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Sam Simon, Executive Producer on ‘The Simpsons,’ Dies at 59

The longtime TV writer, producer, director and ‘The Simpsons’ co-developer succumbs to cancer on Sunday, March 8, 2015.

As noted in Variety, numerous news outlets and an Al Jean tweet, Sam Simon, who alongside James L. Brooks and Matt Groening, brought The Simpsons to life, first as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987 and two year later, as a FOX network series that has since become the longest running American scripted prime time TV show in history, passed away yesterday after a bout with colorectal cancer. He was 59.

Even after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012 and given three to six months to live, Simon continued his philanthropic work with various charities as well as his own Sam Simon Foundation, which funded numerous food for the hungry, animal rescue and global marine conservation projects among others. Providing service dogs for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD as well as training dogs rescued from animal shelters to become hearing dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing were just a few of the foundation’s programs geared to enriching the lives of others..  

As AWN wrote back in 2013, when Simon was honored by the WGA West Animation Writers Caucus 16th Annual Animation Writing Award, Simon was involved creatively with The Simpsons (created by Matt Groening, developed by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening and Sam Simon) since the animated series’ inception in 1989. Simon co-wrote nearly a dozen Simpsons episodes during his tenure on the show, also serving as co-showrunner and character designer. After departing the series in 1993, he retained an Executive Producer credit for nearly 500 episodes over the series’ nearly 25-year run, making it the longest-running scripted primetime TV series of all time. Named “the 20th century’s best series” by Time Magazine and having received numerous industry accolades over the years, The Simpsons earned a #11 rank on the WGA’s own 101 Best Written TV Series list announced this past summer.

A nine-time Emmy winner and 22-time Emmy nominee, Simon shared seven Emmy Awards for The Simpsons (Outstanding Animated Program for Programming Less Than One Hour in 2001, 2000, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1991, 1990) and two Emmys for his work on The Tracey Ullman Show (Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Program in 1989 and Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program in 1990), as well as sharing multiple Emmy nominations for his work on Fox’s Ullman show (Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program, 1987, -88, -89), in addition to sharing Emmy nominations for his work on the comedy TV series It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, for the episode “Angelica II aka It’s Garry and Angelica’s Show”), Cheers (Outstanding Comedy Series, 1985), and Taxi (Outstanding Comedy Series, 1983), for which he served as showrunner at the young age of 24. He has also received a Peabody Award for his work, as well as earned a 1986 WGA Episodic Comedy nomination for penning the Cheers episode “Fairy Tales Can Come True.”

Beyond animation, Simon’s live-action TV writing-producing credits include The Drew Carey Show (executive producer, 1998-2003), The George Carlin Show (creator/executive producer, 1994-95), The Tracey Ullman Show (executive producer, 1988-1990), Cheers (1984-85), and Taxi (1982-83).

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.