Bloomberg Businessweek has a story about the writers' Summer Box Office Fantasy League, a "complicated gambling game" where they waste time by betting on which summer blockbusters will rule the box office for the grand prize of a banner and $400, the equivalent of how much Matt Groening makes in a minute.
WRITER WATCH Archives
Simpsons writer-producer Tim Long almost died last Friday! His downstairs neighbor, Twilight starlet Ashley Greene, accidentally set her West Hollywood apartment on fire because of a dumb candle. People managed to evacuate in time, but sadly one of Greene's dogs was not so lucky (rip im sorry).
Splitsider did a pretty good interview with current Simpsons writer (and rubbercat.net/simpsons reader) Matt Selman. About half of it is just plugging his latest episode, Homer the Hipster (which he's already defending), but there's still some good insights. Selman talks about his thoughts on a final episode, how those lazy layabouts Tom Gammill and Max Pross have finally - after being on the writing staff for over a decade - written an episode, how the staff tries to make sure the show doesn't feel like a Jay Leno monologue (except, uh, when they actually do Leno monologues), and getting fired from Seinfeld. Then the interviewer gets him to tell the "Mayor of St. Louis" story, which is pretty funny:
It's starting to get very awkward because he's sort of addressing his whole speech to me and putting me on the spot and humiliating me and saying, "Who said this about East St. Louis? Have you ever been to East St. Louis?" I'm feeling very uncomfortable and awkward. 'Oh man, I'm so dead.' I unfortunately showed my true colors by selling out the others writers by saying that I didn't write the joke in the show about East St. Louis [and] someone else wrote it [and] we all wrote it together, even though my name was on the script.
There you have it: by his own admission, Matt Selman is a gullible liar, a man who should not be trusted, but is also incredibly trusting. So dark, the duplicity of man.
What do you do if you're a long-running show that's totally out of ideas? Do you scrounge up long-discarded episode ideas from the Trash Co. waste disposal unit and try to pass them off as new? What if you've completely exhausted that avenue? What's your next recourse? Well, if you're The Simpsons, you do the next best thing - scrounge up long-discarded fanfiction.
A little while ago, comedy movie king Judd Apatow told Slashfilm he wrote a fanscript for The Simpsons way back in 1990 after only five or six episodes had aired, which he described like so:
And what it was about was they went to see a hypnotism show and at the hypnotism show, they made Homer think he was the same age as Bart. And then the hypnotist had a heart attack. So now Homer and Bart became best friends and they spent the rest of the show running away because Homer didn't want responsibility and didn't want to be brought back to his real age. So I basically copied that for every movie I've made since.
Can critically-'cclaimed cult college comedy caper Community compete in cartoon and comedy categories? No, according to a bunch of incensed cartoon writers - including all 537 Simpsons writers as well as the Family Guy manatees - who wrote a strongly-worded letter to the esteemed representatives of television to protest Community stepping on their turf (their turf being the Emmy categories Best Animated Program and Short-Form Animated Program). See, once again Community is eligible for an Emmy or two in animated categories thanks to a special animated episode - last year it was the stop-motion "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" (which won Individual Achievement in Animation, the show's only Emmy so far), this year it's "Digital Estate Planning," an excellent video game-based episode. But since Community is normally a live-action show, it's also eligible for the usual live-action categories that animated shows are apparently ineligible for, including Outstanding Writing in a Comedy.
IN THE NEWS is happy to report that comedian and former Simpsons writer Dana Gould is not a murderer.
Here's the deal: a while ago I learned from Wikipedia that Gould had used the pseudonym "Lawrence Talbot" for a Simpsons episode he'd written, Goo Goo Gai Pan, wherein the Simpsons go to China to help Aunt Selma adopt a baby. Curious about this intriguing bit of trivia, I decided to ask him about it in what I hoped was a friendly, professional e-mail:
dear mr. gould
i have a press inquiry: why did u use a pseudonym for the simpsons episode "goo goo gai pan"? or is wikipedia got it's facts wrong.
