Archive for the 'Rumor Control' Category

05
Nov
16

FOX Picks Up Two Year Option for Seasons 29 & 30 (Meh)

marge-vs-the-monorail17

“Can’t you stop it, Dad?” – Bart Simpson
“I’m trying my best!” – Homer Simpson
“The lever you have pulled – Brakes – is not in service. Please make a note of it.” – Monorail Computer Voice

As you may have heard by now, Zombie Simpsons got renewed for two more production runs yesterday. This will bring the total episode count up to a near Satanic 669 and fill out Season 29 and 30(!). The press release and all the articles I saw didn’t mention it, but I believe that this is not a new contract, but rather FOX picking up the two year option it had on the current contract. Negotiations on that one went into overtime and the show production actually went on hiatus, so this is much less dramatic. Last time this happened, I wrote:

– the next time to look for a renewal announcement will be October-ish of 2016

– the next deadline for a renewal announcement will be May-ish of 2017

Didn’t quite nail that, but I was pretty close. So this basically sets the clock forward two more years. The next time to look for a renewal announcement will be October-ish of 2018, and the next deadline will be May-ish of 2019. I’ll see if I can confirm that this is the option rather than a new contract. If I hear back, I’ll update this post.

In the meantime, may I recommend going out and watching Season 4 or something? Forty-four more forgettable episodes is “news”, but it’s not really news, you know?

Update 7 Nov: Someone at FOX confirmed to me (“off the record”, like this is some kind of secret) that this is, in fact the two year option from the last contract. So there were no negotiations this time around. 

07
Jul
15

Shearer Not Gone After All

Behind the Laughter6

“In that family, nobody trusted nobody.  They even brought their lawyers to Thanksgiving dinner.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

Harry Shearer has decided to keep doing voices for Zombie Simpsons:

Harry Shearer returning to The Simpsons

You don’t really need to click that link, it’s mostly nothing and even repeats the dubiously sourced $300,000 per episode number, but it’s been confirmed by a couple of other outlets.  The article also says that Shearer signed the same contract as the other five cast members, which (if true) means that money really wasn’t the issue and Shearer really did think the show was preventing him from doing other projects.  Jean took to Twitter to explain:

I would like to clear up a misunderstanding. I have recently been told that during a period where Harry Shearer believed he had a five week free period from the Simpsons, I was unaware of this fact, and did in fact request material from him. If so, my bad. I am truly glad he is returning to the show.

This is the public explanation for Shearer’s abrupt “I’m leaving” announcement in May, that Jean had asked Shearer to work during a time Shearer thought he was on break, so he balked at signing an extension.  If it seems a little bizarre that it took them eight weeks to sort out something as simple as that, well, that’s because it is bizarre.

Maybe relations between Shearer and the show are strained to the point that it really did take them this long to clear up something that can be described in two and a half Tweets (Shearer’s original announcement quoted a letter from a lawyer, so they may indeed be at the “acrimonious divorce” stage of communication).  Maybe there was a negotiation, and while Shearer may be getting the same money he also now has a better deal in terms of hours and flexibility.  Maybe Jean’s telling the truth, and it really was just an honest mistake.

Whether Jean is spinning for his bosses or accurately describing this whole big saga doesn’t really matter, however.  Shearer will continue to phone in his voices, and Zombie Simpsons will continue its mediocre ways.

16
May
15

Rumor Control: Shearer Negotiations Still Open

I Married Marge16

“Is Mom gonna have another baby, Dad?” – Lisa Simpson
“Maybe.” – Homer Simpson

Apologies for the lack of Compare & Contrast, Reading Digest, and general radio silence around these parts the last couple of days.  My Dad went in for a long planned surgery yesterday (which went fine), but between that, work, and the Shearer kerfuffle, regular blogging fell down a hole without even the benefit of Leonard’s carcass to land on.

In terms of actual Simpsons news, there have been two developments of note.  The first is Shearer related, though it needs to be kept in context.  Good ol’ CNN Money reports:

For all “The Simpsons” fans concerned that a Mr. Burns voiced by Harry Shearer has spent his last days in Springfield, the voice actor has two words for you: “stay tuned.”

