Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bat Beginnings: The First Season

by Joel Eisner

On Wednesday January 12, 1966, the world of television was changed forever. On that night at 7:30 P.M. (EST) Batman made his prime time debut. The series was unlike anything else that had ever appeared on prime time television. It was to create one of the biggest “fads” this country would ever know and till this very day the country still wonders, “Why?” Many people wonder why a series based on a comic book could have become such an overnight success, while previous attempts at comic book based shows such as Superman and Dick Tracy never did. The answer to this question is an easy one.. On the surface, the Batman series, unlike previous efforts, was constructed so that it appealed to the television audience on two levels. It appealed to the youth of America in that it was a living comic book. It had the action and adventure that the kids just loved. At the same time, it also appealed to the adult audience with its camp humor and well-known celebrities. This was a rare program that parents and children could watch together and enjoy simultaneously. 


The character of Batman was created by Bob Kane and made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, in 1939. Despite his popularity, he did not make his first film appearance until 1943, when Columbia Pictures turned the Caped Crusader into a movie serial entitled, simply, The Batman. It starred two relative unknown actors named Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft as Batman and Robin. Any resemblance between the characters as they appeared in the comic books and as they were portrayed in the movie serial was purely coincidental. The only other character besides the Dynamic Duo that made the transition to the serial was Alfred the butler (played by William Austin). For some unexplained reason, Bruce Wayne was also given a girlfriend named Linda. The only saving grace in the serial was the villainous Dr. Daka, played by the wonderful character actor J. Carroll Nash.

Five years later, Columbia decided to take another chance on Batman by releasing another serial, entitled Batman & Robin. Columbia replaced the former Dynamic Duo with actors Robert Lowery and John Duncan, Alfred was also back but portrayed by Eric Wilson.. Lyle Talbot (who would later return as Lex Luthor, Columbia’s Superman vs. Atom-Man serial) showed up as Commissioner Gordon. Bruce Wayne was given another girlfriend, Vicki Vale., who later appeared in the comics. The duo fought a villain called the Wizard, but once again the serial left much to be desired. It was not until 1966, when the Batman” TV series was created, that the comic book hero was transferred successfully to film. The popularity of the “Batman” TV series laid the foundation for other TV manifestations of Batman and his cohorts.

During the late 1960s, an animated version of “Batman” (with Olan Soule and Casey Kasem providing the voices of the Caped Crusaders) turned up on Saturday morning television. These cartoons were very successful and ran for several years. Then, in 1977, another animated version of “Batman” was done, and this time the cartoons used the voices of Adam West and Burt Ward, reprising their Batman and Robin roles. A couple of years later, two live-action specials were made in the hope of reviving the “Batman” series. West and Ward returned along with Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, but they were only a small part of the shows which also included several other heroes and villains. The specials were cheaply done on videotape, and it showed. Adam West has since gone on to play the voice of Batman in the “Super Friends” cartoon series. But, regardless of how many more versions turn up in the years to come, the original television series is and always will be the best version. The fact is borne out not only by fans’ continuing interest in the now-defunct show, but also by the enthusiasm with which cast and production staff members recall their “Batman” experiences. What follows are several “Bat” insiders giving us a closer look at how the series evolved.

