She was one of the first female super heroes on TV, she was an ex-tennis professional, she survived a near fatal parachute accident and even came back from the dead! She is... Jaime Sommers: The Bionic Woman. Following the success of the two 2-part specials on Six Million Dollar Man when Jaime was introduced, sensibly the networks decided to spin-off Jaime into her own show The Bionic Woman after audience reaction/ratings, which hit the airwaves on January 14th 1976, a short 4-months after it was decided to go to series, following the airing of ‘The Return of The Bionic Woman’ part 2 on SMDM. The show was a huge success right out of the gate and with both of the Bionic shows on the same network, at least for Bionic Woman’s first 2 seasons, fans saw multiple cross-over stories as Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers appeared on each others shows.
Shout factory BW (US) Complete series packaging.
Fabulous Films (UK) BW Complete series packaging
Like the Six Million Dollar Man, this is the third BR release for the show, it first came out in Germany by Turbine Media in August 2022,. The first English release on Blu-Ray was done by Shout Factory in September 2022 for the US market, and Fabulous Films now bring the set to a UK audience, which is pretty much a direct port of the Shout release with a few tweaks. The US set has been reviewed, online and on YouTube so it seems redundant to re-cover that in depth here. What I will try to do is give comparisons between the Shout Factory and Fabulous Films release, as well as an overview of the set as a whole. The BW Fabulous Films set comprises of 34 discs (one more than the US release) and this looks to be where Shout factory had just 2 discs of Extras, and the Fab Films one has 3: Packaging The set is similar in packaging to the US release, and each season gets it’s own booklet detailing the extras and and episode details, although personal I found the US packaging bland and very flimsy. The UK boxes are a combination of the US design, along with the previous Fabulous Films DVD release. Menu’s There is just a static menu on each disc, which feels missed opportunity, and you can opt to play everything, or select individual episodes. Only set-up options are for standard English subtitles to be on or off. Given different companies look to be releasing this throughout Europe, with France later in the year, this is probably why the options are so limited, although it could come down to time and cost, but additional accessibility for UK fans for whom English might not be their first language wouldn’t have gone a miss.
Max - the Bionic Dog Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, or rather the Alsatian! It was planned to hopefully spin of Max into his own series and further expand the Bionic universe. Plans were for Max to stay with the Roger Grette, Jaime’s old boyfriend and a forest ranger, introduced in Max’s first 2-part story. Given the network didn’t pick up the show, Max ended up as a companion for Jaime on her own show. It’s obvious this was not ideal, as they clearly struggled to use Max effectively when they already had a Bionic character (Jaime) on the show and Max was often left just to show up and bark (and dubbed quite badly at that, when he did). It’s good to hear James D Parriott on the audio commentary on ‘Bionic Dog’ Pt.1 tells us he wrote the song that plays through Max’s first run of freedom. It’s cheesy, but fondly remembered. He also drops plenty of info and facts about shooting and writing the initial Bionic Dog story.
Max is a marmite character - you either love him or hate him! He definitely divides fan opinion, personally I like him. I liked him when I first saw the show and he still holds up as great idea and has some genuinely good episodes such as his initial 2-part introductory episode and ‘The Antidote’ where Jamie is poisoned and Max end up teaming up with Chris Williams. This episode in particular shows Max’s potential, when working with a non-Bionic character. It’s interesting that some 10-years plus later the actor, Christopher Stone, would work with a dog again, this time a Collie, on 2 seasons of ‘The New Lassie’. Max is also teamed up with Jaime’s best friend, Callahan, to a lesser extent, when Callahan is left looking after Max in ‘Which One is Jaime?
Cross-over episodes There are several stories which started on one of the Bionic shows and continued the following week on the other. This was not only a good way of getting audiences to watch both series, but dramatically let the action shift between Steve and Jaime. This tradition continues today, especially on the Dick Wolf FBI shows and his Chicago series. It’s good to see that The Bionic Woman episodes in the set have also had the HD treatment, such as the 2 ‘Kill Oscar’ episodes, the Bigfoot stories and ‘Welcome Home, Jaime’. Quality does vary a little inside the episodes, such as the ‘Kill Oscar’ where Jaime is attacked in her flat, this might be down to the original stock and the fact alot of it is in slow motion. Plus the re-cap on ‘Kill Oscar Pt.2 on SMDM doesn’t appear to have received the HD treatment, which is odd. Unlike some previous releases, this one contains the original series titles, from where the episode first aired, such as the BW opening on Kill Oscar Pt. 1 and 3. To be honest we shouldn’t expect anything else.
Reunion movies All 3 movies are here, and all 3 have been given the HD treatment, which is nice to see. The 3 TV films all have a different feel, the first reunion film has a ‘lost’ son for Steve show up and trouble with a previously-unheard of organisation called Fortress. The third movie knows it’s is the final one in the Bionic universe and forgoes any attempt to introduce a new Bionic hero/heroine for a spin-off series and has a vague plot about a relative of someone who used to work with Rudy Wells, who again we have never heard of before, trying to ‘sabotage’ our Bionic heroes. All this before the Bionic couple’s wedding day!
The second movie, is by far the strongest, both for fun and for female representation. With the casting of future star Sandra Bullock (here, in only her 2nd acting role), and lined up to hopefully spin-off into her own weekly Bionic series, there is some good rapport between Bullock and her co-star/love-interest Jeff Yagher, sporting some shocking 80’s hair. Lee and Lindsay again have some good scenes together as well as looking comfortable with the younger cast, Bullock and Wagner especially light up the screen with their scenes together which is a credit to both actresses. Whilst the TV budget shows at times in some of the Unity games scenes, Bionicilly it’s sound, with the action emphasis on the new Bionic girl, Kate Mason.
