Inspirations: “For me they were shows that broke the mold: ‘Taxi’ was the first sitcom to use a four-camera (setup) instead of three-camera. ‘Sports Night’ used a movie camera and ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ uses wide-angle lenses and other visual tricks. You can do a lot with the camera, but if you’re not telling the story, forget it. The camera is a device to tell the story. I’m not a one-camera guy.”
Influences: “Jay Sandrich, who was my mentor, and John Rich. Both are a lot like me in that they’re people who are not only concerned with where the actors move, but what they say, how they feel and what story you’re trying to tell. I thought Bill Persky was very good, too. Today the writer is so powerful they hire directors who won’t get in their way.”
Moments: “Many of them were combined with great writing moments. When the Rev. Jim said to the cast of ‘Taxi,’ ‘What does a yellow light mean?’ It was written twice into the script. I used it about six times. And there was David Schwimmer and the cat on the terrace of ‘Friends’ in the blackout show in the first season. He’s about to ask Rachel to go out with him and he wrestles with the cat and we see it from inside. I told him, you just keep going. Those were two of the biggest laughs I’ve ever seen.
“My proudest moment is ‘Cheers,’ because it’s the one I co-created: There was Diane’s perfect date, the kiss at the end of the first year; Woody and Sam trying to get a kiss from Rebecca; and, of course, the last show. Maybe my best work was Woody’s wedding. It’s the time I worked the hardest. It was a one-hour show. Half of the first hour was in the bar and then we moved it to a kitchen — an outrageous farce. I rehearsed the actors more than I ever had and it was so great.”