A fan of “The Simpsons” or not, you’ll want to get a hold of “Springfield Confidential”

A fan of “The Simpsons” or not, you’ll want to get a hold of “Springfield Confidential”

On any other day, you’d scream to sleep in.

But Saturday mornings were different: you were up sometimes before the sun, cereal in-bowl, TV on softly, and a whole mornings’ worth of cartoons ahead of you. That’s what Saturday mornings were for, right? And in “ Springfield Confidential” by Mike Reiss (with Mathew Klickstein), you’ll see why it’s Sunday evenings now.

Your end-of-the-weekend obsession almost didn’t make it.

In 1988, when it was decided that the between-skit fillers from The Tracey Ullman Show would became a show on its own, writers were needed and Mike Reiss and his writing partner, Al Jean, happened to be available. They knew they weren’t the show’s creator’s first choices. They knew that “Nobody wanted to work” on this new show; in fact, in the first week, the writing team all believed that “The Simpsons” would last just six half-hour episodes.

“Months after our premiere,” says Reiss, “‘The Simpsons’ was not just in the papers every day; it was in every section of the newspaper!”

For a guy who “grew up in a house full of funny people,” that was like a cherry on the chocolate sundae of life. Reiss spent his childhood steeped in laughter and his college years with the Harvard Lampoon. He transitioned to National Lampoon, and then to writing movie scripts. He created jokes for Carson. He wrote for TV and was fired and hired often, something that happens to Hollywood writers.

And then came “The Simpsons.”

Nearly 30 years later, it’s become the longest-running animated prime-time series on TV. Its catchphrases have entered the lexicon and the dictionary. Here, you’ll learn how “scary smart” its writers are; how long it takes to make an individual episode; which jokes “never quite made it”; and how the Lennon Sisters have roundabout ties to The Simpsons. Find out why the Simpsons are yellow and how Maggie’s voice won Oscars. You’ll read about possible final episode plots and why it’s “rude” to ask when that might happen; and you’ll learn why writers “retired… Troy McClure forever.”

If you were to bake a donut for Homer Simpson, the recipe would be similar to what’s inside “Springfield Confidential” — a little of this, a little of that, dumped in a bowl, and mixed.

Take a bite, and you’ve got author Mike Reiss’ biography (with Mathew Klickstein), which is filled with jokes so awful you have to laugh, bits about esoteric TV shows that you’ve never seen, and plenty of shameless name-dropping. It’s fun and it shows the life of one TV writer, but it’s probably not why readers will want this book.

Take another bite, though, and there you are: crumbs from nearly 30 years of “The Simpsons,” fun facts and trivia, reasoning for plots, secrets, and argument-enders for fans, guest-stars, never-beens, and stories of viewers around the world.

That’s the icing on the donut. It’s the reason that fans both rabid and casual will want this book. It’s why missing “Springfield Confidential,” in fact, is reason to have a cow, man.


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