A Bargain Hero: The Six Million Dollar Man


"Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man, better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster..." -- Oscar Goldman, The Six Million Dollar Man

When kids today hear the name Steve Austin, they probably picture the professional wrestler "Stone Cold." For me, however, the name will always be associated with the fictional character Colonel Steve Austin, the bionic man played by Lee Majors in the classic television series The Six Million Dollar Man. There have been rumors of adapting the series and making a new updated motion picture, probably called The Six Billion Dollar Man. If so, I hope they do it right and don't treat it as a comedy. Retro shows are campy in hindsight, but modern filmmakers shouldn't forget the genuine and beloved elements of the originals that drew fans in the first place. Such misjudgment can lead to box office disaster -- behold Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost remake as proof.

When I hear names like Jim Carrey or Chris Rock attached to play Steve Austin, I fear the worst. They probably only remember the cheesy elements of the original show and plan to produce a comedy version. Or they might stray too far in the other direction and make a dark, humorless version with no heart, like the recent television flop remake of The Bionic Woman.

Yes, there were unintentionally hilarious moments in the original Six Million Dollar Man, the highlight probably being the campy goodness of the Bionic Bigfoot episodes, which I confess are my guilty pleasure favorites. But the show had some great drama mixed in with its action/adventure superheroics.

The first few episodes were deep explorations of the science fiction staple the cyborg -- half human, half machine. Steve Austin has to learn to accept who he is and refind his humanity. Other episodes explored the idea further -- the first prototype bionic man without the moral backbone that Steve Austin possessed, the body of the bionic woman rejecting the hardware, the troubles faced by a teenager not emotionally ready to handle his new self. The show was a hit because it mixed intriguing ideas with fantasy stories involving super strength, super speed, telescopic eyesight, and more.

Steve Austin was a blend of James Bond, Superman, Neil Armstrong, Captain America, all rolled into one. When the time comes to reboot the character, I pray they don't turn him into a shallow parody.

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