Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 55 & 56

By Joel Eisner

The first Joker episode of the second season has the fiend attempting to take over Gotham City with the aid of his key controlled invention and key shaped pills he placed in the city's water supply. It allows him to control time, moving it backwards and forwards at will.

A rather bizzare story science fiction story, but this would not be the last, especially for the Joker, who would later return with homemade androids and later a flying saucer complete with Martian henchman. I suppose this was the producers way of competing with time slot rival Lost in Space. The Joker, whom according to Batman was a famous hypnotist earlier in his life, first creates a flashing box of lights and sounds to hypnotize Batman and Robin, and thus carry out his crimes. Joker then creates his time machine and can control all of Gotham City, but as the series progressed, Joker was reduced to a childlike clownish buffoon. He was great with mechanical gadgets, but his mental state was reduced, to the point he was almost on the same comical intelligence level of Dr Smith on LIS. I loved the Joker and Cesar's performance, but by the time the series reached the end of the second season and into the third, just about all of the villains were being dumbed down, to the point the plots made no sense whatsoever.

There are some good points to the episode, Alan Napier gets to take a turn as his lookalike gravel voiced cousin Egbert, the night watchman at the water works. And as such is able to fool Aunt Harriet, who drops by while he is on duty. It was also the first appearance of Alfred's Alfcycle.

Another is actor Chrisopher Cary, as Angus Ferguson, a fine character actor, who is best remembered as the title character of Merlin the Magician on the Time Tunnel tv series.

There is a window cameo by Felony Squad (another Fox show) star Howard Duff, who would later return with his wife Ida Lupino as Dr Cassandra's husband Cabala.

Burt Ward's second wife Kathy Kersh, (who was several years older than him) appeared as Cornelia, the Joker's latest girl.

According to Executive Producer William Dozier: “We didn’t have serious problems with Burt Ward. He was very young and very broke when I first saw him. We were interviewing guys, and my assistant, Charles Fitzsimons, a very able man and a very bright man who was the head of the Producer’s Guild, was interviewing people. One day he came into my office and said, ‘I think this may be the guy.’ So, he brought this Burt Ward in. Burt introduced himself, and I said, He is the guy, all right, if he can walk and talk.’ He and his wife were living on turned-in pop bottles. Really, literally that is what they were living on. So, we put him in the show, and he was very good. I think he was exactly right for the part. Not long after the show got started, he dumped his wife and married Kathy Kersh (the ex-wife of the guy who played Ben Casey, Vince Edwards), who was a barracuda. She ate him alive and encouraged him to spend money. He spent his money as fast as he made it, thinking it was going to last forever, and became very star-struck. He thought he was a star, but he was too young and too inexperienced to evaluate his position, whereas Adam evaluated his position completely. Adam was smart; he saved his money. He knew this was a freak thing that wasn’t going to last forever. And to get the most out of it, he and Burt would go out on weekends and open supermarkets in their outfits and the Batmobile. We had three Batmobiles, and they’d clean up. They would make a lot of money on those weekend things.”

The interesting thing about the Joker and Cesar was the no matter had ridiculous and stupid the plots became, he managed to instill life into the show. Cesar became funnier, the dumber the Joker became.He overcame the material to uplift the show, but it also showed the series was already running out of steam.

Next, Morticia Adams (without the black wig) aka Carolyn Jones as Marsha Queen of Diamonds.


  1. I guess you have to be a vintage-TV dweeb like me to know this.
    Is anyone besides me aware of the BATMAN-77 SUNSET STRIP connection?
    Howie Horwitz was producer (later executive producer) of 77SS for much of its run. Writers like Charles Hoffman were frequent contributors, as were directors like Leslie Martinson and george waGGner (that's how he spelled his name - all lowercase except for the GGs - on 77SS and other WarnerBros shows).
    Also, lots of the same actors turned up, including in this episode, Louis Quinn (Roscoe the racetrack tout on 77SS).
    MEtoo runs 77 SUNSET STRIP here in Chicago at ungodly hours, which is how I know this.

