RECAP: The Batman TV show, inspired by the 1943 Batman movie serial, had premiered on ABC TV with great fanfare, and delivered top ten ratings for almost two years. But as the Batman TV show neared the end of its second season, the novelty had begun to wear off, and ratings had begun to decline.

In response, the show had begun to utilize cost-cutting measures. In the first season, the “BAM! KAPOW! ZOWIE!” titles were placed over a scene, leaving the scene .partially visible in the background. But since this effect cost extra to create, it was decided to go with full-screen BAM KAPOW ZOWIE’s to save some money.

Additional money was saved by reusing footage from earlier episodes, as well as the Batman theatrical movie. Despite all this, ABC was still grumbling that the show cost too much to produce, and was itself not producing good enough ratings. This problem was hardly new to television, and its solution was equally ancient.
Most shows would either marry off their leads, or, if they were already married, they'd have a child. Or a death. A "very special episode." But with Batman -- a show that had no couples to either marry off or give birth, and which eschewed anything depressing -- things had to be different. The sleek and sexy Catwoman was wildly popular, so, instead of adding a baby, .Executive Producer William Dozier decided to add another female character.

According to Carmine Infantino, "[Catwoman] was on the show, and that connected with viewers. So, William Dozier called and said, 'Do you people have any more women characters?' I said, 'I have three women characters here. I brought them in. Dozier loved Poison Ivy, he didn't like the Cobra, and he was iffy on the Silver Fox. I said 'What if we turned Silver Fox into a Batgirl?' He said, 'I'd buy that.' And that's how it started.”

Of course, the Batgirl character wasn’t new to DC comics. Debuting in Batman #139 (pictured below right), the old Batgirl was really Betty Kane, niece of Kathy Kane, aka Batwoman. All in the Bat-family! But the first version of the character was hopelessly dated, and she had never been a part of the “New Look” Batman family.

BELOW: Three Bat-Girl covers, then the birth of the original Batgirl, aka Betty Kane, from Batman #139! Betty to Kathy Kane: "If YOU can be Batwoman, I can certainly be Bat-Girl! Maybe we can be a team -- like Batman and Robin!" Oh sure honey. Just like them.
BATMAN #139 - APRIL 1961
BATMAN #141 - AUG 1961
BATMAN #144 - DEC 1961
.But the old Batgirl was forgotten, and a new character with the same name was invented to help save the faltering Batman TV show. With a small fortune depending on her debut, BG's first story was quite aptly titled. As editor Julie Schwartz recalls, “Carmine and I created Batgirl. I called that 'The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl.' "
.Va va voom! Pictured right, two panels from "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!" William Dozier’s original plan was to introduce Batgirl on Batman, then eventually give her her own spin-off show. Storylines would begin on Batman, then conclude on Batgirl’s show, which would be scheduled to air right after Batman.

Even if Batgirl never got her own series, it was thought, at least she’d help renew interest in Batman, and shore up that show's sagging ratings. The idea for a separate Batgirl spin-off was dropped, but the Batgirl episode of “Batman” was at least successful enough to get the series renewed for a third season.

As the new Batgirl began appearing every week on TV, the comics that starred Batman and Robin suddenly gained a new cover fixture. Pictured below are three covers of Detective Comics, all showcasing the new Batgirl, who is featured more prominently than the Caped Crusader himself!
DETECTIVE #363 - MAY 1967
DETECTIVE #369 - NOV 1967
DETECTIVE #371 - JAN 1968
.Former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley was the first choice to play Batgirl, but the part eventually went to unknown actress Yvonne Craig, pictured right reading her favorite comic book of all time. Before meeting Batman, Craig had dated Elvis Presley, and had appeared in the classic Elvis flicks "It Happened at the World's Fair" (1963) and "Kissin' Cousins" (1964).

