Mathew James Burrows
Mathew James Burrows (born December 30, 1940), sometimes known as Jim Burrows, is an American television director who has been working in television since the 1970s. Burrows has directed over 50 television pilots and co-created the long-running television series Cheers.
In 2016, Burrows directed his 1,000th TV episode, on NBC's Crowded.
Burrows was born to a Jewish family in Los Angeles, California, the son of Ruth (Levinson) and Abe Burrows, a well-known composer, director and writer. James has one sister, Laurie Burrows Grad. When James was still a young child, his family moved to New York where James attended New York’s High School of Music & Art. Burrows is a graduate of Oberlin College and the graduate program of the Yale School of Drama.
After Yale, Burrows returned to California where he became employed as a dialogue coach on O.K. Crackerby!, a television series starring Burl Ives and created by Burrows' father, Abe. Burrows then took a job as an assistant stage manager on the play Holly Golightly, an adaptation of the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's. The production was unsuccessful, but the job served as Burrows' introduction to its star, Mary Tyler Moore. Early on Burrows also worked for the road company of Cactus Flower and the Broadway production of Forty Carats.
While working in theater, Burrows wrote Moore and her then husband Grant Tinker seeking a job at their production company, MTM Enterprises. In 1974, Tinker hired Burrows as a director for MTM Enterprises where he directed episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. Tinker asked director Jay Sandrich, known for his work directing The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls, to serve as a mentor to Burrows.
Burrows is best known for his comic timing, complex blocking for actors, and incorporating more sophisticated lighting in television studio shoots. He is also credited as being one of the first sitcom directors to increase the typical multi-camera television shoot from three to four cameras.
Burrows co-created Cheers with brothers Glen and Les Charles. The Charles brothers were also former employees of MTM Enterprises and served as producers on the series Taxi where Burrows worked as in-house director for 76 episodes. Burrows and the Charles brothers wanted to create a show where they could have more control. Cheers premiered on NBC on September 30, 1982. Although Cheers initially struggled in the ratings, the series became a hit, running 275 episodes over eleven seasons. Burrows directed all but 35 of those 275 episodes.
Other television series
Burrows has directed for many series, including:
- 1970s – Phyllis, Rhoda, Laverne & Shirley, Busting Loose, The Ted Knight Show, The Associates
- 1980s – The Hogan Family, Dear John, Night Court
- 1990s – Wings, Frasier, Friends, NewsRadio, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Pearl, Dharma & Greg, Caroline in the City, Will & Grace, George and Leo
- 2000s – The Class, Courting Alex, Two and a Half Men, Back to You, The Big Bang Theory, Gary Unmarried, Hank
- 2010s – Romantically Challenged, Mike & Molly, Better with You, $#*! My Dad Says, 2 Broke Girls, Partners, The Millers, Sean Saves the World, Friends with Better Lives, Crowded, Man with a Plan, Superior Donuts, Disjointed, Will & Grace (revival)
Burrows has directed over 1,000 episodes of television, a milestone he achieved in November 2015 with the NBC sitcom Crowded. To celebrate Burrows' achievement, NBC aired a special tribute on February 21, 2016, titled Must See TV: An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows featuring cast reunions from many of the series Burrows has directed such as Cheers, Taxi, Friends, Frasier, The Big Bang Theory, Will & Grace and Mike & Molly. In January 2020, the Andy Fisher and James Burrows won the Directors Guild of America Award for Variety/Talk/News/Sports - Specials for "Live in Front of a Studio Audience Norman Lear's `All in the Family' and `The Jeffersons."
In 1998, Burrows directed a Chicago-based production of the 1939 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner starring John Mahoney.
In front of the camera
Burrows has had cameo appearances in several of the shows for which he has directed. In the first season of Friends, Burrows appeared in the episode "The One with the Butt" as the director of the film in which the character Joey Tribbiani is cast as Al Pacino's "butt double". He also appears as a television director named Jimmy in the 2005 HBO series The Comeback. Burrows played himself on the series. An episode of Scrubs, "My Life in Four Cameras", had a character named Charles James in honor of Cheers creators Burrows and Glen and Les Charles. It was previously asserted in Sitcoms: the 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time (2007) that Burrows served as the silhouette of the customer who knocks on the door in the final scene of Cheers, but Burrows himself refuted this claim on episode 9 of the NewsRadio-themed podcast Dispatches from Fort Awesome, revealing that the actual "Man Who Knocks" was agent Bob Broder.
Over the course of his career, Burrows has been nominated for fifteen Directors Guild of America awards, and for an Emmy Award every year between 1980 and 2005, excluding 1997. Burrows has won ten Emmy Awards and four Directors Guild of America Awards. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences celebrated Burrows' forty-year career by hosting a panel in his honor on October 7, 2013.
