ortvedsimpsons ortvedsimpsons

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

The Simpsons book by John Ortved

Noteworthy new book about The SimpsonsThe Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History by journalist John Ortved draws on eighty new interviews to create an oral history about the creation and day-to-day production of the show.

Ortved wrote an interesting article for The Daily Beast in which he talks about how Fox and James L. Brooks refused to cooperate with him for the book:

Brooks sent a letter to every current Simpsons employee, and all the former ones he thought mattered, asking them not to speak to me. The writers’ agents sent denial after denial for interview requests and eventually stopped responding altogether…There was one “D’oh!” in James L. Brooks and the Gracie Films master plan: Many people don’t like James L. Brooks. No one gets as successful as Brooks in Hollywood without making enemies, but people carry a special dislike for the man whose power and smart media control has managed to project an image of an avuncular, loveable neurotic for the better part of 50 years.”

Reviews of the book–Entertainment Weekly, NPR–have generally been positive, with the biggest complaint being that it falls apart towards the end. This is an almost inevitable byproduct of writing a book about a studio or show that is still in progress. David A. Price’s otherwise well-researched The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company also suffered towards the end when it attempted to put newer Pixar efforts into context without the participation of key figures.

I’m still curious to read Ortved’s book for its documentation of the early years. No doubt, there will be many more histories of The Simpsons in the years to come. This is only the first, and it appears to be a solid start towards chronicling the most successful animated TV series of all time. If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts in the comments. The book can be purchased on Amazon for the discounted price of $17.82.

  • Glad to hear you feel similarly about Price Pixar book.

    Maybe you aren’t the self-centered blowhard everybody in your comment section says you are. (or, maybe I’m just as bad).

  • Bob

    This is what executives think of artists:

    James L. Brooks about Matt Groeining:
    “Certainly he’s allowed his opinion, but airing this publicly in the press is going too far. […] He is a gifted, adorable, cuddly ingrate.”

    Artists need to get aggressive with these executive a-holes!!!!

    Where’s John K when you need him?

  • jordan reichek

    Well, the cover is certainly clever!

  • I’m about 220 pages in on this, I’m actually a little surprised I got that far. It’s about as exciting as listening to an audio commentary on a DVD (which I recognize could be very exciting for some). But there are some interesting points of view of the bad behavior of Groening, Brooks and Sam Simon as the show became a success and some nice stories about the writer’s room.

  • Ted

    Uncensored… to dream the impossible dream…

  • Dave

    Like him or not, Sam Simon is one of the best writers in any medium on earth.

  • Mike Russo

    Bought this last week, finished it in about two days. I enjoyed it, although I also agree the end of the book was rather bland. I recommend it.

  • ItsJoseph

    Funnily enough the show was better when James L. Brooks was attached than it is today.

  • The real Moe is one of the Stooges

    Down with execs like Brooks. What do they know about comedy? Give the Simpsons to John K and then we’d see a real cartoon.

  • “Give the Simpsons to John K and then we’d see a real cartoon.”
    That’s…actually a horrifying thought.

    Funny how the Simpsons was funnier when Jim Brooks had a more hands-on involvement. I guess cartoonists are not ALWAYS right…

  • Jason

    **Give the Simpsons to John K and then we’d see a real cartoon.**

    After what he did to his own creation, “Ren and Stimpy”?

    Oh GOD no.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Sounds like the perfect book for me, if only to read up on those early days of the show I loved so much.

  • Chris Webb

    Just to clarify: James L. Brooks is NOT an executive. He is an Oscar winning writer and director who is responsible for Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Tracey Ullman Show, Room 222 (anyone remember that show?) The Simpsons, and others. He is arguably the greatest TV producer in history.

    But that doesn’t make it right for him to stonewall journalists.

  • “This is an almost inevitable byproduct of writing a book about a studio or show that is still in progress.”

    Actually, The Simpsons was cancelled sometime during the late 90s and replaced with a very similar show also called The Simpsons, starring the same characters but lacking the emphasis on good storytelling that made it great.

  • Dutchie

    Brooks is actually still pretty involved with the show, and at least one episode a year is an idea of his. He was heavily involved with the movie as well

  • That art cover is brilliant :)

  • If you are interested in this you may be entertained (or totally put off) by my work, placing the Simpsons in stained glass. See: http://cavaglass.com/gallery/1.SIMP.htm