1 9 6 6 – 1 9 6 8 (USA)
120 x 30 minute episodes
Parents never seemed bothered that our childhood was spent fixated on a man who wore his underpants on the outside, a mask and hung around with a young boy.
When trouble brewed in Gotham City, Police Commissioner Gordon would light the Bat Signal and rush to the phone and call Batman.
Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor, the beeping Batphone alerted the playboy millionaire’s butler, Alfred, who then delivered the message to his master, Bruce Wayne, and his ward Dick Grayson who would disappear down the bat poles hidden behind the drawing room bookcase.
Seconds later they emerged as crime fighters Batman and Robin, jumped into the Batmobile and blasted through the camouflaged Batcave exit to Gotham City.
The exterior shots for the fictional Wayne Manor were filmed at a real mansion located at 380 S. San Rafael Avenue in Pasadena, California. The scenes of the Batmobile roaring from the Batcave were shot in Bronson Caverns in the Hollywood Hills.
One of my most prized possessions as a child was my toy Batmobile. If I still had it today (in mint condition) I could sell it and put a deposit on a new apartment with the money I made.
Each Batman story consisted of two episodes. The first always ended with a cliffhanger and the voice of doom (provided by executive producer William Dozier) exhorting everyone to tune in “Same bat-time, same bat-channel” next time to find out if our heroes would perish in some diabolical way.
During the second episode, the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder would escape from their deadly predicament, enter into a camp choreographed fight sequence with their fiendish foes and put the world to rights yet again.
The series was an overnight smash and ratings went through the roof (The show even earned a commendation from the National Safety Council of America for the much-screened shot of the dynamic duo buckling up their seat belts when leaving the Batcave).
Unfortunately, the Automobile Legal Association of America declared in 1967 that Batman was television’s worst driver when – in one episode alone, they pointed out – he performed U-turns on a busy street, crashed through safety barriers, crossed road divider markings and completely failed to use his indicator . . .
The Caped Crusader’s dancing in a swinging discotheque with Jill St John (of Hart to Hart fame) led to the Batusi dance craze which briefly swept the US (pictured above).
The show was designed to have a comic book appearance with tilted camera angles, superimposed comic book titles such as ZAP! POW! BAM! and the use of coloured lights on the sets, amber and green for The Riddler and purple for The Penguin.
Batman hosted a whole swag of villains played by star names: Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, Cesar Romero as the “Clown Prince of crime” The Joker, Mr Freeze played in turn by George Sanders, Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach, Frank Gorshin as The Riddler (later played less successfully by John Astin of The Addams Family fame), and the feline fiend Catwoman played chronologically by Julie Newmar (MEAOW!), Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt.
The success of the show meant that big names would compete for a chance to guest star.
And so we saw the likes of Roddy McDowall as The Bookworm, Victor Buono as King Tut, Vincent Price as Egghead along with Liberace, Art Carney, Shelley Winters, Bruce Lee, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Collins, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
After a season and a half, the fascination was fading and in an attempt to rekindle interest Bat Girl was introduced. Bat Girl was actually Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, Barbara and was a dab hand on the old motorbike.
Played by ballerina turned actress Yvonne Craig (pictured at right), in her tight-fitting purple costume and gold lined cape she gained the series another season, but low ratings eventually signalled the show’s demise.
In February 1968, the show was cancelled – KERPOW! But Batman has lived on. The original TV show is still screened in over 100 countries and there has been a spate of huge budget movies over recent years starring the unlikely mix of Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney as the Caped Crusader.
It seems big stars still queue to be part of the Batman phenomena, with Jack Nicholson, Jim Carey, Kim Basinger and Nicole Kidman being just some of the major names to have appeared in the new movies.
Adam West died peacefully in Los Angeles on 10 June 2017 after a brief battle with leukaemia. He was 88.
Alan Napier (who played Alfred the trusty butler) was the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens.
Bat Girl/Barbara Gordon
Alfred the Butler
Frank Gorshin (1)
John Astin (2)
Julie Newmar (1)
Lee Meriwether (2)
Eartha Kitt (3)
George Sanders (1)
Otto Preminger (2)
Eli Wallach (3)
Louie the Lilac
The Mad Hatter
Zsa Zsa Gabor