The nitty gritty: new generations of Batfans will think it's worth 3 stars, while old school fans who remember this one will be more charitable.
Baking a peanut butter and sardine pie is how Robin pays up his losing a match of Pong to Batman. That should give you a quick idea of the infantile tone of this show. Anyway, I used to wake up early on Saturdays when I was a kid just to see my morning cartoons. The Caped Crusader was a big part of that, along with Superman and other heroes like Tarzan and Zorro. But Batman stood out. In 1977, the Filmation studio brought THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN to the CBS network. This series constituted 16 episodes, which were later recycled in THE BATMAN/TARZAN ADVENTURE HOUR (1977), TARZAN AND THE SUPER 7 (1978), and BATMAN AND THE SUPER 7 (1980).
Whatever current series title he was under, Batman was a recurring staple of my childhood. So I can readily forgive his show its faults. The rotoscoped animation is simplistic and quaint by today's standards and is hampered by an over-reliance on stock footage. And the "R" on Robin's costume has a tendency to vanish. The cheesy stories, meanwhile, are fit for, well, for kids who get up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons. For me, today, the draw to this show, besides nostalgia, is the voice casting of Adam West and Burt Ward, who, long after the cancellation of their live action BATMAN series, were persuaded to lend their voices to this show. Though more low key here and having noticeably cut down on the pregnant pauses, West still brings ample heapings of his dramatic line reading. Meanwhile, Burt Ward's trademark exuberance comes across fully intact. And, honestly, as young as I was, I do believe I was crushing on the sexy, red-headed Assistant D.A. Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl. She's in a lot of the episodes.
There is one major drawback. The show features a well-meaning, one-toothed, sickly-green-faced imp from another dimension who, being an ardent admirer of Batman, styles himself Bat-Mite. He proves to be more of a hindrance than an asset to the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder. He aggravates the living crap out of me, and certainly he serves to consistently exasperate the Dynamic Duo. Or, to put it another way, when Bat-Mite interferes with Bruce and Dick's basketball game, a hostile Bruce asks the imp, "Bat-Mite, have you ever been slam dunked?" But I have a sinking feeling that the tots will tend to like him more than not.
The old rogues are well represented: The Penguin and his crazy Penguinmobile; Catwoman, costumed here in orange tights and piloting her ridiculous Catplane; Mr. Freeze; Clayface; and the Joker, with his odious pet hyena Giggles. Unfamiliar and low rent do-badders, possibly created for the series, also drop in on Gotham, the most pathetic of the lot being an out of shape loser code-named Sweet Tooth. Easy to see why these nimrods were never glimpsed again.
This wouldn't be the modern audience's cup of tea. It's not as grim, as complex, or as effective as BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, not by a long shot. Back in the '70s, Batman in the comic books was taken back to his roots and had become again a dark creature of the night. But, realizing that its target audience were impressionable kids, the creators of this animated series opted for a much lighter mood and deliberately avoided scenes of violence. Absent are moments of Bats and Robin physically engaging the baddies in fisticuffs, so what we're left with are pretty tame action sequences. Funny that I never noticed that when I was a kid. We instead get scenes where the good guys catch the bad guys via nets, magnets, by trapping them in ice cream, and by overriding the villains' vehicular controls and conveying them directly to prison. And, adhering to the kid friendly policy, the show throws in the moralistic Bat-messages to end the episodes.
My favorite episodes may well be "Birds of a Feather Fool Around Together," where Bats and Robin are exposed to Penguin's crime slime, making them evil, and "This Looks Like a Job for Bat-Mite!" where Bats and Robin are brainwashed, which also makes them evil. In their villainous turns, Adam West and Burt Ward have never been more fun to listen to. They again get brainwashed in "Bite-Sized" but it isn't as fun. A neat one is the two-part "Have an Evil Day," which pits a space alien and four of Bats' rogue gallery against Batman and Robin. We also witness what I believe to be Robin's lengthiest exclamation: "Holy Float Like a Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee!" (in "He Who Laughs Last").
