Batman S:01 E:21

Episode Title: The Impractical Joker
Original Airdate: November 16, 1966

Sometimes I really wonder about the incarceration system in Gotham City. Batman and Robin are quite skilled at capturing the criminals, but somehow they keep on getting back out on the street. It’s not like any of them end up rehabilitated either. They all go back to their criminal ways. So, even though he’s been captured many times before, the Joker (Cesar Romero) returns this week in our episode, The Impractical Joker.

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As our story begins, the Joker has launched a wave of small crimes, all in locations that have something to do with keys. He hits the Keyborne Bookstore, the Keynote Music Store and the Key Club. After he messes with the sign of the Keystone building, Commissioner Gordon gets on the Bat-phone and calls the Caped Crusaders into action. Batman determines that Joker is probably after a special jewel encrusted key that is in the possession of Scottish millionaire Angus Ferguson.

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Batman and Robin head for the exclusive showing of the collection and, sure enough, the Joker shows up. However, the clown prince of crime has a trick up his sleeve. He produces a small electronic box which when opened causes the Dynamic Duo to go into a trance. Joker easily lifts the valuable key and makes his escape as our heroes stand motionless.

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Later, Bruce and Dick are trying to enjoy watching The Green Hornet on television when the Joker hijacks the TV signal with a clue to his next crime. He tells them to look for a bow and a bobtail. After a lot of complicated analysis of the clue (too convoluted to go into here) our heroes determine that Joker intends to hit a fur shop. They burst in as Joker and his men are pulling the job…and thanks to taking anti-hypnosis pellets they avoid falling under Joker’s spell this time. Still, the villains escape. So, back at the batcave, Batman has the Batcomputer analyze new entries in the phone book for any names related to keys. They find Clavier Ankh…which is related to keys but it would take several more paragraphs to explain how, so I won’t bother. Bottom line, it’s the really the Joker. So the heroes burst into his apartment, but are lured into a trap by the Joker’s current gal, Cornelia (Kathy Kersh). Next thing we know, Batman is about to be carved up by a giant key copying machine and Robin is to be sprayed with a coat of wax. Cue the cliffhanger narration…

Cliffhanger Narration:
Is there any key to the solution of this monstrous scheme??
Will Batman really be skeletonized?
And Robin waxed and then notched??
Keep keen-edged, keen-witted and keep watching!!
Tomorrow! Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

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This episode is really a bit of a head scratcher. It’s very complicated. There are all sorts of clues being left by the Joker which you just have to kind of sit back and let wash over you, because if you try to make sense of all the references to different types of “keys” your head will explode. To be honest, all these clues didn’t feel very much like the Joker’s usual antics. I can’t help but wonder if this particular story was written with another villain in mind…the Riddler. Remember, Frank Gorshin was not available to play the Riddler during season two due to his commitment to his Vegas show. The Riddler only shows up in one pair of episodes this season, and he’ll be played by John Astin. So it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some stories that had been planned for the prince of puzzlers were reworked for other villains. Whether that’s the case or not, the Joker’s obsession with key related crimes just doesn’t quite make sense.

Cesar Romero is still great in the role, however. The way he cackles and prances about is truly magical. Sadly, Joker’s gang are just a bunch of generic goons who aren’t really given much to do or anything close to personalities. Even his latest gal pal, Kathy Kersh, doesn’t really make much of a mark. Though, she does look great in her sleek purple catsuit which is not far off from the costume Yvonne Craig would wear as Batgirl in the series’ third season. She’s also got awesome 60’s hair…but that doesn’t make up for a pretty dry performance.

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This episode does feature a window cameo as Batman and Robin scale the wall of Clavier Ankh’s apartment building. Though, it’s a cameo that most audiences today won’t necessarily recognize. The actor is longtime movie and TV star Howard Duff, though he’s appearing as the character of Detective Sam Stone, who he played on the series Felony Squad from 1966-69. Just like Batman, Felony Squad was airing on ABC at this time. There are some who suggest that the show Police Squad (and the Naked Gun films that were spun off from it) was a parody of Felony Squad. While we’re on the subject of other shows that were on ABC in 1966, one of this episode’s strangest moments is when Bruce and Dick are watching The Green Hornet, only to have the Joker interrupt. That show was also produced by Batman producer William Dozier, and honestly the cross promotion comes across as a bit awkward here. Especially since the Hornet and Kato made their own window cameo a few episodes back. So are they real characters or television characters?!

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Honestly, this episode made my brain hurt. It was too complicated for its own good. Lets hope things get a bit more streamlined in our next episode, The Joker’s Provokers. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).

Bat Gadgets Used:
Counter Hypnosis Bat Pellets
Batcomputer

Holys:
Holy Vertebrae
Holy Key Ring
Holy Keyhole
Holy Mesmerism
Holy Pseudonym

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