Published on August 3rd, 2012 | by Mike Nugent0
Batman: Hi Diddle Riddle
The pilot episode features Frank Gorshin’s Riddler as the villain. His plot? Make it appear to Batman that he is stealing items from an art gallery. When Batman appears in order to stop the crime, he is met with the Riddler’s lawyers. Batman is now being sued for false arrest. The court date is looming, at which Batman will have to reveal his secret identity. He and Robin have until then to uncover the Riddler’s true plot and protect his identity.
While the plot is something so strange it could only come from a sixties television show, what makes this episode fantastic is the acting. All of the actors (except Neil Hamilton, playing Commissioner Gordon) are clearly aware of the comedy. But all are committed to the material. It has to be seen to be believed, from the energetic Burt Ward to Stafford Repp’s over the top Irish accent.
In watching the episode, you can’t help but think of its legacy and how its referred to in other programs. Lots of shows have parodied the campiness and the schlock, but none can capture the sheer intelligence of the writing. Everyone knows the ‘shark repellant Bat-spray’ from the 1966 film, but few talk of the line delivery, or the way the actors start pacing about Commissioner Gordon office when needing to decipher the week’s plot.
Don’t watch it for the stand out moments, but for the little moments in between.
Gordon: “You’ll never guess who’s on the loose. Your old archenemy; The Riddler.”
Batman: “Good heavens”
Robin: “Him again!”
Gordon: “Can you come down to headquarters right away?”
Batman: “It’ll be a pleasure Commissioner Gordon.”
At this point, the characters slide down the Batpoles featured above, and the iconic theme begins.
Its Place in History:
The William Dozier Batman series represented a profound directional shift in the portrayal of the Batman character, and one of the most remembered television series in history, despite only running three seasons.
Following the success of The Green Hornet, now known for starring Bruce Lee as Kato, ABC looked for another established property to reimagine in a quasi comedic 1960s context. Knowing that people such as Hugh Hefner had been enjoying the 1940s Batman serials and their bizarre but unintentional comedy gave ABC their inspiration. Remake Batman, but as a self conscious comedy.
Concurrently, sales of the Batman comics were tanking. DC Comics were out of ideas of what to do to revive the books’ popularity. The book Seduction of the Innocent had cast comic books such as Batman as a corrupting influence on children. Batman in particular had come under fire for the depiction of Batman’s relationship with Robin, which he saw as homoerotic. This led to Batman stepping away from its street crime style stories to less controversial science fiction stories. These were not well received by the public, as sales soon reflected. It was because of this that when ABC went to DC Comics with their proposal for a revamp of the character, they were willing to take that chance.
The show was so successful that it changed the public image of Batman. No longer was he someone who fought ugly street crime in dark alleys, but now he was hilarious and family friendly. Young people enjoyed the action, while older viewers enjoyed the humour. This image of Batman would remain dominant until the 1980s.