A tribute to long-time television comedy director James Burrows aired last night on NBC, bringing together stars from popular TV comedies of both the past and the present. That included cast members from shows like Taxi, The Big Bang Theory, Frasier, Mike & Molly, and, perhaps most notably, Friends, among many others.
Dubbed by many as the “Friends reunion,” the two -hour tribute included clips from the many shows Burrows has worked on throughout his lengthy career, as well as panel discussions with cast members who talked both about the shows, and memorable Burrows moments and quirks. For example, Burrows was responsible for choreographing every scene-stealing entrance Sean Hayes made on episodes of the show Will & Grace, where he played the flamboyant Jack McFarland. Burrows also had a knack, noted many of the actors, for making minor changes to a scene that drastically changed its effect. It was he, for example, who encouraged David Hyde Pierce (Niles on Frasier) to wipe a restaurant seat clean before sitting down, inspiring the OCD tendencies which became an integral part of his character.
As actors took the stage, several fun facts were revealed about some of our favorite shows from the past few decades.
Joe Biden’s comment about Will & Grace’ s influence on LGBT issues floored the actors
Vice President Joe Biden commented on Meet the Press back in 2012 that he thought “Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far,” in terms of influencing the shift in gay rights. It was only then that the stars of the late ‘90s-early ‘00s show realized its impact. Along with Hayes, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, and Megan Mullaly starred in the show, which followed the life of a straight woman (Messing) living with her gay former boyfriend (McCormack). Hayes said they just set out to make a show funny, and didn’t think so much about how influential it might be within that community.
Cheers almost got cancelled due to low ratings
It’s hard to believe that one of the most iconic shows on TV, which spawned some of our biggest stars and spinoffs, almost got canceled because of low ratings. “One week, I think we were even dead last [in the ratings,” noted Ted Danson during the show’s panel discussion. In addition to Danson, Cheers, which ran from 1982-1993, notably starred Rhea Perlman, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, Kirstie Alley, and Shelley Long. It inspired the spinoff show Frasier, based on Grammer’s character, which had its own long and successful run from 1993 through to 2004.
Rhea Perlman’s dad was a frequent extra on Cheers
During the panel, Perlman, who played waitress Carla on Cheers, revealed that her father was a recurring extra on the show, often with one or two lines. In one scene, which they replayed, she even got to angrily throw a glass of water in his face as he played a frustrated customer.
Jim Parsons did not come up with the catch-phrase Bazinga on his own
While some like to give credit to Jim Parsons for his catch phrase “Bazinga” on The Big Bang Theory, where he plays Sheldon Cooper, the actor revealed that he actually had nothing to do with it. Apparently, it was a show writer who used to say the silly phrase all the time, and used it in the script. Today, fans can buy tons of paraphernalia touting the phrase, from T-shirts to coffee mugs.
Tony Danza went from boxing to his big break on Taxi
Despite being an unknown college graduate who loved boxing, Danza was plucked from a gym in New York where he earned a spot on the popular TV show Taxi. Acting alongside greats like Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman, Christopher Lloyd, and Carol Kane, Danza felt out of place. But, he says the cast was truly wonderful in helping him feel like family, despite his acting inexperience.
Two Mike & Molly stars were previous friends
Reno Wilson, who plays Officer Carl McMillan, and Billy Gardell, who plays Mike Biggs on Mike & Molly revealed that they were friends before the show began. Wilson received the script first, and immediately called Gardell to ask if he had gotten it, saying the chemistry between the two characters reminded him of them in real life. Mike & Molly is currently still on the air, but will wrap up its final episode this season.
Cast of Friends used to watch every episode together
It seems they were friends both on-screen and off, as the cast members of Friends who were present at the event, including Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Matt Leblanc (Joey), Kisa Kudrow (Phoebe), and David Schwimmer (Ross), reveal that, for the first season of the show, they would all get together and watch each episode. Then, they’d give each other notes on their scenes. Cox had previously worked on Seinfeld, and told the crew that cast helped each other and suggested they do the same.
Jennifer as Monica, Courtney as Rachel?
Jennifer Aniston originally went into to audition for the role of Monica, and Cox as Rachel. Upon arrival, they realized that each fit the other character far better. And we thank them for that, as we can’t quite picture Aniston as a Monica type, or Cox as Rachel.
Phoebe was the only one who had to audition for Burrows
It seems Kudrow only discovered during the event that she was the only cast member who had to audition a second time in front of Burrows. All other actors presumably got their parts after the initial audition process.
How were those girls able to afford that massive NYC apartment?
One burning question on every fan’s mind is: how on earth was Monica able to afford that spacious New York City apartment? Even in the ‘90s, it’s clear their average jobs would not have allowed them to afford such a large apartment right in the heart of the city. The home, reveals Cox, was one Monica presumably inherited from a grandmother. “Rent control!” Leblanc also added jokingly.
No, they did not sign a contract agreeing they would not sleep with one another
Rumors have floated that the six main cast members of Friends all signed agreements promising they would not sleep with one another. They sort of confirmed at the event that they did not sign such agreements: Schwimmer made a puzzled face, but Kudrow is the only one who outright said “no.”
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