Posts Tagged ‘Matt Groening

15
Feb
20

Quote of the Day

“I’m glad we’re stranded. It’ll be just like the Swiss Family Robinson, only with more cursing. We’re gonna live like kings! Damn hell ass kings!” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday Matt Groening! 

15
Feb
19

Quote of the Day

“You don’t look so rich.” – Homer Simpson
“Don’t let the haircut fool you, I’m exceedingly wealthy.” – Bill Gates

Happy birthday Matt Groening! 

15
Feb
18

Quote of the Day

“Young man, you need to do some serious boning!” – Principal Skinner

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Das Bus”! Original airdate 15 Feb 1998. (Oh, and happy birthday to some guy name Groening.)

16
Dec
16

Dear Matt Groening, Are You Really Okay With Video Slot Machines?

pringfield20

“Once something has been approved by the government, it’s no longer immoral!” – Reverend Lovejoy

Ever since Bartmania back in 1990, FOX has been keen to use licensed merchandise (often of dubious quality) to pad its bottom line on the Simpsons. This can be alarm clocks that eat batteries and can’t be plugged in, drink trays that misquote the show, or a seemingly endless number of “collectible” dolls and figurines. Tchotchkes and t-shirts may be soulless consumerism at its most blatant, but they’re also relatively harmless. The same cannot be said of video slot machines.

Video slots are (as those of you who’ve read my little ebook about The Simpsons: Tapped Out will already be aware) rigged games that are built to ensnare and bankrupt people. If you want to understand why and how, I can’t recommend Addiction By Design by Natasha Dow Schull strongly enough. But the very short version is that by employing sophisticated and well tested psychological concepts, slot machine companies can create a “game” to which some players will become medically addicted. So while most people who elect to play the machine will quickly lose a few bucks and then move along, a small percentage will get entranced, with losses running to tens of thousands of dollars and potential destitution, not to mention plenty of life ruining side effects (bankruptcy, eviction, etcetera).

The gambling industry goes out of its way to obscure this by offering token sops to gambling addiction programs and talking about “responsible gaming”, but the simple fact of the matter is that a huge percentage of their revenue comes from people who are diagnostically addicted. In other words: most of their money comes from inducing, exploiting, and fostering an illness. And now Matt Groening is joining them.

I’m singling out Groening for a reason. He supposedly has some influence or control over what gets licensed and what doesn’t. In the past, it’s been widely reported that he resisted licensing a real life Duff beer since the show remains (nominally) for children. The oft cited phrase (which I’ve seen countless times myself) is:

Groening has said he considered giving permission to make the beer a few years ago but pulled back over concern that it would encourage kids to drink.

That comes from a site called Joe Sixpack, and it’s the citation on the Wikipedia article about Duff Beer. Near as Google can tell me, that Joe Sixpack link and the Wikipedia article are the direct or indirect sources for that same quote everywhere else on-line, from the British newspaper The Telegraph to pop culture site The Mary Sue. Given such poor sourcing, I don’t know whether or not Groening ever actually shot down an official Duff license (I kinda think he mentioned it on a commentary once, but can’t find a source), but it does seem like the kind of thing he would say.

Of course, Duff is now a reality at both Universal Studio theme parks, but serving watery beer to tourists is a far cry from jamming casinos with deliberately addictive slot machines. A goofy and overpriced theme park snack isn’t going to turn anyone into an alcoholic, but a Simpsons video slot machine can and will cause real life people to become gambling addicts. A year or two after those machines hit the casino floor, there are going to be people at Gamblers Anonymous meetings who now have empty bank accounts because of something with Groening’s signature on the side of it.

Here (via Denise and Karma on Twitter) are the details:

A year ago, I wrote about Scientific Games’ “The Simpsons,” which created a big buzz at G2E 2015. But the game was held back and returned in a new version this year.

Why?

