Four-time Emmy winner Mike Reiss—who has worked on The Simpsons continuously since episode one in 1989—shares stories, scandals, and gossip about working with America’s most iconic cartoon family ever. Reiss explains how the episodes are created, and provides an inside look at the show’s writers, animators, actors and celebrity guests. He answers a range of questions from Simpsons fans and die-hards, and reminisces about the making of perennially favorite episodes.
In his freewheeling, irreverent comic style, Reiss reflects on his lifetime inside The Simpsons—a personal highlights reel of his achievements, observations, and favorite stories. Springfield Confidential exposes why Matt Groening decided to make all of the characters yellow; dishes on what it’s like to be crammed in a room full of funny writers sixty hours a week; and tells what Reiss learned after traveling to seventy-one countries where The Simpsons is watched (ironic note: there’s no electricity in many of these places); and even reveals where Springfield is located! He features unique interviews with Judd Apatow, who also provided the foreword, and Conan O’Brien, as well as with Simpsons legends Al Jean, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, and more.
What We Thought:
I am a fan of The Simpsons. I have been since the beginning. It started out as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, but the now legendary show aired its first full episode December 17, 1989 changing television and pop culture forever. Hell it might even have changed the US presidency!
If you’ve ever wanted to know pretty much everything you can know about The Simpsons, well darn-diddly, does Mike Reiss have the book for you. Reiss is one of the longest tenured writers of the show who, along with Al Jean, was its showrunner for years. An accomplished writer beyond the series, Reiss gives fans a peek behind the curtain with insight on the cast, good and bad special guests, and everything in between.
As a fan, I pretty much devoured Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons. Sure I might have known some of it already, but the style, easy to read format and interesting tidbits just flow through its pages. It’s a fantastic mix of facts (or maybe “facts”), interviews and quotes from others involved like Conan O’Brien, Al Jean, Judd Apatow, and Reiss’ engaging storytelling.
Reiss isn’t above making fun of himself. The Harvard grad is very open about projects that didn’t work out, leaving The Simpsons for a few years, being the one guy in the room who doesn’t know sports, being hired to touch up movie scripts and traveling the world with his wife. The book not only gives Simpsons fans inside information, you get an inside look at Reiss as well. As a multi-Emmy winner and award-winning author, Reiss has done extremely well for himself, but it’s his genuine honesty about being fired from past shows, The Critic not having a longer run and more that makes him human and still drives him to this day.
But you’re most likely buying a book called Springfield Confidential to learn more about The Simpsons and the book delivers in spades. For decades there has been a debate over who created the show. Matt Groening clearly created the characters and first drew them, but would the animated series have ever aired if it wasn’t for TV powerhouse Sam Simon? Along with James L. Brooks, almost every episode has all three men’s names on it and as Reiss reminds us, Simon has been dead for a few years now. He provides his thoughts on the situation and talks nicely about all three men.
What I loved the most though is his thoughts on the cast and special guests. The man clearly loves his cast and has worked with them on other series as well. He breaks down who does what voices, how they’ve changed over the years, the controversy around Hank Azaria’s Apu and more. Bringing up the late Phil Hartman really got to me because that man was such a talent. It would take hours to list every special guest on the show, but Reiss does supply some fun facts on big guests like Michael Jackson, Johnny Carson, Elizabeth Taylor and many others. Plus he tells us celebrities who have turned down offers. Come on Bruce Springsteen, do the darn show already!
I could write a book about Mike Reiss’ book, but I won’t (I probably lost you already). I will say if you are a fan of the show, The Simpsons Movie, The Critic, Queer Duck, Mike Reiss, or pop culture then this book is for you. Heck if you just want to see how life turned out for an Ivy League grad then Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons is also for you. Spoiler alert, shockingly, life turns out well for Harvard grad. The book is filled with everything from how long episodes take to make, how many rewrites a simple line of dialogue can go through, his personal picks for the best episodes of all time, the show’s rise and fall and rise again in popularity, and its place in pop culture history. Unlike Ralph Wiggum who unpossibly failed English, Reiss is a master storyteller and fascinating man.