Archive for the 'Rumor Control' Category

03
Oct
13

Renewal Season: Watching the Wall

Krusty Gets Kancelled16

“Hey, Red Hot Chili Peppers, would you guys like to appear on a Krusty the Klown special?” – Bart Simpson
“Sure, if you can get us out of this gig.” – Flea
“No problemo.  Hey, Moe, look over there!” – Bart Simpson
“What?  What am I looking at?  I don’t see nothing.  I’m gonna stop looking soon.  What?  What, is that it?” – Moe
“Hey, Moe, can I look too?” – Homer Simpson
“Sure, but it’ll cost you.” – Moe
“My wallet’s in the car.” – Homer Simpson
“He is so stupid.  And now back to the wall.” – Moe

[Note: Apologies for speculating about the end of your jobs, people on the staff.  You’ve been nothing but courteous and wonderful when contacting us; please understand it’s not personal.]

Back in October of 2011 there were widespread rumors that the show was at last on the verge of cancellation.  FOX and the principle voice actors were deadlocked over the renewal of the contract.  But after a very busy week of anonymously sourced leaks to the press, rampant speculation, and confusion about whether or not there had already been a decision to finally let the show die, it all came to nothing.  In the end, the negotiations were less cordial than usual, but the very wealthy people on both sides of the table unsurprisingly agreed to continue making each other slightly wealthier. 

For all the smoke in the media and on-line, there was very little fire.  All those articles, blog posts, comments, Tweets and general what have you stemmed from just three or four anonymous quotes all week.  The only person directly involved who was willing to stick his name by anything in the media was the ever admirable Harry Shearer, and all he was doing was dumping on FOX. 

Well, it’s now October 2013, which means we’re in the same part of the contract cycle as they were two years ago when “Simpsons cancelled?” was one of the big stories of the week.  That deal runs through episode 559.  “Homerland” was 531; and given the extremely long production time of each episode, it’s likely that episode #559, which will probably be broadcast next Fall, is even now in its earliest stages. 

Contract negotiations can be easily kept private, especially if they’re going well or both sides just want a simple renewal.  But any disruption in the production of the show, or even the ordering of a series finale, would be very difficult to keep off the internet.  It was never confirmed or anything, but supposedly one of the reasons the negotiation problems became public last time around was that they were up against a deadline as to whether or not they’d be able to produce a series finale.  (Jean later said that had the talks failed, they would’ve held over that future Christmas episode until late 2012 and made it the finale.) 

If that’s true, then the extension of the show past the current 559 episode contract will become a forgone conclusion sometime in the next few weeks or months, because if anyone in charge seriously thought #559 was going to be the end they’d stop the production of #560.  So, in this case, no news would itself be news. 

If last time is anything to go by, then we can be at least somewhat confident that the show will be getting a full Season 26 and Season 27 if nothing about renewal or death becomes public by, say, the end of October.  (The current contract provides for enough episodes for a shortened Season 26.)  If nothing is said until after New Year’s, then things just become that much more likely.  Obviously this is all much too speculative to put any numbers on, and we could get news tomorrow that they’ve decided to end things or that negotiations are at a potentially fatal impasse.  But if Zombie Simpsons is going to come to an end before the Rio Olympics do, we should find out sometime very soon.  It probably won’t, but this is the time to pay attention. 

21
May
13

Hey, Everybody, Season 24 Is Over

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge13

“Hi, kids! . . . What the . . . is this Saturday?” – Krusty the Klown

I’m still going to do Behind Us Forever for this week’s episodes, but the last two days have not been kind in terms of free time.  In the interim, how about a little ratings schadenfreude?

Sunday’s episodes both scored dismal ratings, with the first one (“The Saga of Carl”) coming in at just 4.01 million viewers, and “Dangers on a Train” bumping up a bit to 4.52 million.  The former is good for #2 on the all time least watched list, with even the higher rated second episode coming in at #10.  Here is the current bottom twenty in terms of viewers:

#

S-Ep

Airdate

Viewers
(millions)

Episode Title

1 23-21 13-May-12 4.00 Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend
2 24-21 19-May-13 4.01 The Saga of Carl
3 24-20 12-May-13 4.05 Fabulous Faker Boy
4 24-17 14-Apr-13 4.07 What Animated Women Want
5 24-12 10-Feb-13 4.19 Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing
6 23-13 12-Feb-12 4.33 The Daughter Also Rises
7 24-8 16-Dec-12 4.41 To Cur With Love
8 24-19 6-May-13 4.43 Whiskey Business
9 24-18 28-Apr-13 4.48 Pulpit Friction
10 24-22 19-May-13 4.52 Dangers on a Train
11 24-13 17-Feb-13 4.57 Hardly Kirk-Ing
12 24-14 3-Mar-13 4.66 Gorgeous Grampa
13 23-20 6-May-12 4.75 The Spy Who Learned Me
14 23-22 20-May-12 4.79 Lisa Goes Gaga
15 24-15 10-Mar-13 4.85 Black-Eyed Please
16 23-18 15-Apr-12 4.86 Beware My Cheating Bart
17 24-16 17-Mar-13 4.89 Dark Knight Court
18 23-16 11-Mar-12 4.96 How I Wet Your Mother
19 22-18 10-Apr-11 5.00 The Great Simpsina
20 23-19 29-Apr-12 5.00 A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again

Of those twenty, nineteen are from Seasons 23 or 24, with the lone exception being from Season 22.  Every single episode broadcast since February of this year has made the list.  And not a single episode in all of Season 24 was viewed by more than 10 million people, the first time that’s ever happened.  (The only one even close came after an NFL playoff game.)

In terms of average viewership, Season 24 ran away with the title of least viewed ever.  After bumping along in the low seven million range from Season 20 through 22, last season fell down to just 6.13 million viewers on average.  Season 24 sunk even further, averaging just 5.47 million viewers over its twenty-two episodes.

Now, the usual caveat about these ratings: these are just the overnight numbers.  When there are significant changes to them (usually because a sporting event runs long), I make those updates, but these are not the fancy pants final numbers that take into account demographics, DVR viewers, and whatever else advertisers complain about.  Nielsen only makes very limited data available to the public (at least, as far as I can tell), so these are the numbers I use, but don’t try reading anything into these in terms of “Will the show get cancelled?”.

The thousand monkeys at a thousand Blackberries who run FOX will be looking at those more detailed ratings as well as factoring in all kinds of things like whether or not a replacement would provide the same lead-in numbers for the rest of the Sunday lineup, how expensive said replacement would be, and how much Jean and company react when feces are thrown at them during meetings.  (MacFarlane doesn’t even flinch.)  Given the production lead time, we should be hearing something about a renewal beyond the current contract (on which there are 29 episodes left) sometime in calendar 2013, but that’s about all that can be said right now.

[Update 6:45pm EDT: Just saw this: CBS Takes Key Ratings Crown for First Time in 21 Years.  FOX lost the battle for the nuts and gum people to CBS this year and their overall viewers were third at 7.0 million.  No idea what the monkeys will think of losing to the old people network and having Zombie Simpsons dragging down their overall number, but it seemed worth mentioning.]

29
May
12

Silence Is Golden

Bart vs Thanksgiving10

“It’s your fault I can’t talk.” – Maggie Simpson

Perhaps the only really interesting thing to come out of “Lisa Goes Gaga” was the surprise announcement at the end of “The Longest Daycare”, a 3D short that will be shown before Ice Age 4, starting on July 13th.  (FOX has helpfully put the announcement on YouTube, should you wish to relive all ten seconds of it.)  At present, everything the internet knows about this thing comes from the brief announcement itself and from a quickie interview Al Jean gave to ew.com.  Literally every other story I saw about “The Longest Daycare”, and I saw a lot of them, was originally sourced to this article.  Even the Wikipedia page is basically nothing but information from this one piece. 

So, what’s in it?  Mostly it’s just basic plot and background:

  • It will be set back at the Ayn Rand School for Tots.  (Though no word on whether or not The Longest Day will be used as rough source material the same way The Great Escape was in “A Streetcar Named Marge”.) 
  • Jean teased an appearance from Baby Gerald.
  • It’s four-and-a-half minutes long with no spoken dialogue.
  • David Silverman directed it.
  • It is indeed in 3D (though a 2D "animatic" will be shown at Comic-Con).

What’s most interesting here isn’t the 3D or any of the story information.  It’s the fact that it’s dialogue free, which means they didn’t have to involve their expensive voice actors at all. 

It’s more than a little reminiscent of the Coke/Super Bowl ad from two years ago.  In the ad, even though they had a newscaster telling us that Burns was broke, it wasn’t Kent Brockman.  The only other lines in the sixty-second commercial came from Milhouse, who is, of course, not voiced by one of the six main voice actors.  That ad is doubly resonant because the generic news anchor guy was Maurice LaMarche, whom I’m 99% sure was the guy narrating the trailer for “The Longest Daycare”. 

Without claiming any kind of predictive powers, this short is exactly what I was talking about in Chapter 12 of the book when I compared the future of the Simpsons to what’s happened to Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse.  Whether or not Homer, Marge or any of the rest of the family appears for a silent cameo, the short represents a new stage in the decoupling of the Simpsons as cartoon characters from their current home on FOX’s Sunday night lineup (and the people who do voice work there).  It’s an animated story set in the Simpsons universe and populated with Simpsons characters, but the only things it has in common with the original show are things FOX owns. 

Obviously this isn’t the first time FOX has leveraged the existing popularity of the Simpsons outside the realm of the show.  They’ve been making video games and t-shirts forever, after all.  But this is the first time they’ve done so in the form of animated entertainment, and that makes it noteworthy.  Whether or not this is the first of many theatrical shorts or a one off deal, it’s a Simpsons cartoon that has even less to do with the original show than Zombie Simpsons does (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).  It won’t be the last.

(And please note, I make no claims to whether or not “The Longest Daycare” will be good or not on its own merits.  We haven’t even gotten a clip to view, so there’s no telling what it’ll look like, much less whether or not it’ll actually be funny.  I doubt it’ll be worth sitting through Ice Age 4, which looks terrible, but there’s no reason to hold that against the short.)

