I liked ‘Ahsoka.’ But I’m not sure you will too.

The barrier for entry on the latest ‘Star Wars’ show is high. PLUS: ‘Frozen’ launches a podcast, ‘Rick and Morty’ gets a release date, and Zack Snyder’s latest mega project has a trailer.

I liked ‘Ahsoka.’ But I’m not sure you will too.
Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Ahsoka. / Lucasfilm

Welcome to last edition of Popculturology until next month.

As summer winds down, I’m getting ready to take the next week or two off from writing the newsletter, but there’s still a lot going on.

The studios embarrassed themselves by trying to corner the WGA on a deal and then going public with that deal. (There’s a good chance that the WGA strike continues even longer now thanks to the studios botching their attempt to impose a deal on the writers.)

The long-awaited Ahsoka series hit Disney+ this week. (More on that below.)

And recent political events got people trying to guess which celebrity should play Dark Brandon on Saturday Night Live. (One, who knows when we’ll see SNL again. And two, if you’re hoping to see a celebrity play a major role on SNL, you’re not a fan of SNL.)

I wrapped up the newly released Whalefall this week. The book is from writer Daniel Kraus, and I can best describe it as The Martian … but inside a sperm whale. I highly recommend this one.

I’ll talk to you all again on Sept. 8.

In Today's Edition
  • Feature Presentation: Ahsoka premieres
  • The News: A Frozen podcast, Rick and Morty return date, Fraiser’s back!
  • Trailer Watch: Rebel Moon
  • Playlist: Telemarketers
  • Odds and Ends: Melissa Joan Hart and Maxim

Feature Presenation
Rosario Dawson in Ahsoka. / Lucasfilm

Ahsoka is good. But the buy-in is high.

I was a few days late to watching Ahsoka. The first two episodes hit Disney+ this week, making its debut basically a movie-length project. (You know, back from when movies were under two hours.)

I was hoping that Ahsoka would be right in my wheelhouse. I love Star Wars. I love Ahsoka Tano. I love The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, the two animated shows that feed into Ahsoka.

I wasn’t disappointed by Ahsoka.

I was worried that I would be, though, based on some of the reactions I had seen online since the show debuted on Tuesday night. I saw complaints about how the show looked like yet another series filmed on the flatness of The Volume or how the characters seemed unnatural.

I didn’t pick up on those issues, if they even exist.

I will say, though, that the buy-in for Ahsoka is very high if you haven’t watched Clone Wars and Rebels. Especially Rebels. I’m not quite sure what the hook is here if you aren’t up to speed on Ahsoka, Sabine Wren, Hera Syndulla and Ezra Bridger.

There’s even a gulf between what fans of Rebels knew and where Ahsoka begins. Ezra was still sending Sabine messages after he took his purrgil trip? Ahsoka at some point took on Sabine — a person with zero Force abilities — as her Jedi padawan?

There’s a buy-in — and then there’s a bigger buy-in.

I hope that casual Star Wars fans can find something that catches their attention in Ahsoka.

OK, let’s say you’re like me. You know and love these characters. Overall, the first two episodes of Ahsoka were a hit.

Dave Filoni brought his own take on Star Wars’ iconic crawl to the first episode. (In an ominous red.) We’ve already seen Ahsoka, Sabine, Hera and Chopper in live action. (Chopper might be the most perfect live-action translation we’ve seen yet from Star Wars.) There are mentions of Nightsisters. Ancient puzzle-loving societies that are possibly Jedi: Fallen Order’s Zeffo. A ton of visual allusions to The Phantom Menace. (A master and an apprentice boarding a ship in addition to that apprentice then standing next to their probe droid.) Filoni loves The Phantom Menace.

The visual effects on the lightsabers in Ahsoka are some of the best we’ve seen during the Disney era of live-action Star Wars. There are X-wings. There are E-wings. Ivanna Sakhno is silently awesome as Shin Hati, the apprentice to fallen Jedi Baylan Skoll.

But a lot of parts of Ahsoka don’t work.

The show needs to fill in the gap between it and Rebels, and even more needs to stop working against what we know is true from Rebels. Ezra and Thrawn were never presumed dead. Rebels ended on the note of hope that Ezra (and Thrawn by association) were still out there and could be found. The idea that Ahsoka would spend her time training someone as a Jedi who didn’t have Force abilities is ridiculous.

And then there’s Ahsoka Tano herself.

Rosario Dawson is putting in the effort. The Lucasfilm special effects team has done a great job making the live-action version of the character look more like the animated version than she did when Ahsoka first appeared on The Mandalorian.

But this still isn’t the Ahsoka fans know.

Yes, characters age and mature and change. But we haven’t seen that transformation in Ahsoka yet. We only know the animated version that made fans fall in love with the character through The Clone Wars, Rebels and Tales of the Jedi — and the live-action version seen in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett and these first two episodes of Ahsoka. But we don’t know how these versions connect yet.

The live-action Ahsoka is quieter. Unnecessarily more mysterious. Disinterested. Stiffer.

I guess surviving Order 66, watching the Jedi Order fall and knowing that your master had a hand in it will change you. But I want to see that evolution.

Hayden Christensen is going to be in Ahsoka. Maybe we’ll see that evolution play out with the help of Anakin Skywalker flashbacks or through his Force ghost.

