to a movie theatre, should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a game? No. You want to go to a theme park? No. So, we’re not supportive of [vaccine passports],” DeSantis said in the clip played by Kimmel.

“Right, which is very rich coming from the party that wants nine forms of identification before you can vote,” Kimmel said, to which there was applause in the crowd.

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Kimmel’s argument flips one of the many reasons conservatives argue against vaccine passports. Kimmel claimed that if Republicans support voter ID laws, then they should support vaccine passports.

But in fact, one of the chief contradictions those on the Right point out with vaccine passports — which The Washington Post reports the Biden administration is backing for people to prove their vaccination status — is the fact Democrats are actively opposing voter ID laws (in support of H.R. 1), but now advocating for a coronavirus ID.

Democrats oppose the new Georgia election bill signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on the grounds that it requires voter ID for absentee ballots. The left deems this measure racist, while simultaneously pushing for vaccine passports, which would effectively ban anyone who has not been vaccinated from frequenting venues or traveling.

It’s worth pointing out Biden’s administration is having to address vaccine hesitation, notably among Black and Latino Americans. So by Kimmel’s logic, documentation to prove COVID-19 vaccinations is not racist, but the ID requirements to cast a legal ballot in an election are.

Kimmel employs hyperbole to say it is supposedly contradictory that DeSantis opposes vaccine passports, claiming he “wants nine forms of identification before you can vote.” This is false. In reality, you only need one form of identification to vote, with several states not even requiring a photo ID and accepting things like bank statements, or something with your name and address.

On the contrary, GOP members are now fighting against a radical Democratic Party seeking to eliminate voter ID altogether — and thus seeking to protect just one form of ID.

“Ron DeSantis isn’t the only dope who opposes the passport,” Kimmel said, before playing a clip of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene saying vaccine passports are “Biden’s mark of the beast.”

“None other than Klan Mom herself Marjorie Taylor Greene believes there are biblical implications,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel contradicted himself once more, saying, “Poor Joe Biden. How can you reach across the aisle when the other side thinks you have hooves?”

For starters, there has been no attempt by Biden to “reach across the aisle,” since he has governed from the far-left side of the aisle and is on pace to have signed the most executive orders by any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to The American Presidency Project.

Biden has also continued to call Republicans racist, claiming the GOP’s efforts to oppose H.R. 1 is “makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” alluding to segregation laws which southern Democrats favored at a greater rate than Republicans. Taylor Greene, along with a lot of other Americans, is skeptical of an unprecedented attempt to digitize and categorize the confidential data of millions of Americans.

Kimmel acknowledges that “we now have controversies where we never had them before,” and in the process dunks on himself. While he attempts to make the argument that the GOP makes a big fuss over everything the Democrats aim to legislate, his reliance on vaccine passports as something completely new to American culture further validates DeSantis and Greene’s points.

Since vaccine passports are unchartered water, and precisely something “we never [have] had,” the talk show host is unintentionally spot-on. Americans are not insane for being skeptical of a potential program that would require them to inject something in their bodies in order to participate in civic life.

Keep doing your thing though, Jimmy. The more you try to make arguments, the more you demonstrate the insanity of the modern-day left.

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‘WandaVision’ May Be Done, But Wanda Maximoff Surely Isn’t

When the Cowardly Lion met the Wizard of Oz, the Wizard said to him, “You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom.”

With the conclusion of “WandaVision,” it’s quite possible that the show’s heroine was suffering from a similar level of disorganized thinking, but also similar heights of courage and wisdom.

This isn’t just because the series finale featured a nod to “The Wizard of Oz” — albeit a little on the nose, what with the scene of Agnes’s boots beneath the house — there’s also the fact that the series started in black and white before transitioning to color.

Beyond that, however, lies an even grander parallel. Much as Dorothy always had the option to go home, so did Wanda always had that same choice.

For Dorothy, going home didn’t mean destroying all she loved, so the parallel isn’t perfect. But, as with Wanda, Dorothy had agency. Also, like Wanda, while she was weathering maleficent forces, she remained the master of her destiny.

The Choice to Destroy, Or to Love

It’s the choice the two characters were faced with that separates them. Dorothy only had to click together her scarlet shoes to leave a world hostile to her. Wanda, on the other hand, had to become the Scarlet Witch to hostilely destroy a world that surrounded her with love — mostly love, as it were.

