I grew up in one of the many Springfields scattered across the United States. Nearly all Springfield natives get asked the same questions immediately after naming their hometown, “Oh, like The Simpsons?” And we try to explain that no Springfield is the Springfield. Then the conversation continues until we are forced to identify the part of The Simpsons that is our Springfield. It is a testament to the joy and hilarity of the show that any Springfield kid still loves it and, in our heart, we are a little proud to have the connection.
When I saw Springfield Confidential, Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss I knew I had to read it. I love good natured backstage information about popular shows, especially one I grew up watching. And this book did not disappoint!
Mike Reiss is talented and funny and this book was well organized, easy to read and full of anecdotes for major fans and general comsumers fans alike. Even if you have never watched a single episode of The Simpsons you have probably seen Mike’s work as a television writer and script doctor (Despicable Me and more!). He is also a children’s book author, a four time Emmy award winner, and a former President of the Harvard Lampoon. He has all the qualifications of a comic and the rare gift of delivery as well.
Mike walks us through the early days of The Simpsons, how it came to be on the fledgling Fox channel, and how it has successfully maintained the popularity required to be on the air for thirty years. I may have picked the book up for the annecdotes and behind the scenes scoops but I found myself blown away by the amount of manpower that goes into a single episode! If you have ever wanted to write for television, especially illustrated television, make sure and look at Mike’s 23-step, 9 month process that is used for each of the twenty-two episodes. It sounds like a Herculean feat to me!
And, while the book’s main focus might be The Simpsons, the book is at least half a story of what it is like to work as a writer in Hollywood. I was fascinated to see Mike’s attempts (successful and failed alike) to become and stay a working writer. Mike also took two years off of The Simpson’s and tried to retire. During that time he worked as a script doctor, a children’s book illustrator and travelled extensively. In the end, though, he found himself right back with his Simpson’s crew.
If you are pondering a career writing for television I highly recommend this book. Likewise, if you are a Simpson’s fan, you will enjoy all the funny and interesting bits of trivia Mike discloses here. Either way, this was a fast and fun read.
Just in case you were wondering, my Springfield has the nuclear power plan directly on the man made lake. As a kid I was never allowed to swim in that water. Also, it is the home of Abraham Lincoln so we also claim (probably erroneously) that Homer’s Dad is named for our Abe.
Tell me, please!
How weird is it that The Simpson’s has been on for 30 years?!