Friday, February 19, 2016

Happy 50th Anniversary, 1966!

1966 was a tremendous year for pop culture. Within the space of those 12 months, the world saw the debut of the Batman television series, as well as The Monkees and Star Trek.

Batman and The Monkees were phenomenal right off the “bat,” spawning both “Bat-mania” and “Monkee-mania.” Star Trek, on the other hand, didn’t get as much attention in its original 1966-1969 run on NBC, only becoming iconic years later.

1966 was also the year my mother immigrated to America, eventually becoming a legal resident and ultimately a citizen. The reason I bring this up is because although my mother’s arrival in America and the debuts of the aforementioned cultural phenomena both happening in 1966 were entirely coincidental, they are inherently connected.

My mother was definitely aware of Batman and The Monkees when they debuted and watched them when they were popular. She saw Star Trek after it ended in 1969 and began life anew in syndicated reruns. She would continue to enjoy all three in one form or another in the years since with her future family.

For example, we faithfully went to the cinema every two or three years in the 1980s and early 1990s to see the Star Trek movies starring the original 1960s TV series cast; we watched some of the modern Batman movies (although not directly connected to the ‘60s show) starting in 1989; and we enjoyed Monkees reruns in the 1980s and even recently attended a concert by Monkees member Michael Nesmith (

In addition to being a fan, I have been privileged to have had professional connections to these three iconic properties.

When I was a master control operator at a local cable television station in the 1990s, I met Monkees member Peter Tork, who was a celebrity guest on The Rik Turner Show. He personally autographed a Monkees album for me, and later, he came in to the master control room and asked me for a bandage for his nicked finger. I don’t remember if I had a bandage on hand for him or had to refer him to someone else, but I’ll never forget him asking me. One of the Monkees asked me for a bandage!

As a cable/satellite magazine writer from 1996 to 2005, I got to interview Eartha Kitt, one of the actresses who played Catwoman on the Batman TV show. I also interviewed original Star Trek actors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and LeVar Burton). All of the interviews were by telephone, of course, since I was on the East Coast.

All three shows/franchises have something big going on in 2016, their 50th anniversary year.

In news not specifically related to the 1960s TV series, the character of Batman, who’s been around for 77 years, will soon be seen in his first live-action, big-screen pairing with his DC Comics predecessor and label mate Superman, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which opens in theaters on March 25. The 50-year-old Batman TV show, meanwhile, airs at 6:30 p.m. on Me TV’s Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night.

Star Trek will also be beaming back into theaters on July 22 with Star Trek Beyond, the 13th Star Trek motion picture and the third feature film starring new actors as Kirk and his Enterprise crew. The original Star Trek series continues to air at 9:00 p.m. on Me TV’s Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night.

Finally, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork will record a new Monkees album called Good Times! (which is scheduled to be released on June 10) and will hit the road for a 50th anniversary Monkees tour from May through October. Michael Nesmith will not be a part of this tour as he is working on other projects, but one of his recent songs will be featured on the new album, and he might yet contribute some vocal and/or guitar parts as well. The Monkees airs on Antenna TV and IFC.

Happy Anniversary, 1966 (and to Batman, The Monkees, and Star Trek – and my mom)!

Good Times indeed!

--Raj Manoharan

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