Detractors of modern day Simpsons, rejoice: the writing staff is finally putting some effort into something! Unfortunately, that something has nothing to do with the show in any way.
Bloomberg Businessweek has a story about the writers’ Summer Box Office Fantasy League, a “complicated gambling game” where they waste time by betting on which summer blockbusters will rule the box office for the grand prize of a banner and $400, the equivalent of how much Matt Groening makes in a minute.
Here’s some of the nerdier details:
They base bidding prices on 3D-ticket costs, marketing budgets, and release dates. “People do their research and also use inside information,” says Marc Wilmore, currently in seventh place out of 18 players. “What are studio execs saying? Is the star bad-mouthing the film? Did the script go through a lot of writers? It’s kind of like a stock–what do you really know about the company?”
Jeff Westbrook, who got a Ph.D. in computer science at Princeton, wrote a program that delivers box office results to everyone’s e-mail on Sunday nights. It also calculates standings for the side bets the writers make. “It’s probably the most personal satisfaction I’ve gotten out of writing a computer program,” he says. Two side bets involve a second round of 100 BOBs used to put together new slates based on the price they sold for during the draft. In one, players with the highest gross and lowest gross win. A third rewards the person whose original slate overperforms by the highest percentage.
Just imagine how much more time they’d have to gamble on things if they had a computer program to generate new episodes! Assuming they don’t already have one, of course.