James Burrows isn’t a household name, but his work sure is. His groundbreaking direction on Cheers (which he co-created with Les and Glen Charles) set the tone for most of the successful sitcoms of the 80s and 90s. To this day his fingerprints are all over pretty much any three-camera television show.
Jesse Thorn interviewed Burrows on this week’s Bullseye and it’s just a phenomenal listen. He’s quite modest about his work, but also very exacting about what it is that sets him apart.
Here is my favorite part, from around 22:30. Burrows is discussing his work on Taxi (he directed seventy-five episodes).
You had Judd [Hirsch] who had his mind on a hundred other things, which is how Judd works. We called him “the piddler,” because he was always thinking about stuff. But when he got…when the show was on, he was unbelievable. He and Teddy Danson are two of the greatest centers you’ve ever seen in a show.
Judd, you know, didn’t have a lot of funny stuff on Taxi but his facial reactions when he was dealing with the weirdos are unbelievable. You could always cut to him. And the same with Ted.
That precise knowledge about one actor’s face is what sets Burrows apart. Go give the whole episode a listen.