Well we made it to the end of the first season of the classic 1960’s series Batman. Thirty-four episodes, which actually translates to only a seventeen week run (two episodes a week, remember). So before we move on to season two of the series let’s look back at some of the highlights and then we’ll give a brief preview of season two.
As I said when we started this adventure, I used to watch this series in reruns when I was a kid…and back then I thought it was serious. Now, as an adult, I realize that the show was a comedy. Watching these episodes week after week really has enlightened me as to the great comedic dynamic between the show’s two leads, Adam West and Burt Ward. The over-the-top seriousness with which they approach the most bizarre situations is comic gold. The rest of the regular cast, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, and Stafford Repp, were also a lot of fun. I still don’t really see the need for the character of Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake)…but whatever. Her role would gradually be reduced as we move through the next two seasons.
Of course, as is often the case with Batman, the villains tend to take center stage. We saw ten different villains during this first season…including such iconic characters as Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze. Of the all the more famous “guest villains” my favorite has to be Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. He was the first to appear on the series and he also appeared the most (4 stories, 8 episodes). However, two of the villains that were created for this series, King Tut (Victor Buono) and Bookworm (Roddy McDowall) were two of my favorites. Sadly, Bookworm won’t be seen again on the series, but Tut will be back.
When it comes to Batman’s gadgets, we saw a whole bunch of strange and ingenious inventions. The highlight for me, though, is only marginally a gadget. I just loved the Parachute Pickup Service that Batman has standing by to retrieve the Batmobile’s parachute. We can’t leave that stuff lying around Gotham, after all. We also have to mention the lovely ladies of Gotham. We saw many greats…and it’s hard to pick a favorite. I think I can narrow it down to three, though: Donna Loren as Susie the cheerleader, Sherry Jackson who teamed up with the Riddler late in the season, and Jill St John who paid the ultimate price for her alliance with the Riddler in the first story of the season.
Now…before we look ahead to season two, let’s talk a bit about what happened in the months leading up to the season two debut. Season one, a midseason replacement, was a big hit and there were several attempts to capitalize on the success. Most notable was a feature film, simply called Batman, which was filmed immediately following the completion of season one. The film featured the Caped Crusaders going against four of their biggest enemies who have decided to join forces. Returning from the series were Cesar Romero as Joker, Burgess Meredith as Penguin, and Frank Gorshin as Riddler. However, scheduling problems with Julie Newmar led to a recasting of the role of Catwoman. For the film she is played for the first and only time by Lee Meriwether. The film sees the debut of a Batboat, Batcopter, and best of all…Bat Shark Repellant. The film was not really a big box office success, but has become a cult favorite over the years.
Batmania continued throughout the US with many other products being released. Among them were several tie-in records. Surf rock act Jan and Dean released an entire Batman themed album called Jan and Dean meet Batman. You can actually stream the album online through the Spotify music service. But that wasn’t all, for the series’ two stars each released their own singles, as well. Adam West sang a tune called “Miranda” in character as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Even more bizarre is Burt Ward’s single, “Boy Wonder I Love You.” It’s about Robin answering his fan mail and it was written by none other than Frank Zappa.
Now then, season two of Batman would begin on September 7, 1966. A whopping 60 episodes make up the season. The show still aired twice a week at this point, continuing the two-part story format. There are two occasions this season where the show changed the format slightly with a three-part adventure. We do see the return of several of the first season’s iconic villains…including: Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Mad Hatter, and King Tut. We actually get two different Mr. Freeze’s this season (played by Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach). One notable absence, though, is Frank Gorshin’s Riddler. Gorshin’s commitment to his very popular Vegas show caused scheduling difficulties. As a result, the Riddler only makes one appearance late in season two…and this time he is played by John Astin, fresh off his time playing Gomez Addams on The Addams Family. Even with all the returning villains, though, season two is notable for putting more emphasis on villains original to the show. We see such new baddies as Egghead, Shame, Marsha Queen of Diamonds, and Chandell Harry.
So, next time we’ll jump right in with a villain created for the series. No longer working New York’s sewer system on The Honeymooners, it’s Art Carney as The Archer in Shoot a Crooked Arrow. Next week…same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).