Burrows is married to celebrity hairstylist Debbie Easton; the couple lives in Manhattan. Burrows was previously married to Linda Solomon. He is a father to three daughters and a stepdaughter.
|1974||Rhoda||Agent||Episode: "The Lady in Red"|
|1975||Phyllis||Telephone Man||Episode: "Up for Grabs"|
|1977||The Bob Newhart Show||Maintenance Man||Episode: " Halls of Hartley"|
|1989||Cheers||Man Standing in the Bar|
|2005, 2014||The Comeback||Himself||Recurring 2005, 2014|
|1978||More Than Friends||Director||Comedy film|
|1982||Partners||Gay-themed buddy comedy film|
|1974||The Mary Tyler Moore Show||Director||4 episodes from 1974–76|
|1975||Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers||Episode: "From Russia with Lust"|
|Phyllis||19 episodes from 1975–76|
|The Bob Newhart Show||11 episodes from 1975–77|
|1976||The Tony Randall Show||4 episodes from 1976–77|
|Laverne & Shirley||8 episodes from 1976–77|
|1977||Bumpers||Director||Short comedy television film|
|Roosevelt and Truman|
|Calling Doctor Storm, M. D.|
|Busting Loose||Director||5 episodes|
|Lou Grant||Episode: "Christmas"|
|We've Got Each Other||Episodes: |
|The Betty White Show||Episode: "John's Mother"|
|Rhoda||4 episodes from 1977–78|
|1978||The Plant Family||Director||Short comedy television film|
|The Betty White Show||Director||Episode: "Play Misty for John"|
|Free Country||Episodes: |
|Taxi||75 episodes from 1978–82|
|1979||Butterflies||Director||Short comedy television film|
|A New Kind of Family||Director||Episode: "I Do"|
|The Associates||4 episodes from 1979–80|
|1980||The Stockard Channing Show||Episodes: |
|Good Time Harry||Episode: "The Wally Smith Story"|
|1981||Every Stray Dog and Kid||Director||Short television film|
|Best of the West||Director||3 episodes|
|Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever||Director||Television film|
|1984||Night Court||Director||Episode: "All You Need Is Love"|
|At Your Service||Director||Television film|
|1985||Big Shots in America||Director||Television film|
|1986||Valerie||Director||Episode: "Old Enough"|
|All Is Forgiven||Episodes: |
|1987||The Tortellis||Executive producer||Short-lived comedy|
|Director||Episode: "Pilot" (S 1:Ep 1)|
|CBS Summer Playhouse||Director||Episode: "In the Lion's Den"|
|1988||Channel 99||Director||Television film|
|Dear John||Director||Episodes: |
|1989||Out on the Edge||Production manager||Television film|
|1990||Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color||Director||Episode: "Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration"|
|The Marshall Chronicles||Director||Episodes: |
|The Earth Day Special||Director||Cheers segment|
|Down Home||Director||Episodes: |
|The Fanelli Boys||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Pacific Station||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Flesh 'n' Blood||Episode: "Blood Is Thicker Than Arlo"|
|1992||Flying Blind||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1993||Café Americain||3 episodes|
|Frasier||32 episodes from 1993–97|
|1994||Monty||Episode: "Here Comes the Son"|
|The Boys Are Back||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Madman of the People||Episodes: |
|1995||The Preston Episodes||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Hudson Street||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Partners||10 episodes from 1995–96|
|NewsRadio||7 episodes from 1995–96|
|1996||The Nerd||Director||Television film|
|3rd Rock from the Sun||Director||Episodes: |
|Men Behaving Badly||7 episodes from 1996–97|
|1997||Chicago Sons||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1998||The Secret Lives of Men||Executive producer||Short-lived comedy|
|1998||Will & Grace (original)||1998–2006|
|Last Dance||Television film|
|2006||The Class||Short-lived comedy from 2006–2007|
|2007||Back to You||Short-lived comedy from 2007–2008|
|2008||Gary Unmarried||Comedy from 2008–10|
|2010||Romantically Challenged||Short-lived comedy|
|Mike & Molly||Comedy from 2010–12, 2016|
|2013||The Millers||16 episodes from 2013–15|
|Man with a Plan||Director/Executive producer||9 episodes|
|2017||Superior Donuts||Director||8 episodes|
|Will & Grace (revival)||2017–20|
|2018||The Neighborhood||Episode: "Pilot"|
|2019||Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons||Segment director||Television special|
|2020||B Positive||Director||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Raised by Wolves||Director/Executive producer|
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- Stated in interview on Inside the Actors Studio
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- Interfaith Family: "Somebody Put Baby in a Dance Competition" September 14, 2010
- Jewish Journal: "The Heroes of Jewish Comedy" by Tom Teicholz July 3, 2003
- James Burrows Biography (1940-)
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- Bloom, Ken; Blastnik, Frank (2007). Sitcoms: the 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time. New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-57912-752-7. Search this book on
- Littlefield, Warren (2012). Top of the Rock, Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV (1st ed.). New York, NY: Doubleday. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-385-53374-4. Search this book on
- Raftery, Brian (2012). "The Best TV Show That's Ever Been". GQ. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- Tepper, Allegra (8 October 2013). "Director James Burrows Feted by TV Academy". Variety. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- Ulaby, Neda (4 September 2012). "Making A Comedy Pilot? You Might Want To Call James Burrows". NPR. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- Andreeva, Nellie (17 November 2015). "Veteran Sitcom Director James Burrows Hits 1,000 TV Episodes Mark". Deadline. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- Eng, Joyce (13 January 2016). "NBC Plans Friends Reunion and Hairspray Musical, Defends Donald Trump Appearances". TV Guide. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- "'1917' Director Takes Home Top Prize At DGA Awards". www.patch.com. Patch. January 26, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
- "Friends". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
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- "More Than Friends". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Partners". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Bumpers". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Roosevelt and Truman". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Calling Doctor Storm, M. D." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "The Plant Family". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Butterflies". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Every Stray Dog and Kid". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "At Your Service". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Big Shots in America". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "In the Lion's Den". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Channel 99". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "Out on the Edge". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- "The Nerd". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.