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The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 1
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Grievously injured in the crash of an experimental aircraft, Colonel Steve Austin’s shattered body is covertly rebuilt via the miracle of modern science known as bionics. Equipped with atomic-powered limbs that make him “better, stronger, faster” than the average mortal, Austin (Lee Majors) can now run at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour, overturn cars with ease, and spot an encroaching enemy from over a mile away. Under the watchful eye of OSI director Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson), Steve repays his debt to the taxpayers by taking on perilous missions of a highly classified nature. Season 1 chronicles Steve Austin’s amazing metamorphosis from “a man barely alive” to cyborg to patriotic superspy. Armed with futuristic abilities, Austin is dispatched to do battle with kidnappers, arms smugglers, evil scientists, political assassins, and a diabolical robot—with time enough to spare to counsel a troubled astronaut (William Shatner) and clear his dead father’s name. Relive the thrill of Steve’s first bionic run in this digitally remastered 6-DVD set featuring 13 uncut episodes; all three made-for-TV movies in their original, unedited versions; and over two hours of never-before-seen bonus materials!
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The First Pilot Episode and the two other pilots included before Regular Series Episodes started production provide the introduction to this great series. The actual first pilot episode details his accident and reconstruction to bionics. While well acted and an excellent story, you really do notice the missing "Bionic" sound effects that were so essential to the show. This is most evident during his clumsy and laborious first attempt to use bionics to save a little boy trapped in a car about to blow up... The original Intelligence Organization Leader in this one was one Oliver Spencer, played by Darren McGavin who does a really great job as a crusty leader. The Spencer character would rather have a robot than a part man/part machine agent because of Steve's human emotions getting in the way of total efficiency. It would have been really interesting to see these two characters develop their relationship over time but D. McGavin (who seemed to be filming his "Kolchak-Night Stalker" Series around the same time)was apparently only along for the first pilot. The same goes for the first of the three Doctor Rudy Wells, ably played this first time by Martin Balsam.
The Second Pilot is really nothing like the eventual series at all and this is entitled "Wine Women and War". It appears as though they initially envisioned the Steve Austin Character as a Bionic James Bond with all the trimmings (heavily accented ladies to kiss, white tuxedo and the water and boat scene seems straight out of "Thunderball") There is also a different and terrible theme song introduced in this one to accompany a pilot that drags considerably throughout. Fortunately, the song and this approach was a quickly passing phase although the "Bond" concept is somewhat continued in the third pilot ("The Solid Gold Kidnapping")with a SPECTRE like Counter Intelligence Organization, led by Maurice Evans of "Planet of the Apes" Dr. Zaius Fame! (sans makeup) The story is better in this one but they were still apparently working out the bugs of the series concepts.
Once you get through a mixed bag in terms of these three separate pilot episodes, the regular "Season One" Episodes emerge and there are some good ones to be sure. "Day of the Robot" introduces the Robot Adversary built by Dr. Chester Dolenz, who appears in two episodes in year one ("Run Steve Run" is the other) with the Robot played by 70's Stalwart John Saxon. This episode also introduces the famous "Bionic Sound" although it is the Robot who uses it first... "Dr. Wells is Missing" is a suspenseful episode set in Austria and which features the second "Dr Rudy Wells" played by Alan Oppenheimer. "Population Zero" is a solid entry that deals with a disgruntled former OSI Scientist out to get revenge since he pet projects didn't get off the drawing board... For Star Trek Fans, two alumni show up with William Shatner (Captain Kirk) in a lead Role (yep, he plays a spaceman but in our time period) in "Burning Bright" which features some of his classic over the top theatrics. Also, George Takei (Mr. Sulu)appears briefly in a solid episode set primarily in Asia entitled "The Coward" This same episode also introduces Steve's Mother who would pop up from time to time in the series. "Little Orphan Airplane" is a good one too, set in Africa, where Steve A. tangles with local army elements and assists a pair of Nuns who are caught up in the warring factions. Greg Morris from "Mission Impossible" Fame shows up in this one and one of the nuns will be recognizable from her role as a motherly nun in "The Flying Nun"!
