What’s The Story?

The Archer, a Robin Hood-themed criminal who uses trick arrows to perform his crimes, has been stealing cash from the rich, including from Bruce Wayne, and then giving it away to get the public to support him. After he’s caught, the poor people of Gotham gather together their pennies in order to pay his bail, and he promises never to rob from the rich to give to the poor again – but in fact he plans to rob the poor and give the money to himself!

With the help of Alan A Dale, his inside man in the Wayne Foundation, the Archer steals ten million dollars that the Foundation was planning to give to the poor of Gotham, and replaces it with forgeries featuring his own face. Both “Batman” and Bruce Wayne see the forgeries being given out – as Batman is required to guard the money, and Wayne is meant to be there in his capacity as head of the Wayne Foundation, Alfred disguises himself as Batman.

Thankfully, Batman and Robin manage to defeat the Archer.

The Goodies
Batman
Can tell that Dick Clark is from Philadelphia because he dips his dipthongs. It’s rumoured that he has a machine in his Batcave that can predict any criminal’s next heist. Can recognise a particular type of guillotine as a fake one used by stage magicians. Believes that he should presume Dale’s innocence until given definitive proof of his guilt. While he drives fast when chasing criminals, as a duly deputised law officer, the rest of the time he drives extremely carefully, and in his spare time gives talks on safe driving at driving schools.

Robin

Has very little to do in this story, other than knowing that the “historical” Robin Hood was the Earl of Huntingdon (or Huntington as they say here, in their determined efforts to get everything about England wrong – he’s also wrong about this, as the earliest Robin Hood ballads from the 13th century, have him as a yeoman, and the Earldom being applied to him is a later, 16th-century, addition). Epithets used: “Holy Houdini!”, “Holy Inquisition!”, “Holy hostage!”, “Holy deviltry!”, “Holy Blackbeard!”

Alfred
Was apparently known, in his youth, as the William Tell of Liverpool (possibly the single most implausible thing in the whole 1960s TV series – Napier’s Alfred has very clearly never been north of Birmingham) due to his prowess with the bow and arrow. He can shoot well enough to split an arrow through its shaft, multiple times – as he proves when undercover at the Archer’s archery range, but later, when shooting an apple he’d asked Robin (who refused) to put on his head, he misses and shoots where Robin’s head would have been.

From this, and from his “comedy” Britishisms (referring to “Merry old England” and calling a dollar a “pound note”), one can easily get an impression, completely unintended by the writer, of Alfred as being secretly resentful of his patronising American employers, trying to wind them up on any occasion, seeing just how ridiculous his lies about Britain could be, and secretly wishing he could just shoot the teenager in the head.

However, he says “to serve you in any capacity, sir, has always been my duty and my pleasure” and is willing to go to his own presumed death in the Archer’s guillotine, and to dress in Batman’s costume when circumstances require Batman and Bruce Wayne to be in the same place at the same time, so if this compulsion is real it’s probably subconscious, simmering below the surface…

The Baddies
The Archer

“That rapacious rapscallion” “That malfeasant marksman”

A Robin Hood-themed criminal who uses the name Earl Huntington, and runs an archery range at 88 Sherwood Ave in the Greenfield area of Gotham. He speaks in pseudo-Shakespearean language, but has a thick New York accent. He’s played here by Art Carney, who was at the time in a lull in his career, after his role as Ed Norton in the classic sitcom The Honeymooners finished, but before he beat Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1974.

Unfortunately, his performance here doesn’t give much indication of his ability either to beat out several of the best cinema actors of all time or to be a mainstay of a beloved sitcom. While the concept of the character having a working-class New York accent but speaking in supposedly-refined language is one that could work, Carney here gives the most phoned-in performance I’ve seen in this series so far.

Maid Marilyn
A brassy blonde who speaks in much the same accent as the Archer, but uses phrases like “youze goize” and doesn’t understand his archaic language. According to the Archer she’s a “kindergarten dropout”. Takes Batman’s side in the final fight. Drives a van for the Trojan Hearse Company.

Alan A Dale
The Archer’s man in the Wayne Foundation, he is very clearly coded as gay (for example being interested in fashion, commenting on how “chic” Batman’s cape is). Given that he’s living a double life and is pretending to be something he isn’t, this unfortunately shows that the knowing campness of the series doesn’t always equal toleration of sexual minorities.

The Archer’s Merry Men
Crier Tuck and Big John, two generic henchmen who have the same schtick as the Archer and do it rather better than him. Tuck is played by Doodles Weaver, a well-known comic actor who had performed with Spike Jones for many years. Weaver is probably best known these days for his voiceover on Jones’ version of the William Tell Overture, in which he plays a horserace commentator, and for his niece Sigourney, but he had a long career doing everything from his own children’s show to writing for Mad magazine to appearing in both The Monkees and The Birds. He’s pretty much wasted here though.

The Gadgets
The Archer has a variety of arrows that give off bright flashes, temporarily blinding people, or emit knockout gas, or sneezing powder. He also has a machine, stolen from a producer of comedy programmes for the TV, which he uses to create the sound of applause or laughter when he does something he feels deserves such reactions.

Batman has a bat-speech-imitator that allows Alfred to speak in his voice. He also has a Batfile, which allows him to look up data in much the same way as one would use a search engine today. The most useful gadgets, though, are the bat-springs included in the soles of his and Robin’s boots, which allow them to bounce up off the poles they’re tied to and escape the Archer’s fiendish trap.

Gotham City
Has a Commissioner In Charge Of Poor People. Fire Cove is the last place you see when leaving the US for Europe by boat (thus confirming Gotham as being on the East Coast).

What’s New?
The Archer himself is new, but other than that, very little on screen. We see the first use of the Bat-boat in the series (as with all appearances, this is footage from the film, which had been released two weeks before), and the captions in the fights (“Zap-eth! Thwacke! Wham-eth! Clunk-eth! Thwape!”) are now intertitles rather than being superimposed, as a cost-cutting measure.

Review
“Stale is a better adjective, Robin”

This is the first solo script by Stanley Ralph Ross, who would go on to write more episodes of the series than anyone else, being the principal writer for seasons two and three the way Lorenzo Semple was for season one. Unfortunately…it’s pretty terrible. It’s easily the least interesting story to date, and that’s partly because of the script, which is largely devoid of any wit or lightness of touch, but the story is hamstrung by Carney’s useless performance.

What we do see here, though, is the formula that would be used every episode of this season. We now have “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel” at the end of episode one as the norm, we have the wall-climbing with a celebrity cameo happening regularly, and we have an invented-for-the-TV one-off villain played by a bigger star than they could get in season one.

Future stories will do the same things more interestingly, but this is unfortunately right at the point where they’ve ironed out all the idiosyncrasies that made the first season interesting, but haven’t quite put anything in their place.

Personnel

Cast
Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
Art Carney: The Archer
Barbara Nichols: Maid Marilyn
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew
William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Stanley Ralph Ross:Writer
Sherman Marks: Director

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