In his 1994 book Back to the Batcave, Adam West tells… some. Yes, there are recollections of funny things that happened on the set of Batman, a discussion of the development of how the character Batman would be played on the ’66 show, and answers to some lingering questions that have come up on this podcast. On the other hand, his love life recollections tend to be shrouded in anonymity, and mentions of Burt Ward are surprisingly few and neutral. Also, a disturbing number of his assertions are provably false!
Having read Batcave, Tim and Paul try to clean up the record, parse West's negative reaction to Batman being referred to as “camp”, and consider the question: What if Batman had used a laugh track?
It's Otto Preminger's turn to be Mr. Freeze! Why does his version keep saying "wild"? What aspects of this version are better than the George Sanders version, and which are worse (aside from his demeanor on the set)? The script itself has more than its share of head-scratchers, as well as some bits of comedy (and camp) gold. And, wait... are there references in this arc to the 1940 film His Girl Friday? This episode, we go up against an in-office blizzard, an arm-injuring explosion, and worst of all... a little boy's "boo".
PLUS: the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra's version of the theme, and a new iTunes review (have you written yours yet?)!
Batman battles it out with the Penguin — at the polls! Who will be voted mayor of Gotham City? In Hizzoner the Penguin and Dizzoner the Penguin, writer Stanford Sherman and director Oscar Rudolph deliver biting political satire (complete with Barry Goldwater references!) — but does the arc’s ending invalidate some of their points? Were Paul Revere and the Raiders, with their appearance here, really the first rock band on a sitcom? Is it a coincidence that so many game show hosts make cameos in this arc? (We think not!)
PLUS: Sun Ra’s version of the Batman theme, the series’ ratings trajectory, and revisiting some Batman soundtrack questions.
As we continue through the series, we notice more and more awesomeness in the Nelson Riddle incidental music- and we also have some questions about it. Pat Evans is working on getting answers to those questions as he does a series of interviews for his documentary film “The Beat of the Bat”! We discuss how Riddle’s scoring for the show is more like that of a Warner Brothers cartoon than most live-action shows; how Riddle and Neal Hefti both recycled bits of past music into “new” music that’s more familiar to us; Billy May’s cringey lyrics to the Batgirl theme; and the burning question: should Hefti’s iconic Batman theme be sung as “Nana nana” or “Dada dada”?
And in the Bat Mailbag, a collage of ‘60s Sears-catalog Bat-crap! (Click image to zoom in) (Collages by Aaron Lange)
It may be tough to appreciate for us 50 years later, but having Liberace on your show was a big deal in 1966. When he appeared on Batman, it reportedly led to the show’s best ratings ever. Of interest to Tim and Paul is how the show dealt with his alleged homosexuality, writer Lorenzo Semple Jr’s references to Liberace’s real-life backstory, and what his attempts at acting remind us of.
His Bat-appearance was such a big deal that the Dynamic Duo themselves were shoved aside for the first 15 minutes, leading to the funniest Gotham City Police joke ever. Also in this arc: another reference to James Cagney’s The Public Enemy, weaponized music, a current events reference, Madge Blake’s moment of badass glory, and a trifecta of SCTV references!
PLUS: We pay a visit to The Marketts, look into director Larry Peerce’s back catalog, and get some Bat-mail that clears up questions about where the show got the ideas for batpoles and Cat-Bat attraction!
Vincent Price makes his Bat-debut as Egghead! Price is generally associated with the horror genre, although he could also be considered a camp icon. And so could someone else in this arc! Is the character of Chief Screaming Chicken satire or racism? Well… yes. Also, a window cameo by Jose Jimenez. Who? We explore this and several other cameos and familiar faces (or voices) in this arc, with detours through Get Smart, The Brady Bunch, F Troop and more! Holy intertextuality!
ZAP! POW! The Batman TV show became famous for its “comic book” fight sound effects. Odd, though… before the show began, punches in Batman comics were silent! So where’d the show get the idea for noisy punches? We ponder this question after reading many ‘60s Batman comics, and also explore the changes of “New Look Batman” in 1964; determine what the show borrowed from the comics —and what the comics borrowed from the show; discuss whether the TV show is what saved the character (our verdict: nope!); and more.
Our expounding on the coolness of the Clock King arc concludes with a look at “The Clock King Gets Crowned”! Did Madge Blake need help with her lines from the film editors? Is Millie Clock King’s “beard”? Might the first draft of this episode have called for a climactic fight at Wayne Manor? (And, if so, why was it scrapped?) Plus, this episode’s cluster of “meanwhile” cross-cuts and its operatic fight music, and a couple of international Bat-records!
