“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better…stronger…faster.” And hell, while we’re here let’s build a kick-ass DVD box set too that’s as cool as it is practical. Sturdy… awesome… and featuring an audio chip that intones the show’s opening voice-over when the lid is opened. But we’ll just ignore the terrible mustache shot on the case for season four…
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch… Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na… you know what I’m talking about. At least you do if you were a child in the seventies or eighties who found a weekly dose of action and adventure with Steve Austin and friends. The Six Million Dollar Man (TSMDM) featured Lee Majors as Austin, an astronaut famous for walking on the moon who returns safely to Earth only to tease death in an accident. The OSI, a top secret wing of the government, decides to use his unconscious body as a testbed for bionics… nuclear powered technology implanted within his body in the form of two robotic legs, a robotic right arm, and a telescopic eye with a 20x zoom. Overseeing the procedure are government spook Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin Brooks) with the intent of using Austin’s new abilities to help stop bad guys plotting against the US. “Bad guys” of course is a relatively loose term and includes everyone from Russian agents and mad scientists to robots, aliens, and Bigfoot.
That’s right. Bigfoot.
The series is filled with memorable episodes, guest stars, and villains (many of whom are covered in featurettes on the discs), but for me Bigfoot is the one that has stuck out in my memory. Why he never fought The Incredible Hulk I’ll never know, but Steve Austin went toe to toe with him in a two-parter from season three that also featured aliens, earthquakes, and an extremely serious Native American man. The shaggy beast was so popular that he later returned as part of a crossover with The Bionic Woman. Other memorable baddies include John Saxon as an evil robot, an egotistical and finely coiffed Seven Million Dollar Man, and a misbehaving robotic tank with claw and grappling hook that Austin was only able to defeat thanks in part to the power of his mustache.
The show spawned a spinoff in the form of the aforementioned Bionic Woman starring Lindsay Wagner, and the two shows shared crossover episodes more than a few times as well. (All of which are included in this set.) One such story arc involved fembots, female-looking robots, tasked with assassinations and other misdeeds. You may recall Austin Powers spoofed them quite memorably…
Lee Majors starred in other TV shows before and after TSMDM, but none of them have had the same staying power. (Well maybe The Fall Guy, but that was mostly due to co-star Heather Thomas strutting around in a bikini and the theme song sung by Majors.) He brings a refreshing mix of charm and athleticism to the role that helped make Austin as much a human character as a heroic one. The story lines run the gamut from semi-believable to outright ludicrous, but even at its most silly the show is an entertaining family friendly mix of drama, humor, action, and science fiction.
According to the fine TV obsessed folks over at TVShowsOnDVD.com, TSMDM has been ranked as the fourth most requested show that had yet to see a DVD release. As someone who may or may not have had the 12" doll figure with the hole in the back of his head for you to look through his bionic eye I can see the appeal. Aside from a few one-off releases the show has never been available on any home video format in the US before, so this collection is a secular blessing in disguise. Blessing because it’s a phenomenal set filled with every episode and TV movie that was made of the show… disguise because you’ll be paying out the ass for it. (The individual seasons should start seeing release on standalone DVD sometime next year.)
The folks at TimeLife have set a high standard for DVD box-sets with this title, and it’s a standard that more labels should aim for with their own “complete series” releases. It’s the ideal mix of practical presentation and content. The exterior box is textured like a computer chip with a lid that features a lenticular image of Steve Austin… tilt the box and he appears to be running. Lift the lid and the opening credit voice-over introduces you to “Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive. We can rebuild him, we have the technology, we can make him better than he was. Better… stronger… faster…” The box is compact enough to fit on your existing DVD shelf, but if you’d rather display the actual DVDs TimeLife has wisely packaged each season in its own DVD snap-case.
- Season One (six discs) features the three pilot movies and all thirteen episodes. The bonus features include three featurettes, an interactive look at Steve Austin’s bionic parts, and an hour plus interview with writer/producer Harve Bennett.
- Season Two (six discs) features all twenty two episodes including The Bionic Woman Parts I and II with commentary by Harve Bennett. Two featurettes are also included with one focusing on the now famous “bionic” sound effect we all made as kids while playing in the backyard.
- Season Three (seven discs) features all twenty one episodes, three of them with commentary, and is where you’ll find the epic two-parter… “The Secret Of Bigfoot!” Extras include two featurettes, including one on those extremely popular Bigfoot episodes, and also features a ninety minute interview with writer/producer Kenneth Johnson.
- Season Four (nine discs) features all twenty two episodes in addition to three crossover episodes of The Bionic Woman. Extras include two featurettes and a fifty two minute interview with Richard Anderson aka Oscar Goldman.
- Season Five (seven discs) features all twenty one episodes as well as two featurettes and a sixty minute interview with Martin E. Brooks aka Dr. Rudy Wells.
- The Bonus DVD case (five discs) is loaded with special features including the three reunion movies and the syndicated edits of the original three pilots. Also included are eleven new featurettes covering everything from the show’s success to the resulting action figures. The final extra, and one of the set’s best, is an eighty minute interview with Lee Majors about his acting career with an obvious focus on his experience as Steve Austin. Highlights include his memories of putting a diuretic in Andre the Giant’s beer, his reaction to a director advising him of the need to stop raising his left eyebrow, the reason he maintained a strict 6pm wrap-time during The Fall Guy, and the clear affection in his voice when he discusses his time with Farrah Fawcett.
In case it hasn’t been made clear yet… this is a brilliantly produced package and one of the best “complete series” sets to hit the market. From the perfectly crafted exterior case to the all-inclusive contents, The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection is a must own for self-acknowledged super fans of the show. Head over to TimeLife’s website if you have to have it and/or someone on your Christmas list is worth the cost, because this is one hell of a set that will keep fans busy for days and days.