‘Fallout’ Kept the Video Game’s ‘Simpsons’ In-Joke Alive

A joke about Homer’s childhood TV set is a whole thing in ‘Fallout’
‘Fallout’ Kept the Video Game’s ‘Simpsons’ In-Joke Alive

Movies and TV shows based on video games are huge right now, from the Emmy-winning The Last of Us, to the racing flick Gran Turismo, to the blockbuster Super Mario Bros. Movie, which was notably the very first theatrical Mario movie that wasn’t set in a urine-soaked cyberpunk hellscape.

Now, following this wave of successful video game adaptations, comes Fallout, the hugely popular Amazon Prime series based on the RPG video game franchise of the same name. Starring Ella Purnell, Aaron Moten and Walton Goggins, Fallout, as the name would suggest, takes place in the wackiest post-apocalyptic wasteland since The Flintstones

Viewers who don’t spend their TV time mindlessly staring at their phones may have noticed that the go-to electronics brand of Fallout’s alternate timeline is called “Radiation King,” which is perfectly in line with some of the show’s other atomic-era-inspired products such as “Nuka Cola.”

As any fan of the games will tell you, this aspect of the show carried over from the original series. Beginning with the first Fallout game in 1997, the Radiation King branding has appeared on various TVs, radios and jukeboxes. The games even expanded to show Radiation King storefronts and Radiation King assembly plants, making the fake company an indelible part of the franchise’s world building. 

But as Simpsons fans are likely aware, “Radiation King” was also the brand of TV that Homer watched as a child. As Talking Simpsons co-host Henry Gilbert pointed out on Twitter/X, Homer’s Radiation King set appeared in the 1994 episode “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy,” in which Homer suffers from erectile dysfunction that can only be cured with his dad’s mysterious tonic. Come to think of it, Homer’s affliction just might be explained by all the time he spent seated in front of his old X-ray factory of a television. 

According to game designer Leonard Boyarsky, he originally included the Radiation King TV set as a nod to The Simpsons, but more specifically, as an Easter egg that would amuse Fallout creator Tim Cain while they were creating the first game. As Boyarsky told the Fallout fan site No Mutants Allowed, “We kept trying to sneak pop-culture references into every aspect of the game, from Star Wars to Simpsons to everything in between. I mostly tried to hide Simpsons references wherever I could just to make Tim laugh. The TV in the intro is a ‘Radiation King’ for instance.”

Now, that harmless little inside joke between two cartoon-loving video game artists is a component of a $153 million TV series produced by a giant (arguably evil) corporation, and appears in far more Fallout-related content than Simpsons episodes. Now that it’s been picked up for a second season, perhaps future episodes of Fallout will include Duff Beer, or Krusty Burger, or Crab Juice, America’s favorite Mountain Dew alternative.

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