Wednesday 13 May 2020


Batman was the most fun there was on TV for a brief period in the mid-1960s. The villains were crazy or calculating and, therefore, a real menace. Alfred was unflappable. Aunt Harriet was clueless and dithering. The Batmobile had a neat design. Words like “Zowie!” suddenly appeared on the screen. And you had a day to guess how Batman and Robin would get out of their seemingly-fatal predicament (ABC, in a stroke of genius, aired two-part episodes on Wednesday and Thursday nights).

The series became a monster fad. Newspapers wrote about it being a monster fad. Newspapers rewrote stories about it being a monster fad.

Here are a couple. The first is from the Cincinnati Enquirer of March 19, 1966 and gets into the business of Batman. It makes you wonder about shows today that spend fortunes on merchandising and then the show flops. It also makes you wonder why “experts” are so humourless. The second one is mainly from the Orlando Sentinel of January 12, 1967. A few other papers ran a longer unbylined version. Other newspapers earlier in the month had a similar syndicated story by Gretchen Carroll with some of the same words and many of the same quotes of Adam West. Judging by reactions in the story it’s evident some people took the show waaaaay too seriously.

Yes, the Batfad died for a time as the pundits predicted. The show killed itself by casting Milton Berle as a villain that wasn’t The Joke Stealer and Ethel Merman who was known to be evil only to Ernest Borgnine. And the Batman-as-the-Pied Piper episode showed the producers gave up on any premise of adventure or suspense and just went with the ridiculous. As a kid, I was insulted. But almost 55 years later, the series still has a following. As well it should. Where else can you get an accomplished actor like Burgess Meredith quacking and yelling “Bat boob!”

Batman?? What About Your Goldfish, Dad??

