Most people have probably never heard of Ken Levine, but one look at his impressive resume and there is a good chance he has worked on one of your favorite television shows. Levine is a television writer, producer, and director. He, along with his writing partner David Isaacs, have an impressive resume. Their first writing job was with The Jefferson’s for which they wrote one episode. But the duo is better know for their writing for a number of hit series including M*A*S*H (and AfterMASH), The Simpsons, Wings, Cheers, Becker and Frasier. Levine has also received producer credits for AfterMASH, Cheers and Almost Perfect. His directing credits include Wings, Almost Perfect, Just Shoot Me!, Dharma & Greg, Everybody Loves Raymond and Becker. That is quite a resume!
Today, Levine leads writing seminars and calls the games for the Seattle Mariners on a part-time basis. In his spare time, he keeps a blog,…by Ken Levine. The blog was listed among the Top 25 blogs by Time Magazine in 2011. Levine uses his blog to give advice for beginning writers, share his experiences, and tell great behind the scenes stories from the shows. In addition, Levine gives his take on the newest television shows and movies. I really enjoy reading the blog on Friday’s when Levine answers questions from the comments section of his website. In addition to the blog, Levine has written two booksWhere the Hell Am I? Trips I Have SurvivedandThe Me Generation… By Me: Growing Up in the ’60s. Levine’s blog is certainly worth a read, especially if you have an interest in classic television.
This year, two of my favorite television series are celebrating major milestones. In September 1972, M*A*S*H first aired. It had a dismal first season, but it went on for eleven season, enduring cast changes, crew changes, and shifts in televisions shows. When the series concluded on February 28, 1983 (I will have a special post tomorrow and that is why there is a special header for the website), it had a record audience. While recents events, most recently this year’s Super Bowl, have eclipsed M*A*S*H in the number of viewers, no show will ever surpass the percentage of television viewers that watched M*A*S*H that night. Over 70% of Americans watching TV night watched M*A*S*H. In some cities, San Francisco for example, 82% of television sets were tuned to M*A*S*H according to the Nielsen Ratings. M*A*S*H may have had a slow start, but it went out with a bang!
The other show celebrating a milestone this year is Cheers. Thirty years ago, Cheers debuted. Like M*A*S*H, it had a dismal first season. In fact, when Cheers debut it was ranked 77th out of….77. But, like M*A*S*H, the population slowly came around and the show began to rise in the ratings. Cheers was number one in the ratings in its 9th season, something M*A*S*H never achieved (its highest was third in its 11th season).
Nevertheless, I really like both shows. They are completely different in content and acting styles, but, in a way, they are connected. They are one of the few shows in television history to reach eleven season and they were both almost canceled following their first season. They both over came a number of cast changes, but both Cheers and M*A*S*H had great casts.
This week, I want to highlight them both by showing a series of outtakes from both shows. Today we begin with the bar Where Everybody Knows Your Name: