05 February, 2009
William T. Orr was principally a television producer, most associated with a string of western and detective programs of the 1950s-1970s.
As the first head of Warner Brothers Television department, he forged a fruitful alliance with ABC, which resulted in ABC having a number of prime time hits, such as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, and F Troop. At the height of this relationship in the early 1960s, Orr had nine programs in prime time simultaneously.
Of these, though, no program was more significant than one of his earliest, Cheyenne. It was a groundbreaking series that was both the first hour-long western and the first series of any kind made by a major Hollywood film studio comprised entirely of content wholly exclusive to television.
A curator at the Museum of Television and Radio once encapsulated Orr's importance to Warner Brothers by saying, "Television began as a step-child. But because of Orr, it became equal with film in creating revenue and jobs for the studio." One of the key reforms he made to effect this change was to move Warner's nascent television department from cramped quarters in New York City to Los Angeles studios separate from the film division.
His impact on the genre of western fiction was recognized with a Golden Boot Award upon the announcement of his death on 25 December 2002.