Robert Butler

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his five-hour Archive interview, Robert Butler describes breaking into the business as an usher at CBS. He speaks of his experiences in various behind-the-scenes capacities on classic "live" anthology series Climax! and Playhouse 90. He discusses his first break in television directing on the comedy/drama series Hennesey. Butler then details his varied assignments in series television in the 1960s on The Detectives, Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dr. Kildare, Gunsmoke, The Defenders, The Fugitive, Hogan's Heroes, The Twilight Zone, Batman, and Star Trek. He recalls his work in the 1970s on television movies (such as Columbo Movies of the Week and James Dean) and on feature films. He then outlines his groundbreaking work on the look of Hill Street Blues, for which he directed several of the initial episodes (including the pilot). He talks about his later work on Remington Steele, Moonlighting, Out on a Limb, Midnight Caller (which he also executive-produced), Sisters, and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on January 14, 2004 in Los Angeles, CA.

"I adore the decent handling of people and I do that. Mostly they respond, sometimes they don't. But I give them a good shake, and I'm rewarded in that. One actor said to me, 'one of the greatest gifts is the way you handle people.' And I like that and find that kind of comforting."

Highlights
Robert Butler on directing the original pilot of Star Trek  ("The Cage")
06:59
Robert Butler on the look of Hill Street Blues
01:47
Robert Butler on working with Cybill Shepard on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:10
Robert Butler on advice to aspiring directors
01:07
Robert Butler on his proudest achievement
01:14
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his interest in jazz; on attending UCLA
09:27
On becoming an usher at CBS and working his way up the ranks to become a stage manager; on being an associate director on Playhouse 90 and Climax!
18:33

Chapter 2

On Playhouse 90 and Climax! teleplays that he worked on as an assistant director (AD); on the effect of the Blacklist; on wanting to become a director
10:38
On his first directing job on Hennesey; on directing Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Have Gun, Will Travel, The Untouchables, and The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor
17:29

Chapter 3

On directing episodes of Bonanza, Shane, and Dr. Kildare
08:40
On directing Stoney Burke, Ben Case, and The Richard Boone Show
10:58
On directing The Defenders and The Fugitive
09:24

Chapter 4

On directing black and white and color episodes of The Fugitive; on directing The Fugitive episode "Corner of Hell"
07:44
On directing the pilot of Hogan's Heroes; on controversial elements of the show and establishing the tone of the series
16:00
On directing several episodes of The Twilight Zone
04:44

Chapter 5

On directing The Twilight Zone teleplay "Caesar and Me" starring Jackie Cooper
03:26
On directing the pilot and a few other Batman episodes; on the crazy elements on the show; on working with the cast and with guest stars
13:43
On the comic book elements on Batman; on lighting challenges on the show and working with Frank Gorshin ("The Riddler") and Burgess Meredith ("The Penguin")
11:24

Chapter 6

On directing the original Star Trek pilot
07:00
On directing episodes of The Invaders, Ironside, I Spy, and Mission: Impossible  
14:07
On directing Kung Fu and The Waltons
08:12

Chapter 7

On directing Columbo  
06:17
On directing feature films for Disney and Wonderful World of Disney shows including Kilroy
04:33
On directing television movies-of-the-week and their lack of specificity compared to series television
02:17
On directing the miniseries The Blue Knight (1975) starring William Holden
05:19
On directing the TV movie A Strange New World 
03:15
On directing the TV movie James Dean  (1976)
04:08
On becoming involved in directing Hill Street Blues
03:06

Chapter 8

On the casting and the gritty style of Hill Street Blues
07:41
On network and audience reaction to Hill Street Blues; on his directing style and trademark elements on the show; on the theme song and opening sequence
11:53
On the structure of storylines on Hill Street Blues; on the show's color scheme and working with Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll
09:18

Chapter 9

On working with the cast of Hill Street Blues; on why he stayed as a regular director on Hill Street Blues
08:24
On co-creating and casting Remington Steele
05:22
On directing the pilot of Moonlighting
12:37
On directing Shirley MacLaine in Out on a Limb
03:18

Chapter 10

On executive producing Midnight Caller; on directing the pilot of Sisters and directing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
09:45
On his directing style; on his work with the Directors Guild of America; on then-current projects; on how he'd like to be remembered
13:00
Shows

Batman

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot and a few other Batman episodes
02:30
Robert Butler on Bill Dozier setting the tone of Batman and working with Adam West
04:33
Robert Butler on some of the fun and crazy elements on Batman; on the "dynamic duo"
03:34
Robert Butler on the guest stars on Batman
03:25
Robert Butler on the fight scenes and comic book elements on Batman
01:40
Robert Butler on the two episode structure and cliffhangers often used on Batman
01:13
Robert Butler on lighting challenges on Batman
02:31
Robert Butler on the camp nature of Batman
02:23
Robert Butler on the titles of Batman episodes and working with Frank Gorshin ("The Riddler") on Batman
02:16
Robert Butler on episodes 3 and 4 of Batman featuring Burgess Meredith as "The Penguin"
01:21

Ben Casey

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of Ben Casey
02:02

Blue Knight, The

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Robert Butler on directing the miniseries The Blue Knight (1975) starring William Holden
05:19

Bonanza

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Robert Butler on directing an episode of Bonanza, "Broken Ballad" (airdate: October 29, 1961) where the cast gave him a difficult time (Note: interviewer mistakenly calls Lorne Greene "Lorne Michaels")
04:41

Climax!

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Robert Butler on working with composer Jerry Goldsmith and director Buzz Kulik on Climax!
00:55
Robert Butler on the concept of Climax!
00:34

Columbo

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Robert Butler on directing Columbo  
06:17

Defenders, The

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Robert Butler on directing a Defenders episode where an actor was deemed "unacceptable" due to the Blacklist
00:58
Robert Butler on directing a Defenders episode where an actor was deemed "unacceptable" due to the Blacklist
01:35
Robert Butler on directing episodes of and rehearsals on The Defenders
06:41

Detectives, The

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Robert Butler on directing The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor
01:28

Dick Powell Show, The

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Robert Butler on directing The Dick Powell Show and anothologies in general
01:11

Dick Van Dyke Show, The

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Robert Butler on directing The Dick Van Dyke Show
03:16

Dr. Kildare

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Robert Butler on directing Dr. Kildare  
02:33

Fugitive, The

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Fugitive
02:41
Robert Butler on directing black and white and color episodes of The Fugitive
02:12
Robert Butler on directing The Fugitive episode "Corner of Hell"
04:35

Gunsmoke

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of Gunsmoke
02:24

Have Gun - Will Travel

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Robert Butler on directing one episode of Have Gun, Will Travel
01:44

Hennesey

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Robert Butler on his first directing job on Hennesey
04:09

Hill Street Blues

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Robert Butler on becoming involved in directing Hill Street Blues
03:06
Robert Butler on casting Hill Street Blues
28:52
Robert Butler on the look of Hill Street Blues
01:47
Robert Butler on network reaction to the gritty style of Hill Street Blues and Grant Tinker protecting the show
03:16
Robert Butler on audience reaction to Hill Street Blues
00:40
Robert Butler on the ensemble nature of storytelling and shooting on Hill Street Blues
01:35
Robert Butler on his approach to directing episodes of Hill Street Blues
02:55
Robert Butler on some of the trademark elements of Hill Street Blues
01:22
Robert Butler on the theme song to Hill Street Blues
01:20
Robert Butler on the opening sequence of Hill Street Blues
04:01
Robert Butler on the structure of the storylines on Hill Street Blues
01:05
Robert Butler on the harsh language and realism on Hill Street Blues
00:45
Robert Butler on the color scheme on Hill Street Blues
02:45
Robert Butler on not revealing the location of Hill Street Blues
01:09
Robert Butler on working with show creators Steven Bochco and Mike Kozoll on Hill Street Blues
03:34
Robert Butler on working with the cast of Hill Street Blues
05:18
Robert Butler on why he stayed as a regular director on Hill Street Blues
03:06

Hogan's Heroes

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot of Hogan's Heroes
11:43
Robert Butler on establishing the tone of Hogan's Heroes
02:42
Robert Butler on enjoying directing Hogan's Heroes when he hadn't enjoyed directing comedies before; on differences between single camera and multi-camera productions
01:17
Robert Butler on directing the pilot and several episodes of Hogan's Heroes
00:18

