Plot summary: An unconscious Batman is taken in by a pair of children playing detective, oblivious to the fact The Penguin is hot on their trail. There’s also a Faberge egg. It’s a whole thing.
Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!
Episode Title: ‘I’ve Got Batman in My Basement’
Directed: Frank Paur (3)
Written: Sam Graham (1) & Chris Hubbell (1)
Original Air Date: September 30th, 1992
Members of the production staff have gone on record to say this is the worst episode in the whole series. Bruce Timm can’t even watch it, calling the script terrible and claiming the storyboard artists didn’t care enough to try and improve it with fun visuals.
Warner Bros. insisted that Penguin be styled after Danny DeVito’s portrayal in Batman Returns. The catch? The movie had yet to be released and no materials were made available to the team, so Bruce Timm had to visit the set and sketch the character there and then take his work back to the art team as a reference. Bonkers.
Another rare instance of all Batman, no Bruce.
A pair of men in overalls use a window cleaning platform to break into what we presume to be a museum so they can steal a Faberge egg. They celebrate on a rooftop, unaware Batman saw the whole thing. But before he can grab them, Batman is attacked by… a giant vulture. No, really.
Elsewhere a young boy named Sherman shows off his detective kit to a friend, Roberta, spying the vulture through his binoculars. Oh god, are the children going to end up saving the day???
Following the giant bird to an abandoned factory, the kids run inside, where they witness the thieves hand the egg over to Penguin. Batman arrives and tosses a net over the vulture, swipes the egg, dumps a huge pile of birdseed on the villains and gets the children to safety. He also yells at them to get out, which is weird. Penguin gasses him and he stumbles outside and into the Batmobile before passing out.
The children want to help, but when Penguin runs outside they see no other choice but to hop in and start frantically pressing buttons. It goes from bad to worse though, as the kids start driving, with Sherman steering and Roberta pushing the pedals. Oh jeez.
Somehow, someway, the kids make it to Sherman’s house and drag Batman to the basement. Batman attempts to communicate but is too groggy and only manages the words “capsule” and “visor” before passing out again.
Sherman refuses to call the police, because of some nonsense about detectives protecting their clients. That, or he’s wise beyond his years and knows that all cops are bastards.
Scrap, the vulture (oh, the vulture is called Scrap by the way) flies around looking for the kids while Penguin has his men drive along after it. Wow.
Sherman’s mother becomes suspicious of what the kids are up to, and Roberta, being the smarter of the two despite Sherman’s many claims to the contrary, opts to tell her they just saved Batman and are taking care of him. A classic case of the truth sounding more ridiculous than any lie.
After his mother leaves, Sherman runs outside to unsuccessfully try and stop some older kids from uncovering the Batmobile. The teens poke around a little and end up uncovering a tray of anti-venom capsules in the visor. Sherman snatches the pills but Scrap swoops in and begins to terrorise him.
Making it inside, Sherman pops one of the capsules into Batman’s mouth just as Penguin’s car pulls up. Roberta tries again to call 911, but Scrap has bitten the phone line. Smart bird. And so we play Home Alone for a few minutes and I die a little inside. I refuse to even recap it.
Batman awakens just as Penguin grabs the egg and attempts to murder him in his sleep and quickly dispatches the henchmen before engaging Penguin in a knife fight. Or rather, a knife vs a screwdriver. It’s bad. Batman wins.
Sherman’s mother returns and is naturally outraged by the state of her house, but the sight of Batman calms her down. Sherman tries to play matchmaker.
Later, Sherman hangs up a pair of newspaper articles about the incident, with one generously calling them pint-sized pinkertons, and the other saying Scrap was acquired by Gotham Zoo. The teens who had bullied him earlier now work for Sherman and Roberta in their amateur detective agency.
And for some reason Batman is just straight up lurking nearby. We don’t even see his face, just his boots by the window. This little habit of having him creeping in the shadows watching children at the end of an episode has really got to stop.
Matthew Brooks gets most of the dialogue as Sherman, but it’s just any old kid voice. Kevin Conroy is barely in the episode so I can’t fall back on him. Paul Williams isn’t even very good as Penguin so no charismatic villain performance to save the day.
Rob Paulsen lends his voice to one of Penguin’s goons, Jay. I like Rob Paulsen. He was Pinky on Pinky and the Brain. Let’s give it to him and get this episode over with as quickly as possible.
I read how much Bruce Timm and the staff hated this episode before watching it and refused to believe it could possibly be worse than ‘The Forgotten’. To be fair to them though, this is some utterly horrible writing both in the macro of the big ideas and the micro of the moment to moment. The dialogue can’t even save it because that’s awful too.
A focus on child characters in fiction that doesn’t usually feature them tends to lead to disaster, and this was no exception. Sherman isn’t even very likeable, talking down to Roberta despite her generally having better ideas.
I’m sure some people would complain about Batman looking like an idiot, but I’m not going to hold being unconscious while hijinks occur against him. That being said, the events that lead to him getting gassed are so chaotic and ill-conceived that I will hold it against the writers.
In my heart of hearts I know this is worse than ‘The Forgotten’, but the idea of that episode not being at the bottom of the pile pains me. Can we call it a tie? I mean, of course we can, it’s my list and my rules, but no, ties are for cowards. This episode is the pits and I’ll just have to live with the indignity of my least favourite episode not ranking last.
Still, guess what it’s finally time for tomorrow…
- Two-Face Part I
- On Leather Wings
- Two-Face Part II
- Pretty Poison
- It’s Never Too Late
- Christmas with the Joker
- Be a Clown
- Nothing to Fear
- The Last Laugh
- The Under-Dwellers
- The Forgotten
- I’ve Got Batman in My Basement
The Penguin (Paul Williams) (first appearance)
The writers weren’t really sure what to do with Penguin and it shows. They toyed with a number of concepts, including an obsession with birds and a Norman Bates style devotion to an unseen mother. The former made its way into this episode via Scrap the vulture, but ultimately they were made to follow the Batman Forever design, which I personally loathe. This isn’t really that either, though. It’s kind of a whole lot of nothing, and if you had no familiarity with the character you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s a bumbling one-off like Sewer King, save for the kids knowing who he is on sight.
Paul Williams doesn’t really do much to make him more interesting, and for as much as the DeVito performance grosses me out (both because he’s gross and speaks some of the worst dialogue ever put to screen), at least it’s memorable. This has to be one of the worst outings this character has ever had, and I suffered through five seasons of Robin Lord Taylor in Gotham.
It should be noted that I do plan on moving the villain rankings around with each appearance, so if they figure out how to make him more interesting I have faith he can join his fellow top-flight compatriots, rather than being stuck below the normies.
- Poison Ivy
- Rupert Thorne
- Arnold Stromwell
- Sewer King
- Boss Biggis
Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.
Speaking of my podcasts, There Will Be Movies has just covered Zero Dark Thirty.
Kevin Ford’s Flooping the Pig, our Adventure Time podcast, uploads new episodes every Thursday.
Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus continues its coverage of the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy.
Speaking of Jerome, he will be bringing you his 100 favourite movies of all time, posting between 3 and 4 per week.