Throwback Thursday – 60s Batman

by Matthew J.R. Kohler

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When I first sat down to watch 60s Batman fifteen years ago, I was blown away by the action and, of course, Batman!  Now, I watch the show for its tear-jerking comedy and scenery.  I have always been enamored with the elaborate set designs, which were like no other at that time (mainly because they were so expensive to build, as proven by the literally show-stopping season 3).  Some of the first episodes that I saw, and still think are some of the best, are “Joker Goes to School”/“He Meets His Match, the Gristly Ghoul.”  The most unique trait of 60s Batman is that it not only tells dramatic stories in a comedic way, but treats insignificant shenanigans as if they are life-threatening plots.

As with every Batman episode, it begins with the villain hatching a diabolical plot.  However, this episode is more ridiculous than most.  Joker rigs candy and drink machines to fill up with gold, silver, stocks, and bonds.  He uses these machines to lure students into criminal lifestyles. Although Batman figures this out early in the episode, Joker has much bigger plans to make his big bucks—at a big game between the five-year undefeated basketball team of Woodrow Roosevelt High School (where Dick Grayson attends) and Disco Tech.  Joker contacts Las Vegas’s own Pete “the Sweet” to make a little wager: $50,000 on Disco Tech, 20 to 1.  The final steps of his plan unfold as Joker attempts to get Woodrow Roosevelt basketball team expelled.  Can Batman stop this from happening?!

If you have seen this show, then you know that each arc brings something new to the table for our dynamic duo. This arc is no exception.  For the first time, audiences are introduced to the awesome Bat-shield and Bat-hand grenade.

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            I love that nobody notices that he was carrying this the entire time. Kids don’t drink!

Batman deploys this new device after utilizing Robin’s skills as an undercover spy.  For the first and only time we get to see Robin show his true acting chops.  After the dynamic duo discovers that sweet Suzie is working for the Joker, Batman decides that Robin must go in as Dick Grayson to see how much Suzie knows.  So what is going undercover you ask?  How about disguising yourself as a greaser and flirting with Suzie. (That makes sense.)batman-3

It’s cool, we can make out, I’m undercover!”

One of my favorite parts of every Batman episode is when the villain captures them, and dynamic duo must then escape.  This arc had the best set up for how they would later escape.  Early in the first episode, the mayor is asking Bruce Wayne to run for mayor.  He says to Bruce, “You could stop all the problems that are occurring in the city, such as power failures.”  This setup pays off when Joker and the Bad Pennies capture the duo and set them up in a Gambling Death Machine.

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“Robin, old chum, I think we are Bat-Screwed!”

The exciting thing is, Batman could not save himself and Robin from the machine. It was the city’s power failure that let them live!  Even I was pooping my pants when Batman had no crazy solution, since he usually does.  The duo’s save-by-coincidence was a breath of fresh air.

Now that Joker’s plan has been foiled, it’s time to deal with the leftovers.  Batman has always had interesting set pieces for fight scenes except for these episodes.  In order to make a fight scene in this Batman universe stick out, it has to have a crazy amount of objects breaking, the scenario has to be absurd, and/or the action itself is interesting to the point at which the viewer feels that the dynamic duo cannot win.  None of those elements are in this episode.  The Bad Pennies, when they finally do fight, prove to be no challenge for the dynamic duo.  Joker loses to a batarang to the head (after throwing sneezing powder on Batman and Robin).  The scope of the scene is also underwhelming, in that no one moves around a lot, and the choreography is stilted.  For a finale to such an exceptional two-parter, it did not get the action we deserve (no Dark Knight reference intended).

I decided to rate this episode based on the following criteria: the plot, interesting set pieces, the escape moment, and the fight scene.  I would also include acting, but the cast’s performances are consistently amazing in the same exact ways (at least throughout the first two seasons).

Plot: 8 – They use the Joker interestingly, but the plot doesn’t really develop till the final moments of the episodes.

Set Pieces: 8.8 – Bat Shield & Grayson undercover. I just wish they tried developing something in the first episode.

Escape Moment: 10 – The Best Escape moment of the show.  They set it up perfectly, and makes total sense.

Fight Scene: 6.5 – There was no fight scene in the first episode, and the finale scene do not have any highlights.  (At least you get to see the Bad Pennies suck.)

Overall Rating: 8.33 – Overall the episodes do a lot of things right.  It just so happens that they occur in the second episode more than the first episode.

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