A Question of Degrees

General goings on in the 1966 Batman World

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Yellow Oval
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A Question of Degrees

Post by Yellow Oval » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:17 am

I'm almost finished watching season 2 of the old 60s series The Invaders with Roy Thinnes. I love the show and it's tone. It got me thinking about how season 1 of Lost in Space was really interesting with its serious sci-fi atmosphere and with Dr. Smith as more evil than annoying. Naturally, that led me to Batman with season 1 being a blend of comedy and action with some drama thrown in. My question to the fellow board members: Do you think Batman could have been more successful following a more action-oriented direction and not the "camp" style Dozier pursued. Would the writers have taken it more seriously? More so, would the audiences - especially kids - have got into it more if it had less humor and goofiness and followed more of the comic book tone? I find now I really appreciate season 1 way more for being the most Batman-like, but yet not being all that grim.

I don't say this too lightly as the current Batman in comics in film has gotten so serious it's crossed into being way too dark! Also, I'm keeping in mind that Green Hornet was on a much more serious note and didn't fare too well that way.

I'm just wondering if Batman had been altered a slight degree or two if that would have changed the show's fortunes as the intial hoopla was bound to pass by and then the show would have to stand on its own merits which it ended up struggling to do by the 3rd season.
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John Mack
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by John Mack » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:18 pm

The Batman series went the way it did and if they had tried to make it more serious, I don't think that would have worked. But you know, look at all the quote "serious" shows of the time today. Lost in Space, The Man From UNCLE, Star Trek, Voyage to the bottom of the sea and even Bonanza. By today's standards, those shows are as "corny" as Batman. My mom was watching an old episode of Bonanza one time and commented to me that she couldn't believe how time had made the show seem dated.

Not with Batman. It has stood the test of time because they made it the way they did. It just was what it was and errr still is.

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Mr. Deathtrap
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by Mr. Deathtrap » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:47 pm

Citizens,

I believe one of the reasons the Batman series endures is it was simultaneously written at multiple levels. The action and adventures elements were aimed at children while much of the humor was aimed at adults without being intrusive. In fact, it went over the kids' heads. This writing to a duel audience allows adults to enjoy the show again while watching it with their kids. It's brilliant!

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dell
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by dell » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:59 pm

TV back in the 60's was pretty straight-laced. I don't think a serious Batman would have been accepted by audiences. TV was meant to entertain and shows were supposed to be fun., or at least not too serious.

As an example let's use medical shows. Back then you had Marcus Welby M.D. Their idea of radical behavior was for Welby's partner (James Brolin who appeared several times on Batman) to ride a motorcycle - GASP!!! And that really was pretty radical. Today we have Gregory House, M.D. who is about as dark a character as you can get.
dell

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SprangFan
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by SprangFan » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:14 am

I don't think the show was ever "serious" in any way, but I do agree there was more of an edge at the beginning, and a few moments where the more moody, spooky side of the character was allowed to show through, and I did enjoy that.

I've always said that the "humor" of the first season came from doing a completely literal translation from comics to screen. Dialog, situations, costumes etc that passed for "business as usual" in a comic book suddenly became insanely outlandish when acted out on color TV by grown people. You didn't have to "joke up" the material; it was nutty by nature. That, for me, is when the show really "worked on multiple levels." To kids, it was as "serious" as the comics they read, and to adults it was a farce.

Where I think they got into trouble is when the show became a big hit, indeed a fad. That's when everybody wanted to jump on the bandwagon and suddenly new villains are being created as vanity vehicles for the guest-star-of-the-week. Every has-been, also-ran and dilettante on the scene got to come on and chew the scenery to show how "hip" they were: "Hey, watch me twirl my mustache and cackle!"

Now I grant you that's just my opinion, and I did enjoy some of those made-for-TV villains, but for me things peaked in Season 1 and even as a kid I only ever got excited in the later seasons when one of the "Big 4" villains showed up. Now, whether they could have kept going forever with those 4, or would have found equal success bringing more comic-based villains to the screen, I can't say. Things happened as they did, and any guessing we do now is just that: guessing.

