Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: What is your favorite robot of all time on TV?
Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote
Obviously, the correct answer is robo-house Pierce Brosnan in the 2001 “Treehouse of Horror” episode of “The Simpsons.” (RIP its British charm unit.) But on a more serious note, I’m having a tough time picking between the excellent team over at “Westworld” (the more obvious choice) and the A.I. that I still miss: DRN (Michael Ealy) from “Almost Human.” On one hand, Team “Westworld” gets to destroy things, cause mayhem, and generally take over the world. On the other, DRN got to solve futuristic crimes and banter with Karl Urban’s John Kennex. I love them all — I welcome our future robot overlords.
Tim Surette (@timsurette), TV.com
There’s no way my favorite TV robot doesn’t come from “Futurama,” but which robot do I choose? Bender? Flexo? Calculon? Beelzebot? Clamps? Robot Santa Claus? The First Robot Capable of Qualifying for a Boat Loan? All great bots, but I’ll go with Hedonismbot, the bucket o’ bolts designed after Caligula and whose body is basically a chaise lounge built out of pure gold. He was clearly a bad idea thrown out in the writers’ room that just stuck, and became all the funnier when fans of the show got in on the inside joke, too. My second vote for best TV robot is Mario Lopez.
June Thomas (@junethomas), Slate
The mail robot from “The Americans” is the perfect robot. Too bumbling, stumbling to be scary; too inefficient to be a threat; and too cute to resist. Sure, we know that zir kids and grandkids will come for our lunch, but this 1980s incarnation is all “aw” and no “aaargh.”
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
The Robot from the original Irwin Allen’s “Lost in Space.” Robot was “a Class M-3, Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Robot (G.U.N.T.E.R.),” according to the show notes.
As a wee kid in the 1960s, that robot enthralled me and made me love science, astronomy and all things gadgety. He was our generation’s “Inspector Gadget” and the perfect shade-throwing foil to the insufferable conniver Dr. Zachary Smith. I wanted two things: To be Will Robinson in that show… or have Space Corps Major Donald West (Mark Goddard) be my boyfriend. I had the most insane crush, to the point I’d hiss every time Judy (Marta Kristen) was in frame with him.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
Here’s a robot I wouldn’t want to see overlooked: The Doctor’s adorable robot companion K-9, who was more of a mainstay of the classic series, but made a fantastic comeback in the revival’s second season along with Sarah Jane Smith. K-9 wasn’t just a robot. He was a good dog.
Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx
We’re living in a new golden age of TV robots. “Westworld” alone has a veritable army of them, so some (Maeve, Dolores) are more interesting than others (Teddy). Pretty much the only mirth to be found on “The Americans” these days comes whenever Mail Robot slides its nosy chassis past Agents Beeman and Aderholt. The “GLOW” robot has drugs in it! And the only reason I even considered watching the full season of the new “Lost in Space” was the great design work on Will Robinson’s pet Robot.
TV history has plenty of memorable robots, too, though I tend to gravitate towards the one who aspire to look and/or act as human as possible, as opposed to Twiki from “Buck Rogers.” The ’00s “Battlestar Galactica” reboot couldn’t do full-time metal Cylons for budgetary reasons, and their compromise of having most of the Cylons impersonating humans led to some of that show’s best and most complex characters, particularly the many faces of Number Six and the ruthless Brother Cavil.
My favorite, though, is Lt. Commander Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” who proved fully functional as a human in every sense, particularly in how he slowly learned to feel and display emotions even before he got a chip to help him with that. One of the three or four greatest characters in all of Trek lore, whom the TNG writers understandably kept giving more and more material to as the series went along, deftly played by Brent Spiner. Technically, he’s an android, but he’s my favorite robot.
Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling), TVGuide.com
Am I allowed to say Mr. Robot? No? OK, well then I choose the robot from Robin Sparkles’ iconic music video “Let’s Go to the Mall.” No, wait, my favorite robot in all of TV is actually Geoff Peterson, Craig Ferguson’s robot sidekick from “The Late Late Show.” Find me a better robot who also had great one-liners, yelled “in your pants!” at people and had a feud with Kristen Bell. That’s right, you can’t. Geoff was the best, man.
Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine
I’m sure someone will be cheeky and list Vicki from “Small Wonder” or Karen Cartwright from Smash, but anyone who says anything other than “The Bionic Woman’s” Fembots is…well, probably straight. Because for a pre-teen homo who was obsessed with Jaime Sommers and her cybertronic superpowers, the introduction of Dr. Franklin’s robots in the “Kill Oscar Goldman” crossover with “The Six Million Dollar Man” was gay manna from TV heaven and probably why I don’t even feel safe around a Roomba. These Stepford Bots were as strong as Jaime—so we got early catfights to prepare us for “Dynasty”—their face plates came off to reveal horrifying-for-the-time ‘70s-era switchboards and you never knew who was real or not. (Making one of them Oscar’s plucky assistant, Callahan, was genius!) Oh, and even though they were supposedly high-tech creations, they moved as slowly as Jaime, which led to incredible sequences that allowed for all of their feathered hair and flowly poly-blend outfits to really work it. Find me a host in “Westworld” who can serve that!
