Al Jean

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Al Jean
Al Jean by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Al Jean at the 2015 Comic Con in San Diego
Born
Alfred Ernest Jean III

(1961-01-09) January 9, 1961 (age 58)
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater Harvard University
OccupationScreenwriter, producer
Spouse(s)
Stephanie Gillis (m. 2002)
Children2

Alfred Ernest Jean III (born January 9, 1961) is an American screenwriter and producer. [1] Jean is well known for his work on The Simpsons . He was born and raised near Detroit, Michigan, and graduated from Harvard University in 1981. Jean began his writing career in the 1980s with fellow Harvard alum Mike Reiss. Together, they worked as writers and producers on television shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson , ALF and It's Garry Shandling's Show .

<i>The Simpsons</i> American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening

The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of working-class life, epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture and society, television, and the human condition.

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest United States city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

Harvard University private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities. The university is often cited as the world's top tertiary institution by most publishers.

Contents

Jean was offered a job as a writer on the animated sitcom The Simpsons in 1989, alongside Reiss, and together they became the first members of the original writing staff of the show. They served as showrunners during the show's third (1991) and fourth (1992) seasons, though they left The Simpsons after season four to create The Critic , an animated show about film critic Jay Sherman. It was first broadcast on ABC in January 1994 (then aired its second season on Fox in March 1995) and was well received by critics, but did not catch on with viewers and only lasted for two seasons.

A showrunner is the leading television producer of a television series. In the United States, they are credited as an executive producer, and simply as a producer in other countries, such as Canada or Britain. A showrunner has creative and management responsibility of a television series production through combining the responsibilities of employer, and in comedy or dramas, typically also character creator, head writer, and script editor. In films, the director has creative control of a production, but in television, the showrunner outranks the episodic directors.

<i>The Critic</i> Animated American television series

The Critic is an American prime time animated series revolving around the life of New York film critic Jay Sherman, voiced by actor Jon Lovitz. It was created by writing partners Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who had previously worked as writers and showrunners on The Simpsons. The Critic had 23 episodes produced, first broadcast on ABC in 1994, and finishing its original run on Fox in 1995. According to PopMatters, "the creators [said] they intended the series as their 'love letter to New York.'"

American Broadcasting Company American broadcast television network

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is an American commercial broadcast television network that is a flagship property of Walt Disney Television, a subsidiary of the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company. The network is headquartered in Burbank, California on Riverside Drive, directly across the street from Walt Disney Studios and adjacent to the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, But the network's second corporate headquarters and News headquarters remains in New York City, New York at their broadcast center on 77 West 66th Street in Lincoln Square in Upper West Side Manhattan.

In 1994, Jean and Reiss signed a three-year deal with The Walt Disney Company to produce other television shows for ABC, and the duo created and executive-produced Teen Angel , which was canceled in its first season. Jean returned full-time to The Simpsons during the tenth season (1998). He became showrunner again with the start of the thirteenth season in 2001, without Reiss, and has held that position since. Jean was also one of the writers and producers who worked on The Simpsons Movie , a feature-length film based on the series, released in 2007.

The Walt Disney Company American mass media corporation

The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Walt Disney or simply Disney, is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.

<i>Teen Angel</i> (1997 TV series) television series

Teen Angel is an American fantasy sitcom that aired as part of ABC's TGIF Friday night lineup from September 26, 1997 to February 13, 1998. It stars Corbin Allred as a high school student whose recently deceased best friend, played by Mike Damus, returns to earth as his guardian angel. The series was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss.

<i>The Simpsons Movie</i> 2007 film directed by David Silverman

The Simpsons Movie is a 2007 American animated comedy film based on the Fox television series The Simpsons. The film was directed by David Silverman, and stars the regular television cast of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Maggie Roswell and Russi Taylor, as well as Albert Brooks. The film follows Homer Simpson, whose irresponsibility gets the best of him when he pollutes the lake in Springfield after the town has cleaned it up following receipt of a warning from the Environmental Protection Agency. As the townspeople exile him and eventually his family abandons him, Homer works to redeem his folly by stopping Russ Cargill, the head of the EPA, who intends to destroy Springfield.

