KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (22)
March 17, 2022
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of a favorite sidekick — whether real-life or fictional.
TWIKI, the diminutive robot from the 1979–1981 show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, was put in a funny spot. Although he would become Buck’s sidekick, he started off as sidekick to Dr. Theopolis, an AI; in fact, his sole purpose as an “ambiquad” was to carry Dr. Theopolis around on his neck like a Flava-Flav timepiece and do odd jobs for them — turn dials, open doors. However, Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard) was both too wooden and too awesome (all that chest hair) to be relatable, while Wilma Deering was just too Erin Gray for mere mortals to live vicariously through. In order to imagine ourselves helping Buck fight Space Vampires and breaking Jamie Lee Curtis out of jail, then, we needed an everyman figure — and TWIKI was it.
The running gag is that after hanging out with Buck, TWIKI starts using anachronistic human idioms and jokes. However, right from the first episode he sounded like a Borscht Belt comedian fresh from a gig at Grossinger’s. Kids like me who enjoyed Buck Rogers were required to get comfortable with a 4-foot-tall robot voiced by Mel Blanc in a style that’s 50% Yosemite Sam and 50% Yosemite Sam midway through a night of debauchery in Atlantic City. That’s a big hurdle, but TWIKI was a huge hit with children. He served at the whim of a greater authority (in fact, he was literally encumbered by this authority); and he made jokes and acted cute just to get some attention. We could relate.
As TWIKI became more and more human, we felt like maybe it was due to our influence. In episode 18 of season 1, when TWIKI is robot-napped by asteroid-mining operator Kerk Belzak, who wishes to exploit the robot’s humor, imagination, creativity, and other emergent extra-robotic qualities, we actually worried — because TWIKI was the most human character on the show. They wanted us to believe that his evolution was due to Buck’s influence, but we knew the trith: TWIKI was evolving in order to connect with us.
After a while, TWIKI stopped carrying Dr. Theopolis around started fixing other robots and machines, and flying spacecraft. We felt like, “Fuck yeah, my parents are holding me back. If they’d just back up a little, I probably could do some crazy shit. Growing up is going to be freaking amazing!”
KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Annie Nocenti on RATSO | Barbara Bogaev on TRIXIE | Sara Ryan on SWIFT WIND | Carlo Rotella on BELT BEARERS | Adam McGovern on JACKIE McGEE | Josh Glenn on RAWHIDE | Gabriela Pedranti on KUILL | Douglas Wolk on VOLSTAGG | Serdar Paktin on CATO | Deirdre Day on TRAMPAS | Dean Haspiel on TIN MAN | Flourish Klink on THE APOSTLE PETER | Miranda Mellis on FAMILIAR | Peggy Nelson on COSMO | Beth Lisick on MARTHA BROOKS | Bishakh Som on CAPTAIN HADDOCK | Stephanie Burt on SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE | Greg Rowland on SPOCK | Adam Netburn on SENKETSU | Mimi Lipson on ROBIN QUIVERS | Jonathan Pinchera on GUTS | Tom Nealon on TWIKI | Mandy Keifetz on DR. EINSTEIN | Judith Zissman on IGNATZ MOUSE | Anthony Miller on DOCTOR GONZO.
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