Posts Tagged ‘$pringfield

16
Dec
19

Quote of the Day

“Gentlemen, I give you Britannia! Gambling with all the glitz and glamour of the British Isles! And, best of all,  the waitresses and showgirls are all real Brits! Fresh from the streets of Sussex, they are.” – British Guy
“Freshen your drink, gov’nor?” – Sussex Girl

15
Aug
19

Quote of the Day

“Now, at the risk of being unpopular, this reporter places the blame for all of this squarely on you, the viewers.” – Kent Brockman

16
Dec
18

Quote of the Day

“Bah! To Hell with this! Get my razor! Draw a bath! And get these kleenex boxes off my feet!” – C.M. Burns
“Certainly, sir. . . .And, uh, the jars of urine?” – Mr. Smithers
“Oh, we’ll hang on to those.” – C.M. Burns

29
Jun
18

Second Makeup Quote of the Day

“I’ll need three ships and fifty stout men. We’ll sail ’round the Horn, and return with spices and silk the likes of which ye have never seen!” – Captain McAllister
“We’re building a casino!” – C.M. Burns
“Argh, can you give me five minutes.” – Captain McAllister

16
Dec
17

Quote of the Day

“I’m afraid Robert Goulet hasn’t arrived yet, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Very well. Begin the thawing of Jim Nabors.” – C.M. Burns

11
Jul
17

Quote of the Day

“Smithers, I’ve designed a new plane! I call it the Spruce Moose, and it will carry two hundred passengers from New York’s Idlewild airport to the Belgian Congo in seventeen minutes!” – C.M. Burns
“That’s quite a nice model, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Model?” – C.M. Burns

16
Dec
16

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

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“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.

16
Dec
16

Quote of the Day

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“Pipe down, sister. I gotta book a new act for tonight! Turns out that Liza Minnelli impersonator was really Liza Minnelli.” – Bart Simpson

16
Dec
15

Quote of the Day

$pringfield18

“I propose that I use what’s left of the town treasury to move to a more prosperous town and run for mayor.  And, once elected, I will send for the rest of you.” – Mayor Quimby

09
Jun
15

Quote of the Day

$pringfield17

“I’ll design it myself, I know what people like!  It’s got to have sex appeal and a catchy name.” – C.M. Burns

16
Dec
14

Quote of the Day

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“The city’s even in the celebrity business.  Everyone knows Professor Rubbermouth hails from Springfield.” – News on Parade Narrator

01
Jul
14

Gamblor On Your Phone

Tapped In (640)

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase from Amazon

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

Click here to read the first chapter.

23
Mar
14

Quote of the Day

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

16
Dec
13

Quote of the Day

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

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

27
Nov
13

Quote of the Day

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

02
Oct
13

Behind Us Forever: Homerland

Chalkboard - Homerland

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

Season 25, here we go:

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

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

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

17
Mar
13

Quote of the Day

$pringfield12

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

14
Nov
12

Compare & Contrast: Simpson Family Gambling Problems

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

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

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

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

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

$pringfield10

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

Poker Playing Montage

We’re gonna need a montage, montage!

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

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

28
Jun
12

Quote of the Day

$pringfield9

“Scott, things aren’t as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office.  Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors; useful people are starting to feel the pinch.” – Kent Brockman
“I haven’t been able to find a job in six years.” – Barney Gumble
“And what training do you have?” – Kent Brockman
“Five years of modern dance; six years of tap.” – Barney Gumble

28
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

$pringfield8

“Excuse me, ma’am, don’t you think you’ve gambled enough?” – Mr. Smithers
“No.” – Marge Simpson
“Okay.  We’re required by law to ask every seventy-five hours.  Get her another free drink.” – Mr. Smithers




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