Friday, October 7, 2011

37 & 38: Hot Off the Griddle/The Cat and The Fiddle

Season 2 Episodes 37 & 38
Original Air Dates: 9/14/66, 9/15/66
Special Guest Villainess: Julie Newmar as The Catwoman
Guest stars: Jack Kelly, Buck Kartalian
Written by: Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by: Don Weis

Synopsis: Catwoman is back. On the docket, the theft of a few priceless violins. But most importantly, Catwoman is back. And there was much rejoicing. 

JS: Is Chief O'Hara trying to show us how cool he is when he refers to Catwoman as a 'pretty hip cat'? And that he can spell, by spelling out 'trouble' for us?

PE: Oh my, I think he was telling us out there in TV Land that the show is in t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

JS: Only in Gotham City could you have a drug store named Glob's. Probably right next door to the Acme Supervillain Supply Shoppe.

PE: Glob's -- home to perhaps the first villainous gossip columnist.

JS: Am I wrong for wanting to sign up for whatever classes Catwoman will be teaching? Nice to see her back in her Cat Lair from Season One.

PE: I'll second that. An entire hour of Julie reading from the blackboard would be preferable to the muck we had to endure yesterday. I loved that the "pupils" all had little kitty kat notebooks. How they learned anything at all is beyond me.

JS: Our dynamic duo have let their success go to their head, coming out of their big Hollywood movie. How else can you explain Catwoman and the boys getting the drop on them?

PE: High camp humor. It's just that easy! Conventional wisdom has it that viewers of the day just got tired of Batman after a while as the novelty had worn off. I think it was just this type of scene that (pardon the pun) turned off viewers back in the day. This schtick was worn down by the time I Love Lucy had gone off the air. 

JS: This episode contains the scariest bit put to film yet. The Catusi. As performed by Aunt Harriet. Or so it would seem, until we are subjected to Catwoman in a withered old biddy disguise (she looks like a corpse!), and Robin letting his pimp flag fly.

PE: I mistakenly thought Harriet was having an epileptic seizure brought on by that horrid music. Someone actually took credit for "composing" that noise.

JS: My new must visit destination in Gotham City—The Pink Sandbox. Although I'm a little troubled that costumes are optional - for the customers, that is. Our hostess, Edy Williams, a few years shy of being Mrs. Russ Meyer, makes her first of three appearances. We shall follow her career with great interest.

PE: And we find out that Catwoman plays the same 45s as Harriet.

Will the real Catwoman please stand up?

JS: Acme Supervillain Supply Shoppe comes through again! This time, with a pair of oversized magnifying glasses (likely a special order item).

PE: I was disappointed to learn that when Alfred packs a sack lunch for the boys, he doesn't use the "Bat-paper bags."

JS: Okay, let's be frank. Remove Catwoman from this episode and what have you got? Aunt Harriet on LSD. But fortunately, Newmar's talents make this one watchable.

PE: You get a lot of lukewarm comedy routines that probably had Bud Abbott's lawyers working overtime and a couple of light giggle-inducers ("Are they birds...Are they planes...?") but this doesn't bode well for the future since we know Catwoman will be in Arkham for the next seven years (if she behaves well) and we'll have to deal with  such one-and-dones as The Minstrel, Ma Parker, and The Clock King. Thank goodness Vinnie Price is not too far away. 

This can't end well...

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

Next up... The Minstrel! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!


  1. I read your introductory post about why you chose this series to examine in such depth. Nostalgia can only go so far; I fear you may actually just not like the show all that much, apart from a half-dozen or so episodes from the first year. It isn't that this pair of episodes is the finest the series ever made, but it is quite representative of the show's sense of humor. Of course it is just a matter of individual tastes, but I fear that if the giant magnifying glasses from the Acme Arch Villain Emporium don't make you laugh, then not much else in the next 82 episodes will either.

    One of the criticisms that has already been arising often (and will only get worse) is the repetition of the formula. Part of that complaint is justified, as the show generally hit the same story beats in each episode. It is, however, exacerbated by watching ten episodes a week. Almost any television series will begin showing its seams under those conditions. Also, the formulaic nature of the show tends to make the earlier episodes seem unfairly superior in comparison. That is, if you watched these out of order, you might like some of the episodes from this period more than the early ones. That is, the early episodes may just be "fresher" rather than better. (Obviously, there are limits to this theory. The Archer misses the mark, no matter when you watch the episodes.)

    I will also buck the majority here and say that I think Catwoman was vastly improved by Stanley Ralph Ross. Her first appearance was good, but I don't feel that interpretation would have sustained very well. She would simply have been a really mean sexy lady who likes cats. The vulnerability Ross added gives her more dimensions to play and makes Batman a lot more fun, too.

  2. LJS-

    Part of me fears you're right. There might not be any more three bat shows (let alone four) but part of me is holding out hope for some of those nuggets of bizarre brilliance. Outside of "Hi Diddle Riddle" I haven't seen any of these shows in thirty-something years so I don't have any preconceived notions.
    In the meantime, I have no idea how I forgot to note the appearance of James Brolin, famous for years as the right hand man of Marcus Welby but known chiefly now as the husband of Barbara Streisand and father of Josh Brolin. The actor was just as natural as an armored car driver as he was listening patiently to Robert Young extoll the virtues of penicillin.

  3. LJS: "I read your introductory post about why you chose this series to examine in such depth." That puts into words what I haven't had the guts to say outright. Partly I was restrained by the how much energy John and Peter invest on this site: I don't want to appear unappreciative or inconsiderate. As we frog-march our way through this series, their commentaries will become more entertaining than what we're watching (or sometimes what that they'll be watching for us). Without Edy Williams and her successors, could Our Fearless Leaders bear it?

    LJS on formula: Exactly right. Bob Justman once identified the bane of series television for its producers: the viewing public want to see the same thing every week, differently presented. In the case of "Batman" I only wish that as, the series developed, the reprised formula had retained more of Lorenzo Semple's darkness to keep the camp in check. Stanley Ralph Ross pretty much set the template for S2 as Semple had for S1; while Ross was a talented fellow and a good screenwriter, I remain unconvinced that he finally did the series a favor. As to his shaping of the Catwoman, whose shape was mighty fine to start with, I dunno. Ms. Newmar played sexy evil very well; as the character evolves in S2, she seems to me more like a confused adolescent out of some farcical "Peyton Place." "She loves him; that's why she's driven to kill him." Fortunately for SRR, Julie Newmar was a fine comedienne and could pull that off. When Eartha Kitt arrives on the scene, she'll take the character somewhere else.

  4. This may be a show we like in spite of the fact that we don't like it. As fans of the fantastic, it's disconcerting to watch the very essence of comic book adventure demolished by talented, creative folk who not only "don't get it," but are firmly convinced that there is nothing here to get. THE BATMAN PROPERTY AND ALL IT REPRESENTS IS OUTLANDISH GARBAGE, Dozier and his team firmly believed, obviously an insult to any rational person who values creative quality, the kind of idiocy we drooled over when we were stupid kids and simply didn't know better. So let's see how far we can skewer this worthless crap before the parody totally peters out. Bottom line: Dozier is calling anyone who takes Batman seriously an idiot, right to his Bat-face, and even us kids got that insult. Regardless, we '60s fans couldn't help enjoying the very notion of costumed superheroes and villains within an adventuresome context and we watched every week, hoping for the slightest hint of a colorful tickle. It was a perverse relationship between viewer and creative presenters, kept alive by the unique outrageousness of a gleefully clueless show ultimately at war with itself. I remember producers of THE WILD, WILD WEST using BATMAN as a textbook example of what NOT to do when you're trying to sell the bizarre notion of fanciful hero vs. unreal villain in a fantastical series context. They were absolutely right, and BATMAN's declining ratings confirmed it.