The spell she cast to create the Hex was imperfect and the inhabitants knew their reality was fiction, that instead they were imprisoned in Wanda’s creation. Perhaps it’s fitting the only escape was for Wanda to embrace the dark edges of her power and become the witch she’d forgotten she was.

There was also Agnes — the only other truly sentient inhabitant of Westview — the witch who pushed Wanda to unconsciously explore her powers and, ultimately, press them to the limits.

As we saw foreshadowed in Episode 8, and which became clear in the finale, Agnes’s deadliest power was her ability to Aikido magic against those who deployed it in her direction. For that to work to its greatest potential, Agnes needed Wanda to unleash her full fury.

But she misread Wanda’s ability to read the scene. Wanda may not have comprehended how she controlled her surroundings early on, or how she controlled them, but she quickly realized they were her scenes. Indeed, she was the director.

The Excesses of a Disorganized Mind

With the series finale, Wanda courageously chose to fully absorb reality. Her husband, her children, her life was the products of her disorganized thinking — but also wisdom. Life inside the Hex may have been artificial, but Wanda came to realize true heroism demanded she run away … at least until she couldn’t.

Whether or not she would have come to that realization with Agnes is debatable. Normally, the villain needs the hero. In the case of “WandaVision,” however, the hero needed the villain more. The cracks in the façade were not dependent on Agnes. She was, however, an effective catalyst.

And so, Wanda awoke to her reality. Her visions of a dead Vision were proven to be memory instead of fantasy. Her children turned out to be a product of her imagination. The city she occupied ended up being a factory town of the worst variety. Yet, that was her happiness. To click her ruby heels would mean she would abandon it all.

And still, she clicked her heels — not with gusto, not with joy, she clicked them with reticence. She clicked them knowing that all she held dear would evaporate, as though she’d snapped her fingers while wearing the Infinity Gauntlet.

You Can Go Home Again

Wanda, whose powers would not exist absent misery, chose to use them again to face misery head-on. For those of us who wondered if she’d end up the villain of the series, there was our answer. She is complicated, but in Westview, she was not evil. When offered multiple opportunities to embrace evil, by her own creation or by Agnes’s, she turned away. Rather than punishing others in an effort to absorb their fleeing happiness, Wanda instead turned into her loneliness.

Or, to cross franchises, as “WandaVision” did with Quicksilver, she could have died the villain, but she lived long enough to see herself become the hero.

The Show is Over, but the Story Continues

While “WandaVision” resides in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its ethos reminds us comics can tap into our shared humanity. Sure, the fights are epic, the special effects magnificent, and the characters fantastical, but at the core, they show us that we’re all pretty much the same, regardless of relative power. We crave meaning, community, family, and — above all else — we want love. We want to be human, particularly when we don’t feel like one.

What “WandaVision” relayed so poignantly was our capacity to choose humanity, even when our part of the human experience is beset by suffering.

At the end of “Infinity Wars,” we saw Thanos in his cabin, content with the aftermath of his carnage. He had no other goals. He’d achieved the destruction he desired. Yet, at the end of “WandaVision,” we saw Wanda, also in a remote cabin, desolate over the evil she’d inflicted. We also see her, with more than a little foreshadowing, plotting the undoing of the carnage she caused.

And with the final scene, with even more foreshadowing — this time with a nod to “Dr. Strange” — we saw that while “WandaVision” is finished, Wanda Maximoff is not. In fact, she’s likely just getting started, as we all should.

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Is The Rock’s New Series Just A Trial Balloon For A Run For President?

“The Young Rock” has everything you would expect a weeknight comedy show from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to include: a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” origin story, an homage to the world of professional wrestling, and a tongue-in-cheek hint at his inevitable presidential run.

The premiere of the new series drew the largest audience for an NBC comedy in years. The show is set in the year 2032 during The Rock’s presidential campaign. In a series of sit-down interviews with actor Randall Park, who plays himself but as a future network news anchor, the candidate narrates as he weaves together stories from his childhood, teenage years, and college football days.

Just two episodes in, “The Young Rock” is funny but wholesome. The characters are corny but extremely likable and perfectly cast. Even though the tales of his childhood and gritty adolescence are carefully crafted, and seemingly written with a rose-colored-glasses nostalgia, it still feels honest. As if it’s exactly how The Rock would tell you stories over a beer about his high school crush or the complicated relationship with his wrestler dad, Rocky “Soul Man” Johnson.

