With The CW having just ordered a pilot for a Batwoman TV series, it is worth looking back at a previous time when a female actor donned the Bat-Cowl and could have appeared in her own show. There is a short, seven minute film from the late 60’s that has made the rounds on the internet in which Batgirl (aka Barbara Gordon, played by the late Yvonne Craig) teams up with Batman and Robin to defeat the Killer Moth. This has been incorrectly referred to on many occasions as a pilot for a stand-alone Batgirl series that would have spun off from Batman. In truth, this was put together as a presentation film to convince ABC executives that this new Batgirl character would be a good addition to the Batman series in its third year. The reason was that the popularity of the Dynamic Duo had quickly waned after its breakout first season and the show was close to its last legs at that point. It first premiered at mid-season for the 1965-66 season and was a huge hit in the ratings while also turning into a cultural phenomenon that spawned multiple imitators (and also led to shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. changing format to emphasize camp elements).
But heading into Batman‘s third season, the ratings were down and ABC was looking to retool the show. Series producer William Dozier came up with the idea of introducing the Batgirl character in order to draw in more female viewers with a character that the demographic could better relate to (the show was already very popular with male viewers). ABC approved the cast addition after seeing her intro film and Batgirl showed up in all of the Season 3 episodes. But despite the fact that Batgirl was loved by most of the Bat-fans (male and female alike), she wasn’t enough to help the show regain its early glory. The ratings continued to sink and ABC decided to cancel it at the end of its third year. NBC considered saving the show and picking it up for a fourth season, but eventually decided to pass on it. If Batman had done better in its third year, it’s possible that Batgirl could have spun off to her own series, but that is something we will never know for sure. The Dynamic Duo did get a revival in comic book format with the Batman ’66 series and Batgirl made an appearance in digital comic version of that.
Interestingly, William Dozier also toyed around with a Wonder Woman series (which would have been a sitcom titled Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?) and a Dick Tracy series, but the camp superhero fad came and went too quickly on television and the networks were no longer interested. (A special thanks to the wonderful Television Obscurities site as a resource for this piece.)
You can read more about the Batman series and see the Batgirl presentation film at the Television Obscurities site at this link.
You can read more about Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? and see the pilot at the Television Obscurities site at this link.
You can read more about the 1967 Dick Tracy series at the Television Obscurities site at this link.
Aired: Never Aired
Starring: Yvonne Craig, Adam West, Burt Ward, Tim Herbert
Created By: William Dozier
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