This was the response Shearer had Friday when asked by CNN Money if there was a possibility that he could return.

Shearer had no other comment, other than to reference a tweet from “Simpsons” producer James L. Brooks. On Thursday afternoon, Brooks wrote, “Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.”

Does this mean anything?  Short answer, yes with an if: if Shearer or FOX found the uproar over his departure (I even heard a segment about it on BBC World Service) so disruptive that one of them caved on some previously stuck negotiating point, then maybe he’ll be back.

Long answer, no with a but: but this is third hand information glimpsed through the notoriously dirty lens of CNN.  It implies that they’re still talking, but that’s all it does.  It doesn’t change the fact that Shearer’s only public statement to date was that he seemed to be done.  Of course, even that is open to interpretation since all he really did was quote a letter from a lawyer and thank people for their support.  Jean was (publicly, at least) taking it seriously, but even that could be posturing.

So, what do we actually know?  As always in these situations: very little.  Shearer saying “stay tuned” certainly moves the needle a little bit back towards “he isn’t leaving”, but since it was never even close to definitively pointed at “he’s gone”, that doesn’t say much.  Until we get either a) a definitive statement that Shearer has signed and is returning, or b) an announcement of new voice actors for some or all of his characters, we can’t know for sure.  Whatever happens, the substantive conversations will take place well out of public view, so it’s best to treat all non-definitive news as suspect until proven otherwise.

The second piece of news, which was absent from every single renewal article I came across, is from an interview Jean gave with The Hollywood Reporter:

Do you think this opens the door for other cast? I know that they’ve signed for two more seasons but given the show’s track record do you think that there’s concern?

It’s a really different issue. They are signed for a four-year contract [with] two-year options on Fox.

So at this point Fox has options for seasons 29 and 30?

Yes.

It turns out that there will be no negotiations due in October of 2016, because the most recent renewal wasn’t just for two more production runs, it was for two more production runs with a FOX option for two more after that.

In addition to being further evidence of the incompetence and incuriosity of the entertainment press (a network option for two more years isn’t a minor detail), this overlooked nugget means that, if FOX wants it, the show will be on until 2019 at the least.  Assuming twenty-two episode production runs for the option, that would bring the show to 669 episodes.  As a reminder of how long Zombie Simpsons has been on, “Behind the Laughter” (the Season 11 finale) was episode #248.

Whether or not Harry Shearer will be there for all that, I have no idea.

14
May
15

Please Stop With the $14 Million Number

The Old Man and the Lisa17

“If I’d spent my life listening to Dismal Doras like you, I wouldn’t be worth two-hundred-million dollars today.” – C.M. Burns
“But according to your most recent biography, you only have one-hundred-million dollars today.” – Lisa Simpson
“I’ve ha-, . . . I’ve . . . ” – C.M. Burns
“Um, actually, sir, it’s, uh, considerably less than that.” – Mr. Smithers

A nice, headline grabbing number, preferably with a dollar sign next to it, is a well known pageview booster.  So let this be my usual renewal related reminder that there is no creditable public information on what the current or past salaries of the Simpsons voice actors are/were.  Back before the 2011 renewal, the widely cited figure was $400,000 per episode.  After that it came down somewhat to $300,000 (though I saw it mentioned as low as $200,000).  Now, thanks to the feckless morons at CNN Money (a backwater in an already grossly negligent and irresponsible news outfit), the current deal is being touted at $7,000,000 per year, or $318,182 per episode:

‘Simpsons’ Mr. Burns walking away from $14 million deal

What is their source for that eye catching number?  You’ll be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to learn it’s an anonymous source:

The actor was offered a guaranteed $14 million for two years of work, according to someone with direct knowledge of the matter.

Okay, sometimes people don’t want to go on record, and that’s okay.  That factual information reaches the public is supposed to be the important part, right?  Well, here’s the kicker:

“To me, the deal he rejected would be the dream of a lifetime for the rest of the world,” the source said.

