The Bionic Woman - Season 2:
Children of the 1970s would give their lives for the bionic duo. The Six Million Dollar Man fulfilled a serious wish-dream for boys and plenty of girls, but when the geniuses figured out that there was another 50% of the population of children waiting for their turn, The Bionic Woman was born. Another crash, another serious injury, and soon Jaime Sommers had her own bionic legs, arm and ear, granting her powers far beyond the norm, while inextricably tying her into the machinations of the OSI. Season 2 represents Sommers' first full season of adventures, and if it's a lot loopier than you remember, just chalk it up to cultural acceleration - star Lindsay Wagner is still as cute as a button.
Batting lead off is an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, The Return of Bigfoot, which would tie in to The Bionic Woman season premier. It was a foolproof way to get any kids not already jumping on the Jaime Sommers wagon to shape up, since they had to tune in to figure out how things ended. For all of The Bionic Woman's pseudo feminism, this opening salvo is as pure a distillation of the gentle silliness and fun that Wagner's show represents. You have Bigfoot pulling bank jobs, John Saxon as an insane bearded alien, and Wagner and Majors running in slow motion (possibly to get away from Sandy Duncan).
Disc One starts off with The Return of Bigfoot (listed as a special feature since it comes from a different series). It's a bit lugubrious, and Majors seems a little chagrined to be battling the hairy brute yet again. The Return of Bigfoot Part II starts of Wagner's second season with a somewhat lighter flavor, Jaime Sommers is quick with a quip. She and Steve Austin ultimately talk sense to Bigfoot, and everyone leaves happy. In This Corner, Jaime Sommers hits the mats as an undercover professional wrestler, continuing the camp mode while featuring Wagner in a hotcha Native American outfit. The Disc finishes off with Assault on the Princess, and a luxurious floating casino. Sommers continues her undercover ways as a blackjack dealer as she looks for stolen energy cells.
Disc Two starts on the Road To Nashville, as Jaime hopes to crack a case involving country singer Big Buck Buckley and his secret Top Secret songwriting skills. Kill Oscar isn't an anti-Academy Awards scheme, but a plot to ice Richard Anderson's character. All you need to know about this episode is the fact that distinguished actor John Houseman unleashes the Fembots. Kill Oscar Part II continues in fine eerie/hilarious fashion (when the Fembots get their faces ripped off, they do look pretty creepy). Houseman sweats a lot, and one can't help but assume it's genuine flop sweat. This is also another crossover episode with the mighty Steve Austin. The Bionic Woman team really goes for the gold this time, stretching out with a three-parter! (Catnip to viewers of the day.) Kill Oscar Part III finds Austin and Sommers working in tandem yet again to fight the Fembots, and a stolen weather control machine! This stuff is awesome, I tells ya! Black Magic brings back some creepy atmosphere as Sommers keeps up her string of undercover gigs, heading to the bayou to sort out a wealthy investors will, and his disappearing secrets.
Disc Three introduces us to Sister Jaime as our hottie half-bottie impersonates a nun in order to trace a fence in a frock who's illegally trading industrial diamonds. The Vega Influence involves a mysterious island military base; seemingly abandoned but with all systems go. Jaime's Shield involves Jaime - you guessed it - going undercover as a police cadet in order to uncover a foreign plot involving another cadet. And yes, Jaime's Shield Part II - the season's third multi-part arc - reveals the depth of the espionage plot, and further delights fetishists who love to see Wagner in different costumes. Biofeedback finds brothers feuding. A cryptographer has his funding cut, and flies off the handle due to his scientist brother's success.
Disc Four continues the multipart goodness, starting things off with Doomsday is Tomorrow, in which, no way, Sommers goes undercover to suss out a nuclear scientist's attempt to benevolently blackmail the world. Doomsday is Tomorrow Part II sees Sommers attempting to disarm a supercomputer set to destroy a world seemingly bent on its own destruction, but will she disarm herself instead? Deadly Ringer introduces Sommer's surgically created look-alike, Lisa Galloway, and finds Sommers in the pokey. Wagner is given free reign to double her cheeky acting chops, and what do you know? Deadly Ringer Part II continues the trend, but no one believes she's the real Jaime! Jaime and the King, sadly, doesn't involve Elvis Presley, but instead has Sommers undercover trying to tutor a Shah's difficult son. It's a public service episode!
