January 12, 1966: Batman premieres on ABC television. Batman (Adam West) and his sidekick Robin (Burt Ward) helped Police Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) save Gotham City from all manner of evil. Based on the DC comic book characters created by Bob Kane, the 30-minute show ran twice a week for 2.5 season before being cancelled. Kane first introduced Batman in 1938 and added Robin as a sidekick in 1939. Kane gives credit to Bill Finger for his help in creating the comic book legends.
Bruce Wayne and his ward, Dick Grayson, lived in the extravagant mansion, Wayne Manor. When some heinous crime was committed, Police Chief O’Hara (Stafford Repp) and Commissioner Gordon would realize the nefarious criminal was too much for them to handle alone. They would use the special phone and Alfred (Alan Napier), the butler, would answer the red, flashing Batphone at Wayne Manor. Alfred would then call for Bruce to come to the phone. Upon hearing the details of the crime, Bruce would say to his ward, “To the Batpoles!”
The way to the Batcave was opened by a button hidden in a bust of Shakespeare. Bruce and Dick would leave the library and land in the Batcave as Batman and Robin, ready to fight crime and make the streets of Gotham City safe once again. They would head into the city in the Batmobile, an atomic-powered heavily armed car. The pair would then pursue the criminal to the end of the first show, leaving our heroes in a precarious position for the wrap up with the second episode later in the week.
The campy shows with major brawls portrayed with odd sound effects and cutouts of Pow! or Bam! on the screen, soon lost their allure. By the second season, characters were being recycled and the balance between drama and humor began to lose its edge. By the third season, ratings continued to fall even with Batgirl helping the Dynamic Duo. The show was cancelled. NBC offered to pick up the series but the set had already been demolished. NBC rescinded the offer rather than rebuild the $800,000 set.
“Commissioner Gordon: I don’t know who he is beneath that mask of his, but I know when we need him, and we need him now!”
“Robin: Holy Benedict Arnold – Suzie! Chief cheerleader, a member of The Joker’s criminal gang!”
“Miss Kitka: When I close my eyes, I imagine a world at peace.
Bruce: That’s strange… when I close my eyes, I imagine something quite astonishingly different.”
“Batman: Ma Parker’s girl is more dangerous than her three boys.
Robin: Her legs sort of reminded me of Catwoman’s.
Batman: You’re growing up, Robin. Remember, in crime-fighting always keep your sights raised.” – all from Batman
This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2010. Editor’s update: Batman lived beyond the cancelled TV series. He appeared in cartoons on Saturday mornings from 1973 to 1986 in Super Friends. Then, in 1989 Tim Burton had Michael Keaton in the starring role of his version of Batman. It was the top grossing film of the year and the fifth highest in film history. There were three sequels which were filmed in 1992, 1995, and 1997 with Keaton starring in the first and then Val Kilmer and finally George Clooney starring as the title character. Other attempts have been made to return Batman to the large and small screen without as much as success. In 2012, The Dark Knight Rises was the site of a mass murder when 12 people were killed and 58 more wounded during a shooting spree at a midnight screening.
Also on this day: Reach for the Stars – In 1866, the Royal Aeronautical Society was formed.
Presentation is Everything – In 1943 The Office of Price Administration in the US issued an edict renaming food items.
The Big Sleep – In 1967, James Bedford died and was cryogenically preserved.