Enquirer Business Writer
Hey Dad, the next time Junior dons his Batman sweat shirt, combs his bangs down over his eyes, slams the front door and heads for that stripped down hotrod with the bullet hole decals, think before you groan and wonder, "What is this younger generation coming to?"
Remember the racoon coat, the ukelele, the hip flask and the Stutz Bearcat? Take heart, because the Dynamic Duo probably will fade into history Just like the racoon coat, the uke, the Stutz and the nickle goldfish from Woolworths that you swallowed by the handful.
The Caped Crusader and his Holy Smoking sidekick Robin burst onto the American [scene] a couple of months ago just like James Bond, Agent 007, did last year, just like Davy Crockett did before that and just like the hoola hoop before that.
The popularity of the scourge of evil-doers was strongly demonstrated Wednesday night when all of the TV networks gave live coverage to the Gemini 8 flight and plight. Officials of the American Broadcasting Co. and affiliate stations were swamped with thousands of calls from irrate [sic] viewers who preferred Batman to Gemini.
WKRC-TV, the Cincinnati ABC affiliate, received "several hundred calls" with News Director Tom Jones answering 180 of them personally. Only three were complementary. The rest? "We want Batman."
But while it may be only a brief fling, Batman will leave a monetary mark on the nation and will be responsible for quite a wad of currency changing hands. In fact, quite a wad already has changed hands—Batman sweat shirts. Bat decals, plastic models, costumes, just to mention a few items.
Just like James Bond, Davy Crockett, the hoola hoop and others. Batman is a fad that caught the public's fancy. And since American industry is geared to provide what the public wants, industry immediately jumped on the band wagon ... or is it bat wagon.
Within a matter of days after the first Batman program premiered on TV a variety of Batman sweat shirts, T-shirts with Batman decals, model Batmobiles and other such items hit the market. More than 500 items have been licensed for public distribution.
What's behind this sudden clamor for such commodities? Two members of the University of Cincinnati faculty, a sociologist and a psychologist, were just about as perplexed as the rest of the public.
"Actually Batman seems to be a part of a trend toward the atrocious—the worse the better," said Miss Gail Williams, a member of the UC Sociology Department staff. "The program is drawing crowds of adult viewers who seem to be using it as a conversation piece," she added.
Following closely on the heels of James Bond, Batman seems to be another "hero" who resorts to gadgetry instead of brain power when he finds himself in a tight spot, the sociologist commented. "In the Bond movies and books it seems that when the spy finds himself in trouble he whips out a new gadget I think people are watching Batman to see how long it can last and just what new gimmick he will come up with next," Miss Williams said.
To her, the trend toward anti-intellectual entertainment seems to be growing. "With the Bond series it appears that sex and sadism in over doses is very tolerable," Miss Williams said.
Dr. R. J. Senter, a member of UC's Psychology Department staff, commented that it is his feeling that many adults began watching Batman on TV because of their memories of their youth when they followed the adventures of the Dynamic Duo in comic books. "It is a fad and just what spurs a fad, I can't explain," said Dr. Senter. "If I could predict fads I woulnd't be in this business," he added.
Both Miss Williams and Dr. Senter feel that the Batman fad will be short lived. "While Batman does appeal to a wider age span, I don't believe it will last as long as some of the other fads lasted," Miss Williams said. And Dr. Senter added that in his opinion Batman could fade out just as rapidly as he came into sight.
Another UC staff member, Dr. George E. Hartman, head of the Marketing Department, pointed out that the speed with which manufacturers hit the market with Batman items shows that industry is becoming better prepared each day to jump quickly into production when public demand is expressed. "I am very sure that it can't last much longer," Dr. Hartman said but he added that Batman has proved a point for American industries in showing that they can jump on the bandwagon very quickly.
"This is an era of change. Most marketing organizations are better able today to grab the ball and run with it when the time comes," he said. And, he added, many organizations are becoming pretty good at predicting just what the public may come up with next in the way of fads.
Marketing groups are predicting that Batman merchandise sales will hit between $75 and $80 million before the year is out.
In 1965 James Bond items sold to the tune of slightly over $50 million. The problem is growing for many retail outlets as to "Just how many Batman sweat shirts (or Batman models, or Batmobile models) should we order? How long is this craze going to last? Do we order 300 or 3000?"
Pity the poor department store buyer who stocks up with 10,000 Bat masks on Friday and Monday finds that Batman is "out" and the Green Hornet is "in."
And who's to say that if Batman looks like a fairly permanent feature that the Green Hornet or the Shadow or Wonder Woman or even Felix the Cat won't be the next big demand.

