Batman - The Brave and the Bold Batman - The Brave and the Bold

Today is a sad day for Batman fans, with the series finale of The Brave and the Bold closing a chapter on the most joyful incarnation of the character since Adam West donned the cape and cowl in the 1960s. The show paired the character — whimsically voiced by Diedrich Bader in a performance that is simultaneously imposing and playful — with household names from the DC Comics pantheon (Superman, Aquaman) as well as obscure cult favorites (Blue Beetle and B'wana Beast, anyone?). Punches and puns have flown with equal frequency, making the series popular with both families and fanboys. "I always want this show to be what comic books were for me when I was a kid," producer James Tucker once told TV Guide Magazine. "You didn't have to worry about it being too young for the adult or too old for the kid — they just wrote them at a level that was accessible to a broader range of people. There's not much of that in comics right now."

In tonight's swan song, titled "Mitefall!," the impish fourth-wall-breaking Bat-Mite (the mischievous voice of Paul "Pee-wee Herman" Reubens) has grown tired of the series. "What was once so fresh has become formula," he sighs. Although he acknowledges that the show's lighthearted tone won over hardcore fans by being "a love letter to Silver Age comics," he now longs for "the serious Batman." His plan: "I'll use my Fifth Dimensional powers to make the show so bad it won't just jump the shark, it'll do a quadruple spinning backflip over it. The network will have to take it off the air!"

Bat-Mite's strategy includes adding a laugh track, introducing garish gadgets and costumes (a riff on toy companies incessant variations of action figures) and recasting Ted McGinley as the voice of Aquaman (taking over for the "outrageous" John DiMaggio, a fan favorite). Coming to Batman's rescue is the barely-known, über-meta DC Comics character Ambush Bug ("You're a pretty obscure hero, even for this show," Bat-Mite quips). In a perfect piece of casting, he's played by the original shark jumper himself, Henry Winkler.

Batman may not be able to defeat network executives, but the show's conclusion certainly satisfies, complete with a mass gathering of previous guest stars and a teaser for a (fictional) replacement show that quickly teaches Bat-Mite to be careful what he wishes for.

The series finale of Batman: The Brave and the Bold airs tonight at 7/6c on Cartoon Network.

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!