Rewatching the Six Million Dollar Man on DVD

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by 23skidoo, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. 23skidoo

    23skidoo Admiral Admiral

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    Although it is officially released today (Nov. 23), those of us who pre-ordered the Six Million Dollar Man set from Time-Life got a bonus because it began shipping a couple of weeks early.

    I was like a kid again when it arrived, because I'm not kidding that ever since my dad brought home my family's first VCR back in April of 1982 I've been waiting for ol' Six Mil to come out. Up till now all I'd seen was a long-out-of-print VHS release of the Bionic Woman two-parter. And, of course, the SMDM bonus episodes on last month's Season 1 release of Bionic Woman.

    So far I've only had time to watch (read: devour) the three pilot movies and the first regular episode, and a bunch of the documentaries, and it's been a blast. The TV movies aren't SMDM at their best - the first pilot is a deadly serious, very interesting account of how Steve Austin became bionic and is pretty heavy on the psychology and light on the action (which is fine). The other two pre-series movies were botched attempts at retconning Steve to be a superpowered James Bond. Some things once seen cannot be unseen, and the sight of Steve Austin in a white plaid (!!!!) tuxedo is one of them. Still, they were interesting experiments and you can tell they were just that - experiments (overseen, it's worth noting, by BSG creator Glen Larson, with the pilot movie ghostwritten by Steven Botchko, later the creator of NYPD Blue). In the DVD set, Harve Bennett, who took over as produced from Larson, is credited with saving both SMDM and the Star Trek film series.

    The documentaries are basically the various actors and writers discussing the show and their characters. Fortunately, the "quad" of Lee Majors, Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson and Martin E Brooks were all involved (unlike so many other TV shows, including classic Doctor Who, in which the lead actors are often not available), and you learn a lot of cool stuff.

    For example - and those who are fans of SMDM and BW and who tire of the whole "cheesy slow motion" dismissal the shows often get from people can use this in defence - Harve Bennett says the whole slo-mo thing was inspired by the NFL Films organization, who used slo-mo to express power in the athletes. Lee Majors remarks that it was also necessary because showing Steve running at full speed often had a "Keystone Cops" effect that looked silly (this is evident in a few early episodes, though the famous "fence run" from the pilot and the opening credits is still quite effective taken by itself).

    With 40 DVDs and 100 episodes to mull through (including the 1990s reunion movies and the Bionic Woman crossovers) it'll take me a while to get through this. But it'll be fun, I think. From a Trek perspective, I've got guest appearances by Shatner and Takei to look forward to, not to mention the Bionic Woman crossovers, Bigfoot, Death Probe, Farrah Fawcett (Mrs. Fawcett-Majors at this time) playing an astronaut and showing how much of the "airheadedness" of Charlies Angels was an act. And of course we can't forget the bionic Sandra Bullock in one of her first major acting jobs.

    A quick note about the packaging - they did a great job. Often box sets are, shall I say it, a bit weak in this area. I've had boxes fall apart, while other sets require you to clear off a table to "decanter" the DVDs (culprits include the Blade Runner briefcase, whose handle has already fallen off, and the Time Life Man from UNCLE briefcase, which has held together better, but you still have to unload a bunch of things before you can get to the discs). In contrast, the SMDM box is solid (as proven by the fact it came through standard Canada Post in a shipping box I wouldn't have used, completely unscathed), and the season sets are easy to access (and the sound chip that activates is cool).

    Time-Life I think did the show justice. The only complaint I have is there was no real reason why The Bionic Woman had to be released separately. The special features on the BW set were shot at the same time by the same crew (some of the comments are recycled in the SMDM set), there's a profile of Lindsay Wagner in the SMDM set that should have been in the BW set. And the reunion movies affect both. I think they could have done well rounding the price off at the next hundred and including three more sets of discs so we got the entire bionic franchise. But this is just a minor thing - fortunately the powers that be did include the three complete crossover storylines (part one on SMDM, part two on BW) etc. so you don't need the BW sets to see the whole tale (and it appears likely the same will happen with Seasons 2 and 3 of BW appear next year).

