Through the end of my childhood and the beginning of adolescence, TV played a large role in my life. I wasn’t exactly a sports-oriented kid, and my interest in music (which I have discussed before on these pages) also kept me quite busy – quoting Lulu Santos, “kids just wanted to play ball, but all I wanted was to play my guitar” – it was a clarinet back then, but you get what I mean.
I was really into classic movies, but there were assorted TV shows that I enjoyed watching. The first that comes to memory is the original Star Trek. It was on heavy syndication back then (which made it a franchise after its cancellation in 1969). But the one I was really into was the Bionics – The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.
I think I was introduced to it via my older cousins when I was eight or nine. As a child, it was awesome to see those characters getting out of all those scrapes, throwing rocks and fighting off bad guys twice their size. I especially liked when they did the Bionic Woman/Six Million Dollar Man crossover episodes (something that lasted until The Bionic Woman went to a different network) – one that lingered in my memory forever was The Return of Bigfoot, a two-part episode that featured Ted Cassidy (who also played Lurch on TV’s The Addams Family) as Sasquatch.
The premise of the series (for those who don’t know) is that both astronaut Steve Austin (Lee Majors) and tennis pro Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) suffered debilitating accidents and had their limbs (plus an eye for Major and an ear for Wagner) replaced by bionics. In return, they had to work for a CIA-like agency – sometimes doing covert work. That itself was kind of ridiculous, since both characters were recognizable celebrities and would be spotted anywhere. But hey, I was ten years old and would believe anything as long as it kept me entertained.
I recently came across DVDs of The Bionic Woman that included the Six-Million Dollar Man episodes that introduced her character. According to the extras, Lindsay Wagner was only supposed to be those two episodes (her character died at the end) but due to her popularity, she got her own show after Sommers was ‘resurrected’ by pioneering surgery. Wagner initially rejected the idea, but producers kept ‘throwing money’ at her, and then she wound up playing Sommers – who would define her career – for three seasons.