Holy AARP, Batman!
Full disclosure: I did not see the first run of the hugely popular television series Batman, when it premiered on January 12, 1966. Heck, I wasn’t even a Bat smile in my dad’s eye yet! But I was fortunate enough to catch it on its second (or third) syndication run in the mid-70’s. I also saw documentaries about “Batmania” sweeping across America. So, as the elder member of this tribe we call “DC Comics News,” it is my utmost pleasure to present to you our salute to the television series Batman.
Initially, when Batman was optioned as a series, it was planned as a serious adventure show for children in the vein of The Lone Ranger and The Adventures of Superman. And it was to premiere on CBS as a Saturday morning show with actor and former American football star Mike Henry. Negotiations fell through at the network. Talks picked up at ABC, who in turn passed production duties on to 20th Century Fox. FOX handed the project to producer William Dozier, and it was created under his Greenway Productions. Dozier, who never read a comic book, decided he wanted to produce a superhero show for primetime viewing. And it would have a mix of childlike fancy and adult humor, so that it would appeal to both audiences.
Lyle Waggoner (who would later be cast as Steve Trevor on the television series Wonder Woman opposite Lynda Carter) and Peter Deyell recorded a screen test as Batman and Robin respectively. Another set of actors also filmed a screen test, Adam West (who had smaller roles in movies and television shows like The Rifleman and The Outer Limits), and unknown named Bert John Gervis, Jr (a college student and part-time realtor). Dozier liked the chemistry between West and Gervis. He persuaded Gervis to pick a stage name, so he went with “Ward,” which was interesting because he would actually be playing Dick Grayson, youthful ward of billionaire Bruce Wayne.
Batman became an instant phenomena! The series helped to resurrect sales of its comic book counterpart. And West and Ward were superstars. They had mobs attacking them like they were the Beatles! Trying to capitalize on the success, FOX released a feature film based on the television series the following summer. While it didn’t perform very well in theaters, it did help to produce the Batboat and Batcopter, which would later be used in seasons two and three.
Even with “special guest villains” and fantastic feats of daring do each week, ratings started to drop during the second season. “The Dynamic Duo” would become “The Terrific Trio” in the third season with the inclusion of the beautiful Yvonne Craig as Batgirl. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save the show. “Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires” was the last episode to air on March 14, 1968.
Batman can still be seen on television. In the US Me-TV airs Batman on Saturday nights during is Sci-Fi Saturday block with classic series Wonder Woman and The Adventures of Superman, while IFC currently airs it on Saturday mornings. And in Canada you can watch the Caped Crusader the Teletoon Retro network.
Due to a lengthly litigation between DC Comics and FOX, DVD and Blu Ray recordings of the Batman were legally unavailable for years. Then in 2014, the companies settled their differences and finally made it possible for Fanboys and Fangirls to stop buying those horrid copies from retailers at conventions and buy the real deal! You can also purchase episodes and/or seasons on iTunes and Amazon. There’s even a recent comic book dedicated to the iconic Adam West and Burt Ward versions of the Dynamic Duo called Batman ’66.
So, today we say Happy Birthday to the classic television series Batman! And we hope someone will be reporting on your longevity in 50 more years this “Same Bat Time”!