Pow! Bam! 'Batman' returns -- but why?

Holy travesty, Batman! "Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt" (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS) may put the final nail in the coffin of 1960s nostalgia.

Similar to a "Gilligan's Island" retrospective that ran some time back, "Return" is a movie within a movie, a flashback recreation of the old series folded into a present-day spoof featuring the show's original stars, Adam West and Burt Ward. West has lingered on the fringes of the public spotlight as a kind of third-string William Shatner, a pair of human quotation marks whose mere appearance is supposed to cue the audience for "ironic laughter." The once boyish Ward returns from obscurity after far too many trips to the Bat-fridge.

"Return" proceeds at a tortoise-like pace that almost dares viewers to change the channel. Special appearances by Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar only serve to remind us of the miles we have put on our personal Batmobile odometers since this show was canceled back in 1968. If you loved the old "Batman," as I did, you'll honor its memory by skipping this atrocity.

  • The new comedy "Oliver Beene" (7:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox) also glances back at the 1960s. Clearly inspired by "The Wonder Years" and "Malcolm in the Middle," "Beene" is narrated by its titular hero (Grant Rosenmeyer), a chubby middle-aged man trapped in the body of an 11-year-old boy. Ninety-nine percent of the show's creativity was spent on clothes, knickknacks, furniture and decor, which affectionately capture the garish excesses of the New Frontier era. "Beene's" remaining budget was squandered on bad scripts that rely heavily on bathroom humor. Forget the '60s -- this laughless sitcom is a crass flashback to "Married With Children."
  • The ambitious cable drama "The Pentagon Papers" (7 p.m. Sunday, FX) recalls Daniel Ellsberg's (James Spader) painful transition from Vietnam hawk and Pentagon adviser to an antiwar zealot who felt compelled to leak a 7,000-page secret history of the war to the press. Featuring a fine cast, including Alan Arkin and Paul Giamatti, "Pentagon" flounders after a strong first act. Despite its flaws, the film and its theme of military secrecy and presidential hubris could not be more timely.

Tonight's highlights

  • Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and John Malkovich star in the 1997 blow-'em-up "Con Air" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Steve Zahn and Paul Walker star in the 2001 road thriller "Joy Ride" (7:15 p.m., Cinemax).
  • "Inside Fame" (8 p.m., CMT) profiles country music "bad girl" Tanya Tucker.
  • Twelve contestants compete for the title of "Nashville Star" (8 p.m., USA) at Nashville's Acuff Theater. "Star" will air live every other week.
  • Queen Latifah is host of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC).
  • Comic Josh Gardner poses as a tour guide in the travel series spoof "Gerhard Reinke's Wanderlust" (10:30 p.m., Comedy Central).

Sunday's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): Qatar; sperm donors and privacy; controversial detainees.
  • Krusty runs for Congress on "The Simpsons" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Jeff Corwin gets chased by "Giant Monsters" (7 p.m., Animal Planet), a special-effects-enhanced look at reptiles of the distant past.
  • Thespians honor their own at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (7 p.m., TNT).
  • Ruth's sister (Patricia Clarkson) needs help on "Six Feet Under" (8 p.m., HBO).
  • A death-row inmate threatens McNorris on "Boomtown" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • A rising star meets a bloody end on "Dragnet" (9 p.m., ABC).
  • Twelve Tinseltown women are desperate for dates on the series "Single in L.A." (9 p.m., WE).


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.