Some of the stories seem surreal or exaggerated for television, but The Rock insists “everything happened,” if only a few edits to dates and cities. He told The New York Times how he and show creators Nahnatchka Khan and Jeff Chiang would use his stories to write scripts.

“It required a lot of hours of sitting down with Nahnatchka, just talking and sharing stories and then walking away, going back home, writing things down, meeting back again, going over more stories,” he said, admitting tequila was also involved in helping him recall memories.

Just like wrestler-turned-actor-turned-entrepreneur himself, there is so much to like about The Rock’s stories. Wrestling fans will appreciate the nod to legends like The Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant, and Vince McMahon. College football fans will smile at the appearance of a young Coach Orgeron and the legendary Hurricanes team of the early ’90s.

Although the presidential campaign framing of the show feels like The Rock is just teasing fans who want him to pursue a political career, it also conveniently doubles as an ingenious way to portray him in the minds of voters and get ahead of the stories should he ever want to run. After all, The Rock did once call the idea of him running for president “a real possibility.”

After Donald Trump paved the way for a serious celebrity presidential candidate in 2015, The Rock acknowledged that the idea of him as a viable candidate was being presented to him more and more. In 2017, someone filed to create a campaign committee with the Federal Elections Commission on behalf of The Rock called “Run the Rock 2020.”

“There was a real sense of earnestness, which made me go home and think, ‘Let me really rethink my answer and make sure I am giving an answer that is truthful and also respectful,’” he said at the time.

Although “The Fast and the Furious” star endorsed candidate Vice President Joe Biden in 2020, he’s not typically partisan. He doesn’t post woke PSAs or lectures on his Instagram, and he refused to endorse Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in 2016, although both campaigns asked. Some might consider him more in the Matthew McConaughey camp – no agency pledged to either Democrats or Republicans and a commitment to hearing out those he disagrees with.

“[If I didn’t agree with someone] on something, I wouldn’t shut them out. I would actually include them,” he said. “The first thing we’d do is we’d come and sit down and we’d talk about it. I [would] take responsibility for everyone. Especially when you disagree with me. If there’s a large number of people disagreeing, there might be something I’m not seeing, so let me see it. Let me understand it.”

When the internet mob tried to get everyone, including The Rock, to boycott Under Armour in 2017 after the company’s CEO made positive but innocuous comments about Trump, The Rock shut down the keyboard warriors with the perfect response. He invoked his responsibility to the company, directing respect to the “diverse group of hardworking men and women” who work on his successful Under Armour clothing line, adding “debate is healthy. But in a time of widespread disagreement, so is loyalty.”

Since he made those comments about running for president in 2017, he’s seemed far more occupied with his own business ventures. In just a few short years, he’s built a production company, an ever-expanding clothing line, a tequila brand, an energy drink company, and purchased the XFL football league for $15 million. And that’s on top of all the movies and television series he stars in each year.

The Rock is a product of the American dream, and clearly loves and respects the country that made him the wildly successful person he is today. Could the presidency really be next?

If only we could be so lucky. We are only episodes into the premiere season of “The Young Rock,” and will have to wait and see where the fictional 2032 campaign trail takes him, but he’s certainly not ruling it out.

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The Marvel Multiverse Makes Its Debut On ‘WandaVision’

(spoilers ahead for “WandaVision”)

In comic books you live in a world of multiverses — multiple universes with many iterations of your favorite heroes and villains all alive and well, all interacting in big storylines. We haven’t seen that play out in the live-action television and movie adaptations of comic book storylines… at least not yet. On the latest episode of “WandaVision,” however, Marvel’s most experimental television show, the Multiverse made its debut. Yet, before we dive into that and all that entails, we need to first see how we got there.

In last week’s episode, we got a behind the scenes look at how Wanda had essentially kidnapped an entire town to use them as her cast members in a 20th-century sitcom that allowed her and her dead lover, Vision, to live a normal suburban life.

The most recent episode begins with our bizarre suburban couple trying to get their babies to sleep. The ever nosey neighbor Agnes arrives (dressed in very 80s like jazzercise gear), and in trying to get the kids to sleep, they suddenly “up-age” themselves to be five years old.

