‘Friends’ Director Jim Burrows Reveals Which One of Ross’ Love Interests Was a Slog to Work With
Calling a coworker “nice, but not funny” isn’t very friendly.
James “Jimmy” Burrows is, undoubtedly, one of the most influential figures in the history of the sitcom. The Cheers co-creator’s fingerprints can be found on just about every beloved series from the late 20th century, with shows like Will & Grace owing much of their existence to Burrows while others like Taxi were shaped by his directorial vision – 76 episodes’ worth of it. Burrows understood the dynamics and demands of sitcoms like no one else – and he could smell a dud from a mile away.
Through his run as one of the most in-demand directors in televised comedy, Burrows directed fifteen episodes of Friends, during which he came to a conclusion with which many fans concur – Emily was the most unfunny romantic foil that Ross Geller ever had. And, no, he did not mean to say, “Rachel.”
“In sitcoms and any type of romantic comedy, the funny is just as important as the chemistry. We discovered that any new girlfriend for Ross needed to be as funny as Rachel,” Burrows wrote in his recent memoir, Directed by James Burrows. Just as Emily couldn’t live up to Rachel at the altar, Burrows found that her actress Helen Baxendale failed to find the kind of comedic chemistry that made David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston so watchable.
Burrows said of Baxendale, “She was nice but not particularly funny. … Schwimmer had no one to bounce off. It was like clapping with one hand.” He pontificated further on the job requirements of the guest star girlfriend, explaining that, “You need someone who gets laughs. Sometimes you start an arc and it ain't working out, so you have to get rid of that person. If it's a day player, it's a quick goodbye.”
“The reverse is also true,” Burrows added. “If there's chemistry, the writers go to work to figure out some way of keeping the actor.” If that’s true, then why the hell did they bring back Eddie Menuek twice?