“Last year when we showed the game, our licencor saw it and they thought it was a great product, but I think they really wanted to make it stand out a little more,” Rosen explains. “The nice thing for us is they got their hands dirty with us and they created custom content for the entire product. They did all the animation. They did voice over sessions with Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta to do custom content. They had a writer write scripts for the game.”

Now, I have no doubt that FOX and News Corp are comfortable with profiting from something as nakedly greedy and predatory as video slots. They even scotched the first version of this and paid Azaria, Castellaneta, and at least one writer to go in and make it catchier (i.e. more addicting). What I want to know – publicly – is if Matt Groening is comfortable with it as well. I know this blog gets read by at least a few current and former Simpsons staffers, as well as the occasional entertainment reporter, so: has anyone asked him?

The next time he’s on a panel, or taking questions from an audience, or doing a publicity thing, I would like someone to say, “Mr. Groening, video slot machines have been definitively linked to problem gambling; knowing that, are you comfortable with your name and your creation being used for video slots?”

I want to know because I like Groening, and I like his work, and this crosses the line between everyday villainy and cartoonish super-villainy. Maybe he doesn’t know about the harm video slot machines do and just signed off on this as one more project. Maybe he does know and doesn’t care. Maybe he doesn’t know and would care enough to squelch the project. I kinda doubt that last one, but it’s worth asking, because this is vile.

15
Feb
16

Quote of the Day

The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase7

“Daddy, when I grow up, I wanna be just like you.” – Ralph Wiggum
“Better start eating, kid.” – Skinny Boy
“Start eating?” – Wiggum P.I.
“I didn’t mean that way!” – Ralph Wiggum

Happy Birthday Matt Groening! 

16
Feb
15

Quote of the Day

Krusty Gets Kancelled19

“I’m a star again.  I don’t know how to thank you kids.” – Krusty the Klown
“That’s alright, Krusty.” – Bart Simpson
“We’re getting fifty percent of the t-shirt sales.” – Lisa Simpson
“What?  That’s the sweetest plum!” – Krusty the Klown

Happy (one day belated) birthday, Matt Groening!  

15
Feb
14

Quote of the Day

Lemon of Troy11

“Get out here, son!  There’s a doings a transpiring!” – Shelbyville Homer

Happy birthday Matt Groening!

15
Feb
13

Quote of the Day

A Bunch of Hilarious Stuff

“Cartoons don’t have messages, Lisa.  They’re just a bunch of hilarious stuff, you know?  Like people getting hurt and stuff, stuff like that-” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday Matt Groening! 

15
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

New Kid on the Block8

“Bart!  Aw, you remembered my birthday!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“Huh? . . . Oh, I sure did!  Here’s a bus schedule.” – Bart Simpson
“Wow!  Fits right in my pocket.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

Happy birthday Matt Groening! 

15
Feb
11

Quote of the Day

Life In Hell

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

“Yes, the Simpsons have come a long way since an old drunk made humans out of his rabbit characters to pay off his gambling debts.” – Troy McClure

Happy birthday Matt Groening! 

17
Dec
10

Groening on The Tonight Show in 1991

On Simpsons Day last year I posted an old video of Groening on Letterman right before “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” premiered.  He wasn’t exactly camera comfortable then.  Here’s an interview with him from The Tonight Show in 1991 (this must be Leno guest hosting for Carson), and he’s got his shtick down much better. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has to be shortly after the premier of the third season when the show couldn’t get a bigger, and even then Groening only rates as the third guest.  What’s funny is that Leno asks if that really was Michael Jackson’s voice, and Groening has to demur.  It’s kinda hard to remember now, but The Simpsons really was a subversive show that a lot of people were genuinely nervous about.  How quaint. 

15
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

138th Episode Spectacular1

“Get outta my office!” – Matt Groening

Happy Birthday Matt Groening!  Tequila shots for everybody!

11
Feb
10

Simpsons Alumni Update: Groening & Azaria

Unbeknownst to me there’s a spinoff of that Top Chef program called  Top Chef Masters.  According to Wikipedia, “In the series, 24 world-renowned chefs compete against each other in weekly challenges.”  Also, there are regular judges and guest judges.  For Season 2 Matt Groening and Hank Azaria will be among the guest judges.  Okay. 

