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‘WKRP,’ ‘BATMAN’ DEBUT ON DVD

For Hicksflicks.com, Oct. 24, 2014

This has been quite a year for vintage TV shows being released on DVD for the first time, from samplers like "The Best of the Danny Kaye Show" to such full-series sets as "The Wonder Years."

Other surprises in 2014 have included the complete series DVD sets of "I Spy," "Welcome Back, Kotter," "Sgt. Bilko," "Annie Oakley" and such less well-remembered shows as "Cimarron Strip" and "State Trooper."

We even saw 90 episodes of the first four seasons of "The Red Skelton Show," most of which have been in a vault since they first aired in the 1950s.

In addition, season sets have debuted for such long sought-after titles as "Spenser: For Hire," "Newhart," "Bonanza," "The FBI," "Dr. Kildare," "The Zane Grey Theatre," "Sugarfoot," "Bronco," and even the "Perry Mason" TV movies of the 1980s.

And two complete-series sets that fans have been begging for are finally here, "WKRP in Cincinnati," which is available this week, and "Batman," coming out Nov. 11. What's more, "Batman" will be out in both DVD and Blu-ray.

"WKRP," which ran for four seasons beginning in 1978, is a riotous sitcom with a great ensemble cast as it depicts the mayhem that surrounds a radio station when it changes its format to rock ‘n' roll.

        

            Gordon Jump and Loni Anderson, 'WKRP in Cincinnati'

Gary Sandy plays Andy, hired by "The Big Guy," Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump), an ineffectual boob who doesn't know what he's in for. But whatever it is, he's sure his mother — the station's owner — won't like it.

Then there are the two DJs whose latent rock-‘n'-roll aspirations are fired up by Andy — Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), who really shake things up.

Other terrific characters include Mr. Carlson's too-efficient-to-be-true secretary, Jennifer (Loni Anderson); nerdy newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders); obnoxious sales rep Herb (Frank Bonner); and naïve young Bailey (Jan Smithers).

"Batman," which aired on ABC for three seasons beginning in 1966, is an exercise in absurdity, a live-action cartoon with a bright pastel color scheme and comic book-style dialogue balloons whenever a fight breaks out ("Pow," "Splat"), as Batman and Robin (Adam West, Burt Ward) fight the villains of Gotham City.

Oh, and let's not forget Neal Hefti's catchy theme song. (C'mon, you're humming it now, aren't you?)

"Batman" was also an experiment, mimicking the old theatrical serials that offered up cliffhanger endings with each episode. In this case, 30-minute episodes aired during the first two seasons on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Wednesday episode concluded with a cliffhanger that was resolved on Thursday.

The show switched to single 30-minute weekly broadcasts for the third season and brought on Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) as an ally.

        

                Julie Newmar is Catwoman and Adam West is 'Batman'

Among the many villains that rotated through were the Riddler (played initially by Frank Gorshin, then John Astin), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Joker (Cesar Romero), Catwoman (Julie Newmar/Eartha Kitt), Mr. Freeze (George Sanders/Otto Preminger/Eli Wallach), Egghead (Vincent Price) and Shame (Cliff Robertson).

"Batman" is one of those shows that fans had come to believe would never find its way to home video, so they will especially enjoy the fact that all 120 episodes are remastered for a vivid look to amplify the color scheme and there are three hours of bonus features.