Friday, November 17, 2023

Vanessa Marquez on DVD

Vanessa Marquez was both my dearest friend and an actress I admired. Her career in film and television was not very long. It only lasted from 1988 to 2001, but in that time she appeared in a number of movies and television shows, some of which were very high profile. Much of Vanessa Marquez's filmography is not currently available on streaming, but fortunately most of it can be found on DVD. Here then are a list of her movies and TV shows that are available on physical media.

Stand and Deliver (1988): In Stand and Deliver, Vanessa played Ana Delgado, an exceptional student who wants to go to medical school, over the objections of her father who wants her to work in the family restaurant. Stand and Deliver was critically acclaimed on its release. It also earned Edward James Olmos a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. It won the Independent Spirt Awards for Best Feature, Best Director for Ramón Menéndez, Best Male Lead for Edward James Olmos, Best Supporting Male for Lou Diamond Phillips, Best Screenplay for Ramón Menéndez and Tony Musca, and Best Supporting Female for Rosanna DeSoto. It also won the Michael Landon Award for the young cast of the film at the Young Artist Awards and Best Film at the Nosotros Golden Eagle Awards. In 2011 it was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

Stand and Deliver was released on DVD on November 10, 1998 by Warner Home Video and has been in print ever since. It is also available on DVD with fellow teacher movie Lean on Me (1989).

Wiseguy: Wiseguy was a television series that aired from September 16 1987 to December 8 1990 on CBS. Vanessa was set to have a recurring role on the show in its fourth and final season, playing Consuelo "Connie" Burns, the niece of the show's lead character, Michael Santana (Steven Bauer). She really enjoyed working on the show, and even got to meet Billy Dee Williams (as most of you know Vanessas was a huge Star Wars fan). Unfortunately, CBS cancelled Wiseguy before Vanessa's two episodes could air and the network never did run them. Fortunately, Vanessa's two episodes, "Point of No Return" and "Changing Houses," would be part of the syndication package. They would also be released on DVD.

Mill Creek Entertainment released season 4 of Wiseguy on DVD on September 9 2009. They later released Wiseguy: The Collector's Edition which included 67 episodes of the show, including Vanessa's episodes. It was last year that Visual Entertainment released Wiseguy - the Complete Collection, which includes all 75 episodes of the show.

Sweet 15 (1990): Sweet 15 is a made-for-TV movie that aired on the PBS series WonderWorks on January 15 1990. It starred Vanessa's fellow cast member Karla Montana as Marta de la Cruz, a 14 year old who desperately wants to a have a quinceanera upon her 15th birthday. Vanessa played Marta's friend Lupe in the TV movie. Sweet 15 was released on DVD on December 21 2004 (which, coincidentally, was Vanessa's 36th birthday). It appears to be out of print, but inexpensive copies can be found on Amazon, eBay, and other sites.

Locked Up: A Mother's Rage (1991): Locked Up: A Mother's Rage is a TV movie that aired on CBS on October 29 1991. It starred Cheryl Ladd as a single mother falsely imprisoned on charges of drug trafficking. Vanessa played Yolanda, nicknamed Yo-You, a young Dominican American pregnant woman who was charged with killing her boyfriend (although it appears to have been in self defence). Locked Up: A Mother's Rage is not a particularly good movie. The two leads (Cheryl Ladd and Jean Smart) tend to be overwrought, and the script  is rather poor. Even so,  it does feature one of Vanessa's best performances. It also features fine performances by Angela Bassett and Kimberly Scott.

Locked Up: A Mother's Rage was released on DVD on October 30 2006 by Infinity Media. Strangely enough, they changed the title to The Other Side of Love, which has absolutely nothing to do with the movie's plot. It appears to no longer be in print, but used copies can be found on Amazon, eBay, and other sites.

Seinfeld: Vanessa Marquez guest starred on the Seinfeld episode "The Cheever Letters," which aired on NBC on October 28 1992. Following the destruction of his Cuban cigars in a fire, Kramer (Michael Richards) goes to the Cuban Permanent Mission at the United Nations to see if he can get some more Cuban cigars. Vanessa played the receptionist at the Cuban Permanent Mission. While Vanessa isn't on screen for very long, she does make a very strong impression.

