They were able to save her, rebuild her, make her stronger… she is The Bionic Woman! The spin-off series of The Six Million Dollar Man gives 70s TV fans another three seasons of wild slow-mo-enhanced entertainment with Lindsay Wagner as Jamie Summers. All 58 episodes of the three-season run of the show and three spin-off television movies come home to Blu-ray from Shout Factory in an 18-disc set. 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. Toss in some nice bonus features, fans of the series can complete their Bionic collections. Recommended
While she may not have gotten to enjoy as long of a run as her bionic counterpart, The Bionic Woman series certainly had the legs… pun intended. Like Lee Major’s Steve Austin, Lindsay Wagner’s Jamie Summers is a bionic superhuman cyborg. After a parachuting accident left her legs, arm, and ear horribly destroyed, she became the Bionic Woman! But briefly had brain damage and memory loss so the love she shared with Steve couldn’t continue. This was a pretty clever plot concession if you think about it. It’s a spinoff series so you need to give Jamie her time to shine as a bionic but you can’t have Steve come along in every episode. So Oscar and Rudy pop in as the series’ connective tissue, but our heroes largely live separate lives - until they need to team up!
As a whole, The Bionic Woman may be a tad sillier. You had episodes with a bionic dog and a young Helen Hunt as the alien girl Zora from the Planet Zorla - but these were still fun adventures. The plots could feel like the rejected b-plots cooked up for The Six Million Dollar Man - Jamie infiltrating a corrupt Ladies Wrestling organization - but they were all worth watching. I wasn’t alive yet for this series during its original run and would frequently catch reruns with my sister as a kid. Later in college as a night owl, I got to catch up on the full run and it was a hoot. Comparing the two series I feel like The Bionic Woman had a better tongue-in-cheek sense of humor than The Six Million Dollar Man. It’s a shame the series only made it through three seasons, but this is also a case of having too much of a good thing.
In the way back when where you only had a few television stations and no cable, it was quite something that you could turn on one channel one night and get The Six Million Dollar Man and then on another night turn to a different channel and have The Bionic Woman. That’s a lot of slow-motion bionic-enhanced action and adventure in any given week. Imagine if The X-Files had Mulder and Scully on Fox one night but then had Doggett and Reyes on The CW another night? It’d be cool to get so much fun content but at the same time it can tire out, and I feel like that’s what happened with The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Once the novelty of two similar connected series wore off those later episodes started feeling a little desperate. Still fun, of course, but maybe not up to par with their peak content. At least everyone was willing to come back after a suitable break for the reunion films and give our bionic duo a proper send-off!
Watching the series today has been a great time. It’s been nearly twenty years since those late nights in college when I actually took the time to sit down and purposefully watch this show. I was really happy to see how well it all holds up. Sure, there are those goofy episodes, but even when the show is at its silliest it’s a great time! That two-parter with The Six Million Dollar Man - The Return of Big Foot has to be one of the goofiest things on television, but I love it to death. Aliens and Big Foot? That concept alone has kept The History Channel alive for over a decade! We may have gotten too much of a good thing with Lindsay Wagner getting her own show, but I’m glad we got it all the same.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Bionic Woman rushes off to save the day with a new 18-disc Blu-ray set from Shout Factory. Like The Six Million Dollar Man release, each season gets its own multi-disc case housed together with a paper-stock slipcase. Discs get their own trays to rest on without stacking. Each disc loads to a static image main menu with basic navigation options. One thing to keep in mind, the last case for the Reunion Films indicates that The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Bionic Showdown, and Bionic Ever After? are all on the same disc - they are not. Not sure if you can chalk this up to a misprint or authoring snafu or what have you, but The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman is actually found in the Bonus Features menu of Season 3, Disc 6. The good thing is the transfer is identical to the one from The Six Million Dollar Man set but just not with the rest of the Reunion Films or listed in the disc specs for that season.
Each episode of The Bionic Woman comes in with a generally excellent 1080p 1.33:1 original broadcast aspect ratio transfer. For a show that started over 45 years ago, it looks pretty great. Details are crisp and clear. Colors are robust with vivid primaries and healthy skin tones. Textures and clothing patterns for all of the 70s production design and garb are well maintained - right down to the shag carpets. Black levels can be a tad dodgy depending on the scene, some dark night shots are a little thick but nothing too serious to get worked up over. There’s some speckling here and there, and if there’s an optical effect or zoom the quality can take a bit of a hit. As a whole, this is pretty close to what Shout was able to deliver for The Six Million Dollar Man. My understanding is these transfers were sourced from the same restorations from the previous DVD sets, but it still looks pretty great, all things considered.
As has been a sticking point for fans over the years, the audio for The Bionic Woman is a little off. Overall, you can discern dialog, sound effects, and music cues - but the issue is clarity. There’s a muffling quality that pulls things back. It’s most noticeable when you watch the more recently mastered Six Million Dollar Man crossover episodes and then watch the adjoining episode of The Bionic Woman. The compensation is you need to slip your volume up higher than your normal listening level. After working through over a dozen episodes, I wouldn’t say this issue is a problem for every episode. Some come in better than others.
Now I have had the chance to go through Turbine Media Group’s set from Germany and it does sound like they were able to clean up the audio a bit for their set. With that, I wouldn’t say this is a massive improvement. The muffled quality I mentioned isn’t present, but I did feel it was necessary to still run the audio a few marks above my normal setting. So I’d give their set an edge over this one, but not enough to get too hyperbolic about. The where and what for as to why that remains a bit of a mystery. My understanding is this is one of those goofy rights issues where the licensor is bound by region restrictions where Shout was handed what they were given and not permitted to make alterations. Move to a different region like the EU and those restrictions ease significantly - kind of like how Turbine was able to roll out amazing new Atmos and Auro 3D tracks for films like Dragonheart, Daylight, and Twister or even get the original audio tracks with unaltered music cues for Northern Exposure while here in the U.S. we get what we get. It’s just one of those things that don’t make sense but is what it is.
The Bionic Woman kicks in a few doors for some solid bonus features. Most of these are archival but we get some new commentary tracks and the same relevant commentaries for The Six Million Dollar Man crossover episodes come back here as well, so you’re not missing any content that way. And again, The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman reunion film is found on Disc 6 of Season 3, but it’s not an actual bonus feature so I’m not listing it as such.
Season One Disc One
Season One Disc Two
Season One Disc Three
Season One Disc Four
Season One Disc Five
Season Two Disc One
Season Two Disc Two
Season Two Disc Four
Season Two Disc Six
Season Three Disc One
Season Three Disc Two
Season Three Disc Three *
* Again this is where you’ll find the first reunion film, but it shouldn’t be considered a bonus feature.
Reunion Films Disc:
The Bionic Woman may have been too much of a good thing, but for three seasons Lindsay Wagner’s Jamie Summers got to hold her own ground and have her own bionically-enhanced adventures. The scale of some of her missions may have been smaller or a little more local, but the series was still very entertaining. The crossover episodes are a blast but it’s a lot of fun to see Jamie Summers kick ass all her own. Shout Factory brings The Bionic Woman The Complete Series to Blu-ray in fitting order. Each episode picks up a solid video transfer in keeping with other shows of this vintage to make it to disc. The audio may be a bit of a sticking point for some fans, but I found setting the volume a little louder mitigated most issues on various episodes. Toss on some excellent bonus features and you have a nice set for the collection. Recommended