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The Simpsons is one of the most successful shows to ever run on television. From its first moment on air, the series's rich characters, subversive themes, and layered humor resounded deeply with audiences both young and old who wanted more from their entertainment than what was being meted out at the time by the likes of Full House, Growing Pains, and Family Matters. Spawn The Simpsons is one of the most successful shows to ever run on television. From its first moment on air, the series's rich characters, subversive themes, and layered humor resounded deeply with audiences both young and old who wanted more from their entertainment than what was being meted out at the time by the likes of Full House, Growing Pains, and Family Matters. Spawned as an animated short on The Tracy Ullman Show—mere filler on the way to commercial breaks—the series grew from a controversial cult favorite to a mainstream powerhouse, and after nineteen years the residents of Springfield no longer simply hold up a mirror to our way of life: they have ingrained themselves into it.  John Ortved's oral history will be the first-ever look behind the scenes at the creation and day-to-day running of The Simpsons, as told by many of the people who made it: among them writers, animators, producers, and network executives. It’s an intriguing yet hilarious tale, full of betrayal, ambition, and love. Like the family it depicts, the show's creative forces have been riven by dysfunction from the get-go—outsize egos clashing with studio executives and one another over credit for and control of a pop-culture institution. Contrary to popular belief, The Simpsons did not spring out of one man's brain, fully formed, like a hilarious Athena. Its inception was a process, with many parents, and this book tells the story.


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The Simpsons is one of the most successful shows to ever run on television. From its first moment on air, the series's rich characters, subversive themes, and layered humor resounded deeply with audiences both young and old who wanted more from their entertainment than what was being meted out at the time by the likes of Full House, Growing Pains, and Family Matters. Spawn The Simpsons is one of the most successful shows to ever run on television. From its first moment on air, the series's rich characters, subversive themes, and layered humor resounded deeply with audiences both young and old who wanted more from their entertainment than what was being meted out at the time by the likes of Full House, Growing Pains, and Family Matters. Spawned as an animated short on The Tracy Ullman Show—mere filler on the way to commercial breaks—the series grew from a controversial cult favorite to a mainstream powerhouse, and after nineteen years the residents of Springfield no longer simply hold up a mirror to our way of life: they have ingrained themselves into it.  John Ortved's oral history will be the first-ever look behind the scenes at the creation and day-to-day running of The Simpsons, as told by many of the people who made it: among them writers, animators, producers, and network executives. It’s an intriguing yet hilarious tale, full of betrayal, ambition, and love. Like the family it depicts, the show's creative forces have been riven by dysfunction from the get-go—outsize egos clashing with studio executives and one another over credit for and control of a pop-culture institution. Contrary to popular belief, The Simpsons did not spring out of one man's brain, fully formed, like a hilarious Athena. Its inception was a process, with many parents, and this book tells the story.

30 review for The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Denise Du Vernay

    The way Ortved has tied together quotes from people formerly part of The Simpsons' inner circle (as well as quotes found in various places by those still working on the show) is very interesting, making the book hard to put down. It's almost like being at a friend's house while her family is arguing-- you know it's none of your business, you don't want this discussion to taint your view of certain members of the family, but for some reason you just can't tune them out. This book is NOT for regul The way Ortved has tied together quotes from people formerly part of The Simpsons' inner circle (as well as quotes found in various places by those still working on the show) is very interesting, making the book hard to put down. It's almost like being at a friend's house while her family is arguing-- you know it's none of your business, you don't want this discussion to taint your view of certain members of the family, but for some reason you just can't tune them out. This book is NOT for regular Simpsons fans; it's really for the gossip-loving, People magazine set. It's for people who want to know what was going on with Fox in the late eighties and nineties. And this book definitely should only be read by critical thinkers: it is biased. Big time. Ortved (and/or his editors) make some pretty glaring mistakes: names of characters are wrong (not just spelling, as in the case of Karl, voiced by Harvey Fierstein in the episode "Simpson and Delilah") but Waylon Smithers is called "Wayland." He doesn't know his Patty from his Selma, and at one point a hilarious spellcheck error occurs where "parody" is the intended word but "parity" is the word used. (I plan to show this one to my students as another reason why they shouldn't place all their trust in spellcheck.) With all these errors, it's hard to trust the author. These mistakes have damaged his credibility, making the fact that there is no context for most of his quotes even harder to take and specious. He places quotes (with no questions and usually no dates attached) in a particular order and manner as if to create conflict and argument between "speakers" when such differing of opinion may or may not exist. For all the reader knows, the words could have been uttered by the speakers ten minutes or ten years apart. For all the reader knows, the quotes were unsolicited rants or grudging responses to leading questions. There is no way to know. Perhaps most striking about the subjectivity in this book is the degree to which the author overtly dislikes Matt Groening. (As a reader who's never met the author, I should have no idea who at the show he likes and who he doesn't, but I do). Early in the book, Ortved includes quotes by people who have negative things to say about Groening and others who've worked on the show, which in itself is not problematic. It's the continued snide remarks Ortved makes throughout the book that show his personal opinion about Groening that contribute to the damage to his credibility. I also take issue with Ortved talking about the "golden age" of The Simpsons (the seasons they were at their prime) as if it's fact that there actually was one. In fact, he never actually defines "the golden age" for his readers, and frankly, every Simpsons fan I know will tell you different seasons, episodes, maybe even writers, directors, and showrunners (depending on their level of fandom) that were "the best" in their view. It seems Ortved is a self-ordained expert on which writers, showrunners, etc. are/were the best, which isn't fair or right. Friends arguing between themselves about any TV show (or any other work of art) don't allow that kind of "take my word on it" mentality-- if a friend tells me he or she likes certain seasons better than others, they better give their criteria. If I insist on logical, definable criteria from my friends, you better believe I demand them from journalists. And any good journalist should know better than to try to get away with that kind of sloppy subjectivity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Edmole

    I haven't gone near The Simpsons for about 12 years. When I was 11 or 12 and Sky started showing The Simpsons and I was lucky enough to have cable and The Simpsons was The Greatest Thing I Ever Done Seen. I would tape every show and obsessively rewatch it, sucking up the jokes over and over and loving every reference I did and didn't get. If I know from funny, about 18-22% of that is down to these guys. But something terrible happened to The Simpsons after 8 or 9 years. It lost its soul and went I haven't gone near The Simpsons for about 12 years. When I was 11 or 12 and Sky started showing The Simpsons and I was lucky enough to have cable and The Simpsons was The Greatest Thing I Ever Done Seen. I would tape every show and obsessively rewatch it, sucking up the jokes over and over and loving every reference I did and didn't get. If I know from funny, about 18-22% of that is down to these guys. But something terrible happened to The Simpsons after 8 or 9 years. It lost its soul and went from being about an idiot who loves his family even though he's an idiot to being about an idiot who is an idiot and does things that are idiotic irrespective of his family. Even when it was funny, something about it seemed harried, enervated, decayed. It was like an old friend who'd had a stroke and the empathy part of their brain had got cooked. They looked the same, acted plenty the same, but they weren't there any more, not really, and it broke your heart. This book is about two things. How they made this phenomenal comedy in the first place, and why it went south so badly. It is genuinely fascinating if you like i)The Simpsons ii)American TV Comedy iii)The Mechanics of American TV comedy. I love all three. It is basically a patchwork of quotes from people in and around the show. It's not authorised, but is almost certainly better for that. The most interesting facts I drew from it were a) Matt Groening gets a lot more credit than he's due for The Simpsons, but he was regarded almost like a Junior Soprano figurehead by the creators - he is the Boss in name only, so he takes all the flak, and really it is his notional lieutenants who run the show. b) That the shows decline came under the stewardship of men who had run it during its peak, so maybe it was just an impossible peak of creativity and decency that could not be replaced, rather than bad people getting their feet under the table. c)That Conan O'Brien is held in almost mystical esteem by anyone who ever wrote gags with him. And most horrifyingly that d) The Simpsons is basically what has bankrolled Fox and allowed it to grow to the extent that it can run Fox News, a grim beacon of teeth-bared right wing evil that is the standard bearing dark rider for Murdoch's evil cancerous presence in the world. What I'm saying is, if you subscribe to Sky, cancel your subscription. And if you need to watch the Simpsons, get it on a torrent. Here's the Vanity Fair article that got expanded into the book, if you're interested - http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/fea...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jj Kwashnak

    Amazingly, considering that The Simpsons has been on the air for 20 years now, there has been no official, or authorized, history of the show written. Ortved may have set out to write an authorized history, but it is obvious that he was not getting the cooperation he felt was necessary. As a result he has created an unauthorized history of our favorite family, pulled together from what seems to be extensive sets of interviews with many key people in and around the Simpsons universe as well as pu Amazingly, considering that The Simpsons has been on the air for 20 years now, there has been no official, or authorized, history of the show written. Ortved may have set out to write an authorized history, but it is obvious that he was not getting the cooperation he felt was necessary. As a result he has created an unauthorized history of our favorite family, pulled together from what seems to be extensive sets of interviews with many key people in and around the Simpsons universe as well as pulled from various printed interviews and articles by others who may not have been willing to participate. What results is less of a story, and more of a magic window into the birth and formative first decade of the show. Told by a series of recollections and vignettes, we are taken behind the scenes of the Matt Groening being involved in creating interstitials for the Tracey Ullman Show, the eventual spinoff of the shorts into a full blown show, the show becoming a worldwide phenomenon and the resulting legal wrangling, staff changes and hurt feelings that a mega-success brings. The lack of participation by many vital players, including Matt Groening himself, necessitates the use of printed comments in the stead of interview comments. The lack of cooperation also frees Ortved from having to be objective in his writing, allowing others to present only one side of the story. It also probably limited his access to some areas, especially within Fox, that might have fleshed out pieces and give some heft to his story. This lack of objectivity allows the author to speak very highly of the first dozen seasons with high praise, milder praise for the next few seasons and then almost outright dismissal of work from the 9th or 10th season on. That said, the book is extremely entertaining, very informative and eye opening and just a great glimpse into the Juggernaut that is The Simpsons. It is the work of love of a fan who is trying to explain how lightning was captured in a bottle and the focus can be on the overall story, with varying amounts of attention paid to the details. It would have been nice to get a better overview of who everyone is and how they fit together (much of the conflicts that appear involve people who are around for a year or two, are influential and then leave), but since the goal is to produce a history told in individual’s recollections and stories rather than in a cohesive narrative, this is not a major issue. While not perfect, the book is a fascinating read of anyone interested in the history of The Simpsons as a show and how Fox became the House that Bart built.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I'm about 60 pages away from finishing this thing and I gotta' say that it's a MUST for SIMPSONS fans. You'll zip through it. And you might not believe how big of a DICK this thing paints Matt Groening. Put together as an 'oral history,' it's simply a set of chronological interviews, but it's a great behind-the-scenes of the internal workings of this Mayflower of animation. From the get-go, Ortved tells us this is NOT a book about how to write comedy for television, simply a historical account. B I'm about 60 pages away from finishing this thing and I gotta' say that it's a MUST for SIMPSONS fans. You'll zip through it. And you might not believe how big of a DICK this thing paints Matt Groening. Put together as an 'oral history,' it's simply a set of chronological interviews, but it's a great behind-the-scenes of the internal workings of this Mayflower of animation. From the get-go, Ortved tells us this is NOT a book about how to write comedy for television, simply a historical account. But there's some great insight into the writer's room anyway. Two big complaints: The author's exposition spread throughout the book. Comparatively, it's probably 70% author storytelling and 30% interviews. This makes the read a little clunky, since most oral histories I've read in the past ("Please Kill Me," "Live From New York," "We Got the Neutron Bomb," etc.) let the people who lived it tell a majority of the story. Lack of Swartzwelder. The book is 290 pages long, and although we hear mention of him occasionally throughout, when it gets time to give this enigmatic genius his due, it's reduced to a measly 4 1/2 pages. Meanwhile, George Meyer (and others) get scads of attention. I would've liked to hear more from Hank Azaria and the voice cast. The best section? The Conan years. Some of the shit that guy got away with is priceless.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jinny Chung

    Enjoyed some chapters, not all. Matt Groening, a loyal customer of my store, told me that he would in no way support "Ortved and his book". He'd been approached to contribute and he refused. Groening explained those that had declined an interview with Ortved were either written out of the book's Simpsons history or straight-up slandered. It's clear who Ortved resents. There is no objective voice in this book. So beware. Nevertheless, as an avid listener of the DVD commentaries, I had many a hear Enjoyed some chapters, not all. Matt Groening, a loyal customer of my store, told me that he would in no way support "Ortved and his book". He'd been approached to contribute and he refused. Groening explained those that had declined an interview with Ortved were either written out of the book's Simpsons history or straight-up slandered. It's clear who Ortved resents. There is no objective voice in this book. So beware. Nevertheless, as an avid listener of the DVD commentaries, I had many a hearty laugh reading about the writing process. There's even a chapter entitled "The Godfathers" that focuses on George Meyer and John Swartzwelder, two of the most brilliant comedy writers to ever have walked upright. Despite my problems with Ortved's choices, I can't deny that I enjoyed reading about the writers. And YES, there is a chapter focusing on Conan's contribution to the show. The chapter is called "Conan"...: BRENT FORRESTER: "Conan had a number of bits. Late at night in The Simpsons' writers room -- you know, everybody working late -- a security guard would come by and make sure that everything was okay in various offices on the lot. He came by and said, 'Okay, everything's good in here? All right, fine.' And Conan just happened to be standing by the door. And then, when the security guard turned to leave, Conan said, 'Everything's just fine, indeed!' And then he did like a fake double karate chop on the guy's neck. ... Another famous bit: Conan would pretend to be talking about someone and not want that person to hear -- but put his hand on the wrong side of his mouth. That, alone, was considered really funny. "...The Simpsons was not initially cartoony. The first few seasons, it was an animated show about a family that was highly realistic. The conventional wisdom is that the show changed after the monorail episode, written by Conan O'Brien. Conan's monorail episode was surreal, and the jokes were so good that it became irresistible to write that kind of comedy. And that's when the tone of the show really took a rapid shift in the direction of the surreal." And about Meyer: BOB KUSHELL: "He thinks so far out of the box that he's in a different box store. The turns of phrase and the ability to connect different things together and form jokes and comedic situations out of it is something I'd never seen before." And about Swartzwelder: BRENT FORRESTER: "We would have story meetings with him outside. And I remember distinctly one time being a young comedy writer, and Swartzwelder just happened to be sitting there, smoking a cigarette on the lawn. And I thought, Man, I'm just gonna ask John Swartzwelder a random question and see what he says in return. And I said, 'John, what would you do if you had all the money that you could spend?' And without a moment's hesitation he said, 'I would buy a battleship and the Empire State Building. With the Empire State Building, I would just let it run down and get decrepit. Because people would say, "You can't do that! That's the Empire State Building!" I would say, "No, I can! I own the Empire State Building." The battleship,' he said, 'I just think it would change people's conversations with me if they knew that I had a battleship.' " WALLACE WOLODARSKY: "Swartzwelder seemed to go directly from being a homeless person to a writer on The Simpsons. He was a little bit older than us and had, I think, seen a little bit more of the world, in terms of being up and down. He did have interesting preoccupations. I know for a while he was collecting Wanted posters. Real Patty Hearst Wanted posters."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Denise Du Vernay

