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Updated: December 22, 2020

Batman is a thrilling 30-minute action series based upon the characters created by Bob Kane in 1939 appearing in Batman and Detective Comics Magazine published by National Periodical Publications, Inc. During his long career he was featured in the Superman radio series and in two movie serials produced during World War II. In 1966 the ABC network decided to produce the first Batman television series and it became an immediate hit.

Starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier, Stafford Repp, Neil Hamilton, Madge Blake, and (in the third and final season) Yvonne Craig as "Batgirl," and narrated/executive-produced by William Dozier, it was one of few TV series to be seen on 2 different nights a week: 7:30 Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The episodes were generally two-parters: Wednesday's episode left a cliffhanger, which was usually resolved in Thursday's episode. The 1966-1967 season had 2 3-parter episodes ("The Zodiac Crimes/The Joker's Hard Times/The Penguin Declines" (1/11-12 & 18/1967) and "Penguin is a Girl's Best Friend/Penguin Sets a Trend/Penguin's Disastrous End" (1/26/, 2/1 & 2/1967) which left cliffhangers that would be solved the following week. These cliffhangers closely followed the tradition created by Kane in the comic books.

The television series also followed the comic books' plot. Bruce Wayne (played by Adam West) was orphaned in his teens when criminals killed his parents. He inherited a huge fortune and, obsessed with fighting the evil-doers who plagued Gotham City, became Batman, the Caped Crusader. Under his mansion, Batman constructed the Batcave, an elaborate laboratory used to fight crime. His young ward, Dick Grayson (played by Burt Ward), also orphaned due to evil-doers, became Robin, the Boy Wonder, under Batman/Wayne's tutelage.

Together they defended the city against the sick minded criminals that populated the underworld. The only person who knew their identity was Alfred Pennywirth (Alan Napier), Wayne's butler who raised Bruce after his parents were killed. In the Batlab, and at the Batcave, Batman and Robin were helped by the most advanced technology to fight their enemies. The Police Commissioner James W. Gordon (Neil Hamilton) could ask Batman for help either through the use of a searchlight, the Batsignal, or the Batphone, a direct line between the Police Station and Bruce Wayne's mansion. To defeat their enemies, Batman and Robin also used the Batmobile, their utility belts and other Batdevices.

The success of the series attracted several famous actors and actress to play the villains. Among the most famous enemies were The Riddler (played first by Frank Gorshin and then John Astin), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Joker (Cesar Romero), King Tut (Victor Buono), Egghead (Vincent Price) and Catwoman (played at different moments by Julie Newmar, Lee Ann Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt).

The series spawned a feature film version released by 20th Century-Fox in July 1966. Batman incorporated the expressive art and fashion of the period in its sets and costumes. It also relied excessively on technological gadgetry transforming the show into a parody of contemporary life. It was this self-reflexive parody-camp of the comic character that boosted the ratings of the program to the top ten during its first season. The show was not to be taken seriously. The acting was intentionally overdone and the situations extremely contrived. In the fight scenes animated "Bangs," "Pows," and "Bops" would fill the screen every time a blow was struck. These characteristics, besides displeasing the "organized vocal Batman fans," were not enough to save the show (Boichel, 1991).

Batman came to television under a massive advertising campaign followed by heavy merchandising placement. Directed towards adults and children this campaign reached the millions of dollars (McNeil, 1991). Originally scheduled to start at the fall of 1966, the show debuted earlier in the middle of the Spring season, and it aired on ABC for 2 1/2 seasons and 120 shows between January 12, 1966 and March 14, 1968. By fall 1966, ratings were already falling. To offset this trend, in the fall season of 1967, the show was cut to once a week and Batgirl was introduced. This time she came to save the show from falling ratings and not to protect Batman and Robin against accusations of a homoerotic relationship, as was the case for her creation by the comic book writers in the mid-1950s. Batgirl (Yvonne Craig), the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and a librarian, fought crime on her own and was many times paired with The Dynamic Duo. Her debut, however, was not enough to save the series. The producers tried to spice the plots with the new sexy heroine, but it did not work and Batman went off the air in mid-season in the spring of 1968, replaced by the sitcom The Second Hundred Years. It nonetheless has maintained a huge cult status in the TV rerun circuit ever since.

Batman creator Bob Kane noted that this series saved the Batman comic series from cancellation when the show revived the character's popularity. Despite this, most comic fans despised this series for stereotyping superheroes and comics as campy nonsense. Furthermore, soon after the show was canceled, the character's comic series took on a dark and deadly serious tone that was reminiscent of the original comics in the late 1930's as a reaction to the TV show's light touch.

The Batmobile is a modified 1955 Lincoln Futura.

Most of the actors who appeared in Batman also appeared in many of Elvis Presley's movies such as Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth) portrayed Professor Joe B. Larson in "Wild in the Country" (1961). Burgess Meredith (The Penguin) portrayed Charlie Lightcloud in "Stay Away, Joe" (1968). Yvonne Craig (Batgirl/Barbara Gordon) acted with Elvis in 2 of his movies, "It Happened at the World's Fair" (1963) as Dorothy Johnson and in "Kissin' Cousins" (1964) as Azalea Tatum (His leading lady) and Carolyn Jones (Marcia, Queen of Diamonds) portrayed Ronnie in "King Creole" (1958). These are just a few of the actors and actresses that appeared in both Batman episodes and Elvis Presley movies.

The props used in the show and the movie (such as the computers and guns) also were used in Lost In Space (CBS, 1965-68), The Time Tunnel (ABC, 1966-68), Land Of The Giants (ABC, 1968-70), and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (ABC, 1964-68).

Some of the above info duped from the article in the Museum of Broadcast Communications: Batman page, written by Antonio LaPastina. Episode info gleaned from The Official Batman Batbook by Joel Eisner, The Batman Episode Guide link in Sci-Fi Channel's Batman page (which, surprisingly, still hasn't been taken down!), and Dave W. Sutton's The 1966 Batman TV Tribute Site.

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