When you think of Batman what do you think of? I am 40 years old this year. I have been through several versions of the Caped Crusader, so many iterations. Today I want to talk about the lasting impact plus implications of the Adam West Batman TV show. This is a much divisive interpretation of the Dark Knight, thus I will try to approach it with the respect of a fan who’s favorite superhero actually is Batman.
I don’t want to get into is it canon, is it better than other interpretations or should it even be recognized for the impact it had, instead I want to talk about what the TV show meant, to me. You see I was born in 1982 so this was actually my first exposure to Batman along side a few late 80’s random issues of the comics I received occasionally. At first I was enamored. I was hooked. I loved it. I remember my parents bought me a puzzle that featured all the popular villains from the TV show. I remember buying a book that collected a series of stories based on the stories from the TV show. I own a trade paperback book that contains the stories that inspired the TV series. The show intrigued me. I also watched the animated cartoons from the time which also took inspiration from the 60s TV series.
I remember when the 1989 Batman movie hit. I watched it thinking this is cool. Finally a serious Batman. Even though I liked the cartoonish nature of the Adam West series I was excited for what I thought was a new take on Batman. Then Batman Forever happened. A live action quasi sequel semi reboot follow up to Batman Returns. It featured a Jim Carrey version of The Riddler that hearkened back to the old TV show. Even the Tommy Lee Jones portrayal of Two-Face felt more in line with something that belonged on that forgotten Adam West fare not the Tim Burton Batfilms. Yet there it was.
The film’s success led to the much maligned Batman & Robin, a live action film that went beyond a couple passing references to the TV show and instead became a sort of reprisal of the campiness of that old show. Thus it reignited a debate among fans. Those die hard loyalists who call all things Adam West related, and subsequently inspired by it, as beneath them. This left a ripple on the fandom where not only was the TV show inspired Batman & Robin regarded as the most hated comic book based movie of all time, erroneously so I might suggest, it left the fan base arguing over the validity of the 60s TV series.
Where do I fall?
I was one who had mixed feelings regarding Batman & Robin. As a throwback to the Adam West series I enjoy what it attempted. As a film in the sloppy Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batfilm franchise, it felt completely out of place even in light of the campiness of it’s immediate predecessor. This left me, at the time, despising the campiness for being distracting while also welcoming the tone as a change of pace. Today I appreciate Batman & Robin as the loving homage to what came before rather than a movie with no identity. I don’t dare maintain it is actually actually a good movie but I enjoyed it the day I sat in theaters watching it, the day I got it on VHS and the day I rewatched it on DVD when I got the set. My current view is an appreciation of what it tried to do less criticism of what it did wrong.
Putting the movie aside in the immediate aftermath of the backlash I fell into the same trap. I also jumped on the bandwagon hating on the TV series as to blame for how Batman & Robin turned out. Even though at the time I enjoyed it at first, I too, slowly came around to the side of hating on it. This hard repercussions on my views of the old TV show. Thus I shifted my tone from a fan who grew up loving the Adam West TV show to one of those “fangirls” who pissed on it out of a misplaced attempt to fit in with the “cool comics kids” which was an oxymoron in and of itself, but there I was hating a show I once loved.
It took me watching a Cinemassacre retrospective on what was great about the TV show along side Adam West’s appearances as the Mayor in the Family Guy cartoon. It gave me a new appreciation of a show I once had fond memories of from my own past. This also forced me to reevaluate the film at least partially inspired by it. Today I find myself enjoying watching reruns of the show, campy and all, on Tubi. Why? Nostalgia is a weird bitch I guess.