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Created byGlen A. Larson
Theme music composerBilly Hinsche
  • Stu Phillips (1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.7)
  • Peter T. Meyers (1.10, 1.11, 1.12)
  • Ken Harrison (1.6, 1.8)
  • Morton Stevens (1.5, 1.9)
  • J.A.C. Redford (1.13)
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13 (1 unaired) (list of episodes)
Executive producers
Production locations20th Century Fox Studios - 10201 Pico Blvd., Century City, Los Angeles, California, USA
Running time50 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseDecember 15, 1983 (1983-12-15) –
April 2, 1984 (1984-04-02)

Automan is an American superhero television series produced by Glen A. Larson. It aired for 12 episodes (although 13 were made) on ABC between 1983 and 1984. It consciously emulates the visual stylistics of the Walt Disney Pictures live-action film Tron, in the context of a superhero TV series. The series was later shown in reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel.


A black Lamborghini car in the dark, delineated with bright light-blue lines.
The show's car

Automan (the "Automatic Man") follows the adventures of a police officer and computer programmer named Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz Jr.), who has created an artificially intelligent crimefighting computer program that generated a hologram (played by Chuck Wagner) able to leave the computer world at night and fight crime.[1]

While in the tangible world (in other words, the "real world" of this television series; not the aforementioned "computer world" l from which Automan originates in this TV series, where he had met such luminaries as "Donkey Kong"), Automan posed as a government agent, Otto J. Mann.nThis was a secret to all except Walter's close associate, Roxanne Caldwell (Heather McNair).

Nebicher could merge with Automan to become one being, sharing consciousness and skills, while retaining Automan's invulnerability.

Cursor was his sidekick, a floating, shifting polyhedron which could "draw" and generate physical objects as needed. The most common forms taken were an automobile (the Autocar), an airplane, and a helicopter, all of which could defy the laws of physics.

The show also starred Robert Lansing as Lieutenant Jack Curtis and Gerald S. O'Loughlin as Captain of Detectives E. G. Boyd, both Walter's superiors. Both believed Automan was a friend of Walter from the FBI. Captain Boyd, a technophobe who had no use for computers, often held up Lieutenant Curtis as the kind of cop he was convinced was the ideal for police – an ideal to which he believed Walter could never rise.


The Automan costume appeared to glow on screen due to its retroreflective sheeting designed by 3M. The fabric was made up of tiny reflective balls, and it was able to reflect nearly 100 percent of the light shone at it (the technique had been used several years earlier for the Kryptonian costumes in Superman). The costume also had highly polished plates attached to it to provide the holographic appearance, all enhanced in post-production through chromakey effects.

The Autocar and Autochopper were the most common vehicles created for transport. Each vehicle would appear or disappear as a sequence of wireframes drawn by Cursor, and were engineered by the special effects team using black props with strips of reflective tape stuck on them. The Autocar was a "brought to life" in the fictional world of the television series by the FX team using a real life Lamborghini Countach LP400 as a model. In the fictional world of the television series, the Autocar had capabilities beyond real world physics, such as being capable of making 90-degree turns without losing control and overtaking merely by strafing, rather than turning. However, human passengers not properly secured in their seats would often be thrown around inside with the momentum from the sudden position change. The Autochopper was based on a real life Bell Jetranger. The fictional Autochopper, unlike real helicopters, was capable of landing anywhere. The show also featured a futuristic airplane and motorcycle, while other episodes featured a distinctive handgun and a guitar.

Another prominent feature of the fictional Automan was the ability to "wrap himself" around Walter as a means of protecting him. They would appear as one person, but because Walter was inside Automan, he would inadvertently end up speaking in two voices.

Despite Automan's many fictional powers, he also had his weaknesses. Automan's excessive use of electricity would often mean he would suffer from power shortage during the daytime, so he was rarely active in sunlight.


Automan was put in the Monday 8 PM ET timeslot where it competed with the popular Scarecrow and Mrs. King as well as TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes. Because of poor ratings (13.6) and expensive special effects, Automan was canceled after twelve of its thirteen episodes had aired.


US television ratings[edit]

Season Episodes Start date End date Nielsen rank Nielsen rating[2] Tied With
1983-84 13 December 15, 1983 April 2, 1984 66 13.6 "Mama's Family", "The Mississippi"


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
1"Automan"Lee H. KatzinGlen A. LarsonDecember 15, 1983 (1983-12-15)TBA
Walter Nebicher is a young police officer who wants desperately to get out on the streets and experience some action. Unfortunately, his superior Captain Boyd has assigned Nebicher to a desk job where he can utilize his skills as a computer expert.
2"Staying Alive While Running a High Flashdance Fever"Winrich KolbeGlen A. LarsonDecember 22, 1983 (1983-12-22)2-M01

Walter and Automan investigate a judge that appears to be corrupt and involved with the mob, The Mob are a dangerous undercover regime and capture Roxanne Caldwell. They bind and gag her in the back of a car before Automan eventually rescues her.

