The New Batman Adventures – “Mean Seasons”

mean seasonsEpisode Number:  13 (98)

Original Air Date:  May 4, 1998

Directed by:  Hiroyuki Aoyama

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader, Rich Fogel

First Appearance:  Calendar Girl

Episode 13 brings us a sort of made for television villain, but one clearly influenced by a villain from the comics. That villain is Calendar Girl (Sela Ward), an actress turned bad by her profession who likes to sync her crimes with the four seasons. She’s clearly inspired by the villain Calendar Man taken from the comics who was more obsessed with the day of the week as opposed to the time of year. I’m not certain why the show opted to switch the gender, but my guess would be they came up with the motivation for the crime first then retrofit it to a villain’s gimmick. In this case, the character is motivated to strike back at her profession which treats women unfairly by dumping them when they turn 30 declaring that they’re now too old to be marketable. This corresponded with actress Sela Ward’s cause in the real world as she was seeking to expose Hollywood’s bias and shine a light on the unfair treatment of actresses through her documentary The Changing Face of Beauty. If not, then that’s one a hell of a coincidence.

The episode opens at a fashion show. Donna Day (Tippi Hedren) is presenting the spring line of clothing she’ll be unleashing upon the world until Calendar Girl makes her presence known. She shows up in dramatic fashion, quoting Shakespeare (“Beware the Ides of March,”). She’s decked out in a green bodysuit and skirt with jet black hair flowing out from behind a white porcelain mask. She’s also accompanied by a trio of beefy looking dudes that are clearly modeled after Chippendale’s dancers. She attacks the stage with quite possibly the lamest weapon we’ve seen yet:  Easter eggs. The decorative little objects explode into a plume of smoke sending models scattering. Calendar Girl gets what she came for in the end, Ms. Day herself.

calendar girls posse

That’s quite the posse.

Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) is shown heading into police headquarters with a flock of reporters around him. He barks at them to back off and reveals to the press the only evidence collected from the scene was a calendar page for the month of April with the 3rd circled. He also is the one to give this villain the moniker of Calendar Girl.

Bruce Wayne is then shown at his office. Lucius Fox (Mel Winkler) is giving him the rundown on today’s business, but his mind is elsewhere as coverage of Calendar Girl’s crime stares at him from the cover of a newspaper on his desk. Fox reminds him about an auto show taking place that evening, as well as a retirement party coming up for an employee named Bernie Benson. Bruce is surprised to hear that Bernie is retiring and Fox tells him that he’s hit the company’s mandatory retirement age of 65. Bruce remarks that he still looks young, and Fox makes a comment about how they all do their best to try and look young.

Bruce is riding in the car to the auto show with Alfred at the wheel. He’s examing his own face and hairline in a mirror apparently checking for signs of age. He’s interrupted by Alfred’s griping over a van being parked in the passenger drop-off area. As the car pulls up alongside it, Bruce notices one of Calendar Girl’s hunks admiring himself in the mirror behind the wheel of the van and instructs Alfred to drop him off somewhere a bit more secluded.

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Calendar Girl may be new at this, but she has the theatrics down pat.

Inside the auto show has begun. The MC of the event is one Barkley James (Dennis Haysbert) who is the president of Gotham Motors. He’s there to present their new car for the summer, the Solstice, which is Calendar Girl’s cue to drop in. Now decked out in a marigold jumpsuit with Uncle Sam hat and sash, she and her boys set their sights on James. Fireworks explode from her hat as she tosses it in his direction before jumping down onto the stage. As patrons flee, Calendar Girl grabs the wrist of one of the models. She pleads with the villain not to kill her, claiming she’s too young to die, and Calendar Girl retorts with a “Honey, you’re never too thin and you’re never too young,” remark.

Batman then shows up and Calendar Girl releases her hold on the woman pointing out she has no quarrel with her, she got what she came for. One of the dudes is then shown with James all bound and gagged. He has the man over one shoulder and makes a run for it. Batman swings into action, but one of the other men jumps out from behind a wall with one of those cartoon bombs I love so much. He tosses it at the swinging Batman and the explosion destroys his cable causing him to fall to the floor. There he dispatches with the bomb-tosser, but gets shoulder-tackled by one of the other goons. The goon jumps on a motorcycle, but Batman takes him out. Calendar Girl is forced to step in. Doing her best Jubilee from X-Men impression, she shoots fireworks from her gloves (I swear the sound effect on them is the same as Jubilee’s) and the fireworks provide the cover needed for the gang to escape. Calendar Girl, being another one of Gotham’s criminally insane, can’t help herself and leaves behind another calendar page as a clue. This time for August 7th.

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The tragic villain pose.