That’s not information.  That’s spin.  Moreover, it almost certainly marks this source as someone at FOX since s/he’s painting Shearer as walking away from “the dream of a lifetime for the rest of the world”, that ungrateful bastard.

Shearer himself has said in the past that the reported salary numbers are inaccurate, and I’m far more inclined to believe him than some nameless insider who feeds bullshit like that to CNN Money.  Remember, Shearer and the rest of the cast are forbidden from discussing what they’re actually paid, so FOX and their anonymous flacks have a free hand to inflate the numbers and paint the cast as greedy jackasses, and CNN Money is only too happy to help them do it.

Shoddy information coming from CNN is nothing new, of course.  The real problem is that people repeat these numbers so many times that they seem credible even when transparent horseshit like the above link is the only basis for it.  It’s happening already:

14milliondollarbullshit

And it’s not just Simpsons or entertainment related outlets that unquestioningly repeat this.  The Chicago Tribune already picked it up, and I even saw it on freaking Slashdot.

So, pretty please, with sugar on top, remember that you don’t know how much money the Simpsons voice actors make.  I don’t know how much the Simpsons voice actors make.  And the business/entertainment press for damn sure doesn’t know how much the Simpsons voice actors make.

14
May
15

Rumor Control: Harry Shearer (Possibly/Probably) Leaving Zombie Simpsons

Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song15

“Nobody’s mentioned me, have they?” – Principal Skinner
“I thought I heard someone say your name in the cafeteria, but they might have been saying ‘skim milk’.” – Bart Simpson

The internet is full of reports that Harry Shearer will not be doing voices for the recently announced two season renewal.  This being the internet, the certitude of the headlines ran a bit ahead of the actual information.  Here are the facts:

1.  Over the last couple of days, TMZ (I know, gross) reported that Shearer was not on board with the most recent renewal.

2.  Late last night (though since I think he’s in Britain it might have been morning for him), Shearer tweeted the following:

from James L. Brooks’ lawyer: “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”. (1/2)

This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best. (2/2)

Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support.

Shearer subsequently turned down a couple of media interview requests.

3.  That was followed a couple of hours later by Jean tweeting:

.@TheSimpsons #everysimpsonsever The show will go on, made by people who love it and see in it the most wonderful vehicle for satire ever.

@simpsonswiki @TheSimpsons recast if Harry does not return. No yellow wedding.

Jean was very active, replying to people and generally doing his job as the public face of the show.

4.  A couple of hours later, James L. Brooks replied (also on Twitter):

Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.

5.  After speaking with a couple of media outlets, Jean did a quick interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he said that they were still hoping to work things out, but that if Shearer was out the door, they would recast his parts, probably with multiple people.  As to the question of why, he gave a round-about answer (bold italics are mine):

What is that period of time? Weeks? Well, it’s pretty vague because we have seven holdover [episodes] that Harry did in the fall, so there’s a big period of time. Obviously, we just want to know what he wants. We’ve rededicated ourselves this season to making the show better and not just saying, ‘Okay, we’re just happy for the pickup.’ We really care about it and everybody’s coming to more [table reads] and doing more on the show, so if he’d like to be a part of that, we’d love him. And if not, we’d like to know and then we’ll go another way.

Would you describe yourself as hopeful then that this could be resolved? I have no idea. I didn’t know he was going to tweet last night. That was very surprising. And the tweets were confusing because he had an offer. It wasn’t like we didn’t offer him a substantial thing. No. 2, he mentioned that he wanted to do outside projects. Everybody on the show does lots of outside projects. He actually gets to record on the phone and do the [table] reads on the phone. So we’ve never kept him from doing that stuff. So that’s one confusion I had. For the last several years, he’s done reads on the phone. He doesn’t always participate. We’ve excused him for several and he records, as long as it’s done in time, when it’s convenient for him. So it’s not a scheduling thing and he says it’s not a money thing, so I’m not sure what he’s thinking.

