Idol Chatter

BionicWoman070926.jpgBrace yourself. You already know it’s coming. Within the first ten minutes of NBC’s “Bionic Woman” (premiering tonight at 9 p.m.)–a remake of the popular 1970s classic–you’ll watch as Jamie Sommers’s life gets crushed. Literally.
And even though you already know what’s coming because you’re familiar with the show’s premise–young woman gets in an impossible-to-survive accident and is “saved” by new technology–it doesn’t make those first 10 minutes of the pilot any easier to endure. Watching the last moments of life as Jamie Sommers knows it is uncomfortably tense in that calm-before-the-storm way–and that wonderful plot trick of allowing the viewer to know the end game while the character remains, as yet, in the dark about her fate, works flawlessly here.
I sat, drowning in the unease of this predicament, engaging in a game of hide-and-seek with the television, yanking the covers up to my eyes at every moment that could have been that moment, the moment everyone will be waiting for. The moment I was dreading but knew would come. The moment when the accident happens. And so I hid and emerged, hid and emerged, until it finally did happen. The accident. And believe me, it’s a bad one.
So like I said, brace yourself.

Phew. Now that you’ve gotten past the inevitable series-set-up-trauma you have other things to endure, questions to answer, much like Jamie Sommers herself.
Jamie Sommers wakes up in a kind of living hell, forced to accept the fact that her lover, the sexy professor and surgeon Will Anthros, made the split-second decision to save her life through super-secret biotechnology, effectively transforming the vast majority of her once-human body into a military weapon. In doing so, did he trade away her humanity? Even her brain is unspared, and she must face the fact that everything about her is different. One of the opening scenes (pre-accident) features Will showing his class various examples of the “achievements” in biotechnology–from facial reconstructions of soldiers disfigured by bombs to breast implants–wondering aloud what God might say about such “advancements.” It’s had not to hear the echo of his question in the aftermath of Jamie’s transformation.
Michelle Ryan as Jamie Sommers is vulnerable yet strong, emotional yet tough as nails, and quickly proves herself worthy of such a complex role. And even better still, fans of the new and improved “Battlestar Galactica” will be cheering when actress Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) shows up in a Terminator-like incarnation of the other (the first?) Bionic Woman, named Sarah Corvus, presumed dead by her creators, yet remarkably alive. Is she a villain? Jamie’s savior? The only woman who can help Jamie understand and accept her new fate? A bit of all these things? Only more episodes will tell, but between these two actresses the show has great promise.
The questions viewers will be left asking has only to do with the writing and the ripping off of every superhero cliche and scene in the book, all packed into the final 30 minutes of the pilot. I couldn’t help but groan when Jamie stands on the edge of a rooftop, peering to the ground far below: Will she jump to see if she can fly like Peter Petrelli early on in “Heroes”? Nope. Instead we are treated to an almost identical, yet decidedly less gleeful run and leap across to the next building, a scene taken directly from “Spider-Man” so blatantly it’s distressing. Then there are those lines. Those lines! “We’ll do this on my terms,” Ryan spits at one of the military folk, as best she can, yet she is powerless against the eye roll this will spark in viewers who have heard this line so many times in so many other movies and shows that it’s one of the oldest in the books.
Will the writers and directors be able to give these characters the souls they show so many sparks of in this pilot in further episodes? I hope so.
So that’s the bad news. Despite this, I have faith in Jamie and Sarah to make this series worth watching. Then again, I think I’d watch Katee Sackhoff read the phone book, so she makes the commitment worth it from the get go.
Definitely tune in. Just make sure you breath those first 10 minutes.

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