The Cape, NBC's latest experiment in the superhero narrative, aired its last adventure on Monday, clocking out at a mere nine televised episodes. In honor of The Cape's idosyncratic insanity, here are 10 more ridiculous science fiction programs that failed to make it big.
When I spoke with Vinnie Jones at Comic-Con last summer, he seemed fairly sanguine about The Cape's prospects of becoming The Next Big Thing (I kept my opinion to myself, as Vinnie Jones could easily wear my aorta as a hat). The Cape's tenth and final episode will stream online sometime this month.
Here are 10 other scifi shows that went so high concept they touched the stars...and died in the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space.
Holmes and Yo-Yo (1976)
Number of Episodes: 13
When sad-sack detective Alexander Holmes keeps putting his partners in the hospital, his superiors don't fire him or relegate him to desk work. No, they pair the clumsy bastard with Gregory "Yo-Yo" Yoyonovich, an experimental police robot built to keep his incompetent partner out of trouble.
If only real life was this cushy! I would've signed up for the police academy years ago if I could get my own Geminoid doppelganger as thanks for driving my cruiser on the sidewalk.
How did the duo fight crime? Rather than rely on any of Yo-Yo's mechanical gadgets, the duo bludgeoned criminals (and the audience) to death with schtick. The show also had the wannest laugh track ever.
Future Cop (1976)
Number of Episodes: 8
Incidentally, Holmes and Yo-Yo wasn't the only robocop show to debut in 1976. That year, the pilot for Future Cop (co-starring Ernest Borgnine!) aired, but the show was shelved until 1977. It ran for another six episodes, was canned again, and then re-piloted in 1978 as Cops and Robin. The doomed cop-and-bot premise emerged yet again in 1992 with Mann and Machine (but this time with a ladybot). Despite a score by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh, this show ran all of nine episodes.
Number of Episodes: 8
Not to be confused with the Humanimal, Dr. Jonathan Chase was an NYU professor with a secret. No, he's not hooking up with his undergraduates — he can turn into any beast he wants! And — like any good late 70s-early 80s genre character — he's helping the NYPD solve crimes!
Dr. Chase mostly limited himself to transforming into a falcon and a panther, and sometimes he turned into a helpful, quicksand-proof snake. The special effects were done by the late and great Stan Winston, but people can only watch a snooty academic transform into a seemingly constipated jungle cat so many times. Witness the manimalism here.
Number of Episodes: 13 episodes were made, but only 12 aired.
Like Manimal, Automan came from the mind of Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider producer Glen Larson. And like Manimal, Automan lasted a single season. Its conceit should be familiar at this point — Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) fights crime with his holographic partner, Automan (Chuck Wagner) and his sidekick Cursor, who was a glowing dot.
The theme song will make you feel like turning around abruptly at total strangers while giving them a double-fisted thumbs-up (and then awkwardly freezing in place for several seconds). Relive the show's Tron-inspired antics.
Number of Episodes: 13 (only 10 aired)
In this post-nuclear war sitcom, six goofy, mismatched survivors try to restart society on a farm Gilligan's Island-style while fending off giant mutant animals. Because you know, a limited gene pool and radiation-induced sterility are the stuff of yuk-yuks.
Mr. Smith and Jennifer Slept Here (1983)
Number of Episodes: Both 13
If you were incredulous that NBC actually had the gumption to run something as kooky as The Cape, just check out their fall 1983 line-up. The former was about an orangutan with an IQ of 256; the latter was about a movie starlet who's run over by an ice cream truck, haunts a Los Angeles house, and befriends the current owner's teenage son. Commenters on YouTube seem to remember Jennifer Slept Here somewhat fondly, but Mr. Smith has been tossed into the dustbin of history. A pity, I know. We all would've loved to have seen a Mr. Smith-Dunston Checks In crossover.
Street Hawk (1983)
Number of Episodes: 13
The awesomely-named Jesse Mach spends his days as a police troubleshooter and his nights as a vigilante riding Street Hawk, an experimental motorcycle that can reach speeds of three hundred miles an hour. I can imagine the pitch meeting — "It's like Airwolf...but on a bike!"
The Phoenix (1982)
Number of Episodes: 5
A handsome alien named Bennu of the Golden Light is awoken in Peru in the 20th century. Bennu was armed with every damn power in the phone book, the lady-killing looks of Gunnar Nelson, and a medallion that would make Mr. T weep tears of penitence.
Number of Episodes: 1
In this one-and-done pilot by Cyborg author Martin Caidin, a brilliant professor is paralyzed by hitmen and dons a clunky exosuit. Ostensibly a ploy to piggyback on the success of another Caidin-inspired show, The Six Million Dollar Man, Exo-Man merely illustrated why an Iron Man movie would have sucked in the 1970s.
For other doomed science fiction TV shows, check out...