Bionic Woman (1976): Season 3
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Bionic Woman (1976): Season 3

No sooner than DVD caught on as the preferred media for home entertainment than wish lists began popping up. Thanks to the expansive proliferation of the internet these fan derived list of the movies and television series most covered for distribution on those shinny digital discs went global and were exceedingly difficult for the distributors to ignore. Now, more than a decade has passed since the first of those ‘Most wanted’ list have appeared and many of the desired titles have been fulfilled. Two of the earliest highly sought after TV series took far longer than usual to find the way to the shelves of anxiously waiting fans; ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ and ‘The Bionic Woman’. Both of these series captured the imagination of a generation coming of age in the seventies. The stories of a pair of technologically enhanced people, Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers, became the first cybernetic espionage agents of our government. Although there was never a doubt that these DVD sets would sell and become a hit on disc there was a cloud on the horizon. The shows shared several central characters and straddled two rival networks. This muddied the waters creating a legal battle of the media distribution rights. As of this writing ‘The Bionic Man’ first season has been announced and will be released very shortly. As for the feminine side of the duo the first season was released in October 2010 with the subsequent two seasons coming out in rapid succession. Now just a year later all three seasons of ‘The Bionic Woman’ are available and according to many fans this season contains some of the most remembered episodes of the beloved but short lived series. This is also the season that significantly contributed to the legal quagmire the delayed the DVD cybernetic victory. After two seasons on ABC, the parent network for both bionic series decided to attract a different demographic and both series were canceled. NBC apparently felt there was still life in the ‘Bionic Woman’ and brought the series over for a new lease on life. That reprieve would be brief and this series closed production after a single season. The popularity continued to persist and a few crossover ‘Bionic Couple’ films were aired but at this point this series is completely available for your collection.

The life of Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) was so completely overwhelmed by melodrama that the uninitiated might read a synopsis of her fictional life and think they stumbled across a soap opera. Small town girl made it big as a professional tennis champion she was engaged to her childhood sweetheart, ruggedly dashing test pilot, Steve Austin (Lee Majors). Just before the wedding a tragic parachuting accident left Jamie badly mangled and close to death. This was familiar to Steve who had a similar accident was rebuilt as a cyborg working for a top secret government agency. He talks is handlers into a similar career path for Jamie. That leads some other soap opera standards; amnesia, potentially fatal side effects and cryogenic suspension. Okay, that last one is a bit extreme for most soap operas but you get the idea. With the change from ABC to NBC some alterations were considered necessary to redefine the story, at least to some degree. The usual difficulty with any attempts to revamp popular aeries is dissociating it from all ties to the original themes and characters that resulting in the public’s acceptance. In this case the show runners found a relatively unique work around. Two key characters, the agency contact Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks), the scientist in charge of the bionic program, were simultaneously appearing on two networks. This is the only time a pair of actors played the same character on two different networks at the same time. Although a reasonable solution at the time it did contribute to the legal delays that plagued the DVD releases. The difference that was introduced was to expand upon a theme previously touched on; Jamie as a reluctant spy. She tries to take charge of her own life the best that she can and quits the Office of Scientific Investigation to live in relative peace in the sleepy community of Ojai, California., living in a barn loft apartment she rents from Steve’s mother and step father she remains close to a family she has known all her life who know about her upgrades. She takes a job as a grade school teacher but still has to take on assignments for the OSI. Right at the start of the third season Jamie takes in a very special pet, Max, the bionic dog. With bionic jaws and legs he was the first experimental trial for the procedure but it looked like he was afflicted with a bionic rejection. Before he could be put down Jamie realizes it was PTSD subsequent to the fire that critically injured him. This was an important distinction that had to be made to accommodate the more delicate sensibilities of the time. The government would never harm a healthy animal to test an experimental medical procedure and it wasn’t a flaw in the procedure but memories of the lab fire that upset the dog.

Without a doubt the most iconic villain of television spy programs was introduced in this season, the Fembots. These humanoid robots were manufactured to have the appearance of beautiful women but in reality they were emotionless automatons programmed as deadly assassins. This construct has been the source of much parody but even here the writers could not help but to take them on with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. It was during this story arc that the writers also included a hint at the limitation of Jamie’s bionics. She jumps from too great a height damaging her legs. At the end the government tries to send her to a ‘Prisoner inspired’ retirement community for spies but Jamie goes on the run setting the stage for the follow up reunion made for TV flicks. There was an exceptionally short lived try at reviving this series in 2007 that barely made it through a single season. This is the real deal still able to deliver all the great entertainment that defined the spy shows of the bygone era.

Posted 10/20/11

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