25
Apr
12

Duff McKagan and Duff Beer: An Internet Investigation

Pygmoelian1

“You said if I slept with you, I wouldn’t have to touch the drunk.” – Titania
“Duffman says a lot of things!  Oh, yeah!” – Duffman

In a Reading Digest last spring, I noted that Duff McKagan, bass player for (among others) Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, and Loaded, had claimed that Duff beer was named after him.  It came up again last summer, and has been bubbling up on-line ever since.  In addition to it being noted in articles and the like about him, McKagan himself has mentioned it several times.  In an ESPN.com column he wrote:

My name is Duff McKagan, and I play rock and roll music. The beer on "The Simpsons" show was named after me, and not the other way around. (I suppose it is a testament to how much alcohol I used to drink. Yeah, not too sexy really.)

In addition to that, one of those generically crappy radio station “blogs” quotes him in an (unlinked) interview:

”Our management for GN’R got a fax but it was from like an adult cartoon.  Now there wasn’t any adult cartoons in 1988.  There just wasn’t and like, ‘an adult cartoon?’  They want to use your name as the name of the beer on the thing and they just want your blessing.  It’s not like I own the name Duff, I should’ve trademarked that thing on up if I would’ve known but yeah, that think took off, that Simpsons deal.”

And here’s how he put it in his autobiography:

When Guns N’ Roses began to break into the public consciousness, I was known as a big drinker.  In 1988, MTV aired a concert in which Axl introduced me – as usual – as Duff “the King of Beets” McKagan.  Soon after this, a production company working on a new animated series called me to ask if the could use the name “Duff” for a brand of beer in the show.  I laughed and said of course, no problem.  The whole thing sounded like a low-rent art project or something – I mean, who made cartoons for adults?  Little did I know that the show would become The Simpsons and that within a few years I would start to see Duff beer glasses and gear everywhere we toured. 

That last quote caused a brief stir on-line last fall when the book was released.  The first eighty pages were put on-line for free, and that quote appears on page 9.  Just about any time a celebrity puts out a book (or someone puts out a book about a celebrity), one fact/revelation will inevitably be used as the hook to describe it so that people can talk about it without actually having read it.  In this case, that one thing was the Duff Beer-Duff McKagan connection, which was mentioned in articles about the book by everything from little blogs to The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post

Now, I don’t particularly care about this.  Whether or not McKagan’s drinking (at one point, he had a championship belt that had Budweiser caps instead of jewels on it) was a factor in naming Homer’s beer “Duff” doesn’t change Duff Gardens, Tartar Control Duff, or Duffman one bit.  However, the internet has a way of mistaking repetition for confirmation, and in the last year this idea has become truthy enough that it gets included as a throwaway fact in semi-respectable publications like Business Week:

How he drank so much beer at one point that Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose introduced him as “The King of Beers” and a producer from The Simpsons called to ask if he could name the show’s beer, Duff, after him, which they did.

As well as independent blogs:

The name Duff comes from Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, known for drinking lots of alcoholics.

And the world’s largest source of information, Wikipedia:

In an excerpt from his autobiography, former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan said that the beer was named after him as the writers were fans of the band and he was known for his extreme alcohol consumption.[3]

That citation, by the way, goes to Maxim’s website, where there’s an excerpt from the book that includes the paragraph I cited above.  The sentence in Wikipedia is carefully worded, but that kind of caution has a way of washing out over time, and experience says that as more people read, write and rewrite the same claim, it’ll become more and more difficult for someone to trace it all the way back to its actual origin. 

As near as I can tell, no one else from Guns N’ Roses has mentioned this story, nor has anyone from The Simpsons ever said anything similar.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true, but right now “Duff Beer inspired by Duff McKagan” is a completely unsubstantiated claim by a single guy who freely admits he was drunk out of his mind during the period in question, put the word “Lies” in the title of his book, and wrote this in his Author’s Note:

My friends and old band members may remember some of the stories I recount differently than I do, but I have found that all stories have many sides.

In other words, it’s as far from confirmed as it is possible for something to be.  Again, it could be true, but with the currently available information, there’s plenty of room for doubt.  Maybe someone from The Simpsons did call (or fax) them, but was it one of the guys who came up with it, or was it some paranoid junior lawyer in the bowels of FOX?  Maybe someone not from the show called him and told him about it, and over the years his memory changed that to someone from the show.  Who knows?

McKagan is an extremely accomplished, financially secure guy; he has no reason to lie about this.  However, and by his own admission, he does have a lot of reasons to be confused about it.  Therefore, simple prudence says that it needs to be confirmed by one or more other sources before it’s generally accepted.  Unfortunately, right now acceptance is running well ahead of confirmation.  This post likely won’t slow that down, but it’s here if anyone cares to look. 

[Note: I’m only about halfway done with the book (through the time period when this call/fax would’ve happened), but this post is already two days late and Google Book Search tells me that the Simpsons doesn’t get mentioned again for the rest of the text.  If I come across something that changes any of the above, I’ll update this post.]

12
Apr
12

Who Gives a Shit “Where” Springfield Is?

Much Apu About Nothing7

“Now, they may ask you to locate your town on a map of the US.  So, let’s do that . . . uh, Springfield, Springfield . . . um, right here.” – Homer Simpson
“Dad, you’re not pointing anywhere near Springfield.” – Lisa Simpson

When I saw my Twitter and inbox begin to go bonkers because Groening apparently said the “real” Springfield is the one in Oregon, I thought “huh” and made a note of it for Reading Digest.  Then it kept going, literally every item in my Google Alert for “The Simpsons” was related to it, and I even saw this story on the home page of BBC news:

Matt Groening told Smithsonian magazine he based the town on Springfield, Oregon, but since it is such a common US place name he knew many would think it was their own Springfield.

The Springfield question is one of the best-kept secrets in TV history.

First of all, it’s not a secret.  It’s a joke.  It doesn’t have a location – that’s the whole point – which is why I’ve always been a little puzzled about how worked up people get over this transparently silly topic. 

On one level, this is just another example of the internet acting as the world’s most exponential game of telephone.  Groening says something relatively innocuous and, five removes later, “Springfield is in Oregon, purple monkey dishwasher” is rocketing around the globe while strangers get into flame wars and Twitter fights that boil down to little more than cycles of “nuh-uh” and “yea-huh”. 

But beyond that artifact of modern communications, what causes this much excitement and interest in something that amounts to nothing?  And I don’t mean that rhetorically, I genuinely don’t get it.  I understand the fun in having irresolvable arguments about unanswerable things like, say, who was the best soccer player ever, or what the greatest movie in history is.  It’s the reason the internet is lousy with lists that rank everything from books and rock stars to cooking shows and lists themselves.  The human brain is wired to categorize and prioritize things, and we take to it the way ducks take to water.  But why all the excitement over the obviously nonsense location of a fictional town? 

The best I can come up with is that beyond just something to talk about, it’s a need to know everything about a topic, to have a resolution, as though not knowing for sure is some kind of mental canker sore that you just can’t keep your brain from fooling around with.  But even that doesn’t make sense because they’ve said, on multiple occasions, that Springfield is nowhere.  You already have an answer, one that is far more logically consistent than any specific location. 

So, yeah, I don’t get it.  Does anyone here either care about this, or understand why other people care?  Because, in the immortal words of Dr. Hibbert, this thing has be buffaloed. 

(Oh, in case anyone is interested, here’s a nice debunking of this whole thing, via our old friends Denise and Karma.)

08
Oct
11

The End of Zombie Simpsons: The Reset Button Has Been Pushed

The Curse of the Flying Hellfish3

“Hey, listen!  Now, my story begins in nineteen-dickety-two.  We had to say ‘dickety’ ’cause the Kaiser had stolen our word ‘twenty’.  I chased that rascal to get it back, but gave up after dickety-six miles.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

After all of this week’s twisting and ill sourced hoopla, the end came during the media dead time of Friday evening.  Zombie Simpsons may only occasionally be capable of a decent joke, but there is an undeniable humor to that. 

As for the deal itself, the true numbers haven’t been released, and in all likelihood they never will be.  The last deal resulted in the $400,000 per episode/$8,000,000 per season salary that has been in almost every story about the negotiations this week, but that number was never really confirmed.  As far as I know, the six voice actors themselves were forbidden as part of the contract from discussing the actual total, which means their salary number was only ever leaked, never verifiably reported.  We can expect something similar here.  Some number about this extension will eventually be repeated enough to seem credible, but all dollar signs should be regarded as questionable when it comes to FOX. 

What we do know about the deal (thanks – again – to @rubbrcatsimp) is that it will bring the episode total to 559, which is a smooth 44 more than the 515 of the previous deal.  That means it’s not just two more “seasons”, it’s two more full, 22 episode production runs, presumably designated Q-ABF and R-ABF. 

This is essentially Scenario #4 from my post about the future of the show back in August.  FOX has ordered two complete sets of episodes, which means that the overhang between the production runs and the broadcast seasons will persist.  A full Season 25 is now guaranteed to happen, but they will also have enough episodes to get Season 26 started in the fall of 2014. 

So the reset button has been pushed and the timer starts again.  Under the current deal, the deadline is roughly October 2013 for when they have to decide if they want to produce a series finale.  Despite what you may read elsewhere, there is absolutely nothing in this deal to indicate that Season 25 will be the last season.  I’m going to repeat that with bold and italics because, given the “one more season only” horseshit that flew around all week, it is certain to be the most overlooked aspect of this story.  There is nothing in this deal to indicate that Season 25 will be the last one.  As a number, “25” is mathematically nice and psychologically pleasing, but those concerns don’t matter in the least during contract negotiations that involve seven or eight digits.  Season 26 is all but assured by this contract. 

07
Oct
11

Zombies Never Die

“Chapter Eight, let’s talk zombies.  If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie.  You must walk the Earth feeding on the brains of the living until the spell is broken.” – Bart Simpson

It’s official, Zombie Simpsons lives to bore another day.  James L. Brooks just tweeted it (via):

Death, Taxes and Zombie Simpsons

That’ll take it through Season 25, or at least the spring of 2014.  Neither side is likely to release any detailed figures but, as with every other time they’ve gone through this goofy public fit, mutual financial benefit won the day.  I’ll do a more informative update when there’s some actual hard information.  Until then I would just like to point out the irony that this site, which wants to see the show taken off the air, was one of the few all week that never thought it was going to happen.  Oh well. 

