Friday, March 18, 2011

Best of/Worst of 4

Best of/Worst of 4
Kevin Scott Bolinger

   Greetings and salutations. I know this is over a week late, but illness beset me, and for that I apologize. This week I will bring you what I feel is one of the worst science fiction shows ever created, and I beg to ask why it was made in the first place. Back in the seventies and eighties, there was this idea that many successful of even semi-successful films would make for good weekly television shows. In some cases this was a great idea, such as shows like M.A.S.H. , taken from the film of the same name, Airwolf, taken from the concept of Blue Thunder, (A show made directly from Blue Thunder was a failure, for some odd reason,) and to a lesser extent, the original Battlestar Galactica, itself a slight rip-off of Star Wars. Other shows sadly fell into the category of utter crap. Today’s subject falls into that category. I present to you, Automan.

     Back in 1982, the Disney corporation brought to life a film that took place inside the computer. I am of course speaking of that wonderful cult film TRON. It was a novel idea, maybe a bit ahead of it’s time, but still, was one of the first widespread use of computer graphics in a movie, something we take for granted today. Someone, back at ABC saw this and thought “Wow, that would make a great T.V. show.” How wrong they were.  Using a cheaper rip-off version of the Tron suit effects, a show was quickly thrown together. Fortunately it did not last long, only twelve episodes ever aired in the original run, the thirteenth produced episode did not see television screens until the SyFy channel broadcast the series a few years ago.

    I will admit, I haven’t seen the show since back when it was first broadcast, so forgive me for any errors I make. I am also aware that many would consider Manimal to be a worse  show, however, I have fond memories of Manimal, and you have to admit, in concept, it was quite original, if lacking in it’s execution. I may elaborate on Manimal at another time, maybe a Best of the Worst side blog.

   The basic premise of Automan is a bit convoluted and wrought with scientific impossibilities. The show centers around a highly intelligent police officer and computer programmer named Walter Nebicher, played by Desi Arnaz Jr. , who creates a highly intelligent crime fighting program that can somehow generate a solid light hologram capable of actually fighting crime and creating things out of thin air, such as a car and a helicopter. Walter names him Automan, and proceeds to use his creation to take down bad guys everywhere. After having said all that, I can see how someone in a drunken stupor could think it was a great idea.
Walter and his creation

   Not only could Automan fight crime, and have his tiny bit like sidekick, named Cursor, (Cursor would literally draw what Automan needed to fight his war on crime,) but, somehow he and Walter could merge, why, I have no idea. Automan on his own was smarter and faster, and invulnerable, so why would he need to merge with a human. During the day, when not living in the computer, or fighting crime, Automan would pose as a government agent named…sigh…Otto J. Mann. I could not make this up if I tried.

   Automan’s vehicles were all capable of making  ninety degree turns, he of course being unaffected by this, but any of his passengers would get tossed around like scrap. He did have a weakness, power shortages, mostly during the day. Why this would be , I have no clue, power stations run both night and day, so really he should have no weakness. I guess it was tossed in so he would not be overly powerful.
Ok, The car is cool, I will give them that.

   I will not even go into the rest of the supporting cast, they were just your generic eighties cop types. A captain that yelled a lot, a partner that was in on the secret. Nothing new or original there either.

   Why was this show even made? I mean really, Tron, at the time was a box office flop, so this show should have never seen the light of day. Movie spin-off shows nowadays are not as prevalent as back then, and this may be a good thing. There are concepts that work well in the confines of a theatrical film that would never translate well over to weekly television. It is best to keep them separate. If you had never seen Automan up to this point, keep it that way. The show is a bad rip-off of a cult classic film. Let us leave it that way.

   Again, I am sorry for this being late, and for being a bit shorter then my normal blogs. Really, there is not a whole lot to say about this show. It was on T.V. for not even half a season, and vanished from memory for the most part. Some ideas should just never see the light of day. Next time, I might switch gears again and move on to something many might have a lot of varying opinions on. If it sparks healthy debates, so much the better. Till then, remember, we are the universe, trying to find it’s voice. We are one.

Tron? Is that you? Oh wait...just a knock-off


  1. The reson the power levels were a weakness during the daytime, is that during the day, More power was used as buisnesses were running, schools were in session etc... at night the drain on the power grid was lessened.

  2. Yes, I understand the reason, I still feel it is a silly weakness. I mean, your refrigerator doesn't get weak during the day, and Automan is basically a fancy appliance, his power needs could not be that great. Also, Power companies do lessen the supply as demand goes down, so the levels available to him would, in reality, be equal day or night.