Film and television director Reza Badiyi, who helmed hundreds of hours of episodic TV, died Saturday, Aug. 20, of natural causes in Los Angeles. He was 81.
Badiyi began his American career as a cinematographer, working in New York, Kansas City and finally Los Angeles. He worked with directors including Sam Peckinpah and Robert Altman, who became a mentor and lifelong friend. (Badiyi was a.d. on Altman’s feature film debut, 1957 low-budgeter “The Delinquents.”)
He directed more than 430 episodes of television and several movies beginning in 1963.
By the late 1960s he was regularly directing series television, including multiple episodes of “Get Smart,” “The Doris Day Show,” “Mission: Impossible,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Mannix,” “Baretta,” “The Rockford Files,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “T.J. Hooker,” “Cagney and Lacey,” “Falcon Crest,” “Jake and the Fatman,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Baywatch.”
” ‘Mission Impossible’ came about at a time where we were using images differently than before,” Badiyi told Iran Times Intl. in 2009. “We would use extreme focusing and closeups in order to accurately convey to the audience the actors’ feelings, thoughts and actions. It was also a time of breakthrough visual effects, so I had the opportunity to do things I hadn’t done before; it was great. I let my imagination run wild.”
More recently he helmed episodes of “La Femme Nikita” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
He was also credited with the title visualization for “Get Smart,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Hawaii Five-O,” among several other series. It was Badiyi who devised the notion of having Moore toss her tam o’shanter into the air for the famous opening sequence of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Badiyi also directed more than 60 documentaries.
In 2006 he directed the family drama “The Way Back Home,” with Julie Harris and Ruby Dee.
His last screen credit was as technical adviser on the 2008 film “Lady of the Roses,” directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb.
An article from the April/May 1998 issue of the DGA magazine, called “Reza Badiyi: 400 Episodic Hours and Counting,” called Badiyi “one of the most prolific directors of episodic series television in the history of the medium.” The article went on to call his “landmark 400th hour” “yet another career milestone.”
Born in Arak, Iran, Reza Sayed Badiyi graduated from the Academy of Drama in Iran and received the prestigious golden medal of art from the Shah of Iran. In 1955 he was invited by the U.S. government to pursue a film career and subsequently graduated from Syracuse U. in Audiovisual Studies.
In 2010 the Iranian-American community and actors from some of the shows Badiyi directed honored him on his 80th birthday at UCLA’s Royce Hall.
Badiyi was married three times, the second time to actress, writer and producer Barbara Turner. Survivors include his third wife, actress Tania Harley; three children, including actress Mina Badie; a stepdaughter, actress Jennifer Jason Leigh; two brothers and four sisters; and two grandchildren.