April 16, 2011

Automan, episode 13: "Club Ten"

The number thirteen has long been associated with bad luck, and so it was for Automan. Here we are, "Club Ten", the thirteenth and final episode. Let the ending begin.

It’s fitting that the final episode of Automan sticks close to the formula established in the previous twelve. White collar criminals, a road trip, gratuitous female ass shots, familiar pop songs with dubious unfamiliar replacement singers, and Chuck Wagner dancing.

In general, I can’t say anything about this episode that I haven’t already said about the previous twelve. Specifically, it feels a bit flat and lazy. To make a sports analogy, Automan is like that big white guy that comes off the bench in the NBA and runs up and down the court like Gumby on a sugar rush. He gets by on his hustle more than his talent. Take away the hustle, and you’ve got Klaus, a slow European benchwarmer who wears a black turtleneck under his warm-ups, smokes cigarettes during time outs, and says things like “The fact that we ‘make’ a basket, only for the ball to fall through a hole in the bottom, is a metaphor for the folly of life.”

A list of frustrations with this episode.
  • The setting of a club for “Perfect Tens” seems like a great set-up for the pin-up handsome Wagner and the everyman Walter, but instead of milking it for all it’s worth, they give one or two squeezes on the teat and move on.
  • The show always struggled to integrate 80s hot Roxanne Caldwell into the story, and when they finally do, she’s given nothing to do. Even her budding romance with Walter is M.I.A.
  • The guest stars, usually a strength, are the worst in the show’s run. Not only is there not a familiar face among them, I don’t think there’s a pulse.
  • Half the fun of the show was watching Auto get lost inside whatever character he was playing that week and we get none of that here.
Sadly, “Club Ten” is anything but.

White Guys Conspiring Around a Pool Count: Ending at 6

"You know, it's amazing the lengths your species will go to to put a little white ball in a hole."
"For someone who can trace his family tree back to Pong, I'd think you'd have a little more appreciation for games."
Here we are, friends, at the end of the adventure. It's the final episode of Automan, which spent several years unseen due to the cancellation of the show. I can just imagine the few fans who stuck with the original as they see this episode coming up on the syndication schedule. They'd gather around their sets, never imagining the day they could live blog the experience, and walk away with an indifferent sigh.

Don't get me wrong, it's a well executed episode with clean direction and a decent script that balances their usual good humor with a twisty mystery plot, but it puts a big spotlight on the weakest aspect of the entire series: the yuppie blandness.

The episode takes place at the island resort Club Ten, which only caters to people who are judged to be perfect tens in terms of looks, confidence, and wealth. Meaning it's an island of nothing but studly white men and hot women in bikinis. To infiltrate this nefarious fortress of Caucasian ego stroking, Automan must don his most complex and unexpected disguise yet: a studly white man, complete with manly sweater vest. Yes, we see his grand holographic range of powers put to the test as he has to partake in fancy deserts, a round of hysterically choreographed tango, and even the feared art of golf.

I'm trying to make it sound more awesome than it is, because it's really just so bland. And as with too many episodes of the series, the villains are your typical white collar bandits who are using the resort as a front for diamond smuggling. And it's such a huge case of crime and misdoing that not only are our heroes going undercover to smoke the ring out, but they keep stepping on the toes of a British agent who's already neck deep in this case. There's so much more they could have done here, with an international incident crisis and the two forces teaming up even as they try to out-maneuver one another, but the setup goes nowhere as Inspector Mercer (Don Knight) inexplicably loses his cover halfway through, arresting Walter while in full uniform. And then there's a couple AutoCar chases, and he's forgotten.

Worst of all is Roxanne. Finally. They finally have an episode where she gets to step into the spotlight when the kidnapping of her friend leads our heroes to the case, and Curtis stays home for once so she can join Auto and Wally in the investigation. They have a perfect opportunity to finally show off her skills as a cop and further her bond with the heroes, but the first half is nothing more than her gaping or rolling her eyes at Auto's antics, and in the second, she's kidnapped and joins her friend as yet another damsel in distress. And the relationship between her and Wally? Never once mentioned or explored.

It's not a bad episode, and had it arrived in the middle of the series, it wouldn't have been such a letdown, but as a finale, it's one hell of a feeble whimper. I know, I know, it's doubtful they were expecting the show to get cancelled, so they had no control over what note they'd go out on, but you have to admit that it's never fun to see a show end with a big spotlight on what they were doing wrong to begin with.

Some random Walter thoughts:
  • I love Walter's massive laptop computer. Which doesn't end up doing much of anything.
  • I believe this is the third time we've hear the generic version of "Beat It" on the soundtrack. I love that it plays over Walter's spastic dancing.
  • The man can't dance, but he still kicks ass pretty damn well.
  • I love how the only way he can get into the pompous exclusive club is by pretending he's Automan's valet.
  • That is one hell of an epic pink and sky blue polo shirt he's wearing.

Tune in next Saturday Morning as we explore Automan's merchandising.

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