And speaking of technology, it took seemingly forever, but the ever-popular '70s superhero series "The Six Million Dollar Man" has finally made its way to DVD in a massive, mind-blowing, 40-disc set (no, that's not a typo — I wrote 40) from Time-Life, offering $6 million worth of fun for a relatively bargain-basement $239.95. It’s not sold in stores, either; until October, T-L is the only legitimate outlet for purchase. You’ve been a good boy or girl, so treat yourself to this landmark investment in Gen-X retro entertainment.
As someone who grew up on the '70s series — I had the T-shirt, but not the famous doll with the telescopic eye — this release makes me giddy, although stressed. Where does one find the time to watch all five seasons? I'm not going to pretend that even after a couple of months, I'm through it all, but I've chipped away at a damn good chunk to bring you an informed review, so ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-na-na-na-na-na (that's the bionic sound effect for the uninformed).
You know Lee Majors stars as former astronaut Steve Austin, who loses an arm, an eye and two legs in an aircraft crash. Those are reinstated with bionic parts by the Office of Scientific Intelligence, for whom he repays by acting as its de facto secret agent at beck and call. What you might not know — or at least I didn't — was that before the show was a show, it was a trio of made-for-TV movies, which kick off the set.
It never occurred to me to think of the series as an update of "Frankenstein," but the pilot film suggests as much. The second TV film, "Wine, Women and War," sports a funny funk theme song — and Britt Ekland! — as it plays out over a James Bond-style spy mission. The third and final pilot film, "The Solid Gold Kidnapping," with villainous John Vernon, tones it down a notch as Austin make the transition into his own assignment-of-the-week series.
Early episodes recall everything from "The Andromeda Strain" to TV's "Lost." Farrah Fawcett is saved from a falling stagelight (only to later hunt Steve, albeit as a different character in the next season); John Saxon guests as a robot. A highlight among season two is Monte Markham, the superior $7 million bionic man, and his kick-ass, slow-motion ass-kickin' of some guys in trucks; his power goes to the former racer's head ("It's wild, Steve! It's wild!"). Hell, this thing even has aliens from outer space!
But "Dollar" for "Dollar," fans tend to remember two story arcs: the epic Bigfoot battles and the introduction of Jaime Sommers, aka The Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner). The former are wonderfully cheesy; the latter, wonderfully sappy. Despite the series' obvious '70s-ness in full force at every moment, these hourlong adventures hold up quite well. Networks just don't do this type of prime-time punch anymore.
Extras? Lordy, are there ever — five bonus DVDs of them, in fact! How about 18 full minutes alone just on crafting the opening credits sequence? Or an hour and 15 minutes of exec producer Harve Bennett discussing the show? There's a rather nifty interactive feature that breaks down Steve's bionic parts by functionality, and clickable links take you to clips of that appendage or orb in action.
My favorite extras are the inclusion of the three reunion movies, spanning 1987 to 1994: "The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman," "Bionic Showdown" and "Bionic Ever After?" The middle one co-stars Sandra Bullock in her second acting gig ever, as the second Bionic Woman. (I'm sure the Oscar winner is still cringing.) These after-the-fact films aren't exactly "good," but I'm really glad they're here, making the collection's titular claim of being "complete" completely valid.
Even the packaging is incredible. Each season set comes with its own booklet of notes and an episode guide. The cool box contains a lenticular photo up top that makes it appear as if Steve Austin is running his precious little heart out. Lift the lid, and the iconic narration from the credits plays. This is, without question, the DVD box set of the year — 2010 and 2011, because I don't believe anyone outside of trust-fund babies and invalids had time to watch it all before this past Dec. 31.
The only thing missing? That aforementioned doll. You can't win 'em all. —Rod Lott