Sunday, November 25, 2012


James Drury, Clu Gulager, Doug Butts

I first met Doug Butts, Senior Vice President of Programming for the INSP Network on Saturday, September 22nd, at the Autry.  It was a day celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the TV series THE VIRGINIAN, and eight regulars from the series were in attendance (you can see my four-part coverage of the event here: Part 1 ,Part 2 , Part 3 , Part 4 )

In addition to the anniversary itself, attendees were celebrating the fact that THE VIRGINIAN had returned to television that very day, on INSP.  I’d become aware of the network a year or so before, when they brought THE BIG VALLEY, long unseen, back to the airwaves, and just recently they had done the same with another rarely played and excellent Western series, THE HIGH CHAPARRAL.  

In fact, INSP’s Saddle Up Saturday is the finest block of Western programming on basic cable today, featuring the three series mentioned, as well as BONANZA.  I wanted to learn more about the network, and the man who’d so improved my weekends.

HENRY: What was your first job?

DOUG:  Well, I worked with my father.  He was a Pastor for fifty years, but he also did home renovation, and painting, building decks and that kind of thing.  From the age of thirteen I worked with him.  My very first job, now that I think about it, is I delivered a newspaper that they don’t even publish anymore, called GRIT. 

H: I remember ads in the back of comics saying, “Boys, sell Grit!”

DOUG: I started delivering Grit when I was ten years old.   That was fun.  And then I became a photographer, and that’s how I got into the TV business.  I went to work at a local TV station, WJJS, Channel 16 in Greenville, South Carolina as a still photographer.     And I found out that I had a pretty good eye for television.  We did a lot of live TV, which really helped me out a lot. 

H: Were you covering news stories?

DOUG: They didn’t have a huge budget, so they were looking for ways that they could create commercials, without buying expensive television equipment.  A friend that worked there recommended me, so I went to work there, and I would take slides.  I would go to a jewelry story, or an appliance store, take photos of their specials for that week, model them with lighting, take them back to the TV station and edit together a commercial.   I wrote the copy and I usually did the voice-over work as well.  I just kind of jumped in – it was a small local TV station, and they needed people who could do things, and didn’t cost a whole lot of money.  I tell people now, who are getting into the business, that’s probably a good place to start.  Find a local cable operator who does football games or something like that, and they’ll be giving you all kinds of responsibility, and you’ll learn the business that way, from a production side.  It’s a good way to start.  It’s hard to get into television.  Everyone you talk to, they will give you a different career path. 

H: If you’d gone into a field unrelated to entertainment, do you know what IT would have been?

DOUG: I wanted to be a draftsman.  I wanted to be an architect.  And actually, after I got into television, it became a real passion for me, designing sets.  I have designed several sets here for this network, and some of them are still being used. 

H: I understand INSP has been around for 20 years, but it’s had a low profile until now. Why the change?

DOUG: So many people in our society find themselves facing dark moments with feelings of loneliness and defeat. There is so much in life to be thankful for. We want to turn on their light. So our brand has changed and we are all about the celebration of life, family and the need to rely on our creator and one another.

H: What brought you to INSP?

DOUG: My wife and I were living in Dallas, Texas in 1994. I was working as a freelance Director/Producer. We wanted to get back closer to family so I was hired by INSP to direct a live event from Disney World. After that, they offered me a position. I’ve been with them ever since. It’s been an incredible ride and very rewarding to be a part of this organization.

H: What were your favorite Western TV shows and movies growing up?

DOUG: As for TV I remember watching WAGON TRAIN, RAWHIDE, BONANZA, GUNSMOKE, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, THE VIRGINIAN, THE WILD WILD WEST, and I even liked KUNG FU.  As for movies, I still love those old westerns like SHENANDOAH, WINCHESTER  73 or THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE  with Jimmy Stewart, SHANE with Alan Ladd. Any western movie that John Ford directed or John Wayne starred in. RIO BRAVO is one of my favorites. Of course you have to mention Clint Eastwood’s collections. There are so many to mention. I loved watching westerns with my dad.

H: I first heard about INSP when you brought THE BIG VALLEY, long off the air,back. Recently you’ve brought back the long unseen HIGH CHAPARRAL and THE VIRGINIAN. Is bringing classic western shows back a big part of your plan?

DOUG: Yes. So far we have a great line up of westerns and plan to continue offering this brand of programming. So far our viewers love it.

H: What do you look for when selecting a show, western or otherwise?

