About Steven Levitan
Raised in Chicago, IL, Levitan graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in journalism, which he put to use as a news anchorman and reporter on local television. Later, he became a copywriter at Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago while penning television scripts in his free time. One found its way to the producers of "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993), which launched his writing career in Hollywood. Levitan was soon penning scripts for some of the most successful and critically acclaimed comedies on television, beginning in 1991 with "Wings" (NBC, 1990-97), which also marked his debut as an executive producer. He later segued to co-executive producer and occasional writer for "The Larry Sanders Show," widely considered to be one of the best comedies ever produced for television. As producer, he shared in the show's two CableACE awards for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1995 and 1996. The following year, he made his first collaboration with writer-producer Christopher Lloyd on "Frasier," another critical and ratings powerhouse. In addition to his producing role on the series, Levitan wrote several episodes, including the 1996 episode "Breaking the Ice," in which Kelsey Grammer's Frasier attempts to wrestle an admission of love from his father (John Mahoney). One of the series' most memorable moments, it earned Levitan the Humanitas Prize, which was soon joined by a Producers Guild Award and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Not everything Levitan touched turned to gold - he penned scripts for the animated series "The Critic" (Fox, 1994-2001) and the American adaptation of "Men Behaving Badly" (NBC, 1996); neither of which made an impact with viewers. The comedy "Stark Raving Mad" (NBC, 1999-2000), which he created, lasted only a season. However, his debut as show creator, the NBC sitcom "Just Shoot Me," proved to be a favorite with both comedy fans and the press. Based on a concept by Levitan about actress Janeane Garofalo's character from "Larry Sanders," the acerbic talent booker Paula, and how she would react if forced to talk to a vapid model, the show, which pitted feminist writer Laura San Giacomo against the vain staff of a fashion magazine run by her father (George Segal), earned numerous nominations, including an Emmy nod for a 1999 episode written by Levitan. In addition to serving as writer and executive producer, Levitan also directed five episodes of the show, having already made his behind-the-camera debut on "Stark Raving Mad."
While shepherding "Just Shoot Me," Levitan lent his talents to a wide variety of comedy series as the 1990s faded into the new millennium. Most were critically praised but short-lived: "Greg the Bunny" (Fox, 2002), about the emotionally unstable puppet cast of a children's show, ran less than a season, while "Oliver Beene" (Fox, 2003-04) was an offbeat period comedy about the title character, a 12-year-old boy trapped with an eccentric family. "Stacked" (Fox, 2005-06) was a dismal sitcom that reversed the template of "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993), with clueless blonde Pamela Anderson bringing some light to the staff of a bookstore. In 2006, Levitan partnered with his "Frasier" collaborator, Christopher Lloyd, to form a production company, Picture Day. Their first effort, "Back to You," looked like a hit, having had the good fortune to land Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton from "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS, 1996-2005) as former romantic partners and news anchors who find themselves reteamed at a new station. Expectations ran high for the series, and when the writing failed to match them, it was axed after less than a season. However, the show did serve as an introduction for Levitan and Lloyd to actor Ty Burrell, who would become one of the breakout stars of their next effort.
"Modern Family," which followed the lives of three related families - patriarch Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill), his Hispanic younger wife (Sofia Vergara) and son; his daughter Claire (Julie Bowen), clueless husband Phil (Burrell) and their three children; and his son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his partner Cameron (Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet) and their adopted daughter. Premiering on ABC in 2009, the show was almost immediately showered with praise by critics, who applauded its mix of sharp writing, broad physical comedy and genuine family emotion. The series went on to win three Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for Lloyd and Levitan at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards in August 2010. Lloyd was conspicuously absent from the award ceremonies, leading many in the press to speculate that there was friction between he and Levitan. In mid-2010, those rumors were largely confirmed when the former partners announced the dissolution of Picture Day. Both would remain as producers on "Modern Family" while pursuing individual projects. In 2011, Levitan won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for "Modern Family" and a 2012 Emmy for directing.
|Nominated for the 2011 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series ("Modern Family")|