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TV Flashback: ‘Batman’ Concludes on ABC in 1968

A Last Ditch Effort by NBC to Keep the Camp Classic Alive Was Too Late

Camp classic “Batman” concluded on ABC after two-and-one half seasons on this day in 1968 with Zsa Zsa Gabor as villainess Minerva. Launched twice per week on January 12, 1966, “Batman” was an immediate sensation, with both weekly episodes cracking the Top 10. But ratings dipped in season two and the arrival of Yvonne Craig as Batgirl in season three did not help. NBC made a last-minute attempt to keep “Batman” alive for a fourth season, but the sets were already torn down.

From Wipekedia: “Batman” focused on Batman and Robin as they defend fictional Gotham City from its various criminals. Although the lives of their alter-egos, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson are frequently shown, it is usually only briefly, in the context of their being called away on superhero business or in circumstances where they need to employ their public identities to assist in their crime-fighting. The “Dynamic Duo” typically comes to the aid of the Gotham City Police upon the latter being stumped by a supervillain. Throughout each episode, Batman and Robin follow a series of seemingly improbable clues (also known as “bat logic”) to discover the supervillain’s plan, then figure out how to thwart that plan and capture the criminal.

For the first two seasons, “Batman” aired twice a week on consecutive nights. Every story was a two-parter, except for two three-parters featuring villainous team ups (the Joker and the Penguin, then the Penguin and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds) in the second season. The titles of each multi-part story usually rhyme. The third and final season, which aired one episode a week and introduced Yvonne Craig as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, consisted of self-contained stories. Each third season story ended with a teaser featuring the next episode’s guest villain, except for the series finale. The cliffhangers between multiple-part stories consist of villains holding someone captive, usually Batman or Robin, with the captive(s) being threatened by death, serious injury or another fate. These cliffhangers are resolved early in the follow-up episode with Batman and Robin getting themselves out of every death trap.

Ostensibly a crime series, the style of the show was in fact campy and tongue-in-cheek. It was a true situation comedy, in that situations were exaggerated and were generally played for laughs. This increased as the seasons progressed, with the addition of ever greater absurdity. However, the characters always took the absurd situations extremely seriously – which added to the comedy.