  2. Thanks for the helps answer my Charles Hoffman question from the other post. I have seen a few 77SS episodes, but am more of a Maverick man, a number of which were directed by Martinson.

  3. When I got into Vintage TV Buffery in a big way, the WarnerBros. series of the '50s-'60s were a fertile field of study.
    When certain shows turned up, like 77 SUNSET STRIP and its sibs (HAWAIIAN EYE, SURFSIDE 6, and the short-lived BOURBON STREET BEAT), as well as the westerns (CHEYENNE, MAVERICK, BRONCO, SUGARFOOT etal.), I noticed that many of the same names appeared in the credits of BATMAN. Since Howie Horwitz held producer or supervisng producer status on most of the detective shows, I'll hazard the guess that he was the connection. As line producer of BATMAN, he would have done most of the behind-the-camera hiring, and so would naturally have gone with people he'd worked with before.
    In this regard, I've thought that it was a real shame that one writer-director who did a lot of work at WB never did BATMAN.
    Based on his work over the years, Richard L. Bare would have been ideal for BATMAN.
    Unfortunately, he was doing GREEN ACRES full time during BATMAN's run.
    "What might have been ..."

  4. Yes, he had just the absurdist eye for it. I believe his Green Acres run still stands as the highest number of consecutive episodes of a primetime series directed by the same individual.

  5. Ironic that Bare, evidently so well known for a goofy sitcom like GREEN ACRES, was also such an effective director on THE TWILIGHT ZONE. He did an excellent job on both Richard Matheson's first of two Shatner episodes, "Nick of Time," and Serling's "Third from the Sun," based on Matheson's story. That's some range!

  6. The one other show I really noticed Howie Horwitz' name on as producer was "THE SLAP MAXWELL STORY", which starred Dabney Coleman as a newspaper sports writer, and Megan Gallagher as his on-again-off-again girlfriend who was MUCH younger than he was. It was one of the strangest sitcoms I ever saw, as after a GREAT pilot, it spent the next 5 episodes or so doing one of the most downbeat, mind-wrenching, DISTURBING story arcs I've ever seen, as the main character's personal life devolved into bordeline psychosis. My best friend, on borrowing the tapes, said he had to STOP and rewind after the first 2 episodes, because he "couldn't take it anymore". It got much better after that initial stretch, but BOY, was it tough to get through.

    Coleman's earlier series, "BUFFALO BILL" (which had a virtual all-star cast of future big names in it) was said to be an "experiment" to see if a sitcom could succeed if the main character had NO redeeming features. Clearly, it couldn't. The main different between "Bill Bittinger" (a daytime TV talk show host) and "Slap Maxwell" was that while Bill was thoroughly rotten, Slap KNEW there was something wrong with his life... but was never quite able to figure out what. So it made him a BIT more sympathetic, even while some of the stories he was involved in got so freaky it got more difficult to actually watch.

    It did have one of my all-time favorite finales, when, after an entire episode of Slap's life crumbling around him, he's almost run down in an alley, and has a near-death experience about sitting in the coffin at his own funeral, where NOBODY liked him. Then, back to reality, when his girlfriend, who'd left town, shows up unexpectedly. She explains why she came back...

    "I thought about it a lot, and I figured out, most relationships are ruined by hopes that can never be realized. But with you, there IS no hope."

    As this is rattling in his head, he looks at her and asks...

    "Tell me... do you have-- ANYTHING at all on-- under that overcoat?"
    "NO! That's what I couldn't figure out."
    "What's that?"
    "Why all those airport alarms kept going off."

    Definitely-- surreal.

    Almost what BATMAN might have been if Dozier had gotten the hell out early-on.

    1. What happens when you haven't got anything better to do on a Saturday night ...

      Just got back from IMDb.

      The Slap Maxwell Story aired in 1986-87.

      Howie Horwitz died in a fall in 1975 - eleven years before.

      You sure about that credit?

  7. Don't miss the scene in the Batcave in the second part of this episode ("The Joker's Provokers") where Alfred hands Robin his green gloves and Burt Ward starts to put the wrong glove on the wrong hand. Gotta give him credit, though. He doesn't miss a beat.