Second Thoughts: "Hi Diddle Riddle/Caught in the Middle"


Take a listen to the podcast where I'm joined by special guest chum New York Times best seller, Dayton Ward.

Originally, I had intended to create a series of audio commentaries from people who have been involved with the podcast and new folks who never got a chance to appear. Unfortunately, I didn't follow through with those I extended the invitation to and the call out to the general public was met with surprising silence.

As a result, I decided to at least revisit these episodes myself and give some second thoughts on what transpired on the series as it began and progressed through to its end. So, each week, in this blog, I'll look at the two or three episodes, depending on the timing, as they aired and offer some second thoughts on what I'm watching.

This is the show that was not supposed to be. At least not on this date in 1966. Even then, by all rights, according to the stories, it really shouldn't have worked. Test audiences were not favorable towards it, no matter how it was presented to them. And yet, on January 12, 1966, the first of this two part story aired, "Hi Diddle Riddle". And the response was amazing.

I am what I call on the podcast, a "first generation syndication baby". I watched the show as early as four years old, 1972, on WPIX, channel 11 in New York. I was instantly drawn to the colorful characters, the action, the Bat-gadgets, and most of all the fact that good always triumphed, even when things looked back. And in doing the podcast, I've found a lot of similar-minded people. Although I've also met some people who find what I do a colossal waste of time as this incarnation is not Batman. Most of them feel that the show was making fun of the seriousness of Batman. I've gone into how mistaken they are in the podcast, so I won't waste words here.

Second thoughts as I watch:

- When I watched the syndication episodes which I used for the review, I didn't have the William Dozier narration to open the show and frankly, we don't need it. "Hiss at the villains?" Oddly, we won't hear from Dozier again until fifteen minutes into the first episode.

- Inspector Basch - I would have liked to have seen more of him, perhaps to act as a foil to Batman. They tried, on occasion, to have O'Hara be that foil when he would get annoyed at Gordon's fanboy ways, but it wasn't any good. In fact, there have been several characters in the series who only made one appearance I would have liked to have seen appear in further episodes.

- My wife was watching this with me and she asked if this was the movie. Indeed, there is a cinematic feel to this and many of the first season episodes. A big part of that is the Blu-ray releases, of course, but the lighting in these early episodes give it that feel as well.

- Need to give kudos, which I didn't in the podcast, to Burt Ward. Even in this very first episode, he is Robin/Dick Grayson. He is still the only live action version of the character that sticks in my mind.

- I'm finding myself really admiring the details of the Batmobile with the Blu-ray set. As Robin pulls into the parking spot at the What a Way to Go-Go, we can see what a beautiful car it is.

- I still maintain that the cliffhanger here was one of the most horrific ever. Mind you, how the second episode begins shows it wasn't that bad, but when you consider the ending and waiting an entire day to find out what was happening to Robin with the head clamp on was horrific.

- Why doesn't Riddler simply contact Batman himself through the hotline when he has Robin prisoner? He was able to get through before?

- The music in the scene where Batman is tracking down Robin is fantastic as it switches between the Riddler and the Batman themes. As another point we never discussed on the podcast, each of the four major villains in the series had their own piece of particular music to identify them.

- The Batbeam - I want to change my favorite Bat-gadget from the podcast. I never caught it before, but Batman presses the button on the dashboard, the headlights warm up and then the beam erupts. Beautiful.

- Molly is one of the true molls. I know there are those who don't like her, but her character is consistent throughout the two episodes, even towards the end when she tries to shoot Batman with the disabled gun.

- I also love how Batman figures out to listen to the sounds in the background on the recording Gordon makes of his conversation with Riddler. I know we covered that in the podcast, but it's things like this that show he really is Batman as he is paying attention to the clues in his environment, an element I loved that he demonstrated in the first Joker story.

- Something that they don't talk about on the show, but is apparent in this and future episodes, Riddler has a penchant for costumes. Here, it's the commedian's garb, but he will portray the Minuteman, a fireman, and Mushy Nebuchadnezzar in future episodes.

- As much as I say on the podcast I love a good Batfight, I think the show missed a trick in not keeping it to the end of the two parts. When you get to the fight, it's so exciting as now it's time to round up the bad guys. In including more fights, it took away from the story.

In the end, it is clear why this story is so fondly looked upon by fans. It sets up the series nicely and for a pilot episode, it hits it out of the park, something we don't always see. Mind you, I still maintain there are better episodes than this one, which surprises many fans. Hopefully, I can still surprise fans as the final episodes of the review podcasts are released.

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