BIONIC BLUNDER: Where Are Those Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman DVDs?

Published March 7, 2008

I knew I was getting old (older) when in recent years I heard kids talk about Steve Austin. They, of course, were referring to wrestler Stone Cold … I was thinking Lee Majors.
The Six Million Dollar Man
A child of the 70s, two of my all-time favorite shows were The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. When I was a kid, nothing was cooler than this bionic duo. I know I’m not alone in my geek-love for these shows, nor am I alone in the major crush I had on Lindsay Wagner (who deserves better these days than being spokeswoman for Sleep Number beds). Even by the time Bigfoot, Fembots, and a suspicious pencil-thin mustache were thrown into the mix, nothing could dissuade me from my affection (nay, obsession) with these characters. What kids from this era didn’t practice running in slow motion while mocking the sound effects? Da-na-na-na-na-na-na.

In 1973, ABC-TV produced three television movies based on Martin Caidin’s hit novel, Cyborg, about former astronaut, Steve Austin (Lee Majors), who nearly loses his life while testing an experimental aircraft. Using bionic technology, he is rebuilt (better, stronger, faster), and is thereafter the top agent in the (fictional) OSI. As each movie drew higher ratings, ABC finally gave Colonel Austin his own series, and The Six Million Dollar Man premiered in January uary of 1974. ABC got a smash hit, and Majors was propelled into superstardom.
The Bionic Woman
The next year introduced Steve’s old flame, Jamie Sommers, a tennis pro who is badly injured in a parachute accident. Steve convinces his superiors to save her using the same technology that saved him. They do, but by the end of the two-part episode, Jamie’s body rejects her bionics, and she dies. But this is science fiction, and after being deluged by calls and letters, ABC revived Jamie (who, of course, had been cryogenically frozen), and gave her her own series. Lindsay Wagner starred in The Bionic Woman, and adolescent boys (of all ages) were universally smitten.
Lindsay Wagner
Though ratings for both shows dipped only slightly over the years, both were cancelled in 1978. However, three bionic reunion movies were produced between 1987 and 1994. The second of these, Bionic Showdown, featured none other than a baby-faced, uni-browed, pre-Speed Sandra Bullock as the new Bionic Girl.

So where are the DVD season box sets? Some of the worst shows ever produced are now available on DVD, why the hold-up on these?

Recent reports state that Universal, who owned the rights to Caidin’s novel, Cyborg, let their option on it expire. Meanwhile, Dimension Films, espying the opportunity, swooped in and bought up the rights to Cyborg and all related works. So, as it stands, Universal still owns both series, but Dimension lays claim to all “bionic concept” projects. Until a deal can be struck between these warring factions, we will not see these shows on DVD in the U.S. Ironically, both shows are available on Region 2 discs overseas, where legal rights are apparently different. Also, NBC’s ill-conceived, ill-fated update of The Bionic Woman featured no characters from Cyborg, and the bionics were “different” than Caidin’s novel (in case you were wondering WTF was up with that).

Lindsay Wagner
Why can’t these kids just get along? There is a TON of money to be made by both parties here, and a generation who grew up on these shows is chomping at the bit to watch them again. If you grew up in the seventies, and were a fan, can you even remember the last time you saw an episode in syndication? There is an online petition to get these iconic shows released on DVD, and I encourage all to sign it.

Special effects may be more sophisticated today (and maybe I am remembering these programs through the soft-focus of 30 years), but what made these shows so special wasn’t the f/x (cheesy even then), but the charisma and utter likability of its leads.

Steve and Jamie, come home soon. Run in slow-mo if you have to, but get here!

For an update on this story, click here.