September 26, 2007

TV: Bionic Woman (NBC, Wednesday 9/8)

From the folks who brought you the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, here's another attempt to update cheesy TV sci-fi of the past. This one's not quite so successful.

Our heroine is Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan), who is nearly killed in an auto accident (depicted in a manner that's fairly graphic and violent for network TV). Fortunately, Jaime's boyfriend Will (Chris Bowers) just happens to be the head surgeon for the Berkut Group, who've been experimenting with using super-powered prosthetics to create high-tech soldiers, and he whisks her off to the Berkut lab to install an arm, an eye, an ear, and two legs.

Jaime is not happy to have been the subject of such experimentation -- never mind that it was either that or death -- and is reluctant to cooperate with the Berkut Group. So she's on the run from them, and is also being pursued (for reasons unknown) by Sarah Corvus, the first bionic woman, who was believed to be dead after her implants drove her psycho a few years back. (Galactica's Katee Sackhoff demonstrates her limited range as an actress, playing Sarah as Starbuck without the cigars.)

I wasn't impressed by the pilot episode. Ryan is pretty to look at, but has the personality of oatmeal. The show's characters are neatly divided into good and evil, and it's not hard to figure out who Jaime's allies and enemies will be. (The ex-military guy who runs the Berkut Group? Bad guy, obviously; he's played by Miguel Ferrer, for pete's sake, and casting doesn't get any lazier than that. The pretty blonde Berkut shrink named, god help us, Ruth Truewell? Good guy.)

There were lots of little things that annoyed me. The show uses Sia's "Breathe Me" as the musical backdrop for one sequence; why on earth would you choose a piece of music that's so closely associated with the Six Feet Under finale, one of the most iconic TV sequences of the last five years? And it's a big mistake to show us Jamie's high-speed running in real time; there's not yet been a special effect invented that does that without looking silly. Who would have guessed that the "wah-wah-wah" slow-motion of the original was the least cheesy way to do that?

The track record of the creators is strong enough that I'm not quite ready to abandon this one yet, but at this point, I'm not optimistic.

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