Jimmy Burrows has directed more than one thousand episodes of sitcom television and has earned eleven Emmy Awards and five Directors Guild of America Awards. In 1974 he began his television career directing episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and Laverne and Shirley. He became the resident director on Taxi and co-created Cheers, directing 243 of the 273 episodes, as well as all 246 episodes of Will and Grace. He has directed the pilots of multiple episodes of Frasier, Friends, Mike & Molly, the pilots of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and hundreds of other shows. His new book is titled: Directed by James Burrows: Five Decades of Stories from the Legendary Director of Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Will & Grace, and More.
Some interesting insights from this episode:
- He operates with kindness. Everyone has to row together and pull equally with everyone else. He doesn’t allow ego to get in the way.
- He has the perfect temperament for TV directing. He doesn’t lose his temper, he’s patient, he has low ego, and he knows how to encourage others.
- He feels as a director it’s important to “die with your boots on”. That is, to try to do something to make a difference. To provide input to make the best show possible.
- When deciding whether to work on a show, he likes to meet with the writer and have him/her defend themselves but not be defensive.
- When asked about same-sex marriage, then Vice President Joe Biden said, “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far. People fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.”
- His success is attributed to his ability to create a harmony on the set so everyone’s involved in making the show better. On his sets, you have to check your ego at the door.
- “Excellence is to try to be the best you can be in your particular field.”