“The Big Bang Theory” has seen its share of celebrity guest stars over the course of nine seasons, perhaps second only to the “Batman” series of the 1960s. Thus, it’s only fitting that to celebrate the show’s 200th episode (airing Thursday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. on CBS), TV’s original Caped Crusader himself, Adam West, is on hand to add a little “POW!” to the punchlines.
West is the latest geek culture icon to pop in on Sheldon (Jim Parsons), Leonard (Johnny Galecki), Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and the gang – playing himself while visiting during Sheldon’s Bat-centric birthday party, he’s perhaps the ultimate superhero collectible not already in the physicist’s treasure trove – and at age 87 he gets to throw some serious (and seriously hilarious) Bat-shade on the many other actors who’ve donned the utility belt. “He’s a hero of mine,” says star Johnny Galecki after sharing a key scene with West. “I was such a huge fan of that show growing up.”
As he preps to celebrate another big milestone – the 50th anniversary of “Batman’s” TV debut in 1966 – West shared the highlights of his Bat-time on a new Bat-Channel with Variety.
Obviously, you have iconic television status yourself, and these are future icons that you’re working with today. What was the fun for you to play with the hit kids on the block right now?
It’s fun for me because I enjoy staying fresh and seeing what’s in the heads and the talent of younger people. And it makes me a little cooler. But the main thing is to be able to do a very popular show with the kind of comedy that I enjoy.
You’ve always had such a bent for comedy, and it must be fun to come in and hit the sitcom rhythms.
The rhythms for this sitcom and others I’ve noticed are very formulized. It works for them. And the people who have been doing it for a number of years on the show have a great advantage, of course, to some bloke who just walked in. But I’ve been able to pick up the rhythms and really adapt them to my kind of speech pattern with what they want me to play. Because I’m playing myself, which is the most difficult of all the roles.
Which version of Adam West are we getting?
You’re getting the kind of semi-goofy, quirky guy who likes to insult some of the people who’ve already done Batman. And it’s part of the script and the fun that I get the chance to insult some very big stars.
You seem like a natural choice. Are you excited that they waited until this landmark 200th?
Oh, I think it’s a great tribute. It’s wonderful. For years, I thought, oh, they’re just ignoring me. They don’t want me around. And then I find out that they waited for the 200th anniversary show, knowing, I think, too that it’s Batman’s 50th anniversary.
Where did the time go?
I know. Always that question. Where does it go? Hopefully, into some good work occasionally.
Is it meaningful to you to see the rich legacy of the show?
It means I’m getting old. It’s a wonderful tribute. I look at these things like they’re kind of semi-homages. And maybe a bit of a reward for all of the hard work that we put in. And I just think I’m the luckiest guy in the world, really. I am. I mean, how many people get a chance to create an iconic character and one that goes on? For 40, 50 years I’ve been out there with “I Love Lucy” and the others.
What has the character of Batman come to mean to you over five decades?
Money. Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen. And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I began to reengage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it.
Are you going to be involved as DC or Warner Bros. does something special for the 50th anniversary?
Well, yes, but I can’t talk about it. I’ve got a gag order, but it sounds pretty good.
What’s your favorite part of the Batman experience?
Did I say money before? [Laughs.] I like to make people laugh and have fun. And that is a broad family spectrum. And that’s what Batman’s done, is enabled me to deliver the laughs and make people happy. I go through an airport, and people are doing lines from my show. And they’re coming up to me and telling me things about their lives or about the show that they think that I don’t know.
“The Big Bang Theory” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.