Personal life and education

"At college, I was privileged to meet and work with some very talented writers who went on to work for Saturday Night Live , Seinfeld , Late Night with David Letterman and The Simpsons . No doubt my exposure to them at a very young age has been enormously helpful to my writing career."

— Al Jean on his time at Harvard University [2]

Al Jean was born Alfred Ernest Jean III on January 9, 1961. [3] He was born and raised in Farmington Hills, Michigan, [3] [4] graduated from Farmington Hills Harrison High School, and is of Irish ancestry. [5] Jean arrived at Harvard University when he was sixteen years old and graduated in 1981 [6] with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. [7] Daryl Libow, one of Jean's freshman roommates, said he was a "math whiz" when he arrived at Harvard but "soon blossomed and found his comedic feet." [8] In Holworthy Hall at Harvard, Jean met fellow freshman Mike Reiss; they befriended one another and collaborated their writing efforts for the humor publication Harvard Lampoon . Jeff Martin, another writer for the Lampoon, said "they definitely loomed large around the magazine. They were very funny guys and unusually polished comedy writers for that age. We were never surprised that they went on to success." [8] Jean has also stated that the duo spent most of their time at the Lampoon, adding that "it was practically my second dorm room." [8] He eventually became vice-president of the publication. [2]

Farmington Hills, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Farmington Hills is the second largest city in Oakland County in the U.S. state of Michigan. Its population was 79,740 at the 2010 census. It is part of the northwestern suburbs of Metropolitan Detroit and is about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of downtown Ann Arbor.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.

Holworthy Hall

Holworthy Hall is one of the dormitories housing first-year students at Harvard College. Housing 85 students, it is located in Harvard Yard and borders Kirkland Street. It is the closest dorm to the Harvard Science Center and the second-closest dormitory to Memorial Hall, which houses the freshman dining hall, Annenberg. Throughout its first century of existence, it was considered the finest dormitory on Harvard Yard and the most desirable in terms of the physical accommodations it offered.

Jean currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, [4] television writer Stephanie Gillis. [9] The two were wed in Enniskerry, Ireland, in 2002. [10] Jean also has two daughters. [11] [12] [13]

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of nearly four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

Stephanie Gillis Television writer

Stephanie Gillis is an American television writer. She writes for The Simpsons and has written 11 episodes.

Enniskerry Town in Leinster, Ireland

Enniskerry is a village in County Wicklow, Ireland. It had a population of 1,811 at the 2011 census.

Career

Early career and The Simpsons

The humor magazine National Lampoon hired Jean and Reiss after they graduated in 1981. [8] During the 1980s, the duo began collaborating on various television material. [11] [14] During this period they worked as writers and producers on television shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson , ALF , Sledge Hammer! and It's Garry Shandling's Show . [2] [15] In 1989, Jean was offered a job as a writer on the animated sitcom The Simpsons , [16] a show created by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon that continues to air today. [5] Many of Jean's friends were not interested in working on The Simpsons because it was a cartoon and they did not think it would last long. [15] Jean, however, was a fan of the work of Groening, Brooks, and Simon, and therefore took the job together with Reiss. [5] [15]

<i>National Lampoon</i> (magazine) magazine

National Lampoon was an American humor magazine which ran from 1970 to 1998. The magazine started out as a spinoff from the Harvard Lampoon. National Lampoon magazine reached its height of popularity and critical acclaim during the 1970s, when it had a far-reaching effect on American humor and comedy. The magazine spawned films, radio, live theatre, various sound recordings, and print products including books. Many members of the creative staff from the magazine subsequently went on to contribute creatively to successful media of all types.

<i>The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson</i> television series

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is an American talk show hosted by Johnny Carson under the Tonight Show franchise from October 1, 1962 through May 22, 1992.

<i>ALF</i> (TV series) American sitcom

ALF is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from September 22, 1986, to March 24, 1990.

The duo became the first members of the original writing staff of The Simpsons and worked on the thirteen episodes of the show's first season (1989). [15] While watching the first episode of the show, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", premiering on television in December 1989, Jean opined to himself that the series was the greatest project he had been involved with and desired to continue working on it for the rest of his professional career. [5] What he enjoyed most about The Simpsons at the time was something he recognized from Brooks' previous work: although the show was largely based on humor, it had depth and warmth. [5]

Mike Reiss and Jean worked as show runners of The Simpsons together. Mikereiss.jpg
Mike Reiss and Jean worked as show runners of The Simpsons together.

Although Jean has been credited as the sole writer of several episodes of the show, he considers the process to be mainly collaborative: "the principal writer [of an episode] has, at most, written 40% of the script. It's a real team effort." [15] The person who is credited as the writer in the episode's opening credits is the person that came up with the idea for the episode and wrote the first draft, even if he or she only contributed to a small part of the final script. [15] Jean has stated that Lisa Simpson is one of his favorite characters to write for. [17] She is the character he relates to the most because of their similar childhoods and the fact that he has a daughter. [18]

Jean became show runner of The Simpsons at the start of the third season (1991) together with Reiss. [18] A show runner has the ultimate responsibility of all the processes that an episode goes through before completion, including the writing, the animation, the voice acting, and the music. [15] When Jean began his tenure as show runner, the only thing he thought to himself every day was "Don't blow it and screw up this thing everyone loves." [18] The first episode Jean and Reiss ran was "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" (aired September 19, 1991), and they felt a lot of pressure on them to make it good. They were so pressured that they did six to seven rewrites of the script in order to improve its humor. Jean said he "kept thinking 'It's not good enough. It's not good enough.'" [19] Reiss added that "we were definitely scared. We had never run anything before, and they dumped us on this." [20]

Jean and Reiss served as show runners until the end of the fourth season in 1993. [19] Since the show had already established itself in the first two seasons, they were able to give it more depth during their tenure. Jean believes this is one of the reasons that many fans and critics regard season three and four as the best seasons of The Simpsons. [18] Bill Oakley, another writer on The Simpsons, has commented that "Mike and Al are responsible for the best thing that ever appeared on television, which was the third season of The Simpsons." [8] Comedy writer Jay Kogen has said that "those years with Al Jean and Mike Reiss running it were pretty darn good. And then the ones after that maybe not so much. Some people ran it better than others." [21]

The Critic and Disney

Jean and former Simpsons executive producer David Mirkin at the 2007 Comic Con. Mirkinjean.jpg
Jean and former Simpsons executive producer David Mirkin at the 2007 Comic Con.

Jean and Reiss left The Simpsons after its fourth season in order to create The Critic , an animated show about film critic Jay Sherman (voiced by Jon Lovitz); the show was executive produced by Brooks. [22] [23] It was first broadcast on ABC in January 1994 and was well received by critics, [24] [25] but did not catch on with viewers and was put on hiatus after six weeks. It returned in June 1994 and completed airing its initial production run. [26] The Critic was moved to the Fox network for its second season. [27] Since The Simpsons also aired on that network, Brooks was able to create a crossover between it and The Critic. [28]

