Automan - The Complete Series : Release Year - 1983

Overall Rating : 7.5/10

Desi Arnaz Jr. (Here's Lucy (TV))
Chuck Wagner
Heather McNair (Madhouse (1990) )
Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Our House (TV) )
Robert Lansing (Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (TV) )

Supplied By : Shout! Factory

Film Reviewed By : Rick L. Blalock

Date Reviewed : November. 30, 2015


I AM AUTOMAN. Walter Nebicher is the police department's resident computer geek... his immediate superiors think Walter's place is behind the desk and not on the streets. However, Walter has other ideas. Walter's expertise in computer programming is unparalleled and he creates a special program, 'Automan,' an artificially intelligent computer hologram that looks real, sounds real and given enough power can physically exist in the real world. Together, Walter and Automan along with Cursor, a small floating droid that creates any object Automan needs to battle crime on the city streets.
Also in 1983, came another Glen Larson production. A series called AUTOMAN. And again it was considered a miss by Television execs, and as a result, the show lasted only 12 aired episodes. Although only a dozen episodes made it to TV, in reality a total of 13 episodes where produced. Once again teaming up with FABULOUS FILMS out of the UK, SHOUT FACTORY here releases all 13 episodes as part of a 4 disc set.

In the series Pilot, we meet a tech savvy cop named Walter Nebicher, who has been given a desk job by his Chief after what we assume were a few reckless incidents out on the street. The captain, E.G. Boyd, believes that the inside desk job will keep him out of trouble. However, predictably, the always restless Walter yearns to be out on the street solving cases and fighting crime, as any other right Police officer would desire. So what is a computer whiz supposed to do? Walter Nebicher, almost immediately has a solution to his problem. He takes to his computer and initiates a computer program, which he has created called "Automan" With "Automan". he creates a hologram that is in the shape of the human form, it is the vehicle in which he now would fight crime. With "Automan" Walter Nebicher, is able to use the hologram to fight crime by merging with the hologram, thus making himself invisible to all, or by letting "Automan" play his own role in a case(sometimes the computer-smart hologram, even takes matters into his own hands) In the first episode, initially, the program, which Walter has spent some time creating, appears to not work, however, some time later, "Automan" miraculously soon appears. When his friend Lieutenant Jack Curtis is kidnapped by a terrorist group calling themselves "Global Gaurd" The Police are worried. Curtis was kidnapped when cracking down on a case involving Global Guard and their kidnapping of some top engineers from top corporations. Unbeknown to his team at the station, Walter takes matters into his own hands, when he employs the hologram, and his assistant "Cursor" (a powerful entity of light that is sort of a sidekick to "Automan". with the ability to create any object desired, simply by drawing a wireframe outline of it). With the assistance of "Automan" and "Cursor". Walter is able to find Global Guard's compound, located in Switzerland. It here where Jack Curtis and the others are being held against their will. The leaders of the operation plan to force these influential and powerful people to work for Global Guard. The series then had a dozen more episodes in which the same type of procedure would play out with Walter, along with "Automan" going on to solve many cases, most of the time without the Police force having prior knowledge.

Like the previously reviewed MANIMAL, also from producer Glen Larson, AUTOMAN is a series that came and went. However during its brief life, it seems to have earned quite the following. Like MANIMAL previously, AUTOMAN also ran into production problems. But whereas MANIMAL seemed to have difficulty working with live animals on set, week in and week out, AUTOMAN's problems seems to have been more budgetary than anything else. Simply put, it cost them a lot of money, at the time, just to produce one episode. Each episode required rather extensive visual effects - from "Automan's glowing blue suit, to "cursor", to the wireframe outlines which it would subsequently draw on screen - it all took work. And seeing as television, back in that time, was on time constraints, I imagine that it was a tough task each week to keep things going. While AUTOMAN may have not been going against the season premiere of DALLAS, as was MANIMAL, it was still at a disadvantage, due to its own ambitions and imagination. However, with that said, it left an impression on some, and thus has it's fans. Only in this case, it's a little bit more apparent to me, as to why this show was well liked.

