Industry rumblings suggest that NBC’s Bionic Woman could be permanently decommissioned. It’s the first major show to admit defeat in the face of the WGA writer’s strike, stopping filming on November the 9th. The series was due to shoot for a further four weeks, but has run out of finished scripts.
The high profile reboot, starring EastEnder’s Michelle Ryan as the titular cyborg, has had a rocky start-up sequence. Critics disliked the po-faced pilot, stuffed full of clunky scene setting and fortune cookie dialogue. Viewers appeared unimpressed too, with initially healthy ratings halving after the first month. Eight episodes in, NBC have so far failed to order a full season of the show. With filming in Vancouver now suspended, that seems unlikely to happen.
If these slings and arrows weren’t enough to puncture the program’s silicon shell, the original Jaime Sommers thinks it stinks. “It’s very much like what shows are today – kind of dark and broody and violent,” said Lindsay Wagner, the first Bionic Woman, “It’s not at all what we were doing”.
Like all the best science fiction, there’s a twist in the tale though. After a weak start, this Bionic Woman is actually beginning to get pretty good.
Though Ryan’s pilot performance was less convincing than her Albert Square stint as a Slater, recent episodes suggest this could have been first night nerves – coupled with the weight of having to deliver 44 minutes of exposition in a foreign accent. Many complained too that episode one lacked laughs. Our heroine was beleaguered and grumpy, too busy pouting and playing mom to crack wise. Jaime Sommers is still no Buffy Summers, but grows a funny bone in later episodes. This is thanks in part to her banter with snarky tech support guy Nathan, who wonders why they didn’t fit her with Bluetooth when Jaime can’t do bionic stuff and talk on her mobile at the same time. There’s some real chemistry between Sommers and cocky CIA love interest Tom too, brought in to replace the dull as day old dishwater (and thankfully dead) boyfriend Will.
See what they did there? The folks making the program – ostensibly the same team that reimagined Battlestar Galactica – listened to the critics and fans. That’s not the only practice they ported over from BSG. There’s smart plotting, an intriguing story arc and characters we’ve been starting to care about. Apart from the ones they killed off in the pilot.
Bionic Woman isn’t great, but we think it still has the potential for greatness. It’s certainly more edgy, clever and consistent than Alias, the show that it’s most often compared with. And remember, there are many brilliant genre series that didn’t find their feet until their second season – including lauded classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek TNG. We’re hoping that Bionic Woman gets the same chance that they had to get into its stride.