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The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History
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The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  789 ratings  ·  122 reviews
The Simpsons is one of the most successful shows to ever run on television. From its first moment on air, the series's rich characters, subversive themes, and layered humor resounded deeply with audiences both young and old who wanted more from their entertainment thanwhat was being meted out at the time by the likes of Full House, Growing Pains, and Family Matters.Spawned ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,365)
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Denise Du Vernay
The way Ortved has tied together quotes from people formerly part of The Simpsons' inner circle (as well as quotes found in various places by those still working on the show) is very interesting, making the book hard to put down. It's almost like being at a friend's house while her family is arguing-- you know it's none of your business, you don't want this discussion to taint your view of certain members of the family, but for some reason you just can't tune them out. This book is NOT for regul ...more
Jj Kwashnak
Amazingly, considering that The Simpsons has been on the air for 20 years now, there has been no official, or authorized, history of the show written. Ortved may have set out to write an authorized history, but it is obvious that he was not getting the cooperation he felt was necessary. As a result he has created an unauthorized history of our favorite family, pulled together from what seems to be extensive sets of interviews with many key people in and around the Simpsons universe as well as pu ...more
Edmole
I haven't gone near The Simpsons for about 12 years. When I was 11 or 12 and Sky started showing The Simpsons and I was lucky enough to have cable and The Simpsons was The Greatest Thing I Ever Done Seen. I would tape every show and obsessively rewatch it, sucking up the jokes over and over and loving every reference I did and didn't get. If I know from funny, about 18-22% of that is down to these guys. But something terrible happened to The Simpsons after 8 or 9 years. It lost its soul and went ...more
Sam
I'm about 60 pages away from finishing this thing and I gotta' say that it's a MUST for SIMPSONS fans. You'll zip through it. And you might not believe how big of a DICK this thing paints Matt Groening.

Put together as an 'oral history,' it's simply a set of chronological interviews, but it's a great behind-the-scenes of the internal workings of this Mayflower of animation. From the get-go, Ortved tells us this is NOT a book about how to write comedy for television, simply a historical account. B
...more
Sean
My review is now up at Popmatters: here.

A preview:


Imagine you are waiting tables at a wedding reception. You wander among the tables, filling glasses and laying down plates of food. You are likely to hear snippets of conversation, most likely about the bride and groom, about their families, about their past, their plans, their future. What you hear will likely be out of context, sometimes probably even incorrect, contradictory. The groom works for a bank. No, he’s in real estate. The bride may
...more
Jinny Chung
Enjoyed some chapters, not all. Matt Groening, a loyal customer of my store, told me that he would in no way support "Ortved and his book". He'd been approached to contribute and he refused. Groening explained those that had declined an interview with Ortved were either written out of the book's Simpsons history or straight-up slandered. It's clear who Ortved resents. There is no objective voice in this book. So beware.

Nevertheless, as an avid listener of the DVD commentaries, I had many a hear
...more
Denise Du Vernay
The way Ortved has tied together quotes from people formerly part of The Simpsons' inner circle (as well as quotes found in various places by those still working on the show) is very interesting, making the book hard to put down. It's almost like being at a friend's house while her family is arguing-- you know it's none of your business, you don't want this discussion to taint your view of certain members of the family, but for some reason you just can't tune them out. This book is NOT for regul ...more
Troy Blackford
This book is an in-depth and unrelenting look at the creation and long existence of the Simpsons, with information and quotes culled from sources varying from personal interviews from the author to snippets of publications dating back to the show's inception. A few moments of tension and drama (but nothing like the out-and-out Machiavellian backstabbing found in 'Hatching Twitter') punctuate what is otherwise a pleasantly collaborative and seemingly joyful tale.

Tracing the history of the show fr
...more
Timothy
John Ortved is an atrocious author. Although his book is presented as an oral history, he repeatedly interjects with his own commentary. Granted, sometimes this must be done to help set the scene or clear up facts, but Ortved throws so much of his own smug opinions into the proceeding that I had to fight to finish the damn thing.

It's not even that I disagree with his opinions(Although I do disagree with several). Many are off topic and petty. Here's an example. Ortved is talking about how the a
...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Although the staff of the cultural touchstone The Simpsons has done a good job over the years of keeping it quiet, the fact is that there's been plenty of drama and infighting behind the scenes of that show (now officially the longest-running prime-time television program in history); that's the subject o
...more
A
Mar 02, 2010 A rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: read-2010
This ethically questionable take on the history of "The Simpsons" gets high marks ONLY because it's about "The Simpsons," and ONLY because it's a quick read. John Ortved really deserves a public shaming by Oprah, because this book, although dishy and fun, is about as unbiased and full of integrity as the KKK. If you can wade through the unintelligible writing and drown out the sound of the giant axe being ground, what you'll find is basically one elaborate (though rollicking) extended blog post ...more
Steve
Overall interesting and fun to read. John Ortved's running comments were, for the most part, lame. Formulating the 'storyline" and putting contributors comments in context works. His personal comments and opinions on what is happening at the time see clumsy. This book's strength lies in the voices of the people who actually worked on the show, their anecdotes and behind the scenes dirt, not in Ortved's opinions on the show.

I liked the "oral history" format and how the book was put together. The
...more
Sarah
There were a fair amount of pearls in the sections about the show's development and the discussions of the writers. I learned a lot about George Meyer. But beyond that, it was not entertaining. The analysis of the show's impact, by author John Ortvedt (who? exactly) and others, was not particularly insightful in most cases. Opinions were frequently presented as facts and not supported. Egregious typos and factual errors were rampant; some people's names were spelled in two different ways in the ...more
Jeff Talbott
This never-dull oral history of The Simpsons is also slightly repetitive and loses steam about halfway through. Author/Editor John Ortved says in the opening that it will not be objective, and that becomes clearer and clearer as he says time and time again the best years of the show are 10 years behind us. Though this may be true, it starts to sound as if it's the ax he came to grind rather than the conclusion we're all arriving at together. Still, it's great to read eyewitness accounts about th ...more
Erin O'Riordan
The beginning is a bit slow, but once it gets into the actual show and not just the participants' backgrounds, it gets more interesting. The last chapters are quite harsh on the show's latter seasons, and even the Simpsons movie, which I think is fairly brilliant. I liked Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation better - it is more personal and reverential. Comprehensive and factual, but lacking in heart.
Althea
This book is largely compiled of snippets from interviews with various people related to the Simpsons, and this is a good thing. The parts actually written by the author, though occasionally contributing interesting opinions or information, tend to be poorly written or at least poorly proofread and fact-checked. For someone with such a great interest in the history of the Simpsons and who claims such fandom for the series, the repeated mistakes regarding basic Simpsons information really make an ...more
Jim
I found this interesting on a number of levels, as it gives a good insight into how shows like The Simpsons are created, written and brought to life through the US TV networks. The author tells his story through choosing quotes from a variety of the players, some second-hand but some from interviews he conducted. This gives a rounded account, to an extent, although it’s quite clear that the author thinks Matt Groening has had way, way too much credit for the content of the series. From what you ...more
Chris
This is an excellent read detailing the birth of the show, it's rule over television, and eventual decline. Although somewhat biased against the establishment in the Simpsons hierarchy (Matt Groening, especially) it for the most part presents an even-handed retelling.

I am a sucker for these behind-the-scenes, how it gets made stories, and this one doesn't disappoint. The only thing I wish were different is the fact that this is a four year old history, ending somewhere around 2010-11 — right whe
...more
Keith Parrish
The Simpsons is the longest running scripted program in television history and much has been written about the show, its origins, its attitude, its premise, its characters, and its universe. It has been the subject of treatises, articles, seminars, college courses, and all types of analyses. John Ortved sets out to write a history of the program from its origins in Matt Groening's mind and Rupert Murdoch's wallet up to about its 20th season. Ortved's approach is to use oral histories of the peop ...more
Jim
Less of a history and more of a collection of anecdotes...and a lot of the material seems to have been gleaned from the Internet. It has the feel of a longform magazine article that was padded out to book length.

