Let’s face it – The Bionic Woman (TBW) never got the love that The Six Million Dollar Man (SMDM) received. Oh sure, fans loved the character so much that they letter-bombed the TV studio demanding her resurrection when she was killed off in her debut on SMDM and the show ran a healthy three seasons; even ending with very good ratings – but the more “emotional stories” and “feminine perspective” didn’t win the young male market over. They craved the astronaut-turned-super-spy plots of SMDM. The producers cleverly created “cross-over” episodes that kept SMDM fans watching “part 2” of the latest show on TBW. Even when the spin-off changed networks, the stars of each show shared the spotlight (unheard of, even today).
Despite the love for SMDM, many of us enjoyed TBW for what it was and have long awaited these episodes to be available to the home market.
After 30 years of legal hell, the original 1970’s bionic TV shows finally made it to the home video market in the United States (even abroad their availability was sketchy). Earlier this year, Time Life released the ENTIRE SMDM TV show (including all five seasons, every movie and every “cross-over” episode with TBW – including the beloved KILL OSCAR Fembot three part episode) and we reviewed it here. With a price tag of over $200, this collection got passed on by all but the die-hard fans – so those dying to see Academy Award Winner John Houseman play the evil Dr. Franklin would simply have to wait to see the beautiful (but deadly) Fembots.
This show was attempted (horribly) to be resurrected in 2007, but they didn’t really secure anything other than the title and had no input from the original team (actors, writers or producers). It was a recipe for disaster. That was definitely a case of “good riddance”.
Season one of TBW hit the streets last year and I presume sales were high enough to warrant releasing the second season (I was worried we wouldn’t get all three seasons – but so far, so good). While I enjoyed the first season, the second season is where all the best episodes of this show ended up.
About the Series
TBW centers around Jamie Sommers – a former professional tennis player and high school sweetheart of America’s favorite astronaut hero (now bionic super spy), Steve Austin. They rekindle their relationship and for a date decide to go skydiving. Jamie’s parachute doesn’t open and she lies near death. Steve makes a deal with OSI front man (and boss) Oscar Goldman to replace her crushed legs, arm and lost ear. Oscar pulls the trigger on Jaime’s operation (performed by show regular Dr. Rudy Wells) and she’s saved – but owes a debt to the government (one Steve doesn’t want her to pay).
Unfortunately, Jamie’s body starts rejecting the bionic implants causing her insane pain and mental breakdowns – making her flee her surrounds and start running. With her super strength and speed thanks to the bionics, she is almost impossible to catch and bring back to the hospital, but Steve manages to get her. Despite every effort, Jaime dies leaving Steve crushed … or so ends the original SMDM episode that introduced Jamie to the world.
As mentioned earlier, the people rattled their sabers and got the network to resurrect the character (you’ll have to watch to find out how they did it – and no, it wasn’t all just a dream sequence) and gave her the spin off show.
While Jamie owes a debt to Oscar, she isn’t conscripted into the OSI – but instead becomes a school teacher at a military base; ensuring she’s on-hand if Oscar needs her for a mission (which he does from time to time).
To avoid overtaxing the two stars of the shows, their relationship was “put on hold” to prevent them from having to constantly appear on both shows all the time – but there are MANY such “cross-over” episodes where the story would start on one show, then end on the other. With 2-3 shows (yes, there were three part episodes) to flesh out and build a story, these cross-overs are some of the biggest fan-favorites.
Jaime Sommers allowed the writers to work on a more “humanity” level and many of the episodes featured Jaime helping regular people or being engaged in less military-related missions. Oscar is a shrewd boss – he knows when a beautiful agent works better than a handsome one – and uses Jamie when her feminine wiles come in handy.
Watch the full intro here. (youTube wouldn’t let me embed it)
Season two features twenty-four episodes spanning five DVDs. Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio with four of them featuring audio commentary by Lindsay Wagner or series creator/producer Kenneth Johnson. A photo gallery is also included along with a single new featurette called BIONIC BLAST (running at about eleven and a half minutes which is very similar to the ones found on the SMDM set – if you read that review).
