Saturday, September 29, 2007

TV Review: Bionic Woman "Pilot"

The Bionic Woman was one of my favourite TV shows back in the days when The Incredible Hulk, Six Million Dollar Man, Airwolf and Knight Rider ruled the terrestrial airwaves (you young-ones won't understand). It didn't have the production quality of current TV series like Heroes or Lost but it did have a certain charm to it and certainly back then I rather watch TV than head to the theatres.

Today with the revival of quality television which began with Six Deep Under and continues with Heroes and Dexter, it is pleasing to find that studious such as NBC recognises the audiences' need for good television. But rather than coming up with an original IP, NBC's new line-up for 2007 is a remake of the classic Bionic Woman, updated for modern times.

When news broke out that Michelle Ryan was to be cast in the lead role of a remake on Bionic Woman I was a bit sceptical. I mean Michelle Ryan was one of the major reasons why someone would ever want to tune into BBC's EastEnders (license money well spent), but she wasn't exactly one of the more memorable cast. It would be no doubt that the 2007 Bionic Woman would be darker and edgier than its predecessor and Michelle Ryan does seem to fit the bill as a replacement to the charming and beautiful Lindsay Wagner.

Fans of the old series may be disappointed with the direction in which the remake is going. The plot is darker than I would have preferred - like La Femme Nikita or Dark Angel dark (though cheesier and less intelligent). Personally I think it is a positive move by the production team to modernised the series, though it is filled with unfortunate cliché (e.g. hacker sibling, darkish organisation run by moppets, The Matrix reference).

In the Pilot episode plucky barmaid, mother substitute Jaime Sommers and her boyfriend Professor Will Anthros are both involved in a hit and run accident which left her severely crippled. Fortunately for her, her date happens to work with a shady and malevolent agency that were experimenting with artificial body parts. When Jaime finally woke up, she finds herself a new pair of bionic legs and other plastic replacements (like her Steve Austin eye). Unrealised by her, the accident was caused by a disgruntled former bionic woman experiment gone wrong Sarah Corvus (played by Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Gallatica).

The first episode isn't without its fault. In fact they are plenty. Editing was jarring and the special effects were crap, quite unlike NBC's own Heroes. The writing isn't as good and filled with very very corny dialogue. It doesn't have that 'ready for prime-time' feel to it, though I love the Sci-fi b-movie vibe (which isn't surprising since this new series is being produced by none other than Battlestar Gallatica's David Eick).

The major problem here is the production team tried to cram over two hours worth of materials into a 40 minute broadcast. So what we have is a convoluted mess where we get quick one minute scenes that doesn't make sense with plenty of two dimensional characters and confusing plot lines. They could have easily split it into a two part episode where Jaime's recovery from her accident could be explored in the first and her realisation of her power in a second, giving more room for Peter Parker style of discovery.

Michelle Ryan as the new Jaime Sommers is, well, different. She doesn't have the same charming presence that Lindsay Wagner has, but given time I am sure she will settle down in her American role. The modern Jaime is however more alluring. Her character's relationship with the shadowy agency whom she is obliged to do work with, and the doppelgänger will be something to look forward to in future episodes, as long as the series doesn't get dropped. She already had her first battle (of many I am sure) with Sarah Corvus.

While the messy Pilot indicates that the production team still has a lot of work cut out in order to sustain interest, it does highlight that 2007's Bionic Woman has potential to improve. If only they will get their act together.

No comments: