Last night, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, classic TV network Memorable Entertainment Television, a.k.a. MeTV, seen here in Columbus on WCMH's digital sub-channel 4.2, aired a four hour retrospective of the 1966-67 Green Hornet series starring Van Williams and featuring Bruce Lee as Kato. (They called it "The Airing of the Green...Hornet".)
Now, I'd never seen this show before, and other than the Hornet's appearance on a two part episode of Batman, I was unfamiliar with this particuliar incarnation of the character. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. For a series from William Dozier, executive producer of the Caped Crusader's then wildly popular series and which, by all accounts, owed its very presence on ABC's schedule to that show's success, Hornet is not at all what you would expect. Rather than duplicating the campy shenanigans of Dozier's earlier hit, Green Hornet is a straightforward, slightly noir tinged, fairly typical 1960's action adventure show that takes itself quite seriously. Unlike Batman, the villains, mostly mobsters and other common criminals rather than so-called "super-villains", are somewhat more realistic, as is the violence, with characters, including a few of the villains, actually dieing and a notable lack of cartoony sound effects during the fight scenes, which serve as a showcase for Lee's martial arts prowess. The Hornet operates for the most part in the shadows and under cover of darkness, with much of the action taking place at night. Green Hornet is what I suspect those hard core comics fans who to this day lament Batman's campiness would say that show should have been. I can't help but wonder if perhaps that's part of the reason that it lasted only one season. Was the viewing public expecting another Batman and disappointed when it got this instead? Still, when other networks were putting pressure on producers to make their shows more like Batman, you have to credit Dozier for not just repeating himself and trying something different.
What Green Hornet does have in common with Batman is that Dozier took yet another moribund intellectual property, hoping to make lightning strike again and propel the character into a pop culture phenomenon. The Batman comics, you may have heard, where famously on the verge of cancellation before Dozier's show spawned a global wave of Bat-Mania. The Hornet was even worse off. He hadn't been seen in comics since the late 40's and the radio series that spawned the character had been off the air for almost fifteen years.
It's funny--I read on Wikipedia, while doing research for this post (which, I suspect, sets me apart from 99% of comics bloggers), that on radio the Hornet's confidant in the law enforcement establishment was the police commissioner and Dozier changed it to the District Attorney in order to avoid comparisons to Batman, which had Commissioner Gordon, yet here I've spent the preceding two paragraphs belaboring that very comparison.
Due to the fact that it lasted only one year and, unlike it's companion series Batman, aired on a traditional one day a week schedule, Green Hornet produced a mere 26 episodes, far short of the number required for daily "strip" syndication, and thus has been rarely seen in the intervening 45 years since its initial run. I, for one, would love to see more. I believe that the show is available on DVD, and I hope that MeTV can find some room on its schedule for more episodes in the near future.
Anyway, I promised a trivia quiz in the headline for this post, so here it is:
The question concerns that aforementioned crossover with Batman, and invokes yet another iconic 60's TV series, namely the original Star Trek.
And thus, I put it to you: What does the two part episode of Batman which featured a guest appearance by the Green Hornet have in common with Trek?
The answer tomorrow--Same Bat-time (more or less), same Bat-web-site.
By the way, for those who give a crap, the second of my series on Firestorm, reviewing Fury of Firestorm #1 from 1982, will eventually appear. There's no hurry, is there? We are, after all, talking about a thirty year old comic.