The best friendships between humans and artificial intelligences are like Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice. A.I.s can be our pals, sharing witty banter and friendly advice. Just look at Knight Rider and Transformers. Not to mention some classic pairings. Here's our guide to the coolest and wittiest human-A.I. partnerships. We're dividing human-A.I. buddy-comedy or buddy-cop friendships into four main categories: sarcastic, flirty, grudging or eager. Sarcastic: Knight Rider. KITT gives Mike shit, but he's also Mike's best homey. He doesn't just chauffeur Mike around, he helps him bamboozle the bad guys and even helps him pick up hot ladies. (He's a wingman and a get-away car, all in one!)
The Doctor may have had one of the most servile A.I.s of all time - the robot dog K-9 who had to call everybody "Master" - but Doctor Who also included a few examples of A.I.s that could stand up for themselves. Like D-84, the robot secret agent who teamed up with the Doctor in "Robots Of Death." He started out suspecting the Doctor of being involved in the robot murders, and never stopped giving the Doctor a hard time, as befits an undercover robo-agent. Joel had a pretty snarky relationship with Crow, Servo and Gypsy on MST3K. It wasn't quite a buddy-cop relationship, but definitely a kind of Odd Couple-y buddy-comedy relationship. They're cooped up on this space station and forced to sit through a nearly endless selection of awful movies, and there's sort of an Oscar-and-Felix vibe to it. Sort of.
Fry and Bender have been roommates, coworkers, co-conspirators, and occasionally enemies, on Futurama. As long as you appeal to Bender's worse nature (worse programming?) you'll be fine. I want to put R2D2 from Star Wars into the "sarcastic" category, because I always imagine him telling Luke Skywalker just where he can stick the Force. At least, C-3PO always seems shocked by whatever Artoo's tweetling means. Artoo rides with Luke, but he's always giving him lip from the shotgun seat. Star Cops featured an A.I. named Box, who was always giving space detective Nathan Spring a hard time for his dumb or inexplicable decisions. Box was literally just a box-shaped pocket computer, but he was deceptively simple, since he was a rare prototype that could access pretty much any computer anywhere.
Poor H.E.R.B.I.E. is the robot assigned to look after Reed Richards' son Franklin in the Son Of A Genius comics. But Franklin ends up dragging H.E.R.B.I.E. into one mess after another, Laurel and Hardy style, while H.E.R.B.I.E. tells him off. The bot even gets de-evolved into a toaster at one point.
Hymie the robot is an indispensible part of the Control team on Get Smart, as anybody who's seen the recent movie (and DVD spinoff) already knows. But what you might not know from the latest movie is that Hymie is kind of a jerk - he's easily offended and is constantly saying pissy things like, "It's the same old story. Nobody cares about a robot. Just wind him up, turn him loose, and grease him every thousand miles." Flirty:
SELMA, the pocket computer in Time Trax, totally had the hots for Darien, the future cop stranded in the 1990s. Her holographic projection may have looked like a librarian, but she was always pouring some sugar on Darien. If that show hadn't gotten canceled way too early, there would have been some holographic lovin.
Rommie is the gynoid avatar of the starship Andromeda Ascendant in Andromeda. She's part of the ship's A.I., which also manfiests via viewscreen images and holograms, but she has her own separate personality to some extent. She enjoys having physical form, and even falls in love with the "avatar" of another starship at one point. The Vision in Marvel Comics may act like an uptight android, but he's just playing hard to get - and it works, since he managed to hook up with the Scarlet Witch. In the Ultimate universe, the Vision drops the coy act and gets reconfigured as a hawt naked gynoid.
Another Marvel Universe android, Jocasta, was originally known as the Bride of Ultron since the killer android created her to stand at his side. But she became sort of an Avengers groupie, even turning herself into Tony Stark's smart house at one point, so she could watch him sleep and stuff. Dr. Theopolis is always giving little sly compliments to Buck on Buck Rogers, and the little medallion computer constantly acts as though he'd really like to be hanging around Buck's neck instead of on that little cockbot Twiki. If Dr. Theopolis was dangling on Buck's hairy chest, under one of those puffy pirate shirts Buck is always wearing, they could go out on the town together and have adventures! Dr. Theopolis would be more fun for Buck than a while army of disco skaters! Really! He doesn't have to play doctor, he is a doctor! Buck? Buck? Buck, where are you going?
