Episode 13: I’ve Got Batman In My Basement
Written By: Sam Graham & Chris Hubbell
Directed By: Frank Paur
Original Air Date: 09/30/92
It had to happen at some point. But “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement,” marks the first truly bad episode produced for “Batman: The Animated Series.” Though you can’t expect a series that produced over 100 episodes to have a perfect run, it’s still a shame to see episodes like this one slip through, where almost everything about it is bad. From its weak story, its lame use of characters, bad animation, and even it’s weak title, make “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” one of the worst episodes to watch out of the whole series.
“I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” also marks the first appearance of the Penguin in “Batman: The Animated Series.” The Penguin has always been one of Batman’s more popular villains, but I’ve never really been a big fan of the character. I never really thought of the Penguin as being a real serious threat to Batman, and never really enjoyed his gimmick with the umbrellas. Though I liked how the animated series portrayed him as a criminal who just wants to be accepted by high society, I just never really enjoyed most of the stories that he was featured in throughout the series. I’m also not a big fan of Penguin’s design for the show as well. The original design Bruce Timm did for Penguin was more in line to what he looked liked in his early comic appearances. But unfortunately, he was forced by Warner Bros. to design him to look similar to how he appeared in “Batman Returns," where I thought his design was terrible. Bruce Timm had to incorporate the long hair and the flipper hands that Penguin had in the movie into his design for the show. He tried the best he could to mesh that with Penguin’s classic look from the comics, but I just didn’t think his design for the show turned out that great. It wouldn’t be until five years later, when the show gets revamped with new character designs that the Penguin got both a great new design, and a better characterization.
The main plot for this episode revolves around two kids named Sherman and Roberta, who are aspiring to become detectives, and who end up rescuing and hiding Batman in a basement from the Penguin for most of the episode. The story plays out as bad as it sounds, where you mainly just ask yourself: “How much worse can this episode get?” Unfortunately, the episode does only get worse as it goes along. It begins with Batman trying to stop two thieves from stealing an item called the Vonalster Faberge’ egg , but is then attacked by a vulture, which allows the thieves to escape, and is the first of many lame fight sequences that just get more ridiculous as the episode goes on. Seeing a rare kind of vulture flying around Gotham City gets the attention of the kids, so they decide to follow it to wherever it leads them, which ends up being probably the lamest hideout for a criminal to operate from. An abandoned birdseed factory.
Here at the birdseed factory is where we get our first look at the Penguin, and right away he’s given some terrible dialogue that is mainly just bad puns and jokes that he continues to say throughout the whole episode. The only real good thing about the Penguin in this episode is his voice actor. Paul Williams does a great job voicing the Penguin throughout the whole series, and like most of the voice actors for the show, Paul Williams voice just fits his character so perfectly that I don’t think there has been a better voice for the Penguin before, or since his portrayal.
Before Penguin can take his egg from his men, Batman swoops in and takes it, and pulls a lever that dumps a bunch of bird seed on Penguin and his men. As Batman tells the kids get out of the building, Penguin arises from the birdseed, and shoots Batman in the chest with a gas pellet from his umbrella. Batman is barley able to walk out of the building, and collapses as he was getting into the Batmobile. Sherman and Roberta see that Batman can’t get inside the Batmobile, so they go to help him get in, and end up getting inside the Batmobile themselves, as Penguin and his men make their way outside to where Batman and the kids are at. The sequence started out kind of neat, as Sherman pushes a bunch of buttons inside the Batmobile to try and make it start, and we get to see all the cool weapons and gadgets that the Batmobile has. But this quickly turns into a silly sequence where Sherman is driving the Batmobile when he doesn’t even know how to drive, and is crashing into everything with Penguin and his men on top of the car, who eventually all get knocked off because of Sherman’s driving. The last thing I want to see in an action sequence featuring the Batmobile, is kids driving and crashing it into everything.
