Batmania Returns in 2014
The much anticipated home video release of the 1966-1968 Batman teleivsion series has been confirmed by Warner Home Video. A complete box set of the trend-setting 104 episodes will be out later this year in a date to be determined.
The announcement was made on the Conan O’Brien Show complete with a breaking news tweet.
Last year, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox reached an agreement to allow licensing from the ABC series to begin which spawned action figures, Barbie & Ken Collector’s Set, the well-received comic book Batman ’66 from DC Entertainment, and related merchandise. There were high hopes that the DVD announcement would be made at last summer’s Comic-Con International but it was not to be.
No details have yet been released regarding how this arrangement was completed but it has been long understood that there were legal entanglements between DC, 20th Century Fox, and Greenway Productions, the latter being William Dozier’s production company which actually created the pop series.
Dozier had been asked to turn some comic hero into a television series and after attempts with others failed, they settled on Batman, whose sales had been slipping for years as the static art from co-creator Bob Kane and his ghosts failed to keep up with the maturing look of comic books and the writing had gone down hill, mired in science fiction concepts unbefitting the world’s greatest detective.
He decided to play it as straight as he could and with Lorenzo Semple, Jr. at the typewriter, they came up with an approach that worked. The story would be split in two, with the first thirty minute part concluding on a cliffhanger with Dozier’s own narration promising results if fans merely tuned in “same bat time, same bat channel”. One show split up ion this manner had not been done before but ABC, then a distant third in the ratings, was desperate to try anything.
The series arrived on January 12, 1966 after being in development for less than a year. However, it shattered the ratings charts and became an instant smash success, spawning countless forms of apparel, books, records, and other collectibles. It turned journeyman actor Adam West into a superstar and newcomer Burt Ward into a youthful sex symbol. All manner of actors, actresses, and celebrities clamored to play villains on the series or make cameo appearances during the famed climbs up buildings.
The series arrived at a time when pop culture was enjoying a colorful renaissance, inspired in part by an art movement fronted by Andy Warhol and a renewed interest in super-hero comics. It used odd camera angles, a bright colorful palette (at a time when color TV was still considered something new), and had jazzy music. Kids adored the action sequences while adults cackled at the corny jokes and seemingly ludicrous plots. There was something for everyone.
The show quickly spawned a big budget film which arrived in August 1966, between the first and second seasons, allowing the producers to add a Bat boat and Batcopter to the growing arsenal of bat-themed weapons. It also pitted the Dynamic Duo against a quarter of foes, something heretofore untried on the series.
By that fall, though, the bloom had quickly faded and ABC was scrambling to find ways to sustain interest in the series. They asked DC for a Batgirl and rather than resurrect Kathy Kane, editor Julie Schwartz and art director Carmine Infantino created Barbara Gordon, who was introduced in Detective Comics #369 that November. Yvonne Craig, a dancer turned actress, nabbed the role and became an object of lust for young boys everywhere when she arrived the following September.
Even though ABC reduced the series to a single night, the ratings continued to plummet and the show was canceled, airing its final episode in March 1968. Soon after it went into syndication and it has been playing on some channel, somewhere ever since.