is one of the few television directors who has made the successful
transition to producer. He became one of the top sitcom directors
at MTM Productions, the company founded by Mary Tyler Moore and
Grant Tinker. Later, as well working as the resident director for
Taxi, Burrows helped form the independent production company
responsible for the long-running NBC series Cheers. His critically
acclaimed directing and production talents have won numerous awards,
including seven Emmies.
One of Burrow's
first goals was to establish an identity separate from that of his
famous father, Abe, who had written the books for a number of successful
musicals, including Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed
In Business Without Really Trying. Ironically, the senior Burrows
had also written for the popular 1930s radio series Duffy's Tavern,
which, like Cheers, was set in a bar. While this did not
inspire the younger Burrows to duplicate that situation in Cheers,
his father's work on a stage adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast
at Tiffanys, which starred Mary Tyler Moore, did lead James
Burrows to an informal meeting with MTM President Grant Tinker.
At that time, the younger Burrows was known simply as "Abe's kid."
In 1974, while
directing theater in Florida, Burrows asked Tinker for a job at
MTM and was hired him to observe other MTM sitcom directors, with
his first assignment being The Bob Newhart Show. Tinker recounts
in his autobiography, Tinker in Television, that as Burrows
became more comfortable with his role as observer, he began drawing
closer to action on the Bob Newhart set, causing Newhart
to turn to his producer and demand, "Get that guy out of here. He
makes me nervous."
marked a significant turning point in Burrows' career, for Tinker
responded by teaming Burrows with MTM's veteran director Jay Sandrich.
The two hit it off immediately, and Burrows proved a quick study.
Today he is considered as accomplished a director as Sandrich himself.
Like Sandrich, he developed a directing style sensitive to the specific
needs of the weekly sitcom format, which includes actors who already
have a deep understanding of the characters they portray. Burrows'
goal is to make his actors "director proof," so that subsequent
directors do not erode the developed, established personae.
with MTM until 1977, gaining directing experience on every sitcom
they produced, including The Bob Newhart Show. He then joined
MTM alumni James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis and Ed. Weinberger
on the series Taxi, for which he directed 76 episodes. Because
Taxi had such a large set, Burrows became one of the first directors
to use four cameras simultaneously, an adaptation of the three-camera
system that had been a staple of sitcom production since I Love
Lucy. A testament to his talent, Burrows won Emmies in both
1980 and 1981 for his Taxi efforts.
In 1982, Burrows,
along with Glen and Les Charles, formed the Charles-Burrows-Charles
Company and created and produced Cheers. Lasting into the
1990s, Cheers allowed Burrows, now in the role of producer,
to carry on the tradition of quality television established two
decades earlier at MTM. Although the Charles-Burrows-Charles Company
disbanded after Cheers voluntarily retired, Burrows has continued
working as a director for such sitcoms as Wings, Flesh 'N' Blood,
Friends, and News Radio.
JAMES BURROWS. Born in Los Angeles, California, U.S. 30 December
1940. Education: Oberlin College, B.A.; Yale University, M.F.A.
Directed some off-Broadway productions; MTM Productions, 1974-77,
directed episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart
Show, Rhoda, Phyllis, Taxi, Lou Grant; Dear John (pilot), Night
Court; with Glen and Les Charles, formed Charles-Burrows-Charles
Company, 1982; co-creator and co-executive producer, as well as
director of Cheers; further directing credits include Wings
(pilot); Roc (pilot); episodes of Flesh 'N' Blood,
Friends, and News Radio. Recipient: Directors Guild
of America award for comedy direction, 1984; Emmy awards NATAS for
director in comedy series, for Taxi, 1979-80, 1980-81; for Cheers,
1982-83, 1990-91; Emmy award as co-producer of Cheers, 1982-83,
1983-84, 1989-90. Address: c/o Paramount TV Productions 5555 Melrose
Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038.
SERIES (as Director of various episodes)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
1972-78 The Bob Newhart Show
1977-82 Lou Grant
1982-93 Cheers (also, co-creator, co-executive producer)
1984-92 Night Court
1988 Dear John (pilot)
1991 Flesh 'N' Blood
1995-- Caroline in the City
1995-- News Radio
More Than Friends, 1978
Frank, and Jules Franco. Hailing Taxi. New York: Prentice
Susan. Prime Time Hits. New York: Billboard, 1993.
Jeff. The Taxi Book. New York: St. Martin's, 1987.
Grant, with Bud Rukeyser. Tinker in Television. New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1994.
Hise, James. Cheers: Where Everybody Knows Your Name. Las
Vegas: Pioneer, 1993.
also Bob Newhart Show;
Tyler Moore Show; Taxi