Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Batman (1966)

Batman aired January 12th 1966 on ABC and ran for three seasons until March 1968. It was well known for it's bright, campy atmosphere, slanted camera angles and cliffhanger endings.

Mike Henry as Tarzan

In the early 60s, Ed Graham Productions had the rights to produce a Batman TV series. They had originally planned a child friendly series much in the same vein as The Adventures of Superman (1951, starring George Reeves) and The Lone Ranger (1941, starring Clayton Moore). It was due to air on CBS on Saturday mornings. Former NFL player Mike Henry was lined up to play Bruce Wayne/Batman. He reportedly signed up for the role and posed for promotional material, but the project didn't come off.

In 1965, Yale Udoff contacted ABC Excecutives Harve Bennett and Edgar J. Scherick, who were wanting to get into the world of superheroes after their last hit TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. After the deal with CBS had stalled, DC got in contact with ABC and the project got off the ground. ABC farmed the rights to 20th Century Fox to make the TV series. 

Fox handed the project to William Dozier, who tried to make the then dark character of Batman work for TV series, but believed it wouldn't work for children, so he turned it into the neon, pop-art and campy TV series we see today. As ABC pushed the debut to January 1966, all systems were go. Adam West and Burt Ward were cast as the Dynamic Duo, Lorenzo Semple Jr was head script writer ready for the first episode "Hi Diddle Ridde/A Smack in the |Middle" Nelson Riddle created the now famous Batman TV series theme with Neal Hefti providing the incidental music.

The first season introduced the familiar format we saw up until the end of the series. The villain of the week would commit his caper, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara would contact Batman on their red phone. They'd spring into action and head for Gotham City Police Department, where they'd be fully informed as to what happened. They'd then conduct their investigation, which usually had a cookie trail of clues and a fist fight with the villain's henchmen (complete with onomatopeia like BIFF! OOF! ZAP!) and then the villain would escape, leading Batman on a chase. This would lead to the villain capturing the Dynamic Duo and putting them in a deathtrap and a cliff hanger into the next episode.

The Batman Movie (1966) was actually supposed to serve as the pilot for the series and a way of selling the series to international audiences, however, it was reduced to a filler movie between seasons 1 and 2. Season 2 was largely the same as Season 1, however it was season 3 when things started to fall to pieces for ABC. Ratings were dropping, so they introduced Yvonne Craig as Batwoman., Things moved to the surreal in the series, with sets becoming static pieces against a black stage curtain. They made more references to 1960s culture, with mods, hippies and slang being the new norm, something that the first two seasons failed to do.

During the Second Season, there was a now famous cross over with The Green Hornet, another Dozier made TV show. It featured Van Williams and Bruce Lee as The Green Hornet and Kato respectively, reprising their roles from the TV series, chasing after Colonel Gumm and his gang. The episode famously has the Dynamic Duo squaring off against The Green Hornet and Kato before the police arrive.

With the success of the TV series, DC comics relaunched Batman 66, this time as a comic series that not only retold TV episodes in the same campy art style, but with all new stories as well. It has introduced The Red Hood, Dr. Quinn and Killer Croc to the Batman 66 continuity. 

As well as these comics, Batman has been ingrained in pop culture. "Holy _ Batman" is now a catchphrase that is still being used. Batman: The Brave and the Bold had several references to the 66 series with numerous villains from the series appearing in it. Batman Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight had skins relating to the 60s series for Batman and the villains. Lego Batman 3 has references to the 60s series as well, including skins, characters and even a playable Adam West. As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, Adam West and Burt Ward will be reprising their roles, alongside Julie Newmar in 2 all new movies.

Finally, after years of rights flip flopping, we finally got The 1966 Batman Series, minus the movie released on DVD and Blu-Ray for the very first time. It has all 3 seasons. Released in 2014 for the US and 2015 for the UK. They released two versions, a standard release and a limited edition set that comes with art cards,a  deck of cards and a Hot Wheels Batmobile