urs in christ,
Alas, a few weeks passed and there was no response from Mr. Gould. Naturally, I assumed he was attempting to dodge the question because he was hiding something nefarious, hoping the scandal would blow over before it even started. Well, I wasn't going to give up so easily. Undaunted, I e-mailed him again a couple times, but each time I was rebuffed with his stonewalling silence. That's when things got personal. How dare this Hollywood Liberal refuse to answer questions from the press! How could he so callously disregard my joke Simpsons fansite as anything less than legitimate? But I didn't let my emotions compromise my professional integrity, no sir. I knew that as a member of the vaunted Fourth Estate, my responsibility was to shake out The Truth by any means necessary. So, I decided to take the upper hand in this escalating cat-and-mouse game between reporter and subject. and play a little hardball. Utilizing a journalism strategy I learned from an imaginary book, I took the story public and spread some venomous allegations about Mr. Gould, speculating perhaps he had "murdered a teenage girl" or "shot up an entire orphanage" and was hiding behind a phony name to escape culpability for his crimes. In short, I hoped to force his hand and get him to respond. Here's the original post about it, as I reported at the time.
Writer/producer Matt Selman and former writer/murderer Dana Gould are doing a "thing" this Thursday at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles. If you pay them 10 bucks, they will regale you with anecdotes about working for The Simpsons in the post-funny era, answer questions about wizard keys, as well as - and this is the important part - give you all the backstage dirt, like "Who punched a box?" If any of you readers out there end up going to this thing, please please please tell me who punched the box. I desperately need to know.
A couple weeks ago, Ben Joseph, a first-time Simpsons writer, went onto the notorious pony-fetish website reddit and took some questions about his experience hanging out with Bart Simpson. Some of the answers are sorta-kinda interesting - how the writing process works, how much money you get before taxes, what Hank Azaria looks like ("a bronzed Adonis") - but then he let this little nugget of info slither out:
No restrictions. But, as much as I'd have loved to pitch an all-Bort episode, I also worked hard to pitch something that felt like something they would actually do.
Thanks for dashing our dreams, jerkwad. [reddit]
Former Conan O'Brien roommate and Simpsons writer extraordinaire Greg Daniels ("Homer Badman," "Lisa's Wedding," "Bart Sells His Soul"), who left the show before it got bad to co-create King of the Hill, then the American version of The Office, then Parks & Recreation, is getting back into animation, it looks like. NBC appears to be interested in prime-time animation, so they've signed Daniels to a "major production deal... [that] will include various programming but emphasize animated series."
Of course, Fox is the only broadcast network in the past quarter-century to have had found success with prime-time cartoons - it currently has five series on the air, with more waiting in the wings. Other networks try, occasionally, with little success so far; the last two animated series to air on NBC were Father of the Pride (they're just like a normal family, except they're lions!) and Stressed Eric (America loves to watch cartoon characters get nervous breakdowns!). Mayhaps Daniels, with his amazing track record, can reverse the trend??? [AP via Deseret News]
Looking at a list of "Mad" movie parodies. Vomit is a constant theme: "Throw Up", "Guess Who's Coming To Throw Up Dinner", etc.
Some Mad parodies = very gentle. "The Post-Graduate"? "Blue-Eyed Kook"? "Midnight Wowboy"?
Biggest Mad parody reach? My vote goes to the spoof of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, called (get ready) "Boob & Carnal & Tad & Alas". Tad!
