Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy Belated 50th Anniversary To Batman!

Happy Belated Anniversary to the Batman TV show, which premiered FIFTY YEARS ago on January 12, 1966. Fifty years! Can you believe it? 

I can vividly recall watching the show as a kid. Twice a week I'd park myself in front of the TV and all activity in the house had to cease while the show was on. Add to that The Munsters and Lost In Space, and it was an amazing time to be a kid in the 1960s!

As a kid I loved the comic book action of Batman— especially the BIFF! and POW! captions that would fill the screen when Batman and Robin would fight the villain of the week. The colorful villains, the pop art design, the various bat-gadgets and the catchy theme song were awesome as well.

Happily adults can also enjoy the show's campiness and the deadly seriousness the actors bring to their roles. I don't know if the producers intentionally planned it that way, but if they did, kudos to them.

Adam West gave us the ultimate Batman-- he played the role perfectly straight, even when he was being dangled over an alligator pit. Burt Ward was also great, as he brought a youthful earnestness to Robin. In fact the entire cast was pitch perfect-- I can't think of any other actorsvwho could play the roles. 

One thing the actors all did right— they played their parts completely deadpan. No matter how outrageous the plots were, they delivered their lines with the utmost seriousness. I think that's why the show's lasted so long— if the cast had been winking at the audience the entire time, it would have been insufferable.

A few Bat-Facts:

 Even though the series only ran for three seasons, it gave us a whopping 120 episodes! Man, actors really earned their pay back in the 1960s!

• Batman was originally intended as a one hour show, but ABC only had two half hour time slots available— on different nights! So the show was split in half, airing twice a week in half hour installments. 

The first episode of the week ended in a cliffhanger, which was resolved the next night. I think that probably helped the popularity of the show— kids watching at home HAD to tune in to see how Batman would get out of the Joker's latest trap!

 Lyle Waggoner was originally considered for the part of Batman.

 Five different Batmobiles were created for the series. The Batmobile was a highly customized 1955 Lincoln Futura. It was built by famed film car customizer George Barris. 

 Today Batman is one of DC Comics' most popular characters, but it wasn't always so. Believe it or not, in the early 1960s the comic was on the verge of cancellation, due to poor sales. The massive success of the TV series renewed interest in the comic.

 Burt Ward earned a meager $350 a week during the first season! 

 Burgess Meredith, who played the Penguin, was always seen with a cigarette holder in his mouth. He claimed the smoke irritated his throat, which is why he always uttered his trademark "Quack, quack, quack" to mask his coughing fits.

 Bruce Wayne's faithful butler Alfred was a character in the comic, but had been killed off a year or so before the show began. When the show began using him, the comic followed suit and resurrected him.

 Many fans believe the Aunt Harriet character was added to the show to prevent viewers from thinking Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were gay. According to the producers that's an urban legend.

Even if it was true, why would the presence of an addled old maiden aunt scramble anyone's gaydar?

 Supposedly Robin says his catchphrase "Holy (insert word here), Batman!" 352 times over the course of the series.

 When actor Caesar Romero was cast as the Joker, the producers told him he'd have to shave his mustache. Romero was famous for playing Latin lovers in the movies, and refused to shave his trademark. So the makeup man simply slathered white greasepaint over his mustache, as well as the rest of his face.

In the 1960s viewers never noticed this, because everyone was watching TV sets with about 250 scan lines of resolution. With the advent of HDTV, Romero's poorly hidden mustache is quite obvious.

 The various villain's hideouts were always filmed at a "dutch angle" to subliminally suggest they were "crooked."

 There were supposedly eighty four different sound effect words (such as POW!) used in the fight scenes over the course of the series.

 William Dozier, the producer of the series, was also the narrator.

 There was never an origin episode of Batman; the series begins with the Caped Crusaders as already established crime fighters. I'm guessing this was because the show was for kids, and the producers didn't want to deal with the young Bruce Wayne seeing his parents murdered in cold blood before his very eyes, or with Robin's acrobat parents falling to their deaths from a trapeze.

Bruce Wayne has a brief line in the very first episode referencing his parents' death, but it's never mentioned again.

 Two Face was one of Batman's major foes from the comics, and was briefly considered for the show. The producers ultimately decided his appearance would be too gruesome for a kid's series.

 Batman was actually quite a forward thinking show. In the third season, Julie Newmar, who played Catwoman, was filming a movie and was unavailable. The producers recast the part with actress/singer Ertha Kitt. She was one of the very few black actresses on TV at the time (Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols being the other). She broke additional racial boundaries by actually flirting with Batman!

 After ABC canceled the series in 1969, the producers hoped another network might pick it up. They eventually realized that wasn't going to happen, and bulldozed the set. Two weeks later, NBC offered to pick up the series! When they heard the sets had been dismantled, they were unwilling to splurge to have them rebuilt, and the deal was off. 

 Amazingly after five decades people are still referencing the series (despite the fact that some have probably never even seen it!). "Holy Blank, Batman!" and "Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel" are still being quoted to this day!

 Despite the popularity of the series, it was never released on home video until 2014. Various rights issues and legal entanglements were the culprit. It's now finally available on DVD and glorious blu ray, and no doubt looks even better than it did in 1966.

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