The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History is a new book out this week from Faber and Faber, an expansion of author John Ortved’s 2007 article for Vanity Fair. In a blog post for The Daily Beast, Ortved outlines the difficulties he had writing the story, largely because James L. Brooks and Matt Groening put the clamps down when they heard that Ortved was asking about deposed producer/writer Sam Simon, who left the show after the fourth season. A snippet (emphasis mine):
Groening was not considered a great asset by many in The Simpsons writers room; he was not a sitcom writer and didn’t really didn’t know how to tell those kinds of stories, and Sam Simon let him know it. Once while discussing a script where Marge finally lets her hair down, Matt really wanted to reveal that underneath her beehive, Marge had Rabbit ears—Sam, of course, said no. One witness to the early days was particularly annoyed that Groening took so much credit for the show’s success, when “the fat fuck just sat up in his office all day, figuring out ways to make more money [with merchandising]” while Sam Simon and the writers churned out brilliant script after brilliant script.
Even more delightful is Ortved’s description of the corrupted circle jerk that is the Hollywood publicity machine:
Fox tried to get me to write a different story, “How about,” one flack told me, “you do a history of how The Simpsons Movie came to be,” adding that this was something they could get on board with (Entertainment Weekly did this exact story when the movie premiered—with quotes from Brooks, Groening, and the cast—you can fall asleep to it here). I declined this very generous offer and continued to work on the story, resulting in some hilarious calls from Fox publicity, with them informing me “There is no Simpsons story in Vanity Fair. We said ‘no’!”
Something I gleaned early from this experience is that Hollywood publicists are so used to journalists kowtowing to their every request that they no longer understand what journalism actually is. We’re talking about cartoon characters here, not Watergate, but the light subject matter doesn’t exclude the possibility of doing real research and telling interesting stories. They actually thought that we were all on the same team, trying to get their client the maximum exposure, using our words and outlets only to extend their message.
…annnnnnnnd that’s when I added it to my Amazon wish list. Anyone who hates on retarded Hollywood flacks is okay in my book. In fact, I’m still waiting for Awful PR Quotes to get a book deal. I’ll buy two of those.