Ah, there is nothing like the companionship of a mechanical mate to get one through the hard times, right? Well, television has certainly provided its share of a walking bucket of bolts throughout the decades on the boob tube. Whether these particular television robots were decorated or despised it did not matter in the least because they were still fascinating on many levels.
So let’s venture into the world of boob tube androids, shall we? Below are some of television’s most noteworthy androids ever to grace the small screen. Perhaps you have your personalized selections of robotic personalities that folks may fondly recall? Anyway, let us examine the media mechanisms that are being spotlighted in The Robotic Dance: A Great Way to Doing the Sci-Fi Shuffle!
Frank’s top ten choices on his robotic recipe are the following:
- The Robot from LOST IN SPACE: Not including the Robot from the campy 60’s sci-fi classic Lost in Space when listing the small screen’s greatest mechanical memories is as neglectful as assuming Star Trek’s Mr. Spock does not have any ear wax. The Robot was the protector and “informer” of the space-traveling Robinson family. More important, he was the substitute older “brother” to young Will Robinson and the convenient alliterative put-down punchline to the dastardly Dr. Zachary Smith (“just you wait you Bubble-headed Boobie”). The Robot didn’t need a proper name and was not particularly a stylish specimen to look at either. Still he was dependable, loyal, informative and accountable for when the Robinsons needed his robotic analysis and expertise pertaining to impending danger. Dr. Smith may have berated our battery-and-bolts buddy as a “metal-plated moron” but we knew better that the Robot was anything but what Smith labeled him in haste.
- Rhonda Miller (a.k.a. AF 709) from MY LIVING DOLL: Batman fanatics may recall the statuesque actress Julie Newmar as her famous alter ego Catwoman, the villainous vixen that had romantic feelings for the Caped Crusader on the mid-60’s campy TV show. Before Newmar landed her iconic role as the calculating crime-loving kitty, she was the curvaceous secret project of U.S. Air Force psychologist Dr. Bob McDonald on the short-lived 60’s sitcom My Living Doll. As AF 709, she was later christened Rhonda Miller—a shapely female android that Dr. McDonald tried to shield from the military and unsuspecting horndogs that would have liked to cozy up to the extremely cute computerized cupcake. It is too bad that television viewers did not have the same passion for the 6-month old sci-fi situation comedy that males of all ages harbored for the delicious-looking Newmar.
- Data from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: Lieutenant Commander Data was very reminiscent of another Star Trek personality in the form of Mr. Spock. Both were without human emotion and very logical and analytical. However, Data was a no-nonsense android whose creator, Dr. Soong, designed him to possess a brilliant computational mindset. Data had an impressive and prestigious ranking aboard the starships USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E. As the second office and chief operations officer, Data was always curious about human emotion and the conception of humanity as a whole. True, Data was no Mr. Spock but in all fairness Mr. Spock was no Data neither. Unintentionally amusing and resourceful, Data was clearly the breakout sentient of the Next Generation universe.
- Hymie from GET SMART: CONTROL Agent 86 (Maxwell Smart) was already a bumbling burden to the Chief and his fellow spies. Now try pairing the exasperating Smart with a mechanical version of him in the form of CONTROL robot Hymie. Hymie was as stiff as they come and literally took his commands to heart (imagine telling Hymie to “break a leg” or “catch the next train”…comically he actually WOULD do it within a different broad context). Humorless and hapless, Hymie was a robotic Maxwell Smart that meant no harm in his innocent ineptitude.
- Vicki (V.I.C.I) from SMALL WONDER: In the 1985-89 sci-fi sitcom Small Wonder, robotics engineer/inventor Ted Lawson creates a Voice Input Child Indenticant (V.I.C.I) and decides to pass off the project as his 10-year old adorable daughter Vicki. Of course adding the mechanical munchkin to the family and getting her to behave as a normal little girl is a tall order for the Lawson family to handle. Among the busy bodies out to snoop around regarding Vicki’s mysterious existence is Ted’s intrusive boss and neighbor Brandon Bridle, his nosy wife Bonnie and bratty daughter Harriet. Vicki was a “small wonder” in television syndication but viewers had big affection for this darling techno-tyke during her 4-year run in the latter part of the 80’s.
