Ken Levine

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In the one-hour, solo portion of his Archive interview, Ken Levine talks about his varied early interests, including cartooning, baseball, and radio, the latter of which led to a stint at the Los Angeles station KMPC. He discusses his unlikely later-life career as a baseball play-by-play announcer, first for Minor League teams and then for teams like the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He recalls directing many television shows, including Wings, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, and LateLine, and details his directing style. He discusses his blog "By Ken Levine," talks of writing novels, and outlines teaching at USC. In the two-hour joint portion of their Archive interview, Ken Levine and David Isaacs recount how they met while in the military, and describe their early collaborative efforts, which culminated with the sale of a spec script to The Jeffersons. They detail their time writing for M*A*S*H and discuss the medical research for the show, writing for the various established characters, and penning specific episodes such as "Point of View," which garnered them an Emmy nomination. They touch on co-producing the short-lived sequel After MASH, and developing Cheers along with creators Glen and Les Charles. They describe the challenges of Cheers' first year, comment on winning an Emmy for the show, and discuss the chemistry between the characters of "Sam" and "Diane." Levine and Isaacs recount writing for the Cheers spin-off, Frasier, and talk of the challenges of making a supporting character the lead. They outline their collaborative process, how they deal with writers' block, and what they look for when assembling a writing staff. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview in a joint venture with The Writers Guild Foundation on September 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

"At the end of Season one of 'Cheers' there's a famous scene where Sam and Diane kiss for the first time. The audience went bananas - through the roof. I turned to David [Isaacs] and said, 'We've peaked.' Though there were some wonderful episodes for the next four seasons, I don't think we could ever match it."

Highlights
Ken Levine on his internet feud with Roseanne Barr
03:09
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
04:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on "Hawkeye Pierce," played by Alan Alda, and "Max Klinger," played by Jamie Farr, being their favorite M*A*S*H  characters to write for
01:28
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, changed from Cheers to Frasier 
03:58
Ken Levine on getting into baseball announcing
05:31
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his early interest in cartooning, baseball, and radio and Vin Scully being an inspiration; on working at KMPC radio with Gary Owens and turning down a writing job at Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
12:57
On his career in radio; on getting into baseball announcing; on writing spec scripts with David Isaacs for various shows 
16:45
On becoming interested in directing for television; on the advantage of being a writer who directs; on directing Wings, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, LateLine and Instant Mom
14:18
On directing Dharma & Greg; on his directing style; on his blog "By Ken Levine"; on writing novels and teaching at USC
13:53

Chapter 2

START OF JOINT INTERVIEW with Ken Levine and David Isaacs; on how they started working together; on their early collaborative writing process; on selling their first script, a spec for The Jeffersons 
12:43
On how they came to write for M*A*S*H;  on writing the drama of M*A*S*H;  on doing the medical and military research for M*A*S*H;  on the challenge of writing for established characters on the show
15:12
On writing various M*A*S*H episodes; on how the various cast changes affected M*A*S*H;  on moving on from M*A*S*H  in 1979 and the legacy of the show; on co-producing After MASH
14:19
On how they came to write for Cheers;  on the writers' room at Cheers;  on developing the characters of Cheers and writing for "Sam Malone" and "Diane Chambers"; on Shelley Long leaving the show
16:03

Chapter 3

On the relationship between "Frasier Crane" and "Lilith Sternin" on Cheers;  on writing for "Sam Malone" and "Diane Chambers" on Cheers;  on winning an Emmy for Cheers
13:25
On writing for The Simpsons;  on writing for Frasier;  on how "Frasier Crane" changed from Cheers  to Frasier;  on the relationship between "Niles Crane" and "Daphne Moon" on Frasier 
16:56
On the series finale of Frasier;  on the Frasier  writers' room; on the death of Frasier  co-creator David Angell on 9/11; on how they collaborate and deal with writers' block
12:40
On assembling writers' rooms for Almost Perfect  and Mary;  on The Writers Guild of America; on then-current projects and their relationship; on advice to aspiring writers and how they'd like to be remembered 
16:49
Shows

AfterMASH

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on co-producing After MASH
03:06

Almost Perfect

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on assembling writers' rooms for Almost Perfect and Mary
05:09

Becker

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Ken Levine on directing Becker
00:16

Cheers

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how they came to write for Cheers 
03:02
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the writers' room with Glen and Les Charles at Cheers and how it differed from M*A*S*H
04:10
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on developing the characters of Cheers and creating the character of "Eddie LeBec," played by Jay Thomas
02:45
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
04:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on Shelley Long leaving Cheers
01:40
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, and "Lilith Sternin," played by Bebe Neuwirth, on Cheers
07:14
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
02:00
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on winning an Emmy for Cheers
04:12

Dharma & Greg

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Ken Levine on directing Dharma & Greg  and working with Chuck Lorre
02:35

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on being nominated for an Emmy for the M*A*S*H  episode, "Point of View" 
00:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on winning an Emmy for Cheers
04:12

Everybody Loves Raymond

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Ken Levine on directing Everybody Loves Raymond
00:06

Frasier

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Ken Levine on directing Frasier  
01:55
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for Frasier 
04:33
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, changed from Cheers to Frasier 
03:58
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Niles Crane," played by David Hyde Pierce, and "Daphne Moon," played by Jane Leeves, on Frasier 
02:52
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the series finale of Frasier
01:43
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the Frasier writers' room
01:37
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the death of Frasier co-creator David Angell on 9/11 
02:31

Jeffersons, The

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on selling their first script, a spec for The Jeffersons 
02:42

Lateline

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Ken Levine on directing LateLine
00:32

