Characters Who Need Spin-Offs

(Today we have a guestposter, Morgan Collins, who I came across via Twitter amid a conversation/debate we were having about Black movies. Please welcome her to the podium with a soul clap.)

tyrone-biggums1Every now and then, a movie or TV show will have a supporting character that keeps our attention as much as the lead does. Here are a few characters I wish we could see more of in their own spin-off or sequel.

Roger from Sister Sister

After Tia and Tamera got boyfriends, went to GA Southern, and turned into some freaks, I still wonder what happened to annoying next-door neighbor Roger Evans? Yes, Marques Houston, the real-life Roger and Jaleel White’s half-brother, if you believe the Internet, went on to work on a solo music career with mild success, but what I still need the type of closure that a singing cameo on the show’s finale episode couldn’t provide. The first revamp of the Roger character that comes to mind is a show in which he helps police catch criminals using the advanced stalking techniques he groomed while living next to the twins, but more lighthearted fare would be better. No, Roger’s show would revolve around his relationship consulting business. Grown-up Roger, after trying to forget has mackless past, now helps other unlucky lovers–with the occasional slip-up. Har-dee-har-har!!!

Gerald from Hey Arnold!

Though Arnold was the coolest 4th grader, Gerald Martin Johansen was a close second, and even the second coolest 4th grader deserves his own show. Why? In addition to being a confidant and wing-man to Arnold, Gerald was the glue to kid culture in his role as the Keeper of the Tale (maybe a tribute to Are You Afraid of the Dark?). Just a little bit of bongo playing and Gerald would recite all of the legends of the hood with a flair deserving of a half-hour show. Imagine a mystery-adventure show in which the legends come to life as crimes. Gerald, the only person who knows the legends like the back of his hand, is forced to solve them and the save the day without messing up his (super) high-top fade.

Tyrone Biggums from Chappelle’s Show

It’s been 10 years since Chappelle’s Show and seven years since the show abruptly ended after host Dave Chappelle’s received a fame reality check. And yet dudes still dress up as Tyrone Biggums for Halloween and sometimes just for an ultra casual Casual Friday. Though Chappelle had many great skits, a few I would argue that are better than the Tyrone series, this loveable crackhead still resonates with us, which is why Tyrone deserves his own feature-length movie. It may seem hard to imagine Tyrone being able to have the desire to do anything that lasts up to 90 minutes other than smoking rock, but as many an episode has shown us, if you give a crackhead the possibility of some rock, he’ll ask you for some hot sauce. Tyrone’s Excellent Adventure would be in the vein of National Treasure, only instead of money, there’s a giant, mythical crack rock hidden in an exotic locale. A repentant fellow crack addict passes on the Legend of the Golden Rock to Tyrone, who sets out on an adventure around the world to find this elusive treasure. Before he can reach it, he has to battle the toughest crackheads in the world and his own inner demons, brought out by his would-be Narcotics Anonymous sponsor played by Andre Royo, AKA Bubbles from The Wire, in an amazing cameo.

Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter from Django Unchained

Most of the conversation surrounding Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was about whether it was too racist, too long, or too anachronistic. This thought-provoking dialogue surely made for dozens of well-written pieces of film criticism. But with all this heavy analysis most people skipped over Amber Tamblyn’s brief cameo as the Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter AKA That Girl In the Bandana. You probably missed this too if you took a quick nap around the time Django was having a good ol’ country shopping spree. Her character’s name is a little long-winded but not the product of a Tarantino cocaine-induced writing binge. Tamblyn’s father, actor Russ Tamblyn, made several westerns for MGM, including Son of a Gunfighter, in which Tamblyn Sr. seeks revenge for his mother’s death. Supposedly intended as an inside joke for Western fans, this was a failed opportunity for an interesting character. It’s not surprising in a movie where all attempts at developing complex female characters were as half-hearted as throwing a tampon into a flood. To make up for this, and to give a job to an actress whose talents are severely underrated, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants notwithstanding, Tarantino could develop a Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter TV show. The setup? Think Deadwood meets Xena. The Son of a Gunfighter is on his deathbed, and he needs his daughter to settle some unfinished business, and of course the Daughter will be able to fill his gun holster.

So, what other characters do you think should have a spin-off?