    So, is it possible to produce anything of any worth under these self-destructive conditions? Sort of. If someone asked me to name the two most successful episodes of BATMAN, I'd have to say "Hi Diddle Riddle" (proper balance of camp and straight, fresh and with an ingratiating twinkle in its eye), and -- get ready -- the upcoming Liberace episode, which epitomized what this show's creators REALLY enjoyed doing with BATMAN. Significantly, their legitimate enjoyment for this particular parody actually shows, resulting in some stylish dialogue, camera moves, etc., as opposed to the usual derisive contempt and inevitable stale comedy. It may not be our cup of tea, but at least the episode's makers were inspired on their own peculiar terms.

    So that's what we have to look for at this stage of the BATMAN game, comedy that somehow works on the increasingly slippery terms Dozier and company have set in place. It'll be in pretty rare supply for most of Season Two.

  5. On a sidenote, while thinking about the title "The Cat and the Fiddle." I wonder if, by this time, the writers were actually coming up with rhymes and then building a "story" around those titles.
    Gary, as usual, makes me want to read Fantastic Television all over again (for the tenth or twentieth time) as no other writer, I think, can bring such insight and depth to discussion about a millionaire and his ward who run around in their underwear.

  6. Gary, that is an extremely valid point, and I never thought of it quite that way. I was never a big comic book/super hero fan. I certainly don't have any contempt for the genre, but it was just never especially appealing to me as a whole, although there are some very good super hero stories, as in any genre. Maybe I find more to like in the series because I don't take Dozier et al.'s presumption (and I think you have defined it exactly) as an insult.

    Not to say the comedy doesn't fall flat for me sometimes. It certainly does, particularly in the more childishly written third season. But my favorite stories (Hizzoner the Penguin, Pop Goes the Joker, An Egg Grows in Gotham, Ring of Wax, The Penguin Goes Straight, all the King Tut shows, the second season Catwoman shows) are definitely on the more comic side. I guess I am more of a Stanley Ralph Ross/Stanford Sherman guy and so I have more episodes to entertain me than all you Lorenzo Semple guys do! (More so because I really do also like most of those early Semple shows, too.)

  7. Gary Gerani: "THE BATMAN PROPERTY AND ALL IT REPRESENTS IS OUTLANDISH GARBAGE, Dozier and his team firmly believed, … So let's see how far we can skewer this worthless crap before the parody totally peters out." Before flying to that great Batcave in the Sky, did any of the show's producers actually go on record to that effect? Is that, instead, a very discerning interpretation of the evidence? Either way, it fits to a T what we saw happening.

    If Gary's right, what does that say about those of us posting on this blog? Inspector Gerani may have just unmasked more than just some greedy producers' perverse self-destruction—a sobering thought to carry into the weekend. See you next Monday—maybe.

  8. For all of my carping, I watched every damn episode of BATMAN as a kid. So these guys must have been doing SOMETHING right, because any creative work that holds your attention for whatever reason deserves credit, and this show's outrageousness and originality inspired a worldwide fad. BATMAN dared to mock itself in a peculiar way that was irresistible, ironically undermining its own feasibility as an ongoing TV property in the process. As today's filmmakers are so acutely aware, comic book heroes and villains are over-the-top creations to begin with, so deliberately making fun of their inherent excesses is bound to result in a bizarre, WTF-type experience. Do we resent the fact that Dozier's team didn't grasp the true potential of their source material, sending it up instead of somehow allowing it to play on its own special terms? Yes. Do we also resent the fact that "Hi Diddle Riddle" managed to combine camp and straight quite wonderfully, and how Mr. D's unwise directive ("Get rid of that twinkle, Adam... You're a total square") made us laugh 'at' rather than 'with' Bruce Wayne/Batman? Damn right. But were we delighted this wacky TV show was still on the air twice a week, self-humiliating scenarios and all? Uh-huh. How many live-action cartoons did we geek boys have in 1967, after all? And l remember how great those wild costumes and sets looked on our brand new Zenith color console. Misfired creative strategy be damned; we kids kept watching. And here we are as adults in the 21st Century, immersed in analytical discussions about Art Carney playing Ed Norton as a super-villain. I don't know what that says about the best possible use of everyone's free time, but I'm enjoying myself immensely!