Disc Five starts with Beyond the Call, combining Jaime's concern for a girl who hasn't spoken since her mother's death, with the added complication of her father's desire to steal a missile guidance system. Priorities, dad! The DeJohn Caper introduces us to the tony world of art forgery and master criminals, while allowing Sommers to frolic in Paris. The Night Demon brings back some creepy atmosphere while reinforcing the idea that you shouldn't mess with Indian Burial Grounds. Iron Ships and Dead Men gives Sommers the opportunity to pose as a salvage worker (she's exhausted every other costume option) and to uncover the mystery of Oscar Goldman's lost brother. The season ends with Once a Thief, proving that no, Sommers has not exhausted her stash of costumes, this time donning that of a bank robber. Unfortunately her attempts to break up a racket mean she has to actually participate in a robbery.
Clearly The Bionic Woman is all about addictive fun, and Season Two delivers in spades, especially for those who have a taste for serious camp. Wagner brings such a breezy grace to her role that she's a sheer pleasure to watch, even if you aren't still nursing a boyhood crush on her. However if you haven't seen the show since its glory days, you might be surprised that it all seems like a bit of a lark. Where the Fembots once represented serious evil, now they seem a little corny, and while Oscar Goldman used to seem like a serious G-man, his outfit now just seems quaint. But it's no matter once those bionic tropes kick in: slo-mo running repping for super speed, Sommers holding back her hair so as not to impede her super hearing, and speeded up scenes of Sommers peeling potatoes.
The Bionic Woman did, however, do two very important things for me, and for anyone else who loved the show. It taught me how to spell the name of, and about a little town called Ojai. And it told me that not only can a single woman live happily by herself in a rad wood and fern-adorned '70s pad, she can also be independent and strong, ideas that were still a little revolutionary for the times. This season collection features some shaky visual quality, and something like the minimum of extras Jaime Sommers lovers could hope for, but it's so, so nice to be able to put these amusing, amazing episodes on your shelf.
Presented in their original aspect ratio of a 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect, these episodes fluctuate in quality. While they, on the whole, look fine, and at times better than when we first saw them (what with these new-fangled digital TVs and all) a decent amount of film damage is present, along with some weird occasional out-of-focus shots and other sundry oddness. As far as the transfer is concerned, there aren't any compression artifacts to complain about, and colors are acceptable, but it just seems like source material is occasionally lacking.
English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (which sounds a bit like an oxymoron) does the best it can, which isn't much. Though there's not much flash, there is much in the way of audio degradation, soundtrack and sound effects elements are at times muffled and not all dialog is clear, with certain episodes suffering seriously including the first ten minutes of Deadly Ringers Part I.
Two Six Million Dollar Man crossover episodes prove to be an indispensable inclusion to this Season Two collection, and a smart move for the series, as such episodes pretty much forced Steve Austin fans to tune in for Jaime Sommer's exploits. A 20-minute Bionic Blast Featurette acts more or less as an EPK for the second season, yet it's really nice to see how fantastic Wagner still looks. Commentary Tracks for Road to Nashville and Biofeedback feature Wagner's entertaining reminiscences, and Commentary Tracks for Doomsday is Tomorrow parts I and II feature series creator Kenneth Johnson. A Photo Gallery and English SDH Subtitles finish things off.
Jaime Sommer's slightly less-than-serious adventures as The Bionic Woman are in fine fettle in Season Two, and this five-disc DVD collection of all 22 hour-long episodes (plus two Six Million Dollar Man crossover episodes) proves just how entertaining and empowering light-hearted heroics can be. Bigfoot and the Fembots make serious hay, and the delightful, delectable Lindsay Wagner goes undercover about a million times as The Bionic Woman in this collection, which, if audio problems are taken care of in subsequent pressings, is one that is very cautiously recommended for fans, but earns a Rent It for previewing purposes.
- Kurt Dahlke
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