May 15, 2018
We can rebuild him. We have the technology.
Current popular fantasy stories such as Harry Potter and Twilight really have nothing on the ultimate fantasy experience for kids in the 1970’s. Yes, we are talking about the Six Million Dollar Man (T6MDM) and The Bionic Woman (TBW).
Sadly, it was in the spring of 1978 when both TV series were cancelled (Six Million Dollar Man on March 6 and The Bionic Woman on May 15) sending Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers into the dustbin of TV history.
The premise of the T6MDM, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, was this:
“When NASA astronaut Steve Austin is severely injured in the crash of an experimental lifting body aircraft, he is ‘rebuilt’ in an operation that costs six million dollars (just over 34 million in 2017 dollars. His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced with “bionic” implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norms: he can run at speeds of over 60 mph (97 km/h), and his eye has a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities, while his bionic limbs all have the equivalent power of a bulldozer. He uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent.”
Not to be outdone, the character of Jaime Sommers was first created as a love interest for Steve Austin. Theirs was a wonderful romance… right up to the point where she parachuted from a plane and was so badly injured that she, too, needed to be rebuilt:
“Jaime’s body is reconstructed with parts similar to Steve’s, but the actual cost of rebuilding her is not revealed. It is said humorously in dialogue to be less than the $6 million it cost to rebuild Austin because the replacement parts for her were ‘smaller’ (though in Germany the show was called Die Sieben Millionen Dollar Frau, which translates as The Seven Million Dollar Woman). Like Steve before her, Jaime is given two bionic legs, capable of propelling her at speeds exceeding 60 mph (having been clocked at more than 62 mph in ‘Doomsday Is Tomorrow’ and outpacing a race car going 100 mph in ‘Winning is Everything’) and jumping to and from great heights, and her right arm is replaced by a lifelike prosthetic capable of bending steel or throwing objects great distances. Whereas Austin received a bionic eye, the inner mechanism of Jaime’s right ear is replaced by a bionic device that gives her amplified hearing such that she can detect most sounds regardless of volume or frequency. ”
Both TV series were wildly popular with T6MDM running for five seasons from 1974 until 1978 and TBW for 3 seasons 1976 to 1978. This clip shows some of Jaime’s bionic skills AND the cheesy sound effects that occured with being Bionic:
In both shows Steve and Jaime get into all sorts of challenging situations that, if it were not for their bionic powers, both would have been doomed. And the kids of the 1970’s loved it.
I had my own Bionic Man encounter in July 1976 at the height of Bionic Fever. While on a trip with the Rainbow Girls we had the opportunity to visit Universal Studios. A few years earlier they had reconfigured the tours and, instead of going to sound stages, visitors were herded onto trams and driven around the back lots to ‘experience’ a variety of special effects.
The day our entourage, of about 60 teenage girls, visited we got to go through the newly opened ‘Jaw’s’ exhibit as well as a variety of other attractions. But the most exciting moment of all (for us girls) was when we drove past a dry, scrubby hillside and our tour guide intoned that Lee Majors was there that day filming T6MDM on the slopes just above us. Of course, all our heads snapped around because we wanted to see the dreamy Lee Majors. All I saw were a few random cameramen looking bored with no sign of the mega star.
But that, it turned out, was not the highlight of the day. It was when, as we were approaching the Jaw’s attraction, that our tour guide (a young woman) became quite animated and (I paraphrase) “Oh my God, it’s him! It’s …”
Was it Lee Majors at last? We all craned our necks as we passed a man strolling along the street next to the tram. He waved at us. Whatever, I thought.
“It’s Erik Estrada!”
I swear she was practically screaming his name. Not a single girl on that tram had any idea ‘who’ Erik Estrada was. At the time he had been cast in minor roles in a number of movies but it was the very popular series CHiPs, which premiered a year later, that catapulted Estrada to heartthrob status.
“Later in 1979,” also according to the Infallible Wikipedia, “Estrada was voted one of “The 10 Sexiest Bachelors in the World” by People magazine and was featured on the cover of the November issue.”
I’ve always wondered if our tour guide ever got to meet Estrada. I like to think that she did since she was so clearly a groupie despite the non-reaction of 60 clueless teenage girls.
A few links for those who want to know more:
p.s. – go watch the video clip again. Notice anything? Looks to me like she double jumped in sneakers not heels!
We used to LOVE $6 Million Dollar Man! Always watched it with our kids–not sure which of the four of us liked it best! “Bionic Woman” not quite so much. We seemed to resent it’s trying to copy $6! We got to see him too! He was coming to Milwaukee–to a toy store. We literally waited in line for hours–to see him walk past us for about 10 seconds! But still very exciting!