There are some interesting character sketches, and the tale of how the show was birthed is worthwhile. Unfortunately, those are buried in a disorganized mass of bland and unsurprising revelations (example: we spend a lot of time learning that producers and TV executives can sometimes be
...more
Ross Bonaime
The first half of The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History is pretty much what I wanted it to be, which is a comprehensive look at the creation of The Simpson and the season-to-season behind the scenes action. Yet in the second half, John Ortved loses all focus and the book goes all over the place. He'll just focus on different people who worked on the show, or randomly dedicate a chapter to the entertainment that The Simpsons influenced or other topics, all while constantly repeating h ...more
Andrew
Parts of this book were interesting. There is a lot of insider information. Just because you like sausage doesn't mean you will enjoy seeing how it was mad.
David
I suppose that's a rounded-up four, especially since I'm grading on a curve, having bought the book at a Borders sale and then reading its less than spectacular reviews. There are major flaws, like how there's a chapter on Conan, who only worked on the show a few years after it started, but not on John Swartzwelder or George Meyer, who were there from the beginning and stayed for more than a decade. Granted, I know the obvious answers, that Conan's a celebrity and and that he agreed to talk to O ...more
Andres

This is a fascinating read about the origins of The Simpsons. This is my first time reading an oral history type book and while it provides a more immediate point of view of the events by most of the people who were there, it is both illuminated and interrupted by the author. He alternates between giving useful context with useless commentary. His snarky opinions about this and that aren't helpful or welcome, and seems to serve as nothing more than a platform for what he thinks rather than letti

...more
Mark Mikula
John Ortved's history of The Simpsons attempts the same feat as Live from New York, television critic Tom Shales's history of Saturday Night Live told through quotes from various people involved in the show (writers, performers, executives). I own the Saturday Night Live retrospective, but I haven't read it yet. I picked up Ortved's book from the library because I am an unapologetic fan of animated series, despite calls from former devotees to put an end to the show already because it ran its co ...more
Chelsey
I found myself knocked over the head time and time again by Ortved's biases to which seasons he liked and what he describes as the "Golden Age". Ortved never clearly defines what the definitive interpretation of “The Golden Age of the Simpsons” was or if there even was one, considering this is something that isn’t quantifiable, Ortved’s arguments quickly dissolve. What he does talk about, time and time again, was that HE enjoyed seasons 1 thought 9. For the most part I found this to be repetitiv ...more
Jeff
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 [i]Simpsons[/i] 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 [i]The Simpsons[/i] some time, you will
...more
M. Milner
Let's start with the best part of this book. Ortved offers up a history of The Simpsons, probably the most important (and certainly the most culturally relevant) show of our time. There's a trove in information here in the genesis of the show and about the principals behind it. And Ortved's done his homework. Although he doesn't always speak to the principals, he sees to it their voices - Matt Groening and George Meyer stand out in particular - still appear, albiet from other sources. His book e ...more
Brandon
If you're interested in a sometimes repetitive but ultimately informative history of one of the greatest shows in television history, John Ortved's book is hard to beat.

My history with The Simpsons is somewhat storied: my parents forbade me from watching it during the first season and stuck to their guns after briefly relenting during Herb Powell's first appearance in the second season. I ruined it for myself when I mimicked Bart's repeated sing-song use of the word "bastard" in reference to his
...more
MacK
Like most kids who came of age in the go-go 90's there were two things I could safely rely on: 1) computers would keep getting cooler 2) at least twice a night you could watch an episode of The Simpsons that would make you laugh uproariously.

My godmother, a saint of a woman and middle school English teacher, gave me Simpsons comics to read in church. After a few hours of snooty disapproval my mother, father and grandmother became regular viewers. While things became less hilarious over time, y
...more
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Simpsons Confidential: The uncensored, totally unauthorised history of the world's greatest TV show by the people that made it La vera storia dei Simpson The Simpsons, see ISBN 978-1-4299-3151-9: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

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