MacK's Reviews > The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

The Simpsons by John Ortved
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Jul 16, 10

bookshelves: audio-books, non-fiction
Read in June, 2010

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, you could rely on the Simpsons, so much so that one of my best friends and I used it as a text worthy of analysis in our AP Lit course.

So heading in to the Simpsons sausage factory with John Ortved was a little disconcerting. Sure enough I quickly began to roll my eyes as the author glommed on to any morsel of dissent and disagreement as a scandalous battle to the death. (Creative personalities often conflict with each other? NO! Surely you jest!!) A chapter long paean to Conan O'Brien seems to be designed to pay homage to one top notch writer who was willing to talk with Ortved. And as a book on tape only the female voice makes anything interesting given that she uses inflection whereas her male counterpart sounds like he's been dragged away from the stock ticker to account for all the tomfoolery and hijinks behind the scenes.

But most aggravating of all was the final three chapters, which read like nothing so much as a cranky fan's self-serving internet tirade against a show that, after twenty years, has ceased to be the vanguard of comedy. Time and again Ortved points out the failings of the show in recent years, saving specific vitriol for cliche-prone writers, "money hungry" producers, a "Mugabe-like" show runner (seriously? a cartoon director is similar to the most despotic tyrant of our time...REALLY?) and chronicling in passionate detail his hatred for one episode which mimicked the story telling on 24 .

In this final section Ortved ceased to sound like an author, a historian, or a critic and sounded like no one so much as everyone's favorite obese nerd, The Comic Book Guy:
"Last night's Itchy & Scratchy was, without doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured I was on the Internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world"

It might be reassuring to note that Ortved does quote that same line, as well as the follow up (asked why on earth he's complaining Comic Book Guy replies "as a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.") But he fails to note the final damning line from the show's writers:
Bart: [Owe you:] for what? They've given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you. If anything, you owe them.
[Pause:]
Comic Book Guy: Worst. Episode. Ever.


In the end that's what this book is and that's what's wrong with it. Ortved has decided that his opinions about The Simpsons are more important than the show itself, ergo no one need ever watch the show again since he has brought them into Simpsons hating salvation. But honestly, maybe 1/1000th of the people who watch the Simpsons will read this book (even fewer will read this review), the show itself will stand the test of time, this piddling little account of one man's anger will merit next to nothing. But as long as he's been able to register his disgust he'll be happy.

As for me, I'll be where I've been since I was a kid in the 90's...finding fun things on computers and laughing at The Simpsons . If I may quote Comic Book Guy one last time "LIFE WELL SPENT!"
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