Premiering on January 12, 1966, as a mid-season replacement, the series featured actor Adam West as the perennial character of Batman, while Burt Ward donned nylon stockings and fairy boots for his portrayal of the erstwhile sidekick, Robin.
The show was noteworthy for its memorable use of onomatopoeia during climactic fight scenes. The show quickly became a huge success with audiences, and transformed West and Ward into modern pop culture icons.
When not fighting crime as Batman and Robin, the Dynamic Duo were often found at Wayne manor in their respective identities as Bruce Wayne and his "youthful ward", Dick Grayson. Living alongside them in the vast mansion, was doddering old Aunt Harriet (a character based upon a minor character in the comics), and their mild-mannered butler, Alfred. Alfred was the only other person to know Batman and Robin's secret identities.
Unlike the earlier movie serials of the 1940s, this was the first Batman project to feature Batman's rogues gallery of villains. Cesar Romero made numerous appearances as the Joker, while Burgess Meredith reinvented the image of the Penguin, with his crooked smile and trademark "Squawk". Julie Newmar provided Catwoman's rolling "R"s, only to be replaced later by Lee Meriwether for the 1966 movie, and again in the final season by Eartha Kitt. Two men provided their talents to the role of the Riddler - Frank Gorshin (in the first and third seasons) and John Astin (in a one-off second-season appearance).
In addition to the fantastic sets and costumes, the series also featured a number of James Bond-inspired gadget-filled vehicles: Batmobile (which had originated in the comics), Batcycle, Batboat, and the Batcopter. The Batmobile donor car was a 1955 Lincoln Futura that George Barris customized in only three weeks. Two Batcycles appeared on the show; the first was a barely modified Harley Davidson, and the second was a highly modified Yamaha. The Batboat was built by Glastron. Some of the specialty vehicles - in particular the Batboat and Batcopter - were constructed under the budget for the 1966 film.
During its first two seasons, the series aired twice a week, with each week featuring a two-part story, with the exception of a one-off three-part Penguin story that aired midway through season 2. As a result, season 1 aired for 34 episodes, while season 2 aired for a massive 60 episodes, at a time when most US prime-time series only aired 25 or so episodes a season. In season 3 the series was scaled back to once a week and the show began mixing up the formula by airing a mixture of single-episode, two-part and three-part storylines. Only 20 episodes were made that year.
By season three, declining ratings prompted the introduction of a third partner to the Bat Family, Barbara Gordon – aka Batgirl (played by Yvonne Craig). Although Batgirl was a popular character, her presence could not save the series, and it was canceled in 1968.
The series spun-off a motion picture in 1966 featuring most of the TV cast. After its cancellation, West and Ward continued to portray Batman and Robin in voice only for several Saturday morning-cartoon versions of Batman, and appeared on screen once more as the Dynamic Duo in the two-part comedy special "Legends of the Superheroes" which aired in 1979 and also featured Frank Gorshin returning as the Riddler.
In 2003, West, Ward, Newmar, Gorshin, and Meriwether, as well as Lyle Waggoner, the actor considered for the role of Batman before Adam West, appeared in the TV movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, a tongue-in-cheek film in which West and Ward, appearing as themselves, reminisce about making the TV series. Based upon the two actors' memoirs, the film features recreations of various scenes and behind-the-scenes events from filming. Jack Brewer plays young Adam West, Jason Marsden assails the role of young Burt Ward, and Julie Rose plays young Julie Newmar, among other. The film is notable for allowing Frank Gorshin to film a scene on a recreated Batcave set - he was one of the only recurring rogue's gallery actors never to get the chance on TV - and is the only Batman production to feature both Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether, though due to licensing issues related to the TV series (see Home Video Release, below), the producers were only allowed to use footage from the 1966 Batman movie with Meriwether when scenes from the original series were needed, although the makers were allowed to also feature Waggoner's screen test footage, as well.
In 2013, DC Comic launched Batman '66, an ongoing monthly comic book; despite the impact the TV series had on the comic franchise, this was the first ongoing series set within the TV series continuity. It was soon joined by a limited-run story arc titled Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet, a sequel to the TV series crossover with the Green Hornet.
In 2016, an animated feature film named Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was released to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary with Adam, Burt and Julie reprising their classic roles, as well as a sequel; Batman vs. Two-Face.
