Ah, the 1980’s. The decade when MTV played music videos, an actor occupied the oval office, Hulkamania was running wild, and people thought Paul Hogan was funny.
One of the things I remember the most about 1980’s are all the terrible TV shows that came on. There many of them because back then TV shows were rarely cancelled after one episode. No sir, back then new shows were given a real chance to find an audience.
Even terrible shows like “Manimal,” “The Powers of Matthew Star,” and “Grand Slam” got at least six episodes to show their stuff. And I’ll admit, I watched them all. However, one of my all-time favorite shows from the era had to be “Automan.”
Lasting for just one season (13 episodes) on ABC, “Automan” told the tale of a computer programmer/cop Walter Nebicher who creates a hologram crime fighter that can do and create anything with the power of computers. Yeah, it was as bad as it sounds, but as a young kid I loved every minute of it!
The computer nerd/cop was played by the son of Desi and Lucy Arnaz, Desi Arnaz Jr. who kind of vanished from tv in the late 80’s. The role of Automan went to Chuck Wagner, who for years I confused with Jack Wagner. Also in the cast were Robert Lansing as Lieutenant Jack Curtis; Gerald S. O’Loughlin as Police Captain E. G. Boyd; and Heather McNair as Roxanne Caldwell. Last but certainly not least was Cursor, Automan’s side kick and source of his digital creations.
Every superhero has their limits and weaknesses and Automan was no exception. Since Walter created Automan as a computer hologram, he would fade out during the day when the cities electrical usage would rise. This was before the internet kids, these things would happen on tv. So basically, all the bad guys had to do to get away with something, was wait for daylight.
The small television budget meant “Automan” was stuck with some silly plots. Walter Nebicher and Automan were always fighting small time crooks rather than super-powered villains. The small budget also meant “Automan” was stuck with some of the cheesiest special effects known to man, but they did what they could. And for a little guy like me, those effects were the greatest thing ever. “Automan” was part super-hero, part Tron, and I was hooked.
Television has come such a long way since “Automan” that if you think about it, a modern day take could work. For one thing, kids these days grow up with cell phones, computers, and all sorts of other stuff. So having the main character creating Automan wouldn’t be as far fetched as it was in 1983. Two, the special effects today could do all sorts of things with Automan. Can you imgaine what the car and helicopter could look like today? And think of all the todys you could sell!
Say, this isn’t a bad idea, maybe I should pitch it to someone….