William Dozier, who became executive producer of the show, started his career as a literary agent before becoming the head of the writing and story department at Paramount Studios. Six years later, Dozier moved over to RKO where he became the executive assistant to Charles Koerner, then head of production. In 1951, he joined CBS as their executive producer of dramatic programs and was later promoted to the position of vice president in charge of Hollywood programming. In 1959, Dozier moved to Columbia Pictures as the vice president in charge of their television division, Screen Gems. In 1964, he left Screen Gems to form his own production company, Greenway Productions. Dozier relates how he got involved in the birth of “Batman.” “I had never read a Batman comic book; I had never read any comic book. When I was growing up, I read David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and the things you are supposed to read. Edgar Sherick, then head of programming for ABC and his assistant Doug Cramer were stationed in New York. A fellow named Harve Bennett, who later produced the Star Trek movies, was their top man out here in Los Angeles, but he didn’t have much authority. All of the decisions were made in New York at ABC. Cramer called and asked me if I would be interested in producing ‘Batman,’ saying they had acquired the rights. I said, ‘Well, let me think about it,’ which is a sophist’s way of saying, ‘I don’t know anything about it, but I will find out.’" “How they happened to acquire the rights is very interesting. They were naturally looking for ways to strengthen their programming. So, a guy in the lower echelon in the programming department, whose name I did know at the time but have long since forgotten [Mr. Benvegna], was not one of the two or three top guys (he was down the ladder), but he suggested that they look into the area of comic books as possible source material for seven-thirty programming, which was then prime time. They had a research outfit question people in supermarkets, churches, schools, and so on, about which shows they would rather see on television. They had Superman, Dick Tracy, Batman, Green Hornet, and Little Orphan Annie. Superman was the number one choice; Dick Tracy was the number two choice, Batman three, Green Hornet four, and Little Orphan Annie five. They couldn’t get the rights to Superman, not because of the old George Reeves series, because their rights had long since evaporated, but because there was a Broadway show called It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, and that is what stopped them. They couldn’t get Dick Tracy, because Chester Gould was in some kind of peripheral negotiations with NBC, which never came to anything. (As a matter of fact, later, after ‘Batman’ went on, everybody wanted to do the same kind of show. I made a deal with Chester Gould to do the pilot for ‘Dick Tracy.’ I didn’t think it was very good. I had very little stomach for trying to copy ‘Batman.’ I did try not to copy it, but I tried to duplicate it with ‘Green Hornet.’ How are you going to be serious about a guy who runs a newspaper in the daytime and goes out at night and hunts criminals? How can you be funny with it? It just fell in the middle. It was neither serious nor funny.” “Anyway, I told them, ‘I am coming to New York next week. I will talk to you about it then.’ I had never worked with Cramer, but we knew each other. I went to New York, and after the meeting I scurried around and bought maybe seven or eight different vintage copies of the Batman comic books. I got on a plane coming back, and I was sitting there in an aisle seat, with these things in my lap, as I didn’t have time to read them in New York. I remember Bud Barry, who was the head of television for Young and Rubicam, the ad agency at the time, came up the aisle, looked over my shoulder, saw me reading these comics, and said, ‘I guess those scripts do get a little dull after a while.’ Now, I couldn’t tell him why a full- grown man was sitting there with a lap full of Batman comic books, because it was a big secret. I felt a little bit like an idiot. Then I digested all of those books. At first, I thought they were crazy. I really thought they were crazy, if they were going to try to put this on television. Then I had just the simple idea of overdoing it, of making it so square and so serious that adults would find it amusing. I knew kids would go for the derring-do, the adventure, but the trick would be to find adults who would either watch it with their kids or, to hell with the kids, and watch it anyway. “I called Cramer and told him, ‘I will be back in New York next week. I will come and talk to you about it.’ So, he had the whole ABC organization lined up in a room around this huge table. Leonard Goldenson, Tom Moore, who was head of the television operations at that time, Sherrick, two or three other people, and I tell them the story of Batman, whose mother and father were killed by dastardly criminals, and he took an oath for the rest of his life that he would avenge their deaths. They looked at me, and they thought I was a little crazy. I said, ‘That, gentlemen, is his motivation, and he dedicates his life to fighting crime.’ Then I explained how we were going to do it—that we were going to have ‘ZAP’ and ‘POW’ And I remember Leonard Goldenson said, ‘We are going to have, right on the screen, “ZAP” and “POW”?’ I said, ‘Yeah, and a lot more, Leonard.’ ‘Oh, my,’ he said. I made a deal with them, and they said, ‘OK, you go ahead and do whatever you want to do.’ So, I got Lorenzo Semple, whom I knew well (and I knew that he had a short-circuited mind). He was in Spain, working on something else. So, I flew to Madrid, and he drove up to meet me, and we sat in the garden of the Ritz Hotel, where I was staying. While drinking three bottles of Spanish wine, and having lunch, we hatched out the whole plot for the pilot film. Then he wrote it, and I produced it and cast it. I had no problem from ABC about any of the casting; they didn’t question anything. “When we had the pilot film finished, we took it to the preview theater outfit, where people sit with little dials, which they turn one way when they are enjoying it and the other way when they are not enjoying it. A guy named Pierre Marquis ran that thing, and I think he still does. I used to call it ‘Pierre Marquis and His Puppets,’ because it seemed stupid to me. By the time people see something and react to it, they have forgotten, and they turn it later, so the registration comes up about nine beats too late. But they never bothered to figure that out. “They had the lowest rating that night of anything they had ever tested at the preview theater! Fortunately, it was no longer a pilot test, because ABC was so desperate for something to put on at seven-thirty to try to capture the audience early (which is the trick of television), that on the basis of the little bit of footage they had seen earlier, they already ordered it up,’ as they used to say. They ordered thirteen episodes. I remember that Sherrick and Cramer were out here that night we tested that thing, and we went to the Beachcomber for dinner afterward, and it was a funeral procession. Because it was their money, they all figured (except me, I did not think so (we had the biggest disaster in the world on our hands, and we had already bought it. I remember driving home that night, and I said to my wife, Ann Rutherford, who used to be an actress, You know, if that goddamn machine is right and I am wrong about this, I am going to get out of the business. There is no place for me if I can be that wrong.’ Well, the rest is history.” Charles FitzSimons, who served as assistant to the executive producer also remembers the ironically dismal preview ratings: “When they tested the pilot at the preview theater, it got a rating of fifty-two. The passing grade was sixty-two. The network executives panicked. They had bought an entire run of episodes, and this was going to be the biggest bomb in history. So, they decided to see if there was anything they could do to salvage it. They came to us and asked if we would put a laugh track on the film. We said OK, provided we could take it back to the theater for another test. They said OK, and we put  the laugh track on the film and took it to the theater. It got the same rating of fifty- two that it got without the laugh track. They then asked us to put an introduction on the beginning of the show, informing the audience that this was a comedy and that the audience should hiss the villains and cheer for the heroes. They thought the audience didn’t know what they were watching. We tried it, and again it didn’t work. So, finally they left it alone, and when it finally aired it was a big success.” 

