Thursday, May 22, 2014

What am I up to these days?

Several people have asked this question so I thought I’d respond, but I can’t provide too many details yet. Hope this will suffice.  The latest to ask was John.  He tried to pose the question very delicately, which I appreciate.  He could have just as easily wrote:  "Have you finally been kicked out of show business?"  Instead, he asked:


Are you actively writing or attempting to write for TV / movies anymore? Are you just working uncredited, or pitching and failing, or are you retired or semi-retired from scriptwriting / directing / producing to concentrate on books and blogs? Are you turning down opportunities, or have they dried up? I can see at some point in everyone’s life not wanting to work the hours required to be on staff or running the staff, so turning those down makes sense. I would think that an occasional directing job would be there if you wanted it, but maybe the age bias, or just out of sight out of mind kills that?

John, I am in the wonderful and enviable position where I can pick and choose what I want to work on. And at the moment I’m quite busy.

My writing partner, David Isaacs and I have sold a pilot to a major cable network and are in the process of writing the script even as we speak. We’re leaving it up to them to announce it publicly.

I also recently wrote another stage play. I’m having a reading of it next week for a select audience, and hopefully in the next month or so will have exciting news to report about that. Stay tuned.

And in July I will direct an episode of INSTANT MOM written by my favorite young writing team – Annie Levine & Jonathan Emerson. It’s a multi-camera show but I’ve been studying Fellini for some stylistic choices I’ve always wanted to try.

Behind the scenes – David and I sold a spec pilot to FX a few years ago that didn’t go because they couldn’t find a companion piece for it. And I’ve helped out on numerous pilots (coming in to provide punch up); some that have gone, others that have not.

What I’m not interested in doing is being on staff of someone else’s show. Happily, I still get asked from time to time, but if I’m going to put in that time and effort it’s going to be for a show I co-created and am very passionate about (like this current pilot). It’s a good thing I don’t have four ex-wives and invested heavily in dot.coms.

That said, I would entertain a gig to come in once a week to consult on a show, but those jobs have pretty much become extinct.  And there are certain hour shows I would like to write for the experience, but it's hard to get a GOOD WIFE assignment off of a CHEERS script. 

Otherwise, I co-wrote a musical (THE 60’s PROJECT starring Andrew Rannells) that got produced at the Goodspeed Theatre in 2006, wrote another play, three books (at least one of which you NEED to buy), created my SITCOM ROOM seminar, teach a course at USC, do improv comedy, storytelling, did play-by-play for the Seattle Mariners, “Dodger Talk” for the Dodgers, and I continue to do talk shows on KABC radio and fill in for Marilu Henner on her nationally syndicated radio show. Oh… and this blog, which I've updated daily for 8 1/2 years.

Jesus, this sounds like I’m writing my bio for a Playbill. All I need is to include my awards, say I guest starred on LAW & ORDER even if I never did, and thank my parents.

So the short answer is: Yes, I'm still in show business. I’m still writing and directing and very excited about the projects I’m involved in, but I’m eating lunches off of actual plates and not Styrofoam. And that has been my goal for many years. 

27 comments:

Matthew said...

"My writing partner, David Isaacs and I have sold a pilot to a major cable network and are in the process of writing the script even as we speak."

That's the most exciting news I've heard in a long time! I'm desperate for some good comedy shows to watch.

Hamid said...

Can't wait to hear the announcement about the new pilot, Ken.

Regarding one-hour shows, I'd love to see you and David write an episode of The Americans, which you've mentioned you're a fan of.

And on books - may I suggest a book detailing all the behind the scenes stories from your movie work on Volunteers, Jewel of the Nile, Mannequin and Mannequin 2? I still want to know if you were being serious when you said the producers of Mannequin 2 initially wanted to pay you and David in TVs instead of money.

Stoney said...

How about turning MUST KILL TV into a musical!

Ever considered podcasting? Next best thing to a regular REAL radio gig.

Mainly I just wanted to pass along that Ted Danson told Rachael Ray this morning that he never goes into the writers' room on "CSI" and that the "Cheers" alumni are getting a little too grey-haired for a reunion show.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Danson, you're never too gray-haired for a reunion show! Witness all the Who/Stones/Floyd cash cow milkings.

Name encoded in binary somewhere in the infinite progression of Pi said...

