James Edward Burrows (born December 30, 1940),[1] sometimes known as Jim "Jimmy" Burrows,[2] is an American television director. Burrows has received numerous accolades including 11 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Directors Guild of America Awards. He was honored with the Directors Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 and NBC special Must See TV: An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows in 2016.

James Burrows
Born (1940-12-30) December 30, 1940 (age 83)
EducationOberlin College (BA)
Yale University (MFA)
OccupationTelevision director
Years active1965–present
Notable workCheers
Will & Grace
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Linda Solomon
(m. 1981; div. 1993)
Debbie Easton
(m. 1997)
ParentAbe Burrows
3 Sisters Entertainment
Company typeJoint venture
IndustryTelevision production
FounderJames Burrows and NBC Productions
Divisions3 Princesses and a P

Burrows started his career with The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1974.[3] Burrows has directed over 50 television pilots and co-created the television series Cheers (1982–1993). He has also formed 3 Sisters Entertainment, a joint venture with NBC. He is known for directing numerous episodes of comedy shows such as The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Frasier, Friends, Will & Grace, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and The Big Bang Theory.

He executive produced the Emmy Award-winning ABC specials Live in Front of a Studio Audience including Norman Lear's "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons" in 2019, "All in the Family" and "Good Times" in 2019, and "The Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes" in 2021. He directed episodes for the revivals of the NBC sitcom Will & Grace (2017-2020), and the Paramount+ Frasier.

Early life and education


Burrows was born to a Jewish family[4][5] in Los Angeles, California, the son of Ruth (Levinson) and Abe Burrows, a well-known composer, director and writer.[6] James has one sister, Laurie Burrows Grad.[7] When James was still a young child, his family moved to New York where James attended New York’s High School of Music & Art.[8][9] Burrows is a graduate of Oberlin College and the graduate program of the Yale School of Drama.[8]



1967–1973: Early career


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.[10] Burrows then took a job as an assistant stage manager for the 1967 play Holly Golightly, an adaptation of the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's.[11] The production was unsuccessful, but the job served as Burrows' introduction to its star, Mary Tyler Moore.[11] Early on, Burrows also worked for the road company of Cactus Flower and the Broadway production of Forty Carats.[12] He also went to direct the short lived Broadway play The Castro Complex. Burrows continued working in theater as a stage manager and transitioned into directing plays.[13] Burrows directed traveling plays and a production at a Jacksonville, Florida dinner theater.[13][14]

1974–1981: Television director


While working in theater, Burrows wrote Moore and her then husband Grant Tinker seeking a job at their production company, MTM Enterprises.[11] 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.[11][15] 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.[16]

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.[15] During this time Burrow directed for numerous shows such as Phyllis, Rhoda, Laverne & Shirley, Busting Loose, The Ted Knight Show, The Associates, and On Our Own.

1982–1997: Cheers, Frasier, and Friends


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.[11][15][17] Burrows and the Charles brothers wanted to create a show where they could have more control.[17] Cheers premiered on NBC on September 30, 1982.[17] Although Cheers initially struggled in the ratings, the series became a hit, running 275 episodes over eleven seasons.[17] Burrows directed all but 35 of those 275 episodes.[11] During his time on Cheers Burrows also directed episodes for shows such as the NBC sitcoms The Hogan Family, Dear John, and Night Court.

Burrows then gained acclaim for directing the NBC sitcom Frasier. He won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the pilot, The Good Son in 1993. Burrows directed in total 32 episodes from 1993 to 1997. The series was a spinoff of Cheers focusing on the character of Dr. Frasier Crane portrayed by Kelsey Grammer. The series also starred David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, and Jane Leeves. It received critical acclaim for its writing, directing and performances. It won five Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. In 1998, Burrows directed a Chicago-based production of the 1939 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner starring John Mahoney.[14]

Burrows also directed 15 episodes of another NBC sitcom Friends starring Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and Lisa Kudrow. The series follows six friends living in New York City. He received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the 1994 episode The One with the Blackout from Season 1. During this time he also received Emmy nominations for directing the pilot episodes of both the NBC sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun starring John Lithgow, Kristen Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jane Curtin, and the ABC sitcom Dharma & Greg starring Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson. He also directed episodes of the NBC sitcoms Wings, NewsRadio, Caroline in the City, and the CBS sitcoms Pearl and George and Leo.