If you're in the mood for some old school animation and don't mind groaning at all the corn, then tune in to all 16 episodes of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN. At around 23 minutes per episode, marvel at the Bat Family (and Bat-Mite) as they combat Gotham's evil with their arsenal of kooky Bat-gadgets and the sonorous Bat-Computer. To quote Batman in the intro: "Watch us wage our neverending battle of good versus evil." Sounds like a good invite to me.
Here go the 16 episodes:
Episode 1 - "The Pest" - The Joker steals an experimental automobile which runs purely on water. Batman and Robin race to retrieve the car, which hasn't yet been perfected and could explode with the force of a nuclear bomb.
Episode 2 - "The Moonman" - A golden glowing figure with magnetic powers has broken into a museum and absconded with a moon rock. Batgirl appears for the first time. By the way, is it me or does Bruce's astronaut houseguest Scott resemble O.J. Simpson?
Episode 3 - "Trouble Identity" - Catwoman, that felonious feline, frames Batgirl, who is now suspected by the police of stealing a matter-converting invention which could revolutionize the garment industry.
Episode 4 - "A Sweet Joke on Gotham City" - The confectionary crook Sweet Tooth (who sounds a bit like Paul Lynde) blackmails the city by turning Gotham's water supply into chocolate syrup.
Episode 5 - "The Bermuda Rectangle" - Batman, Batgirl, and Robin thwart the nefarious underwater schemes of Professor Bubbles.
Episode 6 - "Bite-Sized" - Otherplanetary villain Electro miniaturizes Batman and Robin with a shrink ray ("Within the hour, I'll have them in the palm of my hand."). Then he mind controls them into pilfering secret military plans.
Episode 7 - "Reading, Writing and Wronging" - The Penguin's School of Crime aims to subvert teens into a life of crime. The kids' final exam? Why, the capture of Batman and Robin.
Episode 8 - "The Chameleon" - A new shapeshifting supervillain calling himself the Chameleon hits town and means to take down Gotham's superheroes.
Episode 9 - "He Who Laughs Last" - The Joker breaks out of the clink and seeks vengeance on Batman and Robin. Meanwhile, Batman invents helium paint.
Episode 10 - "The Deep Freeze" - Mr. Freeze and his henchman Frost set out after the most powerful submarine in the world.
Episode 11 - "Dead Ringers" - Impostors posing as the Dynamic Duo kidnap the Arabian Oil Minister. Meanwhile, Batman suffers from a bout of amnesia.
Episode 12 - "Curses! Oiled Again!" - Catwoman and Clayface team up to commit oil hijackings. Not to mention, an irritating newscaster, who seems to be channeling James Cagney, is criticizing the Caped Crusader.
Episode 13 - "Birds of a Feather Fool Around Together" - Vying for the presidency of Y.U.C. (the Yearly Underworld Convention), Penguin vows to cement his candidacy by turning Batman and Robin to a life of crime.
Episode 14 - "Have an Evil Day (Part 1)" - Dastardly space alien Zarbor, who hails from Bat-Mite's home dimension of Ergo, enlists Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, and Clayface to detain Batman & Robin so that he can freely pursue his own ends.
Episode 15 - "Have an Evil Day (Part 2)" - Batman and Robin chase all the bad guys to Zarbor's home dimension.
Episode 16 - "This Looks Like a Job for Bat-Mite!" - Zarbor escapes and returns to Earth to induce more headaches for the Caped Crusader. This time, the plot involves the levitation of Gotham buildings and the brainwashing of our heroes.
Here's a quibble, the dvd packaging is pretty flimsy. Disc 1, which fastens half-overlappingly on Disc 2, has a tendency to pop out whenever I open the cardboard casing. Disc 1 itself contains the first 8 episodes. Disc 2 is double-sided, with Side A featuring the last 8 episodes and Side B offering the 18-minute-long retrospective segment "The Dark Knight Revisited," which has interviews with actor Mark Hamill and comic book writer Denny O'Neil. Rumor had it that audio commentaries were supposedly available for 2 episodes on this dvd set, but it just ain't so. Or, at least, I couldn't find them.