Friday, November 18, 2011

95: Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin

Season 2 Episode 95
Original Air Dates: 9/14/67
Special Guest Villain: Burgess Meredith as The Penguin
Guest stars: Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, Jonathan Troy
Written by: Stanford Sherman 
Directed by: Oscar Rudolph

Synopsis: The Penguin plans to blackmail Commission Gordon's daughter into marrying him. The only ones standing in his way are the dynamic duo and Gotham's newest resident, Batgirl.

PE: Ordinarily, a one-hour show (which is, essentially, what Batman was) would suffer from having its story cut in half (the obvious exceptions being anthology shows like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents) but ordinarily those shows have a story. That's not the case here, so what will be interesting is if the writers simply come up with 23 minutes of nonsense as opposed to 46 minutes. As someone who's suffering through a lot of dismal 46-minute nights, I can say I'm up for the change. 

JS: We launch into Season 3 breaking from our standard formula of the pre-credit call on the Batphone. Instead, we're treated to the dynamic duo returning to the Batcave having just brought Catwoman to justice. Again. Sadly, we don't even get a Julie Newmar cameo.

PE: More wise Bat-advise: "I think you should acquire a taste for opera, Robin, as one does for poetry and olives."

JS: What do you suppose Chief O'Hara got his medals for? Is one of those for a pie-eating contest?

PE: Those weren't medals, John. Didn't you see the name tag on the Chief's lapel: "Hooterville Valet Service"? Bruce and Dick arrive just after Gordon ransacks his daughter's room, looking for clues. I'll leave it to your imagination what he found in Barbara's nightstand. Librarians can get lonely too. Gordon sounds actually excited when our villain calls on Barbara Gordon's phone. "It's Penguin!' he exclaims.

JS: Too bad the Commissioner, police chief, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his ward all left Barbara's apartment mere moments before the henchmen hiding next door decided to fill the cardboard cut-out of poppa Gordon full of lead.

PE: It's interesting to find out that you're granted immunity if you're "a member of the family" of a law officer in Gotham.

JS: Is Alfred in danger often enough to warrant his wearing an Emergency Belt Buckle bat Call Signal? Or does he do that in an attempt to get a piece of the action.

PE: You never know when you'll find your boss that bargain at the Gotham Art Gallery.

JS: Call me crazy, but wouldn't The Penguin recognize Alfred from all of their prior encounters?

JS: I love Batgirl, and all she brings to the series. Isn't it refreshing that she's the first costumed character in town concerned with keeping her identity secret? The red wig with her outfit goes a long way towards changing her look. A lot further than the bandit masks so many folks are fond of wearing.

PE: Well, that and wearing that hideous yellow raincoat while as Barbara. It's the perfect camouflage for that incredible figure. Being a male chauvinist, I'm hard pressed to tell you who's got the better figure: Batgirl or Catwoman. I do think it peculiar that Barbara is so quick to trust Alfred with her secret (even if she believed him to be  "a man of the cloth").  Why not trust her idol, Batman? And are we to gather that this is the maiden voyage of Batgirl? No warm-ups? No drug dealer crackdowns?

JS: I found it somewhat endearing that in this introductory installment, Alfred comes to know Batgirl's secret identity. And not that I would wish ill upon Batman and Robin, but should some horrible fate befall them (such as being crushed by a giant ball of yarn in a future episode), I for one am totally prepared to watch the continuing adventures of Alfred and Batgirl!

PE: Holy sexism! When he gets ready to pick a lock on a door with his Bat-pick, does The Big Bat really say "Of course, we could always borrow a hairpin from Batgirl"?

JS: More to love about Batgirl? She's got a signature fight move—the full extension leg kick—and she's not afraid to use it! Yow!


JS: What happened to Nelson Riddle? We've got music by Billy May, creator of the okay but not awe inspiring Batgirl theme. The lyrics to which, by the way, are credited to Willy Mac (a Billy May pseudonym, perhaps?). Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those just, "Bat-girl, Batgirl!," repeated over and over and over again? I wonder what inspired him.


PE: Gawdawful muzak! Sounds like May didn't even get to see the episode before he scored it. Director Rudolph probably said "Just make it sound kinda like the last season but throw in some of that crazy beach music vibe."


