During the late 1970's and 1980's, Glen A. Larson's lighthearted television dramas were incredibly popular: Knight Rider
. B.J. and the Bear
. The original Battlestar Galactica
. Quincy M.E. The Fall Guy
. Magnum, P.I. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
Larson had hit after hit and it seemed he could do no wrong. But he did produce three flops in the 80's, (and another in the 90's that managed to last two seasons): Automan
, The Highwayman
and Night Man
The idea was simple: build on the success of TRON
without ripping it off. Larson hired the movie's operating producer Donald Kushner and his partner Peter Locke as the operating producers of Automan
. The show starred Dezi Arnaz Jr., Chuck Wagner, Heather McNair, Robert Lansing and Gerald S. O'Loughlin. But as quickly as any of them could say, "Oy! What have I done to my career!" the show was sadly cancelled. 13 episodes were produced and aired. All are available on Veoh:
Season One (1983-1984)
2) Staying Alive While Running a High Flashdance Fever
3) The Great Pretender
4) Ships in the Night
5) Unreasonable Facsimile
6) Flashes and Ashes
7) The Biggest Game in Town
8) Renegade Run
9) Murder MTV
10) Murder, Take One
12) Club Ten
13) Death by Design
The show falls into the "magnificent bubble of time between about 1975 and 1998 or so when computers were magic
" to television and movie audiences. (Ads at this link are NSFW.
Newspaper article with a review from 1984: "Your eyes just won't believe 'Automan'
"Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz Jr.) is a wimpy police department computer wizard who longs for the action and adventure of the streets. No chance. His boss, Captain Boyd (Gerald S. O'Loughlin) Thinks he's a glorified typist and an ineffectual boob.
In true comic book tradition, our frustrated, misunderstood hero spends long, lonely nights tinkering in his basement. He's inventing a computer game called Automan. He has programmed Automan to be what he wants to be -- the ultimate detective.
One night he punches the right button. The building shakes… the lights dim… and… and… suddently this big, beefy guy appears out of nowhere. He speaks with a slight English accent and glows blue from the neck down. He's Automan -- sprung to life as a hologram. Some poor stiff named Chuck Wagner plays him."
From the DVD release: a documentary feature
with clips from the series and interviews with the cast, filmed at the Historic Boulder Theatre in Boulder City, Nevada in 2012. (The Theatre is owned by Arnaz Jr.
) It's immediately obvious that Chuck Wagner really enjoyed his time on the show. Possibly in part because his acting roots are in musical theatre.
* Additional Background: Wikipedia
. TV Tropes
. TV Rage
and StrangeThings Are Happening
have reviewed the series' DVD.
* Fan Site: Automan Online
Virtually no videos exist online of The Highwayman
. (At least, not that I could find.)
A 60 minute sci-fi/action series that aired on NBC in late 1987 and early 1988, The Highwayman
starred Sam J. Jones (1980's Flash Gordon
), a federal marshall who used a high-tech 18-wheeler loaded with advanced weaponry, an ability to turn invisible and a cab that turned into a helicopter. He used this "supertruck" to patrol the highways and fight crime. In the futuristic world of 1992. The show cranked out a pilot movie (starring G. Gordon Liddy, Jimmy Smits and Rowdy Roddy Piper!) and nine episodes before driving off into the cancellation sunset. There's a bit more at Wikipedia
But what happened to the Highwayman's Truck?
Well, the original truck (complete with Gazelle helicopter cab) was designed and built by Jon Ward Motor Sports of Alpine, Texas. A 1980 Kenworth cab-over with an 8V92T diesel, it was converted at a cost of $287,000. Ward held onto it after the show ended
, began to turn it into a one-of-a-kind futuristic mobile home but eventually gave up. The restored truck is now owned by a mobile tattoo service: ‘Highwayman Ink’
that operates out of Sulphur Springs, TX.
If you remember anything about this short-lived show, it's probably the transformation sequence
, which is reminiscent of the longer and better, non-cgi man-to-werewolf transformation
scene in 1981's An American Werewolf in London
. Another Larson 60 minute drama, Manimal
's lead was "Professor of Animal Behavioral Science" Jonathan Chase, who helped the police in cases involving animals. Which happened unusually frequently. The show's hook? Chase has the ability to transform into
any animal because he'd journeyed to the "savage lands of Africa and Tibet, where the line between man and beast is non-existent." [It probably only sounds
more racist than it... actually no, that's totally
racist.] "Wonder Twin power activate! Form of a cancelled TV show!" Manimal
went up against CBS' Dallas
and was eaten alive. It only lasted 8 episodes, all are on Veoh. First four are on Youtube.
(Also on YouTube
. Watch for: The funky transformation sequence. Guest stars Ursula Andress and Ed Lauter.
(Also on YouTube
3) Night of the Scorpion
(Also on YouTube
4) Female of the Species
(Also on YouTube
5) High Stakes
(Watch for: Guest star Meeno Peluce (from Voyagers!)
7) Breath of the Dragon
8) Night of the Beast
(1997 - 1999)
Night Man was loosely based on a comic published by Malibu, set in their Ultraverse
. Matt McColm was the title character, Johnny Domino, a well-known San Franciscan jazz musician who was accidentally struck by a lightning bolt in a freak cable-car accident and developed superpowers: telekinesis and the ability to telepathically recognize evil. He also stops sleeping. The show was distributed in syndication, which allowed it to last for two seasons before being cancelled.
(Here's a lengthy review of the two-part pilot.
1) World Premiere, Part 1
2) World Premiere, Part 2
3) Whole Lotta Shakin'… (Video is mislabeled. Episode was Season One, not Two.)
4) I Left My Heart in San Francisco
5) Still of the Night
6) Face to Face
8) Takin' it to the Streets
9) Lady in Red
10) That Ol' Gang of Mine
11) Bad Moon Rising
12) Constant Craving
13) You Are Too Beautiful
14) Do You Believe In Magic
15) The House of Soul (Guest starring: Jerry Springer)
17) Chrome II
18) Bad to the Bonen
19) The Hitchhiker
20) Devil in Disguise
21) Double Vision
22) Amazing Grace
1) The UltraWeb
2) The Black Knight
3) It Came from Out of the Sky
4) Book of the Dead
5) Fear City
6) Manimal (Yes, there was a Manimal crossover episode. But it doesn't seem to be online.)
7) Knight Life
8) The People's Choice (Not online)
9) Ring of Fire
10) Sixty Minute Man
12) Love and Death
13) Burning Love
14) Scent of a Woman
17) Double Double
18) The Enemy Within
21) Nightwoman Returns
22) Keys to the Kingdom of Hell