|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Nonfiction, TV history/criticism
Started: Dec. 9, 2011
Finished: Dec. 13, 2011 (4 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: I'm a Simpsons aficionado and love the cultural history books on the show.
Summary: A compilation of interviews and author commentary on the development of The Simpsons and its behind-the-scenes dramas.
John Ortved obviously has a passion for The Simpsons and for clarifying misguided lore of its ludicrous media coverage, both before and during the advent of the Internet. Ortved provides an "oral" history of sorts by cleverly editing quotations from prior magazine, TV and radio bits with the three wise men of the show's creation: Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon, and snippets from his own interviews, mostly with staff readers likely won't recognize by name, let alone place in the show's history, and very few heavyweights. With that impression, you should know that this book is definitely not for casual viewers or readers.
Some chapters were worthwhile and would have been even better if they had been expanded to supercede the more gossipy, less focussed chapters with he said/she said speculations that start becoming redundant. The chapters most worthwhile were on the writers, the guest voices, and the process of writing funny gags and clever or touching stories with the right dash of cultural reference and satirical irony.
Conan O'Brien provides hilarious anecdotes of his time (post-Saturday Night Live, pre-late night talk shows) as a Simpsons writer--he is responsible, along with writer George Meyer, for the funniest episodes in the show's history, and Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane graciously acknowledges the Simpsons' influence on his show's success. Ortved also breaks mythological barriers surrounding stories of Groening being the sole creator and mastermind behind the show--his legendary Midas touch is not without the influence of producers Brooks and Simon, both of whom had prior success jumpstarting Taxi and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Conflicts over money and shareholder rights leave you feeling like not all is well in Springfield when everyone's hands dive into the money pit for their fair share of the show's success and the bottom tier of animators, colourists, and other contributors receive less adequate compensation than network executives.
Ortved references my favourite book on The Simpsons, Chris Turner's exhaustive but fantastic Planet Simpsons, which is more in-depth on the show's significance in pop culture, seasonal trends, individual episodes, quotations, and even gag descriptions, most of the above being fan favourites, and characters ranging from the recognizable Simpsons clan to the more anonymous Comic Book Guy, Bumblebee Man and Squeaky-Voiced Teen. However, long-time fans of The Simpsons will probably be as powerless to resist this book as Homer is to a sprinkle-covered donut.
Rank: (B)- Good, Maybe Read It