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Western Animation / Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?

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Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? is an animated series created by Dexter's Laboratory storyboard artist Greg Miller which pays affectionate homage to the middle-American culture of late 1970s and early 1980s.

Set in an alternate history where robots have become a major part of society, the world's most technologically advanced robot, named "Robot Jones," is given the task to attend a human junior high school to understand humanity. Along the way he befriends a trio of boys named Socks, Mitch, and Cubey, and develops a crush on a nerd named Shannon, whose Braces of Orthodontic Overkill and prosthetic leg make her look robotic. However, lurking in a secret base in the school air ducts, there are the Yogman Twins, two evil brothers that wish to steal Robot's brain and use it to control the minds of everyone in the school.

The show was one of the finalists in the the "Voice Your Choice" event in 2000 where viewers voted on their favorite pilots for new shows. It lost out to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (under its original name Grim and Evil, back when it aired along its eventual spinoff Evil Con Carne) and while it did eventually go to series, the network gave it very little support or promotion. ...Robot Jones became the very last of Cartoon Network's Cartoon Cartoonsnote  and, along with the network's other shows that debuted at the beginning of the decade, ended up being one of its briefest, airing from 2002-2003 with 26 episodes made but only 13 aired in America. Whatever happened, indeed.

Of note, this was the final western animated show to be animated with traditional cels (Ed, Edd n Eddy lasted longer, but transitioned to digital ink and paint halfway through its run).

Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? provides examples of:

  • All Bikers are Hells Angels: In "Family Vacation", Robot is mistaken for a vending machine by a biker, which results in Robot, his family, and his friend Socks being chased by a stereotypical biker gang.
  • Alternate History: The series takes place in an alternate version of the 1980s, where robots have become commonplace.
  • An Aesop: Robot Jones gets these with his "Datalog Entries" but his perspective as a robot makes them Spoof Aesops more than anything else.
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism: The word turns up in "Garage Band" when Mitch decides he wants to write something cool on his guitar and goes with "antidisestablishmentarianism".
  • Badass Adorable: Robot Jones, who else?
  • The Bad Guy Wins: "Cube Wars" features the Yogman Twins cheating to win a competition and got away with it.
  • Bathroom Control: Subverted in "Family Vacation". Robot says he has to change his oil (which is treated like him having to pee), but his parents refuse to pull over at first. Socks says they should really find a rest stop, and Robot unleashes his oil offscreen.
  • Big "NO!": The beginning of the episode "Work" has Robot yell "No" when he runs out of quarters and gets a Game Over on the arcade game he's playing.
  • Book Dumb: Shannon. She can't even do basic math, let alone algebra.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Shannon has atrocious braces.
  • Brain Freeze: Robot Jones gets brain freeze in "Hookie 101" after consuming a Super Cooler with his friends.
  • Broken Aesop: By the end of "Work" Robot concludes "work is for suckers" despite the fact that work is what got him the money he needed to begin with.
  • Butt Biter: In the episode "Work", Robot gets bitten on his butt by a dog when he and Nutz try to recall a robotic dog-walker.
  • Butt-Monkey: Robot Jones. He is ostracized by everyone in Polyneux Middle School for being a robot, the girl he loves hates him and even the principal has it out for him.
  • Calculator Spelling: When Jones is trying to tutor classmate Shannon in math, it comes up that you can make a calculator say "hELLO" by entering 0.7734 and turning it upside-down.
  • Captain Obvious: Robot Jones has his moments. One example would be from "Jealousy", where he tries to explain to Shannon why he can help her with her failing grades.
    Robot Jones: I am a robot.
    Shannon: You don't say, "Robot" Jones.
  • Character as Himself: Robot Jones was originally credited as playing himself (his voice was provided by Microsoft’s 98 text-to-speech program) before he was replaced and re-dubbed by Bobby Block.
  • Comedic Spanking:
    • In "Electric Boogaloo", Robot spanks the Yogman Twins' robot Yogbot X before Cubey tells him to stop and just get his brain back.
    • In the episode "Hookie 101", Robot imagines getting spanked by Dad Unit when Socks tells him what might happen if they get caught skipping school.
  • Coin-on-a-String Trick:
    • Cubey uses the "coin on a string to snag away from machine at the last minute" trick while at Nob's Arkaid in the episode "Vacation".
    • Mitch is shown using the coin-on-a-string trick in "Hookie 101" as a solution to the gang being tricked out of most of their money before arriving at the arcade.
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*: In "Gender", Robot and his friends pretend to cough over remarking "girl" when they make fun of their classmate Jamie for getting home economics as his elective.
  • Counting Sheep: The episode "P.U. to P.E." has a scene where Robot is sleeping that features a screen depicting pixellated sheep jumping over a fence.
  • Covered in Kisses:
    • Robot Jones, Mitch, Socks, and Cubey get covered in kisses from the girls near the end of "Garage Band", much to their amusement.
    • In "Popularity", Shannon decides to show Robot her new watermelon lipgloss she bought for their date by applying it to her lips and giving him a big smooch on the cheek. When she leaves, Robot turns his cheek to the screen, revealing a giant pink lipstick mark.
  • Creepy Twins: The Yogmans are an unusual example in that they are fraternal twins (normally, creepy twins seen in many a TV show or movie are identical). They're still pretty unsettling and sinister, though.
  • Cute Machines: Robot Jones himself. He is a curious and somewhat naïve robot with the voice of a small boy.
  • Daydream Surprise: In "Jealousy", Robot turns out to have been merely fantasizing about beating Finkman up after it initially appeared that he punched Finkman's head off.
  • Dean Bitterman: Principal Madman, the principal of Polyneux Middle School, is quite the grouch.
  • Depending on the Writer: There isn't a consistency regarding how Shannon feels about Robot. Sometimes she has nothing but contempt for Robot, as in "Jealousy", and sometimes she is shown to be on good terms with him, as in "House Party".
  • Deranged Animation: The show looks like Schoolhouse Rock! filtered through a bored teenager's math notebook (or a Retraux '80s webcomic).
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "Hair", Robot's friends taunt him over the fact that he'll never grow hair. Robot responds by using hair remover to make everyone in the school bald.
  • Do-Anything Robot: The Jones family, despite their form following function, seem to be able to do whatever's the most convenient. Or awkward.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "Cube Wars" has Robot Jones losing the Wonder Cube competition because the Yogman Twins cheated by swapping two stickers on his cube. To make things all the more aggravating, the very end of the episode has Robot Jones see Lenny and Denny taunt him while on television.
    • "Jealousy" ends with the android foreign exchange student Finkman returning to Austria without facing any comeuppance for his haughty ways and Shannon hating Robot Jones because she blames him for Finkman's departure.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Lenny and Denny appear in the pilot as background characters with slightly different designs before they are properly introduced in the episode "Electric Boogaloo".
  • Education Mama: Mom Unit always wants her son Robot to learn about humans and their ways while at school.
