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Original Airdate: July 9, 2005
Writer: Michael Jelenic
Director: Seung Eun Kim
Villain Hostage: Adam West as Mayor Grange
Extra Special Guest
Villain Hostage: Patrick Warburton as Detective Cash
Y’know, getting hijacked by the Joker is probably a rite of passage for Gotham’s networks.
Good ol’ Mistah J forcing himself onto Gotham’s airwaves is, again, something that literally goes back to his first appearance, and they’ve never really given it a rest since. He’s done it on the Adam West show, he’s done it in both the Burton and Nolan movies, and he’s done it too many times to count in That Other Show and its offspring, all culminating in what’s probably my favorite episode of Justice League.
It makes a lot of sense – the Joker’s a real egotistical bastard, after all, and his whole gimmick works best with an audience – but after seventy-five years of this gag, finding a fresh angle can get really hard. There have been a couple attempts to use it as satiric commentary on the entertainment biz, but those were… underwhelming, to say the least. And in any case, I fear such things are still beyond this show’s scope.
Hell, even this episode’s name isn’t original, owing itself wholly to a story from That Other Show’s tie-in comic.*
But ah, enough with the doom and gloom and things that go boom. If nothing else, we’ve got two very special guest stars to look forward to, so here we goooooo!
This episode invites some new blood to the game in the form of writer Michael Jelenic, who – if memory serves – went on to write at least one of this show’s indisputable gems. And yet, my optimism remains tempered by some of the other things on his résumé.
We begin with a return of
the Bruce’s post-millennial hipness (any other Bruce would probably get his ass kicked by Alfred for putting his feet up on a table), which is cut short by the Joker’s breaking-news announcement: he’s pissed that Gotham’s usual reaction to his comedic genius is this…
… for which he blames that root of all evil and mindlessness, the television. Well, if ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em – and so he announces his very own brain-rotting sitcom!
Okay, an apparent homage to South Park of all things is fairly ballsy for a Saturday-morning cartoon (and the title might be a reference to something else entirely), but the material is flat as a three-hour coke next to what earlier Jokers have come up with. Anyways, Joker announces that he’s going to kidnap the Mayor, and invites all of Gotham to watch on his pirate channel JTV.**
All of Gotham, including Detective Yin and her new partner: Detective
Patrick Warburton Cash Tankenson.
As Warburton characters go, Detective Cash delivers plenty of that meatheaded machismo we all know and love, but he is a lot jerkier than the norm (and is it just me, or did his designers seem to have Bandit Keith on the brain?). He drives like a Mad Max character, insists on talking in third person, and… doesn’t really show a lot of respect when the subject of Yin’s last (publicly known) partner comes up.
Well, I asked about this last episode, and it seems I have my answer: Clayface’s identity is a matter of public record. We get a flashback to Ethan’s little accident that’s, if anything, even more disturbing than the actual melting was.
While it’s nice in theory, it’s so abrupt that if you don’t watch it on freeze-frame, it’s not very scary or tragic. Just really, really inexplicable, even if you know all about Ethan’s story.
Still, nothing can change the fact that we’re watching Kronk and Mulan on a buddy cop show, and really, that alone should prove The Batman has some amount of intrinsic worth, shouldn’t it? And if it doesn’t, this line of dialogue should:
“I’m the last partner you’ll ever need, Yin.”
Aaaand now I ship Kronk/Mulan big time. I’ll just pop over onto AO3 and see what they’ve got–
SON OF A-
Anyways, the GCPD has already cordoned off City Hall, and we get to see Adam West play against type now that he’s in a “serious” Batman show where criminals announcing their crimes on live TV are the exception and we’re actually supposed to take the police seriously. It’s pretty great.
True to his heritage, Joker infiltrates the cordon disguised as a cop, and thanks to S&P’s gun control department, the other cops can’t even defend themselves. Some really, really awkward bondage ensues.
Good thing Cash Tankenson is here to kick butt and take names. His words, not mine.
The Joker promptly cracks up, though whether it’s at the good detective or his embarrassment of a gun is anyone’s guess. And really, since the Joker’s the only one in this episode to realize that he’s in the presence of a comedy god, is he really a lunatic in a world of sane people, or is it the other way around?
