A Few Facts You Might Not Know About the TV Series Batman

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Batman, the TV series, made its debut as one of TV's first mid-season replacements on January 12, 1966. Featuring Adam West in the lead role and Burt Ward playing Robin, his co-crime fighter, the show became the breakout hit of the 1966 TV season.

Batman was everywhere and the show quickly developed into the biggest marketing campaign in television history, up to that time. Not only was every kid in America talking about Batman, but Batman magazines, t-shirts, costumes, posters, banners, records, etc. were everywhere- it was the biggest marketing craze since the Beatles themselves.

The series success was short-lived, however. It quickly became a huge fad that just burned itself out, like a meteor shooting through the sky. After a hugely successful initial run, the classic two-part cliffhanger-type episodes were dispensed with, Madge Blake ("Aunt Harriet") became ill and had to leave the show, and a new (and unsuccessful) character, Batgirl, was added. Batman now holds it's rightful place in TV history as a genuine TV "classic" series.

Let's take a look at a few facts you may not know about Batman.

* Before going on the air, Batman received the lowest test score ratings from test audiences in the history of the ABC network.

* Batman was originally planned to be a very serious show. Before the show went on the air, ABC held two test screenings, one with laugh track dubbed in and one with much additional narration. According to Adam West, both fell flat and the "campy" approach was eventually decided upon instead.

* 5 different Batmobiles were use during the series' run. (the car was actually a customized 1955 Lincoln Futura.)

* Batman's success as a TV series actually saved the Batman comic book from cancellation. Bob Kane, Batman's creator, has said the show's success gave the slumping Batman comics a much-needed huge boost in sales. Batman diehard comic fans, however, never liked the series because of it's campiness. After the show was cancelled, the Batman comics deliberately took a much more serious turn to placate upset fans.

* Alfred the butler had already been killed off in the comic book 18 months before the TV show originally aired. He was "brought back to life" (played by Alan Napier) for the show. After the show's huge success, Alfred was resurrected in the comics too.

* Alan Napier was the show's only cast member who had never heard of Batman and had no idea of who the character was before the show began filming.

* Lyle Waggoner was the other actor considered to play Batman, along with Adam West, who got the role.

* Burt Ward earned just $350 a week for the first season of Batman.

* When Burgess Meredith took the role of The Penguin, he hadn't smoked in 20 years. His trademark cigarette (in holder) irritated his throat, which caused him to ad-lib his trademark "quack, quack, quack" croaking voice.

* In the guy version of Barbara Eden having to hide her navel on I Dream of Jeannie, there was a huge controversy about both Adam West's and Burt Ward's "bulge in the crotch" during the show's run. Several different methods of crotch "inhibition" were used on West and Ward during the series' run, to fend off complaints from conservative and religious organizations.

* Adam West has admitted to Julie Newmar as Catwoman causing "strange stirrings in my utility belt", and Burt Ward also admitted that Lesley Gore (as Catwoman's assistant "Pussycat") caused him a great deal of intense male feelings, because she kept rubbing up against him (see previous factoid).

* During the show's third and final season, a new character "Batgirl" was added. The character never quite fit in and helped toll the death knell of the show. Ironically, Batgirl was added to try to get more female viewers, but Yvonne Craig and her skintight costume actually helped increase male viewers' interest.

* There is an urban myth that the Aunt Harriet character (played by Madge Blake) was added to the show to fend off viewers from thinking Batman and Robin were gay. According to most reliable sources, this story is, indeed, just a myth.

* Mickey Rooney was originally offered the role of the Penguin, but turned it down.

* Frank Sinatra was a big fan of Batman and actually expressed interest in the Joker role.

* Because of his great success as Batman, Adam West was offered the role of James Bond in the 1969 movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. West declined, saying the role should be played by a British actor. Ironically, George Lazenby, an Australian, got the role.

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Eddie, great article! I have a helpful bit for you: Only two of the Barris-built four Batmobiles were actually used on the show. The #1 car was metal, and built from the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. It was used for 99.99% of the show. In one episode, "The Contaminated Cowl," the #4 dragster Batmobile can be seen in two scenes inside the Batcave. You can check out the 1989 Cinefanstique issue where they interviewed Batman stunt double Hubie Kerns, or 1966batmobile.com for verification. Thanks again for the article.
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Adam West visited my college in 1990. I asked him why the camera was frequently tilted in scenes so that people appeared to be standing at a 30 degree angle. He said that this was only done when villains were shown, to indicate that they had warped minds and were literally crooked. This may be common knowledge to fans but I had never heard the explanation before.

When asked about the Batman movie, with Michael Keaton, West said he thought it should have been titled "The Joker."
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