BATMAN was a 1960s TV show that appeared on the ABC Television Network. It ran for two and a half seasons from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968. BATMAN aired twice a week, with the first episode ending in a cliffhanger which was resolved at the beginning of episode two.
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120 complete half hour episodes of BATMAN were filmed and aired during its TV run.
BATMAN was more of a comedy than an action-adventure series and reflected the tone of the Batman comic books of the 1950s and early 1960s. Often very silly and campy, it remains a lasting image of Batman for some still today — despite the fact that it has nothing in common with the original 1939 incarnation of the character or the Batman mythos of today.
The series revolved around the oft-ridiculous adventures of Batman (played by Adam West) and his young sidekick Robin (Burt Ward) in Gotham City. Batman’s secret identity was of course Bruce Wayne, the “millionaire philanthropist.” Robin was secretly Wayne’s teenage ward Dick Grayson. The two lived in “stately Wayne Manor” outside of Gotham with their loyal butler Alfred (Alan Napier) and Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake).
Other cast regulars included: Police Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton), Police Chief O’Hara (Stafford Repp), and toward the end of its run, Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (Yvonne Craig).
At first, the series was set to be on CBS as a adventure show aimed at kids. While CBS was debating on whether or not to add the series to their network, DC Comics regained the TV rights to Batman and eventually made a deal with the ABC Television Network. The idea then was to do BATMAN as cool and trendy, but serious, prime time adventure show. ABC then made a deal with 20th Century Fox to produce the show, who in turn handed it over to producer William Dozier and Greenway Productions.
It is said that Dozier hated comic books and opted for a parody of the entire genre. Thus, BATMAN went from being a serious action/adventure to a comedic send up of the comics.
Originally, a movie was planned to launch the series, but ABC decided to premiere BATMAN in January of 1966. Consequently, the movie — which became BATMAN (1966) — was postponed until the summer break after completion of the first season.
Actors considered for Batman are said to have included Mike Henry, Ty Hardin, Lyle Waggoner, and of course Adam West, who eventually nabbed the part.
The show was enormously popular for a brief period of time. Stars of the day clamored for roles as a Batman villain or to make a cameo appearance on the show. A theatrical movie, titled BATMAN, hit theaters the summer of 1966 after the conclusion of season one. The film was not that big of a box office success, although it went on to be quite profitable via re-released to theaters, TV, and video/DVD for the next several decades. “Bat-Mania” swept the country in late 1966 on into 1967. BATMAN also featured one of the most recognizable musical themes in TV history.
Success came and went quickly for BATMAN. The show was canceled by ABC following the completion of season 3. NBC offered to pick the series up for a 4th season, but 20th Century Fox had already destroyed the Bat-sets and NBC withdrew the offer.
In 2003, a TV movie was made about the show titled BACK TO THE BATCAVE. Both West and Ward appeared in the movie as themselves, with actors portraying the two for the recreations of the filming of the original series.
BATMAN‘s run on TV was short, but it’s influence has lasted for decades. To many — particularly those who are not Batman fans — this is the TRUE depiction of the Batman character. Not until 1989’s BATMAN — directed by Tim Burton — did others besides the Bat-fans see a dark and serious portrayal of the character as he was originally conceived in 1939.
BATMAN was finally remastered and released on home video (Blu-ray and DVD) by Warner Bros. (after years of negotiations and stalemates between Warner Bros. and Fox) in November of 2014 as BATMAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES.
In 2013, DC Comics began publishing BATMAN ’66 — a series of Batman comics set in the world of the 60s BATMAN TV series.
It’s said that BATMAN helped save Batman comics from cancellation in the mid-1960s. Whether or not that’s totally true, it’s indisputable that it — and the “Batmania” that surrounded it — catapulted the chracter of Batman to new, and historically profound, level of success.
Perhaps BATMAN’s greatest influence was that it made A LOT of people lifelong Batman fans — particularly those who were born in the late 1950s to the mid 1960s. Case in point, yours truly. – Bill “Jett” Ramey