Automan: The Complete Series Will Be An Automatic Hit With True Sci-Fi Fans

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Science fiction has a very rich history in television’s annals. Looking back through the medium’s rich history, it is easy to find any number of series that have left their mark on that history. Those series include the likes of Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek, and so many others. While there are plenty of important, influential sci-fi series that have come and gone over the decades, there are just as many that sadly have come and gone without so much as a glance. Some of those series deserved to be cut short. Others, such as ABC’s short-lived series Automan, never really got the chance that they rightly deserved for one reason or another. Automan never really got a fighting chance because at the time of its original broadcast (1983 – 1984) there was little to nothing on television like it at the time. This includes other sci-fi series. It was at its core a series about an artificial intelligence that was also something of a superhero. On another level, it was also a buddy comedy of sorts. It only lasted for a total of thirteen episodes, though only twelve of those thirteen episodes ever actually made it to air. That is until recently. Thanks to the people at Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, Automan has finally been given a new life in the four-disc DVD box set Automan: The Complete Series. Whether or not audiences are familiar with the short-lived series, they will agree in watching it that it was a series well ahead of its time and that this new box set is a welcome return for the series. The show’s writing (including its stories, character development, and dialogue) shows this. The work of the show’s cast is just as important to note of its overall presentation. Last but hardly least of note that makes this set worth the watch among sci-fi fans is its bonus material. All three elements are equally important to the whole of Automan: The Complete Series’ presentation. Altogether they make this series set one that every sci-fi fan will want to see and should see at least once if not more.

Automan is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated sci-fi series in the genre’s rich history on television. It only lasted a total of twelve episodes in its run from December 1983 to April 1984. Looking at other series (including other sci-fi series) on television at the time, there was little if anything like it on television at the time. So it is safe to say that it was ahead of its time. That is likely why it was cut short in its initial run. Thanks to Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, though it has now been introduced to a whole new generation of audiences in the new box set Automan: The Complete Series. And those audiences that give this series a chance will find that there is plenty to like about it beginning with its writing. The writing behind Automan is the core of its presentation. This includes not only the stories that were crafted for the series but also the show’s dialogue and it character development. The episodes are, in all fairness, standard fare. The series premiere sees Walter and Automan globe hopping to stop an international crime ring and solve a kidnapping case in the process. Later in the series’ run Walter and Automan have to clear one of Walter’s partners in “Flashes and Ashes.” There is also a murder mystery to be solved in “Murder, Take One” when a former movie star is suspected of killing a gossip columnist. A crooked studio head is involved in the mystery, too. There’s even a standard story in which Walter and Automan have to stop a counterfeiter in “The Great Pretender.” These are just a few of the episodes that are featured through the course of the series. While they are standard fare that doesn’t take anything away from any of them or those not noted here. As a matter of fact the execution of each episode will keep viewers of any age fully engaged. There’s just a certain camp about the writing that is entirely 80s. And it makes each episode so fun. It’s just one aspect of the show’s writing that makes the writing stand out, too. The dialogue that is incorporated into each of the series’ episodes is just as worth noting as the stories.

The stories that were crafted for Automan are in themselves a collective prime example of the importance of the series’ writing. While the stories are by and large standard fare, there is still a certain campiness about the stories that makes them and their execution engaging and entertaining all at once. As important of an element as that is within the bigger picture of the series’ writing, it is just one part of the writing that makes the writing in whole so important to the series. The dialogue that is incorporated into each episode is just as important to note as the stories themselves. That is especially the case with Walter and Automan. Automan’s innocent defiance of Walter even as an artificial intelligence makes for plenty of laughs throughout the series. He happily declares in one episode that Walter is basically level-headed and would understand him going out even thought he was told to not go out. It’s not the only time that he makes such a declaration either. Walter’s surprised reactions to Automan’s abilities early on are even more example of the dialogue’s place in the show’s writing. Perhaps most interesting of the dialogue that is used in this show is that for all of his superhuman abilities and knowledge the writers never have him use any of the standard, pompous lines that were far too common among action heroes on TV and film in that era. Rather, he comes across more like Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation with his constant curiosity and straight forward demeanor. It is just one more way in which the show’s dialogue proves to be just as important to the show’s writing as the stories themselves. And it is not the last example of the writing’s importance. The character development within the series is just as important to note as the stories and the show’s dialogue.