What did make “Batman” such a big success? There is no doubt that the show struck audiences as funny, but it certainly wasn’t a standard sitcom. As William Dozier mentioned earlier, the humor in the series came from overdoing it in such a fashion that it was so straight that it had to be funny. Dozier elaborates: “I found out t, a year later, that the network hadn’t wanted a so-called broad comedic approach to the show. They had sense enough to know that you can’t make it tumble-down slapstick, and I had a background of dramatic shows. I had been an executive producer of dramatic shows in New York for CBS and for CBS in Los Angeles, and was involved with ‘Playhouse 90,’ ‘Climax,’ and this was my whole background, never comedy. But that is what they wanted, so obviously it worked.”


The producers of “Batman” obviously had hit on the right formula for comedic success with the series, but they couldn’t have carried it off without the right actors. Producer Dozier recalls how the casting for the show was handled: “My first choice for Batman was Ty Hardin, but he was shooting spaghetti westerns in Italy, so was unavailable. His agent came in to tell me that Ty couldn’t try out, and then he showed me an eight-by-ten. He said, ‘What do you think of this guy?’ So this was a guy with a surfboard walking on the beach, who looked good. He had been in three or four episodes of ‘Robert Taylor and the Detectives,’ which I had never seen. So, I had never seen him. I said, ‘Well, he looks good. Have him come in. If he understands what we are trying to do, we will make a test of him.’ So, he came in, and I had a long talk with him. He’s very bright, Adam, and when I explained to him that it had to be played as though we were dropping a bomb on Hiroshima, with that kind of deadly seriousness—that he wasn’t going to be Cary Grant, full of charm, but just had to play a very square, hard-nosed guy—and I said, ‘Hopefully, it is going to be funny.’ He got it right away and understood what we were trying to sell. “We made a test of him and Lyle Waggoner. The only reason we also tested Lyle Waggoner is because I knew from my experiences with the networks that you have to give them a choice. You can’t just say, ‘This is the guy.’ You say, ‘Here are two guys. We like them both, but we like one much better than the other. We want you to see them both.’ They say, ‘Which one do you like better?’ We said we liked Adam West better, and then they would say, ‘Oh, we do too.’ But if you didn’t give them another choice, they’d say, ‘Can’t you test someone else, too?’ So that’s the way their heads work and always have, and I suppose mine worked that way, too, when I was a network executive.” “I also had a prior choice for the police captain, but I couldn’t get him, so I settled for Stafford Repp, who was very good. In fact, Stafford Repp played Chief O’Hara as the all time bumbling Irish cop; up from a beat and who has now become Chief. He worked his way up from the ranks; He is so stupid that he finally became Chief. I was interviewed (after the show premiered) by a female reporter from Boston, and she told me that all the Irish cops in Boston were quite concerned because this Irish cop Chief O’Hara was such a dolt. So, I quickly assured her that this was Gotham City and had nothing to do with Boston. If necessary I would come their personally and apologize to all the police that weren’t putting a Boston Irish cop on the screen. But they all watched the show anyway and got a big kick out of it.

Everybody else, like Neil Hamilton, was no contest. I had known Neil for years, and I knew he was exactly right for the commissioner. He was the all time, public servant, and square, dedicated, honest, and monolithic almost in his dedication to his job. Alan Napier to me has always been the absolute essence of the perfect English Butler and my only choice for Alfred. Aunt Harriet was a character we made up. That was to keep them from looking like homosexuals. We put a woman in the house to balance the act. I remember Jules Feiffer, the cartoonist, gave out a couple of interviews when the show was first a hit, implying that there was a homosexual relationship between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. So, I made a lot of appearances at that time, when the show was at its zenith, and people would ask me about that. I said, ‘If Jules Feiffer thinks that, he is just a dirty old man,’ and that would end the whole discussion. Madge Blake was the only one I could even consider as being right for Aunt Harriet. She had to be very carefully cast because she had to be not a stupid woman and yet she had to be stupid enough so it would never occur to her that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson could possibly be doing something besides fishing when they say they are going out fishing. No question, Yvonne Craig was my only choice for Batgirl [The character of Aunt Harriet originally appeared in the June 1964 issue of Detective Comics, nearly two years before the series pilot was ever made. Regardless of Dozier’s recollection, the Aunt Harriet character did exist two years before the series.] As to the guest villains, we tried one other actor for the Penguin and I am glad we didn’t get him because our second choice was Burgess Meredith and I think he was a classic in the role. We also tried one other for the Joker and I am glad we didn’t get him because I think Cesar Romero was just magnificent. Never thought of anyone for the Riddler except Frank Gorshin . He was my first notion for the Riddler and never anybody else. You see, there was no room for a comedian in this show at all. If a comedian had tried to do these parts they would go right out the window. They would’ve been trying to be funny. They would’ve be mugging; doing their little comedy shtick to get laughs. That was not the way to get laughs on this show; you got laughs if they are there and just playing it straight and over doing the straightness.

