The Bionic Woman was a “spin-off” of the one of television’s most popular shows, The Six Million Dollar Man. Lindsay Wagner starred as title character Jaime Sommers, a woman who had been given enhanced “bionic” limbs during a life-saving medical procedure. Just like her friend Steve Austin (Lee Majors), whose artificial limbs were estimated to be worth six million dollars, Jaime Sommers now owed her life to the governent doctors who had treated her.
With The Six Million Dollar Man acting as the lead-in for The Bionic Woman, the show was an instant hit when it debuted in 1976. Heroine Sommers struck such a chord with viewers that she quickly became an iconic ’70s figure.
Watching the 13 one-hour episodes of the first season recently, I was struck by how different the tone was from The Six Million Dollar Man. Although the show was written by men, there is a distinctly feminine, even femnist feel to it at times. Clearly, a great deal more effort was put into this program than its spin-off origins suggest.
Jaime Sommers became a freelance agent for the group who had saved her life, the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence). Supervisor Oscar Goldman (Richard Andersen) claimed she would a have a light schedule of assignments, but as the season unfolded she became one busy bionic babe.
Goldman like her to work undercover whenever possible. Her best assignment was as a contestant in the Miss USA Beauty Pageant. In “Bionic Beauty” Bert Parks more or less plays an evil version of himself who is attempting to smuggle out top-secret technology. Before Jaime can foil his plans, she must first compete in the talent show however. Her version of the song “Feelings” is so incredibly bad that I could not figure out whether it was intended as a joke or not. The DVD set is worth getting for this scene alone.
Every once in a while Jaimee is faced with some pretty strange situations. In one instance, a woman undergoes plastic surgery to become her twin. The imposter manages to wreak havoc for a little while, but not long. She was never a match for the real Bionic Woman.
In a backstory, we find out that Jaime’s parents had been killed in an auto accident when she was very young. In “Jaimee’s Mother” a woman claims that the accident was staged, that she is Jaime’s mother, alive and well. Oscar helps out, but the truth is almost as difficult as the alternative was for her.
The season finale, “The Ghost Hunter” is another supernatural tale. This one concerns an angry ghost who objects to a secret government project being built in the area. Naturally enough, it singles Jaimee out for special treatment, before the ruse is exposed.
Quite a number of guest stars appeared in the first season. Among them were Andy Griffith, Donald O’Connor, Forrest Tucker, Tippi Hedren, Gary Collins, and even young Kristy McNichol. Lee Majors pops in every now and then as Steve “Six Million Dollar Man” Austin, just to shake things up a bit, I guess.
The Bionic Woman: Season One is a four-DVD set. The big bonus is a full disc of Six Million Dollar Man-Bionic Woman crossover episodes. There were five Six Million Dollar Man shows with her before The Bionic Woman launched. Their inclusion is an excellent addition to the package. The early programs provide background on their previous relationship, her bionic transformation, the difficulties she later had, and much more.
There are a couple more bonus features as well. The 24-minute “Bionic Beginnings” presents brand new interviews with members of the cast, writers, and directors about their experiences with the show. Rounding things out are a short Gag Reel, and a Picture Gallery.
The nostalgic appeal of these shows is obvious. But I In watching The Bionic Woman again, I found it to be a much better program than I remembered it as. Especially with the bonus episodes included, I highly recommend this set for fans of the genre.