It Came From YouTube: Cobra Kai

For my second “It Came From…” entry, I’m going to change things up a bit. I’m jumping from Netflix to YouTube. That’s right, in case you weren’t aware, there actually is a paid version of YouTube called “YouTube Red”. Until recently, there was never a lot of discussion about it as a platform because… well, there was really nothing of value to talk about. Most people knew YouTube Red only as a paid option that allows you to skip those pesky YouTube advertisements. For me personally, it was included as a bonus with my Google Play Music subscription. I certainly enjoyed the ad-free experience of YouTube Red, but I never considered it of any real value by itself. It seems like I was not alone in that sentiment…  Very few people paid YouTube Red any real attention when compared to other streaming services like Netflix of Hulu.

Finally, the day came where Google took notice of this and decided to make a push for better and exciting content. They needed something that would be instantly recognizable and that could generate buzz. Well, They found it. On May 5th, YouTube Red became the home to Cobra Kai. This ten episode continuation of the Karate Kid franchise took off like rocket and hasn’t stopped yet.

Who doesn’t love Karate Kid? As a child growing up in the 80’s, watching it was a rite of passage. I saw both the first and second movies on HBO back in the day and became an immediate fan. When my family moved to Okinawa in the late 80’s, the island was still booming from the sudden interest that Karate Kid 2 had brought to the local culture. Everywhere you looked street merchants were peddling headbands or daiko drums. So to me, the series holds a special place in my heart.

When I heard that a sequel series was coming to YouTube, I was cautiously optimistic. I loved the first two films, but the third film was a bit of a dud for me. So much so, that I never even bothered with the fourth movie. A big part of me was worried that any attempt to resurrect this series was sure to fall flat on its face. Karate Kid is a period piece. As such, trying to emulate the vibe of that film in a modern setting is likely to fail. Thankfully, the creators of Cobra Kai recognized this and avoided the traps that most writers would easily fall prey to.

Cobra Kai takes place in modern times. It’s been 30-odd years since the events of the Karate Kid films. Daniel LaRusso is now the owner of a successful auto dealership. His childhood rival Johnny Lawrence has not been so lucky. In today’s world, Johnny finds himself barely scraping by. He floats from job to job and spends most of his money on booze and child support. His life changes when he is inspired to begin teaching karate to a young man who lives next door. When Daniel discovers the Cobra Kai school of karate has been reopened, it sparks a new rivalry with Johnny.

It is easy to imagine that this series would end up doing nothing but paying homage to the original films. But the great thing about this show isn’t really the nostalgia trips (and there are some), but it is actually the quality of the story being told. Daniel is not the star of Cobra Kai, but then again neither is Johnny.  There are a number of powerful compelling characters in this show. These characters and their stories are what make Cobra Kai such a pleasure to watch. It’s like you’re watching a brand new television show, but you already know the last few decades of backstory.

Again, I can’t stress this enough, the attention to the various characters is the best thing about this series. You get to know the character of Johnny Lawrence in a whole new light. You get to experience the story of Karate Kid from his perspective. You find out that he’s not just the “bad seed” portrayed in the original film. In fact, nearly every main character in the show gets this treatment. By the time you’re halfway through the series you have no idea who’s side you’re on anymore. But you can’t wait see what happens next. All of this makes Cobra Kai some of the best television I’ve seen in a long time. It’s funny, inspiring, and worthy of your attention.

Target Audience: This is a show that actually aimed for general audiences. It’s a must-watch for fans of the original Karate Kid films, but anyone who enjoys a good story will find something to like about Cobra Kai. 80’s nerds and retro-fans will be in for the ride of their lives with this.

Mature Content: YES – Language, mature humor, sexual references, contact violence.

Number of Episodes: 10

YouTube Red Exclusive?:  YES

Score (1 out of 4): 4

 

Star Wars: The Official Canon

A few months back, I wrote a short entry regarding the state of the Star Wars canon. Disney made the announcement that they were “rebooting” the Star Wars timeline so to speak. This meant that all of the comic books, novels, and other story properties were no longer “official” in any way shape or form. However, they did announce that all future publications were now going to 100% official canon.

Before I continue, let’s spend a moment talk about what is and what was “canonical” in the Star Wars Universe. As of the time of this writing, only the following are considered 100% official Star Wars stories. (Meaning, they are a true and undisputed account of Star Wars history):

Film/TV:

The original six Star Wars films: Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

The Clone Wars animated series; Seasons 1-5, and the Lost Episodes

Comic Books:

Darkhorse Publications: Darth Maul – The Son of Dathomir

Literature:

Short stories published in the official Star Wars Insider Magazine, starting with issue 149

Prior to this announcement from Disney, there were literally hundreds of miscellaneous comics, novels and short stories. The previous canon was divided into different levels of validity. First, we had the feature films, and other motion picture/television productions that George Lucas had a direct hand in creating. Next, up were novels and comic books. These remained “canon” as long there was nothing in them that was contradicted by George Lucas himself. The final tier were video games and other playable type of media. For the most part, this system worked fairly well. Authors and publishers did a pretty decent job of making sure that they didn’t trample over each other’s works. However, as you might expect over the years, there were more than a few really questionable entries added to the mix. Plus, with new movies on the horizon, it was about to become near impossible to avoid some major storyline conflicts in the post-ROTJ era.

In many ways, the whole Expanded Universe really did need to be flushed out. But naturally there are a few really amazing stories that many of us are reluctant to let go of. So, I still maintain what I call my “Personal Canon”. For me, this is a collection of old EU novels, that I feel will unlikely be overwritten by any future work and contain stories have been backed up in some way or another by the existing “Official Canon”.  For the curious, these are:

The Darth Bane trilogy, Darth Plagueis, Cloak of Deception, The Approaching Storm, The four Clone Wars novels, Labyrinth of Evil, Dark Lord, Kenobi, Honor Among Thieves, Razor’s Edge, and Shadows of the Empire.

Many of these are direct prequels or sequels of individual Star Wars films, or are sandboxed stories and do not contain anything that is likely to be overruled by future content. Of course, there are many more wonderful stories out there that are not on this list. For example, I’m a HUGE fan of the Han Solo Trilogy. But there are rumors of a future spin-off film that may cover Han Solo’s origins, so until I know for sure that Solo’s history will be left alone, I’m leaving it off of my Personal Canon list.

So that brings us to today. What’s next for the official Star Wars canon? Well, in just a few days the first full-length novel in the new official storyline will be released: A New Dawn. This book takes place between episodes 3 and 4, and actually sets up the background for the upcoming Star Wars Rebels animated series.

So right away, we have A New Dawn, followed by the launch of Rebels. Sounds like we’re off to a good start. So what’s coming next? Well here’s the schedule for the near future:

9/2/14 – A New Dawn – John Jackson Miller
11/4/14 – Tarkin – James Luceno
2/17/14 – Heir to the Empire – Kevin Hearne
4/21/14 – Lords of the Sith
Summer/15 – Untitled Asajj Ventress Novel

It’s safe to say that there won’t be any lack of reading in the near future. Naturally, I plan to read and review each novel. Also, keep in mind that each issue of the official Star Wars magazine all features short stories that are now 100% official. But wait there’s more! Starting next year, Marvel comics becomes the exclusive publisher of Star Wars material. Three new comic titles have been announced by Marvel:

Star Wars – ongoing series
Darth Vader – ongoing series
Princess Leia – 5 issue mini series

The future is bright for Star Wars fans. I’m counting the hours until I can am able to go down to my local bookstore and get a copy of A New Dawn tomorrow.