Cheap effects, lifeless writing short-circuit 'Bionic Woman'

Published September 26, 2007 12:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

To paraphrase the intro to "The Six Million Dollar Man," they could have rebuilt the "Bionic Woman." They had the technology. They could have made her better than she was before. Better. Stronger. Faster.

Instead, they made her stiffer, weaker and more deadly dull.

This new series based on the 1970s cult hit of a woman who gets bionic limbs after an accident is hardly a mechanically enhanced remake.

In fact, for a series that's supposed to have better special effects, more grounded acting and updated and realistic sensibilities from the 1976 original, it's amazing how it fails on nearly all levels.

British actress Michelle Ryan plays the new Jaime Sommers who, instead of a being a tennis pro as Lindsay Wagner was in the original, is a San Francisco bartender with a troubled little sister (Lucy Hale) living with her.

In the pilot, which airs tonight at 8 on KSL Channel 5, Jaime is involved in a car accident that damages her legs, right arm, an eye and an ear. Fortunately for her, Jaime's boyfriend is a secret surgeon for the military who has been working on bionic limb research. He decides to save her by disobeying orders and outfits her with the limbs and implants.

Unfortunately, a bionic woman created by the researchers a few years earlier ("Battlestar Galactica's" Katee Sackhoff) didn't take the new machinery well and went on a killing rampage.

It also looks like the "evil" bionic woman caused the car crash that injured Jaime in the first place.

The most obvious problem with the series is that the acting is one-dimensional, especially from Ryan, who should exhibit more initial regret and fear in getting new limbs that can crush metal.

The writing, which has characters lapsing into way too many metaphorical diatribes, is lifeless and unimaginative. And worst of all, the special effects that show off Jaime's speed and agility are laughably bad. (The 1970s intro for "The Six Million Dollar Man," which showed Steve Austin running along a fence, was much better.)

Yes, these women can kick butt, and for science fiction/comic fanboys, watching such physical specimens duke it out in leather pants and with rain-slicked skin is the ultimate fantasy. But where's the suspense if the only decent fight Jaime gets into the whole season is with the one person in the world with similar add-ons?

"Bionic Woman" could have been the kind of "Alias"/"Buffy" science fiction series that did something fresh in the genre. Instead, these upgrades to the show's mystique are anything but bionic.

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