The Purr-fect finish …
We’re here! The 50th anniversary of Batman’s TV debut! Adam West and Burt Ward started it all on Jan. 12, 1966.
For the last 13 days, we’ve counted down our Top 13 episodes. Gotta tell you, it’s been worlds of Batfun. So continue to bring on those comments — either here or in whichever social-media thread you found this. We want to hear your thoughts!
And for more info on our latest Batman ’66 celebration, click here.
Now, in case you missed them:
13. True or False Face/Holy Rat Race (click here!)
12. Green Ice/Deep Freeze (click here!)
11. The Wail of the Siren (click here!)
10. That Darn Catwoman/Scat! Darn Catwoman (click here!)
9. A Piece of the Action/Batman’s Satisfaction (click here!)
8. Surf’s Up, Joker’s Under (click here!)
7. The Contaminated Cowl/The Mad Hatter Runs Afoul (click here!)
6. Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese (click here!)
5. Pop Goes the Joker/Flop Goes the Joker (click here!)
4. Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin’s a Jinx (click here!)
3. The Joker Goes to School/He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul (click here!)
2. Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle (click here!)
Finally, No. 1 …
The Purr-fect Crime/Better Luck Next Time. There’s one. Just one. Just one episode of Batman ’66 that gives you everything you want from this show: Adventure, humor, drama, camp, great music, an epic deathtrap, a magnificent villain, enormous amounts of sex appeal and, yes, even pathos.
As great as this series is on so many levels to so many people for so many different reasons, Julie Newmar’s debut as Catwoman is the only episode that has it all.
I’ll start at the middle: The extended death-trap sequence, from the moment when Batman and Robin are lured into the dungeon toward the end of Part 1, all the way through to Robin’s rescue in Part 2, is hands down the best 10-12 minutes of sheer entertainment the show ever produced.
The fake bomb, the spikes on the wall as they close in, the discovery that the spikes are fake, Robin’s kidnapping via pneumatic tube, “the lady or the tiger,” the tiger, Batman’s defeat of the tiger, Batman’s trip through the catacombs, Robin dangling over the pit of tigers, Batman swinging in to rescue him, Catwoman taunting them through it all. Brilliant, exciting, electric. The show was never better.
Julie Newmar was the first Catwoman but owned the role so thoroughly that all others who followed her were basically doing a variation of what she perfected immediately in 1966.
But this is more than just Julie Newmar’s splendid performance. This is a taut caper — written by Stanley Ralph Ross and Lee Orgel and directed by James Sheldon— that highlights the show’s entertaining strengths while reining in what would become its worst impulses: It’s witty without being silly.
It also highlights what’s become an internal, informal theme for me as I’ve written about the 13 episodes on this countdown: Some of the show’s best, most compelling moments are night scenes, or at least scenes in darkened spaces. For a show known for its bright hues, it was often at its most interesting in shadow. Perhaps that owes something to Batman’s roots or perhaps night in Gotham City always seemed so glamorous.
Though it’s highly unlikely, I like to think that the producers of GAF’s View-Master reels knew precisely what they were doing when they selected this episode to be the one immortalized in stereoptic glory for a generation of fans for whom VCRs and DVRs and Blu-rays were years away. With View-Master, I was able to “watch” this episode over and over, committing scenes to memory.
Perhaps that’s why I remember this one so clearly. More likely, I remember this one so clearly because it’s so clearly memorable.
In every way, this episode stands up across the decades as the show’s Platonic ideal.
Now, check out our 50th anniversary interview with JULIE NEWMAR about landing the role of a lifetime. Click here!