- Rosie from THE JETSONS: Think of Rosie as “the robotic Alice Nelson from The Brady Bunch or as an electronic Hazel”. Rosie was the lovable robot housekeeper for her employer family on the 60’s cartoon series The Jetsons. Rosie had spunk and kept the Skypad Apartments clean and orderly. Yeah, the aforementioned Alice Nelson and Hazel Burke were human housekeepers with a touch of sarcasm and wit. But for Rosie, her quirkiness and data entry duties were quite memorable. It simply made someone get the nerve to visit Orbit City and snatch Rosie away from the Jetsons so we can selfishly enjoy her cleansing services.
- Jaimie Sommers from THE BIONIC WOMAN: The lovely Lindsay Wagner won an Emmy Award for Best Dramatic Actress playing a half cyborg/half human female with bionic surgical implants that included powerful amplified hearing in her right ear, a sturdy right mechanical arm and both super speedy legs that can have her run up to 60 MPH. Former tennis player Jaimie was a recipient of bionic surgery due to a skydiving accident. She (and her show) was spun off from the immensely popular The Six Million Dollar Man where she once had romantic ties with fellow bionic wonder in ex-astronaut Steve Austin. Sadly, The Bionic Woman only ran for three short seasons in the late 1970’s. Pretty, engaging and dynamic, Jaimie Sommers had the three-way package (brains, beauty and brawn) that made TV viewing audiences appreciate her prime time prowess as a combative heroine for the ages.
- Bender Bending Rodriguez from FUTURAMA: The offbeat science fiction animated series Futurama has had an on-again/off-again/on-again broadcasting history that is too chaotic to follow. Nevertheless, the cunning cartoon has been recognized creatively by several noteworthy and prestigious entertainment award groups. One of the Futurama personalities that had continuously brought irreverence to the futuristic festivities is Bender (a.k.a. Bending Unit 22). Bender, whose ethnicity is Mexican, is quite the Latin-and-latches loose cannon. A lover of fine drink and cigars, Bender is outrageously constructed as a comic relief character…a robotic rogue with an edge. He holds major animosity against humans and is known to make some unsettling quips about his undesirable flesh-and-blood counterparts. Outlandish and cynically conceived, Bender is a welcomed robotic rascal.
- Twiki from BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY: This pint-sized robotic sidekick was the loyal aid to pilot Captain William “Buck” Rogers. Twiki was voiced by veteran animated mouthpiece Mel Blanc. Twiki had a weird lexicon (he always uttered the nonsensical sound “bidi bidi bidi”) but could hold his own when walking in the shadows of his handsome human colleague Buck Rogers. In one episode, Twiki even found a brief love interest in female robot Tina. As the Romeo-inspired robot, Twiki knew what buttons to push (no pun intended). Despite this diminutive data-inducing soul with the bizarre sounds, Twiki was a comical cad and giddy addition to the 1979-1981 NBC science fiction adventure series.
- Sgt. Eve Edison from MANN & MACHINE: If you blinked in 1992 you may have missed the NBC science fiction/police drama Mann & Machine that starred the husky-voiced beauty Yancy Butler as police office Sgt. Eve Edison, a gynoid robot whose resiliency to comprehend emotion and learn other humanistic tendencies was top-notched. The catch was that she had an intolerant partner in Det. Bobby Mann, a grump who hated robots and had no use for them at all. The show was set in the 21st century of Los Angeles where Mann and Edison concentrated on their criminal investigations. Although not well received and suffering from dismal ratings, at least Yancy’s delicious-looking curvy robot was better eye candy than say middle-aged John Schuck’s wooden android cop Gregory “Yoyo” Yoyonivich from the equally dismissive 1976 comedy series Holmes & YoYo.