Growing up, we all had our favorite television superheroes, and, for most kids, Batman was at the top of the list. Between the over-the-top gadgets and unforgettable villains, there was never a dull moment onscreen. But there was a lot going on behind the camera, too.
Nearly 60 years later, the original Batman television show, which starred Adam West as our favorite caped crusader, is still a cult classic. No matter how many episodes you’ve seen, however, you’ll be shocked to learn these facts that the show’s producers tried to keep under wraps.
1. The incredibly campy series was actually supposed to have a much different tone. Producers envisioned the show as a cool crime drama but, when they read the comics, they realized humor was the way to go. But it nearly didn’t star Adam West.
2. During screen tests, producers actually tried out two dynamic duos. Adam West and Burt Ward worked together in one while Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell acted in the other. Believe it or not, audiences didn’t really take to either of them.
3. While Batman is a beloved show now, original audiences weren’t too keen on it. The pilot got terrible scores, leading producers to add now-iconic elements, like a narrator and laugh track. Now they were onto something.
4. Once the pilot was filmed, there was a series to shoot. But there was a catch for Burt Ward: he may have been half of the dynamic duo, but the 20-year-old was only paid $350 a week for his work.
5. After Robin, Batman’s biggest help was his butler, Alfred, but he almost didn’t make the show. The character had been killed off in the comic books but thankfully was resurrected for the television universe.
6. Batman has some of pop culture’s most iconic villains, but producers used a trick to make them seem even more evil: the bad guys were shot with a slanted camera angle to emphasize their “crooked” natures.
7. Cesar Romero’s Joker was an signature character in the original series thanks, in large part, to his maniacal laugh. But that laugh came from a real place; it was based on Romero’s initial reaction to seeing the Joker costume he would don.
8. Over the show’s run, three different actresses played Catwoman, but only one made history. Eartha Kitt was only the second African-American woman to star in a major TV show.
9. The Penguin is another iconic villain, but he was almost played by three different actors, too. Mickey Rooney was initially targeted for the role. Producers also wanted Spencer Tracy, but he would only accept the role on one condition…
10. He said he would only play Penguin if he could eventually kill Batman at the end of the series. Clearly Tracy wasn’t familiar with how superhero stories worked!
11. When Burgess Meredith eventually took over the role, one quirk made him perfect. While he had stopped smoking years before, his former habit gave the Penguin his signature gravelly voice.
12. Batman and Robin’s costumes are iconic, but they almost got the actors into trouble. The National League of Decency actually contacted producers over concerns that the costumes were a little too tight and revealing!
13. Batman’s signature ‘wall climbing’ scene is used as an example of goofiness, but it actually served a purpose for producers. As the show grew in popularity, celebrities began asking to make cameos. Having them appear in windows that Batman and Robin passed was a perfect way to fit them in without disrupting the show.
14. Batgirl was controversially added to the series to help catch the attention of young girls and boost ratings. The effort didn’t work, however, and a separate Batgirl spin-off never materialized.
15. Robin became known for his “Holy” lines, which ranged from “Holy Ravioli” to “Holy Schizophrenia.” By the end of the series, he had uttered over 350 quips. One had a dark backstory, though.
16. After children in the UK starting to jump from high spots imitating the hero, West and Ward cut a PSA video asking their fans to stop. Robin even wrapped it up with a “Holy broken bones.” And on the subject of England…
17. Adam West became known as Batman, but he turned down an even more iconic role to become the Caped Crusader. West could have been James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but he felt the role was best left for a Brit.
18. Everyone’s seen the shot of the Batmobile driving out of the Batcave, but did you know the scene was actually a mess to film? The cave exit was a bit too small for the car, meaning West had to drive incredibly slowly. But they still found a creative way to get the shot.
19. The scene was filmed with under-cranked cameras and then sped up when the shot was played back. On screen, it looked like Batman and Robin were speeding off to fight crime, but they were actually crawling along!
20. Batman’s signature car, which was a modified Lincoln Futura, captured the imagination of every little boy. But, in 2013, someone’s dream of owning the Batmobile came true: the car sold at auction for $4.2 million.
21. After three seasons, ABC canceled the series; over time, interest waned, and they destroyed the sets. Shortly after, however, NBC inquired about acquiring the rights to the show but pulled out after learning about the demolition!
22. Despite playing superheroes, the cast of Batman was quite mortal. In fact, only one regular cast member — Burt Ward — is still alive as of 2019. If he wants to hit the press circuit, he’ll have to do so with the stars of another ’60s classic.
