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Batman: The Complete Classic Television Series

Batman: The Complete Classic Television Series
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Publishing Date: November 11th, 2014

Synopsis: TV's iconic Dynamic Duo has been captured, along with a legion of abominable archenemies in a POW-erful numbered limited-edition collection. Featuring all 120 original broadcast episodes, ever popular guest stars like Julie Newmar and Cesar Romero, The Adam West Scrapbook, complete episode guide - and exploding with over 3 hours of all new extras - you can bring home all the crime fighting action that won generations of fans!

Special Features:
-All 120 Original Broadcast Episodes Fully Remastered In HD
-Highly Collectible Premiums: Hot Wheels Replica Batmobile
-The Adam West Scrapbook
-44 Vintage Trading Cards
-Ultraviolet Digital Copy
-32-Page Complete Episode Guide
-Over 3 Hours Of all-new extras:
--Hanging with Batman - A true slice of life in the words of Adam West
--Holy Memorabilia Batman! - A journey into the most sought after collectables through the eyes of 3 extraordinary collectors
--Batmania Born! - Building the World of Batman - Explore the art and design behind the fiction.
--Bats of the Round Table - A candid conversation with Adam West and his celebrity friends, chatting all things Bat ’66.
--Inventing Batman in the words of Adam West (episode 1 &2) - A rare treat for the fans as Adam discusses his script notes on bringing Batman to life in the first and second episodes
--Na Na Na Batman! - Hollywood favorites stars and producers recount their favorite Batman memories

Batman: The Complete Classic Television Series Review
By James Harvey (with assistance)

Before the review starts, I need to make note of something. In an effort to get this review out as fast as possible, viewing was divided up between myself and three other colleagues. I handled the first season and bonus content, while the second season was given to two folks, and the third season to the last. To create consistency, I double-checked their notes and reviewed any episodes, notes or references in terms of audio and video, and whatever bonus content or episode issues, they may have encountered. Not surprisingly, the complaints were very, very minimal. That being said, let's continue!

Quite honestly, there's not much left to say about the 1960s Batman series. We all know the basic rundown of the show from our own personal experiences. Growing up as a kid, it was the greatest show on television. The heroes were true blue, the danger felt real, and the villains were evil to the core. How would Batman and Robin survive? The show had us on the edge of our seats week after week. As we grew up and became jaded teenagers, we scoffed at the show's campiness and dismissed it, only to return to it again as adults and appreciate it for the genius work it truly is. And trust me - this show is truly a work of genius. Intricately written and performed, none of the film's sly dialogue and suggestive content is accidental, but instead finely crafted. Adam West is pitch-perfect as a cunning, earnest Batman, and Burt Ward exudes the perfect amount of enthusiasm for Robin's rousing rebuttals and retorts. A perfect duo, they nicely balanced opposite the never-ending revolving door of colorful villains and ne'er-do-wells plaguing the great city of Gotham.

As a weekly serial (somewhat weekly, as the show aired twice a week for the first two seasons), the show's formula was tight and dependable. Intro the villains, get the heroes involved, cliffhanger, heroes regroup, defeat bad guys, one-liner to end the episode, and repeat. While the formula may quickly stale in today's binge-watch environment, I find it still holds strong. This show's charm makes it impossible to resist, but frankly, this is nothing new. Batman, celebrating its 50th anniversary in just a couple short years, is legendary. Television experts and Batman fans have discussed the many merits and idiosyncrasies, and there's little more I can add to the discussion. But it's worth noting the importance of this series and, if it never happened, it's quite possible things might've turned out quite different for Batman. This show boosted sales and saved the comic from cancellation, and eventually led the comic to a renaissance in terms of writing and artwork in the 70s and 80s, leading the way for an incredible run of amazing works that continue to this very day. As much as some may not want to admit it, we owe Batman more than we may ever know. The movies, the cartoons, probably all of it.

