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The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History Hardcover – October 13, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479883
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #725,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance writer Ortved tells the story of a cartoon about a dysfunctional family living in the shadow of a nuclear power plant that became the longest-running prime time series in American television history. The Simpsons first appeared as a series of shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987 and debuted as a full-length series in 1989. Almost immediately it became an international phenomenon, helping to establish the then-upstart Fox network. Since then, The Simpsons has featured dozens of celebrity guests, from Michael Jackson to Tom Wolf, and has become a major influence on the development of television comedy and on a generation of Americans. Ortved has done dozens of in-depth interviews, and they make the book. His oral history approach is particularly compelling through the first 200 pages, where the disagreements over who deserves credit for The Simpsons take on a Rashomon-like complexity. Ortved seems evenhanded in his assessments of principals like Matt Groening and James Brooks-few of whom come through unscathed. As the book progresses, it loses focus, and Ortved inserts more of his own opinions and analyses, which are generally less interesting than the interviews (hating Everybody Loves Raymond isn't exactly a radical stance). Nevertheless, Ortved has done a remarkable job of bringing to light the creators of our beloved four-fingered creatures with the bright yellow skin.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Ortved's "uncensored, unauthorized" history... is as tasty as a pink-glazed donut with sprinkles, as refreshing as a Duff beer and as piquant as a curry slushy from Kwik-E Mart." —Louis Bayard, The Washington Post
"A gloriously windy oral history crammed with behind-the-scenes squabbles and power grabs...I completely devoured The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, even if I felt a little bad afterward for the central players who got sucker punched. The early details, as show creator Matt Groening goes from obscure alt-weekly cartoonist to megamogul via talent and chance, remain a well-known showbiz tale. John Ortved's sources (including artist Art Spiegelman) tell it in a fresh, vivid way. The subsequent testimony about the empire Groening created is contentious and mesmerizing." —Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
"Mr. Ortved has produced a 300-page combination of juicy entertainment gossip, rich television history and notes from a disenchanted lover." —Lisa Tozzi, The New York Times
"Brisk and engaging and likely to entertain Simpsons die-hards without breaking a sweat...a good balance between information and gossip; between a story about simmering creativity and a story about flawed human beings who showed their flaws -- as many do -- more and more as the money accumulated...a rich read for fans." —Linda Holmes, NPR
"Ortved has done a remarkable job of bringing to light the creators of our beloved four-fingered creatures with the bright yellow skin." —Publisher's Weekly
“An essential resource for any fan.”—John Williams, The Second Pass
“Ortved’s account is remarkably thorough, witty, and stands as likely the best Simpsons volume we'll see for some time to come.” —Under the Radar
“All of those people providing their perspectives on the founding of The Simpsons builds a multifaceted history of a television revolution and institution. If anyone has any interest in codifying the building of one of the most important pieces of American pop culture, The Simpsons: The Uncensored, Unauthorized History is a very effective, very worthwhile read.” —Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama

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Customer Reviews

That would be fine for a blog post, but I also don't pay 27 bucks to read message board comments.
It seems Ortved is a self-ordained expert on which writers, showrunners, etc. are/were the best, which isn't fair or right.
The author is obviously one of the people that just likes to try and say that the show isn't good anymore.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By S. Rosen on October 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you have any affection for The Simpsons, I can't recommend more highly John Ortved's oral history of the show, The Simpsons: An Uncensored Unauthorized History.

The book focuses on the creative process that led to the show's miraculous early run, and on the financial windfall that fell upon, and destroyed relationships among, the creators of the show.

Ortved does an effective job of weaving a compelling narrative drawn from previously-published and first-hand interviews. By and large, the narrative remains fixed on the now-legendary writing team (including someone named Conan O'Brien) that was the true heart of the show. You get a real sense of what it must have been like in the writers' room, where this collection of talent, protected from network interference by powerful producer James L. Brooks, was set free to create multi-leveled, satirical, anti-authoritarian, classic television.

I'll tell you what I learned from, or had confirmed by, Ortved's book:

1. Matt Groening's role on the series was quite different from what he, and Fox Television, would have you believe. The heart and soul of the show was, more accurately, its first showrunner, Sam Simon, and its most influential, long-time writer, George Meyer. Meyer's role, in particular, was made quite clear a number of years ago in a fascinating New Yorker profile, but it turns out that, if anything, the earlier magazine article may not have given Meyer his due.

2. Money ruins everything. OK, maybe not if you're the one getting the money. Then how about this - take a beautiful situation, throw a really big bag of money in the middle of the room, and watch everyone turn into animals.

3. The best creative work is made when creative people are left alone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LeeHoFooks on November 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm a bit surprised at all the harsh reviews for this book (reviews I largely consider to be overly critical and nit-picky), but I guess I shouldn't be. After all, there's a reason Comic Book Guy was created to lampoon "Simpsons" fans. But to be honest, this book is not without its flaws. I'll get them out of the way first:

1. Yes, there are a few factual mistakes that legions of nerds must have noticed.

2. Poor organization did indeed get on my nerves. I'm referring mostly to latter portions of the book, when Ortved apparently decided to shift from writing more or less in chronological order to organizing sections by topic. For example, why not incorporate the guest stars into the main body of the story?

3. Ortved has an inconsistent voice. He's an objective narrator for most of the book, letting the writers, producers, etc. give their oral history -- but then his paragraphs (in bold, so you know it's him) get bigger and bigger. He beats a dead horse about the lack of subtlety in recent seasons and the loss of overall quality of the show. (John, you're preaching to the choir!) He practically rants about Rupert Murdoch and Fox News. He talks about later "grown up" animated series, such as "South Park," and "Family Guy," but it's hard to tell if he's criticizing them for being "ungrateful children" (his words) or applauding their success.

But despite these three significant flaws, I really enjoyed this book. It offers a good look at the things that made the show great in the early years, and what has made it not so great in the many years to follow. We get to hear from writers (including Conan!
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tina on January 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History is written in "oral history" style -- the author obviously spent a great deal of time conducting interviews with those who would cooperate and compiling quotes from secondary sources from those who would not(which, as the author freely admits and the title suggests, is nearly everyone involved with The Simpsons.) The result is an interesting look at the forces behind one of the greatest television series of all time. I certainly appreciated the candid assessments of the show's driving forces -- Matt Groening is depicted as a talented guy who hit upon a great idea and has spent years taking personal and financial credit for the hard work of others. Jim Brooks is drawn as a selfish, egotistical, and sometimes spiteful person, but nevertheless someone with the industry power to put The Simpsons on the map. Sim Simon, Conan O'Brien, Richard Sakai -- all are put under the microscope as well.

My biggest problem with the book isn't the oral history -- the quotes are mostly juicy, and the chapters are well put-together, if a bit repetitive -- it's the shoddy writing style and quasi-"fanboy" prose that strings the oral history together. Some of the book is written in journalistic style, with sources to back up assertions. Other parts are written with the author's opinion expressed as fact -- which episodes are good, which are bad, when The Simpsons started its decline. By the same token, the prose is sometimes formal, sometimes informal. Some text almost reads like a post on a Simpsons message board, yet other text reads like a formal essay or magazine article. Examples of each style, pulled from the same section of the book: "episodes like this indicate apathy in The Simpsons' satire" versus "the episode was so lame." So lame? Really?
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