Batman is an American television series, based on the DC comic book character of the same name. It starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin — two crime-fighting heroes who defend Gotham City. It aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network for three seasons from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968. The show was aired twice weekly for its first two seasons, and 120 episodes were produced in total.
In the early 1960s, Ed Graham Productions optioned the television rights to the comic strip Batman and planned a straightforward juvenile adventure show, much like Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger, to air on CBS on Saturday mornings. Former American football linebacker and actor Mike Henry was set to star as Batman.
Reportedly, DC Comics commissioned publicity photos of Henry in a Batman costume. Around this same time, the Playboy Club in Chicago was screening the Batman serials (1943′s Batman and 1949′s Batman and Robin) on Saturday nights. It became very popular. East coast ABC executive Yale Udoff, a Batman fan in his childhood, attended one of these parties at the Playboy Club and was impressed with the reaction the serials were eliciting. He contacted ABC executives Harve Bennett and Edgar J. Scherick, who were already considering developing a television series based on a comic strip action hero, to suggest a prime time Batman series in the hip and fun style of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. When negotiations between CBS and Graham stalled, DC Comics quickly re-obtained rights and made the deal with ABC, who farmed the rights out to 20th Century Fox to produce the series.
In turn, 20th Century Fox handed the project to William Dozier and his Greenway Productions. ABC and Fox were expecting a hip and fun—yet still serious—adventure show. However, Dozier, who loathed comic books, concluded the only way to make the show work was to do it as a pop art camp comedy. Ironically, the Batman comic books had recently experienced a change in editorship which marked a return to serious detective stories after decades of tales with aliens, dimensional travel, magical imps and talking animals. Originally, espionage novelist Eric Ambler was to write a TV-movie that would launch the television series, but he dropped out after learning of Dozier’s camp comedy approach. Eventually, two sets of screen tests were filmed, one with Adam West and Burt Ward and the other with Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell, with West and Ward winning the roles.
By that time, ABC had pushed up the debut date to January 1966, thus forgoing the movie until the summer hiatus. The film would be produced quickly to get into theatres prior to the start of Season Two of the television series. Lorenzo Semple, Jr. had signed on as head script writer. He wrote the pilot script, and generally wrote in a pop art adventure style. Stanley Ralph Ross, Stanford Sherman, and Charles Hoffman were script writers who generally leaned more toward camp comedy, and in Ross’s case, sometimes outright slapstick and satire. Originally intended as a one-hour show, ABC only had two early-evening time slots available, so the show was split into two parts, to air twice a week in half-hour instalments with a cliffhanger, originally to last only through a station break, connecting the two episodes, echoing the old movie serials.
The Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and the Mad Hatter, all of whom are regular Bat-Villains, appear in the series, which was deliberately villain-driven as well as action-comedy-heavy. There had been plans for Two-Face to appear, depicted as a news anchor who was disfigured when a camera blew up in his face. Though Clint Eastwood was discussed for the role of Two-Face, the show was cancelled before any appearance by this character was made.
“Batman Theme”, the title song of the 1966 Batman TV series, was composed by Neal Hefti. The song is built around a guitar hook reminiscent of spy film scores and surf music. It has a twelve bar blues progression, using only three chords until the coda. The lyrics to the theme consist of eleven cries of “Batman!” These eleven repetitions of “Batman!” were then followed by singers crying “Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da BATMAN!”
The eleven cries of “Batman!” are sung by a chorus of four tenors and four sopranos. A long held myth purports that the chorus is actually a group of horns. Adam West’s book Back to the Batcave also fuels this rumor by claiming the chorus is instrumental, not vocal. However, Neal Hefti, the writer of the theme, stated that the chorus was made up of eight singers, one of whom jokingly wrote on his part, “word and music by Neal Hefti”. TV’s Biggest Hits by Jon Burlingame, published in 1996, focuses exclusively on TV theme songs, and includes an interview with Hefti about the creation of the Batman theme song. According to Burlingame, the song consisted of “bass guitar, low brass and percussion to create a driving rhythm, while an eight-voice chorus sings ‘Batman!’ in harmony with the trumpets.”
The theme was the most recorded song of 1966. In addition to Neal Hefti’s original version, and the television soundtrack version by Nelson Riddle, versions were covered by The Marketts (single “Batman Theme” and album The Batman Theme by The Marketts), The Ventures (The Ventures Play the “Batman” Theme, Dolton BST8042, 3/1966), Al Hirt, The Standells and actor/musician David McCallum. There were also versions by groups who seemed to exist solely for covering the song, such as “The Sensational Batboys” and “Bruce and the Robin Rockers”.
The song has been widely parodied in the decades since its debut, and remains a prominent pop-culture subject to this day. The theme has been re-recorded by dozens of artists, including Link Wray, The Kinks, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Eminem, The Flaming Lips, Voivod, Alien Sex Fiend (as Dynamic Duo), Mucky Pup, The Jam, and The Who.