Beautie is a living android Barbie doll in Kurt Busiek's Astro City comics, who joins up with other superheroes in the Honor Guard to fight crime. When she's not doing that, she's busy accessorizing and looking fantastic. Too bad she doesn't have any genitalia, just like a regular Barbie doll. Indigo joins the Outsiders (a DC Comics superhero team) and seems to be a sexy fembot from the future, whose memory has been erased. She's cute and friendly, and even strikes up a romance with one of her teammates, Shift. Too bad she turns out to be more than meets the eye, in a bad way. Another kinda-evil A.I., the Eradicator, joined the Outsiders for a while as well, but he was way less cute. Grudging: Marvin the Paranoid Android didn't have to do the humans' bidding in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, but if you listened to him complain about his pathetic life for long enough, you could convince him to do you a favor. He had a sort of uneasy partnership with Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and the others. Just don't talk to him about life. Brain the size of a planet, and they ask him to open the door.
Ida is the most sarcastic android in the universe, in The Middleman TV show and comic. She looks like a 1950s housewife, but she's more like a mean police sargent, giving the Middleman and Wendy their instructions and scanning the police band for trouble (sometimes literally.) She gives MM almost as much grief as she gives Wendy, but he eats it up. The third Hourman, the time-manipulating android from the 853rd century, travels back to our present to learn from the Justice League... but he gets bored easily and uses his time-warping abilities to skip past the boring conversations with his buddies in the League. In his (vastly underrated and awesome) solo series, Hourman gets a human sidekick, former League mascot Snapper Carr, who teaches him humility and stuff. Other android members of the League include Red Tornado and Tomorrow Woman (who became buds with Hourman when he brought her back from the "dead.")
British scifi series Blake's 7 had two all-knowing computers: the Liberator's ship's computer Zen, and the even more amazing supercomputer Orac. And neither of them were much interested in being helpful. The more desperately our heroes need help from one of these computers, the more likely Zen is to say something like: "Wisdom must be gathered. It cannot be given." Or the more likely Orac is to announce that he's too busy to help. Avon and Orac, in particular, develop a grouchy squad-car banter akin to Sammo Hung and Takeshi Kaneshiro in buddy-cop movie Don't Give A Damn. Lopez is the grouchy android member of the Red team in the machinima series Red Vs. Blue, who hates his staff sergeant Dexter Grif. He eventually defects to the Blue team when his Red teammates mistake him for an enemy and try to kill him. Nobody can understand his broken Spanish, even when he begs for death in later episodes.
The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov is sort of the Rush Hour of science fiction detective novels - a tough cop who hates robots has to join forces with a robot detective, R. Daneel Olivaw, to investigate a murder of a Spacer. Olivaw is curious about humanity, and even though he's a bot, he turns out to be a good private dick. So Elijah Baley and Olivaw end up teaming up for a few more outings - just like the Rush Hour movies, actually.
Ross Sylibus is another robot-hating cop who has to team up with an android - Naomi Armitage - in the Armitage III anime series. But then they fall in love and Ross eventually even goes renegade for Naomi. It's like the buddy-cop show MacGruder and Loud.
The NBC show Mann & Machine was about — you guessed it — a cop who hates androids, but has to team up with a new android partner. Good thing she looks incredible in a bathing suit (and is apparently waterproof). Does Mann finally learn to love machine? Hmmm... what do you think? The episodes mostly revolved around getting the gynoid to go on dates with suspected serial killers and use her android body to get the truth out of people. But in one episode, Mann's apartment is destroyed and he moves in with the android, Eve. In the anime Heat Guy J, the detective Daisuke Aurora doesn't exactly hate androids, but his parents were murdered by one. And he has to team up with an android partner, known only as "J." Do they learn to respect each other? Hmm....