1. Unlike other shows that put one big-name star above the rest, Bonanza treated all its main cast members as equals. It even rotated their names in the opening credits so that no single actor would consistently get top billing.
2. Actor Pernell Roberts got fed up with the show, as he thought they played it too safe. After the sixth season, when Adam Cartwright left for good, Pernell struggled to find work. In 1979, however, he landed the titular role in Trapper John, M.D.
3. Wild west gunslingers carry revolvers, not phasers, but that didn’t stop most of the Star Trek cast from appearing on Bonanza. They didn’t stop by the Western for charity, either. Surprisingly, guest stars usually received higher pay than the main cast.
4. Fan favorite Dan Blocker died unexpectedly toward the end of the show’s run. Few other programs ever dealt with the death of a lead actor, but Bonanza took it in stride. They rewrote their scripts to include Dan’s character Hoss also passing away offscreen.
5. Bonanza almost didn’t last. Early on, Perry Mason routinely trounced it in that time slot. As the first network Western filmed in color, however, it got a huge boost when viewers started buying color TVs and turning away from old shows in black and white.
6. Women in the Cartwright family tended not to fare too well. Most love interests met an untimely end or left town, including all three of Ben Cartwright’s wives. Writers made this choice because movie cowboys usually remained unmarried.
7. Believe it or not, producers conceived the catchy Bonanza theme song before they even figured out the show’s plot or cast! A non-instrumental version became a big hit in the 1960s. Various artists covered it, including the Man in Black himself: Johnny Cash.
8. In 1963, Dan Blocker capitalized on the show’s popularity and opened a restaurant. Bonanza Steakhouses — later renamed Ponderosa Steakhouses — began to pop up all over the country. Dozens of locations still operate around the U.S. — and the Middle East!
9. In the early 1970s, M*A*S*H producers were considering Dan Blocker for a lead role. It never came to pass, but he would have been perfect based on his real-life experience! Dan actually saw action in the Korean War and received a Purple Heart for his service.
10. Bonanza tackled quite a few social issues from a progressive standpoint, but they still leaned on stereotypes for the Cartwright’s Chinese cook Hop Sing. On top of that, NBC did not pay actor Victor Sen Yung much, so he had to release a series of Hop Sing cookbooks to make ends meet.
11. Ben Cartwright is one of the top TV dads of all time, and yet actor Lorne Greene wasn’t even old enough to have three grown sons! He was only 44 at the start of the show — just 13 years older than the man playing his eldest son, Pernell Roberts.
12. Dan Blocker was as big in real life as on the small screen as Hoss Cartwright. At 14 pounds, he broke records as the largest baby ever born in Bowie County, Texas. Dan also reached a height of six feet by the time he was 12 years old!
13. After a series of rejected scripts, star Michael Landon got approval to write a few episodes of Bonanza. Years later, he took those forgotten scripts and turned them into plots for Little House on the Prairie, in which he also co-starred.
14. While all of Bonanza’s cast members dabbled in music, Lorne Greene scored a number one hit! His spoken-word ballad “Ringo” topped the charts in 1964, though some confused record buyers thought it had something to do with Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. In reality, the song was about an outlaw.
15. The young Michael Landon was cast for his good looks, though he didn’t exactly have the stature of a rugged rancher. His cowboy boots had four-inch lifts built in so his larger co-stars wouldn’t dwarf him.
16. Aside from Hop Sing, the show’s most beloved recurring character might just be Sheriff Roy Coffee. The Virginia City lawman appeared in 98 episodes and often lent the Cartwrights a hand in sticky situations.
17. Historically speaking, a big inspiration for the Ponderosa Ranch was the Comstock Lode. This huge vein of silver brought about an explosion of commerce and settlement in Nevada in the 1860s. Also, the word bonanza comes from a Spanish term for a discovery of rich minerals.
King One Eye
18. Creator David Dortort’s idea for the show also borrowed quite a bit from the legend of King Arthur. He saw patriarch Ben Cartwright as a Western version of Arthur, and his sons as the loyal Knights of the Round Table.
19. The character Candy Canary was popular with fans but mysteriously vanished from the show after 1970, only to reappear years later for the show’s final season. What happened? Actor David Canary was holding out for a higher salary and wouldn’t work until producers gave in.
20. With the exception of Michael Landon, all of the show’s stars wore hairpieces at some point in the series. Lorne Greene’s toupee even fell off during one scene where he had to dive into a lake. He put it back on underwater before any of the crew would notice.