Sunday, August 9, 2009

DVD Review: The Write Environment: Sam Simon

Sam Simon may not be a household name to everyone, but his career is second to none.

He's worked on Taxi (becoming the showrunner in its final seasons), Cheers, The Tracey Ullman Show, The Drew Carey Show, The George Carlin Show and a little animated series you may have heard about once - The Simpsons. Add 9 Emmy's and 13 nominations to the mix and you have a career most writers don't even dare dream about.

On top of which he's running a dog foundation, he's Jennifer Tilly's ex-husband and he's a world-class poker player.

Truth be told, the two latter aspects of Simon's life aren't mentioned on this DVD. But as you may imagine there are more than enough topics to talk about which are of interest to screenwriters everywhere.

Simon entered the TV world via animation (he was a cartoonist in college), and from there on managed the incredible feat to write a spec script for Taxi which was immediately bought and produced.

On The Simpsons, he was responsible for developing several of the extra characters which make up the tapestry of Springfield. His observations about the difference in writing for an animated sitcom vs. a traditional one are quite interesting. There is no mention, however, of his leaving the show in 1993 (although his name remains on the credits and he still earns a lot of money from the show).

Throughout the DVD, Simon remains a friendly, soft-spoken and generous interview subject. The only person who he is not too enthusiastic about is Family Guy's head honcho Seth McFarlane, because of the similarities between the two series. It was quite surprising, then, to read a Sam Simon interview in which he admitted to becoming a monster while running a show, and it eventually made him quit the business.

If you're interested in any of the shows Simon worked on or ran, this DVD is definitely worth getting. To be fair, I should mention that there aren't as many immediately applicable insights or tips to be found here as on some of the others in the series.

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