The stories that were crafted for Automan and the show’s dialogue are both important parts of the show’s writing in their own way. As important as both elements are to the whole of the writing they are only part of what makes the writing so important to the series. The character development within the series is just as important as the writing and dialogue. Audiences will note that as the series progresses, Walter actually becomes more welcoming of Automan taking part in the cases that he is working. There is also a growing friendship between the pair that becomes increasingly obvious in each episode. It starts off as an odd couple friendship. But then grows to become a real friendship that is centered not only on their pair’s drive to solve crimes but in their own differences. Audiences will love seeing Walter play both the straight man and the comic relief in one while Automan is the innocent yet still confident figure. The juxtaposition of the two totally different personality types makes for plenty of entertainment in each episode. Together with the dialogue incorporated into the show and the work put into crafting each episode’s story the character development within each script rounds out the ways in which the series’ writing displays its importance to the whole of the show. Of course the writing behind Automan is just one part of what makes the series well worth the watch by any sci-fi fan in its new DVD release. The work of the show’s cast is just as important to the show as its writing.

The writing that went into Automan clearly shows in each of its separate elements exactly why it is so important to the show. From each episode’s story to the dialogue within each episode to the very development of the characters (specifically Walter and Automan) the writing proves quite integral to the series. Of course the work of the show’s cast in interpreting the writers’ scripts is just as important to the series as the writing itself. Both Desi Arnaz, Jr. and co-star Chuck Wagner impress in their interpretations of the show’s scripts. Being a superhuman figure of sorts, it would have been so easy for Wagner to put on more of an air of superiority to Arnaz’s Walter. Yet he doesn’t go that route at any point. Rather, he takes the knowledge of Automan’s superiority and instead gives him a sense of humility and almost alien interest in everything. Yet he does still maintain a certain sense of confidence throughout each episode. That mix of confidence and innocent curiosity about the human world makes Wagner’s portrayal perfect with each episode. And when set against Arnaz the two make a pair that is so sorely missing from today’s television offerings. Speaking of Arnaz, he is just as entertaining as Walter Nebicher. His portrayal of the high-strung cop makes for plenty of laughs especially as Walter tries to keep Automan’s identity secret in so many different situations. That nervous energy set against Automan’s cooler, more collected demeanor is a wonderful juxtaposition of personalities. That applies both as the duo tries to solve the given cases and even when just the two are together on screen in general scenes. Taking all of this into consideration it can be said even more so that Arnaz and Wagner’s work in interpreting the series’ scripts is just as important to its presentation as the scripts. OF course even that is still not the do all end all for this first-time release. The bonus material that is included within the box set rounds out the box’s presentation.

The writing and acting behind Automan collectively does quite a bit in showing why this classic sci-fi action series was so far ahead of its time in its original run. As important as both elements are to the show, they are not all that makes it worth the watch in its new DVD box set release. The bonus material that is included in the set is just as important to its presentation as those noted elements. The standard cast and crew bios are there as are other little extras. At the heart of the bonus content is the near hour-long documentary “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature.” Audiences learn through the forty-two minute documentary plenty of interesting tidbits about the series. Most notably audiences learn that it might not have been ratings that doomed the show but the costs to produce the show. There is also an interesting little piece about star Chuck Wagner’s professional training in musical comedy and its influence in some of the bits incorporated into the show. And Wagner even admits that in auditioning for the part of Automan, he was worried he wouldn’t get it because of the other men auditioning for the role. Wagner explains how the look of the other candidates made him wonder if he had a chance at the role. As if that isn’t enough for audiences, Wagner and Arnaz jokingly discuss the car that Automan used in the show and how little the pair actually used it because it was such an exotic car. The duo reveals that most of the car scenes were actually shot with the pair in a scaled up model of the car’s interior on a sound stage. These are just a few of the items covered in “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature.” There is far more for audiences to discover for themselves over the course of the behind-the-scenes featurette. Those other extras combined with everything noted here shows in whole why “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature” is so important to the whole of Automan: The Complete Series. Those revelations add even more depth to the stories presented in each of the series’ episodes and to the show’s writing in whole. It adds just as much appreciation for the work of the series’ cast, too. All things considered Automan: The Complete Series’ shows in whole to be one of the most surprisingly enjoyable sci-fi series sets to be released this year. It proves to be one that actually deserves a reboot and unless or until that happens, one that every sci-fi fan should have in his or her own home DVD library.

Automan: The Complete Series is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable box sets for grown-ups to be released this year. The thirteen-episode series is one that even being more than three decades old is still one that every sci-fi fan should have in his or her own home DVD library. That is evident in large part to its in-depth writing. In watching the series’ thirteen total episodes, it is obvious that a lot of work and attention was put into each of the series’ scripts. That is just one part of what makes this box set so interesting. The work of the show’s main stars works in conjunction with the writing to make the series that much more enjoyable for every sci-fi fan. The bonus behind-the-scenes documentary “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature” rounds out the box set’s presentation. The revelations discussed within the course of the documentary’s near hour-long run time bring everything full circle and make for even more appreciation for this short-lived and under appreciated classic sci-fi series. That appreciation will leave audiences agreeing that Automan: The Complete Series is a must have for every sci-fi fan. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/tv-sci-fi/automan-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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Shout! Factory To Resurrect Another Hidden Classic This Fall

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

This fall, Shout! Factory will resurrect another piece of hidden television history that was long thought forgotten when it releases the short-lived ABC action-comedy Automan.

