Batman : TV Series
Synopsis of TV Show
POW!!! BAM!!! BIFF!!! SOCK!!! CRRRASH!!! THUD!!!
Few shows bring out the kid in adult viewers the way Batman does. From the cool gadgets and vehicles to the endless array of colorful guest-villains to the visualized sound effects of the fight sequences, this show was everyone’s childhood comic-book fantasy brought to life.
ABC was in the midst of a ratings slump when executives came up with the idea of doing a superhero show in 1965. Dick Tracy and Superman were considered, but the rights were not available, so they soon settled on Batman. The cowled crusader may not have been first choice, but he turned out to be a very good one.
Producer William Dozier, who had been involved with TV hits like Dennis The Menace and Bewitched, was brought in to produce the show. It was rushed into production in November so it could be telecast in January. This was no mean feat, considering the show was shot on film instead of video. However, ABC sunk big money into the show, as well as a large-scale publicity blitz to make things happen.
The show covered the adventures of Bruce Wayne and his adopted teenage ward, Dick Grayson, who fought crime under their respective secret identities of Batman and Robin. They maintained a base of operations, the Batcave, beneath stately Wayne Manor and were assisted by the only person who knew their secret identities, their butler Alfred. Each week there would be some new villainous menace plaguing Gotham City, prompting to Commissioner Gordon to call Batman via a direct line to the Batcave. Batman and Robin would emerge, using their arsenal of high-tech crime-fighting weapons to save the day.
The supervillains were one of the show’s major draws. Unlike the mostly-unknown actors who played the heroes and civilians, the villains were always played by familiar faces. The many showbiz names who appeared as antagonists on Batman included Burgess Meredith (the Penguin), Frank Gorshin (the Riddler), Cesar Romero (the Joker), Julie Newmar (Catwoman), Vincent Price (Egghead), Victor Buono (King Tut) and Eartha Kitt (another incarnation of Catwoman). These villain roles called for over-the-top theatrics, and the thespians involved were always glad to comply. Thus, many viewers tuned in for the purpose of seeing who’d play the bad guy and what kind of strange things they would do next.
The absurd quality of the villains was part of the creators’ deliberately campy approach to the material. They wanted the show to appeal to children and adults alike, so all the show’s elements were crafted in a wacky pop-art style designed to assault the viewer with color and outrageousness. The sets were bright, garish, and intentionally plastic-looking. The performances of the heroes and civilians were directed in a ludicrously stiff style to create an effective contrast to the uninhibited mugging of the villains. Fight scenes were shot at strange angles, choreographed to look like slapstick pratfalls, and punctuated with sound effect title cards like “POW!” and “BIFF!” The dialogue had a tongue-in-cheek tone to it, especially Robin’s frequent exclamations about the matters at hand (i.e. when he and Batman had to scale a building, he blurted out, ”Holy fire escape, Batman!”).
These elements gave the show the feel of a juvenile comic-book, and, combined with ABC’s aggressive marketing push, made the show an out-of-the-box hit. The show was popular with kids, of course, but it also had a virtual stranglehold on college campuses, as co-eds crowded around dorm TV's at the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. So popular was the program that Batman actually aired twice a week, with each episode ending in a movie-serial-style cliffhanger.
Batman became a genuine pop culture fad, even spawning a brief dance craze in the Batusi. But as will happen with fads, the novelty wore off around the second of the show’s three seasons. A new crime-fighter, Batgirl, was added to the show for a bit of femme appeal. It wasn’t enough to stop the ratings slide, and Batman bid farewell to a satiated public in March of 1968. Before the craze ended, there was a theatrical motion picture made with the cast, also titled Batman.
Despite the relatively short run of the show, Batman has remained popular with viewers over the years. Re-runs of the Batman series are a frequently-viewed attraction both in re-runs and on video. The Batman character also frequently pops up as a Saturday morning cartoon attraction, and at the end of the 80’s, Batman returned to prominence via a series of films that started with Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. The success of these films led to several revivals of Batman in animation, starting with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. The batty one may not be as silly as he was in the swinging 60's, but there's still plenty of crime to fight, plenty of grey tights to wear, and plenty of surprises left in that multi-functional utility belt.
Release History of Prime Time Show1/12/66 - 3/14/68 ABC
TV Sub Categoriescomedy
Television Studio20th Century Fox Television
TV CastBruce Wayne / Batman Adam West
Richard 'Dick' Grayson / Robin Burt Ward
Alfred Pennyworth Alan Napier
Commissioner James Gordon Neil Hamilton
Chief O'Hara Stafford Repp
Aunt Harriet Cooper (1966-67) Madge Blake
Barbara Gordon / Batgirl (1967-68) Yvonne Craig
The Archer Art Carney
The Black Widow Tallulah Bankhead
Catwoman (1966-67) Julie Newmar
Catwoman Lee Meriwether
Catwoman (1967-68) Eartha Kitt
Egghead (1966-67) Vincent Price
Joker (1966-68) Cesar Romero
King Tut (1966-68) Victor Buono
Lola Lasagne Ethel Merman
Louie the Lilac Milton Berle
Lucky Pierre Pierre Salinger
The Mad Hatter / Jervis Tetch David Wayne
Mr. Freeze (1966) George Sanders
Mr. Freeze (1966)..Otto Preminger
Mr. Freeze Eli Wallach
Penguin (1966-68) Burgess Meredith
Riddler (1966-68) Frank Gorshin
Riddler John Astin
Shame Cliff Robertson
The Siren Joan Collins