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Worst to First: Ranking the DC Superhero TV Shows

5. Batman

Ran from: January 12, 1966 – March 14, 1968

Channel: ABC

Heroes: Batman, Robin, Batgirl

Villains: The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, King Tut, Egghead

Notable Guest Stars: Everyone who was cool in the mid-sixties;  Jerry Lewis, Dick Clark, Bruce Lee, Sammy Davis Jr., Joan Collins, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney, Tallulah Bankhead,  Roddy McDowall, Liberace, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Shelley Winters,  Zsa Zsa Gabor

What’s Good: Batman gets a bad rap.  Following the show’s enormous success, it was all too easy to dismiss comic books and superheroes as silly kids’ stuff.  The show spoofed the genre so effectively that casual audiences couldn’t see superheroes any other way.  Even today, you will still see headlines that use “Biff! Bam! Pow!” as short-hand for comic books.  But that’s not Batman‘s fault.

Taken on its own, the show is clever and often laugh-out-loud funny.  The stories can be enjoyed as adventure stories by kids and satire by their parents.  Batman’s pop art style is bright, colorful and visually engaging.  And unlike so many other superhero shows that pitted their protagonist against regular criminals, Adam West’s Batman had a rogues gallery of comic book villains.

Bonus points for having given the world Batgirl.

What’s Bad: If you’re looking for a serious take on the Dark Knight, this is not the show for you.

Verdict: I’m in the camp that thinks the sixties Batman is fun in small doses.

Next: Legends of Tomorrow

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Posted on November 10, 2017, in Super Heroes, TV, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. My preferences are the two oldest, as I loved them so much as a child and still enjoy them. I have both complete series. I rated all 4 current DC CW shows as “Good”, because I enjoy them. I do have the occasional problems with their season-long storylines which drag on and on and on sometimes. The romance stuff gets a bit old after a while as well. Too “Will they/Won’t they?” and all of that. Plus, Seasons 2 and 3 of The Flash were uncharacteristically dark and relied WAAAAAY too much on the speed-villains and time travel and the speed force…Thank goodness season 4 has arrived with more fun, Silver Age-level comic book-type fun. Arrow can be a a little too grim at times, but it’s good over all. Legends of Tomorrow has gotten into a fun groove and is currently the most fun. Supergirl is good, but I get kind of tired of Supergirl having to be constantly rescued by her non-powered but oh-so-competent and able sister. I’d love them to dump Alex and the DEO altogether. The whole Team Arrow/Team Flash/Team Supergirl bit is a bit repetitive, so I’d like to see Supergirl change that up. Smallville was terrible and I won’t discuss that garbage show anymore. Gotham is pointless. “Here is a Batman show without Batman.” No thanks.

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    • This was really hard to rank because the shows are so different. Personal preference plays a huge factor. I decided to embrace the fact that at the end of the day, I’d rather watch one of the modern CW shows (with all of their flaws) than classic series like Adventures of Superman. But I totally get where you’re coming from. For its time, Adventures was epic.

      I struggled with shows like Smallville and Lois and Clark. I don’t disagree that Smallville was “garbage”, but I still enjoyed watching it from time to time. Especially episodes that were loaded up with superhero guest stars. I can’t be too mad at the show that gave us the first-ever and to date only live-action version of Booster Gold.

      I could rearrange the order of the CW shows pretty easily although for me the darker tone of Arrow will probably always keep it near the bottom. I agree that Legends of Tomorrow is hitting its goofy stride. It’s been a lot of fun to watch. I wouldn’t mind seeing Supergirl ditch the DEO but I understand why the ensemble is used on all the shows. It’s part of the CW formula.

      I gave up on Gotham after the first season, but I have heard it has gotten better. My personal preference would have been for a show based on the GCPD comic book. The focus is on the police officers of Gotham City with Batman out there but rarely ever seen in person. As it stands, I’m willing to sit Gotham out and let those who enjoy it continue to do so. There are so many superhero TV shows to choose from these days.

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      • Agreed. There are many superhero shows from which to choose, and I don’t watch the Marvel ones, despite being a lifelong Marvel fan. I mean, I watch the Netflix shows, despite not being in love with any of them. I think they’re too dark and dour, but I watch them anyway. Agents of SHIELD, Inhumans, and The Gifted all get a pass from me. Oh! But Legion! Okay. I watched that. Legion was great. I will also give the upcoming Runaways and Cloak and Dagger shows a look-see. I doubt they will be light-hearted and fun though.

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        • Of course I am considering a follow-up based around Marvel shows. The Netflix shows are roughly equivalent to DC’s Arowverse. The Incredible Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man are Marvels “classic” shows. Agents of SHIELD has been hit and miss. The first half of of the first season was barely watchable, but it got better. The last couple of seasons have been as good as any other shows of this type. One wonders if anyone involved in Inhumans understands the medium of television at all. The Gifted is surprisingly competent but hardly essential. Legion was rad. That gives you some idea what my Marvel list will look like when it hits.

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  2. While many of these shows had superior production values to Batman, it’s hard to top that one for cultural impact. And Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman was one of the great visual icons of the 1970s.

    I caught a couple of episodes of Birds of Prey during its short lifetime and was very unimpressed. Since I am not a comics reader, I come at film and television adaptations primarily from a “does this work as film or TV?” perspective—and Birds of Prey did not work.

    Although I haven’t been watching any of the Arrowverse shows, they all seem to have pretty good reputations.

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    • You bring up another point I struggled with. If I made my list based on cultural impact, the older shows would rise to the top. Batman, Adventures of Superman and Wonder Woman are clearly the most influential of these shows. As the flagship, Arrow would have to top the tie-in shows. I decided to make my list on the basis of which show I would most like to watch right now versus which show would be the most painful to endure. That benefited the modern shows, but other criteria would be just as valid.

      Although I was familiar with the source material – in fact, I was a big fan – I would have given Birds of Prey a pass if it had worked. I do think one of the reasons it didn’t work is that they missed what made the original comic book worth adapting in the first place.

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  3. I’ve viewed a lot of “Wonder Woman”, 1960’s “Batman”, “Adventures of Superman”, “Birds of Prey” (I have it on DVD, but I mostly got it for the web series “Gotham Girls, and I know the actual live action series could’ve been a lot better), “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, and “Supergirl”, while other shows like “Arrow” and the current “The Flash” I’ve caught a few times.
    I was not really aware of “Superboy” (until a few years ago), “Shazam!”, or the 1990 “The Flash”, but they look okay. I never really bothered with “Smallville” or “Gotham” though, as they just didn’t/don’t interest me. I might check out “Legends of Tomorrow” though. interest me

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  4. Great list.

    I’d personally dock Supergirl points for not even trying to get an Irish Silver Banshee. I really liked the New 52 version of Siobhan Smythe, but even if they thought a villainess version was better I just wish they’d kept her Irish – it’s so rare I get to hear an accent like mine on foreign television.

    However I’d give them bonus points for hiring Katie McGrath so it kind of evens out there.

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