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January 27, 2005

There's Guilty Television, And Then There's Bad Television. [Dave at Garfield Ridge]

Dear readers, I could spend time rehashing politics, or I could spend time discussing the real issues facing America today.

Issues like, is it wrong to think a whole bowl of Cool Whip is a dessert all by itself?

Or, if a fat woman asks me my opinion on her weight, is it wrong for me to give her the honest truth as long as I preface it with "I'm just sayin'"?

Or, is it wrong for me to spend every Thursday night in front of the television watching The O.C.?

Readers, that last admission is what I'd like to talk to you about tonight. The soap opera viewer has long been stereotyped as a young, weepy girl-- or an older woman, way past her prime. If men watch soap operas at all, they are, well. . . homosexual.

Now, I'm not homosexual-- not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I would be willing to learn, if that would get me posted someplace special.

So, what excuse does a thirty-year-old, relatively mature, responsible single heterosexual man have for watching The O.C.?

Well, there are hot chicks. And the writing is pretty damn funny. Plus it's got Peter "The Kosher Ham" Gallagher.

And. . . did I mention the hot chicks?

I will not apologize for asserting that, during its finest moments, The O.C. can be pretty cool. Even fatality cool.


Welcome to the O.C., bitch.

The reason I bring this up is not to talk about guilty television pleasures, but instead discuss THE MOST AWFUL TELEVISION SHOWS EVER. For instance, earlier today I brought up the classic un-hit show Manimal.

In the comments to that post, readers Skinbad and Pinky offered some suggestions for even worse shows, bringing up greats such as M.A.N.T.I.S., and The Man From Atlantis.

While I don't have a Patrick Duffy leg, I do have at least a working knowledge of bad television over the years.

So, what could top even Manimal as history's worst idea for a television show?

Street Hawk? Nope. Wishman? Nuh-uh. The Golden Girls? Perhaps. . . nah.

And, while we can all agree that the continuing adventures of the 4077th’s Radar O’Reilly as a New York City cop meets the definition of awful in anybody’s book, I still believe that there was one show out there worse than all the rest.


I bring you: Automan.

A computer game that comes to life? It all happens in Automan, an action-packed mystery with a sense of humor. Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz, Jr.), a computer genius who works for the New York City Police Department, designs computer games in the basement of his home in his spare time. His latest and most important creation is AUTOMAN, a hologram or three dimensional image that can be seen without a screen. Programmed as a super sleuth, AUTOMAN is the ultimate crime fighter. Unfortunately, AUTOMAN needs an enormous amount of power to appear so he doesn't always show up when Walter needs him the most. In addition, with the exception of a couple of important friends, no one at the police department really understands Walter or his computers. But that doesn't stop Walter or AUTOMAN, in their computer-generated AUTOCAR or AUTOPLANE, from solving crimes all around the world. And it certainly won't stop anyone from enjoying this fast-pace, very contemporary adventure.

Okay, let’s wade through the above press release.

Walter creates a computer-generated crime fighter. At home. In 1983.

With what? With 64K of memory? Hell, I’ve got 512MB of RAM lying at my feet—can someone please explain to me why I can’t generate the women of S Club 7?

Would someone please tell me what kind of computer do I have to buy in order to make Rachel Stevens appear before me wearing a Baroness outfit?

I love how the producers of Automan had to explain the concept of a “hologram.” I imagine a room full of stogie-chompin’ network executives whose last real laughs were in vaudeville wondering what a hologram was. Hell, they probably wondered what a computer was.

Automan had his AUTOCAR and his AUTOPLANE. He also had an AUTOCOPTER.

Yet, if Automan could generate a car or a plane out of thin air, why couldn’t he generate an AUTOBOMBER? Or an AUTOPOWERLOADERFROMALIENS? Or how about an AUTOOGRE?

Admittedly, the effects budget was limited. While Automan ostensibly computer-generated all of these vehicles out of thin air—via the world’s most impressive Wi-Fi system, I assume—in reality, all the effects in the show were done with a mix of cartoon animation, neon bulbs, and reflective safety tape. Even for 1983, it wasn’t quite Industrial Light and Magic caliber-work.


Somewhere, John Dykstra just swallowed a pistol.

What I don’t understand is, with all the abilities of TRON in reverse, why did every episode of Automan have to involve the most routine cop show cliches? Drug smugglers, burglars, dirty cops; it was just Barnaby Jones with ground-effect lighting.

Automan should’ve set his sights higher. Cure world hunger. Vanquish communism. Convince Sting to keep The Police from breaking up, using force if he had to.

Alas, it was not to be, as the writers were lazy, and the show was awful.

Here’s hoping Ace’s script is better.

-- Dave at Garfield Ridge

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posted by Ace at 11:06 PM

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