Posts Tagged ‘$pringfield


Gamblor On Your Phone

Tapped In (640)

“Marge, I want you to admit you have a gambling problem.” – Homer Simpson
“You know, you’re right, Homer.  Maybe I should get some professional help.” – Marge Simpson
“No, no, that’s too expensive.  Just don’t do it anymore.” – Homer Simpson

Any time I start writing a post for this site, I can never be sure just how long it’s going to end up.  Sometimes, I’ll think I’ve got some big post that’s gonna take awhile, only to find myself done much quicker and shorter than I thought.  Other times, I’ll figure I’ve got a nice compact idea for a Compare & Contrast, that I’ll just knock out a few hundred words in forty-five minutes or so.  Two hours later I’m staring at some sixteen hundred word monstrosity and I have no idea how the hell it happened.  Some posts just sprawl on me.

Well, I’m here today with the all time grand champion of sprawled posts.  What I originally thought would be a quick and dirty post about The Simpsons: Tapped Out has ended up as a fat, 10,000 word ebook called, “Tapped In: How EA Combined The Simpsons with Video Gambling to Make $130 Million (and counting)“.  Here is the table of contents:

1 – Quarters, Dollars, and Credit Cards: The Games We Pay
2 – Designing Addictively Rigged Games for Fun and Profit
3 – Chips vs. Brains and Machines vs. People: We Don’t Stand a Chance
4 – Domesticating the Beast: Video Gambling to Video Gaming
5 – Training the Beast: Fixing Mechanical Problems and Increasing Flow
6 – The Infinite Profit Margins of Colored Pixels
7 – Machine Gaming: Greed on a Tilted Playing Field

It’s about half as long as “Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead“, and just like that one it’s for sale at Amazon for Kindles and Kindle apps.  (Also, I appear to have an affinity for long subtitles that start with the word ‘How’.)  Since it’s much shorter and took much less time, the price is a mere $0.99.

Purchase from Amazon

Just like its predecessor, it will eventually be published in full and for free right here at Dead Homer Society.  The first chapter is live now, and a new one will be going up each week until they’re all here.  DRM remains stupid and counterproductive; and I remain convinced that giving it away and selling it is the only way to go.  So you can read the whole thing right now for Kindle, or just read along over the next few weeks.  Either way, I hope you all like it.

Click here to read the first chapter.


Quote of the Day


“Are you sure this is the casino?  I think I should call my manager.” – Robert Goulet
“Your manager says for you to shut up.” – Nelson Muntz
“Vera said that?” – Robert Goulet


Quote of the Day


“I’ve discovered the perfect business.  People swarm in, empty their pockets, and scuttle off.  Nothing can stop me now . . . except microscopic germs.  But we won’t let that happen, will we Smithers?” – C.M. Burns
“Uh, no, sir.” – Mr. Smithers

Happy 20th Anniversary to “$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)”!  Original airdate: 16 December 1993.


Quote of the Day


“The economic slump began last spring when the government closed Fort Springfield, devastating the city’s liquor and prostitution industries.” – Kent Brockman


Behind Us Forever: Homerland

Chalkboard - Homerland

“Anybody lose their glasses?  Last chance.  Woo-hoo!  The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.” – Homer Simpson
“That’s a right triangle, you idiot.” – Guy on Toilet
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson

Season 25, here we go:

