50 Years ago Tuesday: Batman pows onto ABC

19c94fde00c5795eeb0ca0536c418b82Holy senior’s discount Batman! Tuesday, Jan. 12 marks 50 years since ABC’s Batman premiered.

I was in Grade Three in 1966 and loved that this series was on two nights a week–same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. It only lasted two-and-a-half seasons and just over 100 episodes, but for a while it was hotter than any of the superhero shows currently on TV.

Over the years at various TCA press tour events, I’ve run into stars Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman and Robin). Thirteen years ago they were promoting a reunion TV-movie on UPN and stuck around for the after party. That’s where they bat-grumbled about how the original producers ripped them off for all the merchandising rights. Ward explained that up until 1969, the Screen Actors Guild had a provision that actors were paid up to only a tenth rerun of their shows. It was only 5% of their salary, and even those cheques stopped coming as early as 1971. The ’60s was no time to count on residuals.

Now 87, West eventually came to accept being typecast. “If you could make an agreement with a signature role and not become embittered or feel that you’re painted into a corner, it could be a wonderful thing,” he told me in 2003 when I was working at The Toronto Sun.

He still cashes in at autograph shows and other appearances, as well as his continuing role as the mayor on Family Guy. Ward married well and filled out to the point where he could now play the penguin.

Whatever. The still rode around in the coolest wheels, The Batmobile.

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The Stars of “Return to the Batcave” (l-r) Ward and West, can’t wait to go home, but the reporter with the lame laptop is suddenly eight again

Recently, I came in possession of ABC’s 1966 Fall Preview reel on 16mm film. The promotional film was made to advance the dozen or so series the network launched that fall. West and Ward appear as Batman and Robin, who screen the new wares in Commissioner Gordon’s office. Holy Affiliates, Batman!

I’ll be hosting a screening of the cool TV time capsule sometime in February in Toronto. Look for details on the TV on Film Project screening in a future post.

I’ve also filed a Batman retro review for The Toronto Star and will post it here as soon as it runs.

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This is the back-up Batmobile designer George Barris, who passed away last year, used for photo ops

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