    The way Ortved has tied together quotes from people formerly part of The Simpsons' inner circle (as well as quotes found in various places by those still working on the show) is very interesting, making the book hard to put down. It's almost like being at a friend's house while her family is arguing-- you know it's none of your business, you don't want this discussion to taint your view of certain members of the family, but for some reason you just can't tune them out. This book is NOT for regul The way Ortved has tied together quotes from people formerly part of The Simpsons' inner circle (as well as quotes found in various places by those still working on the show) is very interesting, making the book hard to put down. It's almost like being at a friend's house while her family is arguing-- you know it's none of your business, you don't want this discussion to taint your view of certain members of the family, but for some reason you just can't tune them out. This book is NOT for regular Simpsons fans; it's really for the gossip-loving, People magazine set. It's for people who want to know what was going on with Fox in the late eighties and nineties. And this book definitely should only be read by critical thinkers: it is biased. Big time. Ortved (and/or his editors) make some pretty glaring mistakes: names of characters are wrong (not just spelling, as in the case of Karl, voiced by Harvey Fierstein in the episode "Simpson and Delilah") but Waylon Smithers is called "Wayland." He doesn't know his Patty from his Selma, and at one point a hilarious spellcheck error occurs where "parody" is the intended word but "parity" is the word used. (I plan to show this one to my students as another reason why they shouldn't place all their trust in spellcheck.) With all these errors, it's hard to trust the author. These mistakes have damaged his credibility, making the fact that there is no context for most of his quotes even harder to take and specious. He places quotes (with no questions and usually no dates attached) in a particular order and manner as if to create conflict and argument between "speakers" when such differing of opinion may or may not exist. For all the reader knows, the words could have been uttered by the speakers ten minutes or ten years apart. For all the reader knows, the quotes were unsolicited rants or grudging responses to leading questions. There is no way to know. Perhaps most striking about the subjectivity in this book is the degree to which the author overtly dislikes Matt Groening. (As a reader who's never met the author, I should have no idea who at the show he likes and who he doesn't, but I do). Early in the book, Ortved includes quotes by people who have negative things to say about Groening and others who've worked on the show, which in itself is not problematic. It's the continued snide remarks Ortved makes throughout the book that show his personal opinion about Groening that contribute to the damage to his credibility. I also take issue with Ortved talking about the "golden age" of The Simpsons (the seasons they were at their prime) as if it's fact that there actually was one. In fact, he never actually defines "the golden age" for his readers, and frankly, every Simpsons fan I know will tell you different seasons, episodes, maybe even writers, directors, and showrunners (depending on their level of fandom) that were "the best" in their view. It seems Ortved is a self-ordained expert on which writers, showrunners, etc. are/were the best, which isn't fair or right. Friends arguing between themselves about any TV show (or any other work of art) don't allow that kind of "take my word on it" mentality-- if a friend tells me he or she likes certain seasons better than others, they better give their criteria. If I insist on logical, definable criteria from my friends, you better believe I demand them from journalists. And any good journalist should know better than to try to get away with that kind of sloppy subjectivity.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Although the staff of the cultural touchstone The Simpsons has done a good job over the years of keeping it quiet, the fact is that there's been plenty of drama and infighting behind the scenes of that show (now officially the longest-running prime-time television program in history); that's the subject o (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Although the staff of the cultural touchstone The Simpsons has done a good job over the years of keeping it quiet, the fact is that there's been plenty of drama and infighting behind the scenes of that show (now officially the longest-running prime-time television program in history); that's the subject of this new "uncensored, unauthorized" history by hacky entertainment reporter John Ortved, and to his credit he legitimately dishes up the dirt, revealing among other things that series creator Matt Groening has never actually written a Simpsons script, that most agree that Sam Simon has had the single greatest influence over the show's look and feel yet was forced out anyway over personality conflicts, and that although the show has an infamous clause in its contract barring FOX executives from making changes to episodes, there have been plenty of times that FOX has threatened to simply cancel the show altogether unless certain changes were made (which they indeed were). But unfortunately this is also the case of a 150-page book that's been padded out to 300 pages for commercial purposes, which really drags the manuscript down during these sometimes giant sections; just to cite one example, there's an entire chapter here on the various other prime-time cartoons that have been green-lighted over the years because of The Simpsons' success, which frankly I could've cared less about. A good book to borrow instead of buy, this comes recommended to any fan of that foul-mouthed yellow family, as long as you're prepared to skip around a lot while reading it. Out of 10: 8.0

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    My review is now up at Popmatters: here. A preview: Imagine you are waiting tables at a wedding reception. You wander among the tables, filling glasses and laying down plates of food. You are likely to hear snippets of conversation, most likely about the bride and groom, about their families, about their past, their plans, their future. What you hear will likely be out of context, sometimes probably even incorrect, contradictory. The groom works for a bank. No, he’s in real estate. The bride may My review is now up at Popmatters: here. A preview: Imagine you are waiting tables at a wedding reception. You wander among the tables, filling glasses and laying down plates of food. You are likely to hear snippets of conversation, most likely about the bride and groom, about their families, about their past, their plans, their future. What you hear will likely be out of context, sometimes probably even incorrect, contradictory. The groom works for a bank. No, he’s in real estate. The bride may or may not be done with medical school. An uncle—his, hers, you didn’t hear—may be an alcoholic. Or is he just melancholic? You finish serving the guests. You go home. You think about the newlyweds. Would you say you know them, or learned much about them? Would you even be able to recall from whom you obtained your “facts”? John Ortved wants your answer to be “yes”. He wants this to be your answer because the style in which he has written The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History is “an oral history”. In other words, 99 per cent of his book is direct quotes from the people involved. This style of reportage, quote after quote after quote, produces an exhausting book that does little to expand on the idea that (news flash!) television is a collaborative business with massive egos involved.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daisy Church