"The Cheever Letters" was the 8th episode of the 4th season of Seinfeld. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the 4th season on DVD on November 22  2005. The Complete Series of Seinfeld was released on November 6 2007. The Seinfeld DVDs are all still in print and can be found almost anywhere at an affordable price.

Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence (1992): While the first two Maniac Cop movies could be considered classics of the genre, Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence is simply a bad movie. Maniac Cop (1988) and Maniac Cop 2 (1990) centred on Matt Cordell, a police officer who comes back from the dead to clear his name after being falsely imprisoned and then murdered. Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence again features Matt Cordell, the maniac cop of the title, whose motivations for killing people this time around are not at all clear. In the movie Vanessa plays a young pharmacy clerk named Terry who winds up in a hostage situation. Here I have to warn you that the scenes involving Vanessa's character will be disturbing to anyone who knew and loved her.

Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence was released on DVD by Blue Underground on November 19 2013. It was in 2021 that Blue Underground released the film in 4K UltraHD. Needless to say, it is readily available.

Twenty Bucks (1992): Twenty Bucks was one of Vanessa's favourite movies she ever made and one of her most enjoyable experiences in her acting career. She even got to play a scene opposite Steve Buscemi and Christopher Lloyd. The film follows a $20 bill as it passes from one person to the next. In the movie Vanessa plays Melanie, whose underage boyfriend wants to use the $20 bill to buy wine for their dinner.. Vanessa gives a great performance in Twenty Bucks, and the movie has a cast that would be incredible for a major studio picture, let alone a low budget, independent film. In addition to Steve Buscemi and Christopher Lloyd, the film features Linda Hunt, Brendan Fraser, Gladys Knight, Elisabeth Shue, William H. Macy, and yet others.

Twenty Bucks was released on VHS by Columbia TriStar Home Video on June 1 1994. It was released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on July 5 2005. Sadly, Sony appears to have altered the film's aspect ratio so that it would better fit modern, widescreen television screens. If one wants to see Twenty Bucks in its original aspect radio, they will have to watch it on streaming.

Blood In Blood Out (1993): Blood In Blood Out follows three Los Angeles Chicanos from their younger days in a street gang to when they are older, with one winding up in prison, another winding up an artist, and yet another winding up a police officer. Blood In Blood Out never received a wide release, but it became a cult film following its release on VHS and repeating showings on various premium channels in the Nineties. Vanessa plays a very small role in the film as it was released, appearing on screen for only a matter of minutes. She played the daughter of Montana, the leader of the prison gang La Onda in the film.

Blood In Blood Out was released on DVD on June 13 2000.

Father Hood (1993): Father Hood stars Patrick Swayze as a petty criminal, Jack Charles, facing prison time who breaks his children out of a corrupt, state run home. The three of them then make a cross country trek. In the film Vanessa plays a pregnant teenager who Jack also breaks out of the home. She is only on screen very briefly, but she does well with what time she has. Despite being released at the height of Patrick Swayze's career, Father Hood bombed at the box office. It also fared poorly with critics. Father Hood was released on DVD on April 6 2004. It is still readily available from various outlets.

State of Emergency (1994): State of Emergency is an HBO made-for-TV movie that debuted on February 12 1994. It stars Joe Mantegna as emergency room doctor Dr. John Novelli, who finds himself in trouble after one of his patients dies. In the movie Vanessa played Violetta, the radiologist for the emergency room. State of Emergency was one of Vanessa's most enjoyable experiences in her career, particularly as she got to play opposite Richard Beymer, well-known as Tony in West Side Story (1961), a movie Vanessa loved. She said she was intimidated by Mr. Beymer at first, but he soon put her at ease and he was one of her favourite people she ever worked with. State of Emergency is the best TV movie Vanessa ever appeared in, with a strong script and the cast in top form. While it is not available on streaming, HBO released it on DVD on October 6 2009. It remains widely available.

