Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Batscholar on Episodes 87 & 88

By Joel Eisner

By far the best Tut episode of the series. His next two episodes (were actually a two parter cut into two single episodes, but more on that when we reach third season,) were good but disjointed due to the 3rd season format. This was the first episode that Stanley Ralph Ross wrote for King Tut, although he did not write the original story, that went to the team of Leo and Pauline Townsend. Leo wrote for many sitcoms and westerns in the 50's and 60's and has the distinction of writing Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.

As for why Ross wrote the teleplay, has to do with a cast change which affected the entire plot. As written (according to Lee Meriwether) Lisa Carson was supposed to be the daughter of Mayor Linseed. But when Byron Keith who played the recurring part, wasn't available for the episode, it had to be rewritten. Ross changed the plot to include two new characters. Meriwether became the daughter of millionaire John E Carson, named Lisa (the name of Ross's daughter, King Tut's queen Neila played by Star Trek's Yeoman Rand, Grace Lee Whitney, was named after Ross's wife).

The other new character was Deputy Mayor Zorty (a play on the then Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty) played by rotund actor Tol Avery. While the part was small, they needed another large actor to play King Tut at the costume party, While Avery was not in the Buono's league, he served the purpose for the episode.

Lee Meriwether taking a leave from the soon to be cancelled Time Tunnel (also at Fox,) plays the part of Lisa pretty straight. Aside from her dialogue with Tut and her milk and cookies scene at the end of the episode, she is given little to do.

Actress Lee Meriwether ”Victor was wonderful. . He said to me one day on the set that he knew he was not going to live past the age of thirty-two. (He lived until age 43) That was the one thing I remember about our conversations—well, that and Shakespeare. “He was so talented; he was very gifted. But I don’t think he ever really thought that anyone would ever believe the talent that he knew he had. He was having a lot of fun on the show.”

As for the rest of the cast, Lloyd Haynes one of the Fox stock of contract players later to star on Room 222. Haynes died in 1986 at age 52 of cancer. Tim O'Kelly besides appearing as one of the students when the Joker went to school, was the teen sniper in the Boris Karloff film Targets, and disappeared after losing the role of Danny on Hawaii 5-0 to James McArthur (he did the pilot but was replaced). The other two tutlings were Chuck Hicks and Fritz Ford (Hicks is the long time stunt double for Brian Dennehy and Ford was Chuck Conners stunt double on the Riflemen, Barry Dennen later to be the Mexican Bandit with the British accent in Shame's gang next season has a small part as a valet. Dick Bakalyan last seen with the Riddler last season has a small part as an Egyptian pantimime, he will return in larger parts next season.

Terri Messina the young girl who was Dick Grayson's date for the ball was only 21 at the time and died at the age of 60 in 2007. She had small parts on tv shows but her big clam to fame was her long term love affair with Gene Clark of the group the Byrds. She helped him cowrite numerous songs. She spent the last years of her life taking care of her elderly parents.

Columnist Susie Knickerbocker aka Aileen Elder and Aileen Mehle, appeared at the window. She used to be a show biz gossip reporter in the 1960's.

One final interesting note, if you look closely during the bat fight at the boiler works, there are numerous cardboard boxes stacked everywhere, many are labeled stamps while others have question marks on them. Obvious left overs from the Astin Riddler and Colonel Gumm episodes. Nothing at Fox is ever thrown out it is always reused at least one more time.

Next Miss Tallulah Bankhead gives the final role of her career as the Black Widow.


  1. Thanks for clarifying the "Terri Messina as Penny" situation, Joel. It might have been fun to give Dick a recurring girlfriend, and Miss M. would have been a winning choice... pretty but smart-looking, a nice match for the precocious Boy Wonder.

  2. This was Grace Lee Whitney's first acting job after her unfortunate firing from Star Trek. In addition, Lee Meriwether's filming of this episode overlapped with her commitment to do her scenes for the Time Tunnel epsisode "Merlin The Magician", which necessitated her working on both shows on the same day, February 10, 1967.

    This was also one of the final roles for comedian Tommy Noonan (Jolly Jackson) who had been Marilyn Monroe's boyfriend in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and once did an act with future "Hollywood Squares" host Peter Marshall as his straight man. Noonan died in May 1968.

  3. I never spotted Barry Dennen. Terri Messina's last role was in the twisted cult movie BLOOD AND LACE in 1971.