In any case, Joker gets the Mayor into his getaway stretch limo (you heard me) pretty easily, but now he’s got Batman and Patrick Warburton on his tail. I dunno about you, but I feel like surrendering just thinking about that combo.
Even better: Detective Cash gets his own motorcycle (complete with safety-first scene), because where’s the fun in chasing a dangerous criminal if you have to do it with a partner?
Batman’s limo-top fight is fairly well-directed and has at least one joke that legitimately made me smile, but it ends all too predictably: with Joker and his goons getting away scott-free. Detective Cash then catches up and decides that Batman’s a bigger priority than the guy who’s actually kidnapped the Mayor and socked him in the face.
(The sheer who-gives-a-fuck-ery in Warburton’s “Hey, I didn’t vote for him” is pretty great, though.)
Now, I’m sure
we’ve all Mouse and I have wanted to see who would win in a fight between Batman and Patrick Warburton, cracker of the M&M Cannibal Caper, since we were six, except that’s not what happens either. Yin has to show up and give Bruce a chance to escape. Goddamn party pooper.
Did I say party pooper? I meant hardy trooper. H-Honest mistake! Really! Please don’t kill me!
More innuendo from all sides, blah blah blah, Joker premieres the pilot episode of Me and the Mayor (musical cues apparently by the Aflac Duck). The following sequence is badly rushed, absolutely pointless, and not funny, unless you’re that eager to see Joker poison someone on-screen in this show. If it’s meant to satirize how brainless modern sitcoms (circa 2005) are, it’s done its job a little too well. Seriously, Two and a Half Men could do better.
(Oh, and the episode keeps cutting to three or four households watching Joker’s “sitcom”. I’m going to assume that they’re the only ones who didn’t click away after the first five seconds.)
Joker and his “co-star” rob a bank while Batman stands around and eats nachos, and once it’s over, Joker announces that he’s going to make a new show with Cash as the star. This sets Cash right off, despite Yin’s warnings that you can’t catch Joker if you
aren’t named Batman let it get personal.
Cash is less than impressed.
In all seriousness, this scene is possibly the most character-oriented one in the episode. Yin sounds genuinely worried about losing another partner to Laughing Boy, and Cash doesn’t sound entirely insincere when he asks whether Yin wants revenge on the Joker (even if he does botch Ethan’s name). But again, it’s over far too quickly: Yin tries putting Cash under police protection, and Cash blows her off to go after Joker solo.
The next night (I guess), Bruce finally gets it in his thick skull to try tracing JTV’s pirate signal when it broadcasts again. Sure enough…
A cop show pitting Patrick Warburton against the Joker should be the kind of thing that would get geeks like me down on our knees screaming, “We are not worthy!”, but again, there’s little actual comedy and none of it has any bite. The closest we get is Cash’s pitch-perfect “Ohhh, no” as he finally realizes how outclassed he is.
Oh, and since Joker’s stupid enough to broadcast all his shows live and use highly recognizable (yet strangely deserted) landmarks around Gotham, there really shouldn’t be any reason for the “trace the signal” gimmick in the first place. Well, aside from the fact that Bruce and Alfred (and the whole GCPD?) seem to want the new detective on the block to suffer.
Getting this show better scripts?
Well, this is far and away the best idea that the show’s had for the Joker-on-TV setup, one that I don’t think any other Joker-on-TV story has tried. Parodying a live charity countdown already lends itself to a lot of black humor, but it can be given an especially meta twist when you take into account the time DC literally asked real-life audiences to vote on whether or not Joker would kill someone.
At this point, you have to actively be trying to make this as predictable and unfunny as possible, and the script succeeds with flying colors. Not enough money comes in for the million-dollar ransom, but it’s not a comically tiny sum either, so… Joker’s gonna kill Cash. Seriously, that’s it.
Well, we do get to hear what Patrick Warburton sounds like when he’s helplessly laughing his guts out, so… that’s something?
