Willian Dozier, the producer of Batman, apparently hated comic books. So his interpretation of the Batman books was very different from the current Batman films, all of which deal with murky subjects and throw Batman into moral dilemmas. The 1960s Batman series attempted to repackage all dark material into a campy comedy with a jolly Batman, played by Adam West, and a daring Robin, played by Burt Ward. The gadgetry was astonishing and the supervillains were funny and the Batman often elicited laughs from his audiences. After all, this was a show where Batman competed with The Joker in a surfing contest. The show aired on ABC network between January 1966 and March 1968 and enjoyed great popularity. It was a ground-breaking series that has exerted great influence over the popular culture for decades now. In 2016, Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, famous American television reviewers, chose Batman to be the 82nd greatest American TV show of all time.
In this video, we tell you secrets about this Adam West/Burt Ward show. Facts Verse Presents Dark Secrets of the 1960s Batman Television Show. Please do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel and press the bell icon to stay updated about all our latest videos.
Batman Wasn’t Supposed to Be a Camp Comedy
When Batman first aired on TV, it was like every other present-day Batman movie — a grim and gritty drama where the superhero is continually fighting battles against his archrivals committed to destroying Gotham City. However, in this form, the audiences showed little love to the show, with Batman registering the worst score from test audiences in the history of television. In the 1960s, the country was already struggling with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. So the audiences wanted something light and not grim. After seeing the results, the network bosses asked the creators to reimagine the whole concept, which is what led to the birth of camp-comedic elements that eventually made Batman so popular.
Dozier Cast West as Batman Based on a Dessert Milk Commercial
Back in the early 60s, Adam West was a struggling actor. Thus, he was happily surprised when William Dozier decided to cast him as Bruce Wayne/ Batman after watching him in a dessert drink commercial where he played a James Bond-style spy.
Funnily, in 1969, West was also offered the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. However, West refused the part as he was convinced that only a British actor could do justice to the role. After West refused, the role went to George Lazenby. Much later, after Batman got cancelled, refusing to do the James Bond film he was offered became one of the biggest regrets of Adam West’s life.
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Bruce Lee Made His On-Screen Debut with Batman
Bruce Lee became a household name after the 1973 film Enter the Dragon. However, not many people know that Bruce Lee made his screen debut with Batman. He appeared on the episode ‘The Spell of Tut’ in 1966. Then, he made another appearance in 1967 in a two-part episode of the series. Lee played Kato – and it was through the show that people first saw Lee’s exemplary fighting skills.
Fun fact: Bruce Lee and Burt Ward stayed in the same condominium complex and were good friends in real life. While Bruce was the ultimate fight master, Ward also had a black belt in karate.
The Series Takes the Credit for Resurrecting Alfred
Everyone knows Robin as Batman’s trusted and reliable partner. However, one more character was a constant presence in the Batman universe, Batman’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth. However, Alfred was killed off in comic book #328. After the series appeared on television. Alfred became one of the most beloved characters and thus, DC comics decided to resurrect Alfred from the grave. Alfred came back to life with comic book #356. In the series, Alan Napier played the ever-charming Alfred.
Frank Sinatra Lobbied for the Role of Joker
The Joker is perhaps the most memorable villain of all time. Before Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger impressed the audiences with their portrayal of this Batman’s arch-enemy, the audiences fell in love with Cesar Romero’s Joker, who left jokes as clues to the next crime. Though the role ultimately went to Cesar Romero, Frank Sinatra lobbied quite hard for the role. In an interview with Nerdist, Burt Ward explained that back when the casting was being done for the show, all the celebs wanted some or the other part in the series. Since it was impossible to cast so many major actors, the makers of the show decided to run a celebrity cameo gimmick.
Season Three Was Supposed to Launch Batgirl
Though the campy comedy elements of the show kept the audiences entertained for the first two seasons, by the third season, the novelty had started to wear off. Thus, to boost the ratings of the show, the creators decided to introduce a new character: Batgirl. Actress Yvonne Craig was chosen to play the role of Barbara Gordon or Batgirl. Batgirl was the first television superheroine and to convince ABC that the character would be good for the show, Dozier even shot a pilot. However, after the show’s popularity continued to decline, the character of Batgirl was canned. However, Craig shot an in-character PSA demanding equal pay for women.
