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bring on the dancing fembots!
i am woman, hear me
na-na-na-na-na

by russ carr (@DocOrlando70)
2.21.07
television

Bionic.

If you're of a certain age, that word conjures up distinct memories...and a tell-tale sound effect.

Get ready to start hearing it again.

David Eick, half of the production team responsible for the exceptional reimagining of that aromatic '70s cheesefest "Battlestar Galactica" into one of the most captivating dramas on television, intends to spin Velveeta into Wensleydale once again, bringing "The Bionic Woman" up to modern sensibilities. To make it better than it was before. Stronger. Faster.

Of course, that means no more robot sasquatches. No more Max, the bionic dog. No more fembots.

*sigh*

The simmering geekfire's was doused with gasoline recently, with the announcement that these breasts have been cast as the titular character. They're carried by Michelle Ryan, whom you've never heard of unless you're soppy enough to have ever seen the UK's "EastEnders." And if the women of "Galactica" are any indication, Ryan's Jaime Sommers 2.0 will be dumping "plucky girl-next-door" in favor of "hard-charging cyborgette." After three years working with the Sighlons, Eick knows from robot girls; I trust his judgment in this.

I readily admit: I'm intrigued. But also a bit befuddled. Because in a handful of interviews about the new show, it sounds as though Eick (and writer Laeta Kalogridis) are pulling the character away from the spy business in favor of something a little more career-minded.

Says Eick: "It's using the idea of artificial technology as a metaphor for what contemporary women sometimes feel is necessary to do everything that needs to be done."

Um... are we talking about a TV show, or a vibrator?

Oh, right. A metaphor.

Eick hasn't dropped any hints about his heroine's world yet; for that matter, he hasn't even stated that Ryan's character will be named "Jaime Sommers," or what kind of special abilities she'll have. That leaves the door wide open for wild speculation: Just what what kind of "contemporary woman" might the new bionic woman be?

Consider these (potential) character profiles:

Condi Sommers
She was already nicknamed "Spock" for her exceptional IQ and unemotional demeanor. Now the perfect fusion of power and intellect, she struggles each day against the temptation to shatter the glass ceiling by shattering some old-boy vertebrae. Despite her abilities, she still finds herself alone each night, consoling herself over a pint of Haagen-Dazs Mayan chocolate and "The McLaughlin Group."
Enhancements: Eyes, capable of telescopic vision and a lethal, laser-like glare; Hands, able to play the minute waltz in 10 seconds or to bend steel like taffy.

Rosie Sommers
Disgruntled at the prospect of real work, Rosie floated from one job to another, always leaving just before employers could fire her. While she recovers from her bionic surgery, OSS chief Oscar Goldman requests her services as payback. She snarls at him, indignant that a man would dare control her body, and flees the hospital. Now she drifts from town to town, one step ahead of the government, using her abilities to tell other people what their problems are.
Enhancements: Ears, able to hear whispered gossip or innuendo a mile away; Vocal cords, capable of generating a bellow that can shatter bone; Legs, when squeezed together, able to crush a full-grown steer.

Buffy Sommers
Sorry, wishful thinking!

Anna Nicole Sommers
A severe head trauma left her brain dead, but the most brilliant biotechnicians brought her back. A close inspection reveals her platinum blonde hair to be a sophisticated neurosensory net that has replaced her brain. Thanks to her bionics, she's able to balance her career as a supermodel and La Leche spokeswoman with the day-to-day responsibilities of a mom to her baby daughter.
Enhancements: Breasts, able to be used as a delivery system for gases (left) or liquids (right); Liver, able to reproduce any known chemical compound, once ingested; Skull, completely hollow, available for airtight storage.

Hey, at this point, anything's possible, right?

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any (network) TV show which has focused on One Woman's Struggle and wasn't given a comedic bent, like "Ally McBeal" or "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." "Buffy," at its best, approached that level, but by the end of most episodes, it was still all about the slaying.

If Eick follows the "Galactica" template, which seems entirely likely, Jaime Sommers' bionic enhancements will serve only as one defining characteristic among many. She won't be "The Bionic Woman" so much as "The Woman (who happens to be bionic)." If he's able to produce such a series, and instill it with the same dramatic sensibilities that make "Galactica" so enjoyable, it will be a remarkable achievement, for women and television both.

And if that comes at the cost of never seeing a reimagined fembot...I guess I'll manage.


ABOUT RUSS CARR

If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.

more about russ carr

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COMMENTS

tracey kelley
2.21.07 @ 10:10a

We laugh now, but much of what you say here will probably be true. My guess? The power of the breasts, judging from the look of the actress.

I'm sure as all hell you used a Helen Reddy song as your subhead.

russ carr
2.21.07 @ 10:17a

From what I've read of her acting abilities from those familiar with "EastEnders," yeah, they're about all she's got going for her. I haven't seen that show in more than a decade, which predates her entire run, so I couldn't say.

Still, it's funny to read comments on the proposed show. They seem to fall into a fairly even split between "Why are they bringing back such a cheesy show" and "Why are they ruining my favorite show."

The masses, they are proactively wrathful.

dave lentell
2.21.07 @ 10:25a

They can change the name of the character, they can change whether she's a spy or not. But if we don't get the signature "na-na-na-na-na" sound when she jumps, then I'm out.

And sure, maybe we've never heard of Michelle Ryan, but she couldn't be any worse of a Bionic Woman than Sandra Bullock was in "Bionic Showdown". Yeesh.

