Wednesday, October 12, 2011

43 & 44: The Greatest Mother of Them All/Ma Parker

Season 2 Episodes 43 & 44
Original Air Dates: 10/5/66, 10/6/66
Special Guest Villainess: Shelly Winters as Ma Parker
Guest stars: Tisha Sterling, Julie Newmar
Written by: Henry Slesar
Directed by: Oscar Rudolph

Synopsis: Ma Parker and her clan come to Gotham to take over the Penitentiary, which they decide will be the perfect base of operations from which to orchestrate their crimes. First things first, they need the dynamic duo to put them behind bars—and Batman and Robin are more than happy to oblige.

PE: Quick, silly question: if Ma wants to be arrested and sent to the Big House, why does she keep escaping? And what's the plan once she gets there? To form a huge gang made of of the "top echelon" of Gotham crooks and run the prison herself. Sounds like a very lucrative plan.

JS: With a name like Legs, how come Ma's daughter switched out of her Daisy Dukes so soon?

PE: I thought it was ironic that Shelly Winters should say "All right boys, let's relieve these ladies of a few extra pounds!"

JS: Batman's words of wisdom: "Violence begets violence." Of course, not until the A-Team would so many rounds be fired in a single episode of a TV show without a single casualty.

PE: "Gotham's Finest" opens fire on the house and misses everything. No wonder Commissioner Gordon does a double take when O'Hara claims that Ma Parker won't come to Gotham because of the fine police force.

JS: Why is it that Batman shows more compassion to Ma Parker than he ever has shown to Aunt Harriet?

PE: Because Ma doesn't talk as much. Harriet and youthful ward Dick Grayson have a meeting of the minds in our opener and come up two brains short:
Dick: Gosh, Bruce, Greek is still Greek to me!
Harriet: It's Greek to a lot of Greeks too!
JS: The indispensable Crime Computer in the Batcave basically determines that Ma Parker robs people. These days, your phone could have figured that out.

PE: You're being much too cynical, John. The Crime Computer reported that Ma had robbed, in addition to the Gotham Horse Show, a tea dance and a wedding reception. That helps Batman predict where Ma will next strike. 

JS: I know movies are outrageously priced today, but in 1966, was knocking over a Gotham City theater really that lucrative?

PE: Never mind that. Three grand at a Five 'n' Dime? That's a good day!

JS: We've reached a milestone. Robin notices 'Legs':
Robin: Her legs sort of remind me of Catwoman's,  
Batman: You're growing up, Robin.
PE: I hesitate to mention this, but it seems as though Robin's trousers are getting tighter.

JS: What's with Batman interrupting the episode for the public service announcement?

PE: Robin: "An old people's home is conventional and orthodox but... it's only for old people." Not enough was done with the turbo wheelchair. Cool concept, lousy execution.

JS: Robin wants to race home to Aunt Harriet's cooking. With the vast Wayne fortune, how come they make the old broad cook for them? You think the staff would be more than just Alfred.

PE: More LOL-dailogue:
Batman: Why would a trustee put dynamite in the Batmobile?
Robin: Certainly isn't someone you could trust.
JS: I had trouble accepting that Catwoman would fall in line 'under' Ma Parker. But anything that gets Julie Newmar into an episode sounds like a brilliant plan to me!

PE: I'm still trying to figure out why Batman doesn't spit or shake his head and mumble whenever the name of Warden Creighton comes up. Batman hands them over and the warden leaves them decked out in their villain get-ups. 

JS: We get Milton Berle in a cameo, and he doesn't even have to lean out of a window!

PE: A teaser for his Season 3 appearance as Louie the Lilac?

JS: Does it make sense that the sound of the Short Wave Bat Radio would echo through the halls of Wayne Manor? For a brief moment, I actually thought that we'd get to see Alfred slide down the Batpoles... 

PE: This episode was written by crime writer Henry Slesar, perhaps best known for the many fine episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour either written by Slesar or adapted from his short stories.

JS: I wonder whose idea it was to have 'Legs' wear a prison uniform with the number 35-23-34 stenciled across the chest?

PE: We catch hell for mentioning things like that. 

PE Rating: 

JS Rating: 

Next up... The Clock King! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!


  1. PE: "We catch hell for mentioning things like that." Not from me.

    Tisha Sterling and a few seconds of Julie Newmar are the only things this episode has going for it. NIce as they are they're not enough to redeem The Dynamic Duo vs. The Great White Trash. I find it hard to believe that Henry Slesar had a hand in this. Even harder to believe is his permission of on-screeen credit, or blame, for it.

    Director Oscar Rudolph arrived to deliver the first in a series of lamely staged productions. Notice from the screen grabs how brightly photographed everything is. No more Griesian shadows here. The sets are now lit with fire buckets.

    Speaking of screen grabs, I've been meaning to give a shout-out to John and Peter for posting the original "next week" images when they prepare us for the next day's villain. Classy attention to detail, gentlemen.

  2. What we really needed was someone like Barbara Billingsley or June Lockhart to take on the Ma Parker role, sending up their wholesome image.

    In the prison yard scene with Catwoman, none of the inmates seem to notice her. Makes you wonder if they were slipping something into their food.

