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Bionic Woman

In 1975 Lindsay Wagner made a guest appearance on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN series as a birthday present for her sister. No one knew what would follow...

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN series is based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin. The story centers on former astronaut Col. Steve Austin who is critically injured when the experimental aircraft that he is testing crashes on the runway. The U.S. government takes this opportunity to create the world's first Bionic man. Col. Austin's legs, right arm, and left eye are replaced with cybernetic limbs which give him extraordinary strength and abilities. The Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) promptly sends Steve on covert missions, and he becomes an enormous asset to the government.

The Universal series also became an asset to ABC-TV. However, after several years it was felt that Col. Austin needed more than weekly missions. So, Kenneth Johnson created the perfect female companion for him--Jaime Sommers. After a tragic skydiving accident, Jaime also received Bionic replacements. She and Steve planned to be married, but it came to pass that Jaime's body rejected her new limbs and she died.

ABC realized how phenomenally successful Lindsay Wagner's portrayal of Jaime Sommers had become. So, they brought her back to life and spun her off into her own series--THE BIONIC WOMAN. It debuted in January 1976 and was an immediate hit. Today, THE BIONIC WOMAN continues to entertain audiences around the world.

The series ran for three seasons from 1976 to 1978; as with The Six Million Dollar Man, it debuted midway through a season, so as a result its first season was abbreviated. During its first two seasons the series featured occasional crossover episodes featuring Steve Austin, as well as two occasions ("The Return of Bigfoot" and "Kill Oscar") in which multi-part storylines were shared between the two series. Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks played their SMDM roles of Oscar Goldman and Dr. Rudy Wells in the new series.

The Bionic Woman was actually cancelled by ABC after its second season (which was its first full-length season). It was picked up by NBC for a third and final season. Although there were no further crossovers with Steve Austin, both Anderson and Brooks continued to play their characters, becoming two of the first actors in TV history to play the same ongoing characters in two different television series airing on two different networks at the same time. Under the new network a new ongoing character, the bionic dog Maximillian, was added.

Despite airing on another network, The Bionic Woman was cancelled in the spring of 1978 at the same time as its parent program. Wagner later reprised her role in a trilogy of made-for-TV reunion films between 1987 and 1994 that united the two series.

At one point in Bionic Woman — NBC's sleeker, faster, cooler version of the 1970s series — a little girl looks out the window of a car to see the 2007-model Jaime Sommers (East Enders' Michelle Ryan) zipping through the woods like a cheetah. The child alerts her disbelieving mother, and then smiles: ''I just thought it was cool a girl could do that.''

Too much? Yes, too much! And yet, it's one of those moments you just have to shrug at and enjoy. Girls can do lots of things in this energetic, dark drama: They can leap buildings, cartwheel around rooftops, and pounce across rooms in flimsy hospital gowns. As rethought for the 21st century, Jaime is no mere girlfriend of Steve Austin. She's the girlfriend of a cute scientist (Will Anthros)! When a car smashup threatens Jaime's life, he copters her off to his underground lair, er, research facility, where the majority of her body parts — both legs, an arm, an ear, an eye — are replaced by futuristic military bionics. The compromise? She's now government property, and must participate in secret operations or be killed. When she's informed of this, her beau is apologetic, but not that apologetic: ''You're hardwired for highly specialized warfare, yes,'' he admits in a hilarious Oh, did I forget to mention that? moment.

But the writers need to tweak the irony: Bionic Woman is a flowery-feminist show whose go-girl premise depends on some dude asserting control over a young woman's body without her permission. Will this be a clever commentary on current sexual dynamics? Or just unimaginative storytelling? (The whole aggro-male vibe is partly due to poor casting: Anthros appears a good decade older than baby-faced Ryan, giving all their interactions a skeezy overlay.) Whether Bionic Woman plays with its contradictions and proves to be an insightful, allegorical series like exec producer David Eick's other show, Battlestar Galactica, remains to be seen. It could end up being simple, popcorny fun (no small feat), in which case the only other worry is Ryan.

The Brit actress has the same brunet intensity as Alias' Jennifer Garner, but lacks the innate confidence. This absence is glaring anytime she's acting opposite slick, pissy Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar), who shows up as the very first bionic woman, gone bad, determined to get badder. ''I'm cutting away all the parts of me that are weak,'' she tells Jaime, creepily, before trying to kill her. The problem is, if you're a fan of Sackhoff's throaty, chin-jutty delivery, she absolutely overpowers the callow Ryan, and if you're not a fan of Sackhoff...she still overpowers Ryan. It's not going to get easier for the actress when the gravitas-enriched Isaiah Washington starts his guest arc in October. In short, this Bionic Girl had better hurry up and become a real Woman.

Due to a strike by the Writers Guild of America, production of the series was halted in mid-November 2007,and the regular actors were suspended on half-pay for a period of five weeks. The series has since aired all of the episodes that were completed before production halted. Several websites rumored that NBC had cancelled the series, but an NBC Universal Media Studios spokesperson told the press that the show had not been cancelled and that production of the first season would continue when the WGA strike ended.[16] Upon the resolution of the strike, an Associated Press story classified Bionic Woman as being "on the bubble", and predicted that the remaining episodes would not air until the fall of 2008, "if ever". NBC later published a report regarding initial series renewals, and no announcement was made regarding whether Bionic Woman would return in the fall. The report also indicated that despite the earlier statement by NBC Universal, production of the series' first season was considered to be concluded.

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