Skip to comments.In Praise of Adam West
Posted on 06/12/2017 4:30:55 AM PDT by Kaslin
At precisely 7:30PM Eastern time on Wednesday, January 12, 1966, Commissioner Gordon (onetime Saturday matinee idol Neil Hamilton)surrounded by uniformed Gotham City police and elected officialscarefully lifted the plexiglass cover off a glowing red telephone in his office. Looking around the room, he solemnly declared: I dont know who he is behind that mask of his. But I do know when we need him. And we need him now!
Of course the person on the other end of that call on the Batphone was actor Adam West, about to step into television history as star of the iconic 1960s series Batman.
In many ways, Westwho passed away Friday at age 88 following a brief battle with leukemiawas the embodiment of Commissioner Gordons description: he was the man America needed, and we needed him right then.
51 years before Donald Trump raised his right hand to be sworn in as our 45th President, America waslike the mythical Gotham Cityunder siege. Batman premiered about two years after the JFK assassination, and two years before the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York. The nation was being torn asunder by riots over civil rights and the United States involvement in Vietnam.
As January 1966 neared, ABCthe newest and lowest-rated television networkhad suffered through a disastrous Fall 65 season with flop after flop in its primetime lineup. Affiliates were grumbling and advertisers were bailing. In desperation, ABC marketing executives came up with the then unheard-of concept of a Second Season two midseason replacements to be tossed against the wall to see if anything would stick.
The first was the eminently forgettable Blue Light, a prime time drama starring Robert Goulet (yes, that Robert Goulet!) as a secret agent fighting Nazis during World War II. But the second faced even more ridicule and doubt by ABC execs: it was to be producer William Doziers live-action rendition of Bob Kanes 1939 comic book creation Batman.
Kanes vision of millionaire Bruce Wayne was that of a dark, brooding crimefighter violently battling criminals as a way to avenge his parents death during an armed robbery. But while that formula worked to critical and financial success for future Batman actors Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck, it was not what America needed in 1966. The Batman William Dozier wanted to produceand which ABC chairman Leonard H. Goldenson personally approvedneeded an actor described by associate producer Charles Fitzsimons as someone who could play Alice in Wonderland as if it were Hamlet.
Enter Adam West, a solid performer with bigscreen and television credentials including guest appearances on Perry Mason, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke and The Outer Limits. But Wests Batman was so over-the-top serious in his delivery, the series became an unqualified sensation as kids tuned in for the adventure but with their parents also watching for the campy fun as the fully-costumed Batman refused a prime table at a restaurant, telling the manager No thank you, Ill just stand at the bar. I shouldnt wish to attract any attention. The rest, as they say, is TV history.
With its bold, colorful production (at a time many TV series were still being presented in black & white) its guest villains played by A list actors including Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Caesar Romero, and George Sanders and the cliffhanger endings leaving Batman & Robin about to be dropped into a vat of acid as the breathless announcer intoned, Is this the end of the Dynamic Duo? Find out tomorrow, same Bat time, same Bat channel, the show many ABC execs had ridiculed turned into an overnight, international sensation.
(During its first four weeks on the air, Batman averaged a 26.3 Neilsen rating. For the two weeks ending March 20, 1966, Batman averaged an astonishing 29.4 rating. A little perspective is in order: here in 2017, ABC couldnt pull a 29.4 rating if it was offering a live broadcast of President Trump hitting Nancy Pelosi in the face with a Boston Cream pie.)
If the series had been darker and more violentor if ABC had gone with its first choice, actor Lyle WaggonerBatman might have suffered the fate of most ABC shows back in 1966. But on the strength of Adam Wests dead-serious delivery coupled with his sense of timing and his tongue-in-cheek humor, TV history was made. And ABC catapulted into the major network it would eventually become.
So news of his passing saddened many of us whodespite admiring the bigscreen Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan versions of the Dark Knight of Gotham Citywill always have a soft spot in our hearts for Adam West, whose performance as the Caped Crusader still evokes fond memories of a more innocent time in pre-9/11 America when television did not resort to foul language, graphic violence and ham-handed politically correct agendas disguised as entertainment.
He certainly was very active thats for sure...
This commercial is what won Adam West the part
Gadzooks-- I'd pay good money... to see that!
And it is not... an impeachable action--
That is unless Nancy... melts from the moisture in the cream.
Weren’t there plans to have Adam West reprise the role of Superman instead of Matt Damon’s boyfriend in the last couple of movies of Batman (Ben Affleck)?
You would think that if Gordon REALLY wanted to know who was under the mask, all he would need to do is trace the phone wire to its endpoint at stately Wayne Manor.
Must we peel off the man’s skin like that?
Have some class.
He tried that once. But a Bat gizmo lead him to the wrong millionaire..
“despite admiring the bigscreen Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan versions”
Never cared for the Tim Burton versions, as a matter of fact I find all his movies to be a little too dark and creepy for my taste.......but that’s just me.
Sounds like he got a lot of use out of his bat....bat.
RIP Adam West. He was a memory from my childhood.
hmmm well since HE is the one bragging about doing it... maybe you should think a bit before directing your comments...
hell, im jealous of him!
And then there was this...
My favorite. I liked the way the car flipped over in the garage.
As a kid, I once had a picture taken with him and one of the Batmobiles in the background.
This was in the 1980’s, long after the show went off the air. He then walked around the car show and talked with “Normal people”.
It was a great day for me. My Dad and him chatted about some car that they had both owned (a Super Sport maybe?), and my Dad probably didn’t realize it was Adam West. I did, and couldn’t get the idea out of my head that my Dad was talking to Batman.
Caesar Romeo = best villain.
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