07
Oct
11

Reading Digest: Rumor Control Edition (Updated)

Bart Gets an Elephant5

“After breakfast, me and Milhouse are going down to the ravine.  We got a tip from a six-year-old that there’s a dead Martian down there.” – Bart Simpson

Before we get to this week’s links, let me take you on a brief tour of a rumor.  Yesterday afternoon, Springfield Springfield tweeted:

‘The Simpsons’ likely to end after current season, confirms Fox executive

The tweet contained a link to this story from New York Daily News titled “‘The Simpsons’ likely to end after current season, confirms Fox executive: report”.  The keyword here is “confirms”, which is used right in the second paragraph as well as in the title:

A Fox executive confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that even if the actors who voice the animated series took a pay cut, it still wouldn’t make it profitable — so the current 23rd season will likely be the last.

Following the link to the Reuters story reveals “Another ‘Simpsons’ Season Would Likely Be Last, Executive Says (Exclusive)”.  This is what happens when you do Ctrl-F for the word “confirm” at that story:

Lack of Confirmation

So, there really hasn’t been any confirmation at all.  Nor, for that matter, was it an “exclusive”.  While the story linked from the New York Daily News is indeed at reuters.com, it’s not an actual Reuters story.  In fact, it’s a rewrite of the same original report at The Wrap.  The story is even bylined “By Tim Molloy at TheWrap”.  The Wrap and Reuters must have some kind of content sharing agreement, but no FOX executive ever spoke with Reuters.  There’s no “exclusive” and there certainly isn’t any cause to use the word “confirm”. 

However, since the content sharing agreement apparently doesn’t require a link back to the original story (which I discussed yesterday), it certainly looks like a second report from Reuters confirming the original story.  It isn’t.  It’s the original story published in two places. 

So what happened is: a story originally at entertainment site The Wrap gets published.  A few hours later, the exact same guy changes a few words and publishes it on Reuters.  The New York Daily News picks that up as confirmation, which then gets sent as confirmation to Springfield Springfield’s twitter followers.  Not a single new piece of information hit the internet, it’s just one report echoing around as fast as fiber optic cable can carry it (which is really fast).  This single, unconfirmed report spawned more news stories and blog posts than I could ever hope to link, all saying that the show likely had only one season left.  

However, late yesterday, right about the time the New York Daily News was getting confused, there was an actual new story published at The Wrap, “‘Simpsons’ Deadline for Voice Actors Looms”.  It contains this direct refutation of the original quote:

The person familiar with the actors’ position dismissed the idea that Fox wants no more than one more season as "pure spin" and a negotiating tactic. The person said the offer now on the table for the actors would include a guarantee of two more seasons and the option of a third.

This is just one more anonymous quote in a week that’s seen far too many of them, but the report that Season 24 won’t be the last is at least as credible as the one that Season 24 will be the last.  It probably won’t go flying around the internet like the other one, but that has nothing to do with whichever of them turns out to have been correct.

Ultimately, that a whole bunch of people were temporarily misinformed about this isn’t that big of a deal.  The show is either going to get cancelled (still very unlikely) or it’s going to keep going (ugh).  All the blog posts and goofy stories by theoretically respectable news outlets won’t matter in the least to the outcome.  But it’s a little disturbing that a single unconfirmed rumor that was childishly easy to track down – all I had to do was read and follow links – could get people that confused that fast. 

Due to cancellation fever, there are fewer links than usual this week.  On the plus side, several of those links are from people who heard the talk of the show ending and thought it should’ve done so long ago.  There’s also the return of awesome Simpsons embroidery, a couple of mentions of Homer’s parenting advice, productivity enhancing camping hammocks, and cake pops.  Mmmm, cake pops. 

Enjoy.

[Programming note: Time spent sorting through rumors this week was time I didn’t spend doing a Compare & Contrast post for “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts”.  It will be along, likely early next week.  There’s no new Zombie Simpsons this Sunday anyway.  There will be further updates on the Zombie Simpsons contract negotiations when actual new information comes along.  At this point, things are exactly where they’ve been all week: negotiating behind closed doors for a contract extension.]

[Update 12:06pm EDT: Harry Shearer released a statement this morning.  It basically just takes a dump on FOX and says they’re being a bunch of greedy bastards, which is true.  No news about progress or collapse of the talks.  Carry on.]

The 5 Best Songs on The Simpsons – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is six songs from the show.  While some people just make lists, others go to the time to find YouTube for each song, even if it means the dialogue is dubbed into a foreign language while the song is still in English.  The bilingualism causes some funny juxtapositions, especially on the Canyonero song. 

Greed may do ‘The Simpsons’ a favor – Five classic YouTube clips to celebrate the rumored end of the show. 

News:Charles Napier Dies Aged 75 – That’s a shame.  He did a couple of guest voices on Zombie Simpsons, but was most beloved by me for being the voice of Duke Phillips on The Critic.  A bit more here

Rick’s Cafe: The ten best Simpsons sports episodes ever – This list contains one episode from Season 11, everything else comes from before that.  Oddly enough, the only two images are from Zombie Simpsons episodes that aren’t on the list. 

Homer Simpson Model of Parenting – A list of some of Homer’s better parenting quotes.  I didn’t check them, and there are a few later season quotes, but on the whole this is a very cromulent list.  Bravo.

half-arsed over-gardening – Some excellent parental usage:

It feels a little small when she, when they give me that look. As Homer said in reply to Bart, “But I’m using my whole ass.”

Homer’s resigned sadness in that line is awesome. 

The best kind of tent is not a tent – Apparently they make hammocks you can use to go camping with now.  What an age to be alive.  There’s also Hank Scorpio YouTube here, you can probably guess which scene.

the simpsons embroidery project // 4 – Simpsons embroidery is back again.  This time we’ve got Homer riding the bomb and Thrillho.  Both are amazingly done, from the nicks in the “Do Not Ride The Bomb” sign to the wind in Thrillhouse’s hair.

Birthday with the Simpsons – Fan made Simpsons cake pops.  Oh man, those look good (and check out Marge’s hair!). 

Rebel With A Versatile Cause – Pretty much:

I love The Simpsons.  If I were in a conversation with a like-minded soul, and we just sat there throwing out quotes from the first 10-seasons or so, I genuinely cannot imagine what would happen to make me tire of the conversation. Dehydration, perhaps.

The Simpsons Top 10 Episodes of the First 10 Seasons (Re-post) – Exactly what it says, though I was a bit surprised to see “Viva Ned Flanders” in the #10 spot. 

Lisa Simpson, I’m amazed – Some vegan love for Lisa, along with bran flakes and tiny Simpsons toys.  Cool.

peeing with the door open is patriotic – If you have a bathroom you don’t share with anyone you can do whatever you want in it, including post YouTube of Homer whizzing with the door open. 

Boob – And finally, we get to end with three links to people who agree with us.  First up is this quick television roundup which includes this:

Simpsons-  I watch this almost completely out of nostalgia and some weird form of loyalty.  It hasn’t been great in over a decade and barely borders on good most of the time.  The premiere was so-so, and the online voting was so lame.  For those that don’t know, they ended the finale with an online poll.  They wanted the viewer to vote whether or not a couple should stay together.  Wow.  Hilarious.

My sarcasm detector just exploded.

Mmmm, opinions on Beliebers… – The author here is a teenager who isn’t keen on Justin Bieber or his fans.  After some excellent mockery of both, she brings down the hammer:

Tonight on Twitter, PURPLE MONKEY DISH WASHER was trending. For a second, I had some faith in my generation. I was so excited! People knew The Simpsons! Wow!

Haha, I was wrong.

Apparently, PURPLE MONKEY DISH WASHER is an inside joke within the Beliebers. They are clueless to its origin, and that makes me sick.

There’s a video of me at 4 months old watching The Simpsons. I’ve been raised with it. I have seen positively every episode, most twice. You do not mess with me and The Simpsons.

Something that drives me crazy about people today is that they’ve only ever seen the new episodes. I tell people all the time, you have to go back and watch the old ones! You fool! You have no idea what you’re missing!

Got that right.  Keep the faith, sister; their love of Bieber will fade, but love of The Simpsons lasts a lifetime. 

The “About Goddamn Time” Files – Simpsons might get cancelled – This guy hits a lot of the notes we always hit:

The characters that used to drive the show are all just caricatures of their former selves.  The writing is hackney.  They try to compensate with funny or topical (or both) situations, but the situations aren’t funny or particularly topical (and even if they were, there’s no way to gloss over how bad the writing and characters have become).

Got that right.  Plus there’s this:

Normally, I wouldn’t mind it going on forever.  If people somehow actually enjoy the new episodes, whatever, let them watch it.  My problem with the continued production of these terrible terrible terrible episodes is that they dilute the rerun pool.

That’s what I keep saying!  Welcome, friend.  Welcome. 

06
Oct
11

The End of Zombie Simpsons: Still Unlikely

Last Exit to Springfield5

“Well, let’s look at the contract ourselves, eh?  Benefits!  Perks!  A green cookie on St. Patrick’s Day!” – C.M. Burns

There are a few pieces of new information about the current money wrangling going on between FOX and the six principle voice actors.  I’ve linked three articles below along with a summary of what actual news each contains.  As of noon today, this what’s known to the internet:

‘The Simpsons’ producers accepted pay cuts | Variety (via):

  • An unspecified number of executive producers have agreed to take an unspecified pay cut, but as yet no contracts have been signed. 
  • FOX has set a deadline of Friday for an agreement with the actors.
  • That deadline is supposedly linked to the production cycle.  As of right now they still have enough time to produce a series finale that would air next year under the current deal.   

Another ‘Simpsons’ Season Would Likely Be Last, Executive Says (Exclusive) | TheWrap TV:

  • An unnamed executive said that even with a new deal, FOX only wants the show for one more year. 
  • A FOX press release contradicted that, saying they wanted the show “for many years to come”.
  • A financial analysis commissioned by the actors reports that the show has earned $3.95 billion ($3,950,000,000) so far against a total production cost of $3.07 billion ($3,070,000,000). 
  • The same analysis also concluded that the show as it stands will earn roughly another $2 billion ($2,000,000,000) once production ceases.

Analyst: Fox Could Get Around $750 Million in New Syndication Revenue After ‘Simpsons’ Cancellation – The Hollywood Reporter (via):

  • David Bank, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets, believes that FOX could earn $750 million ($750,000,000) from new syndication deals alone once the show ends.
  • The original syndication deals were struck when cable was much smaller and on-line didn’t exist and FOX is presently unable to sell rerun rights for those outlets.
  • Each episode is probably worth between $1 million and $2 million dollars ($1,000,000-$2,000,000) from those sources.

