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Green Hornet TV show
Green Hornet TV Show

by Billy Ingram

The Green Hornet TV series with Bruce LeeFor the fall of 1966, ABC had high hopes for The Green Hornet, a spinoff (kinda sorta) from Batman which was all the rage that year.

Batman was TV's first mid-season hit. Debuting in January of 1966, the series rocketed to number one status. Naturally, the network wanted to replicate that success so they went to Batman's producer, William Dozier, to come up with another superhero hit.

The Green Hornet was a somewhat logical choice, a costumed crimefighter with a secret identity, sidekick (played by Bruce Lee), driving a groovy car, Black Beauty. Just like Batman, right? The Green Hornet hadn't enjoyed much popularity since the 1940s when Green Hornet was a radio program, movie serial, and a best-selling comic book. By the 1950s, there was not much exposure for The Green Hornet and Kato.

There were two mini-pilots filmed before production began, one with Jay Murray as the Green Hornet, another with Michael Lipton in the lead role. Ultimately Van Williams was selected for the coveted part, he had previously starred in two other short-lived detective shows, Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside 6. Bruce Lee appeared in both pilots.

While Batman was played for laughs, The Green Hornet was meant to be a serious crime drama, mostly devoid of colorful villains. Batman aired on Wednesday and Thursday nights so The Green Hornet was scheduled for Friday nights.

The announcer (William Dozier) and music was replicated from Batman, the opening graphics were trippy and exciting, too bad the shows themselves weren't so thrilling. The series was a dud from the start, Batman was starting to lose popularity as well by the fall of 1966.

In an effort to juice up the ratings, Green Hornet and Kato appeared on a two-part episode of Batman that aired in March of 1967, same month The Green Hornet was cancelled.

The Green Hornet lasted just one season, 26 episodes, leaving the air in March of 1967, with reruns until until July 14th. After Bruce Lee became a superstar in the early-1970s, episodes of The Green Hornet were stitched together and released as a motion picture in 1974 with Bruce Lee given top billing. The movie was no more popular than the TV series in the United States but performed very well overseas.

Van Williams for the most part retired from acting in 1982, serving instead as a reserve search and rescue team deputy for the Malibu station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The premiere episode of The Green Hornet:

The 2 pilot films:

 

Batman & Robin vs Green Hornet & Kato:

 

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The Green Hornet

Directed by
William Beaudine
Leslie H. Martinson
Larry Peerce
Allen Reisner
Seymour Robbie

Starring
Van Williams
Bruce Lee
Walter Brooke
Lloyd Gough
Wende Wagner

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