1998–2009: Established director


From 1998 to 2006 Burrows directed every single episode of the NBC sitcom Will & Grace starring Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, and Sean Hayes. Burrows received twelve Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the series winning for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2000. He was nominated for directing the episodes, "Pilot" (1998), "Homo for the Holidays" (2000), "Lows in the Mid-Eighties" (2001), "A Chorus Lie" (2002), "24" (2003), and "It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World" (2005). Burrows directed every episode of Will & Grace during its initial eight-year run.[18]

In 2006 he directed the pilot of the Chuck Lorre created CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory starring Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Sara Gilbert, and Mayim Bialik. In 2003 he directed the pilot of another Chuck Lorre created CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men starring Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer. During this time he also directed episodes of shows such as the CBS sitcoms The Class, Courting Alex, and Gary Unmarried,, the Fox sitcom Back to You, and the ABC sitcom Hank.

2010–present: Revivals and recognition


Burrows directed high profile sitcoms during the 2010s including the CBS sitcoms Mike & Molly (2010-2016) starring Billy Gardell, and Melissa McCarthy, and The Millers (2013-2015) starring Will Arnett, Margo Martindale, Beau Bridges. Burrows reunited with Matt LeBlanc with Man with a Plan (2016-2020). He also directed the sitcom B Positive (2020-2022) starring Annaleigh Ashford. Burrows directed episodes of numerous television series including the ABC sitcoms Romantically Challenged, Better with You, the CBS sitcoms $#*! My Dad Says, 2 Broke Girls, Partners, Friends with Better Lives, Superior Donuts, and The Neighborhood, the NBC sitcoms Sean Saves the World, Crowded, and the Netflix comedy series Disjointed.

By 2012 Burrows had directed over 50 pilots for television series.[19] Burrows has directed over 1,000 episodes of television, a milestone he achieved in November 2015 with the NBC sitcom Crowded.[20] 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.[21] In January 2020, Andy Fisher and 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.[22]

In 2016, Burrows directed his 1,000th TV episode, on NBC's Crowded.[23] Burrows took part in two revivals, Will & Grace (2017-2020) with the original cast reunited. He received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the episode, "We Love Lucy". In 2023 he directed the first two episodes of the revival of Frasier on Paramount+.

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".[24] He also appears as a television director named Jimmy in the 2005 HBO series The Comeback.[25] 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,[15] 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.[26]

Personal life


Burrows is married to celebrity hairstylist Debbie Easton; the couple lives in Manhattan.[27] Burrows was previously married to Linda Solomon.[28][29] He has three daughters and one stepdaughter.[25]






Year Title Role Notes
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
1994 Friends Director
  • Uncredited
  • Episode: "The One with the Butt"
2005, 2014 The Comeback Himself
2020 Will & Grace Himself Episode: “Filthy Phil, Part II”

As a Director



Year Title Role Notes
1978 More Than Friends Director Comedy film[30]
1982 Partners Gay-themed buddy comedy film[31]