- Adam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne
- Burt Ward as Robin/Dick Grayson
- Alan Napier as Alfred
- Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon
- Stafford Repp as Chief O'Hara
- Madge Blake as Aunt Harriet Cooper
- Yvonne Craig as Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (Season 3 only)
Although the series featured a wide variety of villainous characters, four made many appearances and as such were considered the main villains of the series. All of these originated from the comics:
Main Recurring Comic Book Villains
- The Joker (Cesar Romero) - 19 Episodes with a cameo appearance and the 1966 movie.
- The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) - 19 Episodes with a cameo appearance and the 1966 movie.
- The Riddler (Frank Gorshin and John Astin) - 11 Episodes with a cameo appearance and the 1966 movie. Astin plays the role for a single season 2-episode storyline.
- Catwoman (Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt) - 15 Episodes with two cameo appearances and the 1966 movie. Newmar plays the character for season 1 and 2, but due to film commitments was unavailable for the movie and season 3 and was replaced by Lee Meriwether for the movie, and Kitt for season 3. The casting of African-American Kitt as Catwoman marked the first time in American television that two actors of different race were cast as the same ongoing character.
Other villains were used from DC Comics, while others were created exclusively for the show:
Comic Book Villains
- The Mad Hatter (David Wayne) - Based on the Imposter Mad Hatter; featured in 4 Episodes.
- False Face (Malachi Throne) - Based on an obscure, one-time comic villain; featured in 2 Episodes. Following his appearance, he became more popular. Despite only fighting Batman once in the show, he is a recurring character in Batman '66.
- Mr. Freeze (George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach) - Featured in 6 Episodes. He is very different from the way he is in the comics, though the later Batman and Robin film based the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of the character on the TV show.
- Killer Moth (Tim Herbert) - He only appeared in the Season 3 Pilot, in which he is the first villain Batgirl fought. In Batman '66, Joker makes a joke about Batman beating up Killer Moth, confirming that despite only appearing in the Season 3 Pilot, he actually is a recurring enemy of Batman. He looks extremely different from his comic appearance.
- The Puzzler (Maurice Evans) - Based on a former Superman foe; featured in 2 Episodes.
- The Clock King (Walter Slezak) - Based on a former Green Arrow foe who fought the JLA; Featured in 2 Episodes.
- The Archer (Art Carney) - Based on a minor Superman rogue; featured in 2 Episodes.
Recurring show Villains
Some Villains that were created for the show made more than just one appearance:
- King Tut (Victor Buono) - 8 Episodes with a cameo appearance. Out of all the villains made specifically for the show, King Tut was the most popular. He was so popular that he was introduced into the comics too. Due to copyright issues, he was renamed Pharaoh.
- Egghead (Vincent Price) - 5 Episodes with a cameo appearance. He was one of the most popular villains on the show. He was based on Barney Barrows, a comic character Batman faced.
- Shame (Cliff Robertson) - 4 Episodes.
- Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (Carolyn Jones) - 5 Episodes.
- Olga, Queen of Cossacks (Anne Baxter) - 3 Episodes.
- Lord Ffogg (Rudy Vallee) - 3 Episodes.
- Lady Penelope Peasoup (Glynis Johns) - 3 Episodes.
- Freddy the Fence (Jacques Bergerac) - 3 Episodes.
Other show Villains
These villains made one or two appearances:
- The Bookworm (Roddy McDowall) - 2 Episodes.
- Ma Parker (Shelley Winters) - 2 Episodes.
- The Minstrel (Van Johnson) - 2 Episodes.
- Black Widow (Tallulah Bankhead) - 2 Episodes.
- Zelda the Great (Anne Baxter)- 2 Episodes.
- Chandell and Harry (Liberace) - 2 Episodes.
- The Sandman (Michael Rennie) - 2 Episodes.
- Siren (Joan Collins) - 2 Episodes.
- Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle) - 2 Episodes.
- Lola Lasagne (Ethel Merman) - 2 Episodes.
- Colonel Gumm (Roger C. Carmel) - 2 Episodes.
- Nora Clavicle (Barbara Rush) - 1 Episode.
- Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft (Ida Lupino) - 1 Episode.
- Minerva (Zsa Zsa Gabor) - 1 Episode.
- Calamity Jan (Dina Merrill) - 2 Episodes.
- Cabala (Howard Duff) - 1 Episode.
Battle Sound Effects
As the fights progressed, as punches, kicks and blows with foreign objects were dealt to both villain and hero, all manner of sounds were emitted. Here is a list of said sounds:
In each Season, these words appeared differently:
- Season 1: Words appear with fight in the background (superimposed over the footage)
- Season 2: Words appear in colored background (brief cutaways from footage)
- Season 3: Words and background flash (again in brief cutaways)
- Batman 66: all three from the other seasons happen, but mainly the first season.
