Hi Diddle Riddle: The Batman '66 pilot, according to Adam West
Holy debut episode, Batman!
Few series debut to a more feverish audience than Batman. His already built-in audience hotly anticipated the Caped Crusader's 1966 outing, and the show was an instant hit. But things weren't always a sure shot; a live-action Batman could've gone horribly wrong in many ways. Luckily, though, we live in this, the best of all possible Bat-worlds, and the Batman show was a fun, lighthearted affair that's looked back on with fond memories and a love for its campy style. It's even luckier, then, that we also live in a world wherein Adam West, Batman's Batman, left us with his recollections in Back to the Batcave, his 1994 autobiography.
Among the behind-the-scenes details offered by West in his book are his memories of filming the show's pilot episode. "Hi Diddle Riddle," as the episode was titled, saw the Dark Knight take on the green tights-wearing baron of befuddlement, The Riddler. The chapter devoted to the experience is filled with praise for West's collaborators and conspirators.
Specifically, the man behind the Cowl celebrates the contributions of director Robert Butler. West was impressed by the attention Butler gave to the show's staging. Even while West and co-star Burt Ward (Robin, the Boy Wonder) were engaged in dialogue, Butler kept them moving, ensuring nothing in an episode ever felt stagnant, especially while Batman and Robin discuss the Riddler's modus operandi, the Dynamic Duo pace back and forth across the Batcave, as well as across the frame.
However, West also mentions that he and the show's director didn't always see eyehole to eyehole. West cites an incident while filming the pilot wherein he improvised a bit of prop work, only to have his idea shot down.
"When Burt and I were in the library," West recalled, "I took it upon myself to drop some fuller's earth inside an old tome so that when I closed it, a fine film of dust rose up to catch the light. Butler thought that was too extreme and had us do it over again, without the dust."
What did the show's star do when the director questioned his know-how? "I usually deferred to him," wrote West. "His comedic taste was wonderful. And that first show set a real tone for the series."
He was right; that first episode perfectly encapsulates much of what would make Batman such a popular commodity. In addition to establishing the show's characters, setting, and tone, "Hi Diddle Riddle" also saw the debut of another famous Bat-artifact, the Batusi. This was a very specific dance move Batman does in the pilot episode (and then again in "The Pharoah's in a Rut"). Batman makes two horizontal V-signs with the pointer- and middle finger of each hand then passes the V's across his face in time rhythm with the music.
Not bad for the very first episode!