  • The '80s: The series features red Devo hats, shutter-shade sunglasses, arcades, 8-bit video game music, and all manner of '80s Hair (mostly the wild, colorful new-wave/punk styles, not the more embarrassing examples like blown-out bouffants on women, Joe Piscopo-style man-perms, or the Jheri curl). One episode ("Vacuum Friend") even had a b-boy rapper with a record player.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: Robot Jones, most notably in "Sickness", where being infected with Lenny and Denny's computer virus causes him to stutter constantly.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Robot tends to explode if the problem at hand is too much for him to handle
  • F--: In "Jealousy" Shannon gets an F+ on her math test.
  • Fantastic Racism: Goes both ways. Robot Jones is constantly ostracized and ridiculed for being a robot, plus his family tends to view humans as being inferior to robots.
  • Funny Robot: The title character can be pretty humorous because of his warped perception of human culture and trying too hard to fit in.
  • Genre Throwback: See "Deranged Animation" above
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Shannon wears a purple sweater. Subverted, in that Robot Jones is so infatuated with Shannon that he thinks she's graceful, when Shannon is really awkward (mostly because she's a teenage girl and mostly because she has Braces of Orthodontic Overkill and a prosthetic leg).
  • Held Back in School: "Scantron Love" featured a background gag where among the hallway of middle school students was a grown man who claims that he's had to re-take the test 137 times.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "P.U. to P.E.", Robot Jones makes fun of his classmates in gym class for looking ridiculous while wearing a jockstrap on his face.
  • Hypocrite: Principal Madman is a technophobe, which explains his disdain for Robot Jones for being a robot, but apparently he likes Finkman (an android) in "Jealousy" (considering Madman's prejudice against robots, this could be a case of Madman thinking Finkman is "one of the good ones").
  • Imagine Spot:
    • In "Vacuum Friend", Robot Jones is invited to his friend Socks' pool party. Robot turns down the offer after imagining that jumping into the pool will electrocute everyone.
    • In "Embarrassment", Robot's friends tease him over his crush on Shannon, which causes him to imagine himself and Shannon getting married and that union somehow resulting in a cyborg baby.
    • In "Hair", Robot imagines Shannon dating a Sasquatch.
    • Robot has several imagine spots of Gramps Unit killing his human guests in "House Party".
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Robot is occasionally referred to as "it" by minor character Pam.
  • Jerkass: Lenny and Denny Yogman are always causing trouble for Robot Jones. Most of the other human characters tend to be rude and inconsiderate to Robot as well.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Practically all the students at Polyneux Middle School pick on Robot Jones. Even his friends can be hurtful to him at times.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • In "Cube Wars", the Yogman Twins cheat to win a competition and get away with it.
    • The foreign exchange Austrian robot kid Finkman (yes this is how his name is spelled) was such a arrogant ass to Robot and even admitted he was "stealing Robot's woman", his behavior tempted to make Robot defy his programming to fight another robot but before anything happens Finkman was for unknown reasons being sent back to Austria which leaves Robot confused and the other boys in class cheering for Robot for they too hated Finkman... not before successfully making Shannon hate Robot for thinking he's the reason why Finkman has to go back to Austria. The only lesson Robot learned for his data log entry is he hates Finkman! Finkman also apparently stole government documents at some point.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In "PU to P.E." Mr. Workout the gym coach spends the entire episode trying to get Robot Jones to shower in gym despite being oblivious to the fact that Robot fears exposure to water because he would rust... instead of rusting Robot Jones accidentally electrocutes Mr. Workout and the students instead.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo:
  • Limited Animation: Invoked for that 80s feel.
  • Machine Monotone: The Jones family all talk with little emotion or inflection, until Robot became the sole exception when he received an actual voice actor and the older episodes were redubbed.
  • Malfunction Malady: In "Sickness", Robot gets a computer virus, which presents itself as the robot version of a cold.
  • Naked People Are Funny: In "The Groovesicle", Robot and Socks watch a music video for a song called "The Nudist and Mr. Pendleton", the titular nudist being a jovial man wearing nothing but a bowler hat and a necktie who runs around while Mr. Pendleton, a dog, makes desperate attempts at giving the nudist clothes or covering up his nudity.
  • Never My Fault: in "PU to P.E.", Mr. Workout spends the entire episode trying to get Robot Jones to shower and after being electrocuted by accident he blames Robot for it.
  • No Biological Sex: The episode "Gender" focuses on Robot's quest to discover what gender he is, exactly, since he has no sexual characteristics to speak of. (Despite fraternizing with boys and having a crush on a girl, it appears that Robot is not actually male-identified and only goes along with binary classifications for social reasons.)
  • The Nudifier: The vaccum cleaner in the episode "Vacuum Friend" when it vacuums the dress off of Robot's teacher Miss Rucoat's body, implying that she's either naked or in her lingerie exposed in front of the classroom with two boys sitting next to Robot enjoying the sight of their exposed female teacher before she screams "ROBOT JONES!!!" and pointing to the detention room. Also counts as Stripping Snag.
  • Only Sane Man: Compared to his less-advanced parents, Robot Jones is very stable.
