I like to think I’m not the only person in this world who grew up watching reruns of the classic late 1960s super-hero series Batman starring Adam West in the titular role. Oh yea, and let me not fail to give credit to Burt Ward, who played Dick Grayson, who was Bruce Wayne’s… well, ward. Interesting, not to mention more than a bit trippy, how things like that tend to work out.
And of course, Grayson was Batman’s useful sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder, the kid who had the courage to run around fighting crime wearing a thin domino mask, a yellow cape, and a pair of green underoos. I guess Bruce Wayne didn’t want his partner to wear a costume that would in any way detract from the coolness factor of his own set of leotards. I think Robin was damn lucky that the Joker never tried to “pants” him during one of their many onomatopoeia-filled throw downs, since you would think that was totally something a sadistic guy like the Clown Prince of Crime would do during such a melee… not only for laughs, but also to get revenge for the humiliation of having his goons get their arses kicked despite enjoying such a huge strength of numbers ratio.
“Look, Batman, the Boy Blunder is returning my smile with a sideways smile of his own! *cue Cesar Romero’s distinctive “Joker” laugh*”
You’d also think it would be rather easy to pull off that domino mask and expose something even more private than the Boy Wonder’s derriere to a gang of criminal miscreants. I always wondered if the Dynamic Duo had some type of behind-the-scenes arrangement with his famed rogues gallery to prevent such obvious things from being done, or at least repeatedly attempted.
Of course, we’re not supposed to ask questions like that. Rather, we’re expected to simply sit back and enjoy a great bit of psychedelic, totally ’60s form of entertainment. I always felt watching H.R. Puffnstuff was the better choice for that, or maybe to catch a showing of the Beatles’ other-worldly exploits in The Yellow Submarine animated flick, or one of the retro-tastic Austin Powers movies. But hey, you can’t overlook the similar enjoyable elements present in what we are today often calling and fondly remembering as Batman ’66. Because, yanno, that was the year the series premiered, in case one or two of you couldn’t figure out what the numerals were for.
BATMAN: “Hello, is this the Green Hornet? Yeah, listen, Robin is very upset, so I have to tell you that if you ever pull his underoos down again during a battle sequence, we won’t allow you to guest star on our show any more.
“Listen, smart ass, I already told you that he didn’t mean that low blow, you just happen to be much taller than him!
“And if you want to accuse my side of fighting dirty, I didn’t exactly appreciate where that chauffeur of yours kicked me, either!”
Now don’t get me wrong, I too grew up loving that show, and I still love it to this day. I catch its reruns each Saturday on the Me network whenever I happen to be home. The colorful, campy, and quasi-satirical tone of this not-so-dark version of the Dark Knight isn’t my fav interpretation of the character by a long shot, and it certainly pays no respect to his truly dark comic book roots. Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate what it did have to offer, and I can fully understand the resurgence in popularity that this version of the character has had during the past few years. Go, Batman ’66!
Unfortunately, my esteemed readers, nitpicking such classic and iconic TV series is something that I’m prone to do. This has always been among my many shortcomings, and unfortunately I’m not about to change at this point in my life. I must admit that I find this attribute too much fun to change, anyway. So, please do indulge me as I vent about a few things I noticed in the show while otherwise enjoying a rerun on Me TV earlier this evening. These things tend to bother me, so I’ll respond by bothering the rest of you with my complaints and observations about it; that’s only fair, right? Muah-hah-hah!
ALAN HALE: “*Screams* Geezus, I’m sorry, um, Batman… I thought it was squirrels I heard climbing up the side of the building! Don’t worry, your, um, secret is safe with me. *nervous giggle*”
ROBIN: “Holy flippin’ exposure, Batman! And I do mean exposure! I told you that halfway up the side of the skyscraper wouldn’t be safe for, um, this!”
BATMAN: “Quiet, old bum — er, I mean, old chum — I’ll handle this.
