TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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bat-rss
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TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by bat-rss »

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In January 1979, Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin reprised their '66 roles in two specials that barely registered in the Nielsen ratings. The first was "Legends of the Superheroes: The Challenge," in which Batman, Robin, and other DC Comics heroes went up against a group of villains (including the Riddler) who, for no clear reason, were plotting to destroy the world. Adam looked sub-par in his "gila cowl," and all three struggled with a script that only the laugh track found funny. In this episode, we take one for the team to explore this highly unmemorable program.

Also, we go all the way to Mars for some "deja vu," listen to Greg De Luca's guitar tutorial of Hefti's Batman theme, and read your response to our "Penguinalysis" episode!

http://tothebatpoles.libsyn.com/127-its ... gh-legends

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AndyFish
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by AndyFish »

As a pre-teen I was excited when these were in TV guide and then I watched them. I watched both of them and its like a light went off in my head-- just because you like something doesn't mean MORE of it is always a good thing, and just because there is more doesn't mean you have to sit through it. It defined my attitude on sequels and all you can eat buffets. More is not always better.

An embarrassment for Adam, a chance to work for Burt, and probably the number one thing that kept Warner Bros from even considering recasting him for their big budget movie which started pre-production just a year later (and finally was made in 1988). Thankfully Adam's career would resume as a comedian and voice actor in just a few more years, and Burt would go on to make some great dog food that apparently earns you a Star on the Walk of Fame.

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epaddon
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by epaddon »

The first one was bad enough. Even worse was the "roast" special that aired next.

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Dan E Kool
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by Dan E Kool »

AndyFish wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 10:39 am
As a pre-teen I was excited when these were in TV guide and then I watched them. I watched both of them and its like a light went off in my head-- just because you like something doesn't mean MORE of it is always a good thing, and just because there is more doesn't mean you have to sit through it. It defined my attitude on sequels and all you can eat buffets. More is not always better.

An embarrassment for Adam, a chance to work for Burt, and probably the number one thing that kept Warner Bros from even considering recasting him for their big budget movie which started pre-production just a year later (and finally was made in 1988). Thankfully Adam's career would resume as a comedian and voice actor in just a few more years, and Burt would go on to make some great dog food that apparently earns you a Star on the Walk of Fame.
Andy lands more zingers in two paragraphs than this very special TV special managed in 120 minutes. POW!
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Therin of Andor
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by Therin of Andor »

I remember finding references to these two TV specials in "Starlog" (?) and was thrilled when I happened across this lone photo as an 8x10" glossy in a local movie poster store. It was fun trying to identify the characters/actors. "Starlog" mentioned that Scarlet Cyclone (William Schallert, whom I knew from "The Patty Duke Show" and "Star Trek") was now known as Retired Man.

Around the same time, I made a connection with a US "Batman" movie fan (in 1989) who happened to have these rarities, taped off air, and he made me a crosstape, which I then couldn't play until a few years later, when a local friend bought a VCR and TV capable of playing NTSC VHS videotapes. The specials have never aired Down Under.

It was a bit embarrassing watching these specials with someone who didn't think they were very special. Hawkman's mother (Pat Carroll) was hilarious in "The Roast". IIRC, Burt Ward shaved his legs for the two specials rather than wear the skin-toned tights again?

Image
Legends of the Superheroes cast by Ian McLean, on Flickr

Cast: Mordru (Gabriel Dell), Solomon Grundy (Mickey Morton), Sinestro (Charlie Callas), Dr Sivana (Howard Morris), Giganta (Aleshia Brevard), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), Hawkman (Bill Nuckols), Batman (Adam West), Robin (Burt Ward), Green Lantern, (Howard Murphy), Captain Marvel/Shazam (Garrett Craig), Scarlet Cyclone/Retired Man (William Schallert), The Flash (Rod Haase), The Huntress (Barbara Joyce), Black Canary (Danuta Wesley).

Image
Weather Wizard (Jeff Altman) by Ian McLean, on Flickr

Note: The Atom (Alfie Wise) and Ghetto Man (Brad Sanders) only appeared in "The Roast".
"Holy nostalgia, Batman!"
Therin of Andor

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Jim Akin
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by Jim Akin »

Thanks for watching this so I don't have to. :)

From the sound clips you included, the only bits I think I'd want to see are those featuring Gorshin and those with Howard Morris as Dr. Sivana. I first knew of Morris as a voice actor (though I didn't KNOW I knew him at the time) playing Atom Ant on Saturday morning TV. Once I discovered him as Ernest T. Bass on reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and put a face to the voice, I started hearing him in lots of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. He was basically the entire "repertory company" for The Flintstones, e.g.; when a bird or dinosaur inside one of their "modern stone-age" conveniences broke the third wall, odds are good Morris spoke its lines.

As a staple of H-B and, later, Filmation cartoons, Morris was used to making the most of mediocre material, and I imagine he'd be fun to watch even in this mess.

