Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Bionic Crush

I remember the militaristic drum-drum-drum beat of the opening credits as if it were yesterday.

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first bionic man.... better, stronger, faster!

That was my introduction to The Six Million Dollar Man, the 1974-78 ABC show that starred Lee Majors as Col. Steve Austin, an astronaut fitted with bionic parts (a left eye, both legs, and a right arm) and finds himself working for the OSI, the secret government agency that stands for Office of Scientific Intelligence. I recently rediscovered the show and its spinoff  The Bionic Woman which starred Lindsay Wagner as his female bionic contemporary ( and love interest.) Both shows play on COZI TV during the week and I find myself tuning in out of nostalgic curiosity and total bionic geekdom. It's amazing how an old show can trigger so many memories from one's youth. And in some ways, I feel re-energized, like that fan I was years ago.

Although I was in pre-kindergarten when The Six Million Dollar Man first aired and then in elementary school when the first round of reruns began, I remember some episodes vividly (like most things, I credit that to my OCD.) How Lee Majors ran in s-l-o-w motion (to mimic the 60 mph speeds that he could top.) I remember wanting to be like him, displaying that macho bravado whenever he accomplished his missions - rescuing people and recovering stolen secret plans. 

And of course, the electronic sounds effects from his atomically-powered bionics were well, really really cool.  Whenever he ran like a human cheetah, viewers heard a snythesized electronic strum of a guitar mixed with a spring (or what metal would sound like if it were bent.) I remember always trying to mimic that look, running in slow motion down my street or trying to throw a bionic punch in the air. When he hurled an object, the rebound sound was a lot like a bomb that dropped from the sky. And then there was Majors' bionic hunky factor. Even as a little kid, I couldn't help but look at his tuft of brown chest hair that popped out of his leisure suits.  For some reason (well, I know now), I always looked forward to the scenes when he was shirtless or at least running because his jacket or button-down shirt would shift enough to reveal his mat of chest hair. My bionic crush.

Although I liked looking at Lee Majors, I was more partial to The Bionic Woman. Her character, Jaime Sommers, was a tennis pro turned school teacher so naturally she radiated more empathy especially when an episode involved an elementary school student, a foster kid or an animal (a lion or bionic German shepherd named Max.) Her character had more depth because she struggled to balance living with these bionic implants while trying to reconcile her former self, pre-bionics. Was she human, a robot, a mix of both?  Could she be a mom one day? (That was the theme of one episode.)
Like her counterpart, she performed covert missions for the OSI but her story lines were lighter, more fun. I remember wanting to have a pretty teacher like her, with flowing dirty blonde straight hair (ala Alicia Silverstone) and stylish neck scarves. I also loved her grey Datsun 280 car. My favorite car of all time was my black 1995 Nissan 240sx so I think the show contributed to my early fascination with Nissan/Datsun sports cars.

Although I didn't understand the story lines much when I was six years old, I do recall that Steve and Jamie were the good guys with their super power cyborg implants and whomever they were up against were the bad guys (even the infamous bionic fem bots). The shows always had a happy ending,(similar to Charlie's Angels and CHiPS with the cast members joking and laughing before the show's credits rolled.)

Despite the show being 40 years old (as old as me), it still holds up (if you can overlook all the vintage Mercury Marquis and Plymouth Volares that dotted America's roadways then.)

Even the simplistic special effects still work today.  And their story lines, which often involved a terrorist or someone stealing classified weapons systems, still ring true. Just give them a smart phone and a hybrid car and they can save the world one bionic step at a time - at least to this bionic wanna-be.

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