There’s been a divorce in the Modern Family: Vulture hears that Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, the creators and showrunners of ABC’s hit comedy, have decided to dissolve the four-year old business partnership that led to the creation of the show. Neither man is leaving Family, but Levitan and Lloyd will now manage the series as single parents rather than as a couple. So why the split?
While there have been rumors of some professional tension between the two for some time — mostly dealing with differences in style rather than anything juicy — the bottom line behind the separation probably has more to do with, well, the bottom line. Levitan and Lloyd first hooked up in 2006, at a time when TV comedy was struggling mightily and even big-name producers with resumes as impressive as those of Levitan (Just Shoot Me) and Lloyd (Frasier) were having trouble landing big deals. By teaming, the two men hoped to become more attractive to studios, and that’s exactly what happened: 20th Century Fox Television signed the newly-minted duo to a very lucrative multiyear deal.
The first few years of the partnership produced only the ill-fated Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton comedy Back to You, which was canceled by the Fox network after one season. But then last fall, Levitan and Lloyd’s Family became an instant hit; within months, syndicated repeats of the series had been sold to USA Network for a reported $1.5 million per episode. The odor of Back to You has now been erased and replaced with the sweet smell of success, signaling both a recovery in the TV comedy economy and a big upswing for Levitan and Lloyd’s respective careers. In other words, the two men (along with their agents at UTA and ICM) realized they no longer really needed to stay attached.
They’ll still work together writing and running Family, but they’re also in talks with 20th about continuing at the studio under new, separate deals. Given the fact that Family figures to be around a lot longer, and likely make a lot more money than 20th’s other big hit from last season, Glee, don’t be surprised if Levitan and Lloyd’s new agreements end up in the same range as the big bucks Ryan Murphy is supposedly now making for his services.
No word yet on how the Family kids are taking this, though we hear Rico Rodriguez (Manny!) is already relishing the prospect of separate Christmas presents from his behind-the-scenes TV dads.