Thanks to NBC, Tivo and Amazon, the pilot episodes of NBCs fall shows are available now for free download. After entering too many passwords and being forced to enter a credit card for $0.00 purchase, I got it downloaded last night and watched it with my wife.
It has promise, but the pilot also shows how bad it can be. The acting is relatively good (with Miguel Ferrer a notable standout) despite dialog that is often atrocious. The special effects are very poor, and the formula they will follow for the weekly show isn’t clear. But the plot has some exteremly cool elements that might pay off big.
If you don’t wish to know anything about it until it airs in a couple of weeks, then stop reading now. I’m going to reveal some spoilers as I explain more about this remake.
I really like the back-story that has been created. The pilot suffers in some ways because it has to have so much exposition, but overall I enjoyed how deep the story seemed to be. We get to meet Jaime Sommers, a woman who is trying to make ends meet while serving as a bartender. She’s also acting as guarding for her little sister after their father left. All told, things seem pretty bleak for her except for the boyfriend who happens to be a professor of bioethics at a University. Then things get even worse when she is nearly killed in a car crash. The boyfriend Will, who turns out to be a scientist working for a special top-secret research facility, uses his latest experimental technology to rebuild her.
But here is where it gets interesting. Will doesn’t have permission to do this operation, so the facility head is unhappy, and insists that Jaime be co-opted into participating in the covert mission(s) they are setup to do. Will also has an estranged father, who previously led the team that worked on creating the bionics, but did something to get himself thrown in prison. And we also find out the Jaime isn’t the first bionic woman. There is another who was thought to be dead, but turns up to be somehow involved with Will and his father and is setup as an uber-villain for Jaime to battle.
The show has a pretty interesting and large cast of characters. Besides Will and Jaime, there is the head of the reserach facility, the military leader who was romantically involved with the first bionic woman (and doesn’t appear to be a stereotype jock), the groups shrink who looks like an important female character, and the various villains – especially the sociopathic bionic woman.
Sadly, this initial premise is all there is to the pilot. Otherwise, it a lot to be desired – it isn’t impossible that the show will improve because the back-story is pretty strong. But the first episode has many flaws.
First Jaime’s bleak life looks pretty darn good. She’s attractive, wears great clothes, has a fine apartment for her and her sister, with seemingly lots of money given the electronics and furnishings in the place. Note to prop department – she’s supposed to be struggling.
Second, Will comes across as arrogant and not at all the charming man she proclaims him to be. He’s not very sympathetic, and I found myself wishing she would kick his ass and be done with it. It weakens her to be with him. I suppose some might claim this is reality, but she can’t be a strong woman with him around and it’s incongruous with the rest of her personality.
There is a goofy rooftop womano-a-womano fight in the rain (for the wet shirts I suppose) that exists for no other reason than to see them fight. Neither woman knows why they are fighting and admit that during pre-fight dialog.
And finally, the special effects are very poor. Somebody needs to go watch Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon again to see how to do it right. Jaime running and jumping looks so fake it’s sad. I felt the old 70’s show had better special effects – and that’s not a good thing.
I’m going to give it a couple of shows to see where it goes. Will the show focus on advancing the villains and plot laid out so far, or will that merely be a recurring theme while the show has standard missions that neatly fit into the 44min time-slot? We’ll see…