The year was 1975 – and the world was ready for a major change. Up until then, women mostly had key roles in films and on television while portraying the emotive character that is more dependent on men for assurance than on herself for the same basic need. It was rare to come across a figure that was, in her own right, a strong and independent female – and if someone were ever so lucky to come across such an exceptional sight, it would most likely come at the expense of being warm and endearing. However, this was all about to change, as history was in the making.
She Had No Idea
Writer Kenneth Johnson decided it was time to spice things up and introduce a new character into the mix – Jamie Sommers. However, a grave mistake in judgment resulted in killing off the dazzling Sommers in a horrific accident. Not too long after this extremely hard to watch episode, mortified fans demanded the unbeatable, incomparable Jamie Sommers would return to the screen. Long story short – Sommers became non-other than the incredible Bionic Woman.
Wagner might have thought twice about agreeing for the role of the Bionic Woman had she knows what she was signing up for.
She Thought The Concept Was Ridiculous
Lindsay Wagner was not quick to jump onboard the Bionic Woman wagon. She felt as though the plot was ridiculous and the role did not make sense.
Thankfully, her 11-year-old sister convinced her that plenty of people were obsessed with The Six Million Dollar Man and her. Wagner went on to accept the acting gig, something she remains grateful for to this very day. What started off as a favor for her little sister became the opportunity of a lifetime.
Do It Or You’ll Be Sorry
The fembots were one of the Bionic Woman’s most memorable characters, and it’s not too difficult to understand why – a fembot is a female humanoid robot. However, not many knew how the fembots were made.
For one to come to life, an actress would need to have an uncomfortable plaster mold made of her face, which later would be made into a skintight latex mask. Actress Janice Whitby was not too happy about this, but producers threatened she’d lose her job if she wasn’t willing to do her part.
It Was Never Meant To Happen
The character later titled Bionic Woman and initially named Jaime Sommers was never supposed to have superpowers, let alone star in her own show.
Sommers came to life through the Six Million Dollar Man plot as Steve’s girlfriend but was then meant to die in a skydiving accident that went horribly wrong. Sommers’ body was meant to repel the provided bionic implants, but viewers fell for the beautiful, smart and strong Sommers, which resulted in her coming back from the dead.
It Didn’t Even Make Sense
Wagner thought some things took away from the authenticity of the plot, and would continuously argue with the writers over it.
For example, she was quoted saying that “If I have a bionic ear, why do I have to pull back the hair? I can hear through walls, but I can’t hear through my hair?” In fact, the only bionic parts in Sommers’ body were her legs, right arm, and right ear. However, in numerous scenes, Sommers is seen using her left arm to do bionic things.
She Belonged To Him
The Bionic Woman was very progressive in the way it portrayed women since it put the female character in a whole new light. No longer was a woman perceived as physically weak and dependent.
Despite this, the original intended title did not swing that way at all. Few people know that the very script which led the creation of Jaime was formerly titled Mrs. Steve Austin, which still left her identified as “the wife of” instead of a human in her own right.
ABC suddenly canceled The Bionic Woman show after the second season ended, in spite of the fact it was still extremely popular. Fans were shocked by this outcome but did not have much time to grieve, as NBC picked it up instead.
Instead of mad, viewers were left confused as to what could have made one network drop such a successful series, only to have it picked up by a competing one. Additionally, after the crossover from ABC to NBC, Lee Majors was no longer allowed to appear on the show.
Banned From The Show
Since Lee Majors was bound by a contract to ABC and The Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin could no longer cross over to act in his own spinoff show.
Lindsay was also not allowed to go back to the other show since she had renewed her contract with NBC for The Bionic Woman. For this reason, Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks were the first actors ever who played the same characters on two different series for two separate television shows.
A Serious Distraction
At around the time of filming on The Bionic Woman, Universal Studios began to offer tours to customers. This was a disaster for the actors and everyone else involved on set, however, since this was a major distraction.
The actors would often forget their lines and become sidetracked by the comers and goers, and many tapings needed to be re-recorded. This might have been profitable in the sense of having paying visitors on set, but ended up being costly because of the ruckus it would cause.
She Wanted Something Different
Wagner was happy with her super strength, but at the same time wanted something else too to differentiate her from the rest.