To my mind that third article is far more important than the others.  The first two are the usual press leaks that occur during negotiations.  Numbers of dubious provenance get bandied about and the quotes used are often deliberately inflammatory or misleading because all of the sources are party to the negotiation.  It’s basically just a public way of saying this:

Management: We’re losing money, you guys need to take a pay cut.
Labor:  Bullshit.
[angry crosstalk]

None of it changes the fact that every previous time this has happened everyone involved eventually realized that doing some kind of deal makes them all more money.  Sometime after that the contracts get signed.  So while I’d love to hear what FOX’s internal discussions are regarding the future of Zombie Simpsons, the odds of getting that through the entertainment press are very long indeed. 

The third article, however, puts a number on the pretty heavy cash payout for FOX once the show stops production.  Syndication is an obtuse process and is governed by rules and conventions that only deeply involved players really understand, but the basic premise is very simple.  Once a show has enough episodes to be worth syndicating (usually four seasons), a temporary syndication deal is struck for rerunning the show while it is still in production.  Once a show stops production, i.e. once everyone involved knows for sure how many episodes there are going to be, a new deal is done to cover the whole show. 

Since Zombie Simpsons has gone on for so long, not only is the catalog of episodes for sale enormous, but the original and temporary syndication deal is now hopelessly out of date.  The economics of television have changed a lot since the early 1990s, and the duration of a purposely temporary agreement from that time has created a lot of potential revenue.  Right now that money only exists on spreadsheets, but it would become very real once the 1990s deal finally expires.  That’s where you get the $750 million number, which would not come all at once, but which would be in cash and very nice for FOX for several years.  That means that FOX can cancel the show without hurting its bottom line for years to come, an important consideration in a business that freaks out over quarterly reports.  Of course, the flip side of that coin is that the longer the show goes on the bigger that potential revenue becomes. 

So, what does all this mean?  I’m afraid the answer is still “not much”.  We don’t know what the real numbers are.  We don’t know how personally interested the actors and key producers are in keeping it going.  We don’t know how confident FOX is that they can plug the hole in their Sunday lineup.  Having an unnamed FOX executive tell The Wrap that they’d only want one more season anyway is meant to generate attention, but it probably isn’t anything more than bluster. 

If production of the show actually shuts down then we can start getting our hopes up.  Ditto if there’s a credible report that the word has come down to make the last episode a series finale.  But until either of those things happens this is far more smoke than fire. 

04
Oct
11

The End of Zombie Simpsons Would Be Great; Still Probably Not Happening

Not Enough Information

“I don’t think they’re giving you enough information, Dad.” – Lisa Simpson
“I’ll figure it out.  I’m gonna use all the power of my brain.” – Homer Simpson

The NFL escaped from its lockout basically unscathed, the NBA is getting into serious crunch time with theirs, and now Zombie Simpsons has added its name to this year’s list of labor-management disputes between millionaires and billionaires.  This morning, gossip and media columnist Lloyd Grove published an anonymously sourced article on The Daily Beast reporting that contract negotiations between FOX and the voice cast aren’t going well (thanks to Gran2 in comments).  Let’s wade into the weeds of spin-tastic journalism:

Fox studio execs have occasionally threatened to replace uncooperative cast members with sound-alike actors. But for the first time in nearly a quarter century of haggling, the executives have insisted that if the cast doesn’t accept a draconian 45 percent pay cut, The Simpsons will die an abrupt death as a first-run series.

According to Grove’s anonymous “insider”, the threat here isn’t that they’ll continue the show with a new cast, it’s that they’ll just stop it at the end of the current production run.  The article goes on to relate details of the negotiation, of which there are two actual pieces of information:

Sticking Point #1 – FOX is asking for a 45% salary cut, actors are offering 30%.
Sticking Point #2 – In exchange, the actors want a back end percentage.  FOX doesn’t like that.

The rest of the article is mostly filler, including the widely reported but dubiously sourced claim that the six principle voice actors are currently making $8,000,000 per year (which is roughly $400,000 per episode).  Headlined “Money Dispute May End ‘Simpsons’”, the story has already been linked on Jebus knows how many other sites (Google has it on Vulture, USA Today, Huffington Post, and The A.V. Club already, none of which I’m going to link because all of them just point back to the original article) and is currently eating the #Simpsons tag on Twitter. 

So, what if anything does this new information mean?  Until something more concrete comes along, the answer is “not much”.  You will be seeing this story all over the place for the next week at least, but unless some more actual information bubbles to the surface it will be nothing but rehashed speculation, not unlike the recent “Simpsons channel” non-story.  So if you’re reading something and all it does is link back to The Daily Beast, you can safely ignore it. 

Whoever Grove’s source, they obviously have an interest in the negotiations, but we don’t even know if they’re labor or management so I wouldn’t put too much energy into analyzing either sticking point.  Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that FOX wants to end the show.  Their motives in keeping it on the air have been purely mercenary to this point, and nothing in Grove’s story indicates a change in attitude. 

The bottom line is that while it is possible for a money dispute to finally get Zombie Simpsons off the air, we are a very long way from that happening.  Especially considering that previous money disputes were all resolved to mutual financial benefit (if not quite always amicably), there is every reason to believe that this is a tempest in a teapot.  Based on what we actually know, I’d say this article raises the chances of there not being a Season 24 from “less than 1%” to “slightly higher but still less than 1%”. 

It is nice to see people talking about ending the show.  The comments at the original article contain gems like this:

clairels

15 Minutes Ago

FOX, by keeping this show on the air through more than 10 unnecessary, astonishingly unfunny seasons, has continued to brutalize the legacy of this once-brilliant show. Hopefully this final blow will allow The Simpsons to rest in peace.

And this:

LocalMan

49 Minutes Ago

About time. This used to be the funniest show on TV but it hasn’t been very amusing for a loooong time. I gave it a chance last week and immediately turned it off after they did a Breakfast Club flashback joke that could have been stolen directly out of Family Guy.

But until there is real confirmation of this – as opposed to articles just linking the original and adding speculation – there isn’t (yet) much to see here.

23
Sep
11

Reading Digest: Fictional Fiction Edition

Mr Lisa Goes to Washington7

“We now return to Troy McClure and Dolores Montenegro in ‘Preacher with a Shovel’.” – TV Announcer
“But irrigation can save your people, Chief Smiling Bear!” – White Man

This week we’ve got a couple of links elaborating on the many fake books, movies and products that cropped up on The Simpsons.  Before we get to those, however, that stupid quote from a News Corp executive about a “Simpsons channel” I mentioned last week spun itself to new levels of internet fame this week and needs to be knocked down.  If you don’t care, skip to the second set of dashes:

—–

The story: News Corp’s Chief Operating Officer, a man with a moustache more often seen on guys who tie damsels to railroad tracks, made an offhand comment at a media conference in Beverly Hills two weeks ago.  A Los Angeles Times blog reported that he said they were having a lot of meetings about how to make as much money as possible off the Simpsons franchise, and that one of the ideas they were kicking around was a channel that was all Simpsons.  It wasn’t an announcement, it wasn’t a plan, it wasn’t even a trial balloon.  It was just one of the things they’d mentioned and it wouldn’t be possible for years due to syndication rules and the show would have to stop broadcasting new episodes first but there’s no plans to do that. 

In other words, News Corp and FOX are about as close to launching a “Simpsons channel” as they are to landing James Murdoch on Mars.  The idea was floated along with a bunch of others as ways to get the Simpsons-related money spigot to gush just a little bit harder.  There was no real news, there wasn’t even a rumor. 

Then a site called Slice of SciFi picked it up (Could We See An All “Simpsons” Channel?), and from there it went to /Film last Friday (Fox Considering an All-‘Simpsons’ TV Channel).  That sent it all over the place, from humble little blogs to big, established sites like Cinema Blend (Could The Simpsons Be Getting Their Own Channel?) and the A.V. Club (Fox considering TV channel that plays nothing but The Simpsons).  Now, I understand the need for sites like /Film, the A.V. Club, and Cinema Blend to write things like this up.  They pay their bills with pageviews and a story like this, easy to write and with an eminently clickable headline, is basically free money for them.  I also understand that I see more of these stories than most people and that my perspective is the furthest thing from common.  At the same time, useless repetition like this is one of the constant aggravations and real weaknesses of on-line media. 

All of these stories eventually get around to noting that even if this ever does happen it won’t be for a very long time.  In the meantime they troll for comments, put question marks in their headlines (always a bad sign if you’re looking for actual information), and add their own spin as they rewrite the same non-story over and over again.  The result is that people become misinformed about how serious this is through nothing more than repetition.  I’m not saying don’t write a few hundred words and goose your traffic stats.  By all means, do that.  But please, while you’re doing that drop the sensational speculation and point out just how little there is to the story. 

—–

Okay, my street corner harangue is over.  If you skipped all that, the short version is that rumors on the internet are annoying and misleading and can easily be made less so without anyone having to stop being a traffic whore.  As for the actual links, in addition to the fictional stuff from the show we’ve got an awesome tribute to Phil Hartman, a great movie trailer mashup, crappy merchandise, excellent usage, and donuts.  Oh, the donuts.

Enjoy.

He Had Hart, Man: The 11 Best Phil Hartman Characters – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this awesome list that comes with plenty of YouTube.  Three of them are Simpsons characters.

Visiting Huell Howser’s donut at Stan’s Donuts – A visit to a Westwood, California donut shop with plenty of food porn images of awesome donuts, including the famous Homer donut with pink frosting and sprinkles:

By the way, they also have a donut named after The Simpsons. Why? Apparently, they were the official donut makers for Fox when the movie came out and they were sending donuts to various people to promote the film.

Invisible Library Catalog Entry #1: How to Cook Humans – There are a lot of Simpsons titles in the invisible library, don’t forget “Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?”.   

Fictional Movies I Want to See Most – Instead of an invisible library for fictional books, this is about the invisible multiplex for fictional movies.  Either way The Simpsons is well represented. 

Translating the Simpsons: A Case Study – An extensive examination of the subtleties of translating the show into German. 

The Simpsons – Apollo 13 Trailer (via) – I put this up on Twitter on Tuesday, but it works too well not to post:

Letters of Note: With great respect, Marge Simpson – The fake letter the show wrote to then First Lady Barbara Bush in 1990.  This has made the rounds on-line before, but it was going around again this week so I thought I’d post it. 