The event is just the most recent of numerous clues that Wanda is beginning to lose her grip on this pseudo-reality. The next clue comes when Agnes straight-up asks Wanda if she should, “take that from the top” after she flubs a “scene.” Vision is caught off guard by this, but Wanda brushes it off.

Wanda and Vision are now the proud parents of two five-year-old boys. Soon, those boys find themselves a puppy, Sparky, but Vision and Wanda don’t believe they’re old enough to care for it. Vision informs the boys they can have a puppy when they turn ten, then, right in front of Agnes, the boys up-age themselves again to ten-year-old kids. Throughout just a couple of days, Wanda has gone from becoming pregnant to the mother of two ten-year-olds. What a world she’s made for herself.

At work, Vision’s office gets the latest in 1980s technology: computers. He walks his office mates through the glory of “electronic mail,” where we get classic jokes like, “Where do I put the stamp?” and “Do I need a letter opener?”

Problems arise when the first email the entire office receives is a S.W.O.R.D. communique from Darcy which the entire office recites to Vision in a weird little segment. Puzzled, Vision uses his powers to bring Norm out of Wanda’s trance and ask him what’s going on.

Norm, in a state of panic, just wants to contact his family but can’t. He begs Vision to just stop Wanda so he can get back to his normal life. Then Vision, more concerned than ever, puts Norm back under Wanda’s control.

As with all Hollywood stories about a dog, it’s not long before the poor pooch dies. The cause of Sparky’s death? Eating some poisonous plants in Agnes’s yard. The two now grief-stricken boys ask their mom to bring the dog back to life, again, right in front of Agnes. The nosy neighbor then says, “You can do that?” Vision returns from work just in time to see this, comfort his boys, and take everyone home.

Once they’re home, Vision confronts Wanda about what happened with their kids, what Norm said, and why he can’t remember any of his life before being trapped in Westview. They get into a fight only a superhero couple could. They both elevate themselves, floating in mid-air. Then, just as they’re getting their powers spun up, the doorbell rings.

In the “real world,” we see Monica Rambeau trying to explain what happened in what Darcy has now coined, “The Hex” while she was under Wanda’s control. Confirming the suspicions of many viewers, what Wanda is doing is changing reality, warping it to her liking. The 1970s era bellbottoms that Monica was wearing when she got kicked out of Wanda’s vision were bulletproof. They were made from the same bulletproof vest she was wearing when she got sucked into the town.

Monica and the rest of S.W.O.R.D. hatch a plan to send in a 1980s era drone to see what happens if Wanda experiences technology she doesn’t have to warp to fit her preferred timeframe. Monica believes that it’s a peaceful mission to talk to Wanda, but when they meet the Scarlett Witch face to face, the S.W.O.R.D. director orders another operator into the room to fire a missile at Wanda.

This infuriates the former Avenger.

She destroys the drone, brings it out of The Hex, then confronts the S.W.O.R.D. team that has assembled there with their guns trained right at her. She tells them that no one is going to disturb her again and then uses her powers to point all their guns at the S.W.O.R.D. director before heading back into The Hex.

Now, back in front of the television signal, Darcy watches as Wanda goes to answer her doorbell. Lo and behold: it’s Wanda’s brother, Pietro, a.k.a. “Quicksilver.” This Quicksilver, however, is not the Pietro we met in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” — this is the Quicksilver we met in the Fox “X-Men” movies played by Evan Peters. The madness of the multiverse has arrived!

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Millennials Meet Mortality With The Passing Of ‘Saved By The Bell’ Actor Dustin Diamond

Actor Dustin Diamond passed away this week at the age of 44, just weeks after being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Diamond was best known for his role as “Screech” Powers on “Saved by the Bell,” a character he portrayed for 13 years.

Diamond died just three weeks after his initial diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer, according to his publicist. As tragic as any death is, particularly at such a young age, articles dedicated to his memory and in honor of his body of work may be few and far between. A look at Diamond’s career, shaped by a single role on a teen TV show that aired more than 30 years ago, would not be an obvious inspiration for entertainment writers.

But Screech Powers was not just a forgotten TV side character; he was a cultural touchstone for almost everyone born in the late 70s and early 80s. Ever youthful, naïve, and optimistic for whatever the world may have for him, Screech represented the spirit of 90s kids. He got pushed around, he got teased. But his tenacity and love for life always kept him in the winner’s circle.