Ultimately, as much as I love the show, it all boils down to one gimmick: what happens if you bring a comic book to life, warts and all? Once you've done it, though, you know. And once you get over the initial amusement and giddy rush of "hey, this is just like a comic book!" then you can only go back to the well so many times before it runs dry. Any way you slice it, three seasons is probably about as far as you could have taken the show, period.

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elmrgraham
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by elmrgraham » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:25 am

I think that had ABC-TV added a fourth season and new Villains/Villainesses such as Poison Ivy,The Sea Hag and The Tiger Shark from the 1966 Batman Topps Cards Series,etc.,Batman would have gotten "back on track" with the TV ratings.

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Mr. Deathtrap
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by Mr. Deathtrap » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:01 pm

Citizens,

I believe Spangfan’s observation the idea that bringing a comic book to life is itself an absurd gimmick is the way ‘Batman’ Producer William Dozier viewed the show. I also believe the key to the longevity of any television series is storytelling. Once the focus of the show shifted from edgy suspense and atmospheric stories to comedy, the storytelling suffered. At the same time the scripts became formulaic, which helped prevent the focus on comedy from being changed up.
I think Frank Gorshin’s unavailability contributed to the decline in storytelling as the series continued. Riddler’s stories rely on his riddles as clues for the heroes and force writers to provide more structured stories. When Gorshin could not reprise the role he had played so brilliantly he made it his own, Dozier rightly held back the Riddler, hoping the situation would change. It did not and ‘Batman’s Anniversary / Riddling Controversy’ is a strong but underappreciated story.
At the same time, Dozier and his team were trying to stimulate foreign sales of the show, using the movie as a marketing vehicle and including villains like the Archer and the Minstrel. The three-part Joker / Penguin team up story was originally intended as a second movie. Had the foreign sales materialized, more money might have been injected into the show and prevented the budget slashing and perhaps delayed the injection of Batgirl, both of which characterized the third season.
Instead, script quality declined and the Dozier team decided Batmania had declined as all trends do and turned his attention to other projects, as all professionals would naturally do in such circumstances.

Mr. Deathtrap
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clavierankh
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by clavierankh » Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:13 pm

For me the problem wasn't making the show more "serious".

In the early episodes the plots were taken seriously. In my opinion the early stories were well constructed and the plots made sense. Then they were surrounded by absurdity and some camp and it worked.

Later on the plots could not be taken seriously, they became as absurd as the surroundings.

Look at the stories in Mattman's new series thread. (Scarecrow excepted I wrote that and wouldn't comment directly on that. The villains plots are taken quite seriously and written in the mold of the early series. The members of the board seem to enjoy it.

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mattman
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by mattman » Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:31 am

Many thanks for your kund words Clavierankh.
Yes, I am trying to convey the new show with a mix of the first part of season one, a concotion of serious with hints of camp, though some stories from the later part and season 2 were good too, so it is all about creating that magic medium of camp and drama. Give them a read, contributions welcome, pm me with stories. Clavierankh wrote a great Scarecrow tale, one which would have worked on the 60s show, though the villain was deemed too frightening at the time.He will be hopefully writing a Joker tale very soon. Hope this satisfies the guys who wanted the original series first season to never end

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exm
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by exm » Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:58 pm

SprangFan wrote:Ultimately, as much as I love the show, it all boils down to one gimmick: what happens if you bring a comic book to life, warts and all? Once you've done it, though, you know. And once you get over the initial amusement and giddy rush of "hey, this is just like a comic book!" then you can only go back to the well so many times before it runs dry. Any way you slice it, three seasons is probably about as far as you could have taken the show, period.

Please toss the tomatoes softly.
Wow, very astute assessment. I think the show could have maintained its kid audience for another 15 years, but they had to keep the adult audience coming back to be profitable, and that's where the repitition killed off the show.

I also think you could take any hit show, cut the budget, cut the shooting time, and limit the staff to basically two writers for all the episodes, and you'd see a noticeable decline.And though its superficial, I think super-hero projects don't have a prayer without a mammoth budget, not just for big action scenes, but for details like lighting to make the hero look cool when he's standing still.

