Pilot Review: Bionic Woman

Reimagine The Bionic Woman for the 21st century. A proposal that sounds pretty ridiculous on paper, but if anyone can pull it off surely it’s the people behind Battlestar Galactica? Surely? Right?

Oh dear.

I’m cheating on this one a bit, I watched episodes one and two together. Left to my own devices and based solely on the quality of the pilot I would have buried this show and heaped rocks on it so it couldn’t escape to hurt me any more. But I have a more forgiving flat mate and some vague optimism that the people that created the superb Battlestar couldn’t really be responsible for such a turkey. The second episode was marginally better, but mostly because it was about as simple as you can get.

The plot: Jaime Sommers is either a dropout drifting through life, a genius who hides her intelligence, or a woman who gave up everything to take care of her sister. She’s fallen for a smart arse who’s either desperately in love, leading a double life or stalking her. He also seems to have a small problem with a crazy cyborg Starbuck who wants to kill him. Ah, the trials of life.

The concept sounds a bit dubious, but with some finesse and talent it could have worked. BUT instead a bunch of monkeys wrote its pilot episode and it sucked. The producers lost my respect with their mess of a pilot and unimaginative mish-mash of cliches. If they can’t come up with an interesting way of telling their opening story then what hope is there for the next 12, 24, 48 episodes?

Here’s how it could have worked – spend the whole first episode with Jaime before her life changes. Let us get to know the character in her regular situation, show us that this woman actually has something to lose. The audience already knows vaguely what’s going to happen (the show’s called The Bionic Woman, it’s not brain surgery) and if the daft name and synopsis didn’t put them off, then all you have to convince them is that there’s something worth tuning in for next week. Why not end the pilot with the (pretty spectacular) car crash? Nothing like a cliff hanger to get people back. I don’t know whether the producers or the networks are responsible for pilots rushing through their entire stock of concepts, but someone should credit the audience with some patience and play things a little closer to their chests.

Bionic Woman is going to live and die with it’s title character. She’s got to walk the narrow line between being a real person with a real life and being a superhero. Buffy managed that with style, humour, sidekicks and talent. The only thing Jaime manages to copy from Buffy is her surname (excepting some spelling). Michelle Ryan has a convincing American accent and can carry off the fight scenes, but that’s about it. I just don’t care about the character.

The good news is that the second episode redeems the show slightly, it’s a better show, it’s just not one I have any interest in watching. Gone are the personal fights in the rain, instead we have nameless soldiers in a sunlit deserted town. It seems to indicate there’s going to be a standard ‘bad-guy of the week’ format. It’s brighter and has more enthusiasm to it. Jaime has spontaneously got over a lot of her issues and there’s even some personality to the secondary characters, Isaiah Washington brings some genuine talent to the cast. But there’s nothing that hasn’t been done before and done better.

I won’t bother watching any more. There’s just nothing in this show that makes me want to watch. The acting is mediocre, the script is poor, the direction is unspectacular, there’s a selection of irritating “magic bionic” shots and I have no confidence in the writers manage to untangle the mess of mysteries they’ve got going. On a small network the show might have had a chance with a small core audience, but I suspect it’s not going to last long on a major one. After two episodes, all I wanted to do was break out the Buffy dvds.


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