Let’s not waste words here. Everyone knows that Batman the Animated Series is one of the greatest shows in the history of television. What can you say about BTAS that hasn’t already been said? You can speak of its high production values, brilliant plotting, and inventive story lines. You can talk about how groundbreaking it was for a children’s show to take such an adult approach to the Batman character. You can mention how it is regarded as one of the only incarnations of Batman that gets the tone and setting of Gotham just right.

It laid the foundation for Bruce Timm (the show’s creator) to generate his legendary DC television universe, which includes shows like Superman the Animated Series, Justice League, and Batman Beyond. Brilliant people lent their talents to this enduring work: voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, writers Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, and composer Shirley Walker. You can discuss all of these elements, and it will always lead to the same conclusion; Batman the Animated Series is simply an amazing show. It deserves consideration and recognition as one of the greatest television shows of all time.

As a newcomer to the site, I was surprised that no other What Culture writer had complied a list of the greatest episodes of the series, since there is no shortage of lists about Batman on the site. I’m glad to be the first to tackle BTAS in list form. I expect to be called out and challenged on my choices, but I don’t mind. As long as I can get people talking about one of the greatest shows of all time, then I feel I’ve done my job.

10. A Bullet For Bullock

Jazz? In a Children’s Cartoon? Unless you’re Charles Schultz, then this seems like a crazy idea. However, Bruce Timm and company thought a bit differently. They were looking to set a specific tone for this episode (1940′s-1950′s film noir) and knew that the only music genre that would suit such a mood would be jazz. Not just any jazz mind you, in case you poor, mislead Micheal Bublé fans get excited, but the down-home, dirty, lonely jazz that permeated the noir films classics of yesteryear.

The music is a tribute to the skills of series composer Shirley Walker (Elfman’s conductor on Burton’s Batman’s) and it’s a blast to listen to. However, the music isn’t the only thing to enjoy in the episode. “Bullet for Bullock” is pure pulp down to its bones. The dialogue (specifically the one-liners) is smart and quick, but also cheesy, as dialogue could often be in those old noir films. Case in point:

Bullock: “Summer, you gotta help me. I need to find Vinny the Shark.”
Summer: “You wanna find a shark? You can jump in Gotham Bay!”

Also, the story is surprising seedy and lowdown, even for BTAS. In most kids cartoons in the 90′s, you would never hear talk about dirty cops and Internal Affairs investigations, but BTAS was able to get away with stuff like that. The true miracle however, wasn’t in pulling one over on the censors, but rather that Timm, Dini, and company (with help from fantasy writer Micheal Reaves) were able to craft a cool tribute to old-school noir and do it in a children’s cartoon.

 

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This article was first posted on December 3, 2012