For those of you who, like me, watched Batman as a kid, back before the whole puberty thing, you might be surprised at numerous other legs the show had; sure (either) Catwoman is a looker, but every gang of henchmen includes some wayward girl-gone-bad whose costume managed to fit in with the gang's theme while being sexy. (Think along the lines of women's Halloween costumes here: a sexy cat, a sexy farmgirl or a beauty pageant contestant ready for the swimsuit competition.) It evidently was a thing back then, because these same damsels-in-distress showed up in Star Trek episodes and other television shows. It's very much a "Bond girl" sort of thing, I suppose.
Batman, the television series, starred Adam West as Batman and the millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, along with Burt Ward as Mr. Wayne's ward, Dick Grayson who doubled as the second half of the dynamic duo, Robin, the "Boy Wonder." Batman and Robin went toe to toe repetitively against Batman's rogue's gallery, including fan favorites including the Joker (Cesar Romero), Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin / John Astin), Catwoman (Julie Newmar / Eartha Kitt), Mr. Freeze (Otto Preminger / Eli Wallach / George Sanders), the Mad Hatter (David Wayne), Egghead (Vincent Price), King Tut (Victor Buono), Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle) and others. As you probably noticed above, a few of the villains were played by different actors at different times. The producers didn't even "bat" an eye; they just made the episodes. There was no explanation for the change of appearance and no announcement like soap operas will have that say, "The part of blah will now be played by blah."
While some comic book fans (and a lot of mainstream media) call the show "campy," it actually is quite intelligently put together. Batman is a bit of a parody of a crimefighter who Adam West, himself, calls "absurd" - but, as ridiculously "square" as Bruce Wayne/Batman is at any given time, he takes himself seriously. Whether it's the sideways camera trick Bat-climb scenes or Batman and Robin deeply concentrating on the task at hand as they "analyze" some evidence with the Bat-Computer by holding some box up to their eyes and rotating a translucent disc of plastic as they look through it, they take themselves seriously and the audience is led to do the same, as outlandish as they may be. At times, the Bat-fill-in-the-blank mentions get to be a bit much, but they're still funny. However, while there are lots of things that children will pick up on and find entertaining, there are also things that adults will catch - double entendres, puns and political references from the time period. Further, if you compare what happens in the show to the events of the Batman comics of that time, there were more ridiculous things going on in the comic books. (Think aliens, shrinking down to a tiny size to enter a city in a bottle and Batman being turned into a Bat-baby as examples.)
In addition to the comedic elements, there is quite a bit of action to be seen. There are, of course, fights with the henchmen gangs each episode, which tend to involve a lot of destroying the props in the room by slamming them into the bad guys. There are, however, some swinging from ceiling lamps, and joint moves that involve Batman and Robin working together to deliver stronger punches or to throw each other into the fray. There are also quite a bit of pyrotechnics here and there, not to mention the amazing Batmobile racing about.
The first two seasons primarily follow a two-episode pair format, where a featured villain's story spans across two episodes: the first episode featuring a cliff-hanger ending with the Dynamic Duo in some form of death trap, followed by a second episode that resolves the story, showing how Batman and Robin escape their untimely deaths and then manage to catch their man (or woman) in the end. They occasionally stray from the two-episode stories around the middle of Season Two when they introduce some stories featuring team-ups of pairs of villains. These pair-ups include Sandman and Catwoman, Penguin and Joker and one with Penguin and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Season Two also features the Green Hornet crossover episode, when the Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee) are in Gotham City tracking down a rare stamp counterfeiter.