Steve & Lyle Stenning
Kate Mason (Sandra Bullock).
Steve & Jaime save the day again.
It’s strange how only the original series regulars Steve, Jaime, Oscar and Rudy, along with Lee’s son, Lee Majors Jr, as Jim Castillian - that’s with two L’s - appear across all 3 movies. It would have been nice to stitch the Bionic universe together a little more to have the other characters from the previous movies at least mentioned. Jaime’s boyfriend from Season 3 f Bionic Woman, Chris Williams, gets a mention in the first film and Max gets a shout out as well. But what about Jaime’s BF Callahan? Callahan/Jennifer Darling is also absent from any extra’s on either set, which is a shame as she has a huge body of work and it would have been nice to hear her talking about working with Lee and Lindsay on their separate shows. The network commercials for the 3 reunion movies are included, but haven’t been given the HD treatment and look very basic in comparison.
Extras. Both the US and UK sets have similar extras, certainly in terms of audio commentaries. Both the Shout and Fabulous Films sets contain additional 8 commentaries by author and TV critic Herbie J Pilatto. Herbie is, of course, the author of several books on classic American series including Betwitched and Kung Fu, as well as ’ The Bionic Book’. The Fab set also has extensive photo galleries for each season, plus the original and reunion movies, with a wide variety of shots, some of them rarely seen and is a nice bonus, however some of the galleries last 10 minutes and I’d have liked to hear the Bionic theme play over them as they can get a bit monotonous as they scroll through, but that’s a minor gripe. In terms of Bonus material it is worth noting pretty much all the extra’s are from the previously released complete series DVD set and it is only seems to be some of the commentaries by Hebie J Pilato and the photo galleries which are new for the BR release, so if you have the original Time Life release, be aware when going in a lot of this stuff you will already have.
Summary Hi-Fi Digest in their review say: “Video transfers are generally very strong with crisp details. The audio is a bit on the stiff side with some episodes sounding better than others with what’s been a bit of a running issue for fans since the DVD days but hardly a deal-breaker.”
Both Bionic sets have seen a bump in price on Amazon this week, with the BW set going from £99.99 to £129.99 and the SMDM set going from £159.99 to an eye-watering £199.99. Worth the expense it, or not? The price bump definitely make the sets pricey, when compared with similar season box sets of the era, such as A-Team or Knight Rider, but no other set/series release comes close for the range of extra’s included for a show of this age. Most of the extra’s, aside from some commentaries, we’ve seen before on the DVD release, so would you really want to double-dip? That’s up to you...
There’s no way as a fan of the show you wouldn’t want to see them at their best, and this truly is the best they behave ever been, and will likely ever be. There isn’t going to be a 4K release and realistically we don’t need one. The print quality is superb, and they never looked this good back when they were originally aired, on old 405 (US) or 625 (UK) lines TV (if you are of-an-age you know what I’m talking about).
f you have the German set already, from last year, as well as the previous DVD set, it might be a tough decision that will have to be guided by your wallet, but I’m betting not a whole lot of casual fans will have gone for the German set, but will be tempted by this one. I’m unsure not sure what pushes the price so high, it might be licensing fees or royalties.
If you grew up in the 70’s, love classic TV, or are a Bionic fan, this set is definitely worth your consideration. The series is officially released on Blu-ray on Monday August 14th 2023.
Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner)
Overall summary of extra’s found throughout the set: All 4 Six Million Dollar Man episodes explain the origins of The Bionic Woman. Audio commentary with writer Kenneth Johnson on "Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Woman" Part 1 and Part 2, "The Ghost Hunter", "Doomsday Is Tomorrow" Part 1 and Part 2. Audio Commentary with Director Alan J Levi and Writer James D Parriott on "Mirror Image". Gag Reel. Featurette: Bionic Beginnings. Audio Commentary with Lindsay Wagner on “Road To Nashville" and “Biofeedback”. Audio Commentary with Writer James D Parriott on “The Bionic Dog” Part 1. Audio Commentary with Steven E. De Souza on “On The Run”. Featurette: Bionic Blast. Q&A with Series Star Lindsay Wagner. All three reunion movies: The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Bionic Showdown, Bionic Ever After?. Bionic Reunion Gallery. Printed Episode Guide Booklets. Audio Commentary With Author Herbie J. Pilato on “Welcome Home, Jaime: Part 1,” “A Thing Of The Past,” “Claws,” “The Deadly Missiles,” “Bionic Beauty,” “Canyon Of Death”, “The Return Of Bigfoot: Part 1”, “The Return Of Bigfoot: Part 2”. Audio Commentary With Director Alan J. Levi on “The Deadly Missiles”, “Road To Nashville” and “Once A Thief”. Audio Commentary With Bionic Woman Fan/Collector/Webmaster James Sherrard on “On The Run” and “Fembots in Las Vegas”. Bryan Cranston gives it to us straight – The actor talks about his time on The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Bionic Ever After? (1994 Reunion Film) – Featuring a NEW 2K scan of the interpositive. “Brain Wash” Podcast with Bionic Fan and Collector James Sherrard. Bionic Woman Scripts (BD-ROM) for “The Jailing of Jaime”, “Assault on the Princess”, “Motorcycle Boogie” and scripts for unfilmed episodes “Clownaround”, “Rollercoaster Ride”, “Starman”, “Starman Part II”,”The Wind Devil”. All News Season Galleries. Bionic Woman Promos. Bionic Woman Files Declassified. Toy Still Gallery. Bionic Testing Center Still Gallery. Next Time on Bionic Woman. TV Spots. Photos from Bionicon. Kenneth Johnson recording Commentary Tracks Gallery.
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