Drawing Tips (via) – We’ve linked this guy’s Simpsons art before, but here are some wonderfully batshit tips for drawing the Simpsons.  It’s a Facebook link, but don’t be alarmed, you don’t need to be logged in to view it. 

Did It Get Less Funny, Or Did I Get More Mature? – It got less funny.  I have no idea whether or not you got more mature. 

Homer Hamburger Pillow – That’s kinda creepy.  Why is his mouth wider than his head?

Lisa Simpson – Fan made drawing of Lisa.

Voice of Homer Simpson, Dan Castellaneta, sells Palisades home – Hank Azaria bought Dan Castellaneta’s house for $5,500,000.  

Best. Simpsons Clips. Ever. – Via @dailysimpsons comes this Wired list of people’s favorite clips.  There are a couple of token Zombie Simpsons entries at the end, though even that doesn’t speak well for them.  Both are from Season 22, one is the Banksy opening, the other is the Koyaanisqatsi Itchy & Scratchy.  Basically, no one likes anything the Simpsons themselves created past Season 9. 

The end is nigh… – The final installment of the Simpsons comics that were drawn when the author was ten-years-old.

4′ Authentic Bart Simpson Stuffed Toy – Click through for the two larger images to really see how crappy this thing looks. 

The 2011 Emmys…In 10 Words – Note to self: continue never watching awards shows. 

Spurlock’s newest is good, not the "greatest" – Excellent usage in a review of Morgan Spurlock’s latest real movie:

So no one has to necessarily pay attention to any advertising.  It’s like Lisa Simpson and Paul Anka sang in an episode of The Simpsons Tree House of Horror:  "Just dont’ look".

The Best Show on Television – This post makes the case for Parks and Recreation as the current champion.  Along the way, he lists some of his favorite shows and agrees with us:

1996 – 2002: The Simpsons (I hung on about two seasons too long.)

Yeah, I’d say two years is about right.

The Ten Greatest ‘Simpsons’ Characters Who Appear in Only One Episode – As usual, there’s not a hint of Zombie Simpsons here.  (Thanks to Andreas for the tip.) 

Tattoo WIN (?) – Yes, win.  It’s a tattoo of Homer wearing David Bowie makeup. 

Review: “The Simpsons Movie” – This is more positive than I am toward the movie, but does acknowledge that the show has declined. 

New Simpsons Sucks! – And finally, I get to end the best way possible, with someone who doesn’t mince words stating the obvious:

Why isn’t the Simpsons funny anymore? Who’s behind this!? The Simpsons used to be deviously clever, it never tried to hard to make jokes, and a lot of the jokes blew right past me as a kid, but made me fall over as an adult.

He’s even got compare and contrast YouTube clips.  The hitchhiker in “Bart on the Road” always cracks me up.  Oh, and don’t miss the link to classic clips at the bottom. 

01
Aug
11

Zombie Simpsons Scenarios: Season 24 and Beyond

Selma's Choice7

“I want to get off.” – Bart Simpson
“You can’t get off, we have five more continents to visit.” – Selma Bouvier

Between Comic-Con and the fact that FOX opened up the animation department to a bunch of reporters a couple of weeks ago, there has been a flurry of news-ish reports in my inbox of late.  Most of these are fluff and contain nothing in the way of real news for the already plugged-in Simpsons fan.  However, a few interesting tidbits did slip out, and it’s worth taking a look at the available production, calendar and contract information to sketch out a few rough scenarios about where the show is vis-a-vis the end of its current deal and its continuation into the indefinite future.

Speculating about this is inherently inaccurate, so I’ve broken things down into four scenarios (the first two of which I consider unlikely but which I’ve included because they are possible based on currently available information):

  1. Season 23 is it, the show ends with an hour long finale consisting of back-to-back episodes on May 27th, 2012.
  2. The current contract is it, the show ends in November 2012 with a shortened Season 24.
  3. The current contract is extended to fill out Season 24 with an abbreviated production run.
  4. The current contract is extended to fill out a full production run, which will complete Season 24 and have episodes left over for a potential Season 25. 

First, a note on “production” versus “broadcast”.  To understand this, you need to differentiate between the broadcast seasons and the production runs.  Where the seasons are numbered, the production runs are alphabetical, followed by the letters “ABF”.  (I’ve added a hyphen (e.g. M-ABF) to make it a little easer to read.)  Since Zombie Simpsons settled into its current stupor at the turn of the millennium, it has followed a very predictable pattern.  The first third of a season (roughly seven or eight episodes) is from the previous year’s production run, and the rest is from that year’s production run.

Season 21, for example, had eight episodes from the L-ABF production run (L-ABF 13-20), the rest are from the M-ABF production run (M-ABF 1-15).  Season 22 had the remaining seven episodes from the M-ABF production run (M-ABF 16-22) plus fifteen from the N-ABF production run (N-ABF 1-15).  Season 23 will finish out the N-ABF run and then most of it will be from P-ABF.  [Ed note: see update at bottom.]

So when you read a report that says that the show is signed through Season 23, what that really means is that the current contract ends with the P-ABF production run.  The first episode of Season 23, scheduled for September 25th, will be the show’s 487th.  According to the often dubiously informed entertainment press, the current contract with FOX runs through episode #515, which should be episode P-ABF-22.  The possibilities:

Scenario #1 – Season 23 exhausts the current contract and contains twenty-nine episodes.  There are several problems with this, starting with the fact that there has never been a twenty-nine episode season.  The longest seasons were twenty-five episodes, but those ended with Season 9.  Zombie Simpsons tends to be right around twenty-one or twenty-two.

Furthermore, for reasons of sweeps and advertising rates, most big series finales happen in May.  But they’ve announced that the 500th episode is going to be broadcast on February 19th of next year and there are only fourteen Sundays between that date and the last Sunday in May (the 27th).  In order to cram them all in, they’d need to run a new episode every week from the 500th to the series finale, when they’d have to send things off with back-to-back episodes.  That seems unlikely.

It’s also worth mentioning that the current turnaround time on a typical episode is nine months.  If things were going to end in May, they would already be getting ready to shut down production (telling animators and the like that their contracts won’t be renewed), and something like that would presumably be hard to keep off the internet.

Finally, I’m not an expert on how sweeps months work, but it would also appear that the 27th is outside the sweeps period for 2012.  Put all of these together, and Season 23 seems very unlikely to be the end of things.

Scenario #2 – Season 23 ends normally in May of next year, followed by a brief Season 24 in Fall 2012.  If it’s a standard twenty-two episode season, then the season finale would be episode #508.  That would leave seven episodes left on the P-ABF production run at the conclusion of Season 23, but seven episodes does not a full season make.  A September start to a seven episode Season 24 would allow them to end things in the November 2012 sweeps period, but such a move would be highly unusual.  It would also leave a gaping hole in FOX’s Sunday animation lineup with most of the season still to go.  This too seems unlikely.

Scenarios #1 and #2 posit that the show ends with the P-ABF production run, but the calendar and the vicissitudes of network television argue against it.  The question then becomes how those seven episodes from P-ABF are complimented.

Scenario #3 – FOX orders a partial production run of Q-ABF (approximately fifteen episodes) to fill out Season 24 and end the series in May of 2013.  For the avid Simpsons fan, this is the best, realistic scenario.

Scenario #4 – FOX orders a full production run of Q-ABF (probably twenty-two episodes).  This will allow for a complete Season 24 and enough holdover episodes to get Season 25 started in the fall of 2013.  Essentially, this scenario just winds the clock ahead one year, with the dangling end of a production run still loose for 2013 and the door open for a full or partial order of R-ABF.

What all four of these scenarios take into account is the fact that the overhang from the end of one season to the end of a production run creates some odd broadcasting problems.  As long as FOX continues to order episodes in blocks of twenty-two, this overhang will persist.  When (if?) FOX orders an abbreviated production run, even if it is accompanied by a full order (e.g. they order a full Q-ABF and a partial R-ABF at the same time), then we may be getting close to the end of the show.  Until then, all we have is the nine month delay in production and the fickle whims of the television gods.

Given the nine month delay, we can expect some kind of information about the all but inevitable order for Q-ABF sometime in the next six months.  If it’s a full order and they take the show to episode 537 (or close to it), then the cycle starts over.  If it’s a partial order, then we might finally see the end of Zombie Simpsons.  Don’t hold your breath.

[2 August 2011: Edited letters of production runs because Zombie Simpsons is going to skip “O-ABF”.  See comments for details.]

16
May
11

Even Their Apologies Suck

Via springfieldx2 on Twitter I see that Zombie Simpsons made a halfhearted stab at apologizing to Kristen Schaal for misspelling her name last week.  Schaal herself even posted a screen grab of it:

Schaal Apology

At first I thought that was nice of them but, as with everything Zombie Simpsons, they have to make it more complicated than it otherwise should be.  After thinking about it for a second, it dawned on me that I probably would remember seeing that, and I didn’t.  Indeed, the version I saw didn’t have that on the chalkboard at all.  As of this writing, neither does the copy on Hulu.com:

No Apology

I’m not sure where the other screen grab came from, though there’s a DirecTV logo in the watermark, but it wasn’t the one I saw, and it isn’t the one currently up on Hulu.  Zombie Simpsons: good intentions, wretched implementation.

12
Dec
10

Rehashing the “Bart Show” Myth

Homer the Heretic4

“Homer, I’d like you to remember Matthew 7:26, the foolish man who built his house on sand.” – Rev. Lovejoy
“And you remember . . . Matthew . . . 21:17.” – Homer Simpson
“‘And he left them and went out of the city into Bethany and he lodged there.’?” – Rev. Lovejoy
“Yeah, think about it.” – Homer Simpson

I greatly enjoyed Splitsider’s “Classic Simpsons Week” series.  On the whole, it was a nice look back that didn’t sugarcoat just how far the series has fallen from grace.  I didn’t agree with every opinion presented, but such is the nature of opinions.  One piece I read, however, is factually inaccurate and perpetuates a longstanding Simpsons myth, one that even very knowledgeable fans will repeat without thinking.