Cool column, Russ.



jael mchenry
2.21.07 @ 11:33a

Yeouch. She's not bionic, she's pneumatic. Not loving it.

sloan bayles
2.21.07 @ 11:54a

I admit to having been hooked on The Bionic Woman as a teen and thought Lindsay Wagner was "totally cool". Hey, I was 15...waddya want.
Bringing the show back now, not a real good idea. What about the Steve Austin love/just good friends thing.

russ carr
2.21.07 @ 12:02p

Okay, Sloan, so I can badger you without risking the virulent reaction I might get from a crushing fanboy: What is it that makes "bringing the show back now not a real good idea"? I just want to get some reasoning.

I could ever-so-slightly understand why fans of the original "Galactica" didn't want a remake, given that Richard Hatch ("Apollo" on the original, "Tom Zarek" on the new BSG) was trying even as recently as a couple of years ago to resurrect the original. There was SOME ongoing project, which engendered SOME distinct fan base being nurtured.

But with the exception of (as Lentell hinted) a couple of really stinky SMDM/BW tv movies a few years back, this is a franchise that has been dead, dead, dead for more or less 30 years. I suppose reruns of one or both shows might be airing somewhere, but I've certainly not seen them. It's probable that most people under 30 have never seen an episode, and most people under 40 have only vague recollections from childhood.

So, why not?

mike julianelle
2.21.07 @ 12:29p

I don't see a problem with it. I LOVED both shows as a kid, and I watched the movie with Sandra Bullock. This seems to me like a decent show to reimagine. We have the (better) technology, we can rebuild it. Female asskickers are a hell of a lot more accepted these days, so much so that to me the character is bordering on cliche by now.

The old one was SUPER campy, maybe not as bad as the Six Million Dollar Man, but still. If they can update this one and make it fun and somewhat legit, I think it could be cool.

And there's nothing wrong with having a hottie in the role. Be honest, before - and after - she played Buffy, did you think SMG was any good? Maybe if you watched Swan's Crossing or the soaps. I sure as hell didn't expect much from her. Get the right showrunner and the write writers, and most bad actors can be camouflaged. Not all, but most.

sloan bayles
2.21.07 @ 2:15p

Russ, honestly I'm not for it just because it was so campy and I was riveted to the t.v. at 8 pm Wed. nights. For me it's just for nostalgia sake I'd rather not see a re-make. Not a great reason, I know. From the sounds of it, the actress hired to play Jaime Sommers (?) can't act her way out of a paper bag. I do think it may be a good premise for a re-make, especially given it's almost 30 yrs. later and medical technology is far far more advanced now.

paul atkinson
2.21.07 @ 5:51p

I think this is great news, I loved the show as a kid and it's a long time since the show was on TV. As long as its modernised I'll watch it. Also Michelle Ryan is gorgeous, always a plus. The soap Eastenders is never a great place to display your acting talents, but I've seen her in a theatre production in London, and in that she convinced me she could act, and also got some good reviews from theatre critics. Lets hope she gets the chance to prove she can act on the small screen too.

russ carr
2.21.07 @ 6:40p

Well, huzzah! Finally someone to refute the naysayers! (And welcome to Intrepid, I might add...)

I recall reading somewhere in one of the myriad interviews David Eick has given on the show, that the "budget" for the new Jaime's upgrades was considerably higher than $6 million.

tim lockwood
2.22.07 @ 10:52p

I'm always leery of any type of remake of a favorite TV show or movie, especially one that had a lovable cheese factor. I hope this doesn't turn out to be another Jessica-Simpson-as-Daisy-Duke thing. That was just wrong. There's a difference between plucky single girl and big-boobed bimbo, you know. I'm willing to be open-minded, but I will be really disappointed if they get it wrong.

mike julianelle
2.23.07 @ 9:21a

I think, when they remake a TV show for TV, as opposed to turning a TV show into a movie, they are more likely to keep the tone and premise the same. With movies, from The Brady Bunch to Starsky and Hutch to Bewitched and Dukes, they tend to recycle OLD shows with a nostalgic value for a NEW audience that mainly knows the name, turning them on their ear a bit, loading it with current stars (with the exception of the Brady Bunch) and typically failing (with the exception of the Brady Bunch, which was a decent spoofy thing).

With TV shows that get updated for a new generation, and really, the only ones that come to mind are the new Mission: Impossible from the early 90s and the new Battlestar, they tend to be more faithful to the old material. But who knows?

russ carr
2.23.07 @ 10:41a

It helps that these days the popular trend seems to be for serialized drama on TV, not sitcoms. I can't put my finger on ANY one-hour scripted comedies on TV in the past several years.

Although it's ironic that you mention The Brady Bunch, Mike, because the truly pathetic TV trivialist (glances in mirror) will recall they attempted to revive the show in a completely new direction: a Dynasty-like drama called The Bradys. Some paths should not be followed.

alex b
2.23.07 @ 11:45a

Oh man. Lindsay Wagner this girl is not...

ken mohnkern
2.23.07 @ 12:30p

On the bright side, the new show will probably feature a lot of slo-motion running shots.

russ carr
5.11.07 @ 10:39a

Confirmed! Variety is reporting today that NBC has picked up The Bionic Woman for the new fall lineup. So in one form or another, this will get some air time come September.

russ carr
5.16.07 @ 12:16p

More, thanks to the NBC up-fronts. Now the network has a Bionic Woman site up, where you can catch a trailer and other clips for the show.

On the surface, it looks extremely watchable, and the site and clips provide some additional details: Jaime is a bartender, raising her deaf teenage sister when she's in a horrendous car accident that costs her both legs, an arm, ear and eye. And Katee "Starbuck" Sackhoff plays "the first" Bionic Woman, who may or may not be trying to kill Jaime.

[edited]

ken mohnkern
5.16.07 @ 7:02p

Thanks for the link, Russ. Now I know sign language for "pissed."

I hope the writing gets better than "I'm a bartender and a dropout. You're a professor. Why are you with me?"



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