Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Second Season

By Joel Eisner

Two months after the film was completed production resumed on the series. With the addition of the previously mentioned new Bat-Equipment and several new villains (added to the list of returning foes) Batman began its second season. However, unlike its first season, the ratings which had once been overwhelming were bordering on average. It was only a few months since Batman’s first appearance, but already the public was beginning to lose interest. One way the producers tried to keep a hold on its audience was to add three-part adventures; another was by forming team-ups with several of the villains.

In addition to the villain team-ups, ABC executives suggested to the producers (in a November 1966 memo) that additional Superheroes be incorporated into the series. “Apparently Superman, The Green Lantern, The Green Arrow, Aquaman, and various other members of the Justice League of America have gotten together with Batman to combat crime in the comics. There is no danger that a guest hero would reduce the heroic image of Batman because the script can be so constructed that the guest comes to Batman for help when he finds himself up against one of our regular villains. Our research department feels that this idea would be highly promotable. Please let me know your reaction, so we can pursue the idea with National Periodicals.”

Unfortunately, the only heroes to venture into Gotham City were the Green Hornet and Kato, and they came only to try and save their own show from cancellation by attracting new viewers.

With the release of the feature film and the series now airing overseas, a new problem besides sagging ratings arose, as Executive Producer William Dozier recalled, ‘In England, kids started jumping out of windows; they thought Batman could fly. They thought the cape was wings. We had to do a special lead-in to the show, with an interview with Batman saying, ‘Boys and girls, I do not fly. I can’t fly any better than you can. Don’t think I can and don’t think you can. And don’t take chances by trying to jump off the roof.’ They were doing it, but never in this country. Thank heaven it never started in this country.”

Found among William Dozier’s files, was the following note from the executive in charge of Fox’s overseas operations. It included the actually intro aired in England:


Into camera, seriously BATMAN Robin and I want all you youngsters to understand we have no wings, and no superhuman powers, and we can not fly. ROBIN And listen, kids, if either of us tried to fly, or jump off a high place, we would be badly hurt. So would you so for gosh sakes, don’t ever try it. Holy broken bones!

“The BATMAN and ROBIN “safety caution” film is now playing in all Stations throughout the United Kingdom and both the television Stations and Public are exreme1y appreciative of the efforts made by you in the interests of safety. It is being telecast three or four times daily for the past ten days and there has been no news of any accidents since its first telecast. I feel that the film has well served its purpose.”

When the Adventures of Superman aired in the 1950's there were reports of kids putting on a cape and jumping out of the windows. Superman could fly, so it made sense that kids would copy it. Why kids in England thought Batman could fly is a mystery. He never flew in the tv series or the feature film. Now, in the new films he has a pair of glider wings, but not in the 60's. It never happened in the US, or who knows what would have happened to the series. We did get the buckle up for safety routine in the Batmobile, but nothing about flying.

Between the time the first season ended and the release of the movie a few months later, something happened to the series. I will cover this in more detail when we reach the Sandman/Catwoman team-up. When I wrote the original version of the Batbook, I was very fortunate to befriend many of the people who worked on the series, one of which was writer Ellis St. Joseph. Ellis had a long career in Hollywood and Broadway and knew just about everyone in Hollywood. We just hit if off, and stayed friends until his death in 1993 at the age 82. He happened about the problem of the series and tried to correct it but ran afoul of various production problems, but as he recalled, “When I came into it, it was in its second year, and its ratings were falling off. I knew why—it was very clear to me—but it wasn’t to them, because I believe they were so into it. There is a delicate balance between comic or camp and suspense, and if you listen to the critics too much about the camp, you become totally comic and lose suspense. I think that kids as well as grown-ups want a little suspense along with the comedy, but they had lost it. So, I set about creating something that would restore the feeling of suspense and even increase, if possible, the comedic elements."

Ellis was right, the series had lost something over the summer. Even the movie was lacking in real suspense. They were focusing more on the camp comedy and turned the series into more of a sitcom than it already was. Don't get me wrong there were some very good episodes Stanley Ralph Ross gave the show a new direction in but it was also to the point of over the top comedy, that the series soon became a parody of itself. The more outlandish the plot the more ridiculous it became, to the point where Batman and Robin often wondered how they managed to get out of their tight situations.

For my part, the second season had a number of new villains with a great deal of potential such as Egghead, Minstral, Clock King, Sandman, and Shame. The one character who actually grew into a better villain because of the comedic direction the series was going was King Tut. Victor Buono knew that Tut was crazy to begin with, so he went with it and yet stayed in character at the same time, and was the only character who did not falter during the third season.

Other villains such as Chandell, The Archer, Ma Parker, Marsha Queen of Diamonds,I feel did not fair so well, they were slow moving and at times dull. (Marsha, did better when teamed with Penguin)

They could have brought back Bookworm and Falseface, and despite David Wayne's misgivings about the part, Mad Hatter (more than his one token appearance this season) but the series was limited to a fixed number of episodes and a fixed number of recurring villains such as Joker and Penguin as well. Without Gorshin, the producers dropped Riddler (except for the John Astin episode) in favor of Catwoman, as far as frequent returns for the season.

I will cover each episode more in detail as we get to them, but it might have been interesting to have sort of a Brave and Bold team up with other heroes. In fact, had George Reeves still been alive, we might have seen a team up of Batman and Superman.

Coming Up: Art Carney as Ed Norton playing the Archer!


  1. Thanks for the piece on the Satety film that ran before every showing of Batman in the UK in the sixties. For this reason "Holy Broken Bones!" Is the most well known Robin phrase in the UK. Interestingly, card number 27 of the 1966 trading cards set 4, is a short of The dynamic duo in front of a gold curtain - that is from the set of the safety video.

  2. "There is a delicate balance between comic or camp and suspense, and if you listen to the critics too much about the camp, you become totally comic and lose suspense. I think that kids as well as grown-ups want a little suspense along with the comedy, but they had lost it."

    Even at the age of 7, I sensed something was wrong. I just had trouble putting it into words.