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Series / Automan

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Walter and Automan.

Automan was a short-lived cop show that aired on ABC in The '80s. Desi Arnaz Jr. played Walter Nebicher, a police scientist/nerd who's stuck in the computer room when he'd rather be out on the street. In response, he creates Automan (short for "Automatic Man", played by Chuck Wagner), an artificially intelligent holographic partner. Automan had the ability to do any action he's seen on video, and interface with any computer system. He was also aided by Cursor, a blinking ball of light who could become virtually any object Automan needed, such as various vehicles or civilian clothing.

Naturally, they fight crime.

Twelve episodes of the series aired in 1983-84. The complete series, including the thirteenth episode, was released to DVD by Fabulous Films on the 1st October 2012 in the UK only. It was then released in Australia on the 18th August 2015 by Madman Entertainment and in the US on the 10th November 2015 by Shout Factory.

Automan provides examples of:

  • Catch a Falling Star: One episode had crooks taking Automan and Walter into a plane to throw them out to their deaths. While they do that to Walter, they are stunned to see Automan do the same on his own accord. However, Automan is able to simply order Cursor to create an aircraft and it swiftly catches them both.
  • Character as Himself: Cursor even gets the "And Starring" billing.
  • Da Chief: Capt. Boyd (Gerald O'Loughlin), an old-school captain who doesn't care for Walter's new-fangled computers.
  • Cool Car: A black Lamborghini Countach decorated with retroreflective tape, which also happens to be a Flying Car and helicopter.
  • Cue the Sun: Inverted for this series. Namely, during the day, Automan cannot typically appear and Walter is on his own against any danger he faces. However, as in the pilot episode, when Walter is mortal peril on his own, the fact that the setting is now at night changes the atmosphere since we know the superhero can now help him.
  • Energy Shield: Automan can be one, by "merging" yourself with him. Since he's made of light, you can just walk through him and stand where he stands (but since it's Hard Light, it will subsequently stop bullets, etc.).
  • Extreme Omnisexual: For a glowing ball of energy, Cursor was very "interested" in any attractive females nearby. Indeed, the shot where he draws a heart around a poster of Heather Thomas from fellow Glen A. Larson series The Fall Guy gets in the series' main title.
  • Fake Band: Sweet Kicks, an all-girl band who are targeted for death in the episode "Murder MTV".
  • Follow the Leader: Inspired by TRON (and even produced by that film's producers), but also borrows heavily from Knight Rider (also from Glen A. Larsonnote ).
  • Future Spandex: It's easy to see that Automan is something different because he's dressed up in sparkly Future Spandex.
  • Hard Light: Automan, Cursor and all Automan's vehicles are made out of it.
  • Hover Bot: Automan's buddy Cursor acts like this.
  • Inertia Is a Cruel Mistress: Automan's Cool Car can hard turn at 90 degrees, which is no problem for Automan, but any human passengers...
  • Internal Affairs: They investigate the death of Walter's partner in "Flashes and Ashes".
  • Magical Computer: This show didn't even pretend to be realistic about how computers work.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Unless you count that Tron-like glowy suit.
  • Novelization: In the UK, only of the pilot.
  • Opening Narration: It takes up two whole minutes and features a long, slow Info Dump about Automan's abilities. This means that three minutes of show is taken up by a plodding opening.
  • Power Copying: Automan could copy any skill he sees performed at least once.
  • Projected Man: As a result of adding more power.
  • Running Gag: Walter's last name is regularly mispronounced as "nebbish".
  • Sue Donym: Automan's usual alias outside the computer is Otto J. Mann.
  • Short-Runners: Only lasted 12 eps, with a 13th episode unaired (though all 13 aired in the UK and Mexico).
  • Shout-Out: Many, as one of Automan's abilities was to duplicate skills he saw performed in movies or television. One notable incident involved duplicating the skills in The Hustler (1961) — right down to the missed final shot. One shows in the opening titles of each episode. Witness the poster of Heather Thomas from Larson's concurrent series The Fall Guy.
  • Translator Buddy: Fortunately, Automan is there to translate for Cursor.
  • Tron Lines: On every vehicle Cursor creates. Also Automan's holographic body; even when in plainclothes disguise, his glowing collar is always visible.
  • The Unintelligible: Cursor only speaks in various beeps.
  • Unmoving Plaid: The glowing blue pattern in Automan's suit behaves like this when he moves around.
  • Weakened by the Light: Automan and Cursor's power needs meant that they could only be projected into the physical world during off-peak hours, i.e. nighttime. This also negated the need to have neon-themed objects in broad daylight.