Burt Ward Had a Total of 352 Holy Moments
Robin was quite famous for his witticism and most of his quips began with ‘Holy’ and ended with ‘Batman!’ and came after Batman’s brilliant analysis of crime scenes. If you have seen the series, you must remember Robin saying phrases like Holy Hole in Donut, Holy Bikini, Holy Tee Shot, Holy Steam Valve and of course, Holy Holocaust!
If you have not seen the show, we are not kidding, Burt Ward aka Robin actually said Holy Holocaust! on television. After the series ended, someone revealed that Robin had a total of 352 Holy moments between 1966 and 1968.
Batman and Robin’s Tights Created Quite a Stir
Back in the 60s, American society was becoming open to love, sex, drugs and rock and roll. However, television was still supposed to be a medium that parents could enjoy with children — it was meant to churn out pieces of family entertainment. Batman was, of course, a family entertainment show. Thus, when the show first appeared on television, the National Legion of Decency, objected to Batman and Robin’s tights that did not go well with the network standards and guidelines. Thus, various techniques were used to tone down any appearance of human genitalia on the small screen.
West’s Batman Was Inspired by Sherlock Holmes
While the 1960s Batman series will always be known as the only Batman creation that experimented with camp comedy, it will also be remembered as the show that truly appreciated Batman’s investigative skills. This is partly because West took inspiration from Sherlock Holmes for his Batman character. In an interview, West revealed that he was quite impressed and influenced by Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes in the 1939 film series.
The Batusi Wasn’t a part of the Script
If you are a Batman fan, you must certainly be familiar with the Batusi. If not, then Batusi is a go-go dance that the Batman television series created. The name Batusi is a pun on the name of the then extremely popular Watusi dance.
In Batman’s very first episode, the audiences find their caped crusader shunning all his inhibitions and dancing groovily after drinking a spiked drink. This was the birth of Batusi, which has now become one of the most iconic Batman moments. In an interview with the Nerdist, West saidthat Batusi wasn’t a part of the script and that the idea came to him while riding to work in his car. The famous John Travolta – Uma Thurman dancing sequence in Pulp Fiction was inspired by the Batusi.
The Show Gave a Boost to Frank Gorshin’s Career
The Riddler was the first villain to appear in the Batman television series. Frank Gorshin played the part. Gorshin was a struggling comedian at the time and did night club acts and B-movie parts to keep the dream alive. The Batman series was his big break. With his devious expression and glittery eyes, the audiences instantly fell in love with Gorshin as The Riddler. Frank Gorshin also won an Emmy nomination for his performance.
Fun fact: Though Batman and The Riddler were arch-enemies on-screen, West and Gorshin were great pals in real life.
The Show Did a Great Service to the Comic Books
You may find it hard to believe but during the 60s, the Batman comics were dwindling in popularity. The comic boom began in 1940. However, in 1954, Dr Frederic Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent. The book claimed that comic books had a negative impact on popular culture. After the book became popular, many restrictions were imposed on comic book content. This content censorship was the real reason behind the declining popularity of comic books in the 1960s. However, the popularity of the Batman TV series played a key role in reviving the popularity of comic books. According to Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, the series did comic books a huge favour by resurrecting Alfred, introducing Batgirl and Batmobile and bringing back the Batman’s Rogues Gallery.
The Batman series has had so many interpretations to this day that it is difficult to claim one particular interpretation as more right over the other. While some Batman fans enjoy grit, grim and drama, many find the camp comedy of the Batman TV series entertaining and enjoyable. Even if you are a fan of the grim superhero versions of Batman, you cannot deny that the 1960s Batman series was groundbreaking and has exerted great influence on pop culture.
We truly hope you enjoyed these dark secrets of the 1960s Batman television series. So, are you a fan of the grim Batman versions or did you enjoy this campy series more? Please let us know in the comments sections. Also, before you move on to the next video, do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel and press the bell icon to stay updated about all our latest videos.