I still can’t figure out how “The Bionic Woman,” a 1976 spin-off of the hugely popular ’70s action series “The Six Million Dollar Man,” trumped its more popular male counterpart in the pop cultural sweepstakes. How did Jaime Sommers rate a 2.0 remake before Steve Austin? Regardless of the gender politics at play, NBC’s revamped “Bionic Woman” is a fun, if familiar, addition to today’s action-heavy TV lineup.
Brunette British import Michelle Ryan (“Eastenders”) takes over for Lindsay Wagner (currently hawking inflatable beds on late-night TV) as the titular cyborg. This time around, Ms. Sommers has been downgraded from tennis pro to bartender. On the plus side, she’s dating a hunky cybernetic scientist--which comes in mighty handy when the two are attacked with a semi truck by a rogue superspy named Sarah Corvis (Katee Sackhoff from “Battlestar Galactica”). Jamie’s brainy B.F. operates on her mangled body, replacing her legs, eye and arm with high-tech upgrades. Now she can run fast and see really far and ... um, lift heavy objects with one arm.
Since she’s taken up so many of their resources, a grumpy government agent (Miguel Ferrar), tries to blackmail her into “working” for his clandestine group, doing whatever the hell it is they do. She agrees, but only on her own terms, which puts her roughly in the same position as Jessica Alba in “Dark Angel,” Jennifer Garner in “Alias” and numerous other TV tough chicks (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “La Femme Nikita,” “Painkiller Jane,” the list goes on).
Star Ryan gives good face and should warm up to the role quite nicely. But the pilot episode square-off against Katee Sackhoff (as a madder, badder bionic prototype) pointed out some minor problems with the show. Sackhoff’s superpowered superspy bent on revenge sounded like a way more interesting main character than a bionic bartender who doesn’t really want to work.
“Bionic Woman” looks slick enough. There’s action, special effects and what seems like a halfway decent budget. Although it’s filmed and produced with some professional zest (courtesy of “Battlestar Galactica” bigwig David Eick and “X-Files” chief Glen Morgan), the ultimate product feels too much like too many other shows. NBC’s “Chuck” does almost the exact same thing with a gender flip and a lot bigger sense of humor. Aside from a poor attitude and a dark color palette, this remake doesn’t really add much to the original.
“Bionic Woman” is an enjoyable show, but I can’t say I’m pumped-up excited about it. TV has got some very good sci-fi action shows on these days, and this one needs more than simple nostalgia to separate it from the pack. But, hey, if things work out for Jamie, could the return of Steve Austin be far behind? ... Me, I’m just wondering when Max, the Bionic Dog, gets his own series.