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In the television business, you are where you eat as much as you are what you eat.

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Mel's Diner



Mel's Diner: Steven Peterman and Michael Poryes

July 13, 2007 10:23 AM

Who: Steven Peterman and Michael Poryes, executive producers, "Hannah Montana"
When: Thursday, June 28, breakfast
Where: Mel's Diner, Hollywood

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Dined On: Your eyes are not fooling you. That is the sign for Mel's Diner on Highland in Hollywood. I met "Hannah Montana" executive producers Steven Peterman and Michael Poryes for Mel's Diner, at Mel's Diner.

It's close to Tribune Studios, where they are in the throes of producing the second season of their tremendously popular Disney Channel series.

"During the season, food is just what gets you through," Steven said. They have been working on the current 30-episode order since October and expect to keep it up until September.

Steven had turkey hash. Michael ordered oatmeal.

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I had my usual: Poached eggs, toast, fruit and tea. I also had far more enthusiasm for the food than the showrunners showed.

I see those eyebrows going up.

Nooo, I am not playing faves just because of the restaurant's name.

My breakfast was truly at least as good as the exact same order offered around town for four times the cost.

What's more, the Mel's Diner atmosphere is fun and laid-back and the service is quick. It's smack in the middle of Hollywood, but still a few sweet steps away from the actual fray of Hollywood Boulevard.

It is an easy-peasy central location for folks on either side of the hill. Something to consider for discreet, no-frills breakfast meetings.

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When I walked into Mel's Diner, Steven and Michael already were sitting in a window-seat booth. I was immediately impressed by how much energy and personality they both exude. (Bright and early, I might add.)

I downed my tea quickly; if they could keep up with millions of tweenage fans and a young cast, I should do my best to keep pace at breakfast.

I was not surprised to learn they both were performers early in their careers before going on to write and/or produce some of the most successful comedies to air in prime time.

Steven's credits include "Murphy Brown," "Suddenly Susan" and "Becker"; Michael's include "That's So Raven," "Cybill," "The Facts of Life" and "Who's the Boss?"

Steven, who attended Harvard, quit law school to be an actor. Michael left Berkeley to join a comedy troupe and go to "the college of waiting tables." Michael said he got his first agent the classic way: Someone he waited on found him funny. (I did, too, by the way.)

What was remarkable was that these guys have been working together only since the beginning of the show. Michael co-created the show, and Steven joined the project soon after, co-writing the pilot.

I took them to be longtime writing partners as I listened to them finish each other's sentences throughout our meal. They obviously share a similar sensibility.

The dish: The Steven-Michael combo appears to be working.

A few nights before we met for breakfast, "Hannah Montana" rang up its most-viewed episode: 7.4 million people watched Sunday, June 24, at 8:30 p.m., according to Disney Channel. That's a solid number-especially in summer, especially on cable, and especially for a kids show. (Some context: The program with the most viewers in prime time that same night was "60 Minutes" on CBS, earning 8.5 million viewers.)

Also that week, the show's star, actor-singer Miley Cyrus, released her second album, "Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus." It was the top-selling record for the week in the U.S. (Miley's dad is country music recording artist Billy Ray Cyrus; he also plays her dad on the show.)

Add to all the momentum a bunch of recent or upcoming cameos, and the show just may continue to snowball. Season two guests include Larry David, Joey Fatone, Dolly Parton, Vicki Lawrence and Jesse McCartney.

A hit show is always a confluence of things-great writing, production values, casting, promotion, platform, timing, luck.

But Steven and Michael are veterans with a clear vision and deserve some serious credit for "Hannah Montana's" success.

They are, after all, working with a unique set of challenges.

For one thing, cable shows like this typically are made for about half the budget of a typical prime-time comedy.

Also, the show centers on the life of a teenage girl who happens to secretly be a rock star (only a few people in her life know it), so it operates in two different worlds. There's Miley's day-to-day life and then there's her alter ego singer Hannah Montana's life as a performer.

These guys create a truly complex show each week. They avoid obvious jokes, and they aim to be responsible yet subtle with their core 6- to 11-year-old audience.

"We try to make it so adults can watch," Steven said.

"We don't write down," Michael said, adding that in a way it's harder than traditional prime time. "You can't go for the cheap, easy, sexy, edgy funny. There are more restrictions."

The producers both said they feel a sense of personal integrity about this show.

"We see if we can teach some morality, how to be a good person without shooting a flare up," Michael said.

Then there's the little fact that Steven and Michael are grown men writing for a teenage girl character.

That's actually the least of their concerns, they say.

"Everybody has the same insecurities, same fears," Steven said. "When you get older you just have a bigger vocabulary. Michael and I having been performers, we also are familiar with that part of things."

The writing process is very collaborative, they said. The entire staff, which all came out of prime time, writes all the episodes together.

The producers also tell the kids in the cast to flag dialogue if it doesn't sound right to them and to suggest alternatives.

Steven and Michael do all this with a largely inexperienced cast, which must film during limited hours due to child labor regulations.

The producers are quickly bringing the cast along as they go. Their mantra lately is reminding the kids to hear the laugh of the studio audience; it helps with comedic timing.

They say Miley's evolution is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.

She has literally grown before their eyes. She was 11 when they saw her tape, 12 when they cast her, and now she's going on 15. She's also shot up about a foot in that time, they said.

"We are so lucky to have a show that can be so goofy, so silly, then have emotional moments," Steven said. "In the first season, Miley was more uncomfortable with the more emotional stuff. Now she not only can do it, she loves it."

Miley is grounded and hard-working, they said.

"She drinks it up," Michael said.

"She soaks it up," Steven echoed. "Some of it she was just born with in her genes. She's seen her dad and wants to do this for the rest of her life."