  • They start the year with their first joke of the season about how lame it is to be on after all these years.  That didn’t take long.
  • But the couch gag makes the same joke and does take too long.
  • The Homeland opening credits are well done, but remaking other people’s credit sequences has become something of a time filling specialty for them. 
  • Bart’s first line of the year is a direct repeat of Homer’s triangle joke from Season 5, so that really didn’t take long. 
  • Between Homer’s suitcase flying open and them all chanting the word “convention” they’ve eaten up a remarkable amount of time with nothing when we get to the hotel.
  • “Good Riddance Shriners” is pretty good, but the signs are about the only part that can retain even a little bit of the character of The Simpsons
  • As per usual, the show likes to lock itself into a cheap joke and just ride it into the ground: swag, Marge not wanting Patty and Selma (or Wiggum) to say frightful things, Kristen Wiig not being able to go more than one line without switching her behavior completely. 
  • Lotta heavy handed musical cues in this one, and that’s before you count the flashbacks.
  • And a lot of MacFarlane style unconnected cutaway jokes:
    Lisa: This is worse than when he went to New Orleans and came back with a southern accent.
    [Cut to Lisa remembering Homer in hillbilly clothes and a straw hat while he talks in a drawl.]
  • This scene with Lisa spying on Homer and then, ugh, imitating a cat, is just atrocious.  All of her dialogue is unneeded exposition which for some reason Homer can’t hear. 
  • Lunatrix – “For Bipolar Disorder” – A goofy drug that makes bipolar people act out isn’t a completely terrible idea, but Zombie Simpsons handling of it is so poor that it’s just insulting, not for what they’re trying to make fun of, but for being that cheap and unimaginative at doing so. 
  • I get that they’re working from a spy thriller type show, but the combination of drawn out tension and unbelievably stupid jokes and dialogue (Kristen Wiig’s Claire Danes character can’t get through one line of dialogue without saying something pandering and dumb) is really off putting.
  • I’m sure glad they have a scene where Homer explains everything we’ve already had explained three times so we can relive the hilarity of him passing on beer and kneeling down on a rug. 
  • The sitcom-y nature of the writing didn’t improve any over the summer: “There isn’t a prison made that can hold me!  Prisons are still made of mud and wattles, right?”  [Canned laughter]
  • And we end on Burns getting a security x-ray to reveal that he has a hamster in his chest.  When an episode runs short these days, it really runs short.

Season 25 is here, and it landed with Zombie Simpsons’ customary whimper.  There’s plenty of unnecessary exposition, scenes that make no sense, and a story “parody” so dumb that you’d barely be able to follow it if you weren’t at least a little familiar with the original material.  For added zany effect, they spent some time changing Homer’s character, tacked on a bizarre ending where the plant is closed and Burns is arrested, and had a post-script scene that also made no sense to the point that the sign at security has Burns peering up someone’s ass right as we see Burns step into the machine.  Even in one off scenes Zombie Simpsons can’t tell a consistent story.  

Anyway, the ratings are long since in, and they are bad.  Just 6.29 million people wished they were actually watching Homeland last night.  Not only is that down from last year’s premier, it’s the kind of number that would’ve been considered anomalously bad just three seasons ago.  Now they’re standard. 


Quote of the Day


“What was I laughing at, now?  Oh, yes, that crippled Irishman.” – C.M. Burns


Compare & Contrast: Simpson Family Gambling Problems


“Okay, Marge, let’s go.” – Homer Simpson
“I’ll catch up to you.” – Marge Simpson
“Marge, I’m taking the car.” – Homer Simpson
“I’ll walk.” – Marge Simpson
“This late, through the bad neighborhood?” – Homer Simpson
“Yeah.” – Marge Simpson
“Marge-” – Homer Simpson
“Go home, you’re bad luck!” – Marge Simpson
“Wait, I see what’s happening here.  You’re just mad because everyone in this town loves gambling except for you.  Well, that’s just sad.” – Homer Simpson

Zombie Simpsons long ago lost all interest in telling stories that are even coherent, much less entertaining or – heaven forefend – actually good.  But “Gone Abie Gone” (which is, remarkably, the second time they’ve used that pun in a title in the last three years) manages to stand slightly out for the way that it deliberately neutered and undermined not just one, but both of its main plots. 

As with many Zombie Simpsons episodes, it’s not entirely clear which story, Grampa’s nonsensical extended flashback or Lisa’s newfound love of on-line poker, is actually the A-plot.  In Grampa’s favor is a slight edge in screen time, two of the three guest voices, and the title.  In Lisa’s favor is the way her story actually mattered for the entire episode, the fact that it managed to not completely go against everything we know about a long established character, and the way it almost, kinda tried to make sense. 

Regardless of which plot takes the crown, it is Lisa’s gambling problem that lends itself to the most direct comparison, namely to Marge’s slot jockey habit in Season 5’s masterful “$pringfield” (though there’s no shortage of times we’ve flashed back to Grampa’s past in ways far superior to this).  While both stories involve Simpsons getting hooked into costly and mathematically disadvantageous games of chance, the similarities end there.  Lisa’s story is isolated, incoherent and, ultimately, completely consequence free.  Marge’s, on the other hand, is woven into the rest of the episode, actually makes sense, and has an ending that doesn’t make you wonder what the hell just happened. 

