When Writing Teams Break Up

One thing about the new animated series Sit Down, Shut Up (premiering this Sunday) that may be of interest to Simpsons geeks is that this show marks the breakup of one of the best-loved writing/producing teams from the show. It was supposed to be produced by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, who wrote many scripts for The Simpsons and ran the show in seasons 7 and 8. (Those are often considered the last of the “classic” seasons; the duo is also well-liked for their articulate, passionate commentaries, where they really seem to understand the show the way fans understand it.) They also created the one-season animated show Mission Hill, which has a deserved cult following as a late-’90s time capsule. But Oakley left Sit Down, Shut Up during pre-production, and Weinstein stayed.

A post about what happens when a writing/producing team breaks up is not really within my jurisdiction; it’s impossible to know what one writer brings to a partnership, so how he will function on his own is known only to the people who work with him. The one thing that is visible to outsiders is that sometimes a team will break up — usually amicably — and the one of the writers will go on to big things while the other doesn’t. Phil Rosenthal of Everybody Loves Raymond was a writer who originally broke in with a partner (Oliver Goldstick) but went on to become a huge success on his own, while the ex-partner did not.

Anyway, back to Josh Weinstein — not to be confused with the guy from Mystery Science Theater here’s an interview with him in Animation magazine about the new show and its look, in particular its use of live-action backgrounds. The backgrounds are a nod to the fact that this is based on a live-action comedy, but it is actually a technique that goes back a long way; Bob Clampett experimented with it in a few cartoons in 1940, like “Porky’s Pooch.”