Saturday, September 29, 2007

TV REVIEW: Bionic Woman

As I was watching Bionic Woman the other night, I realized the inevitable had finally occurred. Before my very eyes, a dramatic TV series had achieved true feature film quality. Unfortunately, in the case of The Bionic Woman, that feature film would have been Catwoman, Elektra or Underworld. 

When my wife, Kathryn saw that this "re-imagination" was "developed" by the same "creative" team that perpetrated the new Battlestar Galactica, she turned to me and said, "wow, they really love raping old shows, don't they?" That comment just about sums up my response to the dreadful pilot of this remake, which substitutes the charm of the original 1976-1978 Lindsay Wagner series with tons of mock tough guy attitude and dialogue...all spouted by women, of course (because that's not sexist; merely unpleasant).

This is less accurately The Bionic Woman than The Bionic Gilmore Girl, as the new Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) has been saddled with a young adolescent sister she is caring for, in a sibling relationship clearly derivative of the Buffy/Dawn aesthetic from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That isn't the only idea raided in this dreadful remake. There's a scene lifted directly from Superman: The Movie (1978), wherein a little girl in a jeep spies Jaime running at super speeds through the woods. In case you forgot, in Superman: The Movie, a little Lois Lane spied Clark running at super-speed over a field from her perch in the train. That was bad enough, but then the pilot had the nerve to crib the rooftop "learning your powers" scene from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002). 

Well, at least this Bionic Woman understands the rule that if you're going to steal, you should steal from the best. Why create something new when you can rip-off something else, and say it's "homage," right?

Anyway, Jaime is injured in an assassination attempt by the first bionic woman, Sarah Corvis, played in over-the-top fashion by a twitching, winking Katee Sackhoff, but the real target was Jaime's professor boyfriend...who just happens to be a brilliant bionic scientist.  In short order, he has remade the injured Jaime into another bionic woman who, like her predecessor is hard-wired for "highly specialized warfare." In the remake, bionics means anthrocites (or nanites): microscopic robots capable of rebuilding and regenerating destroyed limbs and enhancing vision and hearing. Jaime takes the news of her upgrade poorly, which in this case means that the episode cuts to a soulful pop tune montage.

Just when this pilot episode can't get any worse, there's an unmotivated, random encounter in an alley between Jaime and a street thug which allows our bionic heroine to demonstrate her new fighting skills. Interestingly, she's not only fast and strong, she's suddenly -- without benefit of any training whatsoever -- completely agile and familiar with elaborate fighting moves..

Then, there's the final bionic showdown between Katee Sackhoff and Jaime. Like the 1998 Godzilla, it occurs in pounding rain so you can't make-out clearly just how bad the CGI effects are. As viewers, we're wise to that trick now, but Bionic Woman goes with it anyway. Faced with the clearly psychotic freak show, Corvis, the new Jaime doesn't register fear, anxiety, or any recognizable emotion whatsoever. She just goes right into the fight --presumably the twenty-four year old's first with a maniacal super villain -- without any preamble, doubts or a hint of concern. That's when you realize this show jumped the shark the moment the cameras started rolling.

Other than providing a sort of affirmative action program for the actors on Battlestar Galactica (Aaron "Tyrol" Douglas shows up too) -- please watch, they need the work!!! -- every aspect of this misbegotten remake is hackneyed, poorly conceived, and atrociously executed. The story is superficial, going nowhere in terms of the morality of biotechnology, for instance. All the details of "bionics," are given the barest lip service, as if the writer's figured that audiences couldn't understand the concept of nanocites. The deepest philosophical moment comes when Jamie asks "who gets to decide right from wrong?" Well, honey, apparently you do, because you are the bionic woman now.


  1. joey_bishop_jr.7:52 PM

    So far, I have had absolutely no interest in ANY of the "re-imaginings" of TV shows. The Kolchak previews just made me ill to watch, and as soon as I heard the bastardized Queen classic they were using for that show I died a little inside.

    Apparently TV is taking it's cues from teh big screen, so it'll be about 5 years til we get some original shows.

    In my opinion the best shows on TV right now are Heroes, My Name Is Earl, and Burn Notice...granted, some ideas are borrowed, but they are their own entities for the most part, anbd the quality is astounding- and by the way, they all have killer ratings. You's figure the studios would've picked up on that by now...

  2. Anonymous8:57 AM

    My question is this. Wasn't The Bionic Woman a spin-off of The Six Million Dollar Man? How can they re-imagine The Bionic Woman without first re-imaging that? And if they do, it better be six million dollars! I don't give a rat's ass about inflation! I mean, this is TV, not the Federal Reserve. By the way, studio execs have finally wised up about one thing . . . they stopped forking over money for more Joss Whedon abominations.

  3. astrid9:43 AM

    Not that I care about Buffy or Angel but I would rather have Firefly back than anything currently running on any network. Joss did one show right, anyway!

  4. I enjoy Heroes, My Name is Earl and Burn Notice, and I guess it goes without saying I'm a huge Buffy and Firefly fan, but I'll say it anyway: I'm a huge Buffy and Firefly fan.

    Bionic Woman doesn't have any Whedonesque qualities that I can detect, but in my book that isn't a plus. It could use Whedon's trademark strong writing, good acting, and zippy humor.

    The Bionic Woman pilot is probably the worst thing I've seen in terms of a dramatic series since I began professionally reviewing TV series. A caveat: I didn't watch Flash Gordon (I have it on tape). I understand that it is even worse.

  5. Anonymous10:18 AM

    There are still some classic shows that this Battlestar Galactica team could re-imagine . . .

    Hardcastle and McCormick
    The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
    Crazy Like a Fox
    Mr. Merlin
    Shadow Chasers

    Just imagine how cool they could make these shows! They are brilliant writers so I have total trust in their abilities.

  6. Anonymous8:52 PM

    If you haven't seen it, the re-make of NIGHT STALKER is really worth a look (and I saw that as a huge fan of the original Kolchak series).

  7. Howard Margolin6:11 PM

    What I wondered, while watching the fight between Jamie and Sarah was if Jamie has only one bionic arm, and Sarah has two, how is Jamie blocking punches with both arms? If she blocked Sarah's punch with her normal arm, it would break, and if she blocked with the bionic arm, and hit with the human arm, Sarah could easily block the punch and break the arm. Due to the high-speed, rain-soaked fight, the actual sequence of events is unclear, but I just don't see how Jamie would stand a chance here.

  8. The "raping old shows" comment is brilliant.

    And sadly, it's true.

    Bionic Woman is more Night Stalker than Battlestar Galactica in terms of quality.

    Episode 2 was a bit better, but - honestly - it could not be worse.

    However, given all the changes behind the scenes - I'm going to stick with it for a few weeks, and see if it turns into something good.


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