(A hearty middle finger to IGN for bringing me this news but screwing up the link to the original Entertainment Weekly story.  That meant I had to wade through ew.com, as over designed and seizure inducing as any commercial website you’ll ever visit.) 

07
Jan
10

Matt Groening Documentary

The BBC made this way back in 2000, so for all I know every other Simpsons fan on the internet has seen this already.  But it was new to me and I thought I’d collect it in one handy place for everyone.  Plus, there’s an absolute knockout quote in the second part. 

Part 1 – Enter Groening and his teevee infused childhood:

Part 2 – Groening becomes a cartoonist and moves to Los Angeles:

And at about the 8:45 mark of Part 2 he shatters my irony meter (emphasis mine):

“I finally got out of school in 1977 and I headed immediately for Los Angeles.  Cause I figured, here is the center of all the garbage that the rest of pop culture consumes and I thought everybody here would be really sophisticated about it.  I mean they’ve gotta, this is where it’s made so they’ve gotta know what garbage it is.  And I got here and the crazy thing about L.A. is, they believe it more here than anywhere else in the world.  It’s amazing.  You talk to people about these movies and you think that they’re kidding.  And no, they really like this stuff!  People here really like those movies, they really do, those TV shows, those lousy TV shows?  They’re proud of them.  I’m not kidding.”

It’s probably impossible to describe the thinking behind Zombie Simpsons any better than that.  For the record, this came out at the same time as Season 11.  Which is to say the show had clearly lost itself, but it hadn’t yet become the unquenchable cesspool of pop culture that it is today. 

Part 3 – Groening draws stuff and Exeunt:

At about the 1:15 mark Groening draws Akbar and Jeff from “Life in Hell”.  It’s really neat. 

I can’t get over that quote from Part 2 though.  It’s an unbelievably dead on description of Zombie Simpsons creators and defenders and it came from no less a man than Matt Groening, and he said it ten years ago.  There aren’t enough bolds and italics in the world to emphasize how amazing that is.  I had to listen to it half a dozen or so times to get it transcribed from YouTube and I still almost can’t believe he really said that. 

(via I Am A TV Junkie)

17
Dec
09

Groening on Letterman in 1989 & NBC News in 1990

Matt Groening was a guest on David Letterman’s 12:30 show (the one Conan O’Brien would be taking over just a few years later) in 1989 to help promote “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”:

You can really see how Groening hasn’t yet got the hang of being interviewed.  He’s not uncomfortable exactly, but he’s very unpolished.  His stories are too long and Letterman has to bail him out a couple of times to keep things going.  This was a week before the special when nobody had any real idea of how it was going to go.  He’s nervous enough that he almost forgets to mention that it’s going to be on regularly in January.  The best quote comes right at the beginning when Letterman asks him how he knew he was a talented cartoonist:

Letterman: How did you know that you were good at this kind of thing?

Groening: The kids loved it and the teachers hated it.

Now here’s Groening the next year.  It’s not entirely clear precisely when, but it’s clearly after the show has become a major hit (they filmed some of the production process of “Krusty Gets Busted”): 

Granting that there’s a big difference between speaking extemporaneously with Letterman for eight straight minutes and having a news crew show up and follow you around, you can see how much more comfortable on camera he is.  He’s more self deprecating about both himself and the show and he easily swats away criticism of what they’re doing.  Also, there’s an indoor hammock. 

01
Apr
09

Matt Groening’s a little confused

“Matt Groening? What’s he doing in a museum? He can barely draw.” – Homer Simpson

We just caught wind that Matt Groening was interviewed last week by the folks over at the A.V. Club. In the interview, Mr. Groening revealed his insights into the past and future of animation and humor, while pontificating about the meaning of heaven and earth. Well, he didn’t really discuss the last bit so much, but he did offer some choice words for critics of Zombie Simpsons, with which we naturally take issue. To wit:

“The criticism of the show, that it’s not as good as the show you remember when you were 9 years old, is probably true, but then no show is as good as the one you thought was probably the greatest when you were 9 years old. It’s the nature of comparing something to the thing you loved the most at the time. If the show had been cancelled after five seasons, it would be forgotten.”

