Episode Title: Hizzoner the Penguin
Original Airdate: November 2, 1966
We’re still about three months away from election day and I already couldn’t be more sick of the political process. My Facebook feed is wall to wall politics. Please, give it a rest already, people. Post some cat photos or something! Even this week’s episode of Batman couldn’t provide relief, for it focuses on the Gotham City mayoral election. Burgess Meredith returns as the Penguin in Hizzoner the Penguin.
Our story begins outside of the Gotham City Charity Fund where a blind newspaper seller is being robbed by a crook. Who steps in to save the day? Why the Penguin!?! Next thing we know, Pengy has launched a campaign for mayor. Plus, his heroic actions have earned him the endorsement of a major Gotham newspaper. The polls quickly spike in the Penguin’s favor and even Mayor Lindseed sees little chance of winning. He suggests that only one man can possibly defeat the Penguin in the election…Batman. At first the Caped Crusader doesn’t feel himself worthy, but he soon decides that he is, in fact, Gotham’s only hope.
This causes the polls to shift again, but the penguin drives a hard campaign. Unfortunately, Batman’s campaign leaves a little to be desired. He refuses to resort to “vaudeville” techniques like brass bands and pretty girls. He also ends up making one big error: when a few loyal Batman supporters show up at his rally with babies for him to kiss, Batman refuses…explaining that it is unsanitary and could spread germs. The parents take offense at this (even though Batman really meant that HE didn’t want to give the babies germs) and next thing we know the Caper Crusader’s rallys are nearly empty. Even Chief O’Hara sleeps through it. Luckily, Batman has been invited to speak at a few other events, including a gathering of the Grand Order of Occidental Nighthawks. Upon arriving our heroes learn that translates as “G.O.O.N.S,” as in Penguin’s henchmen. After a fight, Batman and Robin end up captured. They are place on a giant scale over a vat of sulphuric acid. Ice on the other side is gradually melting, which will eventually lower them into the vat. Cue the cliffhanger narration…
An acid bubble bath for Batman and Robin!
What a way to lose an election!
Batman, don’t just lie there!
Whatever you do, don’t miss tomorrow’s bubbling finish!
Same time, same bat-channel…
This is such an interesting episode to watch. First of all, it could be argued that this was perhaps a small inspiration for the plot of the film Batman Returns, where we once again have the Penguin running for mayor of Gotham City. It’s also interesting given our current election going on here in the US. Honestly, I think I would give serious consideration to the Penguin’s candidacy over brain trust being put forward by both major parties this year. This episode originally aired less than a week before the 1966 midterm elections. In one scene Batman stares right into the camera and speaks directly to the audience as he tells Robin what a mess our country would be in if we elected our leaders based on tricky slogans and gimmicks. Oh, Batman, if you only knew.
The Penguin runs quite a campaign, though. Not only does he hand out free booze, but he’s also go a trio of hot girls on his campaign staff, a belly dancer, and a performance by Paul Revere & the Raiders. Burgess Meredith clearly has a lot of fun playing the Penguin this time out. He always plays the character as crafty, but this might be the most over-the-top interpretation of the character we’ve seen from him yet. It perfectly fits the showman approach to politics that he employs.
This episode also has a really clever script. I especially got a kick out of the three election pollsters (one of whom is played by George Furth who I always remember from Blazing Saddles). Their election poll shows numbers for the mayor and the Penguin, but also 2% for Harry Goldwinter…the Monarchist candidate who has the loyalty of “two old ladies.” Later, when the polls shift to Batman’s favor, Goldwinter has jumped to 3%. It’s a throw away line but I found it funny that one more old lady must’ve come over to the Goldwinter camp. Also the bit with Batman refusing to kiss the babies is inspired! In light of how things work today, where everyone who sees themselves as Twitter’s next Woodward and Bernstein latch on to anything a candidate does that might be remotely considered offensive…this scene is quite prophetic.
I dare say, though, that this episode wouldn’t cut it in the world of up-to-the-minute cable news. Viewers had to wait until the next night to find out the results. Join us next time for Dizzoner the Penguin. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Holy Disaster Area
Holy Bank Balance
Holy Batgraves (spoken by the narrator)