Bat-Signal from Talk Radio

| June 12, 2017

By Holland Cooke
Media Consultant

 

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — This past weekend, wistful Baby Boomers lit-up Social Media with RIPs for Adam West, 88, star of TV’s campy 1960s “Batman.”

Meanwhile, here inside-the-box, we consultants trip over each other jumping-in-front-of parades like this.  It’s one of those non-radio events from which we strain to derive lessons for radio.  You may recall Tweets from cohorts explaining how Rachel Maddow’s Trump tax return coup was really a flop.  Since then, her sustained ratings romp causes those armchair critics amnesia.  Still – hoping I’m first to hit Send – some undeniable analogies.

Batman was fun…

…as AM radio was back then. Top 40 stations played the TV show’s theme (by Neal Hefti, 8 weeks on the chart).

‘Seems quaint given the angry tone of those same stations these days, as Talk radio rants.  TV’s Caped Crusader played it for laffs AND served up an ethos of what oughtta be.

Nielsen still awards “horizontal maintenance.”

It sure did back then, when ABC-TV struggled to compete with CBS and NBC. “Batman” wasn’t just a mega-hit…it was two.  The show aired at 730ET on Wednesday AND Thursday nights.  No matter how dire the cliffhanger, it would be resolved “tomorrow night, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.”

Heaps of PPM data affirm that the quickest path to Share growth is attaining more Time Spent Listening from exiting Cume.  Music stations’ “No-Repeat Workday” and evening “Love Songs” tactics seek to extend per-occasion TSL.  For News/Talk/Sports stations, adding occasions is more opportune.

What can you tease today about tomorrow on your Bat-channel?  And does today sound different-enough than yesterday that listeners would feel like they’re missing something if they miss your show tomorrow?

The guy could talk.

Announcers envied Adam West’s voice.  Admittedly, his delivery was a caricature, which he milked in post-Batman voiceovers.  If you’ve sought such work lately, you know better than to identify as “radio announcer,” a turn-off to those who now cast commercials and narrations.  They’re using actors who don’t do the DJ sound.

Beyond West’s God-given gift, his talent was articulation, elocution; which strikes me as lost art when I hear “dubba yew” instead of “double you;” or “jewlery” instead of “jewelry.”

They followed the format.

Each episode conformed to the formula, a comic book brought-to-life, right down to the font:  “SOCK!” and “POW!” and “WHAP!” filled the screen during tilted-camera fight scenes.

But first things first.  Back then, most TV shows began with a theme song, over-which star credits were montaged.  “Batman” did the opposite, something most scripted TV dramas now do: The cold-open scene-setter triggered a high energy theme song.  Few did this to better effect than the way David Caruso’s deadpan cued The Who screaming “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the beginning of “CSI Miami.”  And few did it sooner than “Batman.”

Anyone could sing that one-word-lyric theme.  For a while, everyone on the school bus did.

We KNEW these characters.

Like a solid morning radio ensemble, this show’s characters were utterly familiar.  West was both coy millionaire Bruce Wayne and daring Batman.  Burt Ward was both Wayne’s youthful ward Dick Grayson and Robin the Boy Wonder.  Alfred the butler was discreet, Aunt Harriet was lovingly oblivious, Commissioner Gordon was officious, and Chief O’Hara’s brogue was thick.

Interesting people wanted-in.

A decade before he was Mickey to Rocky, Burgess Meredith was The Penguin.  Frank Gorshin was a positively elastic Riddler.  Cesar Romero’s over-the-top Joker made you wonder if there had been a mix-up at his pharmacy.  Can you name all three actresses who played Catwoman?  And how cute was Lesley Gore as her sidekick Pussycat, singing her radio hit “California Nights” in a 1967 episode.

Stars lined up for this show, and were billed as “Guest Villains” not Guest Stars.  And when there weren’t enough villains to satisfy every agent’s plea, the show introduced a hilarious, predictable second opportunity to appear.

As Batman and Robin were either scaling-up or rappelling-down the outside of a Gotham City skyscraper, the window would pop open, and a star – as him or herself – would banter with the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder.  Inevitably, with succinct moralizing, Batman assured the “Citizen” that all would be well.  Search this on YouTube, and you’ll find a montage of the 14 times it happened.

“Riddle me this…”

Which cable channel will quickly tee-up a “Batman” binge?

And what CAN radio take away?

Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke; and if you couldn’t be with us for Talkers 2017: A New Era, see video of HC’s presentation at www.HollandCooke.com

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Category: Advice