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High C
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by High C » Sat Feb 16, 2013 9:31 am

elmrgraham wrote:I think that had ABC-TV added a fourth season and new Villains/Villainesses such as Poison Ivy,The Sea Hag and The Tiger Shark from the 1966 Batman Topps Cards Series,etc.,Batman would have gotten "back on track" with the TV ratings.
I'll give you Ivy as a villainess who could have helped the ratings. And I respect your obsession with the other two , but honestly, I don't think anyone else was clamoring for them. Most people wouldn't have known who they were.

Mr. Deathtrap wrote:I believe Sprangfan’s observation the idea that bringing a comic book to life is itself an absurd gimmick is the way ‘Batman’ Producer William Dozier viewed the show. I also believe the key to the longevity of any television series is storytelling. Once the focus of the show shifted from edgy suspense and atmospheric stories to comedy, the storytelling suffered. At the same time the scripts became formulaic, which helped prevent the focus on comedy from being changed up.
I think Frank Gorshin’s unavailability contributed to the decline in storytelling as the series continued. Riddler’s stories rely on his riddles as clues for the heroes and force writers to provide more structured stories. When Gorshin could not reprise the role he had played so brilliantly he made it his own, Dozier rightly held back the Riddler, hoping the situation would change. It did not and ‘Batman’s Anniversary / Riddling Controversy’ is a strong but underappreciated story.


Wow, those are some great points, Mr. D., especially the one about Riddler. People forget that Riddler/Gorshin accounted for almost 1/4 [4 out of 17] of the first-season storylines, and those indeed had to be more structured, as you say, because of the very nature of the character. I'd add that it also hurt not having him around because it forced writers to show off Batman's detective skills, a key part of the character which began to wane later in season 2 and was gone almost completely by S3, when it was either 'let's go to the Batcomputer' or have Batgirl stumbling into the villain's identity and/or lair just through speculation and/or luck.

SprangFan wrote:
Where I think they got into trouble is when the show became a big hit, indeed a fad. That's when everybody wanted to jump on the bandwagon and suddenly new villains are being created as vanity vehicles for the guest-star-of-the-week. Every has-been, also-ran and dilettante on the scene got to come on and chew the scenery to show how "hip" they were: "Hey, watch me twirl my mustache and cackle!"


I agree this was a huge problem because, to go back to Mr. Deathtrap's point, the storytelling suffered. As you imply, SprangFan, when you're building a 'vanity' project around someone, that takes precedence and such things as crisp plotting take a backseat.

Very few of the 'original,' i.e., made-for-TV villains were cast well, and that made those characters harder to suspend disbelief for.
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elmrgraham
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by elmrgraham » Sat Feb 16, 2013 10:38 am

I think that by casting The Sea Hag and The Tiger Shark,the viewers could have learned more about them.That is my opinion.Thank You.

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epaddon
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by epaddon » Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:02 pm

The thing is, how would promoting a Topps Cards serieswith their unique characters have benefited the TV series? Generally it worked the other way around where the TV series was used to benefit the merchandising tie-ins and you can find plenty of tie-ins for other TV series with character/villain concepts that never would have stood a chance of being part of the live action medium. Poison Ivy at least was established in the comics and you can think of plenty of viable name performers of the era who could have fit the template in their own unique way.

elmrgraham
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by elmrgraham » Sat Feb 16, 2013 5:12 pm

I think that Batman Topps Cards Villains/Villainess would have worked for the TV series.

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mattman
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Re: A Question of Degrees

Post by mattman » Sun Feb 17, 2013 6:49 am

By the third series the episodes had poor structure and the stories paid the price. Looking at the Londinium tale, it was a total shambles and a complete parody of itself without being funny. In earlier, more serious stories there was mentions of England, London etc, so to completely set it up was shocking. The story was badly conceived, Batman in The UK done well could have reinvented the show or gave it a new serious (er) angle. And don't get me started on that bee!

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