Can we be any more excited? The cast of Friends, not to mention stars of some of the most popular sitcoms in television history, reunited for Must See TV: An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows on Sunday, February 21, to honor the legendary television director.
Cast members from Friends, Cheers, Taxi, Frasier, Will & Grace, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly appeared in the nostalgic look back at favorite scenes and memories from the sets. Burrows, who is celebrating having helmed his 1,000th episode with the pilot of NBC’s sitcom Crowded, directed each of those series’ pilot episodes.
Will & Grace
Andy Cohen, who hosted the special, upgraded his usual couch interviews from Housewives to seasoned TV vets by kicking the night off with a chat with Will & Grace cast members Eric McCormack (Will), Sean Hayes (Jack) and Megan Mullally (Karen). When Cohen asked Mullally where Karen would be today, she said, “She’d be married to Donald Trump.” Obviously.
Jane Lynch sat down with Cheers‘ Ted Danson (Sam), Rhea Perlman (Carla), George Wendt (Norm), Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith), John Ratzenberger (Cliff) and Shelley Long (Diane) and got to hear about some of Burrows’ directorial quirks.
“He never really looked at us — he just walked around and looked at the floor,” Wendt said.
Danson enlightened viewers with an anecdote about Burrows telling him that if he wanted to get into his character’s jock mentality, he should reach down and rearrange himself periodically. Gotta love a good, TV-friendly crotch grab.
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) appeared in a taped segment where he did his best impressions of iconic Burrows characters, including Will & Grace‘s Jack and Friends‘ Joey. The Frasier star jokingly boasted, “I’m more believable as a gay guy than Sean Hayes.”
The Big Bang Theory
Bill Nye sat down with The Big Bang Theory‘s Johnny Galecki (Leonard), Jim Parsons (Sheldon), Simon Helberg (Howard) and Kaley Cuoco (Penny). Nye — who has appeared on the series — praised Big Bang by saying, “The show has made nerd culture a hit!” to which Helberg replied, “Says the guy in a purple bow tie.” Burn. Or, should we say, bazinga.
Speaking of which, Parsons also explained the origins of Sheldon’s catchphrase, explaining that show writer Steve Holland used to say “bazinga” frequently, leading producers to insert the word into the show.
Cohen returned to interview the cast of Burrows’ first hit show, Taxi, including Danny DeVito (Louie), Christopher Lloyd (Jim), Tony Danza (Anthony), Carol Kane (Simka), Marilu Henner (Elaine) and Judd Hirsch (Alex). DeVito made the audience blush and burst out in laughter when he joked about the director’s special way of showing appreciation on set.
“When he really liked a joke, he would get up and pull his d–k!” DeVito said. The 1970s, what a time to be alive.
Mike & Molly
Lynch sat down with Mike & Molly‘s Melissa McCarthy (Molly), Billy Gardell (Mike), Katy Mixon (Victoria), Nyambi Nyambi (Samuel) and Reno Wilson (Carl). McCarthy discussed Burrows’ directorial wisdom by recalling one of her favorite notes from him: “Ah, better. Do it better.”
Frasier‘s David Hyde Pierce (Niles), Peri Gilpin (Roz) and Jane Leeves (Daphne) joined Cohen, with Grammer appearing in a taped message. Cohen pointed out that Pierce’s Niles was not originally intended to be such a major character, and Pierce joked that he always saw his character as a main component before admitting Cohen was right. Leeves also reminisced about a scene in which Burrows encouraged her to pull a variety of bizarre items out of Daphne’s purse.
Finally, the moment of the night arrived, as Matthew Perry (Chandler) appeared in a taped segment to introduce the rest of his Friends costars. Perry, who was in London rehearsing his play, referred to Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), David Schwimmer (Ross) and Matt LeBlanc (Joey) as “my actual friends, who happen to be the cast of Friends.”
LeBlanc credited Burrows for encouraging the cast to get along and “get to know one another, and be kind to one another.” Aniston jumped in to praise Burrows for getting them into poker.
“We would do anything for Jim Burrows because he really gave us the opportunity of a lifetime,” Aniston said. “We experienced friendship, family, heartbreak, babies, everything, together. And we also had a wonderful experience with the world loving us as well.”
LeBlanc acknowledged Perry’s absence, saying, “We’re not all together. There’s one missing…. We wish he was here. Matty, we miss you.”
When Cohen asked about life on set, Cox said, “The three girls, we had lunch together every single day, and we ate the same food — a Jennifer salad.” Gotta get a Jennifer salad if you want that slim ’90s physique!
Cohen asked the cast how the characters afforded their huge NYC apartment, and they erupted in mixed answers: “Inherited!” said most of the cast, while LeBlanc said, “Rent control.”
Cox said her favorite episode was season 1’s “The One With the Blackout,” in which Ross ended up on the balcony with a cat jumping on his back. Schwimmer remembered that Burrows claimed he would tell him when to stop acting like the cat was attacking him, but then Burrows never actually gave the word to stop, so Schwimmer felt like the scene went on forever.
As for her favorite episodes, Aniston said, “I always loved the flashbacks. I always loved when we would flashback to fat Monica and Rachel pre–nose job and Ross with his Afro.”
The lovefest between the Friends cast and their “papa” Burrows continued as they gushed about their mentor and friend. “He taught us everything we know about comedy,” Aniston said.
Burrows’ Final Speech
The night closed out with a heartstrings-tugging speech from the man of the hour, who thanked the room full of friends for the “trip down memory lane.” To Hayes, he said sweetly, “Seany, I’m so glad you did this while I’m still around because I wouldn’t wanna miss it.” We’re choking up over here.
The Hollywood icon ended his speech with, “I’m not here for a long time — I’m here for a good time.” Heart-eyes emoji. Crying-cat emoji. Bravo.
Must See TV: An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows aired on NBC on Sunday, February 21, at 9 p.m. EST.
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