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Feature: The Simpsons

Ultimate DVD spread!

As Season Five swings to DVD, we meet up with hard-working producer David Mirkin for a chat about all things Springfield…

On a show that is now in its 16th year on the air and has seen many people behind the scenes come and go, it’s important to make your mark. There’s no doubt David Mirkin, producer on The Simpsons, has, and if you need proof the first of his seasons as showrunner is about to appear on DVD. So what exactly does a showrunner do? “Well, you really have the most input and the most control; you’re the head writer, so you choose what stories you’re gonna do, you choose what the final script’s gonna look like. Back on the fifth and sixth seasons, I directed the actors. You do all the editing of the video, you put together all the audio pieces and choose all the takes, so you really have a lot of control. It’s a bit more collaborative now, where somebody else might direct the actors and different rooms work on scripts, but the showrunner has the final say. With each showrunner the show does change each time a little bit.”

Asked what he feels his contribution was to the seasons he oversaw, Mirkin laughs, “I think there was more violence and death in my seasons. More dysfunctional behaviour. One of the things we did is we set up a very fast pace for the show but also got to explore some of our side characters a little deeper than we had. We discovered what Mr Burns’s childhood was like in Rosebud and we did the very first episode that completely featured a side character, Apu.”

Another area Mirkin wanted to explore was the stability of the Simpson family itself, which came under its most serious threat when Homer met who he thought was the woman of his dreams in The Last Temptation of Homer. “I was very interested in exploring Homer’s marriage with Marge,” explains Mirkin, “and in doing so there was an idea I had to bring another woman on, Mindy, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who really tempted him. Later on in that same season we saw what really melded their marriage in Secrets of a Successful Marriage, when Marge throws him out of the house and you see what brings them back together. It’s those kind of explorations that were really fun to do.”

Mirkin was keen to put his thoughts on record, and because he was in charge when it was made, he was one of the overseers of the fifth season DVDs. “I do Commentary on all 22 episodes along with, on a lot of them, [creator/producers] Matt Groening and Jim Brooks and [producer/writer] Conan O’Brien. I bring the various writers for that episode along, and the directors of that episode. There’s a group of us sitting there and talking about the various fun and arguments and bloody fights we had over it,” he jokes. “Even though it was 10 years ago, we’re still able to relive the anger and the passion.

by Paul Spragg

Get the full interview in
Ultimate DVD #65

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, The Simpsons © 20th Century Fox
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

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Ultimate DVD #65, see below for ordering options
Ultimate DVD #65
April 2005
ships from Mar 17 2005
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