Episode Title: Hi Diddle Riddle
Original Airdate: January 12, 1966
One of the hallmarks of the 1966 Batman series was its collection of villains. Not just the villains themselves, but the amazing actors enlisted to portray them. The first episode of the series, very appropriately, features one of the series’ most iconic villains. Frank Gorshin makes his debut as the Riddler in Hi Diddle Riddle.
Our story begins at the World’s Fair being held in Gotham City. An event celebrating good relations with the US is happening at the pavilion for the country of Moldavia. However, as the ambassador slices the cake it explodes. A message tied to a mini parachute slowly floats to the ground. The message reads “Why is an orange like a bell?” It’s obvious that the Riddler is on the loose, so Commissioner Gordon picks up the red phone and calls the caped crusaders.
Of course, Batman and Robin work out the riddle quickly. An orange is like a bell because both are peeled (or pealed). The clue is obvious, the Riddler plans to strike at the Peale Art Gallery. When the dynamic duo arrive, they find the Riddler robbing the owner at gunpoint. Of course, they stop the villain, but are then surprised by a team of photographers. This is all a part of Riddler’s plan…you see, the gun is just a lighter, there was no robbery at all. So the Riddler then presents Batman with a $1 million lawsuit.
This is a problem, not because of the money, but because in court Batman would be forced to reveal his true identity. Luckily, the heroes find another riddle hidden in the lawsuit document. This leads them to a club called the What A Way To Go-Go. Because Robin is underage, he can’t go in to investigate with Batman, so he hangs in the car. Inside, Batman dances with the lovely Molly (Jill St. John) who is actually working with Riddler, before some drugged orange juice causes him to look like a drunken fool. Meanwhile, Robin is captured by the Riddler’s men and taken to his lair. That brings us to the cliffhanger end of this episode.
Can Batman find him in time?
Is this the ghastly end of our Dynamic Duo???
Same time, same channel!
The worst is yet to come!
While I love Adam West and Burt Ward’s portrayals of the Caped Crusaders, this first episode is a prime example of what makes this show so fantastic…the villains. It is fitting that this first episode features Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. In my opinion he is the series’ greatest villain. Prior to playing the Riddler, Gorshin was known primarily as an impressionist. He would make frequent appearances on The Tonight Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. Today he is most remembered for playing the Riddler, and with good reason. Gorshin’s wide-eyed expressions, cat-like agility, and insane cackle pretty much defined the character for years to come. The Riddler was actually a very minor Batman villain in the comics before this show came along. Over the course of 20 years, he had only appeared in the comics three times. Gorshin’s portrayal, however, propelled the character into the realm Batman’s most popular foes. It’s very apparent why in this episode. Gorshin brings an incredible manic energy to the part that is both hilarious and sinister.
This episode also establish another hallmark of the series…the lovely ladies of Gotham City. Let me tell you, they don’t come much lovelier than future Bond-girl Jill St. John. She really only plays a small role in this episode, which I’m trusting is set up for a bit bigger appearance in the next episode. Still, she makes the screen absolutely sizzle and does get to dance with Batman. Beat that!
Being that this is the first episode, we do get our first look at the Batcave, Batpoles, Batphone, Batsignal, and Batmobile. We even get a moment where the Caped Crusaders scale up the side of a building…done, as always, by turning the camera on it’s side. However, there is no celebrity guest star peeking out a window this time. That’s for later episodes. The show’s sense of humor is also already fully in tact. In one scene our heroes cut through steel bars covering a high window. Robin’s first thought is to toss the bars to the ground, but Batman reminds him of pedestrian safety. He then pulls a hook out of his utility belt so that they have a place to safely hang the bars.
This is a great introduction to show…but you’ll have to wait until next week to see if Batman saves Robin. Join us next time for Smack in the Middle. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel (superhero).
Oh, by the way. I’m going to be giving a regular rundown of the various Bat-gadgets used in each episode, as well as Robin’s exclamations of “Holy ____ !”
Holy Ash Tray