  9. >>Do we also resent the fact that "Hi Diddle Riddle" managed to combine camp and straight quite wonderfully (?)

    You betcha! For all its camp trappings (Batusi, Jill St. John disguised as Robin, etc.), I still get goosebumps watching this particular "arc." Dozier and crew may have been aiming for the lowest common denominator in order to please the retarded comic readers (please excuse my lack of PC for a moment) with this series, but they failed miserably with "Hi Diddle." Gorshin's performance stands up to (don't laugh now) Richard Widmark's Tommy Udo for creepiness, the sets and props are dynamic, and the story holds up all these years later. Why was that first "arc" so different than the following?

  10. Again, it's that all-important twinkle... the thing that lets us share Bruce's eccentric double-life instead of mocking it. We honestly liked Bruce and Dick in "Hi Diddle Riddle," we were with them, no matter how outrageous the plot twists got. This sort of balance is amazingly difficult to achieve and maintain. Some say BATMAN jumped the shark (with no repellent!) right after the pilot; others maintain it happened even before that. I suppose we simply have to accept what Dozier and company failed to do, while looking for legitimate pleasures in what they actually went ahead and did...

  11. Gary: "I suppose we simply have to accept what Dozier and company failed to do, while looking for legitimate pleasures in what they actually went ahead and did."

    Ah, now the conversation is getting interesting. Gary, you may yet draw me back into this thing—not least because a previous entry of yours could be read as contradicting this one. "What they actually went ahead and did": What was that? Earlier today: "Skewer this worthless crap" and laugh their way to the bank as long as they could draw on their audience's stupidity account. That seems a joyless prospect. "Accept what Dozier and Co. failed to do": What was that? Entertain us in spite of their own best efforts at self-destruction. Hmm. Am I feeling better yet?

    I don't aim to twist your words around, Gary. I think you've put your finger on something disturbingly paradoxical and very slippery about this whole business. In Friday's close-up Joel provided an alternative explanation: Not that Dozier's gang set out to screw us (and themselves), but that they began believing the critics on how wonderfully clever they were. The more self-knowing they injected into the proceedings, the more they lost control. That's a rather different interpretation of affairs.

    There was another path that Greenway could have followed, and in '66 it was tested, proven, and not all that old: Whitney Ellsworth's approach in the "Adventures of Superman." Though it was equally born of comic-book fantasy, that series had none of the campy flair of "Batman." It had humor without farce. It mined a rich vein of whimsy with nothing of the money that Dozier had. It had something that even in its best moments "Batman" never had: heart. All the actors brought warmth to their roles, and as kids we loved them for it. I'd bet that as adults many of us still do. The sensibilities of those two shows are so different that perhaps it's fallacious to try comparing them. Still, the George Reeves series offers evidence that you can strike a balance between the absurd and the serious and, if your heart is in the right place, the result is durable entertainment. Even in its first run, it was a six-year success in syndication, without network support. By comparison, "Batman" was a nine-days' wonder that fizzled out almost as fast and precipitously as it first clobbered us.

  12. I think the pilot (and to a lesser extent, a number of the early shows) left the joke to the viewer nine times out of ten. There would be the occasional "I shouldn't wish to attract attention" to bring the point home, but most of the time, it was in the eye of the beholder. If you automatically found a giggling lunatic in green tights being chased around a major city by a very serious man in blue tights funny, then the whole show could be a comedy. If you took that seriously, then apart from a few winks, it was an adventure. The producers surely had their opinion, but it was presented in a subtler way. Once you reach The Penguin Goes Straight or thereabouts, it's simply not open to interpretation anymore: it's a comedy. Viewers could continue to find it funny, as I generally do, or find it frustrating, as Gary and our hosts often do. I think the more overt comedy was ironically intended to add variety. The producers may have felt that the inherent absurdity of the situations was too much of the same joke and in order to remain entertaining, they needed to find new ways of being funny.