The featurette is one of the better ones I’ve seen, including a lot of discussion by Kenneth Johnson – the series creator. You will also see modern interviews with Lindsay Wagner herself, her photo double Inge Rosenberg, various episode directors, Lindsay’s stunt woman Rita Egleston, Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman), Martin E. Brooks (Dr. Rudy Wells), actress Janice Whitby (Katy – one of the gals replaced by a Fembot) and a few others. The featurette talks about the legacy of TBW – including the toys and merchandise. I really enjoyed it.
The photo gallery contains some behind the scenes B-Roll type stuff along with some publicity photos, etc. Nothing extravagant here – but worth a look.
The menus are lackluster and bare – and it’s very obvious that this series didn’t get the love and attention that SMDM got in its restoration. The video quality is fairly good (considering the age of the prints) and the original audio is presented adequately in DD 2.0.
A Taste of the Best
Season two features the best episodes of the whole series – all of them multiple parts and many of them cross-over episodes. Here is a highlight of some of the episodes (for those that might have forgotten their names) …
Return of Bigfoot – Probably the most iconic show of EITHER TBW or SMDM was the original BigFoot cross-over episode, featuring Andre The Giant as an alien-created robotic sasquatch. Unfortunately, Andre did not return for this second outing, but it is still a good time. Steve is accused of crimes that could only be committed by a bionic man – and Jaime comes to help him clear his name.
Kill Oscar – This is the story arc you’ll buy the disc set for. Three full cross-over episodes featuring a defected scientist (John Houseman) from the OSI who seeks revenge on Oscar Goldman for choosing to fund bionics over his “fembot” robots. Franklin wants to steal a weather control device from the OSI and replaces key women in the OSI with his “fembots” – robots that look, act and sound like their counterparts. Of all the shows in my childhood, this story has stuck in my mind over 30 years and I still watch it with fascination.
Jaime’s Shield – She goes undercover as a police cadet trainee to uncover an espionage ring; a two part episode.
Doomsday Is Tomorrow – A scientist creates an anti-war “doomsday weapon” that will destroy the planet if any country detonates a nuclear bomb. When his warning is ignored, the device is armed and Jaime has to infiltrate a booby-trapped fortress controlled by a “Hal”-like super computer that counters her every move; another two part episode that I’ve remembered for over three decades.
Deadly Ringer – Last season, career criminal Lisa Galloway gets plastic surgery to look like Jaime Sommers to infiltrate the OSI. In this two part episode, Jaime is abducted and switched for Lisa (still in prison). Lisa is to steal the formula for a secret compound called Adrenalizine – which gives ordinary humans super bionic-like strength for a short period of time. Armed with a stolen small quantity of the compound, Lisa is able to fool the OSI into believing she is Jaime – while bought off guards in the prison keep Jaime drugged and unaware of her abilities.
The Night Demon – Jaime visits an old rancher friend during a routine delivery for the OSI who is being haunted by a ghostly demon – purportedly stalking him for an inadvertent disturbance of a local Indian burial ground.
You get the idea. There are great shows in this collection.
Die-hard fans have probably already purchased this set. For those of you who bowed out of the SMDM set due to the price, this is a cheap way to get some of the best bionic shows ever – including the three-part episode KILL OSCAR, which inspired its own doll line of Fembot action figures.
For about $1 an episode (it goes for $25 on Amazon – if you’re going to buy it, help the site out and buy it through the Amazon link below) it’s hard to go wrong with this season set. Fans of either TBW or SMDM will find a number of high quality episodes in Season 2 – in fact, if you didn’t buy the SMDM set, this is a cheap way to get a couple of episodes as a bonus – thanks to the cross-overs.
With any luck, we will see the final season of this hit within the year, allowing us fans to have the full collection on DVD.