Being a villain back in the Comfort TV era was not an easy gig. It’s hard to create a genuine air of menace when television was less compliant about sadistic violence and provocative language. Plus, TV being TV, the hero was going to win eventually because if he (or she) didn’t, the show would be over.
Still, some evildoers managed to put a scare into us, at least for an episode or two. I’ll post my list of the most intimidating Comfort TV villains sometime closer to Halloween, when we’re all in the mood for a good fright. But here, let’s look at seven vanilla villains who never forced anyone to sleep with the lights on.
Louis the Lilac
It was not surprising that Batman’s third season was it’s last, after two episodes in which the Dynamic Duo pitted their crime fighting skills against Milton Berle as Louis the Lilac. Louie wanted to control the minds of Gotham City hippies – not much of a plan as most of the hippies’ minds were already in an altered state. Sure, he once captured Batgirl, but then everybody captured Batgirl. She got tied up more than Nell Fenwick on Dudley Do-Right.
The Adventures of Superman
It’s hard to scare viewers at home if their first reaction is to bust out laughing. But that’s what happened in “The Perils of Superman,” one of the more memorable episodes of the classic 1950s Superman series. What other reaction is possible when you see master criminal Rogan and his two henchmen, garbed in identical business suits and giant bullet-shaped lead headpieces? The show also contained some hilariously ridiculous dialogue; when the gang captures Clark Kent and tells him he will be lowered into a vat of acid, Kent protests, “But…that’s illegal!”
This venerable sci-fi series was clearly on the last gasp of its original run when it introduced a sugarcoated robot in a story called “The Happiness Patrol.” The Kandyman was one of far too many low points from the snakebitten Sylvester McCoy era.
The Jennifer Darling Fembot
The Bionic Woman
Jennifer Darling was a petite, winsome actress who specialized in playing plucky secretaries – first to Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, later to Tom Bradford on Eight is Enough. Even her name should be listed in Roget’s as a synonym for adorable. So when she tries to suggest lethal menace as a super-strong killer robot, it’s like watching someone be attacked by Kristin Chenoweth.
Colonel Wilhelm Klink
Mel Brooks proved that Nazis could be funny as long as they are utterly toothless and incompetent. That description certainly applies to the Kommandant of Stalag 13. Klink was an embarrassment to his allies and a joke to his adversaries, and probably did more than General Eisenhower to help the Germans lose World War II. Werner Klemperer’s inspired portrayal of Klink earned him two Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor.
Diminutive, mild-mannered Henry Gibson, garbed in a shiny purple jumpsuit, plays the ruler of a tiny island nation, who kidnaps the world’s top athletes and blackmails them into competing under his flag at the Olympics. This frankly insane episode was called “Screaming Javelins” and also featured Melanie Chartoff as a Russian gymnast and Rick Springfield as her boyfriend. Gibson’s take on Mariposa must be seen to be believed – he’s like some twisted offspring of Liberace and Julian Assange.
ElectraWoman and DynaGirl
I have a confession – if I were forced to spend my remaining days on a desert island and could only take a handful of television shows with me, one of them would be this typically eccentric Sid & Marty Krofft creation – an episode pitting ElectraWoman and DynaGirl against a green-afroed rock musician who hypnotized people with his guitar. Check out the photo - even Freddie Mercury thinks this guy needs to tone it down. As a villain Glitter Rock wasn’t much. As a symbol of everything that was wonderful and terrible about the 1970s, he was unforgettable.