Hi Diddle Riddle was the premiere episode of the Batman TV series, having first aired on ABC on January 12, 1966. It marked the debut of the original cast and special guest villain: The Riddler.
The series opens at the Republic of Moldavia exhibit, located at the Gotham City World's Fair, the Moldavian prime minister slices into the Moldavian friendship cake and unknowingly causes it to explode, releasing a concealed riddle:
"Why is an orange like a bell?"
At the Gotham Police Headquarters, Police Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) and Chief O'Hara (Stafford Repp) suspect the Riddler (Gorshin). Knowing full well how many times Riddler has baffled them in the past, Gordon turns to Inspector Basch and all the other men present asking if they know what to do; none of them speak up, so Gordon turns to a red phone nestled underneath a glass display dome. Gordon removes the dome and presses the button on the phone, which is revealed to be a direct hotline to Batman and Robin.
The Duo rush to Headquarters and figure out the answer to the riddle: a bell is pealed, and an orange is peeled. Batman and Robin remind the others that Riddler always makes it a point to commit ruses and leave baffling clues as to what crime he is planning to commit. Batman then figures out Riddler is up to something at the Peale Art Gallery and, suspecting a trap, tell the police that they'll check it out on their own. As they arrive, Batman's phone rings, and it turns out to be the Riddler on the other end with another riddle:
"There are three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches; how do they manage to smoke?"
The Duo climbs the outside wall up to a window where they see the Riddler holding a gun while taking a cross from the gallery proprietor, Gideon Peale. They break in and Riddler tries to run for it, but Batman stops him with an flash pellet and arrests him, at which point two men with cameras arrive and take pictures. The Duo find out from Peale that the cross actually belongs to Riddler who loaned it to him for a show. Laughing in delight, Riddler tells them that he even tipped them off and then shows them that the gun was actually a novelty cigarette lighter. Robin realizes that it really was a tip-off as he just figured out the riddle about the men in a boat with the four cigarettes and no matches (they threw one cigarette overboard and made the boat "a cigarette lighter"). To the Duo's horror, Riddler summons two lawyers who arrive with a subpoena which the Riddler hands to Batman; he is going to sue Batman for false arrest!
Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce, unable to find anything in his files, is distraught over the very idea that if Riddler's case goes to court, which is highly likely, it means that Batman will have to reveal his true identity, not only eradicating Bruce's value as a crime fighter, but also erasing everything he trained for and accomplished in the years since his parents were murdered. But then Dick reminds him of what Riddler said after he handed Batman the subpoena: to look for two more riddles. Realizing that the riddles are hidden in the legal papers, they go down to the Batcave to examine them closer. Once there, they find the two riddles:
- "When is the time on a clock like the whistle of a train?" (When its '2 to 2', or "toot toot toot!")
- "What has neither flesh, bone or nail, yet has four fingers and a thumb?" (A glove)
Robin figures out that the two answers put together form an street address: 222 Glover Avenue, the location of the "What A Way To Go-Go" discothèque, where Riddler, along with his hired henchmen the Mole Hill Gang, has set a trap. The Duo arrive at the club, but the doorman, citing that Robin is a minor, refuses to let him inside as Batman tells Robin that it's the law. Batman senses a plot to separate him from Robin, but goes inside anyway while Robin parks the Batmobile and monitors Batman using the Batscope.
Inside, Batman walks up to the bar and orders an orange juice. Molly, the Gang's gun moll who is sitting nearby, starts talking to Batman and asks him to dance. After drinking his orange juice, Batman accepts her invite and the two hit the floor. As they dance, Batman finds out, albeit too late, that his orange juice has been drugged and is quickly losing his sharpness. Watching from outside, Robin attempts to help, but Riddler shoots him with a tranquilizer dart gun. Riddler then tries to steal the Batmobile but accidentally triggers its antitheft device. He then tries to destroy the car but its anti-fire device kills the flames. Riddler's mob carries Robin down a manhole, and Batman finds himself in no condition to pursue them and is forced to surrender his keys to the police.
Back at the Riddler's hideout, Robin is strapped to an operating table as the Riddler, who is surrounded by Molly and the Mole Hill Mob, attempts to operate on the unconscious teen.
- WILL ROBIN ESCAPE?
- CAN BATMAN FIND HIM IN TIME?
- IS THIS THE GHASTLY END OF OUR DYNAMIC DUO?
- ANSWERS...TOMORROW NIGHT! SAME TIME, SAME CHANNEL!
- ONE HINT--THE WORST IS YET TO COME!
- Commissioner Gordon
- Chief O'Hara
- Mrs. Cooper
- The Riddler
- The Mole Hill Mob
- As far as the series storyline goes, Batman & Robin were already established as first-rate crime fighters in Gotham City by the time the series' first episode "Hi Diddle Riddle" premiered; when Gordon reveals to Batman over the hotline that the Riddler was on the loose, Robin mutters "Him again."
- Gordon's line, "I don't know who he is behind that mask of his, but I do know when we need him, and we need him now" appears almost verbatim in the first line of Jan & Dean's song "Batman!", which was released in the spring of 1966 and peaked at #66 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- The newscaster in this episode is played by then-former game show host and producer Jack Barry, who was blacklisted from television after the Quiz Show Scandals of the late 50s, but who would later make a remarkable comeback to network television in the early 70s with a new game show called The Joker's Wild, which became a big hit and initially ran for 11 years, three on CBS (1972-75), and nine more in syndication (1977-1986).
- This is the first time, the famous dance called The Batusi was shown.
- Jill St. John who played Molly, was featured in the opening credits as "Special Guest", but not as "Special Guest Villain", the distinction of which belonged to, of course, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler.
- Riddler's real name, Edward Nigma, is never given in the series. In the second part of The Bookworm episode when Batman and Robin are trapped inside the giant cook book, Commissoner Gordon remarks that Riddler is the best safecracker there ever was; this is the only clue on how the Riddler start into crime which is a reference to the original character's comic debut in Detective Comics 140#
- Despite being one of the main four super-criminals besides Joker, Penguin and Catwoman. Riddler never appears as the others do in the Batcave, although in the movie "The Adventures of Adam and Burt" he does try with Catwoman to blow up the Dynamic Duo in the Batcave.
- Similar to the Batman Movie Riddler is seen wearing his riddler bowler hat and suit, not the usual leotard costume he world ordinarly wear in the series.