Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
Levitan grew up in Chicago on a steady diet of The Dick Van Dyke Show, M*A*S*H and Taxi. But it wasn't until he was working late one night at a Madison, Wis., news station that he realized he wanted to write comedy. "We had the three monitors playing three shows, and I remember thinking, 'Boy, I wonder if I could write one of those?' " says Levitan, 49. Looking to find out, he started penning spec scripts, first for Moonlighting and then for Sledge Hammer!,The Wonder Years and Cheers. He passed muster and landed a writing gig on Wings, where he met his future Modern Family writing partner, Lloyd, with whom Levitan also has collaborated on Frasier and Back to You. Originally from Connecticut, Lloyd got his big break years earlier when he met producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas on a pilot to which an inexperienced Lloyd contributed a single joke. Some six months later, Lloyd wrote a letter reminding them that it was he who had pitched that gag. "They did what I was hoping they'd do: realize it was a joke," says Lloyd. Two days later, Lloyd, 51, was invited to work on Witt and Thomas' new show, The Golden Girls, where he remained for several years. Decades later, Levitan and Lloyd are responsible for one of TV's most giant hits: In addition to the 14 million-plus tuning in to Family's third season, the series snapped up five more Emmys in September, including a repeat win for outstanding comedy series. Says Levitan of the duo's embarrassment of riches: "It's exhilarating. I wish it on everyone."