The “Bonus Five” in B&C’s weekly “Five Spot” interview offers a quick snapshot of what the interview subject is watching, reading, eating, etc. It’s often an effort to extend the Bonus Five to the full 100 words that’s allotted for it, though that was not the case for Jordan Levin this week.
Levin is the chief content officer at the NFL and of course has a pretty storied background in network television too, including running the late WB network. His Bonus Five answers—only part of which we could include in the magazine—reveal an unabashed fan of the medium.
Regarding current shows on his DVR, Levin conceded, “It would take the entire column to list.” We were able to get Last Week Tonight, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Silicon Valley and Documentary Now! into the Bonus Five box, which is about the size of a Matchbox car. But we had to leave out Fox’s Bob’s Burgers (“One of the characters is modeled after my son,” Levin noted), HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Showtime’s The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth, FX’s Louie, Comedy Central’s South Park, HBO’s Veep, PBS’ Sherlock, Fox’s The Simpsons, Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect, “…and of course [HBO/NFL Films series] Hard Knocks,” adds Levin.
A prompt for Levin’s all-time top TV show got a similarly effusive response. “Impossible to name just one,” said Levin before citing Late Night with David Letterman.
He then proceeded to “bucket” his other responses:
The WB:Everwood, Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Felicity, Smallville
Prior to my birth: The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Honeymooners, Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show
Prior to my career: The aforementioned Late Night with David Letterman, SNL, SCTV, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, M*A*S*H, All in the Family, The Carol Burnett Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Muppet Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, thirtysomething, Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, The Wonder Years, Rockford Files, Moonlighting, Taxi, Magnum P.I., Cheers and, of course, Scooby-Doo
I’d be remiss not to add: Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, The Sopranos, 30 Rock, The Office, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights.
Worry not that Levin’s considerable TV time takes away from his reading. Here’s what he said in response to “what books are on your nightstand?” (Though perhaps they’re on his nightstand because he’s watching reruns of The Rockford Files and Scooby-Doo.)
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich,Seven Brief Lessons on Physicsby Carlo Rovelli, A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philbyand the Great Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre,Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Businessby Rana Foroohar,When Hollywood Had A King by Connie Bruck,Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann,The Best American Sports Writing of the Century,edited by David Halberstam.
And finally, Levin’s response to a question about a recent memorable meal could’ve filled the Bonus Five box all on its own. In its entirety:
A few weeks ago, I was visiting Austin, TX. I went to the [University of Texas] and love Texas BBQ. For years, the only good BBQ you could get in the area was about a 45-minute drive away in Lockhart. There are three iconic joints there, but the best of them is called Black's. Super old-school, classic BBQ joint. Been there forever. They actually just opened a second location in Austin, right by campus. And two nephews of the pitmaster ventured off on their own and started their own place in Austin as well, named Terry Black's.
So on a Saturday, my son and I ventured down to Lockhart, got some brisket at Black's, drove up to Austin to get some brisket at the newly opened Black’s location, got some brisket, and then drove over to Terry Black's and got some more brisket. We wanted to see how they compared and if the new Black’s location held up.
It was an experiment, you could say. And it sure was useful. Turns out, the original Black's in Lockhart is noticeably better than the other two, but Terry Black's is pretty close. The new Black's in Austin though? Don't waste your time. Bottom line–Black’s BBQ is Lockhart, TX is my answer.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.