Batman


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

Batman was created by Bob Kane in 1939 as a comic book hero. 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. Initially, the show aired twice a week. On Wednesdays, Batman and his sidekick Robin would confront one of their archenemies and would end the episode in horrible danger, only to save themselves at the beginning of the next episode on Thursdays. 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 (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 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).

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. ABC aired Batman on prime-time from 12 January 1966, to 14 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 (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.

In September 1968 CBS produced an animated version of Batman in which the super Duo shared one hour with Superman (in separated segments). Even though the program introduced a less camp version of Batman and Robin, possibly in response to fan criticisms to the prime-time serial, the program lasted only two seasons. Between February and September 1977 CBS broadcast an animated version of hero with the voices of Adam West and Burt Ward. In September of that year, CBS changed the New Adventures of Batman to The Batman/Tarzan Hour in which Batman and Tarzan shared one hour back to back, in separated segments.

In the fall of 1992 FOX television released a new animated series capitalizing on publicity for the movie, Batman Returns. This new series followed the stylistic changes in the comic book hero. The FOX series earned critical and popular acclaim for its high-quality graphics and action-packed storylines. Interestingly, as in the two Batman movies released in the 1990s, this new animated series erased Robin from the scene, possibly responding to criticisms of the homoerotic subtext between the two heroes. Originally shown every afternoon, the FOX series moved to the Saturday morning FOX line-up in the spring of 1994. At the same time the series also brought Robin back, possibly responding to the word that a new Batman, film to be released in 1995, would again include Robin in its plot.

-Antonio LaPastina

CAST

Bruce Wayne (Batman}............................. Adam West  

Dick Grayson (Robin).................................. Burt Ward  

Alfred Pennyworth..................................... Alan Napier  

Aunt Harriet Cooper................................ Madge Blake  

Police Commissioner Gordon.................. Neil Hamilton  

Chief O'Hara.......................................... Stafford Repp

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) (1967-1968)........ Yvonne Craig

PRODUCERS

William Dozier, Howie Horwitz

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

120 Episodes

ABC

January 1966-August 1967   Wednesday & Thursday 7:30-8:00

September 1967-March 1968   Thursday 7:30-8:00

FURTHER READING

Grossman, G. Saturday Morning TV. New York: Arlington House, 1987.

Pearson, R. and W. Uricchio, Editors. The Many Lives Of Batman: Critical Approaches To A Superhero And His Media. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Reynolds, R. Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology. London: Batsford, 1992.

Who talked about this show

George Barris

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Custom car designer George Barris on his work on Batman (including the Batmobile)

Robert Butler

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Robert Butler on directing the pilot and a few other Batman episodes
Robert Butler on Bill Dozier setting the tone of Batman and working with Adam West
Robert Butler on some of the fun and crazy elements on Batman; on the "dynamic duo"
Robert Butler on the guest stars on Batman
Robert Butler on the fight scenes and comic book elements on Batman
Robert Butler on the two episode structure and cliffhangers often used on Batman
Robert Butler on lighting challenges on Batman
Robert Butler on the camp nature of Batman
Robert Butler on the titles of Batman episodes and working with Frank Gorshin ("The Riddler") on Batman
Robert Butler on episodes 3 and 4 of Batman featuring Burgess Meredith as "The Penguin"

Douglas S. Cramer

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Douglas S. Cramer on developing Batman
Douglas S. Cramer on the look of Batman

Robert Dickinson

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Robert Dickinson on being in awe watching episodes of Batman being filmed

David Gerber

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David Gerber on approving Batman as head of 20th Century Fox Television 

Melissa Gilbert

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Melissa Gilbert on doing the voice for "Batgirl" on the animated Batman series

Leonard H. Goldenson

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Batman

Eartha Kitt

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Eartha Kitt on driving the "Catmobile" on Batman
Eartha Kitt on being cast as "Catwoman" on Batman
Eartha Kitt on playing "Catwoman" on Batman

Gene LeBell

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Gene LeBell on his stunt work on the television and film versions of Batman
Gene LeBell on working with guest stars like Frank Gorshin ("The Riddler") on Batman

Leslie H. Martinson

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Leslie H. Martinson on directing Batman
Leslie H. Martinson on directing Batman
Leslie H. Martinson on working with Adam West and Burt Ward on Batman

Thomas W. Moore

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Thomas W. Moore on programming and developing Batman, and on the limited shelf life of shows that are instant hits

Stanley Ralph Ross

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Stanley Ralph Ross on the catchphrases of Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on being hired to write for the comedy series Mister Roberts, and later for Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on becoming in-demand as a writer after being hired to write for Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on writing the Batman episode "The Lady and the Tiger," which introduced "Catwoman"
Stanley Ralph Ross on having trouble with ABC Standards & Practices over a Batman script involving "Catwoman," then played by Eartha Kitt
Stanley Ralph Ross on the campy tone of Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on the producers of Batman, including Bill Dozier
Stanley Ralph Ross on Adam West as "Batman" and Burt Ward as "Robin" on Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on the guest villains on Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on the regular supporting cast of Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on the process of creating an episode of Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on writing the "Catwoman" episodes of Batman, and on Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt as "Catwoman"
Stanley Ralph Ross on multiple actors playing the same villain on Batman, and on Frank Sinatra wanting to play "The Joker"
Stanley Ralph Ross on various characters he created for Batman, including "The Siren," played by Joan Collins
Stanley Ralph Ross on the directors of Batman
Stanley Ralph Ross on being on the set of Batman, and on the scheduling of the show
Stanley Ralph Ross on Batman going from airing twice a week to once a week
Stanley Ralph Ross on the Batman episode "Come Back, Shame"
Stanley Ralph Ross on the popularity of Batman

Thomas Del Ruth

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Thomas Del Ruth on working as assistant cameraman on Batman  

William Self

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William Self on developing Batman

Lorenzo Semple, Jr.

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Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on how he came to write for Batman and make it a comedy
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the comedy of Batman and ABC's reaction to it
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the concept behind Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on writing the comedy in Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on creating the iconography of Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on writing the Batman scripts
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on Batman director Robert Butler
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the twice a week "cliffhanger" format of the Batman episodes
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on writing Batman from Spain
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on attracting guest stars to perform in Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on his complete absence from the Batman set and critical and audience reaction
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on Adam West as "Batman" in Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on Burt Ward as "Robin" in Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on Burgess Meredith as "The Penguin" on Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on Batman going "over the top"
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the Batmobile on Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the "Bat Rules" for writers of Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the writing process for Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the villains of Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on cultural phenomenon of the Batman series
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the Batman phenomenon burning out and the "Batman" movie
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on the merchandising and declining ratings of Batman
Lorenzo Semple, Jr. on why Batman has lasted

Adam West

View Interview
Adam West on working with the cast and guest actors on Batman
Adam West on his final thoughts on Batman
Adam West on being cast in the title role on Batman
Adam West on starring in Batman
Adam West on how the quick change on the "batpoles" were filmed on Batman

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