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Katee Sackhoff's "Battlestar"/"Bionic" Future

May 16, 2007 7:22 PM

Live at the Upfronts

Even a bionic woman can’t be in two places at once, so how is “Battlestar Galactica” actress Katee Sackhoff going to manage her fourth season of “Battlestar” commitment with a “recurring guest role” in “Bionic Woman”? (Yes, I know I wrote earlier that I wasn’t going to spoil which “BSG” vets are recurring in “Bionic,” but it’s all over the Internet now anyway).

Angela Bromstad, president of NBC Universal Television Studio, which produces both “Battlestar” and “Bionic” tells it this way: Originally, Sackhoff’s bionic bad-girl character was scripted to get killed off by good-bionic lead Michelle Ryan in the pilot. Only problem was, as “BSG” viewers can attest, Sackhoff tends to absolutely steal the screen. Naturally, Bromstad didn’t quite put it that way. Oh, wait -- she did.

“[Sackhoff] absolutely steals the screen in ‘Bionic,’” Bromstad said, before adding: “Michelle is a little more ‘girl-next-door’ and plays that very well.”

Bromstad said details are still being figured out, but expressed confidence Sackhoff was going to continue in both series. “Bionic” and “BSG” are both shot in Vancouver, which eases the logistics. Plus, of course, the studio produces both shows.

“In theory she can do both because it’s the same company, there are just Guild rules you have to be able to agree on involving the number of guest-star episodes,” she said. “It’s still being figured out how much she would reoccur and what role she will play. We’ll work with ourselves to make it work.”

“Bionic” was considered a frontrunner for the coveted post-“Heroes” slot, which industry observers were surprised to see snatched up by time-travel drama “Journeyman.” “Bionic” instead will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. -- normally a good time period, but this fall it will be up against “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-off “Private Practice.”

“Yeah, we’re disappointed,” Bromstad said. “At the same time, I think it shows the network’s confidence in the show [“Journeyman”]. It’s a bold confident move.”

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Comments (1)

Brad Dennison:

I disagree with your Bionic comments entirely. Aside from terms like "bionic" and the name of the lead character, there is little homage to any previous series. Not that there needs to be. The original concept, going all the way back to Martin Caidin's novel Cyborg, was a character study of the bionic person (in Caidin's case, Steve Austin) adapting to life as a cyborg. Also, in a supporting role is the doctor, who had to effectively sell his creative soul to the government to obtain funding for his project, and thus, the cyborg becomes a secret agent. I see little of this in the new series.

The new Bionic Woman has many problems:
1) The new version of Jaime Sommers is not strong, not the type any agency would recruit (it is being implied, as of episode 2, that they had been watching her for years). She wines, and is borderline bumbling. She has self-destructive tendancies. Maybe typical of many girls in their early 20's (I sure hope not, but maybe) but not what a spy agency would want to recruit.

2) Casting - this actress comes across as a Kate Beckinsale wannabee. I don't know if that's her fault, or the fault of shoddy writing, which leads to..,

3) Shoddy writing. Much of the dialogue sounds contrived. The pacing could be a little more consistant, also.

4) The special effects. While having Michelle Ryan doing one-handed pull-ups in a sports bra is a nice visual, it did not look real. I have seen real people, albeit in incredibly good shape, perform a one-handed pull-up, and the body leans at an almost forty-five degree angle during the stunt. When she lands from a "bionic" jump, she seems to be floating down, in a sort of Crouching Tiger/Matrix tradition. Not at all like someone jumping from a high distance.

5) Katee Sackoff. Everyone agrees that she is simply the most incredible scene-stealer in the business. All she has to do is walk into a scene, and the scene belongs to her. With BSG, she is cast with other actors of similar charisma, but that is not the case with Bionic. I would think that an unwritten rule of TV producing is not to have a supporting actor outshine everyone else, including the series lead.

6) As stated above, the previous Cyborg/Six Million/Bionic Woman concepts were character studies of the cyborg in question. This seems to be more of a show about the people surrounding Jaime Sommers. Her boss, played by Isiah Washington (another scene-stealer), her boss's boss. The guy training her to fight. Another agent, who could probably carry a show herself. The kid sister who is resentful (though, that also seems contrived). An ensemble cast here is not going to work. Or, at least, it's not going to keep my interest long.

What's right about it:

1) The original concept, the novel by Martin Caidin, is still worth adapting to the screen, if only we could find someone who could actually do it right.

2) The look - visually, special effects aside, the show stands out.

3) The scoring. Great music. Does not overpower, yet is memorable.

4) Katee Sackoff. Great casting choice. Practically guarantees the BSG audience will be watching, and her presence might even generate more BSG viewers.

It is a shame that, the best thing going for this show, is its BSG connection. The concept is good enough to stand alone. However, we just have to find someone who is willing to go back to the source material, take what's good (which is most of it), and adapt it to the screen.

Maybe someone should call Joss Whedon.

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