7 times stars directed their own shows –and nailed it

Photo credit: ABC/NBC/ The CW - Getty Images
Photo credit: ABC/NBC/ The CW - Getty Images

From Digital Spy

Who knows why stars end up directing their own shows? Possibly it's telly producers wanting to keep them happy during contract negotiations. Maybe it's because they display a spark of genuine talent.

Whatever the reason, actors who make the leap are generally surprisingly good.

Especially this lot...

1. Peter Falk - Columbo

Photo credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Photo credit: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

For some title characters, directing their own series is a bit tricky because of the pressure to double-up their usual acting duties. But, for Peter Falk, it was easier – Columbo's structure means that there's more focus on supporting characters, with Falk usually not turning up until after a long intro (detailing that episode's murder) has played out, with the crumpled detective then occasionally popping up thereafter.

Both of Falk's two episodes came in 1972, and he wasn't even credited as director for the best one – one of the best Columbo episodes ever, 'Étude in Black,' which starred Falk's long-time friend and collaborator John Cassavetes (himself a brilliant director) as a murderous conductor.

Falk was credited for 'Blueprint for Murder', another popular episode, which featured complex location work in the story of an architect who murders a millionaire and hides his body in order to keep his construction project financed.

Columbo remained Falk's only directorial endeavour, which is a massive shame.

2. Ellen Pompeo - Grey's Anatomy

Photo credit: ABC - Getty Images
Photo credit: ABC - Getty Images

Grey's Anatomy has a pretty solid history of letting its cast direct episodes – Kevin McKidd alone has helmed 20! – but it wasn't until last year's 'Be Still, My Soul' that star Ellen Pompeo made her directorial debut. According to the star, there's a good reason for it.

"No one has ever approached me about it before, and Debbie did and she started last year asking me, and I started saying no, no, no, and then she just kept at it. Debbie Allen doesn't take no for an answer! I thought about it and everything she said was true - I do know more about the show than most of the directors that come in, so if they can do it, I certainly could. It wasn't a question of if I could do it; it was a question of, do I want to spend that much more time here?"

But clearly she enjoyed spending that much time in the office enough to come back – Pompeo returned to the director's chair this year for flashback episode 'Old Scars, Future Hearts.'

3. Rob McElhenney - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Considering the fact that McElhenney created the show in the first place, directing the short film that became the pilot (which McElhenney also directed), titled 'Charlie Has Cancer', it's a surprise he hasn't helmed more.

His only other episode, 'Charlie Gets Crippled' (if you haven't already guessed, the series tackles taboo topics) was the first episode of the second season, which means he's directed the opening episodes of two of the (astonishing) 13 seasons. It's Fox's longest-running live-action sitcom.

Both of McElhenney's episodes featured the actor as frequently as any other, and when you add in producing duties on top, he probably prefers to hand directing duties over to someone else.

He's yet to direct anything else.

4. Scott Bakula - Quantum Leap

It took four seasons for Bakula to settle into the director's chair, with his first attempt feeling like a play on Warren Beatty's Shampoo (a film by another actor turned director), as Sam leaps into a hairdresser to stop the death of a murder witness. It proved that Bakula had an eye for casting –the episode features an early role for Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Bakula contributed to season four once more with 'Roberto!' and for a final time in season five's 'Promised Land.' His episodes ranged between competent and excellent, so it's surprising that Bakula hasn't directed since.

5. Jensen Ackles - Supernatural

Photo credit: The CW
Photo credit: The CW

Ackles has racked up a cool five episodes of Supernatural, including one that featured a cameo from his own dad Alan Ackles (nepotism, what nepotism?), in the season 8 episode 'Heartache.'

"I didn't really direct my dad," Ackles said." I just suggested things to him. 'Dad, I don't know, if you're feeling it, maybe hit this mark, because the camera's over here.' No, my dad was awesome."

Ackles clearly finds it easier to direct his screen brother Jared Padalecki."Directing Jared was not unlike how we deal with each other as actors, because he and I look after each other quite a bit anyway."

"If we're doing a scene together and somebody else is directing and he does a performance and it's his coverage, and I notice that he missed some beats or some cues, I'll tell him. 'You got a better one in you, ramp it up, speed it up, slow it down…' And he does the same for me. We do that for each other and we have been doing that since the beginning of the show."

6. David Schwimmer - Friends

For some reason, the guy who plays pedantic control freak Ross Gellar seems to really enjoy directing. Who knew? He helmed an impressive ten episodes of the show, using it as a springboard to direct episodes of series he's not in (such as Joey and The Tracy Morgan Show), as well as a Simon Pegg movie (Run, Fatboy, Run).

He's clearly got better as he went along – his opening Friends episode 'The One On The Last Night' isn't one of the highlights of the series, with a limited scope – it's mostly set in Monica's apartment – and some weird continuity errors, such as the moment Chandler randomly appears in Rachel's room when we've been led to believe Monica's alone in the apartment.

Still, he's good at directing himself – one of his best performances came in his own episode, 'The One With The Stripper.'

7. Kelsey Grammer - Frasier

Photo credit: NBCU Photo Bank - Getty Images
Photo credit: NBCU Photo Bank - Getty Images

Grammer directed an astonishing 36 episodes of Frasier, but when you see the first episode he helmed, it's probably not surprising that they kept asking him back. His directorial debut 'Moon Dance' is still considered to be one of the best of the series.

Grammer made it easier on himself by only appearing in two brief scenes in the episode, focusing his attention instead on Niles and Daphne, and a main plot that involved them going to a high-society ball together. Far from being throwaway, the episode deepened the relationship between the two characters significantly.

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