Bruce Bilson

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, Bruce Bilson talks about his early experiences as an assistant editor on classic television shows You Bet Your Life and The Liberace Show. He recalls his tenure at Desilu Studios, where he served as an assistant director on the lot's many sitcoms. He speaks with fondness about his work as an A.D. on The Andy Griffith Show, commenting on the show's production and ensemble, and identifying regular director Bob Sweeney as his mentor. Bilson describes his work on the syndicated adventure program Whirlybirds, noting the show's stunt work, and talks about his transition to becoming a full-fledged director. He speaks of directing The Patty Duke Show, directing the satirical series Get Smart, and winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in Comedy in 1968. He describes his experiences on dozens of series he directed over the subsequent three decades, representing nearly four hundred hours of television. Among the series he discusses are: The Doris Day Show, Love, American Style, Bonanza, The Odd Couple, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, The Brady Bunch, Hawaii Five-0, Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, Dallas, Hotel, Life With Lucy, Dinosaurs,  and Touched By An Angel. He remembers working with his son, Danny, who followed in his footsteps (with such shows as The Flash and The Sentinel) and outlines the advice he gave to his granddaughter, The O.C. star Rachel Bilson. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on August 19, 2008 in Studio City, CA.

"When I was starting out, I thought my camera work was awful, and I tried to make it more interesting. As I got older and more experienced, I learned to tell the story with the actors first, cameras second. Sometimes you can just do something with the camera that's just so good and you see you love it, but it's the actors and the script."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Bruce Bilson on working at Desilu
Bruce Bilson on the popularity of Get Smart  and winning an Emmy for directing it
Bruce Bilson on directing the cast of The Andy Griffith Show
Bruce Bilson on single camera verses multi-camera and being fired from Sanford and Son
Bruce Bilson on his granddaughter, actress Rachel Bilson
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on being on movie sets as a child and his first job in the entertainment industry; on getting into the Director's Guild
On his early experiences in television and entering the Air Force; on working as an editor on various shows
On working at Desilu; on working with Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life; on assistant directing The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and Whirlybirds
On various people he worked with early in his career; on assistant directing The Andy Griffith Show

Chapter 2

On directing the cast of The Andy Griffith Show; on making the transition from Assistant Director to Director
On directing The Patty Duke Show; on directing Get Smart; on his favorite episode of Get Smart
On winning an Emmy for Get Smart; on directing Hogan's Heroes; on working with television agents
On his process as a director; on working with a crew and changes in television directing over the years

Chapter 3

On shooting in a submarine; on his approach to directing actors and ensemble casts; on the difference between directing comedy and drama
On directing single camera verses multi-camera and being fired from Sanford and Son; on directing various series including Gidget, That Girl, Bewitched, Love, American Style and The Odd Couple
On directing Bonanza and M*A*S*H; on directing The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Brady Bunch and its spin-off The Bradys
On directing Hawaii Five-O, Alice and Wonder Woman; on directing The Love Boat, S.W.A.T, B.J. and the Bear and Harper Valley PTA

Chapter 4

On directing The Fall Guy and Knight Rider; on directing Dallas, Spencer for Hire and Dynasty
On directing Life with Lucy; on directing The Flash; on directing Dinosaurs
On how television directing has changed over the years; on advice to aspiring directors, his greatest achievements and regrets, and how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

Alice

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of Alice

Andy Griffith Show, The

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Bruce Bilson on assistant directing The Andy Griffith Show
Bruce Bilson on directing the cast of The Andy Griffith Show
Bruce Bilson on the supporting characters on The Andy Griffith Show

BJ and the Bear

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Bruce Bilson on directing B.J. and the Bear

Baileys of Balboa, The

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Bruce Bilson on making the transition from Assistant Director to Director

Barney Miller

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Bruce Bilson on directing Barney Miller

Bewitched

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Bruce Bilson on directing ensemble casts
Bruce Bilson on directing Bewitched

Bonanza

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Bruce Bilson on directing a comedy episode of Bonanza "Caution, Easter Bunny Crossing" (airdate: March 29, 1970)

Brady Bunch, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing four episodes (including one which guest starred Joe Namath) of The Brady Bunch

Bradys, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of The Bradys

Dallas

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Bruce Bilson on directing Dallas

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

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Bruce Bilson on working on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders; on challenges from network interference

December Bride

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Bruce Bilson on various early shows he worked on as assistant director

Dinosaurs

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Bruce Bilson on directing Dinosaurs

Doris Day Show, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of The Doris Day Show

Dynasty

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Bruce Bilson directing Dynasty

Emergency!

