Noise An Arts Blog

R.I.P. Adam West: In praise of '60s Batman's Saturday matinee serial-on-whippets vibe

City Paper

Clever enough for a prime-time viewership of drunk adults but just enough of a comic book pantomime that you can put it on for any child, the Batman TV series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, which ran from 1966-1968, is a weird and wonderful chapter in the Dark Knight's considerable history.

The show's first episode alone indicates the kind of immortal groovy weirdness you're in for: We find Frank Gorshin's Riddler trying and failing to blow up the Batmobile before replacing Robin with his own villainous girl Friday (Jill St. John) while a roofied Batman basically gets a DUI ("Give me the key, Batman, you're in no condition to drive," intones one of Gotham City's many useless cops).

With its impressive-for-the-time production values and sunny Los Angeles backdrop, the series has a visual flair that copies the comic books, and the arched-eyebrow performances from West, Ward, and various guest stars grant the show some kooky character. This Batman is a child's concept of the consummate gentleman played (mostly) straight: He orders orange juice at nightclubs and feels weird about parking the Batmobile in police loading zones. The whole show leans hard into this Saturday matinee serial-on-whippets vibe and small "it's all in good fun" details such as Cesar Romero as the Joker possessing a plainly visible mustache under his makeup.

Even if you're burnt out on Bat-everything or just plain bored with superhero shit, "Batman: The Television Series" is definitely worth your time—and it is necessary Bat-thing viewing today in light of star West's death at 88.

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