I was born in 1987, and therefore, remember very little about the 1980s. My first memory is of my second birthday party, but unless an entire decade revolved around grocery store-bought cake, it’s probably not reliable. All of my recollections are secondhand: the music, the fashion, the single slice of pizza spinning around a turntable, the robots. The 1980s were the golden era of robots, or so FX’s The Americans and Netflix’s GLOW, both set in that decade, have taught me. Both which show — one of which is as joyful (GLOW) as the other is tragic (The Americans) — has the better robot?
Let’s find out, based on seven different categories.
The Americans: One minute, we’re living in a Mail Robot-less world. The next, in the season two premiere, Martha (#PoorMartha) is walking to the hallway to fetch some mail, and nothing would ever be the same. (My favorite thing about this scene is that no extra attention is paid to Mail Robot. It’s an inauspicious debut, as if it’s a normal thing for a rolling automaton to deliver mail to the FBI. “Agent Johnson, that top secret letter you were waiting for has just arrived, thanks to a robot that — get this — brings the mail to you!” It sounds like the setup to a Yakov Smirnoff joke. How appropriate.)
GLOW: The GLOW girls are already smitten by producer Sebastian “Bash” Howard’s fancy house in Malibu, but they, particularly Melrose and Carmen, light up with enjoyment when they meet GLOW-bot. What’s its mission? Well, GLOW-bot, who can nod, has a phone on its chest, and some random buttons and knobs that lead to… a hidden compartment filled with drugs! Or in the instantly immortal words of Melrose, “There are drugs in the fuckin’ robot.” Legends aren’t born; they’re built. Probably in some factory in Japan.
The Americans: Mail Robot lives up to its name: it’s a robot that delivers mail. You know what comes in the mail? Bills and random issues of Popular Mechanics, which you’ve been getting for five years even though you never paid for a subscription. Mail Robot is useful, sure, but it also brings bad news.
GLOW: GLOW-bot is like having a butler, if your butler was a robot with a landline telephone on his chest and drugs in his pants.