  13. I certainly don't disagree that the self-knowing flavor of Season Two contributed to BATMAN's escalating problems; but what exactly did the producers 'know', or think they knew? That garbage fiction they used to crave as kids could be amusing when revisited with an eye toward absurdist satire? For a few weeks, maybe. Then the joke, like any joke, can't help but getting stale. Meanwhile, there's that absolute law of television to consider: If a viewer is to re-visit a series week after week, year after year, he must really like and RESPECT the show's hero, who is generally way cooler than the average human being. In significant contrast, "Batman is the squarest hero ever," Dozier proudly declared in a TV Guide interview, if memory serves. This from the producer who also publicly joked that comic books were so worthless that "reading" them almost seemed beneath the dignity of the term itself. But don't get mad at Wild Bill: this is how every self-respecting adult felt in Hollywood, America, and the world back in the '50s and '60s. "Seduction of the Innocent" aside, 'comic books' and 'embarrassing trash for kids' literally meant the same thing. References in movies of the period confirm this (Most recent catch: Brian Keith dialogue from 1964's THE PLEASURE SEEKERS). So the only way to justify producing a live-action version of this sort of crapola for prime-time '60s TV with a measure of your dignity intact was to proclaim loudly and robustly that "Of course we know our source material is inherently worthless. We're not stupid. Because of that, the only way to give this idiocy SOMETHING is to gleefully mock it in a wild and crazy way." From their perspective, all TV's BATMAN ever had going for it were the occasionally clever laughs generated (at the property's expense) by their unique satiric treatment. Is it any wonder Dozier and his team began to pat themselves on the back? After all, they turned nothing into "something" by ridiculing it. The next logical step was to mock it even further, to push the self-humiliating satiric envelope to its absolute creative limit. In a nutshell: Just how ludicrous could BATMAN possibly get, and still be tolerated as a viewing experience? Season Three would begin to explore these borderline surreal possibilities in earnest. Lord only knows what a Season Four might've have been like... !

    Maybe this can help shed some additional light on how people of the day were thinking: I worked alongside Stan Hart at Topps Chewing Gum for many years. In addition to MAD magazine parodies, he wrote that insane WONDER WOMAN five-minute pilot with Linda Harrison's sexy reflection featured as the 'imagined appearance' of a drab, nebbish-like WW (who also came equipped with a Jewish mother). I asked Stan why he though TV viewers would be amused by seeing an iconic fantasy heroine reduced to a stupid, awkward, Carol Burnet-like clown (Stan won an Emmy for his CAROL BURNET SHOW writing). "What else do you do with that kind of ridiculous material?" he told me point blank. So spoke the creative voice of an entire generation.

    Final point about ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: I always thought CBS' treatment of WONDER WOMAN was informed by the classic George Reeves' TV series approach to character, story and overall tone. Super-spy Diana Prince and super-reporter Clark Kent are agreeable, endearing role models, not comical dorks, who only change into their colorful alter-egos briefly during the course of every story (Universal's INCREDIBLE HULK would offer a satisfying variation of this take). Although the stories themselves might occasionally contain some far-fetched elements, the approach was pretty much life-sized for easy family viewing, relatively grounded and respectful of the hero's dignity.

  14. Of course, the Superman and Wonder Woman comparisons are relevant now, but my guess is that Dozier and Horwitz would have felt closer to the contemporary continuum of The Addams Family, Green Acres, and Get Smart. Like Batman, all three shows had elements of absurdity and satire, created a uniquely altered comic world and, it turns out, lost steam before they ended their runs. But in any case, Batman's relationship to Superman is similar to the relationships of Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies, The Addams Family and The Donna Reed Show, or Get Smart and James Bond: an absurd, hip answer to an already established, and by implication less sophisticated, hit.

  15. While Peter's outlook on the show may be more 'doom and gloom,' I must say, the wife and I are still having a good time with it.

    And please don't think when I point out something ludicrous like giant magnifying glasses that I didn't appreciate them - those stand out moments can be some of the most entertaining parts of the show.

    My greatest fear going in was that the show would become boring over time. So while I approach the episodes with villains like The Minstrel with some trepidation, I also know there is still more excitement on the horizon... and that's not even counting Batgirl!