“Saved by the Bell,” however one may feel about the overall quality of the show, was definitive programming for my age group. We all dreamed of being beautiful like Kelly, or effortlessly cool like Zach. It was one of the first shows specifically aimed at young teens and its success was achieved by striking a perfect balance between “kid-dom” early adulthood themes.

Screech was the foil of the show who was seldom the center of a story but was required to make other characters look either good or bad, depending on how they treated him. He represented all of our little brothers and sisters: an annoying drag, but the person we loved the most in the world. And it was those character traits and Diamond’s goofy, hopeful grin that kept him on the show, in every iteration, far longer than any other character.

Diamond’s curly brown hair, wide toothy grin, and child-like wonder remained with him throughout his run on the show. His youthfulness was not by accident, he was several years younger than any of the other cast members, more likely to be the age of the kids watching the show.

Like Screech, we watched the show and admired the older, more adult characters. Co-star Mario Lopez referred to Diamond as a “fun, goofy little brother.” We wanted to emulate them, to impress them, to be accepted by them. But perhaps it was Screech we were relating to. We were the wide-eyed pre-teens ready for new experiences and Screech’s willingness to embarrass himself in search of answers and friendship was admirable.

Many of us grew out of “Saved by the Bell” before the final version of the show, “The New Class,” went off the air in 2000, 12 years after first meeting Screech. Diamond remained in the role from age 11 to 23, returning post-college years to portray an assistant at the high school.

After the end of Screech, Diamond infrequently worked as an actor, finding himself in the news for less savory reasons. Like many child actors before him, Diamond slid in and out of obscurity, reaching for a comeback through professional wrestling, publishing a tell-all book, and even releasing a sex tape.

He spent time in jail after a violent bar altercation. Rumors of drug addiction and depression swirled, and Diamond’s career was further pocked after being snubbed from a “Saved by the Bell” reboot that began airing last year. Diamond was supposedly in discussions about joining the reboot in its second season when his illness was revealed in early January. And, in just a matter of weeks, he was gone.

His passing is a watershed moment for millennials, who are now forced to accept the fact that we are not in our immortal youth any longer. Death came for one of us just as we prepare for middle age. Every generation meets a moment when they realize they are mortals, that they can’t outrun death, and that eventually, they run out of chances.

It’s now time for acceptance that, never again, will we be able to watch a “Saved by the Bell” rerun without a sense of sadness and loss not only for Diamond, but for our own youths. And as time marches on, none of our nostalgic culture will remain untouched.

For millennials, our moment of mortality has arrived.

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On ‘WandaVision,’ We Begin to Get Some Answers

The big question so far on “WandaVision” has been, “What exactly are we watching?” Well, in episode four, we began to get some answers. Granted, it is a Marvel show so we also got more questions, but we did get some answers too, along with the appearance of two Marvel Cinematic Universe sidekicks, and a better idea of what S.W.O.R.D. is.

Today’s “WandaVision,” amusingly titled, “We Interrupt This Program,” gives us some of the backstory on what exactly is going on. The episode begins with a chaotic scene. In a hospital room, we see Monica Rambeau re-materialize after The Avengers bring her back from “The Blip,” the MCU’s name for the 50 percent of living beings that disappeared with the snap of Thanos’s fingers in “Infinity War.”

She runs around in a panic looking for her mother who was apparently about to be discharged from cancer treatment. After finding a doctor who recognizes her, Monica is informed that her mother died three years ago when the cancer came back, which was two years after Monica up and vanished along with half of the universe.

This is the first time we’ve seen the immediate aftermath of the heroic sacrifices The Avengers made at the end of the Infinity Saga. Now we see just how traumatizing it must have been for people to vanish from existence for five years only to return to a world they didn’t necessarily recognize.

After Monica leaves the hospital, she makes her way back to the headquarters of S.W.O.R.D., where she works, only to find her key card doesn’t function anymore. She encounters the director of the organization, a role that used to be held by her mother. He sends her on a mission to aid the FBI in a “missing persons” case in rural New Jersey.

