Updated: August 17, 2013|
Batman is a thrilling 30-minute action series based upon the characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939 from the 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 which became an immediate hit. Starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier, Stafford Repp, Neil Hamilton, Madge Blake and finally Yvonne Craig. It was one of few TV series to be seen on 2 different nights on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30. The episodes were generally two-parters: Wednesday's episode left a cliffhanger, which was usually resolved in Thursday's episode. These cliffhangers closely followed the tradition created by Kane in the comic books.
The television series also followed the comic books' plot. Bruce Wayne was orphaned in his teens when criminals killed his parents. He inherited a huge fortune and was obsessed with fighting evil who plagued Gotham City. Under his mansion, Batman constructed the Batcave which was an elaborate laboratory used to fight crime. His young ward, Dick Grayson also orphaned became Robin: the Boy Wonder. Together they defended the city against the sick minded criminals that populated the underworld. The only person who knew their identity was Alfred Pennywirth, the 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 could ask Batman for help either through the use of the Batsignal or the Batphone. which was 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, The Penguin, The Joker, King Tut, Egghead and Catwoman. 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. Batman came to television under a massive advertising campaign followed by heavy merchandising placement. Originally scheduled to start in the fall of 1966, the show debuted earlier in the middle of the Spring season and it aired from January 1966 to March 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 was the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and a librarian who fought crime on her own and was at 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. It nonetheless has maintained a huge cult status in the TV re-run 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 props used in the show and the movie such as the computers and guns were also 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). Broadcast History (all times Eastern) January 12, 1966 - August 31, 1967, ABC, Wednesday/Thursday 7:30-8:00pm September 14, 1967 - March 14, 1968, ABC, Thursday 7:30-8:00pm 120 Episodes In Color On Film.