The series title card
|Created by||William Dozier|
by Bill Finger and Bob Kane
|Developed by||Lorenzo Semple Jr.|
|Narrated by||William Dozier|
|Opening theme||"Batman Theme" by Neal Hefti|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||120|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Original release||January 12, 1966- March 14, 1968|
Batman is a 1960s American live action television series, based on the DC comic book character of the same name. It stars Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin - two crime-fighting heroes who defend Gotham City from a variety of arch villains. It is known for its camp style, upbeat theme music, and its intentionally humorous, simplistic morality (aimed at its largely teenage audience). This included championing the importance of using seat belts, doing homework, eating vegetables, and drinking milk. It was described by executive producer William Dozier as the only situation comedy on the air without a laugh track. The 120 episodes aired on the ABC network for three seasons from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968, twice weekly for the first two and weekly for the third. In 2016, television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz ranked Batman as the 82nd greatest American television show of all time.
The series focused on the adventures of Batman and Robin. Although the lives of their alter-egos, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson (Richard John Grayson) were frequently shown, it was usually only briefly, in the context of their being called away on superhero business, or in circumstances where they needed to employ their secret identities to assist in their crime-fighting. The "Dynamic Duo" typically come to the aid of the Gotham City Police upon the latter being stumped by a supervillain. Throughout each episode, Batman and Robin have to follow a series of wildly improbable clues to discover the supervillain's plan, then figure out how to thwart that plan and capture the criminal.
For the first two seasons, Batman aired twice a week on consecutive nights. Every story is a two-parter, except for two three-parters featuring villainous team ups (the Joker and the Penguin, the Penguin and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds) in the second season. The titles of each multi-part story usually rhymed. For the third season, which aired one episode a week, most episodes were self-contained stories. However, each episode would end with a teaser featuring the next episode's guest villain. The cliffhangers between multiple-parters typically consisted of the supervillain holding someone captive, usually the Dynamic Duo, with the captives being subject to some elaborate, gruesome - if unlikely - death. This would inevitably be resolved early in the follow-up episode.
Ostensibly a crime series, the style of the show was in fact campy and tongue-in-cheek. It was a true situation comedy, in that situations were exaggerated and were generally played for laughs. This increased as the seasons progressed, with the addition of ever greater absurdity. The characters, however, always took the absurd situations extremely seriously - which added to the comedy.
According to Adam West's memoir, Back to the Batcave, his first exposure to the series concept was through reading a sample script in which Batman enters a nightclub in his complete costume and requests a booth near the wall, as he "shouldn't wish to attract attention". It was the scrupulously formal dialogue, and the way that Batman earnestly believed he could avoid standing out while wearing a skintight blue-and-grey costume, that convinced West of the character's comic potential.
With the death of Adam West on June 9, 2017, Burt Ward is now the only surviving main Batman cast member.
In the early 1960s, Ed Graham Productions optioned the television rights to the comic strip Batman and planned a straightforward juvenile adventure show, much like Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger, to air on CBS on Saturday mornings.
East Coast ABC executive Yale Udoff, a Batman fan in his childhood, contacted ABC executives Harve Bennett and Edgar J. Scherick, who were already considering developing a television series based on a comic-strip action hero, to suggest a prime-time Batman series in the hip and fun style of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. When negotiations between CBS and Graham stalled, DC Comics quickly reobtained rights and made the deal with ABC, which farmed the rights out to 20th Century Fox to produce the series.
In turn, 20th Century Fox handed the project to William Dozier and his production company, Greenway Productions. ABC and Fox were expecting a hip and fun--yet still serious--adventure show. However, Dozier, who had never before read comic books, concluded, after reading several Batman comics for research, that the only way to make the show work was to do it as a pop-art campy comedy. Originally, espionage novelist Eric Ambler was to have scripted a TV movie that would launch the television series, but he dropped out after learning of Dozier's campy comedy approach. Eventually, two sets of screen tests were filmed, one with Adam West and Burt Ward and the other with Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell, with West and Ward winning the roles.
Lorenzo Semple Jr. had signed on as head script writer. He wrote the pilot script, and generally wrote in a pop-art adventure style. Stanley Ralph Ross, Stanford Sherman, and Charles Hoffman were script writers who generally leaned more toward campy comedy, and in Ross's case, sometimes outright slapstick and satire. It was originally intended as a one-hour show, but ABC changed the premiere date from fall 1966 to January of that year. With the network having only two early-evening half-hour time slots available, the show was split into two parts, to air twice a week in 30-minute installments. A cliffhanger connected the two episodes, echoing the old movie serials.