Year Title Notes Refs.
1974 The Mary Tyler Moore Show 4 episodes from 1974–76
1975 Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers Episode: "From Russia with Lust"
Fay 2 episodes
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 Short comedy television film [32]
Roosevelt and Truman [33]
Calling Doctor Storm, M. D. [34]
Busting Loose 5 episodes
Lou Grant Episode: "Christmas"
We've Got Each Other 2 episodes
The Betty White Show Episode: "John's Mother"
Rhoda 4 episodes from 1977–78
1978 The Plant Family Short comedy television film [35]
The Betty White Show Episode: "Play Misty for John"
Free Country 2 episodes
Taxi 75 episodes from 1978–82
1979 Butterflies Short comedy television film [36]
A New Kind of Family Episode: "I Do"
The Associates 4 episodes from 1979–80
1980 The Stockard Channing Show 2 episodes
Good Time Harry Episode: "The Wally Smith Story"
1981 Every Stray Dog and Kid Short television film [37]
Best of the West 3 episodes
1982 Cheers
  • Co-Creator of series
  • Producer from 1982–84
  • Executive producer from 1985–93
  • Directed 237 episodes from 1982–93
Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever Television film [38]
1984 Night Court Episode: "All You Need Is Love"
At Your Service Television film [39]
1985 Big Shots in America Television film [40]
1986 Valerie Episode: "Old Enough"
All Is Forgiven 2 episodes
1987 The Tortellis Short-lived comedy; Executive Producer
Episode: "Pilot"
CBS Summer Playhouse Episode: "In the Lion's Den" [41]
1988 Channel 99 Television film [42]
Dear John 2 episodes
1989 Out on the Edge Television film; Production manager [43]
1990 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Episode: "Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration"
The Marshall Chronicles 2 episodes
Wings Episode: "Legacy"
The Earth Day Special Cheers segment
Down Home 2 episodes
The Fanelli Boys Episode: "Pilot"
1991 Roc 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 2 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 Television film [44]
3rd Rock from the Sun 2 episodes
Pearl Episode: "Pilot"
Men Behaving Badly 7 episodes from 1996–97
1997 Chicago Sons Episode: "Pilot"
1998 The Secret Lives of Men "Pilot"
Will & Grace 1998–2006, 2017–20; also executive producer
2001 Tikiville Television film
Last Dance Television film
2006 The Class 2006–07
2007 The Big Bang Theory 2 episodes: "The Pilot" & the Unaired Pilot
Back to You 2007–08
2008 Gary Unmarried 2008–10
2010 Romantically Challenged Short-lived comedy
Mike & Molly 2010–16
2013 The Millers 16 episodes from 2013–15
2016 Crowded 9 episodes
Man with a Plan 9 episodes; Also executive Producer
2017 Superior Donuts 8 episodes
Disjointed 2 episodes
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 [45]
Live in Front of a Studio Audience:
"All in the Family" and "Good Times"
Executive producer; Television special [46]
2020 B Positive 3 episodes
Raised by Wolves Executive producer
2021 Live in Front of a Studio Audience:
"The Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes"
Executive producer; Television special [47]

Awards and nominations


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.[48] Burrows has won eleven Emmy Awards and five Directors Guild of America Awards.[49] The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences celebrated Burrows' forty-year career by hosting a panel in his honor on October 7, 2013.[48]

Further reading

  • Burrows, James with Eddy Friedland (2022). Directed by James Burrows: Five Decades of Stories from the Legendary Director of Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Will & Grace, and More. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 9780593358269.
  • Darowski, Joseph J.; Darowski, Kate (2017). Frasier: A Cultural History. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781538113875.
  • Darowski, Joseph J.; Darowski, Kate (2017). Cheers: A Cultural History. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442277960.
  • Littlefield, Warren with T.R. Pearson (2012). Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must-See TV. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385533744.


