For the inaugural edition of “New TV Shows I’m Still Watching and Don’t Know Why,” I’ve decided not to discuss the show that’s on the top of the list but instead the show I happened to watch last night, Bionic Woman. The show airs on NBC, Wednesday nights at 9/8 Central and is actually a remake of the 70’s TV show of the same name staring Lindsay Wagner as Jamie Sommers. Ironically, the original Bionic Woman was a spin-off of The Six Million Dollar Man staring Lee Majors (who will be forever known as The Fall Guy in my eyes). See, I really do try to always bring it back to television spin-offs whenever possible.
Similar to the Lindsay Wagner version, the star of Bionic Woman Michelle Ryan plays Jamie Sommers, who after almost dying from a vicious car wreck is transported to a top-secret bio-tech research facility run by a mysterious non-government sanctioned organization called the Berkut Group. Almost dead, the head doctor for the Berkut Group, and also coincidentally Jamie’s fiancé, goes against company orders and tests his new bionics on Jamie in the hope of saving her life. Obviously Jamie survives but now has one bionic eye, ear, and arm and two bionic legs. She also has some sort of nano-robotics in her blood that rapidly heals any injuries she might incur.
Honestly the premise sounded very cool and there was a lot of hype around the show before it aired a few months back. Since then pretty much most of the reviews have been kind but negative. The show has some great potential but it’s been really saddled with some horrible side plots and the overall poor casting of Ryan in the lead. I don’t know what it is about her but Ryan just rubs me the wrong way and part of that I have to blame on the writers. I think the show has tried to flesh Sommers out as a real person with real problems but all that has done is made me dislike her. Case in point, once Jamie finds out what’s happened to her and how her life’s been turned upside down she runs straight to a bar. Now, that’s probably not so far off from what many people would do but then she proceeds to get drunk, find the first guy that hits on her and drags him off to the bar’s bathroom to have sex. At this point I’m like what? This is one of NBC’s flagship new shows right, and here in the first episode they already have the main character trying to have sex in a bar bathroom? Thankfully the escapade is broken up soon after it began but I just feel like the writers could have gone in so many different directions instead of turning the Bionic Woman slutty before the audience had a chance to get to know her.
Then there’s the unnecessary side story of the cute but annoying little sister. It’s upsetting that I dislike the character of Becca Sommers so much because she’s played by the likeable Lucy Hale who had a brief yet memorable part in How I Met Your Mother last season as Robin Scherbatsky’s little sister. In the first few episodes it’s alluded to and then completely dropped that Sommers’ little sister was in trouble with the law for some sort of illegal computer hacking. Thank god that story line was dropped because if we have to spend any more time listening to Becca whine and complain I won’t be able to watch the show anymore. I know they are using Becca to ground Jamie and give her some sort of normal home life while not out on missions but it just isn't working.
A better idea would have been for the Berkut Group to have faked Jamie’s death to the general public. This would have allowed her to more easily transition into full time super agent and given her something to brood over, the loss of all contact with her sister. This way the show still can show Jamie's human side by focusing on her internal struggle with keeping the truth from her sister for her sister’s own protection vs. reuniting with her sister and telling her the truth. The added bonus to the audience is Becca would only have to be seen from a distance and rarely on the show saving us all from her whiny problems every single week...plus now the show is able to save money on one less regular cast member.
Don’t let me fool you into thinking that the show is all bad, if it was I wouldn’t be watching anymore. It’s just that the characters I really enjoy the most seem to be the shows two recurring guest stars that unfortunately aren’t on every week. The first is Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff. Sackhoff is amazing in the role of the evil/misunderstood original Bionic Woman, Sarah Corvus. Corvus is by far the best character on the show and Sackhoff needs to be upgraded to full time cast member if Bionic Woman has any chance for a long run on NBC. Sackhoff is so believable as the slightly crazy Corvus and is a great foil for Ryan’s naïve and easily misled Sommers. Plus Corvus’ back story is so much more interesting than whatever was really going on between Sommers and her fiancé who *SPOILER* ends up being killed at the end of the first episode.
The other surprising breakout star of the show is recurring guest star Isaiah Washington as Antonio Pope, who has an as of yet unexplained role at the Berkut Group. When it was originally announced that Washington had been signed up for a limited number of episodes before the start of the season, it seemed to be a bit of stunt casting to gain additional publicity to the new show. Especially considering Washington had just been unceremoniously removed from Grey’s Anatomy following his insensitive and inappropriate comments on set. I’ve only see bits and pieces of Grey’s first two seasons but I was never that enthralled with Washington’s character Dr. Burke. On the flip side Pope seems to bring a much needed added element of suspense as a character willing to cross the line of what is morally right to achieve a greater good. Pope seems to test Sommers' way of thinking and forces her to come to terms with what she’s fighting for and why she’s doing it. Next week Washington will be back in what appears to be his last episode. It should be interesting to see what happens to his character this week and if producers decide to keep his character around, at least for the foreseeable future.
In the end, I’m still watching but I’m not sure why…I believe it’s mostly because the show is entertaining despite its flaws. I keep hoping the story will pick up and start to address the larger over arching mystery of whether or not it was an accident Sommers became the Bionic Woman before either one of three things happens: 1. The show gets canceled; 2. The WGA strike shortens the season and nothing ends up happening at all or 3. The show gets a full season, still ends up being kind of a stinker and I never watch again.