Few shows are as loved, yet as chastised, as the outlandish Batman TV show. The series is known as much for its extremely camp sequences as it is for its lovable charm. And while hardcore fans of the comic might scoff at its over-the-top storytelling, there’s no denying the impact it’s had on television and pop culture in general.
There are, however, still a Batcave’s worth of secrets that many people don’t know about. So allow us to enlighten you with these 20 Batman facts that even the biggest ’60s TV buffs don’t know. To the Batmobile!
20. One Batman villain made his debut on the show
Batman is known for its rich and extensive backlog of villains, so it’s strange in hindsight that a brand new baddie was introduced for the TV show. Yes, The Archer was never a part of the comic series, but bizarrely he featured in the television series for two episodes. His character was a revised take on Robin Hood.
19. Early reviews weren’t favorable
The show turned out to be a huge success, but in the beginning impressions weren’t so flattering. In particular, an early pilot elicited much criticism from audiences – something that would normally finish any show’s future potential. However, in the rare case of Batman, it was saved owing to the fact that ABC had already purchased the show and so had no choice but to broadcast it.
18. Adam West was spotted in a Nestlé commercial
Fans of the show might not be aware that Adam West was actually cast as Batman after producers saw him in a Nestlé Quik commercial. Yes, the suave actor impressed with a James Bond-esque performance, immediately catching the eyes of the show’s creators. And with that, a star was born overnight.
17. There’s a unique connection between The Dark Knight and Knight Rider
Getting the Batmobile right is essential to anything Batman related, and the one built for the show sits up there with the best recreations of the gadget-overloaded machine. Interestingly, moreover, the mastermind behind the vehicle was George Barris, who also built the legendary KITT car for Knight Rider.
16. The Bat Pack almost became the Rat Pack
Thought the previous fact was classy? Well, check out this one. Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra is said to have been irritated when he didn’t get the part of The Joker. Yes, Burt Ward, who played Robin, confirmed this when he recalled, “From what I understand, Frank Sinatra was very upset because he couldn’t play The Joker.” And actually, having Ol’ Blue Eyes as the maniacal villain certainly would’ve been a major coup.
15. The show had some unusual inspiration
Hugh Hefner’s not exactly known for his geeky comic book knowledge, but the successful entrepreneur has in the past been vocal about his love for the caped crusader. In fact, legend has it that an ABC executive attended one of Hef’s Batman-themed parties in the ’60s and was actually inspired to make the television show because of it.
14. Those nail-biting cliffhangers weren’t created by choice
As it originally aired twice per week, Batman had the rare opportunity to keep audiences coming back to see how things would wrap up. However, this wasn’t exactly intentionally done. ABC actually forced episodes to be split in two, as it only had two half-hour slots at its disposal. And so those iconic cliffhangers might not have been as effective were it not for the necessary episode splits.
13. A regrettable decision was made after the show’s conclusion
You may be surprised to learn that the Batcave cost a whopping $800,000 to construct. So what happened to it when the series concluded? Well, it was rather unceremoniously bulldozed down. There was one slight problem, though: NBC was just about to offer the producers a chance to bring the show back. Holy blunder, Batman!
12. Batgirl couldn’t save the show from cancelation, but she did highlight a very important issue
As ratings for the show started to dwindle during the second season, a new character was brought in to spice things up for the third: Batgirl. But ultimately Batgirl, played by Yvonne Craig, didn’t do much to save the show from its inevitable cancelation. She did, however, cut an effective PSA advocating for equal pay for women, so it wasn’t all a waste of time.
11. Adam West put forward an interesting idea for the movie reboots
Here’s an interesting “What if?” scenario. What if Adam West had played Batman’s father in Christopher Nolan’s movie adaptations? Well, that’s exactly the question that was once posed by West, who was all for the idea. Of course, it was his idea, and Bruce Wayne’s father had already passed away in the movie’s timeline, but still… what if?
10. The show’s most popular catchphrase was literally repeated hundreds of times
Sometimes a saying or phrase becomes so iconic that it leaks into the wider cultural spectrum. And Robin’s famous “Holy” catchphrase certainly falls under that description. But did you know that it was used almost 400 times during the show’s three-season run? Well, 378 to be exact, with Burt Ward stating in a 2016 interview that it equated to about three “Holys” every half-hour.
9. Gotham City’s map was actually lifted from that of a U.S. city
If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll recognize the Giant Lighted Lucite Map of Gotham City seen in the Batcave. However, it wasn’t exactly a map of Gotham City but rather a reversed layout of St. Louis, Missouri’s map. You’d need to have The Dark Knight’s ocular abilities to notice this one, though.
8. Adam West felt pigeonholed because of his role
It’s not easy being the hero Gotham deserves, and Adam West witnessed this first-hand. The stone-faced actor claimed that he felt typecast after his performance as Batman, noting that following the show years went by where he couldn’t break the stigma. He never gave up, though, and has since gone on to feature in popular shows like The Last Precinct and, more recently, Family Guy.
7. Burt Ward and Bruce Lee sparred off screen, too
Famously, Batman was the first time that audiences got to see the skillful fisticuffs of Bruce Lee. As Kato from The Green Hornet, Lee had an entertaining fight scene with Robin, played by Burt Ward. However, the two were already acquainted before locking up on the show. In fact, as Ward said in an interview with Nerdist, “He and I lived in the same condominium complex, and he and I used to spar together.”
6. The show was allegedly quite perverted behind the scenes
Sorry, but we’re about to make your memories of the show far less innocent, because Batman was reportedly extremely sordid behind the scenes. According to Burt Ward’s autobiography, the somewhat flattering euphemism “beast in the Bat trunks” referred to all of the women who wanted his “bat sperm…”
5. The Batmobile was originally a scrapmobile
You probably won’t believe us when we say that the Batmobile was originally purchased for just $1, but it’s true. Yes, our favorite automobile-mastermind, George Barris, bought a rather unspectacular Lincoln Futura and modified it into the kick-ass-looking piece of kit that can be seen in the show. Here’s the real icing on the cake, though: it recently sold at auction for a staggering $4.6 million. Pow!
4. There was a reason for The Penguin’s iconic laugh
It’s hard not to notice The Penguin’s laugh, but the distinctive cackle wasn’t all acting. In fact, it couldn’t be helped, according to Burgess Meredith, who played the devious villain. The role required him to smoke, a habit the actor had given up years earlier. And the smoke irritated his throat so much that he improvised the laugh to mask bouts of coughing. Crafty!
3. West had a meeting to forget with the Pope
Adam West’s meeting with Pope Paul VI is another example of just how huge the series was in the ’60s. However, West wasn’t really in the best shape for their rendezvous. In a 2005 interview for the Independent, he recounted how hungover he had been from the night before. He was suffering so much, in fact, that he didn’t kiss the Pope’s ring for fear of vomiting. Lovely!
2. Burt Ward was put in a ward following one particularly dangerous stunt
As a relatively unknown actor at the time, Burt Ward was tasked with doing much of the grunt work. He was even required to do his own stunts – something which put him in hospital during the very first week of filming. The death-defying incident almost sent Ward flying out of the Batmobile at 55 miles per hour. Indeed, he only narrowly avoided a stickier end by grabbing the gear stick, subsequently pulling his little finger out of joint. Ouch!
1. The National Safety Council lobbied for one important sequence
When Batman and Robin exit the Batcave, you may have wondered why there’s a shot of them fastening their seatbelts each time. Well, it’s actually because the National Safety Council pushed for it to be included. Producers then agreed that it would promote safety and promptly added the sequence.