Still, after launching an intriguing new Pasadena Playhouse revival of "Camelot" -- scaling down the Lerner & Loewe musical to a mere eight performers -- Lee agreed to discuss TV's comedy landscape, which has seemingly taken several welcome turns.
What's not to like, after all, about a once-moribund lineup that has expanded to include
Yet while Lee expresses almost fatherly pride in "Family" (co-creators
After all, the multicamera comedy still occupies a small beachhead compared to its heyday despite the conspicuous success of the Chuck Lorre-produced "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory" on
"The format in which I excelled was relegated to just a handful of shows," Lee says, explaining in part why he left TV. "The four-camera sitcom went away. I was at a point where I said, 'I don't want to do it just to do it.' (And) I didn't want to be taking jobs from people who really need it."
Given the business' cyclical nature, Lee said he remains hopeful for a sitcom resurgence -- perhaps in cable, emulating the qualitative strides the hourlong drama has enjoyed in that medium.
For Lee, contemplating comedy's fate is bittersweet, as he took what he describes as a "massive 25-year detour" into television, bookended by his passionate efforts in theater.
Since leaving "Frasier" he's directed such legit fare as "Light Up the Sky" and "Can-Can," with a new
Of course, having made a fortune off "Frasier's" syndication has provided him with the kind of latitude most toiling for the stage could hardly imagine.
"I am so fortunate that I can work in the theater without having to make my living in the theater, because that's a hard road to hoe," he concedes.
For his part, Pasadena Playhouse artistic director
In theater, "the stress of the times" has fed a desire from audiences to laugh, he notes, which he thinks could augur well for sitcoms. In the interim, Epps says the dearth of work for well-trained actors in television has been a boon to theaters such as his, fostering "a greater willingness for actors to do plays here and elsewhere," and easing agents' resistance to committing clients' time to the more austere world of the stage.
Lee, meanwhile, recently met with former NBC Entertainment Prez Warren Littlefield, who is writing a memoir about his tenure. The chat left the director feeling somewhat nostalgic, he says, especially given the
Despite the enduring image of meddling network suits, Lee says, "I was lucky enough to work with businessmen who loved television, and now it seems the businessmen who run the network have disdain for it."
Granted, even in its good old days TV wasn't always the most congenial spot for creative liberty, just as recent breakthroughs haven't completely repaired damage done to the sitcom. But then again, it shouldn't be forgot that even in "Camelot," the talk of happily-ever-after-ing was, alas, mostly a myth.
Now, with his 'The Tonight Show' tenure complete, Conan O'Brien could very well be heading back to the latenight Fox slot he left behind two decades ago -- but this time as host. It's far from a slam-dunk solution for O'Brien, however.
Decade of Rapid Change
The media world spins so fast, it's easy to forget how dramatically the landscape has changed during the 00's decade. So before putting the '00s behind us, let's review some key statistics and recap the dramatic changes in television and entertainment.
America Through the Reality Lens
Culturally, this has been the decade of the reality show. And what do we have to show for it? Not much more than the contestants themselves.
TV's Best for 2009: Can't Pick Just 10
In television putting together an aggregated 10-best roster amounts to more of a time-killing exercise. That said, boiling down the scripted series on display in 2009 to just 10 feels inordinately daunting.
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