Last night, I heard the awful news that actor Adam West passed away at the age of 88. He led a fll and long life, and whether he was typecast in one specific role or not, and although he eventually grew to appreciate and embrace that one role – he will always be, to a generation of television viewers, the legendary Caped Crusader, Batman himself.
He was my first true television superhero – every afternoon at 4pm on WRGB would be a brand new (to me) Batman episode. Maybe I didn’t understand the camp value of the series – how most of the actors were playing their roles over-the-top and tongue-planted-directly-in-cheek – but for a six-year-old who had enough drama in his home life, Batman was an escape for me.
Long before his time in the Batman TV series, Adam West carved out a solid run as an actor in several television drama shows. Here he is in an episode of Bonanza, playing a grifter with an evil streak.
And here he is on the western Laramie, as an outlaw going up against series star Robert Fuller.
Then, in 1966, Adam West appeared in the show we all knew and loved. Yep, for three seasons, West played the Caped Crusader against Burt Ward (Robin, the Boy Wonder) against a rogue’s gallery of supervillains, twice a week on ABC. Here’s some rare promo clips.
Sure, the show’s clips played up the action and adventure and danger and derring-do … but who wouldn’t want to do the Batusi with Jill St. John? I mean, seriously…
Of course, like many television actors of the time, Adam West also recorded a 45 or two, incorporating his Batman character into a goofy love song.
After Batman left prime-time television, Adam West was hopelessly typecast. He tried other roles, but how could you see him as anything other than a millionaire playboy with a secret identity as the Dark Knight? You really couldn’t… Which explains why West took roles like this one, in the sex romp The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.
At one point, Adam West was part of an ensemble cast for a series called The Last Precinct, which was I suppose a melange of Police Academy and Hill Street Blues, but not the best parts of either. It was an hour-long sitcom, it even had a post-Super Bowl premiere, then it bombed like Hiroshima.
West also appeared as the lead actor in a TV pilot called Lookwell!, about the lead actor of a detective series who didn’t let the cancellation of his show stop his belief that he could still be a valued member of the police force. This comedy pilot was co-written by Conan O’Brien, and even today is still considered one of the best “failed pilots” to not make it to series.
West did find a new life in the field of animation voice work. Here he is in a clip from Batman: The Animated Series, playing Simon Trent, the “Gray Ghost” superhero of a generation ago.
Finally, West spent several seasons adding his voice to the popular animated series Family Guy, portraying the daffy mayor of Quahog – as “Mayor Adam West.” Here’s a few clips.
It was animation that allowed West to return to his iconic cape and cowl, as he and Burt Ward reunited for one last time in the made-for-video animated movie Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.
Rest in peace, Adam West. And thanks for all the memories. We’ll see you again some day. Same bat time … Same bat channel. 😀