With the growing interest in Batman due to Tim Burton’s use of Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton in 1989’s Batman, and with the twenty-fifth anniversary of ABC’s live-action television series, Adam West toured, promoting his book and other ventures when I was a young teen. At one of his stops, a small local college, West spoke about playing the iconic detective/hero and signed autographs. I was enthralled by meeting the actor who could play my favorite superhero, even if it was a parody. The innocence of the heroes in the face of tyrannical villains was different from the gritty stories of the 1980s onward, and now seems naïve (in a good way) compared to the lengths we’ll go to as we create space for the darkest villains and our antiheroes to operate.
Watching Batman: The Complete Television Series is like a breath of fresh air! (And the Blu-ray always makes things better)
All 120 episodes are included here, for the first time in Blu-ray. It’s a hefty set, over four pounds, with special features to watch and to experience. There’s a Hot Wheels replica Batmobile and a stack of vintage cards for collectors and young fans, and the depth of the visual features is terrific, given that we already have over three thousand minutes of actual show to watch! The Episode Guide (32 pages worth) guides us from the original pair of episodes featuring Frank Gorshin’s Riddler through the final episode with Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Minerva, and the three hours, heavy with West, of bonus features. Of course, I’m most interested in rewatching all of the Joker (Cesar Romero) episodes and sharing them with my kids, but it’s also cool to see the way that they portrayed Penguin (Burgess Meredith- is he the only one who didn’t peak here?), Catwoman (Julie Newmar), and other villains like Mad Hatter, Egghead, and Mr. Freeze.
Whether it’s an exploration of the various collectibles associated with Batman with three collectors, the reflections of West in “Hanging with Batman,” “Bats of the Round Table” (with some friends), or “Inventing Batman in the Words of Adam West,” or other folks in “Na Na Na Batman!” you’ll see more about the Dark Knight specifically drawn up for this three-year heroic run. As I watch FOX’s Gotham, and see the development from a mashup of Burton and Chris Nolan’s takes on our hooded hero, I’m still impressed by looking back to watch the Batman I grew up with (well, that and the Superfriends version).
Batman will probably always be my favorite: he’s not “super,” but gifted. Sure, he’s rich, but the tradeoff for his character (losing his parents) doesn’t really bring terrible angst into this trajectory of his character (Scott Snyder will delve into that much more!) Instead, here, the focus is on his friendship/partnership with Robin (Burt Ward), and his circumspect bravery in the face of the plots of the aforementioned villains. Is it hokey, hilarious, and over the top? Absolutely. Does it add to the Batman mystique and show up in Gotham and Burton’s Batman and in pop culture affects of the Batman? Certainly.
Will it bring you and your kids closer together? Well, I didn’t say it was magic, but you could do a lot worse than showing your kids that heroes are selfless and true, and not all depressed and antisocial. And I still think it’s fabulous.