So, all the sturm und drang aside, all that appears to have happened is that, through a couple of unexpected tweets, Shearer broke off a negotiation and dropped a big, steaming PR shitpile in the collective lap of Jean, Brooks, and FOX.

What does all this mean?  Well, it could end up meaning nothing.  This isn’t the first time Shearer has been unhappy in public during negotiations for renewal.  In the linked interview, Jean was deliberately cagey about how long they could go on without Shearer, but based on what we know about production schedules, it could easily be months before they’d actually need him to record new episodes.  If they announce new cast members, that’d probably mean it’s a done deal, but I’d guess we’re a ways away from that.

There are, however, a couple of circumstantial pieces of evidence that this isn’t a public negotiating ploy on Shearer’s part and does indeed mean he’s leaving the show.  The first and biggest is that the other five main cast members have already signed.  Jean makes it clear in that interview that Shearer has been given the same offer the rest of them already took, so even just negotiating with him at this point would upset a deal that already took them months longer than usual to reach.

There’s also the fact that Shearer has never actually called it quits before.  He’s needled the show and ragged on FOX, but to my knowledge he’s never said he was done.

Finally, there are Jean’s highlighted comments above.  If it’s true that they’ve “rededicated” themselves and want more active participation from people, Shearer might not want the hassle.  He’s been content to (literally) phone it in these last few years, but he values his time a lot more than a few extra million bucks he may never spend anyway, so why bother?  He knows damn well the show is a shadow of itself, and if everyone’s just there for the money and he doesn’t need the money . . . well, that may be all she wrote.

Whatever his specific reasons, at the moment the safest assumption is that Harry Shearer will not be a member of the cast for the UABF production run.  If that holds, the last episode with his voice will be broadcast next season, probably in November or December.  We’ll see what happens, but unlike the renewal that always seemed like it was going to get done, this is uncharted territory.

05
May
15

Zombie Simpsons Renewed For Forty-Four More Episodes

Like Father, Like Clown14

♫”If this old clown was found dead in his bed tomorrow/
I’d be in heaven, still doing this show!”♫ – Krusty the Klown

This here blog has been live on the internet for six years and change.  In that time we’ve seen four renewal announcements, including last night’s.  Here are the details:

– two more full production runs of 22 episodes each

– will take the show through Season 28 and give it the first seven episodes of a Season 29(!)

– new guaranteed episode total of 625(!!)

– the next time to look for a renewal announcement will be October-ish of 2016

– the next deadline for a renewal announcement will be May-ish of 2017

Having read through a whole bunch of news reports on this, /Film easily wins the prize for best lead:

In TV years, The Simpsons is already the equivalent of the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the series isn’t giving up its post any time soon.

They also took the time to say what everyone’s thinking:

And, let’s face it, you probably only watch the new episodes when Fox breaks out a splashy couch gag by a high-profile artist (yep, welovethose) or when the show makes a big change by killing off a character or featuring a surprising gimmick or guest star. But after more than twenty years, the roster of guests with the power to surprise is pretty small.

The Simpsons is in an unusual position in that the current episodes seem more like reminders for prior seasons and merchandise than the other way around.

As for the next renewal announcement, rubbercat.net/simpsons has it covered.

17
Apr
15

Epic Agreement (And Show Still on Hiatus)

Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish12

“Holy moly, nine-thirty!  Hello, Marge, sorry I didn’t call, but it’s been a madhouse down here.  Yeah, these twelve hour days are killing me.” – Homer Simpson

My apologies, but there won’t be a Reading Digest this week.  I am eyeballs deep in my stupid real job.  However, there are two things I’d like to note.

First, the radio silence regarding the show being on hiatus continues.  I checked a few staff Twitter accounts and haven’t seen peep outside of Jean responding to someone from No Homers that the negotiations are ongoing.  (Sadly, Isabel Vega has deleted her Twitter account after her tweets kept popping up here and elsewhere in Simpsons fandom.  Sorry, Isabel!  Really didn’t want to get you in trouble or anything.)  One of the last tweets from Vega was that increasing numbers of staff are being told not to come in and that people around the office are worried:

That moment when a director goes around saying good-bye to the remaining crew saying “See you next season, if there is one…” #TheSimpsons

So we’re about where we were last week: nobody’s saying squat.  That is probably for the best, since swirling rumors and ill sourced media speculation don’t have any bearing on the negotiations but do get a lot of people agitated for no reason.  My money continues to be on the show getting renewed.

