Friday, December 16, 2011

The Batscholar's Epilogue

By Joel Eisner

After 66 adventures done over a period of 120 episodes, the series had come to an end. The show left the air after the final episode. The third season episodes never had a rerun on the network. After a couple of weeks, ABC replaced the show with rerurns of the short lived sitcom The Second Hundred Years. The series went into reruns not long after and remained there ever since. The Batman motion picture went from first run theaters in 1966 to cheap last run theaters over the next year or so. It debuted five years later in July 1971 on the ABC Sunday Night Movie. It later was released on video and is still there. The series has yet to surface on video due to complex legal rights.

What most people do not know is that there almost was a fourth season for the series as Yvonne Craig relates, “I knew someone who had access to all the files and letters that were written back and forth between ABC and 20th Century Fox/Greenway Productions (Dozier’s company), and apparently, they were going wildly over budget all the time. It was a very expensive show to do. ABC did not feel it was cost-effective anymore. So, when we left for Thanksgiving in November, we didn’t know if we were going to do another season or not. We didn’t even say goodbye to one another because we didn’t know that it might be our last season. And then, we weren’t picked up.”

“When we were canceled by ABC, they wondered if we could get on another network. When it looked like we couldn’t, they came with a bulldozer and bulldozed the whole set—the Batcave and all of that. Then, two weeks later, NBC said, ‘Listen, we’d like to take a shot at “Batman,” if you still have the set.’ They didn’t want to start from scratch and build them because the set was $800,000. So, it was too late, and nothing came of it.”
NBC’s unfortunate delay destroyed the series’ only remaining chance for a fourth season. How the series would have fared on the new network is unknown. It might have been restored to its original two part/two night format and lasted a few more years, or it might have just gotten worse and died a death of neglect at the end of the fourth year. There are endless possibilities.

Producer William Dozier, “Well, we had a good three-year run. That’s not bad for what was essentially a novelty show. You’ve got to be realistic about such series. They can’t last too long. In fact, I was surprised that it went a third season. Although the show still led its time slot in the ratings, adults had tired of it, and the audience had become kids who are just as happy watching the old shows; they don’t care if it’s a repeat. So why go on spending $487,000 for new ones?"

Adam West, "I had to take it seriously. I wanted to do it well enough that Batman buffs will watch reruns and say, ‘Watch the bit he does here; isn’t that great?” I’ve never had more fun doing any role than Batman. It was a fortuitous, lucky marriage of a lot of talents, and, as a result, it became a classic. It’s going to be playing forever.”

Burt Ward: “I learned a great deal from Batman. It was an experience I will treasure forever. It gave me a fantastic opportunity. It has enabled me to meet and be welcomed by people throughout the world. Having seen me on television, they treat me as though I’m their friend, as though I’ve been in their home before.”

After the series was cancelled, there were other incarnations of Batman with Adam and Burt. They returned in a Saturday Morning cartoon called The New Adventures of Batman and Robin. It added Bat-Mite but little else. No familiar voices and the show was below par. The two returned for the Challenge of the Super Heroes and Challenge of the Superheroes Roast (both available on DVD from the Warner Archive - ed.), two shot on video attempts to made a live action version of the Superfriends. Besides Adam and Burt, Frank Gorshin came back as the Riddler, but only for the first part. The shows were horrible to say the least. Adam later took over the voice of Batman on the Superfriends cartoon (after the death of Olan Soule, the original voice). Adam and Burt reteamed again for the Return to the Batcave tv movie which contained their original studio screen test footage, it had little going for it.

As for the rest of the cast. Madge Blake died in 1969, Stafford Repp died in 1974, Producer Howie Horwitz died in 1976, Neil Hamilton died in 1985, Alan Napier died in 1988. William Dozier died in 1991. Very few of the guest villains, production crew and assorted henchmen are still alive. Its been 45 years since it premiered but the reruns still keep the memory alive.

Shortly after the series was cancelled, 20th Century Fox, which lost so much money filming Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor years before, sold off most of its studio back lot, (It was turned into the Century City housing development). Most of the producers moved out of Fox and half went ot Paramount and the rest went to Warner Brothers. Charle Fitzsimons went on to work with William D'Angelo on Love American Style and the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series. William Dozier retired from producing and took up occasional acting (just to keep the wonderful medical benefits given by the SAG).
Stanley Ralph Ross worked with D'Angelo on Wonder Woman then went on to producer and write the Monster Squad. The 1976 Saturday morning series tried to capture the flavor of Batman, but fell flat. It featured Buck Kartalian (a catwoman henchman) as the Wolfman, Mike Lane (Black Widow 's Daddy Long Legs) as Frankenstein and Henry Polic II (later of the Webster tv series) as Dracula. Fred Grandy later Gopher of the Love Boat, worked in a wax museum and when he turned on his crime computer (hidden in the chamber of horrors) the wax statues of the monsters came to life and together they set out to solve crimes created a new bunch of arch criminals. Stan Ross was able to reuse and recycle old Batman plots and jokes (including the Ronald Ray Gun). The giant clam, guest stars Julie Newmar, Joey Tata, Dick Bakalyan, Sid Haig, Billy Curtis, Paul Smith (artemus Knab) Barry Dennen. New verisions of Mr Freeze, Falseface, King Tut, (all with different names but the characters were the same). Back in 1976 with other Saturday sitcom kid shows by the Krofft Brothers, I enjoyed this show, however, it was finally released a few years ago on dvd. I was really looking forward to seeing it again, as it never went into reruns. I barely remembered anything, except the episode with Lost in Space's Jonathan Harris as the evil Astrologer. I found the show to be a lame parody of Batman and an overindulgence of Stanley Ralph Ross's ego. He had complete run of the show and it just didn't work. The dvds are inexpensive, so if you want to see what Batman could have turned into check it out.

