Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bionic Woman and Journeyman

So, I was a huge fan of the original Bionic Woman when I was a child. Huge. I had the Steve Austin doll with the hole in the back of its head, as well as an Apollo capsule meant for GI Joe that I used to reenact his original crash, but it was really Jaime Sommers that had my heart. Meanwhile, my wife, who never saw the original, has been devouring the extensive and very smart backstory up on the new show's website. So we were both very excited by the potential.

And hence, we are both pretty damn disappointed. It was about 5 minutes in, when her boyfriend was spouting the cliché-riddled nonsense about how she was the unpredictable factor in his ordered life that I started to worry. And it just went downhill from there. The pilot's plot is just a patchwork of clichés that relies on a familiarity with the concept, the original, or the standard set pieces of the genre to make any sense. The boss is an asshole because that's what bosses do. Jaime's life is threatened if she doesn't agree to work for them because that's what they did in La Femme Nikita. When she escapes and runs home to her sister, who is worried sick about her, she doesn't tell her "Hi. I've been held captive in a government facility and now I'm bionic." She lies about what's happened to her - not because she has any reason whatsoever to cover for her captors (and isn't going public the easiest way to ensure your safety?) - but again because that's what you do in situations like this. (I caught 5 minutes of Chuck, where his hot spy contact was explaining to him why he couldn't tell his friends where he'd been. That's a comedy, and they handled it 1000x better.)

Now, I could maybe (maybe) overlook this in a pilot, giving the writers time to settle in, if the acting had been good. But apart from Katee Sackhoff, who can do no wrong even when given nothing to work with, the supporting cast is terrible. And poor Michelle Ryan - I've no idea what they saw in her. She is so bad I'm going to have a hard time convincing my wife to watch Jekyll, for which I am very bitter. So, bad script + good acting = I can give it time. And good script + bad acting means I can give it time. But bad script + unwatchable acting means I don't need to worry about this show ever again.

So thank god for Journeyman. I loved Kevin McKidd in Rome, and after this, I think I could watch him read a laundry list. Good, smart show, fantastic naturalistic dialogue, great acting across the board. Yes, it seems to be Quantum Leap on a budget so far, but it's really well done, with enough originality and a few curve balls to keep my wife and I interested. I'll be very curious to see what the explanation for this is - mystical or scientific. My problem with the original Quantum Leap was that a scientific accident resulted in a situation where moral determinacy came into play.(Why should there be a "correct" future and who's calling the shots?) Of course, this was all explained in the final episode, but I never made it that far! With Journeyman, and the lessons learned with shows like Lost, Heroes, BSG, etc..., I suspect they'll have to be forthcoming with answers a lot faster. They've certainly kept the twists coming, and meanwhile, I'm loving what little we've seen so far.

16 comments:

dave hutchinson said...

You liked Jekyll? Good.
And I agree, Kevin McKidd can do no wrong. Try to catch Dog Soldiers.

Lou Anders said...

Haven't seen Jekyll yet. Therein lies my problem.

Shara said...

Oh good, I'm not the only one unimpressed with Bionic Woman, which is a shame, cause I really wanted to like this. But oh, I'm with you on not liking the actress at all. I never saw the original, but from my viewpoint, this show is trying too hard to do what Alias, just with bionics.

I've caught the first two eps. I think I'll give it to four, but if the actress doesn't get a game on (I can't stand her little sister either), there's no way I'm going to keep watching. SciFi's Painkiller Jane was horrible, but even the lead actress in THAT series was better than the lead in this.

On a different note, have you seen Pushing Daisies yet? Now THAT'S delightful! :)

Lou Anders said...

The saddest thing about this is that there has never been a better time for a smart, serious, hard-hitting show that combines cutting edge notions of biological augmentation with contemporary politics and the paranoias of our post-911 surveillance societies. This show could be so, so, so, so good. And instead, they've messed it up enough that when it gets canceled no one will go near it again until the idea has festered for another decade or so.

Haven't seen Pushing Daisies yet, no.

Lou Anders said...

Ye gods, this review of BW episode 2 makes it sound even worse: http://sfscope.com/2007/10/beta-testinga-review-of-bionic.html

Shaun Farrell said...

I think Journeyman is brilliant, and I think it can and will surpass Quantum Leap for a few reasons.

1. Kevin McKidd. I like Scott Bakula, but he doesn't have the chops of McKidd. This guy is on another level with his committment to the decisions he makes as an actor, in terms of character portrayal. Very few actors have this ability.

2. Story focus. QL was usually about other people, and while JM so far has McKidd helping others, the driving force of the story is what is happening to him and how it impacts his relationships. We also won't see him running around in a dress, which was funny once, but not that enteraining over and over again.

3. No Al = higher tension. Sam always had Al to bail him out. Not Dan. He has to do this on his own, but we'll see how Elivia plays into it.

Lou Anders said...

Well, Livia is Al. But I'm intrigued - since she didn't know details of his contemporary life, she's not originating from the same time period, if she even has a home-base at all. VERY curious to see what level of understanding she has about what's happening, and if it's because she's in touch with some sort of league of such travelers or if it's just something she's sussed out for herself over time and she started as alone and confused as he was.

And yeah, I agree about all your points. My wife and I were talking about how everyone's reaction to his story is spot on realistic too.

dave hutchinson said...

Lou - ah, I see.
Well, she wasn't the best thing about Jekyll, but I didn't think she did such a bad job. And she plays one of the secondary characters so she isn't in it a lot.

Lou Anders said...

That's the angle I'll go with. She is unwatchable on Bionic Woman. Really dreadful.

dave hutchinson said...

She's had an odd sort of career - she spent a long time on EastEnders (a soap set in the East End of London) and, I thought, acquitted herself very nicely. Then she left and - to my knowledge, at least - didn't do anything until she turned up on Jekyll, where, as I say, I didn't think she did so badly, although some critics described her as `wooden.' And then she turns up on a major US network show. What an extraordinary career arc for a young actress from North London.

I haven't seen Bionic Woman yet, of course, but most of the reviews I've seen have focused more on the faults of the show itself than Michelle Ryan's performance. I think the LA Times were quite taken with her. Or maybe it was the New York Times. I forget.

Anyway, don't deny yourselves Jekyll, whatever you do. You may love it, you may hate it, but you'll probably never see anything quite like it ever again. It's a quite exraordinary piece of drama.

Lou Anders said...

Don't worry - it may take me a little while, now that Heroes & Real Time are back and I'm into Journeyman (three hours a week of tv being our max) - but I will definite see Jekyll at some point.

Anonymous said...

I actually kind of liked Bionic Woman, the obvious plot problems aside; I always give the first couple of episodes a little more leeway, and then if it doesn't improve, I drop it. Hopefully, Bionic Woman will increase in quality as it progresses.

On that same note, perhaps the pilot would have been better if Ron Moore was on board as well. ;)

Anonymous said...

The above comment was by John-Mark, again. :)

Lou Anders said...

Certainly science fiction shows have a precedent of improving from dreadful pilots, TNG and Babylon 5 being excellent examples. But I found this one so so so uninteresting, I'm not sure I can give it the time. Especially when tv time is precious and in scarce supply (toddler at home) and there is so much better on now.

Tim Akers said...

But Lou! In episode 2 they had a training montage! TRAINING MONTAGE!

And Sara Corvis is hot. That's really all you need, right?

Lou Anders said...

Tim, I'm ignoring you.