11 Cringeworthy Sci-Fi Series From the ’80s

Sometimes trips down memory lane aren’t so pleasant. This YouTube video is ample evidence of that. Watch (if you can) this calamitous compilation of intros from some of the worst science-fiction television shows the eighties had to offer: Automan, Manimal, The Wizard, Wizards and Warriors, Misfits of Science, Shadow Chasers, The Phoenix, The Powers of Matthew Star, Starman, Outlaws, and The Highwayman.

Can’t make it all the way through? I don’t blame you. I wrote a rundown:

Automan: Police department IT geek Walter Nebicher (“Nebbish“, get it?) bonds with a powerful artificial intelligence that can create whatever he needs in his fight against crime. “Whatever” meaning cars, mostly. The AI manifests as a digital avatar known as “cursor”. It was a different time. This was created by the producers of TRON, by the way.

Manimal: Dr. Jonathan Chase has a secret: He can transform into any animal he wants. However, the show budget pretty much limits him to a hawk or panther. He was a snake once, though. He got better. Special effects by Stan Winston.

The Wizard: The brilliant and much-missed David Rappaport (Time Bandits, The Bride) starred in this not-at-all-missed series about a brilliant inventor and his gang of friends.

Wizards and Warriors: Totally sweet name for a terrible show. This goofy medieval fantasy series was mostly played for laughs, and had nothing to do with the video game of the same name. It only lasted for one short season (short enough?). Incidentally, most of the episodes were directed by Bill Bixtby, who played David Banner in television series The Hulk.

Misfits of Science: This one is probably the most painfully “eighties” series of the bunch. Imagine a cross between Revenge of the Nerds and The X-Men and you’re halfway there. The other half is the crushing disappointment you’re going to feel after watching it if you actually think that sounds good. In one episode the team has to help a group of senior citizens who develop superpowers after eating irradiated hamburgers. Oh, and “enjoy” that theme song…

Shadow Chasers: You know what? Shadow Chasers sounds kind of cool. An anthropologist is forced by his eccentric department head to pair up with a tabloid reporter and investigate paranormal activity. You know what else? It wasn’t cool. Not at all. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: The reporter was played by Dennis Dugan, who went on to become a longtime production partner with comedian Adam Sandler. Dugan has directed a ton of his films. So, uh, thanks?

The Phoenix: Inspired by Erich von Däniken’s alien astronaut books (Chariots of the Gods?) this hilariously bad television series follows the adventures of… get this… an ancient alien named “Bennu of the Golden Light” who is discovered in a sarcophagus in Peru. Bennu is a white dude, by the way: an actor named Judson Scott, who you might know from his appearances in several Star Trek tv series and movies. Using his magical sun amulet, Bennu can levitate, predict the future, and more. His female ancient alien counterpart Mira was played by Sheila Frazier, famous for playing “Georgia” in the blaxploitation classic Superfly.

The Powers of Matthew Star: Alien crown prince Matthew “E’hawk” Star (soap opera regular Peter Barton) and his guardian Walt “D’hai” Shepherd (Louis Gossett, Jr.) were on the wrong side of an intergalactic war. Now they’re on planet Earth hiding from assassins. Alien prince or not, Matthew has to go to high school.

Starman: This one was based on the John Carpenter science-fiction movie of the same name. Honestly, that wasn’t a bad film. Film star Jeff Bridges didn’t return for the television show, though, and neither did the compassion of the original movie.

Outlaws: A group of Wild West bandits engaged in a shoot-out in an old Native American cemetery (because of course) are struck by lightning and transported to the modern day. Left without any other options (I mean, except for robbing banks and what-not—that seemed to work then, but…), these desperadoes form a detective agency. The weird thing is that they keep wearing their Old West clothes and gun belts. I guess you wouldn’t know they were time travelers, otherwise? Anyway, one of the cowboys, Isaiah “Ice” McAdams, was played by Richard Roundtree, star of blaxploitation hit Shaft. Their lady friend, Deputy Maggie Randall, was played by Christina Belford, who briefly lived at the infamous Amity Horror house. Yeehaw!

The Highwayman: There’s nothing shiny and chrome about this Road Warrior knock-off starring Flash Gordon star Sam J. Jones as the Mad Max expo known only as the Highwayman.