It's safe to say that the cultural influence of the 1966 "Batman" series peaked with the release of the 1966 feature-length spin-off movie. As detailed in "Batman: The Complete History" by Les Daniels, the series was met with declining enthusiasm when returned for a second season and was then canceled by ABC after the third season. Like the concurrently-airing "Star Trek" on NBC, "Batman" was a classic in the making, but cut short for contemporary audiences.

That's not to say the "Batman" team didn't try to save the show. For season 3, they mixed up the formula. To save costs, they cut the two episodes, one-story format — aired on back-to-back nights — from previous seasons. This also meant doing away with the trademark comic book-style cliffhangers. However, one innovation meant a budget increase: bringing in a third star alongside Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward). That star was Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon and the secret identity of the new hero Batgirl.

Executive producer William Dozier first conceived of Barbara (see #38 of "Back Issue" magazine, "Growing Up Gordon: The Early Years of Batgirl"). However, to give the series a blueprint for portraying Barbara, he tasked DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz to introduce her in the comics. Schwartz recounted in Daniels' book, "I don't remember the exact details, but I was asked to create a Batgirl. I called Carmine [Infantino] in, and he drew the costume and did the cover. I worked out the story and called it 'The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl.'"

That story, in turn scripted by Gardner Fox, was printed in Detective Comics #359, the first of many comics starring Batgirl to come. But what about her TV debut?

A Publicity Stunt Lives On

Yvonne Craig was chosen to play the TV version of Batgirl. According to Les Daniels, here's what she had to say about the job: "I used to think the reason they hired me was [that] they knew I could ride my own motorcycle […] I realized they hired me because I had a cartoon voice." Indeed, Daniels writes that the casting of Batgirl was the production team playing both sides — creating a super-heroine to attract feminist acclaim (Craig later played Batgirl in a U.S. Department of Labor advert for the Equal Pay Act) but also giving male viewers eye candy.

In any case, the Batgirl ploy didn't save the series. Daniels speculates that trying to both scale back the show's length and increase the cast made it feel overcrowded, turning Batgirl into a third wheel rather than a new partner. That might be why the comics used Batgirl as the star of shorter, backup stories in "Detective Comics," rather than trying to jam her into the Dynamic Duo as the TV show did.

Barbara Gordon's bad luck onscreen doesn't end here. Her film debut, 1997's "Batman & Robin" where she was played by Alicia Silverstone, was panned and marked the end of the first "Batman" film series. A "Batgirl" movie scheduled for release in 2022 was canned. While Barbara had a starring role in "Batman: The Animated Series," her role there is tainted by producer Bruce Timm's consistent (and gross) fixation on pairing her and Bruce romantically.

However, despite these hurdles, Barbara has continued to play a starring role in "Batman" comics to this day. William Dozier may have failed to save his show, but he helped forge an integral part of the Batman mythos in his failure.

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