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book; I feel like I have a much more informed and realistic idea of how the series got its start and all the primary players. Took a few chapters to get into it; definitely see some of the author's opinion showing through in places a bit too obviously, but I like how it's a collection of "from the mouth of" sources, and shows especially how malleable and fickle memory can be when recalling events and situations. Would definitely recommend for any fans of the Simpsons or a Thoroughly enjoyed this book; I feel like I have a much more informed and realistic idea of how the series got its start and all the primary players. Took a few chapters to get into it; definitely see some of the author's opinion showing through in places a bit too obviously, but I like how it's a collection of "from the mouth of" sources, and shows especially how malleable and fickle memory can be when recalling events and situations. Would definitely recommend for any fans of the Simpsons or animation history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    John Ortved is an atrocious author. Although his book is presented as an oral history, he repeatedly interjects with his own commentary. Granted, sometimes this must be done to help set the scene or clear up facts, but Ortved throws so much of his own smug opinions into the proceeding that I had to fight to finish the damn thing. It's not even that I disagree with his opinions(Although I do disagree with several). Many are off topic and petty. Here's an example. Ortved is talking about how the a John Ortved is an atrocious author. Although his book is presented as an oral history, he repeatedly interjects with his own commentary. Granted, sometimes this must be done to help set the scene or clear up facts, but Ortved throws so much of his own smug opinions into the proceeding that I had to fight to finish the damn thing. It's not even that I disagree with his opinions(Although I do disagree with several). Many are off topic and petty. Here's an example. Ortved is talking about how the actors get paid and he makes reference to Ray Romano's show, which he describes as "the most ironically named sitcom of all time, Everybody Loves Raymond. Not everybody. Trust me." I don't care for Everybody Loves Raymond either, but including this petty little dig in his book makes Ortved seem incredibly unprofessional. Also in an attempt to show us how important and groundbreaking The Simpsons was, he undersells the importance, skill and craft of animation that preceded it. Look at this excerpt: "Unlike Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry, where the humor was mostly slapstick, the writing in The Simpsons scripts required a whole new level of attention from the animators. Comedy on The Simpsons often came from the reaction of the characters in exchanges of dialogue, or in layered, subtle jokes-the humor was no longer as simple to animate as a coyote falling off a cliff." Ortved is doing a serious disservice to the skill and attention to detail animators had during the golden age of animation. The content of the interviews begins to paint an interesting picture of how the show came about, but there just isn't enough good here to overcome Ortved.

  11. 4 out of 5

    A

    This ethically questionable take on the history of "The Simpsons" gets high marks ONLY because it's about "The Simpsons," and ONLY because it's a quick read. John Ortved really deserves a public shaming by Oprah, because this book, although dishy and fun, is about as unbiased and full of integrity as the KKK. If you can wade through the unintelligible writing and drown out the sound of the giant axe being ground, what you'll find is basically one elaborate (though rollicking) extended blog post This ethically questionable take on the history of "The Simpsons" gets high marks ONLY because it's about "The Simpsons," and ONLY because it's a quick read. John Ortved really deserves a public shaming by Oprah, because this book, although dishy and fun, is about as unbiased and full of integrity as the KKK. If you can wade through the unintelligible writing and drown out the sound of the giant axe being ground, what you'll find is basically one elaborate (though rollicking) extended blog post about how the show sucks now and Matt Groening sucks even more, wrapped in a flimsy gauze of "authenticity" because Ortved has cherry-picked a bunch of previously published quotes that support his pretty juvenile vendetta. You see, no one of importance would speak to Ortved for this book, and he is here to spend 290pp. ineffectually slapping his d*ck in their faces to show how angry he is. OK, enough. With plenty of backstabbing, juicy gossip, ego clashes, and behind-the-scenes intrigue to pique the interest of even the most casual or lapsed Simpsons fan, I would recommend this, but only if you are prepared to enjoy it seasoned with a GIGANTIC grain of salt.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Troy Blackford

    This book is an in-depth and unrelenting look at the creation and long existence of the Simpsons, with information and quotes culled from sources varying from personal interviews from the author to snippets of publications dating back to the show's inception. A few moments of tension and drama (but nothing like the out-and-out Machiavellian backstabbing found in 'Hatching Twitter') punctuate what is otherwise a pleasantly collaborative and seemingly joyful tale. Tracing the history of the show fr This book is an in-depth and unrelenting look at the creation and long existence of the Simpsons, with information and quotes culled from sources varying from personal interviews from the author to snippets of publications dating back to the show's inception. A few moments of tension and drama (but nothing like the out-and-out Machiavellian backstabbing found in 'Hatching Twitter') punctuate what is otherwise a pleasantly collaborative and seemingly joyful tale. Tracing the history of the show from the very first pretend TV show a young Matt Groening would put on in the living room of his childhood home, through the nascent 'Simpsons' interstitial segments on the Tracey Ullman show, the first real episode, and up through 2010 or so, this book covers everything. I think this would appeal even to people who had no specific interest in the Simpsons but wondered how television shows were made, but it is definitely a no-brainer for fans of the TV show.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Talbott

