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.



9 responses to “Cult-TV Watch: Robby the Robot

  1. I was a much bigger fan of the robot from "Lost in Space" than of Robby, who seemed to proliferate every medium to the point where it was a cliche to see him. I never quite figured out the purpose for those whirly antennae things on the side of his head.

  2. Hi Filmverse,I also like the Lost in Space robot very much, but I think you're being much too hard on Robby. 🙂 A robot's gotta work, after all…and Robby has had an amazing film and television career.A real highlight of that career, for me (as a sci-fi TV fan) is seeing Robby and B-9 cross circuits (and electrical bolts) on the Lost in Space episode "The War of the Robots."best wishes,John

  3. Always been a fan of Robby. As a boy in late 1977, while watching a Lost In Space rerun a surprising tv commercial break had Robby The Robot promoting subscriptions to STARLOG Magazine. I obeyed and had my parents send in a check to the address. I was sent my STARLOG Subscription with a special blueprint poster of all of Robby's designs modifications.SGB

  4. SGB:That is a GREAT story. Robby the Robot hawking for Starlog magazine on a TV commercial? Is that commercial still extant, I wonder? I'd love to see it.But seriously, I would have done the same as you did, and pressured my parents to immediately get me a subscription, in no small part so I could get a peek at Robby's blueprints.Great memory, and great comment!best,John

  5. John, I looked up Robby The Robot's imdb. My boyhood memory was several months off, it was actually 1978 that the STARLOG Robby The Robot tv commercial aired.

  6. John, no luck finding the video of the STARLOG Robby commercial. However, this link has a copy of the blueprint poster from 1978:$(KGrHqV,!h0E69GEjPHrBOvyTu3eCw~~60_3.JPGSGB

  7. Hi SGB,Thank you so much for researching that. I love the blueprints because they show Robby in all of his various configurations, as I saw them on these various cult-tv programs. That's very cool. Thanks for sharing that, my,John

  8. SGB: A few months is nothing, as far as memory, so don't worry about that. That kind of thing happens to me too, remembering those great old days of the 1970s. But it's very cool that Robby was selling Starlog subscriptions!best,John

  9. Still the greatest movie robot of all time, love Robby!

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