(I’m busy paying bills today, so hubby has volunteered to do a guest blog today. So without further ado, here he is.)
Hi there, good people! One of my favorite ways of entertaining myself after work or on the weekend is watching vintage television shows from the 1960s. There are lots of great ones on DVD. My favorites include “The Fugitive,” “Naked City,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Burke’s Law” and “Route 66.” I especially love seeing all the famous and not-so-famous actors from that period who appear and reappear. For example, Sammy Davis Jr. has a short but extremely lively and amusing appearance in “Burke’s Law”, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff all appear in one crazy episode of “Route 66,” and William Shatner can be see over-emoting in “The Outer Limits,” “The Twilight Zone” and “Thriller.” (That’s Boris Karloff’s “Thriller,” not Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”)
But strangely enough, perhaps the all-time-greatest 1960s show for guest stars is not yet on available on DVD. I’m talking about that super-campy classic “Batman.” In its heyday it was on several times a week, and it always had at least one guest star as the lead villain of each episode. Burgess Meredith was The Penguin, Frank Gorshin was the Riddler, Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar both appeared as Catwoman, Cesar Romero was The Joker, Victor Buono was King Tut, and so on.
(By the way, a few years back Wifey and I actually found ourselves standing next to the great Frank Gorshin on Eighth Avenue and 44th Street. He was on his way to appear in his one-man Broadway play and we were taking Wifey’s sister and her two wonderful sons to John’s Pizzerria. Wifey’s sister didn’t believe it was Frank Gorshin, but I knew it was him, even before I realized he was on his way to prepare for that day’s Broadway performance.)
Anyway back to “Batman.” Why is such a popular television show still unavailable on DVD? From what I hear, the owners of the show and the owners of the Batman franchise are tangled up in a dispute about how the money would be divided if the DVDs are issued. I was therefore quite pleased to learn from a co-worker of mine that episodes of “Batman” can currently be seen of the tiny Hub TV cable channel.
So what is it like watching “Batman” after all these years? One downside is that the the production values are pretty low-budget. But I enjoy hearing all the corny jokes, bad though they might be, that I was too young to “get” when the show first aired. For example, they’re obviously spoofing abstract painter Jackson Pollack when they show a painting by a modern artist named Jackson Potluck. And I didn’t get the irony in the fact that Victor Buono’s character was a noted Egyptologist who turned into the nefarious King Tut because “he was hit by a brick at a love-in.” And so on…
And then there are those villains. I still get a kick out of The Riddler, The Penguin, The Joker and many others. They’re all played by classic actors and the writers clearly enjoyed coming up with lots of crazy stuff that went over the heads of most viewers. But some of them are surprisingly bad. For example, Milton Berle as Louie The Lilac? Ethel Merman as Lola Lasagne? Yeesh! And Eli Wallach’s Mister Freeze left me cold. 🙂
I do admit, however, that I’m developing a bit of a crush on Batgirl.
And I’ve always had a thing for Julie Newmar’s Catwoman. Who wouldn’t!
So while we continue to suffer from a serious “Batman” DVD drought, I urge everyone to check out “Batman” on cable if possible. We get the Hub channel here in NYC on Time Warner Cable. Check with your local cable provider.
And here’s a great site dedicated to all the “Batman” villains.