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Bruce Bilson on his approach to directing actors

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Bruce Bilson on the popularity of Get Smart and winning an Emmy for directing it

Fall Guy, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing The Fall Guy

Flash, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing The Flash

Get Smart

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Bruce Bilson on directing Get Smart
Bruce Bilson on the cast of Get Smart
Bruce Bilson on working with Don Adams and his favorite episode of Get Smart
Bruce Bilson on the popularity of Get Smart and winning an Emmy for directing it

Gidget

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Bruce Bilson on directing Gidget

Harper Valley PTA

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Bruce Bilson on directing Harper Valley PTA  which led to his directing the feature film Chattanooga Choo Choo

Hawaii Five-O

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of Hawaii Five-O

Hogan's Heroes

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Bruce Bilson on directing Hogan's Heroes

Horace Heidt Show, The

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Bruce Bilson on his early experience in television and his time in the Air Force

Hotel

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Bruce Bilson on his approach to directing actors

Knight Rider

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Bruce Bilson directing Knight Rider

Liberace Show, The

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Bruce Bilson on second assistant directing The Liberace Show

Life With Lucy

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Bruce Bilson on directing Life with Lucy

Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, The

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Bruce Bilson on assistant directing The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp

Love Boat, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes (including one with Milton Berle) of The Love Boat

Love, American Style

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of Love, American Style

M*A*S*H

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Bruce Bilson on directing one episode of M*A*S*H "Bananas Crackers and Nuts" (airdate:November 5, 1972)

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The

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Bruce Bilson on his difficulties directing the "Just a Lunch" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (airdate: January 16, 1971)

My Favorite Husband

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Bruce Bilson on various early shows he worked on as assistant director

Odd Couple, The (1970-75)

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of The Odd Couple

Our Miss Brooks

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Bruce Bilson on various early shows he worked on as assistant director

Partridge Family, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing two episodes of The Partridge Family

Patty Duke Show, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing The Patty Duke Show

S.W.A.T.

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Bruce Bilson on directing a Christmas episode of S.W.A.T.

Sanford and Son

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Bruce Bilson on single camera verses multi-camera and being fired from Sanford and Son

Sentinel, The

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Bruce Bilson on directing Viper and The Sentinel and how the rules of directing television have changed

That Girl

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Bruce Bilson on directing That Girl

Touched By an Angel

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Bruce Bilson on directing Touched by and Angel

Viper

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Bruce Bilson on directing Viper and The Sentinel and how the rules of directing television have changed

Walter Winchell File, The

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Bruce Bilson on various early shows he worked on as assistant director

Whirlybirds

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Bruce Bilson on assistant directing Whirlybirds

Wonder Woman

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of Wonder Woman

You Bet Your Life

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Bruce Bilson on working as an editor on You Bet Your Life
Bruce Bilson on working with Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life
Topics

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Bruce Bilson on important skills you need as a director and his mentor Bob Sweeney

Emmy Awards

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Bruce Bilson on the popularity of Get Smart and winning an Emmy for directing it

Television Industry

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Bruce Bilson on ageism in the television industry
Professions

Directors

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Bruce Bilson on working with a crew and changes in directing over the years
Bruce Bilson on his work process as a director
Bruce Bilson on his approach to directing actors
Bruce Bilson on directing ensemble casts
Bruce Bilson on advice to an aspiring television director, skills you need to be a television director and his mentor Bob Sweeney
Genres

Comedy Series

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Bruce Bilson on directing The Andy Griffith Show
Bruce Bilson on directing Get Smart
Bruce Bilson on directing Dinosaurs
People

Don Adams

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Bruce Bilson on directing Get Smart

Robert Altman

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Bruce Bilson on assistant directing Whirlybirds

Lucille Ball

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Bruce Bilson on various people he worked with early in his career
Bruce Bilson on directing Life with Lucy

Milton Berle

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes (including one with Milton Berle) of The Love Boat

Rachel Bilson

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Bruce Bilson on his granddaughter, actress Rachel Bilson

Lynda Carter

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of Wonder Woman

Doris Day

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of The Doris Day Show

Ron Howard

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Director Bruce Bilson on Andy Griffith Show star Ron Howard; on the relationship between Howard and Griffith

Don Knotts

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Director Bruce Bilson on Andy Griffith Show actor Don Knotts

Liberace

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Bruce Bilson on various people he worked with early in his career

Jack Lord

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of Hawaii Five-O

Groucho Marx

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Bruce Bilson on working with Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life

Argyle Nelson

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Bruce Bilson on working at Desilu

Sherwood Schwartz

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of The Bradys

Danny Thomas

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Bruce Bilson on various people he worked with early in his career

Debra Winger

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of Wonder Woman

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