Friday, November 18, 2011

Nostalgia Theater: Automan Edition

We turn the "Nostalgia Theater" spotlight this week on a true time capsule of the early '80s -- with all that implies -- courtesy of legendary schlock TV purveyor Glen A. Larson. Inspired by the Tron's then-groundbreaking visual effects technology upon that film's 1982 release, Larson, creator of the original Battlestar Galactica and the original Knight Rider, dreamed up a superhero series the following year that could draw in the same throngs that were captivated by the Disney film

The big miscalculation, of course, was that there were no throngs captivated by Tron, and so the end result was Automan, starring Desi Arnaz, Jr. (whose career I don't think ever recovered from this) and Chuck Wagner as nebbishy computer programmer and high tech superhero, respectively. I could try to sum up the ludicrous idiocy of this thing for you, but I'll make it easier on myself by just having you check out this intro from the pilot, which seems to assume everyone in the audience is the dumbest person on Earth:

And if you're not sold yet, you will be after you watch the title sequence:

So, yeah, this was pretty bad.

Is it any wonder why I consider Larson the biggest reason why sci-fi TV was such a wasteland between the time Star Trek left the air in '69 and when it returned to the air in '87? I mean, really, Jimmy Connors playing tennis, and John Travolta dancing? Were those references current even back then? This thing lasted twelve episodes in 1983 before ABC hit the CTRL-ALT-DELETE, but Larson, who also created Magnum, P.I. with Donald P. Bellisario (which actually holds up pretty well, surprisingly enough), wasn't through with his subpar sci-fi sojourns just yet, and we'll be delving into more of those offerings in the weeks and months ahead.
Automan hasn't been released for home video yet, which I suppose we should all be grateful for.


Anonymous said...

Aww, man. Why do you want to be trashing Automan? You know a part of you likes it, else you wouldn't be devoting an article to it :)

Yeah, I know it is bad. But I remember being a kid in the 80's hoping my parents would let me stay up late to watch Automan. I'd still buy it if it were on DVD, just to try it out.

Yeah, all the Glen Larson shows were cheesy (Knight Rider, The Highwayman), but I still loved them. They definitely appeal to your inner 8 year old! Of course, that was back when there were only 3 or 4 channels on TV, so you didn't have a lot to choose from. Also, TV was a LOT slower paced back then.

Zaki said...

All the "Nostalgia Theater" pieces I do are filtered through fond memories, so the goal is usually good-natured ribbing rather than merciless mocking (though admittedly it does sometimes tilt more toward the latter). AUTOMAN is an example of a bad show that I still have some fond memories of.

mezba said...

I think I loved it ... as well as Manimal! :-)

Zaki said...

Ah yes, MANIMAL. Look for that one's number to come up here soon enough...