Mr. Long is the writer of the Simpsons episodes New Kids on the Bleech, Million Dollar Abie, Elementary School Musical, and Brake My Wife, Please. [Twitter]
Classic Simpsons writer Mike Reiss usurped current Simpsons writer Matt Selman's Xanga page to spin a sordid tale of lies, deceit, greed, and avarice. In the cutthroat world of children's literature, celebrities have all the advantage, while run-of-the mill schlubs like Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Mike Reiss are forced to eat bowls of tough breaks for brunch. It seems a certain "Steve Martin," famous person and noted bluegrass musician, penned a little book titled Late for School (adapted from the song by the same name), which as M. Reiss points out, is uncannily similar to Reiss's 2003 book, also titled Late for School:
Both tell the story of a boy facing adventure on a mad dash for school. Both are written in verse. Both have the boy jumping over a pool (it rhymes with school). The biggest difference is that my book's final twist has the boy arriving at school right on time, and then - spoiler alert! - realizing it's Sunday. In Steve Martin's book, it's Saturday.Well, well, well. Looks like these celebrity punks who've been taking picture book jobs away from real Americans are finally going to get their comeuppance. Reiss is holding all the cards here. Undoubtedly, he'll slap Martin with a lawsuit so fast his head will explode. This will be the literary theft case of the decade. This will be --
I'm not saying Steve ripped off my book, or even knew it existed. Steve Martin is a brilliant comedian, playwright and novelist. I'm thrilled that we had the exact same idea. And that I had it seven years earlier.I... b-but.... whaaa?.... *sputters incoherently* [Techland]
While researching "SIMPSONS ALUMNI UPDATE 2010," I learned that former Simpsons writer Dana Gould used the pseudonym "Lawrence Talbot" on the "Simpsons Go To China" episode where Aunt Selma buys a Chinese baby who has never been mentioned since. Gould's use of a pseudonym struck me as peculiar: was it because of some legal thing? Could it be that a writer who started in the post-funny era could actually be so ashamed of his work that he would want to distance himself from it? What's the point of using a pseudonym when the genuinym is so easily findable on the Internet?
Now, IN THE NEWS is a Very Serious News Organization that takes great pride in its journalistic integrity - here is my real, actual, not-making-this-up press badge - and so, for answers, I went straight to the source: the only e-mail address I could find on his website.
From: email@example.comI got no response. OK, whatever, this probably happens to Morley Safer all the time. Undeterred, I sent a second inquiry, this time with all the respectability I could summon.
Date: Sat, Mar 20, 2010
Subj: lawrence talbot
dear mr. gould
i have a press inquiry: why did u use a pseudonym for the simpsons episode "goo goo gai pan"? or is wikipedia got it's facts wrong.
urs in christ,
From: firstname.lastname@example.orgThen I sort of forgot about this whole thing for a while, but then I remembered about it and I got mad. I was through playing games. It was time for answers!
Date: Thu, Apr 8, 2010
Subj: press inquiry
Dear Sir Or Madam Whom It May Concern:
On the 20th of March I sent a press inquiry to this address, which as of this writing has not garnered a reply. I shall rephrase and repeat the question in hopes of an answer: why did Mr. Gould choose to use the pseudonym "Lawrence Talbot" for the The Simpsons episode entitled "Goo Goo Gai Pan" (production code #GABF06, original airdate 13 March 2005)?
I am an important member of The Press and I will not rest until I get an answer. A simple "no comment" will suffice. You may answer "off the record" if that is more palatable to you.
Yours in Christ,
Head Journalist, IN THE NEWS
Date: Fri, Apr 23, 2010
I've had it!!! Twice I have e-mailed this address for a simple answer as to why Dana Gould used the pseudonym Lawrence Talbot, and I STILL have gotten no response! WHAT ARE YOU HIDING, DANA GOULD? If I don't get a response by April 30th, I will have no choice but to go public with unfounded rumours and speculation about Mr. Gould. YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE PRESS.
Needless to say, I still have yet to receive a response from Mr. Gould or his associates.
So why is this guy, Dana Gould, hiding behind a fake name and stonewalling the fourth estate? Here are my theories:
No denials as of yet... hmmm....
Family Guy: "It's like watching The Simpsons after three beers."
King of the Hill: "King of the Hill is like The Simpsons after... three strokes." [UGO]
After finding out former Simpsons writer David M. Stern (Bart Gets an F, Kamp Krusty) developed Ugly Americans (watch it!! it's cool), I got curious and decided to find out what some other ex-Simpsons people are up to. DISCLAIMERS/CAVEATS: 1. I basically only looked at wikipedia and imdb, so this could be rife with inaccuracies, etc. 2. With some exceptions, I don't care about anyone who joined the show after it got bad or only wrote like one episode 3. This is essentially limited to movies/tv, since the internet assumes people fell off the face of the earth if they're not doing something for mass audiences
Richard Appel (writer): Showrunner for The Cleveland Show
Wes Archer (director): Was working on The Goode Family until it got cancelled; unclear what he's currently doing
Brad Bird (director): Doing a live-action movie for Pixar (zuh????)