Second, and far more fun, is this fantastic article (that mentions Zombie Simpsons by name) about the unrivaled cultural legacy of the show:

The Simpsons – the Shakespeare of our time?

We’re automatically programmed to know that Dickens was the greatest writer of his day. It’s reasonable to assume that in the 19th century he was just really, really popular. Nobody in that age would have guessed that they would be teaching his work in primary schools a century down the line. The reason they do so is because it was the most accurate satire of Victorian England, much like The Simpsons to the modern West.

I highly recommend the whole thing.

07
Apr
15

Zombie Simpsons Renewal Goes to Overtime

Burns' Heir13

“Hey, you know we’re getting into golden time?” – Estonian Actor
“Yes, well just get it right or you’ll all be back doing ‘Come Blow Your Horn’ at the Westport dinner theater!” – C.M. Burns

Six months ago, we got word from Al Jean himself that the current TABF production run was indeed a full twenty-two episode order.  The most recent episode was TABF10, which means that they have twelve more episodes to broadcast under the current contract.

Last night, commenter Mr. Incognito e-mailed me to let me know that Erika Isabel Vega, who’s been with the show since 2006, tweeted this yesterday:

VegaTweet

Today’s a good day for contract/renewal news. We’re past the ultimatum & it’s the start of a week. Who will report first? #TheSimpsons

 

What’s this ultimatum?  Going back a couple of days, we find this exchange between her and Matthew Schofield, who’s been with the show since 1999:

VegaTweet1

No joke-I just got an email for our mtg on the last episode on contract. If we don’t get renewed this will be the final one. #TheSimpsons / @eiVega you need to calm down / @Mr_Schofield Hahaha…I honestly think I’m more calm than most of the crew. I do think we’ll be renewed. I’m just more dramatic online. ;)

 

What does that mean?  It means that we’ve reached the deadline I mentioned six months ago when I noted that the renewal notice was overdue.  Production is at its contractual end, and, since there’s no way to keep that quiet in this day and age, we are officially into overtime on whether or not Zombie Simpsons will be renewed for a full Season 27.

[Please note that sites like IGN and TV By the Numbers list the show as “renewed” because one way or another there is going to be a Season 27.  The current contract will still have episodes (probably seven of them) left on it after the Season 26 finale.  What we’re talking about is a renewal beyond the current TABF production run.]

In a tweet from last week, Vega noted that she and the rest of the staff usually find out about renewals through the news media, so she’s as in the dark as the rest of us.  Just to be thorough, I poked around a few other Simpsons staff Twitter accounts, including Jean and Brooks, and didn’t see anything.  (Although Jean did say that Hugh Jass from Flaming Moe’s was originally going to be Hugh G. Rection, heh.)

So, is there going to be a full Season 27?  As always with renewal, it’s safest to bet on “Yes”.  These negotiations have gone down to the wire several times over the (sigh) decades, and they always find a way to pull through because everyone involved keeps making money that way.  Yes, the ratings get lower every year, but that’s true for network teevee in general; and for all its many (many) problems, Zombie Simpsons is still strong among the youthful demographics that advertisers pay top dollar to reach.  (Those unoriginal AAA video games and Liam Neeson movies aren’t going to sell themselves, you know.)

All this means is that, one way or another, we should be getting word very soon.  As has been true for years now, there are only a few possible scenarios:

1.  The talks fail, they halt production, and Season 27 will be a short one.

2.  There is a partial renewal that brings the show a full Season 27 but not a full production run and it ends in May of next year.

