Any respect Batman could have ever had was ruined in the 60's. A weekly tv show took a camp take on the vigilante defender of the night...and crime-fighting would never be a respected profession ever again.
Bruce Wayne was a child when he witnessed his parent's murder, right before his eyes. His pain and suffering lead him to become a vigilante for justice to ensure no child shall ever have to live through the same anguish, the same torment. He trained for years. He thought of nothing but the man who stole his life from him and how he would exact vengeance on the criminal world and strike fear into the hearts of those who would dare bring harm to others. He planned to strike that fear by becoming the embodiment of fear itself, a symbol that make even the most hardened men shiver in their place. A bat! He shall wreak havoc on all who threaten that which is good in the guise of a mighty, winged bat! And in the midst of each night, he will stop them, he will beat them and he will teach them that as long as he lives...evil has no place here.
Original intentions were for a new Batman tv show to be much like adventure shows like Superman and many westerns of the time. Batman was to be geared toward kids and adults alike while keeping with the darker tones of the comic strip.
Serial adventures from the 40's were being played in Chicago and teenagers attended in droves, screaming and yelling at the screen as kids would at a pantomime play. Batman fan and ABC exec, Yale Udoff, attended one showing and was hooked on bringing Batman and Robin to life again in a fun adventure series. Serials from the 40's showed Batman and Robin fighting crooks with high-tech gadgets (which I assume were things like "rubber bands" and "scotch tape") on city rooftops and dark alleys, just like in the comics! Imagine a weekly television series with full studio financing updating the adventures of the Dark Knight and Boy Wonder! However, the project ended up changing hands a few too many times and ended up in the lap of one William Dozier, who despised comic books . So he decided "Fuck this" and turned Batman and Robin into comedy nimrods for all eternity.
The worst part? The show was a huge hit.
"Take that, integrity!"
"Batman" ratings raced out of the Batcave like a bat out of hell. Adam West and Burt Ward became household names overnight and the show inspired a phenomenon that could only be called what it was called: "Batmania". The originally intended series of a gritty crime-fighter battling evil over the rooftops of Gotham was presented as a campy satire with purposely horrible acting and stories.
Episodes played out in almost the exact same format for nearly all 120 episodes:
1) A villain commits a crime....
"Riddle me this: what the fuck am I doing in this scene?"
2) The Commissioner would hear of the crime and use his ability to be lazy to just call Batman instead of trusting his own men...
3) Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson would be tending to their insane Aunt Harriet...
"Why. Won't. That. Woman. DIE...!?"
4) Upon being notified by the giant, red Bat Phone in Bruce's study, he and Dick would make an excuse to go fight crime!
Well hidden, yet fully explained in case of discovery.
5) After visiting the Commissioner and agreeing which villain was responsible (usually deduced by the type of item stolen, like the "Howling Clown Statue" or the "Ice Bird Painting" or maybe a carton of eggs). Batman and Robin would instantly know where to go and would end up in a fight with the villain's henchmen.
Wasn't that exciting?
6) The fight would end with the villain getting away, leaving Batman and Robin to find a clue. Having no detective abilities of their own, the duo had to race to the Batcave so the Bat Computer could do all the work for them. Computers were new and exciting!
"I'll be on Gotham Bridge at 10PM"....Blast! What could he mean? A bridge goes over water...10PM is very late...late rhymes with gate...I'm sleepy...hotels have beds...gasp! He's at the Watergate Hotel!
7) Once the Bat Computer Bat tells them where to Bat go, they take the Bat Mobile there and end up getting beaten up and put into an evil, horrible trap!
What a horrible cosmetic addition by the architect!
8) The episode would then end on an exciting cliffhanger, as the viewer is positive that Batman and Robin are about to die.
9) The next episode starts with them escaping the previous episode's trap by whistling just the right song or yelling the binary code for 'starfish' at the top of their lungs. Depending on which type of trap they were in.
10) They would track down the villain to their lopsided hideout, convince the villain's girlfriend to be good and then beat up the villain's henchman. At which point, the villain would be easily caught, without being touched, handcuffed or physically carted away. The scene would just fade out, everyone agreeing that Batman and Robin won this one.
"You fuck with the bat, you get the wings."
My brain goes into shutdown when I try to envision Adam West having a conversation with William Shatner, each using their television-speaking mannerisms. West's abundance of syllable emphasizing puts Shatners delayed speech patterns to shame. He could make Batman be absolutely calm and calculating for about half a sentence and then immediately start yelling the rest of the words. Though his facial features were a creepy match for the comic book's version of Batman in the 40's and 50's, Adam West helped turn our favorite vigilante into a dancing maroon.
And a singing one, too.
Before Batman, Adam's biggest role was as a sidekick in a Hawaiian show called El Kini Popo Show. He soon became the star, co-starring with a chimp, as all good actors must do at some point. He landed many roles in the early 60's, basically playing his "Bruce Wayne" type persona, a bland everyman who inhaled great breaths in order to say nothing and then just raise his eyebrows real quick.
His take on Batman was as annoying as it was unique. His calm voice would sound intelligent, as Batman should, then sound completely pressed for time and loud, as Batman shouldn't. His awkward "grandpa in long-johns" look was distracting whenever his arms were outstretched or he was *shudder* dancing. However, you always knew Batman was in grave danger when Adam West gritted his teeth.
"I'm in danger!"
At the ripe old age of 20, "Burt Ward" (Bert Gervis) landed the role of Bruce Wayne's 10 year old sidekick, Dick Grayson / Robin. Due to his simple domino mask, Burt had to do more stuntwork than Adam West did because you could easily make out a stunt double.
"Aaaah! Girls! Stunt double! Stunt double!!"
He used his A-List celebrity status to it's full potential. According to himself in his autobiography, he spent most of the late 60's having sex with every girl that asked for his autograph. Holy penetration?
As season 3 was in question, only one thing could possibly save an ailing, campy tv show: Tits. "Batman" got a third season after test screenings showing Batman, Robin and now Batgirl in action! Officially, Yvonne Craig was added so that little girls could dream of fight crime, too, but I think we all know what turned us on to Batgirl. It was Batgirl.
There's a hallway right behind you! Just pick the locks and run!
Sadly, I mean happily, even bat-emblem-embossed-boobs couldn't save the show for a 4th season. Though NBC offered, the sets had already been destroyed and they didn't have another giant diamond available to run the Bat Computer. So the show died.
As any good Batman story, even today, the real story unfolds as the villain attempts to live out his fiendish desires. Batman's enemies always play out their crimes in manners best suited to their personalities, or weaknesses. This makes for unique storytelling, backgrounds and daring escapes. If not for his rogues gallery, Batman may not even be as famous as he is today. No villains to subdue, little need for Batman. Indeed, the Dynamic Duo would have little to do if it weren't for the likes of Gotham's colorful bad guys.
"Yes, hello. This is Batman. Is your refrigerator running?...it is, you say? I see...."
In the tv series, Batman and Robin never went out on patrol, they only sprung into action when one of the city's colorful villains committed a nefarious crime. It didn't matter if it was 9AM or as late as noon, they were on call and ready for action...
"Yes, Commissioner, hello. Tell me...is your refrigerator running?..."
The Joker. Just kidding! No, for serious...The Joker.
Batman's arch-nemesis has always been (and will always be because Batman won't kill one asshole to save hundreds of lives) The Joker aka "The Clown Prince of Crime". The perfect polar opposite to the ultra-serious Batman, Joker spends all his time trying to make Batman "get the joke" of life. In this show, The Joker was one of the most outlandish, out-of-place and memorable characters of the entire series. Played by latin loverboy Cesar Romero, he pranced around and turned the comic book character's famous "Ha Ha Ha" into a freakish "Hoo Hoo Hoo" that anyone who has seen the show remembers so vividly, they can't imitate it without taking on Romero's animated physicalities at the same time.
A mask? Damn, that could be anyone!