Yet, oddly enough, I still feel this show is somewhat underrated and easily written off. Some will still see it as a blight and a campy misstep in Batman's lore, and, really, it's their loss. This show is a testament to how malleable and flexible Batman can be. Dark to some, sly and campy to others, but true in every interpretation. Batman can appeal to so many people in so many different ways, and this is, undoubtedly, one of the best renditions of the Caped Crusader. Watching these episodes, it's so easy to tell the creative team had a vision and they executed it to near perfection, with the show only really taking a small misstep in the good-but-not-as-good-as-the-first-two-seasons third season.

All you need to know is Batman is a fun show that's truly, truly all ages. It's fun, colorful, action-packed, full of adventure and solid story-telling, and is far more brilliant than some give it credit for. A rousing adventure for kids, but also a smart satire for the older set. You can see the heavily influence this show continues to have, even on the recent Batman: The Brave and The Bold animated series. It's a major part of Batman's 75 year history, and one that shouldn't be so easily dismissed or ignored. And thankfully, finally, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is showing this excellent television series the love it deserves.

And, honestly, the studio does a pretty great job. Not perfect mind, you, but pretty darn close.

Before we get a look at the on-disc content, the packaging itself deserves a little note. Housed in a study, attractive cardboard case, Batman: The Complete Television Series definitely stands out on the shelves. For what is considered one of the last major releases of the physical media era, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment does not disappoint in this regard. The design is fabulous, evoking the era from whence this show came - looking bright, colorful, and fun. All the discs are safely packed inside with digipaks (not my favorite type of packaging, but they work fine here), as are the physical extras. Some might find the package too cumbersome and bulky so, hopefully for them, the studio will release a more shelf-friendly release down the road, but the collection right now, admittedly, looks great alongside some of my other "complete series" collections. It's almost surreal to have this side-by-side with my Batman: The Complete Animated Series box set.

Now, as we crack open the discs, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has provided a nice amount of goodies and pretty great quality for the main feature of this huge collection. Save for a couple curious omissions,it's a pretty complete set, all things considered.

First up - the collection's audio and video quality! The show has never looked or sounded so good as it does right here. The work done on remastering this show is staggering, and the improvements made on the source material a revelation. You can see everything. Everything. Every little imperfection, every wrinkle, every crease - just all of it, and it's all crystal clear. The clarity actually brings out the four-color feel to the series, and allows us to see so much more than ever before (even things we weren't supposed to, like the obvious switching back and forth between actors and stuntmen, which actually adds to the humor). The colors on the costumes and the sets are amazing. Be it the Penguin's hat or Joker's suit, the colors look so full and new. The grey, dull sheen I remember from all my viewings as a child are just gone and in front of me is...something entirely new. And it looks surprisingly natural, and not overly done or too saturated - it's very nicely handled.

The audio is great, though by no means reference material. Presented in a Dolby Digital mono track, the soundtrack sounds pretty full considering the limitation. However, it still sounds great, and easily better than anything I've listened to in the pass. It is odd that there's no lossless track, but it's actually not a strike against the set here, given the material and its age.

Now, before I go on any further, I've heard that there have been issues with the actual episodes themselves, with bits of dialogues and such missing. I talked to a representative for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment who told me that the episodes included here are the original masters, and reassured me that the folks in charge of remastering were very thorough - even noting how legal was able to clear everything, such as getting the Chad & Jeremy and Lesley Gore songs back into their respective episodes. The rep also noted that there was not a "next week" tag on every episode (or the second part of every episode), and the series did not include the "Same Bat Time" speech until more than halfway through the first season, and even then it's not always used. Toss in some misremembered dialogue, known manipulated and re-edited bootlegs, or changes made to syndicated or later versions of these episodes, which differ from the original masters, and that seems to clear up any issues of actual episode content changes.

In terms of bonus features, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has cobbled together a sizable collection of extras material. All contained on one disc, the content includes a fix of featurettes, round tables, select commentaries and some archival content.