Where some see a disappointing script from Bill Finger, we see a camp masterpiece! We're talking about The Clock King's Crazy Crimes, which features an amazing riff on pop art (well, and quite a bit of art that isn't actually of the "pop" variety); a Daliesque painting of the Dynamic Duo (who painted it?); another great (but rather subtle) villain theme from Nelson Riddle;Batman and Robin doing some actual detective work;scenes that happen simultaneously and then intersect; and the campiest, flashiest hourglass you ever saw!
All this fun also occasions a dig into how comics and the pop art movement fed off each other in the '60s, a Camping Trip into old Hollywood codes for homosexuality (back when you couldn't just admit it!), and much more. Dress up like an "Artist" and join us!
Perhaps more than most Batman arcs so far, the Ma Parker storyline has many points that don't stand up to scrutiny? How could she have just arrived in Gotham City, already have a house just outside of town, and have also established herself at the local old folks' home? Never mind! Shelley Winters plays a cartoony and ultra-campy villain, so Tim and Paul just go with it and let plausibility slide, while also examining the mysterious "bumper sticker" scene (have we uncovered an in-joke there?), considering whether Warden Crichton could have been better utilized, sifting through this story's multiple jabs at gender roles, and considering how vastly different this arc might have been if Bette Davis had played Ma Parker, as planned!
King Tut's back -- and not only does he have the best gang since Bookworm, but Victor Buono has totally dialed into the character, and ramped the camp up to 11! Thus, Paul can't resist marking the occasion by introducing a new podcast feature on camp! Also, how the "Spell of Tut" arc really shows the challenge of filling exactly the amount of time allotted for one TV episode -- necessitating cutting scenes sometimes, and adding relatively useless ones in other cases! Plus, this arc's Lorenzo Semple vibe, and more Bat-records reaction!
It's a new villain -- even new to the Duo themselves: The Minstrel (Van Johnson)! But his crimes don't involve robbing music stores and the like: he's out to shake down the stock market, though by using methods that Batman and Robin are at pains to tie back to the malfeasant musician's tuneful guise. And finance-related crimes seem to be a specialty of writers Francis and Marian Cockrell.
By the way, who was Van Johnson? And how does the Minstrel arc measure up? We also look at the references that are baked into the tunes Minstrel puts his lyrics to. Does Commissioner Gordon need to watch his language? Why did Minstrel show up at the stock exchange in disguise? And, doesn't it seem that the bat-drone plane has abilities even beyond those of a normal drone -- or car radio?
When Batman hit the airwaves in January 1966, its instant popularity led to an explosion of all kinds of Bat-merchandise -- including records! Singles and albums by musicians (Nelson Riddle, Neal Hefti) and actors (Adam West, Burt Ward, and some Bat-villains too!) associated with the show, as well as some with no connection who just wanted to ride the Bat-wave (for example, Dickie Goodman).
In this episode, Tim and Paul count down their favorite Bat-records, a crazy journey in which we cross paths with Frank Zappa, Jan & Dean, the Allman brothers, and other actual professional musicians. With a nod to the late, great Casey Kasem, we present -- B-A-T 40!
In "Hot off the Griddle" and "The Cat and the Fiddle", Julie Newmar's Catwoman takes on new dimensions, including sex kitten and little old lady. In discussing whether this arc has too many un-Semple-like zingers, Tim and Paul make a digression into the definition of “high camp.” Are people using this expression to describe Batman without quite understanding what it means?
Also: the advantages to having the same writer, Stanley Ralph Ross, continue to write Catwoman. And, is the character of Jack O’Shea a reference to any specific gossip columnist, real or fictional? He's certainly another manifestation of Ross's “hidden accomplice” plot device.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon keeps talking to the camera, Nelson Riddle turns out more great music, Aunt Harriet has her finest moment, Batman highland dances (or does he?), and...wait, our blog has comments?!
Season two begins! We dig into what ELSE was being broadcast the week of Batman’s season two premiere on still-struggling ABC-TV and its two muscular competitors.
Then, why did the season start with Archer? Why Art Carney? Why do all these bizarre, puzzling things happen in part one? Why isn't Spike Jones band member Doodles Weaver funny in this? It's a headscratching arc, but not without its highpoints, such as Alfred's first turn as a Caped Crusader and the flaaaaaming performance of Robert Cornthwaite.
The summer of 1966 brought “Batman: The Movie"! Now, in the winter of 2016, Tim and Paul, joined by “Batman at 45” author Chris Gould, look at the film from many directions: the fantastic music, the new elements not seen in season one (Compressed Steam Batpole Lift!), the references to Lyndon Baines Johnson (both the man and his policies!), the dangers on the Batman set, the dynamic among the four villains, and much more.
