Quality Time with Family Ties is a weekly podcast in which three guys watch and review Family Ties - the '80s sitcom that made Michael J. Fox a star.

"Designing Woman." Today on QTWFT, we learn . . . third time’s the charm.

There's really no decent reason or excuse as to why, in the age of the Hollywood cinematic universes, fans of the Alien franchise don't have an ACU (or Alien Cinematic Universe) to call our own. If the rumor mill is to be believed, the blame may lie at the feet of Ridley Scott and his supposed decree that no one else play in the Alien sandbox until he's done with it. No matter who's to blame, it's a glaring miscalculation in regards to a series that's already connected to the Predator film series through Paul W.S. Anderson's forgettable AvP: Alien vs. Predator picture. Much like LucasFilm's decision with Star Wars to clean up the cannon and mine the franchise's extended universe for diamonds in the rough, Twentieth Century Fox could be building an interstellar epic story of horror and sci-fi brilliance with some of the best creative talent available.

The 1979 story of Alien begins with a quote from Joseph Conrad. Not the mining ship Nostromo, named after one of Conrad’s novels, but the other direct quote, from his Heart of Darkness: “We live as we dream – alone.” Then, we see the unmistakable Alien title font: an H. R. Giger-inspired melange of indeterminate limbs, gnashing teeth, curvaceous techno-pipes, and shadowy apertures. This is followed by the omniscient narrator offering in fragments that “It starts with a ship… The ship… And the silence… Then… …The silence ends…” The USCSS Nostromo whirs into life through a series of repetitive clicks and concussive binary metres; the fateful crew wake up for the last time. Chattering, clattering, and complaining about full shares.

During the final climactic moments of Alien 3, the franchise’s hero, Ellen Ripley (tragically impregnated with the larva of an alien Queen) is approached by a mysterious figure, offering to surgically remedy her fatal condition and give her a chance at the peaceful domestic life she never had. This individual, referred to simply as “Bishop II” in the film’s credits, is portrayed by the enigmatic Lance Henriksen (who also plays the role of the heroic android Bishop). The finale of Alien 3 gives little explanation as to the true nature of Bishop II, allowing, in a massively cinematic fashion, for those questions to be pushed aside in service to Ripley’s final, ultimate sacrifice: the taking of her own life in order to eliminate the alien threat inside her and thwart the Company’s attempts to acquire the species.

Italian genre cinema has a rich history built on imitating other successful films. In the heyday of Italian cinema during the late '50s and '60s, the studio production machine of Italy cranked out cycles upon cycles of derivative films: Hercules (1958, Pietro Francisci) setting off a wave of sword and sandal films; Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton) starting the Eurospy trend; the spaghetti westerns were based off the success of Leone’s work; and so on. With the advent of the big budget, summer blockbuster films from America in the '70s, such as Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg), the Italians followed suit as best as possible: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg) led to Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982, Antonio Margheriti); Jaws became The Last Shark (Enzo G. Castellari); Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) became 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982, Enzo G. Castellari); and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985, George P. Cosmatos) became Strike Commando (1987, Bruno Mattei). If there was a blockbuster or a hit film, the Italians had an answer for it.

The trading cards were what did it.  Almost everything else made sense, but why the cards?  Why market stuff for an R-rated movie to kids who are not actually allowed to see it?

Tread Perilously is a podcast in which hosts Erik Amaya and author Justin Robinson watch the “worst” episodes of popular TV shows, attempting to determine if they would continue to watch the series based on the most off-key moments.

This Week: Manimal's "Night of the Scorpion"

Tread Perilously concludes a month of Treading Safely with an emergency appearance by Manimal, thanks to the episode "Night of the Scorpion."

“Fundamental Comics,” a monthly editorial series that introduces readers to comics, graphic novels, and manga that have been impactful to the sequential art medium and the comic book industry on a foundational level.  Each month, a new essay will examine a familiar or lesser-known title through an in-depth analysis, exploring the history of the title, significant themes, and context for the title’s popularity since it was first released.

Penny White is embarking on a new phase in her life: With her wedding to Peter looms on the horizon, Lloegyr sends a vampire curate to her parish, and her various charges begin growing up and moving beyond complete dependence; however, the whiskey-loving reverend struggles with her increasingly strained religious convictions, plus the more practical tasks of keeping Lloegyr’s residents from crossing through the thin places into her backyard. (A manticore finds her weeds quite enticing.) When Sue Harkness requests her help in investigating the migration of vampires into England, Penny jumps at the opportunity to deal with a problem that doesn’t affect her personal life. But, will the answers she finds serve as another reminder of how cruel the world can be and how heartfelt beliefs can’t provide complete protection?

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