The first requirement for a sitcom director is a gift for comedy. Next comes charm and a consistent ability to pull punchlines from the chaos of a soundstage. American sitcom director and producer Pamela Fryman was apparently so good at all three, she became the go-to director to steer complex multi-camera sitcoms, developing long-running tenures on some of the most commercially and critically successful TV shows of her time.
At the age of 21, Pamela Fryman moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, landing her first job in the television industry as an assistant to the talent coordinator on the syndicated talk show "The John Davidson Show" (1980-82). She then found work as a secretary and production assistant on the soap opera "Santa Barbara" (NBC 1984-93) and eventually moved her way up the ladder to assistant director. In 1994, producer and friend Peter Noah, whom she had met on the game show "Dream House," pushed Fryman to direct an episode of the short-lived Valerie Bertinelli sitcom "Café Americain" (NBC 1993-94).
Hitting the ground running, Fryman then directed three episodes of the sitcom "Muddling Through" (CBS 1994). Two weeks after the last episode aired, that show's co-star Jennifer Aniston joined the cast of her career-defining hit "Friends" (NBC 1994-04). Fryman and Aniston got a chance to work together again almost immediately, when she directed the fledgling hit's fifth episode. Fryman then directed nine episodes of the computer-themed sitcom "Dweebs" (CBS 1995), starring Peter Scolari and Corey Feldman. Only six of the scheduled 10 episodes aired before the show was dropped.
Overlapping with the doomed "Dweebs," Fryman directed three episodes of the dead-on-arrival Andrew Dice Clay vehicle "Bless This House" (CBS 1995-96) and two episodes of another short-lived sitcom, "Good Company" (CBS 1996). She followed this string of negligible sitcoms with an episode for the promising newcomer "Caroline in the City" (NBC 1995-99) and two episodes of the Cynthia Stevenson vehicle "Hope & Gloria" (NBC 1995-96).
Fryman worked on four episodes of a risk-taking sitcom that garnered multiple awards, "Cybill" (CBS 1995-98), before the show was cancelled amidst widely-sourced rumors of on-set discontent. The director also worked on five episodes of another sitcom featuring a strong female protagonist, "Suddenly Susan" (NBC 1996-2000). She followed that in 1997 with four episodes of a short-lived comedy with the impressive pedigree of proven sitcom stars Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch, "George & Leo" (NBC 1997-98), and three episodes of Kevin James's breakout sitcom "The King of Queens" (CBS 1998-2007).
Her elegant style and ability to create complex, interwoven storylines that were charming instead of confusing led Fryman to her first peak moment. Between 1997 and 2001, Fryman directed 34 episodes of the hit "Frasier" (NBC 1993-2004). Also during this period, she stepped up her game and became executive producer on the magazine-based workplace sitcom "Just Shoot Me!" (NBC 1997-2003), a hit show for which she directed 89 episodes as well.
In 2003 the director again teamed up with "Cybill" co-star Christine Baranski, producing and directing nine episodes of her short-lived comedy "Happy Family" (NBC 2003-04). By the end of that run, Fryman also reteamed with "Cybill" creator Chuck Lorre to direct 20 episodes of his enormous ratings hit "Two and a Half Men" (CBS 2003-15). In 2005, she left that series to usher in a show she became synonymous with, "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS 2005-14). Over its first eight seasons, Fryman directed 171 episodes of the conceptually complex multi-camera sitcom, as well as serving as one of the show's executive producers.
Along with her sitcom work, Fryman also began directing multiple TV movies, including the Christine Baranski project "Inseparable" (2006), a comedy starring Joe Manganiello and Jaime Pressly called "Livin' on a Prayer" (2010), a project featuring future "Saturday Night Live" (NBC 1975- ) cast member Taran Killam called "Freshmen" (2010), and another comedy about pals in New York, "True Love" (2010). In 2011, Fryman directed a TV movie starring cult superstar Heather Locklear, "The Assistants," and served as producer on another TV movie, "And They're Off." The following year she directed a comedy featuring Scott Bakula, "Table for Three."