At a dilapidated old nightclub called Faces, the victims of Calendar Girl are shown tied to chairs bargaining for their freedom. The goon apparently in charge of looking at them screams at Donna Day to be quiet (and the lip-syncing is uncharacteristically bad, maybe he was originally supposed to say “Shut up,”) and tells them Calendar Girl needs quiet while she works through things. She’s then shown seated in front of a vanity, mask off. We can’t see her face as she hastily puts the mask back on when one of her men runs in. She yells at him and tosses an exploding egg at him. She’s now wearing an all orange-red jumpsuit with candy corn earrings. She then announces to all that it’s time to proceed with the next phase of her plan.

At the Batcave, Batman has Batgirl hard at work at the computer. She cross-references the two targets with the dates left behind as clues. This leads them to model/actress Page Monroe. Monroe once worked for both targets and was fired. She hasn’t been seen in quite some time despite once being featured regularly in the modeling world. Batman remarks that he remembers her and refers to her as a pretty girl. Batgirl corrects him by pointing out she’s a woman, and tosses in a remark that she is the same age as him.

page monroe

It would appear we have a suspect.

We’re then taken to an apartment. A large, middle-aged man by the name of Irv Kleinman (Barry Bostwick) is preying upon a young woman. He’s an agent, and it’s not explicit, but it seems like he expects a different sort of payment in order to take on this particular client. She seems scared, but lucky for her Batman and Batgirl show up. Batman wants to ask Kleinman some questions, but he reacts angrily to Batman’s presence. He sticks his finger in Batman’s face, which earns him a slamming up against the wall. Batgirl then suggests to the young woman that she run, and she’s eager to heed that advice.

Kleinman then calms down and agrees to cooperate. He used to be the agent for Monroe, and when Batman asks what happened to her he replies matter-of-factly that she turned 30, implying her career was over. The modeling opportunities dried up at that point and Kleinman tried to get her cast in a sitcom, but it went no where as the network wanted someone younger. He then makes a suggestive remark that she had some plastic surgery and the doc may have nipped when he should have tucked. He comes across as a real creep, and Batman apparently heard enough.

calendar fall attire

I think this red-orange look is the one I prefer most, though the yellow did add a nice dash of color to the show.

Our next location is an unveiling party for the fall lineup for the GWB television network. The head of the network, Frederick Fournier (Charlie Rocket), is presenting the new shows this fall and they seem like an obvious jab at the show’s real-life network, The WB, which at the time was targeting a younger prime-time audience with show’s like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek. The parody shows are pretty corny in nature, the best being Teen Cop which features a skateboarding inner-city kid with an enthusiasm for education. In case you hadn’t guessed already, Fournier is Calendar Girls’ next target and she shows up in her Halloween attire to wreck the party. Making yet another theatric entrance, she uses a giant fan to blow autumn leaves into the area followed-up with an exploding pumpkin (Green Goblin might have some issues here).

The Batmobile comes barging in rather recklessly. Swarms of people have to get out of harm’s way as Batman and Batgirl jump out to face-off with Calendar Girl as she and her men make off with Fournier. Her candy corn earrings are explosive, and provide some cover as they retreat to a backlot of the studio. Batman and Batgirl arrive and there’s no sign of the villains. Calendar Girl then rises out of some brush on a crane. A booming noise alerts the pair to trouble, and anyone who has seen Jurassic Park (which was basically everyone at the time) understands what’s happening as some nearby water ripples with the noise. A giant T-Rex appears, or rather a T-Rex like dinosaur, and Calendar Girl makes a quip about how unfair it is that dinosaurs still get parts in movies in spite of their age.

img_0034

This is certainly a different foe from what we’re used to.

Calendar Girl leaves the heroes to deal with this mechanical beast. And for all intents and purposes, fighting this thing is like fighting an actual dinosaur as that’s how it behaves. I suppose it’s even worse since it’s metal inside instead of flesh and bone. Batman tries lassoing the dino, but it breaks out of the restraints rather easily. Batman takes a ride on its snout before getting dumped off. It ends up cornering Batgirl with things looking rather dire. Batman then hits it again with a rope and affixes the other end to a giant piece of scaffolding with lights on it. The dinosaur pulls the structure over and gets crushed under it, sparing Batgirl potential harm. As Batman checks on her, he sees another calendar clipping. This time the date circled is October 27th.

bruce phone

The Bat Phone!

Bruce is then shown at his office once again. Bernie (Bostwick), the outgoing employee, enters the office to present Wayne with his final report. As he accepts it the phone rings. It’s Batgirl with a tip on Calendar Girl connecting her to an old nightclub named Faces. Bruce says he’ll meet her there, and hangs up the phone to address Bernie. He tells him he can’t make it to his party, and when Bernie says he understands that Bruce is a busy man, Bruce corrects him by saying he’s cancelling the party and doing away with the mandatory retirement age. Telling Bernie he can work as long as he wants to, he departs. Now to me, I can’t imagine wanting to still be working past 65, but apparently Bernie does as he tosses his toupee and shouts happily at the news.

calendar scythe

She’s not playing around anymore.

