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Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (1983-1984). Glen A Larson Productions/The Kushner-Locke Company/20th Century Fox Television; ABC-TV US, BBC 1 UK. Created by Glen A Larson. Directors include Lee H Katzin, Winrich Kolbe, and Kim Manners. Writers include Sam Egan, Bruce Kalish, Larson, and Douglas Heyes, Jr. Cast includes Desi Arnaz Jr, Heather McNair, Gerald S O'Loughlin and Chuck Wagner. Narrator: uncredited. One 70-minute pilot film plus 13 50-minute episodes.

Police Detective Walter Nebicher (Arnaz, Jr) has been assigned to full-time desk duty by his Technology-fearing superior, Captain E G Boyd (O'Loughlin), which displeases him greatly. However, since he is also a genius programmer, Nebicher creates a Computer programme that projects a hologram in the shape of the Superhero police detective Automan/Otto J Man (Wagner), who/which is clearly a kind of AI; Nebicher finds that he can piggyback this projection, sharing occupancy with the AI, which calls itself Otto J Man, though they speak in two separate voices when combined. With enough power, the hologram can not only be seen and heard but also felt (the Scientific Errors involved in this concept make almost possible to think of him/it as, variously, an Avatar, or a Mecha, or even a narrow-band Virtual Reality broadcast). In any case, Automan is impervious to harm, and able to perfectly duplicate any human activity. Due to the large amount of energy required, he/it usually operates only at night, usually accompanied by a droid (see Robots) called Cursor, which is capable of creating out of something like whole cloth any object or Weapon Automan requires to fight crime. Laboratory assistant Roxanne Caldwell (McNair) is the only other person in the secret; Captain Boyd thinks Automan is an FBI agent. Ratings were quite low, though a fan base began to grow; and after a hiatus, the series was soon cancelled.

Automan was very obviously influenced by Tron (1982), and Larson brought in Donald Kushner and Paul Locke from that film as "operating producers" of the series in order to avoid charges of outright plagiarism. Their involvement did not otherwise help matters greatly. [JC/GSt]


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