“Though the physical strength was fascinating to watch and cutting-edge technology at the time, I wanted Jaime to come from a more enlightened mindset than, ‘I’m stronger physically, so I win,’” said Wagner. “It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice if you’re truly caring about the good of all concerned. That way requires using your heart and your head and if necessary of course your physical strength.”
Forgot His Lines
Richard Anderson, the actor who played Oscar Goldman (the boss of Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers), was a brilliant performer, but he was also human.
This means that while he spent hours memorizing his lines and reading over the script, he would occasionally let the pressure get to him and forget his next line. For this reason, he asked that his character would have glasses – that way, if he ever forgot what he was supposed to say, he could remove his glasses and buy himself some time.
The Bionic Woman Race
Since Wagner’s contract with Univeral expired after her first few episodes on The Six Million Dollar Man, Universal briefly considered changing
things up and signing a different actress on to play The Bionic Woman.
Since Sandra Bullock played a new bionic woman in the 1989 TV movie titled Bionic Showdown, they thought she would be perfect for it. Sally Field was also among the frontrunners, but then producers decided Lindsay deserved the part more than anyone else and was a safe bet.
Actor Lee Majors, AKA The Six Million Dollar Man, might have been a one-woman man on the show, but in reality, his love life was dynamic. Majors married Kathy Robinson in 1961, the two had one child together but divorced after only three years.
Then Majors went on to marry the dazzling Farrah Fawcett – that marriage was short-lived too and lasted six years. His third marriage was to Playboy Playmate Karen Velez, and the final and fourth was to actress and model Faith Cross, who he’s married to until this day.
Saved A Real Life
The science fiction action series helped to save a woman’s life without even knowing it when a woman remembered something from the show that saved her life. It was 1978, and a young woman by the name of Mary Vincent hitchhiked a horrible ride.
A man hurt her horrifically and left her for dead. It was at this point that Mary remembered a bit from a Bionic Woman episode – by relaxing the brain, the flow of blood slows down. Mary then calmed herself, survived, and was even visited by Wagner herself later.
Overworked And Tired
Those who dream of making it big in the business of fame and fortune might think it’s glam-based 24/7, but the truth is there is a lot of hard work entailed.
The cast on The Bionic Woman would sometimes be working on the set for 18 hours straight with not as much as a short break in between. “This show was such a workout in itself, I used to say it was my karma because I refused to work out before that,” Wagner said at the MCM Birmingham Comic Con in 2016.
Skip On The Skimpy
The show was groundbreaking for women in the sense that it enabled women to break the glass ceiling of the way they were portrayed in the media. Suddenly, a woman did not have to wear skimpy clothes or smother her face with makeup for attention.
Jaime Sommers stayed relevant and popular thanks to her outstanding strength and unique personality, not her physical assets. Additionally, the show was one of a kind since it featured several interracial relationships, which wasn’t very common at the time.
They Didn’t Understand
In 2007 a renewed version of The Bionic Woman debuted, but this time around the show was Wagner-free. Michelle Ryan landed the titular role. However, it didn’t do well and was canceled within a year.
“I don’t think they understood the show,” said Wagner in an interview. “On a technical level, it was very good, but I don’t think they understood the show. It was steeped in that old-school thinking. It was like a lot of things today, angry and dark.”
About Time That Happened
The final reunion came out as a film in 1994 titled Bionic Ever After? The plot involved a computer virus taking over Jaime’s bionic systems.
Dr. Wells then informs the Six Million Dollar Man that “she may never be bionic again,” but Steve keep saying he just wants her to live no matter what. Sommers then undergoes a major upgrade, which not only increases her power but also provides her with night vision. The two bionics then finally say their “I Do’s.”
They Put Her Life At Risk
Although these days it is common to use a stunt person, this was not the case for The Bionic Woman, which meant she had to put on an extremely brave face.
One time, Wagner was told there wasn’t time to fit her with a security belt during a helicopter stunt, so when the chopped flew her up toward the skies, the actress was understandably petrified. After she convinced herself to let go of the skid and free fall onto an airbag, Wagner was so upset her mother had to comfort her.
The beautiful and talented Lindsay Wagner had a lot of girls looking up to her, but young teenage boys were also huge fans of The Bionic Woman.