This episode's title references the films Staying Alive, Flashdance and Saturday Night Fever.
3"The Great Pretender"Kim MannersSam EganDecember 29, 1983 (1983-12-29)2-M02

When a truck load of paper the government uses to print money is hijacked, Automan, with the help of Cursor, poses as a rich criminal competing to undermine the existing network of a known criminal dealing in counterfeit money.

Part of the scene on the taxi cab was reused from the TV series Manimal episode 2 "Illusion". Manimal was another TV series created by Glen A. Larson.
4"Ships in the Night"Bob ClaverParke PerineJanuary 5, 1984 (1984-01-05)2-M04
Walter and Auto fly to San Cristobal to investigate the disappearances of Americans. They discover a man, aided by the local authorities, that lures investors in order to kill them and take their money.
5"Unreasonable Facsimile"Winrich KolbeSam EganJanuary 12, 1984 (1984-01-12)2-M06
Automan and Walter attempt to solve the murder of a businessman and the crash of a police helicopter. Automan begins acting peculiar after watching soap-operas on television.
6"Flashes and Ashes"Kim MannersDouglas Heyes, Jr.January 19, 1984 (1984-01-19)2-M05
Walter's friend and fellow cop Frank Cooney is killed during the theft of police weaponry. But when the Internal Affairs agent believes Frank was involved, Walter is suspended when he and Auto interfere trying to prove his friend's innocence.
7"The Biggest Game in Town"Winrich KolbeStory by : Larry Brody & Shel Willens
Teleplay by : Larry Brody
January 26, 1984 (1984-01-26)2-M03
Automan and Walter attend a computer game convention where they must track down Ronald Tilson, a computer genius who has programmed computers to cause disasters that will kill people unless he gets ten million dollars.
8"Renegade Run"Allen BaronStory by : Larry Brody
Teleplay by : Larry Brody & Douglas Heyes, Jr.
March 5, 1984 (1984-03-05)2-M08
When Walter investigates a crooked sheriff who is using illegal immigrants for manual labor, he and a friend are put in jail. Automan teams up with a motorcycle gang to free him.
9"Murder MTV"Bruce Seth GreenStory by : Guerdon Trueblood
Teleplay by : Douglas Heyes, Jr.
March 12, 1984 (1984-03-12)2-M11

Walter and Automan investigate an apparent attempt to kill the members of an all-female band called Sweet Kicks. But their investigation is hampered when the father of one of the women seeks assistance from a crime syndicate.

This episode's title references MTV. Laura Branigan guest stars.
10"Murder, Take One"Kim MannersSam EganMarch 19, 1984 (1984-03-19)2-M09
Former movie star Veronica Everly is a suspect in the murder of gossip columnist Ray Gillette. However, when Automan discovers that a Hollywood producer had a greater motive for murder, he goes undercover as an actor to catch the real killer.
11"Zippers"Alan CroslandDavid Garber & Bruce KalishMarch 26, 1984 (1984-03-26)2-M10
Automan goes undercover as an erotic dancer in a ladies-only strip club.
12"Death by Design"Gil BettmanSam EganApril 2, 1984 (1984-04-02)2-M12
When a ruthless crime syndicate kills one of Jack's best friends, Automan poses as a vigilante cop by the name of Mad Dog who is out for justice.
13"Club Ten"Kim MannersMichael S. Baser & Kim WeiskopfUnaired[a] (Unaired[a])2-M07
The exclusive Club Ten resort is a center for diamond smuggling. When Laura Ferguson stumbles on this secret she manages to put out an SOS call to her old friend Roxanne before being taken prisoner. Roxanne, Walter and Automan are soon on the trail of the missing Laura, unaware they themselves are being trailed...
  1. ^ "Club Ten" was broadcast on 23 of August 1984 on the UK channel BBC1[3] and years later on the Sci-Fi Channel, and on Bravo, also in the UK.

DVD release[edit]

On October 1, 2012, Fabulous Films released the complete series on DVD in the UK.[4] This was the first DVD release of the series anywhere in the world.

On August 18, 2015, the show was released on DVD in Australia as a four disc set through Madman Entertainment.

On November 10, 2015, Shout! Factory released the complete series on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.[5] The 4-disc set featured all 13 episodes of the series as well as bonus features.


Automan merchandise was released, mostly in the UK. An action figure, Halloween costume, toy Autocar, Commodore 64 video game and novelization of the pilot episode are among some of the many releases. In the US, the Ja-Ru company released a number of toys based on the show, designed to be sold in supermarkets. Such items included toy print sets, money sets, and binoculars.


  1. ^ "Show Summary". TV.com. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
  2. ^ "1983-84 Ratings History -- The Networks Are Awash in a Bubble Bath of Soaps". The TV Ratings Guide. Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  3. ^ "Automan". BBC Programme Index. August 25, 1984.
  4. ^ "Automan / Complete Series". FabulousFilms.com.
  5. ^ "Shout! Factory Announces a 4-DVD Set of 'The Complete Series'". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on August 21, 2015.

External links[edit]