So this Christmas I got a cool gift. A box set of every single episodes of the 1966 Batman series. Obviously I wasn’t around in 1966 but it was huge in re-runs when I was a kid. And I loved this series, couldn’t get enough of it. This was my introduction to the character Batman and his vast supporting cast.
No I did not get all of this cool stuff, wish I’d had…….
So I put the DVD’s in and….
was kind of disappointed
Several things struck me. The writing was awful, one episode had the exact same bit of dialogue used three times in the span of a minute or two. We all know that the episodes were two parters, but it seemed like to fall into the trap required Batman had to be a complete idiot/clutz for a few seconds. Aunt Harriette was only there to keep people from thinking Bruce and Dick were gay, and she really contributed nothing to the episodes. Yeah I know she was a feature in at least one episode, but I actually hate that one. And Bruce and Dick’s lame excuses to dart away were stupid. It was one thing when Clark had to trick Lois…….
I guess this really was a kids show, because it seems silly watching it as an adult. However, I could still put my nostalgia goggles on and remember why I loved it as a child. It was based on the Silver Age so the silly dialogue was excusable, the traps were pretty clever for the most part, the comic book action panels can be ignored, the stupid bat gadgets, and the fact that the villains were all goofballs was understandable. Adam West really owned the role and he made it work, being funny but also very deadpan. The actors also loved their roles which is why Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshen, and Cesar Romero (to name three) will always be associated with this show and the characters they brought to life.
It really is pretty good, if dated…except for a few things which I just can’t look past. Five things which just annoy me from the 1966 Batman TV series.
#5.Those Stupid Titles
Yeah this is a really nitpicky one, but really what the hell was with the names of the episodes? Maybe Silver Age comics titled their stories like that, I personally hate the Silver Age so I wouldn’t know. The first two episodes are “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Smack in the Middle”. Really? How about “The Joker Goes to School” (ok that one is OK) and “He Meets His Match, The Grisly Ghoul”. Or “Fine Finny Fiends” and “Batman Makes the Scenes”. What?? THEY DON’T HAVE TO RHYME GUYS!Â How about using PART 2 instead! Ok, nitpicky but I never found it funny.
Maybe this is just me. I didn’t get this when I was a kid because I had no idea who the celebrities were. Today I know who they are…and this is still really lame. First of all the way that Batman and Robin climbed the building was kind of silly all by itself. But what would often happen was that as they climbed, a window would pop open and a celebrity would be there (Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis, etc). And despite the fact that the two were on their way to stop a criminal, they would banter with the celebrity for a few seconds.Â This happened at least 12 times and even included Green Hornet and Kato once. I know that most of these celebrities wanted to do this and being on the show was “the thing to do”. It’s still lame and stops the story cold for what is basically a pointless cameo.
#3.Who Needs the Police?
It’s become a superhero cliche that the police just kind of stand around and wait to mop up after the superheroes are done capturing the bad guys. There was even a comic book that was made about how Gotham police feel about Batman taking away their limelight. And when you watch this series, that makes a lot of sense. Several early episodes had Gordon asking some cops if they actually felt they could tackle The Joker or whoever. They didn’t even answer, as Gordon raced for the Bat Phone. As the series went on the police didn’t even seem to show up half the time. And on this show, even Gordon and O’Hara were basically useless. Only coming into plot when Batman was out of the picture or they needed to fall for the villain’s schemes.
#2.Forced Female in many episodes
Remember how it was network mandated that Captain Kirk had to have liaison with some pretty girl in every episode of Star Trek? Well, there must have been a similar rule on this show (they were produced the exact same time). That’s because nearly episode had to have a young damsel in there for no real reason. They were always part of the villain’s gang of thugs, usually flirted with Batman or Robin, and were often torn between helping the villain or becoming a good guy. And it was so boring! Yeah why delve into why The Riddler is the way he is when we can analyze his young protege who loves Batman but is helping the villains. Yawn. In another episode the young lady sings two disco tunes! Almost makes me miss “The Way to Eden”. This trend actually began in the pilot with Jill St.John believe it or not…who was the only person to ever die on the series!! Yeah that pilot is a little weird.
#1.That Third Season
We all know that Star Trek had a bad third season, but they had an excuse. The network slashed their budget (not to mention the awful time slot). What the heck was the excuse here? Rather than have two-part stories they would all be single episodes which caused the stories to be rushed and the next villain would be teased at the end of the episode.The stories also got more nuts, the second episode of that season was about Batman and Riddler in a boxing ring. They added Batgirl played by Yvonne Craig, and while I have no issues with Ms.Craig or how she played the character I do think (like when any show suddenly jams in a new character) she hurt more than helped. Batgirl was given way to be much leeway to be the star. I am going by memory mostly but it seemed like there were many times when Batgirl would get more action than Batman and Robin. They would just kind of watch and let her fight (with that awful Batgirl music). What was even worst were episodes were the Dynamic Duo (costumed or otherwise) would be kidnapped and need Batgirl to save them. Now don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with that, until you dumb down our heroes!! When I watch Batman and Robin I expect to see them save themselves not depend on a third party. The first episode had Batman and Robin tied in sacks while Batgirl and Alfred (yes, that’s correct) fight Penguin and his thugs. No. Just…no. Oh sure the two are freed and join in, but when did they ever need help escaping traps before? Finally the villains just got silly. Milton Berle as Louie The Lilac? And I never liked Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman. That season sucked and I never enjoy watching those episodes.
So that was my little trip down memory lane my friends, I may be a little older and wiser but the 1966 Batman will always have a special place in my heart.