The animated television series Batman: The Brave and the Bold is influenced by the 1960s television series. The opening credits feature Batman rope-climbing up a building, something that Adam West and Burt Ward often did in the show. Several villains from the 1960s show including King Tut, Egghead, Mad Hatter, Archer, Bookworm, False Face, Black Widow, Siren, Marsha Queen of Diamonds, Louie the Lilac, Ma Parker, and Shame make cameo appearances as prisoners at Iron Heights prison in the episode "Day of the Dark Knight!". They are all captured by Batman and Green Arrow during a mass escape attempt. The episode "Game Over for Owlman!" shows a room in the Batcave containing "souvenirs" of deathtraps that the Joker employed in the 1960s series, with accompanying flashbacks: the giant key from the "Human Key Duplicator" from "The Impractical Joker", the slot machine-controlled electric chair from "The Joker Goes to School", and the giant clam from "The Joker's Hard Times". The episode "The Color of Revenge!" begins with a flashback to the time of the 1960s television series, using attributes such as the red Batphone, the Shakespeare bust, the sliding bookcase, the Batpoles, Robin in his old television-series costume, and the shot of Batman and Robin fastening their seat belts in the Batmobile. Additionally, the Adam West Batman briefly appears in "Night of the Batmen!" as part of an army of Batmen gathered across the Multiverse.
A line spoken by Robin (Chris O'Donnell) in Batman Forever is a homage to the television Robin's catch-phrase exclamations that started "Holy" and sometimes ended "Batman!" - for instance "Holy bargain basements, Batman!" (from the television series' first season) and "Holy flypaper, Batman!" (from the television series' second season). During the movie, Robin says "Holy rusted metal, Batman!" after the duo climb onto twisted metal girders beside some water. This catchphrase also appeared for a time in "Batman" comic books.
In 2013, DC began publication of Batman '66, a comic book series telling all-new stories set in the world of the 1966-1968 TV series. Jeff Parker writes the series, which features cover art by Mike Allred and interior art by different artists each issue.
Road safety film
In 1967 a one minute film was created for the Central Office of Information. The information film was filmed Kenning, London and showed Batman played Adam West taking a break from fighting crime and helping children with their technique of road safety.
The 2013 comic book series also features two other bat-heroes:
Batwoman - Kathy Kane makes appearance in the Batman '66 comic, where she is seen going on a date with Bruce. When Siren is taking down Batman, who is hallucinating, Kathy takes her down. Despite never officially becoming Batwoman, while Batman's hallucinating, he sees her in her Batwoman costume. (This refers to the 1950s-1960s version of Batwoman, not the later reinvention.)
Batbot - In Batman '66, Batman creates a Batbot to temporarily take his place.
Batman '66 Villains
Two-Face/Harvey Dent (William Shatner) - Eastwood was cast to play Two-Face in 1968, however the show was cancelled before any appearances. He is the main villain of "Batman '66: The Lost Episode" as well as the feature film Batman vs. Two-Face.
Harley Quinn/Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Sirena Irwin) - appears working at Arkham Asylum in "Joker Sees Red". Later on, in the eleventh issue, she is tricked into helping Joker and Catwoman. At the end of the issue, she saves Batman, although she becomes insane like the Joker. She is never officially called Harley Quinn. Created for the Batman Adventures cartoon series in the 1990s, and later ported into the comic books, Harley/Harleen is the first major character from the modern era of Batman to be included in the Batman '66 continuity.
Hugo Strange (Jim Ward) - Hugo Strange appears at the end of the eleventh issue. Due to Harleen Quinzel becoming insane, Hugo Strange takes her place. It is unknown if he will turn evil in the series, or if he will find out Batman's true identity.
- After Batman became a hit on ABC, the other two major networks at the time (NBC and CBS) attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to cash in on the superhero fad. In 1967, NBC aired a sitcom called Captain Nice, which starred William Daniels in the title role; the series lasted just 15 episodes in 1967. At the same time, CBS aired a similar show with Stephen Strimpell in the title role of Mr. Terrific, which fared little better.
- The hit NBC series The Monkees featured a Batman parody sketch (with Peter Tork as Frogman and Davy Jones as Rubin the Tadpole) in their episode "Captain Crocodile", which aired February 1967.
- For the first two seasons, Batman episodes were aired as two-part stories, with the title of the second episode often rhyming with the title of the first episode.
