Judge Clark Douglas promises that if you give him some cool bionic body parts, he will not spend all day moaning about what a burden it is to be a hero.
Our reviews of The Bionic Woman: Season One (published October 19th, 2010), The Bionic Woman: Season Two (published May 16th, 2011), and The Bionic Woman: Season Three (published October 4th, 2011) are also available.
Better. Stronger. Faster.
Before reviewing the new version of Bionic Woman (full disclosure: I've never seen a single episode of the original show), I gave Paul Verhoeven's classic film Robocop another spin, just so I could assuredly declare the following: Bionic Woman is no Robocop. Of course, you probably could have guessed that much just from watching the promos on television. However, does the show have any redeeming value? Is it fun, exciting, dramatic, or inventive? Let me put on my bionic reviewing fingers, and we'll examine the case.
Facts of the Case
Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan, EastEnders) is just an ordinary woman. She has a job as a bartender, she has a boyfriend, and she takes care of her 15-year-old sister. But when a devastating accident occurs, several of Jamie's body parts are replaced with pieces of bionic technology. This gives Jamie many new abilities and strengths, but such things always come with a cost. She is forced to work as a government agent and almost immediately finds herself doing battle, going on secret missions, and trying to balance explosive assignments with her personal life. It may be cool to be a Bionic Woman, but it's certainly not easy.
Eight episodes are spread across two discs, as follows:
• "Paradise Lost"
• "The Education of Jamie Sommers"
• "The List"
• "Trust Issues"
• "Do Not Disturb"
I recently reviewed the first season of the show The Invisible Man, and I'm glad I did…because now I can tell you just how much this show has in common with that one. For instance:
• The U.S. government funds a secret medical project that creates The Invisible Man. The U.S. government funds a secret medical project that creates Bionic Woman.
• The Invisible Man is forced to confront an evil Invisible Man that was part of an earlier failed experiment. Bionic Woman is forced to confront an evil Bionic Woman that was part of an earlier failed experiment.
• The Invisible Man gets his orders from a grumpy but lovable government official named Charlie. Bionic Woman gets her orders from a grumpy but lovable government official named Jonas.
• The Invisible Man depends on special medical care from a very friendly young doctor. Bionic Woman depends on special medical care from a very friendly young doctor.
• The Invisible Man has a tendency to use his powers when he probably shouldn't be using them. Bionic Woman has a tendency to use her powers when she probably shouldn't be using them.
We could play this game all day, kids. However, I'm sure you get the idea. The point I'm getting to is this: Bionic Woman has essentially taken every plot element and character from The Invisible Man, but somehow it isn't nearly as interesting or as intelligent. On the other hand, perhaps I am being extraordinarily unfair. After all, Bionic Woman is based on a show of the same name from the 1970s, so perhaps The Invisible Man was merely stealing elements from the original Bionic Woman. Either way, the originality isn't something that bothers me a great deal. It's the execution. The characters here all speak as if they were written by 12-year-olds and don't seem to exhibit much intelligence. If anyone ever does manage to say something with slightly large words, such as, "We're a group of covert operatives working together under one of the less conspicuous branches of the government in order to bring stability to various global situations," don't worry. They'll always explain it for you by having the same character say, "Basically, let me make it simple for you: we're saving the world."
However, the other major difference between Bionic Woman and The Invisible Man is that Bionic Woman almost completely dumps any humor from the proceedings and takes itself much, much too seriously. Well, that, plus the fact that the protagonist here isn't nearly as interesting. Michelle Ryan is flat and uninvolving as the title character. Then again, how much can you expect of a character who admits to "never watching a film made before 1983?" Still, I suppose that makes sense…those whose cinematic preferences are the same as Jamie's are probably the target audience for this show. Bionic Woman is a program that seems primarily designed for those who are content with any show that offers a fight or explosion at least once every 10 minutes. The rest of the cast is mostly very dull. Isaiah Washington is probably the biggest star here, but he seems incredibly bored during his scenes. He plays a very bland character, as does Will Yun Lee (Witchblade) in the role of Jamie's trainer.
DVD quality is fine; the dark scenes feature surprising clarity in spots. The audio mix is solid as well, though the canned scores by Lisa Coleman don't do the show any favors. However, this set is pretty limp in the extras department. A mediocre commentary by executive producer David Eick is presented with the pilot episode, and a series of brief featurettes is very dull. They run one-to-two minutes each, and were designed to be featured as promotional items during commercial breaks on NBC.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite a terrible pilot and some limp episodes that immediately follow, we do get hints of potential as we dig into the latter half of these eight episodes. Don't get too excited, it will still make you roll your eyes, but it gets just a bit more involving and a bit less dependant on loud noises. In addition, Miguel Ferrer adds a touch of credibility to each and every episode, bringing a no-bull realism that is desperately needed in this show. Of course, his presence may be a little bit of a liability for some: they may remember that Ferrer was in Robocop, and then they may remember that Robocop is infinitely better than this ridiculous show. Did I mention that I really like Robocop?
As of the writing of this review, the status of Bionic Woman is very uncertain. Rumors of cancellation were spreading around in December of 2007, but NBC executives insisted that the show would go on…at the very least, the 13-episode order would be completed. However, this show is going to have to get a lot better, and fast. I can't imagine too many people sitting through a show this poor for very long when there are so many stronger alternatives out there. I certainly can't recommend this particular set, but I do wish Bionic Woman the best as it faces the future.
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Scales of Justice
• Pilot Commentary
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