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby
C.H.E.E.S.E. from “Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.” from “Friends” and Zingbot from “Big Brother” are near and dear to my heart, but no one beats Yuko from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The original Yuko 3000, created by Jacqueline’s ex-husband Julian to “bring a technology to the market that will change the face of health care, the service industry and one day, I truly believe, prostitution,” seemed like a one-off in Season 1, but she’s become the greatest Easter egg, routinely popping up in the background of scenes. I also had the pleasure of speaking to Yuko herself, so yes, I may be biased here, but she low-key has the best arc of anyone on the show. Now, she’s a dog walker, a nurse and is almost definitely a crossing guard, and there’s even a Yuko 9000, the “sex Yuko.” Yuko is going to take over the world some day, guys. Get ready.
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
Like many other fans of “The Americans,” I have a special affinity for the Mail Robot. But since its powers are limited, I will expand my choice to say that I’m also partial to Charles on “Neo Yokio,” the Jeeves to Kaz Kaan’s Wooster. Charles is not just a wise and endlessly resourceful butler, he’s a flying transport who knows the best way to cheer someone up is with a giant Toblerone. However, Charles is also a mecha, which means he is internally piloted. So while he may have the voice of Jude Law while in butler mode, he’s actually controlled by older, wry, cockney woman named Sadie (who is also fantastic on her own, though not a robot). Yes his battery often needs to be charged and mechas don’t last forever, but “it is the ephemeral nature of things that make them wonderful.”
Rob Owen (@RobOwenTV), Pittsbugh Post-Gazette/ McClatchy Tribune
That’s a tough one because there are so many to choose from and so many to avoid (looking at you, “Small Wonder” girl). Today I’d have to go with Maeve (Thandie Newton) on “Westworld” or maybe the mail robot on “The Americans” but those are probably not my all-time favorites if I’m in a nostalgic frame of mind (which I am).
As a child of the 1970s, I’ve always been partial to Muffy the Daggit, a robotic dog on the original “Battlestar Galactica” (played by a chimp in a suit). The Fembots on “The Six Million Dollar Man” scared me to death. But my favorite — and I once had the action figure to prove it but now that this question came up, I can’t find it — is Twiki, a humanoid robot from “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” But only when Mel Blanc did the voice, not the poor substitute who took over in the back half of the show’s regrettably retooled second season. As a kid, Twiki seemed like what a child would want the robotic companion of the future to resemble: Friendly, responsive and loyal. His tendency to say “bidi-bidi-bidi” before many sentences made him seem just different enough to cement his non-threatening status.
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
There are so many possible answers to this one! Like I’m not gonna begrudge anybody who answers Bender from “Futurama.” There are a lot of Cylons to choose between and I think I’d personally go with Number Eight? Whichever one is the Boomer Cylon. I’d eagerly engage with anybody who says KITT, but I’d also accept disagreement that KITT is an enhanced car, which isn’t the same thing. You can pick your favorite Transformer, with Optimus Prime as the pretty clear correct answer, though I doubt he’s truly my favorite. “Doctor Who” isn’t my thing, but I know there are good answers from “Doctor Who” and I’m probably not a guy who’s gonna choose anything “Star Trek”-y either, which doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate Data as a worthy answer. What would I be more likely to answer? Well, “Big Brother” host “Julie Chen” is extremely lifelike at times, a big improvement over “American Idol” contestant “Carrie Underwood.” I can give a bit of love to the Buffybot from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” But if I’m going to actually narrow down a real choice, my answer would be either Tom Servo or Crow from “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” My favorite would depend on the moment.
Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
It’s taking everything in me not to type “Mr. Robot,” but if we’re being sincere, my answer is Mr. Ro… dang it… my answer is Number Six from “Battlestar Galactica,” who started that series as a bit of a one-note villain, then became one of the show’s most complex characters over the course of its four-season run. I could have picked any number of the other Cylons, like Brother Cavil or Mr. Robot, but Six had one of the most compelling journeys on a show full of compelling journeys. If I were to pitch a TV show just about her, and I should, I’d call it “Ms. Robot.”
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
Are machines robots? If so, my answer would be “every single robot that f’d with Nora Durst on ‘The Leftovers'” tied with “every single robot that f’d with Gloria Burgle on ‘Fargo'” — a.k.a. the machines that make up The Carrie Coon Technology Paradox. But since sliding door sensors and airport kiosks may not be the drones you’re looking for, I’d say Miss Teachbot (voiced by Kristin Chenoweth) on “BoJack Horseman,” the Symphonic from “Halt and Catch Fire,” “The Young Pope’s” Pope Bot, and Paro, the robotic seal from “Master of None” all come in a close second to “The Americans'” mail robot — especially after Wednesday’s episode, “Rififi.”
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: “Killing Eve” (five votes)
Other contenders: “The Americans” (four votes), “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Good Fight,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Terror,” “Westworld”
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.