M*A*S*H

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how they came to write for M*A*S*H
02:09
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing the drama of M*A*S*H
02:12
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on doing the medical and military research for M*A*S*H
03:46
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on being brought on staff to write for M*A*S*H and the M*A*S*H writers' room
03:49
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the challenge of writing for established characters on M*A*S*H
02:25
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on "Hawkeye Pierce," played by Alan Alda, and "Max Klinger," played by Jamie Farr, being their favorite M*A*S*H  characters to write for
01:28
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing the M*A*S*H episode, "Our Finest Hour"
02:29
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing the M*A*S*H episode, "Point of View"
02:55
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on being nominated for an Emmy for the M*A*S*H episode, "Point of View" 
00:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how the various cast changes affected M*A*S*H
02:20
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on moving on from M*A*S*H in 1979 
01:29
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the legacy of M*A*S*H
01:35

Mary (1985)

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on assembling writers' rooms for Almost Perfect and Mary
05:09

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

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Ken Levine on working at KMPC radio with Gary Owens and turning down a writing job at Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
02:41

Simpsons, The

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for The Simpsons
05:34

Wings

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Ken Levine on directing Wings
03:47
Topics

9/11

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the death of Frasier  co-creator David Angell on 9/11
02:31

Advice

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on advice to aspiring writers
02:41

Characters & Catchphrases

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on "Hawkeye Pierce," played by Alan Alda, and "Max Klinger," played by Jamie Farr, being their favorite M*A*S*H  characters to write for
01:28
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on developing the characters of Cheers  and creating the character of "Eddie LeBec," played by Jay Thomas
02:45
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
04:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, and "Lilith Sternin," played by Bebe Neuwirth, on Cheers
07:14
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson ,and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
02:00
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, changed from Cheers  to Frasier 
03:58
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Niles Crane," played by David Hyde Pierce, and "Daphne Moon," played by Jane Leeves, on Frasier
02:52

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Ken Levine on his early interest in cartooning, baseball, and radio and Vin Scully being an inspiration 
02:41

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on being nominated for an Emmy for the M*A*S*H  episode, "Point of View" 
00:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on winning an Emmy for Cheers
04:12

First Big Break

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on selling their first script, a spec for The Jeffersons 
02:42

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the death of Frasier  co-creator David Angell on 9/11
02:31

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on selling their first script, a spec for The Jeffersons 
02:42

Pop Culture

View Topic
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on "Hawkeye Pierce," played by Alan Alda, and "Max Klinger," played by Jamie Farr, being their favorite M*A*S*H  characters to write for
01:28
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on developing the characters of Cheers  and creating the character of "Eddie LeBec," played by Jay Thomas
02:45
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
04:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, and "Lilith Sternin," played by Bebe Neuwirth, on Cheers
07:14
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson ,and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
02:00
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, changed from Cheers  to Frasier 
03:58
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Niles Crane," played by David Hyde Pierce, and "Daphne Moon," played by Jane Leeves, on Frasier
02:52

Television Industry

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on advice to aspiring writers
02:41
Professions

Directors

View Profession
Ken Levine on the advantage of being a writer who directs
02:43
Ken Levine on his directing style
01:26

Show Creators

View Profession
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on assembling writers' rooms for Almost Perfect  and Mary
05:09

Writers

View Profession
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on their early collaborative writing process
06:31
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how they collaborate 
04:02
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on dealing with writers' block
02:25
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on The Writers Guild of America 
02:12
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for different genres 
02:15
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on advice to aspiring writers
02:41
Genres

Animation

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for The Simpsons
05:34

Comedy Series

View Genre
Ken Levine on directing Wings
03:47
Ken Levine on directing Frasier  
01:55
Ken Levine on directing Becker, Everybody Loves Raymond, LateLine,  and Instant Mom
01:48
Ken Levine on directing Dharma & Greg
02:35
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for M*A*S*H
26:25
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on co-producing After MASH
03:06
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for Cheers  (Part 1)
16:03
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for Cheers (Part 2)
13:25
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for Frasier
17:35
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on assembling writers' rooms for Almost Perfect  and Mary
05:09
People

Alan Alda

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on "Hawkeye Pierce," played by Alan Alda, and "Max Klinger," played by Jamie Farr, being their favorite M*A*S*H  characters to write for
01:28

David Angell

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the death of Frasier co-creator David Angell on 9/11
02:31

Glen Charles

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the writers' room with Glen and Les Charles at Cheers  and how it differed from M*A*S*H
04:10

Les Charles

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the writers' room with Glen and Les Charles at Cheers  and how it differed from M*A*S*H
04:10

Ted Danson

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson ,and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
02:00

Jamie Farr

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on "Hawkeye Pierce," played by Alan Alda, and "Max Klinger," played by Jamie Farr, being their favorite M*A*S*H  characters to write for
01:28

Kelsey Grammer

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, and "Lilith Sternin," played by Bebe Neuwirth, on Cheers
07:14

David Isaacs

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Ken Levine on getting into writing for television and meeting David Isaacs
03:13

Shelley Long

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson ,and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
02:00

Chuck Lorre

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Ken Levine on directing Dharma & Greg  and working with Chuck Lorre
02:35

David Hyde Pierce

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Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Niles Crane," played by David Hyde Pierce, and "Daphne Moon," played by Jane Leeves, on Frasier
02:52

Roseanne

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Ken Levine on his internet feud with Roseanne Barr
03:09

Vin Scully

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Ken Levine on his early interest in cartooning, baseball, and radio and Vin Scully being an inspiration
02:41

All Interviews

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