  16. Interesting comparisons, LJS... Sure, BATMAN (a new DC Comics-inspired live action TV show) had nothing less than an organic relationship with ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (the original DC Comics-inspired live action TV show). But BATMAN seemed to be satirizing ALL super-square heroes from a simpler age; the show made fun of TV's THE LONE RANGER equally as much (indeed, many fans think West is specifically referencing Clayton Moore's do-gooder monotone for his Batman characterization). The most significant difference between Reeves' approach and West's is that Reeves plays his superhero role comfortably straight on AOS, just as Lynda Carter did in CBS' NEW ADVENTURES OF WONDER WOMAN, while West is sending up his character by employing a whimsical, stylized performance, in sync with BATMAN's loopy satiric tone. To me, this creative decision, for both the show and the character, makes all the difference in the world. And the main reason Dozier DIDN'T want to embrace AOS as an inspiration is that it was an off-network kiddie show from TV's early days, a lower form of small screen life; like it or not, camp and self-parody justified BATMAN's prime-time existence on network television during the swingin' '60s.

    Have to disagree with you about the network careers of GREEN ACRES and GET SMART!; both shows were perceived as successes in their day and enjoyed relatively healthy runs. Moreover, we always liked and had more respect for Maxwell Smart than we ever did for Dozier's Batman. Sure, Agent 86 did screwy things on a regular basis, but it was a) in the context of a legitimate comedy, and b) he did so with an amusing self-assurance that still gave him the edge over his flustered enemies. In other words, he wasn't a dorky anachronism continually insulted and ridiculed by contemptuous opposite numbers. Heck, even Bob Denver's Gilligan was cooler than West's Bruce Wayne! Maybe the bromide-spouting Herman Munster is TV's closest variation...

  17. Suddenly this joint is jumpin'. Lots of things are being brought to the table; I enjoy the different flavors; I haven't yet decided my own menu.

    "A Piece of the Action" will be, I suppose, the best time to draw into the conversation Dozier's own "Green Hornet" and ponder the existential significance of why that so quickly bombed when he decided to play it straight.

    With John I appreciate the preposterousness of the Acme® Giant Magnifying Glasses. Given the show's premise, that's spending some money and putting it on the screen. When we hit S3, the jeopardy we'll be asked to accept is shoving Batgirl offstage into an unseen steam-room, with no set decoration except black velvet. Jeez Louise.

    With Peter I agree that "Hi Diddle Riddle" had real magic that was never captured. I'm glad that, just once, lightning was caught in the bottle. Gorshin's performances capture, for me, the best promise of the series: No matter how ridiculous, play the scene for all it's worth. Though he was handed inferior scripts, I never had the sense that Gorshin didn't care about what he was doing. To the contrary: The man went full throttle, pedal to the metal. I'll follow almost anyone with that kind of dedication and passion almost anywhere.

    What a progression Our Hosts have traced in their own arc across the past year. First there was "Thriller," which limped and lurched until it found its macabre groove. Then, "The Outer Limits," for which Stephano the Mad Genius almost sacrificed his health, left it only when he knew it was doomed, yet with Seeleg Lester tried to beat the odds. Now, "Batman": a one-off wonder that strove mightily to get worse and worse, and succeeded in doing so. When there's genuine effort, I can accept failure; that's the way of all flesh. What I cannot accept is not giving a damn beyond the dollar.

  18. >>Suddenly this joint is jumpin'. Lots of things are being brought to the table;

    Indeed! I was just telling John that I wish we could make the Comments section part of the main text each day. I think some people come to the board and miss the comments section where the real good stuff is being displayed. I hope Christine isn't missing all this.

  19. Gary, I think Get Smart and Green Acres were very successful, both artistically and commercially. I meant that Dozier and Horwitz would happily number their effort among those other series. "Running out of steam" only meant that they both went on a year (or for Green Acres, two years) past their best efforts. I don't think it's coincidental, either. There are long-running comedies that stayed sharp and funny through to the end, but they tend to be character-based (Barney Miller, Frasier, All in the Family, etc.) Comedy that arises from a point of view or from satire is much harder to sustain year after year without it growing a little tired, and we can differ about when Batman reached that point (I would place it later than most here), but I don't think there was any chance of keeping the comedy as fresh through an extended run.

