Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Call for Questions - Robert Levine interview

I'm very pleased and excited to announce that this evening I will be interviewing Robert Levine, currently on staff at The Human Target as a writer/executive story editor. Levine was also a staff writer on Jericho and Harper's Island and he's writing the current Jericho comic book, which picks up from the end of the second season of the canceled show. His other credits include episodes of Judging Amy and Close to Home.

I've been prepping for this interview for a while and have reviewed all of Jericho and Harper's Island via DVD marathons over the last several weeks, but I figured it would be nice to put out a call for questions from you guys. I plan in interviewing Rob not only about his time on the shows, but also about how he got started in the world of TV writing and exactly what being a staff writer entails.

I can't promise there'll be time to cover every question submitted, but if there's anything you want to ask Rob about the shows he's working, the writing process for TV, or just writing in general leave it in the comments below.


  1. I'd like to know if there is any news on the Jericho movie that Jon Turteltaub announced last January.

    I'd also like to know if we are going to get the backstory on how the three main characters in Human Target got to know each other.


  2. I like Human Target, the only thing I'm not feeling so good about is the ambiguity of the show. The series has yet to find a comfortable vibe yet; it's very uneven. Some episodes mix violence and humor, but it's not necessarily funny.

    Also, for mercenaries that operate on domestic soil the main characters sometimes a -tad- too trigger happy. This week's episode brought a very high body count, and the guys killed weren't really "bad" guys, they were just building security.

    My suggestions on how to improve "Human Target":

    1. Make everyone of the main characters just a -tad- darker, or at least re-emphasize that all three are not heroes. The ads paint the show sort of like the "A-Team" meets "Burn Notice."

    2. Keep the three stooges intact; don't introduce a fourth female character lead. We don't need "Burn Notice + 1" However, I would suggest introducing a smokin' hot freelance merc. that assists the group (for a hefty fee) when needed. :)

    3. Move a -tad- more back to the comic book roots. Chance doesn't need to be a perfect master of disguise, but it wouldn't hurt to pepper a few episodes per season where he uses his disguise abilities.

    Human Target is a good show, and I can see that everyone involved with the show is putting forth a great effort, just tighten that shit up! :)

    Oh, and how does one break into television writing? Breaking into movies seems easier than television, because at least if you have an awesome script, someone will invariably buy it. Not necessarily true with a T.V. spec. If I had a "Human Target" spec. and wanted to write on the show, how would I go about that? (I don't have a HT spec BTW) This is assuming I'm fresh off the bus, newly arrived in L.A.

  3. Harper's Island was my guilty pleasure last summer. Pretty enjoyable, even in its less logical moments. Were all the episodes written before the show debuted or were you still writing and filming on the fly?

    (I'm using "you" as a catch-all address.)

    It seemed like some decisions came on the fly and some were well-planned out. One of the bridesmaids fell into a hole and that went unmentioned for several episodes. No one seemed to care about her. I didn't, as an audience member, but it was weird that the other characters didn't miss her. Was that because you decided that her particular situation wasn't as interesting as other plotlines that were going on?

    Chloe jumping into the ravine seemed planned well in advance.

    I guess fine-tuning as the show went on was inevitable. The first episodes had some glaring pop music transitions and those went away.

    When working on a show that has a strong element of camp, do you feel freer to break with logic? Some characters took forever to get around the island while others seemed like they could teleport. No matter how close Wakefield was, no one could even get close to shooting him.

    I thought some of those groan-inducing moments added to the show's atmosphere and tone. It's been awhile, so I can't give a lot of precise examples, but I remember laughing out loud at least once an episode.

    If you get a chance to do a show in this style again (a dozen episodes to resolve one mystery) how you would approach it differently? Or, what did you think got messed up and how would you correct those mistakes (if any)?

  4. ratkeeper - both your questions were answered, and if you're a Jericho fan, hopefully you'll enjoy the depth of our discussion about the series.

    Neil - Unfortunately your questions came in a little to late for me to incorporate your Human Target-specific points into the discussion, but we did spend a fair amount of time talking about how Rob broke into TV writing and worked his way up to being a staff writer. Hopefully that addresses your second point.

    Ty - Bad news. Due to time constrants, we ended up not discussing Harper's Island at all. I had told Rob I'd try to keep the talk to about an hour or so, but we'd been talking for over an hour and ten minutes by the time the Jericho material was winding down. Knowing that Human Target would take at least 15 minutes, I opted to skip Harper's Island.

    I can answer your bridesmaid question though. In doing research and preparing for the interview, I stumbled across a quote somewhere that explained that originally there was a line in the episode about how that character was missing her boyfriend on the mainland and was going to see him the night she ended up being killed. Thus, no one would have missed her until the day of the wedding. Unfortunately, the scene that this explanation was a part of ended up being cut for time and the show was left with what looked like a big plot hole. (Naturally I can't find that article now.)

    I had looked forward to covering some Harper's Island material, though, particularly since I thought Rob's episode was the first one that was really good and pushed the story forward agressively. (He wrote episode six, which is the one that opens immediately after The Big Death in the church.) He was fortunate enough to be in a spot in the rotation where the story's Act II more or less began and I was eager to talk to him about how that season ended up being structured and developed. Maybe next time, though.

    The interview will post in five parts, starting next week. There were a few things scheduled for this week's posts that couldn't be moved and I didn't want to interrupt the interview. I hope everyone enjoys it when it goes live!