Looking for a gift idea for the Simpsons fan in your life? Reporter John Ortved has written an unauthorized, uncensored history of the still popular, still witty, longest running prime time TV series in the country. SFist asked him a few questions about the book, and the contentious origins of the show.
SFist: Explain how Matt Groening got the opportunity to create The Simpsons, via "Life In Hell."
John Ortved: In the mid 1980s, Groening's cartoon "Life In Hell" was being published in alternative weeklies all over the country. He and his wife, Deborah Groening (née Kaplan) had created a little cottage industry of "Life in Hell" merchandise, which included coffee mugs, calendars and original artwork. Polly Platt, who had been nominated for an Oscar for her work on James L. Brooks' Terms of Endearment, gave Brooks an original strip called "Success and Failure in LA" (Kaplan also sold one to Brooks' lieutenant, Richard Sakai). Brooks loved it and they eventually decided to try to incorporate Matt's work into The Tracey Ullman Show, which Brooks was producing for the new and struggling Fox Broadcasting Company. Matt didn't want to give up his rights to "Life in Hell," so they asked him if he had anything else they could use. He came back with "The Simpsons."
How did the characters end up with yellow skin and, in the case of Marge, blue hair?