Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Batman (TV series)
The series was produced in the United States of America and debuted at 7:30, Wednesday evening, January 12, 1966 on ABC television, at a time when other popular TV series included The Monkees and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. The Batman series set a standard that identifies it as a product of the 1960s. It was marked for its high camp and continues to be the version many associate with the Batman character despite its being perhaps least representative of the many versions. It ran for a total of 120 25-minute episodes.
It revolved around the adventures of Batman and his sidekick Robin in Gotham City. Batman's dual identity was that of the debonair millionaire Bruce Wayne who lived outside Gotham City in Wayne Manor. He lived with his youthful ward Dick Grayson (aka Robin), Alfred the Butler and Aunt Harriet Cooper. The adventures usually called for the characters of Batman and Robin to fight supervillains such as The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman. Other main characters usually involved were Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara at Gotham City Police Headquarters. Along with quick action sequences, a Narrator providing the storylines, outrageous, psychedelic sets and costumes, wild camera angles (with the villains' lairs always being filmed with the camera at an angle to emphasize the "crooked" nature of the bad guys) and bright colors, were all meant to evoke the four-color, campy world of the comic books of the 1950s and 1960s. It is notable for its use of Cliffhanger endings and the Batclimb cameo which allowed top celebrities of the 1960s to appear in a small part. Last but not least the fight scenes between the good guys (Batman and Robin) and the villains were interlaced with titles that reflected "comic book" sound effects: WHAM! POW! SOCK! (critics of the series contend the titles also helped hide generally low-quality stunts and frequently missed punches).
A typical episode began with the daring Bat-villain doing something bad like robbing a bank. It was followed up by a scene inside Police Commissioner Gordon's office where he and Chief O'Hara would work out exactly which villain they were to face in that week's episode. Gordon would press a button on the Batphone and it would cut to Wayne Manor where faithful butler Alfred would answer the phone and say a line like "I'll just get him for you, sir." Alfred would usually come across Master Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson talking with Aunt Harriet and would make up an excuse for them to answer the Batphone. Bruce Wayne then usually excused himself from Aunt Harriet and they rushed off to hear the diabolical schemes of villains in Gotham City from Commissioner Gordon. After pushing back the head of Shakespeare that sat on the desk in Bruce Wayne's office and which concealed a button that opened a bookcase revealing two poles. Batman and Robin would slide down the poles to the Batcave where after colourful starting titles jump into the Batmobile, where Robin would say "Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed" and Batman would respond "Roger, ready to move out" and would race off out of the cave at high speeds.
After arriving at Commissioner Gordon's office, the initial discussion of the crime usually led to the Dynamic Duo conducting their investigation alone. In the investigation, a meeting with the villain would usually ensue with the heroes getting involved in a fight and the villain getting away only to come back and fight again later in the show in which he would capture one or many of our heroes and place them in grave danger with a cliffhanger ending which was usually resolved in the first few minutes of the next episode.
The same shenanigans were repeated in the following episode until the Villain was defeated.
By season three they decided to change this well received format by making most episodes self contained and introduced the character of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon in order to win over the female audiences.
Many sports, music, and media personalities, and a number of Hollywood actors, looked forward to and enjoyed their appearances as villains on the Batman show. They were generally allowed to overact and enjoy themselves on a high-rated TV series, guaranteeing them considerable exposure (and thus boosting their careers). The most popular villains on the show included Cesar Romero as The Joker; Burgess Meredith as The Penguin; and Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Although other famous names from the "rogues gallery" in the comic book series made appearances on the show (notably The Riddler and Mr. Freeze), many other villains were created especially for the TV show, and never did appear in the comic books (such as "Egghead", "King Tut", "Lord Fogg", and "Louie the Lilac".). Other celebrities often appeared in scenes where the Dynamic Duo are scaling a building wall and the celebrity would suddenly open a window and have a short conversation with the superheroes. Some celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor even had to be turned away.
Adam West enjoys the story that he was almost part of the 3 big B's of the 1960s Batman, The Beatles and Bond. (West says he actually was invited to play Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service based on his popularity as Batman, but declined the role as he felt it should be played by a British actor.)
The popularity of the TV show did not translate well to the silver screen, however. A movie version of the TV show was released to theaters (see Batman (1966 movie)), but it did not become a large box office hit, although it continued to be profitably rereleased to theaters, TV, and video for decades.