At this point, Monica finds agent Jimmy Woo, played by Randall Park, who we last saw in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” as the FBI guy in charge of keeping an eye on Ant-Man. Woo is now trying to track down a source he had in witness protection who was hidden in Westview, New Jersey. Monica learns that no one in the town seems to be reachable, and the sheriff, who is stationed outside the town’s city limits sign, denies the town even exists.

Monica and Woo send a S.W.O.R.D. drone into the town only to watch it disappear. Monica then walks up to the town’s border and sees an “energy field” that looks a lot like an old-fashioned television screen did if you got too close. She touches it and gets sucked into the town.

Twenty-four hours later we see the next MCU sidekick join the party, Darcy Lewis, played by Kat Dennings. The last time we saw Darcy was in the first two Thor movies. Here she’s being called in by S.W.O.R.D. to investigate the town. Upon examining it, she finds that the town is broadcasting an old television signal.

Darcy proceeds to have the government “goons” set up an old TV so she can see the broadcast — a broadcast that happens to be what we’ve been watching through the first three episodes of “WandaVision,” and we learn that it’s Darcy whom we saw at the end of some of these episodes watching them with us on an old television set.

We then see Woo, Darcy, and the S.W.O.R.D. team investigate the anomaly and try to figure out what’s going on. They begin to identify the people “cast” in Wanda’s delusion, and it turns out many of them are just normal citizens who somehow got dragged into this sitcom fantasy. Darcy also asks the question we’ve all been wondering about Vision since the first minute this show started, “Isn’t he dead?”

In an earlier episode, we heard what sounded like Woo trying to talk to Wanda through the radio. Now in this episode, we get to see how that moment came about. Darcy and Woo cobble together a plan to try and talk to Wanda through the radios they can see on screen. They also send a man dressed in a biohazard suit through the sewer to try to reach Monica. He’s the one who appeared as a random beekeeper in the first episode. That’s what her delusion changed him into.

We also get to see the rest of the scene from the last episode where Wanda figured out that Monica was not who she appeared to be and ejected her from the town. It turns out she did that quite violently by sending Monica through the walls of her house, the fence in her yard, and flying through the air at breakneck speed. The thing is, the S.W.O.R.D. observers don’t see that scene; they just see Monica disappear as we did in the previous episode. That leads Darcy to posit that someone is “censoring” the broadcast from them and not letting everyone see what is happening.

Then we’re left with the most disturbing of images as we approach the end of this episode. Wanda, slightly shaken from her delusion by Monica’s mention of Ultron, but not entirely, sees Vision enter their home. Instead of the Vision we’ve seen who is miraculously alive, well, and remarkably human, we see the dead Vision we last saw in the fields of Wakanda after Thanos ripped an Infinity Stone straight from the sythezoid’s head. He’s still talking to her, but he’s clearly not alive, with vacant eyes, and a large hole in his head.

It’s a jarring, unnerving, and very disturbing break from the happy-go-lucky sitcom world we’ve been immersed in through the first few episodes.

Then, it’s gone.

Wanda returns to her world where she and Vision are alive and well in a 1970s sitcom with two bouncing baby boys. Then we get perhaps the most interesting exchange between the title characters we’ve had yet. Vision, seeing the upset nature of Wanda, says, “We don’t have to stay here. We can go wherever we want.”

Wanda, beginning to piece together what is going on, with tears in her eyes, says, “No we can’t. This … is our home.” Vision says, “Are you sure?” and Wanda answers, “Don’t worry darling, I have everything under control.”

Then we cut to Monica, who is on the grass outside Westview, exactly where we left her at the end of the last episode. She is surrounded by government agents. Darcy and Woo run up to Monica, who is still dazed on the ground, and ask if she’s okay. Monica says, “It’s Wanda. It’s all Wanda.” The episode closes with Wanda and Vision cradling their babies while watching TV on their couch as Jimmy Hendrix sings “Voodoo Child.”

My working theory has been that Mephisto is the villain behind all this nonsense we’ve been seeing in “WandaVision” and that he would be the central villain of the next few Marvel movies, but the way this episode ends raises interesting questions.

Will Wanda herself move from being a hero, a member of The Avengers who saved the universe from the evils of Thanos, to a villain herself? Could her immense grief at the loss of her lover, Vision, drive her to become a crazed supervillain?

Could Wanda be the next big baddy of the MCU? Maybe we’ll find out more next week on “WandaVision.”

