Mar 20, 2008

A Theory About Springfield

Thought I'd try something a little different and a little lighthearted instead of the old gloom and doom ranting I've been doing of late.

It's something I talked about on another board, and thought I'd share this theory with you.

Everybody knows about The Simpsons' hometown of Springfield, a massive city that's pretty much small town USA. Everybody has their opinions on where Springfield is. Some feel it's in the West. Some feel it's in the middle of the contry. I think that Springfield is in southeastern Virginia collectively called Hampton Roads in the real world. Yes, this is also my homebase at the moment.

Why do I believe The Simpsons take place in my part of the world? Let me explain.

Springfield is a strong miltary town.

There's a shipyard, naval port, and military bases all within the city. In southeastern VA, we have the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (the oldest naval shipyard in the US), the Norfolk Naval Base (the largest naval facility in the world), and a couple of bases of all military branches, from Oceana to Ft. Eustis. There's even a NASA facility in Hampton called NASA Langley.

Springfield has strong colonial roots.

Jebediah Springfield founded the city and cleared the city of snakes. While Col. William Crawford didn't pull a St. Patrick-like feat, he did found the city of Portsmouth during the colonial era. Before that, the first English settlers came here in 1607, more than 400 years ago.

Springfield is in close proximity of various East Coast cities.

It can be certain that Springfield isn't in a West Coast state. Sure, you could throw the K-decaled station names often signifying they're in the west, but that's a ruse. If it was in a West Coast state, the cast couldn't get to Tennessee, New York, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., or Delaware within hours, like you can from Hampton Roads. The old Simpson farm Homer grew up in is in North Carolina and just minutes away from Springfield, not unlike it is here.

Springfield is a minor-league town with access to a northern major-league town called Capital City by the interstate.

Hampton Roads is as minor league as you can get with the Norfolk Admirals AHL hockey team and the Norfolk Tides AAA baseball club. Here's where the tie between Hampton Roads and Springfield really come together. The episode Dancin' Homer had many elements from the area, including crosstown rivals the Pilots, a few character names similar to former Tides players, and the name of the Capital City team owner is the same as the Tide's owner, Dave Rosenfield. Ironically, the owner of the Tides recently created a minor league team out west called, and I couldn't make this up if I tried, the Alberquerque Isotopes! The most northern major league area from here is Washington, D.C. THE Capital City, which is also a frequent stop for fliers every morning from Norfolk International Airport.

Springfield is surrounded by oceans and bays in the east and mountains and forests in the west.

The Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay are in the east around Hampton Roads and the Appalacians and a whole lot of rolling hills are in the west.

A huge nuclear plant provides power to Springfield.

Although it's not the only source of power here, Virginia Power's Surry County nuclear plant provides a lot of energy to most of the area.

Springfield has several television studios.

So does Hampton Roads. One produces The New Detectives for Discovery. Other studios produces films. This week marked the premiere of John Adams, which was produced right in Hampton Roads.

Springfield has a beloved television icon character known throughout the area in the form of Krusty the Clown.

Hampton Roads has a television icon as well in Dr. Madblood, a popular horror/schlock movie host for as long as I can remember.

Springfield has both a Duff Brewery and a Duff Gardens theme park within city limits.Hampton Roads has an Anheiser-Busch brewery and a Busch Gardens theme park both in Williamsburg. One of the most beautiful theme parks on the planet, mind you.

Okay, maybe there's no case supporting it, but it'd be funny to consider the seven cities and many counties of Hampton Roads, Virginia the closest thing to a real world Springfield equivalent.

Mar 13, 2008

What I Want (and Don't Want) To See This Upfront Season

The weather is fidgety, cold one day, hot the next.

Flowers and trees are becoming confused. People are wearing brighter colors and showing a little more skin.

That could mean only one thing . . . it's almost upfront season!

Okay, I know spring is in a couple of days at the time I'm writing this, but people like me (namely TV geeks) are getting ready to see what the networks are planning to offer in the next broadcast season. Considering the current broadcast season was interrupted by a strike that could have been avoided if broadcasters and producers weren't so dang greedy in the first place, next season is all we have to look forward to.

But that's just it. Nobody knows what's up. Well, not the regular viewers anyway. For all intents and purposes, for the next couple of months, I'm writing about what I'd like to see come out of the upfronts this year. I'm not totally concerned with the shows coming on next season. Oh, sure, I'll complain, but still, shows aren't a big concern to me.

Here are a few things I do want to see presented by the major broadcast networks this year:

- More emphasis on broadcast television. Yeah, it seems like a strange request, but particularly this season, the major broadcast networks focused more of their energies on broadband rather than broadcast. That's fine and all, but the shifted focuse just makes the need for broadcast channels irrelevant and unneccesary. It isn't true (yet), and we still have a need for broadcast networks here in the US. Now, if they actually acted like they give a damn, I'd like to see them concentrate on the original medium before pushing it aside for the next new thing. Speaking of the next new thing . . .

- PRESENT plans for what they're going to do with the digital space. In less than a year, all regular-powered analog stations (meaning: all regular stations) will be shut down as the digital television format will be the new standard. You've seen the ads, I'm sure. The promise of clearer channels is one thing. The idea of more channels is promising. However, I haven't heard word one about what the NETWORKS are going to do. Affiliates are scrambling what to do with it, either going at it on their own by striking deals with outside groups like Retro Television Network or the late music channel called The Tube, picking up smaller channel groups as a secondary affiliate, or relaying the standard channels the networks are offering. In this case, it's NBC Weather Station for NBC affiliates or ABC News NOW for ABC affiliates. PBS and ION already showed what could be done with additional digital space creating digital subchannels on their own. This year's upfronts is the perfect year to PRESENT plans on what THEY WILL do with the digital subchannel space they're about to get. If there's no plan, well, the whole nature of television affiliation will become not only loose and disconnected, but also irrelevant.

What I Don't Want To See:

- Countless remakes of older and foreign shows. Oops, no chance of that now, is it?

- 3/4 of new shows being "alternative/non-scripted" programming. No chance of that either.

- Networks with limited diversity on their lineups. I doubt we'll see more than two high-profile shows on a MAJOR network (i.e. NOT The CW, ION, nor MyNetworkTV nor any Spanish-language channel) with an all minority cast created by a minority, especially after Cane's "failure." Right now, Ugly Betty is all.

- An end to multicamera situation comedies taped in front of a live studio audience. Most of the ones currently on the air aren't very good to be honest with you. While single-camera shows are great and all, I don't want it to be the norm by any stretch.

Keep an eye on Thoughtnami this upfront season. It should be an interesting one.