I Spy

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Robert Butler on directing I Spy
03:49

Invaders, The

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Invaders
03:55

Ironside

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Robert Butler on directing Ironside
03:48

James Dean

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Robert Butler on directing the TV movie James Dean  (1976)
04:08

Kung Fu

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Robert Butler on directing Kung Fu; on cheating shots
02:54

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

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Robert Butler on directing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
02:57

Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The

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Robert Butler on mishaps directing Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
00:37

Midnight Caller

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Robert Butler on executive producing Midnight Caller
02:29

Mission: Impossible

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Robert Butler on feeling constrained as a director on Mission: Impossible; on directing suspense
02:01

Moonlighting

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Robert Butler on Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron's sensibilities, and the pilots the two worked on before Butler directed the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
02:19
Robert Butler on the casting of Cybill Shepard and Bruce Willis (and Willis' screen test) for Moonlighting [the telefilm pilot of which Butler directed]
03:38
Robert Butler on the pace of the dialogue for the pilot telefilm of Moonlighting
00:55
Robert Butler on Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron
01:40
Robert Butler on working with Cybill Shepard on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:10
Robert Butler on working with Bruce Willis on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:20
Robert Butler on only directing the pilot of Moonlighting
00:41

Out on a Limb

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Robert Butler on directing Shirley MacLaine in Out on a Limb
03:16

Playhouse 90

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Robert Butler on being an associate director/AD on Playhouse 90
01:43
Robert Butler on being an associate director/AD on specific productions of Playhouse 90 penned by Reginald Rose, including "A Quiet Game of Cards"
03:00
Robert Butler on various Playhouse 90 teleplays that were not always successful
01:34

Remington Steele

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Robert Butler on co-creating Remington Steele
02:55
Robert Butler on co-creating and casting Remington Steele
05:22

Richard Boone Show, The

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Robert Butler on directing teleplays of The Richard Boone Show
03:25

Shane

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Robert Butler on directing an episode of Shane
00:37

Sisters

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot of Sisters
02:53
Robert Butler on the creativity in shooting Sisters
01:23

Star Trek

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Robert Butler on directing the original pilot of Star Trek  ("The Cage")
06:59

Stoney Burke

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Robert Butler on directing Jack Lord on Stoney Burke
03:07

Twilight Zone, The

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Robert Butler on directing several episodes of The Twilight Zone
04:42
Robert Butler on directing The Twilight Zone teleplay "Caesar and Me" starring Jackie Cooper
03:26

Untouchables, The

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Robert Butler on directing The Untouchables
03:17

Waltons, The

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Robert Butler on filters used while directing The Waltons
00:58
Robert Butler on directing The Waltons  (including the episode "Airmail Man")
05:13

Wonderful World of Disney, The aka Magical World of Disney, The

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Robert Butler on directing Wonderful World of Disney shows including Kilroy
04:33
Topics

Advice

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Robert Butler on advice to aspiring directors
01:07

Characters & Catchphrases

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Robert Butler on directing Columbo  
06:15

Classic TV series episodes

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Robert Butler on directing the original pilot of Star Trek  ("The Cage")
06:59

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Robert Butler on his mentors and people he's mentored
01:40

Hollywood Blacklist

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Robert Butler on directing a Defenders episode where an actor was deemed "unacceptable" due to the Blacklist
00:58

Industry Crossroads

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Robert Butler on directing a Defenders episode where an actor was deemed "unacceptable" due to the Blacklist
00:58

Pop Culture

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Robert Butler on directing the original pilot of Star Trek  ("The Cage")
06:59
Robert Butler on the theme song to Hill Street Blues
01:20

TV Theme Songs

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Robert Butler on the theme song to Hill Street Blues
01:20

Television Industry

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Robert Butler on directing a Defenders episode where an actor was deemed "unacceptable" due to the Blacklist
00:58
Robert Butler on advice to aspiring directors
01:07
Professions

Directors

View Profession
Robert Butler on wanting to be a director
03:02
Robert Butler on differences between directing live television and filmed single camera television
02:33
Robert Butler on his directing style
01:19
Robert Butler on directing actors
02:28
Robert Butler on his work with the Directors Guild of America and why it's important to directors
02:11
Robert Butler on advice to aspiring directors
01:07
Genres

