The Walking Dead Pool

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Rick’s cocky confidence literally brought him to his knees by the end of season 6. He led his crew straight to that charismatic sociopath, Negan – and his crazy lady, Lucille, the barbwire-wrapped baseball bat that knocked a couple of fan favorites out of the series.

Every Sunday night, when the show is on, my now girlfriend (friend at the time) hosts what we call Walking Dead Sunday Dinners. She crams her sister and I in her small apartment, along with some of our friends, and we spend an hour or two on dinner & cocktails. We talk nerdy, and sometimes even play a game, like Joking Hazard (which I highly recommend, if you’re open to/or have a sick, vulgar sense of humor).

By 9pm, we rearrange the furniture, collect our beverages, kill the lights, and gather around the flat screen for the main event. This is followed by dessert and cordials during Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick, which we also watch.

When we began the new season (season 7), knowing that somebody was going to get their head smashed, we all thought it would be a fun idea to take bets. We did this during our pre-show dinner, and we called it The Walking Dead Pool (which is a costume I have, but I digress). The biggest question after the season 6 cliffhanger, despite what the comics say, was: “Who did Negan kill?” A question that I was repeatedly asked, when I sported my Negan cosplay at New York Comic Con last October.

I had a theory.

If you follow the comic, you already knew that Lucille took Glenn’s life in issue 100. But, from a TV Producer’s perspective, you wouldn’t want to remove a beloved character that has a fan base. You don’t want your ratings to drop. Instead, you would want to remove a slightly less dominant, yet likable, character that most people would shrug off. For me, that choice was Abraham.img_4585

That being said, in the midst of our wining and dining (champagne and White Castle, by the way – classy), we went ahead and cast our vote. We wrote our selection on a piece of paper, folded it up, and tossed it in a bowl. The winner got to collect the five dollars that we threw in a TWD gift box (yes, there were five of us and we were cheap about it). But, for whatever reason – maybe it was the champagne – I changed my mind last minute. I talked it out. It’s not Glenn, because that’s obvious . . . It’s not Abraham, because that, too, is obvious . . . I got it! It’s Daryl! He wasn’t even in the comic; he was created for the TV series. Plus, his death would have a tremendous impact. It would introduce Negan the way he is meant to be introduced; feared by both Rick and us, the audience.

617ff907-027d-49e1-901e-6b434f49b4c9I lost my producer thinking-hat in that moment, with the whole “can’t kill off a character with a fan base” theory . . . I bet a whopping one dollar bill on it, too, only to discover that it was in fact Abraham who lost his head! But, it didn’t affect me.

Okay, so that’s that, I thought. But, then Daryl had to go ahead and mess things up further, costing them Glenn’s head! Holy sh#%! Okay, now I’m affected – regardless of what I knew from the comic!

Despite the unfortunate situation, I felt the season 7 premiere episode was well crafted. It took the show to another level, and it introduced a great villain, played perfectly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It had intense conflict and consequence . . . and, in my opinion, it was probably the best episode yet. Kudos to Scott Gimple for penning it – and, of course, Greg Nicotero for his directing.

But, overall, it seems a lot of fans lost interest after this episode. The ratings dropped, and I can see why . . . They are probably disappointed by the loss of two fan favorites; they probably despise Negan . . . Or, maybe they don’t like seeing Rick as a coward, and Daryl being treated like a dog . . . Or, if they’re like me, they probably don’t like it when they drag things out with boring filler episodes. I’d personally prefer 6-8 tight episodes, à la Netflix, and get down to the nitty-gritty. None of this 60-minutes of Tara on the beach crap. I want the meat and potatoes – and, I’m a theoretical vegetarian!

*breathing*

Okay, getting back to our Walking Dead Pool . . . My girlfriend picked Glenn and my buddy picked Abraham, so they each became a few dollars richer that night, when we witnessed Negan in full swing (sure, pun intended). But, is Negan really that bad?img_4587

In comparison – when you really think about it – Rick is way crazier than Negan. Rick would kill a dozen people in their sleep, out of paranoia, whereas Negan would only punish you for your wrong doings. Everyone fears and obeys Negan because of his superior confidence and sadistic charm. The man’s a wolf.

In life, there are leaders and there are followers. Negan is a leader . . . Although, by the end of the mid-season finale last December – when everybody reunited with their ten minute session of smiles, hugs, and nods – it seems Rick’s leadership has returned, along with his Colt Python (thanks, Daryl).

They are revved up and ready to go kick Gregory in the nuts and feed Negan to Shiva! Or, not, but maybe!

AMC’s The Walking Dead returns on February 12th and we are ready to kick off season 7B (or, 7.5 – whatever you wanna call it) with some Chinese take-out.

Let’s start the insanity.

Remembering Jerry Goldsmith

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I was interning at Paramount Pictures in the summer of 2004, when I learned about the passing of film composer Jerry Goldsmith. His compositions, along with John Williams and Danny Elfman, ruled my ears in the 1980s and 90s.

After school – before hijacking the family television – I would borrow the stereo and blast tracks like The Klingon Battle (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture)The Gremlin Rag (from Gremlins), and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (from Twilight Zone – The Movie) . . . His music always managed to transport me to places beyond the movies they belong to.

Goldsmith’s genius goes back over 60 years, with classics like The Omen and Alien along the way. In the 1990s, he delivered his exciting score for Total Recall; as well as Star Trek: First Contact.

On what would have been his 88th birthday, I honor Mr. Goldsmith’s memory with the following medley of some of my personal favorite tracks:

Happy 85th Birthday to John Williams

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Would the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter films be as magical as they are without their unforgettable music score? Would the shark from Jaws be as terrifying without those two repeating notes? To quote Steven Spielberg: “Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor do brooms in Quiddich matches, nor do men in red capes. There is no Force, dinosaurs do not walk the Earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.”

John Williams has composed music for approximately 100 films; received 50 Academy Award nominations (won 5), and will continue to thrill us with the upcoming soundtrack for Star Wars: The Last Jedi this December – not to mention Star Wars IX and Indiana Jones 5 (both expected in 2019).

To honor Mr. Williams on his 85th birthday, I’ve compiled some of his masterpieces:

The Rebel Fleet / End Title

Washington Ending & Raiders March

Out to Sea / The Shark Cage Fugue

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (End Credits)

Hedwig’s Theme

Stranger Things 2 (Super Bowl 2017 Ad)

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As I sat and watched some long televised event, surrounded by beer and artery-clogging snacks, I patiently waited for a certain 36-second teaser. A teaser for a show that instantly captured the heart of my 1980s kid self last summer.

Stranger Things successfully delivers everything that excites me in narrative fiction. The kids are Steven Spielberg; the teenagers are Wes Craven; the adults are John Carpenter . . . Monsters; an alternate dimension; that Goonies & ET trapped in The Twilight Zone vibe . . . Chief Jim Hopper with that Indiana Jones badassery, sporting that brown, custom-made fedora . . . The recipe for this show buries the needle on my excite-o-meter.

This Halloween, we get to watch 9 more episodes on the genius that is Netflix. Only 260+ days!  Until then, leggo my Eggo!