Season Three features a lot of changes. We know now that there were only three seasons, but if I had been watching Season Three when it first aired, I might have feared that it was hurting, because the changes seemed to be of two types: things to try to keep an audience and things that reduced costs. The most notable thing in Season Three - from the very first episode - is the introduction of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (Yvonne Craig). Yvonne is beautiful, athletic and charming, making her great for the role, and, based on her fights, I feel fairly certain that her ability to (bat-)kick so high played a big part in her getting the role. While Batman and Robin's fights sometimes looked almost like dance moves when Batman would throw Robin at some goons, Batgirl and Robin had some very fluid movement, replete with spins that would end in Yvonne's trademark high kicks. This appeared to be the show's attempt to add a strong female character (and attract middle-aged men and adolescent women), but, at the same time, they forced the character to be overly "feminine," forcing upon the character gender-specific stereotypes that didn't really fit with the character. As an example, they had her claiming at one point that, as a woman, her best crime-fighting tools are luck and woman's intuition. At one point, she even claims to have determined the location of a crime scene by "reading tea leaves." She has her own special Batgirl-Cycle... and it has lace on it, for Pete's sake! Why can't she just be admit to being a female detective? And how does a librarian just out of college have the resources to have a secret Batgirl area in her apartment with a secret exit through a brick wall into an alley, for that matter?
"I might've known. You can't get policewomen to help you catch mice."- Batgirl, Batman: Nora Clavicle and the Ladies' Crime Club
If Batgirl's overly girlish ways weren't enough, there is an episode in which women take over Gotham, replacing Commissioner Gordon, the Police Chief and all of the police. This leaves Gotham vulnerable to criminals, since the policewoman guarding the bank is too busy applying her makeup to pay any mind to the robbers, the two just outside of the bank are too busy discussing a recipe to be bothered, and another policewoman explains that she can't possibly chase after the crooks, because she's wearing her Givenchy heels. They might have had an episode about women's lib, but they didn't seem to be supporting it - despite the whole Batgirl thing.
The Third Season also brings a format change; Now, the end of each episode has a teaser showing the villain to be featured in the next episode. Also, the sets become much more simplified and abstract. An underground dungeon, in one case, is represented by a couple of large stone columns, a staircase and window frames on sticks to hold them at the correct positions next to the stairs. While I'm sure such minimalism can be compared to certain comic book art, it seemed obvious that it was much easier and cheaper to build that set than some of the much more detailed sets from the first two seasons. The Third Season also sports a trip to jolly old Londinium, which despite sounding like an element, is actually Batman's analogue of London, England. This was a nod to the popularity of London and the Beatles in America at the time.
Riddle me this:
"When is a Collectible like a Penguin on laughing gas?"
Collectors will likely be pleased at the extras and the box, itself. The box is compact and sturdy, designed to showcase the included Hot Wheels Replica Batmobile without opening it and the box, itself, is even numbered. Open the box and the first thing you'll notice is the box of 44 vintage-style Batman trading cards, located in a recess just above the Hotwheels Batmobile. On the left half of the box, you'll find all three seasons of the show on 12 Blu-ray discs, along with a Special Features disc in the Third Season's sleeve. Each season has its own fold-out box that holds the discs securely. Also included is a soft-cover episode guide for the whole series and The Adam West Scrapbook, a hard-cover book with a variety of photos, ranging from pics of a young Adam West to publicity photos, behind the scenes shots, public appearances and more. My two favorites would have to be the very rare picture of Adam West removing his cowl (remember that costume changes took place off-screen) and a picture of Adam West sitting with William Shatner at the 1966 Emmy Awards.
Special features include a feature with Adam West talking about the creation of his version of Batman, a commentary-esque presentation of the first two episodes, with Adam West talking about certain elements of the episodes from his notes he had made on his original copy of the script (and without actually talking over the film a lot, as most commentary does), a round table discussion between Adam West and Celebrities who are fans of the show, Hollywood stars and producers recounting favorite Batman memories and a really cool look into the merchandising of the show and some of the more impressive collectors and their collections of Batman collectibles. You also get to see some film of the actors performing a scene as a film test for the part and the short episode that was filmed to introduce Batgirl, but never aired.
The long and short of it is that fans of the Batman Television Series should own this boxed set. You get every episode, remastered and presented in vibrantly colorful 1080p HD resolution (okay, with letterboxing on the sides, since it was the more square shape of televisions at the time) and in Dolby Digital stereo audio, for a show that was one of the first shows aired in color with stereo sound. There are the occasional aberrations here and there (I noticed it looked like a hair or lint had messed up a few frames in an episode), but, for the most part, the video quality is excellent for a show that's just shy of 50 years old. If you're going to buy one for yourself or as a gift, you might want to hurry. There are only 95,000 out there, and I know for a fact that number 47,538 is already claimed.