ER: Nurse Wendy Goldman is Vanessa's most famous role besides Ana Delgado in Stand and Deliver. She certainly excelled in the role. Well before Vanessa and I were friends, Wendy was always my favourite character on the show, and I know many other people for whom she was their favourite character as well. While ER was not always a pleasant experience for Vanessa, she was proud of her work on the show, as she well should be. She appeared on the first three seasons of the series.

The first season of ER was released by Warner Home Video on August 26 2003. It was followed by the second season on April 27 2004 and the third season on April 26 2005. Since then the entire series has been released on DVD, with a box set of the complete series (all  15 seasons available).

Melrose Place: During the first season of ER, while Vanessa playing Wendy Goldman on the show, she also guest starred in the third season episode of Melrose Place "The Doctor That Rocks the Cradle." She played Linda Cortez, a young mother who has a stillborn baby. The episode aired on November 28 1994.

Melrose Place is readily available on video. CBS Home Entertainment released the third season on DVD on November 13 2007. The Complete Series was released just last year, on October 4 2022.

Fire & Ice (2001): Fire & Ice is a TV movie that debuted on BET on April 6 2001. It centres on the romance between a late night talk show host, Michael Williams (Kadem Hardison), and Holly Aimes (Lark Voorhies), the head of a home security firm and the daughter of a prominent politician. In the movie Vanessa plays Wanda Hernandez, a technician with Holly's security firm. She gets a good deal of screen time in Fire & Ice, and she does very well in the role. Also, in my humble opinion, Vanessa never looked lovelier on screen. Fire & Ice was released on DVD around the same time that it debuted on BET. It can still be easily found on a wide variety of sites.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Shock (1946)

Psychiatry was a hot topic in the late Forties, so it should come as no surprise that it often plays a role in film noir. Often psychiatrists in any given noir were honest, hard-working individuals who cared about their patients, such as Dr. Ann Lorrison (Audrey Totter) in High Wall (1947). Other times they definitely were not. An example of the latter can be found in the little-known movie Shock (1946). In Shock (1946) Vincent Price plays Dr. Richard Cross, whose professional ethics leave much to be desired.

Shock (1946) centres on Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw), a young woman awaiting the arrival of her husband, whom she hasn't seen since he went off to war. While in her hotel room she looks out her window only to see a husband murder his wife. Witnessing a murder is too much for Janet and she goes into a state of catatonic shock. Unfortunately, when the hotel physician recommends Janet be sent to a specialist, that specialist turns out to be none other than the man whom Janet witnessed kill his wife, psychiatrist Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price). As might be expected, Dr. Cross has Janet sent to his own asylum, where he, assisted by his nurse and lover Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari) plot to keep Janet from ever revealing what she knows.

Shock (1946) originated as a story by Albert DeMond, who may be best remembered today for his work on many Republic serials. The screenplay was written by Eugene Ling and Martin Berkely. Eugene Ling had previously co-written the drama Within These Walls (1945), starring Thomas Mitchell. Martin Berkeley had acted on Broadway in the 1920s and he wrote the Broadway production Seen But Not Heard with Ruth Baumer. His play The Penalty was adapted for the screen as the 1941 film of the same name. With regards to film, he wrote several entries in the Dr. Gillespie series, and later wrote the screenplay for the classic sci-fi movie Tarantula (1955).

20th Century Fox initially planned Shock (1956) as a major motion picture to be directed by Henry Hathaway. As it turned out, the studio decided to scale back the budget for Shock (1956), and as a result the film was directed by Alfred L. Werker, who had directed such films as Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) and A-Haunting We Will Go (1942). While Shock (1946) would be a B-picture, it would be one with "A" class cast. Vincent Price was cast in his first lead role as Dr. Cross. By this point in his career, Mr. Price was already well-established as a character actor and a supporting actor. Indeed, he had already appeared in the classics Laura (1944) and Leave Her to Heaven (1945). Lynn Barri was cast as Dr. Cross's accomplice, lover, and nurse, Elaine Jordan. She was well-known for playing alluring, but ultimately bad women in such films as Orchestra Wives (1942) and Chinal Girl (1942). After having broken free of such roles, she played what might be her most evil role with Elaine.

