Empty9-10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26
Here's a quick test to determine if you're officially old: If you can remember when "The Bionic Woman" premiered on ABC way back in 1976, you're old. Done. That, boys and girls, was 31 years ago. They didn't even have cell phones then. Heck, they barely had phones.
But in that fine, time-tested, everything-old-is-new-again tradition, "Bionic Woman" is back -- this time on NBC (where it ended its first run in the late '70s) and without the "The" in the title (which, let's face it, was superfluous anyway).
The original starred Lindsay Wagner and proved her key to a lucrative future as a Ford commercial pitchwoman. It also was replete with those cheeseball slow-motion special effects. The cheese is gone, along with Wagner, replaced by sleek and spare visual wizardry and a very-easy-on-the-eye star in Michelle Ryan. She plays Jaime Sommers as more conflicted and vulnerable than did her predecessor, and the opener delivers the goods as a promising, if at times hackneyed, piece of foreboding drama.
You probably have a pretty good idea of the concept: A woman suffers what would normally be fatal injuries in an accident but wakes from lifesaving surgery only slightly the worse for wear. In Jamie's case, her survival stems from the intervention of her boyfriend, Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), who has just proposed to her following her disclosure of being pregnant with his baby when ka-boom! Usually, saying you got hit by a truck is more of a euphemism. This time, it's literal.
But it turns out that young Jaime has done unusually well (or not well, depending on your point of view) in her choice of men. This one does top-secret work for the government involving the creation of indestructible soldiers. He fits Jaime with bionic body parts that afford her the superhuman ability to outrun cars and beat thugs to within an inch of their lives. It also means that, as her lover, Will had better not make her angry.
In the mostly well-crafted opening teleplay from executive producer Laeta Kalogridis, Jaime is a reluctant soldier who awakens feeling all kinds of freaked out, as we would expect. It doesn't help that a rogue loose cannon named Sarah Corvis (Katee Sackhoff) had been turned bionic before Jaime, and let's just say it's gone to her head just a tad in that "Me want to take over the world!" insane sort of way.
By the end of the hour, Sarah's murderous impulses mixed with the unsubtle persuasion of bionic lab boss Jonas Bledsoe (the ever-dependable Miguel Ferrer, who has perfected the art of playing Miguel Ferrer-type characters to a science, saying stuff like, "You have $50 million worth of my hardware inside you, so you might call me your landlord") will convince Jaime that it's her destiny to become a secret weapon of the feds. It's a big change from tending bar in a chic nightclub and playing surrogate mom to your little sister (Lucy Kate Hale), but what the heck.
It's clear from literally the first frame that this isn't going to be your mommy and daddy's "Bionic Woman." Under Michael Dinner's steady directorial hand, it's dark, tense and conspiratorial, a far cry from the camp sci-fi tricks of its predecessor.
Much of the credit for the new edition's well-crafted effectiveness goes to executive producer David Eick, who pulled off a similar renovation with his acclaimed reimagining of "Battlestar Galactica" on Sci Fi Channel. As our new heroine, Ryan has the stuff to make it work even better than the first time around as long as it can overcome the challenges of one of TV's more competitive time periods. The production team also will need to guard against the temptation to graft on the dopey dialogue, which doesn't work nearly as well now as it did back in '76. Or so the old people tell me.
Universal Media Studios
Executive producers: David Eick, Jason Smilovic, Laeta Kalogridis, Michael Dinner
Co-executive producer: Dave Barrett
Producers: Howard Grigsby, Kamran Pasha, Lindsay Sturman
Supervising producers: Melissa Byer, Treena Hancock
Consulting producers: Darin Morgan, Jon Cowan, Robert Rovner
Teleplay: Laeta Kalogridis
Director: Michael Dinner
Director of photography: Rob McLachlan
Production designer: Mark Freeborn
Costume designer: Tish Monaghan
Editors: Barry Zetlin, Jim Coblentz, Augie Hess
Music: Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman
Sound mixer: Eric Batut
Casting: Eric Dawson, Coreen Mayrs
Jaime Sommers: Michelle Ryan
Jonas Bledsoe: Miguel Ferrer
Ruth Truewell: Molly Price
Will Anthros: Chris Bowers
Jae Kim: Will Yun Lee
Becca: Lucy Kate Hale
Dr. Anthony Anthros: Mark Sheppard
Sarah Corvis: Katee Sackhoff