Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cops and Robots

In my previous post, I remarked about how the the upcoming Fox series, "Almost Human", which takes place in a near future where police officers are partnered with advanced androids has a passing resemblance to the intentionally terrible fictional show "Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E." that Joey briefly starred on in "Friends". After doing a little bit of research since then, I was surprised to discover that there have been at least three network TV series based around the seemingly novel concept of a buddy cop show featuring a a human officer being partnered with a robot.

Unfortunately for "Almost Human" the unsuccessful history of these cop/robot shows does not bode well for its own future prospects, as none of them made it through an entire season. Like the scene in "Robocop 2" where the OCP scientists present a series of failed attempts at creating a new Robocop, every one of these prior series have been utter failures, only varying in degrees of awfulness. If "Almost Human" meets the same fate as these previous shows, they just may have to add another rule to the Three Laws of Robotics: A robot may never have a successful network series when teamed up with a human cop.

Holmes & Yo-Yo
Detective Alexander Holmes, who apparently has a knack for getting his partners injured, is assigned a new partner Gregory "Yo-Yo" Yoyonivich. Holmes soon finds out that Yo-Yo is actually the police department's new top secret android crime fighting machine; hilarity supposedly ensues. The original cop/robot buddy show, "Holmes and Yo-Yo" ran on ABC for 13 episodes during the 1976-77 season. Based on the the intro and a random episode it would appear that the show was written as a broad wacky comedy. This high concept, low brow mess is pretty terrible, like 1983-84 NBC season terrible. It actually came in at 33 on TV Guide's 50 Worst Shows of All Time list. Much of the humor derives from Yo-Yo's intermittent failures in understanding human nature and idioms and sight gags from his frequent malfunctions. The whole thing comes off as a bizarre mix between "Dragnet" and "Small Wonders". I could see it possibly being somewhat successful as a children's show but by the late 70's there really wasn't much of a demand for such gimmicky silliness in prime time. Also, if the police department was going to develop this highly advanced robot crime fighter, why would they give it such a schlubby looking body?

Future Cop
Apparently ABC went slightly mad with the concept of robot cop shows during the 1976-77 season since, in addition to airing the genre defining "Holmes & Yo-Yo", ABC later premiered the lazily named "Future Cop". The show does seem to be more of a straight action drama with the sci-fi angle of another secret robot police officer partner. Ernest Borgnine looks a bit too old to be here but he always brings special charm to whatever role he's given. John Amos seems to be in full token black guy mode ("man, that's the fastest white boy I've ever seen") as his other partner. As for the robot, Haven, it would seem a lot more believable that it would look like a young, fit, rookie cop than Yo-Yo's goofy appearance. There wasn't much else I found out about the series, I think a lot of the non-crime story line revolved around Borgnine keeping Haven's secret from Amos and others on the force. The series lasted for all of 7 episodes on ABC and for 1 episode on NBC after it was moved and retooled as "The Cops and Robin" (that promo has a baffling amount of adjectives for a 20 second spot!).

Mann & Machine
Just when everybody thought that Cop/Robot series had gone the way of disco, Dick Wolf and company comes along in 1992 and for nine episodes reactivated the genre with the aptly titled "Mann & Machine". For a show that aired in the 90s, there is hardly any evidence of the series available online. I think the whole of it is this crude video of the intro (utilizing the most cutting edge early 90s TV title graphics technology). The show's premise seemed pretty straightforward and free of any ridiculous gimmicks from the past shows; maverick human cop (Mann) and straight laced female robot cop partner (Eve) team up to solves crimes in the future. Making the robot a female, and a sexy one at that, (a young Yancy Butler in her first major role) seemed like a good decision and it added an extra layer of potential romantic tension between the leads. There seems to be more depth to the characters as Eve is continually learns and develops human understanding and emotions. Apparently in the penultimate episode Eve even gets placed in charge of an infant which activates unexpected maternal feelings within her. This show would appear to be the most similar to the upcoming "Almost Human".

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