Daniel Chun (writer): Now writing for The Office
David S/X. Cohen (writer): His beloved baby Futurama returns in June on Comedy Central
Jonathan Collier (writer): MIA
Jennifer Crittenden (writer): Producing mysterious project called What's Your Number?
Greg Daniels (writer): Co-creations The Office and Parks and Recreation still going strong
Brent Forrester (writer): Writer for The Office
Ken Keeler (writer): Nerding it up at Futurama
Jay Kogan (writer): Executive producer for some supernatural live-action Nickelodeon show called The Troop; writing an adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lauren MacMullan (director): MIA
Jeff Martin (writer/clown): MIA
George Meyer (writer): Occasionally contributes to The New Yorker
Bill Oakley (showrunner, seasons 7 - 8): Writing stuff from Portland
Conan O'Brien (writer): Legally prohibited from being funny on television
Jim Reardon (director): Presumably still Pixarin' it up
Mike Reiss (showrunner, seasons 3-4): While technically still a producer for The Simpsons (I think??), he's been doing a bunch of other projects like writing children's books, computer-animated movies, and the critically-unacclaimed My Life in Ruins
David M. Stern (writer): Developed Ugly Americans, which recently debuted on Comedy Central
Mike Scully (showrunner, seasons 9-12): Writer on Parks & Recreation
John Swartzwelder (writer): Still cranking out funny books from his secret underground lair
Sam Simon (executive producer/showrunner, seasons 1-2): Doing some poker thing
Jon Vitti (writer): Co-wrote an upcoming movie starring Steve Carell; currently working on something called "Boo U."
Josh Weinstein (showrunner, seasons 7-8): MIA??? Wikipedia says he's a producer on Futurama (again), but I'm not sure if I believe that
Frank Welker (voice actor, Santa's Little Helper): Most recent voice credit is "Additional Nuts Voice"
Lona Williams (beauty pageant winner/writing assistant): MIA
Wallace Wolodarsky (writer): Voiced an opossum in Fantastic Mr. Fox; adapting a Philip K. Dick story into a Disney cartoon
Newsarama tried to stealthily ask showrunner Al Jean why he's been showrunner for the past nine years, and he answered that the writers haven't been getting offers to work on other comedies and that comedy might finally be back on the upswing. I guess all those Judd Apatow-produced movies and animated comedies (some of them not created by Seth MacFarlane) and single-camera sitcoms like Arrested Development and The Office that have popped up in the past couple of years were actually part of a downswing?
Nrama: But haven't you always had a philosophy of keeping the writers rotating? It kept new blood flowing.
Jean: Well, it was never a philosophy. There were two dynamics at work. In the 1990's, there were a lot of comedies on the air. People who were on 'The Simpsons' got all these offers to work elsewhere. So they would leave, often to head their own projects. So we'd replace them.
This decade, unfortunately, comedy has not been doing so well. If people are doing a good job, then I keep them. So it doesn't rotate as much. Still, I'm encouraged by this year's ratings. Comedy might be back on the upswing. 'American Family' has started off really well.
Fun factoid: According to his Twitter, Harry Shearer - the most vocal critic of the show amongst the cast - offered to write an episode a long time ago but was never taken up on it. [Twitter.com/letwits]
Former showrunner and occasional (?) Simpsons writer Mike Reiss wrote a film, My Life in Ruins, which was savaged by critics. Reiss seems most perturbed that nobody got his nerd joke:
Several critics singled me out, calling me "an idiot," "an imbecile," and "sub-literate." Now, I opened the film with an allusion to Voltaire - a sign reads "Pangloss Tours: 'The Best of All Possible Worlds'." In Candide, Dr. Pangloss utters these optimistic words before his group sets out on an utterly disastrous journey. Just like the tourists in my film! Get it? The critics didn't. Not one caught the allusion. Otherwise, they'd have called me a "sub-literate moron who reads Voltaire."
