July 1, 2014 at 7:41 pm #321032
Who are the best TV directors of the past 14 years?
Forget film directors who won Emmys for “slumming it” in TV like Martin Scorsese (“Boardwalk Empire”) and David Fincher (“House of Cards”). I’m curious to know who are the best directors known primarily for their TV work. Comedy, drama, doesn’t matter, just as long as they’re the best since 2000.
I have my picks, but who are YOURS? Pipe up!July 1, 2014 at 7:59 pm #321034
My list will be heavy on the past 5-8 years:
Known for Breaking Bad (probably the best directed show of the decade):
Michelle McClaren: “One Minute”, “Gliding Over All”, “4 Days Out”, “Buried” … also great work for Game of Thrones
Vince Villigan: “Pilot”, “Full Measure”, “End Times”, “Face Off”, “Felina”
Rian Johnson: “Fly”, “Ozymandias”
Tim Van Patten has directed some stunning episodes of Boardwalk, among many other programs.
Lesli Linka Glatter for Mad Men and Homeland.
Cary Fukunaga for True Detective.
Lena Dunham and Louis C.K. deserve a ton of credit for all of the great directing on their shows.
Gail Mancuso and Steven Levitan are fantastic when they direct MF episodes.
Beth McCarthy-Miller for 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Community, and Modern Family.
Andrew Haigh did a stellar job for Looking this year.
I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of people…July 1, 2014 at 8:44 pm #321035
Michelle MacLaren might be one of my favorites working right now, but the first one to come to mind was Thomas Schlamme. He did some fantastic work with Sorkin, particularly on The West Wing (“Pilot”, “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen”, “Two Cathedrals”).
Special mention to Jack Bender, who helmed some of Lost’s very best and/or notable episodes (“Walkabout”, “Through the Looking Glass”, “The Constant”, “The Incident”, “The End”), and did some work for Alias, as well.
And, hey, they might be transitioning more into films following Captain America’s success, but the Russo brothers have a fine background in telelvision comedy, be it through Arrested Development (“Pilot”, “Top Banana”, “Motherboy XXX”) or Community (“Pilot”, “Cooperative Calligraphy”, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”, “A Fistfull of Paintballs”).July 1, 2014 at 8:55 pm #321036
Unlike films, directors are not the most acclaimed profession for TV. It really is more of a producers/writers medium. That is why many directors (and even the show stars) step in throughout a season and don’t miss a beat. You couldn’t say the same for a showrunner or key writer.
But, there are a few who really stand out. I am just going to list people who work regularly in television.
Jack Bender (“Lost”)
Jon Cassar (“24”)
Lesli Linka Glatter (“Mad Men,” “Homeland”)
Thomas Schlamme (“The West Wing”)
Tim Van Patten (“The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Game of Thrones”)
James Burrows (“Will & Grace”) — the best director in TV history with “Cheers,” “Taxi,” and many pilots
Larry Charles (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”)
Paul Feig (“The Office”)
Gail Mancuso (“Modern Family”)
Beth McCarthy-Miller (“30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live”)
Anthony & Joe Russo (“Arrested Development,” “Community”)
Robert B. Weide (“Curb Your Enthusiam”)
Jason Winer (“Modern Family”)July 1, 2014 at 9:06 pm #321037
Alan Taylor also made for a nice guest director on certain shows, particularly during Mad Men’s first season, as well as during the final run of The Sopranos’ episodes.July 1, 2014 at 10:09 pm #321038
I really love the directors for Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, Looking, Girls, Louie, and Glee comedies wise.
Dramas: American Horror Story, Lost, Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards, The Newsroom, The Good Wife, Bates Motel, and even though I’m not a fan of the show itslef, Hannibal.
But the overall winner is Ryan Murphy for his direction of the pilots of Glee and American Horror Story, 2 of the strongest pilots I have seen as well as whoever diected the pilot of Lost
Also a special nod to SNL’s longtime director Don Roy KingJuly 1, 2014 at 10:11 pm #321039
Off topic but…
You know how multicamera comedies mostly use one or two directors during the entire run (like James Burrows directed every episode of Will and Grace), why don’t other genres (like most dramas and single camera comedies) use the same system?July 2, 2014 at 1:01 am #321040
Rian Johnson was brilliant in the three Breaking Bad episodes he directed: Fly, Fifty-One and Ozymandias. I also was in awe with the work Cary Fukanaga did this year with True Detective. I love how good the directing is in The West Wing. And also David Lynch’s work in Twin Peaks. Just stunning.July 2, 2014 at 4:57 am #321041
I regard Lesli Linka Glatter is one of the most prolific of
TV Directors. She is responsible for some amazing Television episodic greatness
in the form of:
– The West Wing (“Full Disclosure“, “Election Night”)
– Twin Peaks (Episode 5 – “Cooper’s
Dreams“, “The Man Behind Glass”)
– Mad Men (“Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency”, “Love
Among the Ruins”, “A Night To Remember”)
– Law & Order: SVU (“A Single Life”, “Sacrifice”)
July 2, 2014 at 7:45 am #321042
Rian Johnson gets my vote. It’s him first and then the rest. But I’ll mention most of the names already cited here: Michelle MacLaren, Cary Fukunaga, Lesli Linka Glatter, Rosemary Rodriguez, Jon Cassar, Clark Johnson, Jack Bender, Phil Abraham, and Tim Van Patten on the drama side.
For comedy, Beth McCarthy-Miller, Lena Dunham, James Burrows, Gail Mancuso, Randall Einhorn, Paris Barclay, Louis C.K., Greg Daniels, Jesse Peretz, and Larry Charles.July 2, 2014 at 7:57 am #321043
I wrote a piece on this!July 2, 2014 at 9:28 am #321044
Charles McDougall has directed quite a few episodes I really like, especially the Desperate Housewives pilot, which got him an Emmy. His other credits include the pilot episode of The Good Wife, 8 The Office episodes, 2 Parks and Rec episodes + 2 House of Cards episodes.July 2, 2014 at 9:56 am #321045
Michele MacLaren and Tim Van Patten are my two favourites.July 2, 2014 at 11:31 am #321046
Lesli Linka Glatter.July 2, 2014 at 11:46 am #321047
You know how multicamera comedies mostly use one or two directors during the entire run (like James Burrows directed every episode of Will and Grace), why don’t other genres (like most dramas and single camera comedies) use the same system?
It is my understanding that as a drama episode is shooting, the next director is preparing. Multi-camera sitcoms pretty much use the same few sets over and over, so the director does not have to check out locations or anything would be my guess.
But the overall winner is Ryan Murphy for his
direction of the pilots of Glee and American Horror Story, 2 of the
strongest pilots I have seen as well as whoever diected the pilot of
That would be J.J. Abrams and before he had any
film-directing credits, mind you.