Adventure/Espionage Series

View Genre
Robert Butler on directing the pilot and several episodes of Batman
25:07
Robert Butler on directing Mission: Impossible; on directing suspense
02:01
Robert Butler on co-creating Remington Steele
05:22

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
Robert Butler on being an associate director/AD on Playhouse 90 and Climax!
10:05
Robert Butler on directing several episodes of The Twilight Zone
04:42

Comedy Series

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot of Hogan's Heroes; on controversial elements of the show and establishing the tone of the series
16:00

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Robert Butler on directing black and white and color episodes of The Fugitive; on directing The Fugitive episode "Corner of Hell"
07:44
Robert Butler on directing several episodes of The Twilight Zone
04:42
Robert Butler on directing Columbo  
06:17
Robert Butler on directing and creating the trademark style elements of Hill Street Blues
28:51
Robert Butler on working with the cast of Hill Street Blues; on why he stayed as a regular director on Hill Street Blues
08:24
Robert Butler on directing the pilot of Moonlighting
12:37

Drama Series

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot of Moonlighting
12:37

Legal Dramas

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Defenders
06:41

Sci-Fi/Supernatural Series

View Genre
Robert Butler on directing the original pilot of Star Trek  ("The Cage")
06:59

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Robert Butler on directing television movies-of-the-week and their lack of specificity compared to series television
02:17
People

James Arness

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of Gunsmoke
02:24

Barbara Barrie

View Person Page
Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Invaders
01:04

Robert Blake

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Robert Butler on directing Robert Blake on a Richard Boone anthology series
03:25

Steven Bochco

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Robert Butler on working with show creator Steven Bochco on Hill Street Blues
02:08

Richard Boone

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Robert Butler on directing Have Gun, Will Travel
01:44

Herbert Brodkin

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Robert Butler on directing a Defenders episode where an actor was deemed "unacceptable" due to the Blacklist
00:58
Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Defenders
01:35

Pierce Brosnan

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Robert Butler on casting Remington Steele
01:54

Raymond Burr

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of Ironside
03:48

Dean Cain

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Robert Butler on directing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
01:51

Glenn Gordon Caron

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Director Robert Butler on Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron's sensibilities, and the pilots the two worked on before Butler directed the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
02:18
Director Robert Butler on Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron
01:40

Jack Cassidy

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Robert Butler on directing Columbo  
02:50

Michael Conrad

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Robert Butler on working with the cast of Hill Street Blues - Michael Conrad
01:17

Fielder Cook

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Robert Butler on Fielder Cook directing episodes of The Waltons
00:41

Jackie Cooper

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Robert Butler on directing The Twilight Zone teleplay "Caesar and Me" starring Jackie Cooper
03:26

Bill Cosby

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Robert Butler on directing Bill Cosby and Robert Culp on I Spy
00:32

Robert Culp

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Robert Butler on directing Bill Cosby and Robert Culp on I Spy
00:32

David Dortort

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Robert Butler on directing an episode of Bonanza, "Broken Ballad" (airdate: October 29, 1961) where the cast gave him a difficult time (Correction: interviewer mistakenly calls Lorne Greene "Lorne Michaels")
04:41

Bill Dozier

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot and a few other Batman episodes
01:24
Robert Butler on Bill Dozier setting the tone of Batman
01:08

Peter Falk

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Robert Butler on directing Peter Falk on Columbo  
06:17

William Froug

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Robert Butler on getting hired by William Froug to direct several episodes of The Twilight Zone
04:06

Michael Gleason

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Robert Butler on co-creating Remington Steele
01:07

Jerry Goldsmith

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Robert Butler on working with composer Jerry Goldsmith and director Buzz Kulik on Climax!
00:55

Frank Gorshin

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Robert Butler on working with Frank Gorshin ("The Riddler") on Batman
01:05
Robert Butler on working with Frank Gorshin ("The Riddler") on Batman
02:16

Charles Haid

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Robert Butler on working with the cast of Hill Street Blues - Charles Haid
01:11

Veronica Hamel

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Robert Butler on casting Veronica Hamel on Hill Street Blues
01:27

Neil Hamilton

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Robert Butler on some of the fun and crazy elements on Batman
00:27

Earl Hamner, Jr.