Upon being reminded that Simpsons creator Matt Groening grew up in Portland, former Simpsons writer and future Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien said this:
"He'll always be my boss. You know how you feel when you run into your third-grade teacher at the supermarket? Your worry that you're going to get in trouble, even if you're 45? That's how I feel when I see Matt Groening."
Since then, the screen name has been inactive, until a few days ago when Chunkylover53's "Away" message appeared, prompting people to click on a link and run an executable in order to see "a *new* Internet-only exclusive Simpson's episode."
Of course, the file doesn't show a Simpsons video. It infects the machine with a Trojan that throws up error messages, crashes the computer when attempting to open Windows Explorer and drops other nasty files onto the machine, making it part of what is believed to be a Turkish botnet, according to FaceTime, which secures IM, collaboration and Web apps for corporations.
The real question: why are Matt Selman and his Simpsons co-workers spreading viruses to their fans??? Developing... [CNET]
...in addition to the usual ~20 other episodes that season. Also, Superbad screenwriters Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen will write one. [Empire]
In a fan Q+A, The Office writer-actor Mindy Kaling (Kelly) namedrops Simpsons writer Danny Chun, who was apparently "raving about Hot Chip and Vampire Weekend like fifteen years ago." Given Mike Scully's love for NRBQ and Al Jean's love for on-the-nose musical montages, Chun needs to be promoted to executive producer immediately. [Office Tally]
Former The Simpsons writer and current The Office executive producer Greg Daniels answered a question about how long The Simpsons will go on:
Simpsons will be on until the computers develop intelligence and shut down the meat people's world, or until a Mega Volcano destroys our culture, or until the per episode syndication price falls below the cost of producing an episode.[NBC.com]
Someone claiming to be Simpsons writer Bill Odenkirk posted a thread on the No Homers Club message board to respond to internet criticism for the punderful title of upcoming episode "Mona Leaves-a" and defend the use of titular punnage:
Most of you are showing hate towards the episode title, Mona Leaves-a. I'm the writer for this episode, and also pitched the title. I'm here to say that it's supposed to be a bad pun...[No Homers Club]
We don't mind you people criticizing the episodes after they've aired, but judging them like you do, when all you know is the title, really makes us mad towards you. Hey, what a great pun! New episode title here we come!
UPDATE: See follow-up post I guess??
Responding to a comment by current show runner Al Jean that he would have simply ''laughed'' off an invite to work on the movie, in Entertainment Weekly for its Simpsons cover story that hits stands this Friday, O'Brien deadpanned:
"I cleared my talk show schedule for a year at great financial cost to myself, got an apartment right outside the Fox lot, and told them I was ready to report to work. All I heard back was that they were having trouble finding me a parking space, and then they stopped returning my calls altogether. I am stunned and disappointed.... Truth be told, I worry that the Simpsons-writing portion of my brain has been destroyed after 14 years of talking to Lindsay Lohan and that guy from One Tree Hill, so maybe it's all for the best.''
- Jon Bon Jovi was going to guest star, but he backed out because "the writers had his character covered with melted cheese at one point and insult Richie Sambora at another point in the script."
- The Beatles don't like talking about The Beatles.
- Matt Groening authorized a Bart Simpson asthma inhaler.
- Executive Producer Tim Long: "America doesn't love Gil." So why would you base an entire episode around him?
Gould: I don't want to be standing at the Pearly Gates explaining why I spent my life watching DVDs of sitcoms I'd already seen. I mean, really ... do something else. Fold up old paper bags. Make a puppet. Dress like an angel and convince a wino that he's died. Something constructive.Does his boss Matt Groening know about this??? [City Paper]
The final segment of the upcoming Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episode on November 5 will take a few not-so-subtle shots at the current conflict in Iraq as aliens Kang and Kodos (who are featured in every "Treehouse of Horror") attack Springfield before the humans can get their hands on "weapons of mass disintegration". The connection to the Iraq war is made obvious, and there's even a line at the end in which a character evokes the actual Iraq debacle.
"Hey you know it's been more than three years, maybe we oughta get around to acknowledging the war in some way" [TV Squad]