Some ABC affiliates weren't happy that ABC included a fourth commercial minute in every episode of Batman. One affiliate refused to air the series. The network insisted it needed the extra advertising revenue.
The Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and the Mad Hatter, villains who originated in the comic books, all appeared in the series, the plots for which were deliberately villain-driven. According to the producers, Frank Gorshin was selected to portray the Riddler due to the fact that he was a Batman fan since childhood. Catwoman was portrayed by three different actresses during the series run: by Julie Newmar in the first two seasons, by Lee Meriwether in the feature film based on the series, and by Eartha Kitt in the third and final season.
Semple's participation in the series decreased in the second season. In his autobiography Back to the Batcave, Adam West explained to Jeff Rovin, to whom he dictated the autobiography after rejecting an offer to contribute to The Official "Batman" Batbook, written by Joel Eisner, that when work on the second season commenced following the completion of the feature film, Dozier, his immediate deputy Howie Horwitz, and the rest of the cast and crew rushed their preparation. Thus, they failed to give themselves enough time to determine what they wanted to do with the series during season two.
By season three, ratings were falling and the future of the series seemed uncertain. To attract new viewers, Dozier opted to introduce a female character. He came up with the idea of using Batgirl, who in her civilian identity would be Commissioner Gordon's daughter, Barbara, and asked the editor of the Batman comics to further develop the character (who had made her debut in a 1966 issue of Detective Comics). To convince ABC executives to introduce Batgirl as a regular on the show, a promotional short featuring Yvonne Craig as Batgirl and Tim Herbert as Killer Moth was produced. The show was reduced to once a week, with mostly self-contained episodes, although the following week's villain would be introduced in a tag at the end of each episode, similar to a soap opera. Accordingly, the narrator's cliffhanger phrases were mostly eliminated, most episodes ending with him encouraging viewers to watch next week.[notes 1]
Aunt Harriet was reduced to just two cameo appearances during the third season, due to Madge Blake's poor health and the issue of trying to fit so many characters (Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Chief O'Hara and a guest villain) into a half hour episode. Another cast change for the final season was replacing Julie Newmar, who had been a popular recurring guest villain as the Catwoman for the first two seasons. Singer-actress Eartha Kitt assumed the role for season three, as Newmar was working on the film Mackenna's Gold at that time and thus unable to appear. In the United States, Kitt's performance in the series marked the second mainstream television success of a black female, following Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura in Star Trek and continued breaking the racial boundaries of the time. Kitt's performance as Catwoman would also, later, inspire Halle Berry's portrayal of the character in the 2004 film Catwoman, in which Berry would mimic Kitt's famous purrs. Frank Gorshin, the original actor to play the Riddler, returned for a single appearance after a one-season hiatus, during which John Astin made one appearance in the role.
The nature of the scripts and acting started to enter into the realm of surrealism. For example, the set's backgrounds became mere two-dimensional cut-outs against a stark black stage. In addition, the third season was much more topical, with references to hippies, mods, and distinctive 1960s slang, which the previous two seasons had avoided.
Near the end of the third season, ratings had dropped significantly, and ABC cancelled the show. NBC agreed to take over the series, but before they could do so, they discovered that hundreds of thousands of dollars of Batman sets had been destroyed. Rather than rebuild the sets, NBC dropped the project. Reruns of the series have been seen on a regular basis in the United States. They are currently shown on the classic TV networks TeleXitos, weekdays dubbed in Spanish, as well as Saturday mornings on IFC.
Several cast members recorded music tied into the series. Adam West released a single titled "Miranda", a country-tinged pop song that he actually performed in costume during live appearances in the 1960s. Frank Gorshin released a song titled "The Riddler", which was composed and arranged by Mel Tormé. Burgess Meredith recorded a spoken-word single called "The Escape" backed with "The Capture", which consisted of the Penguin narrating his recent crime spree to a jazz beat. Burt Ward recorded a song called "Boy Wonder, I Love You", written and arranged by Frank Zappa.
In 1966, Batman: The Exclusive Original Soundtrack Album was released on LP, featuring music by Nelson Riddle and snippets of dialogue from Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Anne Baxter (as Zelda the Great) and George Sanders (the first Mr. Freeze). The "Batman Theme" was included, along with titles like "Batusi A Go! Go!", "Batman Thaws Mr. Freeze", and "Batman Blues". It was reissued later on compact disc.