Blah. We’re getting close to the final act, so Batman just “deduces” that Joker must be using an abandoned radio tower for his broadcast, making the paltry amounts of detective work earlier super-doubleplus-pointless. Once he gets his ass over there, Joker starts whining about how there’s still no one laughing, and Batman’s comeback is admittedly a classic:
But even that tiny amount of enjoyment is dashed when Joker’s endgame turns out to be just gassing the city. Again. With dispensers that are suddenly all over Gotham because why the hell not. The script’s attempts to tie all this into the TV gimmick are truly pathetic, but wait! What about Joker’s two hostages? Now that they’re in the same place, surely they can turn this clunker around-
Yes, ladies and germs. Patrick Warburton and Adam West finally share a scene, except neither of their characters are in any position to talk.
Fuck. Every. Damn. Thing.
Okay, okay, stay cool. There’s still five minutes for this episode to turn itself around. And to be fair, the parody narration leading into the second commercial break (“Tonight, on The Joker: Will Batman defeat our charismatic star in time to save the hostages?”) is sorta clever. Cleverer than any of the Joker’s other programming, anyhow.
Case in point: JTV’s last show is a boxing championship, something that’s already got a fairly spotty history in Batman. Personally speaking, I think a WWE parody would’ve fit these two better.
No, that’s not another piece of half-assed sarcasm from me. That’s what the Joker actually says.
I… just… what the hell? Forget the Adam West show, the writers on Super Friends could pull off wittier dialogue than that. And if you’re going to have Boxing Joker (coming to stores this Christmas!), do something over-the-top with the concept. Give him ridiculously spiked gloves or have him wear boxing shorts over his pants or flash his bare, oiled chest (quit looking at me like that) – something, anything!
Oh, and once again, this whole setup is a waste of time. Batman amscrays the first chance he gets and heads for the tower, which for some reason controls JTV’s signal and the gas dispensers because the Joker’s a fucking moron who likes sticking all his eggs in one basket.
Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all this, Yin remembers she’s still got a paycheck to earn, so it’s off to the races with one of the most half-assed lines Ming-Na’s ever delivered in the show.
Yadda yadda yadda, obligatory fight scene (complete with “cute” references to the ’66 show’s POW-BIFF-ZAP cards)… I guess how Batman actually stops the broadcast (and the gas) is fairly creative, but it’s too little, too late. Joker’s “audience” recovers from the gas in seconds, and start looking ashamed to have even been part of this episode.
There’s not even a stupidly awesome kung-fu battle to close it out. Buuut I guess if you ship Batman/Joker…
Anyways, Detective Yin shows up just in time to catch Mayor Grange and Detective Cash before they become street pizza. In a pleasant surprise, Ming-Na seems to be making up for her lackluster acting earlier – the “No!” she screams as Yin’s grip starts to go is the rawest bit of emotion I’ve heard from her yet.
Of course, Batman helps her rescue them, the day is saved, yawn. Oh, and Cash is left so traumatized by the experience that he
goes back to his old teaching job in Middleton transfers to a desk job. The end.
But seriously, I’d have rather watched an episode about Patrick Warburton filling out paperwork for twenty minutes than this soulless waste of time and money. A Joker episode guest-starring Warburton and Adam West should have been an easy-peasy slam dunk, but the two of them barely even count as cogs in this dull, toothless plot. I mean, finding a fresh angle for “Look, ma! Joker’s on TV!” is tough to start with, but the episode zooms from setup to setup so quickly that none of JTV’s programming has any chance to make a real impression, and poor Kevin Michael Richardson can’t make any of the material he delivers stick.
Still, as one-dimensional as he was, I wouldn’t have minded Warburton’s character becoming a recurring cast member, at least for a couple episodes. Just because this one lost interest in him by the third act doesn’t mean others can’t find better, funnier, or – dare I say it – deeper roles for him.
Next time: A real killer of a crook comes to town! Anyone who mentions rocks of any size will be shot and fed to Cluemaster, unnastood?
* I will cheerfully admit that That Other Show’s tie-in comics – all four titles – are some of the greatest and most underrated Batman comics ever put to print. Every other Batman fan who talks about them will probably tell you the same, but as long as the number of Batman fans who don’t know about them isn’t zero, then no, that’s not enough.
** Which, sadly enough, features no actual pirates. C’mon, who do I have to blackmail to finally get this baby adapted?