    This never-dull oral history of The Simpsons is also slightly repetitive and loses steam about halfway through. Author/Editor John Ortved says in the opening that it will not be objective, and that becomes clearer and clearer as he says time and time again the best years of the show are 10 years behind us. Though this may be true, it starts to sound as if it's the ax he came to grind rather than the conclusion we're all arriving at together. Still, it's great to read eyewitness accounts about th This never-dull oral history of The Simpsons is also slightly repetitive and loses steam about halfway through. Author/Editor John Ortved says in the opening that it will not be objective, and that becomes clearer and clearer as he says time and time again the best years of the show are 10 years behind us. Though this may be true, it starts to sound as if it's the ax he came to grind rather than the conclusion we're all arriving at together. Still, it's great to read eyewitness accounts about the genesis and continuation of what is undeniably a cornerstone of pop culture for the last twenty years.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Overall interesting and fun to read. John Ortved's running comments were, for the most part, lame. Formulating the 'storyline" and putting contributors comments in context works. His personal comments and opinions on what is happening at the time see clumsy. This book's strength lies in the voices of the people who actually worked on the show, their anecdotes and behind the scenes dirt, not in Ortved's opinions on the show. I liked the "oral history" format and how the book was put together. The Overall interesting and fun to read. John Ortved's running comments were, for the most part, lame. Formulating the 'storyline" and putting contributors comments in context works. His personal comments and opinions on what is happening at the time see clumsy. This book's strength lies in the voices of the people who actually worked on the show, their anecdotes and behind the scenes dirt, not in Ortved's opinions on the show. I liked the "oral history" format and how the book was put together. There were some laugh out loud quotes from a few of the contributors. I could do without some of the dumb stats, laundry list of awards, financial info on Fox, salary negotioations, etc.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    There were a fair amount of pearls in the sections about the show's development and the discussions of the writers. I learned a lot about George Meyer. But beyond that, it was not entertaining. The analysis of the show's impact, by author John Ortvedt (who? exactly) and others, was not particularly insightful in most cases. Opinions were frequently presented as facts and not supported. Egregious typos and factual errors were rampant; some people's names were spelled in two different ways in the There were a fair amount of pearls in the sections about the show's development and the discussions of the writers. I learned a lot about George Meyer. But beyond that, it was not entertaining. The analysis of the show's impact, by author John Ortvedt (who? exactly) and others, was not particularly insightful in most cases. Opinions were frequently presented as facts and not supported. Egregious typos and factual errors were rampant; some people's names were spelled in two different ways in the same paragraph--in the same sentence in one case. I'm sorry that the presence of this book means we won't get a better Simpsons history for many years. The subject deserves better than this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    William

    I learned plenty from reading this, especially about the myriad power struggles involved with getting the show on the air and its development into the incredible 1990s institution it became, not to mention relative contributions of James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and (especially) Sam Simon. This is not to say it's a great book. Certainly the "oral history" method is somewhat disjointed, but those are the best parts of the book. The real issue is that the author makes frequent errors and odd judgm I learned plenty from reading this, especially about the myriad power struggles involved with getting the show on the air and its development into the incredible 1990s institution it became, not to mention relative contributions of James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and (especially) Sam Simon. This is not to say it's a great book. Certainly the "oral history" method is somewhat disjointed, but those are the best parts of the book. The real issue is that the author makes frequent errors and odd judgments that damage the credibility of his sections. That said, it's a quick read and a decent first entry in what will surely be more Simpsons histories.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex Marriott

    I can see why people wouldn't love this - not the best written book you will ever read and aside from the bunches of loosely strung together second hand quotes, John Ortved comes across as quite nasty, taking not-so-subtle swipes at those he feels are responsible for not producing gold all the time or those who have perhaps fallen out with his favourites. However, it contains lot of material and perspectives I've neither seen elsewhere or considered before. Far from detracting from the series bei I can see why people wouldn't love this - not the best written book you will ever read and aside from the bunches of loosely strung together second hand quotes, John Ortved comes across as quite nasty, taking not-so-subtle swipes at those he feels are responsible for not producing gold all the time or those who have perhaps fallen out with his favourites. However, it contains lot of material and perspectives I've neither seen elsewhere or considered before. Far from detracting from the series being produced now, the book gave me a new appreciation about the best programme ever made. Definitely recommended for any casual fan. Oh, and I only paid a quid for it. That may have helped.

  18. 4 out of 5

    ERIN SCHMIDT

    The beginning is a bit slow, but once it gets into the actual show and not just the participants' backgrounds, it gets more interesting. The last chapters are quite harsh on the show's latter seasons, and even the Simpsons movie, which I think is fairly brilliant. I liked Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation better - it is more personal and reverential. Comprehensive and factual, but lacking in heart. The beginning is a bit slow, but once it gets into the actual show and not just the participants' backgrounds, it gets more interesting. The last chapters are quite harsh on the show's latter seasons, and even the Simpsons movie, which I think is fairly brilliant. I liked Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation better - it is more personal and reverential. Comprehensive and factual, but lacking in heart.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Parts of this book were interesting. There is a lot of insider information. Just because you like sausage doesn't mean you will enjoy seeing how it was mad. Parts of this book were interesting. There is a lot of insider information. Just because you like sausage doesn't mean you will enjoy seeing how it was mad.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Sabin

