Batman has enjoyed a long and varied history on television, however, the Caped Crusader’s most recent incarnation points towards a tendency of contemporary live action television shows to avoid fully embodied versions of major comic book superheroes. Powers and abilities are introduced slowly, if at all, and every character arrives in proto-form compared to earlier versions like the 1960s Batman or 1950s Adventures of Superman. Revered superheroes like Batman and Superman, and the Marvel Avengers who do not regularly appear on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., do not deign to be a full part of the contemporary television landscape unless in animated form. From the "no tights, no flights" on Smallville to Gotham’s adolescent Bruce Wayne, contemporary live action television is no place to "waste" the best superheroes. "Lesser" superheroes adopt abilities and personas quickly and readily, with The Flash and Arrow costumes and abilities present relatively early in their series. Even the lexical title choices of cities for Batman/Superman and heroes for Flash/Green Arrow is telling. There is no Batman or Superman on live action contemporary TV.
Two influential factors have led to Gotham’s Bruce Wayne and Smallville’s Clark Kent not quite achieving full superhero status (end of series notwithstanding). First, and perhaps most obvious, is the economic impetus to withhold proven film superhero commodities from the small screen to bolster theatrical performances, which heavily feed both primary and ancillary studio revenue streams. There is also a stark difference between television and film production budgets, making it difficult to visually compete on the small screen. Shows like The Flash and Smallville even emphasize powers like super speed that are relatively inexpensive to produce. The second deals with comics skewing darker, most notably Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns contrasted with campy 1960s Batman. Once the Caped Crusader fully became the Dark Knight, it was difficult to go back. As films/comics moved away from the campy 1960s Batman, so too did today’s live action television versions. Perhaps on television a fully embodied Batman or Superman can exist only as camp or romance (production constraints), as animation (lack of production constraints), or at series end. Camp avoidance and the success of the Hollywood blockbuster made it economically prudent to save the best for the big screen, leaving 21st century small screen versions of Batman and Superman shells of their full superhero selves.