Saturday, November 10, 2012

Classic TV: Batman (1966)

We've previously discussed this series over in Saturday Morning Archives, but because of its iconic status, Batman deserves a mention here, too.

Executive producer William Dozier was having struggles over at CBS with the Rod Serling-created Western, The Loner, which would be inevitably more indictitive of Dozier's overall output. He acquired a license to adapt Batman for television, but not quite as serious as the last comics series adapted for TV, Adventures of Superman, which had enjoyed a 6 year run in the 50's, and was thriving in syndication. Instead, Dozier opted for a campier, comical format, with diagonal camera angles, to go along with cliffhangers in the vein of the theatrical serials of the Golden Age.

Batman soon became appointment television in terms of casting. It seemed just about everyone wanted in on the Bat-action, and would over the course of its 2 years plus on the air. The last original episode rolled out in March of '68, in which Dozier and producer Howie Horwitz made cameos.

Adam West (ex-The Detectives) landed the "plum" role of Batman/Bruce Wayne, and struggled to avoid typecasting for years to come, but would later resurrect his career. These days, West is voicing an animated version of himself as the Mayor of Quahog on Family Guy, and did some ads for Hebrew National hot dogs earlier this year, one of which we showcased a while back. Burt Ward (Robin/Dick Grayson) was a relative unknown who didn't land too many other gigs after the series ended, and would reprise in a PSA for the Dept. of Labor in 1971 (see Saturday Morning Archives) and reunite with West for 2 projects near the end of the decade, both of which have been previously discussed.

In season 3, Batgirl was added to the mix after ABC opted against buying a spinoff series, perhaps discouraged by Dozier's failures with Green Hornet & The Tammy Grimes Show. Yvonne Craig was cast as the "Dominoed Dare-Doll", but the producers goofed by giving Batgirl a purple costume with a 2-tone (purple & yellow) cape. In the comics, it's been black, with a blue cape, much like Batman himself. Don't ask me why, 'cause I have no clue about the messed up colors. The writers tried to tease a relationship between Bruce Wayne and Batgirl's alter ego, Barbara Gordon, but, as it turned out in the comics, Babs might've been more interested in pursuing Dick Grayson instead, but Dick would make the first forward moves himself a decade later.

Following is a sample clip from season 3, which illustrates how far they went with the campy silliness. Here, the Joker (Cesar Romero) has lost to Batman in a surfing contest, and an undercover Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) finds a missing surfer......

Yvonne Craig would don her Batsuit one final time in the aforementioned 1971 PSA, and more than 40 years later, she still makes Alicia Silverstone's version in 1997's "Batman & Robin" look like chump change. Unfortunately, Kim Kardashian didn't know the difference, as she wore a 1997 model costume (the Silverstone version) for a recent Halloween party. The less said about that, the beter....

With Christopher Nolan's Bat-trilogy having concluded, maybe the next Bat-movie series will bring Batgirl back into the mix. We'll have to wait & see........

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I enjoy watching this show, if only for the campiness - and that's all this show was wasn't it?

I first saw it when I was little and I didn't realize how campy it truly was until it turned up in syndication again years later. Then I really got the joke.

Re: Batgirl's costume colors: I think it may have had to do with how it appeared on screen. Dorothy's silver slippers were turned into ruby ones because the silver ones didn't show up well on color film. Perhaps the color change was to make Batgirl come alive more on old style color TVs.

Besides a Batgirl film, I wouldn't mind seeing a Nightwing film (or series). I think it's time for other members of the Bat Family to have a shot.

hobbyfan said...

Way past, y'think?

Considering that WB fumbled on a Catwoman solo film 8 years ago, I think the corporate mindset might be that any movie related to the Batfranchise has to have Da Bat himself be in it in some form in order for it to work.

Remember, Birds of Prey bombed nearly a decade ago because they could only mention Batman in passing and couldn't fit him in somehow, among other things.