The producers also seem to be getting paid by this show with more goodwill and lifestyle perks than perhaps either has experienced in his career. Steven said he never thought he'd top the experience of working on "Murphy Brown," but just might be doing it with "Hannah Montana."

Steven and Michael said they generally pull off their jobs by working approximately 8 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. That's an unusually civilized workday in the world of sitcoms.

"I saw too many suns coming up working on other shows," Michael said.

"We like our families, so we want to go home," Steven said.

Prime time is just plain hard, he added.

"You do the best you can, the show goes on the air," he said. "People say they saw the show, they might say it was cute, and that's about all you get.

"Or they say it's cute but .," Michael chimed in. "On this show we get 'Omigod.' There's so much positive feedback."

"Nobody's getting rich on cable, but everybody is proud to be part of this," Steven said.

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Comments (19)

Kelsey newton:

hello. i would like to write to the producers of hannah montana. so if you could please send me their e-mail addresses, it would be greatly appreciated. thank you

L:

I too would like to write to the producers of hanah montana. Please send me their email adresses. Thankyou.

samantha p:

Hi Steven Peterman and Michael Poryes,

I was just wondering how I could find out information on how to send my son Christian's
resume/headshots for Hannah Montana's casting.
Can you please let me know.

Thanks,Samantha Pourier

505-977-9472(c)
505-346-2306 samantha wk#
samip02@yahoo.com

a.w.:

hey steven and michael. i just wanted to ask yall a few questions about hannah montana. if you could write back that would be great. thanks!

ROBERTO:

I wish to change my life, I'm Italian Boy and wish work with HANNA MONTANA MY LOVE PLEASE PLEASE

Melvin Margolis:

Steven and I grew up together in Milwaukee and went from kindergarten through high school together.

Our paths parted after we both left for college.
I ended up in The Netherlands!

Please give him my e mail address and ask him to get in touch should he so wish.

Thanks
Mel Margolis

Melvin Margolis:

I see that my address wasn't posted
lemsilogram@hotmail.com
Mel

Linda Olson Shurla:

Hey Steven, so good to see your face! How have you been? I ran into Lolly Rickun and she said you were a successful writer (I'm so happy for you - you deserve it) so I googled your name and there you are. So this is just a hello from me, no need to reply. I'm living in Brookfield with my husband and a couple of kids, boring but it works for me. Enjoy. Your Old Friend From High School, Linda Olson (now Shurla)

What Should You Care? Ask Michael.:

I am not going to say anything to mean. And it will be hard. My uncle happens to be Michael and he has been the meanest uncle EVER! He used part of my name against my will to make this TV show. Just wanted to let you know that there are many parts to one's personality. One of Michael's is immaturity. Sorry to add this twist.

Michael's Neighbor:

If you are really Mr. Poryes' nephew you shouldn't be insulting him, seeing as you lived in his house for a couple of months! And Mr. Poryes is super nice and fun to talk to.

Brianna :

Hi my name is Brianna from Miami,Florida and I'm 12 years old. I've been trying to find auditions for disney channel. i haven't been very successful because most of the agencies and businesses are scams and rip-offs! my hobbies are: jump rope (i'm on a team), volleyball, tennis, piano, guitar, i like to sing and act too.please reply and send me an audition place i could go to in miami or something please!!
Hoping that this will work,
Brianna

hi my name is brianna i like the book that;s so raven i just read that for my book talk is was good and my other book talk i read was hannah montana keeping secerts and that's so raven family affari those darn pretty good books i just wanted to that you mad very good books

Bertha Jean Henderson:

SOMETHING SOMEWHERE WENT TERRIBLY WRONG!!!! People wake up!!

vidya:

hai i am vidya i want to be singer like hannah montana my age was 13 years.please give me one chance i have my ow songs and my own story.thank you

Callie:

Hello Or Shud I Say Ello LOL.. well heres my story my name is callie Sheree Mathews And i would like to star on a show of hannah montana well i know i shouldnt get personal but my mom really wanted me to be famous but she passed away in my face and said that i was going to live big my life hasnt always been good so i know you probaly not read this note but thanks for giving me an chance im 12 years old thanks mr.Petermen I Love Disney Channel And You Im Not an over active fan im jus like miley i want to be real but famous at the same time Thank You Mr.Peterman It Was Hard Growing up But Thanks For Letting Me Restart My Life See You Later Alligator lol Peace Love Gap

Chris Cooper:

Hi, my name is Chris Cooper and I would really like to talk to Micheal Poryes! Concering "Hannah Montana" So if you could please contact me at chriscalifornia94@yahoo.com

Chris Cooper:

Hi my name is Chris Cooper again and I understand that "Hannah Montana" is ending and I have some great ideas that I have come up with and I've asked a ton of people that was very interested in the series "Hannah Montana" and they all thought that it was a great idea and they would love to see it on Disney Channel!!! If I could only have a min. of your time!!! My cell is (864)-237-2610!!! And I play piano, violin, sing and I'm a 2nd degree black belt in karate!!!

P.S.

I think this is a great idea please talk to me, i also have an e-mail! ~chriscalifornia94@yahoo.com~

Rachel Haas:

Hi steven,
i dont know if you ever check this site or not but my dream is to become an actress. Its always been. One shot is all i need. im not shy so im just gonna go out and say it. Im gonna make whatever i get big. and i know ure not a casting director but i know you have power. I never give up and i do have a manager and i am in professinal classes i just need one chance to show the world.
Hey,
Dont ever let somebody tell you , you cant do somethin.Not even me alright?you got a dream you gotta protect it. When people cant do it themselves they wanna tell you you cant do it. If you want something you gotta go get it PERIOD.
-the words i live by.
The pursuit of Happiness.
Steven .. im ready for my dream.

Rachel Haas:

rhaas@gate.net
Please.

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