Bill Asher is a famous television director and producer. He had the kind of career any of us would be envious to have, yet few people today know the name.
Here are a few of his credits:
- Directed 131 episodes of Bewitched (produced 147 episodes)
- Directed, wrote or produced: How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, Beach Blanket Bingo, Bikini Beach, Muscle Beach Party and Beach Party.
- Created The Patty Duke Show (also directed nine episodes)
- Directed 102 episodes of I Love Lucy
- Worked on JFK’s Inaugural
- Directed the pilot episode of Our Miss Brooks
- Directed the first episode of Gidget starring Sally Field
Asher started in the early days of television, when television production was being figured out. Desi Arnez perfected the three-camera production set-up still in use today. Not all shows were filmed in this style but they would be, unless they done with a single camera, like a film production.
By the time he and actress wife Elizabeth Montgomery signed on for Bewitched, Asher had directed and produced many television shows and a handful of feature films. He was the director and producer for a majority of the series’ 254 episodes. At the time, Montgomery, pregnant with their child, considered giving up acting. Asher suggested they do a television series, which would be co-produced by a company created by the two of them.
Asher also fell into a series of feature films, the Beach films, that defined a generation. These five films starred Annette Funicello and usually Frankie Avalon. Light-hearted romps that reflected the early 1960’s easy-going culture.
“Without him, there was no ‘Beach Party,’ I’ll tell you that,” Frankie Avalon said after Asher’s death in 2012. “He was a brilliant guy. He had such a flair for comedy, and working with him was such a joy.”
Asher’s formula for the Beach films: blondes, bodies and beach. While he admitted the storylines were “nonsense,” and even though they were highly successful, he knew he wasn’t making art.
As the 1960’s rolled on, the line between director and producer blurred, especially as the director became less of a hire gun for an episode and part of the production team. Asher would go on to create or produce many television series, sometimes also directing, but usually part of the project’s creative direction.
Toward the later stage of his career, Asher became a director almost exclusively. In television, if you needed a show on-time and within budget, Asher was your director. He directed several episodes of each series: Harper Valley PTA, The Paul Lynde Show, New Temperatures Rising, Alice, The Bad News Bears, Private Benjamin and Operation Petticoat.