By Daniel Dockery
On June 9th, Adam West passed away at the age of 88. And while his career ranged from roles in films like the science fiction classic Robinson Crusoe on Mars, to his repeated appearances as the delusional Mayor of Family Guy’s Quahog, to an entire generation, he was the definitive Batman.
Adam West’s Caped Crusader is a thing of beauty, full of charm and tidbits of Boy Scout-esque wisdom. He never attempted to “rise above” the material, or bog it down with winking self-awareness. Instead, he was both the straight man and the comic foil, the deadpan force of justice that loomed over any loony villain that would do Gotham harm. In a genre filled with muscular men jutting out their chins and attempting to out-grim each other in films about death rays, Adam West’s unique portrayal is something that will never be replicated. He was a wonder.
So, in honor of him and the delicious piece of Bat-culture that he left with us, I want to recommend four episodes that both show off West’s talents and display a piece of superhero history that is more important than most people give it credit for being.
The 4 Must-See Batman 66 Episodes
“Hi Diddle Riddle”/”Smack In The Middle”
Frank Gorshin’s Riddler could be used in school lessons about the meaning of “kinetic energy.” The man basically bounces off the scenery, and his constant flaunting of his intellectual prowess provides a perfect contrast to West’s genius. You see, when Riddler gets something right, he holds it above everyone as a testament to his mental perfection. When Batman gets something right, it’s just another step toward accomplishing something good. Don’t get down on yourselves for not getting the riddles, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, and Chief O’Hara. You all do great work, too.
Also, this is the episode with the Batusi, so get your fill of that.
“Instant Freeze”/”Rats Like Cheese”
The first episode with Mr. Freeze almost plays like an early James Bond film at times. The climax, with Batman and Robin slowly being forced into tighter and tighter heated spaces to avoid the deadly cold of Mr. Freeze’s lair is surprisingly gripping. Also, in “Instant Freeze,” a bunch of Batman decoys and Mr. Freeze decoys fight Batman and Robin, and the overhead shot of the brawl is the greatest piece of art to come out of the twentieth century.
“The Joker Goes To School”/”He Meets His Match, The Grisley Ghoul”
Long before Heath Ledger’s Joker attempted to battle Batman for Gotham’s soul, Cesar Romero attempted to twist the morals and the minds of the students of Woodrow Roosevelt High School. Romero’s Joker never quite achieved the heights of Gorshin’s manic Riddler, but he’s in top form here, and Adam West is constantly delightful in his desperate fight to deter high schoolers from careers in light, Joker-themed crime.
“Hizzoner The Penguin”/”Dizzoner The Penguin”
The episode where Burgess Meredith’s Penguin and Batman run for Mayor against one another is a great showcase of both of their talents, and quite possibly one of the greatest episodes of any show in TV history. Every joke lands, every action scene is comically thrilling, and the political satire never feels dated. If you only have time to watch one episode of Batman, make it this one. And if you have time to watch two episodes of Batman, and you decided to watch this one twice, I wouldn’t hold the decision against you. It’s just too damn good.
And if you find that you like those, here are a few more that I recommend you watch immediately, before you shower or eat or go to work or do anything else:
“The Purr-fect Crime”/”Better Luck Next Time”
“True or False-Face”/”Holy Rat Race”
“The Egg Grows In Gotham”/”The Yegg Foes In Gotham”
“The Zodiac Crimes”/”The Joker’s Hard Times”/”The Penguin Declines”