The show lasted for three seasons, consisting of 120 episodes:
The show featured numerous adaptations of various Batman comics stories - particularly in its first season. These first-season episodes were adaptations:
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Each story relied on using the same formula, so that the audience quickly came to expect a series of familiar set pieces: a phone call from the police asking for Batman's help, a dash to the Batcave, a race in the Batmobile to police headquarters, a conference in the Commissioner's office, investigating the scene of the crime, examining clues in the crime-lab at the Batcave, rushing to the villain's secret hideout, falling into the pre-arranged trap. By relying heavily on a formula, it became easy to spoof various elements of that formula.
The typical story begins with a villain's caper (such as stealing a fabulous treasure, kidnapping a prominent person, or attempting to take over Gotham City). In his office, Commissioner Gordon, along with Chief O'Hara, learn of the crime and the culprit. Helpless to stop the villain, they contact Batman via the Batphone - a bright red telephone that provides a direct phone link to Batman (be it at Wayne Manor, the Batcave or the Batmobile). At "stately Wayne Manor", Alfred (Wayne's butler) answers the Batphone and informs Bruce Wayne of the call. Frequently, Wayne and his ward, Dick Grayson, are found talking with Dick's aunt, Harriet Cooper, who is unaware of Bruce and Dick's secret identities. Alfred discreetly interrupts and they excuse themselves to go to the Batphone in Wayne's study. Upon learning the details from Gordon, Wayne turns a switch concealed within a bust of Shakespeare that stands on his desk to reveal two fireman's poles hidden behind a sliding bookcase. "To the Batpoles!" Wayne exclaims, and he and Grayson slide down the poles that lead to the Batcave.
The title sequence features animated versions of Batman and Robin, drawn in the then-current style of the comic books, running towards camera and then fighting an assortment of villains, including several "marquee" villains such as the Joker and the Penguin.
Similar in style and content to the 1940s serials, Batman and Robin would arrive at the bottom of the Batpoles in the Batcave in full costume (reference is made later in the series to some sort of costuming device that functions on the way down the poles). They then jump into the Batmobile. Robin checks the gauges and reports, "Atomic batteries to power...turbines to speed." Batman responds, "Roger, ready to move out." With that, the two would drive out of the cave at high speed. As the Batmobile approached the mouth of the cave (actually a tunnel entrance in Los Angeles' Bronson Canyon), a camouflaged door would swing open and a hinged road barrier outside the Batcave would drop down to allow the car to exit onto the road. The duo then speeds to police headquarters to meet with Gordon and be briefed on the criminal they must thwart. Most of the footage following the opening title sequence from Batman and Robin sliding down the Batpoles through their arrival at police headquarters was reused in each episode. After the National Safety Council complained that Batman and Robin should set a good example, the repeated sequence was changed to show them fastening seat belts before starting out.
The initial discussion of the crime usually leads to Batman and Robin conducting their investigation alone, although the police are often used for assistance and to implement plans or traps that Batman devises to catch the villain. Typically Batman and Robin must use deduction from the clues left by the villain to determine elements such as the villain's identity, plan, target, and/or location. This usually results in a meeting with the villain, a fistfight with the villain's henchmen, and the villain's escape, leaving a further series of unlikely clues for the duo to investigate. Later, they would face the villain's henchmen again, be captured and one or both heroes placed in a deathtrap leading to a cliffhanger ending, which was usually resolved in the first few minutes of the next episode.
The latter part(s) of multi-episode stories begins with a brief recap of the first part(s). After the opening credits and the theme music, the cliffhanger is resolved.
The same general plot pattern of investigation and confrontation repeats in the following episode until the villain is defeated in a major brawl.
The series used a narrator (executive producer William Dozier, uncredited) who parodied both the breathless narration style of the 1940s serials and Walter Winchell's bombastic narration of The Untouchables. He would end many of the cliffhanger episodes by intoning, "Tune in tomorrow - same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!" In the episodes following cliffhangers, recaps of the previous episode consisted of a series of short phrases from Dozier accompanying short, silent clips of the prior episode, which usually ended in a freeze-frame. In the third season, when single-episode stories were introduced, the narrator would end the show by encouraging viewers to tune in the following week.
During the climactic fistfights in each episode, the punches and other impacts were punctuated by onomatopoeia (sound effects) superimposed in bright colors over the action on the screen, as in comic-book fight scenes ("POW!", "BAM!", "ZONK!", etc.). As a money-saving device, after the first season, instead of being superimposed over the fight scene, the sound effects were merely printed on cards and inserted into the action.
