What’s The Story?

Batman and Robin are alerted to a series of thefts, involving cat-related items (a model catamaran, a catalogue, and mittens belonging to one Andrew S Kitten). As they correctly hypothesise, these thefts are being orchestrated by Catwoman, who they had previously presumed dead. Catwoman has been hiring the best cat burglars in Gotham, and has been getting them to perform these tasks as a way of weeding out the less able – she is now training the three remaining burglars in how to be more efficient criminals.

In order to capture Catwoman, Batman and Robin plant a story in a gossip column, claiming that a rare canary is to be exhibited at the Gotham Natural History Museum, expecting that Catwoman would be tempted to steal it. What Batman and Robin don’t know, though, is that the columnist Jack O’Shea, whom they contact with the story, is in fact an accomplice of the Catwoman, and lets her know the true story. Instead of capturing Catwoman, the dynamic duo are themselves captured.

After escaping from Catwoman’s death-trap, Batman and Robin go back to Wayne Manor, where they find Aunt Harriet dancing the Catusi, a new dance that has become all the rage thanks to it being popularised at the Pink Pussycat restaurant. Batman and Robin investigate, and find themselves trapped again.

Catwoman’s plan is to disguise herself as the reclusive millionaire Minerva Mathews, and to meet up with fellow reclusive millionaire Zubin Zucchini, ostensibly to buy two Stradivarius violins from him. In fact she plans to steal both the violins and Mathews’ money, but Zucchini reveals himself to be Robin in disguise, and Catwoman is apprehended.

Batman
“There is only one man who can deal with and eventually overcome that threat to our security”

Batman is fond of the Boy Scout motto “be prepared”. and tells Robin to keep it in mind at all times. He also warns Robin about the dangers of looking directly into the sun. Is a strong believer in good grammar, and also believes that he and Robin escape from their captors so often because their hearts are pure. He is convinced that all criminals eventually become over-confident.

He believes that veracity and rectitude always triumph, and his crimefighting leaves him with little time for social engagements. Nonetheless, he is clearly attracted to Catwoman – and not in her Miss Kitka alter ego, as before, but as Catwoman herself. He’s even seen to blush when she rubs up against him. This attraction does not, however, prevent him from arresting her or from testifying at her trial. Catwoman believes he has no breeding, while he believes she is no lady.

Batman pays parking meters even when on official business, as the money goes towards building better roads and we all must play our parts.

Robin
Likes rock and roll music as much as the next typical red-blooded young American teenager, but is not a fan of the musical stylings of Benedict Arnold and the Traitors. Gets excited by the prospect of solar eclipses. Thanks Batman for correcting his grammar. Epithets used: “Holy cliché”, “Holy weaponry”, “Holy Dart-agnan” “Holy epicure!” “Holy lovebirds!” “Holy bunions!” “Holy oleo” (Catwoman’s reply: “I didn’t know you could yodel”), “Holy taxation!”, “Holy alp!”

The Baddies

Catwoman
“The Princess of Plunder”, “the Countess of Criminality”, “the Marchioness of Misdemeanours”, or “a pretty hip cat”. Catwoman is once again played here by Julie Newmar, who had played the character in season one but had been absent for the film version. As always with this character, the sexual innuendo is ramped up considerably, and in particular the scene where she dismisses the other villains she could have had as paramours gets, for 1960s network television, rather close to the bone (she dismisses the Penguin because he’s “too small”).

When disguised as Minerva Matthews, she is unrecognisable, and also tips very generously indeed, giving a driver a thousand dollars.

Jack O’Shea
Batman thinks him too theatrical, but still considers him far more trustworthy than he actually is. Does not have an office, but works out of a phone booth at Glob’s drug store (motto: “where showbusiness greats spend their unemployment checks”). Catwoman considers him a “perfidious printsman”, but nonetheless listens to him.

O’Shea is very much a parody of a typical showbiz scenester, calling everyone “baby”, and I suspect from the way he’s scripted, and from Batman’s “too theatrical” jibe, that he is intended, like Alan A Dale in the previous episode, to be a homophobic stereotype too, though thankfully the performance (by Jack Kelly, most famous for his role as Bart Maverick in the long-running cowboy series Maverick) tones that down.

The Gadgets
Batman has Batjets which can lift an automobile miles into the air, and which can also be used to propel a broken elevator to the top of a building. Catwoman, meanwhile, has a pipe containing “liquid catatonia”, giant magnifying glasses which can focus the sun’s rays enough to burn people to death, and an extremely phallic-looking purple getaway rocket, which both she and O’Shea straddle.

Gotham City
Has several mountains, but no Mount Gotham. It does, however, have the 102-storey Gotham State Building.

What’s New?
Very little is new here, but what we do see is a refinement of the formula used in the previous episode. Both this story and the previous one have a male, coded-as-homosexual, character who takes much of the plot function that the villains’ molls generally took in the previous season. This is something that will recur throughout the remainder of the series, especially in scripts written by Stanley Ralph Ross.

Review
Another Stanley Ralph Ross script, but far more effective than the previous week’s effort. In part this is due to the Catwoman being a character he’d already written for – Ross’ first writing credit for the show was as co-writer on the Catwoman two-parter in the previous season – and in part it’s simply due to Julie Newmar being an infinitely better actor than Art Carney.

But it’s also down to Ross here having a slightly clearer idea of what made the show work. The point of the show was never, at least early on, to just be ridiculous. Rather, it was to straddle the line between comedy and the normal adventure series of the time as closely as possible. In an era when the most popular genre programming was Irwin Allen stuff like Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel, sticking to the standard elements of the genre but just raising one eyebrow slightly to show that you knew what you were doing was more than enough to create the comedy.

Ross’ previous solo effort as writer, the Archer two-parter, had been sabotaged by laziness, both in script and performance. Douglas Adams once said that the main problem he faced as script editor for Doctor Who was that whenever anything slightly funny happened in the script, the whole production team would say “it’s a funny bit, let’s have some fun with it”, and the end result would be something that was neither funny nor dramatic, when the script managed to be both. Something similar had happened with “Shoot a Crooked Arrow/Walk the Straight and Narrow”.

However, here, with a known villain, played by an actor who understood the series, there was a definite improvement. The script makes no sense, but we don’t expect it to – but everyone is back to acting as if it did, and that makes all the difference.

It also helps that at least some of the story seems once again to be about something. In this case we have the youth “revolution” – their music, their dance moves – being badly co-opted by an older generation, who get it wrong. The Batusi from the first episode has become the Catusi, and is now being danced by Aunt Harriet. Average American red-blooded teenagers like rock and roll – but they don’t like Benedict Arnold and the Traitors (a play on the then-popular band Paul Revere and the Raiders). We’ll be seeing much more of this sort of thing in the coming episodes, as the show becomes more self-conscious of its place in popular culture, and as 1966 turns into 67 and youth culture becomes altogether less co-optable.

Personnel

Cast
Adam West: Batman
Burt Ward: Robin
Julie Newmar: Catwoman
Jack Kelly: Jack O’Shea
Alan Napier: Alfred
Neil Hamilton: Commissioner Gordon
William Dozier: Narrator

Crew
William Dozier: Executive Producer/Creator
Stanley Ralph Ross:Writer
Don Weis: Director

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