Holy Info, Batman! Behind-the-Scenes Facts About TV's Batman

Batman, the TV series, made its debut as one of TV's first mid-season replacements on January 12, 1966. Featuring Adam West in the lead role and Burt Ward as Robin, his co-crime fighter, the show became a breakout hit.

Batman was everywhere, and the show quickly developed into the biggest marketing campaign in television history up to that time. Not only was every kid in America talking about Batman, but Batman magazines, T-shirts, costumes, posters, banners, records, etc., were everywhere—the biggest marketing craze since the Beatles themselves. The series success was short-lived, however. The fad quickly burned itself out, like a meteor shooting through the sky.

Now, though, Batman holds its rightful place in TV history as a genuine campy TV classic.

Let's take a look at some facts you may not know about Batman...

Audience Reception

Before going on the air, Batman received the lowest test score ratings from test audiences in the history of the ABC network.

Batman was originally planned to be a very serious show. Prior to the show's debut, ABC held 2 test screenings: one with a laugh track dubbed in and one with additional narration. According to Adam West, both fell flat, and the "campy" approach was eventually decided upon instead.

Comic Book Savior

Batman's success as a TV series actually saved the Batman comic book from cancellation. Bob Kane, Batman's creator, has said the show's success gave the slumping Batman comics a much-needed boost in sales. Diehard Batman fans, however, never liked the series because of its campiness. After the show was cancelled, the Batman comics deliberately took a much more serious turn to placate upset fans.

Alfred's Return from the Dead

Alfred the Butler had already been killed off in the comic book 18 months before the TV show originally aired. He was brought back to life for the show and was played by Alan Napier. After the show's huge success, Alfred was resurrected in the comics as well.

Bat Who?

Alan Napier was the show's only cast member who had never heard of Batman and had no idea who the character was before the show began filming.

The Role of Aunt Harriet

There is an urban myth that the Aunt Harriet character (played by Madge Blake) was added to the show to fend off viewers from thinking Batman and Robin were gay. According to most reliable sources, though, this story is indeed just a myth.

The Bulge in the Crotch

In the guy equivalent of Barbara Eden having to "hide her navel" on I Dream of Jeannie, there was a huge controversy about both Adam West's and Burt Ward's "bulge in the crotch" during the show's run. Several different methods of crotch "inhibition" were used on West and Ward during the series' run to fend off complaints from complaining conservative and religious organizations.

Adam West has admitted that Julie Newmar as Catwoman caused "strange stirrings in my utility belt." Burt Ward also admitted that Lesley Gore (as Catwoman's assistant, Pussycat) caused him a great deal of intense male feelings because she kept rubbing up against him.

The Value of a Sidekick

Burt Ward reportedly earned just $350 a week for the first season of Batman.

"Quick! To the Batmobile!"

The Batmobile was actually several vehicles: 5 different Batmobiles were used during the series' run. (The iconic car was a customized 1955 Lincoln Futura.)

Quack, Quack, Quack

When Burgess Meredith took the role of The Penguin, he hadn't smoked in 20 years. His trademark cigarette (in holder) irritated his throat, which caused him to ad-lib his trademark "Quack, quack, quack" croaking voice.

Batgirl, Harbinger of Doom

During the show's third and final season, a new character, Batgirl, was added. The character never quite fit in and helped toll the death knell of the show.

What Could Have Been...

Lyle Waggoner was the other actor considered to play Batman, but ultimately lost the role to Adam West.

Mickey Rooney was originally offered the role of the Penguin, but turned it down.

Frank Sinatra was a big fan of Batman and supposedly expressed interest in the Joker role.

Because of his great success as Batman, Adam West was offered the role of James Bond in the 1969 movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. West declined, saying the role should be played by a British actor. George Lazenby, an Australian, got the role instead.

Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy.

Read all Eddie's mental_floss stories.


Matthew Simmons/Getty Images
How Accurate are Hollywood Medical Dramas? A Doctor Breaks It Down
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy get a lot of things wrong when it comes to the procedures shown on the screen, but unless you're a doctor, you'd probably never notice.

For its latest installment, WIRED's Technique Critique video series—which previously blessed us with a dialect coach's critique of actors' onscreen accents—tackled the accuracy of medical scenes in movies and TV, bringing in Annie Onishi, a general surgery resident at Columbia University, to comment on emergency room and operating scenes from Pulp Fiction, House, Scrubs, and more.

While Onishi breaks down just how inaccurate these shows and movies can be, she makes it clear that Hollywood doesn't always get it wrong. Some shows, including Showtime's historical drama The Knick, garner praise from Onishi for being true-to-life with their medical jargon and operations. And when doctors discuss what music to play during surgery on Scrubs? That's "a tale as old as time in the O.R.," according to Onishi.

Other tropes are very obviously ridiculous, like slapping a patient during CPR and telling them to fight, which we see in a scene from The Abyss. "Rule number one of CPR is: never stop effective chest compressions in order to slap or yell words of encouragement at the patient," Onishi says. "Yelling at a patient or cheering them on has never brought them back to life." And obviously, taking selfies in the operating room in the middle of a grisly operation like the doctors on Grey's Anatomy do would get you fired in real life.

There are plenty of cliché words and phrases we hear over and over on doctor shows, and some are more accurate than others. Asking about a patient's vitals is authentic, according to Onishi, who says it's something doctors are always concerned with. However, yelling "We're losing him!" is simply for added TV drama. "I have never once heard that in my real life," Onishi says.