  • Orwellian Retcon: Robot Jones's second-season voice change was applied to the first season by redubbing the episodes, upsetting the fans that preferred his original voice. According to creator Greg Miller the Cartoon Network executives thought the voice sounded "too weird" and wanted to go more "Hollywood." He did robot dialogue for all eps but some of them were never properly mixed into the second season episode. There was a rumor that Apple threatened to sue for using the software without their permission, but it wasn't true.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In "School Newspaper", Principal Madman attempts to frame Robot Jones for various misdeeds by photographing himself wearing a cheap mask and a grey bodysuit. Everyone at Polyneux Middle School buys it even though Madman's shoddy disguise gives the appearance that Robot is somehow fat and naked.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The show is titled after the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
  • Potty Emergency: In "Family Vacation", Robot Jones at one point suffers needing an oil change, which is treated like needing to use the bathroom.
  • Power Cord Tail: Robot has a power cord that he pulls out of his rear and plugs it to a power outlet to recharge himself since he couldn't eat lunch like a human.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Robot has a built-in X-ray, which was used for perverse purposes twice.
    • Lenny and Denny trick him into using it to spy on the girls' locker room in "Electric Boogaloo".
    • After befriending the girls in "Gender", the girls use his X-ray to spy on the boys' bathroom.
  • Putting on the Reich: Principal Madman's mustache looks like Adolf Hitler's and he's very tyrannical to his students, including Robot Jones, whom he personally wants expelled because he thinks just because Robot Jones isn't human means that he's a troublemaker.
  • Racist Grandma: Gramps Unit is very distrustful of humans.
  • Rubik's Cube: International Genius Symbol: Robot Jones' ability to quickly solve a "Wonder-Cube" cube provides the main plot of "Cube Wars".
  • Robo Speak: The robots in this show tend to speak how robots are expected to talk, overuse of technical terms and all.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Robot Jones appears to only like Shannon because she's partially made of metal.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Spock Speak: Robot Jones usually avoids using slang and colloquial terms, though exceptions occur sometimes
  • Sssssnake Talk: Lenny Yogman. He even says 'Hissss' at the end of some of his sentences.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Lenny Yogman sometimes demonstrates a large vocabulary, even insulting Cubey and Mitch by saying that they have very low intelligence quotients instead of simply saying they are stupid.
  • Skipping School: "Hookie 101" has Robot being talked into playing hooky by his friends Cubey, Mitch and Socks. Principal Madman ends up catching them, but gets beaten up by Dad Unit and arrested before he can do anything to punish the boys for skipping school.
  • Stylistic Suck: Subverted. The animation isn't bad per-se, but it's designed to resemble the kind of sketchy doodles a teenager might do in their notebook to reflect on the high school setting.
  • So Last Season: Robot's ability to quickly solve the Wonder-Cube (introduced in "Cube Wars", Season 1) wasn't considered "cool" anymore by Season 2's episode "Popularity".
  • Synthetic Voice Actor: Dad Unit, Gramps Unit and the original voice of Robot Jones were all "voiced" by Apple's text-to-speech software.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Apparently in "Sickness" Principal Madman has these wild misconceptions of robots being sick and "computer viruses" until a computer teacher cleared things up for him. Also in "PU to P.E." Mr. Workout the gym teacher and the students have no idea what would happen to machines when exposed to water, and when Robot did get exposed to water in the showers instead of rusting it electrocuted them.
  • Toilet Humour:
    • Robot's exhaust malfunctioning in "Embarrassment" looks an awful lot like he's passing gas.
    • Robot Jones' need for an oil change in "Family Vacation" is treated like him having a Potty Emergency and he eventually "relieves" himself by running into a bathroom stall and unleashing a big mess of oil.
  • Toilet Paper Trail: Shannon is shown exiting the girl's bathroom with toilet paper stuck to her foot in the episode "Embarrassment".
  • Tsundere: Shannon Westerburg. Sometimes she'll go from insulting Robot to being on the verge of reciprocating his affections toward her at the drop of a hat.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In "Summer Camp", Shannon doesn't thank Robot for rescuing her from a bear or for washing her in the lake after accidentally ruining her clothes. She just calls him a dork.
  • Urine Trouble: In "P.U. to P.E.", Robot Jones tries to avoid coming into contact with water. At one point, he tries to hide in a bush, only to jump back out when he sees a dog lift his hind leg near him.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine:
    • A biker takes out his frustration on a vending machine refusing to work in "Family Vacation".
    • Robot photographs Principal Madman attacking a vending machine in "School Newspaper", afterwards a story for the school newspaper is fabricated so that it seems like Madman is having an affair with the vending machine.
  • Verbal Tic: Dad Unit always says what he has to say three times in a row (e.g. "Go to school, go to school, go to school").
  • Vocal Evolution: Socks' voice got deeper in the second season.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Robot Jones (serious child) to his parents.
  • You Need a Breath Mint: In "Cube Wars", Denny exclaims "Eat a mint" to his brother Lenny after he screams that he won't be satisfied with being the second fastest at solving Wonder Cubes.


Video Example(s):


Robot Jones' Voice

In the pilot episode and first season of Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?, the title character was voiced by a text-to-speech program. At the insistence of Cartoon Network executives, the role was recast with human voice actor Bobby Block for season two. Block would also redub the entirety of season one.

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