Actor Alan Napier who portrayed Alfred, Batman’s faithful butler, began his career playing kings and prime ministers in his native England (in fact he was the cousin of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain), before making his American debut as a coal miner in the 1940 Vincent Price film The Invisible Man Returns. The role of Alfred was a new experience for Mr. Napier as it was the first time he had ever played a butler in his then forty-three year career (Alan was born on January 7, 1903). Alan recalls how he first became associated with the Batman series:

“I was actually the first person hired for “Batman,” before Batman or Robin or anybody, because Charles FitzSimons was an associate of my agent years before and had moved on to be Dozier’s assistant. He, for some reason, envisioned me as Alfred because, after all, what I did as Alfred was quite different from what was written. He sold the idea to Dozier, and I was hired. I have never read comics before I did it. My agent rang up and said, ‘I think you are going to play on “Batman,” ‘I said, ‘What is “Batman”?’ He said, ‘Don’t you read the comics?’ I said, ‘No, never.’ He said, ‘I think you are going to be Batman’s butler.’ I said, ‘How do I know I want to be Batman’s butler?’ It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of. He said, ‘It may be worth over $100,000.’ So I said I was Batman’s butler. “It was very clever casting—the whole thing was. I didn’t have much character guidance in the first episode. When I went to see Dozier about my moustache—I wanted to know if he wanted me to shave it off or not—I asked him about his ideas about the character. He said, ‘I just want you to be yourself.’ The character of Alfred has a last name of Pennyworth in the comics, but we never used it on the series.” 

Actor Burt Ward remembers how he got the part of Robin, the Boy Wonder:

“My agent never told me it was Batman; all he said was: ‘Something is going on at 20th Century Fox. I’m sending you to see the casting director.’ I met the casting director, and he sent me to the executive producer, William Dozier, who said, ‘You’re kind of tall to play this character.’ I told him, ‘1 promise not to grow any more.’”

“I was called back to screen test opposite Adam West, and I still didn’t know I was testing for Batman. “I wondered why I was wearing a costume. They finally told me Robin was a comic book character. But I never read Batman comics, so it had no meaning for me. The studio thought my agent told me I had the part, and my agent thought the studio told me. For six weeks, they kept calling to find out my glove and shoe size—and I was sweating, trying to figure out what was going on. I thought, ‘Why don’t they just tell me if I have the part.’, finally, my agent told me to come in and sign contracts. I figured they were agency contracts. It turned out I was signing studio contracts.” “I was thrilled to death to be able to work; because it was my first acting job—and I got it so easily—I didn’t feel the anxiety of actors who have been turned down dozens of times, and who try to get even with everyone who rejected them when they finally do get a part. I didn’t have any bitterness, or any ax to grind. I didn’t take the role for granted. I was honored to have it. But I was too new to feel the anguish of having suffered for my craft. My main concern was that I didn’t know the protocol for dealing with the producers and the crew, which made me feel awkward.” “I have a photographic memory, so, I always knew my lines. I kept everybody on their toes. Adam occasionally used a teleprompter or cue cards, but I rarely made mistakes. I got a reputation for doing my scenes on the first take. I was very pliable in the directors’ hands. I remembered everything they said, and did everything I was told. Their basic direction to me was: ‘Do it the way you want, but be enthusiastic.’ “ “Adam is a real pro, he was fun to work with, and we became good friends. I learned a great deal from him. Sometimes, I was a little grumpy with him, particularly when he taught me how easily he could upstage me by blocking me from the camera. But usually, we were like two kids playing. It was like a game for me, I would just get in there and take each scene to the nth degree. Naturally, the censors were always on my back. Adam would have to calm me down, by saying: ‘No, Burt, you can’t go that far.’ For example, in one scene Bruce and Dick were about to retire for the evening. As we walked up the staircase with our backs to the camera, Adam said: ‘Well, Dick, it’s time to go to bed.’ I said: ‘You’re right, Bruce’—and I put my arm around him. Geez, did that create an uproar!” As fans will remember, the narration was a big part of the overall flavor of the “Batman” series. The narrator had to express the same over serious tone as the actors. As William Dozier describes, the choice of narrator became as important as the rest of the casting. “We auditioned several professional voice-over people, maybe seven or eight. I would go into the dubbing room, and the crew and the audition guy would be there. It just wasn’t right. I would give them a sample of how I thought it should sound, and finally one of them said, ‘Bill, there is only one person who should do this, and as much as I would like to have the job, you should do it.’ Then I found out that the sound crew had been telling Charlie FitzSimons that all along. Charlie kept saying, ‘Why doesn’t he do it?’