-MORGAN COLLINS

A graduate of The University of Florida, Morgan Collins writes about TV and film at www.nostoryboard.wordpress.com Soon she’ll learn how to write movies and TV shows as a graduate student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She currently lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter as @mashclash.

Pussified: Why All (Yes. All.) Of Our Shows Suck Ass

"That was a funny joke. Too bad it's too funny for our show."

Last weekend, I attended Blogalicious — an annual conference celebrating diversity in women involved with social media — a great opportunity to meet old and new friends, make countless contacts, and inhale obscene amounts of free liquor. (How much free liquor? Let’s just say that you know you’ve probably had a bit too much when you wake up the next morning and see that you didn’t even close the door to your hotel room) 

It took place at the Gaylord National right outside of D.C. — a hotel so big that I once got lost four different times in the same night, prompting a clerk who I’d hit up for directions three times to take a look at my VSB t-shirt and joke “If you’re the smart brotha I’d hate to meet the dummy.

Anyway, I was invited there to speak on a panel. Titled “Setting Your Own Stage: Creating An Outlet for Your Voice,” Helena Andrews and I spoke to the audience for approximately 90 minutes — 50 minutes answering questions from the moderator (the lovely Liz Burr) and 40 taking questions from the audience — about how to create a niche for yourself in this vast and perpetually expanding new media universe.

Most of the questions were relevant but somewhat predictable — i.e. “How do you continue to come up with ideas?” and “How would you advise a new blogger attempting to follow your footsteps?” — but one in particular stuck with me for the entire weekend:

(Paraphrasing) “How do you sift through the muck to find quality content?”

I responded by saying that regardless of what’s surrounding it, talent and quality content will eventually stand out. It’s our job as consumers to support it when we actually do find it.

The panel ended soon after that, but throughout the rest of the day I was approached by people who wanted to continue that part of the conversation, extending it past the new media world and into television and film. The overarching theme: Why does everything we do on screen nowadays pretty much suck ass?

The usual black media boogeymen (Tyler Perry, the mainstream media, etc) were oft cited as the main culprits, and a few potential saviors who need our support (Issa Rae of “Awkward Black Girl” fame, Helena Andrews — who has a movie based on her book in production, etc) were named as well, but I didn’t find a convincing answer until watching an episode of “Louie” on Hulu yesterday night.

Now, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Louie C.K., so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m also a huge fan of his critically acclaimed show. But, watching it has become a bittersweet experience. I appreciate everything about it —  its humor, its awkwardness, its pacing, its fearlessness (more on this in a sec) — but it’s disheartening to realize that I may never see a “black” show that’s anything like it.

It’s not that I don’t believe that we have any comedians/artists as talented and creative as Louie C.K., but the fearlessness that makes the show is mainly due to a freedom to be fearless that we (black audiences) just don’t grant black artists, and this is why most of our “good” shows and movies are tepid and sterile to the point of lifelessness.

Basically, our art sucks because too many of us are just too gotdamn f*cking sensitive.

Seriously, a show like “Louie” might have lasted two episodes if it were made by a black comedian. It either would have been forced off the air by all of the petitions, blogs, tweets, and impassioned YouTube pleas attacking it for every “ism” and “phobia” imaginable, or it would have been forced to become a pussified version of itself, turning it from fearless and iconoclastic to “Reed Between The F*cking Lines.

“The Chappelle Show” was able to touch on many of those “untouchable” themes, but I think the sketch comedy format made certain things ok in a way they wouldn’t be in a series. It also became popular before social media became truly ubiquitous, and I wonder if an artist as perceptive and sensitive about his craft as Chappelle was would have allowed the countless blogs that undoubtedly would have derided his humor as offensive, racist, and sexist to affect his work.

Now, I understand why we’re pussies. Decades of having to defend ourselves, our images, and our culture has installed a certain vigilance in us that makes us hyper-sensitive to any screen depictions that don’t portray us in a certain way. But, while that same activism may not stunt our creativity, it does restrict our willingness to allow others to be creative.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t have this epiphany while at Blogalicious. Not sure how well calling black audiences a bunch of pussies would go over in a room full of women, and I probably would have just started railing on Tyler Perry again. As I’ve learned, whenever in front of a potentially hostile audience full of intellectuals, just make fun of Madea.

Damn, I guess this makes me a pussy too.

—The Champ