Every girl dreams she can do anything, achieve her goals and not let anyone stand in her way. She wants to kick butt. I think I learned some early lessons from Jaime Sommers – the Bionic Woman.
Hot on the heels of the success of the Six Million Dollar Man, Oscar Goldman and crew capitalized on the popularity of the enhanced man to create the enhanced cyborg woman – Jaime Sommers played by actress Lindsay Wagner. Introduced in a two party story arc during the third season of the Six Million Dollar Man, Jaime and Col. Steve Austin had the 70s approved dalliance and then she was flung off with her German shepherd Maximillion to fight the bad guys from her apartment on her own in 1976. They were to be married, but amnesia and lies stood in their way.
While he was rebuilt with the supersonic abilities, so was she – a former tennis player who had almost died in a skydiving accident, Jaime had enhanced hearing, a right arm that could battle the bad guys and of course, speed to spare with her surgically perfected legs. To break the link between Steve and Jaime, she suffers from amnesia and he’s told she has died, although she lives again as the newest OSI agent.
I adored the Bionic Woman. Her life as a school teacher by day, and secret agent by night, sussing out the sneaky Europeans and other spies putting the US at risk. She was a sexy blonde, just as pretty as she was smart and a bit sassy. She’s loved and lost and took care of her dog, focusing on balancing her life of supersonic abilities with the reality of small town teacher. Impersonating a nun, airline stewardess, and police officer to square off against the freaky Fembots or the bizarre mad scientist Dr. Cooper was daily life for a secret agent.
Her popularity spun into the usual – dolls, board game, lunch box – all the cool stuff a girl needs to show off her heroine. But the obsession with the Six Million Dollar Man waned, and the viewership for the Bionic Woman wasn’t what the network wanted. After two seasons on ABC, the show jumped to NBC for its final season in 1978, and lived on together in tv reunion films in the early 1980s, letting the Bionic duo live on together.
I remember visiting my parents years later and seeing Lindsay Wagner in a local tv commercial. It seemed so odd for her to be a spokesperson – not running behind buildings in hot pursuit or disguising her self in some odd costume to enter a restaurant, but extolling the virtues of mattresses to tv viewers.
A few years ago, the show was resurrected with a young brunette as Jaime Sommers. I tried to watch the new incarnation, but it didn’t inspire my jaded adult self nor my inner girl looking for a heroine. She was a bit too sanitized, too super heroish in that current style of Asian-influenced stunts and detachment. She wasn’t my Bionic Woman, who was fearless yet vulnerable – an inspiration to a kid who dreamed of the big world and how she would conquer it.