Calendar Girl’s victims are depicted once again, this time gagged. They’re being subjected to a slideshow featuring Page Monroe’s likeness as Calendar Girl’s haunting voice narrates the show. It ends with a scythe cutting through the screen and Calendar Girl presents herself, now all dressed in black declaring her final holiday will be the Day of the Dead. Before she can slice and dice her victims though, Batman and Batgirl crash the party. They tangle with the beefy goons before Batman ends up getting isolated against the scythe-wielding Calendar Girl. She even appears to best him by knocking him over in front of the screen, but the slide projector has become damaged in the fight and is burning up the slides inside of it. Calendar Girl sees her likeness on the screen melting away, and the sight is enough to force her to pause. This gives Batman and opening to strike, knocking away the scythe. He then rises to his feet and ropes the villain bringing this confrontation to a sudden halt.

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I suppose  theatrical villain deserves a theatrical undoing.

Calendar Girl is then shown in handcuffs as Bullock is on the scene. He tells her she has the right to remain silent, but no right to wear a mask where she’s going. He yanks the mask from her face, revealing a beautiful woman beneath that hardly looks any different from the images we’ve seen of her up until now. She doesn’t share that sentiment though as Monroe collapses to her knees screaming at everyone not to look at her while her face stares back at her reflected in some broken glass on the ground. From above, Batgirl and Batman are watching and Batgirl says what we’re all thinking – that she looks fine. Batman points out that to Monroe all she can see are the flaws and the episode ends in an abrupt fashion.

“Mean Seasons” takes a rather relatable and applicable subject matter as far as the real world is concerned, and presents it in an uneven fashion. Calendar Girl is a hokey villain that would have fit in just fine with the Batman show of the 60s, but one with a solid motivation behind her actions. I like the general looks of the character with that porcelain mask and simple, but colorful, body suit. The exploding eggs and candy corn I could do without. It does help to add drama to the menacing reveal of the scythe-wielding version of the villain at the end, I suppose. It also makes sense that someone with an acting background would be so theatrical in their villainy, so I do appreciate her commitment to the role.

calendar girl revealed

Masks aren’t always hiding something hideous.

The battle with a tyrannosaurus rex was certainly unexpected. The Jurassic Park reveal of the mechanical beast is lame, but this show certainly wasn’t alone in doing such in the 90s, it’s just odd to see it done with a straight-face as opposed to being parody. I guess the writers felt that they needed a higher stakes penultimate fight since Batman couldn’t keep getting bested by a villain armed with candy. Usually, that’s the part where the show will insert a car chase. While I appreciate them changing things up, maybe they could have figured out a misdirection instead as a dinosaur fight felt a bit stupid.

This episode definitely felt pressed for time, all the more reason why the t-rex confrontation feels unnecessary. Batman’s fight with Calendar Girl is over in a flash and it was rather anticlimactic to see her just roped-up and defeated so easily when she had been able to give Batman the slip twice before and appeared to have him on the ropes. The final scene where her mask comes off also ends quickly and I was surprised to see the credits hit when they did. It makes me wish they had found a way to have a more intimate scene between hero and villain at some point during the episode to give us a bit more to chew on. Calendar Girl is an interesting villain, and if given more time I think she could have been really sympathetic as well. Since we learn her story mostly through others though, that sympathy doesn’t really come across and the episode is over before we can even begin to view her differently given the reveal of her face.

calendar girl spring

“Mean Seasons” ended up being Calendar Girl’s only contribution to the show.

This is the fourth episode animated by TMS during this era of the show. My guess is the studio was tasked with bringing this episode to life due to the sequence with the dinosaur (and maybe that’s why the sequence exists as the show wanted to task TMS with something interesting). Beyond that, it’s a pretty by-the-numbers episode that isn’t as interesting visually as the other episodes TMS has worked on. It almost feels like a waste in that regard, but the episode does look great so I suppose that’s all that matters. Calendar Girl’s attires and weaponry gave the studio a chance to inject more bright colors into a show that’s usually rather dark and I enjoyed the change of pace. The one animation flub I pointed out when the henchman shots “Quiet!” probably isn’t the studio’s fault and is the result of the line being changed after animation. TMS will only have one additional contribution to this show, “The Demon Within,” which is production episode number 18, which actually aired right after this one.

This episode is fine, and despite some of my gripes, I enjoyed my time with it. Calendar Girl proved to be a good choice as I find her more interesting than her comic counterpart Calendar Man. He was actually supposed to appear in this series at some point and even had an actor attached to voice, but once Calendar Girl was included the show decided to abandon Calendar Man. This would be her only appearance though which is a bit of a shame as I think there’s more to explore with this character. I suppose it allows viewers to take an optimistic approach to the character and assume she got the help that she needed, though that’s giving Arkham a lot of credit it really hasn’t earned.


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