TV on DVD Review: Batman -- The Second Season: Part One (1966-1967)

Bursting with the pop, color, and flavor of a bubblegum ad on the back page of the same comic that had inspired the series, ABC's smash '60s success Batman was as gleefully campy as it was filled with endless alliteration and overwritten.

Nonetheless as unnaturally choreographed the heavily enunciated tongue-twisting dialogue was, each episode went above and beyond in its salute to semantics by loading each line with more multi-syllabic words than most modern talk radio programs boast today.

And when you couple Batman's love of the English language with the show's obvious passion for play, it's no wonder why it's so easy to get hooked on DC Comics' particular brand of phonics.

This is especially true when it's performed like a near musical call and response by Adam West and Burt Ward, complete with odd mid-sentence pauses and rhythmic give-and-take meant to underline drama, both of which add a percussive "Pow!" to the sing-song dialogue.

Yes, the series did suffer from repetition, both structurally as well as in its tendency to recycle the exact same establishing shots (including its most famous sequence that takes us – "Turbines to Speed" – by Batmobile from the Batcave to City Hall where the same handful of extras mill about in heavily used footage).

However, while the greatest villain Batman ever faced were the budgetary restraints of its own network (which later led to its cancellation while it was still a ratings heavyweight), the show never let this obstacle turn into its Achilles Heel.

To this end, it adopted a visual signature with the same tenacity that it wove the wacky wordplay which was its narrative trademark into each week's two-part episode scripts.

Yet while you could never fail to miss the show’s audible style, Batman's often utilized cinematic technique came across with a refreshing subtlety that was often absent from the rest of the show's jackhammer approach.

Whereas our heroic leads were nearly always held dominantly in the frame – looking stoic, resolved and straight as an arrow – frequently, and only whenever we were in the presence of the show's "audacious adversaries" that were "capable of such capricious crimes," the frame is almost always positioned just barely off-kilter as we size up the room for possible "malevolent mischief."

Admittedly, the first of the three seasons had the best and most creatively freewheeling material as the shows grew increasingly outrageous with time. However, thanks to a bump in budget following the now classic movie (filmed between the first and second season) that also gave Batman its super cool Batboat, they were able to attract some impressive names to the guest villain roster including former Hollywood matinee idols of the '40s and '50s that begin to fill the screen in this set.

And indeed, the star power here is as impactful as the same cartoon-style expressions of comic book of violence that took center stage during fight scenes.

But regardless of cost, the series was always at its best when one of the 1966 film's four main henchmen (Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman) cooked up a new scheme to ensnare the heroic alter egos of millionaire Bruce Wayne and his "youthful ward" Dick Grayson.

In a nod to their own success, we see the two at home off duty and discover that when they’re not off fighting crime, they get their kicks in the manner of their audience, sitting back to watch TV's The Green Hornet.

That's just one of many nice in-joke winks at the superhero life that was thrilling on the small screen roughly a decade before the return of Superman to the big screen and the Frank Miller era Dark Knight debut of Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne nearly 20 years later.

While this is as bright as Tim Burton's 1989 film is dark and played more for comedy than pathos and thrills, you can see the influence of Cesar Romero's Joker and Wayne's dry quips that were carried over in Burton, Keaton and Jack Nicholson's first trip to Gotham City two decades later.

And just like the introduction of Penguin and Catwoman did in Burton's Batman Returns follow-up years later, the villains bring out the worst in one another but the best in our heroic caped crusaders in this (sadly Riddler-free yet happily gorgeously restored) four disc set that delivers fans the first half of Batman's second season.

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