On January 12, 1966, Batman got his first TV series. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the titular caped crusaders, this show became well known for its campy storytelling. For many years it never got a proper home video release (that changed about 2 years ag0), but it was syndicated for quite a long time, which was how I got into it as a child. Thanks to this show and Hanna-Barbera’s Superfriends, I became a big fan of Batman. This year marks the 50th anniversary. I decided to make a countdown of why this show is still great so many years later.
10) Adam West saved Batman. Batman’s comics were on the verge of being cancelled before the show began. Yet, when the show became a hit, DC realized their mistake. Julius Schwartz, who was head of DC at the time, insisted that the comics take on a tone similar to the show.
9)They actually made their own villains. Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and even Mr. Freeze were regular villains. But they took things a step further and even made up villains of their own, including Egghead, played by Vincent Price and pictured above.
8) The Batmobile. Just look at that car! It still looks awesome!
7) Batgirl. Although Batgirl did exist before the show, she wasn’t like we know her today. The show influenced the comic to make her Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, and I like her this way.
6) Adam West voiced in Batman the Animated Series. As a way of passing the torch to Kevin Conroy, Adam West appeared in the episode “Beware the Gray Ghost” as an aging actor who is disparaging his role as the Gray Ghost, a TV superhero who influenced Batman. It’s one of the best episodes of the show.
5) That time Bruce Lee guest starred. The Green Hornet, based on the radio series of the same name, followed Batman and had a similar feel. Bruce Lee himself actually co-starred as the Green Hornet’s chauffer and sidekick, Kato. In one episode of Batman, we had TV’s first crossover as Batman, Robin, the Green Hornet, and Kato all joined forces!
4) Three words: Exploding Shark Repellent.
3) The cameos and guest stars. Many of the guest stars were big-time famous names at one time, and the show kept them relevant. It’s because of his portrayal of The Penguin that Burgess Meredith is one of my favorite actors.
2) The movie sequel. After the show ended, they brought it to the big screen. They weren’t content to have just one villain, they had four–Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin all joined forces to take down Batman, and it wasn’t nearly as messy as it was in later movies.
- Batman was actually fun! I see nothing wrong with the brooding Batman we’ve seen ever since Frank Miller’s “Year One” story arc. But it’s almost the default mode, and I keep thinking DC has forgotten that Batman can be fun too. The last time Batman was fun was in Cartoon Network’s Batman: the Brave and the Bold, and it was great too. I hear it had a cult following, which proves my point.
I am so glad the show is on DVD now. It deserves to be enjoyed by future generations.