The TOP 13 FILMATION BATMAN Episodes — RANKED

AN ANNIVERSARY SALUTE to the 1968 series, from the wonderfully ridiculous to the sublime…

Look, I get it — Batman: The Animated Series is the best Batman cartoon ever and maybe the best adventure cartoon, to boot. I would be foolish to argue otherwise.

But it doesn’t change the fact that the 1968 Adventures of Batman by Filmation — which debuted 53 years ago on Sept. 14, 1968 — is my all-time favorite Batman cartoon, my animated comfort food, one of my go-tos when I just have the TV on in the background.

I’ve written a lot about the show over the years and was even a regular guest on John S. Drew’s The Batcave Podcast, where we talked in depth about each episode of the series, which originally ran Saturday mornings on CBS from 1968 to ’69 before being repackaged by the network and then ultimately syndicated. (That’s how I discovered it in the early ’70s — on Channel 5 in New York.)

But y’know what I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t before? Rank the TOP 13 EPISODES of the series. I’ve done it for Batman ’66, Filmation Superman, Spider-Man ’67 and others, but never this show.

So here we are — THE TOP 13 FILMATION BATMAN ’68 EPISODES — RANKED:

13. Enter the Judge, by Denis Marks. Taking its cues from the live-action Batman ’66, the Filmation folks tried their hand at creating their own villains and, while he’s not the best of them, the Judge is fairly unsettling. The episode implies a murderousness that’s absent from other entries and there’s something decrepit about the twisted juror’s whole schtick – even if he more or less stole it from Two-Face, who never made it onto the series.

12. The Great Scarecrow Scare, By Bill Butler. The Scarecrow makes his screen debut but this version is less interested in fear than in farm-based gimmicks. The translation doesn’t quite work but points for giving it a shot.

11. A Game of Cat and Mouse, by Bill Keenen. Because Filmation used the same voice actors for various parts, it was easy to have villains team up, which the studio did with regularity. This one’s a fairly basic but entertaining Joker vs. Catwoman caper, with the Dynamic Duo trying to bring both down. And hey, any ep that features the Batmobile, Jokermobile and Catmobile (or Kitty Car or Catillac, if you prefer) gets bonus points from me.

10. Freeze’s Frozen Vikings, by Denis Marks. I’m picking this one for its sheer comic value: The whole subplot involving the misguided but well-meaning stereotypical harried professor chasing around the rampaging Vikings is just plain funny.

9. The Underworld Underground Caper, by Bill Butler. This one is most notable for its uncommon Catwoman/Riddler pairing. The Feline Fatale and Prince of Puzzlers combine resources to try to outsmart our heroes. They don’t succeed, of course, but there’s lots of cool subterranean scenery and even a hint of romance between our two villains.

8. The Joke’s on Robin, by George Kashdan. A classic Silver Age contrivance: The Joker sabotages Robin’s crime-fighting prowess and the Boy Wonder is benched – while a surprisingly opportunistic Batgirl steps right in to become Batman’s partner. A disconsolate Dick Grayson licks his wounds, but then discovers he’s been set up — and the Joker’s days of freedom are numbered.

7. Will the Real Robin Please Stand Up? by Oscar Bensol. The most Robin-centric episode and a Casey Kasem tour de force. A trouble-making kid who looks exactly like Dick Grayson – but with blond hair – is discovered by Catwoman, who trains the boy to become Robin’s evil twin. Fake Robin even discovers Batman’s identity – but the real Robin helps save the day.

6. Simon the Pieman, by Denis Marks. I’ve said this before: Simon the Pieman would have made a great Batman ’66 villain, played by Edward G. Robinson. (Others say Jonathan Winters, which is hard to argue against.) The sequel episode is also solid but this one is filled with lots of presumably unintentional humor and lots of oversized traps. Classic ingredients for a mid-century Batman story.

5. Hizzoner the Joker, by Denis Marks. Unlike the live-action show, The Adventures of Batman was aimed squarely at the kids. But this is one episode that works on a whole other level for adults: Marks gives us a devastating political satire that echoes Batman ’66’s Hizzoner the Penguin. Both were pretty damn prescient too.

4. How Many Herring in a Wheelbarrow? by Bill Keenen. The first episode has a little too much flab but it features the series’ single best sequence – when the Joker traps the Dynamic Duo on an underground slide, where Batman and Robin hurtle toward a fiery doom in a furnace carved in ebony to look like the Joker’s face. Great visuals.

3. The Jigsaw Jeopardy, by Denis Marks. Hands down one of the strangest installments, this battle between the Riddler and the Terrific Trio has an episodic structure held together by a series of oddball, often nonsensical scenes. I still can’t figure out why Batgirl felt she needed to dress up as Robin. All the wackiness adds up to one of the most purely entertaining entries, even if very little of it makes sense.

2. From Catwoman With Love, by Bob Haney. An episode I remember almost as clearly from childhood as I do from watching it the other day. Things get off to a groovy start with Batman cleverly disposing of booby-trapped Valentine’s “gifts” from his rogues gallery and continue with an involving Bat and Cat game of pursuit that features some of the best action of the series. A classic.

1. Partners In Peril, by George Kashdan. The relatively recent Batman ’66 animated films notwithstanding, this is the closest we’ve ever come to a bona fide sequel to the 1966 Batman feature film. Roll call: Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman. This episode is so jammed with set pieces and showdowns that it feels like a special episode all on its own. Not only that, Partners In Peril emphasizes – as the series did throughout its run – that Catwoman is the smartest of the villains, even if she does have that awful screechy voice. First rate, all the way.

MORE

— The FILMATION BATMAN Index of Features. Click here.

— 13 GREAT THINGS About Filmation’s 1968 BATMAN Cartoon. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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3 Comments

  1. It was really fun to see Batgirl pull a “Jill St. John in “The Jigsaw Jeopardy”. Very silly episode, but very enjoyable as well!

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  2. Still my all-time favorite Batman THEME, that’s for sure! But I crack up every time I watch “From Catwoman with Love” when the world’s greatest detective can’t figure out how Catwoman always seems to be one step ahead of the Dynamic Duo…. while driving around with a cat gifted from the villain sitting right behind him in the Batmobile.

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  3. The series had such great writers. A great combination of DC writers (Kashdan, Haney) & Filmation writers (Denis Marks). Bill Keenen also wrote some great snarky Penguin scripts as well. Good stuff!

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