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TV Review: Bionic Woman

David Eick, who brought the reimagined and incredibly successful Battlestar Galactica to the SciFi network is bringing to SciFi’s corporate older sibling, NBC, another 1970s remake this fall, Bionic Woman. Airing on Wednesday nights at 9pm, Bionic Woman hopes to help rehabilitate NBC’s ailing lineup.

As with Battlestar, Eick and his team have only taken the most basic outline of the plot from the original series, creating an entirely new vision for the updated series. Gone are elements like the cheesy bionic sound effects and the lighter campy moments of the original Bionic Woman. In their place is a far darker, more serious show. 

In this darker take on the idea, Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is a 24-year-old bartender who takes care of her younger sister as she struggles with her own life. One of the few apparent bright spots in that life is Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), Jaime’s college professor boyfriend. Will has not been completely open and honest with Jaime as to who exactly he is however, as he works for a secret government organization doing bionic research.

Suffering a mysterious car accident with Will, Jaime is left hugely injured and in danger of death. Her boyfriend opts to, without her knowledge, perform surgery on her, giving her bionic implants that will allow her to live. While these moments in the show are rather predictable, they are necessary as well — after all, Jaime has to be grossly injured in order to get the bionic surgery, and without the surgery there is no show. 

Jaime struggles greatly with the changes in her life and body, and is given an ultimatum by Will’s boss, Jonas Bledsoe (Miguel Ferrer), about working for him and the U.S. government. Jaime, unwilling to suddenly turn her life over because of an operation she did not ask for, initially refuses. It is clear early on however, that while Jaime may be reluctant, she will end up working for the government eventually.

Where the show does get a little silly is with the addition of Sarah Corvis, played by Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica). Sarah is the first woman that the bionic surgery was performed on, and has since gone rogue. Corvis seems out to destroy the people that gave her the bionic abilities, and wants to help “educate” Sommers as to her newfound strengths. Sackhoff is the brightest spot in pilot in this role, which at this time is a recurring one, not a permanent one, but the storyline feels thin. It almost seems to reference a different television show entirely, Knight Rider, with its KITT vs. KARR dynamic. Like KARR, KITT’s predecessor, Corvis was thought dead only to reappear and seek revenge on those she believes wronged her. 

Also lining up on the side of evil is Will’s father, Anthony Anthros (Mark Sheppard), who invented the bionic technology. Since his invention Anthros has been locked away in a special “supermax” underground prison in California for as-yet-unknown to the viewer, but probably some sort of attempted “take over the world” crimes. 

The pilot does have all the makings of an interesting television show. While the dynamic at this time between Corvis and Sommers does feel like a retread, with time (should Sackhoff become a permanent fixture), it could be made into the most interesting aspect of the show. Michelle Ryan is good as a bewildered Jaime Sommers, and Miguel Ferrer is always good as the tough-as-nails-on-the-outside-but-really-not-a-bad-guy boss. 

As of right now however, it seems as though much of the show's potential is unrealized. Will that change as the series progresses? Time will tell. 

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://tvandfilmguy.blogspot.com Josh Lasser

    Congratulations! This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States.

  • http://www.bionic-blog.com Roco

    Nice review. I agree that alot of the shows potential is still untapped. However I think the buzz has given the show the chance that it deserves. Once it premieres on NBC I think it will gain alot of viewers. Some of the themes are so powerful that it can’t fail to grab peoples attention. Let’s just hope the show itself delivers! (I think it will)

  • David

    It should have been 90 minutes long, for its pilot outing, to allow for a little more backstory and a less rushed feeling.

    The writing was a little bit flat, but we should give this show a chance.

  • Evan Matthews

    I want to love this show, but the writers and directors are making it very hard for me not to end up so annoyed that I turn it off completely.

    As someone near 40 that fondly remembers both of the old shows (my prize possesion was my Six Millon Dollar Man lunchbox), I had high hopes for what they could do with a reinvention of Bionic Woman. Even though some of the Battlestar Galactica people were involved with the show’s creation, I wasn’t expecting a carbon copy of BSG’s atmosphere, but I was expecting them to do something new with the material, while at the same time retaining the same “wow” factor that made fans of the old show. For those of you to young to remember the old Battlestar, it was a show with a great premise, fairly good but often overused special effects (especially for it’s time), great characters with often cheesy dialogue, great villains with often cheesy dialogue, very often kitschy and melodramatic storylines, but there was always a sense of moving forward. When BSG was reimagined, they retained kept the good things about the old show and improved or tossed out the bad things (great premise, great special effects never over or underused, great characters, dialogue, storyline, etc), and always kept things moving forward.

    It is just me, or do you get the sense from Bionic Woman with each episode that the writers are casting around, trying to figure out what the show is about. The pacing of each episode is uneven, it’s peppered with characters that seem unnecessay mainly because they’re either given little to do or terrible dialogue, and some of the plots are incredibly underwhelming (I’m thinking of the “climactic” showdown with Jamie and the soldiers in the store at the end of Episode 2 – very ho hum).