    I have a great time with Maxwell Smart, too, but you are being very kind. He succeeds in spite of being, as Mel Brooks called him, "an idiot." The Chief and most of his antagonists are amazed at his success because he seems so incompetent. Only Siegfried seems to think differently and Siegfried was not the sharpest tool in the KAOS shed. I always found the humor in Smart's enormous self-confidence to spring from the difference between his self-image and everyone's image of him. In a way, Maxwell Smart seems to be the kind of characterization Milton Berle was recommending to Adam West for Batman.

    John and Peter, I will be very interested to see which of the second season episodes you enjoy.

  20. I think the main problem was that Batman painted itself into an incredibly tight corner. The Adventures Of Superman could shift gears from dramas like “Five Minutes To Doom” and “Panic In The Sky” to comedy, and any point in between. The added bonus was a great supporting performance by Jack Larson, to counterbalance one note characters like Inspector Henderson and Perry White.

    In contrast, Batman was stuck in one gear, and most of the regular characters performed a limited function. The show was totally dependent on the guest villain carrying the can. That works out fine when you can get your hands on a Frank Gorshin, or a Julie Newmar, and give them a decent script. However, often saddled with lackluster stories, the guest villains had to work a lot harder than they should have, and, when they couldn't make the show work, the series was in trouble.

    Glenn :)

    P.S. In Australia, we love Maxwell Smart the way the French love Jerry Lewis. :)

  21. I think viewers will accept even the lamest TV storyline if they like the show's heroes and find something about them "cool." Self-humiliation may have been intellectually curious for a few weeks, because it was so different and exotically showcased on BATMAN; but once the novelty of that particular joke wore off, we were left with depressingly square protagonists, clownish anachronisms who were not permitted to grow beyond the show's relatively narrow parameters of parody. "Hey, let's check out THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., because that Napoleon Solo guy is cool," many of us said around this time. A few years earlier it was Steve McQueen and WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE. Maybe our parents were charmed by James Garner's whimsical turn as MAVERICK. But on BATMAN, we could look forward to seeing our stalwart heroes reduced to increasingly stupid and hard-to-believe dorks, gleefully humiliated by their enemies in everything from choice of peril to degrading nicknames. Let's face it: Caped Clown, Boy Blunder, Fatman, etc., steadily eroded our respect for these flamboyant fantasy characters, along with their foolish behavior in general and the endless barrage of humiliating scenarios they were subjected to.

    And yet, most kids remained riveted. The masses were gone, what was trendy had suddenly become stale, but we fantasy-craving Boomers still tuned in at 7:30 twice a week. Although, truth to tell, some of us were inching back to LOST IN SPACE on Wednesdays...

    PS: Let's hear it for Agent 86! Fine choice, mate.

  22. Peter Enfantino said..."I hope Christine isn't missing all this."

    While the cat's away...
    I've been behind in viewing and had to watch this episode before I dared to find out why my inbox had filled up with comments on it. I thought perhaps Peter and John had somehow disparaged Catwoman to mark the impending anniversary of "Pigeons from Hell." It is that Thriller time of year.

    It is nice to see that Season 2 has invited more comment and lively discussion. I think it's best to revisit the opening dedication of the Batman movie to reset our Bat-expectations for this Season of Bat-viewing:

    "To lovers of adventure, lovers of pure escapism, lovers of unadulterated entertainment, lovers of the ridiculous and the bizarre---to funlovers everywhere---this picture is respectfully dedicated."

    To expect anything different is to invite disappointment. If you do not enjoy the camp or comedy, then you'll be crying all through the rest of this series. To expect Batman not to be ridiculous after we've already received fair warning is just absurd. Appreciate it for what it is.