Despite the regular fighting on the show, Batman and Robin typically use non-lethal force; only three criminal characters die during the series: the Riddler's moll Molly (played by Jill St. John in the pilot episode), who accidentally falls into the Batcave's atomic reactor, and two out-of-town gunmen who shoot at Batman and Robin, but kill each other instead, toward the end of "Zelda the Great"/"A Death Worse Than Fate". In the film, six criminals die in total: five henchmen are dehydrated by the Penguin in order to infiltrate the Batcave, but this plan fails when the henchmen unexpectedly disappear into antimatter once struck. A sixth henchman is presumably killed when he is caught in a trap meant for Batman and sprung into an exploding octopus. Twice, the Catwoman (Julie Newmar) appears to fall to her death (into a bottomless pit and from a high building into a river), but returned in later episodes. In "Instant Freeze", Mr. Freeze freezes a butler solid and knocks him over, and sound-effects suggest that he is shattered into pieces. A later reference suggests the butler survived. In "Green Ice", Mr. Freeze freezes a policeman solid; it is left unclear whether he survived. In "The Penguin's Nest", a policeman suffers an electric shock at the hands of the Penguin's accomplices, but he is presumed to survive, as he appears in some later episodes.
A catch-phrase popularized by the series was Robin's saying "Holy [subject], Batman!" whenever he encountered something startling. This phrase was parodied in the 1995 film Batman Forever.
In many episodes, Batman and Robin must get to a high point of a building or other structure. They do this via the Batrope which is thrown and anchored above the high point, and which Batman and Robin climb by walking up the side of the structure with the aid of the rope. The climbing sequences were filmed by rotating the camera 90 degrees and building a set for the "side" of the structure along the studio floor. The heroes' capes were pulled back (to replicate the pull of gravity) with invisible lines. In many episodes, celebrities made cameo appearances by popping their heads out of windows along these climbs to speak to the heroes.
In one episode, Catwoman's hideout is a hair salon owned by a "Mr. Oceanbring". The real-life inspiration for the character, hair stylist (and future Manson family victim) Jay Sebring, appears uncredited during the fight scene and has a couple of spoken lines.
The villains commonly have henchmen whose names are somehow associated with the villain's identity; for example, Catwoman's henchmen have cat-related names like Felix and Leo. Characters commonly use alliterations. Examples include Batman referring to the Joker as a "hateful harlequin" and the Penguin calling Catwoman a "feline floozy".
Only two of the show's guest villains ever discovered Batman's true identity: Egghead by deductive reasoning, and King Tut on two occasions - the first time with a bug placed on the Batmobile and the second time by accidentally mining into the Batcave. Egghead was tricked into disbelieving his discovery, though, as was Tut in the episode when he bugged the Batmobile. In the episode when Tut tunneled into the Batcave, he was hit on the head by a rock, which made him forget his discovery and jarred him back into his identity as a mild-mannered professor of Egyptology at Yale University. While under the spell of the Siren (Joan Collins), Commissioner Gordon found the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor and deduced Batman's true identity, but Alfred gassed him to prevent his informing her, the memory of the discovery gone after leaving the Siren's spell.
The show's campiness was played up in elements, including the design of the villains, dialogue and in signs appearing on various props. Batman would frequently reveal one of his many crime-fighting gadgets, which were usually given a ridiculous-sounding name that somehow incorporated the word "bat" - often simply by adding the word "bat" to an otherwise normal descriptor, such as Shark Repellant Bat-Spray, Bat-Computer, Extra-Strong Bat-Knockout Gas, etc. Most of Batman's items in the Batcave, bat-vehicles and on the utility belt were given superfluous and simplistic block-letter labels, even though Batman, Robin, and Alfred, the only people who used the equipment, clearly knew what all of it was.
A film based on the television show, Batman, was released in 1966. The film was originally intended to be produced before the series as a way to introduce the series to the public. However, the series' premiere was moved up and the film was forced to wait until the summer hiatus after the first season. The film was produced quickly to get into theatres prior to the start of season two of the television series.
The film did not initially perform well at the cinema. Originally, the movie had been conceived to help sell the television series abroad, but the success of the series in America was sufficient publicity. The film was shot after season one was filmed. The movie's budget allowed for producers to build the Batboat and lease a helicopter that would be made into the Batcopter, both of which were used in the second and third seasons of the television show.
West and Ward announced at the Mad Monster Party that one or two Batman animated movies would be released in 2016 with the two doing voiced roles as their characters for the show's 50th anniversary along with Julie Newmar returning.
The trailer for Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders made its debut on August 17, 2016. The film was released on Digital HD and Digital Media on October 11, 2016 and on DVD and Blu-ray November 1, 2016.
A sequel to Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders called Batman vs. Two-Face was released on October 10, 2017. The film starred William Shatner voicing Two-Face as the main antagonist.Adam West died before it was released; however, he did complete his voiceover work before his passing. This was one of Adam West's final roles before he passed away from leukemia.
