It's something of a cliche to say that every actor wants to direct, but the fact of the matter is that some of the best episodes of TV out there were directed by people who acted on the show.
An actor is in a unique position to plumb the depths of a TV show. They spend eight hours a day or more in the skin of that character, they talk with their fellow actors between takes about the shared world they inhabit, and they share pet theories about the direction the show is going in. Perhaps that's why the following TV episodes, each one directed by a star of the show, are so memorable.
"No Mas," "Breaking Bad"
Bryan Cranston directed this episode (the third season premiere), as well as the second season premiere. "No Mas" stands out as one of the great episodes in the history of the series. Jesse is in rehab, Walt is served divorce papers by Skyler, and Gus offers Walt $3 million for only three months of work. So much is conveyed with so little: never has a sandwich seemed so depressing...well, at least not since Season 1. Cranston has repeatedly shown that not only is he a brilliant actor, but he is also a wonderful director.
"Signal 30," "Mad Men"
John Slattery (who plays Roger Sterling on the show) started directing episodes of "Mad Men" back in Season 4, including the excellent "The Rejected" and "Blowing Smoke." But even better is Season 5's "Signal 30," where Ken's side job as a writer is discovered, Don fixes a sink, and a dinner party takes an unexpected turn. Oh, and of course, there's that infamous fight between Lane and Pete, which was one of the most talked about moments of the entire season. It finds a perfect balance between comedy, drama, and that certain indefinable, ephemeral feeling of emptiness that every great episode of "Mad Men" can lay claim to.
"A Good Day," "The West Wing"
The sixth season of "The West Wing" was certainly not the strongest in the history of the series, but one of the bright spots was "A Good Day," directed by Mr. Toby Ziegler himself (Richard Schiff). There's worry about an invasion of Canada, a lobby to abolish the voting age, plenty of drama for Congressman Santos to contend with, and the President has a reunion with a former economics colleague from Japan.