In the various obits I read this weekend for Adam West, one word repeatedly came up–“campy.”
Reuters started its obit: “Adam West, who earned a place in American pop culture history with his campy portrayal of the title character in the classic 1960s TV series “Batman,” has died at age 88, his family said on Saturday.”
The New York Times added: “His straight-faced portrayal of Batman in the campy 1960s TV series lifted the tight-clad Caped Crusader into the national consciousness, and inspired future wearers of the superhero’s cape and cowl. The TV show was among the most popular in 1966, the year of its debut, and some of the era’s top actors signed on to play villains.”
And The Hollywood Reporter capped things with off: Yes, the Batman series was campy. But it was also ironic — in that, all winks aside, there was something truly righteous and exciting about this purple-clad goofball.” Indeed!
If you want Exhibit 1 of the wonderful campiness, check out the clip above, an outtake from the November 1967 episode, “Surf’s Up, Joker’s Under,” which turns on this plot:
The Joker plans to become the king of surfing, hoping the fame will give him control over the hearts and minds of Gotham City. He captures top surfer Skip Parker, then uses his “Surfing Experience & Ability Transferometer” to transfer the needed skills and stamina from Skip to himself. When all the other contestants drop out of the upcoming surfing match, Batman steps up to challenge the Joker’s supremacy.
Just so you know. The Joker finishes first, but Batman wins on points.
The full episode (along with 119 other ones) can be viewed on Batman: The Complete Series, a remastered box set released just a few years ago. I loved watching the series in syndication as a kid. Do they play as well decades later? We’ll find out.
Note: If you want to see where Adam West figured into the long line of Batman actors, see this video from our archive: The Evolution of Batman in Cinema: From 1939 to Present
1950s Batman Cartoon Tells Kids: “Don’t Believe Those Crackpot Lies About People Who Worship Differently”
1950 Superman Poster Urged Kids to Defend All Americans, Regardless of Their Race, Religion or National Origin
Batman Stars in an Unusual Cartoon Adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment
The Evolution of Batman in Cinema: From 1939 to Present
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