However the live-action TV show was extraordinarily popular; at the height of its popularity, it was the only prime-time TV show broadcast twice in one week as part of its regular schedule, airing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, outside of Peyton Place. Episodes of the show were often filmed as two-part cliffhangers, with each storyline beginning on Wednesday and ending on the Thursday night episode. The first episode of a storyline would typically end with Batman and Robin being trapped in a ridiculous deathtrap, while the narrator would tell viewers to watch the next night with the repeated phrase: "Tune in tomorrow — same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!" This catch-phrase was a long-running punchline in popular culture for many years after the show ceased production.
The show even contributed to the careers of two real-life New York City policemen, David Greenberg and Robert Hantz. This pair had a remarkable career as police officers, so much so that they were given street nicknames of "Batman and Robin". Their careers were fictionalized in the 1974 movie The Super Cops .
The fans of dark Batman abhorred the series since the 1970s to the present day and some say the Batman series has not aged well since the 1970s, however. Comic book fans who know Batman as a grim "masked avenger of the night" speak of the TV series with a near-universal revulsion and hatred. The series is seen by fans as a black mark on the medium of comic books, as it cast comics as silly, light-weight entertainment meant strictly for young children — an image that comic books have never completely rid themselves of, though the publication of The Dark Knight Returns in 1985 (and the movie Batman in 1989) did finally succeed in reshaping Batman's image outside of comic books. The fact that the TV series typically depicted women in a highly stereotypical fashion, with a few noted exceptions like Batgirl, dates it further.
TV critics and historians note that the real appeal of the show lay in its array of oddball, outrageous, and often charismatic villains. The hippie counterculture of the 1960s enjoyed the fact that even though they would eventually win and put the bad guys in jail, Batman and Robin portrayed the forces of "law and order" as being woefully humorless, "square", and unaware of the fact that the world was laughing at them. The villains, on the other hand, had the chance to rebel against society, wear gaudy, flashy costumes, and have all the fun... until they were required to lose and be captured by Batman and Robin. The series had the advantage of appealing to two major age groups for entirely different reasons; adults viewed it as a humourous spoof while children enjoyed it as a flashy adventure show.
The series' stars, Adam West and Burt Ward, were typecast for decades afterwards, with West especially finding himself unable to escape the reputation the series gave him as a hammy, campy actor. However, years after the series' impact faded, West found fame and respect among comic book and animation fans, who appreciated his work on the TV series. One of the more popular episodes of Batman: The Animated Series paid tribute to West with an episode entitled "The Grey Ghost." In this episode, West played the role of an aging star of a campy superhero TV series, who found new popularity with the next generation of fans. In addition, the most frequent visual influence is that later Batmobiles usually have a rear rocket thruster that usually fires as the car makes a fast start.
In 2003, West and Ward reunited for a tongue-in-cheek telefilm entitled which combined dramatized recreations of the filming of the original series (with younger actors standing in for the stars), with modern day footage of West and Ward searching for a stolen Batmobile. The film included cameo appearances by Newmar and Gorshin, as well as Lee Meriwether who had played Catwoman in the 1966 film and Lyle Waggoner , who had been an early candidate for the role of Batman. The movie received high ratings and is scheduled for DVD release in May 2005.
Despite much popular demand, no home video or DVD release of the series has to date occurred, and this situation seems unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The problem as explained by the website TVShowsonDVD.com is that Warner Brothers owns the Batman character, while 20th Century Fox owns the TV series, and the two companies have, to date, been unable to come to an agreement regarding home video/DVD release of the series. As a result, the 1966 feature remains the only element of the original series officially available for non-broadcast viewing in North America.
- Adam West - Batman/Bruce Wayne
- Burt Ward - Robin/Dick Grayson
- Alan Napier - Alfred
- Neil Hamilton - Commissioner Gordon
- Stafford Repp - Chief O'Hara
- Madge Blake - Aunt Harriet
- Yvonne Craig - Batgirl/ Barbara Gordon
Notable guest cast
- Regular/reccurring characters
- Frank Gorshin - The Riddler
- Burgess Meredith - The Penguin
- Cesar Romero - The Joker
- Julie Newmar - Catwoman
- David Wayne - The Mad Hatter
- Victor Buono - King Tut
- Vincent Price - Egghead
- Eartha Kitt - Catwoman 3rd season
- Roddy McDowall - The Bookworm
- George Sanders - Mr. Freeze
- Otto Preminger - Mr. Freeze
- Notable cameos
- Batclimb cameos
Bit parts (before they were famous)
Last appearances on screen
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