Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Bionic Woman

“Catfight!!!”

That’s how NBC should have promo’d THE BIONIC WOMAN premiere. Their target audience must be those two nerds on THE BIG BANG THEORY. Another slugline could be…

“Wouldn’t it be great if your new imaginary girlfriend could also beat up that mean dude at the bus stop who calls you a spaz?

I have no idea why a woman would want to watch this show. Oh, I’m sure the network will say women will identify with the character, and ultimately it’s a story of self realization and personal growth but who are they kidding? It’s hot chicks in the rain catfighting. It’s the video game guys play when their moms won’t let them watch Cinemax After Dark.

Michelle Ryan is no Lindsay Wagner (pictured: right) . Lindsay was cuter, Lindsay was sweeter, and could do more cool things. I’d like to see Michelle Ryan sell Fords.

But the big problem with Michelle Ryan is that she’s not even as hot or as interesting as the other Bionic Woman in the series. Katee Sackhoff (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, pictured: below) as the rogue B.W. steals the show.

Change the title of the series to NOT THAT BIONIC WOMAN, THIS ONE.

Otherwise, this was just your standard dreary noir-action show, complete with the washed out colors, the secret high tech and concrete government compound (the Soprano Cement Company must’ve won the bid on ALIAS, 24, and now this project), and mysterious Miguel Ferrer type no-nonsense officious riddle-speaking head of the organization, played this time by Miguel Ferrer himself.

There’s only one thing missing – FUN. Unless your idea of a rip roaring good time is CHILDREN OF MEN you’re going to feel let down by this BIONIC WOMAN. I’m sorry. Give me Lindsay Wagner running in slow motion or even demonstarting how much more trunk space I’d get in a Taurus.

40 comments:

RAC said...

I was thinking exactly the same thing about that rogue bionic woman (the "original' as she called herself), and actually wondered why the actors weren't switched around in these roles. And why even bother to use the name Jaime Sommers? That character name will always belong to Lindsay Wagner. This pilot episode seemed so ALIAS-like that I was half-expecting Jennifer Garner to show up in her patented red wig and tiny green dress.

l.a. guy said...

I watched out of curiosity since I was a big fan of the original bionic power couple and was curious how they would update it.

I didn't have a problem with the casting and obviously the effects have come a long way since the original.

The two things that really struck me were, damn there are a lot of commercials on network television these days. Sometimes it felt like they had cut out chunks of the story to make it fit.

Worse was falling into the cliche stilted dialogue near the end. The "We're going to do this on my terms... I know what I'm capable of now... You send people after me and I'll kill them all.." I don't recall her getting a bullet proof noggin in the surgery. Seems like a well placed bullet would do the trick. And how did she become an expert after a day or two of running around? I thought the drama with her sister seemed forced.

Maybe they feel like they had to pack a bunch of plot into the pilot to quickly engage the audience, but I think they could have slowed down a bit and done a lot more with her coming to grips with her new abilities. It will be interesting to see the ratings.

Incidentally I watched Life, the show on after The Bionic Woman, and was actually impressed. I like the premise and the leads, Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi were good in their roles.

All sure signs that it will get canceled after 3 weeks. You should check it out.

Elver said...

Dear Mr. Levine,

Your acerbic cynicism is highly appreciated.

Love,
Elver

Ricky said...

I watched Bionic Woman last night too. I wasn't impressed. Maybe I'll give it one more episode.

I just didn't care about the main character that much. As Ken said, I thought the "evil" bionic woman was more interesting.

A couple days ago I caught the premier of Chuck. I thought it was pretty well done. There is a lot of potential. One thing: the guy who plays Chuck looks like the missing link between Jimmy Fallon and Zach Braff, which is a little disturbing.

Don Montrey said...

Regrettably I couldn't get through the first commercial break. The writing was so bad ("That's not a real breakfast." "Well, you're not a real Mom!" Ugh.), I had to turn away. It's a shame, David Eick is a smart, creative guy. This could have been great. Maybe it has some tricks up its sleeve...

Daniel said...

Great post, and these are basically the reasons I didn't watch the show last night--it seemed like it would be exactly like you said it was (to mangle Dennis Green's "it was who we thought it was" kind of thing).

but, my question: I actually thought Children of Men was rip-roaring fun (in a way); I could watch it over and over (and have!). But, I assume that really doesn't mean I'd like Bionic W, right?

ms. p said...

I'm with you, Ken. I'm a woman... and I don't want to watch it.

Emily Blake said...

Yeah, KS was way more interesting to watch than the other chick.

My biggest problem was getting distracted by all the martial arts the new BW apparently knew. Having a bionic set of limbs and a crazy robot eye doesn't make you know how to do spin kicks.

Then again, I was kind of distracted by some personal issues during the show. Did I miss the training montage?

Michael Zand said...