    The price of the set didn't bug me ($239 Canadian, plus tax), because divide that over 5 box sets of about a half-dozen discs each, plus a 5-disc bonus features chaser, and it comes out more or less the same as buying the sets individually in the stores, but with a keeper box as an extra (and there's an installment option). I've waited 28 years for this, so I think it was worth the investment. With the mercury stuck around the -30 C mark this week, I'll have plenty of time!

    Alex

    PS. For the benefit of anyone who didn't see the earlier threads on this: no, this won't be on anything like Netflix for a while. Until next fall it's a mail-order-only exclusive from Time Life. I saw one review stating retail release is expected in October 2011 which is probably when Netflix will get it too. There is no guarantee the bonus discs will be made available at that time, though.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, that's pretty much what he was in the original Martin Caidin novel and its sequels. Caidin's Steve Austin was more a secret agent than a superhero, and was a lot more violent than the TV version. So maybe not so much a retcon as an attempt to hew more closely to the source material.


    Interesting. I knew about the second reason, but not the first.

    I used to think they did the slow motion so much to save film. But then I figured out that they weren't filming at normal speed and slowing it down (which would make it jerky), but filming at high speed and replaying it at normal film speed. So they were using just as much film.


    Oh, they've got the reunion movies too?
     
  3. ladyheather69

    ladyheather69 Captain Captain

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    Well, the one thing that I don't like is that Time-Life is selling it only as a complete set and not in individual seasons. I don't have the cash to shell out $250 for the whole thing. If I did, I would have bought it.
    I did end up getting the first season of The Bionic Woman, and have to to say that I enjoy it tremendously. My kids, 13 and 16, both watched several episodes, and wondered why there is 'no good tv on today.' :) thought that was pretty cool.
     
  4. Procutus

    Procutus Admiral Admiral

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    I didn't realize that there were two TV movies between the original pilot and the first season. I remember the pilot, or at least parts of it. I take it the movies were more of an extension of the pilot in tone, as opposed to the series the way it evolved?

    As much as I'd like to check these out, I think I'll wait until after the first of the year and see if our library picks them up.
     
  5. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Boy, now I've got this mental image of Steve Austin scurrying around like Benny Hill. :ack:
     
  6. Procutus

    Procutus Admiral Admiral

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    :lol:




    Scary thought.
     
  7. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    I remember as a kid (and I mean like 5-6) and my dad going on about how the car should rip Steve's arm off and when he jumps off a building his legs should drive through his torso. Thanks Dad. Anyway, was there ever any explanation for that (fortified skeleton or something) or did he have a point?
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    There was no explanation for it. It was the magic of television.
     
  9. Davros

    Davros Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The book is an interesting if dated read.
     
  10. the G-man

    the G-man Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I could be wrong (I haven't read it in thirty years) but I think the book mentioned a fortified skeleton.
     
  11. WillsBabe

    WillsBabe Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I used to have this. I haven't read it in years. I'm going to hunt it out. (Hope I didn't throw it out when I had a major clear out a few months back. :wtf:)
     
  12. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I have it around here somewhere. It mentions elements of his spine being reinforced. This is in addition to five ribs being replaced with metal, a metal plate in his skull, and, well, the obvious.
     
  13. Supervisor 194

    Supervisor 194 Captain Captain

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    If memory serves, the first reunion movie had a throwaway line by Rudy referencing rib 'substitutes' and reinforcements---although it's been many years since I've seen it.
     
  14. 23skidoo

    23skidoo Admiral Admiral

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    I actually agree with you on this, however apparently Martin Caidin felt strongly the opposite, to the point where (according to The Bionic Book by Herbie Pilato) he had his name taken off the credits of the two TV movies that followed the pilot, which are the only episodes as a result not to be said to be based upon Cyborg.

    Yup, all three. And an interview featurette about them, too (though they didn't/couldn't get Bullock to take part, which is a shame).

    My guess is it was probably part of the agreement that got the green light. Time Life has done this with other series as well, and in the case of Get Smart they later released the individual seasons (but they didn't with Man from UNCLE). Remember they do installment-pay options, though. From what I've heard we will probably see the individual seasons of SMDM released in the fall of 2011, if you want to wait. However there is no guarantee the bonus features set (which includes the reunion movies) will be released to retail. We'll have to wait and see. What I like about having them all at once is we're guaranteed to have them all. There is no guarantee Universal will actually release the other 2 seasons of The Bionic Woman. Creator Kenneth Johnson has apparently indicated early 2011 for Season 2, but Universal has abandoned high-profile releases before, such as Kojak. I'd have rather had to pay another $50 and had the BW episodes included in this box, frankly.