In 2013, DC began publication of Batman '66, a comic book series telling all-new stories set in the world of the 1966-68 TV series. Jeff Parker writes the series, which features cover art by Mike Allred and interior art by different artists each issue. In the course of this series, the Bookworm, the Minstrel, Sandman, Olga Queen of the Cossacks, Zelda The Great, Shame, and Marsha Queen of Diamonds all have their first appearance in Batman comics. Penguin, Joker, Riddler, Catwoman and Mr. Freeze also appear in the series. Issue #3 of Batman '66 introduced the Red Hood and Dr. Quinn into the series continuity. In issue #7, Batman used a new vehicle, the Bat-Jet, to follow False-Face to Mount Rushmore. The series was to have introduced Killer Croc into the continuity, as well as a new villainess named Cleopatra. In April 2014, the first five issues were compiled into the Batman '66 Vol. 1 trade paperback. Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman likewise worked on a Batman and Green Hornet crossover, titled Batman '66 meets The Green Hornet. The six-issue miniseries began publication in June 2014.Jeff Parker wrote a Batman and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. team-up titled Batman '66 meets The Man from U.N.C.L.E. released in 2016. Ian Edginton wrote a Batman team-up with John Steed and Emma Peel of The Avengers titled Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel. Batman teams up with Wonder Woman in the crossover team up Batman' 66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 writing by both Parker and Marc Andreyko. In a reversal of sorts, Archie Comics announced in March 2018 that they would be producing the next crossover titled, Archie Meets Batman '66 to be released as a six issue mini series starting in July. The series would be written by Batman '66 veteran Jeff Parker and Archies stalwart Michael Moreci. Mike Allred would return to create the main covers with Archie artists creating the alternate covers and interior art.
Bluewater Comics has released a series of comics that take their cue from the TV show. They are The Mis-Adventures of Adam West, The Secret Lives of Julie Newmar, and Burt Ward, Boy Wonder and are similar in tone to the TV series. The Mis-Adventures of Adam West was a four-issue miniseries and a regular series that ran nine issues. The Secret Lives of Julie Newmar was a four-issue miniseries and Burt Ward, Boy Wonder was going to be a four-issue miniseries, but has not yet been published in full (although a promotional first issue was released for Free Comic Book Day).
Van Williams and Bruce Lee made a cameo appearance as the Green Hornet and Kato in "window cameos" while the Batman and Robin were climbing a building. This was in part one of a two-part second-season episode of the Batman TV series, "The Spell of Tut", which aired on September 28, 1966.
Later that same season, the Green Hornet and Kato appeared in the two-part second-season episodes A Piece of the Action and Batman's Satisfaction, which aired on March 1-2, 1967. In the two episodes, the Green Hornet and Kato are in Gotham City to bust a counterfeit stamp ring run by Colonel Gumm (portrayed by Roger C. Carmel). The Batman's Satisfaction episode leads to a mixed fight, with both Batman & Robin and The Green Hornet & Kato fighting Colonel Gumm and his gang. Once Gumm's crew was defeated, Batman and Robin squared off against The Green Hornet and Kato, resulting in a stand-off that was interrupted by the police. In this episode, Batman, Robin and the police consider the Green Hornet and Kato to be criminals, although Batman and Robin were cordial to the duo in the earlier window appearance. There is also a mention of The Green Hornet TV series on the Batman TV series episode The Impractical Joker (episode 55, Part 1, aired November 16, 1966): while watching TV together, Alfred, Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne (who says, "It's time to watch The Green Hornet", and you hear the Hornet buzzing sound) are interrupted by the Joker; then, after the interruption, The Green Hornet TV series theme music is heard.
In the December 9, 1966 Green Hornet episode "The Secret Of The Sally Bell", the Batmobile can be seen revolving on its turntable floor in the batcave on a bad guy's TV set. In the February 3, 1967 Green Hornet episode "Ace in the Hole" (which aired between the September 1966 and March 1967 Batman appearances mentioned above), Batman and Robin can be seen climbing a building on a television set. There was one other Green Hornet & Kato appearance that was not on the Batman TV series nor on The Green Hornet TV series: a segment of the Milton Berle Show/The Hollywood Palace aired in the Fall of 1966 brought together The Green Hornet and Kato (Van Williams and Bruce Lee), and Batman (Adam West), in a comedy sketch with Milton Berle, in which Bruce Lee demonstrates his martial arts expertise. Burt Ward as "Robin" was not included in this appearance.