3.  There is a full renewal for one (or more) 22 episode production run(s), and we go through this again.

If there is a renewal announcement this week (or sometime soon), the important thing to note (which most of the entertainment press will ignore because they are awful at their jobs) is how many episodes.  That’s the difference between #2 and #3 above.

Whatever happens, I just hope it’s definitive.  It’s annoying as hell when half-sourced rumors start ricocheting around the internet and I have to sort through them.

One final note, people like Vega and Schofield make the show go.  As I’ve said before, most of the folks who work on it aren’t rich or famous, and neither, for that matter, are they the reason it became Zombie Simpsons.  If there is any anger at FOX or elsewhere over this post, please direct it at me and not them.  They didn’t do anything wrong; it’s their bosses who are screwing things up, not them.

17
Oct
14

Renewal Announcement Overdue [Updated]

Homer vs Patty & Selma14

“Sweet, trusting Marge, I can’t let you down.  I’ll get some money somehow. . . . Hello, Vegas?  Gimme a hundred bucks on red. . . . D’oh!  Alright, I’ll send you a check.” – Homer Simpson

It’s now officially mid-October and there has been no announcement from FOX or anyone else about next season.  For most shows, that wouldn’t be an issue, but for Zombie Simpsons, which is wildly asynchronous with the rest of network television’s renew/cancel announcements, it’s very odd.  Thanks to the show’s ancient pedigree and very long production schedule, the last couple of renewal announcements have come in early or mid-October.  Well . . . it’s that time of year and we haven’t heard anything.

Complicating matters is the general laziness of the entertainment press.  Last year we got the renewal announcement for Season 26 on October 4th.  But that’s all we got.  Unlike previous renewals, which bragged about the new episode total, all the press release said was that the show would be around for Season 26.  And while plenty of sites reported “Simpsons renewed” none that I was able to find (then or now) contained an episode total.  (Even The New York Times just wrote up the press release and didn’t ask any questions.)

The episode total is more important than the season number because, as I’ve said before, how the show ends is determined by the production runs, not the broadcast runs.  For several years now, FOX has been ordering 22-episode production runs.  The “SABF” run comprised most of Season 25, and its first few episodes have spilled into Season 26.  Sometime soon, the “TABF” run will start being broadcast and will make up most of Season 26.  This is all entirely normal.

However, since the copy and paste brigade that passes for entertainment journalism didn’t give us an episode total, it’s at least possible that instead of ordering a full 22-episode production run last year, FOX only ordered a shortened run that will end this spring instead of spilling over into next fall.  If that’s the case, then we could see the end of the show in 2015.

Now, I don’t think that is the case and I don’t want to start any rumors that the show is finally going to end.  Quite frankly, the opposite is more likely.  Odds are that last year they ordered a full 22-episode TABF run, no reporters bothered to ask them for a total, and that the show is already de-facto renewed for at least a partial Season 27.

But the reason this time of year is important is because of the extraordinarily long lead time needed to create an episode.  The show can’t wrap the finale the week before it’s broadcast and just send everyone home.  Instead, the production will gradually shut down months ahead of time as new scripts stop being ordered and the final episodes wind their way through the animation process.  In the age of Twitter and friends, there’s no way you could keep that secret, even for a little while.

So, we have a couple of interesting pieces of information:

1.  It’s mid-October and there’s been no renewal announcement.
2.  There was no confirmation that the TABF production run is a full 22-episodes.  (At least that Google and I could find, anyway.)
3.  The long production time of the show means that it’ll shut down months before the last broadcast.

Where does that leave us?  It means that sometime in the next month or so we’ll either get a renewal announcement, a cancellation announcement, or another rumor heavy cluster fuck (a la 2011) about whether or not the show will stagger forward for another year or more.  My money is on a renewal announcement (best predictor of future behavior being past behavior, and all that), but we are in a situation where it’s at least possible that we might hear otherwise in the near future.

Keep watching the skis.

[Update 2:08pm Eastern: Word from Caesar himself in comments: “TABF = full 22 order”.  Still looking for a renewal notice, but there will definitely be at least a partial Season 27.]

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. 




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