February 19, 2011

Automan, episode 5: "Unreasonable Facsimile"


So, what dastardly villains do our heroes square off against this week? A clan of ninjas? A megalomaniacal hacker? A powerful cyborg from the future? Nope. More old white guys.

Sure, white collar criminals can be quite menacing, what with their plans for world domination and all, but in the world of Automan, they just look like guys with high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction who want to beat the traffic home and catch Sports Center.

If that sounds like this week’s episode is a dud, it’s not, because, once again, it’s saved by humor.

Edward Scanlin. Not a ninja.

When [fill in generic old white guy plot here], it’s Walter and Automan to the rescue! But, as always seems to be the case, Automan accidentally absorbs the wrong pop culture in his quest to understand the world better. This week, it’s the fictional prime time soap Abilene (think Dallas). Auto takes on the persona of a J.R. Ewing type of character and, as you can imagine, Wagner takes an inch and runs a Texas mile with it. It’s a joy to watch.

One of the things I really liked about this episode is that, once Auto assumes his new persona, the whole thing begins to feel like an actual 80s prime time soap, complete with melodramatic over-acting, particularly by vivacious guest star Delta Burke. It’s a fun wink to the audience that lets us in on the gag so we can roll with the absurdity.

Clue: A four letter word for a series of names, words, or other items written, printed, or imagined one after the other.

Answer: a list!

  • So far, the series has made great use of then contemporary pop music, albeit as performed by unknown artists. This episode features what can only be described as the worst rendition of The Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” ever recorded. And that includes the Marilyn Manson version. Imagine your Aunt Cheryl singing karaoke at the family barbecue after a few too many hard lemonades. That’s what it sounds like.
  • And speaking of music, the score of this week’s episode is bonkers. Again, I attribute this to the soap theme.
  • Walter punches a guy out!
  • It was nice to see Captain Boyd actually give Walter a little credit for once, and you can really see he, rumpled Lieutenant Curtis, and 80s hot Roxanne Caldwell are becoming a bit of a family.
  • Delta Burke was a nuclear sex bomb and the 80s was ground zero.

White Guys Conspiring Around a Pool Count: 4


"I'm a new man, Walter, and I owe it all to you and those marvelous tapes."

"The tapes on criminal behavior?"

"That's what you said, though I found it odd that they were all set in a town called Abilene."

"The soap opera. Auto, you watched the wrong tapes."

"Not wrong. Right. In fact, for the first time, I've realized what's been missing in my life."

"What's been missing?"

"Lust, Walter. Passion. Ruthlessness. Deceit. I'm missing the struggle for life's most worthy goals: power and romance."

"What have I done."

"Choruses of angles. Midnight rendezvous. Burning desires."

Tony and I have both complained that Automan's amazing abilities are being wasted on solving white collar crimes, but I'm starting to warm to the notion. Such schemes are usually of a financial nature, and since banks were quick to adopt computers, it gives an easy money trail for Automan to piece together. Also, it's becoming rather amusing seeing stiff dudes in suits getting their asses handed to them by a glowing computer program.

The plot this time around is about a man killed before he can blow the whistle on his own company. It seems his business partners racked up profits by selling used helicopter parts as though they were factory-fresh new, leading to deadly crashes. Just before the man was killed, though, he managed to send a disc with the information to his daughter, played by a smokin' hot Delta Burke, two years before Designing Women.

One of the crashed helicopters was a police chopper so, as you can imagine, Captain Boyd has the entire department's resources focused on the investigation. Unfortunately, Automan buries himself in a box full of soap opera episodes and suddenly becomes horny with a desire to experience this steamy passion.

I love this episode. Automan seduces two women in a bar... at the same time! He lures in the affections of the villain's wife. He thinks he's fallen in love with the beautiful Rachel (Burke), but when they lean in for the kiss, he suddenly stops because that's when the shows would always cut to commercials. Chuck Wagner is hysterical as Automan is trying so damn hard to be a stud that it actually works. And since he's taking his own initiative even moreso than he's done before, constantly leaving Walter behind and making his own decisions, Arnaz ups the fluster as Walter keeps showing up, pissed, always four steps behind.

This episode isn't entirely without its problems, what with the villains being forgettable, Curtis being underused, and them making us witness the sight of a doughy white shirtless dude lounging in a pool, but they make up for it when Walter comes home angry because Automan's spent the entire day kicking back in a recliner and watching soaps instead of returning his calls.

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Anthony Williams said...

Tony and I have both complained that Automan's amazing abilities are being wasted on solving white collar crimes, but I'm starting to warm to the notion. Such schemes are usually of a financial nature, and since banks were quick to adopt computers, it gives an easy money trail for Automan to piece together.

That's actually a very good point. I wouldn't mind if they stayed within the world of white collar crime if they'd just create villains who were more of a match for the boys. I don't think there's a single villain here that rumpled Lt. Curtis couldn't have taken down all by himself.

NoelCT said...

But I don't know what type of villain you could have used. Hackers were just barely starting to enter the scene with knowledge of their actions still very much underground, so all you're really stuck with are evil financial brokers.

However, this being a Glenn Larson show, if it had gone on for another season, they totally would have added an evil Automan. Maybe a WarGames style super computer that embodies itself with all the intellect and abilities of Automan, but none of the heart.