With Batman ’66’s most popular Special Guest Villain still holding out for more money as the show was cutting its budget, it was decided that Fred De Gorter’s Riddler script “A Penny for your Riddles” should be rewritten to instead feature a new villain: The Puzzler, played by occasional Shakespearean Maurice Evans. A kind listener sent us a PDF of the original Riddler script, so in this episode we take the opportunity to compare the Riddler version to the Puzzler arc that was broadcast, Santa and all, right before Christmas 1966. Besides the change in villains, the changes also show plenty of evidence of making the script cheaper to shoot!
This episode's featured take on Hefti's Batman theme:
What does a Lorenzo Semple Jr. Batman script look like? What does it tell us about the contributions he made to the series? His influences in setting the tone for the series? The things he tried to set up that didn’t make it to the screen? In this episode, The Batcave Podcast’s John S. Drew joins Tim and Paul to look over Semple’s Scripts for Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle and Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin’s a Jinx and examine the evidence regarding Semple’s huge contributions to the series.
ALSO: The “Homemade” version of the Hefti “Batman” theme, and your mail!
Read the scripts at Knowitalljoe.com
Holy timeslip! West, Ward, and Newmar are back in their 1966 roles in Rick Morales’ Return of the Caped Crusaders! In this episode, we dig in (in other words, SPOILERS) on the new movie. Does Catwoman’s “batnip” really make Batman “evil”? Or change him in some other way? How did we process hearing the voices of the three surviving principles 50 years later? Did the animation style fit the feel of the film? Also, scenes that serve multiple purposes in Michael Jelenic and James Tucker’s well-written script, searching for “easter eggs”, and more.
PLUS: our greatest haul of Bat-mail yet, as you fill us in on "Red Ameche", why Catwoman was at Mr. Oceanbring's salon, clues to the location of Penguin's electrified pool, and more!
As Catwoman and Batman get in touch with their feelings over each other (and for some reason, Robin is a factor), our heroes’ Dynamic Duo-ness is challenged by out-of-towners Chad and Jeremy. And Stanley Ralph Ross turns in such a jokey script that the rhyming question must be asked: is this the arc that jumps the shark?
Then, our friend Wally Wingert is back! He voiced The Riddler in the new animated movie “The Return of the Caped Crusaders”, and he’s here to talk about it.
Finally, a bushel of Bat-mail, on the relationship between Shame and hot rods, Roy Gleason/Grimaldi Smith, alternative Marsha hypnosis methods, and Adam West’s veracity on the bats-in-the-cave story. ALSO: The Batman theme as performed by The Dynamic Batmen!
In December 1966, the “Penguin’s Nest” arc was finally broadcast. But it was the first season two arc to be shot; why the delay? We also discuss the 1946 comic book version of this story; Lorenzo Semple’s gift for making humor from situations, rather than the goofy jokes added by some other Bat-writers; the majesty of Burgess Meredith as the Penguin; and a swaggering Batman who gets taken down a peg. This arc marks the show’s being bestowed a high honor in sixties TV: The Vito Scotti seal of approval!
Also, the Who’s version of the Batman theme, and updates on our collection of Bat-theme covers and… hey, look, it’s Jay Thompson’s first-draft script that eventually became “The Impractical Joker”!
Batman faces a showdown when Shame arrives in Gotham City! This swaggering cowboy is after… hot rod parts? This somewhat odd arc by Stanley Ralph Ross is full of references to both the old west and drag racing; what’s going on here? Looking at Cliff Robertson’s first Batman appearance, we also touch on the mysterious Roy Gleason, several ways that times have changed since this one was shot, the problem of the cowboy being a bad guy, and THE one and only Little Old Lady from Pasedena!
Plus: a country-fried cover of the Batman theme, Batman/Room 222 links, and… is Batman “bigger than Jesus” now?
Various other Bat-commentaries paint this arc in drab tones. What Carolyn Jones (apparently replacing Zsa Zsa Gabor at something close to the last moment) brings to the role of Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, is basically Morticia Addams with a different look, says conventional wisdom. The arc is full of filler scenes that don’t advance the story, say commentators. In this episode of To the Batpoles, Paul presents a much different view of Marsha, which sees these “filler” scenes as absolutely necessary to the theme of this arc. And what is that theme? Listen to find out — and pack your Coleman stove, because there WILL be camping!
PLUS: The Jam’s version of the theme; an intertextual reference in Marsha that you might have missed; Tim investigates the “bat-cave scene” from spaghetti western The Relentless Four that Adam West described in Back to the Batcave, and works to track down the original Jay Thompson script that was rewritten into The Impractical Joker; and your mail!
“The Impractical Joker”/“The Joker’s Provokers” is Charles Hoffman’s rewrite of a draft by Jay Thompson, and it’s a bit of a kludgefest: interesting ideas are introduced and abandoned; Joker’s strategy and goals (related to keys — sometimes) are a muddled mess; they even botch a chemistry reference. But, as always, there ARE enjoyable nuggets to be found, and Tim and Paul list some of them. Also, admiring a Robin dummy, the problem with a gasoline-sharing Dynamic Duo, and the luscious, distracting Kathy Kersh.
PLUS: David McCallum’s version of the Batman theme, another Adam West memoir assertion disproved, and your mail about the Otto Preminger Mr. Freeze!
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?
PLUS: The Ventures' version of the Batman theme!
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!