Welcome to the five hundred and forty-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven't been able to update it in a while). This week, did the U.S. government cancel the 1960s Batman TV series? What scene drawn by Dave Cockrum led Max Allan Collins to quit writing Batman? And what Kevin Nowlan Marvel Fanfare pin-up inspired an entire issue of Fantastic Four?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There's a little "next" button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: The 1960s Batman TV series was canceled as a response to the Report by the Kerner Commission.
STATUS: I'm Going With False
In 1967, in response to a series of riots in major U.S. cities over the previous three years (including Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles) but most specifically the most recent riots in Detroit earlier in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson formed a National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired by Illinois Governer Otto Kerner, hence it now being known as the Kerner Commission, to find out what was causing these riots.
In 1968, they released their report and the biggest culprit they determined was white racism.
The most famous line from the report was "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal."
They also took issue with television and how it depicted racial issues, noting that television was predominantly coming from a white perspective and the Commission felt that that needed to change.
A lesser issue, but one that ended up surprisingly having a bigger influence than pretty much anything else about the commission, was the idea that television was too violent. Again, this was not even that big of an emphasis, but that was latched on to by networks, predominantly in the world of animated television. In the aftermath of the Kerner Commission, cartoons saw violence reduced dramatically.
However, there is also a belief that this curtailing of violence is what led to the cancelation of Batman. Reader Paul B. wrote in to specifically request that I feature this legend.
I think this is just a case of the dates making things seem like there is a connection where there was not one. The Report came out in early 1968 and the Batman TV series was canceled after the 1967-68 season. Was the violence on the show the key?
I don't believe so, not when two major factors came into play.
1. The ratings on the show tanked. Its first season saw the show's two weekly episodes finish 5th and 10th in the year-end Nielsen ratings. However, the second season (after a strong opening in the year) they both fell beyond the Top 30, with the Wednesday installment plummeting to nearly #60. The Thursday installment was close enough to the top 30, though, that they renewed it for Season 3, but only the Thursday edition. Season 3 the show's now single weekly episode fell to 48th in the rankings. So the show was canceled due to ratings.
2. NBC STILL tried to pick up the show for a fourth season but a deal couldn't be done. That wouldn't be the type of thing a network would do if the government was pressuring anyone to pull the show.
So no, I do not believe that the Kerner Commission is responsible for the death of Batman.
Thanks for the suggestion, Paul!
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Check out some entertainment and sports legends from this week at Legends Revealed:
When Did All in the Family Become Archie Bunker’s Place?__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________On the next page, a legend involving Max Allan Collins and Batman (Collins once said something about the Batman TV series from the 1960s that you might have heard mentioned in his column before)!