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Batman: The Television Phenomenon of the 1960s

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Batman was a campy spinoff of the classic DC Comics caped crusader aired on television from 1966 to 1968. Adam West portrayed the caped crusader, with Burt Ward performing his adopted son and crime-fighting sidekick Robin. The TV show, like the original, followed Batman and Robin as they battled crime and a variety of intriguing villains in Gotham City, a thinly veiled euphemism for New York City. The TV show, unlike the original, depicted the Dynamic Duo as a genuinely virtuous, law-abiding team who never did anything even remotely illegal. They also made sure to fasten their seatbelts before getting into the Batmobile (for this seemingly minor act, the show was honored by the U.S. National Safety Council for promoting something that most Americans didn't do in 1966) (“Batman”, n.d.).

One of the more interesting aspects of the show in my opinion was the cast of villains. Each week on the show a villain was featured with another diabolical plot to destroy or take over Gotham City and Batman and Robin were always put in some sort of danger which they had to figure out how to escape to save Gotham City. This led to another aspect of the show which always intrigued me, at the end of each episode, much like the old movie serials shown before feature films in movie theaters, there was the “cliff-hanger”. This was the “hook” that got you to tune in to the next show to see what happened. The show even had a campy way to let you know to tune in to the next episode that went “Tune in tomorrow, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel” (Batman). The thing which made the villains one of my favorite parts of the show, aside from their varied personalities and proclivities, was the actors which the show got to portray the villains. Actors from classically-trained to contemporary movie and television favorites stood in to play the baddies of Gotham. Per the website www.classic-tv.com “The Batman TV show managed to draw some pretty big names of that time as guest stars. Some of them included Milton Berle ("Texaco Star Theater"), Art Carney ("The Honeymooners"), Zsa Zsa Gabor ("Green Acres"), Carolyn Jones ("The Addams Family"), and Bruce Lee ("The Green Hornet")” (Actuary, 2013). A partial list of the more notable actors who played villains during the show’s two-year-run were, Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), Cesar Romero (The Joker), Vincent Price (Egghead), Otto Preminger (Mr. Freeze), Julie Newmar (Catwoman), Joan Collins (The Siren), Carolyn Jones (The Queen of Diamonds) and even famous (and flamboyant) pianist Liberace (Chandell) (Actuary, 2013).

Another aspect of “Batman” that was always interesting was the array of “Bat” devices that were available to Batman and Robin. This was one of the campier parts of the show because the “Bat” devices were always suited to the situation or the danger that the Dynamic Duo found themselves in. They often used such things as the “Bat” rope to scale buildings (when an elevator just would not do), the “Bat-a-rang” to secure their “Bat” ropes, the “Bat” computer, a device that could answer any question, the “Bat” car phone which they used to communicate with Commissioner Gordon and, of course, the campiest device of all, the “Bat” Shark Repellant (The Geek Twins, 2014).

A couple of final comments I believe are appropriate to close out this discussion. First, and most importantly, I do not believe that the producers of this show ever meant it to be any more than a show for kids to watch with their parents which taught wholesome values and taught kids that crime does not pay. Although the show has achieved cult status among 60’s TV shows, and some very strange theories have been put forth as to the sexual orientation of some of the main characters, it is still a great piece of escapist-genre TV from a more innocent time in our society.

References

Actuary, G.W. (2013). “A Villain Summary.” Tv.com website. Retrieved from http://www.tv.com/shows/batman-adam-west/reviews/

Batman. Classic TV website. Retrieved from http://www.classic-tv.com/shows/batman

The Geek Twins. (2014). 8 60’s Batman Gadgets That are Now Real [List]. Retrieved from http://www.thegeektwins.com/2014/07/8-60s-batman-gadgets-that-are-now-real.html

December 15, 2021
Subject area:

BatmanNew York City

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3

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677

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