The Batman ’66 TV series premiered 50 years ago today!
BAM! POW! ZAP!!!
These words first appeared on television screens across the United States on January 12, 1966 as renowned comedian Frank Gorshin menaced Gotham City as “The Riddler“. Advertised as “in color”, this campy take on the superhero genre was chock-full of pop culture references, celebrity cameos, and social commentary. The result was a series that became an overnight pop culture sensation leading to the phrase that the top pop culture influences of the 1960’s were “the Beatles, Bond, and Batman.”
The series even spawned a 1966 feature film that pitted the Caped Crusaders against FOUR of their greatest foes! (Sadly, Julie Newmar was unavailable due to filming commitments and so Lee Meriwether took over the role of Catwoman.)
The series also put forth some of the most memorable super villain performances in genre history. From the aforementioned Frank Gorshin as the Riddler to Burgess Meredith as the DEFINITIVE Penguin to Caesar Romero’s laughing “Crown Prince of Crime” version of the Joker the series had no shortage of “criminal charisma.”
While many fans today might decry the show as “goofy” or “cheesy” there is an artistic brilliance to the series that cannot be denied. From its vibrant use of color (in 1968 only 25% of US households owned a color TV), it’s pop culture sensibilities, and the calibre of the celebrity guest villains, Batman was unlike anything that had hit the screens before and it made overnight sensations out of its leading duo Adam West and Burt Ward. Airing two nights a week with each story divided by a cliffhanger, audiences were powerless to resist the power of the Dynamic Duo. Continue reading