Under the headline “The Bart Show: When The Simpsons Were Almost Much Worse”, Mike Drucker falls for the old saw that there was a “Bart” era at the beginning of the show.  Briefly put, this is the idea that at the dawn of The Simpsons the show was mostly about Bart, and that it then transitioned into being a show about Homer.  It is completely false, albeit very understandable.  The article opens:

With all this jibber-jabber about The Simpsons not being as good as it was when the writer was 12 (see: The Saturday Night Live Effect), it’s easy to forget that there was an early period in the show’s popularity when it was ready to take a turn for the much worse. Catchphrase-filled bumper stickers, key chains, video games, and music albums all pointed in one direction: The Simpsons was becoming the “Bart Show.”

That’s as good a description of why this myth exists as any.  “Bartmania” was very real, for a while there you couldn’t get away from the Simpsons generally – and Bart specifically – in the form of everything from tchotchkes and t-shirts (official and less so) all the way up to hit songs and national commercials.  That alone would’ve been noteworthy enough, but it was made even more pervasive by the enormous backlash.  From local PTAs all the way up through the sitting President of the United States, hidebound guardians of America’s youth roared their opposition in every medium available.  When FOX announced that the second season of its subversive hit would go head to head against The Cosby Show, at the time America’s favorite wholesome family sitcom, all bets were off.  The Simpsons was a genuine phenomenon, politically, culturally, and economically, and Bart was literally the poster child for it.

The show itself, however, never got swept up in the hysteria.  As I’ve pointed out before, when you actually look at the first four seasons (1 & 2, 3 & 4) there’s no evidence of Bart dominating.  Bart and Homer were always very evenly matched in terms of how often each of them got the big storyline, and there were always plenty of episodes where neither of them was the main character.  The people writing all those magazine articles and television segments were obsessed with Bart, the people writing The Simpsons never were.

Since it’s operating on a badly flawed premise, the Splitsider article has nowhere to go but down:

But Bart Simpson the character and Bart Simpson the hit television show character are two different animals, and in the first few years of The Simpsons, the latter threatened to take over. The marketing focus of the show fell almost entirely on Bart (or, at least, Homer reacting to Bart). “Eat my shorts!” became a catchphrase on the level of “Yeah, baby!”

Right here we can see the article confusing the marketing of the show and the show itself.  Yes, the promotional focus fell on Bart, but so what?  Drucker is assuming that the marketing had an influence on how the writers wrote the scripts, but he doesn’t present any evidence that his assumption is accurate.  It’s an easy mistake to make, everybody “knows” that the show was all about Bart, but this particular axiom doesn’t hold up to even cursory scrutiny.

If this article was just about the way people remember the show’s debut or the way people felt about it at the time, then this wouldn’t be a problem.  It really did take a while for Homer and the others to reach the level of cultural fame that Bart achieved almost overnight.  But that isn’t where it goes from there, instead it talks about how the show itself took the focus off of Bart.  After a bit about Family Guy and South Park, it continues:

The danger in this pattern wasn’t just that America had more “Do the Bartman” cassettes than it needed. Rather, there was less space to consider the comedy merits of Marge or Homer or Lisa or anyone else on the show.

Here we can see the crack in the article’s fundamental premise widening into a grand chasm filled with confused premises, inaccurate statements and solid waste.  What does it mean to have “less space” to consider the comedy merits of Marge or Homer or Lisa?  If you’re talking about articles in Newsweek, yes.  If you’re talking about screen time on the show, no.  Continuing:

The audience had been told that Bart was the funny one. The jokes were coming from Bart. Bart would be saying the thing you’d talk about on the playground the next day. And with Bart taking the spotlight from the other main characters, the side characters such as Moe or Lenny had no space at all.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the first and third sentences there, but the second and fourth ones are just flat out false.  The counterexamples are so numerous that trying to list even a quarter of them would take hours.  Even in Bart-centered episodes like “The Telltale Head” or “Bart Gets an F” the rest of the family and the town is always there ripping off punchline after punchline.  “The Telltale Head” has everything from Homer’s immortal mid-church field goal celebration to the first inkling we get that Smithers sees more than a boss in Mr. Burns.  “Bart Gets an F” shows us the whole range of dysfunction at Springfield elementary, from the gullibility of the nurse to the wild side of Martin Prince.  And then there’s this:

This is the antithesis of The Simpsons that fans came to know and love.

That doesn’t make a lick of sense.  If the early episodes aren’t what made the fans love the show, then what was?  How did all that Bart-centered publicity get started in the first place if not because people loved the show right from the start?  But that’s nothing compared to what’s coming:

At its heart, The Simpsons works so well because it’s a television show about a community. Much like South Park, many of the best episodes of The Simpsons deal with the town overcoming their differences to stop a ridiculous threat. Marge vs. The Monorail is much bigger than Marge herself: it’s about Springfield. Even the Treehouse of Horror episodes celebrate the diverse cast and the many comedic possibilities they provide, not just Bart or Homer putting on a mask.

That last sentence is a real doozy, particularly in an article that’s claiming to reveal hidden truths about the progression of the early years of The Simpsons.  Remember, he’s arguing that the early years of the show were somehow Bart-centric.  But the first Treehouse of Horror was in Season 2, and all three of its segments (the demonic house, the alien abduction, and the poem) revolve around the whole family.  Bear that in mind as we continue:

If the show had stayed exclusively focused on Bart, we might never have had episodes like “Homer Loves Flanders” or “Sideshow Bob Roberts.” The flavor of Springfield, and many of the non-family characters fans love would’ve stayed in the background for quick cut-a-aways and sight gags – just as they still do on Family Guy now.

Again, the counterexamples to this are so numerous that you could spend days listing them.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll confine myself to blatant, episode-scale counterexamples from Season 2 only: “Dead Putting Society”, “Principal Charming”, “Bart Gets Hit By a Car”, and “Three Men and a Comic Book”.  The first three are heavily focused on non-family characters, Flanders, Skinner, and Burns, respectively (“Bart Gets Hit By a Car” also gave us Lionel Hutz in his first star turn).  Besides the involvement of Milhouse and Martin, the last one introduces us to Comic Book Guy as a real character and driver of the plot, not someone in the background or used in “cut-a-aways”.  I could go on, but I’d like to finish this before dusk:

So what changed that saved The Simpsons?

Nothing?  Sorry, I’m interrupting.  Please, continue:

According to some accounts – and the NBC Page tour if you took it before 2009 – then-writer Conan O’Brien lead the charge to shift the focus of the show from Bart onto Homer and Marge.  And there is some merit to the claim.

It’s not a good sign if the only source you can cite is the NBC Page tour.  They aren’t exactly known for their rigorous academic standards and copious footnoting.  The next sentence is truly a wonder, and needs to be considered on its own:

If you look at the episode list of Season 4 (often considered the Golden Age of The Simpsons) and compare it to Season 3, there are far fewer Bart-themed episodes and infinitely more based on Marge, a previously-boring nag character.

Wait a minute, weren’t you just talking about Conan O’Brien?  Because he came aboard full-time in Season 3, not Season 4.  His name is on every every single episode in Season 3.  And while it’s true that there are more (though hardly “infinitely”) Marge episodes in Season 4 than in Season 3, there are just as many in Season 2, before O’Brien arrived, as there are in Season 4.

Season 2, after all, contains both “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” and “Brush with Greatness”, not to mention episodes like “The Way We Was”, “The War of the Simpsons”, and “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”.  That last one, which was written and produced at the height of America’s obsession with everything Bart, hardly has Bart in it and lets Marge thwart Mr. Burns.  Season 4 certainly has more episodes with Marge’s name in the title, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that she was a bigger part of Season 4 than she was of Season 2.

I don’t mean to be unduly harsh or mean here, but when the central premise is little more than an urban legend, it isn’t going to be hard to poke holes in the supporting arguments.  Conan O’Brien did wonderful things on The Simpsons, but he didn’t personally reorient the show away from Bart.  Marge, Lisa, and all the many denizens of Springfield were never relegated to the background, they were always right there on center stage.  It’s easy to think otherwise, to remember the hype instead of the substance, but the show’s only use for all those catchphrase infused key chains and bumper stickers was as comedy targets.

11
Dec
10

Simpsons History: There Never Was a Shift to Homer

Last summer, I wrote a post demonstrating that the idea that The Simpsons had once been Bart centric and then became Homer centric was nothing more than a myth. I went through Seasons 1 and 2 and tallied the episodes as either Bart centered, Homer centered, or centered around neither or both of them. Obviously such categorizations reflect my opinion, but you’d be hard pressed to tilt more than an episode or two this way or that. Take “Principal Charming” for example. I counted it as Both/Neither because while Homer has to search for a man for Selma, Bart’s the one who takes advantage of the love struck Skinner, and neither of them is the subject of the main plot. Episodes like “Bart the General” and “Homer’s Odyssey” are also easy to classify. The results:

Season 1: 6 Bart – 4 Homer – 3 Both/Neither

Season 2: 6 Bart – 7 Homer – 9 Both/Neither

In total, that’s 12 for Bart, 11 for Homer, and 12 Both/Neither through the first two seasons. As I said above, you could quibble with some of these and produce a few more one way or the other, but it would be very hard to say that the early years of the show were heavily tilted towards Bart. Of course, just because the show was never Bart centric doesn’t mean that it didn’t become Homer centric after those first years. So let’s take a look at the next two seasons, when this transition is supposed to have occurred.

Episodes are labeled either Bart, Homer, or Both/Neither for ones where they’re relatively equally matched or episodes where other characters predominate. Here’s Season 3 (24 episodes):

  • Stark Raving Dad – Bart is the reason Homer’s in the institute, but it’s definitely a Homer episode.
  • Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington – This is obviously a Both/Neither.
  • When Flanders Failed – I’m tempted to call this a Homer one because he’s the one who keeps not telling people about the Leftorium, on the other hand, the rather major subplot (including the reason Homer is in the mall at all) is Bart’s non-karate lessons, so this one goes to Both/Neither.
  • Bart the Murderer – Yeah, this one is Bart.
  • Homer Defined – Just as this one is Homer.
  • Like Father, Like Clown – This one has far more Bart and it’s Bart (and Lisa) who work so hard to get Krusty back with his dad.
  • Treehouse of Horror II – Both/Neither, for obvious reasons.
  • Lisa’s Pony – This one could be placed under Both/Neither because it’s really more of a Lisa episode, but there’s just more Homer than Bart so Homer gets it.
  • Saturdays of Thunder – Both/Neither.
  • Flaming Moe’s – Definitely Homer.
  • Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk – Ditto. (Homer)
  • I Married Marge – Homer’s on a roll.
  • Radio Bart – But this one is Bart.
  • Lisa the Greek – Same basic deal as “Lisa’s Pony” so it goes to Homer.
  • Homer Alone – Despite Homer’s name in the title, this is more of a Marge episode; even once she heads for Rancho Relaxo we follow both Homer alone and the kids with her sisters, so it’s a Both/Neither.
  • Bart the Lover – This one is Bart all the way.
  • Homer at the Bat – I’m writing this one down just for the sake of completeness but, yeah, it’s Homer.
  • Separate Vocations – Bart.
  • Dog of Death – Again, Bart, Homer’s got a couple of great scenes, but Santa’s Little Helper is Bart’s dog and this is very much Bart’s episode.
  • Colonel Homer – That’s Colonel Homer to you.
  • Black Widower – Sideshow Bob = Bart.
  • The Otto Show – Otto is Bart’s friend, not Homer’s.
  • Bart’s Friend Falls in Love – Speaking of Bart’s friends.
  • Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? – The First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstand Achievement in the Field of Excellence goes to Homer.

