Updated: November 28, 2013|
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. It aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network for three seasons from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968. The show was aired twice weekly for its first two seasons, resulting in the production of a total of 120 episodes.
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.
Former American football linebacker and actor Mike Henry was originally set to star as Batman in a more dramatic interpretation of the character. Henry reportedly posed for publicity photographs in costume but didn't land the role. Around this same time, the Playboy Club in Chicago was screening the Batman serials (1943's Batman and 1949's Batman and Robin) on Saturday nights. It became very popular. East coast ABC executive Yale Udoff, a Batman fan in his childhood, attended one of these parties at the Playboy Club and was impressed with the reaction the serials were eliciting. He 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, who 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 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 camp comedy. Ironically, the Batman comic books had recently experienced a change in editorship which marked a return to serious detective stories after decades of tales with aliens, dimensional travel, magical imps and talking animals. Originally, espionage novelist Eric Ambler was to write a TV-movie that would launch the television series, but he dropped out after learning of Dozier's camp 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 while Waggoner would get his chance to appear in a superhero series 10 years later as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman.
By that time, ABC had pushed up the debut date to January 1966, thus forgoing the movie until the summer hiatus. The film would be produced quickly to get into theatres prior to the start of Season Two of the television series. 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 camp comedy, and in Ross's case, sometimes outright slapstick and satire. Originally intended as a one-hour show, ABC only had two early-evening time slots available, so the show was split into two parts, to air twice a week in half-hour installments with a cliffhanger, originally to last only through a station break, connecting the two episodes, echoing the old movie serials.
The Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter, all of whom are regular Bat-Villains, appear in the series, which was deliberately villain-driven as well as action-comedy-heavy.