With The Dark Knight Rises hitting the cinemas this Friday, we all know the history of the Batman at the cinema. But what about the small screen, where it all started for the Caped Crusader?
Come with us on a walk down memory lane, as we take a look at the very first time Bruce Wayne jumped out of the comic books and on to our TV screens.
While Batman had been used simply as a piece of propaganda on movie screens in the 1940s, TV executives in America planned to turn what would become one of the darkest heroes in all of the comic book world into a Saturday morning kids TV show for network CBS. This all changed though when rival ABC exec Yale Udoff saw the reaction that the old World War 2 films were getting from the viewers at Chicago’s Playboy Club.
He quickly got DC Comics to buy back the rights and got ABC to commission a primetime Batman TV show for all the family in the style of the incredibly cool The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Unfortunately, that’s not how it turned out.
Despite the Batman comics having recently gone back to its darker, detective routes, William Dozier at Greenway Productions (the company employed to make the show) hated comic books. In his eyes, the only way to make the show was to camp it up, pile on the slapstick and make it a flat-out comedy. Little known actor Adam West was given the eponymous role, with Burt Ward handed the part of Robin, his boy-wonder sidekick. And history was about to be made.
Dozier had wanted campy, and campy was what he got. Retina-searingly bright colours, larger than life villains with absolutely hair brained and ridiculous schemes for the end of Gotham and massive comic book annotations over the fight scenes were just hallmarks of a show that defined a generation’s take on Batman.
Twice a week the increasingly silly and ridiculous adventures of the dynamic duo (which always ended with one or both of them in mortal peril) were watched and loved by millions, with celebrities clamouring for a cameo appearance on the show. The popularity waned though, and after only three series, the show was cancelled.
Despite only lasting for a couple of years, the TV show has lived far longer than anyone could have ever believed as re-runs of the show have been on the air both in America and across the world pretty much to this day.
The show would also have a both remarkable and terrible effect its two stars though. Both West and Ward couldn’t escape the shadow of Batman, with West in particular hamstrung by the garish TV detective role that made him a star. While endearing him to this day to a legion of comic book fans, and eventually landing him a recurring role on the successful comedy show Family Guy.
Even West’s recent acquisition of a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame was down to him Batman days, with friend and Batman-crazy DJ Ralf Garman pushing for West’s inclusion.
While nostalgia is a mighty thing, it really can’t help the Batman TV show. It’s stupid, gaudy, utterly cheesy and complete and utter genius. While the hilarity may not have been the type the program’s makers may have ideally wanted, the show is now absolutely hilarious.
Filled with insane dialogue, hammy acting and some truly un-spectacular special effects, the show is a technical mess but a comedic triumph.
In its 120 episode run, there are countless amazing moments in the show, with Batman’s battle against sinking into a giant cake, Robin’s constant “Holy…… Batman!” exclamations and the Dark Knight’s amazing dancing being personal highlights.
While unrecognisable from the dark, noir influenced world of Christopher Nolan amazing films, the 1960s Batman TV show will hold a special place in the heart of any self-confessed Batman fan.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith