Friday, January 4, 2013

Bionic Woman (1976)

Bionic Woman Season 1 Episode 6: Bionic Beauty
Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr. 
Starring Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson, Bert Parks 

Jaime Somers (Lindsay Wagner) was a tennis star who got in a skydiving accident and so they decided to make her bionic.  And then, since they paid so much to make her bionic (probably not as much as the Six Million Dollar man, maybe $80,000, something like this), they forced her to become a superspy to pay off the debt. I think that's how it worked. Anyway, the Bionic Woman started out on the Six Million Dollar Man, but in 1976, she got her own series. It ran for three seasons, from 1976 to 1978. It was a staple for all 70's kids, really, although it was never as popular as the Six Million Dollar Man. Probably  because Jaime never fought Bigfoot, like Steve Austin did. Anyway, in the first season, Jaime was always pining after Steve, and there were a few crossovers episodes. She was also still coming to terms with her newfound strength, so she broke stuff a lot. There was a basic formula that the show followed pretty religiously: Jaime goes undercover somewhere, the gig requires some goofy or sexy outfit, and she solves some very simple,  cartoony crime. And along the way, she breaks stuff.

At the beginning of the show, Jaime is puttering around at home, bringing a tree stump upstairs to karate chop into firewood, when her boss Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) shows up and starts buttering her up about what a beauty she is. Uh oh, sounds like a new assignment is afoot!

So Oscar gets a weird note from an agent about Miss Florida winning the Miss USA pageant. Just a hunch, but Oscar thinks there's trouble brewing. The only way to crack the case, naturally, is for Jaime to pose as Miss California and infiltrate the pageant. Make sense to me. Doesn't make sense to Jaime, though. Why not just call the agent and ask him what the fuck he's talking about?

Because he's fuckin' dead, Jaime. That's why.

Now we've got a story! Roll credits! By the way, I am disappointed with the Bionic Woman theme. I feel they could have worked harder on it.

So Jaime's at the hotel unpacking, rapping with her chaperone, Helen - is it her mom? Her aunt? Anyway, it's stuffy, so she opens the window, but she does it with such force, it shatters! Comic relief.

Later on Ray Raymond (Bert Parks, AKA the real Miss USA host!) does a little speech about their schedules and tells them all they have to pair off into little groups. Guess who's in Jaime's group? That's right, Miss Florida (Cassie Yates, who looks a lot like Lara Flynn Boyle)! And she's super mean.

Miss Florida walks away with Ray Raymond and Jaime listens in on them with her bionic ear. They've got some deal going. She'll win if she does what Ray wants. But what does Ray want? Even she doesn't know!

Now it's time for the talent portion of the show. One of the girls twirls a baton that's on fire. She's never twirled one on fire before. Seems like you'd practice a few times before the show.

Anyway, while that's going on, Jaime calls Oscar and ask if the Six Million Dollar man has been asking about her. C'mon Jaime, be professional.

And then Jaime sings Feelings! THE WHOLE SONG.

After her performance, the stage manager talks to Ray Raymond about how he saw Jaime making a phone call. Ray's not worried, though. Or is he?

He sort of is.

That night, Jaime jumps out the window and follows Ray around. He gets into a car with a satan-bearded guy and they talk about the plan. He's going to pass Miss Florida a package and after he declares her the winner, she'll take it with her on her private jet to Paris, where she'll hand it off to some other dude. The perfect crime! Except...nobody counted on Jaime's bionic ear picking up the whole sinister plan!

Here's the problem, though. It's bed check time, and Jaime's still out skulking around. She tries to make it back unnoticed, pretending she was in the shower the whole time, but vindictive Miss Florida gets her busted and Miss Belding grounds her.

Jaime tries to send Helen out to tell Oscar what's going on,  but she fucks it up and ends up confined to the room as well. But even with her bumbling, Helen helps Jaime figure out what's going on. Miss Florida is going to bring some stolen microchip or whatever, some spy gizmo, to an agent in Paris. Jaime gets so excited when she figures it out she smashes a table!

Finally, we get to the bathing suit portion of the pageant. It's pretty good. Jaime figures she's not going to get picked, so she can slink away and call Oscar, but then there's an upset, and she makes the finals!

By the way, during these scenes, they cut away to the audience and it's an audience from 1956.

After she puts on her evening gown for the final portion of the pageant, Jaime wanders around backstage picking up more bits of information. But the stage manager finds her and chloroforms her! Then he and Ray drag her downstairs and tell Miss Belding she's all drugged out.

So then they dump her on a couch and shoot her full of knockout juice and leave her there. Then Ray announces that she's sick, and won't be in the pageant. Oscar hears the announcement and rushes over there. Meanwhile, Jaime wakes up and starts bashing in doors like it's nobody's business. She's got to let Oscar know what's up, but how?

Well, she walks right onto the stage and stupid fucking Ray gives her a microphone. That's how! Jaimie blurts out the whole plan to millions of people!

The pageant continues. Oscar's rushing to the scene. The stage manager hands Ray a gun, presumably to kill everybody, if that's what it takes. Miss Florida and Miss California are the last two finalists. What happens next?

Well, cracking under the pressure, Ray pulls out the gun and shoots himself, right there on stage.

No, that's not what happens. Jaime gets crowned Miss California and Ray whispers to her not to make any sudden moves or they'll snuff Helen. And then they all head to the parking garage where Jaime fights a car in slow motion. And then Oscar shows up, and the bad guys are busted.

But hey, where was the goddamn microchip?

Turns out it was in Miss Florida's vagina the whole time.

No, really it was in Miss USA's scepter or magic wand, whatever it's called.

And then, we all laugh.

The end!

I have not seen this show since 1976, when I was seven years old. At the time, I remember being mostly unimpressed. I think this is because I did not find Miss Wagner attractive. I was more of Lynda Carter guy at age 7. I still am, really, but now I can also appreciate Lyndsay's beauty. So, it's got that going for it. Also, the special effects are terrible. Sub-Incredible Hulk, even. And I like that. I like how stupid the plot is, and how much mugging the supporting cast does. I've watched this episode three times this week, and I enjoyed it more each time. I cannot sit here and tell you that the Bionic Woman is a good show, because it is not. But I can tell you that it's really fun and goofy, and it's about as 70's as anything I've ever seen. Two bionic thumbs up!

- Ken McIntyre

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