Agree with all the criticisms about the show but, seriously Ken, you need a serious dick check if you don't think Michelle Ryan is hot.

As I recall you loved her in Jekyll. Was it her British accent that did it for you?

Yes, Katee Sackoff is hot but that just makes me want to go for the bionic sandwich.

Ken Levine said...

Of course I think Michelle Ryan is hot. But Katee was hotter. And Lindsay hotter still.

alan said...

I will cut them some slack because it's the pilot, and not all pilots are great. I love getting to the action quickly, but cramming a 2 hour pilot into a 1 hour format doesn't do anyone any favors.

Little Miss Nomad said...

At least I felt emotionally invested in "Children of Men." "Bionic Woman," I couldn't have cared less.

RAC said...

Emily, you missed the part about the bionic brain chips that made her an instant kung fu warrior soldier killing machine, ala The Matrix.

Van said...

Really, really didn't like this, and that's from a youngster with no attachment to Lindsay Wagner.

I liked Chuck quite a lot more. The writing was better, the reaction to "life-changing event" was more realistic and heartfelt and, most importantly, it was as fun as a family picnic.

While we're on the topic of new "nerdy" shows, what did you all think of Heroes, or has that been long abandoned? My thoughts:

http://www.doomkopf.com/2007/09/25/heroes-episode-one/

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Maybe not a Ford, but Michelle Ryan can sure sell me a Sleep Number bed.

Eason said...

I watched it with one eye on the tv and the other at my computer. Given split attention, I thought it was pretty good. I did almost throw something at the TV when Dr. Bionics said, "I'm thinking Coltrane if it's a boy, and Billie if it's a girl."

CJB said...

For some reason, putting this review together with your CBS promos below, I've got an image of a wet Angela Lansbury wrestling with a murder suspect...a gentle New England mist, Angela in a fetching pantsuit...

This week on Murder She Wrote...

BobbyR said...

how the hell could a "struggling single mother" working as a bartender in san francisco afford that faaaaaabulous two-bedroom apartment that looked like it had received a makeover from nate berkus? and if she has a genius IQ, why is she tending bar? and wasn't that really somber for a show that should have some comic book-like zip to it? LIFE afterwards was a much better show.

jbryant said...

David Eick on updating the "feminist metaphor" of the original show:

"It's not about cashing in on the history of the title," Eick said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on July 17. "I think what's interesting about the old show is that that came about at a time when there was a great deal of discussion in the popular culture about equal rights for women. And the [Equal Rights Amendment] movement was very much alive, equal pay for equal work, women's lib. ... And the statement was very simple: See, women can do what men do. And I don't think we're talking about that anymore. ... There are a lot of different discussions being had now. It's not so much 'Can a woman do what a man can do?' It's 'If the answer's yes, what does that mean? How do we feel about it?'"

"In this show, our character, our heroine, is faced with a choice about whether to embrace the thing that she's become that makes her super, that makes her other than human—makes her unique—or embrace the things that make her a human being, that make her a family girl, that make her a big sister," Eick said. "And it seemed like those allegories were very prevalent and very rich and resonant right now, like those allegories were in the old show. And so that's really the reason for the attempted remake and the title. It just felt timely."

Are "fun" and "resonance" mutually exclusive these days?

zadig said...

Things that were lazy:

1) The brain chip implant. When you need to explain why she knew how to run 60mph through a forest without running into trees, or how to perform martial arts, or (future) how to use any weapon that happens to come along, the brain chip implant does the trick.

2) The nanobots in her system... I think they called them anthrocytes. They help her heal quickly (very handy when, as on the old show, she has to break handcuffs with the bionic arm, which should naturally tear the non-bionic one to shreds, but never does). They also, as the original bionic woman mentions in passing, let her upgrade her non-bionic parts to bionic, somehow (remember the guy in the room sewing up his own arm?). In other words, anthrocytes are magic, whenever the script needs some magic.

3) Criminal hacker genius younger sister. Will she hack the government computers first to help her Bionic sister gain the upper hand, or will she find out how to plug in to the bionics to program the anthrocytes or the brain chip implant? I'm guessing both, whenever needed (magic again).

I can't stand lazy plot lines. It's like the worst Star Trek technobabble: "Captain, if we reverse the freebalyzer polarity, it just might fling us into another dimension and bring Dead Main Character A back to life!"

And I was shocked to see commercials so targeted to women on this show. Their target demographic is obviously teenage/20-something boys, so why advertise to women?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

If you feast upon the body of a dead show, you eat carrion. Talk about a sleep number.

Anonymous said...

After the success of "Battlestar Galactica", plot features like humour, joy and fun are deemed unnecessary to TV entertainment.

Murray said...

After the success of "Battlestar Galactica", plot features like humour, joy and fun are deemed unnecessary to TV entertainment.