Wagner was young, beautiful, independent and unique – so it only made sense adolescent boys would hang her poster up on the wall. Nowadays, an action figure of The Bionic Woman can sell for more than $1,000 on eBay. Lindsay was quoted saying that not as many people lust for her these days, as many of her fans have grown up.
All In The Name
Before creator Kenneth Johnson went to work on The Bionic Woman, he had worked on a production that was filming at SeaWorld. While he was on set, he met a water skier named Jaime Somers and was absolutely infatuated with that name.
It was this very name that came to his mind when it came to naming his new character of The Bionic Woman. Looking back, it is hard to imagine our favorite heroine going by any other name but that.
“It Blew Me Away”
One wouldn’t expect someone who’s extremely powerful to also be sensitive, but it seems Sommers was unique in every aspect – including this one.
The Bionic Woman changed the way characters were built and opened up the viewers’ minds in a way that hasn’t been done before. Wagner was told her fans’ perspective changed thanks to her character. “For them to tell me that, it blew me away because obviously it was focused on empowering young women, but my dream inside was people would see that,” she said.
Wasn’t The Same One
The adorable pet bionic dog, also known as Maximillion, was granted his rather unique name since the plot stated it cost a million dollars to create him.
The pooch seen by Jaime’s side was initially played by a German Shepherd who went by the name of Bracken, but different dogs of the same breed needed to be brought in gradually to pull off different tricks, and Bracken was not trained for jumping into fires and hopping from one building to another.
Money Trumps Morals
The show’s producers were resolute on the fact that the Bionic Woman should not under any circumstance be marketed in the same fashion Barbie and other fashion dolls were.
They embarked on the notion Sommers was a strong and independent woman in a way never seen before and did not want that image to change just for the sake of selling some merchandise. Surprisingly, some toys did slip through the cracks and made her out to be of a modelesque nature rather than a mighty action heroine.
Made It Up
The name bionic was invented by the writers of the show. They thought of a term that could combine the words “biology” and “electronics,” and eventually came up with “bionic”.
This was the most spot-on term for the young and talented Sommers, seeing as how she was one-half bionic and one-half a human female. Sommers was definitely unique in the sense that she had a superpower like no other, but this fact made her all the more special.
Back From The Dead
As it turns out, there is one fail-proof plan that could bring a beloved character back from the dead, and that is a letter from a children’s hospital.
Six Million Dollar Man viewers could not bear to see Jaime die, so a Boston children’s hospital wrote the studio a displeased letter, saying they ought to bring Sommers back. After that heartfelt request, The Bionic Woman was back bigger and greater than ever – and with her very own show, too!
One Heartbreak After Another
Lindsay Wagner, much like her Six Million Dollar Man co-star, did not find her happily ever after once the show ended.
Ever the romantic, Wagner thought she had found love four different times, and each and every one of those times resulted in a divorce. Among the many heartbreaks were music publisher Allan Rider, actor Michael Brandon, stuntman Henry Kingi (whom she met on the set of The Bionic Woman), and TV producer Lawrence Mortorff. Wagner also has two sons – Dorian (36) and Alex (32).
These days Wagner is fully dedicated to fulfilling her spiritual goals. Although she proceeds to perform and act every now and again, she mostly prefers to spread the word about self-help in seminars.
“Every moment holds the potential for new beginnings,” Wagner said in one interview. “When you find yourself thinking or speaking negatively about yourself or life, always add these three words: UP UNTIL NOW!” That is the mantra Wagner claimed to have repeated on a daily basis.
A True Superhero
As for her time on The Bionic Woman, Wagner taught herself an important lesson that aided in structuring her entire career:
“I have always felt that TV could be used not only to entertain, but also to highlight important issues and help people embrace their higher potential,” she said. This positive message and approach brought everything Wagner had gone through into a full circle. If anything, this quote goes to show no other actress could have fitted the role of a true superhero better than Wagner herself.
“Fighting All The Time”
When Wagner got the call about landing the role of Sommers on the show The Bionic Woman, she made sure she had a say in the way her character was portrayed.
Wagner was inflexible about the fact that the episodes should contain more than just fight scenes all the time. The writers rarely agreed with the actress, which caused some tension on set. “That’s why the series was so tumultuous because we were fighting all the time about the scripts,” she said during an interview for TV Zone in 2000.