“These are the good old days.” — Carly Simon from Anticipation
Every generation looks back on its youth and remembers “the good old days.” Part of it is nostalgia for what “was” as opposed to “what is.” But as the quote cited above points out, each generation will always look back and have the same hankering for things past. For me, the good old days are now known as the “swingin’ 60s.” This period was an extremely complex time in American history — it was the culmination of the “baby boom;” it was a decade of unbridled optimism; of experimentation; and exploration. The 1960s ended with an escalation of the Vietnam War, the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the election of Tricky Dick, and of the United States landing on the moon.
Then there was the Batman TV show.
On Saturday it was announced that an actor who was indelibly tied to that era, and the aforesaid TV show, had passed away: Adam West.
I won’t type the theme song: if you grew up during the show’s run on ABC you can hear it in your head. To my generation Batman was not the dark knight, he was the “caped crusader,” who fought nefarious kinda-evil villains with straight-laced propriety and good humor. Contrary to the assertion that Batman was a parody, it wasn’t. It was surreal. I just finished watching random episodes of the show, in memoriam to West, and they still hold up. Batman is more than a period piece; it is an exercise in style with West as its master of ceremonies.
The show, which was shown on Wednesday and Thursday nights, got every kid’s attention and led to every word having “Bat” added to it, “…same Bat-time; same Bat-channel.” Batman became a national craze far overshadowing its comic book source material. The show also led to an increase in comic book sales and lots and lots of imitators.
Batman was so popular that when Gemini 8 spun out of control and ultimately had to make an emergency landing, the network regularly interrupting with news bulletins that cut in on part one of the first Catwoman episode, switchboards at ABC lit up with complaints.
The star and focal point of the show was West, despite memorable casting of such seasoned character actors as Cesar Romero (The Joker), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin), George Sanders (Mr. Freeze), and Vincent Price (Egghead). Lest we not forget Julie Newmar (The Catwoman) and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler).
Adam West’s career was dominated by his three season stint on Batman, an association he ultimately embraced with stout good humor. For those of us growing up during the show’s run, it was a bright, fun, hip, unforgettable part of the decade, something to look back on with a smile, thanks to the efforts of Mr. West. These were our good old days; for those reading this who grew up later, may yours be as memorable.