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The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized…

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

by John Ortved

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2 1/2 stars out of 5: I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed or no real interest


From the back cover: The Simpsons is one of the most successful shows ever to run on television. From its first moment on the air,the series' rich characters, subversive themes, and layered humor resounded deeply with audiences both young and old who wanted more from the entertainment that was being meted out by the likes of "Growing Pains" and "Family Matters". Spawned as an animated short on the "Tracey Ullman Show", the series grew from a controversial cult favorite to a mainstream powerhouse, and after twenty years the residents of Springfield no longer simply hold up a mirror to our way of life: they have ingrained themselves to it.

Contrary to popular belief, The Simpsons did not spring out of Matt Groening's head fully formed. Its inception was a process with many parents, and like the family it depicts, the show's creative forces have been driven 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 now worth billions."


Perhaps because this is an unauthorized look, but there is no common thread throughout the story. It is merely snippets and interviews and memoirs strewn together to attempt to tell the story of the show.

I found most interesting the chapter on its legacy, and comparing and contrasting it to its most famous progeny, "Family Guy" and "South Park". I had a difficult time keeping the players straight and there was no cohesiveness to the tale.

I generally agree with this review, from Samuel Louis, posted on amazon.com:

"Someday, somewhere, a talented writer will write *the* standard history of The Simpsons. One that incorporate comments and narrative from all of the important cast members, writers and producers in prose form, rather than that most lazy of all non-fiction genres (other than the memoir), the "oral history."

Ortved's book is a slapdash, shallow piece of fanboy drivel that demonstrates *why* he's unauthorized. None of the important cast members or producers would talk to him, so he had to rely on magazine and Internet quotes. He does very little to factually reconcile the often conflicting, self-serving credit-snatching and blame-tossing the show's producers and FOX executives serve up in heaping piles. His choice of interview subjects is questionable (why do we care about hearing from production assistance who are grabbing for their little bit of attention? Why do we need Jennifer Tilly, ex-wife of Sam Simon?)"


Ultimately, meh. Lisa would like something more factual. Homer would say D'oh! ( )
  PokPok | Oct 27, 2013 |
Eh. Reasonably bland and somewhat free of content that would be unfamiliar to a Simpsons fan interested in the show's internecine squabbles. I was hoping for more about the show's creative process; while there is some of that, much of the book (primarily presented in interview soundbites) consisted of ad hominem gossip. This dish is incomplete given that most of the key players aren't represented except in quotes from others' previously-published articles and magazine fluff. Further detracting from the book's pleasure are the author's sections, where he pronounces and opines a great deal about motives and the show without any particular evidence. I can interject statements about my favorite episodes, too. That's called "blogging." ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History read like a transcript to episode of E! TV's True Hollywood Story. John Ortved supplied much of the introductory story and background of the birth of The Simpsons, but as he delved into the first ten seasons and the trials and tribulations of writing a hit show with the caliber of humor as The Simpsons delivered week-after-week, the narrative of the book was mostly filled with either answers from interviews with the author, or citations and quotes from various other sources. At times the book was disjointed in the fact that so many excerpts and interview answers altered the tempo of verbiage; and in fact, several of the quotes were repeated during the concluding chapter.

As well, it would not be a complete book on culture - especially about liberal Hollywood - without the obligatory slam on Rush Limbaugh. John Ortved writes a stereotypical characterization of the radio raconteur and in the next two pages, writers discuss how characters like Apu and Chief Wiggum are simply social archetypes of immigrant convenience store proprietors and police officers, respectively.

I did appreciate the thoughtful criticism of The Simpsons and animated television Mr Ortved posits, his critiques are worthy of any pop culture or newsprint publication. It is very clear, as he laments the show lost its appeal around 2000 or by season ten. I likely learned more about the television writing process than I did about the show. There was no real new information about the halcyon epoch (season 2-10), but Ortved reveled in detailing behind-the-scene skirmishes.

There were a few mini-biographies of some of the more prominent writers/showrunners; it also wouldn't be an 'unauthorized' history without some frank answers from those who sat in the room during 15-hour marathon rewriting sessions or a smattering of accusations or confirmations of dirt from anonymous sources. ( )
  HistReader | Dec 27, 2011 |
Want to know which real-life kissup exec Smithers is based on? How about Conan-in-the-writer's-room anecdotes? All of the behind-the-scenes intrigue, as well as some tedium, is here.
An interesting oral history of the show and what goes into 20+ years of making a hit television series, The Simpsons offers an insiders look that aspiring comedy writers and Simpsons fans alike will enjoy. A casual Simpsons fan, I had no idea how limited Matt Groening's role in the series was/is. The true genius behind the show finally gets credit here. It seems that some combination that Sam Simon and the writer's room were the real force behind the show's hilarious and insightful first 4-10 seasons (depending on who you talk to.) A warning: The really casual Simpsons fan probably won't find all the detail interesting. ( )
  gigi86 | May 4, 2010 |
(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 ( )
  jasonpettus | Feb 11, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
In the end, Ortved spends too much time explaining why he thinks the past few seasons have been weak. (His complaints aren't original or illuminating.) But you have to admire all the work that went into this unauthorized history. It's the labor of a disenchanted fan, but a smart, loving fan nonetheless.
with The Simpsons, everybody got the message. Jokes that fly far over the heads of the young and the dumb need not destroy mass appeal.

How did it happen? This alternately engrossing and infuriating book is the place to start. It is infuriating because of a fatal structural decision taken by the author and/or his publisher to include long quotations from interviewees as breaks in the text. This destroys narrative coherence and, for much of the time, makes reading a chore.

Leaving that aside, it is an important and controversial contribution to the ever-expanding scope of Simpsons studies.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0865479887, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A behind-the-scenes history of the popular animated series traces its rise from an animated short on "The Tracy Ullman Show" to a mainstream institution, while exposing alleged clashes between its studio executives and creative producers.

» see all 3 descriptions

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