There were a bunch of other parts of Ahsoka that I loved: Seeing Ahsoka’s ship dock with the personal flagship of Admiral Ackbar while Hera was already aboard. The closing credits that buck almost half a century of tradition and do their best impression of opening titles from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

But please, Star Wars, no more maps.

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The News
The title card for Frozen: Forces of Nature. / Walt Disney

This episode of Frozen is brought to you by Stamps.com

Kids love podcasts, right? That must be Disney’s thinking when it announced Frozen: Forces of Nature, a podcast that will pick up the story of Elsa and Anna after Frozen II and leading into the upcoming Frozen III.

Queen Anna has a lot on her plate. She has welcomed Disa, the Queen of the small neighboring nation and her people to Arendelle when their kingdom is flooded. Disa is eager to learn about the scientific nature of magic.

Also in Arendelle is Lord Wolfgang, the Duke of Weselton’s nephew, on an apology tour for his uncle’s behavior. He very much wants to secure Queen Anna’s forgiveness and hopes to convince the people of Arendelle of the merits of trade with Weselton.

When a mysterious fire happens at the castle and the Spirits of Nature start acting up Elsa, Anna, and Disa travel to the Enchanted Forest to uncover the cause, where they discover mysterious steam-powered copper machines: automatons.

Where do the automatons come from and what are they doing? Who is directing them? Most importantly, how do Elsa, Anna, and Disa stop them from upsetting the natural balance of the Enchanted Forest and Arendelle?

The podcast will run for twelve episodes.

Dune: Part Two delayed

Things are going great for Warner Bros. Barbie is a billion-dollar hit, breaking all kinds of records. But because the studio won’t meet the reasonable demands of the writers and actors, it’s worried about not having talent to promote its upcoming movies.

This concern pushed Warner Bros. to delay Dune: Part Two until next year, with Deadline reporting on Thursday night that the upcoming sequel will now release on March 15, 2024.

Warner Bros. also bumped Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire back from the March 15 date to April 12, 2024.

This all seems like a lot of work for the studios instead of just agreeing that they won’t use AI to replace writers and actors …

Rick Sanchez in Rick and Morty. / Adult Swim

Rick and Morty sets return date

We don’t know who’ll voice the dozens of characters that populate the Rick and Morty universe, but we now know when the show will return. Adult Swim announced on Thursday that Season 7 will premiere on Oct. 15.

“It’s happening,” Adult Swim President Michael Ouweleen said in a statement. “Thanks to the talent of the entire show team, we can all enjoy 10 new episodes that yet again raise the bar for comedy and animation. This season proves that the geniuses at work on Rick and Morty are just getting started.”

Justin Roiland is not mentioned in the press release, which makes Ouweleen’s mention of “the talent of the entire show team” even more pointed.

Our Flag Means Death prepares to sail again

Our Flag Means Death was one of 2022’s biggest surprise hits. What could’ve been a series of jokes built around Blackbeard and the world of pirates wound up being a touching series about identity and love.

Variety Fair published an in-depth piece on Thursday looking at how the show’s second season is coming together, revealing that Our Flag Means Death is targeting an October return.

Kelsey Grammer in Fraiser. / Paramount+

Quick hits

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Trailer Watch

Rebel Moon

Rebel Moon is Zack Snyder’s next big project. There are two movies. There will be director’s cuts. (An absolutely ridiculous concept for movies being released on streamers.) There are allegedly video games and TV shows in the works too. If you’re getting Star Wars vibes from the first trailer for Rebel Moon, that’s because it began as Snyder’s pitch to Lucasfilm for a Star Wars movie.

Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire premieres on Netflix on Dec. 22. Rebel Moon: Part Two – The Scargiver premieres on Netflix on April 19, 2024.

💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!

The Links

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What to Watch
Patrick J. Pespas in Telemarketers. / HBO


This three-episode docuseries is the real-world version of Workaholics. The first two episodes of Telemarketers have already aired, but it’s a quick catchup before the final episode hits HBO this Sunday.

Did you know that Popculturology is on Instagram?

Odds and Ends

A Maxim cover almost got Melissa Joan Hart fired from Sabrina

It’s wild to think that during the early 2000s, it was a no-brainer that a female celebrity would wind up on the cover of Maxim, FHM or Stuff Magazine. (Even GQ and Esquire got into this game back then to keep up with the so-called laddie mags.) Even Beyoncé wound up the cover of Maxim to promote Austin Powers in Goldmember.

While appearing on the Pod Meets World podcast, Melissa Joan Hart revealed to Danielle Fishel, Will Friedle and Rider Strong that her Maxim cover appearance almost got her fired from Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

“While I’m at the party, my lawyer shows up and goes, ‘You did a photo shoot for Maxim magazine?’” Hart told the podcast (via Entertainment Weekly). “I’m like: ‘Yes, I did.’ They’re like: '‘Well, you’re being sued and fired from your show, so don’t talk to the press, don't do anything.’ … So I get a phone call on my cell phone from my mother, my producer, who was like, what did you do?, And I was like, ‘I don’t know, whatever my publicist told me to do at the photo shoot. I did a photo shoot for Maxim! It’s Maxim, of course you're gonna be in your underwear.”

Hart wound up not being fired from Sabrina, but it’s still something to hear that what was a routine thing in the early 2000s — “whatever my publicist told me to do at that photo shoot” — almost cost Hart her biggest role.

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