    I will hold the rest of this series to the expectations set forth above, and will gladly point out when it is not entertaining, or when the ridiculous and bizarre falls flat (look out, Minstrel), just as I count on John and Peter to do likewise in their oh-so-very jocular fashion. I look forward to seeing the special guest villains, if nothing else, but to continue to bemoan the lack of the Hi Diddle Riddlelike shows of Season 1 will only cause dismay. I learned my lesson from Outer Limits Season 2 (although I still have not recovered from that heartbreak).

    With regard to this particular episode, I missed Julie Newmar as Catwoman. I liked Lee Meriwether in the movie, but she was more of a tame kitty. Julie is pretty tough the way she kicks her henchman in the head for questioning her motives.

    For you boys who want to be in her class, you should remember her willingness to use the cat o' nine tails, though perhaps that's your learning style.

    Jack O'Shea acts like a true hepcat, and I enjoyed how Catwoman declines to share a saucer of milk with this underling. I'm not sure her desire to hook up with Batman or her villainous colleagues is very catlike, unless she simply intends to toy with them.

    The biggest problem I have with this episode is her unwillingness to jump off the building. She survived the fall off the cliff, after all. I would have much preferred that she got away with the loot again.

    It is worth noting that, after escaping the Acme Gigantic Magnifiers, Batman asks Robin why he thinks they always escape the "vicious ensnarements" of their "underhanded opponents." While Robin contends it's because they're smarter than them, Batman would like to believe it's because their hearts are pure. Perhaps it's a little bit of both...or just fanciful writing.

    Favorite bat quote from this episode: "Veracity and rectitude always triumph."

  23. Thanks for reminding me about that "pure of heart" quote, Christine. I always rather liked it. In any other context, in any other series, it would have played as too precious or on-the-nose. Be here, it works rather charmingly, and we're grateful that the show's writers actually have a wistful philosophy about our heroes' special invulnerability; B & R are pure spirits of goodness, like angels, down but never out. Indeed, the pleasures of Season Two exist side-by-side with the groaners, but they ARE there. And, in at least one episode I can think of, these pleasures congeal into a relative masterpiece...

  24. Christine, beautifully put!

    Gary, I often forget the dual audience of Batman. I wasn't around for the show's initial run, so I am very glad for the perspective of kids at the time. As far as declining ratings, though, how did the comedy hurt? You said that the kids kept watching anyway; would the adults have kept watching if the show had become more serious? As Clifton says, that may be a discussion for the forthcoming Green Hornet visit. (Maybe we can bump it up at least to their window cameo?)

  25. Great discourse, Batpeople! the measure of the series in my brother's mind seemed to be a cock-eyed flip on a fun lsd trip (not that i'd know about that), where the world's most serious matters was unfolded as though designed by the minds of Moe Howard and Buster Keaton.
    I always thought Dozier was like a high-art wannabe contemporary of Nate Hiken, missing just the consistency of script. The quick success and fast burn-out of the concept may be tied amongst the pages of real life, where the free world was still shocked and depressed by an assassination but engulfed in the first televised war (if only with fresh newscasts nightly from huntley and brinkley and cronkhite). Unlike the Beatles, who's arrival was perfectly timed to be a balm and distraction from all that, Batman failed to adapt to the changing times because it was in effect a tv show version of that silly putty trick, where you placed it over the funny papers and captured a reverse image that you could stretch to silliness.
    Well, i thought so at one time...

  26. rockfish: "… it was in effect a tv show version of that silly putty trick, where you placed it over the funny papers and captured a reverse image that you could stretch to silliness." Now that's a blast from the past. I used to enjoy doing that until I noticed how it turned my Silly Putty the color of rat's bohunkus. Thereafter I tried to keep my Putty pure, just like my heart.

  27. Dozier seems to have walked away from day to day oversight of the series by Season 2. Leaving a hit in the hands of show runners and line producers is pretty standard. I can't see how Irwin Allen's continued, active involvement in VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA or LOST IN SPACE would of made any difference in the trajectory of those shows, but , I wonder if a more hands on approach by Dozier, in Season 2, would have benefited BATMAN?