New book 'Directed by James Burrows' tells tales of TV sitcom legend

Sandy Kenyon Image
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

Jennifer Aniston calls James Burrows an American treasure, but the master of the TV sitcom has never been as famous as the shows he directed. Sandy Kenyon has the story.

NEW YORK -- Jennifer Aniston calls James "Jimmy" Burrows an American treasure, but the master of the TV sitcom has never been as famous as the shows he directed, including "Friends," "Frasier," "Will and Grace," "Mike & Molly," and so many more.

Now, he is stepping out from behind the camera to talk about his new book, called "Directed by James Burrows."

The shows he has directed are among the most famous in TV history, and so many of the pilots he has helmed have become hits that in Hollywood, Burrows is considered a good luck charm.

So he decided to write a book about his charmed life.

ALSO READ | $5 million grant to pay interns helps increase diversity at the Met

When it came time to recreate classic sitcoms for Live in Front of a Studio Audience, Norman Lear and Jimmy Kimmel recruited some of the biggest names in show business and asked Burrows to direct them.

"We wanted the best guy there is, and there's no question about it," is how Kimmel put it to Burrows on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

It was a late career challenge for a guy with almost nothing left to prove.

"I was nervous about that, because it's not what I do," Burros said.

What he does is typically filmed, sitcoms that include "Cheers" and "Taxi."

"He's the kind of person that's so supportive he'll let you try anything," actress Marilu Henner said. "And then he'll also whisper something in your ear. It's like, 'OK, let me try that.'"

Burrows has collected half a century's worth of stories in a new book, tales like the time he directed the pilot of "Friends" and knew he had a hit -- so he flew the cast to Vegas.

"'This is your last chance at anonymity, this is your last shot at it,'" he recalled telling them. "I said, 'You'll be able to walk through this casino and nobody will recognize you,' and that really is what happened. No one recognized them, and now they can't go out of their house."

But they still came to pay tribute to the one-time Broadway baby, son of writer and director Abe Burrows ("Guys and Dolls"). He said growing up the son of a legend was difficult, but writing the book helped because it showed him the nature of his own success.

Still, he credits his dad with teaching him the value of kindness,

"Because that's how my father worked," he said. "He was tenacious with what he wanted, but he got it through kindness."

ALSO READ | Laurie Gelman releases new book 'Smells Like Tween Spirit' in Class Mom series

Today, Burrows calls his formative years in this city's theaters the "heart and soul" of what he does better than anyone.

"It gave me a grounding, a basic grounding, a base which I could rely on," he said. "Because what I do, my particular form of television, is theater. Filming a play."

It's a humble way to describe a job that's earned him 11 Emmy Awards for directing more than 1,000 episodes of television.

His new book is as entertaining as the best of those shows, but "Directed by James Burrows" is so interesting that reading it will actually make you a better TV viewer.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* Follow us on YouTube

* More local news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.