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James Hibberd



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.

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Comments (7)

Steve Austin:

What are you talking about? Heroes was a terrific pilot. You're comparing apples and rotten fruit.

I have to agree with the Six Million Dollar Man's comment above, the Heroes pilot was just great.

Of course, I'm a big fan of this first episode, too.

And who knows what will become of the Isaiah Washington story arc, but I know I'll be back next week, if for no other reason than the time period is populated by shows that might be big, but not big with me.

This is what I said about the pilot episode:
http://iamatvjunkie.typepad.com/i_am_a_tv_junkie_a_blog_f/2007/09/im-watching-the.html
and ...
http://iamatvjunkie.typepad.com/i_am_a_tv_junkie_a_blog_f/2007/07/i-watched-bioni.html

I mean, I like Kate Walsh, but I don't really want to see her in that show. Wish she had a comedy to walk into, she's very funny.

karl:

I thought the re-casting of her sister was a mistake. They totally went for the super cute little sister who has trouble at school from the slightly overweight, deaf sister who was much more believable as an actress and brought some complexity to the story. Way to blow it NBC.

joe c:

I wanted to like this show so bad...but unfortunately that's what it is: so bad. Not just starting out akward--BAD. There's better youtube videos. People actually saw this before it went out and still let it out? Notice I said "let", as if it were a dangerous animal that should have been put down instead. I'd ask if they were high but I was when I saw it and it didn't help a bit. On the other hand the show gives me hope that I could be big time Hollywood writer someday.

Judy Berbig:

I am glad they put Isaiah Washington in it needed someone who can really act.They better keep him written in a lot to keep this story going. Isaiah's presence makes the show more like 24. If the writers give him a good story line he could be another Jack Bauer. Keep it coming.

Al in SoCal:

Yawn - I'm sick of the 'new and better' shows where every turn of events is a mystery that takes 14 episodes to figure out. I was so excited thinking some of the groundbreaking shows like 6 million dollar man and the bionic woman were being brought back - instead I got rehashed and tossed storylines from every show in NBC's now full graveyard.

How about this: professional woman (not trashy smug 'bratz-like' 20-something) gets bionics and helps the world instead of being forced into it by Miguel Ferrer, whom I really like, just not here acting as a 'father figure' instead of a worldly mentor as Oscar was in the 70's series.

Oh well - maybe they'll learn - but probably not.

ej:

I wanted to love this show, but it seems too complicated. I know a story takes a few episodes to develop, but the writers seem to be making extra difficult. Will it survive, or will network executives yank it?
Thanks for the blog.

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