Cult-TV Watch: Robby the Robot
What a hunk…of metal.
Robby the Robot is not merely a movie star, he’s a Hollywood icon. For a generation of film-goers and cult-tv watchers, Robby personifies the very term “robot.” Designed in the mid-1950s by MGM’s prop department, Robby stands an imposing seven feet tall, and has had a diverse and notable acting career, one that many carbon-based life-forms would certainly envy.
After making a big splash on the silver screen in Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Invisible Boy (1957), Robby moved to golden age television, appearing in a variety of villainous and heroic roles. Two of his most memorable villainous turn came in The Twilight Zone’s “Uncle Simon” and the first season Lost in Space episode “The War of the Robots.” The latter pitted him – as the evil “Robotoid” — against the Robinsons’ beloved and bubble-headed B9.
Throughout the decades, Robby also guest-starred on a number of genre sitcoms, including The Addams Family (“Lurch’s Little Helper”) and Mork and Mindy (“Dr. Morkenstein.”) On one memorable occasion, the loquacious machine even matched wits – or logic circuits – with Columbo (Peter Falk). Robby thus demonstrated quite a range as a mechanical performer.
If Robby the Robot has any foible as an actor, it’s likely vanity. Over the years, he’s had more face lifts than Joan Rivers. Robby sported a new, cylindrical face in “Uncle Simon,” and adopted a smaller, more sleek-looking cyclopean dome for Space Academy (1977) and Project UFO (1978). But no matter his guise, Robby always looked sharp and sleek, wearing a bow-tie (on The Love Boat’s “Programmed for Love”) or, in the spirit of Milton Berle going “drag” as Mildred the Robot on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1970).
Over the years, Robby has shown he can replace the average human worker (The Twilight Zone’s “Brain Center at Whipples”), host a science fiction convention (Wonder Woman: “Spaced Out”) and much, much more.
A true cult-television classic, Robby has also appeared in several notable TV commercials, some of which you can find below.
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