Shout! Factory, in partnership with Fabulous Films, will release Automan: The Complete Series on Tuesday, November 10th. The 13-episode series originally ran on ABC from December 15th, 1983 to April 2nd, 1984. It starred Desi Arnaz, Jr. (The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy) in the series’ lead role of Walter Nebicher. Nebicher was an IT professional with dreams of being more than just a tech man for his local police department. Though, his superiors have other ideas. So he creates the artificial intelligence program Automan (Chuck Wagner—General Hospital, All My Children) to help fight crime in his city. Automan is accompanied by a small, floating droid named Cursor much as Clu did in Disney’s surprise hit 1982 movie Tron. Speaking of the similarities between Automan and Tron they are not coincidental. Automan was co-produced by Donald Kushner (Tron, Tron: Legacy).

Automan: The Complete Series will be accompanied by a handful of extras for even more enjoyment including a forty-two-minute documentary titled: “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature,” which includes interviews with series stars Chuck Wagner, Glen A. Larson, Desi Arnaz, Jr., and heather McNair. There will also be a feature focusing on “The Story of Automan,” a trailer for Manimal: The Complete Series, which will be released alongside Automan: The Complete Series by Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, a number of picture galleries and more. The complete list of bonus features included in Automan: The Complete Series is noted below.

Special Features:

  • “Calling Automan” – The Auto Feature – 42 minutes

An all-new documentary featuring interviews with Chuck Wagner, Glen A. Larson, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Heather McNair

  • The Story of Automan
  • Feature Story
  • Original Cast and Crew Biographies
  • Collectables Gallery
  • Stills Gallery
  • Manimal Trailer

Automan: The Complete Series will be available on DVD in stores and online on Tuesday, November 10th. It will retail for MSRP of $26.99 but can be pre-ordered for a discounted price of $21.99 via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/tv-sci-fi/automan-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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New Smurfs re-issue is a “Smurftastic” time for all

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films/Arrow Films

Nearly thirty-one years ago, the world was introduced to what is perhaps one of the most iconic cartoons ever to grace television.  That cartoon was none other than The Smurfs.  That cartoon ran until about 1990.  Until recent years, the Smurfs had all but disappeared until the first couple of seasons made their way to DVD.  And then last year, audiences were re-introduced to the Smurfs with a big screen adaptation that was anything but a hit.  Now, thanks to Shout! Factory, Fabulous Films, and Arrow Films, the honor of the Smurfs has been restored with the upcoming release of the classic movie, “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute.”

“The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” is a wonderful walk down memory lane for true fans of these animation legends.  The most noticeable thing that audiences will love about this classic movie is its animation.  In an era when so many cg-based movies and TV shows are considered “animated”, it’s nice to see yet another classic hand drawn piece of nostalgia.  Animation may seem minor on the surface.  But one watch of this movie, next to any other true animated feature will note that the animation style is a big part of said features’ identities.  Whereas cg-based “animation” is cookie cutter by nature, hand drawn animation is different from one work to the next.  And this feature’s animation definitely gives it its very own identity.

The animation of “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” gives this feature its own identity.  It’s one part of what makes this classic cartoon such a joy to watch.  Another factor that makes “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” so fun is that while it does lift lightly from the classic Pied Piper story, it still manages to create its very own story.  The story centers on a magic flute discovered by William that makes everyone who hears it dance.  This is where the Pied Piper similarity comes in.  However, it’s also where that similarity ends, and the Smurfs’ own story comes in to play.  When William goes out and talks about the flute, the evil McCreep steals it and uses it to steal people’s money.  So what do the Smurfs have to do with it all?  It just so happens that the wood used to carve the magic flute comes from their magical world.  How this is discovered will remain a secret for those who haven’t yet seen this retro classic.  But it comes in to play in the story’s ultimate outcome, which audiences will love.

The animation and the story of “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” together make for an excellent re-issue for fans.  There’s at least one more factor that makes this such a welcome re-issue.  That factor is the bonus features included in the single disc presentation.  Among the best of those features is the “Glossary of Smurf Terms.”  Parents who grew up with the Smurfs can share lots of Smurf terms and teach their own kids about them.  There’s even a Smurfs Story in the bonus features that will teach new audiences all about the Smurfs. 

From the bonus features to the story to the animation, “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” is another wonderful walk down memory lane for audiences who grew up watching the original cartoon series in its near decade long run.  Now that those same audiences are grown up, not only can they re-live some great childhood moments, but they can also share those same moments with a new generation.  That will keep not only family memories alive, but also keep The Smurfs alive for a whole new generation.  “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” is available on DVD beginning August 14th via Shout! Factory, Fabulous Films and Arrow Films.  It will be available in stores or to order online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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