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Television: The Bionic Woman Redux

When I heard that they were remaking The Bionic Woman for NBC I had decidedly mixed feelings. It’s been decades since Lindsay Wagner was our favorite TV heroine. So much time has passed that the low-rise cords she used to wear and the long hair parted in the middle have come and gone all over again. Lindsay Wagner was part of the surge of ‘70s butt-kicking females, like Linda Carter as Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels. They were the chops busters at a time when it was okay for adult women to carry their own TV shows.

Men rule that landscape, for the most part, except for the handful of tough chicks like Kyra Sedgwick on The Closer and Patricia Arquette on The Medium. The Bionic Woman, though, seems ripe for an update while, at the same time, there has been something downright pure about Lindsay Wagner being the only one to ever listen with her bionic ear and jump over buildings with her bionic legs. Nothing is sacred in television because it’s now almost a guarantee that something familiar sells better.

The Bionic Woman ran from 1976 through 1978 on ABC and was an offshoot of The Six Million Dollar Man, which starred Lee Majors. Jamie Sommers was sort of girlfriend/boyfriend with Steve Austin, and the two even got back together with the not-so-successful The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar-Man and the Bionic Woman. There was some shady plot involving Jamie’s loss of memory so she couldn’t remember being Steve’s girl.

In truth, my whole childhood could almost be defined by both of these shows. It never occurred to me that one day I’d look back and six million dollars wouldn’t seem like that much money. He would have to be worth a lot more today to be anything special. It was so successful, though, that neither Lee Majors nor Lindsay Wagner had to work much at all after that. They got in, made a bunch of green and got out. Back then, being on television meant you weren’t expected to make the leap to the big screen. Now, if you’re pretty and you generate ratings you can expect a big screen career to be the next step.

The new Bionic Woman will just use the old show’s premise as a starting point, but the story will be very different, according the show’s producers. It will revolve around the struggles of being a modern woman and trying to do it all. But it won’t involve Jamie Sommers who lives and plays tennis in Ojai; Jamie Sommers whose twin once ate some green goo to become as strong as the real Jamie Sommers; Jamie Sommers, with her lonely little life and her lonely little apartment.

No doubt the update won’t be all that interesting to us fans of the earlier version. That’s probably because we fans have grown older and wiser. They will aim at the target demographic – twenty – somethings who might vaguely recall the word “bionic” but won’t remember Wagner or Majors.

It’s probably not healthy to be that much of a cynic. In truth, not enough details of the new series have emerged to make a judgment one way or the other. They haven’t even cast the show yet. What is known is that they are doing to the old Bionic Woman series what they’d already succeeded at doing with the new Battlestar Galactica. Everything old is new again. Expect the cycle to repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

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