Sunday, June 11, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: When Adam West Came Back to Batman!

With yesterday's passing of legendary Batman actor Adam West, it's understandable that much digital ink has been spilled singing the praises of his turn on the '66-'69 TV series based on the DC Comics, and the decades-long impact it ended up having. It's also led to a renewed round of righteous appreciation for the show that gave him his immortality. However, it's worth remembering that while Batman took up permanent residence in the brainpans of those who grew up watching, it also did a number on career of the guy playing the title role.

After Batman went off the air in '69, Adam West suddenly found himself out of work, and spent much of the next few decades trying to get out of its shadow. It wasn't until much later that the star found a second act by lampooning his own image, but for awhile there, his most consistent work came via reprising the Dark Knight (er, sorry, Bright Knight) in various different forms. I talked about one such instance last year, but the first time was in 1977's short-lived The New Adventures of Batman, which aired on CBS:


Produced by Saturday morning champions Filmation, it was a successor to the company's The Adventures of Batman and Robin cartoon which aired from '68 to '70, and even used the same designs. That show featured the voices of Olan Soule and Casey Kasem as the titular twosome (a function they'd soon reprise on Hanna-Barbara's Super Friends franchise). For The New Adventures, the studio brought in West and Burt Ward, making this the first time both of the pair returned to their iconic roles since the live action series ended.

Airing for sixteen episodes, the cartoon was beset by the usual Filmation problems (limited animation, repetitive music cues), but I'll be darned if it wasn't still a blast. Hearing those familiar voices was almost enough to overcome even the regular annoyance of sidekick Bat-Mite. Interestingly, this aired on CBS while Super Friends was on ABC. As a result, the two shows had to split which iconic villains could appear where, which is why the Riddler was part of the Legion of Doom, and why the Joker didn't appear on Super Friends until much later.

After The New Adventures of Batman ended, West & Ward would appear on the Legends of the Superheroes specials I discussed previously, while West would take over from Olan Soule as the voice of Batman for the final two incarnations of Super Friends (which you can read about here). While it's understandable that the actor felt constrained by the cowl, there's also no doubt that his continued association with the role over the decades (however begrudgingly it may well have been) is a big part of why he is (and will always continue to be!) so beloved as the Bat.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Beverly Hills Teens (or White Privilege: The Series)

Two Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Hey, Kiddies! It's the Tales From the Crypt Cartoon!

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Sinbad is Sin Bad

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Forgotten Superman

Five Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: TV's Magnificent Seven -- A Cavalcade of Cult Actors Cowboys Up

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