Like Lisa’s poker problem, Marge planting herself in front of a slot machine isn’t the main focus of the episode.  But where Lisa’s poker playing exists in a vacuum that has no bearing on any other events, Marge’s seduction by the spinning wheels and shiny lights is crucial to the resolution of the rest of the episode.  It’s her inattention to her family that leads directly to Homer’s crazed search for her, which in turn leads Mr. Burns back to his beloved nuclear plant. 


Hey, look, one plot actually affecting a different one.  Huh.

But the integration of Marge’s story into the larger framework of what’s happening goes beyond competent storytelling, it also allows the show to make deeper and darker jokes about gambling than anything Zombie Simpsons could hope to convey.  “$pringfield” sees Marge get called out for self-destructive by Barney, her spouse hilariously misunderstand what’s occurring (including being happy that his wife has netted a paltry sixty bucks in 75+ hours of wasted time), and takes a delightfully cynical and nasty stab at casinos and their legislative pawns when Smithers and the hired goons cheerfully enable her.  It’s the best kind of Simpsons take on something: insightful but not pretentious, honest but not moralizing, and, above all, funny about how awful everyone involved is behaving. 

By contrast, Lisa’s sojourn into poker is used as a flimsy excuse to crack weak jokes about the oddities of how the game is played:

Lisa: You put my college fund on a poker site?
Homer: It’s a classy operation.  See, the little dealer’s wearing a bowtie.  Cute.


Cute Bowtie Wearing Dealer: We can all hear you, please log off.

Those are about as creative as jokes about airline peanuts and “what’s the deal with cardboard?”.  There’s no thought and no satire; all you’re left with is the distinct impression that the show has nothing to say beyond that one of the writers once played on-line poker. 

Even that weak connection to reality is destroyed, however, by the unrestrained improbability of Lisa’s success.  For no reason whatsoever, the episode has her turn five thousand dollars into half a million. Given the way it all evaporates for a similarly nonexistent reason, they didn’t need to do that.  But Zombie Simpsons is so disconnected from what the audience is thinking or caring about that they just threw in wild dollar amounts because . . . why not?  “$pringfield” doesn’t even deal in numbers because it knows it doesn’t have to, Marge’s obsession is what’s important, so no catastrophic figures are necessary. 

But even that six-figure stab at gravity (complete with montage) fails because it turns out nothing has mattered from the get go.  Lisa gets wiped out on a dumb bet, but it turns out Bart was playing against her.  Not only does this not make sense in all kinds of ways (Was Bart playing the whole time? Is he better than her at this? How did the site find out they were kids?), but it also means that everything that just happened was meaningless, both in terms of the characters and in terms of the story.  Partly it’s just an extension of Zombie Simpsons’ operating axiom that the audience can’t remember anything that happened more than fifteen seconds ago, but it’s also an admission that their story probably isn’t worth recounting in the first place.  

Poker Playing Montage

We’re gonna need a montage, montage!

More than any other single failing, the hapless ending eviscerates Lisa’s poker story.  In a completely expected conclusion, she loses the money she’s won; but even that weakly rote conclusion is further compromised by a) having Bart save her and b) having the site take the money regardless.  So not only was the entire story worthless, it was so ill considered that they senselessly revoked its entire purpose twice

The difference between this and Season 5 isn’t just that Marge’s gambling works with the rest of the episode and bothers to makes sense, it’s also that it actually has an ending.  Marge’s slot obsession is a problem that hurts the people she loves; by the end there’s no doubt that she understands that and sincerely wishes to change.  Compare that to Bart’s out of nowhere reveal of himself to Lisa, which doesn’t follow from what’s already occurred and causes nothing to happen.  Where Marge’s gambling comes to a concrete end on account of what’s happened to her and her family, Lisa’s ends on an irrelevancy that makes you wonder why she (and Bart) don’t just continue playing since they’re obviously so good at it.  The only reason it stops is because it’s television and the 8:30 show has to start soon.  Whether on style, substance or structure, Zombie Simpsons falls woefully short.


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