Chuck Norris has no friends because he's the last honest cop in Detroit, in the movie Code Of Silence. But Chuck doesn't need friends, because he's got a new partner - the experimental police wrecking robot, the Prowler. Actually, I think even the Prowler doesn't really like Chuck, but they get the job done together. Holmes and Yo-Yo is a 1970s comedy show about a clumsy, screw-up cop who's always injuring his partners. So the force gives him a new partner - an android named Yo-Yo. "You're not a person!" Holmes tells Yo-Yo, who dances whenever he gets shot at. They have to learn to work together, and Holmes (wait for it) teaches Yo-Yo about being human. The android detective Batou has a generally pretty good relationship with his human partner Togusa in the Ghost In The Shell series, but they have their ups and downs, especially in Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence, where Batou shuts Togusa out. Eager:
Bumblebee and the other Autobots are super keen to become best friendies with Sam Witwicky in the first Transformers movie, which is a big part of their charm. Bumblebee is the cool car every dorky teen wishes he/she could have, AND he turns into a cool robot that wants to be your friend. AND you can make out with your ridonkulously hot girlfriend on his hood.
The Golden Warrior Gold Lightan, from the anime series of the same name, has a pretty similar relationship with Hiro to the Sam/Bumblebee friendship. Except that Lightan turns into a gold lighter that sits in Hiro's pocket, and he only turns into a humongous robot when Hiro activates him, to fight other giant robots. It's an equal partnership, since Lightan really needs a pocket to chill out in when he's a tiny lighter.
Data and Geordie share pretty much everything on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Geordie's always happy to take an hour to explain humor or dating or inappropriate touching to Data, who's always got time to help Geordie with whatever. There are other relationships between humans and A.I.s in Trek, but the bromance between Data and Geordie will never die.
Johnny 5 is pretty happy-go-lucky in Short Circuit, and is pretty stoked to make friends with Ally Sheedy. They're on the run from Johnny's creators, who want to turn him into a weapon or melt him down or something, and it's sort of like Nuns On The Run. If one of the nuns was a robot. Danny One is sort of like Johnny 5, actually - he's the friendly robot that Jack Jameson gets for his 10th birthday in the book My Robot Buddy by Alfred Slote and Joel Schick. The duo have to team up to deal with some robot-nappers. (Who aren't narcoleptic robots, but people who steal robots.)
The Iron Giant is a surprisingly great book by Ted Hughes about a boy who befriends a super-powerful giant robot, but in the hands of Brad Bird (The Incredibles) it becomes a surpassingly wonderful movie about a kid who joins up with a robot on the run. Melfina in Outlaw Star is such an eager friend and companion, she serves as navigator and chef for the Outlaw Star crew. She's sort of a mom figure to Jim Hawking.
The cartoon Cubix features Connor, a kid who wants to join the "Botties" club of robot wranglers - but first Connor has to prove himself, by fixing Cubix the Unifixable Robot. Cubix starts working just in time to save Connor from the evil Dr. K and the giant robot Kolossal. After that, Cubix becomes Connor's dorky friend, repeating everything he says. Dr. K doesn't succeed in taking over the world, but what about Professor K? He's the mad scientist villain of anime series Saikou Robot Kombock, and the only ones who stand in his way are Ichiro and his robot partner Kombock.
Robotboy is the most advanced robot in the world - but he has to learn how to be a real boy. So he teams up with a 10-year-old, Tommy Turnbull, who protects him from the evil scientists who want to use him to take over the world in this French series that airs on the Cartoon Network in the U.S. The Zeta Project has another kid/robot teamup - Zeta aka Zee is an escaped military holomorphic robot that can appear human, who's on the run from the NSA. And 15-year-old runaway girl Ro Rowen helps Zee search for his creators. All of these teamups between children and robots are like the equivalent of Burt Reynolds' Cop And A Half, with the robot being the cop.
Long-running webcomic Argon Zark! features a hacker who creates a portal into cyberspace via "Personal Transfer Protocol," and his robot sidekick Cybert. And finally, Mycroft Holmes aka Mike doesn't side with the law in Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, but he does team up with humans and become their homey in the struggle for freedom. Additional reporting by Lauren Davis.