    1. That's a much more original joke than MOST people (including professional comedians) would make about that subject. Most of them would trot out that OTHER joke to explain the prisoners not noticing her, and that one gets so tired.

  3. This may be my least favorite pair of programs in the whole shebang.

    On the bright side, I just started getting Me-TV yesterday, and might actually catch a Bat-episode once in a while.

    And yes, kudos on the Next Week grabs!

  4. Well, there's no accounting for taste, because I enjoyed Ma Parker. Then again, it's hard for me to understand how you guys liked the Minstrel, and for the life of me still can't see what Peter liked about the Zelda episodes so much. That's why I enjoy reading what others have to say about episodes. It gives me a chance to see them from another perspective. I probably thought Zelda was inadequate because she was not a strong villainess and gave into her stereotypical women's emotions, just as I enjoyed Ma Parker for being tough as nails. Catwoman is slipping, and I'm worried about her. I look forward to seeing what Ida Lupino will be up to when her turn comes around.

    I thought Shelley Winters played her part well. I don't think she was supposed to play it sweet and wholesome. Loud, brash, big hillbilly mama puffing on her cig as the big boss at the Gotham State Penn seemed just right to me. She only turned on sweet mama when she wanted to dupe the crime fighters.

    Is this the first time we've seen the criminals in this series use firearms? I was thinking that she and Catwoman must have been equipped with real weapons because they were not allowed to engage in fisticuffs with Batman and Robin.

    Again, who would dare notice Catwoman, unless she made it clear she wanted their notice? They may have disarmed her of her cat o' nine tails, but she still seems to be equipped with her glass cutting claws, and could neatly gouge out any eyeballs she didn't like directed at her. You guys are safe to ogle from behind your TV screens. What's up with not being issued the standard spandex black and white prison garb for lady prisoners, anyway?

    "if Ma wants to be arrested and sent to the Big House, why does she keep escaping?" Easy. To divert suspicion from the plan. I thought it was brilliant.

    I'm surprised you left Batman's sage advice to Robin out of your quote. After noting how Robin is growing up, Batman says "Remember in crime fighting, always keep your sights raised." Now what do you suppose he meant by that? I bet Bruce had the birds and the bees talk with Dick that night.

    I'm wondering if anyone can make out what's written below the "Lock your car" line on the bumper sticker. That PSA certainly seemed random.

  5. According to a Google search, there was a big "Lock your car, take your keys" PSA initiative from the Justice Department in the mid 60s. Honestly I found the sequence funnier before I knew that.

    Clifton, I agree that Oscar Rudolph (the series most frequent director by far) was usually an unimaginative storyteller. I think James B. Clark was a much better director, effectively staging both broader and subtler material.

  6. The gang use a bomb to blow open the armored car. Batman detects the seismic activity in the Batcave, and they drive the 14 miles to Gotham City before the gang get done loading up their loot bags. This after Batman lectured Robin on obeying the speed limit.

  7. At the end, Legs sneaks out the door when no one was looking. I was expecting her to come back and mount some feeble attempt to rescue her family. But she just ran away.

  8. Is Shelley Winters the only actor or actress to even "sort of" play their Batman character in the movies too (not counting the Batman feature film)? What I mean is, she played Ma Barker herself in the film BLOODY MAMA.

    1. police officer my she lloks like my own mother.

  9. First off, may I say that I used to blog via Blogspot but I've had massive trouble using this site with Firefox (my browser of choice) so I went to Wordpress. I have to log onto Google Chrome (which I hate) to leave this comment. This really has nothing at all to do with you or this blog of yours, but I just want to notate that. The reason I've logged on via Chrome is because I really wanted to leave a comment.

    I picked up the full Batman series on Blu-Ray in the recent Amazon Prime Day. They had it at a flat-out LUDICROUS sale price, and this was the one classic TV series I hadn't gotten yet on DVD/Blu-Ray that I grew up watching, so I bought it. I'm so glad I did. The collection is outstanding.

    I've been going through the collection over the last few weeks and I'm up to the Season 2 Mr. Freeze "Green Ice" episode as of now. By chance on Tuesday night, I scoured the internet because I wanted to find some trivia about this episode. In doing so, I stumbled upon your blog. That was almost four hours ago. I turned off the Blu-Ray and have been reading this blog ever since. Your recaps, along with the Eisner stories, are fantastic and entertaining and full of great insight and information that even I--at age 43 and a Batman fan for at least 37 of those years--didn't know about. Great stuff. Thank you for this blog series, and thank you for recently adding the links and whatnot that you have. I'm lucky to have found them so soon after you posted the "shortcut" links.

    I decided to comment on this particular episode since, when I was age 7 or 8, while I don't recall what it was that made me watch the old "Batman" series for the first time, I DO recall that THIS was the very first TV episode I saw. Ma Parker. Both parts, in successive afternoons in syndication, probably on WPIX Channel 11 in New York. Considering how getting hooked on Batman from that point on into today I became, I just find it funny that the first TV episode I saw was this one-shot villain, never seen again in any incarnation (to my knowledge, anyway).

    Thankx for all the blogs on the old TV series. As I continue through the Blu-Ray collection, I'll be checking out your posts with each episode.

    Eric McHugh