Robert Butler Dies: TV Director For ‘Batman,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Hill Street Blues’ & ‘Moonlighting’ Pilots Was 95

Robert Butler, a television director for the pilot shows for Star Trek, Batman, Hill Street Blues, and Moonlighting, has died. He was 95.

Butler’s family announced that the Emmy award-winning director died on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles.

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Graduating from UCLA where he majored in English, Butler started his career in entertainment as an usher at CBS. His first credit as a director would come in 1959 when he directed an episode for the military comedy-drama Hennesey which starred Jackie Cooper and Abby Dalton.

Over the years, Butler was sought out to direct pilots for shows like Hogan’s Heroes (1965), the original Star Trek (1966), Batman (1966), the first mini-series on television The Blue Knight (1973), Hill Street Blues (1978), Moonlighting (1985), Sisters (1991) and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993).

Butler won two Emmy Awards, the first one for The Blue Knight pilot in 1973 and the second one in 1981 for Hill Street Blues. In 2015 he was honored by the Directors Guild of America with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Television Direction.

Other television shows that Butler directed included The Twilight Zone (1964), The Fugitive (1964), Mister Roberts (1965), The Magical World of Disney (1965), I Spy (1966), The Invaders (1967), Judd, for the Defense (1967), N.Y.P.D. (1967), Gunsmoke (1967), Insight (1967), Cimarron Strip (1968), Mission: Impossible (1969), Lancer (1969), The Waltons (1972), Columbo (1973) and The Division (2001), just to name a few.

Butler also directed films and television films like Disney’s Guns in the Heather (1969), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and The Barefoot Executive (1971). Other credits included the television movie for The Blue Knight (1973), Strange New World (1975), James Dean (1976), Out of Time (1988), White Mile (1994), and Turbulence (1997), just to name a few.

“Few directors have changed the face of television as much as Bob did—his impact on the medium is truly immeasurable and this loss to our Guild is deeply felt,” DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter said in a statement. “At ease in any genre, Bob’s pilots established the look and feel of several seminal series including Hogan’s Heroes, Batman and Star Trek. His groundbreaking work on Hill Street Blues brought to life the grit and reality of an urban precinct by coupling his unique visual style with evocative performances he coaxed from an incomparable cast, forever changing the trajectory and style of episodic procedurals. It was for his unparalleled influence in television that the Guild selected Bob for our inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Television Direction in 2015.”

The statement continued, “Despite a demanding career, Bob passionately served at the highest levels of Guild leadership for more than 30 years, advocating for the creative rights of members on the Western Directors Council and as a National Board member, including two terms as 5th Vice President. As a trustee for the Directors Guild Foundation for more than 35 years, Bob ensured that DGA members had access to emergency financial support at critical moments in their careers.  For all his extraordinary service to the Guild and its membership, in 2001 Bob was honored with the Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award.  Bob’s legacy will live on in the memories of the many directors he influenced and mentored, and the countless viewers who laughed and cheered along with his exceptional work. Our deepest condolences to his family and the many Directors and Directorial team members who knew and loved him.”

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