The Simpsons season 31 is now underway, and the premiere episode pays a touching tribute to the late Mike Mendel, who worked on the series as a producer for 10 years. Mendel suddenly passed away on September 22, 2019, just a few days before his 55th birthday, from natural causes.
Mendel was part of the team who helped make The Simpsons one of the best TV comedies of all time. After starting out on The Tracy Ullman Show alongside James L. Brooks, where he worked on the Simpsons shorts, he then started work as a producer on the series when it was given its own show. Mendel left The Simpsons in 1999, but forged a strong legacy with the animated sitcom, and it's nice to see that hasn't been forgotten.
At the end of The Simpsons season 31 premiere, "The Winter of Our Monetized Content", a black screen appeared with a Simpsonized version of Mendel, and a message that read: "In Loving Memory Of Mike Mendel." Mendel only passed away a week before The Simpsons returned to screens, so it's good that they were able to work in a tribute to the former producer, who leaves behind a career filled with great animation work.
Mendel's time on the show, from 1989-1999, coincided with what's regarded as The Simpsons' Golden Age. He won three Emmy Awards for his producing work on the show: the first, in 1995, for "Lisa's Wedding"; the second in 1997 for "Homer's Phobia"; and the third in 1998 for "Trash of the Titans", all of which came during that acclaimed period for The Simpsons. In total, he worked on over 200 episodes of The Simpsons, with his final installment as producer being season 10's "Make Room For Lisa".
After leaving The Simpsons, Mendel worked on a number of other animated TV shows, including The PJs and Sit Down, Shut Up, before beginning work on Rick & Morty as a producer in 2013, and he won his fourth Emmy in 2018 for the episode "Pickle Rick". He did actually get one last credit for The Simpsons back in 2015 on the episode "Mathlete's Feat", as a producer for the Rick & Morty couch gag. Rick & Morty's co-creator, Justin Rolland, paid tribute on Twitter, saying: "I don't know what I'm going to do without you by my side Mike. I'm destroyed."
Working as a producer, Mendel's role was very much behind-the-scenes, but it's clear to see just how much of an influence he had not only on The Simpsons' quality, but American animated television as a whole. He leaves behind a great body of work, and it's right to see that being honored by The Simpsons.