“So now we were down to the nitty-gritty: we needed a piece of film for the network to show advertisers. They had ordered the show, and they wanted to sell it. It had to be tied together with some kind of narration, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it for this film.’ So, they all came out from New York to look at this piece of film, which was ten minutes long. When it was over, they had liked it. And Tom Moore said, ‘That voice, that narrator—we got him signed up, haven’t we?’ I said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t touch him, Tom. He is a very busy fellow.’ We named him Desmond Doomsday. And I milked that for about five minutes and finally told him who it was. Then I had to join the Screen Actor’s Guild in order to do it, and then I discovered that SAG has the best medical plan in the business, so when I finished with ‘Batman,’ and. when the reruns had run their course— eight runs domestic and five runs foreign, I think—I did a lot of stuff around town and on various other shows, small parts, in order to keep the medical plan. Now that I am retired, I get the same benefits from the SAG, and don’t have to work at all. So, it worked out very well.” As often happens with premiering TV series—especially when there has been significant doubt about the potential success of the show—early production of “Batman” was a hurry-up-and-wait situation. Director of photography Howard Schwartz recalls those hectic days: “We had a problem on the show because when ABC bought it they didn’t give the go-ahead on it until November, and they wanted to put the shows on in January. So, although usually you get three or four months lead time into a show, we didn’t have this luxury, so we had to go to two units (two camera crews to shoot the film in half the time), and the editors and everyone were working Saturdays and Sundays, just continuously. It made it tough on everybody. You were always fighting time, and the hours were very long. “The cameramen would always try to hurry these things up, and one of the problems was that sometimes Adam would come in late, and I used to get on his case a little bit. I guess I finally got to him, so he complained to Dozier. So, one day I was told by Sam Strangis, who was our production manager, to go see Dozier. So, I went and talked with Bill, and he got on me pretty good about this thing. You know, ‘Adam’s our star, and you shouldn’t talk to him that way, and you should really let up on him.’ I said OK, and as I started to walk out the door, he said, ‘Howard, don’t let up on him too much.’ (Adam and I are good friends now, and I see him quite a bit.)” Production is crucial to all TV programs, but was even more so to “Batman,” whose special effects were unique to television at that time and were instrumental in drawing the show’s enormous audience. These unusual techniques were not produced without problems, however, so postproduction coordinator Robert Mintz explains: “The expenses for the opticals from this series were enormous. The “POW,” “BAM,” etc., were all to be done optically, by taking the original negative and making an inter-positive of it. You then take the interpositive and do the artwork and the lettering, and you put the “POW” over the scene, and it takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. [In other words, originally viewers would have seen the words at the same time as the fights—in the same frame.] The optical bills were coming in, and they were astronomical. So, they said to me, ‘What can we do to reduce the cost of these opticals? Or are we going to have to eliminate most of them and do maybe one “POW” per show.’ I said to myself, ‘What if we made up a whole roll of these things? We make up the title against different color backgrounds and edit a few frames of them into the show. It is not an optical effect at all. The scene is all original. Then, when you do the fight, on the impact of the punch you cut in a few frames of the “POW,” and then you come back to the fight. It worked; they loved it. We had three cutting rooms, and each cutting room had a roll of different colored fight words, and they would peel them off and edit them into the film.” 

