Review: The Bionic Woman – Series 1 / Cert: / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Lindsay Wagner, Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, Martin E. Brooks / Release Date: Out Now
On a date with Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin (not Stone Cold, although WWE Films are missing a trick in not having him headline a remake), tennis pro Jaime Sommers drops out of the sky and smashes herself to bits. Thankfully she couldn't have picked a better boyfriend to be with during a parachuting accident, and Steve soon kits her out with a new set of legs. So the Bionic Woman is born.
Comprising fourteen episodes, Series One of The Bionic Woman is a blast from the past of the best variety – the kind that hasn't aged too badly. Viewers aren't given short thrift with this box set either, which also includes her four initial appearances in the The Six Million Dollar Man series. I had never seen this or The Six Million Dollar Man before picking up this set (heathen, I know) but I fell instantly in love. The stunning beauty of Lindsay Wagner might have helped there. And Lee Majors isn't exactly difficult on the eyes either. Audiences new and old should enjoy this re-release of the series, in spite of (or perhaps because of) its cheesier moments. The early episodes are slow on action but very sweet. Visiting his home town, bionic man Steve Austin (think a more competent version of Inspector Gadget) rekindles his romance with sweetheart Jaime. It's all sweetness and light until Jaime parachute malfunctions during a spot of skydiving, and she plummets into the ground, suffering grievous damage to her head, legs and right arm. Steve manages to convince his government chums to fit Jaime with some bionics of her own.
These early episodes are quite lovely, with some very cheesy singing (and a surprising amount of it too, during the many montage scenes), jogging (ditto) and jumping over tractors. There's even a pillow fight between the pair, complete with the show's signature slow motion effects and sound cues. It's all very daft, but it's surprisingly watchable, even to a virgin audience today. It's certainly better than that Michelle Ryan nonsense (may have worked with Joss Whedon in charge, but stood next to no chance otherwise) and is helped by the easy charisma and looks of Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors. Her tennis career is by de facto less interesting than being an astronaut (sorry, Tim Henman), but this series from the 1970s does a surprisingly good job of not being too condescending to Jaime. She does get chloroformed and tied to things quite often, but her super strength usually puts a stop to that.
Over the course of these fourteen episodes, you'll see Sommers adjust to her bionic bits, suffer a case of amnesia (in a standard TV trope of the period) and battle all manner of rubbish '70s-style villainy. All accompanied, of course, by plenty of montages, horse riding and slow motion use of superpowers. Also, not one but two variations on the old “doc, will I ever play the piano again?” joke. Of all the superpowers granted to Austin and Sommers, singing is apparently not one of the Bionic Man's talents. Not that it stops him from doing so repeatedly. “I love you, Jaime,” Majors croons over yet another jogging montage. And now, thanks to this box set, so do we.
Extras: All 4 episodes of “The Six Million Dollar Man” explaining the origin of the Bionic Woman / “Bionic Beginnings” featurette / Gag reel / Bionic galleries / Q&A with Lindsay Wagner