Jennifer said...

This is off topic (by a lot), but I was interested in your opinion on the possible writer's strike.

Mary Stella said...

So, I guess 30 years from now, Michelle Ryan won't be telling us about her sleep number bed.

walt said...

No reason to be nostalgic over the original Bionic Woman unless it somehow rose above the crap on a stick that it was to begin with. I think any Bionic Woman nostalgia might have to do with how great Lindsey Wagner is/was overshadowing how crappy the rest of the show was -- specifically the plotting, the writing, and most of the acting. As I recall nobody watched the show besides a young and dateless me.

In this modern remake, the acting didn't get any better. And since this is mostly a backstory origin, there's not much plot here to criticize, so that's a push. The writing is clunky in spots, no doubt about that. The pilot that aired cut out the deaf sister(from the screener that was leaked online) and added in a hacker sister. I agree that having the deaf sister opened up too many distractions, but the angst from the deaf sister character felt more genuine.

The series premiere of BW actually picked up viewers throughout the hour, which tells me that it's not just young boys who ended up watching the show - Private Practice is so unwatchable the switchover was inevitable, so I doubt that trend will continue long.

Any kick butt woman show needs a strong male figure as an antagonist, I think. The prime example was Buffy and Spike/Angel. Without those two, it's just hard to write a plot that's worth thinking about after the final commercial break. Sackhoff _was_ that alpha male. There wasn't a female bone in her character.* THAT'S why the show lit up when Katie was on screen.

Here's hoping that the writers give her more to do than getting drugged and breaking out of bondage, something that seemed to happen Jamie every week when I watched the original show.

*- okay, the "Do You Love Me?" line was Sackoff's female side, but that's it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman, and haven't seen this much sucking since *insert joke here*.

This show is a cross between Smallville and Dark Angel.

*Sigh*

The dialogue was cliche and wooden, and a few more things struck my little girl brain as reeling:

Re: the fembot that got shot a few minutes in: if she were bionic, couldn't she have avoided a bullet to the cabesa?

Re: the pregnancy, what was with the sex later on? Besides the physical (shudder), I'm thinking she'd be a bit more upset that her baby died? Maybe that's just me.

Why is it that everyone who gets superpowers is conflicted? After getting my after-market parts,I'd take 'em for a test drive and have fun with 'em. Then I'd ask, "Who do I gotta kill to keep this s---?"

I'm gonna give it two more episodes, and hopefully it will get darker and more interesting.

Stercus Accidit

Emily Blake said...

Eh. I still would have preferred her to actually know what she was doing rather than to suddenly know some fighting moves. After all, she was fighting a trained soldier. That has to count for something.

And as for David Eick's supposed support of the feminist cause, I'd like to mention how The Bionic Woman staff has no women on it. And, according to a friend of mine who works with a lot of the BG staff, when Eick was recently looking for a new personal assistant he specifically said he did not want a woman.

So he can take his "feminist ideals" and shove 'em. Then he can talk to Joss Whedon about what a real feminist man looks like.

Anonymous said...

I happen to have an original Steve Austin action figure and it has this clever little hole in the back of his head that you can peer through to see out of his magnified eye. This is how I watched the scene where Jaime Sommers checks out her bionic nakedness in the full lenght mirror. Lucky for me it takes only one hand to hold Steve Austin.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely correct about Michelle Ryan and Katie Sackoff. So here's the way to fix the show. Jaime Sommers (no relation to Buffy) dies while defeating evil bionic girl. Evil bionic girl is taken to lab where her evilness is erased and turned into a hero. In order to have her function in society, she is given Jaime's name and identity. So as battlestar ends, Katie Sackoff becomes the new more interesting Jaime Sommers. Don't laugh. It works. I've done this kind of thing a thousand times when writing comics.
-Marvw

Iamspartacus said...

So in thirty years Michelle Ryan will be on late-night TV doing a mattress commercial as part of a twelve-step program?


(shudder)

maven said...

Based on your review, Ken, and a lot of the comments here, I deleted BW from my DVR. Saves me at least 45 minutes! Thanks.

The Crutnacker said...

Lindsey Wagner just happened to be in Louisville the night of the premiere. She looked older, but attractive for her age, and without the crappy pounds of plastic surgery.

My wife and I were at tender ages when the original premiered (me 5, her 8) and loved it completely for the DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO sound effects and cheesy bionics.

There's nothing about this show that is appealing. The chick is not attractive. The acting is pretty bad. The location shots scream "USA Network Filmed This in BFE, Canada". And the special effects look like they were created on an iPhone.

Did I mention the writing? Cliches piled on bad sci fi jargon, all with the good humor of a Westboro Baptist church funeral protest.

Oh and the acting? Reminded me of Harrison Ford's comment to George Lucas, "George, you can write this shit, but you can't say it."