As for me, this look back on the series has been fun, as I hope it has been for you. Looking at the series on a daily basis enabled me to watch the series slide and deteriorate right before my eyes, something I really didn't pay direct attention to when I wrote the Batbook. Now I see the show in a different light and I hope you do to.


To Be Continued Next Week! Same Bat Time! Same Bat Channel! NOT!

12 comments:

  1. "William Dozier retired from producing and took up occasional acting (just to keep the wonderful medical benefits given by the SAG)." Thrifty to the end.

    By the way: Is the exterior house that played "Stately Wayne Manor" still standing? Where in California is it located?

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  2. I don't know the exact location of the house, but it is in Pasadena. It was thought to have burnt down a few years ago but it was a similar house a few doors down from Wayne Manor, that went up in flames. The house has turned up in a number of films including the 1971 low budget horror film Legacy of Blood starring John Carradine, Catwoman henchman Buck Kartalian, Jeff Morrow (of this Island Earth) John Russell (the Lawman/Jason of Star Command). It is a cheap gore film murder mystery that takes place in the actual house in the actual rooms, not on a set. So if you can find it on dvd or on the internet, its a great way to see the actual inside of the house.

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  3. A missed fourth season might not have been a missed opportunity. Sometimes it is just time for things to end, and it seems that way for this version of Batman.
    I have been a fan of TV Batman for decades now, but reading about the last dozen episodes, or so, it seemed the steam had run out of the show.
    The early episodes were jewels, full of witty camp and original entertainment. The last ones reflect the drudgery of early morning calls to a film set.
    The year 1968 was a watershed year, and a fourth year of Batman probably would not have fared well in terms of plots and guest stars. The Mod Squad was where all the happening kids were, anyway - provided they had not tuned out.
    Bravo to Batman for more than two years of entertainment and nearly a half century of reruns. And thanks to John Scoleri and Peter Enfantino, along with Batscholar Joel Eisner, for an informative look at this television series.

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  4. I'd like to offer a very special thanks to you Joel for taking the time to join us in the fun. As always, your posts have been very informative, and you must've had a great time meeting and interviewing so many of the people connected to the show.

    Thanks again,

    Glenn :)

    P.S. When was Batman last shown on U.S. Television? I've been watching what looks like digitized copies of VHS tapes sourced from TV Land, which must be at least ten years old.

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  5. Thanks Batscholar for an always interesting and informative glimpse into this classic bat-cult! I can't say how many times i thought "That lucky son-of-a-gun" when i read your quotes from Romero, Meredith and especially Newmar (purrr!); and how lucky we were to have you document it all in your book. Is there an new edition coming soon? Also, and perhaps this is for another place/time, where do you think this rights issue will end up, or if...?
    cheerio!

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  6. Batman is currently reruning on the Hub Channel. I revised the Batbook in 2008, you can find a link to it on this page. I also offer it on Ebay. As for the rights I have my hopes The Dozier half of the rights were sold to Classic Media. They would like to release the show but Fox is reluctant, the people currently working at Fox are too young to care about the series and would rather release new series that Fox owns outgright. Plus with the new Batman movie due out next year, Warners has requested that if the series comes cut it would have to be in 2013 after the film is out of the theater and on dvd. Who knows when and if they can straighten this out. thanks to everyone involved and I have enjoyed my part in this venture.

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  7. Nice work all around, Joel! I agree that BATMAN was a product of the outlandish mid-'60s; but as time wore on, tastes and sensibilities changed radically. The decade that began with PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISES ended with MIDNIGHT COWBOY, and the wild and crazy "pop art" flavors instigated by 007 and his imitators, the Beatles, etc., exploded into more cynical, Vietnam-fueled angst by the time we hit '67-'70. So BATMAN really needed to end when it did, maybe even a year earlier (but hey, I'm glad we got Yvonne Craig's Batgirl out of the deal).

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  8. I am definitely in the minority that Batman's "fourth season" should have been the television year BEFORE (1964-65) its debut as a midseason replacement in early 1966. I agree with one poster that shows like "Mod Squad" would have sealed "Batman's" doom had it been renewed for the 1968-69 TV year; had there been a fourth season, it probably would have lasted fewer than 13 episodes.

    Given the excitement in terms of pop culture and music in 1964, I think "Batman" would have been an immediate and relevant (for the times) hit as well as provided viewers with a full season of fresh story lines and, perhaps, a couple of new villains to complement Joker, Penguin, Riddler, etc. Other foes, such as Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, and (most likely) Bookworm would each have an additional episode or two to try and defeat the Dynamic Duo.

    It's great to play "what if," but we should be thankful for what we have... 120 episodes of a show that is as enjoyable today as it was back in the 1960s.

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  9. My big question: how did the Batman movie manage to get a DVD release (considering that Warner Bros. now owns DC Comics, that should seem like an impossibility) but the series has never been digitized?

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  10. Time will tell, but there have been a lot of rumors of late, with some indication that we should watch for news to come out of Comic Con in a few weeks. With all of the 66 Batman licensing that has just debuted (a comic book, action figures, and tons more surely to come), can a Blu Ray/DVD set be far behind?

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  11. The contract for the movie was different than the television series. It allowed the movie to be show in different mediums of broadcast, in this case on airplanes. This allowed for it to be shown in the medium of vhs and dvds. The television series did not have such a clause in the contract which prevented it from being released in vhs or dvd.

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  12. If Batman were on NBC, I can more easily envision the silliness getting worse because of the biggest hit on the network, "Laugh-In." All too easy for me to see window cameos for the likes of Arte Johnson as the soldier going "Verrrrrrry interesting" or Robin before a fight going, "Let's sock it to them, Batman!"

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