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Love was in the air Monday night on the Fox lot.
“I’d say it’s a love letter, and maybe also a friendly roast,” offered Levitan on the red carpet prior to the screening, describing the tenor of his new show, which follows the adventures of a dysfunctional cast from an early-2000s hit sitcom called Step Right Up after a showrunner pitches a reboot of their show to Hulu.
What it’s definitely not is a mean-spirited takedown of Hollywood, hence all the good vibes in and around the Darryl F. Zanuck Theater and all the glowing executives. “I’ve had a wonderful career,” continued Levitan, who has armfuls of Emmys and has steered such shows as Modern Family and Just Shoot Me. “I’ve met so many amazing people and some of them were, you know, unbelievably weird and quirky, and that’s what I wanted to capture. Sometimes you can have a room full of very normal people sitting around having a conversation about something absurd and I wanted to capture that, as well.”
So he drafted the talents of Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Paul Reiser, Rachel Bloom, Johnny Knoxville, Calum Worthy, Krista Marie Yu and a gaggle of bold-faced name guest stars to fill out the show that Levitan executive produces alongside Danielle Stokdyk and Jeff Morton.
His first call was to Key. “It was a very sweet thing,” the actor, producer and writer said of fielding the pitch. “Steve and I have known each other for years socially, and one day, he just said, ‘I want to talk to you about this show idea.’ As soon as he finished telling me the idea, I went, ‘Oh my God, how has no one thought of this yet? We have to make it immediately before somebody else comes up with the idea.’ And I told him, ‘Whenever you get to make this, I’m in. I’m your man.'”
Bloom plays the showrunner Hannah who pitches the reboot to executives at Hulu in the opening scene of the eight-episode first season. An experienced veteran from running her own series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend alongside Aline Brosh McKenna, Bloom didn’t have to search far and wide to get into character. But she did make subtle requests.
“There were moments where we were supposed to be running a writers room and the whiteboard actually had the story from the pilot of Step Right Up,” explained Bloom. “And I said, ‘Sorry, if we’re breaking episode two, I need some episode two ideas up there.’ I needed the verisimilitude of that.”
She also needed someone to pinch her. “Steve is one of the most successful showrunners of all time, it felt so surreal to be on his show.”
There’s more of that love that was flowing around Fox. (Even the deejay was on theme: DJ Kiss.) Top executives Craig Erwich and Karey Burke also made their feelings known inside the Zanuck Theater during their introductions.
Erwich, who called Levitan “peerless,” also nodded to the fact that the show takes aim at the industry. “Being able to have fun with each other while laughing at ourselves a little bit is important,” said Erwich, president of ABC Entertainment, Hulu & Disney Branded Television Streaming Originals.
“Steve personifies all the things that we all love about this business and his take on the people in front of and behind the camera is so much more than a send up of our industry,” offered Burke, 20th Television president. “Steve has somehow wrapped into one show a workplace comedy, a family comedy, and a story about friends and second chances. The result is brilliantly observed, hilarious and full of heart. Believe it or not, his stories are underscored by an incredible career. Steve has spent thousands and thousands of hours — in spite of how young he looks — making television, but also astutely observing the people who make television — often right here at 20th, where we have had the pleasure of knowing and collaborating with Steve for over two decades, which is shocking because again, he’s very young.”
He’s also newly married.
Before presenting Reboot’s first two episodes, Levitan took over the podium from Burke, and his first order of business was announcing that he had gotten married only 48 hours prior. “It occurred to me while I was out on the red carpet with all the [cameras] flashing that, you know, that’s kind of natural to me after all these years in this business. But my wife, Kristina, is very shy and she doesn’t like a lot of attention on her. She’s right there. Let’s give her a big [round of applause].”
Kristina stood up and waved to the audience in a scene that underscored why there was so much love in the air. Levitan’s cast was happy to send more back his way.
“This show was such a joy to work on,” praised Reiser. “It’s a world that I know so well, so it was really fun to turn the camera around and show what it’s like to make a show. To show what it’s like when writers get cranky in a room, when writers clash, what happens when actors have to deal with writers and when writers have to deal with actors. Some people call it a spoof or a satire, but Steve and myself call it a love letter to this world that we love. It’s done with great affection.”
But wait, there’s more! “The best way to describe Steve is that he’s like a conductor of an orchestra. He hears comedy as music, that’s how I see it,” said Worthy, who plays a child star from the original series who returns for the reboot. “And he’s so in tune with the rhythms and the musicality of comedy that he knows how to just to make one little small adjustment and it can make an entire scene work. I’ve never seen that before. He knows how to craft a season that sprinkles stuff at the beginning that really pays off a few episodes down the road. I’m a fan as well as being a collaborator.”
Sounds like true love. Reboot is now streaming on Hulu.
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