While Shock (1946) had been demoted from an A picture to a B movie, it received promotion befitting a major motion picture. This was largely due to positive reviews from the trade papers. The review in Variety described Shock (1946) as "good enough for top billing in many spots" and stated that it "should contribute strongly to box-office draw." Audiences took to Shock (1946) as well. The film ultimately made $800,000 at the box office, having been made for only $350,000.

Upon its release, Shock (1946) received its share of positive reviews. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called the film, "one of the best of the season" and "a terrific little picture."  Philip K. Scheuer in The Los Angeles Times called it a "nominal B feature" that screenwriter  "Eugene Ling and Director Alfred Werker have imbued... with a grade-A suspense." Not all reviews were positive, however, as Bosley Crowther of The New York Times took outright offence to the film. He wrote, "...there are thousands of veterans whose experiences during the war have rendered them more or less needful of psycho-therapy....Confidence in the doctor is of vital importance...a film such as Shock breeds just the opposite in distraught, suspicious minds."

Bosley Crowther was not the only one offended by Shock (1946), as many in the psychiatric profession were also appalled by the film. The president of the American Psychiatric Association wrote a letter to MPAA president Eric Johnson in which he described Shock (1946) as " unsuitable and undesirable picture to be shown to the general public and that it will do a good deal of harm." Dr, Manfred Sakel, who had developed insulin shock therapy in 1927 (it plays a pivotal role in the film), saw Shock (1946) and said that it was "...stupidly done and terribly damaging to psychiatry."  As to movie censorship boards, censorship boards in  Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia removed all references to insulin shock therapy from the movie.

Of course, as someone who minored in psychology, I have to point out that while insulin shock therapy was widely accepted in the 1940s, it would begin to fall out of favour in the 1950s. It would eventually become regarded as ineffective and even downright cruel and inhumane. Even at the height of its use, psychiatrists realized that insulin shock therapy could be dangerous. The hypoglycaemia induced by large doses of insulin could result in brain damage and even death. Given what we now know about insulin shock therapy, the portrayal of the treatment isn't nearly as offensive today as it must have been to the mental health profession in 1946. As to the portrayal of Dr. Richard Cross, it is understandable why many psychiatrists would have been offended, although there had been corrupt psychiatrists on screen before, notably Dr. Judd in Cat People (1942).

While it is not one of his best remembered films, Shock (1946) was an important film in Vincent Price's career, and not simply because it was his first lead role. Dr. Cross can be considered the predecessor of the many mad scientists Vincent Price would play once he became firmly identified with the horror genre in the 1950s. In many respects, the not-so-good Dr. Cross can be considered the forerunner of Dr. Warren Chaplin in The Tingler (1959),  Dr. Eramus Craven in The Raven (1963), and Dr. Phibes in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972).

In his review for Turner Classic Movies from 2006 when Shock (1946) was released on DVD as part of the Fox Film Noir series, author Jeremy Arnold wrote "It's more of a Gothic thriller, complete with thunderstorms, a doctor gone bad, and an eerie sanitorium." While I agree with Mr. Arnold more often than not, this is one case where I do disagree with him. He is right in describing Shock (1946) as a Gothic thriller. Indeed, the movie even has overtones of the horror genre. Even so, I think it is also film noir. After all, Nurse Elaine Jordan, masterfully played by Lynn Barri, is very much a femme fatale in film noir mode, goading Dr. Cross towards the dark side. As Janet, Anabel Shaw is very much an ordinary person who finds herself in circumstances well beyond her control. The cinematography by Joseph MacDonald and Glen MacWilliams is also suitably noir, with some solid use of shadows and limited light sources. For me Shock (1946) is both a Gothic thriller and a film noir, and has overtones of horror.

