The 1960s Batman Still Retains Its Campy Appeal
Despite being dismissed as campy and corny, the 1960s Batman TV series remains fondly remembered by many viewers, for whom the series represented their introduction to the classic comic book character. The cast of Batman was also memorable for the stellar cast of actors it managed to attract to play villains, including Cesar Romero as the Joker, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler and Burgess Meredith as the Penguin. It also featured many popular stars of the day doing coveted Batclimb Cameos, in which a celebrity (such as Sammy Davis, Jr. and Jerry Lewis) would suddenly pop their head out a window while Batman and Robin were climbing the side of a building.
Adam West and Burt Ward played millionaire Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson, who, in response to the Bat Signal flashing into the night sky, would slide down hidden fireman’s poles into the Batcave and emerge as Batman and Robin, defenders of Gotham City. Other regular members of the cast of Batman included Alan Napier as faithful butler Alfred, Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon, Stafford Repp as Chief of Police O’Hara and Madge Blake as Aunt Harriet Cooper, who lived in Wayne Manor with Bruce and Dick.
The series was a huge hit in its first season aired in 1966 (when the show aired twice a week), consistently reaching the top ten and the top five in the Nielsen ratings, and was widely acclaimed for its inventiveness and off-the-wall humor. However, by the second season the show had increasingly begun to repeat itself and fall into formula, resulting in declining ratings. In its third season, in an attempt to boost ratings, Yvonne Craig was added to the cast of Batman as Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara, who joined Batman in his fight against crime in her secret identity as Batgirl. Unfortunately, by then the show was clearly faltering and had been cut down to once a week airings; it was eventually cancelled in 1968. However, its influence can still be seen in subsequent Batman projects, most notably the new animated series Batman: the Brave and the Bold, whose visual style is clearly taken from the 1960s series.