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Things Are Beginning To Unravel On ‘WandaVision’

On this week’s “WandaVision,” we get the pregnancy episode and an homage to 1970s style sitcoms like “The Brady Brunch.” The episode, entitled “Now in Color,” shows Wanda going through the entire nine months of pregnancy in the span of an afternoon. At the end of last week’s episode, we saw her with a small baby bump, but now that bump is fully developed and off to the races.

The comedy in this version of the sit-com comes from the hilarious reactions caused by Wanda reaching certain milestones in her pregnancy.

When she has her first Braxton-Hicks contraction it blows out the power in her whole neighborhood and overloads all the devices in her kitchen.

When her water breaks, it causes the house to flood.

As the baby is about to be born, a stork shows up in the house, while Wanda is trying to hold down a normal conversation with a neighbor that stopped by.

Being a super-powered pregnant woman is not easy.

We also get Paul Bettany at his absolute best. His comedic timing is perfect, and his ability to play the fish out of water character makes this show as funny as it is weird. As an expectant father, he’s as nervous as the rest of us were, but with the added pressure of his wife’s entire pregnancy being condensed into an afternoon.

At one Vision asks the town doctor, “How did this happen?” We get perfectly appropriate to a 1970s sitcom answer from the M.D. about how “When a man and woman love each other…” Originally the first Marvel television show was supposed to be “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” but COVID-19 stepped in, production schedules were shifted and “WandaVision” became the first out of the gate. It’s still early, but it appears we’re all better for it.

When Wanda’s little one who is either going to be named Tommy or Billy (depending upon which parent you ask) is finally on his way, Vision runs to find the doctor leaving Wanda at home alone, but that’s when their neighbor Geraldine shows up. As we know, but Wanda does not, Geraldine is actually Monica Rambeau who we met as a child in the 1990s-set “Captain Marvel.”

Monica is stalked by a stork in this episode, but there to help with the birth of little Tommy, who as it turns outs, is just one of a set of twin boys. After Vision and the doctor have returned, and both babies are out and asleep in their crib, Wanda remarks that she had a twin brother once. Here is where the show illustrates that Wanda’s vision of her new life is starting to unravel. Monica says, “He was killed by Ultron, wasn’t he?” This is the first mention of Wanda’s brother or Ultron in a long time in the MCU, and it does not go unnoticed by our super-powered new mom.

Wanda then confronts Monica, and asks, “What did you say?” Monica tries to deflect by mumbling something else. Meanwhile, Vision is outside talking to the neighbors, who sure are nosy in this small town, and they’re asking if Wanda is inside with Geraldine. Vision finds it odd that he’s being asked this, and inquires why it matters.

The nosiest of nosy neighbors, Agnes, interjects that Geraldine is new in town, has no husband, and no home, and then Vision’s friend Herb tries to tell him something, but Agnes convinces him to keep it a secret (Bettany plays this so well). Earlier in the episode he remarks to Wanda that something is wrong in this town. Not liking that, she rewinds him and makes him say something else, but it’s clear that’s Wanda’s vision of her perfect suburban sit-com life is beginning to crumble.

As Vision re-enters the house he finds that Geraldine has gone. He asks Wanda where she is, and Wanda says, “She had to go home.” We then see the city limits for the modern-day town of Westview, with Monica having been thrown out of town. Government vehicles, military trucks, and helicopters hover overhead, spotlights focused on the confused woman rolling on the ground.

If these twin boys are anything like the babies Wanda and Vision had in the comics, then it may indicate just who is the evil force behind this show.

In the comics, Wanda and Vision had twin boys named Tommy and Billy, but they weren’t truly human, so Wanda stole fragments of life from a villain named Mephisto to give them souls. Later, Mephisto — who is essentially the Marvel version of The Devil — destroyed Wanda’s children to absorb their mutant powers.

There have been several rumors that Mephisto is the big baddie for the next few Marvel movies including the third Spider-Man film and the second adventure of Dr. Strange. Could he get his introduction in “WandaVision?” It seems so.

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Despite Its Corny Premise, ‘Alex Rider’ Is a Surprisingly Good Show

On its face, the premise of “Alex Rider,” a streaming show about a teenager who is recruited to be a spy, does not inspire much confidence for the prospective viewer.

