Hollywood & Levine is a podcast by Ken Levine. He is/was a show-runner, screenwriter, radio-presenter, playwright and author. Over the course of three decades his writing credits include, but are not limited to, Mash, Cheers, Becker, Frasier and guest spots on many other hit TV shows. He has written several books, worked as a sport presenter, radio DJ and, recently, written plays. Even the side notes of his career warrant mention; for example, he wrote what I would consider two of the best episodes of The Simpsons (Dancing Homer & Saturdays of Thunder). His life has created or helped to create some of the western worlds most loved entertainment.
Levine’s podcast is based on his critically acclaimed blog, By Ken Levine. With such a massive career there is plenty to cover. He provides advice on comedy writing, self-deprecating stories about his bad fashion sense, being bored at award shows, early dating efforts in sixties Hollywood as well as often brutally honest insider accounts of Hollywood culture and the changing face of television.
Which is fine but, of course, there are a thousand podcasts presented by Hollywood types, so why should anyone care about this one?
Mainly because Levine seems to understand what many other podcasters don’t, that podcasts are often really fucking boring. That they can, and often should, be crafted rather than free form discussion. Podcasts aren’t an absolute good just as radio wasn’t an absolute evil. Hollywood & Levine as a podcast is a creative pastiche self-aware enough to foreground the radio experience of its host and playfully combine both mediums. The show has a jingle and Levine jokingly throws to commercial breaks even though, at least at time of writing, the show doesn’t have or seem interested in getting sponsors (though surely the mattress and stamp sellers of the world will soon try to come knocking). Each episode usually runs for less than twenty minutes but never feels constrained by such brevity. Levine hams it up by seamlessly affecting a traditional radio voice only to subvert it by swearing or carefully steering stories into darkly honest places. He splits episodes into segments and there is a tightness and sense of fun to the show even as the tones shits as sweet reminisces are book ended by his snarky takes on people, shows, or phenomena. For those used to the carefully masked diplomacy of the usual Hollywood celebrity podcast this will be confronting, perhaps even off-putting. This too is the beauty of Hollywood & Levine, that it can roller coaster from sweet to sour, that it’s host is capable of luring in the listener with his sweet tales of teen dates in sixties Disneyland and interactions on the sets of Cheers and Frasier but just as easily turning them off as he skewers all and sundry in his annual reviews of the Oscars. For all of the radio gloss, the jingles and the crafted segments, Hollywood & Levine is unashamedly honest, personal, entertaining, and often vulgar, in short, a podcast done well.