Regardless, Shock (1946) is an entertaining movie. It is a taut thriller with some great performances from the leads and a screenplay that does not scrimp on thrills. Perhaps the only shortcoming of Shock (1946) is that it could have benefited from a higher budget, with sets that sometimes look cheap even for a B-movie. While its sets may look cheap, Shock (1946) is ultimately a top-notch film and worth any fan of Gothic thrillers or film noirs checking out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The CW's Best Days Are Behind It

The CW has always lagged behind the three older broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox) in the ratings. Its ratings have always been lower than its predecessor, The WB, as well. Despite this, The CW developed a following, particularly among young people. Many of the programs it aired over the years maintain large fandoms to this day, including Smallville, Supernatural, Gossip Girl, The Flash, and Riverdale. Regardless of what one thought of many of the shows on The CW, many of them were successful. Sadly, I have to think that The CW will lose many of its long-time viewers this season. I know this will be the first season in over a decade in which I will watch nothing on The CW.

The CW was formed in 2006 following the closures of The WB and UPN by Warner Bros. (the owner of The WB) and CBS Corporation (the owner of UPN). It was last year that Nexstar Media Group acquired The CW from Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery. Almost immediately NexStar began making changes to the network. They cancelled most of The CW's long-running scripted shows, leaving only All-American, All-American: Homecoming, Superman & Lois, and Walker. New shows, such as Walker: Independence (a prequel to Walker) and The Winchesters (a prequel to Supernatural) were cancelled after one season.

In their place, The CW debuted shows that had originated elsewhere. Sullivan's Crossing is a Canadian show that originated on CTV, while The Swarm is a German show that originated on ZDF. FBOY Island is a reality show that originated on HBO Max, who cancelled it after two seasons. 61st Street is a show that had been cancelled by AMC. The CW also added sports programming to its schedule, including LIV Golf, the show 100 Days to Indy, and Inside the NFL.

The CW's plan is to focus on viewers in the key demographic of 18-49, as well as even older viewers. The reason for this was summed up by the network's president, Dennis Miller (not the commentator and comedian), who said at upfronts this past May, "The young adult audience is not making an appointment with broadcast today. That audience has abandoned broadcast, hence the opportunity we have to broaden the audience." On the surface, it then makes sense for The CW to broaden its audience from people in their teens and twenties to older people. It would certainly help with the ratings.

The problem is that, as Nexstar's chief operating officer Tom Carter pointed out last August, while The CW's programming was targeted at the 18-38 demographic, the average viewer of its broadcasts was 58 years old. It then seems to me that The CW already had an older audience, even if it was much smaller than those of NBC, CBS, ABC, or Fox. In cancelling long-running shows like Kung Fu and Stargirl, they could very well drive away what little of the older audience they have. Indeed, as I said, this will be the first time in over a decade that I will watch nothing on The CW.

Okay, granted, I could well be atypical of my generation when it comes to what I like on television. I like genre shows like Stargirl and The Winchesters. I detest unscripted shows like FBOY Island (even the title is nauseating). I have no interest in watching golf (honestly, I don't know anyone who does). I actually watch very little on broadcast television, preferring the offerings on the various streaming services. Even so, I don't think I am that atypical for an older Gen Xer. Almost nothing that The CW is offering this season appeals to me. Sullivan's Crossing? It looks to me like a romance series of the sort that appeals primarily to older female Boomers. Inside the NFL? Even when I was an NFL fan (I ceased being one when the Rams left St. Louis), I didn't watch sports commentary shows. 61st Street? I didn't watch it when it was on AMC. Why would I now? About the only show they have scheduled to air this season that somewhat interests me is The Spencer Sisters, a CTV show about two mystery solving sisters. And I would more likely watch it on streaming than I would on broadcast television. If other Gen Xers, not to mention Millennials and Zoomers as well, are like me, they may find nothing on The CW that appeals to them. In other words, The CW might have a much smaller audience than they ever did before.

On top of this, I think The CW's insistence on concentrating on broadcast could easily backfire. The sad truth is that broadcast television is becoming a thing of the past, A bulk of the older networks' audience watch their shows on On Demand or on streaming. And it is not just younger people who watch shows on On Demand or streaming. I aged out of the key demo of 18-49 long ago and, as I said, the bulk of what I watch is on streaming. On any given week the only thing I might watch live on a broadcast network is the evening news.