This brings up a question I've always had about your continued participation in sho bidness. You are rather candid in this blog about your feelings on a variety of topics and people (e.g., the suits and their counterproductive interference). Do you suffer much fallout from that?

VP81955 said...

I recently saw Nick Bakay host a documentary on training camp for the NFL Network; perhaps you could do some sort of work for the MLB Network. So what if, unlike Nick, you've never voiced an animatronic cat?

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

...another coffee-through-the-nose-explosion this morning after I read the Fellini line.

The bill from my cleaners is on the way...

Ox

PS I imagined Annie saying, "Awww, Daaad!!"

Adam said...

Thanks for the blog Ken - it's a highlight of each day (that's a compliment to you more than a comment on my day-to-day life!). My question is if you can suggest books on writing - any form, TV, novels, journalism. I think you had "crafty TV writing" listed a couple weeks ago (it's on my "to read" list) and I've heard King's "On writing" is good. Anything else?

Thanks!

Adam

Paul Duca said...

Ken...I look forward to you turning INSTANT MOM into what Nurphy Brown calls "A Fellini version of THE WALTONS"

benson said...

I stand by my previous words. When I die, Ken, I want your life to flash before my eyes.

As always, thanks for the entertainment.

Dave Creek said...

Anything with a Levine/Isaacs credit on it is must-see!

Hope to hear more about the good news soon.

Dave Creek said...

Anything with a Levine/Isaacs credit on it is must-see!

Hope to hear more about the good news soon.

Michael Khan said...

You are so not kidding about the bios on PLAYBILL. It's like some weird show-biz form of Mad Libs.

Famous! said...

Mazel AND Tov!

Still enjoying your work, every night, on the (bowlderized) Hallmark Channel reruns of "Cheers" and "Frasier". In fact, last night you introduced the character of my former co-worker, "Eddie Lebec" (who looked much more alive, by the time I worked with him in '99! :-) )

Victor Velasco said...

This is good news

SharoneRosen said...

and when you do turn MUST KILL TV into a musical, have I got the Broadway composer for you!

www.charlierosen.com

(I am the proud aunt, not the stage mother)

Sooo looking forward to yours and David's new show! Truly FABULOUS news!!!

Dan Ball said...

So will your blog be on Lorre-esque vanity cards every week instead of Blogspot if the new show gets picked up? :P

*ducks*

Johnny Walker said...

Fantastic news! I hope you get picked up!

Jerry Krull said...

Great news on the pilot! Now I can tell my Dad "Ken Levine has a pilot for a new show in the works".

When my Dad says "who?" I'll tell him "you know, the guy who ran that Sitcom Room thingie I did a couple of years ago." Dad will answer "What?"

I'll try again and say "you know your favorite shows M*A*S*H, Cheers, Wings, Fraizer - the ones that you actually laughed with?" He'll say "Yeah, they don't write them like that anymore." I'll say "Ken did, and he's back at it."

Dad will then say "Tell him to make sure it's not on my VFW fish fry night".

Do you want to explain a DVR to an 83 year old?

Janet said...

Oh, I'd just as soon never see a CHEERS reunion show. Those things almost invariably disappoint. (I'm hedging with "almost," but frankly, I can't think of one that didn't disappoint.)

James said...

Ken: if you wrote a spec script for The Good Wife, would your reputation as an experienced writer-producer get it read and taken seriously, or would they still blow it off simply because you're pigeon-holed as a sitcom guy?

Anonymous said...

Ken,
Thanks for the answer. Good to hear that most of your absence is by choice. Follow up FQ would be to answer James' question. Also, would like to second Hamid's suggestion that you write a behind the scenes. Look forward to seeing your show.
John

Cap'n Bob said...

I'm glad to know you won't be a burden on society. Good luck.

chuckcd said...

Great news about the pilot!
I will be looking out for that.

MikeN said...

This leads me to ask, what's wrong with getting a job for The Good Wife off of a Cheers script?

Brian said...

Ken, I hope the pilot "makes it". I enjoyed "Must Kill TV" and posted a favorable review on Amazon for it. Some of your wry humor could definitely be used on The Good Wife.

cadavra said...

In my bio for this year's TCM Film Festival, I cheekily tagged it with, "He has never appeared on LAW AND ORDER." To my pleasant surprise, they didn't cut it.