Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch Batman! “The Cat’s Meow” / “The Bat’s Kow Tow”

“The Cat’s Meow” / “The Bat’s Kow Tow”
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by James B. Clark
Season 2, Episodes 29 and 30
Production code 9737
Original air dates: December 14 and 15, 1966

The Bat-signal: Bruce and Dick are being interviewed on a morning TV show by Harry Upps, discussing the Wayne Foundation youth program. While Upps is doing a commercial for an umbrella, Catwoman comes in in disguise and activates a device. Upps loses his voice a second later.

Upps opens the umbrella, and it’s filled with cards containing a riddle: what’s black and white and full of fuzz? (Bruce thinks zebra, Dick thinks police car.) Our heroes are concerned that this may be the work of one of their arch-villains—they express these concerns while in an active TV studio with live microphones and cameras on them. Great way to conceal your secret identity, guys! (Bruce, at least, makes a show of putting a hand over the mic, but that’s a band-aid on a bullet wound, especially since Dick does nothing that sensible.) Umbrellas usually means Penguin; riddles usually means the Riddler; pranks usually mean Joker.

Concerned that Gordon will call for Batman and Robin, since he watches the morning show, Bruce and Dick just walk out of the TV studio. However, Gordon is considerate enough to wait long enough for Bruce and Dick to drive the 14 miles back to Wayne Manor (in morning rush hour traffic! in their regular car!) before calling.

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Joker, Riddler, and Penguin are all currently in jail, so it can’t be any of them. Gordon and O’Hara let Batman have the umbrella to check out in the Batcave, ’cause they’re just nice like that. (Chain of evidence is for wimps.)

Then Catwoman arrives at GCPD HQ, where we discover that she’s claimed to have reformed and is now in show business. She’s formed a band called Catwoman and the Kittens. Gordon invites the band to perform at the Policeman’s Benevolent Association Ball. Also performing are Chad & Jeremy, and Catwoman asks Gordon for the location of the duo’s accommodations—to make sure they won’t both perform the same songs, supposedly. Once Gordon reveals that they’re staying at Wayne Manor, Catwoman steals the commissioner’s voice, too.

At Wayne Manor, Bruce is fiddling with an animal skull and a compass for reasons passing understanding when the regular phone rings. It’s Duncan’s Dance Studio (really Catwoman) offering a free dance lesson if you can answer a trivia question: who painted Whistler’s Mother? Once Bruce convinces Dick a dance lesson would be useful for the junior prom, he answers that it’s Whistler.

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Bruce has to buy some electronics for the Batcave, so he goes off, while Dick gets his lesson from a disguised Catwoman. Dick is frustrated, as he has no natural rhythm, but Catwoman insists he’s doing fine. However, there are dogwood flowers in the study, and of course Catwoman is allergic to dogwood. (Cats? Dogs? Get it?????) Her sneeze knocks off her glasses, and reveals her as Catwoman. Harriet faints, and Catwoman gasses Dick and Alfred before they can do anything.

Chad & Jeremy arrive at Gotham City Airport, mobbed by dozens of screaming female fans. Catwoman is there, but decides that it’s too crowded for her to try anything.

Batman and Robin determine the location of the dance studio from which Dick “won” the prize, and they head there. Upstairs, Harriet serves tea to Chad & Jeremy, where she’s surprised to see that they’re polite young men who plan to be a doctor and a lawyer if the music thing craps out. (Which is total horseshit, by the by.)

The Dynamic Duo arrive at the dance studio to confront Catwoman, and fisticuffs ensue. Our heroes win the fight but Catwoman is able to drug them before she can be arrested. They’re in a massive echo chamber. She starts a faucet dripping on a drum, which is amplified ten million times, so it’ll shatter their eardrums and pulp their brains.

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However, Batman determines that the sympathetic vibration of the glass in the echo chamber is F# above high C. Batman utters that note (sorta) and the glass shatters. They find the dance studio head, Benton Bellgoody, who tells them that Catwoman is already at Chad & Jeremy’s concert at the PBA ball. Batman and Robin arrive too late to stop her from stealing Chad & Jeremy’s voices, though not until after we’ve gotten to hear them perform one of their hits.

The next day, the Dynamic Duo appear on Allan Stevens’s show to assure the citizenry that they will retrieve Chad & Jeremy’s voices. Catwoman and her gang appear and make her demands: eight million pounds from the UK in exchange for Chad & Jeremy’s voices. Batman is appalled that she would destroy England’s economy (#Brexit).

Our heroes go to the British Consulate, where they are informed that the British government will not pay Catwoman’s ransom.

Gordon is still voiceless, O’Hara’s men are scouring the city for Catwoman, but can’t find her, and Batman and Robin are stumped. However, Catwoman did call O’Hara to demand a ransom from Gotham, since England crapped out, and, in a rare bout of sensible behavior, the chief recorded the conversation.

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Batman takes the tape back to the Batcave to analyze it, and determines that there are three hair dryers going in the background. As it happens, the famous hairstylist Mr. Oceanbring has three hair dryers at his salon, which they learn from Chad & Jeremy, who patronize Oceanbring. The Dynamic Duo arrive at the salon to find Catwoman and her gang, and fisticuffs ensue.

Our heroes are triumphant, but Catwoman gets away. Batman gives chase, but she ambushes him. She has him at gunpoint—she could kill him or just take his voice—but she can’t do it, as she’s too attracted to Batman to kill him. She surrenders, explaining that an atomizer to the throat will clear up people’s voices.

