The secon season of iZombie seems to have really gotten in to the groove of how to use pop culture references to their greatest advantage, without being too overt and didactic about it.
Many of these come from the title cards between scenes, obviously, but even if you take those out of the equation...well, there's a lot of stuff going on.
So...what did we catch this week? What did we miss? Read on (and feel free to comment).
LOVE AND BASKETBALL
Just because the episode title seems perfect for the content, doesn't mean they didn't get it from someplace else.
In this case, Love & Basketball is a 2000 romantic drama from producer Spike Lee, starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan.
HOT OR NOT?
Here, "Hot or Not?" is used as a title card when Liv is trying to determine whether Major might be a zombie who wants hot sauce in his coffee.
That said, it's also a kind of proto-Tinder website, where you could click through pictures of people in your area (or not) and judge their relative attractiveness.
If you're too young to remember Hot or Not?, that's not surprising. But it does make me feel old because I remember that the kids younger than me in college thought it was awesome.
Full disclosure: The site still apparently exists, although I haven't heard anyone reference it unironically in years.
YOU GIVE LOVE A BAD NAME
"Shot through the heart -- and who's to blame?" is the question when we meet the victim this week.
...Followed shortly by a stifling silence and then, "What? No Bon Jovi fans?"
Because, of course, that's a bastardization of the refrain from the song "You Give Love a Bad Name," by New Jersey's second-favorite rocker son.
SMELLS LIKE TEAM SPIRIT
Fun fact: For ages, I couldn't remember if it was "Teen" or "Team" in the famous Nirvana song "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is obviously what the writers referenced with this particular title card.
These guys are a little more local to the show's Seattle locale, too, so that works out nicely.
We could probably just create a whole playlist out of the songs referenced on this episode, and it would be pretty good.
Next up? "Zombie killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?" is a pretty clear reference to The Talking Heads' Psycho Killer. You can listen to that one below, too, because why not?
Like "Smells Like Teen Spirit," this song falls back on vocalization that isn't quite lyrics quite a bit. That's an interesting pattern to establish in an episode that deals with somebody who believes zombies to be less intelligible than they are.
"As far as you know," the head of R&D is named Dr. Erving.
And then, in a basketball-themed episode, we get "Can I call her Julius?"
Julius "Dr. J" Erving is an NBA Hall of Famer who helped shape the dynamic, above-the-rim style of play that has made the post-1970s and '80s NBA a different and more exciting animal than its early days.
Hoosiers, arguably the greatest movie ever made about basketball and one of the best Gene Hackman roles of the '80s, is name-dropped a couple of times in this episode.
We'll also note that John Wooden and a number of members of the '80s Celtics get named here, too. So does Pete Rose, who holds the records for most hits in Major League Baseball history but cannot be voted into the Hall of Fame due to a lifetime ban for gambling during his coaching career.
Why lump these all together? Because the list is getting long, there isn't a ton to say about most things when they're just dropping names...and frankly, they're the most superficial sports references one can make. Incredibly popular, successful and recognizable names and titles. That's not a bad thing, just...not something that requires a lot of analysis. This week, Liv knows sports. Done.
FISTS OF FURY
After Clive beats up a child abuser, we get to see a title card: "Fists of Fury."
That's the name of a Bruce Lee movie, also known as The Chinese Connection here in the US.
In addition to the very basic "he's got fists that are bruised becuase of the beating he gave that guy in his fury" element, there's another level to this: In Fists of Fury, Lee's character goes back home to mourn the death of his martial arts instructor, who as it turns out was murdered. The head of a rival dojo of Japanese students is named Suzuki -- the same name as the cop-turned-zombie from Season One whose widow plays a big role in this week's episode.
Another song, another music video(ish).
Per Wikipedia: "Tainted Love" is a song composed by Ed Cobb, formerly of American group The Four Preps, which was originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964. It attained worldwide fame after being covered by Soft Cell in 1981 and has since been covered by numerous groups and artists.
The crowdfunding used in this episode will likely be seen as an Easter egg, even if it isn't and is just a storytelling device.
That's because the last project executive producers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright took on before iZombie was the Veronica Mars movie -- something they funded via Kickstarter after years of false starts and unfulfilled promises.
It became hugely controversial -- and hugely successful, marking at the time th emost successful film Kickstarter ever and generating millions.
Speaking of Veronica Mars!
In the third season of Veronica Mars, the title character was finally out of high school and headed off to a fictional college -- Hearts College -- for the show's third and final season.
Hearst College is a public academic college in the town of Neptune.
And...more Star Wars names for Ravi's test rats.
I like his logic for not naming them after Hall of Fame Celtic players: not only will he not understand the relevance, but neither will Liv, when the brain wears off.
So...Boba Ratt and company it is.