LATV Fest: Steve Levitan Flips Fox The Bird

Modern Family creator and executive producer Steve Levitan will “never” work with the Fox Network again.

“I’ve done about four to five shows in a row on Fox,” he said July 9 at an LATV Fest luncheon Q&A moderated by B&C Executive Editor Melissa Grego. “I have sworn off the Fox network. I’m done.”

Levitan also revealed that he flips the Fox network building the bird every time he passes it. He put up both fingers to explain what he does whenever he drives by the Fox lot (his producing deal is at the network’s sister studio 20th Century Fox TV).

His disdain for the network was spurred by the cancellation of the Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton starrer Back To You, his series which aired on Fox from 2007-2008 and delivered respectable ratings and reviews. Many in the industry expected the show to get picked up, and Levitan said he was told it was – earlier on the same day he was later told it was done.

Levitan and his producing partner Christopher Lloyd, had originally shopped Back To You around to all four networks and the only one without interest was NBC, where then NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly was calling the shots. Reilly later moved to his current post as Fox Entertainment President. At the time the show was pitched, Fox had shown the most interest in the project, so they decided to take the series there.

“It was a giant mistake on our part,” Levitan said. “It wasn’t the right fit.”

The series was canceled when Reilly left NBC and came over to Fox.

“The person who didn’t want it originally decided its fate,” Levitan said. quoted Reilly responding to the show’s cancelation in an article in May 2008: “This was not an easy decision but with that kind of top-profile talent and… proximity to [American Idol] in the second half of the season, the expectations were higher.” He continued, “The show did not seem to be striking a chord, and in terms of creative direction… it was a pretty mixed bag.”

After it’s cancellation, ratings in the slot went down, according to Levitan. His partner Lloyd, apparently on the same page with his feelings toward Fox, let Reilly know how he felt with a regular dispatch of emails, Levitan said. “Every Thursday morning, Chris would ‘congratulate’ Kevin Reilly on the ratings for the other show,” Levitan said, adding Lloyd never got a response.

Fox declined to comment at press time.

Levitan now sees the cancellation as perhaps for the best.

“If it had not been cancelled, I probably wouldn’t have done [Modern Family],” he said, noting that he sees Modern Family’s long-term viability as better than Back to You’s was. “Maybe it is the best thing that could have happened.”