This and Chuck are the same show. Chuck is clever and fun. This is a piece of crap.

That said, I'm now watching CSI's premiere, which is probably the worst episode the show has ever committed to film. I'll spare you the heartache, Grissom's lesbian girlfriend Sara wanders around the desert for an hour. She survives. Nobody cares.


With the exception of Chuck and House and Family Guy, nothing so far this season has done anything for me.

eChuckler said...

I watched this commmercial-free a few weeks ago on AmazonUnbox and was completely underwhelmed. The characters felt flat, the dialogue was often times 24-ish (not in a good way) and sometimes the set direction was just a little too soap-opera-ish.
Or, PBS original production-ish.

I've been re-watching Alias Season One on DVD, and that show would have had everything that happened on "Bionic Woman"... in the first act.

There was also some lazy writing (or I'm REALLY cynical, which I won't discount the possibility) when the ORIGINAL Bionic Woman took the "time-out" from the catfight to smoke her cigarette. Now, it's not just that they used the old smoker=evil cliche, but that they seriously had her give some dialogue about how a system in her body purifies and removes unwanted entities from her system, which I believe is called a liver, and you still need to quit smoking to help it function properly, moron.

The only reason I'd continue to watch it is so the recaps on TelevisionWithoutPity make more sense. Otherwise, I have no use for it.

(Of course, I could be watching the show the wrong way! Ha!)

Tim W. said...

Okay, I REALLY don't understand the aversion to Michelle Ryan. Could it be that maybe, no offense, you're just too old to appreciate her? Maybe it's just that Linsday Wagner was old enough to be my mother when she was the bionic woman, so I never really saw her attractiveness. As for Katee Sackhoff, well other than the scene in the bar, where she looked like she made out with a clown beforehand, you've got no argument with me about her.

As for the actual episode, I don't think I've seen anything this rushed since, well, something that is really, really rushed. It felt liked they jammed three or four episodes into one. Maybe over three or four episodes, they could have added things like plot and character development.

My breakdown:

- The whole sister thing seems extremely forced. The throw in dialogue that is expected to replace character development was hard to listen to. Court order=troubled teenager. Dad abandoning her=sympathy. Sorry, none of it worked. And by the way, if Jamie is a bartender at a club, she's leaving her delinquent sister alone nearly every night, yet has to get her a babsitter when she goes out of a date for a couple of hours?

- Her relationship with the doctor also seemed rather shallow. The quick discussion in the courtyard when we first see them together was supposed to give us some understanding of their backgrounds, but I found it more jarring than anything. Like it was simply thrown in without any thought.

- Someone already mentioned the fact that she's a bartender who somehow can afford a huge loft, but her car also looks a little too expensive. And her employer never seems to mind her disappearing for a couple of days, and then running out the night he discovers her powers. Nice job.

- She turned into a killing machine far too quickly and easily. I really didn't buy that she'd be able to go head to head with Katee, who was supposedly trained AND had more bionic limbs. If they really wanted a face-to-face they should have made Katee beat the crap out of Jamie and then be chased off by the helicopter, where they have to add a new bionic arm, or something, and it makes Jamie realize that she's not invincible and needs their help. I feel like I'm rambling here, but you get the point. And why does she suddenly have no problem killing people? Did the writers decide that her character needed more of an edge in order to make her more like the evil bionic one?

- What the hell happened to her two supposed friends we ever so briefly see when she goes out on her date? And was it just me, or did they look a lot like girls who hang out a lot at clubs and have no business babysitting anyone?

I don't think the show is beyond saving, but I do understand why NBC execs are panicking a little.

The Crutnacker said...

Sorry, the BW is not that attractive. Lindsey Wagner (who was old enough to be MY mom at the time) was gorgeous.

I think the biggest problem with the show is that it lacks humor. A sci fi show that takes itself too seriously is a recipe for disaster.

I've got to imagine that any women that are watching are 30 to 40 somethings that loved the original show. Maybe they switched over when Private Practice was discoverd to be crap.

Rob said...

Rushed is damn right. She goes to killing machine very quickly and the guy who gets shot disappears in the ambulance and the heroine doesn't care. What were they thinking?

Buffy started slower and had some place to go emotionally over several seasons. Lindsay Wagner was conflicted about her enhancements, just like when Pam Andeson went for the temporary breast reduction. The new BW has no place to go after ending the show with "I know what I'm capable of now." where will she go for the 5,000 mile tune-up and oil change?

I hate it when actors are forced to say and do dumb things to force the script into some semblance of functionality. You can see all the seams here and yes, KS was the only good thing about the show. I shall not return.

Rich said...

I liked Children of Men. A lot. V For Vendetta done right.

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tramp394 said...

The Bionic Woman is really a fabulous TV Show. I love it because of its main character "Jaime Sommers". She gave a great performance in this show...