The state of paid media, 2019

Here are the things that can be supported by advertising …

Traditional TV networks, which continue to produce high-budget shows even as ratings are a small fraction of what they were.

Cable/other TV channels, which produce high-budget shows even as ratings were never that great in the first place.

PlutoTV, which must be watched by at least 10s of people. (Seriously — it’s utterly impossible to get schedules, so who watches unless they’ve simply exhausted every other possibility?)

Some YouTube channels

Terrestrial radio

Here are the things that can be supported by a mix of advertising and subscriptions …

Satellite radio

ESPN

The Wall Street Journal

The Washington Post

The New York Times

Here are the things that can be supported by subscriptions only …

Consumer Reports (phew!)

Netflix and its gazillions of original shows

Hulu’s original shows

HBO

Here are the things that no one has figured out how to support …

Newspapers

Magazines

Rebuilding Springfield

I’ve been playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out for a while. It throws a lot of buildings and characters at its players, and I’ve grown tired of trying to cram them in.

I went through and “stored” many of the buildings in town. I left in place a couple of areas that I liked:

  • The park complex: Krustyland, Itchy & Scratchy Land and a nearby zoo
  • The sportsplex
  • The Vegas strip
  • Religion Island: Churches, a Buddhist temple, etc.
  • Prison Island, not including the minimum-security jail by the beach
  • The boardwalk

Everything else is being remade, and I’ve started with transportation. My roads and monorail lines took a lot of awkward turns, and I’m straightening things out a bit.

I’ve staked out a couple of new areas — the rural area and the North Pole/Canada, which has some but nowhere near all of the Christmas properties.

Here’s what I had …

And here’s where the rebuild stands …

Sept. 24 update:

  • Springfield Heights is full of houses and a couple of essential conveniences (Kwik-E-Mart, etc.)
  • Springfield Park faces an exclusive neighborhood, a bit like Central Park or some parks in Chicago. The country club is just southwest of it, and then a few vineyards are nicely placed between that and the shore. The amphitheater is tucked away next to the mountains and the shore.
  • The Governmental Plaza (northeast of Springfield Park) exists but needs some work.
  • The Vegas Strip remains intact with some minor tweaks.
  • The Technology Park and North Pole/Canada (following northeast) are more or less complete.
  • Religion Island and Prison Island remain in place southeast of the Governmental Plaza. Follow the river to the sea, and you get a strip of restaurants and eventually the old mill, with another historic building next to it.
  • The Sportsplex (concrete area southeast of Prison Island) hasn’t changed.
  • The Shopplex is adjacent to the Sportsplex, anchored by Springfield Mall. This area needs work.
  • Between the Sportsplex/Shopplex and the shore, I have a couple of strips of businesses and restaurants. The last strip before the boardwalk is a dumping ground for now — I’m placing things I want to see before I move them to a permanent home.
  • The theme parks — Itchy & Scratchy Land, Krustyland, Efcot’s World Showcase and the zoo — take up most of the southeast-northeast diagonal. Northeast of that is Shelbyville.
  • Next to Shelbyville and the zoo, I have a hodgepodge of entertainment (drive-in, demolition derby) and schools for people who’ve messed up (Rommelwood). This needs work.
  • Capital City is northeast of the DURE block.
  • The dirt area is farmland, which will eventually have many more wheat and corn fields, with Kamp Krusty all the way north. The airport is south of that. The schools are sitting awkwardly next to the airport and Efcot — I’ll move that to the strips between Krustyland and the country club.
  • Finally, Medieval Land is still a happy anachronism between the Technology Park and farmland.

Need insulin? Visit the land of curling … and one heroic medical researcher

Things I did not know: An Ontario scientist named Frederick Banting sold the patent rights to insulin, the life-saving drug for diabetics, for $1.

“Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world,” said the Nobel Prize winner.

A century later, Canada is once again bailing out diabetics — this time because of the willful ignorance and idiocy of those of us who live south of the border, The Washington Post reports.

As is so often the case, The Simpsons predicted all this …

Sex on the big screen — no, not Game of Thrones on your 65-inch HD in the basement

Murder! Guns! Graphic war scenes! A man tenderly running his hand …

Whoa, whoa! We can’t let our kids see that!

