As hard as it is to believe, this week (January 12) marks the 50th anniversary of the Batman TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Five decades…that can’t be right? Crap – I’m getting old. Batman…this is a series that is worthy of a few minutes of nostalgia.
Batman was one of those series that you remembered distinctly after you saw it. Yes, the acting was over-the-top. It was campy beyond description…right down to Cesar Romero’s makeup-covered mustache. The villains were always filmed at bizarre angles. The show aired twice a week, with a cliffhanger that commanded that we all tune in, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel, to see the conclusion. There were signs on every piece of equipment, as if the dynamic duo couldn’t remember what the Bat Computer was. The show had stunning colors, a highly-repetitive theme song that we all knew the words to (Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…Batman!)
Batman and Robin climbing up the side of buildings as guest stars popped out of windows…that was classic. It was one part Laugh-In, one part awesome sauce.
And the fights…they were awesome. It was like watching a comic book on TV…Bam! Biff! Pow! Battles were choreographed with all grace of a 3rd grade dance recital. As a four year old kid, I have to tell you, I thrilled with every flying kick or “Socko!” punch.
Let’s not forget the Batmobile. Few cars earn the title of “sexy” but the Batmobile was one of those. “Atomic Batteries to Power – Turbines to Speed!” It was as much of a character as Bruce Wayne or the Boy Wonder. That car had lines, and gadgets. Remember the red Batphone in the car. We all saw that as a far flung future. Now we all carry a computer/portable TV station in our pockets and think nothing of it. In 1966, we looked at that one gizmo as pure science fiction. Forget Marty’s Delorean, the Batmobile was much cooler and more futuristic.
The later seasons gave us something else – Batgirl. Her theme song sucked, but let’s face it, she was hotter than hot. Batgirl did something that was rare on TV. She conveyed sexy without showing us any skin.
And as goofy as the series was, it had an all-star line up of guest villains every week. Yes, they all had silly monikers and costumes, but to us, that didn’t matter. A lot of big name stars wanted to be on the show so their children/grandchildren could see them.
For many of us, aside from the 12-cent comic books, this was our first real taste of Batman as a character. I daresay that if it hadn’t been for this series we never would have had Batman as the film franchises we know today. Adam and Burt set the bar. Even the mighty George Clooney in his campy best could not hold the cowl to West’s Batman doing the Batusi dance.
So, if you are old enough to remember when the show was on the air, take a moment and allow yourself to envision Gotham City as it was in 1966. Picture Commissioner Gordon picking up that glass dome over the Batphone and placing that call to stately Wayne Manor. Let your memories of the Shakespeare bust being tipped back to activate the hidden door revealing the Batpoles to the Batcave. Remember that roar of the Batmobile you heard in your youth. Allow yourself a chance to smile and embrace those memories – be they black and white or in color. For a half-an-hour, twice a week, we all wanted to be superheroes. We tied towels around our necks for capes, and we made the “Boffo!” fighting noises when we played with others.
If that wasn’t quality entertainment…nothing was.