UPDATED: Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan is staying with his TV family, signing a new four-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV, the studio behind the Emmy-winning ABC comedy series where he has been for over a decade. Under the rich pact, Levitan will continue as executive producer/co-showrunner on Modern Family, which he has been co-running alongside fellow co-creator Christopher Lloyd. (Lloyd has no deal for the series beyond this season and is not pursuing an overall or new show deal at the moment.) Additionally, “I will be keeping an eye open for interesting projects to shepherd and will be looking for well-written pilots to direct,” said Levitan, who won a directing Emmy for Modern Family in 2012. Levitan also is contemplating writing a new show, either by himself or with a partner, during the hiatus from Modern Family. “I have a couple that I’ll pursue as soon as I have enough time off to feel bored — if that ever happens.” All that would be welcomed by 20th brass, led by co-chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman. “Steve’s been at this studio almost as long as I have, and he’s still as passionate about the process of making TV as the day I met him,” Walden said. “Of course, he’ll continue to work with Chris on Modern Family, but we intend to take advantage of his talents every way we can, whether it’s directing pilots or supervising writers or creating another hit series of his own.”
Levitan said he didn’t look elsewhere before re-signing with 2oth TV, where he knows virtually everyone. “They’ve been very kind to me,” Levitan said. “Gary & Dana are the Jay Z & Beyonce of television executives. They are good friends and I feel like I have a home here.” But probably the biggest draw for Levitan, who previously created NBC comedy Just Shoot Me, was the opportunity to stay with Modern Family. “A wise friend once told me, ‘Hollywood is 10,000 people running to the spot where lightning just struck,’ he said. “I was lucky enough to be there when it did — I see no reason to run away from it.” Past experience and regrets also factored into his decision. “I left Just Shoot Me too early and I really didn’t want to make that mistake twice,” he said. “It’s important to me that Modern Family maintains its quality and that it finishes strong, and I want to be part of that.”
With Modern Family wrapping its fifth season and Levitan signed for the next four, are Lloyd and he planning an end-game for the series, which is already successfully airing in syndication on USA Network? “There is not really an end game,” Levitan said, noting that he, Lloyd and their team take an “honest” look every season to make sure that they are maintaining the quality and that the show is still enjoyable. “As long as the answer is yes, we well keep going, but if we have the gut feeling that it’s time to stop, we will shut it down.“ When does he think that day will come? “I’d say 3-4 years from now is the best guess at this time.”
Earlier this season, there was an idea for a spinoff centered on the realtor Gil Thorpe character played on Modern Family by guest star Rob Riggle. Modern Family executive producers Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh, who were shepherding the project, got busy with the mothership series and ran out of time, Levitan said, so Riggle went on to book a pilot, NBC comedy The Pro. However, a Thorpe spinoff is still a possibility. “I’m a huge fan of Rob,” Levitan said. “If we had time to sit down and work something out, I’d definitely be open to that idea. Until then I wish him success (with his pilot) and hope he won’t be available for a while because I like Rob.”
Modern Family producers also would entertain other spinoff ideas. “If we stumble upon a compelling character played by an actor that we feel can carry a show, we are open to the possibility,” Levitan said. What he and his colleagues are not open to, at least not for now, is expanding the original cast of 11 people, all of whom have to be serviced in the 22 minutes each episode. Adding main players has worked for CBS veteran The Big Bang Theory, which has been growing in the ratings. “We’re not looking to bring additional cast members to boost ratings, but we’re always looking for new dynamics to keep the show fresh,” said Levitan, whose 20th TV deal was negotiated by UTA’s Jay Sures and attorney Sam Fischer.
Modern Family airs on ABC, whose longtime topper, Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney, announced last week that she was stepping down to pursue TV directing. What does Levitan think about Sweeney’s decision, and would he have her as an apprentice on the show? “I think it was a very cool move to say, I conquered the corporate world, now I want do something different,” he said. “She is more than welcome to shadow me or a more talented director on Modern Family any time.”