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UPDATE 11/12/2015 Aziz saw our piece, and while he says that Turbo Teen was NOT an influence, he is intrigued.
See original story below.
One thing you have to appreciate about Aziz Ansari and his Netflix series Master of None—aside from the soul-crushing reality of modern dating—is the high volume of pop culture references. While the characters have no problem dishing on rom-coms or vigorously dissecting the personas Eminem uses in "Lose Yourself" (for real, is there no Mekhi Phifer?), it's the more subtle bits that are truly intriguing.
One such situation emerged in the fifth episode, "The Other Man." Tucked into the main story, which featured Ansari's Dev getting hit on (heavily) by a lit woman played by Claire Danes, was a sub-plot which featured Dev riffing with Colin Salmon about a project Colin wants to do that he dubs, "Car Man," about a man who is a car. Not like Knight Rider, where some guy does a voice... but literally a guy who is also a car. During a brainstorm with Salmon, Dev suggests an origin story: maybe this guy could get struck by lightening while driving his car and that could magically turn him into a car. So ridiculous, but it immediately made me think of this weird af cartoon that I would catch on USA as a kid: Turbo Teen!
What, you're not up on Turbo Teen? Okay, that's not surprising. It only ran for one 13-episode season in 1984-1985 on ABC Saturday mornings, then had a quick run on USA Cartoon Express; it's easily forgettable. The show featured a teen named Brett who, during a thunderstorm, swerved his whip into some weird government laboratory. Brett and the car got exposed to some molecular beams and BAM—Brett could now morph into a car when things got too hot. Of course this meant that Brett and his squad (which included a reporter, his mechanic, and his dog Rusty) were down to fight crime, even if they were also trying to find a way to get Brett back to normal.
The Knight Rider reference in Master of None is interesting, as there was talk of the popularity of the show being the reason why this series was even pushed (you could also say there might have been some Transformers-esque feels thrown into the mix as well), but Knight Rider never featured awkward-looking transformations like this. Seriously, just look at how his body morphed:
I can't remember if this looked as awkward when I was a snot-nosed kid, but today? This just looks fucked. And it's good to know I'm not just making this show up; Turbo Teen was previously referenced in an episode of Robot Chicken:
Now this isn't to say that Aziz cribbed from Turbo Teen at all; it's just dope to see him basically being as pop culture-obsessed as I was (down to the Street Fighter and Short Circuit love from back in the day). Hopefully this could spurn a revival for Turbo Teen...or maybe we can just leave that shit back in the '80s.