[h/t WIRED]

When The Day After Terrorized 100 Million Viewers With a Vision of Nuclear War

Before Nicholas Meyer's made-for-television film The Day After had its official airing on November 20, 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan and his Joint Chiefs of Staff were given screening copies. In his diary, Reagan recorded his reaction to seeing Meyer's graphic depiction of a nuclear holocaust that devastates a small Kansas town, writing:

"It's very effective and left me greatly depressed. So far they [ABC] haven't sold any of the 25 spot ads scheduled and I can see why. Whether it will be of help to the 'anti-nukes' or not, I can't say. My own reaction was one of our having to do all we can to have a deterrent and to see there is never a nuclear war."

Just a few days later, the rest of America would see what had shaken their president. Preempting Hardcastle and McCormick on ABC, the 8 p.m. telefilm drew a staggering 100 million viewers, an audience that at the time was second only in non-sports programming to the series finale of M*A*S*H. According to Nielsen, 62 percent of all televisions in use that night were tuned in.

What they watched didn't really qualify as entertainment; Meyer stated he had no desire to make a "good" movie with stirring performances or rousing music, but a deeply affecting public service announcement on the horrors of a nuclear fallout. He succeeded … perhaps a little too well.


The idea for The Day After came from ABC executive Brandon Stoddard, who had helped popularize the miniseries format with Roots. After seeing The China Syndrome, a film about a nuclear accident starring Jane Fonda, Stoddard began pursuing an "event" series about what would happen to a small town in middle America if tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States escalated to catastrophic levels. Films like Dr. Strangelove had depicted moments between politicians debating whether to use powerful weapons of mass destruction, but few had examined what the consequences would be for the everyday population.


Reagan had dubbed the Soviet Union "the evil empire" in 1982, so the time seemed right to bring such a project to TV viewers. Stoddard hired Barnaby Jones writer Edward Hume to craft a script: Hume drew from research conducted into the effects of nuclear war and radiation fallout, including a 1978 government report, The Effects of Nuclear War, that contained a fictionalized examination of how a strike would play out in a densely populated area. Stoddard also enlisted Meyer, who had proven his directorial chops with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but considered the assignment a "civic responsibility" more than a creative endeavor.

Meyer and the film's producers selected Lawrence, Kansas (pop. 50,000) as the setting for the movie and got permission from city officials to turn their town into a post-apocalyptic landscape. Throughout the summer of 1982, tons of ash, dirt, and rubble were trucked in and spread over the ground; food coloring blackened farming crops. Thousands of locals were enlisted to portray victims of a nuclear attack, agreeing to roll in dirt and have their hair shaved off to simulate a miserable death via radiation poisoning.

Meyer believed that setting the film in a small town would make it more impactful and relatable to audiences. "Other movies that had attempted to deal with the subject of nuclear holocaust had always been set in big cities," he recalled in 2003. "But a great number of people in the United States do not live in big cities, so they were witnessing an event that seemed to bear scant relation to them."

That pursuit of realism wasn't always to the network's benefit. ABC originally planned a four-hour film to run on two consecutive nights, but filling up that much commercial time proved to be a challenge. Fearing a graphic and partisan display of anti-nuclear propaganda, many loyal advertisers refused to let their spots air during The Day After. (Meyer later joked that all the "generals" pulled out, including General Mills and General Foods.) They were ultimately able to sell a little over 10 minutes of commercial time, which prompted executives to condense the movie to a two-hour presentation. Meyer, who thought the script was padded to begin with, agreed with the decision.

ABC sensed that the film would be provocative and took unprecedented steps to handle the inevitable viewer response. A 1-800 number was set up to field calls from people concerned about an actual nuclear disaster; the network also issued pamphlets that acted as viewing guides, with fact sheets on nuclear weapons. Psychologists warned audiences would experience "feelings of depression and helplessness." Meyer was, in effect, making a disaster movie with the characters being offered no help of rescue. The film had been openly endorsed by anti-nuclear organizations as being a $7 million advertisement for their stance, and some TV industry observers wondered whether ABC would even air it at all.


Prior to The Day After's November 20 debut, actor John Cullum appeared onscreen and delivered a warning. Calling the film "unusually disturbing," he advised young children to be led away from the television and for parents to be prepared to field questions older kids might have.

A still from 'The Day After' (1983)

With that, The Day After commenced. It was every bit as terrifying as viewers had been told it would be. For the first 50 minutes or so, actors like Jason Robards, John Lithgow, and Steve Guttenberg established their characters in Lawrence, largely oblivious to an incident on the border of East Germany that triggered an armed response from both Russia and the U.S. As missiles fell, a mushroom cloud vaporized the community; those who survived were doomed to brief and miserable lives as radiation destroyed their bodies.

Dramatizing what had previously been a sterile discussion about nuclear defenses had its intended effect. Viewers shuffled away from their televisions in a daze, struck by the bleak consequences of an attack. The people of Lawrence, who had a private screening, were particularly affected—it was their town that appeared destroyed. Residents exited the theater crying.

What ABC lacked in ad revenue it more than made up for in ratings. The mammoth audience was comparable to Super Bowl viewership; the network even presented a post-"game" show of sorts, with Ted Koppel hosting a roundtable discussion of the nuclear threat featuring Carl Sagan and William F. Buckley. Sagan is believed to have coined the term "nuclear winter" on the program, while Secretary of State George Shultz argued the necessity of harboring nuclear weapons to make sure the nation could protect itself.

The experience stuck with Reagan, who signed a nuclear arms treaty—the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty—with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, leading to longstanding speculation that The Day After may have helped sober political attitudes toward mutually assured destruction.


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