Back in the day, the powers that be at Warner Bros. deemed Batman to be off-limits when it came to television. Starting in 1989 with BATMAN, The Dark Knight quickly became Warner’s #1 IP and the studio mandated that the character’s live-action adventures be seen only on the big screen and thus, special…an event.
Slowly, Warner Bros. eased up on the “Batman Embargo” and allowed Batman to show up on TV…kinda. Starting with BIRDS OF PREY in 2002 through shows like GOTHAM, TITANS, BATWOMAN, and GOTHAM KNIGHTS — which just debuted on The CW — the world of Batman eased onto the small screen. However, none of them actually feature Batman as a character — he’s been seen briefly, in the shadows, etc. Even with Warner Bros. loosening up the Batman Embargo restrictions over the last two decades, there has yet to be a full-on live-action Batman series on TV since Adam West starred in BATMAN on ABC from 1966 to 1968.
So, is it time for Warners to lift the Batman Embargo entirely and make a Batman TV series starring Batman?
No, it is not.
What was true 20-plus years ago is still true today: Live-action Batman is special and should be reserved for the big screen.
Years ago, I wrote an op-ed for BOF titled “Batman Should Be Like Bond” where I made the argument that 007 should be Warner’s Batman on film model. Not only should the Batman film franchise continue through the years and decades with different filmmakers, actors, and incarnations, but it should also be reserved for film only.
Batman movies should be an event. Something we can’t wait to see every 3 to 5 years between installments. Something special.
Prestige-wise, TV today isn’t as far off from film as it once was, and actors/”movie stars” work on TV now as much as they do on films. The shows are top-notch. Regardless, there’s still something special about the cinematic experience that can’t be duplicated no matter how great the show or big the TV.
Furthermore, a Batman TV series would dilute the brand…further. Let’s be honest here, OK? None of those aforementioned Batman-related TV series were quality. Frankly, they’re bad, cheap television and were not positive contributions to the Batman IP.
What will work when it comes to live-action Batman on TV are projects like THE PENGUIN on HBO which is a spinoff of 2022’s THE BATMAN movie. Yes, it’s technically a Batman TV series, but we don’t know if Robert Pattinson’s Batman and/or Bruce Wayne will show up in a cameo. While I’d be OK with a brief appearance by RP as either BW or The Dark Knight, I think it would be better if he didn’t. Why? Because THE PENGUIN, while expanding Matt Reeves’ BatVerse, it also serves as a bridge between the first film and THE BATMAN: PART II (coming in 2025). Just think how much folks will be geared up to see Batman again after watching all 8 episodes of THE PENGUIN? And where will that next happen?
On the big screen.
Look I get the desire and clamor for a live-action Batman TV series. We’re Batman fans, so of course we want more Batman. However, what fans want isn’t always best…like some fans inexplicably wanting Blue Batman. But I shall digress.
Keep in mind that we are getting a Batman TV series starring Batman relatively soon, albeit an animated one, in BATMAN: CAPED CRUSADER. In fact, animated Batman on TV has been really good since BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES debuted back in 1992 and that’s probably where Batman on TV should stay.
A wise man once told, “When it comes to live-action Batman, less is more.”
Indeed it is. And when it happens, it should be seen up on the silver screen. – Bill “Jett” Ramey