'Modern Family' writer on WGA win: TV is 'so screwed up and mismanaged'

The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air were the night’s big winners on the film side while Mad Men, 30 Rock and Modern Family took home the winged trophy for achievements on the small screen at the annual Writers Guild Awards, held Saturday in Los Angeles. While accepting one of two awards for Modern Family, creator/executive producer Steve Levitan told the crowd that because TV was “so screwed up and mismanaged,” many of his writing peers have been rooting for the single-camera comedy’s success on ABC. “Thanks for that, Jeff Zucker,” Levitan said — a reference to the NBC Universal Chairman’s failed attempt to launch Jay Leno’s show in prime time, which put many writers out of work this season.

Zucker, in fact, got name-checked twice during the night. Chris Rock, who was there to present the prizes for best variety show, used his time at the mike to criticize NBC’s recent treatment of Conan O’Brien. “Zucker is like the Elgin Baylor of TV,” said Rock, referencing the ex-vice president of the woeful L.A. Clippers NBA franchise. Rock also had a few side-splitting comments about Tiger Woods (unfortunately, they’re too dirty to repeat here).

Host Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) opened the night with a clever redux of The Music Man song “Trouble” that skewered the networks’ shameless reliance on writer-free, reality show programming. “Trouble…with a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for crap!” he sang. And Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), had a special message for Paddy Chayefsky, the acclaimed writer who inspired the Laurel Award that’s given annually to scribes who’ve made outstanding contributions. “I am very, very sorry,” said David, this year’s recipient.

Here were the night’s winners:

Original screenplay:  The Hurt Locker, written by Mark Boal

Adapted screenplay: Up in the Air, screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Documentary screenplay:  The Cove, written by Mark Monroe

Drama series: Mad Men

Comedy series: 30 Rock

New series: Modern Family

Episodic drama: “Broken, Part 1 and Part 2,”  House, written by Russel Friend, Garrett Lerner, David Foster and David Shore

Episodic comedy: “Apollo, Apollo,” 30 Rock, written by Robert Carlock, and the pilot of Modern Family, written by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd

Animation, any length (all nominations in category were for The Simpsons): “Take My life, Please,” The Simpsons, written by Don Payne

Longform, original: Georgia O’Keeffe, written by Michael Cristofer

Longform, adaptation: Taking Chance, teleplay by Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Strobl, USMC (Ret.) and Ross Katz, Based on the short story by Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Strobl, USMC (Ret.).

Comedy/variety: Saturday Night Live &  The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Daytime serial:  The Young and the Restless

Children’s episodic: “Welcome to the Jungle,” The Troop, written by Max Burnett

Children’s script, longform: Another Cinderella Story, ABC Family, written by Erik Patterson, Jessica Scott

Comments (21 total) Add your comment
  • LM

    Oh, Seth McFarlane, forever stealing from other comedians. This time, he stole from Conan O’Brien, who did a hilarious opening number at the Emmys a few years ago where he sang a parody of “Trouble” in regards to NBC: “Yessir, we’ve got Trouble, with a capital T, and that rhymes with G, for, Gee we’re screwed!”

    • AMy

      Thought the exact same thing!

    • mel

      That was a blatant ripoff of Conan O’Brien’s opening monologue at the Emmys. Does that McFarlane guy always copy other comedien’s bits?

      • mel


  • Anonymous

    TV was “so screwed up and mismanaged,” This is news?

  • Denise

    How does SNL win for writing?

    • Cat

      My thought exactly. It has not been a banner year for that show.

    • chinsy

      Agreed. When I heard “The Daily Show” tied, I assumed it was with “The Colbert Report” based on their writing this past year.

  • che

    As much as Zucker needs to be fired yesterday, I don’t get why NBC’s mismanagement has anything to do with Modern Family. If there is one thing NBC has done right is being extremely patient and supportive of their Thursday night SINGLE CAMERA comedies, much more than other networks like Fox (Arrested Development) and ABC (Better off Ted).

    • brigid

      Because if Jay Leno at 10 succeeded, then ABC/CBS/FOX would be more likely to go the same route, instead of investing in scripted drama’s/comedies.

      • che

        But it doesn’t explain why Modern Family’s win is a triumph against that mess. Why wouldn’t his peers root for other comedies/dramas on other channels? Chin was never going to be anywhere near any awards except maybe Best Dump. IDK, Levitan just comes off as trying to join the crowd in downing NBC but not making sense in the process.

  • MomC

    I thought Larry David didn’t really write Curb, per se. My understanding is that the actors are handed outlines and that most of the show is ad-libbed banter. Isn’t that every bit as dangerous to the scripted show as well? Not a reality show fan or anything, but I always find this kind of “protect the writers” thing amusing. Television is evolving and people are entitled to enjoy the shows that are entertaining to them. Blaming the networks for the audiences choices is ridiculous. Money talks in TV and it always has.

    • Cleanhobo

      Hence Larry David’s apology for receiving the award, bud.

  • jim miller

    It just never get ‘ s old…..

  • MarcoPolo

    Okay, writers, enough with the NBC-bashing. How about WRITING some shows we want to see, instead of the high-priced crap that turned audiences to reality shows and other filler programming in the first place?

    • Chines

      Where do I send my writings to?

  • chrisbearde

    Modern Family reminds one of a Showtime series in the 90′s called Sherman Oaks.

  • Sharlin

    SNL got best writing? ewww

  • whatevs

    SNL has writers?

  • Lala

    Yay for recognizing the awesome episode “Apollo, Apollo”. Hands down my favorite episode last season on 30 Rock.

  • mo

    I savour, lead to I discovered just what I was looking for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

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