Paul Simms

Paul Simms

Born in California, Simms was raised largely in the Middle East by his parents, both of whom were schoolteachers who taught English at schools in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among other far-flung locations. As a result, he had only a loose grasp of American popular culture, which left him feeling out of touch when his family returned to the United States. There, he struggled to fit in with the rest of the student body at a boarding school in Santa Barbara, California; eventually, Simms would make his way to Harvard University, where he joined the writing staff of the Harvard Lampoon. His work with the long-running humor publication led to a staff writing position with the satirical magazine Spy from 1988 to 1990, which in turn brought him to "Late Night with David Letterman," where he wrote and produced many of the show's "remote" segments, where Letterman or others would leave the studio to confront the real world. Simms' experiences on "Late Night" would inform his next writing job, as head writer for "The Larry Sanders Show." The show's producers, Brillstein-Grey, signed Simms to a development contract, which led to "NewsRadio," a series about a staff of eccentrics working at a small, financially strapped radio station. The show's lead character, a young Midwesterner (played by Dave Foley) who must battle his own awkwardness to contend with his co-workers, drew inspiration from Simms' own feelings about being an "outsider" in a fast-paced environment. Though a critical hit, "NewsRadio" was plagued by low ratings throughout its five seasons on the air, as well as conflict between Simms and NBC over the direction of the series and eleven different time slot changes. By the end of its fourth season, Simms had clearly reached his breaking point, as evidenced by a profanity-laded interview with Rolling Stone over the show's perceived treatment by the network. Simms later apologized for his comments, which appeared to revive the series from abrupt cancellation. But the murder of star Phil Hartman by his wife in 1998 proved too much for the series to overcome, and NBC finally pulled the plug at the end of its fifth season. Simms, who admitted in an interview that "NewsRadio" was "the only show he had in him," forged ahead with pilots and writing assignments, as well as humorous pieces for The New Yorker. In 2007, he forged a creative union with HBO that resulted in writing and producing stints for, among other series, "Flight of the Conchords" (2007-2009) and "Bored to Death" (2009-2011), both of which followed the "NewsRadio" pattern of critical acclaim but low ratings that led to their untimely cancellation. In 2010, Simms penned a pilot for an NBC series called "Beach Lane," with Matthew Broderick as the editor of a small-town newspaper, but the series was not picked up. He then returned to HBO, where he served as a writer on "Boardwalk Empire" (2010-14) and executive producer on the popular "Girls" before co-producing Sarah Jessica Parker's sophomore effort for the network, a comedy called "Divorce" (2015- ) about a couple in the throes of separation. Simms was also on board as producer for "Atlanta" (FX, 2015- ) a comedy series showcasing actor and writer Donald Glover.