Kevin Conroy, voice of Batman in cartoons, dies

Logo for Batman: The Animated Series

Kevin Conroy, who became the voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman starting in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series, died this week at 66, according to multiple media reports.

Here is an excerpt from the website of CBS:

The actor voiced the caped crusader in “Batman: The Animated Series,” which aired 85 episodes from 1992 to 1996 and in several DC animated movies and video games. In total, he brought the character to life in more than 60 projects. 

In 2019, he performed a live-action version of the role for the first time, appearing on the CW’s television event “Crisis on Infinite Earths” as a future version of Bruce Wayne.

CBS added this detail:

Conroy was the first and only openly gay actor to play Batman. In June 2022, Conroy wrote a comic called “Finding Batman” for DC Pride, where he reflected on his experience voicing the character while coming to terms with his sexuality. In a Twitter video shared shortly after the comic was published, Conroy thanked fans for their “overwhelming” support. 

Batman: The Animated Series ranks as one of the best — if not the best — adaptations of Batman. Conroy’s voice work was one of the reasons.

The show also adapted certain Batman comic stories, providing the writers of those stories credit. Batman: The Animated Series featured high production values and attracted actors such as Edward Asner, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (as Alfred), Mark Hamill (as The Joker), John Vernon, Paul Williams (as the Penguin), and others. Adam West, star of the 1966-68 live-action Batman television show, also was a voice actor on Batman: The Animated Series.

Paul Dini, part of the production team, put out this tweet:

Craig tells Colbert what it’s like to get a CMG

Daniel Craig appeared Feb. 16 on CBS’s Late Night With Stephen Colbert and described what it’s like to get a CMG.

In 2017, Craig went on Colbert’s show to announce he was returning one last time to play James Bond in what would become No Time to Die. Earlier in that day, he, eh, lied, the matter hadn’t been decided.

Here’s this week’s exchange between Craig and Colbert.

Here is the rest of the segment:

Art Gilmore: Versatile announcer

Art Gilmore appearing on-camera in Dragnet

Another in an occasional series about unsung figures in television.

Trivia question: Name somebody who has ties to the very first James Bond production (1954’s CBS production of Casino Royale), Highway Patrol, Quinn Martin TV shows (the first one, The New Breed), Fred Astaire (a late 1950s TV special), Red Skelton, The Wild Wild West and Hawaii Five-O.

That person would be announcer Art Gilmore (1912-2010).

Gilmore began his announcing career in the 1930s and moved into television and movie trailers. Here’s an excerpt from the Los Angeles Time obituary for Gilmore.

“He was one of an elite corps of radio and television announcers, a voice that everyone in America recognized because it was ubiquitous,” film critic and show business historian Leonard Maltin told The Times this week.

“For at least 20 years, if you listened to radio, watched TV or went to the movies, you couldn’t help but hear Art Gilmore’s voice,” said Maltin. “It wasn’t especially deep like some announcers, but it had authority, command and yet also a kind of friendliness. I think it was an all-American voice.”

Gilmore’s voice was the first viewers heard on the 1954 CBS live telecast of Casino Royale. “Live from Television City in Hollywood!”

The early years of television were heavily influenced by radio. On radio, an announcer introduced a show and often acted as a narrator.

Gilmore did a lot of work at CBS, including being the long-time announcer for Red Skelton’s variety show. His voice could often be heard on promos.

A YouTuber recreated a second-season promo for The Wild Wild West, which featured Gilmore’s voice and music by Richard Shores. Most of the visuals are based on the originals with a few tweaks.


In 1968, CBS televised a program-length promotion for its upcoming season. Here’s the segment for the upcoming Hawaii Five-O where Gilmore’s voice features prominently.

Finally, here’s a brief YouTube tribute to Gilmore, focusing on his work on Highway Patrol and Dragnet.

1965: U.N.C.L.E.’s star appears on a rival network

Red Skelton with Robert Vaughn, 1965

By the fall of 1965, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a big hit. In December 1965, star Robert Vaughn appeared as the guest star on CBS’s Red Skelton Hour, the variety show that almost killed U.N.C.L.E.

U.N.C.L.E. debuted in September 1964 on NBC opposite Skelton’s CBS show. The spy show suffered in the ratings. NBC considered canceling U.N.C.L.E. Instead it changed the show’s time slot to Monday nights. That gave the series the boost it needed, plus a lift from Goldfinger boosting interest in spy entertainment.

A little over a year later, the Skelton show had Robert Vaughn on as a guest star. During a two-part skit, there were one-liners (perhaps ad libbed) where Skelton said Vaughn was plugging his own show.

After the skit, Vaughn appeared with Skelton. The U.N.C.L.E. star had a communicator (not the one that was seen on the series) so Skelton could call his wife. (See above.) At one point, Vaughn says into the device: “Illya get off the line, willya?”

Vaughn’s appearance was a sign of how spy shows had arrived as a thing. The Red Skelton Museum has been posting full episodes of the Skelton show to YouTube. Below is the Vaughn episode.

Ron Moore (briefly) talks about Wild Wild West

Cover to a 2017 CD soundtrack of The Wild Wild West

Ron Moore, a successful TV writer-producer, gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter mostly covering recent and upcoming projects. But he also touched briefly on one that got away — a proposed new version of The Wild Wild West.

Moore didn’t say a lot. But here’s an excerpt from the interview, presented in Q&A format.

What’s the project that got away?

The Wild Wild West. Naren Shankar and I wrote a version of the rebooted Wild Wild West for CBS about 10 or 15 years ago. I loved that original show as a kid and thought it was an interesting mix of James Bond and the west with occult overtones that would deal with werewolves periodically. It was a really out-there genre piece and very unique. I was excited at the thought of getting my hands on it and disappointed when it didn’t go forward. I’d still love to find a way to get my hands on it again. It’s owned by CBS so unfortunately not something I have access to.

The project surfaced in 2010. CBS has begun a new version of Hawaii Five-0 (it would eventually run 10 seasons). So the network looked at The Wild Wild West, another property it owned and which ran from 1965 to 1969. As noted above, a new version didn’t come together.

Despite being set in the 1870s, The Wild Wild West may have have been the most fantastical show of the 1960s spy craze. Plots included alternate dimensions inside paintings and the captured brains of major scientists.

The show followed the exploits of U.S. Secret Service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin). The agents traveled in style in a private train on their way to missions. Guest stars playing villains included Michael Dunn (as arch-enemy Dr. Loveless), Victor Buono, Ted Knight and Robert Duvall.

1960s: John Frankenheimer directs a spy woman pilot

Sometime in the mid-1960s, CBS had a proposed series starring actress-singer Polly Bergen as a spy for Section Q named Selena.

A 15-minute “presentation” was produced. It consists of several apparently unrelated situations. The director was John Frankenheimer, who by this time already was an accomplished movie director after earlier helming live TV dramas.

Selena works with fellow agent Alex Pierce (James Daly). Selena’s husband had been killed by enemy agents. Selena proves to be an adept operative but refuses to carry a gun. Daly provides narration for the audience.

In the presentation, Selena encounters villainous types played by, among others, Carroll O’Connor (as an assassin disguised as a woman, his voice dubbed for part of the sequence), Albert Paulsen and Reggie Nalder.

At the time, there weren’t many spy shows with such a prominent woman lead aside from The Avengers. You can take a look for yourself below.

Hawaii Five-0 completes its ‘Brofeld’ arc

Original cast of the 2010-20 Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0, the 2010-20 reboot of the original series ended its 10-season run on Friday night. The show ended by finishing its version of “Brofeld” — a new version of a classic villain with a personal reason to get the hero.

In this case, the villain was Wo Fat. Wo Fat 2.0 was killed back in 2014. But Mrs. Wo Fat (?!) was still around to get even.

Back in 2015, the blog examined how the rebooted Wo Fat and Ernst Stavro Blofeld from SPECTRE were similar.

Each was a new take on a classic villain. Each had a personal reason to go after the lead character. In fact, each felt they were virtually family!

The 2010-20 Five-0 actually did this first, with Wo Fat 2.0 mockingly calling McGarrett 2.0 “brother” (just before the latter finally put him down for good).

In 2015’s SPECTRE, the filmmakers decided to make Blofeld the foster brother (or whatever) of Bond.

Essentially, all of this followed the Austin Powers path where the hero discovers he’s the brother of his archvillain Dr. Evil. Except, Austin Powers was a comedy whereupon Five-0 and SPECTRE were intended to be taken seriously.

In the Five-0 finale, it was revealed that Wo Fat was mad at not getting an inheritance from McGarrett’s mother (don’t ask). And that was the catalyst for most of the events of the past 10 years. OK, whatever.

Personally, I watched the show closely the first three seasons before giving up. I’d occasionally catch an episode or two after that.

After not watching for a few years, I decided to catch an eighth-season episode. There was a subplot about McGarrett and Danno trying to start a restaurant.  I immediately changed the channel. After that, I caught episodes even less often.

Regardless, the 2010-20 Five-0 has to rank as a successful reboot from a business standpoint. It lasted about 240 episodes. It was almost as long as the original 1968-80 show.