DOUG: The goal of INSP is to deliver safe, family-friendly entertainment. The family and community connection is such an important part of our daily lives. It is refreshing and rejuvenating to know that you belong. Our programming highlights these connections with moving stories of hope and struggle, like The High Chaparral, Bonanza and The Big Valley. Barbara Stanwyck’s character is one who loves family and community. She will risk all for family and stand up for her friends and neighbors at all costs. She is an individual of great character, integrity and warmth. But also one capable of chasing off the bad guys with a Winchester. You can certainly say the same about Ben Cartwright. We look for period dramas which focus on telling the story of the family unit. Stories that express loyalty, devotion and commitment. We feature period pieces like THE WALTONS and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE that take you to a different time and place. Helping you to escape the regular routine. We are blessed to be a part of this great country. We want our programming to be an enjoyable experience that highlights these connections. The westerns help us highlight good versus evil. Faith, family and American life is great. Let’s celebrate life - together.

H: What is the idea behind SADDLE-UP SATURDAY?

DOUG: Saddle Up Saturday was created to be a place to sit back and just binge view on westerns, (and it’s) proving to be a viewers’ favorite. As you mentioned we feature a great line up of some of the most popular TV western dramas in cable: The Virginian, The Big Valley and The High Chaparral are exclusive to INSP. We also feature Bonanza, and DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN. We will also occasionally feature some of your favorite classic western movies in our Saturday primetime line up in 2013.

H: How is INSP different from other family-friendly channels like Hallmark or Me-TV?

DOUG: We’ve tried to create a network that viewers can trust. We call this “lunge-free TV.” People can relax any time of day because we respect them, and select programs that will be welcome visitors in the home. We try to foster a spirit of community. As we listen to viewers, we know that millions are hungry for a simpler, less cluttered lifestyle, and a time when families were close and heritage was celebrated. Throughout our schedule you’ll see everything from Westerns and contemporary dramas to situation comedies. But all programs stay true to timeless values consistent with our Judeo-Christian heritage. And we constantly look for programs with positive role models and stories that both entertain and inspire.

Ruta Lee, Doug Butts, Gary Clarke

H: Are we likely to see more movies, western or otherwise, on INSP?

DOUG: Yes. We will continue to feature western classics and ‘open range’ movies with wide open spaces on both Saturday and Sunday nights.

H: Have you considered original programming?

DOUG: We are putting plans together to start developing original content in the very near future. Stay tuned!

H: What are your long-range plans for INSP?

DOUG: To continue offering quality values-based, family-friendly entertainment. INSP is a great place to land for wonderful and safe family programming. Viewers who watch INSP are very loyal and we’re finding that they tune us in and leave us on for long lengths of time. INSP is a great alternative for inspiring entertainment with heart for family.

Incidentally, INSP is already doing some original production, one and two minute interstitials under the title MOMENTS.  They are thoughtful and thought-provoking.  Their most recent, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, was featured on THE VIEW, on the Friday before Veterans Day, introduced by Whoopi Goldberg.  You can see this, and many other films from INSP’s Moments Initiative HERE. 




TEXAS RISING is the tentative title for a six-hour miniseries about the creation of the Texas Rangers, North America’s oldest law enforcement body.  It will tell the story of the organization’s start following a call-to-arms by Stephen Austin in 1823, and deal with its role during the Civil War.  It’s being developed at the History Channel, with Hatfield exec producer Leslie Greif again holding the reins.  Ted Mann, who co-wrote the Hatfield mini, and was a writer and producer on DEADWOOD, will script.  Ratings powerhouse Hatfield was nominated for sixteen Emmys, and won five: Outstanding Actor Kevin Cosnter, Outstanding Supporting Actor Tom Berenger, Outstanding Make-up Francesca Tampieri and Mario Michisanti, Outstanding Single-Camera Editing Don Cassidy, and Outstanding Sound Mixing Christian T. Cooke, Stanomir Dragos, and Brad Zoern.




Back in July of 2011, when I asked Ernest Borgnine, Oscar winner for MARTY, and unforgettable in THE WILD BUNCH, when he was going to do another Western, he laughed, “I'm doing one right now! It's called THE MAN WHO SHOOK THE HAND OF VINCENTE FERNANDEZ. It's a Western, but it takes place in a nursing home.”

