Once upon a time, television audiences thought the Ricardos were a very modern family, followed by the Clampetts, the Bradys, the Huxtables and the Bundys. Now, thanks to producer Steven Levitan we have the Pritchetts and the Dunphys on the ABC hit “Modern Family.”
Levitan, who makes an interview appearance with Barbara Lane at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Monday evening, claims the most verisimilitude with the Dunphys.
“I have two daughters and a son, so when we first started the show, that family was very, very loosely based on at least the makeup of my family. Plus, like all the writers here, we’ve stolen liberally from our own lives.”
The show was recently renewed for a sixth season and Levitan – whose credits include include “Frasier,” “Wings,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Just Shoot Me” and “Greg the Bunny” – is not really looking beyond that at the moment.
“I sort of figure at this point we’ll be able to control our destiny, the number of seasons that we want to go. As long as the show feels fresh and as long as we have an audience that enjoys what we’re doing, we’ll do it. And when it feels like it’s time to wrap things up we’ll do that. I don’t think we’ll overstay our welcome,” he says.
“Modern Family” tells the stories of Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), his second wife Gloria (Sofía Vergara) and stepson, and his adult children Claire (Julie Bowen) and her husband Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) and their three children, and son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and his partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and their adopted Vietnamese daughter.
The episodes’ “mockumentary” style, in which the characters speak directly to the audience, was developed as a way, Levitan says, to “take a family show and make it a little hipper, more contemporary and a little bit more relevant. There were obviously a lot of reality shows and it felt like a really good way to add some grit to a show that could otherwise look a bit cutesy.”
The show, which has collected almost two dozen Emmy Awards for acting, direction, writing and Outstanding Comedy Series for five consecutive years, is the co-creation of Levitan and creative partner Christopher Lloyd, (Not the actor.)
“We’ve been friends for twenty-plus years, and we’re very different,” says Levitan, who has won eight Emmys, a Peabody and a Comedy Writer of the Year Award. “We both run shows independently. We just sort of split the duties and it makes for a really efficient show.“
IF YOU GO
Where: Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 20
Tickets: $25 to $35
Contact: (415) 292-1233, www.jccsf.org