Executive Producer, “The Simpsons”
As executive producer of “The Simpsons,” Mike Sculley has one of the best jobs in television.
Just don’t ask him about his worst ones.
Sculley cut his teeth as a TV writer on lesser-light situation comedies like “What a Country!,” “Top of the Heap,” and “The Royal Family” none of which survived more than a season.
“I know, it’s a pretty depressing list,” says Sculley, 40. “But, I’m glad that I had a lot of those experiences. When you are on shows that aren’t really good, you really appreciate it when you land a good one.”
Sculley joined Fox Television’s “The Simpsons” as a producer in 1993, and this season took over the job of executive producer a pivotal credit in the sitcom world.
“The level of writing on the Simpsons went up when Mike joined up with us,” said Richard Sakai, president of Gracie Films, which produces the show. “He’s got a great sense of humor, and has the respect of all the writers on the show. He was the clear cut choice for (Simpsons creator) Matt Groening.”
Sculley said a succession of dead-end jobs while living in Massachusetts convinced him to move. It was on his 25th birthday that, while celebrating with friends, he decided to make a move to the West Coast.
“I didn’t have a college education and was working as a driving instructor and as a night clerk at a hotel,” he said. “These jobs were going nowhere, and they’d always be waiting for me if I ever had to go back. Fortunately, I never did.”
Sculley began his career by doing standup comedy at local clubs, and later became a writer for comedian Yakov Smirnoff. Later, when Smirnoff got his own show (“What a Country!”) he landed work as a writer for the series.
Although “What a Country!” and other shows bombed with the public, Sculley said the experience gave him a chance to learn his craft.
“So much of this career is breaks and connections,” says Sculley, who just bought a home in Malibu where he lives with his wife and five children.
Sculley characterizes himself as a “TV kid” while growing up. It was watching series like “F-Troop,” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” that convinced him to pursue television writing.
One of his first paid gigs was a script that was purchased for NBC’s “The Facts of Life.” The script was never produced.
“I wasn’t that upset because I knew I was a good writer,” he said. “This industry has a lot of ups and downs.”
In addition, Sculley has recently written his first feature film for DreamWorks SKG. He was contacted by Steven Spielberg last year to write a movie based on aliens that crash-land on earth who, instead of invading the planet, become media stars.
As for “The Simpsons,” Sculley said he believes it will last at least another two more seasons, taking the animated series into its 10th year.
Joe Bel Bruno