Despite such innovations, “Batman” remained an expensive show to produce—so much so, in fact, that high expenses played a role in the series’ eventual demise. William Dozier comments: “The show became too expensive for the time period. It was a very expensive show to do because of all the special effects. It became too expensive for the number of people who were watching at that time—the right kind of people, the people who spend money on the sponsor’s product. That’s when they discovered the word demographics. Choirs would change their night for rehearsal. I remember going over to USC once for something, and all the dorms on Wednesday night were watching ‘Batman.’ “I remember being in New York once during the show and going into 21 (a nightclub/restaurant), and if you turn sharply to the right there is sort of a lounge room with a big television set. I remember going in there one Wednesday or Thursday night and being absolutely astounded that there were maybe thirty people in there watching ‘Batman.’ In New York, a very sophisticated crowd went to 21 at that time. I never cease to be in awe of the way it grabbed everybody. Of course, that proved to be the trick of the show, making it amusing to adults. We did a lot of research then, and we discovered that kids became interested in it at about the age of four. At the age of about fifteen or sixteen, they lost interest, because they felt that they were too grown up for it. Then, when they got to be about eighteen or nineteen, they became interested in it again.”

About a month after the series debuted and the ratings went through the roof; producer William Dozier sent Edgar Sherrick a potential list of villains and celebrities that were being considered for the series. The villains included: King Tut, Two-Face, Lady Macbeth, The Egghead, The Eel (a slippery fellow), The Dancer, The Ghost, The Calendar Man (he was appearing in the comic books at the time), The Corkscrew, The Slasher, Rita, The Ripper, and Old Mother Barker. Only King Tut, Egghead, and Old Mother Barker, aka Ma Parker were used. It would have been interesting to see what they had in mind for the other villains, but no other references to these villains have survived,
Among the interested actors they had: Maurice Evans, Cyril Ritchard, Robert Morley, Shirley Jones, Cathleen Nesbitt, Raymond Massey, James Mason, Agnes Moorehead, Victor Buono, Nanette Fabray, Liberace, and Rod Steiger. Only Evans, Buono and Liberace made the cut. Morley was going to be the Sandman but dropped out. Again no reference exists as to what villains the other actors would have played. 

According to Dozier: : If one or the other of these characters comes through particularly well in its first appearance, as Mr. Freeze did this season, then we would very likely propose repeating such a character at least once more next season rather than add new ones. We would like to keep female heavies to a minimum except for Catwoman and two or three of those mentioned above which we think can be particularly colorful and menacing.

The reviews begin tomorrow, with... The Riddler! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!


  1. Terrific intro! As much as the product was zowie, i don't doubt its success also tied to the fact that colour TV was hitting its zenith -- and people were ready and eager to see something bigger and bolder than great ponderosa plains. The candy-like colours and quirky camera tricks caught the public's imagination... Do you think its appeal was also part of people looking to escape the assassination of Kennedy, Vietnam and cold war pressures?

  2. I am really glad Batman didn't end up with a laugh track. Great read about the origins of this show.

    There are probably many reasons this show took off and exceeded the expectations established by the terrible preview ratings, but I think the infusion of popular culture must have played a big part. You've got go-go girls in miniskirts and hot villainous babes in bullet bras fueling interest, as well as sexy billionaire ladies man Bruce Wayne bouncing around to save the day. Robin spoke the "swell" popular lingo of the day that appealed to the younger crowd. There really is something for everyone in this show. Makes you wonder if they had too many of the 40-50 year old demographic at the preview theater that day.

  3. To this day, it boggles my mind that someone with no previous exposure or interest in the material should be the one who got the assignment.

    I also find it baffling that Dozier, in the interview, seems completely unaware of WHO it was who came up with the idea of doing BATMAN as a TV series in the first place. For God's sake, it was WILLIAM SELF. He started out as an actor (he's the one who tossed the electric blanket on top of the block of ice in "THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD") before moving over to production, eventually becoming Head of Production for 20th Century Fox Television. In effect, he was Dozier's BOSS.

    Self was friends with Hugh Hefner, and was at the Playboy Mansion the night they ran both 1940s BATMAN serials, with everyone in the room laughing their heads off.

    By the way, I severely disagree about the quality of the 1943 BATMAN serial. I think it's fantastic, and a hell of a lot of fun. I also think it is, to this day, the single most ACCURATE portrayal ever done onscreen of the personalities of Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Alfred. Adam West comes across as really "stiff" by comparison. Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish) is a riot, though... especially when he's feeding his beloved pet crocodiles.