    No, actually they went the opposite direction. The pilot was a rather serious, humorless story. The two movies that followed were James Bond style stories, with quips, Austin going to bed with several women, killing the bad guys, etc. Oh, and dressing in an AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL tuxedo during a casino sequence. These two movies were overseen by Glen Larson, and as I noted above, Caidin disowned them apparently. When the show was retooled for a weekly series, they pretty much cleaned house and started over, bringing in Harve Bennett as producer. They restored Austin more or less to the way he was in the pilot, but added in some of the action and humor of the movies, dropped the James Bond stuff, and began letting Oscar Goldman form into the Oscar we all love. Caidin was happy and gave the show its blessing. In the DVD set, Bennett is credited with saving SMDM (because according to the Bionic Book retrospective, the two TV movies actually tanked, so the series almost didn't happen).

    I doubt they will unless they have an agreement with Time Life. These sets are only being made available through special mail order. If your library carried the Man from UNCLE briefcase set they put out, or the Get Smart full-series box - before they showed up in regular stores - then they might. In which case you have a way-cool library system! The Bionic Woman is being released through regular retail, so that's another story.

    Alex
     
  15. the G-man

    the G-man Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    And don't forget the psuedo-Shirley Bassey theme song (right around the 40 second mark):
    "He's the man-six million dollar man
    He's the man-six million dollar man
    Catch him if you can
    Beat him if you can
    Love him if you can
    ...cause he's the man
    The Six Million Dollar man"

    :barf:
     
  16. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    ^^ They definitely did the right thing switching that out in the series.
     
  17. ToddPence

    ToddPence Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The pilot movie, interestingly enough, was credited to one "Henri Simioun". "Henri Simioun" was actually a pen name for Howard Rodman, one of the most accomplished writers in TV history, a four-time WGA award winner. However, the pilot was Rodman's only involvement with the show.

    The subsequent series pretty much retconned the whole pilot out of existence anyway, including Darren McGavin's "Oliver Spencer" character, as if it was an alternate timeline in a TNG or VOY episode.

    Star Trek fans, watch out for Steve's line "Space . . . it really is the final frontier" in "The Rescue of Athena One", written by one D.C. Fontana.
     
  18. 23skidoo

    23skidoo Admiral Admiral

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    Just to follow up on this, I'm watching one of the early first season episode, "Little Orphan Airplane" and it provides a chance to directly compare the use of "sped up" film vs. "slo-mo" because there's a scene where the two formats are used back-to-back. And in this particular episode, it cannot be denied that Majors (or, rather, Austin) looks silly when he's shown running at full speed. Yet he really does look graceful and powerful when a moment later they switch to slo-mo. It's not the case in every use of the full-speed footage - and this episode is actually the first "comedy" episode of the series, so it likely was intentionally made to look a bit silly. But it is interesting to be able to make the comparison.

    And Steven Bochco rewrote most of Rodman's script. This is discussed in "The Bionic Book". Rodman filed the script and it was given to Bochco for a rewrite. Bochco tells writer Herbie Pilato that he initially refused, deeming Rodman's script fine as-is, and only agreed to do the rewrite when Rodman himself telephoned and gave his blessing.

    So the original pilot had the power of an established award-winning writer and an up-and-coming award-winning writer behind it.

    Alex
     
  19. WillsBabe

    WillsBabe Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Six Million Dollar Man was my favoruite tv show as a kid. I have a very clear memory of watching the first pilot and the Oscar character/analogue saying that he wants to keep Steve Austin asleep or in storage between missions. Even back at the age of 10 or 11 or whatever I was, I was intrigued by the existential cruelty of that! :lol:
     
  20. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Did anyone here have one of the Steve Austin action figures? They were about the size of Action Man/ GI Joe (this was before Star Wars changed the size of spin-off toys) and the bionic eye was a sort of magnifying glass that you could look through, via a hole in the back of Steve's head. There was also a flap in the arm you could open and see wires etc inside his bionic arm. Ah, how easily we were pleased in the 1970s.
     

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