Are the Sci Fi Channel and its parent company NBC-Universal trying to drive me insane with its lack of logic? It cuts off Battlestar Galactica, moves it around on the schedule, and basically does anything to ruin the only good show on the Sci Fi schedule. They fill the schedule with mostly crap (have you seen the new Flash Gordon without rolling your eyes?) Then, NBC goes and poaches the concept (harsh new take on an 80’s classic) along with a few of the actors from BSG, and does a fairly mediocre new show in the form of the revisioned Bionic Woman. And of course, we sci-fi genre fans eat it up because, what else is there? This is not to say that the new show is patently bad, it has several good points and several bad points. It’s just another mediocre show, at least from the pilot, and I was hoping for something better.
Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is having a tough time of things, but she’s making it work for her. She has to deal with her bratty little sister (Lucy Hale), a crappy job, and not much of a future, but she has a nice guy in Dr. Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), a noted professor who works in prosthetics and reconstructive surgery. Things take a turn for the worse when Jaime and Will are in a terrible accident. Will is fine, but Jaime has massive injuries, and ends up losing her legs, right arm, right ear, and right eye. That’s when the boyfriend goes to work, and gives her new body parts. Of course as happened to Steve Summers in the Venture Brothers, the government expects her to pay for her new limbs. Do you know how long it takes to pay back 50 million dollars on a government salary? But seriously, she escapes from the hospital only to run into another bionic woman (Katee Sackhoff) and becomes embroiled in a variety of mysteries. Who is her new boss (Miguel Ferrer)? What is the other bionic woman’s agenda? What do some of these other scenes mean?
What the creators have done well here is create a good mystery series. There are conspiracies within conspiracies, and a lot of things to keep the viewer coming back for more. There’s so much going on that I discovered new connections on a second viewing. The angle with Jaime working for the organization that gave her the powers sets up a decent enough storytelling engine, as long as the creators can come up with valid threats for her to fight on a weekly basis. Fights with other enhanced people could wear thin quickly though, so they’ll need to come up with various enemies that are legitimate challenges for her. But it’s the underlying mystery that really drives the drama forward. Much like BSG, the big questions make me want to watch the second episode, and if done well, will keep me on for the third and the fourth and the whole season. I’m forced to keep coming back to BSG, but the creators have borrowed so heavily from it that it’s hard not to make the comparison (especially since creator David Eick is also a producer on BSG).
Speaking of BSG, no less than three actors show up here in various cameos. I half expected Edward James Olmos to walk through a door at some point. The heavy lifting is put on the shoulders of Michelle Ryan, and she does a very good job. It helps that she’s very easy on the eyes, but she does prove that she can act. You can feel the fear of discovering what she’s become on her face. The rest of the actors do a fair but largely mediocre job of things, doing the best with the material given. Miguel Ferrer plays his normal character as the gruff boss. The other actors are fairly believable. I have to admit to having negative preconceptions of Katee Sackoff, as I hate her on BSG — hate her character and hate her performance, so I wasn’t happy to see her here. She’s just annoying to me, and she’s sure to be back later in the series as the main antagonist. Why oh why couldn’t they just leave her on one show.
The dialog and pacing of the show are pretty uneven. Characters speak largely in clichÃ©s, and Jaime becomes too used to her predicament too quickly. I know they can’t have her sitting around for a long time, but maybe a two-hour premiere would have given them a bit more time to get inside her head as she adjusts. The fight scene at the end of the episode is well done though, with some nice choreography and some nice long shots. It’s not the manic editing that you find in too many shows and movies, which makes it easy to follow. The special effects could use a lot of work though, as the look of her new limbs isn’t as creepy as the creators want it to be. There’s also a particularly bad running sequence that is just laughable. And there’s no slow motion jumping. And no ja-na-na-na-na-na-na-na sound effect. That’s just a travesty. A little work could really improve it though, and the show doesn’t rely on it so much as to make it distracting.
So what we have here is an intriguing start. It’s not perfect, but it has room to grow, and a capable enough lead actor to keep me coming back. At least until Lost comes back in the new year. It’s not quite up to the level of BSG, but very little on TV is. It seems like it would make a good companion for Heroes on Monday night. From the look of things, there’s a lot worse crap starting this season, so hopefully this finds an audience. Who knows, depending on how the rights are maybe we’ll see a new Six Million Dollar Man spin off of this. Wouldn’t that be cool? I’m just hoping all this 70’s/80’s TV nostalgia brings us a new Airwolf. A man can pray can’t he?