Tuesday, June 20, 2006


AT&T's new commercial is a treasure trove for robot lovers everywhere. Aside from those who have a star turn during the blipvert, there were also appearances by the medical droid from "The Empire Strikes Back" and two small box-like bots whom I have yet been unable to identify.

The main blipvert bots include Robby the Robot, Rosie the Maid, WOPR, and KITT. All that was missing was the red "eye" and mellow voice of HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey". (But from a Toobworld perspective, they needed Robot from 'Lost In Space' and - beeda beeda beeda! - Twiki from 'Buck Rogers'.

Each of these artificial intelligences provided links to the TV Universe. As to why they were all gathered in the same sealed-off room, I have insufficient data at this time. But it would appear that, within the "reality" of the scene, they are all telling some unseen presence (represented by the camera's POV, perhaps) about the history of AT&T and its involvement in the technological advances of artificial intelligence interface.

Oh yeah, baby! The first rule of TV advertising: sex sells. Giggety giggety giggety giggety!

(Had we heard more from these participants, they might have mentioned the work doen at the CIMS/AT&T Intelligent Mechatronics Lab.)

KITT must have been on loan from Knight Industries, as seen in 'Knight Rider'. It appears that the car is no longer allied with Michael Knight, however. At the time of this robot convention, Michael may have been last seen bawling like a girly man at the 'American Idol' finals last month.

Rosie the robo-maid was being transmitted back through Time not only from the future of 'The Jetsons', but also across the dimensional vortex which separates Earth Prime Time from the Tooniverse.

"Star Wars" characters have long been a part of the TV Universe, from Ewoks in TV movies and droids in cartoons and commercials to Chewbacca's family and friends in that holiday special which still fills the heart of George Lucas with dread.

Probably thousands of this particular medical droid were assembled for use in the Empire. So that model may have arrived on Toobworld through the same wormhole that deposited Luke Sykwalker at 'The Muppet Show'.

As for WOPR, the knee-jerk reaction would be that it belongs in only the movie universe, courtesy of "War Games", not among TV characters. But we have had plenty of movie characters cross over to be in the TV Universe.

Radar O'Reilly, for example. He exists in both the Cineverse as well as on Toobworld looking the same, while all the other characters around him were altered in the dimensional reflection. Detective Madigan and most of the Portokolas family led similar lives in both universes; big, fat and Greek or otherwise.

There are probably plenty of movie characters who lead parallel lives in Toobworld; we just haven't been introduced to them yet.

Besides, we don't have to wait for official recognition due to adaptations into dramas or sitcoms; TV commercials are legitimate components in the make-up of the TV Universe. So with its appearance in this AT&T ad, WOPR is an official resident of Toobworld.

The involvement by Robbie the Robot poses a more interesting challenge. Its Toobworld credentials are firmly established in many different TV shows over the last fifty years, but this classic robot must be thought of as an actor and not as one single character. Most of those appearances must be considered as different robots who all shared the same basic design.

Here's a list of Robby the Robot's appearances in Toobworld:

- Gavin's Pipe Dream (2005) TV Episode (uncredited) .... Nightmare NASA Robot
The Phantom Empire (1986) .... Himself
Likely Stories, Vol. 3 (1983) (TV) .... Maid
"Wonder Woman"
- Spaced Out (1979) TV Episode .... Himself
"Mork & Mindy"
- Dr. Morkenstein (1979) TV Episode .... Chuck the Robot
"Project U.F.O."
- Sighting 4010: The Waterford Incident (1978) TV Episode (uncredited) .... Robot
"Ark II"
- The Robot (1976) TV Episode
Columbo: Mind Over Mayhem (1974) (TV) (uncredited) .... MM7
"Lost in Space"
- Condemned of Space (1967) TV Episode .... Robot
- War of the Robots (1966) TV Episode .... Robotoid
"The Addams Family"
- Lurch's Little Helper (1966) TV Episode .... Smiley
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
- The Bridge of Lions Affair: Part 2 (1966) TV Episode .... Uncredited
- The Bridge of Lions Affair: Part 1 (1966) TV Episode .... Uncredited
"The Twilight Zone"
- The Brain Center at Whipple's (1964) TV Episode (uncredited) .... Robot
- Uncle Simon (1963) TV Episode (uncredited) .... The Robot
- Rosie's Contract (1962) TV Episode .... Robot
"The Gale Storm Show" (aka Oh! Susanna)

- Robot from Inner Space (1958) TV Episode .... Robot
"The Thin Man"
- Robot Client (1958) TV Episode .... Robot

Of those, we can eliminate its appearance on 'Stacked', since Robby only appeared in Gavin's dream. However, he had to have known of the robot from somewhere.....

Perhaps he knew about the robot designed by child prodigy Stevie Spelberg in 1974. But that basic design didn't originate with little Stevie; sixteen years earlier, it was trodding the deck of an ocean liner.

It will be my contention that most of the appearances by Robby the Robot are unconnected, but linked by this basic premise - the original design plans for the robot were brought to Earth by aliens; perhaps found among the "wreckage" at Roswell.

And who were these aliens? The same ones who created a similar "robotoid" which twice made contact with the Space Family Robinson after the Jupiter II left Earth in 1997.

By the way, I think Robby the Robot will still be eligible for induction into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame someday; and as a character, not as an "actor". Unless I learn otherwise, I don't see why its appearances on 'The Addams Family', 'Oh Susanna', 'Hazel', and 'The Thin Man' can't all be considered the same clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk in each episode, for example.

If you want the chance to see this bot blipvert, visit this YouTube.com link:



"I'm the robotic Prince of Darkness,
And you're some sort of moron
Robot Devil

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