Of course, all of this could well defeat NexStar's goal of making the network profitable. The money they save by importing shows from Canada or obtaining them from elsewhere won't make up for the advertising dollars they could lose because they have lost their audience. As always, ratings are king when it comes to television advertising. 

In fact, I think instead of importing shows and airing unscripted shows, NexStar would be better off following the lead of ABC in the Fifties and Sixties. I don't think many people realize it, but in the Fifties and Sixties ABC lagged well behind the two older networks, NBC and CBS, in the ratings. There were even times when it was questionable whether the network would last. ABC survived essentially through counterprogramming, airing shows that were different from what CBS and NBC were airing. They aired Westerns like Maverick and detective shows like Surfside 6 against sitcoms and variety shows. They also pursued the key demographic with youthful programming, such as 77 Sunset Strip and Shindig. Most of all they were not afraid to shake things up. ABC aired the ultraviolent show The Untouchables, which proved to be a success. They showed The Fugitive, a drama filled with existentialist angst. It also proved popular. They aired Batman, the smash hit of the 1965-1966 season, done in a camp style and as close to a comic book on film as television has ever gotten. While I am not going to say that The CW should have continued with superhero shows, which seem to have run their course, or teen dramas, which appear to be passée, I am saying the shows they are debuting this season don't seem terribly different from what the older networks or even cable channels are airing.

Now I will admit that I could be wrong. Maybe NexStar's strategy of relying on shows imported from other countries, shows obtained from elsewhere, and unscripted shows could pay off. At the very least such a strategy would save money. I do think their decision to start showing sports was wise (even if I would have chosen something different from golf). That having been said, I don't think I am wrong. As a viewer I know what I like and what I like is not airing on The CW this season or any of the other broadcast networks, for that matter. And I am willing to bet other viewers, at least those around my age, may be the same way. If that is the case, The CW may see its ratings decrease and as a result once more fail to make a profit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

"In a Lonely Place" by The Smithereens

Among the songs on The Smithereens' debut album, Especially for You, is one inspired by a classic film noir. "In a Lonely Place" is based on the classic 1950 film noir of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. It was written by the late Pat DiNizio, the lead singer and songwriter of The Smithereens. Pat DiNizio was well known for his love of classic movies. It was only a few days before his untimely death in 2017 that he posted about the classic films he planned to watch.

Not only is "In a Lonely Place" inspired by In a Lonely Place (1950), but it even paraphrases the movie's most famous line. At one point in the film Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) says, "I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me." This is paraphrased in  "In a Lonely Place" as "I was born the day I met you,/Lived a while when you loved me,/Died a little when we broke apart." Later in the film Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) says to Captain Lochner (Carl Benton Reid) of the LAPD, "Yesterday, this would've meant so much to us. Now it doesn't doesn't matter at all." This is reflected in the song's lyrics as well, in the lines "Yesterday, it would have mattered./Now today, it doesn't mean a thing."

"In a Lonely Place is notable for featuring backing vocals by Suzanne Vega. Originally, Pat DiNizio had wanted Brazilian singer Astrid Gilberto, best known in the United States for the hit "The Girl from Ipanema," but he approached her about the song at one of her concerts in New York City, she simply said, "Call my manager." Pat DiNizio then figured she wasn't interested, and reached out to his friend Suzanne Vega.

Despite being one of The Smithereens' best songs, "In a Lonely Place" did very little on various charts, although it did go to no. 5 on the UK Indie Chart.

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Late Great Robert Butler, Television Director

Robert Butler, who directed the pilots for such shows as Star Trek and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, died on November 3 2023 at the age of 95. He also co-created the TV show Remington Steele and directed such movies as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969).

