Robert Butler Obituary – Death: TV Director For ‘Batman,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Hill Street Blues’ & ‘Moonlighting’ Pilots Has Passed Away, Cause Of Death
Renowned television director Robert Butler, celebrated for directing the pilot episodes of iconic shows like Star Trek, Batman, Hill Street Blues, and Moonlighting, has passed away at the age of 95. The Emmy award-winning director, who shaped the visual language of numerous series, breathed his last on November 3 in Los Angeles, as confirmed by his family.
A graduate of UCLA with a major in English, Butler commenced his journey in the entertainment industry as an usher at CBS. His directorial debut occurred in 1959 with an episode for the military comedy-drama Hennesey. Throughout his illustrious career, Butler was in high demand for helming pilot episodes of television classics such as Hogan’s Heroes (1965), the original Star Trek (1966), Batman (1966), The Blue Knight (1973), Hill Street Blues (1978), Moonlighting (1985), Sisters (1991), and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993).
Butler’s exceptional talent garnered him two Emmy Awards, the first for The Blue Knight pilot in 1973 and the second in 1981 for Hill Street Blues. In 2015, the Directors Guild of America honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Television Direction, recognizing his immeasurable impact on the medium.
Beyond pilots, Butler directed episodes for a multitude of shows, including The Twilight Zone (1964), The Fugitive (1964), Mister Roberts (1965), and Columbo (1973), among many others. His influence extended to the big screen, where he directed films and television movies such as Disney’s Guns in the Heather (1969), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), and The Barefoot Executive (1971).
In a statement, DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter acknowledged Butler’s transformative role in television, praising his work on series like Hill Street Blues that forever changed the trajectory and style of episodic procedurals. Despite a demanding career, Butler served the Guild passionately for over 30 years, advocating for the creative rights of members and leaving an enduring legacy. The Directors Guild of America expressed its deepest condolences to his family and the entire community who knew and cherished him.