After 11 seasons, Steven Levitan didn’t exactly get the sendoff for his hit series “Modern Family” that he’d anticipated. The series came to an end just as the world began shutting down amid the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — which was both disappointing and relieving for the showrunner.
“In a weird way, it took the edge off. ‘Modern Family’ wasn’t my biggest worry. That wasn’t going to top my head when the world was shut down. But it gave me time to think and to figure out what I really wanted to do and what I don’t want to do anymore, and that’s how I kind of ended up here,” he told TheWrap Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman during Wednesday’s TheGrill conference.
Now, Levitan has launched his next comedy series, “Reboot.” The Hulu comedy about a revived sitcom explores complicated relationships with friends, family and co-workers while poking fun at the entertainment industry.
“Reboot” gave Levitan the opportunity to turn the lens inward, pulling back the curtain on how cultural conversations are impacting the writers room and giving viewers a humorous look at discussions like, how far is too far when it comes to comedy? Is there a line and how do you know you’ve crossed it?
“I’ve been in discussions where a room full of smart, forward-thinking people has been sharply divided on whether or not something is OK to do,” he said. “So, I’m in a unique position with this show to be able to show those conversations, and that allows us to illuminate them in a way that you can’t when it’s a show about something completely different.”
Comedy has taken more than a few hits in recent years, as more creators and comedians are held accountable for the jokes they tell, especially targeted at marginalized communities. Rather than shy away from those conversations, Levitan wanted them at the forefront of his show.
“I can pretend that that doesn’t happen, or I can point out that it does happen and then it leads to discussions. I’ve been in those discussions,” he said.
The series was born out of several revelations that Levitan had during the pandemic, including the idea that it may not be possible to create a show with such a wide appeal anymore. As viewing habits change and the TV industry becomes more fragmented, Levitan saw an opportunity for experimentation.
“You have to change expectations now. That’s why I didn’t want to go chasing after something that felt like I was doing another version of [‘Modern Family’]. I wanted to stretch creatively,” he said. “This was a chance for me to explore what I was doing during the day. And it didn’t start off that way. It just started out as an idea of a bunch of people coming back to a show and how interesting that is. It’s a little bit like going to a high school reunion or something where everybody left with all sorts of expectations and behaviors, and then you’re coming back years later and maybe things played out the way you expected. Maybe they didn’t.”
You can watch highlights from Levitan’s Spotlight Conversation above.
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