I was just a kid during the 1970s, and while most boys who entered puberty during that era had a whopping crush on Marcia Brady, I had to be different. The object of my preteen affections was “The Bionic Woman.”
I still have my autographed Lindsay Wagner photo, with a nice long note written on the back. That autograph had the distinction of knocking my previous prizes â€” glossy autographed photos of Cornelius and Zira of “Planet of the Apes” fame.
In short, the first iteration of “The Bionic Woman” was a cultural marker for me â€” a show that marked a sharp change in interest from apes and action figures to heroes and beautiful heroines. So it was with an expectation of disappointment that I approached this new version â€” being ushered into middle age simply isnt as exciting as being ushered into our teenaged years. This new version promised to be “darker and edgier” … two horrifically overused terms that have grown so clichÃ©d that I have grown to hate them as much as I hated the word “angst” during the ’90s.
Nearly everyone has chimed in on why this new “Bionic Woman” failed. Some blame the constant shifting of writers and showrunners; others cite Michelle Ryan, whose acting was so dreadful that I actually heard her mispronounce the word “pasta” during an episode. How can anyone mispronounce pasta?
Still others are quick to point the finger at the annoying little sister Becca, whose storyline was made more and more unbelievable every week by the apparent lack of continuity in her character. All of these reasons certainly helped contribute to the shows demise.
For me, the failure was immediate. This Jaime Sommers life was as a bigger wreck before her accident than it was after. She had forsaken college to raise her sister Becca, so she worked nights as a bartender. Becca was a spoiled brat whose only motivation seemed to be to disrupt Jaimes life as much as possible. Really, did anyone, despite a couple of really out-of-character episodes which were apparently done to salvage her character, ever believe these two women actually liked each other? I couldnt help but think if Jaime had died during the wreck, she would have at least been free of her sister!
In comparison, NBCs other freshman genre program “Chuck” has managed to create a sibling relationship between Chuck and Ellie that actually works â€” a relationship that is close, but could be threatened by Chucks big secret. Ellie is a single character representation of family, and she represents everything Chuck wants to protect. In “Bionic Woman,” the only element Becca brings to the show is to serve as a weekly obstacle to her big sisters mission, as if terrorists and murderers arent enough for Jaime to deal with.
Even worse, in the history of spy movies, television, novels, video games, and any other form of media one can think of, has a worse cover ever been concocted than someone who sells time shares? And how does one go from being a bartender one week to a time share salesperson the next? Strange.
Despite all these complaints, I truly wanted this show to succeed. The new “Battlestar Galactica” showed how far ideas on robots and artificial intelligence have come since the 1970s. I had hoped “Bionic Woman” would be able to able to update the bionic process to be more in line with the many advancements in modern robotics and genetic engineering. While they tried, Jaime was often put in crowd scenes where all she could do was use her eye and ear â€” she seemingly had more training sessions than real fights.
With the United Stated enduring protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Bionic Woman” could have served as a metaphor for the injured soldier, providing a glimmer of hope from the science and medical communities. Such a focus would have sent the message that we appreciate their sacrifice and will work toward making them better.
Viewers could have reveled in seeing a strong, independent woman rise from a knockout punch in a fight she didnt start to accepting her mission and fighting with strength, courage, and honor.
Instead, we got the little sister. And thats a shame.