Thursday, September 27, 2007

British Actors Remake Shows Your Parents Watched, Fall '07 Premiere Season: Journeyman and Bionic Woman

We have an immigration problem in this country: British actors are taking roles that American actors could be doing. They do the same job for less money, and its the studios' cheapness that's ruining America. Also the fact that they're dipping into the late-seventies, early-eighties well of weekday morning programming on the Sci-Fi Channel for ideas. I'll preface this by saying I've never seen the original Bionic Woman, but I have seen that episode of MST3K where they gave Tom Servo bionic sound effects (missing from the remake), so I'm totally qualified here. I also don't remember too much about Quantum Leap, other than in one episode, Scott Bakula was in the body of a monkey because someone in the writer's room was on crack that day.

I loathe Bionic Woman. I loathe Michelle Ryan and the projects she takes — I loathed her in the BBC's Jekyll, too. I also loathe Miguel Ferrer, although I sort of forget why, and that Chinese actor guy. I loathe the conceit of the show, and I loathe that there's an evil bionic woman, because that's just fucking stupid. I loathe the characterizations, and the fact that we'll be watching Ryan's new-fangled Jamie Sommers come to terms with her bionic arms and legs and etc for the next twenty episodes. I especially loathe how deadly serious the show takes itself. But mostly, what I loathe about Bionic Woman and Jamie Sommers is how much she makes me miss Buffy Summers (and Xander and Willow and Spike and not so much Dawn...) and how I totally never appreciated the complicated genius of that show.

I'm gonna be making more references to Buffy throughout this, because it looks like Bionic Woman is essentially Buffy's fourth season, except it makes you want to put something sharp through both your eyes, instead of just one.

Of course there's a secret government facility, which makes me already hate this show, and you know what? I'm changing my mind from the review of Chuck — it doesn't matter whether Secret Government Agency characters are competent or not, they still all suck. This SGA puts nanotechnology or something inside attractive women. Jamie's in a car crash, but she's hot, so our government will spend fifty billion dollars fixing her up. Meanwhile, forty-two million Americans can't get health insurance. Just saying. Apparently, having bionic robots or whatever gives you superpowers, all of which are pretty much copied from Heroes. Super-healing, super-strength, super-hearing: the future, ladies and gentlemen, is in nanotechnology, with the amazing power to turn ordinary hot women into Quentin Tarantino's wet dream.

I don't know where the show's going after expositing that nanotechnology pretty much makes you perfect and invincible in every conceivable way. Fake pregnancy, maybe? You're probably thinking, okay, if she has no physical flaws, maybe there's some intellectual stuff she needs to work through. Nope, sorry, she's already a genius. Problem solved. (Actually, in a stupid continuity error — and we're only in the first episode people — Jamie tells us and her also genius boyfriend that she's not that smart, so... did anybody even proofread this script?)

But is Jamie a computer whiz? No. Finally, it's like computers and needlepoint or something are the two things she's not perfect at. However, there's a younger sister who is a computer phenom, and who I'm sure will absolutely not be hacking into the SGA's firewall later this season, because that would be really, really fucking obvious.

Jamie's final power is an extraordinary ability to bitch about her amazing superpowers, instead of maybe being just a little grateful they saved her life. Every damn thing about the presentation of Bionic Woman is wrong, starting with the dense seriousness hated creator Laeta Kalogridis shoves into this silly, silly show. That's Whedon's brilliance: he realizes that the whole Buffy concept is kind of dopey, and he takes advantage of those parameters with the show's trademark humor and abrupt shifts between solemnity and absurdity. Bionic Woman does everything possible to make me believe that this is some real important shit — from the ridiculous scientific explanations ("We replaced one-eighth of your blood with anthrocytes."), the pretentious artsy blocking and camera-work, Jamie's groundless emotional breakdown in the middle of the episode. All the growing-up metaphors in Buffy, the conflict between her need for a normal teenage life and her coming-of-age destiny, Kalogridis replaces with inane Nietzschean meditations on the nature of power that basically boils down to "Power is good."

That probably makes mine the only Bionic Woman review containing a reference to Nietzsche. Proud!

Oh, yeah, I need to mention my most hated line from Bionic Woman. It's a throwaway, but I think it sums up everything that makes the show an exercise in pandering to women who think they're too ugly to find a man, and Quentin Tarantino. A mother and daughter are driving along some country road, and Jamie comes up running next to them at fifty-five miles an hour (which just seems really odd in itself) and the daughter, in awe, says something like, "Girls can run really fast!" Yay! Except they really don't mean it. Take a show like Buffy, or Veronica Mars, or Alias and no one comes out and says, "Girls rule!" because they don't have to. That message is in the show, and in the character. The view of Bionic Woman is, "Girls are weak without weird, non-existent mechanical thingies inside them." Stupid, stupid show.

Watch the defunct Now and Again instead. Michelle Ryan may be more fun to look at than Eric Close, but Now and Again, with real (still broadly drawn) characters in a genuine conflict with something at stake, is a lot more fun to watch.

Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, I have less to say about Journeyman. It's Quantum Leap. It's pretty dull. Guy who played Lucius Vorenus on Rome can't do an American accent. It uses the same time-traveling special effect, that shimmering background, that they used in Quantum Leap.

But... two good things. One, they're already finished with the inevitable subplot where Lucius Vorenus's wife doesn't believe he travels through time, and it threatens their marriage, etc. And two, they did a really nice job — and a really well-paced job — finishing it. Maybe one more episode, but I have a feeling I'm not going to have the patience for this one.

Tonight, three words: Dwight and Angela! Or, you know, if you've got a pulse, OMG!!!! PAM AND JIM ARE TOGETHER!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!