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Robert Butler on directing The Waltons  (including the episode "Airmail Man")
00:35

Teri Hatcher

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Robert Butler on directing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
02:57

William Holden

View Person Page
Robert Butler on directing the miniseries The Blue Knight (1975) starring William Holden
05:19

David Janssen

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Fugitive
01:32

Jill St. John

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Robert Butler on directing Jill St. John in a Batman episode
00:46

Bob Kane

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Robert Butler on creator Bob Kane not being around when he directed Batman
01:24

Michael Kozoll

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Robert Butler on working with show creator Steven Michael Kozoll on Hill Street Blues
01:24

Buzz Kulik

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Robert Butler on working with director Buzz Kulik
01:22

Martin Landau

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Robert Butler on directing Martin Landau on Columbo  
01:02

Jack Lord

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Robert Butler on directing Jack Lord on Stoney Burke
03:07

Shirley MacLaine

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Director Robert Butler on directing Shirley MacLaine in Out on a Limb
03:16

Quinn Martin

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Fugitive
02:41

Kiel Martin

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Robert Butler on casting Kiel Martin on Hill Street Blues
00:07

Raymond Massey

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Robert Butler on directing Dr. Kildare  
02:33

Burgess Meredith

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Robert Butler on episodes 3 and 4 of Batman featuring Burgess Meredith as "The Penguin"
01:21

Alan Napier

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Robert Butler on some of the fun and crazy elements on Batman
01:19

Carroll O'Connor

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Robert Butler on directing Carroll O'Connor on I Spy
01:04

Frank Pierson

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Robert Butler on directing Have Gun, Will Travel
01:44

Mike Post

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Robert Butler on the theme song to Hill Street Blues
01:20

Carl Reiner

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Robert Butler on directing The Dick Van Dyke Show and working with Carl Reiner
01:25

Gene Roddenberry

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Robert Butler on directing the original pilot of Star Trek
06:59

Reginald Rose

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Robert Butler on being an associate director/AD on specific productions of Playhouse 90 penned by Reginald Rose, including "A Quiet Game of Cards"
02:45
Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Defenders
06:41

Alex Segal

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Robert Butler on working with director Alex Segal
00:38

Lorenzo Semple, Jr.

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot and a few other Batman episodes
01:24
Robert Butler on some of the fun and crazy elements on Batman
01:19

Rod Serling

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Robert Butler on directing Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone
03:02

Cybill Shepherd

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Director Robert Butler on the casting of Cybill Shepard and Bruce Willis (and Willis' screen test) for Moonlighting [the telefilm pilot of which Butler directed]
00:43
Director Robert Butler on working with Cybill Shepard on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:10

James Sikking

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Robert Butler on working with the cast of Hill Street Blues - James Sikking
01:36

Robert Stack

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Robert Butler on working with Robert Stack when directing The Untouchables
00:55

Robert Taylor

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Robert Butler on directing The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor
01:28

Roy Thinnes

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Robert Butler on directing episodes of The Invaders
00:36

Betty Thomas

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Robert Butler on working with Betty Thomas on Hill Street Blues
00:35

Grant Tinker

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Robert Butler on becoming involved in directing Hill Street Blues
03:06
Robert Butler on network reaction to the gritty style of Hill Street Blues and Grant Tinker protecting the show
01:16

Daniel J. Travanti

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Robert Butler on working with the cast of Hill Street Blues - Daniel J. Travanti
01:00

Burt Ward

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Robert Butler on the dynamic duo played by Adam West and Burt Ward on Batman
00:49

Bruce Weitz

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Robert Butler on casting Bruce Weitz on Hill Street Blues
00:51

Adam West

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Robert Butler on working with Adam West on Batman
02:01
Robert Butler on the dynamic duo played by Adam West and Burt Ward on Batman
00:49
Robert Butler on Adam West's demeanor on Batman
00:59

Bruce Willis

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Director Robert Butler on the casting of Cybill Shepard and Bruce Willis (and Willis' screen test) for Moonlighting [the telefilm pilot of which Butler directed]
04:44
Director Robert Butler on working with Bruce Willis on the Moonlighting pilot telefilm
01:20

Stephanie Zimbalist

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Robert Butler on casting Stephanie Zimbalist in Remington Steele
01:54

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