Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bionic Day!

Welcome to Bionic Day!

A friend of mine, Jonathan, recently reminded me that The Six-Million Dollar Man premiered forty years ago this month – in 1973 – in a series of television movies that preceded the TV series.  In fact, the first TV-movie aired on March 19, 1973.  That was forty years ago yesterday.  So I'm actually a day late...

As you may recall, The Six-Million Dollar Man was based on a novel Cyborg (1972) by Martin Caidin.  Caidin’s tale involved an astronaut/test-pilot, Steve Austin, who following a terrible accident, was outfitted with expensive mechanical or “bionic” limbs.  The book also gave Steve a radio transmitter in his torso, a metal skull, and fingers equipped with dart guns.  The novel also went into considerable detail regarding Steve’s healing process and his slow acceptance of his new status as less-than-fully human, as a cyborg.

The TV series pulled back on some of the more-fantastical and emotional aspects of the literary tale and re-parsed the tale as an exciting, action-packed entertainment for the post-Watergate age.  Colonel Steve Austin (Lee Majors) was still equipped with bionic legs, one bionic arm, and a bionic eye, but he demonstrated less hostility regarding his situation, and worked willingly for the OSI (Office of Scientific Investigation) as a secret agent.  On the program, he took his marching orders from Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson), and was monitored by Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks).

The series ran for five highly-rated seasons, and after beginning largely as a vehicle for espionage stories, made the full transition to “sci-fi.”  Before the end of the series’ run, Steve faced off against a Bionic Sasquatch, a Soviet space probe, and other genre villains.  

The series proved so popular that a spin-off, starring Lindsay Wagner, The Bionic Woman (1976 – 1978) ran for three seasons.  The Six-Million Dollar Man also proved so successful in the ratings that knock-offs came hard and fast, including The Invisible Man (1975) and Gemini Man (1976).

At toy stores, Kenner capitalized on the programs’ incredible popularity with children, and released a full line of play-sets, vehicles, and toys.  Today, many of these items remain highly-prized collectibles, in part perhaps because they represent a major merchandising effort that precedes the Star Wars craze.  

At the same time, Charlton published A Six Million Dollar Man comic-book, and even model kits of Bionic Adventuring were released in the marketplace.  One of my earliest "collecting" experiences involves the program.  I vividly remember buying a Six Million Dollar Man book, “The Secret of Bigfoot Pass” at a Bookmobile event while I was in kindergarten.  I loved that book.

As recently as 2007, a TV reboot Bionic Woman tried (and failed) to recapture the glory of what media historians might term the seventies' most popular cult television franchise.

We'll start off with "The Secret of Bigfoot," later this morning...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:47 AM

    The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman were an important part of my '70s boyhood.



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