Why Tonight’s 'Bionic Woman' Doesn’t Matter But Next Week’s Does
September 26, 2007 12:21 PM
NBC’s “Bionic Woman” pilot has never quite been good enough. Parts have been re-shot. A part has been re-cast. An executive producer has been hired and fired.
The pilot is, in other words, like Jamie Sommers—an assembly of pieces by a team that keeps trying to build something that’s better and stronger.
The result has arguably been seen by more people than any other broadcast show before its debut—either downloaded illegally on BitTorrent or legally on Amazon. Free pilots normally don’t negatively impact premiere ratings. But an argument can be made that a fair chunk of potential “Bionic” fans have already seen the first episode and the resulting word of mouth is a resounding “Eh...”
The second episode and beyond is a whole ‘nother story. This is the potential fresh start to a still-promising series where the writers and producers either improved on their pilot awkwardness, or didn’t. Remember, last season “Heroes” didn’t really hit its stride for several episodes.
Beyond the creative, the second episode is also an industry keystone. Next week introduces controversial former “Grey’s Anatomy” cast member Isaiah Washington as a supporting character.
NBC Co-Chair Ben Silverman’s seemingly spur-of-the-moment decision in July to add the actor to the cast was a pure mad-scientist move, a so-crazy-it-just-might-work act of executive chutzpah that sent the industry and media into a puzzled spin. Did he cast Washington for the publicity? To irk and counter-program ABC, whose “Grey’s” spinoff “Private Practice” is scheduled against “Bionic”? Or simply because, as Silverman says, Washington is a good actor?
For all the Clinton-esque media gawking that the charismatic executive has inspired, Silverman’s NBC programming report card is still largely blank. Whatever logic powers Silverman's bionic decision-making process, viewer response to Washington will be one of the first primetime trials of his NBC tenure.