This section refers to special appearances (outside of the series) by the Batman cast in full costume/character.
In this 1966 Commercial Batman and Robin had just wrapped up the latest crime when Commissioner Gordon notices Chief O'Hara's dirty hands and asks Batman to pass the chief a bar of Lava Soap.
Alan Napier stars as the faithful Alfred Pennyworth as he explains how to get Batman and Robin posters through Fact toothpaste.
The Batman character appeared in four public service announcements.
In 1966, West, as Batman, encouraged schoolchildren to heed then-President Lyndon B. Johnson's call for them to buy U.S. Savings stamps, a children's version of U.S. Savings bonds, to support the Vietnam War.
In 1967, a one-minute film was created for the Central Office of Information. The information film was filmed in Kenning, London and showed Batman played Adam West taking a break from fighting crime and helping children with their technique of road safety.
In 1966, due to multiple instances of UK children jumping from elevated locations attempting to emulate Batman, Adam West and Burt Ward recorded a short PSA to be shown prior to the airing of all episodes of Batman in the UK to explain to children that Batman could not fly. Despite only airing in the UK Burt exclaimed what is arguably his most famous line, "Holy Broken Bones!" during this film.
In a 1974 PSA for the U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division narrated by William Dozier, Batman and Robin were tied to a post amid the threat of a ticking time bomb, but Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) refused to release them because she was paid less than Robin (Burt Ward), in violation of the Federal Equal Pay Law.Dick Gautier played Batman this time, because West was, at the time, trying to distance himself from the role.
During the summer/fall of 1966 Adam West and Frank Gorshin went on a tour as Batman and The Riddler to promote the new Batman movie and of course the series. They were usually accompanied by several bands before the featured event that saw Batman and the Riddler exchange corny jokes as well as a song performed by Adam. The tour most famously stopped at the Shea Stadium in New York on June 25, 1966 and City Park in New Orleans on November 26, 1966
The live action television show was extraordinarily popular, called "the biggest TV phenomenon of the mid-1960s". At the height of its popularity, it was the only prime-time television show other than Peyton Place to be broadcast twice in one week as part of its regular schedule, airing at 7:30 pm Wednesdays and Thursdays. Episodes of the show were filmed as two-part cliffhangers, with each storyline beginning on Wednesday and ending on the Thursday episode. In the second season, a pair of three-parters was also seen; at the very end of the Thursday night segment, a brief tag featuring the next week's villain would be shown, such as, "Next week: Batman jousts with The Joker again!" This started on the third week of the series' run and continued until the end of season two. The first episode of a storyline would typically end with Batman and Robin being in a deathtrap, while the narrator (Dozier) would tell viewers to watch the next night with the repeated phrase: "Tune in tomorrow--same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!" Even decades after the show ceased production, this catch-phrase remains a long-running punchline in popular culture.
Television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz ranked Batman as the 82nd greatest American television show of all time in their 2016 book titled TV (The Book), stating that "West's performance, the brilliance of which has required decades to be properly recognized, played as if series creator William Dozier and chief developer Lorenzo Semple Jr., had taken the establishment's fantasy of itself and dolled it up in tights and a cape .... The anarchic gangs of supervillains and henchmen that kept trying to capture or destroy Gotham City stood in for the forces of chaos that kept threatening to engulf so-called civilized America throughout the sixties, only made colorfully grotesque and knowingly silly." In 1997, TV Guide ranked the episodes "The Purr-fect Crime" and "Better Luck Next Time" #86 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes. In 2009, "Better Luck Next Time" was ranked #72.
The series' stars, Adam West and Burt Ward, were typecast for decades afterwards, with West especially finding himself unable to escape the reputation of a hammy, camp actor. However, years after the series' impact faded, an episode of Batman: The Animated Series paid tribute to West with an episode titled "Beware The Gray Ghost". In this episode, West himself provided the voice of an aging star of a superhero television series Bruce Wayne had watched as a child and from which he later found inspiration. This gave West new popularity with the next generation of fans. He also played Gotham City's Mayor Grange as a somewhat recurring role in The Batman. In addition, West played the voice of Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne's father in the episode "Chill of the Night" from the series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
The company Stern released the pinball machine Batman '66, based on the TV series, in December 2016. It is the first Stern game that features a full color LCD in the backbox instead of a Dot-matrix display. There are three different versions of the pinball machine: Super Limited Edition, Limited Edition and Premium.
|DVD/Blu-ray name||Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season (DVD)||November 11, 2014||TBA||TBA|
|The Second Season: Part One (DVD)||February 10, 2015||TBA||TBA|
|The Second Season: Part Two (DVD)||July 14, 2015||TBA||TBA|
|The Complete Third Season (DVD)||November 3, 2015||TBA||TBA|
|The Complete Series (DVD & Blu-ray)||November 11, 2014||16 Feb. 2015||TBA|
In January 2014, Conan O'Brien posted on his Twitter account, and Warner Bros. later confirmed, that Warner Bros. would release an official DVD and Blu-ray boxed set of the complete series sometime in 2014.