Refusing to shave his famous mustache for filming, make-up artists had to glob on extra white clown paint to cover it up. It is clearly visible in all of his close-ups and in a few episode you can easily tell it was late in the day as his hair would be weary and matted as his mustache was darkly visible on his face even from a distance. From Romero, we go to....
The Ridiculous Riddle of the Riddler
Played by Frank Gorshin, anyone watching the show with no sound would think Batman was fighting a leaping leprachaun on a caffeine bender. Gorshin's Riddler accidentally inspired Jim Carrey to help ruin the bat-franchise decades later. Episodes featuring the Riddler (including the very first episode, "Hi Diddle Riddle") were riddled with riddles. The Commissioner would often receive the riddle (by police officer messenger) and read it aloud to his partner in laziness, Cheif O'Hara. The two would then call in the Dynamic Duo to have a look. Batman would read the riddle out loud for us again, very slowly as only Adam West can, then Robin would repeat it for us again and quickly shout out the answer and then punch his fist. Sometimes Robin would shout out the wrong answer and Batman would say something like "Good guess, old chum..." then tell him why he's wrong and then reveal the correct answer. Robin would be mad at himself so Batman would give him a pat on the shoulder and tell him it's okay to be wrong. Seriously. That honestly happened quite often.
"Riddle me this: when you bend over, who's sticking their hand up your ass?"
Before he became a grumpy, old man, Burgess Meredith was a grumpy, old bird! The Penguin never really struck many people as an interesting character for one solid reason...he isn't. Meredith sqwacked his way through several episodes and made The Penguin memorable, if not more interesting, with his infamous "Wak wak wak". He always committed crimes having to do with some kind of "bird"-related item, like a turd-shaped diamond or a diamond-shaped turd. His weapons of choice was famously his umbrella, often filled with bright pink knockout gas which he always seemed to get a chance to use at close range. Aside from simple theft and skullduggery, The Penguin was rarely much of a threat.
He's enjoying a nice dinner! Stop him!
Catwoman and Her Skintight Costume
Need we say more?
Many popular stars at the time wanted to be part of the show, which ended up in regular shots of Batman and Robin climbing the side of a building while someone like Sammy Davis Jr. pops out of a window and says "Wow, that's groovy" and Batman replies with something like "Yep, now get back inside for your own safety, citizen".
They're laughing because they know it's all just for pretend.
But the show was truly blessed by appearances by horror-meister Vincent Price, as the horribly not-thought-through character of "Egghead" (thought to be a take on a comic villain named Barney Barrows, some smarty-pants with a big head who only appeared once). John Astin, of The Addams Family fame, also took a turn as The Riddler in season 2.
Though the show only had 3 seasons (from 1966-1969), it's impact on pop culture is impossible to argue. The series made "camp" popular and annoying at the same time and created a whole new way for the world to view the Dark Knight. Unfortunately. Batman will possibly never recover from the mockery this series provided, from everything in the "Bat Cave" being labelled "Bat-Something" to the "Bat Shark Repellent" they kept, oddly enough, in the "Bat Helicopter"!
Didn't he ever make "Robin Repellent"?
Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin and many others involved with the show were huge stars and lived like kings for a year or two before nobody ever wanted to see them again. It would be decades before they would be fully appreciated for screwing over the Batman mythos and nobody has taken greater advantage than Adam West. He has enjoyed a resurgence as a pop culture phenomenon and regularly guest stars on several television series, including "Family Guy", where he plays himself and is the mayor of their home town.
The theme song is easily repeatable by any 1 year old and is the first tune that springs to mind when people think of our favorite vigilante.
The Batmobile has gone on to be one of the most famous cars in the world, often touring car shows and dork convention circuits. Based on a Lincoln Futura, the car famously cost the show only $1, bought direct from Ford Motor Company!
Sippin' on juice and juice!
"Batmania" died down as fast as it exploded into existence but the impact of the tv series rages onwards, it lingers, it just won't guano way!....hello? Is this thing on?