"Hanging with Batman (aprx. 30 mins)" is an Adam West-focused featurette which provides a basic overview of his career and the impact the role of Batman had in his personal and professional life. It doesn't shy away from some of the negative aspects, and manages to actually dig pretty deep for its thirty minute run-time. There's great content included, like vintage footage and pictures and some behind the scenes imagery from the show. Up next is "Holy Memorabilia, Batman! (aprx. 30 mins)," which looks at the incredible amount of merchandise spawned from the 1960s show, and checks in on a few notable Batman fans and their impressive collections. The third featurette is "Batmania Born! Building the world of Batman (aprx. 30 mins)," which approaches the show from a contextual point of view, looking at the show from its 1960s surrounded and continued influence nearly 50 years later. The extra breaks down some of the show's signatures visuals and iconic imagery, its popularity and eventual cancellation, and its overall impact. A mix of new and archival interview footage includes the likes of Bruce Timm, James Tucker, Dan DiDio, Paul Levitz, Jim Lee, Michael Uslan, Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, and a score of other notable fans and professionals. While all three featurettes are enjoyable, this third one is way too short and goes by just way too fast.

Moving on, up next is "Bats of the Round Table (aprx. 45 mins)," a round table discussion with Adam West, Kevin Smoth, Ralph Garman, Jim Lee and actor Phil Morris, who basically spend the duration asking fan questions to West. Following that is the very cool "Inventing Batman: In the words of Adam West (aprx. 60 mins - 2x30mins)," a visual commentary feature (think a scaled-down version of Warner's Maximum Movie Mode) where Adam West comments and discusses the two part original two-pilot episode of Batman, offering up observations, memories, and facts from the series opener. Lastly, there's the brief "Na Na Na Batman! (aprx. 12 mins)" promo, where modern-day WB stars comment on the legacy of the classic series, with actors including Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards from Arrow, among others, along with DC Comics animation director Jay Oliva also showing his appreciation. There's also a few additional comments by Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar included, but it's a very light, fluffy piece.

Lastly, under the "Bat Rarities! Straight from the Vault" banner comes a small collection of vintage materials. The most exciting of the two is the "Batgirl - Pilot (aprx. 8 mins)" and the "Burt Ward Screen Test with Adam West (aprx. 6mins)." The quick take on Batgirl, with a bit of a different look, is pretty nicely done, and the screen test of Ward and West shows how perfectly paired these two were. Other archive materials included screen tests with two actors vying for the roles of Batman and Robin (aprx. 4 mins), and an old interview with the production supervisor James Blakeley who discussed the unique style of the show (aprx. 2 mins).

As mentioned above, there are some extras packed in with the actual box set, including a Hot Wheels Batmobile replica, a short hardcover scrapbook, with pictures and commentary on the show, an episode guide and a set of trading cards. All are pretty nifty extras and emphasize the collectible aspect of this collection.

Lastly, the collection is rounded up with a digital copy of the entire series and bonus features.

Looking at all of that, it is a fairly nice, detailed collection of bonus content, though at times it does feel incomplete. Ideally, there would have been more bonus content focused on the actors, production and characters featured in the series. We do get a nice look at them, true, but it would've been nice to see more archival and new interviews look at the series. Even the inclusion of Batman: The Movie, or any of the Batman retrospective documentaries, would have been great, but I can see why they were left out. Not a home run, but pretty damn close. Still, what we have here is fantastic, but with such a fascinating series you can't help but want more. With satisfying extras, mixed in with a great package and an amazing main feature, this is actually one collection that's pretty impossible to pass up for any fan.

After a long wait, and so many legal loopholes, it's true joy to finally get Batman: The Complete Television Series. All three seasons of the classic 1960s live-action series, mixed in with some fabulous extras and a great package ... it's a Bat-fan's dream come true. A show that truly manages to hit all the right marks for fans of nearly every age, Batman is a gem of a series finally available on home video for the masses. The Limited Edition Blu-ray Collector's Edition is, without a doubt, the way to watch this series, though the DVD presentation is nothing to scoff at. The most reassuring thing about this set is, after all these years, Batman totally holds up. In fact, I think it's safe to say the show has gotten even better with age. It's safe to say, dear readers, that Batman: The Complete Television Series is a Must Own for the die-hards (and even if you're not, I'd still Highly Recommend it).



Batman: The Complete Television Series is now available to own from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
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