Robert Butler was born on November 16 1927 in Hollywood. He grew up in the Los Angeles Westside, where he attended University High School. When he was a teenager he played trombone and played with the band on Hoagy Carmichael's radio show on NBC. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, from which he graduated with a degree in English. After graduating from college he got a job as an usher at CBS. He went from being an usher to a receptionist, and then a production clerk, and stage manager before becoming an assistant director. He served as an associate director on the anthology shows Climax! and Playhouse 90.  He broke into television directing with an episode of Hennesey in 1959. In the late Fifties he also directed episodes of Dobie Gillis, Happy, and The DuPont Show with June Allyson.

In the Sixties Robert Butler was an established director who was very much in demand. He directed the very first pilot for Star Trek, "The Cage," starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. He also directed the pilot for Batman, "Hi Diddle Riddle"/"Smack in the Middle," as well as the first episode featuring The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and the first episode featuring Mr. Freeze. He also directed the first episode of Hogan's Heroes, as well as several other episodes. During the decade Mr. Butler directed episodes of the shows Peter Loves Mary, Have Gun--Will Travel, Michael Shayne, Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Dick Powell Show, The Gertrude Berg Show. The Rifleman, Follow the Sun, The Detectives, Stoney Burke, The Untouchables, Dr. Kildare, The Richard Boone Show, The Greatest Show on Earth, Ben Casey, Espionage, The Lieutenant, Arrest and Trial, The Twilight Zone, The Defenders, Run for Your Life, The Virginian, Mister Roberts, The Fugitive, Walt Dinsey's Wonderful World of Color, Blue Light, Shane, I Spy, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Gunsmoke, The Invaders, N.Y.P.D., Judd for the Defense, Ironside, Cimarron Strip, The Felony Squad, Mission: Impossible, CBS Playhouse, The Outcasts, Then Came Bronson, and Lancer. He directed the movies Guns in the Heather (1969) and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969).

In the Seventies Robert Butler directed the four-part mini-series The Blue Knight. for which he won an Emmy Award. He directed episodes of the shows Nichols, Gunsmoke, Hawaii Five-O, Doc Elliott, Kung Fu, Roll Out!, The Waltons, Columbo, and Insight. He directed the movies The Barefoot Executive (1971), Scandalous John (1971), Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1971), The Ultimate Thrill (1974), and Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978).

In the Eighties Robert Butler co-created the series Remington Steele. He also directed the pilot and several other episodes. He served as an executive consultant on the show. Later in the decade he served as an executive consultant and executive producer on Midnight Caller. He also directed one episode of the show. He directed the pilot for Hill Street Blues, as well as five other episodes. He also directed the pilot for Moonlighting. In the Eighties he also directed episodes of Our Family Honor and Out on a Limb. He directed the movie Up the Creek (1984).

In the Nineties he directed the pilot for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and one other episode. He served as an executive consultant on the show. He was also an executive consultant and executive producer on Sisters, on which he directed two episodes. He directed episodes of Sirens and St, Michael's Crossing. He directed the movie Turbulence (1997). In the Naughts he directed the pilot for the TV series The Division. His last work was the theatrical short "Where Do the Balloons Go?" in 2009.

Robert Butler was very much in demand when it came to directing the pilots or first episodes of television shows, and there is no wonder that he was. Mr. Butler had the uncanny knack to capture the tone of a television show immediately. While the only familiar character to most audiences in the Star Trek pilot "The Cage," it is still recognizably Star Trek and it set the tone for everything that was to come. "Hi Diddle Riddle"/"Smack in the Middle," the pilot for Batman, is not only one of the best television pilots ever made, but it also set the tone for the show. Robert Butler similarly set the tone for the shows Hogan's Heroes, Moonlighting, and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Of course, Robert Butler directed many hours of television besides pilots, where he still showed an ability of capturing the feel of a show. Indeed, he was very versatile, able to direct everything from sitcoms to science fiction shows to dramas. He directed some of the best episodes of various shows, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, and Kung Fu. Of course, he also directed films. And while his movies may not be counted among the greatest classic, they are entertaining and well done. I have no doubt many Gen Xers have found memories of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Barefoot Executive. Robert Butler was an exceedingly talented director who had a talent for getting television shows off on the right foot.