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August 31, 2015


House, from another point of view

by Nick Zaino, posted Mar 31st 2009 3:25PM
HouseWriting an episode of a show as literally seen through another character's eyes, a point of view episode, seems like an obvious stunt. That is, unless you can pull it off as brilliantly as House did last night. The episode unfolded mainly through the POV of a man with "locked-in syndrome," played by guest star Mos Def.

The big advantage of telling a story that way is, obviously, to get inside the head of one person, and get their insight into everything that's going on. Unfiltered, in real time. Scrubs plays with the point of view all the time, but when you stick with one long enough, it changes the feel of the story. In the first episode of season five, "My Intern's Eyes," Scrubs used the point of view of an intern, Keith, to show how awkward and frightening Sacred Heart could be. That was a great transition as J.D became an attending. We got to see J.D.'s new role, plus get a reminder of how the show began. The best of both worlds.

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The Cheers episode Ken Levine's still writing in his head

by Keith McDuffee, posted Jul 8th 2008 1:04PM
cheers the boys in the bar
One of our writers, Bob Sassone, introduced me to Ken Levine's blog a couple of years ago. Within a couple of weeks I had his RSS feed in my "Must Always Read" category, and there it remains.

If you don't know who Ken Levine is, if you're any sort of fan of television, it's likely you've seen something he's written: His credits include 36 episodes of Cheers, 16 episodes of M*A*S*H, seven episodes of Frasier, seven episodes of Becker, four episodes of Wings, two episodes of The Simpsons ... and a partridge in a pear tree. In short, the man knows how to write; he's won an Emmy for his writing and even sometimes offers a highly-regarded course on comedy writing, called The Sitcom Room.

Levine's blog is filled with stories from his days with the aforementioned shows, and they're sometimes hilarious, always fascinating. As a friend of TV Squad, and to celebrate the all-things Cheers week of Retro Squad, he's taken the time out to share a new story below. Enjoy!

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Five biggest Cheers mysteries

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 7th 2008 1:02PM
Cheers logoI was looking over a "Where are they now?" feature our friends at AOL put together on the cast of Cheers, and a few of the mysteries of the long-running sitcom classic came to mind. These were head-scratchers big and small that made me wonder if the writers are the most clever geniuses ever to man a word processor (it was the '80s, after all) or, like in most sitcoms, consistency of story was the first thing to go if a good joke came up in the writers' room.

I guess I should just go over to Ken Levine's blog and ask him, since he wrote for the show for many years. But if I did that, I wouldn't get paid for it. So, after the jump are the biggest Cheers mysteries, starting with the biggest and most obvious one:

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The Sitcom Room: So you think you can write?

by Liz Finn-Arnold, posted Jul 26th 2007 11:21AM
FrasierHow many times have you watched a sitcom on TV and thought, "Hey, I could do that?" Last weekend, twenty aspiring writers came together at the LAX Hilton to test that theory.

The Sitcom Room, an exhausting, yet exhilarating two-day event, was the brainchild of veteran TV sitcom writer Ken Levine. To me, the event was the ultimate summer camp for aspiring writers and/or TV geeks.

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If the Sopranos were on network TV

by Liz Finn-Arnold, posted Jun 13th 2007 11:03AM
The SopranosI'll admit I was first "miffled" by most ambiguous ending ever in the history of series endings. But I'm beginning to come around to the the side that sees The Sopranos finale as "brilliant" rather than "lame." David Chase left us wanting more, and that's pretty awesome. Besides, according to Ken Levine, it could have been a lot worse.

On his blog, Ken, a veteran sitcom writer, hilariously reminds us just how annoying The Sopranos finale would have been on network television. For starters, a countdown clock would have run across the bottom of our television screens for at least a month leading up to the finale. The two-hour finale would have been preceded by a one-hour clip show hosted by Bob Costas. Janice would have gotten her own spin-off called Widow With Children.

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Out of the Blogosphere

by Bob Sassone, posted Mar 17th 2007 1:43PM

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Out of the Blogosphere

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 31st 2007 2:02PM

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Studio 60 is terrible, say comedy writers

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 29th 2006 12:06PM
Matt Perry and Bradley WhitfordI came across an interesting article while perusing Ken Levine's blog last night. He was quoted in an LA Times article that came out on Christmas day; the article discusses the fact that most comedy writers intensely dislike Studio 60 and think that the show is completely unrealistic.

But here's the interesting part: like the rest of us who have mixed feelings about the show, they're so fascinated by it that not only do they keep watching, it's also all they can talk about the next day. The comedy troupe Employee of the Month even does a weekly sketch show imagining what the sketches conceived for the show would be like. Because the sketches themselves weren't funny, they inserted jokes about the program as part of a "backstage" portion of the show. Other writers have cited the fact that the S60 writers are way too smart for their own good and never laugh at anything, which many writers think is the best part of the job. Ironically, many writers like 30 Rock, because the sketches are goofier and the depiction of a sketch show's writers' room is much closer to reality than it is on S60.

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What if Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about baseball?

by Joel Keller, posted Oct 28th 2006 12:25PM
Ken LevineThat's what veteran sitcom writer Ken Levine (right) wonders on his blog; in fact, he wondered about that so much, he decided to write a little scene that would be typical of a Sorkin-written baseball program. Let's just say that involves a meeting on the mound between the manager and a pitcher named Danny (there's always a Danny in a Sorkin show, according to Levine) that lasts a lot longer than it should and involves lots of topics that are much more esoteric than whether to throw the next hitter a curveball or a fastball.

Levine knows where he's coming from with both comedy and baseball. As Bob Sassone has pointed out many times, Levine has worked on many classic sitcoms in his career (M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier, etc.), but he was also a play-by-play broadcaster for the Orioles, Mariners, and Padres (comedy writer and a baseball broadcaster... my two dream careers). One day, he should combine those careers and make a series about the lives of a major league team's broadcasters. I'm sure he'd make it less inside and self-important than Sorkin made Studio 60, know what I mean?

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How not to write a television script

by Bob Sassone, posted Aug 13th 2006 1:30PM

NewsradioThere's always something great to read at Ken Levine's blog, and this past week was no exception. He has a really funny (and really useful) list of situations and scenes that aspiring writers should never include in their TV scripts. My favorite:

Don't hinge your show on stunt casting. I read a "Becker" where former President Jimmy Carter came in for a check-up and offered dating advice. Yeah, President Carter gets his physicals in the Bronx. And yeah, President Carter is always available to guest on a sitcom and advise a character to say whatever is necessary to get laid.

Of course, we've all seen even worse things actually make it on the air, but this is a great list.

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Out of the Blogosphere

by Bob Sassone, posted Apr 29th 2006 11:04AM
Greatest American

  • Ken Levine has two more terrific posts at his blog. In the first, he talks about the best spec script to submit to a TV show, and in the second, he gives us a behind the scenes look at the writing room at a TV show. If you're not reading Ken's blog on a regular basis, you're missing out.

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