As hard as it for me to believe after so many blogs on sitcoms I love, I have neglected one area. The folks behind the scenes! After all were would all these wonderful shows be without directors, writers, and other creators? But except for a look at production companies it’s an area I’ve kind of neglected. So today I want to start what will hopefully not be the only article on that topic. First up, five TV directors!
When I was a young the directors didn’t mean anything to me. Kind the same with the writers of comic books. As I got older I learned how important these people are, and how good they can be. As we’ll see many of our hit shows owe them a serious debt of gratitude.
I wanted to focus on directors who are primarily know for their directing and have done more than one or two single episodes.Â After all even the actors on the series can direct. I mean Robert Reed directed a couple of episodes of Brady Bunch, Craig T Nelson directed several episodes of Coach, David Schimmer directed episodes of Friends, Kelsey Grammar directed episodes of Frasier, John Ratzenberger directed a few episodes of Cheers, and Jason Alexander even directed an episode of Seinfeld. But I don’t think any of them would put “director” first on their resume.
And no showrunners or producers. Yes I know very often directors also work as creators, producers, writers, etc but the five on this list are being praised solely for their directing.
This list was turning into a bit of a sausage fest so I wanted to find one woman. But most of the women who work in TV are writers and executive producers, but very few seem to be actual directors. And yes I am sure there are many women directors none came to mind. But I finally found one, and i love her! It’s a bit of a cheat since she is known for other things, but Debbie Allen came in to the only so-so “A Different World” and turned it into a decent series! She has directed all sorts of shows from Fame to Family Ties to Fresh Prince to That’s So Raven to Grey’s Anatomy!
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Everyone talks about how awesome Seinfeld was but one of the things that often gets overlooked is the great job and Andy Ackerman did directing many episodes. It wasn’t the easiest show to direct I imagine with how fast things went, and Ackerman did a great job. He also directed many episodes of Becker which I really liked. But before either of those Ackerman directed several episodes of Cheers, Frasier, as well as almost fifty episodes of Wings! After doing a few episodes of series like Everybody Loves Raymond and Two and a Half Men he went to work for The New Adventures of Old Christine…which I have hardly seen. But he did EVERY SINGLE episode of that series (88 in total) which is awesome!!
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This is a guy who’s name I saw all the time as I grew up watching TV. And looking at his IMDB page, it’s no surprise. Seriously, I went through a list of his credits and not only do I swear he directed at least one episode of nearly everything on in the 80’s and 90’s, but every episode I saw was one I liked and was well done. He has directed episodes of Rhoda, Benson, WKRP, Night Court, Hogan Family, Dharma & Greg, and Everybody Loves Raymond. He has a vast resume but the shows he is most famous for was The Fact of Life (77 episodes) and of course, Who’s The Boss (117 whopping episodes!!!!).
This guy’s been around. his credits go all the way back to Get Smart in the 60’s! He directed tons of stuff but there are two true claims to fame for him. I’m sure my good friend Les would recognize his name first for all the work he did on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (he only directed 119 episodes!!). But for me growing up his name was always synonymous with The Cosby Show (100 episodes). In fact he was one of the first directors who I kind of took notice of, when his name popped up at the end of the episodes. He did most of the first three seasons and those are classics. Besides that he did work on Soap, Benson, Night Court, and The Office. His last credit is from 2003 so it seems he has mostly retired now. But man did he leave his mark.
But if there is one director I have nothing but respect for, it’s gotta be the #1 choice.
Could anyone else be #1? I am seriously a big fan of his work, it seems everything he touches turns to gold. What has he worked on? Name a series from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I bet he touched it. He started out doing episodes of Mary Tyler Moore, Laverne and Shirley, Bob Newhart, and Rhoda. But then came a little show called Taxi, which he directed 75 episodes! From Taxi he formed Charles Burrows Charles Productions with writer-producers Glen Charles and Les Charles in 1982 to produce Cheers. How many of those did he direct? 237!! This guys is a major reason why Cheers was such an awesome show. He did several episodes of Frasier before getting his next major show. Will & Grace was not, nor will it ever be, the classic show Cheers was but he directed 188 of those episodes!
Aside from that he seems to be the on call director for pilots because he directed the pilot episodes for Night Court, Hogan Family, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Dear John, Wings, Roc, NewsRadio, Friends, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly (which he actually did several episodes for) and many others that I wont list becauseÂ you wouldn’t recognize (because the shows sucked)! Some of those he ONLY directed the pilot, and others he did work on a few other episodes. But still! It’s really quite amazing.
Of course I am not doing justice to these greats and the full careers they had, so look them up and check out their incredible bodies of work. If I missed one you think should be here, commetn and let me know.Â And yes I know, directors are great but it’s the writers who really have the heavy lifting when it comes to making TV shows funny and smart. We’ll get into that some other time.