Shows like Cheers, Friends, and Will & Grace have more than being iconic television comedies in common. All three series had one man behind the camera directing every action the actors on screen made. That man is James Burrows.
TV Series Finale reported last month that Burrows was in the process of directing his 1000th episode, and he has now spoken about that feat with TV Insider. He also revealed the secret behind working on shows like Cheers and Friends.
Series like Cheers and Will & Grace are known for their characters. Everyone knows Sam and Jack. Everyone loves Sam and Jack. Burrows revealed the challenge behind writing for these kinds of characters to TV Insider:
“The problem is, the audience is going to laugh no matter what they say. So you get to the point where it’s easy writing jokes for them. For me, I built my career on trying to do shows on pilots and shows with unknown actors on them. If you have a known actor, when he says something, the audience is already primed to laugh. The element of surprise is gone. If you have an unknown actor or unknown character who then says something funny, you’re startled, so you laugh even harder.”
Burrows has earned the nickname “pilot whisperer” during his 40-year-long career. He managed to turn Friends into a hit. He revealed his trick:
“It’s about training a new set of actors to behave as an ensemble and respect one another. You check your ego at the door no matter who you are on one of my shows, and you follow me. We’re all in a lifeboat together and we’re all rowing.”
Right now, Burrows is working on NBC series Crowded, and he still manages to work in an age where multi-camera sitcoms are popping up less and less. There was one series that got away though. He was offered the script to Seinfeld, and he did not take it.
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