10. The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History by John Ortved

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10. The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History by John Ortved

Post  twunny on Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:54 pm

I had high expectations for this book. Perhaps too high. Perhaps high for no reason, since the general consensus of reviews I had come across can be summed up by "Meh."

This is an "oral history" of sorts, put together by a man who wrote a Simpsons article for "Vanity Fair" in 2007. He scraped together interviews with some people and foraged some resources, but could not get many of the main people involved. For example, take a look at the credits of The Simpsons some time, you will see these names prominently displayed on every episode: Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Sam Simon, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer. Of those people, Ortved has actual interview material from...wait for it...Hank Azaria. That's it. No one else was directly talked to for this book. He talked to the ex-wives of Groening, Brooks, and Simon. And some writers and producers who haven't worked on the show in over a decade. And scrounged some words from Groening & Brooks talking to other people and magazines. I think being locked out made the author a little bitter, and that bitterness comes through on every page. It seemed like every compliment was backhanded, and he would go out of his way to make a point about frictions or bad attitudes or jerky behavior. All this from a guy who claims to love the show.

Most of the book seemed unnecessary. He had a valid train of thought for a while, namely that it takes a village to raise a legendary TV show, but that thread was lost more times than it was followed. And I feel I need to mention that even technically, the book was not firing on all cylinders. He would re-use quotes from the same source to make similar points in the same chapter. It was full of typos (once I spotted a misspelling of a word, and then in the same paragraph it was spelled correctly). Major problems all over.

Ortved began and ended the book with similar caveats: that talking about The Simpsons might be impossible. He used the analogy that talking about music is like singing about architecture. And he isn't necessarily right. But he was not the right guy, this was not the right book, and it was not the right time. It was an unpleasant experience.

Not recommended.

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