Steve Levitan, 47, is known for creating the TV series Just Shoot Me! Stark Raving Mad, Stacked, Back to You, with varying degrees of success. He’s also known for being highly vocal in his displeasure with the networks (like NBC and Fox) at times. And, in the words of one producer, “for being the only Jew in Hollywood who wears a 44 long”. But the veteran writer/producer — who won an Emmy Award as executive producer of Frasier and has written for the Larry Sanders Show, Men Behaving Badly, The Wonder Years and other comedy shows — is now a happy guy at the helm ABC’s Wednesday night sitcom hit Modern Family, which he co-runs with Chris Lloyd. While he has some strong feelings about the state of the TV industry, he admits in this Showrunner Q&A with Deadline contributor Diane Haithman — done before Modern Family was nominated for Emmys — that these days he’s finding it pretty hard to complain:
SL: Obviously, everything I say in this interview is [about] myself and my writing partner Chris Lloyd, we were doing this together.
DH: OK. How did you come up with the mix of characters for Modern Family and decide: This will be our neighborhood?
We knew we wanted to do something about family, and we started to realize we wanted to do something in the documentary form. We wanted to do multiple families, because we both liked the adult relationships. We didn’t want to be constantly doing kid stories, we wanted to be able to do both. Frasier was based on an adult brother relationship, and an adult father-son relationship. Just Shoot Me was a complicated adult father-daughter relationship. So then it was a matter of populating it with multiple families, and the idea was, how has family changed recently? So let’s start in the middle with a very conventional, right down the middle family — a working husband, a stay-at-home mom, and three kids. And the kids were kind of loosely based on my family in terms of the sexes and ages of the kids. And then we wanted to do a gay couple. And we wanted to do something cross-cultural as well. And what was nice there was the older man/younger woman thing. We could have done three siblings, and one of them was married [to someone from another culture]. But we liked the idea of the father being with the younger woman because you’ve got multiple things going on. There was nice conflict and tension. (more…)