Our sensibilities about sex and violence have always been a bit hypocritical. Jamie Lee Curtis taking off her top in Trading Places? That’s an R rating. A film strewn with death? Today, PG-13. In the old days, just PG. Even the original Star Wars had a high death toll, though it was just rebel pilots vaporizing or stormtroopers doing the Wilhelm scream.

Obi-Wan: “Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.” Family Guy: “I hit a bird once.”

Meanwhile, on cable, language restrictions are completely out the window, and some people even have s-e-x. As someone who jumped on the Game of Thrones very late in the show’s run, I started to wonder if part of the appeal was that people got naked. Very naked.

From Saturday Night Live:

Emilia Clarke: Remember when we had sex in Season 6?

Kit Harington: Yes, I do.

Clarke: Did you know they filmed that?

Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday is wondering when moviemakers will catch up.

To be sure, there’s precious little to mourn in the death of the kind of ogling soft-core wish-fulfillment fantasies that male directors foisted on viewers for nearly a century. But is abstinence really our only option? With young filmmakers being co-opted by the Disney-Marvel complex, and with millennials and Generation Z reportedly having less sex than their predecessors, the new chastity on screen feels like a prudent but not entirely welcome new normal.

And it’s better than having kids learn about sex from porn.

(Yes, this clip is very explicit.)

My Springfield …

I’ve been playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out phone game for a few years now. The game is running out of a steam a bit because they’re running out of characters, but it’s still fun to build and re-shape Springfield.

Today, they unveiled a new feature letting you see your entire Springfield at once. Here’s mine …

spring-compressed

A quick guide —

WEST: That’s “Springfield Heights,” an area they opened up past the mountains, and it’s supposed to be rather ritzy. I thought about moving junky stuff there, but it would involve too much moving. So I have the various mansions there, along with a polo club and the Stonecutters HQ.

WATERFRONT: The yachts are at Springfield Heights. The rest of it (the Squidpost) includes a couple of rides that used to be in Krustyland.

NORTH: That peninsula is where I stuck everything from Halloween events, including this year’s. Closer to town, I have a few high-rises leading into the Vegas-style strip.

Tucked in between that, just north of the airport, is Canada. That’s where I have Christmas stuff now, but I can move it to the open area with the four ponds farther south. I can adjust the size of those ponds so that I have just a couple of things there for Valentine’s Day but can blow it out for Christmas or Halloween.

EAST: Basically junk. Cletus’ farm. Some dirty touristy stuff.

SOUTH: Krustyland used to be something separate, and you had to take a shuttle to it. They integrated it with the rest of Springfield around the same time they started Itchy and Scratchy Land. I’ve basically turned it into a three-part amusement park. Krustyland has kiddie rides and some Krusty-themed stuff. The larger rides are in I&S Land. Then I have an Epcot/World Showcase thing going on around that lake, including some performance spaces as shown here …

img_4586

Sideshow Bob and family are on the opera stage. Mayor Quimby is speaking at the amphitheater, which has a few options — Marge does something, Comic Book Guy can cosplay, etc.

img_4587

The rock stage is basically the only interesting place for drummer Nick Delacourt, who was in some episode, somewhere. Some of the people I have on other stages can be here, and Bleeding Gums can be on any of them. The angry mob was part of the Halloween event, but I moved it here to be a rowdy crowd.

img_4588

I skipped the pop stage, which can include Bleeding Gums, Lisa, Weird Al or Maggie, but it’s also the main stage for the Party Posse (YVAN EHT NIOJ!). This is the hip-hop stage, where Bart can perform in a different guise and Krusty can pop up. So in this case, I have three rappers and an accordion player. Cool.

A few other snapshots …

vegas

The “Vegas” strip with a lot of fountains and casinos, then a high-rise strip right against the mountains (not visible on the screenshot for some reason). The airport and a NASA launch site are at bottom right. I have an office and research park behind Vegas. Then, for some reason, a medieval fort.

islands

Two islands in the upper-left here — two prisons on one, and then Religion Island, featuring the traditional Springfield church along with the glass cathedral, Maude’s statue and a Buddhist temple. Above that are the dog track and go-kart track, slightly separated from the sports district.

In the sports district itself, start at the lower part, just off center, for the sumo arena. That leads to a weird soccer-ish stadium, then the baseball and football stadiums at left. You can also see the ramp where Poochie skateboards and dunks, along with the pit where motorcycle daredevil Lance Murdoch falls into the shark tank. There’s also a Bowlarama.

