13 QUICK THOUGHTS: In Defense of the Final Season of BATMAN ’66

BATMAN ’66 WEEK: Season 3 had plenty going for it…

It’s BATMAN ’66 WEEK — celebrating the 50th anniversary of the show’s final episode! For the complete index of features, click here.

Well, here we are. It’s the 50th anniversary of the final episode of Batman ’66.

Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires, starring Special Guest Villainess Zsa Zsa Gabor, aired March 14, 1968, and that was that. The show that began as a pop-culture phenomenon went out with something of a whimper.

In the decades that followed, die-hard fans have called out the overall lower quality of the third and final season of the show, pointing out its shortened episodes (no more standard two-parters); slashed budgets (hello, redecorated black-room sets); and increase in ever-sillier and annoying villains (Nora Clavicle, Dr. Cassandra, Minerva).

But Season 3 had plenty of high points too — and not just within those episodes that ran from Sept. 14, 1967, until the end. No, there were plenty of peaks that stood tall with the best this series had to offer.

So, in honor of the series finale, here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: In Defense of the Final Season of BATMAN ’66:

1. Enter Batgirl. Yvonne Craig not only was the best part of Season 3, she saved the entire thing. Even the weakest episodes were elevated by her never-say-die performances. She also made Batgirl a household name — which has lasted to this very day.

2. The Wail of the Siren. The season’s overall best episode ranks among the series’ top entries. It features a great Batgirl-Robin team-up that presages their Batman Family comics run (and subsequent romance), as well as a spellbinding performance by Joan Collins as the titular villain. (Click here for more on the episode.)

3. Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under! The Wail of the Siren may be tighter on the whole, but there’s no Season 3 episode that’s more outright entertaining than Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under! Haters may roll their eyes — but they hate fun. The epic Gotham Point surf-off episode — featuring Skip, Buzzy, Duke, Undine, Johnny Green and the Greenmen and Barbara Gordon’s magical one-piece swimsuit — is pure satirical majesty. Batman was never campier — and I mean that in the best way possible. (Which is why it actually ranked higher in our Top 13 Episode Countdown. Click here.)

4. Eartha Kitt Rocked.

5. King Tut Invades the Batcave. Victor Buono was never better than when his delusional ruler of the Nile burst into the Batcave and (briefly) discovered Batman’s secret identity in I’ll Be a Mummy’s Uncle. Nobody could chew the scenery like Buono and he was never chewier than here — especially when he beats the tar out of a Batman dummy.

6. Billy May’s Score. Nelson Riddle’s classic incidental music was largely dispensed with for the third season, replaced by Billy May’s up-tempo compositions. Riddle’s Batmusic was the stuff of magic (click here) but May’s sexier style fit the fight scenes that now had Batgirl in the mix.

7. Anne Baxter Returns. Zelda the Great was great, sure. But Anne Baxter was really able to cut loose as the Queen of the Cossacks, frequently upstaging her sniveling paramour, Egghead.

8. The Siamese Human Knot. The Nora Clavicle episode may well be the series’ lowest point. But it did give us this:

9. Batman and Robin Quick Change Tablets. Louie the Lilac thinks he’s got Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson right where he wants them in Louie’s Lethal Lilac Time. But ever-crafty Bruce has two tablets hidden in his ascot. He puts them in two glasses of warm water — and presto! — their Batman and Robin costumes unfold so they can suit up. Barry Allen would be jealous.

10. Batgirl’s Revolving Wall and Secret HQ.

11. A Trip to Londinium. Not the three best episodes — but there’re a lot of great period gags and references to London, the Official Capital of the Swingin’ Sixties. Hindsight being 20/20, Batman would not have been complete without this trip.

12. Riddler vs. Batman: The Fight of the Century. The episode doesn’t really stand up for 15 rounds but it’s still a silly kick to see Batman and the Riddler goe toe to toe in the ring, boxing trunks and all. And at least we got one last look at Frank Gorshin in the Riddler’s bright green jumpsuit.

13. All Those Villains. The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra actually has two great bits: One is when Batman, Robin and Batgirl are flattened into two-dimensional images. The other is when Batman’s villains are busted out of jail. Now, none of the actors who played Joker, Penguin, etc., are there — it’s all stunt doubles. And the big Batfight takes place in the dark. But the mere idea of our three heroes taking on all those bad guys is, well, entrancing.

Really, I could go on. There’s Batman as a dinosaur. There’s the Batgirl vs. Dick Grayson vs. Penguin horse race. There’s Joker and Catwoman teaming up. Hell, there’s even Catwoman’s Kitty Car. But 13 QUICK THOUGHTS it is, so I’ll turn it back over to Minerva, who brings us to …

MORE: For the BATMAN ’66 WEEK Index of features, click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. I agree that Season 3 was all about Batgirl. And, I did enjoy the London 3-parter but some of your other favorites I must disagree on. I especially loathe the surfing one. Even as I child I knew it looked too silly to wear your suit over your street clothes. Finally, the Batman as a dinosaur was so much fun because it was a reused monster from Lost in Space. If only NBC had picked it up and returned it to what made season 1 so great.

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  2. Good points Dan. The third season certainly has some good things to offer, and you did a great job on distilling those down. Much like season 3 of its contemporary, Star Trek, Batman Season 3 isn’t the best, but some of the show’s overall best elements still shine through.

    Mostly Batgirl!


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  3. I think Batgirl was ok but she didn’t make season 3 for me at all. At first I really enjoyed her, but after the Jockey Penguin stories she went from being heroic to being an annoying, pouty little girl that had to be rescued every episode. The writers lost vision of the characters great beginning episodes. I blame them, not Yvonne.

    There were so many other things I enjoyed much more in season 3. I loved most having Frank return as Riddler. I also loved Joker’s surfing episode. Jockey Penguin story was one of the only episodes that season that felt like a season 2 episode story and it was such a welcomed reminder of a better time for the series. I adored both Siren and Olga…fierce dynamic women they both were. In a season where most of the new villains were bottom of the barrel, these two ladies shined. I also give credit to Eartha bringing her own into the role of Catwoman. Where John failed taking on Riddler, Eartha did a good job. No Julie, but still very enjoyable as Catwoman and awesome chemistry with Yvonne’s Batgirl. I also enjoyed Louie The Lilac (especially his first episode) and it was great having 3 episodes with Egghead!! Shame’s return was another great reminder of a season 2 episode. King Tut in the Batcave was fantastic. I too enjoyed the London 3 parter, it was nice seeing the 3 heroes work separately as well as together to bring down Lord Fogg.

    I only wish the series ended with the better Dr. Cassandra episode instead of Minerva. It was a more fun story and as a final goodbye we would have seen Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, King Tut and Egghead (doubles or not) one last time.

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    • You’re 100 percent right — Dr. Cassandra would have been a better choice than Minerva for a final episode! Good idea!

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  4. One of my highlights of season 3 was the final fight between Batman and Shame! It was always a treat to see the Caped Crusader fight by his lonesome, and this battle on the deserted street was a nice change of pace! Very reminiscent of a fight in the comics!

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  5. As someone who watched these when they first aired, I loved this post. My biggest regret is that I didn’t have the foresight as a 7-10 year old to take care of, and keep, my Batman lunchbox and thermos! That one, and my Munsters lunchbox. Why couldn’t I see 50 years into the future?

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  6. If only. If only the sets hadn’t been torn down. If only NBC had gotten the show. If only they could have come back from some of the “missteps” of Season Three. If only they could have brought back the two part cliffhangers. If only they could have brought back some of the one and done characters. If only foresight were as 20/20 as hindsight… A lot of other ’60’s shows would have reached a Fourth Season…

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  7. I thought the shame episodes would have been the perfect way to end the series. The terrific trio working together. The showdown between Batman and Shame. And Batman looking into the camera saying good always triumphs over evil!

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