In it, Borgnine plays Rex, a bitter and neglected old man wasting away in a Latino-staffed nursing home.  But his life takes a turn when they learn that he once shook hands with an idolized Mexican celebrity.  The film also features Barry Corbin, Robert Morse and Larry Minnetti.  I’m curious if it’s significant that the movie opens on Pearl Harbor Day.  Though perhaps best known for MCHALE’S NAVY, he served in our Navy in World War II, and ironically played a homicidal sergeant in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, in which Pearl Harbor is an important factor. 




A few days ago I was watching television, and a commercial came on, talking about American Indian culture, and mentioning that this month, November, is officially Native American Heritage Month.  I was startled, because here the month is nearly over, and it’s the first I’ve heard of it!  Granted, it’s an odd choice giving them the month with Thanksgiving, which some Indians celebrate and others consider a day of mourning.  As a schoolteacher, I can assure you that when it’s Black History Month (February), Hispanic Culture Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), you hear about it in the schools!  Columbus Day is a huge day for Italian Americans, and St. Patrick’s Day is a huge one for Irish Americans.  It’s always all over television.  But the Indians get nothing!  Not even a public service announcement!  The ad I saw wasn’t a PSA, it was a commercial paid for by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.  If you’d like to see their short film, and several others they’ve made, go here: 


At noon the Autry will show a free double bill of Autry hits, PRAIRIE MOON (Republic 1938), and THE COWBOY AND THE INDIANS (Columbia 1949). The latter features Gene singing HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS, and co stars Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels just before they were teamed as The Long Ranger and Tonto!Doors open 7:30 pm Event begins at 8:00 pm

Christmas is tied up with traditions and OutWest is starting a new one! Come for an evening of Christmas Tales and Music like you've never heard before-creepy as only Western Fictioneers members can write them. We'll be reading aloud "heart stopping yuletide tales" from this newly published collection and enjoy live music in the same, vein...Cowboy Creepy, Mysterious and Horrific.

Participants include contributing author C. Courtney Joyner, musicians Mike Gaglio, John Bergstrom and Gency Brown, Readers Carol Rock, Jim Christina, and Bobbi Jean Bell.



On Saturday, December 1st at 8 p.m., you’re invited to OutWest, 24265 Main Street, Newhall, California 91321 for Rendezvous With A Writer, An Evening of Live Readings and Music Featuring Stories from "Six-Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas.”  Author C. Courtney Joyner will be there to read and sign, and music will be provided by Mike Gaglio, John Bergstrom and Gency Brown.  For more info call: 661-255-7087.

Doors open 7:30 pm Event begins at 8:00 pm

Christmas is tied up with traditions and OutWest is starting a new one! Come for an evening of Christmas Tales and Music like you've never heard before- creepy as only Western Fictioneers members can write them. We'll be reading aloud "heart stopping yuletide tales" from this newly published collection and enjoy live music in the same, vein...Cowboy Creepy, Mysterious and Horrific.

Participants include contributing author C. Courtney Joyner, musicians Mike Gaglio, John Bergstrom and Gency Brown, Readers Carol Rock, Jim Christina, and Bobbi J


And speaking of TCM (okay, nobody was), have I mentioned that the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here?



Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepreneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permanent galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywoodwestern, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.




RFD-TV, the channel whose president bought Trigger and Bullet at auction, have a special love for Roy Rogers. They show an episode of The Roy Rogers Show on Sunday mornings, a Roy Rogers movie on Tuesday mornings, and repeat them during the week.

WHT-TV has a weekday afternoon line-up that’s perfect for kids, featuring LASSIE, THE ROY ROGERS SHOW and THE LONE RANGER.

TV-LAND angered viewers by dropping GUNSMOKE, but now it’s back every weekday, along with BONANZA.

That’s it for another Round-up! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!  No one came up with any  Thanksgiving-themed Westerns.  It's not too late!  Have a great week!


Happy Trails,




All Original Contents Copyright November 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


  1. Henry, your coverage of THE VIRGINIAN is top-notch! Great job!

  2. I'm with you Henry on Native American Heritage Month. Thanks to you this is the first I've heard of it. I have some Native American heritage in my family and I'm always proud to say I'm whatever percentage Miami Indian. I'm not concerned about using the name Indian over Native American. That's what we are called and it's just a name.

  3. Henry, kudos to you for the great blog, coverage of THE VIRGINIAN and highlighting INSP. Big applause to INSP for airing classic series, espcially the groundbreaking western THE HIGH CHAPARRAL.
    Jan Pippins