The first signs of a new television series about The Bionic Woman began back in 2002 when producers Jennifer and Suzanne Todd announced that they would be resurrecting the show on the USA network. Reports also suggested that Jennifer Aniston was being considered for the lead role, but after the original announcement nothing else came of the show until NBC/Universal announced in October 2006 that it was bringing The Bionic Woman back to life. After several rewrites of the script, The Bionic Woman TV pilot was given a green light in January 2007.
Based on the hit TV series of the mid's 70's The Bionic Woman ran for three years, from 1976 to 1978, first on ABC then on NBC for its last season. The show, a spin-off of the hit The Six Million Dollar Man, starred Lindsay Wagner as a woman who suffers a tragic skydiving accident and is turned into a bionic super hero. Expectations were high when a re-boot of the show was announced in early January 2007 and IMDB Pro listed Bevin [One Tree Hill] Prince as the lead on the new Bionic Woman.
Netscape.com said: With NBC's prospective new "Bionic Woman" two-hour movie/pilot on track to begin production in March, they're still looking for the actress who'll play Jamie Sommers. This time around, her cyborg hardware will be worth more than $50 million, we're told. You may remember when her predecessor sounded impressive as "The Six Million Dollar Man," but then, gasoline was under a dollar a gallon at the time. The new "Bionic Woman" will also have to contend with her rebellious teen sister, for whom she is sole caretaker. And, you can be sure there will be other changes. After all, the new "Bionic Woman" is being brought to us by David Eick, the writer-producer who transformed "Battlestar Galactica" from a cheesy sci-fi also-ran into a timely, provocative, critically-lauded space drama.
According to Variety, Michelle Ryan beat out several big name Hollywood actresses to land the role of Bionic Woman Jaime Sommers, a role originally made famous by Lindsay Wagner. The new show's producers said the new version of The Bionic Woman would be a modern updated remake of the hit 1976 TV original and hat the reason for selecting an unknown actress was due in part because producers felt that they wanted someone who would be a fresh face to American audiences, much in the same way that Lindsay Wagner was during the original series run.
On landing the role Michelle said “I still can’t believe it’s happening to me. As soon as news got out, I got congratulatory texts from Shane Richie and other old mates from EastEnders. I’m very excited. The whole thing was quite surreal and I’m still pinching myself.”
Filming for the Pilot took place in Canada, starting in March 2007, as the rest of the cast moved into place: Miguel Ferrar, Will Yun Lee, Molly Price and fan-fave Katee Sackhoff, fresh off of another 1970's Sci-Fi reboot, Battlestar Galactica. Katee said, of her Bionic Woman character, "she almost all bionic and the nemesis of Jamie Sommers. Lucky me, she gets to make out with all the hot guys on the show. She is kind of like the Number 6 character of the Bionic Woman which is fun for me because I get to wear stilettos and tons of make-up. She is extremely tough, but she is certifiably insane with split personality"
Early reviews for the Pilot started coming in around mid-May 2007 and were overwhelmingly positive, but later that month the first clouds began to gather over the series as NBC executive Kevin Reilly was removed from his post at the network. Whilst not a household name, Reilly was involved with hit shows The Shield and Sopranos, before joining NBC and had overseen Heroes and The Office. He was replaced by producer Ben Silverman, who despite having a strong TV background had never run a TV network. New in-coming network heads often scrapped projects green-lighted by their predecessors and put their own stamp on things. With rumblings that advertisers were less than happy with some of the new Fall shows, fans were nervous to see how the change impacts NBCs Fall schedule.
August saw The Bionic Woman cast show up at THE media convention of the year, Comic Con in San Diego, and doing press for the fall show. Previous, trailers and interviews were big news and all over the media as it became the hyped, must-see show the new season.
As was hoped, BW took the ratings by storm for it's premier episode. NBC bested ABC as Bionic Woman beat Private Practice, the Grey’s Anatomy spin off, in the important 18-49 demographic, garnering 13.6 million viewers overall, according to Nielsen. However, Private Practice had more total viewers than Bionic Woman with 14.2 million. Despite stellar ratings for the initial show, fans of the original series complained the new show was too dark and gloomy, and word came out that execs behind the scenes were already trying to re-engineer the show rather than give it fair chance. A reliable source inside the BW writers room has said that Jason Katims was now virtually in charge of the day-to-day running of Bionic Woman. “As of right now, the show is being entirely run by Katims,” the insider told Ain’t It Cool. “Make of that what you will.” Katims was initially brought on as a "consultant". David Eick was said to be busy with the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica and the Lifetime miniseries The Gathering and is maintaining a supervisory role on the show. Laeta Kalogridis wrote the original Pilot for BW, but has not been involved creatively with the show and apparently Laeta's Pilot script was extensively rewritten by an uncredited Jason Smilovic. Smilovic apparently left “Bionic” in September, around the time Katims came aboard. “Originally, Smilovic was supposed to show run BW for a 12-week period, to help it get off the ground, with the possibility that he'd stay on longer if the show was doing well,” said the insider. “However, when people started getting fired and Jason Katims was brought on, Smilovic left after the 12-week period ended.”
Around the same Variety revealed that the Writers Guild were preparing to go on strike at the end of October, placing a burden on the networks whether to continue with new and un-proven shows, such as Bionic Woman. By Nov. 1, the Networks would have enough episodes of current shows filmed to get them through to mid-January. But the February sweeps, an all important ratings period for TV networks, would be decimated by the strike, and new shows would halt production well before they'd filled their initial 13 episode orders. "If Fox has to shut down a show like K-Ville in the middle of filming the seventh episode, they might just decide it makes more sense to simply cancel it," one agent said. That's because keeping the K-Ville sets in place and its cast together would be costly. If the show were a hit, keeping the skein in a holding pattern would make sense, but given its weak early numbers, Fox might simply decide it makes sense to cut and run. That decision would have a cost, too. TV shows generally need to produce 13 episodes to earn international coin. If shows such as K-Ville -- or CBS' ratings-challenged Cane or even our Bionic Woman -- wrap before they get to 13 segs, they'll likely end up a total loss for both the network and the studio that produces the show....
October also saw The Hollywood Reporter reveal that Jason Cahill was now coming aboard Bionic Woman as a showrunner to help "steer the series behind the scenes". For the previous month, the writers' room on the show had been run by Friday Night Lights exec producer Jason Katims. Katims had been pulling double duty on BW and Friday Night Lights since joining BW as a consultant in early September. Cahill has worked on some prestigious hit shows, including NYPD Blue, ER, Profiler and The Sopranos. He won a WGA Award for his work on The Sopranos, and served as co-exec producer on another freshman drama, CBS' Cane.
And there began the perfect storm which sealed Bionic Woman's fate, a combination of behind-the-scenes changes and re-writes, a shift in the show's format after only 4 episodes to a 'lighter tone' , a downward turn in ratings from episode 4 onwards and the Hollywood writer's strike. All conspired to NBC halting production on the show after 8 episodes. There was talk of a soft re-boot in January with a a tweaked 2-parter, but that never came about and the show quietly disappeared form the networks in December 2007.
The rest, as they say is history, but for a short-lived show there is a still a lot of love out there for both it, and it's UK lead Michelle Ryan, and quite rightly so!
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