Not a bad first season for a very memorable show!
Unlike other superheroes, Steven Austin was a mere mortal man, and the bionic limbs and eye that would not only save his life but make him "better, stronger, faster" than before was a technology that seemed possible!
I remember, in my naivete as a 10-year-old kid, asking my dad if I could have the operation that Steve had, even though my limbs and organs functioned relatively perfectly, so that, in my then scrawny frame, I could have and enjoy those bionic powers, and defend myself against bigger kids who were picking on me in school. Of course, my dad's reply was: "It's just a TV show, Mike. That technology doesn't really exist." It was so ironic to hear, on one of the supplemental disc's documentaries, that actor Lee Majors, who played the show's iconic hero, as well as members of the production team, get asked that same question all the time from amputees!
Here we get all three ABC movies of the week, followed by all the season 1 episodes. There's not much I can add to the other excellent reviews here, except to say that it's amusing to hear how the show's opening title montage and theme song went through a major overhaul from TV Movie 3 to Episode One of the series, when Executive Producer Harve Benett, who would later produce many of the Star Trek movies, took over, and felt, as I did, that the series needed a new theme song.
With all due credit to Glenn Larson, who would go on to conceive and produce his "little" space epic called Battlestar Galactica, and who here, in addition to co-producing these movies, wrote the music and lyrics for this song, kind of a '60s-era soul song, simply called "Six Million Dollar Man", that has Dusty Springfield singing "He's the MAAAAAN! with backup singers singing 'The Six Million Dollar MAAAAAN!' Catch him if you can, beat him if you can, love him if you CAAAAN...", sorry, Glenn...this song HAD to go. Apparently, Larson felt that his song would help cement Lee Majors as a sex symbol, a sex MACHINE, a sex GOD, for the ladies, and it did, but then-new producer Harve Bennett and the execs at ABC rightly felt, as I do, that, since Steve was in the military, the series needed more of a militaristic sound. Thank God the prevailing theme song was scrapped and was replaced, like Steve's human parts, with the more familiar militaristic drum and percussion-driven theme song, ingeniously composed by Oliver Nelson, who scored TV's Ironside, as well as multiple other shows and movies, that we have now grown to know and love.
It's also interesting to note that the iconic sound-effects, of the bionic arm and legs functioning ("chchchchch"), as well as the impact sound whenever Steve's bionic limbs connect with another object ("boompapapapapa"), are almost totally absent in Season 1! The bionic eye begins to make its telltale mid-range pulsing noise ("boopoopoopoo") about halfway through the season. John Saxon, who would play a robot in the memorable episode, Day of the Robot, who squares off against Steve Austin in hand-to-hand combat, has the honor of being the show's first actor to enjoy having his actions "scored" by the show's first bionic sound-effect. It wouldn't be until Season 2 when producers and ABC execs pulled out all the stops and courageously began using those legendary sound-effects whenever Steve bursts into bionic mode and performs a bionic deed.
Great show! Great set! I particularly enjoyed getting to know the great Harve Bennett, in his extensive behind-the-scenes interview on the bonus disc, as he explains, in great detail, why he made several creative decisions, mainly to take the show away from pure sci-fi and make Steve less of a robot and more human. This was the right decision.
The rich characterizations and satisfying interrelationships between characters, bionic man Steve, OSI chief administrator and mission mastermind Oscar Goldman (played with great warmth and intelligence by Richard Anderson) and OSI scientist who developed and maintains Steve's bionic technology, Dr. Rudy Wells (who would be played by 3 actors) formed a strong bond of love and loyal, devoted family, a family that we welcomed into our own families, a family that we are now able to become embroiled in whenever we fire up our DVD players, a family that continues to endure.
Considering the source material, ABC and MCA/Universal's original master air tapes (going back to the 35mm negatives, if they exist, would yield an even better, stronger look...perhaps, if there's ever a blu-ray release...), the remastered transfers look terrific, even better than I remember this show looking when it first aired on ABC!
Plug in, charge up those bionic power cells, and enjoy.
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