- The Batman series was famous for showcasing various celebrity talents including: Edward G. Robinson, Jerry Lewis, Art Linkletter, Roddy McDowall, Milton Berle, Dick Clark, Steve Allen, Sammy Davis Jr., and many others.
- After the show was canceled by ABC in 1968, the producers thought they could bring it to another network. Yvonne Craig said this in an interview: "When we were cancelled by ABC, they wondered if we could get on another network. When it looked like we couldn't, they came with a bulldozer and bulldozed the whole set--The Batcave and all of that. Then, two weeks later, NBC said, 'Listen, we'd like to take a shot at Batman, if you still have the set'. They didn't want to start from scratch and build them because the set cost $800,000. So it was too late and nothing came of it." The delay doomed new episodes of the television show, but by 1969 stations were showing reruns of the television episodes, and continue to this day.
- This show will always be the one that welcomed Batman to television.
- In 2006, Deborah Dozier Potter, "the successor-in-interest to Greenway Productions" sued Fox for allegedly withholding monies under the Fox/ABC agreement. Dozier Potter further claimed that this came to her attention when, in March 2005, "she considered releasing the series on DVD", implying that (from her perspective at least) Greenway/Dozier Potter has some say in the matter of potentional DVD release of the series. The case was resolved/dismissed in November 2007, It was until in 2014, Conan O'Brien posted on his Twitter account, and later confirmed by Warner Bros., that Warner Bros. would release an official DVD box set of the complete series sometime in 2014.
- Even though George Barris built four Batmobiles, and later acquired a fifth that was built by a fan, there is only one occurrence during the entire series where a replica was used instead of the original #1 car, during a Mad Hatter episode, when the #4 dragster replica was used in the background in the Batcave while the #1 car was being repaired.
- There is an amusing reference to the series in Batman: Arkham City, when Batman is fighting off a group of thugs, one of them may say: "Badabadadadada, BATMAN!", a clear reference to the famous theme song of the series.
- The Lego Batman Movie also has many references to the 60's series. At one point, before a big action scene, Batman lampshades the battle sound effects by saying "We're going to hit these bad guys so hard, words describing the impact will spontaneously explode from our fists." The Batmobile's horn is also the series' theme song.
- Beware The Gray Ghost, an episode from Batman: The Animated Series, is a direct homage to the 60's series, Adam West even providing the voice of the Gray Ghost and his washed-up actor.
Home video release
Due to complex licensing and ownership issues, the 1966-1968 Batman series was withheld from home video release for decades, missing the VHS videotape and laserdisc eras completely. With the advent of DVD in the late 1990s, and subsequent popularity of classic TV shows being released in that format, many fans called for Batman to be released. However, for years the rights issues were seen as insurmountable, with one site, the TV Guide-affiliated TV Shows on DVD.com, several times declaring that a home video release of Batman would be impossible in North America. No international release occurred either (unlike similar series with licensing issues such as The Six Million Dollar Man), suggesting the rights issues spread beyond the US. Among the issues cited was the fact Warner Bros. took ownership of the Batman characters when it bought DC Comic in the 1970s, but the TV series was produced and owned by 20th Century Fox, and also the issue of royalties regarding the dozens of celebrities who guest-starred or made cameo appearances.
As a result, for years, only the 1966 Batman film represented the TV series on VHS, laserdisc, DVD and, later, Blu-ray formats. In the 2000s, a two-DVD set called Holy Batmania was released featuring archival interview footage, rare promotional items, and also never-before-released screen test footage from pre-production of the series. In the late 2000s, Adam West also released a special DVD in which he discussed each episode of the series. Bootleg DVD versions of the series itself, featuring episodes recorded off TV broadcasts and of wildly varying quality, became common place at science fiction conventions. Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt was also released on DVD, though as noted above the film was only able to utilize 1966 movie footage (including a sequence paying tribute to Julie Newmar's Catwoman that only features footage of Lee Meriwether).
Finally, in 2013 it was announced that the longstanding rights issues had been resolved, clearing the way for Batman to be released on home video. On November 11, 2014, the series was finally released (in various different editions) in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. Although it had been thought that the contents of Holy Batmania and Adam West's private release would be incorporated as special features in the set, ultimately a new collection of special features was compiled (see Videos, below, for excerpts). Among the permutations released was a Complete Series box set that included a toy Batmobile, a book of photographs selected by Adam West, an episode guide book, and a reproduction set of trading cards from the 1960s. The seasons are also to be released separately on DVD, though as of November 2014 Blu-ray release for now is expected to remain limited.