America caught its first glimpse of female superhero Jaime Summers when she appeared on a special two-part episode of the popular prime-time series, The Six Million Dollar Man, circa 1975. The long-lost love interest of Steve Austin, Jamie and her bionic boyfriend hoped to rekindle that high school romance. Then, she became crippled in a tragic parachuting accident and a distraught Steve pleaded with his boss, Oscar Goldman, to use some high-tech healing power on his lady friend.
She was rebuilt with the same bionic gadgetry (and seemed to be recovering nicely) when her body began rejecting her new circuitry, spiraling her into a coma. This might have been the end for poor Jaime, but nothing pulls a television character out of a coma quicker than a surge in ratings. With the prospect of a hit spin-off series on their hands (courtesy of the overwhelming viewer response to the character), Jaime Summers would make a full recovery and actress Lindsay Wagner, who was only originally under contract for the one previous appearance, would be miraculously saved from a trip to the unemployment line and given her very own series in the 1976 fall line-up, The Bionic Woman.
With her newly acquired super-abilities, Jaime was recruited into the Office of Scientific Information (OSI) much to Steve’s displeasure, who felt the job was too dangerous for her. But with her new bionic legs, a right arm to match and some powerful auditory abilities, thanks to a handy bionic ear, she proved up for the challenge. Given a new life, the former tennis star proceeded to pose as an instructor at a California Air Force Base while moonlighting as a formidable secret agent.
Although her male covert counterpart always seemed to be able to carry out whatever mission he was faced with in the same snazzy leisure suit, apparently female agents were required to dress as provocatively as possible (or at least as provocative as television of the 70s would allow.) At least that was the case with Jaime, who in the course of her duties would dress as a stewardess, belly dancer, pro-wrestler, country singer, and of course, beauty pageant contestant (OK, to be fair, she did get to dress as a nun once).
Jaime had a number of acquaintances, ready to lend a helping hand. Besides Oscar, there was Dr. Rudy Wells, bionic makeover artist extraordinaire and Peggy Callahan, Mr. Goldman’s able assistant. She could also lean on her parents, Helen and Jim Elgin, and, most importantly, her amazing cyber-canine, Max. Eventually, Jamie would team up with her former flame, Steve, and together they would battle a few memorable adversaries, most notably Bigfoot and, for good measure, a herd of fem-bots.
The only battle the pair ever lost was against the formidable programming executives at ABC – which simultaneously canceled The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman at the end of the 1978 season. But if you think that was the end of the bionic duo, think again. The couple would be reunited on numerous occasions throughout the 80’s and 90s in made-for-TV films such as The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman in 1987, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman in 1989 and finally, in Bionic Ever After in 1994, where, not only did Jamie get some nifty new abilities such as night vision – but also a bionic husband, as her and Steve finally tied the knot.
Finally, after 13 years of assumed retirement, The Bionic Woman (this time played by actress Michelle Ryan) came out of hibernation (cybernation?) for an all new-series that debuted in 2007. Eight episodes aired before The Bionic Woman finally met an unstoppable adversary … in the form of a writer’s strike. Although her fate remained uncertain when the strike ended, the series was ultimately terminated. But after being rebuilt numerous times, you never know when The Bionic Woman may emerge again. In the world of television programming, stranger things have most certainly happened.
If you grew up watching The Bionic Woman, we’d love for you to share your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this formidable female that kept us glued to the television in the 70s.