Having finished Season One, this episode we take a breather and consider what we've learned. Firstly, just because a show is successful doesn't mean it has money to throw around. We explore such aspects as Joker's laugh, the lack of continuity in '60s TV shows, and the interesting camera work sometimes employed on the series -- deep shots such as Penguin watching the Duo from afar.
We do all this through the lens of a 2008 interview of show co-creator Lorenzo Semple Jr. - what it tells us about his approach to the series, and why the show burnt itself out.
Also, what we're looking forward to in Season Two, and a look in the Bat-Mailbag!
The Penguin is back, but this time his hideout and henchman names are on the theme of fish, rather than birds! And he’s aiming to steal all the money donated by millionaires to smokin’ hot babes (each girl representing a charity, of course). Yes, the final arc of Season One is also its most sexist — and that’ s not even considering the rather suggestive bellows scene!
Tim and Paul discuss this arc’s Playboy Mansion feel, the staggering count of plot holes, the subtle joke at the expense of the show’s top two execs, and a clinic in why the writers had Batman and Bruce Wayne communicate through Commissioner Gordon, rather than by looking in a mirror!
In Frank Gorshin's last Bat-appearance till Season Three, the Riddler's making a movie. Silent-film-scholar Paul is digging this arc! But why does the Prince of Puzzlers bother filming Batman and Robin when he's got luscious, leggy Sherry Jackson on his team? More to ponder: This arc is based on a comics story in which the Joker, not the Riddler, impersonated Charlie Chaplin. Does this work as a Riddler story?
Also: Francis X. Bushman reunites with a silent-era costar; why the "Aunt Harriet's birthday" scene might have some real utility beyond giving Madge Blake a reason to show up for work; who the heck is Y. Y. Flurtch? And more.
And at last we reach the Bookworm arc, perhaps one of the greatest of the series. I mean, it's got a giant cookbook in it! And it's got a shocking first scene, the great Roddy McDowell, one of the best supporting gangs we've seen, the first bat-climb cameo... oh, and did we mention the giant cookbook?
True, it also contains the seeds of some of Season Two's excesses. But overall, you can't go wrong letting a writer write about a villain who's... a bad writer. Tim and Paul discuss some of the arc's triumphs.
Victor Buono as King Tut is perhaps the most divisive villain among Bat-fans: some call him a genius, others roll their eyes whenever he appears. What is it that makes him more/less fun than the Joker or the Penguin? In this episode, having just watched "The Curse of Tut" and "The Pharaoh's in a Rut", we discuss this question and others: Why are there so many dummies in this episode? (Bruce certainly acts like one in the museum scene...) What happened to the Batmobile's security functions? Who the freak are “old Mo” and “the Hot Squad”?? And of course we discuss sexism, police ineptitude, and Nelson Riddle's score, including the return of... the Batusi!
Joker's latest crime is a hit on a fur store, in which he steals -- a hairpin? The story in "The Joker Trumps an Ace" and "Batman Sets the Pace" is loosely based on a comic-book story ("A Hairpin, a Hoe, a Hacksaw, and a Hole in the Ground") from Batman 53 (1949) — a bit too loosely, so that it doesn't quite make sense. This episode, Tim and Paul discuss the source material penned by Bill Finger, and how Francis and Marian Cockrell's script removes the Hoe, the Hacksaw, and the logic.
Also: Doesn’t Joker seem especially gay in this arc? Another Batman casting connection to Casablanca, and one to North by Northwest! Is Joker actually doing a rap, 13 years before “Rapper’s Delight”? And, what’s the basis for the “Batman running for California governor” gag?
In Frank Gorshin’s third turn as the Riddler, the Prince of Puzzlers follows a very clear plan toward his goal of finding the Lost Treasure of the Incas, while taking credit for stuff Shakespeare wrote. Company man Batman, meanwhile, lauds the Incas' culinary achievements. Tim and Paul watch this arc and muse on its theme of preservation, the developments in Nelson Riddle’s music for death traps, and note that the Gotham City Museum building looks strangely familiar.
Penguin’s back! And he’s -- gone straight? Meanwhile, the Duo commit a series of crimes in the name of bringing the waddling old avian to justice -- because surely he’s up to no good -- right? Tim & Paul analyze what could be seen as a rather dark arc -- if it weren't so funny!
What's your Bat-dream job? For Mark Racop it's making replica Batmobiles -- which has been his sole source of income at Fiberglass Freaks in Logansport, Indiana, since 2003. This episode we talk with Mark about the car's history, what it was really capable of doing vs. what was just special effects, how he got into the game and became the sole authorized maker of replica Batmobiles, and why the black, bubble-windshielded beauty still means so much to so many.