The most satisfying aspect of the finale was how the music score incorporated quieter versions of Morton Stevens’ class theme music. In the final episode of the original series, Stevens produced a score that was the best aspect of that finale.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Hawaii Five-0 reboot to end in April

Original cast of the Hawaii Five-0 reboot

The second Hawaii Five-0 series on CBS will come to an end in April, wrapping up a 10-year run, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The show was a reboot of the 1968-80 original show that starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett. In the 2010-20 version, Alex O’Loughlin played McGarrett, with Scott Caan as Danny Williams.

Five-0 2.0 was darker than the original. For example, the governor was in the employ of arch-villain Wo Fat (until he bumped her off).

Also, it was revealed Wo Fat 2.0 (Mark Dacascos) had a personal reason for going after McGarrett, a development that would be extremely similar to the way the 2015 James Bond film SPECTRE rebooted Blofeld. McGarrett 2.0 and Wo Fat 2.0 had their final showdown in a 2014 episode.

Finally, Five-0 2.0 occasionally did homages to James Bond films, including Die Another Day. For example, a November 2011 episode took place mostly in North Korea. Scenes set there were photographed to look dark while scenes in other locations had bright colors. Die Another Day employed the same trick back in 2002.

Separately, a September 2012 episode of Five-0 borrowed elements of You Only Live Twice and Licence to Kill.

The series finale will be a two-hour episode on April 3, according to Deadline.

UPDATE (5:45 p.m. New York time): The show put out a post on Twitter confirming the conclusion of the series.

 

Robert Conrad, who mixed spies with cowboys, dies

James West (Robert Conrad) has his first encounter with Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn)

Robert Conrad, who made the concept of spies with cowboys work, has died at 84, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Conrad played U.S. Secret Service agent James T. West in The Wild Wild West, the 1965-69 series as well as two TV movie revivals in 1979 and 1980.

The concept originated with producer Michael Garrison. For a time, Rory Calhoun was a contender to play West. But Conrad emerged as the choice.

The Wild Wild West was steam punk (“genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology”) before the term was coined.

Conrad and Ross Martin, as West’s partner Artemus Gordon, made the concept work. The athletic Conrad looked like he really could fight a roomful of villains. Martin’s Gordon dabbled with inventions but could still hold his own during fights.

The intrepid agents encountered many menaces in 19th century, especially Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn), whose rage against the world knew no bounds.

Just another day at the office for Robert Conrad’s James West in The Night of the Eccentrics.

In the fourth Dr. Loveless episode (The Night of Murderous Spring), near the end of the show’s first season, one of Loveless’s mute goons was played Leonard Falk, Conrad’s real-life father.

Conrad already was a television star, having been in Hawaiian Eye, the 1959-63 series that was part of the family of Warner Bros. private eye shows on ABC. Still, James West was the actor’s defining role: a man of action and a ladies man.

The Wild West West wasn’t an easy series to make, with stunts that went wrong, including one where Conrad was seriously injured.

The Wild Wild West was canceled in 1969 amid concern about violence in television generally.

Conrad remained busy, including playing the leads in series such as The D.A., Assignment: Vienna and Black Sheep Squadron. In the fall of 1979, NBC aired A Man Called Sloane, starring Conrad, which a cross between The Wild Wild West and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It only lasted 12 episodes.

Conrad and Marin did get a chance to repeat their Wild Wild West roles in two TV movies, The Wild Wild West Revisited and More Wild Wild West.

In January 2013, there was a tribute to Conrad with fans attending. It consisted of long video clips from his long career followed by a question and answer session.

The Wild Wild West was very much like catching lightning in a bottle, mixing fantasy, spies and, as noted above, steam punk.

Robert Conrad, along with Ross Martin, who died in 1981, made the concept work. Conrad’s passing closes the door on an era we won’t see again.

Craig tells Empire he really did consider exiting 007 role

Cover to Empire’s February 2020 issue

Daniel Craig, in a story in Empire magazine, said he actually did consider quitting the James Bond role after SPECTRE.

“I think I was ready to go,” Craig told the magazine. “If that that had been it, the world would have carried on as normal, and I would have been absolutely fine.”

One factor was the physical toll of doing SPECTRE, he said.

“There was a part of me going, ‘I can’t physically do this anymore.’ I felt genuinely that I needed to give up for own my own self-preservation as much as anything.”

The comments are in Empire’s February 2020 issue, which officially goes on sale Dec. 27. However, some scans of of the issue have shown up, including in a tweet by @springhousese. The tweet has one image of the opening page of text.

Craig told a somewhat different story on CBS’s Late Show in 2017.

“I always wanted to,” Craig said at that time about doing another Bond film after SPECTRE. “I needed a break.”

In the Empire story, Craig talked about how his thinking evolved.

“But somehow it felt like we needed to finish something off. If I’d left it at Spectre, something at the back of my head would have been going, ‘I wish I’d have done one more.'”

The scan of the one page of text includes details about how Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld fits into No Time to Die.