    Honestly, this could have been done so much better. I have read books before where it was primarily interviews telling the story. The one on ESPN I think does a terrific job. This author likes to interject his own commentary/gives his view of the version of history. The ESPN one did a much better job at telling a complete story. I hear Matt Groening did not like this book and I can't blame him. The only time they quote him is from sporadic interviews here and there. They did not interview hardly Honestly, this could have been done so much better. I have read books before where it was primarily interviews telling the story. The one on ESPN I think does a terrific job. This author likes to interject his own commentary/gives his view of the version of history. The ESPN one did a much better job at telling a complete story. I hear Matt Groening did not like this book and I can't blame him. The only time they quote him is from sporadic interviews here and there. They did not interview hardly any of the cast members, I think most noticeably missing is Dan Castellaneta. Even if you are telling the behind the story, those are some very important people to interview. Even if you are mostly trying to focus on the golden years, those are some important people to talk to. It wasn't worth my time and I wouldn't even recommend to someone who liked (I stopped watching the show years ago) or still likes the show. You will learn some stuff, but there are probably other sources out there which will teach you more than this book will.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    If you're interested in a sometimes repetitive but ultimately informative history of one of the greatest shows in television history, John Ortved's book is hard to beat. My history with The Simpsons is somewhat storied: my parents forbade me from watching it during the first season and stuck to their guns after briefly relenting during Herb Powell's first appearance in the second season. I ruined it for myself when I mimicked Bart's repeated sing-song use of the word "bastard" in reference to his If you're interested in a sometimes repetitive but ultimately informative history of one of the greatest shows in television history, John Ortved's book is hard to beat. My history with The Simpsons is somewhat storied: my parents forbade me from watching it during the first season and stuck to their guns after briefly relenting during Herb Powell's first appearance in the second season. I ruined it for myself when I mimicked Bart's repeated sing-song use of the word "bastard" in reference to his newly discovered uncle. Once the show went into syndication and I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, they figured that there wasn't anything I could hear and repeat in a sing-song voice at school that was any worse than what the show would say. All of the years of being unable to watch the funniest program on television, that my friends described and quoted in detail every Monday morning, was torture and fostered in me an obsession that I can't quite describe. With all of the VHS tapes I had acquired over the years, I started to record each of the episodes airing twice a night, taking care not to get any repeats. During the rare week or two that I would be grounded, I made sure to give an annoyed friend a tape and tell them which of the two episodes each night they needed to get for me, giving specific instructions to skip the commercials. No one ever did me the favor more than once. I would watch and re-watch these tapes and several of them actually broke from the wear and tear of over use. Every book, t-shirt or doodad I saw, I began to purchase. This was long after the fad of The Simpsons had faded and merchandising, while still plentiful in certain areas, had subsided to a large degree. I still sought the products out, much to my mother's chagrin. My dad, meanwhile, just thought the show was stupid, but he was used to his son liking stupid things. Plus, he occasionally laughed at it, despite the "stupidity." Soon, between my experience in absorbing as much knowledge as I could about the show, associating myself exclusively with like-minded fans, and countless hours spent on the burgeoning world wide web that housed almost as many sites devoted to the erstwhile family as it did to warehousing illicit films, I felt secure considering myself a king of Simpsons trivia. However, the behind-the-scenes info? My knowledge there was merely surface level. Matt Groening created everything that the viewer saw, Conan O'Brien wrote for the show for awhile, Bart Simpson was voiced by a girl, and each episode took six months to make from start to finish. What works about John Ortved's book is that it clears up the misconceptions that exist. Of the aforementioned list, the first one, that Matt Groening is solely responsible for everything that the viewer saw, is the only one that really matters. Ortved conducted extensive interviews with a number of former writers, producers, voice actors, animators, guest stars and even Rupert Murdoch himself. The unauthorized portion of the article comes from the fact that next to no one currently working on the show, including heavy hitters like Matt Groening and James Brooks cooperated with Ortved. Whether that is the reason they are portrayed in a negative light or because the truth would have done so regardless of their cooperation is anyone's guess. Either way, Sam Simon deserves most of the credit for the show's eventual look and humor, despite Groening initially designing the characters, while most credit Brooks with ensuring the show having an emotional center. Groening, meanwhile, had the best story for the press as an indie comic strip artist made good who was also smart enough to hold onto a large portion of the merchandising rights. Simon, meanwhile, assembled a crack team of Harvard grads who managed to make writing for television something that one needn't be ashamed for the first time in history. Also, as an aside, John Swartzwelder, the reclusive writer who left the show to write humor novellas, only gets about seven pages devoted to him but he's easily the most fascinating, mysterious and funniest guy profiled. I would easily read an entire book about him were it available. The style of writing is very similar to Live From New York An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told By Its Stars Writers and Guests, except each chapter is centered around a unifying theme while the SNL book seemingly goes year by year. The latter method, along with the insane 656 page length, made for a boring read desperately in need of an editor. Ortved's method breaks up the interviews with his own editorializing about the rise and fall of the show's quality as well as some conjecture and hypothesizing about the veracity of certain quotations taken from other sources that weren't interviews conducted by him. The most apt analogy about the series is made towards the end of the book and one that I'll repeat here. With it's influence and early and consistent quality, The Simpsons can be compared to The Beatles. However, it's steep decline, due in large part to Al Jean's extended tenure as solo showrunner has seen the show become more and more akin to the Rolling Stones: influential and notable in the beginning but now parodies of themselves and what they used to represent, living on the past glory and street cred they established long ago. And that part made me sad, so I've pulled out the first few seasons on DVD (Seriously, DVD seasons rule way more than my tapes of syndicated episodes with commercials from 1996) and have decided to re-watch them. That's how I'd like to always remember the show anyway.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steven Yenzer