On April 10, 2014, the website tvshowsondvd.com quoted Burt Ward in saying that Warner Bros. would release the complete series on November 11, 2014, in time for the holiday season from 20th Century Fox Television, and that Adam West and he were doing special features for the release.
Prior to the announcement, multiple conflicting reports were given for the reason the series had not been released officially. These included:
The series, under the Fox/ABC deal, is still in syndication, and regularly shown on a number of channels around the world, currently appearing in the United States on Me-TV and IFC as of July 4, 2014. Until 2014, only the 1966 feature film was available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for nonbroadcast viewing in North America. This affected the 2003 television movie reunion Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, also released to DVD, which was able to make use of footage only from the 1966 movie.
With Batman being unavailable for home-video release until 2014, an unusual situation occurred in which material that would be considered DVD featurettes was released separately. In 2004, Image Entertainment released Holy Batmania, a two-DVD set that included documentaries on the making of the series, as well as rare footage such as the original screen tests of the cast and Lyle Waggoner. In 2008, Adam West released a privately issued DVD with the tongue-in-cheek title Adam West Naked for which he recorded anecdotes regarding all 120 episodes of the series. In 2013, PBS aired an episode of Pioneers of Television called "Superheroes" that featured interviews with Adam West and Burt Ward, and talked about the 1960s TV series. It was released on DVD March 11, 2013.
Also in 2013, PBS produced and transmitted a documentary titled Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle. This documentary talked a little bit about the series and included an interview with Adam West.
On November 11, 2014, Warner Bros. released the full 120-episode Batman collection on Blu-ray and DVD with a variety of extras including a miniature Batmobile, a 32-page episode guide, and Adam West Scrapbook. A second box released on Warner Bros.' own batmanondvd website replaces the Batmobile and the trading cards with a script from the episode "The Joker is Wild" and a bonus box containing the movie and the "Adam West Naked" documentary. This series is also available at the iTunes Store.
Starting in 1966, an enormous amount of Batman merchandise was manufactured and marketed to cash-in on the TV show's vast popularity. This includes trading cards, bubblegum cards, scale model kits of the Batmobile and Batboat, coloring books, and board games. Items from this particular era have gained substantial collector appeal with their remarkable variety, scarcity, and style.
One of the most desired collectibles involves the episodes introducing Catwoman ("The Purr-fect Crime"/"Better Luck Next Time"), which were the subject of a View-Master reel & booklet set in 1966 (Sawyers Packet # B492). While the series was first-run on ABC, packet cover indicia reflected the "Bat Craze" cultural phenomenon by referring to the booklet as a Batbooklet, Dynamically illustrated. By the time the television series was cancelled in 1968 and GAF had taken over the View-Master product, Batbooklet was removed in favor of then-standard View-Master packaging for all future releases in the decades to follow, right up to the period when the standard packet line was discontinued. The first season's superimposed fight onomatopoeias were not used for the View-Master's scenes of fights. Instead, black-lined "blast" balloons (transparent inside), and series-like onomatopoeias were illustrated and superimposed over fight images.
The popularity of the TV series has carried several decades after its debut; toy company Mattel has made the 1966 Batmobile in various scales for the Hot Wheels product line. The Batmobile with Batboat were also produced under the Matchbox and Corgi names in the UK, during this period.
Warner Bros. acquired merchandising rights to the series in 2012, and in 2013 Mattel released an action figure line based on the television series. To date only a single series of figures have been produced: Batman, the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman and, exclusive to a boxset, Robin. Three Batman variants were also produced, a limited SDCC exclusive boxed figure, with an action feature that replicates the famous Batusi dance, a carded Surf's Up Batman figure complete with surfboard and trunks, and a boxed, unmasked Batman with Batcomputer and Bruce Wayne's study accessories. A carded Joker variant, with surfboard and trunks, and a boxed Batgirl figure followed. Each figure has the likeness of their respective actor (with Catwoman resembling Newmar and the Riddler resembling Gorshin) and came packaged with a display base and collector card. A Batmobile was also sold to retail making this the first time the classic model has been produced for action figures in the 6-inch scale.