The strip across from the sports district (also across the water from Religion Island) has two convention centers and two museums, the last just across the water from an open stage and the Clampitheatre, which form a corner of “Epcot,” which is next.

epcot

It’s tough to squeeze in the whole entertainment area. Maybe if you right click and open in a new tab? Anyway — you can see the performance stages and international things around the water, just like World Showcase at Epcot. At the lower corner is the thing that looks like the big Epcot ball. I stuck the Eiffel Tower on an island in the middle of the lake, and there’s a group of people stuck at the base. The other thing jutting out into the water is a water show.

At right is a zoo. Then behind Epcot and the zoo is the rural district.

And at bottom left, you’ll see Krustyland, then my name spelled out in flowers. I occasionally convert DURE to DUKE, which only take a couple of moves.

Best 100 TV episodes of the century … sort of

I got one-third of the way through The Ringer’s list of the top 100 TV episodes of the century and figured I should do a post on it.

So as I start this, I have no idea what’s to come beyond No. 67. I’m assuming the top five will be some conglomeration of Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, The Wire and Breaking Bad, because I’m apparently the only person in America who doesn’t get HBO.

The bottom third is waaaaay too heavy on reality shows. How anyone could list anything the Kardashians have ever done in the top 100 of anything is beyond me.

But for this list, I’m going to hone in on the episodes I’ve seen, the episodes I’d like to see, and a few I have no interest in seeing whatsoever.

SEEN 

No. 87 – Futurama, “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings.” Brilliant episode full of hilarity and sweetness, along with some outstanding musical numbers. And I’m glad they didn’t go with “Jurassic Bark,” which I simply cannot watch.

No. 73 – Community, “Remedial Chaos Theory.” I might have gone with the first paintball episode, but this one is a great testament to the show’s reality-bending magic.

No. 72 – ER, “On the Beach.” Death became cliche on this show, but the arc of Mark Greene’s farewell was expertly done and ultimately life-affirming in how it showed the impact he had in his too-brief life.

No. 64 – Arrested Development, “Top Banana.” Tough competition for the top episode from this show, but this one establishes a lot of the character quirks and the notion that we should never take the most obvious interpretation of a statement for granted.

No. 59 – The Americans, “The Colonel.” On the whole, this show was just too intense for me to watch. And I know how the real-life Irregulars ended up, which always made me queasy. (Basically, imagine the separation of families at the border, just with a much bigger surprise factor.) I’m also glad I didn’t invest too much time in it because, after reading the recaps, I’m bitterly disappointed in the series finale. But it certainly had its moments, and this was a good one.

No. 41 – Parks and Recreation, series finale. Probably not my choice for the top episode, but I’d have to go back and invest some thought into it, and this was pretty good as far as series finales go.

No. 39 – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the one after 9/11. Yeah, pivotal moment, but I’d rather remember Stewart’s terrific run for the righteous and well-researched rants about the insanity of American politics.

No. 35 – South Park, “Good Times With Weapons.” I need to watch more South Park, because the ones I’ve seen in recent years have been every bit as good as the first few seasons. I can’t argue with this pick, either, for the sheer slapstick of combining video-game reality with “oh, crap, those things really hurt when you use them” reality.

No. 33 – Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. There was really a study showing Fey’s Palin dissuaded people from voting for McCain/Palin? Good to know. And it’s why comedy is our most important art form. But I’d probably pick a few other SNLs, maybe one with a memorable Andy Samberg/Lonely Island video.

No. 18 – Friday Night Lights, “Pilot.” I got chills seeing the clip from this. I remember watching this for the first time — I didn’t expect to be all that interested, and I wound up on a three-year journey with this deeply affecting study of identity. And the humor in it was underrated — even in this episode that sees Jason Street paralyzed, we meet some overbearing boosters and watch the players laugh at their own hype.