Challenge. I was one of those 9-year-olds that grew up with the show. While I watched The Simpsons back then and was entertained by it on a baser level, it wasn’t until later in high school when I appreciated the show for what it was: a dense, multi-faceted comedy that rewarded thoughtful viewers with sharp, intelligent humor. At age 9, I thoroughly enjoyed the show’s slapstick tendencies and occasional puerile jokes (Buttzilla, anyone?) since the cultural references usually flew over my head. As I grew up, I fell in love with the show as subtle allusions to classic literature, film, and pop culture revealed themselves, while the edgy social satire suddenly made sense. This had the effect of making The Simpsons even richer; it was the show that kept on giving. Imagined nostalgia and hollow sentiment have nothing to do with why I love the first eight or so seasons. And I speak for all of us here at the Dead Homer Society when I say they will be treasured, not forgotten.

The bearded one continues:

“If The Simpsons came on now, having never been seen before, with those original episodes, I don’t think anyone would give them a second look, because they’re so crude and primitive in their execution. But like I said, styles change, and all I ask of critics—of online critics of the show that say ‘Oh, it hasn’t been good since season X’—is that, in the opinion of people who work on the show, that’s simply not true. I’m not saying that every episode is better than the previous, but I’m saying that to completely out-of-hand condemn a decade of the show is a very easy position to take, and the fact is, the show has done absolutely brilliant stuff consistently throughout its history. Like I said, I’m not defending every single joke in every single episode, but if we didn’t like what we were doing, we wouldn’t keep doing it.”

Admittedly, the original episodes were “crude and primitive in their execution” – no argument there. Then again, I would expect an episode produced in 2009 to look better than one produced in 1989. Aesthetics aside, the episodes in the first couple seasons were still well-written and the characters endearing, effortlessly setting the stage for the brilliance that characterized later seasons. The impact those seasons had on viewers is indelible and their critical reception is well-deserved. It’s a tough act to consistently prolong year after year.

While I can sense Mr. Groening’s brooding frustration at those who damn a body of work because of a few bad instances, I don’t think the show’s most sober critics are doing that. We’re not that simple-minded. It is disingenuous, however, to say that the show has “absolutely done brilliant stuff consistently throughout its history.” No way. It is a complete lack of consistency that is the hallmark of Zombie Simpsons. Plots have become lazier, gags cruder. Venerable characters have been redefined after years of careful development (notably, Homer’s perplexing transformation from oafish, loving father to obnoxious, injury-prone jackass), a perfect foil for the insufferable and foolish cavalcade of celebrity guest stars. The show that has, for all intents and purposes, defined modern comedy has slipped into the conventions that it used to boldly and routinely reject.

Accepting Zombie Simpsons for what it is, let’s go ahead take Mr. Groening’s assertion at face value, that is, the folks who work on the show continue to enjoy what they do and that’s why they keep doing it. Well, duh. Talk about an an easy ad hominem argument, which in the face of declining viewership and social relevance makes even less sense. It still prints money for those involved, but really, how fat do your coffers need to be?

Listen, none of us would be complaining if the show had soldiered on with contemporary ideas and quality intact. But, as Mr. Groening implies, it’s not reasonable to expect that. We agree. Twenty years is an eternity in television. We’ve been insistent that Zombie Simpsons as is bears little resemblance to the show that preceded it. So either fix it (improbable, now that we’re fumbling through the twentieth season), call it something else (pointless – a spade’s a spade), or just let it die. We’ve been happily endorsing the latter option and not just out of empty, callous spite. There’s simply no shame in admitting when enough’s enough.

Oh, and Matt – you have an open and standing invitation to speak with us whenever you’d like.




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