This crossover occurred through the Simpsons episode "A Star Is Burns" (1995). Groening was not fond of the crossover, publicly citing it as a thirty-minute advertisement for The Critic. [28] Brooks said, "for years, Al and Mike were two guys who worked their hearts out on this show, staying up until 4 in the morning to get it right. The point is, Matt's name has been on Mike's and Al's scripts and he has taken plenty of credit for a lot of their great work. In fact, he is the direct beneficiary of their work. The Critic is their shot and he should be giving them his support." Reiss stated that he was a "little upset" by Groening's actions and that "this taints everything at the last minute. [...] This episode doesn't say 'Watch The Critic' all over it." [28] Jean added "What bothers me about all of this, is that now people may get the impression that this Simpsons episode is less than good. It stands on its own even if The Critic never existed." [28] On Fox, The Critic was again short-lived, broadcasting ten episodes before its cancellation. A total of only 23 episodes were produced, and it returned briefly in 2000 with a series of ten Internet broadcast webisodes. The series has since developed a cult following thanks to reruns on Comedy Central and its complete series release on DVD. [29]

In 1994, Jean and Reiss signed a three-year deal with The Walt Disney Company to produce other television shows for ABC. The duo created and executive produced Teen Angel , which was canceled in its first season. Reiss said "It was so compromised and overworked. I had 11 executives full-time telling me how to do my job." [30] The pair periodically returned to work on The Simpsons— for example, while under contract at Disney they were allowed to write and produce four episodes of the show, including season eight's "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" (1997). [31]

Further work on The Simpsons

"What has defined the Al Jean era is the show's definitive move into the mainstream of American TV and culture. By now The Simpsons is the most successful show in the history of television—it's a long way from the young, mouthy, experimental series on the upstart network [Fox]. With the show's popularity such a shift was inevitable, and for many reasons it's unfair to compare today's episodes with those from the show's heyday."

— John Ortved in The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History [32]

Jean returned full-time to The Simpsons during the tenth season (1998). [5] He once again became show runner with the start of the thirteenth season in 2001, [19] this time without Reiss. [15] Jean called it "a great job with a lot of responsibility," and cited "the fact that people love it so much" as "great." [18] He adds, however, that "the hardest thing at this point is just thinking of fresh ideas. People are so on top of things that we've done before, so the challenge now is to think of an idea that's good, but hasn't been seen." [15] Jean's return was initially welcomed, with MSNBC's Jon Bonné stating: "Jean, who took the show's helm from executive producer Mike Scully in 2001, has guided the show away from its gag-heavy, Homer-centric incarnation...these are certainly brighter days for the show's long-time fans." [33] However, some critics have argued that the quality of the show has declined in recent years during Jean's tenure. Jean has responded to this criticism by saying: "Well, it's possible that we've declined. But honestly, I've been here the whole time and I do remember in season two people saying, 'It's gone downhill.' If we'd listened to that then we would have stopped after episode 13. I'm glad we didn't." [34]

Jean was one of the writers and producers who worked on The Simpsons Movie , a feature-length film that was released in 2007. [17] The show's voice cast was signed on to do the film in 2001, [35] and work then began on the script. [36] The producers of The Simpsons were initially worried that creating a film would have a negative effect on the show, as they did not have enough crew to focus their attention on both projects. As the show progressed, additional writers and animators were hired so that both the show and the film could be produced at the same time. [37] Groening and Brooks were therefore able to invite Jean (who continued to work as show runner on the television show) to produce the film with them. [38]

Jean frequently appears on the Simpsons DVD audio commentaries for episodes which he has collaborated on. He told IGN that he enjoys doing them because he has not seen some of the episodes in ten to fifteen years, and "it's kind of like a reunion to see some of the people that I worked with before, so it's a really pleasant experience." [17]

Awards

Jean has received eight Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award for his work on The Simpsons. [2] [15] [39] In 1997, he and Reiss won an Annie Award in the "Best Producing in a TV Production" category for the Simpsons episode "The Springfield Files". [40] In 1991 they shared the Writing A Comedy Series CableAce Award for the It's Garry Shandling's Show Episode "My Mother The Wife". In 2006, the duo was given the Animation Writers Caucus Animation Award which is given by the Writers Guild of America to writers that "advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television through the years and who has made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer." [41]

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