History is a funny thing. The Adam West Batman series was once beloved by many. Then when Tim Burton came and did his 80s movie combined with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns the comic book firmly painted Batman as a dark Gothic figure so the 60s series came to be looked on as a joke.
Yet in truth it was accurate to what Batman was like at that time, far more goofy and having a woman called Aunt Harriet around ( to try and make them seem less gay, you know ignoring all the sexual tension between him and Catwoman and his history with Vicki Vale). When the 90s came around and the phenomenal Batman the animated series, there was an episode “Beware the Grey Ghost” where Batman met his old tv hero who played the person the Grey Ghost. In the episode the figure was downtrodden as everyone thought the show a joke but after working with Batman to solve a case he was reinvigorated and Bruce Wayne helped re-release the show and it was reappraised. This is important as the Grey Ghost was voiced by you guessed it Adam West.
While the show is indeed silly (it’s the 60s) and campy (oh god is it campy) it has a fun charm to it and as mentioned is honestly more accurate to what Batman was like back then than people would like to believe. (60s Batman had some INSANE plots like batbabies and aliens randomly showing up). So let’s go look at the first story of the series “Hi Diddle Riddle” followed by “Smack me a riddle”. To explain the first 2 seasons of the show would have each episode split into multiple parts usually 2 with a cliff hanger at the end of the first to tease people on how Batman (as mentioned played by the legendary Adam West) would escape with Robin.
The episode starts with an exploding cake from the Republic of Moldavia and inside holds a riddle, so anyone who knows even the slightest thing about Batman (and he has one of the most well known rogues gallery) should know the Riddler is behind this. What follows is a story with many twists and turns, but fails in the story since well… Right at the start the Riddler tricks Batman into a false arrest. Ok all he has to do now is wait for him to be taken to court, forced to be unmasked and bye bye Batman… but then he keeps doing things, you had him you fool.
What happens next is he kidnaps Robin while Batman was dancing (yes the infamous Batman dance) and we end up with our first cliffhanger, something is about to happen to Robin. The Riddler then has his female assistant disguise herself as Robin, leading to a very uncomfortable scene of her being played by Robin but using her voice. Well anyway she ends up falling into the nuclear reactor in the Batcave (yes it has a nuclear reactor, and some people say Batman isn’t sci fi) but the Riddler’s plans still happen resulting in him potentially dying and not showing up to the court and thus the case is thrown out (don’t think it works that way but still)
Now for anyone used to the modern Batman, seeing this by the books, out in broad daylight Batman is rather… jarring but after a while the charm of the campness begins on you as it’s all rather amusing. Though Adam West plays a great Batman he’s a very moral character that always does what’s right, and feels sorrow when people, no matter who die. In the days of seeing DC try to make everything this dark gritty Batman esc character, it’s welcoming to see Batman here such a noble and optimistic character. My only gripe with the character is he often relied on his computers to solve puzzles rather than his detective skills. I also found the series is rather hard to watch in big lumps. Not for the campiness of it all but that the show is rather formulaic especially when it comes to the cliffhanger. There is a fight against the villain and their goons, something happens to Robin resulting in them losing and thus they are in the cliffhanger situation. The villains often have a female accomplice who Batman is unable to fight (even if it’s Catwoman).
That being said it’s still a lot of fun. I’m sure you know of the classic fights though, where whenever they throw a punch or kick, in classic comic book style the screen is filled with a word showing the impact (and mocked many, many times).
Batman 60s is not for everyone as the campiness is a massive level but it’s important to see it for yourself as the show is entertaining. the actors playing the villains put it all into their performance to make them larger than life characters, as does Adam West. And in all honesty, when doing 60s silver age comic adaptions you kind of need to be larger than life. The silver age was crazy.