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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by chrisbcritter »

Great photo, Ian - spotted a couple of them cheap-ish on eBay but can't tell if they are originals. (Don't suppose you could do a bigger scan of it, pleeease? ;) )

Saw both shows when they originally aired; I remember them as just awful in that late-'70s-TV-special way. At least Hawkman looked great. IIRC he didn't have any dialog except the occasional screech, which was probably just as well :mrgreen: .
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P “Junior Batman” Y
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by P “Junior Batman” Y »

Hawkman actually did have some dialogue, but it was delivered so un-memorably, chrisb, that surely there’s no shame in forgetting it...

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Therin of Andor
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by Therin of Andor »

chrisbcritter wrote:
Fri Jan 10, 2020 4:08 pm
Great photo, Ian - spotted a couple of them cheap-ish on eBay but can't tell if they are originals. (Don't suppose you could do a bigger scan of it, pleeease? ;) )
My pic is in storage at the moment but will keep you posted!
"Holy nostalgia, Batman!"
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Troy
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by Troy »

I've been on the hunt for a copy of these scripts for some time


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AndyFish
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by AndyFish »

The TV Guide ads were the best thing about the specials.

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High C
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by High C »

Ed McMahon looks more villainous than anyone else. Seriously.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by BATWINGED HORNET »

Paul, you were pretty critical of the Amazing Spider-Man TV series; personally, I enjoyed it as it--like The Incredible Hulk--allowed their hero to stand out in a world where costumed villains were not the norm (and as the Marvel Cinematic Universe proves, it can be a cartoony barrier to good, mature stories). Like early Golden or Silver Age comics, the hero was the lone fantastic element pitted against often realistic antagonists, and when he had to use his ability, it played as truly fantastic as it was not common.

According to George Khoury's 2010 book Age of TV Heroes, and contrary to Stan Lee's decades of rapid-fire revisionist history, the following details the real performance of the Spider-Man TV series:
When the Spider-Man pilot aired on CBS on Tuesday, April 19, 1977, its viewership was solid. NTI ratings numbers from the time show that the pilot scored a 17.8 rating with a 30 share, not too shabby for a first-time feature-length pilot.
Spider-Man's first five episodes drew a large amount of viewers. The series scored a impressive 21.1 rating with a 34 share during its April 5 to May 3, 1978 airing.
...and...
Spider-Man was not cancelled because of low ratings and not because of negative audience reaction. but partially due to the demographics it attracted and also because of the concerns of then-CBS president William Paley. CBS had major hits with The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman, and all indications seemed to show that Spider-Man could have been another substantial draw for the network. But an offhand remark to Paley by one of his friends put an end to CBS' affiliation with anything in a colorful costume.

The basic story, told by Robert James, Fred Waugh (who performed most of the Spider-Man stunts) and others, was that at some point in mid-to-late 1979, one of Paley's close friends made a crack that CBS was going from the Tiffany Network, as it had been called to reflect its high class of programming, to the Comic Book Network.

Within a year, most of the comic book-based programs were gone from CBS' line-up, leaving both the public and personnel surprised and scratching their heads.
By 1979, CBS aired the Captain America TV movie, (which also performed well enough to generate a sequel film, Captain America II: Death Too Soon), and the underwhelming Doctor Strange TV movie. More often than not, comic-book programs were succeeding, which suggests Paley's fragile ego had more to do with CBS' superheroes vanishing than anything else.

Regarding Spider-Man, that same year, CBS aired the series' final episodes, including the ambitious "The Chinese Web" (which was the first superhero production to film in/have its location set in Hong Kong), but the series was not the "bomb" or "flop" myths often regurgitated in endless books, YouTube channels, and yes, by Stan Lee during his lifetime.

The Spider-Man TV series--like The Incredible Hulk--deserve some credit for building the path toward more grounded, real world-based comic adaptations that would take root (to a degree) in this century, such as Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, or Marvel/Netflix series such as Daredevil and The Punisher. While the tone differs from one production to another (obviously), the Spider-Man TV series was certainly more level-headed and enjoyable than the foam rubber sideshows that were the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies, the 1990 Flash TV series (another foam job), Ang Lee's Hulk, the Daredevil movie, and frankly, most of the MCU, which is not much better than many 80s cartoons: loud action and not an ounce of sense to be found.
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Re: TO THE BATPOLES #127: It’s a “Challenge” Just to Sit Through “Legends”

Post by BATWINGED HORNET »

About "The Challenge"....

Its a Hanna-Barbera production of the 1970s, so entertainment value was a blink-and-you-missed-it affair. With this production, West and Ward contributed to the false perception that the unrelated Dozier series was one long joke, and it did not help that both actors were so out of shape that they came off like a couple of tired parents dressing up to accompany their kids' trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Then, there's the Batmobile: flocked, no door or tire Bat-emblems, and looked like it had been sitting in a dusty garage for 10 years before someone decided to take it out for a not-too-thrilling spin.

The best things about the special was the bodybuilder cast as Hawkman, but that's about it. The guy staring as Shazam gave the air of some cologne ad model who was conned into accepting the role, but had zero enthusiasm for the part. I remember watching this when it originally aired and was thoroughly disappointed with him, thinking Filmation's Shazam! actors were the Gold Standard by comparison.

I guess Hanna-Barbera earned one credit: producing the worst live-action superhero production of the 20th century. Even the 1944 Captain America serial (terrible beyond belief) is still a head-and-shoulders cut above Legends.
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