My daughter is super-hero starved. I blame myself.
At five, she’s blown through every season of Super Friends, the delightfully easy-going Justice League of America cartoon from the 1970s and early 80s… twice. I’ll occasionally let her watch a new episode of Young Justice with me as that show airs in real-time, a concept that she is perplexed by. While she loves to watch the teenagers of Young Justice sort their personal problems as well as fight evil international cabals of villains, it’s often too violent for her tastes. I needed to find something that was as un-confrontational as Super Friends but still have caped avengers fighting an ever-present big bad. I thought back to my own childhood, and the answer was obvious.
The live-action Batman television series only aired from 1966-1968; but holds a permanent part of our pop-culture history. As a child, I worshipped this show. I didn’t see any humor in it. This was real. Batman was a real guy, not some cartoon character. Alongside Robin the Boy Wonder, they fought villains. They solved mysteries. The police were helpless without them. The world needed Batman.
I started with the Batgirl television pilot to test Camille’s tolerance. After all, we usually only watch cartoons, apart from the occasional House Hunters International episode. She liked it okay; but wasn’t floored. After a few months went by, she asked to see it again. I obliged. She watched it over and over on road trips via the iPad. I then casually let it slip that there was more where that came from. A lot more. She was ecstatic and so we began.
We’re not watching the show in order. I decided to ease her into it with a few season three episodes that featured Batgirl. Season three varied from the previous format of cliffhanger episodes. Everything is wrapped up nicely in 30 minutes with a few extra high-kicks from Batgirl to seal the deal. It is high camp. In one episode, the Joker’s plan to take over the world begins with winning the Gotham Surfing Championship (Episode 104). After all, if he won, the surfers would follow him. First the surfers, then Gotham, then the world. This is the show that I loved as a kid? Next, we moved to the Catwoman-centric episodes. From here, we’ll branch out into the other villains chronologically. She loves the cliffhangers. Flailing her arms, she collapses into me and begs to watch the second half.
The viewing experience as an adult is completely different than my memories. I’m not so jaded that I can’t see all that I loved before. The costumes, the gadgets, the pacing are all still there. The pop-art sensibilities are in overdrive. However, Adam West’s deadpan delivery as the titular character is hilarious to me now. The lines they made him say. Oh, the humanity. But, it’s funny and sometimes very smart. Catwoman’s desire to knock-off Robin so that she and Batman can have some alone time is actually very sinister (not to mention kind of hot – oh, that Julie Newmar). Robin’s constantly being reminded to wear his seatbelt. The social lives of teens are critiqued and analyzed. It is very much a commentary and referendum on all that made the sixties so crazy.
One thing I didn’t expect was Camille’s love for Catwoman. She’s bad. She steals, she tries to hurt Batman and Robin. But at the same, time, our sweet little girl wants to pretend to be her. She loves the costume, the over-the-top mannerisms. I’m afraid I’m raising a femme-fatale. Of course, she has also re-written the theme song to include shout-outs to her favorite female characters and Alfred the butler, who may be her favorite of the lot.
If you’re interested in watching the series for yourself, there are some hurdles to jump. It’s not available on DVD due to licensing issues. So, you have to seek them out via Bittorrent (which isn’t that difficult) or you can watch them on Youtube (playlists for every season). I imagine it’s a matter of time before the Youtube streams are removed. When combined with an iPad, Apple TV and Squrl, we easily stream the episodes to our big-screen TV before bedtime.