No. 16 – The Office, “Dinner Party.” Nailed it. Three years of character development led to this masterpiece. So many great moments in this — Jim’s confessional that he thinks Michael and Jan are playing their own game of who can make everyone the most uncomfortable (“And they’re both winning”), Pam’s stunned realization that Michael has been telling people they used to date (Angela provides hilarious input on that one), Michael’s partially improvised monologue about having multiple vasectomies and vasectomy reversals (“Snip snip! Snip snip!”) and, of course, let’s all sing together — “That one NIGHT, one NI-IGHT …”

No. 12 – The West Wing, “Two Cathedrals.” This show probably would be better remembered if it hadn’t gone on a couple of seasons too long and tried to up the dramatic ante over and over (“Hey, guess who gets wounded by terrorists THIS week!” — a sidebar discussion in this piece tackles the issue), but this was a brilliant take on grief and theology that ought to demonstrate once and for all that God doesn’t have a plan for all of us, at least not on this planet. Sometimes, shit just happens. And it sucks. And Martin Sheen’s monologue in the cathedral is devastating.

No. 5 – Chappelle’s Show, one with Rick James. I actually preferred the one with Wayne Brady taking “playing against type” to the extreme, but I can see why this one’s on the list.

LIKE TO SEE 

No. 97 – The Crown, “Smoke and Mirrors.” This series looked intriguing, and I just haven’t gotten around to watching it.

No. 94 – The Price is Right, the one in which a statistically improbable series of wheel spins takes place.

No. 76 – Eastbound and Down, “Chapter 1.” Yeah, I could get behind seeing an egomaniac baseball player being forced to grow up.

No. 71 – House, “House’s Head.” I’m not sure why I never watched this show. It didn’t seem to require the time investment of Lost or some other hopelessly complicated serial, and I just love the whole notion of seeing goofy British comic actor Hugh Laurie playing a grumpy American.

No. 69 – Curb Your Enthusiasm, “The Freak Book.” Not sure you can go wrong with a conversation between Larry David and John McEnroe.

No. 66 – Louie, “Oh Louie / Tickets.” Or is it too jarring to watch given Louis C.K.’s downfall?

No. 22 – Veep, “Kissing Your Sister.” I’ve only seen one episode of this (on a plane). Will HBO ever let us normals watch their shows?

No. 15 – Atlanta, “B.A.N.” Certainly seems worth checking out.

No. 8 – The Sopranos, “Pine Barrens.” I generally find mob dramas overrated (to quote Peter Griffin: “I did not care for The Godfather”), but what I’ve seen of this show is riveting.

NO — JUST … NO 

Anything in which a kid dies. Including The Walking Dead.

Every reality show. OK, the House Hunters International episode looks amusing, just because those shows offer the vicarious experience of seeing people’s unrealistic entitlement mentalities get smashed to dust.

Dawson’s Freaking Creek.

Dexter. What is it about Millennials that makes them want to see a crying baby in a pool of blood?

Grey’s Anatomy. Piss off. And I’m convinced all the people who’ve left Snow Patrol over the years weren’t kicked out — they just fell asleep on stage listening to that boring-ass guitar and whiny singer.

WHAT THEY FORGOT (mostly comedies, of course, because Millennials have no sense of humor other than “Derp, look at the bad thing that happened to that dude.”)

Glow. Come on, folks — Alison Brie reciting Cat on a Hot Tin Roof while throwing a chair in a wrestling ring is one of the funniest moments in TV history.

The Blacklist. Yeah, it’s gone on a couple of seasons too long, but we can’t forget the brilliance of James Spader’s character. I’d probably pick the two-parter in which the Post Office is besieged, Red is captured by a former protege, and we meet Alan Alda’s brilliantly (and reluctantly, it seems) villainous character.

Family Guy. Not hip enough? Too un-woke? In the words of a previous generation, whatever. “Mr. Saturday Knight,” in which Peter is bitterly disappointed upon meeting his Renaissance Fair hero (Will Ferrell) is a good pick, as is Brian and Stewie’s romp through the multiverse.

The Simpsons. Yeah, we get it. Like Saturday Night Live, people are always going to say it was better in the old days. (I was in college during the Dana Carvey/Jan Hooks/Phil Hartman days, and I remember a bunch of ignorant bros scoffing that it wasn’t any good since Belushi left.) Pick any of the five episodes I rounded up in 2014 or the 2016 episode in which The Simpsons go to Boston.

Phineas and Ferb. Really? You do Spongebob Squarepants and not this? I’d nominate the one split between the caveman scenes and Perry the Platypus as a mystical warrior monk atop a mountain.