    I absolutely loved getting an inside view of The Simpsons's history, writer's room, and controversies. Unfortunately Ortved is a puzzlingly weak writer, and the main reason the book works is that it's an oral history — so he writes (relatively) infrequently. Ortved seems to enjoy highfalutin digressions, such as when he uses Roland Barthes' "The Death of the Author" to try to make a point about how The Simpsons has no true single creator. His writing is also simply awkward or difficult to underst I absolutely loved getting an inside view of The Simpsons's history, writer's room, and controversies. Unfortunately Ortved is a puzzlingly weak writer, and the main reason the book works is that it's an oral history — so he writes (relatively) infrequently. Ortved seems to enjoy highfalutin digressions, such as when he uses Roland Barthes' "The Death of the Author" to try to make a point about how The Simpsons has no true single creator. His writing is also simply awkward or difficult to understand at times. I had to stop and reread a number of times to understand what he was saying. Nonetheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend this oral history to any Simpsons fans.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This was a challenging book to read because most of it wasn't in the author's voice (although there were passages in it that were his), but rather quotes from the various personalities involved with The Simpsons TV show. I suppose it's make the insider view of the show more authentic, and, considering the sheer number of people involved in making it what it was, I wonder how difficult it would have been for him to try to pull that together into a narrative. I took my time with this, reading it in This was a challenging book to read because most of it wasn't in the author's voice (although there were passages in it that were his), but rather quotes from the various personalities involved with The Simpsons TV show. I suppose it's make the insider view of the show more authentic, and, considering the sheer number of people involved in making it what it was, I wonder how difficult it would have been for him to try to pull that together into a narrative. I took my time with this, reading it in small dips in and out of it over the summer, and quite enjoyed learning so many of the behind-the-scenes stories and in-fighting, and insider-jokes from such a historic and ground-breaking television show.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Danimal

    Having just read oral histories about The Daily Show and Sat Night Live, I have learned that making an oral history about a tv show is hard. After reading this one, I see that making one about an animated show is even harder. Little time can be spent on actors, so you're left to discussing writers, producers, and the money men -- all of whom are less interesting. So much of this is about the backstage jockeying -- or credit, for money -- and not the actual show. I stopped halfway thru ... and I Having just read oral histories about The Daily Show and Sat Night Live, I have learned that making an oral history about a tv show is hard. After reading this one, I see that making one about an animated show is even harder. Little time can be spent on actors, so you're left to discussing writers, producers, and the money men -- all of whom are less interesting. So much of this is about the backstage jockeying -- or credit, for money -- and not the actual show. I stopped halfway thru ... and I love The Simpsons!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bill Conrad

    I had always been a big Simpsons fan since they were first on Tracey Ullman. I was unaware of the wild behind the scenes history. This is a crazy unlikely tale that gave a lot of insight into what it takes to get a cartoon off the ground. I was really impressed by how hard the writers worked and the extreme animation deadlines. There was also some crazy accounts of the chaotic politics and the fun that everybody had. This is a great book that every Simpsons fan should read. My only comment is I I had always been a big Simpsons fan since they were first on Tracey Ullman. I was unaware of the wild behind the scenes history. This is a crazy unlikely tale that gave a lot of insight into what it takes to get a cartoon off the ground. I was really impressed by how hard the writers worked and the extreme animation deadlines. There was also some crazy accounts of the chaotic politics and the fun that everybody had. This is a great book that every Simpsons fan should read. My only comment is I would have liked to learn more about the Korean animation process and their history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Meyer

    This wasn't written in a particularly smooth, cohesive manner, but there was a lot of interesting information for a fan of The Simpsons, made more interesting by many quotes from people who played a multitude of different parts in the development of the show. Often, it felt more like overhearing gossip as opposed to dissecting the history of what happened, as some people's quotes seemed to be partially about settling scores from the past. The author himself comes off as unnecessarily petty at ti This wasn't written in a particularly smooth, cohesive manner, but there was a lot of interesting information for a fan of The Simpsons, made more interesting by many quotes from people who played a multitude of different parts in the development of the show. Often, it felt more like overhearing gossip as opposed to dissecting the history of what happened, as some people's quotes seemed to be partially about settling scores from the past. The author himself comes off as unnecessarily petty at times, including when discussing his feelings on the state of the show at the time of his writing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Lantz

    As a Simpsons fan this wasn’t a terrible book, but definitely not a go to, for me at least. It had s good history and told the story of the formation of the show but if you haven’t followed the history of the Simpsons it’s hard to understand who most of the people are the writer is talking about. On top of the the book can move slow and feel more like a college lecture on tv history. It was cool to see the history and formation but very dry.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Really insightful look at the production and impact of my favourite tv program. Though the last third of the book is hijacked a bit by Ortveds outspoken frustration with the steady decline in quality of the show since the end of the nineties. I feel that his need to express his disappointment in the newer seasons distracted from the purpose of the book, but what can you do, eh?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    You would have had the exact same reading experience just reading articles that interviewed the cast and crew over the years. There's nothing in this book that you can't find on Wikipedia. It was fine, the way it's organized is a bit frustrating and some interviews were written out more the once in the text, so have fun digging through that I guess. You would have had the exact same reading experience just reading articles that interviewed the cast and crew over the years. There's nothing in this book that you can't find on Wikipedia. It was fine, the way it's organized is a bit frustrating and some interviews were written out more the once in the text, so have fun digging through that I guess.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I should have read the reviews. While I love The Simpsons, this book straight up sucked. There were a few interesting facts, but Ortved was unorganized and inserted his opinion too much for my taste. I had to skim the last half. Someone said life is too short to spend your time with bad books. I agree.

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