“Citizen, I assure you, all we were doing was testing the durability of Robin’s new shorts against friction — er, the air friction from climbing up buildings, that is! Understood?”
ALAN HALE: “*Nervous giggle* Erm, like I said, Batman, your secret about Robin’s friction is safe with me. Er, um, you know what I mean.”
First off, why in the hell did Bruce and Dick share their secret with Alfred, but not Aunt Harriet? Why was their surrogate father worthy of the truth and allowed to offer a helping hand in their exploits, but not the lady who passed for their two-in-one surrogate mother and maid? At least I think that what Aunt Harriet was supposed to be doing in Wayne Manor was roughly equivalent to what Aunt Bea was doing in the Sheriff Andy Taylor’s happy but considerably smaller home. I couldn’t see any other purpose for her being there, other than boring the hell out of Dick by making him do things like taking those piano lessons. Then again, she couldn’t possibly have been more useless at Wayne Manor than Chief O’Hara was at what was apparently Gotham City’s only police station.
BRUCE WAYNE: “Um, Alfred, do you think Aunt Harriet would let me borrow Dick for a while? It seems King Tut is on the loose again, and he’s locked the attorney general in an air tight sarcophagus. There’s no time to lose!”
ALFRED: “My abject apologies, sir, but I’m afraid Madam Harriet is adamant that Master Dick finish his yodeling lessons before going out this fine evening.”
And c’mon now, Wayne Manor was a big ass manse, so one might think Alfred could use a hand with the cooking and cleaning, right? Or am I missing something here? Okay, maybe it’s best not to speculate any further on this one, considering the stuff that Dr. Frederic Wertham dreamed up while conducting similar musings on the Wayne household during the ’50s in his uber-paranoid book Seduction of the Innocent that led to the comic book’s editor introducing Aunt Harriet into the series in the first place. Maybe Alfred just got lonely sometimes when Bruce and Dick were off cape crusading and solving the Riddler’s riddles. Okay, I had best stop now.
ALFRED: “May I remind you, madam, that Master Bruce and The Dick are planning to be out quite late this evening?” *wink; glare*
AUNT HARRIET: “Oh, Alfred! You manly man, you! Hee hee hee…”
AUNT HARRIET: “You know, your voices sound very familiar, boys. Good heavens, if I could only place them…”
Anyway, back to the original point: what was so inherently untrustworthy about Aunt Harriet? I really can’t accept the argument that the three men of the manse believed that knowing the truth would put Aunt Harriet in danger, because that poor old woman still got kidnapped more often than Alfred did. So much for her ignorance keeping her out of danger! Maybe Bruce and Dick had a sadistic enjoyment of seeing how long they could pull the woolen capes over the myopic eyes of Aunt Harriet, and Alfred went along with it since he didn’t want to ruin the way cool and high-paying gig he had at the mansion (even if it did mean being kidnapped and tortured on occasion; no job is perfect! And as I said, Aunt Harriet tended to get kidnapped more often than he did anyway…).
A face that, evidently, only a mother could trust.
And sorry, but that’s not all I’m going to gripe about this time around (yup, you correctly discerned the implication that this might not be the last post of this nature that I inflict on my readers! Hey, what can I say? I’ve got a lot of this tripe to get out of my system!).
Next we come to the point of that funky red emergency phone that Commissioner Gordon used to use call Batman at Wayne Manor, while presumably assuming the call went to wherever Batman and Robin actually lived. I’d say don’t get me started on that, but it’s too late, as I already have gotten started on it.