Caped Crusader Ends First Batyear

ABC's "Batman" celebrated its first anniversary on the network beginning a three-part episode guest starring The Joker (Cesar Romero) and The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and Venus (Terry Moore).
Last night's episode was par for the parody. The Joker called Batman the Caped Cabbage Head and the Caped Creep and Robin, the Boy Blunder. He called himself the Master of Maudlin Mockery.
The three-part adventure will be a dabbling in astronomy. In the first segment The Penguin was little more than The Joker's assistant. He was a foul fowl set up as a decoy while The Joker set out to steal items listed on the Commissioner's Rare Art Map (for the sign of the Ram).
First he nabbed the rock 'n' roll rage of Gotham City the Twins. Then he broke up a performance of opera singer Leo Crustash (for the Lion and the Crab), and stole a rare statue representing Virgo the Virgin. Terry Moore was a voluptuous Venus who carefully followed Joker's dictate to maintain "the larcenous mind in a limber body."
Batman, however, solemnly maintained that she may be a nice girl deep down inside but she has fallen in with bad company-and probably had a rotten home life to boot.
Though the series set itself a rigid pattern that very first night last year, it's certainly inventive in its corny play on words and many of its devices and, taken in small doses, maintains a fair amount of comic interest.
STAR ADAM WEST has been stunned by the success of the show. "This has been the most exciting year of my professional life," he says. "I felt sure it would be successful, but I wasn't prepared for everything that's happened since—it still surprises me."
There's no doubt that Batman's overnight sensation was a national phenomenon. The Batmobile, the Batcave, the Batarang, the Caped Crusader and Dynamic Duo are terms that have become part of our popular jargon.
In the first few months following the show's premiere, the country was inundated with Batmania. Everything came up Batty.
Discotheques took up the Batusi, saloons featured the Batini, and Batwigs or Batcuts plus Batdresses were a rage. By April, there were more than 150 Batman products in toy stores, and youngsters everywhere sported Batman capes, T-shirts and complete costumes. Neil Hefti's "Batman Theme" was so successful that five other Batman records were soon on the market.
In Moscow, Pravda took heed and, predictably, branded the caped crusader "The representative of the broad mass of American billionaires." At home the super-hero was called either "camp" or "pop," although the description invariably set off arguments as to just what it meant.
On March 16, the unexpected difficulty with the Gemini 8 flight caused "Batman" to be frequently interrupted by news announcements. Across the country a storm of protesting viewers jammed the ABC switchboards.
The next morning, the Minneapolis Star ran four photographs from the show on its front page—and Astronauts Armstrong and Scott requested that the show be re-run since they, too, had missed it.
A Congressman wrote to Executive Producer William Dozier to request that seatbelts become an integral part of the Batmobile—having missed the episode where Batman cautioned Robin on just that subject.
When an automobile club criticized Batman's "reckless" driving, the caped crusader took to TV to defend his driving speed and stress his safety precautions, and have since taken care to fasten their seat belts.
And when a Columbus, Ohio, billboard company recently put up an enormous "Batman is Dead" sign as a gag, Sigma Pi Fraternity immediately sent pickets out to protest.
On the show itself, Hollywood's top stars flocked to the casting office for special guest villain roles. Stellar villains have included Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Shelley Winters, Cliff Robertson, liberace, Anne Baxter, Otto Preminger, Frank Gorshin," Julie Newmar, Carolyn Jones, Art Carney, Van Johnson, George Sanders, Michael Rennie, David Wayne and Maurice Evans. In addition, such people as Jerry Lewis, Tim Conway, Sammy Davis, Sonny and Cher, Dick Clark and Phyllis Diller have done "cameo" roles.
How has all this affected the cast?
Both Adam West and Bart Ward have made frequent pubic appearances and have been seen in person by thousands of people. Says West, "I have always wanted to sign professionally and Batman afforded me the chance. I have sung onstage in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans and Detroit, as well as on The Hollywood Palace and The Milton Berle Show."
West has also cut a single record, "You Only See Her," with an album in the offing. Burt Ward also cut a song, "Boy Wonder, I Love You," and the personal popularity of both performers has soared. With the TV series and the feature film "Batman" currently breaking records in England, their popularity continues to expand. Multiple film offers await their convenience.
West continues: "The thing that pleases me most about the show is that I feel it is getting better. The comedy has always been pretty broad, but it is becoming more and more satirical, and I think that assures it a lively place in television entertainment. With episodes like 'Hizzoner the Penguin', which spoofed every phase of elections, I think the show is making a social statement, in a nutty kind of way at any rate; we've still got a lot to offer."
In addition to the overwhelming popularity of the show, all concerned were honored this past year with an Emmy nomination for the best comedy series. Quite a lot to celebrate.


  1. Looking back at the series from Episode 1, you could see that Lorenzo Semple Jr. and the rest of the writing and production team couldn't bring themselves to take things seriously from the start, even if they did kill off Jill St. John in Episode 2 (the lone death in the entire series). But at least in the abbreviated Season 1 the stores didn't sink to the level of even insulting the intelligence of the kids in the viewing audience. By midway through Season 2, it was clear they weren't even pretending to play it straight anymore, and even the kids in the audience started turning away (it was neck-and-neck in 1967-68 which show at Fox became more of a absurd parody of its original premise, "Batman" or "Lost In Space".)

  2. There's actually an interesting connection between Batman and Bond. Actor Lewis Wilson, the man who first portrayed Batman on screen, was the father of Michael G. Wilson who is currently the co-producer the James Bond films.