The tally for Season 3 is 9 for Bart, 10 for Homer, and 5 for Both/Neither. A little bit more Homer than Bart, but not much. Let’s go to Season 4 (22 episodes):

  • Kamp Krusty – This is Bart’s for sure.
  • A Streetcar Named Marge – A Both/Neither is tempting here just because this is a Marge episode, but there’s far more Homer than Bart, so Homer gets it.
  • Homer the Heretic – Once again only writing for the sake of completeness, Homer.
  • Lisa the Beauty Queen – Both/Neither, Homer gets her into the beauty pageant, but Bart helps her win (kinda).
  • Treehouse of Horror III – Both/Neither.
  • Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie – This is Bart for the simple reason that the whole story revolves around him.
  • Marge Gets a Job – More Both/Neither roll.
  • New Kid on the Block – This is Bart episode if ever there was one, though Homer’s strong work in the subplot deserves recognition.
  • Mr. Plow – Homer.
  • Lisa’s First Word – You could almost go Bart here, but it has to go to Both/Neither, it just wouldn’t be the ’84 Olympics without both of them.
  • Homer’s Triple Bypass – Homer’s for sure.
  • Marge vs. the Monorail – As close as “Lisa’s First Word” is to Bart, this one is to Homer, but in the end it just isn’t one of his episodes so I’m calling it Both/Neither.
  • Selma’s Choice – Both/Neither.
  • Brother From the Same Planet – This one is Both/Neither if ever there was one.
  • I Love Lisa – Both/Neither.
  • Duffless – This one is Homer’s all over.
  • Last Exit to Springfield – Homer, again.
  • So It’s Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show – Both/Neither.
  • The Front – Once again we’re confronted with a Bart heavy main plot and a Homer heavy sub plot and on this one I’m gonna call it a draw and say Both/Neither.
  • Whacking Day – This is a Bart episode, no question.
  • Marge in Chains – Both/Neither.
  • Krusty Gets Kancelled – This one goes to Bart for getting his pal back on the air.

The Season 4 tally reads 5 for Bart, 6 for Homer, and a whopping 11 for Both/Neither. Combined, Season 3 and 4 have 14 for Bart, 16 for Homer, and 16 for Both/Neither. Finally, the combined tally for Seasons 1-4 is 26 for Bart, 27 for Homer and 28 for Both/Neither. While the show was never really Bart centric, it did have a slight shift to Homer episodes, but it started happening in Season 2 the emphasis needs to be on the word “slight”. Neither Homer nor Bart was ever the exclusive center of the show.

Like the concept of the show once focusing on Bart, the widespread idea that it later did the same to Homer can probably be blamed on the fads of the time. As the initial mania over Bart t-shirts and the like faded, Homer became the natural face of the show in the public’s mind. After all, he’s the dad on a family comedy, and family comedies have long been defined by their dad characters. The show itself was always remarkably consistent; the only thing that really changed was the way people thought about it.

05
Nov
10

Reading Digest: “We’re All Gonna Die!” Edition

Homer the Great5

“You have joined the sacred order of the Stonecutters, who since ancient times have split the rocks of ignorance that obscure the light of knowledge and truth.  Now let’s all get drunk and play ping pong!” – Number One

The conspiracy loons are shitting themselves in their various dark corners of the internet this week because of that idiotic video I mentioned last night.  This week, we’ve got two more equally nutty links related to it, and it’s picking up steam.  As of this writing, the video has ninety thousand views on YouTube, it was at fifty-four thousand when I found it yesterday.  I’d say that there are going to be a lot of disappointed people when nothing happens tomorrow, but these are conspiracy nuts we’re talking about.  They’re just as adept at weaving non-events into their convoluted tapestries as they are things that actually happen.  In less crazy news, we’ve got lots of leftover Halloween links, a sweet hula hoop routine, and further proof of just how lifeless the Zombie Simpsons animation really is. 

Enjoy.

Has the Next False Flag Event Been Predicted by a TV Show Once Again? – Let’s get these out of the way quickly:

In the video are several shows and or movies that eerily predicted real events shortly before they happened.   These “predictions” happen a little too often to be called “coincidences”.  I mean really, what are the odds? It seems the “Simpsons” are an illuminati favorite.

The next time you see the Illuminati, do me a favor and tell them to cancel Zombie Simpsons, would you?

Obama Bailing with Checkbook on 11/5 with 3000 others…Something up?? – One question mark was clearly insufficient for this insightful scholar: 

Obama is on his way to Mumbai, India along with approximately 3000 others. As they leave, they will be taking a blank checkbook in hopes of writing $200 million a day, firing up 40 planes, armored cars, helicopters, security forces,  and 34 warships for the visit. Is something up? As rumors circulate of a false flag attack suspected on 11/6/2010 – is Obama bailing for a reason or just to blow some mega money? As rumors circulate all over the Internet over a Simpson cartoon aired, many people in America are paranoid their might be a “false flag attack” coming. As another episode of the Simpsons predicted 9/11, some are paying attention to what messages might be portrayed in Hollywood movies and episodes these days. As elections are over in America, Obama bails to India on the expense of the American people again using unbelievable amounts of money and resources – this time taking three thousand people with him.

It’s official, the record for most sentences beginning with the word “As” in a single paragraph has been set.  Somebody call Guinness, that is, if we haven’t all been incinerated by Sunday, but I’ll take my chances on that one. 

The Stiffsons – This is Smooth Charlie’s Click of the Week, courtesy of readers Sean and Robin who both sent it in.  It’s a devastating side by side comparison of The Simpsons opening and the HD Zombie Simpsons opening.  The commenters there are also on the side of the angles, with Tom Kurzanski’s being my favorite:

Cartoonbrew Comment

Pigs…In 10 Words – Major props to our friend at In 10 Words for using Sir Oinks-a-Lot and not Spider Pig.

The Simpsons on Facebook – Remember when the Zombie Simpsons writers were too lazy to put any jokes into Mark Zuckerberg’s fake Facebook page?  Well, Pleated Jeans did them one better.  I’m particularly fond of “Edna Krabappel is now friends with Gordie Howe”.

Futurama vs The Simpsons – I’m pretty sure I put the Simpsons version of this on Twitter last week, but who cares?  This is the main cast of both shows rendered in just three pixels each.  It’s phenomenal.  I wonder how many of the secondary characters could be done?

The Simpsons’ not-so-little helper – A one volume Simpsons encyclopedia just came out.  Unfortunately, it covers Seasons 1-20.  Can I get one that does half that for half the price?

Top Ten Tree house of Horror Segments – How about one more Treehouse of Horror top ten segment list?  This one has nary a trace of Zombie Simpsons. 

All I Learned About American Politics I Learned From The Simpsons – I too watched “Sideshow Bob Roberts” on Tuesday. 

Simpsons Sunday-Happy Halloween! – More cromulent YouTube from our friend Leah at Cromulent Words.  It’s hard for me to watch YouTube when you keep spilling meat tenderizer all over me.

Not a Treehouse of Horror – The finished product from that link from last week about making Homer and Marge Halloween costumes.  Excellent. 

Some Simpsons Halloween Highlights – Three Hulu YouTubes, zero Zombie Simpsons. 

Bart Simpson Never Ate Ginger Cranberry Sauce with Wild Blueberries – Just in time for Thanksgiving, it’s a cranberry sauce recipe complete with YouTube a la Bart. 

Homer and Marge Simpson – More awesome Homer and Marge Halloween costumes.  The Duff six pack is a nice touch. 

Humor Chic Fantasy Alert – Marge Simpson, A New Fashion Skeleton Victim – A fan drawing of skeleton-anorexia-Marge on a hypothetical cover of Harper’s Bazaar.  Neat.

How to draw Maggie Simpson from The Simpsons – This is another “how to” video with actual instructions. 

The Be Sharps – BustedTees now has a Be Sharps shirt. 

Marge Simpson Halloween Hoop Dance – And finally, I put this up on Twitter earlier in the week, but it’s too cool not to put on the front page:

The odd, elevator/reggae arrangement of the theme song actually works. 

04
Nov
10

Conspiracy Nuts Think Zombie Simpsons Predicts Nuclear Holocaust on Saturday

Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy9

“Scary, no?  And this guy’s head of the Spaceology Department at the Correspondence College of Tampa!” – Bart Simpson

Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your tinfoil hats, because YouTube user “truthwillfindyoubru” is about to avert a nuclear holocaust this Saturday!  I found it on a blog called “2012 THE AWAKENING”, the url of which is “ascendingstarseed”, so you know this is completely legitimate and above board.  Feast your Stonecutter-Illuminati-Black Ops-Freemason-Cult of Darius-CIA/MI6/007 eyes on this:

Or, you know, don’t.  Really.  Don’t.  But I did, all ten minutes and forty-four idiotic seconds of it.

The basic premise here is that the Zombie Simpsons episode “To Surveil With Love”, which I had more or less completely forgotten, foretells a “black flag” nuclear bomb attack scheduled for this Saturday the 6th of November, 2010.  The “black flag” part means that this nuclear detonation will be carried out by nefarious forces and blamed on someone else as a way to further the agenda of said nefarious forces.  Everybody got all that?  Good, let’s get to the tape.

The video starts out by rehashing the old conspiracist saw that  “City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” predicted the 2001 terrorist attacks crap.  If you’re unfamiliar with that bit of brilliant logic, here’s the screen grab that sent thousands of misguided people to their keyboards:

The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson3

Definitive proof that Ian Maxtone-Graham is history’s greatest monster.