While MANIMAL was pretty enjoyable, it could be argued, that part of the reason that it is to be enjoyed, is due to its similarity to Television's THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Because in many aspects, they were very much the same. However, when turning to AUTOMAN, a show from the team that would later go on to produce TRON, it was something far different. It was ahead of it's time, both in its plot elements(CGI graphics), and in the way it related computer technology to real life scenarios. It also hade a comedy element that was just undeniable. And the comedy just would become more funny as the number of episodes rolled along. In "Automan", Walter Nebicher, a former game designer, has essentially made the world's first, "Automatic Man". He has installed him with all the knowledge in the world, along with the good looks of some of Hollywood's leading men. Because of this "Automan"(or "Auto" for short) is a bit of a narcissist, and it's funny. He knows he is handsome, and knows that he can replicate certain things perfectly. These qualities about him, make for some rather humorous moments, as many of the episodes see "Automan" taking part in missions on his own, often taking on the name of "Auto J. Man"(see what they did there?). So not only do we see him as a detective, there are episodes which see "Automan" as a disco king, with moves better than Travolta, as a charming leading actor(after he studies Soap Opera footage), as a male exotic dancer, whose gimmick is being a a hunky electrician. (Again - a pun on "Automan" being a digitized hologram). And in one episode even becoming a member of a biker gang, after Nebicher and a friend fid themselves imprisoned by a crooked lawman. And as far as the cases go, anything from a diamond heist at a country club, a doctor entangled with the mob, or the murder of one of their own, over the course of its 13 episode run, AUTOMAN remained fun. And not to mention, that like MANIMAL, AUTOMAN had some nice guest stars. Seen in the show are names such as Sid Haig, Clu Gulager, Richard Lynch and Austin Stroker.

Seeing as I have now seen both MANIMAL and AUTOMAN, I can safely tell you that I much better enjoyed AUTOMAN out of the 2 series. The comedy is much more on point, the stories, as well as their incomes, much more interesting, and the characters themselves are much more enjoyable to watch. I have read that there is speculation, regarding just why it is that the show ended early. One rumor is that Desi Arnaz Jr. Didn't particularly like taking a back seat to co-star, Chuck Wagner. Although Desi Arnaz Jr. was billed as the star of the show, it quickly became apparent that the real reason one should truly watch the show, was indeed Wagner's "Automan" character. It was really all about "Automan", so, I could see why that could cause tension, However. an the featurette included on this release, it seems to not be further from the truth. It seems that Arnaz, as well as Wagner and - all enjoyed their roles, and time on the show.

As for the technical aspects of the release. Like MANIMAL, this was a series that was difficult to acquire for some time. Again, SHOUT! FACTORY has acquired its source from UK distributor, FABULOUS FILMS, so again it seems that an increase of frame rate was required to transfer the episodes to NTSC. So again, their is some ghosting/blurry movement seen in every episode at one point or another. With this frame rate increase, it's something unavoidable. However, what can be said that personally, I didn't think it was bad as what I saw during my viewing of MANIMAL.

Overall, this collection of the entire run of AUTOMAN is worth getting is you are into nostalgia, For an 80s period show, it's inventive, imaginative and the comedy situations present many fun, and memorable moments.

This 4 DVD set is packaged in a clear DVD case. 1 disc is held within the case's front panel, while 2 discs are secured in a front/back center insert, while the fourth disc is housed in the case's back panel. There is a double sided episode guide with episode summaries that is also held within the case's front panel.

Special Features include :

- 'Calling Automan' - The Auto Feature - An All-New Documentary Featuring Interviews With Chuck Wagner, Glen A. Larson, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Heather McNair (42 mins)
- The Story of AUTOMAN - an essay regarding the show's creation.
- Feature Story - An article featuring star, Chuck Wagner.
- Original Cast And Crew Biographies
- Collectables Gallery
- Stills Gallery
- MANIMAL Trailer

As I said, I had fun with this one, as it's a nice slice of 80s TV as it too carries the Glen Larson brand of entertainment that dared to be different and innovative fir its time. Coming away from I just couldn't believe that it did not last as long as it did. I also can't believe that it isn't one up for a movie remake or a TV series reboot. If you haven't heard of/seen this show yet, or if you have and just want to revisit it again, then this release is a great thing to have.

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