One can just imagine a whiny teenager trying to balance finding a date for prom and finishing homework by day while sparring with supervillains and thwarting their world domination schemes by night. In between ever more ridiculous scenes, this boy would also struggle with his identity and weep bitter tears over a lost father figure. This was exactly what happened in the 2006 movie, which was a critical and financial flop.

Fortunately, the new Amazon Prime series from IMDB TV and Sony Pictures Entertainment — based on the hugely popular young adult series by Anthony Horowitz — has learned from these mistakes and makes the story of “Alex Rider” work. It dispenses with most of the adolescent and secret agent tropes and creates a compelling show that features a great plot, likable characters, and solid action and suspense. More importantly, the show takes itself and its audience seriously.

Like any spy thriller, the plot of “Alex Rider” is what holds everything together. Nevertheless, unlike most spy thrillers, which tend to veer into complex world-building and subplots, the show keeps it simple: Alex’s uncle, a secret agent, is mysteriously murdered, and this leads Alex, ably played by Otto Farrant, to participate in a secret mission to figure out what happened.

After the first few episodes show how Alex ends up agreeing to the mission, the rest of the season focuses on his mission. He goes undercover at Point Blanc, a school in the Alps that specializes in reforming the wayward children of billionaires.

Alex slowly learns the ways of the school while his team gradually uncovers the school’s connection to other illegal activity, precipitating intense action and plot twists in the final episodes. All of these scenes are faithfully executed, looking realistic, not cheap or overdone.

The simplicity of the plot, however, does lead to serious underdevelopment in the main character and his setting. Alex’s backstory, such as how his parents died and how he learned to be a spy, is occasionally hinted at in the dialogue, but almost none of it is clear. The viewer simply has to accept he’s a trained agent on a mission.

The agency he works for is equally undiscussed. Again, the viewer simply has to accept that these people who stare at their screens in a poorly lit industrial building are a special division of MI6 operatives coordinating missions and gathering intelligence.

Although these omissions detract from the show’s realism and prevent more emotional investment in the protagonist, the general restraint in development does help to keep the focus on the plot, and it prevents the characters from becoming an annoying distraction. Even Alex’s nerdy friend Tom Harris, played by Brenock O’Connor, satisfies as the comic relief and character foil and manages not to overwhelm a scene.

Thankfully, the less filled-in characters still retain their believability — a rarity in shows featuring adolescents — acting with the maturity appropriate to their age. For the most part, the teenagers are not wise beyond their years, nor are the adults impetuous morons in need of lectures from the youth they supposedly supervise.

At no point does the show degenerate into slapstick or parody. Each person does his part with a straight face, and the show is surprisingly serious the whole way through. There are a few angsty moments with Alex and Tom, but this is minimized. Although they occasionally seem a little obtuse or make dumb mistakes, adult characters are also mostly capable in their roles.

On a deeper level, “Alex Rider” has the uncommon virtue, particularly among youth entertainment, of not being preachy. Alex doesn’t have to learn to respect women more, nor do to tame his toxic masculinity (on the contrary). He is not a minority trying to overcome systemic prejudice, nor is he breaking stifling social conventions with his sexuality or political wokeness. In an unexpected move, the creators stayed faithful to their source material and kept him a teenage straight white male who shows unusual strength and courage.

That said, the cast includes a variety of different looks, and women play key roles in helping Alex succeed, particularly his handler Mrs. Jones, played by Vicky McClure, and classmate Kyra, played by Mayli Siu. Yet, rather than competing with Alex and taking him down a peg, these women complement him and play their parts competently. In general, both the men and women in the show shine in their proper element, without anyone being denigrated or overpowered to make a point.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the only real theme that seems to surface from the show is friendship, which is rare in a genre where the protagonist is mainly alone — both because no one understands him and so that he can keep his friends and family safe. While Alex’s friendship with Tom indeed puts the latter in danger, it also keeps Alex grounded. Seeing this play out is gratifying and refreshing, especially when such relationships are painfully absent among so many young men today.

Overall, one doesn’t have to be a teenager to enjoy “Alex Rider.” True, it may appeal primarily to a young audience, but adults will appreciate the good, clean fun that it offers. It avoids the common pitfalls of similar shows and movies, and, based on the developments of the final episode, it has the potential to continue delivering quality entertainment.

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