After that, the video mentions an episode of the X-Files spinoff “The Lone Gunman” where a plane doesn’t hit anything, a made for TV movie from 2005 about a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, and the bland and forgettable Nicholas Cage move “Knowing”.  Why?  Well, the first one obviously predicted the attack on the World Trade Center, because prior to that no one had ever thought of using a plane as a weapon.  The second one because hurricanes are so very rare in the Gulf of Mexico.  And the third one is obvious because that movie mentioned an oil rig fire and no offshore oil rigs have ever caught fire before Deepwater Horizon.  Once those not-at-all-insane connections have been made, we get a title card screen, “Now back to the point of this video”.  Very well, let us continue.

In case you, like me, don’t remember this particular piece of the haphazard scrawl that is Zombie Simpsons, here’s the FOX description:

A bomb squad mistakenly blows up Homer’s unattended gym bag, releasing radiation into the city and authorities react by suspending civil liberties.

Wiggum and his men install surveillance cameras around Springfield and round up suspected terrorists, including Groundskeeper Willie, but when monitoring the nonstop flow of video imagery proves to be too much, Wiggum enlists concerned citizens to help keep the city safe.

Meanwhile, Lisa becomes fed up with being blond, so she dyes her hair a dark color

Sadly, this video contains nothing about whether or not the world is ruled by a cabal of natural blondes who dye their hair.  Instead, it has things like this:

Idiotic Conspiracy1

The nuclear explosion seems self-evident, but the author felt the need to highlight it for us.  Why is the clock circled?  Because it tells us when the real nuclear bomb is going to go off.  I mean, duh:

Idiotic Conspiracy2

I’m not sure what a clock with a white face and black numbers has to do with freemasonry, but if their powers are so great as to control the level of contrast we perceive in the visible spectrum then we’re all doomed.  Just in case that lone, yellow arrow isn’t enough to make this subtle and perfectly logical message clear to you:

Idiotic Conspiracy3

See?  The fact that the clock is round clearly means that it’s a zero and the base a one and . . . holy shit we’re all gonna die!  Look:

Idiotic Conspiracy4

Almost certainly not?  I mean, it’s just a teevee show, and clocks are naturally round and . . . oh, you were looking for the answer “yes”?  Then “yes”:

Idiotic Conspiracy5

Touching your toes before you play sports is a stretch.  This is more of a baseless conjecture with no supporting evidence and a mountain of reasons why it’s stupid.  But please, go on:

Idiotic Conspiracy6

Wait, I thought it was the Freemasons.  Now it’s the Illuminati?  It must be, “apparently” they’ve infiltrated everything except the library board.  Or is Mrs. Glick’s stance on increasing the late fees part of something sinister?  And now, my favorite part:

Idiotic Conspiracy7

That is Grade A base covering.  If there is no nuclear detonation on Saturday (SPOILER ALERT: There won’t be.), it’s not because this whole thing is batshit crazy and dumber than a box of rocks.  It’s because enough people figured it out and the dark ones called it off.  The video concludes with a painfully sincere plea to share and copy this to “get this information out there!”, before recommending a bunch of other unhinged crap you can watch for further information.

I wouldn’t do that, nor would I ever want to watch “To Surveil With Love” ever again.  Besides, this episode had a far more terrifying component.  This was the one with the Kesha opening.  The horror.

01
Jul
10

Troy McClure’s Filmography (Sort Of)

This rather goofy image of many Troy McClure titles has been making the rounds the last couple of days.  It’s on Reddit, Huffington Post, College Humor, and I’ve seen others link to it as well:

Troy McClure Titles (and then some)

I know it’s a little small (click to embiggen), but you’ll notice right away that there are a lot of unfamiliar titles.  SNPP tells me that at least some of them are from Simpsons comics (with which I am unfamiliar), but others seem to have been pulled out of thin air.  “Saturnforce000” and “Pinch Me, I’m in Boise” don’t ring a bell, and didn’t produce squat on Google.  Also, “The Simpsons 38th Episode Spectacular” is just a wee bit off.  So, yeah, this is cute, just not quite what it advertises itself to be.

Though we did get this on a comment at the Reddit page:

People still watch the Simpsons?

21
May
10

So Much For That Theory

“Why are you guys jumping to such ridiculous conclusions?  Haven’t you ever heard of Occam’s razor?  The simplest explanation is probably the correct one.” – Lisa Simpson

Last week, I speculated that FOX might have a dual purpose in trying out their new animated show “Bob’s Burgers” in the fall, before they had to make a decision on whether or not to bring back Zombie Simpsons for 2011-2012.  Not so much:

Expect a new animated comedy titled “Bob’s Burgers” during the midseason (which won’t be a success, I can tell you that now).

“Bob’s Burgers” won’t be showing up until mid-season, so there will be no window between its premier and the production of the Season 22 finale.  My conspiracy theory about the saucer people and the RAND corporation was wrong.  Can’t say I’m that surprised. 

What does this mean for a Season 23?  Maybe a lot, probably nothing.  FOX is still going to have more shows than it can fit in a two hour bloc on Sunday, but who knows what that means?  Whether or not they’ve decided to finally put Zombie Simpsons out of its misery remains an open question.  Here’s hoping. 

13
May
10

Will There Be a Season 23?

Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy6

“We’re through the looking glass here people.” – Milhouse van Houten

A little more than a year ago, news broke that Zombie Simpsons had been renewed for two more years, through Season 22.  It wasn’t news that there was going to be a Season 21.  The old contract may have only run through Season 20 but, given the lag between production and broadcast, if Season 20 was going to be the end they’d have shut down production long before last year.  Plus, sites like www.epgudies.com already had listings for Season 21.  What made the renewal news so unfortunate was that it was for two years instead of one. 

As the end of Season 21 approaches, we’re in a similar gray zone.  Consider the following:

  • Fact #1: Zombie Simpsons is signed through the end of Season 22 (roughly May of 2011).
  • Fact #2: Episodes take from 6-10 months to produce.

Combine the above and you’re left with an inescapable conclusion: if Zombie Simpsons is going to end with Season 22, we’re going to find out in the next few months.  Production on the series would gradually shut down in advance of the broadcast of any series finale, and in the era of instant internet rumors it’d be pretty hard to keep that a secret. 

Back in January, Rubbercat Simpsons was thinking about the end of the show:

In November, the Animation Guild blog mentioned that the writers were working on "another thirteen episodes". Each production season, the last couple of episodes become the first episodes of the next season; these are called "holdovers." The current season (season 21) has eight holdovers – notice the production codes in this chart. Presumably, this means next season will also have eight holdovers, which when coupled with the aforementioned thirteen episodes will fulfill a complete season order of twenty-one episodes, with no holdovers for a 23rd season.

In February, the Animation Guild blog visited Film Roman and quoted a Zombie Simpsons animator (emphasis in original):

"Most people around here figure we go one more season and that’s it. I mean, next season has been greenlit, but it hasn’t been officially greenlit. Nobody knows much beyond that."

So at least some of the animators figure that Season 22 is going to be it.  That’s the most hopeful piece of real information (as opposed to speculation) about the show finally ending that I’ve seen in a long time. 

But before you get too giddy, here’s the Animation Guild again, this time from April.  After noting that the animation staff has been rather sharply pared down since the writers strike ended, there’s this:

"We’ve got 22 new episodes to do, which is a lot of hours into the Pension and Health Plan. And I think, talking to people at Fox and around here, that we could do several more seasons beyond this one …"

So that’s two different opinions about whether or not the end is nigh coming from inside the production process.  But wait, there’s still more space dust on here!  One more time, the Animation Guild, visiting the production building on May 12:

Meanwhile, things are still relatively quiet up on The Simpsons floor, and construction on Hasbro/Discovery’s other floor continues apace.

Things are quiet on the Simpsons floor because of a planned hiatus between Seasons 21 and 22.  However, given the known production time of Zombie Simpsons, such a hiatus opens up a window for FOX to try out a new animated program before deciding whether or not to go forward with Season 23.  By an astonishing coincidence, FOX has already picked up a new animated show (I stole the image from TV Squad):

Bob's Burgers From the creator of Home Movies comes a new animated show on Fox. Bob’s Burgers will be about a guy (Bob) who runs a burger grill at an East Coast seaside town with his "tightly wound wife and three unhelpful kids".

 

 

If nothing else, that is a very Simpsons-esque set up.  What’s more, The Wall Street Journal thinks it’s headed for Sundays:

Fox has already ordered episodes of "Bob’s Burgers," likely to air on Sundays with "Family Guy," "The Simpsons" and "The Cleveland Show."

Sunday is the only day FOX currently has any animated shows, and their Sunday animated bloc has been successful for them, so that stands to reason.  But all three Seth MacFarlane Shows, as well as Zombie Simpsons, are renewed for 2010-2011.  That’s already two hours of programming, “Bob’s Burgers” makes five half hour shows, something of a logjam. 

Obviously FOX is free to broadcast shows at the 7:00 hour on Sunday, but it seems at least possible that they want to try out a new animated show before they make a decision on another season for Zombie Simpsons.  If “Bob’s Burgers” has legs and can pull in the same ratings as Zombie Simpsons (and both Family Guy spinoffs are very close to Zombie Simpsons in the ratings now) then they’d have a ready made replacement for the 8:00pm slot, one that would doubtlessly cost far less to produce. 

This is where that hiatus I mentioned above comes in.  I’ve seen Zombie Simpsons production time listed as anywhere from 6-10 months.  If we split the difference and call it eight months, that means they wouldn’t need to put the series finale into production until October.  Which means that delaying the onset of production of Season 22 now would give them a window in which to decide if “Bob’s Burgers” (or something else) was viable in the ratings. 

If “Bob’s Burgers” looks like it can pull in Zombie Simpsons like numbers (or not too far off), they could order that the last episode(s) of Season 22 be a series finale.  If “Bob’s Burgers” dies in the ratings, they can keep producing Zombie Simpsons. 

There is a certain conspiracy theory flavor to much of the above, especially the whole “Bob’s Burgers as Zombie Simpsons replacement” thing.  And, obviously, I have no idea whether or not Zombie Simpsons is going to get cancelled or whether or not FOX has an alternative plan for 8:00pm Sundays.  All I’m saying is that if FOX is contemplating ending the show at Season 22, this is what it would look like. 




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