This week the world said goodbye not only to renowned novelist Terry Pratchett, but also to one of the men who helped create the longest-running TV sitcom in history and the world’s best-known family. Sam Simon’s death, even at age 59, is not really a shock. The man had been fighting an open battle with colon cancer for several years. He was diagnosed in 2012 and first revealed his condition in 2013. Soon afterwards Simon started spending his vast fortune helping the homeless and abandoned animals.
Simon enjoyed a long and successful career. At just age 23 he was the showrunner for Taxi, the early Eighties sitcom that made Tony Danza a star and cemented the legend of Andy Kaufman, who also died from cancer. Simon helped create stand-up comedian George Carlin’s TV show and directed episodes of The Drew Carey Show. He also did writing work for Cheers.
But Simon’s real legacy and fortune came from helping assemble the team that made The Simpsons. He also wrote several episodes for the series and is widely credited as the man who honed the sensibilities of the show. The original writers all credit him as the person who put The Simpsons where it was. Brad Bird, who was a Simpsons writer before his breakthrough as a director at Pixar, has called Simon the unsung hero of the show.
It wasn’t all sunshine: Simon had a poor relationship with Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Simon never thought the show would last long and as such pushed the writers to go all out, something Groening interpreted as Simon’s non-committal to his creation. Simon in turn was apparently not happy with all the media attention Groening got, considering his limited role in the making of the show. Simon left The Simpsons in 1993, but his influence made it the cultural juggernaut it became.
Eventually the two buried the hatchet and Simon will be remembered as one of the most important people in the history of modern American sitcoms.
Last Updated: March 13, 2015