Bruce, Dick, Harriet, Alfred, and Gordon all attend a Chad & Jeremy concert, the voices of each of those last three having been restored.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Bat Sound Analyzer determines that there are hair dryers in the background of Catwoman’s phone call. He also has a Bat Anti-Sonic Gun repellant or some such in his utility belt that would have protected him from Catwoman’s sonic gun, because of course it would have.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! When Catwoman drugs Batman and Robin by scratching them, Robin cries, “Holy Heidelberg!” because Robin doesn’t get that a dueling scar would be on the face, not the chest. When O’Hara reveals that he recorded his phone conversation with Catwoman, Robin mutters, “Holy resourcefulness.” When Robin sees Batman and Catwoman arm in arm, he cries, “Holy mush!”

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Gotham City’s finest. Gordon insists that he can tell a reformed woman when he sees one, and Catwoman is definitely reformed. It’s almost hard to believe he always needs Batman’s help…

Special Guest Villainess. Julie Newmar is back, last seen in prison for a cameo during “Ma Parker.” She’ll be back in a fortnight for “The Sandman Cometh”/”The Catwoman Goeth,” teamed up with Michael Rennie’s Sandman.

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Catwoman has the hots for Batman, and contemplates setting her moll, Eenie, up with Robin, but decides he’s too young. One of Catwoman’s favorite things is hearing Batman’s baritone. She’s also perfectly happy to keep Batman’s body after his brain is pulped by the echo chamber, and actually says that she can’t have her cake and eat it too, and she looks right at Batman’s crotch when she says “eat it too.” And in the end, she almost manages to steal a kiss from Batman before going up the river, though they’re interrupted by Robin.

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Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“Very hep, Alfred.”

“It’s ‘hip,’ Aunt Harriet. They changed it.”

–Harriet trying to use the lingo like the kids do, and Dick correcting her, because nobody knows hep, er, hip lingo like Dick Grayson.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 33 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Jim Beard, editor of the fantastic essay collection Gotham City 14 Miles.

Chad & Jeremy appear as themselves, making them the second band to appear on the show, following Paul Revere & the Raiders in “Hizzoner the Penguin,” though the British duo play a much bigger role in the plot. In “The Bat’s Kow Tow,” they perform “Distant Shores” and “Teenage Failure,” both singles they released in 1966. The British Consulate’s disinterest in ransoming them was oddly prophetic, as the duo were a much bigger hit in the U.S. than in the UK, and the two actually applied for U.S. citizenship in 1966.

Harry Upps is a play on the then-host of The Today Show on NBC, Hugh Downs.

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McHale’s Navy veteran Joe Flynn makes an uncredited appearance as Bellgoody (Bellgoody at one point says he was born in Youngstown, Ohio, which is Flynn’s hometown), while Steve Allen also appears in an uncredited role as Allan Stevens, a name they were up all night coming up with. Also in an uncredited cameo with a bad-pun name is hairstylist Jay Sebring, who appears as Mr. Oceanbring. Finally, the window cameo is Don Ho, who is inexplicably in the British Consulate.

Judy Strangis appears briefly as one of the two teenaged girls who rave over Chad & Jeremy in the airport. Strangis will go on to play the sidekick in Elektra Woman and Dyna Girl.

Catwoman references the time Batman saved her life in “The Cat and the Fiddle.”

As is often the case with a Catwoman episode, the cliffhanger voiceover urged people to tune in tomorrow, “same cat-time, same cat-channel.”

Gordon shows up at the Chad & Jeremy concert at the urging of his grandchildren. However, when Barbara Gordon (a.k.a. Batgirl) appears in season three, it will be established that she (a) is an only child and (b) has no kids.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “If I were to kiss you, would you think I was a bad girl?” The presence of Julie Newmar in a story can cover a multitude of sins, which is a good thing, because there are a lot of sins to cover. The second season’s tendency to showcase actors and cameos at the expense of plot sense is at an all-time high in this one: Steve Allen! Joe Flynn! Don Ho! Jay Sebring! And Chad & friggin Jeremy!

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Hilariously from the POV of five decades later, the first four names actually had more meaning to me coming in than the last—while it was a big deal to have pop stars Chad & Jeremy on the show in 1966, in 2016 I had to look the duo up, as I’d never heard of them. And I’m fairly well versed in rock and roll music generally, so this is either a major deficiency on my part or a sad statement on the fleeting nature of fame in the music biz.

The plot in this one is—well, weird. Catwoman’s misdirection by doing a prank with riddles and umbrellas would have made more sense if the primary trio of male villains weren’t all in jail. The whole notion of stealing voices is bizarre in the first place, and it just doesn’t seem like it has much chance for success. The cliffhanger deathtrap is actually clever, and the high volume of the echo chamber is a rare case that gives the villain a good reason to be out of the room while the deathtrap is engaged. Having said that, Batman’s solution to get out is weak tea. And the opening with Bruce and Dick casually talking Bat-business in a live TV studio is just mind-boggling, given the contortions these two generally go to in order to preserve their identities. Also why does Catwoman steal Gordon’s voice, when that gives away that she hasn’t actually reformed? It’s an unusually stupid move.

It’s fun to watch Newmar slink, as always, and the bit where she and Eenie are calmly sitting and discussing relationships with Batman and Robin during a fight scene is epic, and Batman thumphering while Catwoman flirts with him at the end is hilarious, but most of this two-parter is more focused on goofy cameos and bad jokes than it is on telling an actual story.

Bat-rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido urges folks to support the crowdfunding campaign for Humans Wanted, an anthology based on the tumblr meme by “iztarshi,” edited by Vivian Caethe. Both Jody Lynn Nye and Keith will be contributing to the anthology if it’s funded. Check it out!

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