In the early 1960s, Ed Graham Productions optioned the television rights to the comic strip Batman and planned a straightforward juvenile adventure show, much like Adventures of Superman and The Lone Ranger, to air on CBS on Saturday mornings.
Former American football linebacker and actor Mike Henry was originally set to star as Batman in a more dramatic interpretation of the character. Henry reportedly posed for publicity photographs in costume, but he was not signed for the role. Around this same time, the Playboy Club in Chicago was screening the Batman serials (1943's Batmanand 1949's Batman and Robin) on Saturday nights. It became very popular. East coast ABC executive Yale Udoff, a Batman fan in his childhood, attended one of these parties at the Playboy Club and was impressed with the reaction the serials were eliciting. He contacted ABC executives Harve Bennett and Edgar J. Scherick, who were already considering developing a television series based on a comic strip action hero, to suggest a prime time Batman series in the hip and fun style of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. When negotiations between CBS and Graham stalled, DC Comics quickly reobtained rights and made the deal with ABC, which farmed the rights out to 20th Century Fox to produce the series.
In turn, 20th Century Fox handed the project to William Dozier and his production company, Greenway Productions. ABC and Fox were expecting a hip and fun—yet still serious—adventure show. However, Dozier, who had never before read comic books, concluded, after reading several Batman comics for research, that the only way to make the show work was to do it as a pop art camp comedy. Originally, espionage novelist Eric Ambler was to have scripted a TV-movie that would launch the television series, but he dropped out after learning of Dozier's camp comedy approach. Eventually, two sets of screen tests were filmed, one with Adam West and Burt Ward and the other with Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell, with West and Ward winning the roles.
By that time, ABC had pushed up the debut date to January 1966, thus forgoing the movie until the summer hiatus. The film would be produced quickly to get into theatres prior to the start of Season Two of the television series. Lorenzo Semple, Jr. had signed on as head script writer. He wrote the pilot script, and generally wrote in a pop-art adventure style.Stanley Ralph Ross, Stanford Sherman, and Charles Hoffman were script writers who generally leaned more toward camp comedy, and in Ross's case, sometimes outright slapstick and satire. Originally intended as a one-hour show, ABC only had two early-evening time slots available, so the show was split into two parts, to air twice a week in half-hour installments with a cliffhanger, originally to last only through a station break, connecting the two episodes, echoing the old movie serials.
The Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and the Mad Hatter, villains that originated in the comic books, all appeared in the series, the plots for which were deliberately villain-driven as well as action-comedy-heavy.