Craig, born 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois, was also a TV staple, doing guest shots on tons of popular 1960s shows -- everything from "My Favorite Martian" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" to the ever-pervasive "Man from U.N.C.L.E." Craig is pictured below as Barbara Gordon, Police Commissioner Gordon's daughter, and as her alter ego, the crime-fighting Batgirl.
Batman/Detective Comics Adapted for Television

During the course of its120-episode run, the Batman TV show adapted several stories directly from the pages of Batman and Detective comic books. Below is a chart detailing exactly which episodes were based on which comics, with some of the relevant covers pictured above and below the chart.
DETECTIVE #140 - OCT 1948
DETECTIVE #341 - JULY 1965
(1) Hi Diddle Riddle
(2) Smack In The Middle
Jan. 12, 1966
Jan. 13, 1966
"Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler" Batman #17
May 1965
(3) Fine Feathered Finks
(4) The Penguin's A Jinx
Jan. 19, 1966
Jan. 20, 1966
"Partners in Plunder" Batman #169
April 1965
(5) Joker’s Wild
(6) Batman is Riled
Jan. 26, 1966
Jan. 27, 1966
“The Joker’s Utility Belt”
Batman #73/176
Oct 1952/Dec 1965
(7) Instant Freeze
(8) Rats Like Cheese
Feb. 3, 1966
Feb. 4, 1966
“The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero”
Batman #121/176
Feb 1959/Dec 1965
(9) Zelda The Great
(10) A Death Worse Than Fate
Feb. 9, 1966
Feb. 10, 1966
"The Inescapable Doom Trap”
Detective #346
December 1965
(11) The Thirteenth Hat
(12) Batman Stands Pat
Feb. 23, 1966
Feb. 24, 1966
"The Mad Hatter of Gotham City Detective #230
April 1956
(23) The Ring of Wax
(24) Give 'em The Axe
Mar. 30, 1966
Mar. 31, 1966
"A Hairpin, a Hoe, a Hacksaw, a
Hole In the Ground!"
Batman #53
June 1949
(31) Death In Slow Motion
(32) The Riddler's False Notion
April 27, 1966
April 28, 1966
“The Joker’s Comedy Capers”
Detective #341
July 1865
(79) Batman's Anniversary
(80) A Riddling Controversy
Feb. 8, 1967
Feb. 9, 1967
“The Riddler”
Detective #140
Oct. 1948
BATMAN #169 - FEB 1965
BATMAN #169 - MAY 1965
BATMAN #169 - DEC 1965

Batgirl's presence did help Batman's ratings, but not enough to get the show picked up for another season. Most season three episodes were stand-alone shows, and squeezing three lead actors into a single half hour didn't help matters any either. After three years, Batman was canceled in .January 1968. William Dozier was satisfied that his show had performed well. "We had a good three-year run," Dozier commented. "That's not bad for what was essentially a novelty show. You've got to be realistic about such series. They can't last too long. In fact, I was surprised that it went a third season. The show was still winning its time slot, but adults had gotten tired of the show, and kids were just as happy watching old shows. They don't care if it's a repeat. So why go on spending $487,000 for new ones?"

William Dozier (pictured right) and his partner Howie Horowitz appeared as themselves in separate scenes in the Batman series' finale, titled "Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires." In the episode, Dozier is brainwashed into revealing that he keeps a fortune hidden, as Special Guest Villain Zsa Zsa .Gabor puts it, "in grandfather's clock!" This line is the perfect tribute to the 1943 Batman serial which invented the Batcave and located its secret entrance behind a grandfather clock (pictured left), and which subsequently inspired a TV show that has held our comic book nation spellbound for four decades.

The final Batman episode was broadcast on March 14, 1968. The show's epitaph may well read thus: "My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night, but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light!" (--Edna St. Vincent Millay)

EPILOGUE: This was not the end of Batman and Robin as portrayed by West and Ward! Ten years after Batman was canceled by ABC, the Dynamic Duo (along with the Riddler) returned for the 1978 NBC special "Hanna-Barbera's Legends of the Superheroes" (ad pictured below).
This two-part special featured heroes such as Green Lantern, Hawkman, Captain Marvel and Black Canary in addition to Batman and Robin. The first part, the "story" part, was so exceedingly lame it made even the worst episodes of the Batman TV show look like Shakespearean epics. The second part of the show, the "roast" part, was like a Dean Martin celebrity roast for aging superheroes with ill-fitting costumes. Superhero stars included Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, Charlie Callas as Sinestro, Gabe Dell as Mordru, Ruth Buzzi as Aunt Minerva, and Gary Owens as the narrator. Below are Ward and West in a scene from the show.
Not the Caped Crusader's best outing, and a sad way to have to exit the stage. Better to remember the glory days with the great 1966 Batman movie, the wonderful 2000 documentary "Holy Batmania!,"and the delightful 2003 Bat-reunion TV movie "Return to the Batcave." You might even end up watching Batman... FOREVER!


Robby Reviews "Infinite Crisis" #4!