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

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History
by John Ortved
(Faber and faber)

John Ortved’s carefully researched and entertaining behind-the-scenes look at one of the most beloved TV series works primarily because the author is such a big fan of “The Simpsons.”

How do you know he has a deep appreciation for “The Simpsons?” He is willing to admit that the show is not nearly as good as it once was. Simply put, he knows it is capable of being better.

“The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History” is an oral history, told through dozens of interviews (both conducted by Ortved and collected from newspapers, magazines and radio) of everyone from creator Max Groening’s ex-wife and old friends to former executives at Fox, the home of the TV show for the past two decades. The interviews are revealing. It’s clear that “Simpsons” producer James Brooks, though talented, is not always a nice guy; Groening, though clearly the initial creator of the show, may take a lot more credit for what the show has become than he really deserves; and no one has anything negative to say about former writer Conan O’Brien – ever.

There is also some great commentary in the book about how clueless and apparently scared of the cartoon, many on the right wing were. The show managed to draw the rebuke of both President George Bush and his wife Barbara in separate incidences (the second resulted in a letter to Babs from Marge Simpson).

The project is not without its faults. Ortved was not able to get access to Brooks or Groening, so the book feels a little empty without them. But the author manages to more than make up for it with plenty of other voices. The show may not be worth tuning in to any more, but the book is a fantastic reminder of when it was.