    It’s like the writers can’t decide who they are trying to appeal to, or they are trying so hard to appeal to everyone that they’re failing miserably across the board. At the end of each episode I’m always left with a terrible feeling that they ….just…. missed…. the…. mark.

    I read a fan comment that really struck me when the person said that this show makes great “background noise,” that it’s great for half-way paying attention when you’re working around the house. I have to say that I absolutely hate to agree. I hate it because I don’t want background noise, I want to be riveted.

    So far, here are some of the things I feel are causing problems with the show (I welcome ANY comments you may have):

    1. I believe Michelle Ryan is a good actress and has the right stuff for the role, but the story creators are really making it hard for the fans to like her. She’s the “good guy, ” the central character, so she has to have a certain softness, a moral center, to be that character. But for god’s sake, don’t make her a saint, and stop giving her terrible dialogue. Instead, give her some truly intense scenes, put her in jeopardy, put her in real danger and make her use her bionics not just in brute force ways, but in ways that are both intelligent and cool (another fan comment I read illustrated this well: it would have been so much cooler if she had bent the fan blade back into place, saw the soldiers about to fire, looking at the fan motor and seeing it smoking and ruined, and then with all her strength and a scream spinning the fan incredibly fast to deflect the bullets. It also wouldn’t hurt to get Ms. Ryan a personal trainer and tone her up for the role. While she’s got a great figure, in many scenes she doesn’t appear athletic when compared to the ripped Katee Sackhoff, which makes her come off as unbelievable (bionics notwithstanding) in many of the action scenes.

    2. “Wanted: More Cool Bionic Stuff” – After all, what’s the title of the show again? Is anyone else getting a little tired of the fight scenes where Jamie gets in a few hits, gets smacked around a bit, and then finishes off someone with a bionic kick or knocks them into a wall (as opposed to through a wall). Granted, the old show was often over the top, but one thing they got right was when a bionic person pushed someone or hit someone, they weren’t getting back up. The old Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers would regulary throw someone dozens of a feet away when fighting them (and instead of slowly bending a padlock open, why not rip the whole lock and door knob assembly clean from the door, let’s see the door splinter and hear the metal squeal as it pulls free). And what was with the whole toe repair scene last night. I found it extremely frustrating that they would show us a laser beam somehow shocking her toe “into submission” but they wouldn’t actually show her jacked up bionic toe, but rather the camera did the incredibly annoying “object in the foreground blocking the view” trick. I for one would much rather have seen an up close view of it smashed all to hell and then have them work some technical magic so the anthrocites would begin repairing it. It’s also very disconcerting to me when bionic woman uses her super strength bionic power to…..push down a car window. Who else would like to see cars getting their roofs and door ripped off, super fast running, and maybe, just maybe, cool bionic jumping scenes that don’t look like the guys working the digitally removed wires drank too much on their break.

    3. Katee Sackhoff. Whether by her own acting chops, writing for her scenes, good direction for her scenes (maybe she’s boning someone to get the choicest ones) or all of the above, she is absolutely stealing the show out from under everyone else. This would be great if she were surrounded by everyone else turning out great performances with great dialogue, every great show has one great character that fans love for their scene stealing ability, but this is not the case. Her scenes and screen presence are always compelling, and her very greatness on the show makes it very uneven. I hate to say it, but she may end up killing the show if a) the producers and writers don’t start massively amping up everyone else’s dialogue and performance, or b) retool the show to bring her in as the main character (seriously, as much as I would miss the idea of Jamie, you could kill her off in a tragic episode that somehow redeems Sarah’s humanity and goodness, and even maybe make the sister character interesting by having Sarah take her in/watch over her in an effort to make up for the sister she had that was killed in the car accident). Pretty much anything else is a lose-lose situation. If the show keeps going the way it is, Katee’s scene stealing is going to make everyone else look awful, which will drive viewers away. Or if they write her out of the show and make no other changes, the show will seem incredibly bland and will die a slow death.

    4. This will seem trite, but, by the Lords of Kobol, don’t end an episode with Jamie standing at a window with some soft pop/rock song playing looking all pensive. Give us some kick ass cliff hangers, or take a few notes from the Law & Order class of ending some episodes with a twist, or on a thought provoking or even sometimes downbeat note, please don’t end them like an episode of “Felicity.”

    Please remember everyone, I WANT to love this show. And like any good masochist worth their salt, I’m going to hang in there until it either gets great or until the bitter, embarrassing end (think the last two seasons of the “X-files”). It’s got great potential, I’ve just got the sinking feeling that it’s all being pissed away.

  • lats

    this show is so dull I will no longer watch it. I hate that everyone refers to the old bionic noise as cheesy. Lets face it the bionic noise was great and we all pretended to be bionic when we were kids we all made the noise. Also they got it all wrong slowing things down is the way to go – you can see whats actually happening. With special effects tech these days it might have been cool to mix slow downs (ala matrix) with fast action. There is nothing special about this Jaime. Its all so BOOOOOORING.

  • Sam Mora

    I’m very dissappointed with this new version of the Bionic Woman. I was looking forward to watching this show, I have stopped watching it. Dull, yes. The original series was 10 times better than this one. Please, please improve it or take it off the air.