The Top Five Worst Villains of the 1960s Batman TV Series

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The Top Five Worst Villains of the 1960s Batman TV Series

20th Century Fox Television

The 1960s Batman TV series had a wonderful recipe for a successful show in that Batman's Rogues Gallery has likely the best selection of villains in comic book history. When you pair great characters like Joker, Riddler, Catwoman and Penguin with top notch actors like Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar and Burgess Meredith, the end result was a great television experience. However, the series produced 120 episodes in just three seasons. Naturally, those four actors could not appear that often, so a wide variety of villains were required for the show (there ended up being 37 total villains on the show), with many popular actors of the time vying for a coveted guest star spot. With so many villains and so many actors, there were bound to be a few duds. Here, then, are the top five worst villains from the 1960s Batman TV series.

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5. Black Widow

20th Century Fox Television

Black Widow

The great Tallulah Bankhead's final role was sadly the rather reductive role as the Black Widow, who commits crime through brainwashing her victims. By the end of the second season of Batman, mind control was already a worn out plot device on the series (including one surreal one involving Liberace!) and the Black Widow did not offer much more for the show to make up for the overly familiar plot (although she did have an awesome spider-themed lair). One interesting aspect of this episode was that there were hidden references inside the episode towards all of the companies who advertised on Batman at the time.

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4. The Minstrel

20th Century Fox Television

The Minstrel

The producers took an interesting break from the norm with Van Johnson's Minstrel, but in at least this case, their break from cliché ended up making a good argument for the cliché itself. The Minstrel was a charming fellow who abhorred physical violence (although he had no problem trying to kill Batman and Robin using other means). So while it was difficult to outright hate the character, at the same time it was hard to care about him one way or the other. It did not help that Minstrel's “Robin Hood with a lute” shtick did not make a lot of sense when his supervillain gimmick was that he was an electronics genius who could manipulate the stock market. It also did not help that Johnson's episodes aired just two weeks after Art Carney also played a character dressed like Robin Hood (The Archer).

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3. Lola Lasagne

20th Century Fox Television

Lola Lasagne

Broadway legend Ethel Merman was out of place as a victim of the Penguin who quickly became his accomplice after the Pengun steals her prized Parasol (she is as obsessed with parasols/umbrellas as the Penguin himself). They come up with a plan to cheat at a horse race involving her prized champion racehorse, named, of course Parasol. They plan to switch Parasol with a reject horse and then enter Parasol under a fake name as a huge longshot, knowing that the real Parasol will easily defeat the fake one. Merman is clearly just going through the motions throughout the episode. She did allow the writers to make a good-natured joke about her infamously short marriage to actor Ernest Borgnine (on the show, Lola was married to Luigi Lasagne for three weeks before divorcing, just like Merman and Borgnine).   

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2. The Puzzler

20th Century Fox Television

 The Puzzler

Frank Gorshin's Riddler was likely the best villain in the series, but the problem was that Gorshin knew it, so he demanded more money to appear in Season 2. The producers of the series balked and instead hired Shakespearian actor Maurice Evans at the last moment and re-wrote a Season 2 two-parter intended for the Riddler to star the new villain, the Puzzler. The slapdash switch from the Riddler to the Puzzler as well as trying to work in a Shakespearian bent to the new character left the episodes falling flat, despite Evans delighting in the opportunity to overact. After a similarly dim attempt to replace Gorshin with John Astin as the Riddler, the producers caved in and brought Gorshin back as the Riddler in Season 3.  

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1. Nora Clavicle

20th Century Fox Television

Nora Clavicle

The Batman series as a whole was beginning to look a bit long in the tooth by the end of the third season, which ended up being the show's last. This was quite likely the worst episode of that season, with Barbara Rush wasted as the women's rights activist Nora Clavicle who manages to get herself named as the new Commissioner of Gotham City. She then replaces all of the male police officers with former housewives. It is all leading to a plot involving robotic mice (because, of course, female police officers will be too scared of the mice to do their jobs) that she will use to blow up Goham and collect on the insurance money. This episode was sexist even in the context of the late 1960s, that's how sexist it was!