Sherman is able to make it back home safely, and ends up hiding Batman in his basement until he can wake up from the effects of the gas he got exposed to. I did like how Sherman had his basement set up like a crime lab, and the Joker poster hanging on his wall was a nice touch. Though I did wonder why he has a poster of a criminal hanging on his wall, when all he wants to be is a detective? The Penguin is eventually able to track Sherman back to his home thanks to his vulture, and the episode only gets worse from here. What we get in this final sequence, is basically the movie “Home Alone,” which just happens to have Batman and Penguin in it. As Sherman is taking care of an unconscious Batman with Roberta, along with two other kids from their neighborhood now, as well as keeping this a secret from his mother, they notice that Penguin and his men have found them, and quickly set up some traps for them as they break into his house. This is not something that you want to see in a Batman show. A sequence that mainly tries to play for laughs with all the traps the kids have set, but it fails miserably. Instead it just comes off as ridiculous. What makes this sequence worse, is that the kids actually succeed in capturing Penguin and his men for a bit! If Penguin didn’t have his umbrella with a blade, he and his men would have been captured by a bunch of kids without Batman’s help. Which to me would have made the Penguin such a useless villain, who would further come off as a non-threatening criminal from Batman's rouges gallery.
Penguin does break free from being tied up though, and follows Sherman and Roberta down to the basement to where Batman is at. Penguin takes back his egg, and is now about to slice Batman’s neck with his umbrella. But Batman is able to snap out of the effects of the gas at just the right moment, and throws Penguin’s umbrella aside. This fight sequence is definitely the worst one out of the whole episode, and just might be the worst fight sequence out of the whole series. The animation is really bad in this sequence, where the character models looked out of proportion. But the real problem with this sequence, is that the climatic fight between Batman and Penguin is just plain stupid. As Penguin pulls the blade out of his umbrella, Batman grabs a screwdriver from a desk, and begins to duel Penguin with it. Yes, a screwdriver. Not only does this just look dumb, but you would think that Batman can easily dodge Penguin’s blows, and quickly knock the umbrella from his hand without using any kind of weapon. Needles to say, Batman is much bigger than the Penguin, and a much better fighter, so it would have been much better to see Batman not use anything at all, than to see him duel the Penguin with a screwdriver.
Of course Batman beats Penguin, and right as the fight ends, Sherman’s mother comes home and is at first mad at Sherman for her house being trashed. But her emotion quickly turns from anger, to awe once she sees Batman. The question that Sherman asks Batman here is probably the only funny line from the whole episode. As Batman greets Sherman’s mother, Sherman asks Batman if he wouldn’t happen to be single. That’s no doubt a question any young boy without a father would ask if he saw Batman and his mother together. The episode thankfully ends after that, where we see Sherman and his friends now resolved to become detectives after the experience they just had with Batman and Penguin, by trying to solve small locale crimes in their neighborhood, which probably would've been more entertaining to see than what we saw in the actual episode.
There is really not too many good things to say about “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement.” There are really only a few compliments I would give this episode. One being the voice acting, which even with horrible dialogue, the actors still did a good job with what they had to work with. The other thing that was somewhat decent, was that the kids didn’t come off as too annoying in this episode as they could have. I’ve never been a fan of stories that have kids help the hero defeat the villain, even as a kid I never liked that idea. But Sherman and Roberta didn’t come off as annoying like most kids do in stories like this, and were just put into a horrible story. Other than those two things, there is nothing good about this episode. The story is ridiculous, the dialogue is horrible, and the action sequences are just plain dumb. Bruce Timm has even said that he thought the script was terrible when he first read it, and that he can’t even watch this episode. It makes you wonder why they just couldn’t scrap this episode before it even went into production? The series would have been better off without it. Thankfully though, there are not too many episodes as bad this one, but “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” is definitely in the bottom three of the worst episodes ever produced for "Batman: The Animated Series.”
Batman: The Animated Series-I’ve Got Batman In My Basement:
Reviewed by Tim Geraci