NOTE: OK, I’m sure you all know by now, but just for the new ones. Every once in a while, I e-mail my buddy “Neelix” to let him know what about pop culture is currently bugging me. I decided to leave him alone, and start submitting our correspondence as columns. Enjoy!
So, how you doing today? It’s just been another lazy Saturday morning for me. Saw the usual assortment of cartoons, with one exception. I thought I’d tune in for the premiere of the latest incarnation of Power Rangers, entitled Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue. Now, I know that I said a few ramblings back that I had pretty much lost interest in Power Rangers. But hey, I was curious to see the latest spin on these pop culture icons. The new premise is as follows.
Centuries ago, the world was rampant with a band of demons led by the evil Diabolico. A sorcerer was finally able to create a spell and imprison Diabolico and his minions. Years past, and recently some unwitting travelers freed these evil forces, and they once again seek to conquer the Earth. But the city of Mariner Bay was built on their holy ground. So, before they go out to conquer the Earth, they seek to destroy Mariner Bay and rebuild their temples. Is there no hope for the Earth? These people cried out for a hero.
Enter the government. They had known about Diabolico for some time, and had been building weapons and technology to battle his forces if he was ever freed. The government went out and recruited the operatives who would battle these forces: a firefighter, a paramedic, a stunt pilot, an extreme sports athlete, and a marine biologist. These five have been endowed with new morphers, and as the Lightspeed Power Rangers are off to save the world from the forces of evil!
Actually, I’m quite impressed. This new incarnation gives the Power Rangers something they’ve never had before: last names. I also find it interesting that these Rangers are funded by the government. If I were to draw and X-Men analogy, it would be like the original Rangers were the X-Men, and these new guys are X-Factor. And there’s a new city to protect! Originally, the Rangers were defenders of Angel Grove. Then, when Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy premiered, the Rangers became defenders of space colony Terra Venture. And now, Mariner Bay. I’m not going to get too excited, though. I’ll probably keep watching it until the mysterious sixth ranger is introduced.
That’s become the Power Rangers formula. About a month into the new series, a “mysterious sixth ranger” is introduced. For the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, it was the Green Ranger, later to become the White Ranger. For Zeo, it was the Gold Ranger. For Turbo, it was the Phantom Ranger. For In Space, it was the Silver Ranger. And most recently, it was the Magna Defender for Lost Galaxy. I could give origin stories on all of them, but I won’t. We don’t know who it will be for Lightspeed Rescue, but apparently at Toy Fair 2000 in New York a “Titanium Ranger” action figure was unveiled.
One last thing before I quit rambling about Power Rangers. I just have to mention the Psycho Rangers. The Psycho Rangers were something I’d always wanted to see in the Power Rangers universe. Before, there were always “evil twin” plot lines done for episodes, but the Psycho Rangers were the first time we ever saw a full-blown group of evil Rangers, with their own suits, Zords, the whole deal. To continue with X-Men analogies, the Psycho Rangers would be the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They were originally introduced in Power Rangers In Space, where they were there for a 10-episode story arc before the Space Rangers defeated them. They were resurrected by a magic spell in Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy, where the combined efforts of the Galaxy Rangers and the Space Rangers defeated them once and for all. The Psycho Rangers were just some of the best villains ever introduced on that show.
But enough of Power Rangers! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but did you hear about this? Jim Varney died at the age of 50. He had succumbed to a 2-year long battle with Lung Cancer. Varney, of course, will forever be remembered as Ernest P. Worrell, the star of about a zillion TV commercials and all those Ernest Goes To… movies. Actually, in the late 80’s, he also had his own TV show, Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!, one of those Pee-wee’s Playhouse kinds of show. I’m going to miss him. He was also the voice of Slinky Dog in the Toy Story films. And who can forget Varney’s contributions to The Simpsons? He did the voice of Cooter, a carnival worker on one of the funniest episodes of that show. And, in a few episodes, the Simpsons went to see the films Ernest Needs A Kidney and Ernest Goes Someplace Cheap. Over at Ain’t It Cool News, they revealed that there are also two straight-to-video Ernest movies that have yet to be released. Ain’t It Cool News titled their article about his death “Ernest Goes To Heaven,” which seemed strangely appropriate. You know, back at college, an Ernest movie marathon was one of the ideas I had to promote my show.
In one of those weird twists of fate, the earliest conscious memory I have of a movie trailer is seeing the teaser for Ernest Goes To Camp. I was watching one of those Disney animated films at Christmas time, and the whole teaser had that Christmas theme. We saw a Christmas tree, and we hear someone humming Jingle Bells. The camera pans to a gift under the tree. We see a hand reach over and take the lid off of a gift and we see…the face of Ernest! Then, he goes into his speil: “Hey Vern! It’s your ol’ buddy Ernest, and I just wanted to tell you I’ve got my very first movie coming out soon!” He then continued on, telling us all about the film and throwing in the trademark “KnowhatImean?” Then, the teaser ends with Vern slamming the lid to the gift back on Ernest’s face, and the words appear on screen: Ernest Goes To Camp. This Spring.
I’ve got to pass along something I just read in my latest issue of “Batman: The Animated Newsletter.” Could it be that there is a lost episode of Batman: The Animated Series? To see this episode, you have to cast your minds back to 1995. Remember the Sega CD video game system? It was nothing more than a CD-ROM drive for the Sega Genesis. Anyway, for the Sega CD they released a game called The Adventures of Batman & Robin, a video game based on the Batman cartoon. What makes this game a “lost episode” is that the plot was written by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, the head writers of the Batman cartoon, and 17 minutes of original Batman animation is included! And this is good animation, at least as good as the episodes, with all the original voices from the show! It would be really neat to see.
Something else about the newsletter I feel compelled to pass along. They review the latest issue of Superman Adventures, the comic based on Superman: The Animated Series. The issue they review is #41, and the final issue for head writer Mark Millar. For his last issue, he decided to do something spectacular. So, what he did, was fill the issue with 22, 1-page long short stories! This I’ve got to see. I might pick it up next time I’m in Comic King.
And I’m just about rambled out for now! Until next time!