JS: Since it's made clear that if either of the dynamic duo has a chance with Barbara Gordon, it's Bruce Wayne, it was nice of the to throw Dick Grayson a bone and give him a driver's license. Not only can he now drive the Batmobile, but Bruce presents him with a groovy red convertible to boot.


PE: I like Batgirl a lot so I won't go into all the goofy crap that throws this into the "Yeah, right" stratosphere. Well, maybe I will. I love that she's a super-fit fighting machine but her wig and costume sit behind a revolving brick wall. Who built that? Was Barbara off at college, mastering in engineering and architecture? Wouldn't her landlord know suspect when he heard the jackhammers going off one day? And a motorcycle hidden on a top floor freight elevator? That landlord knows nothing about his own building, does he? And won't he be pissed when he finds the secret exit for the Batgirl cycle in the alley. But my ice tea boiled over when I saw her on that bike.


JS: Say what you will about all the changes to the show in Season 3; but one can't help but welcome the addition of Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, to the lineup.






PE: Batgirl aside, the best news in this episode is our last scene teaser where we get to see the long-awaited return of...




PE Rating: 







JS Rating:




Next up... The Riddler! Same Bat time, same Bat URL!

7 comments:

  1. The Batgirl theme does have lyrics; it's just that, to this episode's benefit, they aren't used here. Wait a couple of nights and you'll see what I mean.

    A very good start to the third season, I think. The introduction of Batgirl is smartly done by making Barbara Gordon the intended victim. Alfred is front and center, as he will be more and more throughout the season. And Stanford Sherman is absolutely the best Penguin writer there was. The added character, shortened running time, and absence of a cliffhanger are no drawbacks at all this time out. Also, with the use of standing sets (or very basic ones)

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  2. (Got cut off...a hint?)
    ...the reduced budget doesn't show too much. Unfortunately, all of these issues will start to cause problems for the series almost immediately, as with the next disappointingly rushed and Mushy episode.

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  3. About Billy May's music ...

    Mr. May came to BATMAN directly from his stint as music director for THE GREEN HORNET. Fans of that series will note the similarities in instrumentation (particularly the brass).
    And the fight music has just a touch of FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEE to it ...
    However, many of Nelson Riddle's melodies, especially the established villain signatures, remained in the stock library to be pulled when needed - and with the diminished budget, they were needed a lot.

    And those short mid-60s dresses as worn by Yvonne Craig ...
    ... I keep watching these reruns hoping for a vintage "wardrobe malfunction" (much as I did as a '60s teenager), but alas ...

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  4. Yeah, who doesn't love Batgirl and Yvonne's spunky take, at least nowadays? Speaking of GREEN HORNET, isn't Batgirl's exterior moving wall/alleyway a re-dressed version of the Black Beauty's emergence route? Even the camera angle seems similar. And sure, "Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin" was a pleasing introduction to this newest and most fetching member of the Bat-cast. A lot was packed into these 25 minutes, but the story was well-paced, with Craig and Napier coming off best. Penguin was a fine first-tier villain to utilize, and his scheme to marry Gordon's daughter via kidnapping was a clever way to give both Barbara and Batgirl decent screen time, important when you're showcasing a brand new (double) character. So, while the freshness of Dozier's BATMAN joke may have ended a year earlier, a costumed superheroine was indeed novel, and even somewhat groundbreaking. Holy back-handed innovation! Stay tuned for my Spotlight on Batgirl and third season in general a little later on...

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  5. ...Yvonne Craig... damn. [holy atavistic thrill...] This is why the interwebs are awesome.

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  6. One rather illogical thing about this episode was how/why Batgirl accused Alfred of posing as a minister so as to learn Barbara Gordon's "secret." How the hell could Alfred have known what he was getting himself into when he impromptu took the minister's place and allowed himself to be kidnapped by Penguin's goons ?! NO ONE knew about Batgirl yet, except for Barbara, of course.

    In other words, the usually sensible Barbara Gordon made a totally unwarranted false accusation to Alfred. Granted ,she did apologize though.

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  7. Am I the only one who thinks it strange that Batgirl, having no super powers or even exceptional strength, has the ability to run through a door?

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