First of all, I couldn’t help noticing that Gordon kept a glass encasement over the phone that he removed just before using it. What purpose did that damn thing serve? Okay, some of you may argue that the glass encasement was to keep dust from getting into what may have been highly sensitive components of that uber-rare, two-of-a-kind type of phone. But I can’t fully buy that explanation, because the identical one at Wayne Manor had no such glass encasement over it. Was Alfred and Aunt Harriet simply trusted a lot more to keep the red phone at the manor clean and dust free than Chief O’Hara was with its counterpart in the Commissioner’s office? I mean, Chief O’Hara had to have some purpose to justify his paycheck, right? Since catching criminals certainly didn’t seem to be part of his job description — Gotham City didn’t seem to have much use for the police department as long as Batman and Robin were on the job — I’m guessing that a glorified office cleaner who was allowed to dress in a lawman’s outfit and to be addressed as “Chief” to feel more important may explain things. Hey, it worked for Barney Fife over in Mayberry, correct?
COMMISSIONER GORDON: “Dammit, O’Hara, you forgot to put the glass casing over the phone again after cleaning it! Can’t you do even a simple job like that around here?”
CHIEF O’HARA: “Blimey! My apologies, sir! It just musta’ slipped me mind since I cleaned that phone before having me afternoon cup of Earl Grey! Ye know I’m always rather wonky between me second and third lunch break!”
Which reminds me of another thing about that freakin’ red phone, particularly the one at Wayne Manor. I’m going to go out on a limb here and presume that Bruce Wayne had something like a social life, and at least occasionally had guests over at the mansion. I mean, if you owned a place like that, wouldn’t you want to show it off sometimes?
Anyway, wouldn’t the guests have seen that red phone where Wayne kept it in plain sight? That thing isn’t exactly easy to overlook. And wouldn’t some of them inquire as to why he was the only person in Gotham, and probably on the entire planet, who had a phone that looked exactly like the one Commissioner Gordon had?
For that matter, didn’t Aunt Harriet ever bother to ask about why the hell Bruce kept that odd-looking phone around? Didn’t she ever answer it when it rang (okay, when it beeped), only to be dumbstruck when she heard Commissioner Gordon on the line asking for Batman? Are we to assume that Aunt Harriet would herself simply assume that Gordon had dialed the wrong number? And that he seemed to “accidentally” dial Bruce’s number when trying to call Batman on a regular basis? Okay, I understand that Aunt Harriet wasn’t exactly the sharpest blade in Deathstroke the Terminator’s arsenal, but frankly, is anyone actually that dense?
COMMISSIONER GORDON: “Hello, Batman, the Joker is on the loose again, and he just kidnapped the mayor, and has threatened to make him drink a bottle of Ace Chemical laxative every hour until we pay him the ungodly sum of ten thousand dollars, and — wait, who is this? Harriet Grayson? Oh, I’m sorry to bother you again like this…”
AUNT HARRIET: “Hee hee, oh, it’s alright, Commissioner, I’m quite used to it by now. But you really should look into getting the line on your phone fixed. I mean, I was just eating when you told me that.”
COMMISSIONER GORDON: “Dear lord, my apologies, Ms. Grayson. I can’t imagine why I so often end up getting Wayne Manor whenever I try to phone Batman’s secret headquarters.”
AUNT HARRIET: “Oh, don’t give it another thought, dear. I couldn’t imagine why that would happen either.”
Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll let all of my fellow fans of the show go back to enjoying it without thinking about any of the above (not that you’ll be able to get it out of your minds and ever be able to enjoy the show as much now that I pointed all of that out, muah-hah-hah!). But hey, if anyone can provide some answers for the above conundrums, by all means leave them here in the comments section! You won’t get the equivalent of a Marvel No-Prize from me (anyone remember those?), but you will at least give me the satisfaction of knowing I’m not the only person in the world who spends his spare time pointlessly analyzing TV shows like this 😛
“Let me tell you, Harriet, I go through the same shenanigans with my Andy and Opie that you do with your Bruce and Dick. At least you have that strapping Alfred to keep you company when those two are out, so your job there isn’t completely without reward. Hee!
“And would you believe that Opie got a C- on his civics test and he and Andy elected to keep me ignorant of that fact? Of all the nerve! I’m sure your boys wouldn’t keep any secrets from you, dearie!”