  1. ^ "MILESTONES: December 30 birthdays for LeBron James, Eliza Dushku, Sandy Koufax". 30 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Of course Matthew Perry can't go to the Friends reunion". RadioTimes. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  3. ^ Stated in interview on Inside the Actors Studio
  4. ^ Interfaith Family: "Somebody Put Baby in a Dance Competition" September 14, 2010
  5. ^ Jewish Journal: "The Heroes of Jewish Comedy" by Tom Teicholz July 3, 2003
  6. ^ James Burrows Biography (1940-)
  7. ^ Rosemberg, Jasmin (19 March 2015). "Stars Sing Broadway Tunes for Alzheimer's at Sardi's Benefit". Variety. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  8. ^ a b "James Burrows - Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in Television Direction". Directors Guild of America. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
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  10. ^ The Deadline Team (4 December 2014). "James Burrows & Robert Butler To Receive DGA Lifetime Achievement Award For Television". Deadline. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Rosenberg, Howard (Summer 2007). "The Jimmy Show". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  12. ^ Du Brow, Rick (19 March 1995). "He Pilots the Pilots : How to succeed in television without really trying? Call James Burrows. He's the sitcom director with the golden touch. (Say "Cheers.")". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  13. ^ a b Lembeck, Michael. "Visual History with James Burrows". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  14. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (28 April 1998). "ARTS IN AMERICA; A Winding Path of Laughter From Stage to TV and Back". New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d 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.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ a b c d Raftery, Brian (2012). "The Best TV Show That's Ever Been". GQ. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  18. ^ Tepper, Allegra (8 October 2013). "Director James Burrows Feted by TV Academy". Variety. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  19. ^ Ulaby, Neda (4 September 2012). "Making A Comedy Pilot? You Might Want To Call James Burrows". NPR. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  20. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (17 November 2015). "Veteran Sitcom Director James Burrows Hits 1,000 TV Episodes Mark". Deadline. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  21. ^ Eng, Joyce (13 January 2016). "NBC Plans Friends Reunion and Hairspray Musical, Defends Donald Trump Appearances". TV Guide. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  22. ^ "'1917' Director Takes Home Top Prize At DGA Awards". www.patch.com. Patch. January 26, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  23. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 16, 2016). "James Burrows Marks Directing Milestone as Sitcoms Lose 'Must See' Label". Variety. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  24. ^ "Friends". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 7 October 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  25. ^ a b Martel, Ned (29 September 2005). "Time to Pause the Laugh Track". New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  26. ^ Jason Klamm and Allen Rueckert (30 August 2016). "Dispatches From Fort Awesome: A NewsRadio Podcast". stolendress.com (Podcast). StolenDress Entertainment. Event occurs at 47:25. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  27. ^ Doge, Annie (5 March 2015). "James Burrows, Go-To '90s Sitcom Director, Buys Handsome Greenwich Village Apartment for $4.2M". 6sqft.com.
  28. ^ "James Burrows". Celebrity Images. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  29. ^ "Burrows, James 1940- (Jim Burrows, Jimmy Burrows)". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  30. ^ "More Than Friends". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  31. ^ "Partners". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  32. ^ "Bumpers". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  33. ^ "Roosevelt and Truman". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  34. ^ "Calling Doctor Storm, M. D." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  35. ^ "The Plant Family". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  36. ^ "Butterflies". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  37. ^ "Every Stray Dog and Kid". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  38. ^ "Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  39. ^ "At Your Service". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  40. ^ "Big Shots in America". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  41. ^ "In the Lion's Den". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  42. ^ "Channel 99". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  43. ^ "Out on the Edge". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  44. ^ "The Nerd". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  45. ^ "How do All in the Family and The Jeffersons translate to 2019? Surprisingly well". Vox. 26 May 2019. Retrieved January 13, 2024.
  46. ^ "'Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's 'All in the Family' and 'Good Times". IndieWire. 19 December 2019. Retrieved January 13, 2024.
  47. ^ "'Facts Of Life' & 'Diff'rent Strokes' Next Up For ABC's 'Live In Front Of A Studio Audience'; First Stars, Premiere Date Set". Deadline Hollywood. 19 November 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2024.
  48. ^ a b Tepper, Allegra (8 October 2013). "Director James Burrows Feted by TV Academy". Variety. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  49. ^ "James Burrows on Emmys.com".