In 2013, Hong Kong-based entertainment collectible manufacturer, Hot Toys, produced scale versions of West's Batman and Ward's Robin. A large range of 8" action figures with the TV cast's likenesses have been released by Figures Toy Company (FTC) from 2013-2018 and, in 2017, a single wave of 3.75" figures (including King Tut, Bookworm and two Mr. Freezes) from Funko.
The animated television series Batman: The Brave and the Bold is influenced by the 1960s television series. The opening credits feature Batman rope-climbing up a building, something that Adam West and Burt Ward often did in the show. Several villains from the 1960s show including King Tut, Egghead, Mad Hatter, Archer, Bookworm, False Face, Black Widow, Siren, Marsha Queen of Diamonds, Louie the Lilac, Ma Parker, and Shame make cameo appearances as prisoners at Iron Heights prison in the episode "Day of the Dark Knight!" They are all captured by Batman and Green Arrow during a mass escape attempt. In Mayhem of the Music Meister! the same villains have brief cameos. The episode "Game Over for Owlman!" shows a room in the Batcave containing "souvenirs" of deathtraps that the Joker employed in the 1960s series, with accompanying flashbacks: the giant key from the "Human Key Duplicator" from "The Impractical Joker", the slot machine-controlled electric chair from "The Joker Goes to School", and the giant clam from "The Joker's Hard Times". The episode "The Color of Revenge!" begins with a flashback to the time of the 1960s television series, using attributes such as the red Batphone, the Shakespeare bust, the sliding bookcase, the Batpoles, Robin in his old television-series costume, and the shot of Batman and Robin fastening their seat belts in the Batmobile. Additionally, the Adam West Batman briefly appears in "Night of the Batmen!" as part of an army of Batmen gathered across the Multiverse.
The Young Justice episode "Schooled" briefly references the show, as well, by featuring a Shakespeare bust in Bruce's office at the Waynetech building in Metropolis. As a further homage to the series, Bruce is shown accessing an emergency Batsuit hidden in his desk by flipping a switch concealed within the bust.
Adam West and Burt Ward lend their voices and likeness to the third DC Comics Special on Robot Chicken. In the plot, when Batman brings over a Superman from another dimension to make him jealous, Superman retaliates by bringing the Adam West Batman, who trumps the Robot Chicken Batman by addressing the glucose issue of muffins and dancing. He is later seen battling the Arkham versions of Batman's villains and is killed by Penguin's anthrax gas. Burt Ward kidnaps him as well as the Robot Chicken Robin and takes them to the Lazarus Pit, where he resurrects West's Batman and makes himself younger to relive the glory days. He only kidnapped Robot Chicken Robin so he could have his outfit.
The animated spin-off of The Lego Movie starring Batman features a number of references to the television series. When Alfred addresses similar phases of Batman's life (in which he references all the years a Batman live-action film was released), he mentions "that weird one in 1966" in which the film briefly shows a clip of Adam West's Batman dancing in an episode. During the film's climax, Alfred dons an identical costume to Adam West's Batman out of nostalgia. When Batman and Robin take on a room of villains, they hit them so hard that onomatopoeia pops out of thin air while a remix of the '60s theme song plays in the background.
A line spoken by Robin (Chris O'Donnell) in Batman Forever is a homage to the television Robin's catch-phrase exclamations that started "Holy" and sometimes ended "Batman!" - for instance "Holy bargain basements, Batman!" (from the television series' first season) and "Holy flypaper, Batman!" (from the television series' second season). During the movie, Robin says "Holy rusted metal, Batman!" after the duo climbs onto twisted metal girders beside some water. This catchphrase also appeared for a time in Batman comic books.
In the third episode of Birds of Prey "Prey for the Hunter", the famous William Shakespeare bust from the series has a cameo. However, instead of bending the neck back to expose the button, it is simply turned to the left, giving it the same function--exposing a hidden passageway.
In the film, a damaged car belonging to Flounder's older brother (which was earlier reported stolen) was re-purposed for the climactic scene by Bluto and D-Day. The car initially appears as a parade float depicting a layer cake, with the words 'Eat Me' on the front; when the float is cut away, it reveals the car repainted in black and red, in a style similar to the Batmobile of the television series, but also incorporating a black armored turret with the word 'DEATHMOBILE' on it in red. This would technically be anachronistic, as the film is set in 1962, but given the parodic nature of the film this is generally ignored.
In Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, an extra level is included, based on the series; called "Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel" along with characters including Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin and Alfred. Also, Adam West is a playable character. The Batmobile from the show is also included as a drivable vehicle. The end credits sequence remakes the Batclimb window cameos.